|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.
|Avery Bradley upgrades playoff goal to championship||09.25.15 at 9:23 pm ET|
‘To get back to the playoffs and hopefully use all the experience we gained from last year to get further and have a chance to play in the championship,’ said Bradley. ‘Obviously, that’s our ultimate goal, and we’re going to try to prepare so we can get to that level.’
The championship? Really?
‘I feel like it’s definitely realistic,’ added the 24-year-old Bradley. ‘A lot of people laughed when I said we were going to make the playoffs last year, and we did.’
Well, he’s got a point there. Believe it or not, Bradley is the longest-tenured player of the Celtics, and as the lone remaining member of the team that reached the 2012 Eastern Conference finals, he should know what it takes.
‘I know that I want to take that role to help my teammates become the best players on and off the court,” said Bradley. “I’m going to try to speak up more this year. I’m definitely going to lead by example, no matter what, but I definitely want to try to be a role model for the younger guys and push them every single day so we can be the best players we can be, so we can achieve our ultimate goal — and that’s winning a championship.’
So, the goal really is winning a championship, then. (As it should be for every team worth its salt, by the way.)
‘If we continue to work hard, anything’s possible,’ said Bradley, who started for the 2014-15 team that got swept in the first round. “If you buy into what the coach is trying to do and this Celtics culture, I feel like anything is possible and we can definitely have a chance to make it to the championship if we do those things.’
|Sadly, Tyler Zeller concedes Celtics won’t finish 82-0 this season||09.23.15 at 1:16 pm ET|
If the C’s finish with the same 40-42 record they produced in 2014-15, they may not only fail to claim a No. 7 seed again, but miss the playoffs entirely. Just about every Eastern Conference team that finished below Boston last season has since upgraded its roster, save for the 76ers.
“From a coaching standpoint, I always go into a season looking at what I think we’ll be able to do well, and I think you look at what your potential challenges will be,” Stevens told the media gathered at Old Sandwich Golf Club in Plymouth for the team’s annual charity golf fundraiser. “So, I just look at it more as a job. I don’t look at it as what expectations are from results.
“We have such a long way to go to be where we want to be. We have to play better than last year overall to make the playoffs again. The East is better. Teams that didn’t make it really improved. We were as close to 12th as we were to fourth, so time will tell if we make the right strides, but if we take shortcuts or if we’re not connected, then we won’t. So, that’s our job.”
In what has also become an annual tradition, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge offered his list of contenders for the Eastern Conference crown this season.
|Tyler Zeller, Jared Sullinger face contract extension conundrum||09.22.15 at 11:54 am ET|
As anticipated, negotiations between the Celtics and their trio of players entering the final year of their rookie contracts — Jared Sullinger, Tyler Zeller and Perry Jones III — haven’t moved beyond an initial discussion.
“I’ve had preliminary conversations with the representatives of those players, and we’ll see how it goes in October,” team president Danny Ainge said from Plymouth, where the C’s hosted their annual charity golf tournament to benefit the Shamrock Foundation. “We have until October to make those decisions, and we’ll see how training camp goes.”
Ainge and the agents for Sullinger and Zeller are expected to be far apart on negotiations. The C’s will seek team-friendly deals for a pair of players who haven’t established themselves as anything beyond role players, while those two — as all free agents will be — are anticipating hefty raises when the salary cap balloons $20 million in 2016. As for Jones, he may not even make the roster, so he won’t be signing an extension for an entirely different reason.
“Obviously, it would be nice to have an extension, just because it’s a little more security, but at the same time you’ve got to approach the year, and you can’t be heartbroken if you don’t get it,” said Zeller, one of two players (Jonas Jerebko) at the charity golf event. “You have to be fully prepared. Either way, I’ve got to do my job this year. I have one more year on my contract, so I’ve got to go out and do as much as I can to help our team this year.”
While Sullinger was not present Tuesday, his father was in a foursome at Plymouth’s Old Sandwich Golf Club. The Celtics brass has not seen Satch Sullinger’s son this summer, as the fourth-year big man is not one of eight players working out in Waltham, but Ainge has followed Jared Sullinger’s training regimen on social media. Sort of.
“My eyes aren’t good enough to see the Twitter pictures, nor do I believe most of the Twitter pictures, but I’m not worried about that,” said Ainge, who has criticized Sullinger’s conditioning in the past. “I know Jared is putting in the work this summer. It’s a big year for him and for us, and I’m confident he’s going to have a terrific year.”
But there’s at least a chance neither Sullinger nor Zeller will earn the starting positions they held at various points last season, since the arrival of veterans David Lee and Amir Johnson presents a logjam in the frontcourt. And that could present a problem for a pair of players who need playing time now to increase their value next summer.
“It’s one of those things where hopefully your play speaks for itself,” said Zeller. “You’ve just got to go and find your little niche and what your team needs, where you fit, and hopefully that will kind of talk for itself and get you playing time. And if it doesn’t, you’ve just got to keep working and keep trying to find a spot for you.”
|Danny Ainge’s 25 most consequential trades: 8. Hello, Tony Allen||09.21.15 at 3:49 pm ET|
Over the next month, we’ll chronicle the 25 most consequential trades of Danny Ainge’s tenure as Celtics president of basketball operations. When we’re done, we’ll have a better understanding of Ainge’s philosophy and success rate on the trade market. Perhaps by the end of this exercise we’ll even feel better about the future of this rebuild. At the very least, we’ll have something interesting to debate while we wait for training camp to open.
- No. 25: Hello, Sebastian Telfair.
- No. 24: Goodbye, Semih Erden.
- No. 23: Hello and goodbye again, Antoine Walker.
- No. 22: Hello, Ricky Davis.
- No. 21: Goodbye, Walter McCarty.
- No. 20: Hello, Keyon Dooling.
- No. 19: Hello and goodbye, Courtney Lee.
- No. 18: Hello, Kelly Olynyk.
- No. 17: Hello, Nate Robinson.
- No. 16: Hello, Brandon Bass.
- No. 15: Hello, Wally Szczerbiak.
- No. 14: Goodbye, Jiri Welsch.
- No. 13: Hello, Leon Powe.
- No. 12: Goodbye, Jeff Green.
- No. 11: Hello and goodbye, Jordan Crawford.
- No. 10: Goodbye, Antoine Walker.
- No. 9: Hello, Kendrick Perkins.
With that out of the way, here’s No. 8 on the list of Danny Ainge’s 25 most consequential trades.
July 29, 2003: Goodbye, Bruno Sundov.
ARRIVING in Boston
- Jumaine Jones: One of Ainge’s first orders of business as president of basketball operations, the Celtics acquired Jones in a sign-and-trade, giving the versatile free agent an affordable three-year, $5.1 million deal. During his one season in Boston, Jones didn’t enjoy the same success he did previously on the Cavaliers, if only because his minutes were slashed and his production followed suit.
DEPARTING to Cleveland
- J.R. Bremer: Signed to an undrafted rookie free agent contract, Bremer performed admirably during his rookie season in Boston, averaging 8.3 points and 2.6 assists in 23.5 minutes a night. But he was not long for the NBA, as he was released by the Cavaliers 31 games into his sophomore season. Outside of a 10-day contract with the Golden State Warriors a week later, he never returned to the association.
- Bruno Sundov: The Croatian sensation averaged all of 1.2 points and 1.1 rebounds in 26 games while making less than $1 million during his lone year in Boston. His size at 7-foot-2 offered enough intrigue for the Cavs to take a chance, and he played a whopping four games before being waived by Cleveland.
- Boston’s 2005 second-round pick (Ryan Gomes): The loss of this pick might’ve hurt had the Celtics not gotten it back five months later as a throw-in to the trade that brought Ricky Davis to Boston.
Feb. 19, 2004: Hello, Tony Allen.
|Isaiah Thomas, Floyd Mayweather can’t get enough of each other||09.15.15 at 5:02 pm ET|
Seven months later, their bromance seems to have blossomed into a full-scale public display of brofection. We’ll let the C’s pint-sized point guard explain, as he did during an interview with SiriusXM’s Going the Distance that was transcribed by ESPN.com’s Chris Forsberg.
“He respects me a lot. A lot of people in his circle, when I’m around they are like, ‘Man, you don’t understand how much Floyd talks about you when you’re not here. He just loves you around.’ I think that’s the little-guy complex, that we gotta stick together.
“So I think we relate to each other a lot more than any other athlete that he has relationships with or friendship with. Just from that, we kinda bond and we got a close friendship. Just from us being small and doubted our whole lives.”
Considering Mayweather’s history in relationships, perhaps we should be concerned about Thomas, but there’s at least one positive benefit to his friendship with arguably the most brash man on Earth.
“Man, it’s done wonders for me,” said Thomas. “Even the first day when I met him five or six years ago when I went to watch him train, it was just like, man, you see why he’s the best at what he does. And you see why he hasn’t taken a loss in  fights. It’s just amazing. He’s the definition of hard work and dedication, somebody, that, no matter what time of day it is, it can be 4 or 5 in the morning, he’s going to go on a six-mile run, or go to the gym and get nine rounds of sparring in with no breaks.
“I just try translate that to the basketball court. If a guy at  years old is working that hard, I gotta at least work as hard him on the basketball court — and I’m 26 years old. He’s a guy that I definitely look up to as an athlete and a guy that really helps me out, not just in basketball, but being the best at your craft. And wanting to be the best and not just saying it.”
While Mayweather is accustomed to declaring himself the best ever in a boxing ring, thankfully Thomas lives in the real world, where he set two goals for the 2015-16 NBA season — winning a playoff series and making the All-Star team — taking careful consideration to mention, “first and foremost it comes with team goals.” Given the finish to last season and their additions this summer, the Celtics should absolutely consider an Atlantic Division title and a second-round playoff appearance within reach. And if Thomas builds on his 19 points and 5.4 assists per game over the final two months of 2014-15, there are certainly All-Star spots to be had in the Eastern Conference’s backcourt.
P.S. I’m with the SiriusXM hosts in wondering how Thomas’ team only defeated Mayweather’s squad by a 3-2 margin in their best-of-five pickup series, even if the rosters were five against five.
And for some reason my favorite part about the Showtime video of their interaction was Thomas saying, “I can’t do a cool move and people like it?” You can do cool moves, Isaiah. People like it.
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