|Paul Pierce: Jared Sullinger at All-Star weekend is a ‘no-brainer’||01.14.13 at 9:15 pm ET|
Entering Monday, there wasn’t a hotter rookie in the NBA than Jared Sullinger. The first-year player out of Ohio State was a huge reason the Celtics bench had awoken from its slumber and helped the Celtics run off five straight wins. Sullinger had back-to-back double-doubles against the Suns and Rockets and is averaging 25.5 minutes per game in the first six games of January.
Sullinger is fourth among all rookies in rebounding at 5.9 rebounds per game and tied for fourth in double-doubles with three. But perhaps most significant to the Celtics is the contribution he’s made as a rookie on a team with championship expectations. Anthony Davis (New Orleans), Andre Drummond (Detroit) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Charlotte) are all on teams that will likely be watching the playoffs on TV in the spring.
Celtics captain Paul Pierce said there is no doubt in his mind Sullinger should be part of NBA All-Star weekend activities when a team of the best rookies take on a team of the best second-year players in Houston.
“I think that’s like a no-brainer,” Pierce said with a smile. “In the rookie class, I can’t even name five quality rookies. [Sullinger] is playing well and playing significantly for the ball club. I definitely think he should be there.”
|Doc Rivers: Rajon Rondo lower assist totals ‘just one of those stretches’||01.14.13 at 8:08 pm ET|
Celtics head coach Doc Rivers says he is not overly concerned about the lower assist totals of point guard Rajon Rondo in the last three weeks. Entering Monday’s game, Rondo averaged 8.3 assists over his last 12 games. He recorded double-digit assist totals in just four of those games.
“I don’t know. Maybe I’ll call [assistant GM, team counsel and stat guru] Mike Zarren and figure it out,” Rivers laughed. “Honestly, bench is playing really well and his minutes are down over the stretch as well. Ball movement is better and maybe it’s a by-product of that, but we can do that and he can still have high assist games as well. It’s just one of those stretches.”
Rivers also spoke about not taking the 9-27 Bobcats lightly. Charlotte started out the season 7-5 before losing 22 of their last 24 coming into Monday’s game in Boston. Rivers also confirmed that big-man Chris Wilcox (thumb) is getting closer to returning, and would dress but not play in Monday’s game as the Celtics need to dress 12 players for the game.
|Jared Sullinger ‘happy to hack’ while Celtics winning||01.12.13 at 1:29 am ET|
Jared Sullinger may be soft spoken but he certainly isn’t shy.
For the fifth time in 36 games, the Celtics rookie fouled out of a game. But all of the fouls are rolling off his back during a five-game winning streak that has transformed the Celtics from a 14-17 team to a 19-17 club that is starting to click and move up the Eastern Conference standings.
“As long as we’re winning I’m happy. Happy to hack,” Sullinger said with a big smile. “No biggie.”
Sullinger wasn’t laughing with 10:01 left in the game Friday when he picked up his fifth foul, with the Celtics leading 83-69. The Rockets scored the next 12 points.
But earlier in the game, Sullinger was the biggest reason the Celtics built a double-digit lead. He had 14 points and eight rebounds off the bench in the first half. That was the same number the Celtics starters had combined late in the first half.
“It’s coming easier,” Sullinger said. “Obviously, it’s been 36 games, so I should be used to the NBA by now. It’s just me and my comfort zone right now.”
“He’s playing better, so the coach has more confidence in him,” Doc Rivers added. “That’s [No.] 1. I said it early in the year, when he’s on the floor, he does the right stuff. And a lot of stuff you don’t see, just being able to throw him the ball. How many rookies have we ever thrown the ball to at the top of the circle, and he decides which way he wants to go with it? He just has a great calm about him. He helps us. Especially with that second unit, because you gotta always have a passing big in our offense, and he gives us that extra passing big.”
Sullinger finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds, his second straight double-double.
‘We’re just playing hard, we’re in a groove right now. Five games, you know obviously we’re in a great groove right now,” Sullinger said. ‘I’m just playing hard, that’s all it is.’
|Jared Sullinger and Paul Pierce get revenge on the Rockets||01.11.13 at 9:58 pm ET|
Paul Pierce scored 23 points while Jared Sullinger had 14 points and 11 rebounds off the bench as the Celtics withstood a late charge from the Rockets to win their fifth straight, 103-91, Friday night at TD Garden. Kevin Garnett added 17 points and eight rebounds and Courtney Lee had 14 points for the Celtics, who improve to 19-17 on the season.
James Harden had 21 and Jeremy Lin added 12 points for the Rockets, who had to settle for a season split of their series with the Celtics. Houston beat Boston, 101-89, on Dec. 14 at the Toyota Center in Houston.
Early on, it was a game of runs. The Celtics jumped out to an 8-4 lead before the Rockets responded with a 13-0 spurt, as Jeremy Lin and James Harden hit 3-pointers in the spurt. But the Celtics came back with a 14-2 run of their own as Jeff Green and Courtney Lee hit consecutive threes. Boston took a 24-21 lead after 12 minutes.
Sullinger took over in the second quarter and led a bench effort that dominated for the second straight game. Sullinger had 14 points and eight rebounds in the first half. Those were the same numbers posted by Celtics starters combined until Pierce hit a three with 1:27 left in the second quarter. The Celtics bench had a season-high 36 points in the first half, outscoring the Houston reserves, 36-9, and taking a 53-45 halftime lead.
While the Celtics were held without a free throw in the first half, the Rockets self-destructed at the line, converting just 5-of-12 from the charity stripe. The Rockets finished the game a miserable 12-of-29 from the line.
Pierce came out on fire in the third quarter scoring eight of Boston’s first nine points in a 9-0 run that stretched the lead to 17. Pierce finished the third with 11 points and the Celtics led 78-66 going into the fourth.
The Rockets finally heated up in the fourth quarter and took advantage of Celtics sloppiness and a key foul. Sullinger picked up his fifth foul with 10:01 left and the Celtics leading 83-69. Houston scored the next 12 points thanks to several turnovers. The run was finished off when Harden fed Parsons for a one-handed dunk over Pierce with 7:22 left in the fourth, cutting Boston’s lead to two, 83-81.
But it was Pierce to the rescue. Pierce ended the Rockets’ 12-0 run with a basket with just under seven minutes left. Moments later, he was fouled on his layup and converted the three-point play to put Boston up, 92-82, with 5:51 left. A Garnett fadeaway jumper with 4:42 put the Celtics up, 94-82.
|Doc Rivers on Kevin Garnett and Kevin McHale: ‘They are the exact opposite’||01.11.13 at 8:49 pm ET|
The last time Kevin McHale and Kevin Garnett saw each other they shared a heartfelt embrace after a Rockets win. Before Friday’s game, they shared a crowded hallway between the Celtics and Rockets locker rooms and talked about their unique relationship that included a controversial trade in the summer of 2007.
“We spent a lot of time in the gym together,” McHale reminisced. “Great kid, great work ethic; turned himself into a fantastic player for years and years and years. His energy level, what he’s been able to accomplish still in the NBA, it’s not so much his age, it’s the minutes he’s played. Look at the amount of minutes he’s played, it’s just phenomenal. And I’m happy for him. But not tonight.
“We worked on stuff. But he had such a unique skill set. We worked on fadeaways, worked on some post stuff. Especially when teams were more physical, he really learned how to post and get his spot. We worked a lot on positioning. With him, he had such a different skill set, that turnaround fadeaway, and that became kinda his go-to move. But he was such a good player from the elbow, such a good player from all over, that just putting him in the low post, that really was a disservice to KG.
“He was a great high-post passer, elbow passer. He passed out of the post. I’ve said this before, he’s one of the most unique players because he’s going to get 25,000 points before it’s over with and he’s a pass-first player. Which is amazing. Most pass-first players score 8,000 points. He’s going to have numbers that shoot-first guys don’t get. That just goes to show how talented — he’s been a first-pass, he’d much rather just make the play whatever it is than shoot the ball. That just goes to show how gifted he is.”
The biggest difference between the two power forwards? McHale was shoot first while KG is one of the all-time best big-man passers in NBA history.
“I told him pass was a bad word. It was a four-letter word.”
Celtics coach Doc Rivers could relate, as he did before Friday’s game.
“They are the exact opposite,” Rivers said. “Other than that, they are both great players. It’s funny, our Kevin kills you with intensity; that Kevin, we laugh about it now, some of the stuff he said on the floor, he joked around half the time and ended up with 30 points and 20 rebounds or whatever.
“We were laughing, he would always ask me on the first free throw: ‘When are you trapping me? Because I know you are.’ And he would say, ‘I just want to know so I can shoot it quicker when I have to shoot. I’m going to shoot it, I just want to know when.’ He was a fun-loving, great player. Still, I think him and [Hakeem Olajuwon], I don’t know a third, as far as footwork, those two guys were as good as we ever see.”
|Jeff Green: ‘Just glad to be here, glad to be alive, glad to be playing basketball’||01.09.13 at 11:51 pm ET|
Just one year ago Wednesday, Jeff Green went under the knife to repair the aortic valve in his heart. Doc Rivers thought his career was over and Green had to lay in a certain way on his hospital bed to make sure he healed correctly.
One year to the day later, he had three spectacular dunks and led a potent Boston bench with 14 points as the Celtics beat the Suns, 87-79, at TD Garden.
‘It felt good. (long pause) I can’t put it into words,” Green said. “I mean it’s a wonderful day, I had a good game, I’m just glad to be here man. You know, I reflect a lot about what I’ve been through and it’s just a blessing and I’m glad to be here.’
The Celtics couldn’t have done it without Green and Jared Sullinger leading the way.
‘We’re just playing together. Things are starting to click, were just playing hard. Our main focus is defense. Defense defense defense.’ KG’s been playing unbelievable with this energy, Countney, myself and Jet, everyone is playing unbelievable.
‘I don’t cry, but, it was. A year ago I had heart surgery. When I think about laying in the bed when I woke up from it, and to where I am now’¦it’s a big deal to me. Like I said, I’m just glad to be here, glad to be alive, glad to be playing basketball.’
Rivers wasn’t tearing up either but he was clearly happy for Green.
“It’s a good night,” Rivers said. “He got some dunks and looked good. And who would’ve thought it a year ago? So it’s really a ‘ I mean, the doctors, and all that ‘ but it’s really a testament to Jeff in general. The fact that he worked himself into the condition that he did; there had to be some kind of fear somewhere, because to work yourself into condition you have to use that muscle. So it’s just really cool that he’s playing, and he’s playing well of us.
“I was more concerned about Jeff’s health; I wasn’t thinking about basketball at all, I can tell you that. I didn’t, honestly, at that time I didn’t think he’d ever play. So the basketball part wasn’t even a concern. You know, the two things that bugged me the most, obviously, was his condition, was number one, and then the contract that was voided, because it had to be, legally. And I was thinking, ‘Man, this kid’s worked his whole life to make a living,’ and now he’s signing the biggest deal of his life at that point and it’s gone. You know? And so now he’s back playing, doing well in all those areas, and I’m very happy for him. He deserves it.’
What did Green think Wednesday looking back 12 months?
‘First time I stood up from surgery, the first time I walked, it was painful, but I had to make progress and take steps to get back on the court,” Green said. “Those are memories that Ill never forget. Anything between now and that first step, you know, it was a wonderful journey for myself and an unbelievable process that I went through.”
Does it push him every day?
‘Oh, most definitely, because I never want to be back at that point, the way I felt when I woke up, I never want to feel that way again, taking 10 steps and getting tired’¦I never want to feel that way again,” he said. “I’m gonna push myself to the limits and never be out of shape.’
|Kevin Garnett talks Jared Sullinger but not Carmelo Anthony||01.09.13 at 11:34 pm ET|
Kevin Garnett thinks Jared Sullinger is playing like a “madman” on the glass. And that’s just what these Celtics need right now. On Wednesday night, the rookie out of Ohio State had 16 rebounds and 12 points and powered the Celtics to an 87-79 win over the Phoenix Suns at TD Garden.
What makes a great rebounder?
‘First off is effort,” Garnett began. “Anytime you’re playing defense, anytime youre stealing the ball, rebounding’¦all that’s effort. Obviously his timing, body positioning, he has the perfect body for rebounding. He can take the pounding and bump a little bit and he has great anticipation when it comes to the ball, and he has great hands. Put all that in the pot, you got Jared Sullinger, that’s what makes him great.’
Apparently, Sullinger has been paying close attention to Garnett when learning how to respond, using his words carefully and economically when asked about his secret to good rebounding.
‘You gotta have a go get it attitude when it comes to rebounding and that’s what I have,” a confident Sullinger said.
Sullinger is just one part of a Celtics bench that carried the load Wednesday night, as Sullinger, Jason Terry and Jeff Green were all in double figures in scoring. But Garnett pointed out another member of the bench who shouldn’t be overlooked.
‘I think the combination of Courtney Lee and no disrespect to Rondo or any other guards we got, but Courtney Lee and Avery are impacting the game from a defensive stand point from the guard position where it all trickles down to all the forwards,” Garnett said. “When we see them up like that, we get up and then we up to what we call major pressure. Any time you can pressure the guards and take time off the shot clock, you put the other team into a panic and now they gotta go into a pic and roll versus some play the were gonna call on us.
‘I don’t know, you know. But they’ll definitely start to make some noise. I think Doc’s starting to understand the rotation he’s going with, and I think the rotation we are going with, he’s confident in it, and everybody kind of knows their niche right now.’
But as for his thoughts on Carmelo Anthony and his one-game suspension for waiting outside the Celtics locker room and team bus to confront him after Monday’s game, Garnett had only this to say: “Okay, you all have a good night, okay?”