|Brad Stevens praises Jared Sullinger, Marcus Smart after C’s beat Pelicans||01.13.15 at 8:38 am ET|
After a tough road trip filled with trades, the Celtics returned home Monday to collect an impressive victory over Anthony Davis and the Pelicans. Jared Sullinger was a huge reason why. Sullinger finished with 27 points and 10 rebounds, stepping his game up against one of the top young talents in the league.
“I thought today’s a good example of his versatility,” coach Brad Stevens said of Sullinger’s big game. “When we had [Brandon] Bass in the game they usually matched up [Ryan] Anderson on [Sullinger], when we had Kelly [Olynyk] in the game they had to match up [Omer] Asik on [Sullinger]. And so when Asik’s on him he stretched it a little bit, and when Anderson was on him he posted. That’s why, in my opinion, a guy like Jared has to be able to do both if he’s going to be really good. I thought he did a lot of really good things tonight.”
While Sullinger really stood out in the box score, rookie Marcus Smart’s name would not pop if you only looked at the numbers. Smart’s contributions go beyond what’s on the stat sheet. He hit a 3-pointer out of the corner while falling down that clinched the game for the C’s — the most clutch shot of Smart’s career to date.
“He had nothing but zeros at halftime except for two assists and one turnover, and we talked as a staff, we thought he was terrific,” Stevens said of the No. 6 overall pick. “All that other stuff on a stat line isn’t where his impact can be the greatest, and he really made a huge impact, being his hands on balls, being active. I didn’t know coming into the game if he could guard [Tyreke] Evans and I thought he did a decent job on him — he’s a hard guy to guard, too. So he did a lot of great things. And obviously hit a big 3.”
Check out Sullinger’s postgame press conference below, but on a night when his Ohio State Buckeyes won the NCAA football national championship, Sully wanted to be brief so he could rush home for the second half.
When Rajon Rondo was shipped out of town just over three weeks ago, Danny Ainge used a key word to describe why — uncertainty. It also seemed to remain the reason Ainge felt the need to ship Jeff Green to Memphis as well.
“I just felt like [it was] a timeline thing,” Ainge said prior to Monday’s home win over the Pelicans. “The players that we had, the uncertainty of the future and free agency, and [I] felt like we were getting good value in return based on this contract situation.”
The trade doesn’t make this current season any easier on coach Brad Stevens, but the coach understands it’s a process geared towards the future.
“Losing [Green] three weeks after losing your multiple-time All-Star point guard, there’s going to be challenges that come with that,” Stevens said. “That’s why you prepare everyone to play and that’s why everybody’s got this talk about next man up.”
Last year everything was very new to Stevens, especially the trade deadline. Now in his second season in the NBA, Stevens is learning to adapt to what to expect during the rebuild.
“This is about the time last year where we had some – at the time for that team we had some pretty significant moves — with Jordan [Crawford] being traded and Courtney [Lee] being traded,” Stevens reflected. “So there’s a little bit of being able to look back and learn from that. I think I learned a lot from the Rondo trade, just as far as not only losing a really good player, but also trying to bring new guys in and get them up to speed as quickly as possible, but also recognizing that you don’t have to rebuild Rome in a day.”
|5 things we learned in Celtics’ victory over Anthony Davis, Pelicans||01.12.15 at 10:54 pm ET|
In a back-and-forth game which featured 14 lead changes, the Celtics finally managed to protect a late lead and seal a victory in the final frame.
Here are five things we learned in the game:
Davis is a superstar
Given the Celtics’ inability to defend big men, it was expected Davis would dominate. For the first three quarters, the Celtics did a solid job of containing him, limiting him to 21 points, but in the fourth quarter, the NBA’s best player not named LeBron James took over, scoring 13 points over the final 12 minutes.
Beyond the box score, Davis impacted the game with his mere presence in the paint at both ends. The Celtics rarely drove the lane out of respect to his shot-blocking ability (three blocks), and in defending the pick and roll, the Celtics overplayed Davis, leaving Eric Gordon alone to score a number of points at the rim.
Sullinger is ready to step up
With the recent trades, Sullinger is now the most talented player on the Celtics. Just like Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green before him, Sullinger was the final Celtic to be announced during introductions. Sullinger had a great night, scoring 27 points on 9-of-17 shooting. He was dominant on the offensive glass, accounting for six of his 10 rebounds. He did an excellent job using his large posterior to keep Davis from getting position deep in the paint.
|Brad Stevens takes blame for messy Celtics: ‘I’ve got to figure out how to coach this team better’||01.05.15 at 11:30 pm ET|
Stevens sounded an ominous signal Monday following a 104-95 lifeless loss to the lowly Charlotte Hornets on “Seats for Soldiers” night at TD Garden.
His team started slow out of the gate and really never recovered, trailing 22-11 late in the first quarter and 50-36 at the half.
“First of all, they played at a great pace, and they made shots and Kemba (Walker) was great,” Stevens said. “We couldn’t stop him. Cody Zeller was playing at a higher energy-level than anybody else on the floor a lot of the game, and you know (Gerald) Henderson has always really given us fits. I thought all three of those guys looked like they were at a different level early. And we weren’t very good.”
It got so bad that Stevens ran through his entire 13-man roster by the end of the third quarter. What was he hoping to accomplish?
“No idea. I think tonight was more of an anomaly because I was throwing darts. I can act like I know the answer to your question, but I was throwing darts,” Stevens said.
Asked a question about the breakout game for James Young and whether it might mean more playing time for the rookie, Stevens instead took the opportunity to do a little soul searching.
“I don’t know,” Stevens said. “I don’t know. I’ve got to figure out how to coach this team better. I’m not doing a very good job. We’re not playing well and we’re playing almost ‘ it’s not good basketball. We’ve got to do a better job playing good basketball. I’ll figure out the rotations later, once we start playing good basketball and once we all are very focused on very good basketball. And that’s on me. I’ve got to do a better job.”
|Jeff Goodman on D&C: ‘Dallas is the ideal fit for Rondo to succeed’||12.19.14 at 11:34 am ET|
ESPN basketball analyst Jeff Goodman joined Dennis & Callahan on Friday to discuss the Rajon Rondo trade to the Mavericks and the state of the Celtics. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
The C’s have faced some early criticism for the deal, with critics saying the return for Rondo was not all that great. Goodman said the Celtics got a decent value back in the trade.
“You got a first-round pick, you got a good, young player in Brandan Wright, who I think has a chance to be a 14 [points] and seven [rebounds] guy if he plays 20, 30 minutes a game,” Goodman said. “But people forget also, they’re saying, ‘Well, you should’ve traded him early, you should’ve traded him earlier.’ He did get hurt, it’s not like his trade value was so high. He was out, he didn’t play a full season. Last year when he came back he was playing every other game. You really didn’t have the chance to trade him until this year when you tried to boost his trade value as high as you possibly could.”
Rondo adds to a team that already has Dirk Nowitzki and Chandler Parsons. Goodman said the point guard is a much better fit for Dallas.
“I’m not a Rondo guy for this franchise, meaning the Celtics, once [Kevin Garnett], Ray Allen and Paul Pierce left,” Goodman said. “I think in Dallas, in a fairly strong locker room, Rick Carlise’s gotten a little bit easier to deal with than he was back in the day. But you’ve got Dirk. You’ve got some veterans there, Tyson Chandler, who I think can handle him. And all he’s got to be is that third, fourth, even fifth guy, option on the floor. He can’t be your first, second option. He can’t be your leader. And he was forced to kind of be both in Boston. And Dallas is the ideal fit for Rondo to succeed.”
The hosts wondered if Rondo had any issues with coach Brad Stevens or the front office that might have led to the trade. Goodman said it came down to wins and losses for Rondo.
“Brad Stevens is the easiest guy to deal with you’ll ever meet in your life. If you can’t get along with Brad Stevens, you have so many issues,” Goodman said. “Did I hear that Brad loved him? No. But he dealt with him. Rondo bought in as much as Rondo could possibly buy in, partially because Rondo knew the endgame here. If he didn’t buy in, he was going to be here long term, and he wanted to go somewhere he could win because he was used to it. He didn’t want to be here. Yeah, $20 million would’ve been nice to stay here. But I think for Rondo, he’s a different dude, he just beats to a different tune. I think a lot guys say it, the money isn’t as important, I think Rondo would’ve been one of those guys that would’ve taken less money to go elsewhere to win than to stay in Boston and keep losing games.”
|Brad Stevens addresses Rajon Rondo trade rumors||12.18.14 at 1:21 pm ET|
Following the Celtics‘ victory over the Magic on Wednesday night, Rajon Rondo spoke about the trade rumors surrounding him. Essentially, Rondo maintained the stance that he does not want to be traded, but that the rumors will continue to be part of life in the NBA.
“Obviously, we experienced it all the way through last year,” Stevens said. “From my standpoint, the most challenging thing of it is, number one is just coaching the group and making sure that everybody knows we’re focused on playing Minnesota [on Friday]. We’re focused on doing what we need to do to get everybody playing at the best level that they can.
“I think that a lot of these guys that are older have probably dealt with the talk throughout their years in the league, but I don’t know that it’s ever not unsettling. [My] door is open if anybody wants to talk about it and those type of things. I don’t talk a ton to Danny [Ainge] and his staff, they only say if there’s really something that I need to know. It’s one of those things you just try to do your job the best you can through all circumstances.”
So does Stevens expect to be a part of any trade discussions?
“My job is pretty well defined,” Stevens said. “And that is to coach, and to get our team ready to play and to play as well as we can. My expectations aren’t very big. I just want to be in the loop as [Ainge and his staff] deem appropriate. They’re good at their jobs and I’m hired to coach.”
Stevens went on to speak very highly of Rondo when asked how he thought his point guard was playing this season, but that’s to be expected whether Rondo remains the captain of the Celtics, or if the final rebuilding move is to ship him out.
We already know it isn’t Stevens’ call as to the future of Rondo, but the coach seems very set on sticking to what is asked of him and keeping faith in Ainge’s ability to build winning teams. Many of the trade rumors that have circulated so far don’t seem to accomplish that for the Celtics, so expect the rumors to drag on.
|Celtics might be in big trouble if their leader can’t step up||12.03.14 at 12:38 pm ET|
Last year, in the first season of the Celtics‘ post-Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett rebuild, we expected them to stumble to one of the league’s worst records. They did just that, ending up with a record of 25-57. No big deal. We all saw it coming and knew the results would be tough. But 15 games into last season the C’s held a record of 5-10 — all games in which Rajon Rondo did not play. That’s not bad.
This year was expected to be different. Rondo would be beginning the season with the team, Danny Ainge used the No. 6 pick in the draft on the promising Marcus Smart, and the rest of the youngsters had another year of experience under their belts. That young core included Brad Stevens, who arguably had as much learning to do as any player on his roster in his first go-round as an NBA head coach.
Despite all of the positive signs heading into the season, it has not been any different. In fact, it has been worse. The Celtics have a record of 4-11 after 15 games — that’s bad. Their loss to the Hawks on Tuesday night was the fifth time this season that the C’s have blown a lead of 15 or more points and lost the game. Growing an enormous first-half lead and then losing the game has become routine for these Celtics, especially on their home floor.
In ways it’s depressing that after opening up a 23-point lead in Atlanta the expectation was that they would find a way to lose, but those who saw it coming were right. The reason is their fourth-quarter execution, as they rank last in the league in fourth-quarter scoring. Stevens knows that the C’s will continue to produce disappointing results until his team does something about it.
“The game honors the more physical team,” Stevens said following the loss. “It does night in and night out. We’ve just got to improve in that area.”
He later concluded: “I’m not crazy enough to think that if [the physicality] doesn’t change, we’ll be sitting up here a lot like this.”
The fourth-quarter numbers have been well documented at this point, but it seems laughable that the Celtics haven’t even gotten lucky and been able to close out any of these games. The main problem in the fourth quarter has been the apparent disconnect between Rondo and his teammates during crunch time.
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