|With Rajon Rondo gone, Marcus Smart still isn’t quite ready to be ‘the guy’ yet||12.26.14 at 11:25 pm ET|
Friday marked just the second start in the NBA career of 20-year-old Marcus Smart.
Smart worked hard Friday (5 points, 6 assists in 31 minutes) but it wasn’t enough in the end as the Celtics fell to the Brooklyn Nets, 109-107.
“A lot of confidence, actually,” Smart said. “It just shows I’m getting back to the player that I was in the preseason and getting back to what this team needs, energy-wise, on the defensive end, and just trying to help my team.”
But asked if he’s ready to assume the role of Rondo, Smart stopped short of that complete commitment.
“Not really. I don’t feel like there’s a guy on this team,” Smart said. “Everybody’s the guy because you never know on any given night, it can be somebody’s night.
“It’s a lot. It’s a lot that comes with it but obviously, I’ve done a lot in my life and throughout my whole career through basketball to prepare me for this type of situation and to just to do whatever I can to help this team come out with victories.”
Still, only at 20, he’s earning the respect of his peers around the NBA. Take Kevin Garnett. KG fell on top of him while scrambling for a loose ball in the third quarter. After Smart got the ball ahead on the break, Garnett tapped him on the backside for his hustle on the floor. Afterward, Garnett said he was “trying to trip his ass.”
“Knowing KG, I wouldn’t be surprised,” Smart said. “The guy goes hard. That’s who KG is and that’s why a lot of guys respect him.”
Smart could laugh because he’s becoming more and more comfortable assuming command of his team.
‘Felt very comfortable. Practiced the other day helped that. Went over some plays and getting guys in the right spots so I was able to know where guys were going to be and try to find them today.’
Smart found out on Christmas Day that he was starting on Friday.
“Coach [Brad Stevens] called me before practice and told me that I was going to be starting and just to keep bringing the energy,” Smart said.
“Both, practice time and conditioning. With an injury you tend to sit on the sideline and your conditioning goes and its easy to get out of shape then it is to get into shape. Getting those minutes and practice time has put me back into the shape that I was in in the preseason.’
In many ways, coming back to TD Garden was surreal and odd for Kevin Garnett Friday afternoon.
It was the first time the 38-year-old future hall of famer has been back to Boston since the Celtics traded Rajon Rondo away to the Dallas Mavericks. And it might be the last time he gets a standing ovation from the Garden crowd that had a love affair with his game for six unforgettable seasons in Celtic green.
After Garnett’s Nets managed to escape with a 109-107 win over the Celtics, Garnett reflected on playing a Boston team that no longer has any members of the 2008 championship squad.
“I’ve been getting a lot of ‘Rest in peace’ texts and stuff, so I had to change my number,” Garnett said. “It’s all good, though. We’re infinite. Once you win once, you win forever.”
Garnett didn’t have a big role in Brooklyn’s win. He had just six points and four rebounds in 17 minutes and didn’t play the final 17 minutes in which the Nets rallied from a 12-point deficit to win.
Before Friday’s game, he received a standing ovation in the dark from the fans who came out to see him play in Boston for perhaps the last time in his career.
“It’s always love here,” said Garnett. “It’s always an appreciation that I can never give back, other than the salute. Winning is infinite. And I’ll always have that special relationship with this city.”
Garnett admitted that he has indeed given some thought to the end of the road coming at the end of this season and that Friday might have been his swan song in Boston.
“At this stage it’s always somewhere lurking in the back, probably whether I admit it or not,” Garnett said. “But, if I’m being truthful with you, sometimes [I do think about it]. Seeing Paul [Pierce] the other day, he was in town to play the Knicks and we had a conversation. So, at this stage, we know that things are not taken for granted, but more appreciated. It crosses [my mind], I wouldn’t lie about that.”
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|Report: Julius Randle’s exclusion stalled Rondo-to-Lakers talks||12.23.14 at 3:46 pm ET|
In his weekly power rankings, Yahoo! Sports reporter Marc Spears dropped an interesting nugget.
Likewise, USA Today’s Sam Amick reported an offer that would have sent Jordan Hill, a first-rounder and presumably Nash to Boston in exchange for Rondo and Jeff Green going back to L.A. (although Hill owns Bird rights approval of a trade and can’t be dealt until Jan. 15).
Either way, it’s noteworthy that the Celtics discussed trading their captain to the rival Lakers before ultimately sending him to Dallas. The trade talks also suggest Rondo’s breakfast with Kobe Bryant during the Lakers’ most recent visit to Boston was more than “just two [expletives] having breakfast.” It would’ve been fascinating had the Lakers been willing to include Randle in a potential deal.
|Rajon Rondo thanks Boston on way out of town||12.19.14 at 9:03 am ET|
Rajon Rondo, who was singing Christmas carols with his Celtics teammates at Boston Children’s Hospital on the evening he was traded to the Mavericks, expressed heartfelt gratitude for his time in the city in a series of tweets.
“My time in Boston has meant so much,” he wrote. “I’ve grown up with this city both as a basketball player and person. The love I have for the most loyal and supportive fans in the league is unmatched. My teammates have shown nothing but heart the last couple of seasons. They are some of the hardest working guys I have played with and I wish them the best. I’ve experienced my most successful and challenging years with the Celtics, fans and city.
“The opportunity to play with guys like Dirk [Nowitzki], Monta [Ellis], Tyson [Chandler] and the young talent of Chandler [Parsons] is exciting. I look forward to building something special in Dallas.”
|Report: Rajon Rondo ‘open’ to re-signing with Mavs, Rockets if dealt||12.18.14 at 9:43 am ET|
The news is trickling out in waves now, and the latest on the possibility of the Celtics trading Rajon Rondo comes from CBSSports.com columnist Ken Berger, who reports the C’s captain is ‘open’ to re-signing with the two teams rumored to be in hottest pursuit of his services — the Mavericks and Rockets.
While Rondo expressed publicly his desire to remain in Boston following Wednesday’s game, he’s apparently reached a point privately we had not heard in years past. The writing, as they say, appears to be on the wall.
In his weekly interview with CBS Sports Radio, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge conceded there have been trade discussions with multiple teams, as there always are at this time of year — while not specifically citing the rumored Dallas and Houston interest — didn’t exactly give his point guard a ringing endorsement when asked if the team would be all that different without Rondo.
“I don’t know,” said Ainge, stumbling for phraseology. “That’s a good question. Rajon has been a big part of our team, not just this year, but for the past years, as you know, but Rondo — because we don’t really see what Marcus Smart has been able to do yet, because he hasn’t been healthy; he’s got such a shortage of minutes and opportunities to play with the ankle sprain, so it’s a good question. I don’t think any of us know the answer to that.”
The wheels are turning, and Rondo getting out when they stop seems more likely than ever before.
|Rajon Rondo on trade rumors: ‘It’s a way of life’||12.17.14 at 11:45 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo knows the deal by now.
Every year around this time, the trade rumors start swirling around the Celtics point guard, and this season is no different.
“It’s a way of life since I’ve been here,” he said after Wednesday’s win over the Magic. “It’s just part of it.”
Yahoo! Sports columnist Adrian Wojnarowski, as he so often does, peppered Twitter with a few freshly ground spices as Rondo wrapped up another near triple-double effort — the Mavericks “are serious suitors” for Rondo’s services.
In his postgame press conference, Rondo said he had not spoken to Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge about the latest round of rumors, and then proceeded to walk out of TD Garden just as Ainge, Celtics assistant general manager Mike Zarren and co-owner Stephen Pagliuca were exiting the building. It might’ve been awkward had it not been a way of life.
While the Celtics seem willing to part with Rondo for the right price, Rondo reiterated publicly his desire to stay in Boston.
“How many times do you want me to say it?” he asked. “We discussed it on media day. My thoughts and my opinions as far as the organization hasn’t changed, so … I’m enjoying life. You can’t win ‘em all, but these guys are funny, I’m young and I’m doing what I love to do. It’s a dream come true. I can’t be upset about anything, really.
“I just want to be a better person each year, be a better teammate each year, and I think I’m doing a pretty good job so far, just trying to lead these young guys. I’m not that old, but they make me feel like it.”
If something seems different about the rumors this time around, Rondo is remaining as poker-faced as ever.
“It is what it is now, and everything happens for a reason,” he said. “I believe in certain timing and things happening for a reason, so I’m 28 and I’m pretty much the veteran guy on this team and that’s part of it.”
|5 things we learned in Celtics’ win over Magic||at 9:54 pm ET|
The home squad outscored Orlando 31-19 in the fourth quarter to close out the game, something the team has struggled with so far this season. Brandon Bass led the Celtics with 18 points off the bench, while Jared Sullinger and Jeff Green each had 16 points.
Here’s five things we learned in the win:
RAJON RONDO SHOT WELL IN A NEAR TRIPLE-DOUBLE EFFORT
On a night when trade rumors surrounding Rondo came to light, the point guard came to play. Rondo shot an efficient 6-for-12 from the field en route to 13 points, 15 assists and seven rebounds. Despite six turnovers, Rondo had fantastic command of the game. For one of the first times this season, it seemed he had control over both scoring the ball and getting his teammates involved — a great sign from Rondo.
THE BIGS GOT TO WORK EARLY
Tyler Zeller scored a quick four points for the Celtics on the first two possessions of the game, followed by nine straight Sullinger points. On the opposite side, Nikola Vucevic and Channing Frye combined for 13 of their own points, all before the halfway point of the first quarter.
After the centers scored the first 10 points of the game, Zeller put in another hoop for his sixth point of the quarter, but it was Vucevic who won the early battle. He finished the frame with 12 points and eights boards, putting on display why he is a candidate to make the All-Star team for the East.
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