|Rajon Rondo: ‘Brad [Stevens] has these guys rolling’||02.08.16 at 4:20 pm ET|
It was just over a year ago when the Celtics surprisingly traded Rondo to the Mavericks, and since then, the rebuilding Celtics have blossomed into one of the better teams in the East. In fact, the Celtics are 62-50 since the Rondo trade and have won nine of their last 10 games after beating the Kings, 128-119, on Sunday. With the win, the Celtics (31-22) hold the third-best record in the Eastern Conference.
After the game, Rondo talked about the Celtics’ depth and credited coach Brad Stevens for the team’s recent success.
“They play well as a team,” Rondo said. “They may be 13, 14 guys deep. You never know who’s going to get it going for them each night. You look at the box score and someone is leading them in scoring different every night. So they’ve been playing well as a team. Brad has these guys rolling, believing in the system and they’re playing very unselfish.”
Rondo said he still keeps in touch with some of his old teammates, and he wished the team well.
“I sent Avery [Bradley] a text after the big shot he made the other day [against the Cavs],” Rondo said. “My young guys, Kelly [Olynyk], Jared [Sullinger]. A lot of these guys are my rookies. So it’s good to see these guys playing well. I wish them health and happiness and to continue to play and try to take the East.”
|Former Butler player Andrew Smith, visited recently by Celtics coach Brad Stevens, dies at 25 of cancer||01.12.16 at 6:51 pm ET|
The news was broken by Smith’s wife, Samantha, who tweeted: “Andrew peacefully passed away in his sleep and in my arms as I told him I loved him this morning. Love you always, Smith.”
Smith had battled non-Hodgkin lymphoma and leukemia over the last two years. Stevens, his former coach at Butler, missed the Celtics game on Jan. 8 in Chicago to pay Smith what turned out to be a final visit. He had previously checked in with him in November when the Celtics visited the Pacers, and Smith was hopeful a bone marrow transplant would help him beat the disease.
Stevens tweeted his condolences on Tuesday.
“To the toughest guy I ever met – Thank you, Andrew,” Stevens wrote. “We love you and will always be inspired by you.”
Indianapolis Star columnist Gregg Doyel noted in a separate post that, according to Samantha, Stevens called or texted Andrew Smith more than anyone outside of his family.
The 6-foot-11 Smith played on both of Butler’s national runners-up teams, in 2010 and 2011. He was a freshman reserve in 2010 when the Bulldogs lost a classic final to Duke, and he averaged 8.5 points a game for the club that lost to UConn. He played professionally in Lithuania for two years. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in January of 2014.
Smith’s father Curt issued the following statement:
“Andrew packed more living into his 25 years than most of us will enjoy in a full 75 years. He lived his faith, relished his family, selflessly served his wife, and pursued his passion of basketball at the highest levels.”
|Kevin Garnett on Celtics vs. New York fans: ‘Bostonians all day’||12.21.15 at 7:36 am ET|
As Kevin Garnett arrives with the Timberwolves for what could be his last visit to Boston as a player, he’s coming off a 15-point victory against the Nets on Sunday in Brooklyn — his third of three NBA homes. So, the Minneapolis Star Tribune took the opportunity to ask the former Celtics superstar if he preferred Boston or New York fans.
“Bostonians all day,” said Garnett. “And they know that.”
While Garnett conceded he enjoyed his “living experience” in New York City and “playing before the crowd in Brooklyn was dope,” nothing tops winning a title in Boston, where he also made a second trip to the finals and a third appearance in the conference finals. “Every time I go to Boston I’ll have that sentimental feeling,” he said.
Garnett grabbed seven boards over 10 minutes in the 100-85 win against the Nets. The Celtics host his Wolves at 7:30 p.m. on Monday night. He is signed through 2017 for another $8 million, but there’s some speculation that as his minutes dwindle while he approaches age 40 that salary could be folded into a front-office gig in Minnesota.
Interestingly, Celtics coach Brad Stevens compared Jae Crowder’s tireless approach to the grit and balls that Garnett famously brought to the locker room whether it was practice time or Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
“I’m far from that. I can say that,” Crowder told reporters gathered at Sunday’s practice. “That’s a guy I look up to and I heard a lot of stories about him and that’s what I try to mold myself into being. I mean that’s an honor for him to say that, but I’m far from that. That’s a goal of mine to become a guy like him. That’s my approach is to try to become the most vocal leader at practice and when the cameras and stuff aren’t around.”
And how would Stevens know Garnett’s work ethic so well? Well, funny story about the two 39-year-olds …
“I was playing an AAU tournament with him on the court next to me,” Stevens told the media. “I don’t think I could be playing right now, physically, let alone as well as he does. But it’s pretty impressive what he’s done.”
|One year later, Brad Stevens has no regrets when comes to Rajon Rondo trade||12.18.15 at 9:03 pm ET|
Jae Crowder has left his mark on the Celtics and their coach.
Having been one of three players traded to the Celtics in the Dec. 18, 2014 deal with the Mavericks ‘ joining Brandan Wright and Jameer Nelson (neither of whom are still on the team) — Crowder had nothing to lose and everything to prove.
“I knew people had told me they thought he could be a pretty good player,” said Stevens before his team’s game against Atlanta at TD Garden Friday night. “I knew he was tough when he played at Marquette. And I knew nothing else. So, I’m really happy he was included in that trade.”
Crowder came in as a blank slate, but has defined himself as one of the Celtics’ most important players since arriving in the Rondo deal.
Coming into Friday night, the Celtics had gone 43-40 in games Crowder has appeared. In those games, Crowder is averaging 10.4 points per game, playing in 25 or more minutes 55 times. Only Avery Bradley and Evan Turner has seen more time on the court for the C’s over that span.
Stevens admits, “I didn’t know that he could do all that he could do.”
This year, Crowder has averaged 36 percent from beyond the 3-point line, while totaling 12.5 points and 1.96 steals per game (9th best in the NBA).
Meanwhile, Rondo’s teams — Dallas and Sacramento — have gone a combined 35-35 when the point guard has played, with his individual results (both on and off the court) getting mixed reviews.
It has all helped put the former Celtics star ever further in the rear-view mirror for Stevens and his team.
“We started to see, like, hey, there’s a guy [in Crowder] that can do a little bit more than stand in the corner and shoot,” the coach said.
|Brad Stevens on Kevin McHale: ‘I don’t agree with the firing’||11.18.15 at 8:40 pm ET|
“First and foremost, we’re in a business where expectations certainly drive decisions at times,” Stevens told reporters before his team hosted the Mavericks. “I don’t agree with the firing, but it’s not my choice to make. I think Kevin is a great coach. Kevin has been great to me. Kevin is obviously a great Celtic. People love him everywhere they’ve been. Everybody that you hear from loves working with him, loves being around him, so to me, from the outside looking in, it looks like 11 games in making a rash decision, but it’s not my call.”
OK, so Stevens didn’t exactly blast the Rockets, but he questioned them, and it’s nice to see behind the curtain. Only 32 people in the world have the job at any given time, so the NBA coaching fraternity can be a tight-knit bunch. Stevens said he wasn’t too familiar with McHale outside of the Hall of Famer’s work as a coach, leading the Rockets to the Western Conference finals last season, but noted that McHale and C’s president Danny Ainge are “close friends,” dating back to their time together in Boston during the 1980s.
Another guy who spent time with both Ainge and McHale on the ’80s Celtics was Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, who also had some pointed remarks for former C’s assistant general manager Daryl Morey, now the GM in Houston.
“I was extremely surprised that McHale was let go,” Carlisle said before Wednesday’s game. “Here’s a guy who has such amazing integrity as a person. You watch him on the sidelines, and he walks with a limp because of the sacrifices he made to become one of the greatest champions in history. He loves and respects the game so much.
“It’s surprising when something like this happens — shocking — but he’s going to be fine,” added Carlisle. “He’s going to get a chance to get some rest here, probably jump on TV and have a blast doing that, and then there will be a lot of teams wanting to hire him, because he did a fantastic job in Houston. When you look at their team over the last few years, their roster was constantly in flux, and he just did an amazing job putting that together and bringing those guys back from down 3-1 in the conference semifinals. That’s a guy with some great coaching credentials, and his other championship credentials really go without saying.”
As for whether the 1985-86 Celtics were the greatest team in NBA history, Carlisle agreed with Ainge: “Yes.”
|Brad Stevens gets an early look at strength of his team: ‘Our bench has to be a great source of energy’||10.29.15 at 10:43 am ET|
The Celtics started off slowly to the lowly 76ers, trailing by as many as nine, 26-17, in the first quarter. Boston made just six of its first 21 shots and could find no rhythm.
The young 76ers had rookie Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel running the court, and scoring. And the Celtics looked flat.
Then the bench started to make the impact that it was built all offseason to make. Slowly but surely, Jared Sullinger, Isaiah Thomas and Amir Johnson made their impact, some faster than others. Thomas missed his first four shots before finding his range, on his way to a game-high 27-point night. Johnson added 15 and Sullinger chipped in with 12 as the vision of Danny Ainge was clear for everyone to see.
When it was all said and done, the Celtics bench outscored Philly reserves, 67-15, in walking away with a 112-95 win. That’s exactly what Ainge and head coach Brad Stevens had in mind when they built the deepest roster in the NBA in the offseason.
“Our bench has to be a great source of energy and scoring and everything else for us,” Stevens said. “And I thought [the Sixers] came out of the gates great. Okafor was really hard for us to guard early ‘ and then Noel, I just thought they had a great impact on the game on both ends. So, we found ourselves in a hole which probably isn’t all bad in your first game, to see how you respond, and we responded. Any time we cut it close I thought we responded. I thought we missed some things that we can clean up, but at the same time I thought we did a lot of good things.”
Down 26-17, the Celtics outscored the Sixers, 21-2, over the next eight minutes. Thomas and Sullinger each had six points in the run.
The bench was also the reason the Celtics were able to hold off the Sixers each time they made a run. Three times the Sixers got as close as five points and each time the Celtics answered, including a 7-0 spurt at the end of the third, when Thomas hit a three right before the buzzer.
“The end of the quarters are important to us,” Stevens said. “We want to finish well, we want to do well in those situations. And those were big for us tonight. But I thought just as big was they’d cut it to five and we’d go on a 7-0 run. They’d cut it to, I believe it was three one time, we go on a 6-0 run. So those are good responses in those moments.”
|How much will Jared Sullinger play at the start of season?||10.23.15 at 9:01 am ET|
It’s the weighty question that hangs over the Celtics.
How much will Jared Sullinger contribute at the start of the season?
There are subsets to that question, as well. Like how much will he be able to contribute, what will his role be and perhaps most of all, what does head coach Brad Stevens envision as a realistic starting point when the season opens Wednesday against the Philadelphia 76ers.
The 6-foot-9 power forward listed at 260 pounds played three stints Thursday in a 99-85 preseason win over the Knicks at TD Garden. His final line: 19 minutes, 6-of-10 from the field, eight rebounds and a team-high 16 points.
“I think he played at the end of the game because we wanted to throw the ball at the post and score,” Stevens said. “So obviously, there were other guys in the game that hadn’t played up to that point, but he had played three stints, [and] that was his third stint.”
At the start of camp, Sullinger acknowledged that his family and former NBA star John Lucas all but had an intervention to help him with his weight approaching 300 pounds and his conditioning. Sullinger can look out on the floor and see a long list of names that are fighting with him for significant playing time, names like Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko and David Lee. Games like Thursday seem to be an indication that he’s at least headed in the right direction as he builds his stamina off the bench.
“You know, time will tell how it all works itself out with minutes but I thought he did a lot of good things,” Stevens said. “As the season goes on, we’re always going to factor in good play. So that’s a good thing.”
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