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Fueled by ‘chip on my shoulder,’ Celtics rookie Jared Sullinger earns status as steal of 2012 NBA draft 11.17.12 at 7:01 pm ET
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When Jared Sullinger slipped to the Celtics at No. 21 overall, many pundits quickly declared him the steal of the 2012 NBA draft. And as much as you can make such a declaration 10 games into this season, they were right.

After averaging 17.2 points and 10.2 boards as an Ohio State sophomore, Sullinger recorded the first double-double of his NBA career on Saturday afternoon, amassing 12 points (5-8 FG, 2-2 FT) and 11 rebounds in 26 minutes off the bench in the C’s 107-89 victory against the Atlantic Division rival Raptors.

“I’m used to having double-doubles,” he said, “so it feels good to carry it over to the next level.”

Sullinger’s performance came on the heels of playing a season-low eight minutes on Thursday, when he was benched after giving up an offensive rebound in the C’s 102-97 loss to the Nets.

“He knows his place,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, whose first-year players rarely see the floor. “I think he wasn’t happy about not playing against Brooklyn … but he just knows how to play. He’s a calming effect at times when you put him in, and I don’t think I’ve ever said that about a rookie. It’s nice to have that.”

Sullinger raised his season averages to 3.9 points (51.6 FG%, 100.0 FT%) and 4.1 rebounds in 16 boards a night, but more importantly the Celtics earned a sixth win in their last eight games, and he’s contributed to all of them. When you look at all 14 bigs drafted in the first round, Sullinger is the most productive on any winning team.

“I’m just doing my job,” said Sullinger, who faces No. 9 overall pick Andre Drummond on Sunday. “I could care less. It put a chip on my shoulder, but I could care less how that goes. I’m just out there playing basketball. It’s a great situation. I could’ve been on some other team, worrying about not winning, instead of just playing basketball and being able to have a legitimate shot at winning every night, so it’s a blessing to be here, honestly.”

Here’s how Sullinger stacks up to his Class of 2012 peers: Read the rest of this entry »

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Doc Rivers: Leandro Barbosa ‘bailed us out’ 11.14.12 at 11:46 pm ET
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Outside of trainer Ed Lacerte, Leandro Barbosa was the most important member of the Celtics bench Wednesday night as he scored 16 points and steadied the ship when its leader Rajon Rondo went down with a sprained right ankle midway through the third quarter. The Celtics were able to hold off the Jazz, 98-93, Wednesday night at TD Garden.

But as coach Doc Rivers points out, it wasn’t just his time replacing Rondo and running the point in the second half that turned out to be so important.

“Barbosa was terrific,” Rivers said. “I mean, he bailed us out. Not only just replacing Rondo; I thought in the first half – I thought our starters started the game out pretty flat and I thought our second unit with Courtney Lee and Barbosa, Jared [Sullinger], that group gave us a spurt, Jeff Green. And then obviously Rondo goes out in the second half and just putting LB in and we didn’t run much because he doesn’t know much. But everything was basically pick-and-rolls. We told him to just keep attacking to the basket and we’ll figure it out from there.”

Barbosa was so good, in fact, it kept Rivers from considering his worst nightmare, life without Rondo.

“It’s going to happen,” Rivers acknowledged. “He’s not going to play all 82 [games], I doubt. It’d be nice. You know how I think, guys, the next guy, just somebody has to step up and we have to figure it out. And tonight was a great example that we did that. We had other options; you could put JET [Jason Terry] in at the point. I mean, it was just one of those games. I thought the big lineup, or our semi-big lineup with Paul [Pierce] and Jeff changed the game for us as well. We had a post presence with those guys. So, it was an interesting game. When we get outrebounded by what we did, 18-4 [offensive rebounds], it’s hard to win a basketball game. And yet we still won it.”

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Al Jefferson on Celtics: ‘If that situation were to happen, I’d love to do that again’ at 7:27 pm ET
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Talk about full circle.

If you’re a Celtics fan wouldn’t it be something if the Celtics were somehow able to land Al Jefferson in free agency next season? The man most famous for being the biggest chip that brought Kevin Garnett to Boston in the summer of 2007 spoke before taking on his former team Wednesday at the Garden. He forced the first overtime of Utah’s 140-133 triple-overtime win over Toronto Monday night with a rebound and a 3-pointer.

A lot of things would have to fall into place. First, Jefferson would have to turn down what he considers to be a situation in Salt Lake City that he says compares very favorably to Boston.

“We haven’t had any conversations,” Jefferson said before his match up with the Celtics Wednesday night. “This is all about going out and taking care of business. If I go out and take care of my business, everything else will work itself out. I’m not really concerned about it.”

Jefferson is making $15 million in the final year of his deal in Utah.

“I want to be in the NBA,” Jefferson said. “When both teams want me, that’s when I need to start worrying. Right now, I just want to be in the NBA, I want to be with the Utah Jazz to be honest with you. I’d love to stay in Utah. They do things the right way, kind of remind me of Boston, first class. They do everything the right way. They have to do what’s best for their team and I have to do what’s best for my family. Right now, it’s all about winning and getting back to the playoffs.

“I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. You really don’t want to think too far ahead. You have to take care of business day-by-day. If I do my part, everything will work out.”

As for Boston?

“This is my first home,” he said with a big smile. “This will always be my home away from home. Danny Ainge gave me a chance when nobody else did. If that situation were to happen, I’d love to do that again. But right now, like I said, it’s all about taking care of business and finishing out the season right.”

Last year, Doc Rivers took his former big man to dinner. This year?

“Nah, screw Al,” Rivers laughed. “I don’t have time for him. He’s too good now. I didn’t. It’s just a tough trip.”

Jefferson is averaging 15.8 points and 11 rebounds and has started all eight games for the Jazz this year. So much has changed for Jefferson, who has had his share of terrible injury luck, including blowing out his knee in Minnesota in three non-playoff seasons there before finally getting a taste of the playoffs last season with the Jazz.

“It was always a rebuilding year in Minnesota,” Jefferson said. “It’s just been great to get to the Jazz, where it’s just like Boston – all about winning. They always have winning in mind. Danny’s probably thinking right now of a way to win five years from now. That’s just the way it is [in Boston] and that’s the way it is in Utah.”

“He just keeps getting better and better,” Rivers said. “The thing I thought I’d never say about Al is he’s becoming a better passer, and I’m very happy about that for him. He just keeps working on his game.

“I think he hit that one little stretch, where he lost a lot and you can see he’s fought through that now. I think making that playoff run, he was a big part of it last year, has kind of restoked him, and it’s good. He’s a heck of a guy.”

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Paul Pierce explains why Celtics ‘really disturbing’ transition D is his biggest worry 11.10.12 at 9:54 am ET
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Paul Pierce has seen a lot since his entrance into the NBA in 1998. For that reason, the Celtics captain says he’s ready to be very patient with this team, even after the C’s lost their third game in five tries to open the season Friday night at TD Garden. Pierce scored a team-high 24 points but it wasn’t enough as the Sixers pulled out a 106-100 win that dropped Boston to 2-3 on the season with road games Saturday in Milwaukee and Monday in Chicago.

“I’m very patient,” Pierce said. “I understand that it’s a process. We’re only five games in. We’re still building. Even though we lost today, we’re down, there are some positive things that can come from that. And so, it’s still a long season. We have to get some things together. Maybe a road trip like this one, against two pretty good teams can solve it. We’ll see.

“I’ve been a patient person for the most part. The thing is you just have to talk it out. Young teams get frustrated with one another; they start pointing fingers. You can’t do that. That’s a losing team, that’s losing genetics. We don’t have that in here. We are a team that is just going to try and solve it by talking to one another, trying to figure out what we need to do to get better and build from there.”

Pierce says all the talk about the bench is overrated since it’s the first unit that need to play better in transition on both ends.

“It’s just that we have to put the time in at practice figuring out the second unit but that’s going to come,” Pierce said. “Our identity is going to be a defensive team first. We have the talent offensively where we think it will come together. We have to do a better job sharing the ball, making the extra passes but the main concern is the transition defense and rebounding the ball.”

The Celtics were beaten badly again in transition Friday night. Two stats prove his point. They were outscored 26-9 on fast break point – a stat Doc Rivers said was actually much worse than the number – and Philly beat up Boston in the paint 56-38, many coming on layups in transition.

“When I look at this game if I had to point out one thing that’s a major concern for us, and has been for these last five games, it’s probably our transition defense,” Pierce said. “That’s the No. 1 thing right now. When you look up and we’re playing well half-court wise, and then you give teams that many layups in transition, it’s really disturbing so that’s one thing we have to look at the film, address that. If we can do a better a job of getting back on defense, limit those easy opportunities, then we give ourselves a better chance.

“Getting back, talking, matching up with the nearest guy, loading up to the ball, helping one another. Just basically when the [shot] goes up, you either go get the rebound or get back. It’s one of the two things. For the most part, it has to come from the guys on the perimeter, we have to do a better job of getting back from the 1, 2 and the 3-positions, the point guard, the 2-guard and myself. Our big men are crashing for offensive rebounds. If they’re not, they have to get back also.”

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Doc Rivers has had it with the lineup questions at 2:11 am ET
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It wasn’t exactly what you would’ve expected after his team lost to the Sixers, 106-100. Doc RIvers was answering questions about what went wrong and toward the end of his five minute session with reporters decided to go off on a tangent about something that was really bugging him.

After the 106-100 loss to the Sixers Friday, Rivers was reminded that before the game he mentioned he might tweak the lineup when the team heads to Milwaukee and Chicago for games Saturday and Monday nights.

“I don’t know,” Rivers said. “We’ll see. We just finished this game so I’m not thinking about it [yet]. I will say this guys, this lineup stuff you talk about, it lasts for four minutes. Then we switch the lineup [with substitutions]. It’s the whole game that matters. I could start everybody on our bench [Saturday in Milwaukee]. You think it’s going to matter at the end of the game? Really, that’s the way I think. Clearly, you guys don’t think that’s way but that’s how I think.”

Rivers started the first two games with a lineup of Rajon Rondo, Courtney Lee, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Brandon Bass. In the next three games, including Friday against the Sixers, he started Jared Sullinger in place of Bass.

“I don’t think who starts matters,” Rivers continued. “It’s who plays well, who plays the most minutes. That’s what we’re focused on. I don’t think a guy in our locker room gives a flying crap about who’s starting.

“You have to find the right group. I think we have that. We’re just not playing well. The thing that’s hurting us right now is when Kevin is going off the floor. It happened again tonight. I thought in the second half it was better. Chris Wilcox gave us a lift. But right now, if y’all want to focus on something, that’s what you should focus on, is what are we going to do when Kevin goes off the floor in the first half. Every time we do it, and we have to do it, we’re struggling.

“And that’s on me. I have to figure that out because he’s not going to be on the floor. He’s coming out and he’s coming out at an exact time. We have to figure out something to make us click, and I think it’s on both ends. I don’t think it’s just our defense going down. I think our offense really struggles when he goes out. We have to do something about it.”
Read the rest of this entry »

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Bad Jeff Green is a sad Jeff Green 11.09.12 at 11:43 pm ET
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After shooting just 1-of-5 from the field and scoring four points in 18 minutes off the bench during a 100-94 loss to the 76ers, Celtics forward Jeff Green gave a few curt responses during his postgame press conference, eventually offering a “mmm-hmm” to one final question before catching the team’s flight to Milwaukee.

After scoring three points in the season opener, Green tallied 22 points over his next two games before netting just 10 points in 40 minutes over his past two — a drastic drop from his stellar preseason play. On Thursday, Danny Ainge expressed his disappointment in Green’s adjustment, and Friday was coach Doc Rivers‘ turn.

“It’s a dilemma, but he’s going to be a good player for us this year,” said Rivers. “And sooner rather than later, I’m hoping. We’ve just got to unlock him. Right now, he’s just absolutely frustrated; you can see it in his play. But that’s on all of us; it’s not just on Jeff. Jeff’s the easy target right now. Jeff’s part of this team, just like everyone else, and we have to do a better job of getting him going. He’s probably got to do a better job of getting himself going.”

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Doc Rivers has another unmistakable message for his team 11.08.12 at 1:32 pm ET
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This has been an early season of “message sending” for Doc Rivers.

After the first two games, the Celtics head coach talked about not trying to win games by playing one-on-one basketball.

On Monday, after barely surviving blowing a 16-point second-half lead in Washington Saturday night and watching the Wizards reserves dominate the Celtics second unit, the theme turned to the bench. “I’m not going to change the way I use [Kevin Garnett]. If our bench doesn’t score, then we’ll lose, simple.”

Well, he got a much better effort from Chris Wilcox (albeit four minutes), Jason Terry and Brandon Bass off the bench on Wednesday night and it was the biggest reason why the Celtics won, 100-94 in overtime.

But what Rivers saw early on as his team fell behind and what he saw late in the fourth quarter were the two things he focused on afterward.

“Well, we won the game,” Rivers said. “And right now that’s the type of team we are. We’re not playing great. It’s good to win a game like that. We’ve won two like that. You knew coming into this night, no matter who you’re playing, when you’re play a team back-to-back games, you give them three days, you knew it’d be a tough game. But we made it so much harder. I thought we played for the first five minutes great, and then we went back to old habits. I thought our energy was terrible.

“I thought Chris Wilcox saved the game for us, singlehandedly, with his effort. And I thought it was obvious. He didn’t do anything but played hard and played with great effort. And I thought that that leadership led everybody else into doing. Kevin, always, I always exclude him because he always plays the right way. But we’ve got to get more guys that play harder, better. I don’t care about ‘well,’ you know, I don’t care if we play ‘well’ or not, because that’s just human. If you can make shots or not, it happens. But we just have to play with a better focus and we’ve got to run our schemes better.”

Next up for the 2-2 Celtics, the 2-2 Sixers, who are coming off a win in New Orleans Wednesday night and will be in town Friday night. What will Doc’s message be? Stay tuned.

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