|Celtics roundtable: Previewing remainder of season||02.20.15 at 10:58 am ET|
With the Celtics starting the second half of their season Friday night in Sacramento, the Green Street bloggers, Julian Edlow @julianedlow, Ben Rohrbach @brohrbach and Sam Packard @SPacShakur answer some key questions to preview the rest of the season.
SHOULD THE CELTICS TRY TO MAKE THE PLAYOFFS — AND CAN THEY?
Edlow: “As of Thursday morning the short answer was yes, in the lowly Eastern Conference the Celtics have a chance. Then mayhem broke loose at the trade deadline. Isaiah Thomas is a nice add for the C’s with his skill set and contract for the long term. But factoring in Miami adding Goran Dragic, Detriot adding Reggie Jackson, and news that Jared Sullinger is going to be sidelined with a stress reaction in his left foot, things have changed. It’s going to be another lottery season.”
Rohrbach: “I’ve been bouncing back and forth on this one, just as the Celtics front office likely has in recent weeks, but I’m coming around on the idea of making a playoff push. Danny Ainge was more of a buyer than a seller at the deadline, and Brad Stevens will continue working with whatever pieces are at his disposal to win enough games that their odds of receiving a top-three pick in the lottery would be miniscule. The confidence that Stevens — and whichever players remain next season and beyond — would gain in knowing how his system works is just as valuable as the difference between the No. 12 and 17 picks.
“As for whether the C’s can make the playoffs, after writing them off two weeks ago, I’m on board, so long as Jared Sullinger’s toe injury doesn’t keep him out too long. Their recent string of four wins in five games — including a stunning upset of the first-place Hawks — combined with the mess that has become of the Nets and the injury to Hornets point guard Kemba Walker leaves the C’s and Pistons with the best chance of finishing eighth behind the Heat. The Celtics have a lighter schedule and two fewer losses than the Pacers and somewhat control their own destiny with the most head-to-head meetings against the five aforementioned teams.”
Packard: “There are already 10 teams with worse records than the Celtics, and with the addition of Isaiah Thomas the roster is too talented to lose the requisite number of games for a top-five pick. Tanking is not a realistic option, so why not try something new and fun like winning as many games as possible?
“The Heat locked up the seventh seed by adding Dragic, but I do think the Celtics have a puncher’s chance at the eight. Their fate rests entirely on the health of Sullinger, who has been the team’s best player in the first half of the season. If he is out for an extended period of time, the Celtics will not have enough muscle on the front line to beat good teams late in games. Also, their biggest competition for the final playoff spot in the east, the Pistons, just got better by adding Reggie Jackson to replace the injured Brandon Jennings.”
WHICH PLAYER NEEDS TO PLAY BETTER?
Edlow: “Avery Bradley is the easy answer. He is in the first year of a contract that is due to pay him $32 million over four seasons and Boston isn’t seeing near the production it should be for the price it paid. For comparison, the newly acquired Thomas just signed a cheaper contract (four years for $28 million), however, Thomas’ 19.7 player efficiency rating nearly doubles Bradley’s (10.8).”
Rohrbach: “When motivated, Jared Sullinger is undoubtedly the best player on the Celtics, but he’s not always motivated, as evidenced by his two recent benchings and the fact he’s never really gotten himself into proper shape. Yet he outplayed Paul Millsap in the C’s recent victory against the Hawks. While his conditioning may not make great strides over the final two months, particularly with the toe injury keeping him sidelined for the foreseeable future, he can begin his improvement by stepping inside the 3-point line, where he owns one of the league’s worst percentages among players who attempt three per game, and planting his considerable backside in the post, where he’s shooting close to 60 percent and grabbing 10 percent of available offensive rebounds.”
Packard: “Kelly Olynyk. This is probably an unfair answer, because Olynyk has done a very good job coming off the bench; but with Sullinger on the sidelines for the foreseeable future, Olynyk is going to get meaningful minutes. He needs to improve drastically on defense, where he has been a liability. On offense, Olynyk should continue to be aggressive by attacking the basket and taking the open 3 when its available.”
|5 things we learned about Celtics at trade deadline||at 12:20 am ET|
In the words of Ron Burgundy: “Boy, that really escalated quickly.”
Just when we appeared to be headed for a quiet trade deadline, seemingly half the league began swapping players and picks around as if there wouldn’t be another opportunity for years. When the smoke cleared, a record 37 players were moved by the deadline, and that doesn’t even include the future draft picks that changed hands.
So in wake of everything that happened today, here’s five things we learned about the Celtics at the deadline.
Thomas’ name came up in trade talks when Boston was rumored to send Rajon Rondo to the Kings last season, then again when Danny Ainge was the first person to reach out to Thomas as free agency began last summer, and now, obviously, the third time was a charm for Ainge. This is not a coincidence, the Celtics have been after Thomas for a while.
The 5-foot-9 Washington product was the last pick in 2011’s NBA draft but has far exceeded expectations during his time in the league. Last year with the Kings, Thomas produced averages of 20.3 points and 6.3 assists. So far this season Thomas has averaged 15.2 points and 3.7 helpers, but in limited minutes off the bench while helping his Suns team hold down a playoff spot in the West.
If I had to venture a guess, I’d say the Celtics front office see Thomas as its point guard of the future. But if I’m wrong– and this is one of the best parts of Thomas’ contract — his deal always remains a tradeable asset. Due just $27 million over four years, there’s really no risk to brining Thomas on board.
MARCUS SMART NOW IS A SHOOTING GUARD
With Thomas in Boston, Smart now likely becomes the starting shooting guard, otherwise a backup combo guard for the time being. Smart had briefly been in control of the starting point guard role before the All-Star break, and did a good job with it. Smart still may backup Thomas at point guard while seeing a majority of his minutes off the ball, but it would be nice to see Smart get assigned a position and stick to it. With that said, Smart has adjusted very well no matter what role has been asked of him. I expect that trend to continue and Smart to have a strong finish to his rookie campaign — including small ball lineups with Thomas and Avery Bradley. The bottom line is that if he continues improving his shot and his relentless defense, Smart is going to be a very good pro. If he has one area he needs to improve upon, it’s in getting to the rim.
AINGE IS BEGINNING TO CASH IN HIS CHIPS
You might not be able to call the Celtics buyers at the deadline, but just think back on each of Ainge’s trades over the summer and throughout the season. They all accomplished one of two goals — the first being to add future draft picks and the second being to move unwanted long-term contracts for expiring deals.
This trade — although Thomas is a nice long-term asset — accomplished neither. Ainge actually finally shipped out one of his future assets (a 2016 first-round pick from the Cavs) in order to add a piece of the puzzle. The Celtics will gladly use their two first-round picks in June’s upcoming draft, but things are starting to get to the point where Ainge is ready to pull the trigger on moving picks for players when the right deal presents itself as it did with Phoenix.
|Celtics trade Tayshaun Prince for Jonas Jerebko, Luigi Datome||02.19.15 at 7:47 pm ET|
The Celtics shipped Prince to the Pistons for Jonas Jerebko and Luigi Datome, who all have one thing in common: expiring contracts. Unless Danny Ainge sees either player as a long-term piece in Boston (which is very unlikely), the deal was simply a money saving move.
Jerebko is owed $4.5 million this season while Datome will earn $1.7 million, which will cost the Celtics less than paying the remainder of Prince’s $7.7 million contract. No word yet on whether either of the C’s new additions will be bought out of their contracts.
Although the trade doesn’t bring back an exciting return like the Isaiah Thomas deal, there is more potential upside than just saving a few bucks. With both Marcus Thornton and Prince now gone, a path has likely been carved out for rookies Marcus Smart and James Young to see serious playing time as the season winds down — something fans should enjoy watching.
|Brad Stevens, Sisyphus and a Celtics season in flux||02.12.15 at 1:51 am ET|
It’s been exactly one month since the Celtics finalized the Jeff Green trade — completing a series of deals that also sent Rajon Rondo packing — and yet they’re playing their best basketball of the season. After losing three straight immediately following their leading scorer’s departure, the C’s have won seven of their last 12 games to enter the All-Star break trailing the Hornets and Heat by only one loss for the Eastern Conference’s final two postseason spots.
Despite a 20-31 record, the Celtics are in the playoff conversation. Seriously.
“It’s always been a conversation, since Day 1,” said Marcus Thornton, whose 14 points helped ground the Hawks on Wednesday night. “I believe we can make it, and I believe we can make noise, too, so it’s on us to make that happen.”
Except, some of the current C’s weren’t here when the season began — namely rotation players Jae Crowder and Tayshaun Prince — and not all of them are expected to be around when the team reconvenes for the second half in Sacramento some 24 hours after the league’s Feb. 19 trade deadline.
So, Jared Sullinger can decry all he wants, “It’s the All-Star break; that’s the last thing on our mind,” but the harsh reality is this team that appears to be just hitting its stride could look completely different in a week.
“I’m going to use that time to take off and kind of forget about basketball a little bit,” Thornton said when asked about an eight-day vacation leading up to the trade deadline, “but wherever I’m at, I’m ready to go.”
|Danny Ainge, Brad Stevens explain Jeff Green trade, uncertain future||01.13.15 at 1:37 am ET|
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.”
|Report: Brandan Wright has been told he will be traded||01.09.15 at 12:05 pm ET|
On Dec 18 Brandan Wright was acquired by the Celtics as part of the deal that shipped Rajon Rondo to Dallas. That date was no accident — it leaves enough time for Boston to trade the players it received in the deal after 60 days, just before the Feb 19 deadline.
CSN Washington is reporting that Brandan Wright has already been told by Danny Ainge “that he’s on the block and should expect to be on another team.” Obviously, Wright is a very attractive piece to other teams, so the idea of him being traded again this season isn’t far-fetched. It is, however, odd that Ainge would already tell Wright that he should expect to be gone.
Wright has taken on a much lesser role since arriving in Boston, somewhat odd considering how big of a role he played for the Mavericks — a much better team than the Celtics. But with so many players of similar talent levels in Boston, as well as young projects to develop, Wright has seen a dip in his minutes, including a DNP Wednesday in Brooklyn.
Wright is shooting 72.4 percent from the field so far this season, and his 24.27 PER ranks 10th in the league as of Friday morning. Ainge won’t be able to command two first-rounders like the desperate Cavs gave up to Denver for Timofey Mozgov, but Wright certainly has some value on the trade market. If this report it true, we will find out exactly what Wright’s value is on the day of the trade deadline.
|Rajon Rondo is introduced as a visitor back in Boston||01.02.15 at 7:51 pm ET|
The banner around the TD Garden video board read “Thank You Rondo!” And with that, a three-minute tribute to the former Celtics superstar point guard concluded Friday night. The Celtics showed their appreciation for Rajon Rondo, their most recent captain, in a stirring three-minute tribute featuring highlights of his eight-plus seasons in Boston, marking his return for the first time since the December trade that sent him out of town.
At the end of the tribute produced by the Celtics, Rondo acknowledged the standing ovation from the fans, and then went over to the Celtics bench, giving a hug to longtime trainer Ed Lacerte and others. Before the game, he had a hug with Celtics TV announcer Mike Gorman.
Rondo capped a 15-point first quarter with his third three-pointer in as many tries with 0.2 seconds remaining. Rondo connected on all six shots as the Mavericks raced out to a 31-17 lead.
Rondo cooled off a bit in the second quarter, connecting on 1-of-4 shots and finishing the half with 18 points, three rebounds and one assist as the Mavericks led, 59-46.
Rondo scored the first 10 points of the game for Dallas, including a pair of 3-pointers on his first two attempts from long distance.
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