|LeBron James: Celtics will ‘surprise a lot of teams’||11.15.14 at 2:55 am ET|
“They’re going to surprise a lot of teams, and they’re better than what the critics said coming into this season,” said James. “Coach Stevens has done a great job of putting a system in there that allows everyone to feel comfortable, to feel loose and play a great style of basketball. They’re top three in the league in assists; they’re top three in the league in scoring right now. It’s a great brand of basketball.”
For more on Friday night’s game, read how the Celtics are beating the odds despite the loss.
|David Blatt returns home to coach against Celtics, his childhood team||11.14.14 at 8:22 pm ET|
Oh, and LeBron James also decided to return home from Miami, swinging the balance of power in the Eastern Conference in the process.
However, David Blatt may be the newcomer that gets lost in the shuffle. He also happens to be the head coach.
Blatt has a lot to be happy about, considering the greatest played in the world fell into his lap just weeks after earning his first NBA coaching job. But Blatt, a native of Framingham, Mass., had a homecoming of his own on Friday night, along with a chance to face the team he grew up cheering for.
“You’ll have to excuse me, I’m looking for some familiar faces,” Blatt began his pregame press conference.
Blatt admits that the Celtics have held significant meaning to him since he was a young child growing up just 20 minutes away from the Boston Garden.
“I was a great follower of the Celtics. Bill Russell was my idol, and probably the Celtics‘ teams were the reason that I fell in love with basketball the way that I did,” Blatt proclaimed with a smile from ear to ear.
So what has it been like for someone with no NBA experience to be handed the job of coaching James? Well, Blatt went as far as to compare LeBron to one of his own childhood idols.
“Pleasurable,” the coach said, and with no signs of losing his grin. “Fabulous talent, great basketball IQ. A guy, who like Bill Russell, is about the right things. About winning, about making his teammates around him better, about taking responsibility, about being accountable. He’s a man who respects the game and badly, badly wants to win a championship for Cleveland. What’s not to like?”
Blatt joked with reporters briefly after his press conference was over, making it clear in the process that he was thrilled to be back in his hometown. The only problem?
“I was hoping someone would have brought me some clam chowder,” he quipped.
|Rajon Rondo passes Paul Pierce in career Celtics assists||at 8:04 pm ET|
After stealing the ball from Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love, Rondo found Kelly Olynyk for a layup 1:27 into the contest, recording his first assist of Friday’s game and the 4,306th of his nine-year career in Boston.
Pierce amassed his 4,305 assists in 1,102 games over 15 seasons on the Celtics. Rondo still trails Larry Bird (5,695 assists in 870 games), John Havlicek (6,114 in 1,270) and Bob Cousy (6,945 in 917) on the career list. Judging by the company he keeps, Rondo’s not so bad.
|Rajon Rondo feels he’s ‘still a long way’ from where he wants to be||11.13.14 at 11:09 am ET|
Wednesday night was an example of what can go wrong when he doesn’t. As a point guard and captain, Rondo has often been responsible for calling out defenses for the likes of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Avery Bradley. Rondo, by his own admission after a 109-94 loss to the Thunder, is still working his way back to form after missing training camp and preseason with a broken bone in his left hand.
“I think around Game 6 for me and still kind of preseason but everything counts,” Rondo said. “I’m still trying to get my rhythm, my wind and my timing with my teammates. I’m still a long way from where I want to be so I’m just going to continue to work.
“I’m OK defensively,” Rondo said. “I think it’s a team effort. I’m just trying to do my job in getting to the ball, contest shots. We didn’t do a great job of that, including myself. [Anthony] Morrow hit some tough shots but we still have to make them more uncomfortable off the ball. Give them credit. They made plays. They made the shots. They had our defense scattered all over the court. They went inside with dunks with Adams. And they went outside with Morrow and [Nick] Collison. They had us all over the place.”
The Helter Skelter defense allowed the Thunder to shoot 62 percent in the second half as the Thunder outscored Boston, 67-43, to cruise to just their third win in nine games.
“We let one slip away,” Rondo said. “They come off a back-to-back. They got in around three in the morning and we’ve been waiting. It’s a disappointing loss but we continue and have to move forward.”
Moving forward means LeBron James, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers on Friday night at the Garden. The Thunder shot lights out without Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook Wednesday. Celtics fans shudder to think what might happen if Cleveland’s “Big 3″ get hot Friday.
Brad Stevens isn’t the kind of coach to throw chairs or even raise his voice to get his point across when he’s ticked off at his team.
But Wednesday night, after a complete and utter no-show in the second half of a 109-94 loss to the undermanned Thunder at the Garden, Stevens came as close to publicly calling them out as you’ll see from the mild-manned coach.
“Well, I think it was, first of all, their energy and their togetherness, and their energy,” Stevens said. “Their passion was obvious and evident. And I don’t know if it was the fact that we missed a couple of shots that got us out of a rhythm, but the bottom line is we didn’t guard them at all in the second half. And they had a lot to do with that. They ran good stuff, and they made shots.”
Former Boston College sharpshooter Reggie Jackson and Anthony Morrow (28 points each) picked up the slack for a team missing Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The Thunder, who trailed 51-42 at the half, outscored the Celtics, 67-43, in the second half, as Boston allowed Oklahoma City to shoot 62 percent (26-of-42).
“Credit to them,” Stevens said. “We talked about guys like Morrow; if you ever leave Morrow, he’s going to score,” Stevens said. “If you ever get hit on a screen and you’re lost, he’s going to score. And he scored a lot. And we let the big’s run down the lane and dunk it a couple times. I mean, 67 points in a half is pretty poor.”
|Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins and a Celtics brotherhood||at 1:31 am ET|
Those 2007-08 Celtics share a bond that won’t be broken, so it wasn’t surprising to see Leon Powe waiting in the visiting locker room for Thunder center Kendrick Perkins to get dressed Wednesday night.
“Sometimes you just need a reality check,” said Perkins, who has worked through his share of ups and downs in Oklahoma City, coming off the bench in Wednesday’s 109-94 win over his former team. “Sometimes people you love just have to put you in place and talk to you, and that’s all you need at times, is just that one person to talk to.
“I go to a lot of people, man,” he added. “I talk to [Kevin Garnett] a lot. I talk to [Rajon] Rondo a lot. KG is the one who tells me the truth all the time. He’s going to tell me the truth whether I want to hear it or not.”
Rondo wouldn’t share exactly what he and he and his former teammate discuss.
“I can’t really say what we talk about, really,” he said. “He told me some things, too, but I won’t put him on blast.”
Perkins is a little more forthcoming about their relationship. They became best friends as the young tandem that filled out a starting five that featured Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, so when Perkins was dealt to OKC for Jeff Green at the 2011 trade deadline, it taught them both a less in NBA business. Still, they remain thick as thieves.
Naturally, as Perkins and Rondo approach unrestricted free agency for the first time in their careers, their conversations occasionally focus on the future. “I think it’s a great place for him,” Perkins told reporters prior to the game. “I think he wants to stay here. We talk on the regular, and I think he should stay. If I was him, I’d stay.”
Rondo didn’t disagree. “That’s about accurate,” said the Celtics captain. “From Media Day in the beginning, that’s what I said initially, so … my perspective hasn’t changed, and I love being a Celtic.”
|Magic 9-Ball: Rajon Rondo Trade Barometer v1.0||11.11.14 at 3:19 pm ET|
Let’s face it: This is the season of Rajon Rondo. As interesting as it is to evaluate the frontcourt progress of Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk, Avery Bradley‘s offensive potential and Jeff Green‘s surprising consistency, the biggest questions the Celtics must answer all involve Rondo. Just how good is he? Will he be traded? What can they get in return? In a weekly feature on Green Street, we’ll take stock of the Celtics captain’s status every Tuesday.
RAJON RONDO TRADE VALUE
When asked if Rondo looked like the player who earned four straight NBA All-Star Game nods from 2010-13, one of the players he’ll battle for a fifth trip to the exhibition didn’t hesitate.
“He had a triple-double tonight,” Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry said after Rondo collected 15 assists, 13 points and 10 boards in a 110-107 loss to Toronto. “That’s pretty good, ain’t it?”
It’s true. The most telling indicator of Rondo’s return to health has been his ability to hover around a triple-double on a nightly basis. He’s posted averages of 11.2 assists, 9.0 points and 8.0 rebounds in 33.2 minutes over five games. Oscar Robertson is the only player in NBA history to post those numbers over a full season (he did it twice … while averaging 30 points), so it’s unlikely he’ll maintain that pace through 82 games. Regardless, he’s been remarkable.
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