|Brad Stevens on Dwyane Wade: ‘He’s not scared of big moments’||02.27.16 at 1:57 pm ET|
Before the Celtics took the court for Saturday’s matinee against a team hot on their heels for third place in the East, Brad Stevens gave some respect the Dwyane Wade, a player who’s been in Miami for his entire 13-year career.
“I think the biggest thing is he’s got a lot on his plate, as far as he’s trying to make plays in pick-and-roll,” Stevens said. “He’s been very aggressive in that. He’s been shooting it well in the games I’ve watched. Obviously, he can post up smaller guys and is one of the better back-to-the-basket players in the whole NBA.
“He’s not scared of big moments, and that comes through loud and clear in every game you watch. Obviously, he has had one of the better careers in the NBA of the active players that are playing now. He’s a handful. Wade is playing as well as I’ve seen him in the two and a half years I’ve been in the league.”
With Chris Bosh and his 19.1 points per game sidelined with a blood clot in his calf, the 34-year-old Wade entered Saturday’s game leading all active scorers on the Heat at 18.9 points per contest.
“I just think they’re playing extremely, extremely hard,” Stevens said after Friday’s practice. “Dwyane Wade is being himself of late. [Goran] Dragic is coming into his own. He’s scoring the ball and dishing the ball better. They defend as well, with [Hassan] Whiteside coming off the bench and doing what he does and Justise Winslow and Gerald Green. It’s almost like us of last year. It’s always been next man up. They’re playing really, really hard, and we’ve got to be ready for that.”
“Every game right now is like that, especially with how tight the standings are, especially in the East,” Stevens said. “We understand it’s one game at a time. Every game matters, every game matter. We can’t let our foot off the gas pedal.”
Part of that is because the Celtics enter play Saturday closer to the eighth and final spot in the Eastern playoff picture than they are to the second-seeded Raptors. At 34-25, they’re six games behind the Raptors and just three games clear of the eighth-place Bulls and Hornets.
“I think there are so many games left that all of that stuff will iron itself out,” Stevens said Saturday. “I think you have to focus on playing good basketball. Certainly, our guys are well aware that we’re not just playing a good basketball, we’re playing a group that has always played hard and are well-coached. They’ve got a good culture about them. They’ve got a good way about them. We’re going to have to play well, regardless of whether this late in the season or November, against these guys, and they’ve come in here the last two times last year and handled us pretty good.
I think we’re all aware. I think it’s not relevant to playing the next possession. I don’t really do a lot of talking about that. Obviously, we want to play well against everybody, and certainly your senses are heightened against the better teams around but every team in this league is capable of beating the other badly on a given night. That’s why you just always have to be good. You always have to play well. So it’s really, to me, about the next possession. If you get too far out of that, then you’re always looking for the next thing to motivate on instead of just doing your job as well as you can.”
The Celtics will have the services of Jonas Jerebko off the bench against the Heat. Jerebko sat out the last 15 minutes of practice on Friday with a sore ankle but Stevens indicated he was ready to go before Saturday’s game.
|Celtics notes: Jonas Jerebko nursing sore ankle||02.26.16 at 4:42 pm ET|
WALTHAM — The Celtics went through a much lighter workout at practice Friday than the practice from Wednesday.
The Celtics are dealing with another injury, this time to a member of their bench. Jonas Jerebko missed the last 15 minutes of practice with a sore ankle.
Isaiah Thomas said his left wrist is still “pretty sore” but that he plans to play through it, including the rest of the regular season and playoffs.
The Heat will be without Chris Bosh, who was diagnosed last week with a blood clot in his calf.
The Celtics host the Heat Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. at TD Garden.
|Jared Sullinger on his contract year, Celtics: ‘It’s first team I played for in NBA and hopefully, the last’||at 4:03 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Jared Sullinger is enjoying the low profile and dim light during his somewhat complicated contract year. And he’s using that low profile to help build his case to stay in Boston for the long haul.
The 23-year-old power forward, represented by the powerful David Falk, is in his fourth NBA season, making $2.2 million. Sullinger is eligible for restricted free agency this summer, with a qualifying offer of $3.27 million.
Sullinger, who said he had an epiphany and a family intervention with John Lucas about his weight and eating issues in the offseason, has committed himself to the Brad Stevens system. He’s been part of a starting lineup that’s remained the same for the last 15 games and is averaging 10.1 points and a career-best 8.6 rebounds this season.
Does Sullinger, still only 23, see himself staying in Boston for a long-term deal?
“Most definitely. Most definitely. My oldest brother always told me that the worst thing to happen to me sometimes is change and that I don’t handle change well. I strongly disagree,” Sullinger said, referring to the fact that he thinks he’s handled change well in the past.
But then he admitted, “Sometimes, you just don’t want to change the scenery. When you play for the greatest franchise in the NBA and you see all those banners and all the fans come at you, you don’t want to leave that place because you know it’s a special place in your heart. It’s the first team I played for in the NBA and hopefully it’ll be the last.”
Does he think about that at practice with all the banners hanging up?
“What comes to mind in practice and shootarounds and games is how can we get better? How can we make this team better?” Sullinger said.
|Isaiah Thomas on seeing Malcolm Butler court-side Thursday night: ‘He couldn’t intercept that one’||at 3:03 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Cameras didn’t catch him looking over to Malcolm Butler for approval but Isaiah Thomas did know Butler and Dion Lewis were court-side watching as Thomas dished one of the more famous assists of the season in a 112-107 win over the Bucks Thursday night.
“Yeah, I definitely [saw] them. [Butler] couldn’t intercept that one,” Thomas laughed, referring to the pass with 50.6 seconds left that wound up in the hands of Jae Crowder. Crowder drilled a wide open three that put the Celtics up, 109-102 after the Bucks cut it to four.
“That’s what made it as good a pass as it was is that Jae hit a real clutch shot for us and got us the win,” Thomas said. “The the pass would’ve been good if he didn’t make it but it makes it that much better.
“Right before I picked the ball up, I was thinking of shooting a floater and I saw him. It was my bailout pass. I saw him in the corner. But then when I was guiding myself to jump, I couldn’t see him anymore. I was like, ‘That’s my only pass and hopefully, he’s still in that corner.’ And he was there and he got there at the right time to shoot the shot.
“The internet was broke last night Everybody has been hitting me about the pass. Guess it was a pretty nice pass.”
|Report: Heat front-runners to land Joe Johnson||at 1:32 pm ET|
According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard, the Heat have emerged as the “frontrunners” to land the 34-year-old sharp-shooter, who was bought out this week by the Nets and waived.
Once he clears waivers, Johnson is free to negotiate and sign with any team. Johnson has reportedly indicated that he’s only interested in signing with a playoff contender, which immediately put the Cavaliers at the top of the list.
But Broussard indicated Friday that the Heat, just a game behind the Celtics in the race for third place in the Eastern Conference, are the leading contenders for Johnson. Broussard reports that sources indicate that Johnson believes he would have “a larger role and more meaningful minutes” in Miami.
The Nets bought out the last year of Johnson’s $21.8 million deal, sending him to the waiver wire and free agency.
The Celtics enter Saturday’s 3 p.m. matinee with Miami, holding a 34-25 record while the Heat come in at 32-25.
‘ Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) February 26, 2016
Last week, it became known that the Celtics nearly landed 20-year-old center Jahlil Okafor from Philadelphia before the 76ers pulled out before the trade deadline.
Well apparently, there was another player the Celtics were seriously considering making a play for on the other end of the experience spectrum.
According to ESPN, the Celtics reached out to the Knicks to see if 31-year-old Carmelo Anthony might waive his no-trade clause and accept a deal to Boston.
Citing league sources with knowledge of the situation, ESPN’s Ian Begley reported that it was unclear if there were any formal discussions between the teams and whether those talks ever reached an advanced stage. But, according to Begley, Ainge was informed that Anthony had no desire to leave the Knicks via trade to play for the Celtics.
That should be no surprise as Anthony has repeatedly said publicly that he wants to make a run at a title in New York.
“Doing it in New York is better than doing it any place in the world,” Anthony said before the deadline. “One in New York is better than multiple somewhere else. That was the reason I wanted to come to New York. That’s the reason I’m in New York. … I don’t want to run. I could have run somewhere when I was a free agent. I came back for a reason. I don’t feel like I got to keep expressing that part of why I came back to New York.”
Anthony, who is making $22.875 million this season, is signed through the 2018-19 season on a five-year, $124 million contract. His last season has an early-termination clause. His salary jumps to $24.5 million and $26.2 million in the next two seasons.
|Isaiah Thomas relishes in Suns GM Ryan McDonough admitting mistake: ‘I’m starting to get more and more respect’||02.25.16 at 11:39 pm ET|
Isaiah Thomas cracked a smile from ear to ear when he was asked about Suns general manager Ryan McDonough admitting Thursday morning on a Phoenix radio station that it was “a mistake” to trade Thomas to the Celtics at the 2015 NBA trade deadline.
Thursday night, after scoring a game-high 27 points and dishing out seven assists in a 112-107 Celtics win over the Bucks, Thomas took a little time to savor the recognition of his former employer.
After making a couple of stunning passes to find open teammates, including one over three Bucks to Jae Crowder for a game-clinching three, Thomas was asked if he heard McDonough’s admission.
“Yeah, did,” Thomas said. “I mean it’s cool. I’m starting to get more and more respect, I guess. It feels good to hear him finally say that. But like I always say, I’m focused here on the Celtics. I’m not focused on what happened in the past. When I saw that this morning, it was nice to see somebody say something like that.”
Thomas might have felt snubbed by the Suns when he was traded but he’s turned himself into an All-Star scoring point guard for the third-best team in the Eastern Conference, so there is satisfaction in that.
“I’ve always felt overlooked,” Thomas said. “Ever since All-Star selection, guys are kind of liking what I do, I guess.”
Thomas admitted that he’s a much different player than the one that played in Phoenix even two years ago.
“The game’s slowing down for me,” Thomas said. “For the most part, I’m a better decision-maker. I’m not just trying to score every time. That’s something I’ve done my whole life where scoring has been easy for me but now, it’s just trying to pick and choose my spots, knowing when to be aggressive for myself and knowing when to get other guys going. I think that’s my next step, just becoming a more complete basketball player, just being unpredictable and going out there and trying to make the right play, each and every time.
“I think just because I’m labeled as a scorer. If you score too much, guys say you don’t pass. If you pass too much, like [Rajon] Rondo, they say you can’t score. They’re always going to say something so you’ve just got to take what the defense gives you.”
Speaking of Rondo, does Thomas think Rondo could’ve pulled off that behind-the-head, no-look pass with 50.6 seconds left Thursday night?
“No doubt. You all probably seen that before. He probably did something even crazier than that.”
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