|Jeff Green on Celtics’ defense: ‘Lately, we’ve been (expletive)’||12.27.13 at 9:04 pm ET|
WALTHAM — The Celtics returned to practice for a second straight day after their three-day holiday break, Friday. The opportunity to end their three-game losing streak comes Saturday afternoon (1) taking on the Cavs, who are also desperate for a win after dropping their last three.
“If we don’t play well,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens, “we’ll get beat. [Kyrie] Irving and [Dion] Waiters can get to the rim on us, they can get to the rim on everybody. If we don’t defend well, it’s going to be hard for us to win.”
“Lately, we’ve been [expletive],” said Green. “We’ve been giving up a lot of points and a lot of easy looks.
“Our defense,” continued Green, “is the key.”
The Celtics defeated the Cavs at the TD Garden, 103-86, on November 29. Jordan Crawford is excited to match up again with Cleveland start Kyrie Irving, though he understands it’s far from an individual match-up.
“It’s a team effort,” said Crawford. “Kyrie’s looking for his, and once you key in on him, he’ll find the others. But you want to step up to the challenge. He’s a great player, so you want to see where you at.”
Also of note from practice was Rajon Rondo working on two additional agility drills. In what has become a familiar sight, Phil Pressey was last to leave the court.
For a complete preview of Saturday’s matchup, click here.
|Knicks reportedly holding out hope to acquire Rajon Rondo||12.26.13 at 9:25 am ET|
Reports emerged earlier this season that the Knicks were interested in injured Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, with Knicks star Carmelo Anthony allegedly trying to talk Rondo into making the move to New York when his contract with the C’s expires after next season.
Now, an ESPN report indicates the desperate Knicks are hoping to acquire Rondo even earlier. The team is said to be hoping Rondo will follow the path Anthony took out of Denver in 2011, when he forced a trade to the Knicks by refusing to sign an extension.
Of course, the Knicks still would need to have something reasonable to present to Boston. A rumor in November had New York considering offering a subpar package of Iman Shumpert, Raymond Felton and Amar’e Stoudemire. At that time, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge insisted: “I haven’t talked to any teams about Rajon Rondo.”
Rondo recently started practicing with the Celtics as he continues to recover from a torn ACL suffered in January, but he said last week that he might not return in January, as had been speculated.
|Rajon Rondo might not return to Celtics next month||12.23.13 at 11:30 am ET|
As a five-day Christmas break between games offers Celtics fans time to reflect on a somewhat surprising 12-17 start while looking ahead to a brutal start to the January schedule, the question remains: When will Rajon Rondo return?
While Celtics coach Brad Stevens believed Rondo was on schedule to play his first NBA game within a year of tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament on Jan. 27, the C’s point guard backed off that timeline, suggesting instead to The Boston Globe he may not make his comeback until February.
“I have confidence in my knee,” Rondo told the Globe’s Gary Washburn after the C’s third straight defeat, a 106-79 loss to the Pacers. “I’m excited to be playing the game of basketball again, so it’s just a matter of me getting a lot of repetition, 5-on-5 basketball and just playing the game. It might be mid-January, late February; I’m going to come back when the time is right and I get my stamina.
‘”I don’t think I have to pass any more tests. I have to pass tests for myself. I know what I felt like before I hurt my knee. When I get back to feeling that type of feeling the way I play the game, then I’ll be back.”
Rondo participated in a five-on-five scrimmage Friday, but the Celtics don’t have another scheduled practice until Thursday. Meanwhile, the beginning of the new year offers little respite for practice. The C’s play a road-home back-to-back against the Bulls and Pelicans on Jan. 2-3 before heading on a brutal week-long West Coast road trip against the Thunder, Nuggets, Clippers, Warriors and Blazers from Jan. 5-11.
The Celtics have dropped out of the Atlantic Division lead and into the No. 8 playoff seed. Only a handful of games separate them from the league’s worst record.
|Brad Stevens’ homecoming spoiled by Pacers rout of Celtics||12.22.13 at 8:19 pm ET|
This was not the homecoming Brad Stevens had hoped for.
The Celtics head coach returned to the state in which he thrived as a college coach with Butler University only to watch the Pacers roll over Stevens’ club, 106-79, Sunday night in Indianapolis.
The Pacers, who improved to an Eastern Conference-best 22-5 with the commanding performance, held a 15-point halftime lead that the Celtics‘ were never able to recover from.
Indiana did nothing to hurt its reputation as the conference’s best defensive team, especially at home, limiting the Celtics to 38 percent shooting from the floor. The C’s only managed three players in double-figures, with Avery Bradley netting a team-high 13 points.
Indiana’s Paul George led all scorers with 24 points, while Roy Hibbert scored 15 on 7-of-11 shooting from the field. It was the Pacers’ second win over the Celtics this season in as many games.
|Celtics blow another huge first-half lead, lose to Wizards||12.21.13 at 3:20 pm ET|
When the Celtics‘ Jeff Green drove to the basket and converted a layup with just over six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, it appeared that Boston was prepared to coast to victory against the visiting Wizards. Green and the Celtics led 92-84, a lead they had maintained for almost the entire game.
But moments after Green electrified the crowd, the 18,169 fans packed into TD Garden watched in horror as the Wizards’ Trevor Ariza drilled a 3-pointer at the 2:24 mark to put Washington ahead by five points. In less than four minutes, Washington had turned an eight-point deficit into a comfortable lead, and the Wizards cruised the rest of the way to a 106-99 comeback win. The Wizards (12-13) outscored the Celtics 22-7 over the final six minutes, 13 seconds.
Ariza led the way with 27 points, including five 3-pointers, while speedy guard John Wall added 20 points.
Celtics guard Avery Bradley accounted for a team-high 26 points, and forwards Jared Sullinger (22 points, 11 rebounds) and Brandon Bass (11 points, 11 rebounds) each went for double-doubles. The loss drops Boston (12-16) into a tie for the Atlantic Division lead with Toronto.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Closing time: Despite leading almost the entire game, the Celtics were unable to close out Washington due in large part to poor shooting and sloppy handling of the basketball. At the 6:13 mark of the fourth quarter, Boston held a commanding 92-84 lead after a layup by Green. But the C’s promptly missed 10 of their 12 next shots and turned over the ball four times to spark a Wizards’ 22-7 run to end the game.
Bench blues: For the second straight game, all five Boston starters reached double-digits in points. But, unlike in the Celtics‘ recent 107-106 loss the Pistons, the bench did not support the starting cast. Only three C’s came off the bench to score, with Kris Humphries leading the way with eight points. The reserves combined to score 14 points, compared to the 32 in Boston’s last game.
Ariza arrives: With so much attention placed on limiting the production of Bradley Beal and Wall, Washington’s top two scorers, Boston seemingly forgot about the team’s third leading scorer, Ariza. The veteran scored a game-high 27 points and knocked down a vital 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter, one of five treys for the small forward. Ariza also snagged eight rebounds.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Hot start: For the fifth straight game, Boston charged out to a lead in the first quarter as Sullinger and point guard Jordan Crawford anchored the Celtics‘ 30-14 advantage. Sullinger tossed in 10 points and four rebounds, while Crawford played the role of facilitator and scorer, chipping in seven points and four assists. The C’s shot a scorching 60 percent from the field, while forcing the Wizards into 25 percent shooting from the field. In Boston’s last five first quarters, the team has outscored its opponents by a combined 49 points.
Unconscious Avery: The Celtics received a superb performance from Bradley. He led the team in scoring with 26 points and experienced a stretch that began in the third quarter and extended into the beginning of the fourth quarter when he could hardly miss. From the 4:01 mark of the third quarter to the 7:58 mark of the fourth quarter Bradley scored 18 points, and shot 9-for-10 from the field. Eight of his 10 baskets were mid-range jump shots.
Sully: The 6-foot-9 forward continued his impressive scoring stretch, as he amassed 22 points to go along with 11 rebounds. A late scoring burst by Bradley ended the possibility of Sullinger leading the team in scoring for the fourth straight game. He collected his 22 points in a variety of ways: banging with bigs such as Marcin Gortat and Nene right under the rim, luring the behemoths outside of the paint just to blow by them off the dribble, and displaying his mid-range game and even 3-point prowess.
|Irish Coffee: Ranking Danny Ainge’s Celtics assets||12.20.13 at 1:59 pm ET|
The recent trade rumors surrounding the Celtics aren’t going away any time soon, so for the purposes of any trade discussion between now and the Feb. 20 deadline — real or imaginary — let’s rank all the assets available to president of basketball operations Danny Ainge in order of value (highest to lowest). Here goes.
RAJON RONDO: Albeit completely unfounded, the mere fact people debated whether a Kings package of Ben McLemore (2013 No. 7 overall pick), Isaiah Thomas (18.9 ppg, 5.5 apg, 59.5 TS%, 22.8 PER, 730 minutes), Jason Thompson (10.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg over six NBA seasons), Marcus Thornton (18.7 ppg in 2011-12) and two first-round picks was enough for Rondo should tell you all you need to know about the Celtics point guard’s value.
2014 CELTICS FIRST-ROUND PICK: Whether this was the stumbling block in an Omer Asik deal or not, Ainge should rightfully think thrice before dealing either first-rounder in this coming June’s loaded draft. While the Celtics still own a one-game lead atop the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference’s No. 4 seed, they’re only 1.5 games out of the lottery, and most GMs would be willing to gamble against the C’s making the playoffs.
JARED SULLINGER: If the 2012 NBA draft took place tomorrow, how many players would be selected over Sullinger? Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal and Andre Drummond are likely the only four you’d definitely take over the Celtics sophomore since he’s returned from back surgery. Under control at least through 2015-16 for a grand total of $5.1 million, Sully has arguably been the C’s most important player this season.
|Report: Rockets end Omer Asik trade talks with Celtics||12.19.13 at 1:19 pm ET|
The Rockets plan to keep Omer Asik after all, according to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowksi.
Houston has ended talks on an Omer Asik trade and plan to keep him for now, league source tells Yahoo Sports.
‘ Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) December 19, 2013
The Celtics appeared to be the leading contenders for Asik’s services, and Houston reportedly would have received Brandon Bass, Courtney Lee and a first-round pick in return, but the two teams haggled over which of the C’s nine first-round picks over the next five years would be included. Surely, Celtics president Danny Ainge balked at the inclusion of either of his 2014 first-rounders or any future pick that may end up in the lottery.
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey set a self-imposed deadline of Thursday to deal Asik, although the league alerted Morey that he had until Friday to make a trade and still deal the newly acquired players by the deadline.
And as we’ve learned in recent years, so-called dead trade talks have been resurrected, and the two teams could still strike a deal before the NBA’s trade deadline of Feb. 20.