|Celtics practice notes: Rajon Rondo improves, Jeff Green returns, rotation starts coming together||10.14.14 at 2:01 pm ET|
The Celtics kicked off the preseason with a busy stretch of four games in just six nights. They since have had an off day, then practice resumed on Monday and Tuesday in Waltham leading up to Wednesday’s game against the Raptors in Maine.
Here are some notes from prior to Tuesday’s practice.
Rajon Rondo shows improvement
Rondo has been on the court shooting the ball prior to each preseason game, which is a very good sign. He also has been doing ball handling with his broken left hand (with a brace on it). All signs point to Rondo being right on schedule in his recovery, if not ahead of schedule.
“We’ve increased his conditioning within workouts,” Brad Stevens said. “So what we’ve done is, the last couple of days, we’ve actually worked him out with a couple of other guys early in a small group. And then he’ll do all of the non-contact stuff in our workout, which [Tuesday] will be most of the workout. So that’ll be good. He’s getting there, it’s just a matter of he can’t be involved in contact.”
Jeff Green returns from calf injury
Green has been practicing this week, and Stevens indicated he will be in shape to play against Toronto.
“Yeah, he’ll play [Wednesday],” Stevens said. “That’ll be part of his conditioning.”
With the emergence of Evan Turner so far this preseason, Stevens would like to find ways to get Turner and Green on the court at the same time now that Green is back. It’s something Turner sees going well.
“I think Jeff and I have a good rapport,” Turner said. “It’s all about communication, and once again, [Green] is our go-to-guy. I just want to play, so whatever he wants I’m going to do.”
Turner expressed confidence that he and Green will be able to play off one another.
“We attempted to,” he said with a laugh. “We played together before he got hurt, too, so I think clearly he will have to get re-acclimated because he hasn’t played in the last couple of weeks, but it should be fine.”
|Tyler Zeller impresses Celtics teammates in training camp||10.02.14 at 2:29 pm ET|
As the Celtics continued their training camp in Waltham on Thursday, one newcomer’s performance has commanded the attention of his teammates. Tyler Zeller’s name has been the first out of many players’ mouths when asked who has impressed them most in camp this fall.
“When you ask that question, it’s got to be somebody new, so it really narrows the list down,” Zeller joked. “But it’s one of those things where it’s really an honor for somebody to say that about you. But at the same time I’ve got to continue to prove that and continue to get better.”
Brad Stevens spent time recruiting the Zeller brothers for years while at Butler — all three of them. Ironically, Tyler may have been the brother that Stevens felt he was least likely to end up coaching one day.
“When I was an assistant I recruited Luke, who is the oldest, very hard and didn’t get him,” Stevens said. “And then [I] figured out we weren’t going to get Tyler pretty quickly. And then I recruited Cody, the youngest one, probably the hardest because I had known him since I recruited Luke.”
Joked Stevens: “But clearly, if he wanted to come, I would have taken him.”
Now that Stevens got his guy, or at least one of them, he is seeing a lot of things in Zeller’s game that are going to earn him minutes in his first year in Boston.
“Like I’ve said all along, he just runs the floor,” Stevens said. “He’s a very unselfish player, he’s a smart player. He stands out because he does little things well. He’s a guy that can score on the block in the right matchup, but his strength is in beating people to spots.”
|Celtics open training camp, Brad Stevens ready for more aggressive approach||09.30.14 at 7:04 pm ET|
The Celtics kicked off training camp Tuesday with two-a-days at the team’s training facility in Waltham. It’s somewhat of a new trend for the team, which has journeyed to Newport, Rhode Island, for training camp the last several years.
Brad Stevens had a simple state of mind as to why the team is staying local.
“Because my office is here,” he said. “The computer is there, the TV I know how to work is in the same place. The equipment guys don’t have to carry thousands of bags. The video guys don’t have to move their whole life. It made a lot more sense to stay here. … The kind of work we get done is a lot more important than anything else, like where we do it.”
Stevens indicated he may have moved things along a bit too slowly last season and wants to take a more aggressive approach this time around.
“I’ve got a great idea about how fast or how slow I need to go,” he said. “Right now, in a lot of ways I’m trying to throw as much at them as possible in the next three days and then we’ll break it down after that.”
Added Stevens: “I thought I was too gradual last year and so we’re going to be a lot quicker in that. But at the same time, at the appropriate time, after a couple of days we’ll stop and hopefully break it down.”
With Rajon Rondo out of camp with a broken hand, Stevens briefly explained the team’s point guard situation on the first day of camp: “We had three teams, Evan [Turner], Marcus [Smart] and Phil [Pressey].”
Turner is less of a true point guard than Smart and Pressey, but that doesn’t concern Stevens.
“One thing is you don’t really know [is how Turner will respond], but he’s better with the ball than not,” Stevens said, adding: “Not withstanding Rondo, he’s as good of a pick-and-roll player as we have.”
Continued Stevens: “We have one point guard healthy that has NBA experience and that’s Phil Pressey. And that’s not a lot of it. I’m not as worried about [the point guard position] because I think people are going to put you in a box for your position, and I’m just not going to do that. I’m not going to worry about it. [Turner's] a ball handler, he can make plays, he’s smart. And then I think that keeps our other guys in the positions that they’re most comfortable.”
The Celtics continue camp in Waltham all week before hosting a practice at the TD Garden on Friday for season ticket-holders.
|Danny Ainge’s quest to hang another banner in Boston||09.23.14 at 6:36 pm ET|
“You left off the Celtics,” another media member countered.
“I did. Yes, I did. Good observation,” said Ainge, pausing, and then adding, “but I do believe the extraordinary is possible.”
Ladies and gentleman, the 2014-15 Boston Celtics, where the extraordinary is possible, but the reality is the roster looks an awful lot like the edition that won 25 games this past season.
“There were things that we wanted to do that we weren’t able to do,” said Ainge. “There were some things that were tempting that we didn’t do, that I’m very glad we didn’t do. I like that we were able to get some things accomplished, although we weren’t able to get a big, big deal accomplished that we wanted to. But I’m excited about our two young guys that we drafted, I’m very happy that we have Avery [Bradley] coming back and I really like our young core.”
It’s no secret the Celtics wanted Kevin Love, but all reports indicated their interest never amounted to much. Now, it seems, there was another trade ownership considered “a major deal” this summer that Ainge dismissed.
|Rebuild Spotlight: What to expect from Brad Stevens||09.17.14 at 11:01 pm ET|
The Celtics are coming off of their worst season since 2006-07. Despite high expectations this offseason, the team is entering 2014-15 with a similar roster to last season, which comes with similar expectations. However, Brad Stevens will be in his second season as coach, Rajon Rondo will begin the season healthy and Danny Ainge has added some new, young talent. But it’s still clear that the Celtics are entering yet another rebuilding season, leaving us with some major questions. We’ll try to find some answers in this five-part series called Rebuild Spotlight.
Despite just 25 wins in Brad Stevens‘ debut season in Boston, the verdict is in on the coach: He’s the real deal. That was the hope when Ainge lured Stevens away from Butler with a six-year contract, but now we have clarity. After dazzling in his first season on the NBA sidelines, Stevens has made it clear that he is going to be as much a cornerstone of the Celtics’ rebuild as anyone.
Of course, much like the young players he coaches, Stevens must reach his full potential if he is going to lead the Celtics back to contention. The C’s were a solid defensive team right away last season; they were 14th in defensive rating heading into the All-Star break, but finished 20th at season’s end. Stevens wants to establish a defensive identity, and with Avery Bradley (who sees Boston having a top-10 defense this season) returning and the addition of Marcus Smart (whom scouts believe is the league’s next great perimeter defender), improvement on that side of the ball is expected.
Defense will be Stevens’ focus when training camp begins, but the Celtics’ offense, untraditionally, is where the biggest improvements are needed. Frankly, last season was a mess offensively, regardless of whether Rajon Rondo was on the floor or not.
Boston finished the season 27th in offensive rating and 28th in turnover rating. Until those numbers change, the losses are going to continue to pile up. Last year’s plan was to make Jeff Green the featured piece on offense. Yet, he failed to prove himself as a consistent option when all signs pointed to Green compiling career numbers.
On the other hand, Bradley (23 years old) and Jared Sullinger (22) stepped in as strong offensive options when healthy. Stevens would be silly not to present his younger stars with larger roles in the offense this season. Obviously, beginning the season with a healthy Rondo to go along with the additions of Smart, fellow rookie James Young, Tyler Zeller, Marcus Thornton and Evan Turner have to prove to be of some help.
Stevens likely will be dealing with an offense by committee like he was last season, this time with Rondo at the helm from the get-go. Bottom line is that there must be more offensive fluidity if the Celtics expect to up their win total from a year ago, particularly in terms of attempting to find some sort of consistency that Green couldn’t provide.
When it comes down to it, Brad Stevens is a fantastic leader for the Celtics going forward. His job is certainly not in any kind of jeopardy at all, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t expect improvements this season. Stevens has had a year to settle in and learn the ropes of the NBA. This season, prepare to watch him take the next step toward becoming one of the elite coaches in the league.
Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow
|Kris Humphries praises Celtics coach Brad Stevens||08.14.14 at 11:22 am ET|
After a disappointing 25-win campaign, few Celtics changed uniforms, but the only outgoing veteran to play all of last season in Boston gave coach Brad Stevens high marks, and that should sit well with the organization.
In a conference call introducing the new Wizards forward to the media in Washington, D.C., Kris Humphries lauded the first-year Celtics coach for helping him improve his game 10 years into his NBA career.
“I talked to Brad all the time, and it’s just one of those things where, ‘Man, you got me a lot better,'” Humphries told reporters Wednesday. “Handling the ball, making plays, things like that. Shooting. I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful for the opportunity to keep playing in a lot of situations like the one I was in.”
Arriving early to training camp last summer, Humphries won over skeptics inside the Celtics organization and out by taking younger players under his wing, keeping quiet early in the season despite limited minutes and eventually earning a spot in the starting lineup through continued effort. Ultimately, his numbers per 36 minutes (15.1 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.6 bpg, 55.2 TS%, 18.2 PER) ranked among the best of his career.
His patience during a trying year was commendable, and while another former Celtic will receive much of the applause when the Wizards make their only trip to Boston this season on Dec. 7, a tip of the cap should be reserved for Humphries, too. The 29-year-old publicly remained open to returning to the Celtics this summer, but ultimately chose a chance to contend for an Eastern Conference crown with the Wizards, and who can blame him?
“When you’re on a team like [Washington], which I feel blessed to be in this situation, everything you do is important and you feel important,” Humphries added in the conference call. “Whatever you do on a winning team is magnified. You feel better doing stuff when you’re working towards something. It’s a little tougher when you’re playing the right way, making sacrifices, and your team doesn’t have a chance to make the playoffs.”
His sign-and-trade with the Wizards also gave the Celtics a $4.3 million trade exception, so a Humphries era that began in Boston with one inopportune photo wasn’t so bad after all. As for the Keith Bogans experience …
|Celtics coach Brad Stevens accepts Ice Bucket Challenge||08.12.14 at 12:02 pm ET|
On Sunday, I issued the Ice Bucket Challenge to Celtics coach Brad Stevens in hopes of raising awareness about ALS and benefiting The Pete Frates #3 Fund‘s mission of finding a treatment and cure for the disease. Within the allotted 24 hours, Stevens accepted the challenge in an email Monday with the subject line, “On its way tomorrow …” Sure enough, the Celtics posted their coach’s response on the team’s YouTube account Tuesday.