|Brad Stevens gets an early look at strength of his team: ‘Our bench has to be a great source of energy’||10.29.15 at 10:43 am ET|
The Celtics started off slowly to the lowly 76ers, trailing by as many as nine, 26-17, in the first quarter. Boston made just six of its first 21 shots and could find no rhythm.
The young 76ers had rookie Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel running the court, and scoring. And the Celtics looked flat.
Then the bench started to make the impact that it was built all offseason to make. Slowly but surely, Jared Sullinger, Isaiah Thomas and Amir Johnson made their impact, some faster than others. Thomas missed his first four shots before finding his range, on his way to a game-high 27-point night. Johnson added 15 and Sullinger chipped in with 12 as the vision of Danny Ainge was clear for everyone to see.
When it was all said and done, the Celtics bench outscored Philly reserves, 67-15, in walking away with a 112-95 win. That’s exactly what Ainge and head coach Brad Stevens had in mind when they built the deepest roster in the NBA in the offseason.
“Our bench has to be a great source of energy and scoring and everything else for us,” Stevens said. “And I thought [the Sixers] came out of the gates great. Okafor was really hard for us to guard early ‘ and then Noel, I just thought they had a great impact on the game on both ends. So, we found ourselves in a hole which probably isn’t all bad in your first game, to see how you respond, and we responded. Any time we cut it close I thought we responded. I thought we missed some things that we can clean up, but at the same time I thought we did a lot of good things.”
Down 26-17, the Celtics outscored the Sixers, 21-2, over the next eight minutes. Thomas and Sullinger each had six points in the run.
The bench was also the reason the Celtics were able to hold off the Sixers each time they made a run. Three times the Sixers got as close as five points and each time the Celtics answered, including a 7-0 spurt at the end of the third, when Thomas hit a three right before the buzzer.
“The end of the quarters are important to us,” Stevens said. “We want to finish well, we want to do well in those situations. And those were big for us tonight. But I thought just as big was they’d cut it to five and we’d go on a 7-0 run. They’d cut it to, I believe it was three one time, we go on a 6-0 run. So those are good responses in those moments.”
|Isaiah Thomas shoots himself into a groove in opening night win: ‘I’m not going to be shy’||10.29.15 at 12:36 am ET|
Isaiah Thomas is very happy that his coach doesn’t get discouraged by a little cold streak.
Thomas made three of his next five shots and that was a sign of things to come as the Celtics outscored the Sixers, 30-14, in the second quarter, grabbing control of the game, 51-40, at the halftime break.
Smart his 5-of-8 shots in the third quarter, including a three at the buzzer as the Celtics took a 79-67 lead into the final quarter.
“I mean that’s the biggest thing,” Brad Stevens said. “We’ve talked quite a bit about that: play with speed, play aggressive, play with spirit, let the chips fall where they may with him. We know a hot streak is coming.”
Thomas scored 13 of his game-high 27 points in the third quarter as the Celtics cruised to a 112-95 win in the season opener at TD Garden.
“That’s my job,” Thomas said of keeping the shots coming. “I’m not going to be shy when I’ve got a job to do out there. Coach has confidence in me. My teammates have confidence in me, and they tell me to continue being aggressive ‘ so I’m going to continue to do that.”
“I work on it ‘ each and every day,” Thomas said. “I know that some point in time, it’s going to fall. I have that confidence in my game, and I work on my craft, so I think the harder you work, and when it doesn’t happen in games, you go to what you know. When I get into the spots that I like to go to in my workouts, and feeding off my teammates, no matter if I’m having a good game or not, you have to just make the right play out there. If the right play is to shoot, and I’m not making them, I have to continue to shoot that shot.”
|How much will Jared Sullinger play at the start of season?||10.23.15 at 9:01 am ET|
It’s the weighty question that hangs over the Celtics.
How much will Jared Sullinger contribute at the start of the season?
There are subsets to that question, as well. Like how much will he be able to contribute, what will his role be and perhaps most of all, what does head coach Brad Stevens envision as a realistic starting point when the season opens Wednesday against the Philadelphia 76ers.
The 6-foot-9 power forward listed at 260 pounds played three stints Thursday in a 99-85 preseason win over the Knicks at TD Garden. His final line: 19 minutes, 6-of-10 from the field, eight rebounds and a team-high 16 points.
“I think he played at the end of the game because we wanted to throw the ball at the post and score,” Stevens said. “So obviously, there were other guys in the game that hadn’t played up to that point, but he had played three stints, [and] that was his third stint.”
At the start of camp, Sullinger acknowledged that his family and former NBA star John Lucas all but had an intervention to help him with his weight approaching 300 pounds and his conditioning. Sullinger can look out on the floor and see a long list of names that are fighting with him for significant playing time, names like Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko and David Lee. Games like Thursday seem to be an indication that he’s at least headed in the right direction as he builds his stamina off the bench.
“You know, time will tell how it all works itself out with minutes but I thought he did a lot of good things,” Stevens said. “As the season goes on, we’re always going to factor in good play. So that’s a good thing.”
|With international play behind him, Kelly Olynyk looks for bigger leadership role on Celtics||09.29.15 at 12:18 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Kelly Olynyk had quite the summer as he tried to get himself ready for the 2015-16 season with the Celtics.
The third-year big man out of Gonzaga starred for his home country Team Canada in the both the Tuto Marchand Cup (a preliminary to the FIBA Olympic qualifying tourney) and the FIBA tourney itself. Olynyk had 34 points and 13 rebounds in a 79-78 loss to Venezuela in the semifinals of the Olympic tourney, outshining fellow Canadiens Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett (both young stars for Minnesota). Had Canada won, they would have directly qualified for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, along with the U.S., Argentina and Venezuela.
Instead, Canada must now qualify in the 2016 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament. A lot was at stake but Olynyk looks at the loss as good experience, from a team and personal standpoint.
“It was definitely a tough game, especially for us,” Olynyk said. “We had gotten better every game as a team. We played so well, really night-in and night-out pretty much dominated that tournament. So it’s really a tough break for us to go out like that. Credit to Venezuela. They played a great game. They played tough, they played strong. They made shots. Unfortunately, that was pretty much the only game we didn’t make very many shots. They showed up and played and then they went back to back night and beat Argentina. It was something pretty special for them. Right now, we’ve got another chance next summer and we’ve got to look forward to that and make sure we’re ready to play.”
Olynyk averaged 11.5 points a game in 10 games in the FIBA Americas championship. There was a scary moment when he dinged his left knee in an 85-80 win over Argentina on Aug. 23 in the Marchand Cup in Puerto Rico. But Olynyk bounced back quickly and was able to play at full strength in the Olympic qualifying tourney, which involved playing 10 games in 12 days in Mexico City.
|Brad Stevens: ‘I have one goal at this job and that’s to win an NBA championship’||09.27.15 at 12:57 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Brad Stevens has a lot to think about on his flight over to Europe to begin training camp.
First and foremost, who on the roster is going to step up and prove they deserve the most playing time – or any at all – in preseason and possibly the regular season.
That’s a question that needs to be answered before Stevens can even make decisions on who will fill out the backend of a roster that is nothing if not deep.
The forwards are David Lee, Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, Amir Johnson, Jae Crowder, Jonas Jerebko, Tyler Zeller and Perry Jones. The guards are Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Evan Turner to go with rookies Terry Rozier and RJ Hunter.
That’s a lot of options but a lot of decisions for Brad Stevens to wade through.
“I’m excited. Anytime you’ve got a group that you can work with and you feel that way headed into the season, you’re focused on basketball,” Stevens said. “Even though we’ve got to figure out who’s going to play and at what times, I think we’ll be able to focus on all the right things.”
But then Stevens was pressed about how he’s going to deal with players like Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Evan Turner, all veteran guards who will be fighting for playing time in a crowded backcourt that added rookies RJ Hunter and Terry Rozier.
“Every good team, you’re going to have discussions like that,” Stevens said. “Every good team that is challenging to be better is going to have depth. We’re going to have good players on our team that aren’t going to play. That’s the reality of it. That’s hard part of the job in some ways but you just try to be really frank and talk about it. I’m not here to predetermine anything. That’s why I think sometimes we should probably have media day two weeks in because I don’t know yet. We’ll find out.
|Danny Ainge on not moving up: ‘Maybe we were going too hard at it’||06.26.15 at 1:17 am ET|
In the end, moving up into the prized Top 10 of the 2015 NBA draft was not in the cards for Danny Ainge.
“I’m not disappointed,” said the Celtics president of basketball operations. “We tried. It just didn’t happen.
“We tried hard. We tried hard to trade up. We spent the last couple of weeks trying to move, and really today was the only time we had any indication that we could move up. But we were trying. At the end of the day, it’s like Red used to say, sometimes the best trades you make are the ones you don’t make. Maybe we were going too hard at it. And there was a time when I thought, ‘Whoa, this is getting a little out of control. We’re putting a lot of eggs in one young player’s basket.’
“So, I’m not frustrated. And, in the long run maybe it’ll be the best.”
The “one young player’s basket” may be a reference to the rumor of the Celtics’ effort to move up to No. 9 earlier in the day, trying reportedly to nab small forward Justise Winslow of Duke. There were reports that the team was going to part with Jared Sullinger and ship him to Charlotte. Sullinger had reportedly even followed the Hornets on Twitter and stopped following the Celtics.
Ainge could only laugh.
“The fans feed into what’s being written and said a lot, too,” Ainge said. “I did say we would try to move up. The price was way too high. There’s so many rumors out there. There are so many things are being said and written that aren’t even close to being true, that are just made-up stories. No sources and fake sources and people get caught up in these rumors and their expectations grow even higher. Don’t you think?”
Did he come close? “Yeah, we thought we were close,” Ainge said.
Instead, Ainge stayed put and made selections at all four of his spots going into the night. He took Terry Rozier at No. 16, R.J. Hunter at No. 28, Jordan Mickey at No. 33 and Marcus Thornton at No. 45. Three of them, Rozier, Hunter and Thornton are guards, adding to an already crowded and jumbled backcourt.
“Listen, it all comes down to how good the players are that we have,” Ainge said. “It doesn’t matter what I say about it. We’ll just wait and see how good they are. We like the guys we have and I think our fans are going to enjoy them.”
Ainge had said he was looking for quality over quantity, and was not likely to make all four picks. He reiterated Thursday that he won’t be able to keep all four picks on the active roster, instead will try to stash them in Europe.
“No, we don’t have room on the roster for all four guys, most likely,” Ainge admitted. “We probably don’t have room for them so we’ll work out deals where guys can play overseas in some of the situations.”
|Terry Rozier knows Celtics fans are ‘crazy about basketball,’ pledges willingness to compete for spot||06.26.15 at 12:47 am ET|
Terry Rozier will have his hands full to make the Celtics crowded backcourt.
But listening to the 21-year-old product of Louisville, the guard is more than up for the challenge.
“I came in for two workouts so I had a pretty good feeling about it,” Rozier said during a conference call after being selected with Boston’s first of two first-round picks. “It worked out well. Danny Ainge is a great guy. Stevens is a real great guy. He’s really interactive with his guys. It was just amazing.”
With names like Avery Bradley, Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Smart already on the roster, Rozier will have to battle with those veterans and fellow rookies R.J. Hunter (Georgia State) and Marcus Thornton (William and Mary) to make an impression.
“I’m very excited,” Rozier said. “I know the tradition. Fans are crazy about basketball. And I’m just to excited to be a part of something like this. I’m just to ready to bring something to the table.
“It’s kind of the same thing I went through with a lot of guards when [Louisville] won the national championship [in 2013]. I just want to come in and bring the Celtics the same kind of defense, find my way to fit on the floor and compete. That’s my thing. I’m not worried about who’s there. I’m worried about how can I get on the floor and things like that.”
One of the big influences, naturally, has been his coach at Louisville and former Celtics coach Rick Pitino.
“He was a big help,” Rozier said. “He helped me relax. He knows the area [in Boston]. He talked to me every day. He was a guy in my corner, in my ear, just giving me the confidence.”
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