|Weekly NBA Draft Watch: Why Kevin Love deal has to happen soon||06.18.14 at 9:59 am ET|
As this year’s highly anticipated NBA draft creeps even closer, the Celtics continue to do their homework.
Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens are busy students, having brought in several groups of prospects to get a better look at them in person. Aaron Gordon, Julius Randle and Marcus Smart have been the headliners so far, along with local products Noah Vonleh and Shabazz Napier. Clearly Ainge and Stevens are preparing for the draft as if they will be using both of their first-round draft picks.
That’s their job, after all. Which doesn’t necessarily mean Ainge is going to use the picks. He simply has to be ready to do so.
The Celtics were very busy last feel, holding workouts with Noah Vonleh, Aaron Gordon, Marcus Smart, Julius Randle, Gary Harris, Nik Stauskas and Doug McDermott, essentially everyone they would consider with the No. 6 pick.
I still believe that Vonleh, Gordon and Smart are the heavy favorites if Boston keeps the pick, with Gordon being the choice right now given the way we have the draft board playing out.
But I continue to get strong signals that the Celtics are trying hard to use pick No. 6 and 17 along with future No. 1s and young players such as Jared Sullinger or Kelly Olynyk to persuade the Minnesota Timberwolves to trade them Kevin Love. One source close to the Wolves said that while Flip Saunders does not want to trade Love, he realizes the team likely will lose him this summer and the package the Celtics are offering is probably the best he’s going to get. Given the strength of the draft, picks 6, 13 and 17 could land them three young starters to help them rebuild their roster quickly.
As Ford implies, a trade along these lines not only makes sense for both sides, but Boston has to be considered the team with the most to offer.
|Brad Stevens sends a clear message to his Celtics: ‘We’ve got to have a defensive DNA’||04.17.14 at 9:30 am ET|
Brad Stevens saw a lot in his first season in the NBA as a head coach.
After the 57th and final loss of the season, he gave some insight as to what he learned from his maiden voyage in the pro ranks of basketball.
“I think the best thing I learned is that this is not fun to not win but it doesn’t define who you are or how you go about your business. One of the things that I’m probably most happy about with our team is that they didn’t change necessarily who they were. They didn’t let the losing or the multiple losses affect them or their approach, and I hope that I was the same way.”
The best advice for what would be a long season came at the start of the season, when Celtics assistant coach and long-time NBA veteran coach and scout Ron Adams offered some perspective on patience.
“I learned a lot about the NBA game and how it’s played,” Stevens said. “It’s a different kind of basketball. Ron Adams told me at the beginning of the year, ‘If I went and coached high school after 22 years coaching in the NBA, I wouldn’t know what’s going on. It’s 32 minutes, no shot clock. I’d really have to adjust to that.’ I think that’s probably true no matter which way you go. But it is an adjustment. The part I felt most comfortable was in the game, once we got used to the time outs, the 24-second clock and all that other stuff.”
All that other stuff for Stevens starts and ends with better and more consistent defense. It’s what separates talented teams from winning teams in the NBA. It’s what separates teams that can close out games and protect leads from those – like the 2013-14 Celtics – who lose close games time after time down the stretch. Stevens very rarely called his team out after games of this lost season, with a notable exception coming after a lackluster home loss to the Sixers on April 4. But after the final game Wednesday, a 118-102 defenseless loss to the playoff-bound Wizards, he delivered a clear and present message to any player that might return next season.
“So there’s a couple different ways to look at it: are you going to get better in your role, or are you going to expand your role? What I mean by that is: are you going to get better at what you do well, or are you going to get better at some other things that make you, that give you the chance to instead of be the eighth guy be the fifth guy, instead of be the fifth guy be the third guy. We have a lot of great data to be able to share and subjective thoughts as well, and I think we can get better with the guys in the room. I think we clearly are going to need to add to our team to be better, but I told them at halftime, I said, ‘We can start it on October 1st or we can start it right now.’ That is, we’ve got to have a defensive DNA to start next season at a little bit different level than I thought we did at the end of this season. I thought we tried to compete defensively early-on in the year; I didn’t think we made the strides that I would’ve liked to have made.”
Stevens took the time Wednesday at halftime of a game in which they surrendered 38 points in the first quarter and 68 points in the half to remind his team of exactly what he will expect going forward.
“At halftime, I was obviously disappointed in our defensive effort,” Stevens said. “I knew, just look out there, we were undermanned a little bit, but I thought we could play better defensively and it thought we came out in the second half with a great deal of spirit and fight, a little bit more aggressiveness, and it was great until we were worn out. And I thought we wore out and we didn’t have any juice in the last 10 minutes or so, prior to that little run at the end. Credit them; they put us in a world of hurt in a lot of different match-ups. It’s a good basketball team who’s playing well right now, who, as I said earlier, is really sitting pretty for the future because they’ve got really good players at the one and the two that are both very young, that have a chance to be elite at their positions.”
|Sad Brad: The night the Celtics broke Coach Stevens||04.05.14 at 2:22 am ET|
Following each of the Celtics‘ first 52 losses this season, Brad Stevens always seemed to find the silver lining. Avery Bradley‘s defense. Chris Johnson‘s effort. Even Chris Babb‘s shooting. You name it. But after a 111-102 home loss to a Sixers team fresh off a 26-game losing streak, a dark cloud hung over the coach.
The captain knew it. “They were playing harder than us,” admitted Rajon Rondo.
The rookies knew it. “They scored more points than us,” added Kelly Olynyk, “and we didn’t play that hard.”
And the coach sure as heck knew it. “They played well,” said Stevens. “We played not well. That’s it.”
Including Wednesday’s 26-point debacle against the Wizards, the Celtics just suffered perhaps their two worst losses – or best, depending on how you look at it — and that’s saying something in a season full of defeat.
|Jeff Van Gundy on D&C: ‘If [Rajon] Rondo had a do-over, he would’ve gotten on the plane’ to Sacramento||02.28.14 at 11:16 am ET|
ESPN/ABC basketball analyst Jeff Van Gundy joined Dennis & Callahan on Friday morning to discuss Rajon Rondo and other Celtics news. To hear the interview, head to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Last weekend Rondo made the decision not to travel with the Celtics to the team’s game in Sacramento — a game he was not scheduled to play — reportedly so that he could celebrate his birthday with family and friends in Los Angeles.
“I think if Rondo had a do-over, he would’ve gotten on the plane, because your best player has to set the example,” Van Gundy said.
“I can understand wanting to have a birthday celebration in L.A. versus in Sacramento, but when you’re the best player, you’re charged with setting an example that everyone should follow, and one of those things is sacrificing what you want to do for what you should do, and I don’t think there’s one argument that could be made that a guy who’s traveling with the team should miss a game to blow out birthday candles.”
Despite Rondo’s decision, Van Gundy says the four-time All Star has the ideal “Boston fan mentality.”
“A guy’s greatest strength is often his greatest weakness,” Van Gundy said. “What I love about Rondo is his surly, competitive, nasty streak. I love that about him. Now, does that go the other way at times where he may go over the line? Maybe. But it’s hard to find guys in today’s NBA — everybody knows what to say now. Everybody is so polished media-wise.
“To me, Rondo, and every player, has times where he would like to handle situation X a little bit differently, but for the most part, I think his attitude is absolutely the type that you need to win.”
|‘You learn every day’: Brad Stevens experiment nears end of first year with Celtics||02.26.14 at 11:34 am ET|
HANDS ON HIS KNEES, gasping for air, there stood a teenaged Danny Ainge. Covered in sweat, surrounded by members of the Portland Trail Blazers, Ainge looked up to see the greatest Blazer of all. With his shaggy beard and full head of red hair, there was a smiling Bill Walton.
“I’ve known Danny since I moved to Oregon 40 years ago,” said Walton. “He was just in high school in Eugene when we got there. Danny would come up and play with us when he was in high school, and he would do just fine. In fact, he was incredibly fun to play with.”
The young Ainge, still sharpening his teeth as a three-sport All-American at North Eugene High School, would impress his NBA teammates with a strong handle and perfect jumper. The piece of his game that most impressed these professional basketball players was one that still cannot be found on a stat sheet. Ainge’s intelligence put him on another level as a basketball player.
“Danny Ainge is brilliant,” said Walton. “Even at a young age, he was very motivated, dedicated and committed. He’s always been a visionary.”
Ainge has always embraced different ideas. Conventional wisdom is not a phrase you hear the 54-year-old utter to defend his thought process. Just as Ainge was dedicated to the idea of playing professional basketball, he’s now applied his drive to his role as a president of basketball operations for the Celtics. And, depending on who is speaking, his latest big idea may be his greatest.
THE BOSTON CELTICS are spitting in the face of history. Luring Brad Stevens away from Butler and flying him first-class to Boston is a daring move even for a team with a deep history of bold moves. The Celtics, after all, hired the first African-American head coach in the NBA. Amidst all sorts of race issues in the United States, this franchise started the first entirely black starting five. The team, led by the undaunted Red Auerbach, was never hesitant. The Celtics thought differently, courageously, unafraid — in 1950, one year before Oliver Brown and friends began their battle against the Board of Education in Topeka, Kansas — the Celtics used a second-round pick on Chuck Cooper, the first black player to be drafted by an NBA team and the second to appear in a game (one day after Washington Capitols forward Earl Lloyd). Trendsetting rarely has surfaced as an issue at 151 Merrimac Street. Yet with Ainge’s hiring of Stevens, the fabled Celtics franchise is following a trend with an extremely high failure rate. College coaches from the past two decades have not succeeded in the NBA. But here are the Celtics, hiring a 37-year-old coach who never played a second of pro basketball, reintroducing the league to a rather old concept. Not that Stevens will fail, but that the Celtics — led by Ainge — will reset the trend. The rest of the league, pawns outplayed by a dominating queen, will see the Celtics succeed with Stevens.
“Brad is smart, he has great integrity, his teams execute and play hard, and he’s a great communicator,” said Ainge. “Experience as a player can help as a coach, but it’s not mandatory. Experience as a coach in college can make a big difference as well. Coach Stevens has proven he’s a great coach. Coaching in the NBA is different, I understand, but in terms of coaching experience, there have been a lot of guys who have become really good coaches that weren’t NBA players.”
|Stan Van Gundy on M&M: My guess is Rajon Rondo stays in Boston through trade deadline||02.18.14 at 12:26 pm ET|
Speaking with WEEI’s Mut & Merloni on Tuesday morning, NBA analyst Stan Van Gundy said that he sees Celtics guard Rajon Rondo staying in Boston after this week’s trade deadline. To listen to the interview, visit the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
Van Gundy said that while Rondo is one of the best in the league at his position, he’s not necessarily a good fit with any of the potential trade partners that have been kicked around.
“He’s a hard guy to classify, because he’s very unique,” Van Gundy said of Rondo. “I don’t think he can carry a team without a ton of talent. But on a championship-level team, he’s as good as anyone.”
With that in mind, Van Gundy said that among those teams, Rondo wouldn’t necessarily be a good match.
“I’m not sure any of the contenders are lacking at that spot,” said Van Gundy, who added he would be “shocked” if any team gave Boston two unprotected first-round picks for Rondo.
“Maybe the Pacers would be the best fit,” he said. “But my guess is that he stays in Boston through the trade deadline.”
Van Gundy also said that the two best teams in the Eastern Conference are Miami and Indiana, and added he “can’t imagine what would happen at the trade deadline to change that.”
“I think it was a perfect situation for a college guy to go in to, in that he has time,” Van Gundy said of Stevens. “Brad is a very smart, very analytical guy who relates to players very well. I think he’s done a great job late in games this year in terms of situational stuff.
“I think he’s very good, and will continue to get better,” he added.
|Brad Stevens pays visit to former Butler player battling cancer||02.12.14 at 1:56 pm ET|
Andrew Smith, who was on the teams that made back-to-back appearances in the NCAA championship game and graduated last year, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma while playing professionally in Lithuania, according to the Indianapolis Star. He returned to his Indiana home to begin treatment.
‘ Samantha Smith (@Samantha44Smith) February 11, 2014