|Irish Coffee: On Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart, the Celtics’ ¡Three Amigos! wreaking havoc||11.04.14 at 12:54 pm ET|
With the exception of two brief offensive substitutions, Celtics coach Brad Stevens fielded a backcourt triumvirate of Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart for the final nine minutes of Monday’s 118-113 loss to the Mavericks, and they wreaked more havoc than the “¡Three Amigos!” in Santa Poco.
The Celtics scored 29 points down the stretch, and that trio scored or assisted all of them, pulling the C’s within one with 39 seconds left after trailing by 31 points at one point in the game. Bradley scored 14 of his career-high 32 points during the run, Rondo collected six of his 15 assists and Smart submitted highlight after highlight in what can only be described as atomic excitation.
It was all thrilling basketball, and a sure sign Stevens will experiment further with this trio.
|Asset Management: Avery Bradley’s Celtics future||09.22.14 at 12:26 pm ET|
I think we can all agree the Celtics won’t be raising banner 18 in the immediate future, and more likely than not the 2014-15 NBA season will result in another lottery pick come June, regardless of how ardently Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley & Co. argue the contrary. It’s been a year since Danny Ainge traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Nets, launching the process of stockpiling draft picks and cap-friendly contracts. Since the Celtics failed to cash in those commodities in exchange for fireworks this summer, this season’s preview will have a Wyc Grousbeck theme, focusing on the hodgepodge of C’s pieces in a series we’ll call Asset Management. Next up: Avery Bradley.
In NBA circles outside Boston — and even some in Celtics Nation — Bradley’s four-year, $32 million contract extension received extensive criticism this summer, which seems weird for a player of his caliber. Let’s think about this.
When compared to Detroit’s overpayment of Jodie Meeks (3 years, $19.5 million), Bradley’s average annual value of $8 million doesn’t seem so bad, but teams were frugal with guards this offseason, and a deal like San Antonio’s with Patty Mills (3 years, $12 million) makes Bradley’s price tag appear a bit high.
Play along for a minute and take a look at these numbers from 2013-14.
Player 1: 18.4 ppg (44.4 FG%, 41.7 3P%, 79.5 FT%), 3.1 rpg, 2.2 apg, 0.9 spg
Player 2: 14.9 ppg (43.8 FG%, 39.5 3P%, 80.4 FT%), 3.8 rpg, 1.4 apg, 1.1 spg
If you were paying attention this past season, you’ll recognize Bradley as Player 2 in this scenario. Player 1? None other than Klay Thompson, the shooting guard Golden State wouldn’t give up to land Kevin Love. The same Thompson whose agent, Bill Duffy, recently dubbed his client, “the top two-way, two-guard in basketball,” in an attempt to land a maximum contract extension from the Warriors that would start at roughly twice Bradley’s average annual value.
|Irish Coffee: Celtics rookie Marcus Smart isn’t ready to start and other things we learned from Rajon Rondo’s China tour||08.27.14 at 1:55 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo is in the midst of his annual trip to China, which means more exchanges between the Celtics point guard and a media contingent that probably understands his dry humor better than Boston’s. Take this, for example.
- Hoop China: “Who’s the next Rajon Rondo?”
- Rondo: “Nobody.”
- Hoop China: Straight face.
- Rondo: “Nobody.”
- Hoop China: Smiles all around.
The folks at Red’s Army deserve an award for keeping up with the four-time NBA All-Star’s Anta tour, and fan extraordinaire @KWAPT has more Chinese sources than the CIA. For the most part, Rondo provided the same stock answers we’ve grown accustomed to — “My leadership role has grown each year” and Kevin Garnett‘s “like a big brother to me” — but his answer to a question about whether Marcus Smart could start in the backcourt this season provided some insight into his feelings about the Celtics drafting another guard with the No. 6 overall pick.
“No,” Rondo said flatly. “He’ll play a lot of minutes, but starting as a rookie at the guard position is probably impossible or one of the toughest things you can do. Only so many guards have done it in the past, especially playing at that high level, but he’ll be ready. He’ll come in ready. He seems pretty humble, and we’ll get to work.”
Avery Bradley is probably Rondo’s closest confidant on the team, so it should come as no surprise he knocked Smart down a notch, but his response also suggests he fully expects to start the season on the Celtics. Still, the roster’s youth with the additions of Smart and James Young seems to be a sticking point for Rondo.
|Avery Bradley: Celtics have chance to make playoffs||08.21.14 at 6:07 pm ET|
Consider Avery Bradley the first to declare the Celtics a playoff team this season, and he won’t be the last. In all honesty, would you want a player who entered the season already resigned to the lottery? Of course you wouldn’t.
“I feel like we have a chance to make the playoffs and make a lot of noise this year if we listen to [Celtics coach] Brad [Stevens],” Bradley told reporters from his youth basketball camp in Dartmouth. The former second-team All-Defensive selection added, “I feel like we have a chance to be a top-10 defensive team in the NBA this year.”
While any NBA player worth his salt — and Bradley’s new four-year, $32 million deal can buy an awful lot of sodium chloride — should believe both statements to be true, the question is whether either is believable. The Celtics finished with the league’s fourth-worst record (25-57) and ranked 19th in points allowed per 100 possessions (108.6). Have they done enough to climb 14 games in the standings and allow .025 fewer points per possession?
Barring a trade, the Celtics will feature at least 10 of the 15 players who finished last season. They’ve replaced Kris Humphries and Jerryd Bayless with Tyler Zeller and Marcus Thornton while adding Evan Turner and a pair of rookies. Marcus Smart is the only one of the bunch who comes with a solid reputation defensively, and he’s expected to play behind Rajon Rondo to start the year. That’s not much of a sales pitch.
Rondo is the wild card, of course, and Bradley suggested his backcourt mate has returned to form as the player who earned Third Team All-NBA and Second Team All-Defensive honors during his last healthy season. While a three-headed monster of Rondo, Bradley and Smart could theoretically form one of the league’s grittiest guard groups defensively, the Celtics still lack the rim-protecting big Danny Ainge sought this summer. Are you confident Tyler Zeller, Kelly Olynyk and Jeff Green can hold down the frontcourt? Me neither.
Meanwhile, the Eastern Conference’s other sub-.500 squads all took steps forward. The Hawks return a healthy Al Horford. The Knicks surrounded Carmelo Anthony with a few more serviceable players, including Jose Calderon and Samuel Dalembert. The Cavaliers did something, although I can’t quite remember what it was. The Pistons hired a coach with a history of winning two-thirds of his regular-season games. And the Magic, 76ers and Bucks respectively added young talent, a healthy impact center and a combination of the two.
So maybe it’s a stretch to imagine the Celtics a playoff team with staunch defense. Or maybe Stevens can extract career years from Rondo, Bradley and Jeff Green; help Olynyk, Zeller and Jared Sullinger make the leap; expedite Smart and James Young‘s contributions; and invent a time machine for Gerald Wallace. Either way, the only way the C’s come close to proving Bradley right is to match his confidence entering training camp.
|Danny Ainge on Avery Bradley: ‘We’re ecstatic to have him back’||07.15.14 at 8:48 pm ET|
Before the Celtics headed to Florida to take part in the Orlando Summer League, the restricted free agent and the team came to terms on a four-year deal worth a reported $32 million. On Tuesday, the team made the signing official, but did not disclose the financial terms.
“We see Avery as a key part of our chase of Banner 18,” Danny Ainge, Celtics President of Basketball Operations, said in a statement. “He keeps getting better and is still far from reaching his ceiling. We’re ecstatic to have him back.”
The Philadelphia 76ers were among the teams rumored to be interested in the defensive shutdown specialist, likely driving up his price. The other factor that also figured in the $8 million per season pricetag was the uncertain future of Rajon Rondo with the Celtics. If the Celtics come to an agreement to deal Rondo, they did not want to be left without an established guard in the backcourt. Bradley and Rondo currently lead a backcourt group that also includes Marcus Smart, Phil Pressey, Chris Babb, Keith Bogans and Chris Johnson.
The Boston Herald reported that Bradley was in town Tuesday for his physical and to sign his new deal that begins with an annual salary just north of $7 million per season and escalates from there. The paper also reported that Bradley’s trip to town likely ends speculation that the Celtics were considering a sign-and-trade similar to the one that sent Kris Humphries to Washington this week.
The 6-foot-2 guard, considered the top defender on the team and one of the best defensive guards in the East, is coming off a breakout 2013-14 season where he recorded career-highs in points per game (14.9), rebounds per game (3.8), minutes (1855), field goals made (361), three-pointers made (79) and free throws made (90).
Bradley matched a career-high with 28 points against Brooklyn on March 21 and led the Celtics in scoring in 17 games and recorded 20 or more points in 16 contests. He recorded his first career double-double when he recorded 13 points and a career-high 10 rebounds against New York on Dec. 8.
Selected with the 19th overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft, Bradley recorded his 1,000th career point in the opening game of the season against Toronto on October 30.
|Marcus Smart on Avery Bradley: ‘He reminds me a little bit of [me]’||07.02.14 at 3:15 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Marcus Smart is beginning to feel comfortable in Boston. Well, at least in the gym that is.
“Definitely,” Smart responded after being asked if the practice facility was beginning to feel like his own gym. “I’m knocking down shots on those rims now,” said Smart, while gesturing over to the nearest hoop, “so that’s good. I’m getting a little bit more comfortable day-by-day.”
Outside of workouts and practices is a whole different story for Smart.
“Nah,” Smart said, while shaking his head when asked if he had gotten a chance to explore Boston yet. “Especially with the two-a-days — we finish around seven [o’clock] – you’re pretty much tired. You get your workout and go to bed and start it all over again.”
Smart was expecting the NBA lifestyle to be this way, though.
“This is your life. This is your job,” Smart proclaimed. “If you want to be the best, you have to put in the work.”
“He reminds me a little bit of [me],” Smart said. “You know, physical, athletic, can defend the one, the two, or the three spot. [I can] do whatever coach [Brad Stevens] asks me to do.”
|Jared Sullinger admits he could do more to be in better shape: ‘I think conditioning was a big factor’||at 2:47 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Jared Sullinger got the message loud and clear at the end of the season from Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens. If the big man from Ohio State was going to take that next step in what many – including Celtics‘ brass – see as a successful NBA future, he needs to be in better shape.
Sullinger and Chris Johnson were the only players with two years of NBA experience in attendance Wednesday at the Celtics training facility, as the team continued its two-a-day workouts in advance of this Saturday’s summer league opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Orlando.
“I think conditioning was a big factor,” said Sullinger, listed by the Celtics at 260 pounds. “Late in the game, I’d get tired and stop doing the things that I normally do in the first quarter. I think conditioning will kind of help that out.
“[Joining the summer practice is] another opportunity to play against other guys and kind of push myself to another limit, work on things that I don’t normally work on by myself and then I’ve got bodies out here. Going against bodies, pushing myself through contact. So everything is kind of helping me with conditioning.”
But to the 6-foot-9 Sullinger, being in good basketball condition has not so much to do with his weight as his endurance.
“It’s more shape,” Sullinger said. “How long I can run, how fast I can run. Pretty much how long I can stay on the court without passing out. I’m working on that every day.”
Sullinger, still just 22, averaged 13.3 points and 8.1 rebounds in 27.6 minutes per game last season. Coming off season ending back surgery in his rookie season, he played 74 games, starting 44.
Of course, there is the possibility that the Celtics deal him. If they do, they want to get maximum return. Sullinger isn’t worried about what the front office does or doesn’t do. He’s focused on improving a team that suffered through 25 wins, the worst season of his college or pro career.
“I’m not a [general manager]; I’m a player,” Sullinger said. “But regardless of what [president of basketball operations] Danny [Ainge], [director of player personnel] Austin [Ainge] or [assistant general manager Mike] Zarren do, I’m full support. My job is to play, their job is to manage. As long as I don’t try to manage and play, I think the Boston Celtics will be a pretty [good] team in the East.”
He may not be in the front office but there is one role he feels he can serve if he sticks around in Boston, and it provided another reason beyond conditioning for him to be in attendance Wednesday – leadership. One of those looking up to Sullinger while working out with him Wednesday was Kelly Olynyk.
“Honestly, yes, there’s things I can help Kelly out with, if I see something he’s not doing well,” said Sullinger, who will not be making the trip to Orlando for the Summer League. “We kind of police ourselves so he helps me out at the same time I help him out. It’s kind of two-way street. It gives me an opportunity to kind of help out the younger guys and kind of test my IQ and see if I really know basketball the way I say I do.”
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