|High-wire act: Jeff Green, Celtics slam door on Magic||02.01.13 at 9:42 pm ET|
Jeff Green electrified the crowd with three sensational dunks as part of a 17-point night and Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett added double-doubles to lead the Celtics to a 97-84 win over the Magic Friday night at TD Garden. The Celtics played the game just hours after Jared Sullinger had season-ending back surgery, winning their third straight game to get back to .500 on the season at 23-23. The lowly Magic fell to 14-32.
Pierce fell just three assists shy of his second triple-double in three games, finishing with 14 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists while Garnett matched Pierce’s 14 points while chipping in with 10 boards. Green was dominant in the second half and finished 8-of-13 from the field. Jason Terry and Leandro Barbosa each added 12 points off the rejuvenated Celtics bench.
Playing without Sullinger, it was Pierce who picked up the rebounding load in the first quarter, grabbing six boards. The Magic grabbed an early 13-7 lead before Pierce and the Celtics went on a 18-5 run to end the quarter to help the Celtics to a 25-18 lead after 12 minutes.
The Celtics continued to play good defense in the second quarter, holding the Magic to 35 percent shooting. Garnett led the way with 10 points in the quarter as the Celtics took a 46-35 lead to the locker room. The Magic were awful from long range, hitting just 1-of-13 from three-point range and making just 15-of-46 shots (32.6 percent). While the Celtics were dealing with the loss of Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger, the Magic were also battling a bad injury bug.
Glen Davis fractured his left foot Wednesday in New York and is likely done for the season. Starting point guard Jameer Nelson bruised his left forearm in the second quarter and did not return.
Despite their injuries, the Magic managed to cut the Boston lead to three, 57-54, on an E’Twaun Moore three-point play with 5:04 left in the third quarter. But the Celtics, thanks to a spectacular one-handed dunk from Green a minute later, closed the quarter on a 15-5 run to take a 72-59 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Celtics continued their barrage to open the fourth, as Green and Courtney Lee added one-handed slams that sent the Garden crowd into a frenzy. Boston opened the period on a 14-5 run to take an 86-64 lead and were not threatened the rest of the way.
Garnett’s 728th career double-double moved him ahead of Shaquille O’Neal (727) on the NBA’s all-time list. Since 1990, only Tim Duncan (751) has more.
The Celtics have Saturday off before taking on Blake Griffin and the Clippers Sunday at 1 p.m. at TD Garden. For more, including video from Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.
|E’Twaun Moore bullish on Chicago; JaJuan Johnson considering options||07.20.12 at 5:53 pm ET|
Less than 24 hours after the Celtics pulled the trigger on a trade with the Houston Rockets to obtain Courtney Lee, the two former Celtics are not intending on making Houston their long-term home.
A league source tells WEEI.com that after his expected release from Houston, E’Twaun Moore expects to wind up in Bulls camp and get a look with former Celtics defensive guru and current Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau.
The source says the other player, big man JaJuan Johnson, has doubts about his future in Houston and is keeping his options open, should it not work out long term with the Rockets.
On Friday, the Celtics officially announced they traded Moore, Johnson, center Sean Williams and a second-round pick to Houston and forward Sasha Pavlovic to Portland in the deal. The Trail Blazers will also get a second round pick. What remains unspecified is what Portland will send to Houston or the Celtics to finalize the deal.
The source indicated the timeline of events are not certain and are very fluid. The trade is not expected to be affected as Johnson and Moore evaluate their options based on potential scenarios in Houston and Portland.
Per CBA rules, the Celtics cannot re-sign Moore if he becomes a free agent after being released.
Moore and Johnson were selected together by the Celtics out of Purdue in the 2011 NBA draft. Johnson was picked in the first round, 27th overall, by the Celtics while Moore was Boston’s second round choice (55th overall). Due to the lockout, Moore signed a deal with Italy’s Benetton Treviso that featured an opt-out clause that let him return to the Celtics once the lockout ended.
On Dec. 9, 2011 Moore signed a guaranteed contract with the Celtics. He debuted briefly (less than a minute) in the Celtics’ season-opener against the Knicks on Christmas Day.
In the March, with Keyon Dooling and Sasha Pavlovic nursing nagging injuries, Moore saw his playing time increase. He had a career-high 16 points on Jan. 26, against the Magic, going 4-4 from 3-point range. On April 24 and 26, in the final two games of the regular season, Moore established new career highs of seven rebounds and five assists against the Heat and Bucks, respectively.
Johnson had much less playing opportunity. In 36 games, he averaged just eight minutes and 3.2 points and 1.6 rebounds.
|Courtney Lee is just what Celtics need||at 1:41 am ET|
You won’t find Courtney Lee‘s name listed among the great guards in the NBA. He’s not going to make an All-Star team or an All-NBA team. He’s not the first, second or even third option in anyone’s offense. Instead, Lee is a connoisseur’s player. A pro’s pro, if you will.
What Lee does is make teams better. In seven of his eight most frequent lineups with the Rockets last season, Houston had a positive point differential. He’s a shooting guard who doesn’t need to score, but when he does shoot he is very effective, especially from 3-point range and particularly from the corner where he made 49 percent of his attempts last season, second only to Ray Allen. He is also an excellent cutter who rarely turns the ball over.
Lee is not the all-around offensive threat that Allen is — or was — but he is a much-better defender and even capable of sliding over the wing forward spot in certain lineup combinations. He’s also younger and healthier than Allen. With Avery Bradley’s status uncertain to start the season after undergoing two shoulder surgeries, Lee could slide right into the starting lineup and combine with Rajon Rondo and Jason Terry to form a strong three-man backcourt.
All around Orlando and Las Vegas where the Celtics were competing in summer league, scouts and executives all offered the same appraisal of the possibility of Lee joining the C’s: “perfect fit.”
The only question was whether the Celtics’ offer of E’Twaun Moore, Sean Williams and JaJuan Johnson, plus a second-round draft pick would be enough to make a sign-and-trade deal possible and there was some skepticism that it would. As talks went deep into the night on Thursday, it was still uncertain but seemed headed in the right direction.
Moore and Williams have non-guaranteed contracts, which makes them useful for cap math purposes. Johnson has just over $1 million guaranteed on the second-year of his rookie deal, but the Rockets have a surplus of big forwards and sources in Johnson’s camp expressed unease about adding his name to the list. The proposed deal needed a third team to help facilitate the moving parts and the Herald reported that Blazers stepped in with Sasha Pavlovic‘s name thrown into the mix.
If the Celtics can pull it off, it would be the equivalent of turning tap water into a fine Cabernet. If the current parameters hold, Danny Ainge would have traded four non-rotation players for a starting guard, which happened to be their biggest offseason need.
Williams has done little to impress in his short time in Boston and Johnson has clearly fallen behind rookie Jared Sullinger this summer. Moore has been one of the Celtics’ best summer league performers, but he is not nearly the same finished product as Lee and Pavlovic wasn’t likely to return to Boston in any event. (The trade would be a setback for Moore whose contract becomes guaranteed if he’s not waived by midnight on Sunday. If Moore is waived, the Celtics would not be able to re-sign him until after the one-year anniversary of the trade.)
The process is important because the Celtics are creeping ever closer to the magical hard cap line of $74.3 million and by acquiring Lee, they will be left with few options to complete the rest of the roster. Second-round pick Kris Joseph, as well as summer league stalwarts Dionte Christmas and Jamar Smith could be the lucky beneficiaries of the Celtics’ tight cap situation, but if they add another big man it would have to be for the veteran minimum.
None of that should detract from the fact that the Celtics are on the verge of solving their biggest offseason puzzle and for a capped out team with few assets, acquiring Lee is the equivalent of a corner 3-pointer with the shot clock near zero, which just happens to be his specialty.
|Rest for the weary and other Celtics summer league notes||07.18.12 at 3:11 pm ET|
LAS VEGAS — After playing seven games in nine days, the Celtics’ summer league team is getting the day off. After knocking off the Bulls, 79-74, on Tuesday night, they have now won six of their seven games and both in Vegas. It’s a credit to coach Ty Lue, who has done a terrific job getting a dozen guys who just met to play hard and play as a team, while also finding time for a 10-man rotation each night.
“If you’re going to put on a Celtics uniform you’ve got to play hard every night,” Lue said. “KG, Paul [Pierce], [Rajon] Rondo and Doc [Rivers], they’re not going to accept anything less.”
On Tuesday, it was E’Twaun Moore‘s time to shine. The second-year guard has been their most consistent performer throughout summer league and the Bulls’ game was his best to day. Moore hit 10-of-19 shots and scored 25 points including five key points down the stretch when the Bulls cut into a double-digit lead.
The Celtics have until midnight on Sunday to guarantee the second-year of his contract and he’s made strong case for not only sticking with the team, but also getting a chance to earn a rotation spot. While he’s not a natural point guard, Moore has played with his trademark calmness and rarely gets rattled. He’s been solid with the ball outside of a four-turnover effort against the Pistons in Orlando in the C’s only loss.
Tuesday’s game played directly to his strengths as Jared Sullinger battled through a 3-for-15 shooting night and the C’s needed a scorer.
“E’Twaun is trying to be a point guard, but he’s a natural scorer,” Lue said. “It’s a fine line between the two, but we know he can score and attack. With Jared shooting 3-for-15 tonight, he had to step up and score. That’s what point guards do. If guys are rolling you’ve got to give him the ball. If they’re not, then you have to step up and score.”
Despite a tough night offensively, Sullinger drew praise for continuing to attack the glass. He pulled down 14 rebounds, including five on the offensive glass. Fellow forward JaJuan Johnson also hit the boards, pulling down 12 rebounds in his strongest rebounding effort of the summer session. Read the rest of this entry »
|Summer league truths and questions||07.11.12 at 3:36 pm ET|
ORLANDO — The well-worn maxim of summer league play is this: It’s not possible to tell who can play for real in the NBA, but it is possible to tell who can’t. Through three games, there have been few surprise for the Celtics and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Jared Sullinger is a good basketball player, who will compensate for his lack of athleticism with smart play and strong skills. E’Twaun Moore is confidently taking the reins of the team. Fab Melo is active, but raw. Kris Joseph has good skills across the board. JaJuan Johnson has remained an enigma, but he started to hit his stride in the second half of their third game on Wednesday, an 85-77 win over the Pacers.
The good news thus far is that each of them has flashed an NBA skill, but obvious questions remain. Here’s a thumbnail look at each prospect:
The raw numbers are decent — 14.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 11-for-12 from the free throw line — but what has really stood about Sullinger’s game is his feel for rebounding and his ability to pass out of double teams. While concerns about his less-than-ideal physique are legitimate, he’s been able to compensate with his skills, which are numerous.
“He’s a great passer, good rebounder, always in the right position as far as rebounding the ball,” C’s coach Ty Lue said. “He’s going to be good for us.”
Sullinger went 7-for-12 from the floor against the Pacers, operating mostly out of the low post where he is clearly comfortable. The Celtics have not had back-to-the-basket presence like Sullinger since the glory days of Leon Powe, but where Powe was intent on bulling his way to the basket, Sullinger has been able to read the play and make the appropriate pass.
“Getting double-teamed for the majority of your life, you’ve got to learn how to pass,” Sullinger said. “If you didn’t know how to pass, I wouldn’t be here right now.”
He has also shown a knack for getting to rebounds, something that is a major need for the Celtics. At the moment, he’s clearly the most NBA-ready of their roster players this summer.
The question: How much will his lack of athleticism hinder him against NBA competition?
Sullinger has proven he can play at a high level in high school, college and now here in summer league. The larger test awaits. Read the rest of this entry »
|E’Twaun Moore’s big summer||07.10.12 at 8:23 pm ET|
ORLANDO — There is little doubt that E’Twaun Moore can play in the NBA. The question is whether he’ll be playing in Boston. If Moore isn’t waived by midnight on Sunday, July 22 after the Celtics’ final summer league game in Las Vegas, then the second-year of his contract will become guaranteed.
At the moment, Moore’s spot with the Celtics looks fairly secure. With Avery Bradley undergoing surgery on his right shoulder at New England Baptist Hospital on Tuesday, the depth in the backcourt is currently Rajon Rondo, a recuperating Bradley and Moore. Soon, free agent guard Jason Terry will join them when he officially signs a deal for the mid-level exception. The Celtics are actively working to acquire another veteran guard like Courtney Lee to offset the loss of Bradley, who could be out to start next season.
Even if they do land another guard, there may still be a place for the second-year player. He showed flashes in 38 games last season making 38 percent of his 3-pointers. His breakout moment happened here in Orlando when he came off the bench to score 16 points in 18 minutes in a dramatic comeback win over the Magic.
“I’m just trying to play,” he said on Monday. “Play hard and get better. That’s all I can control and that’s all I’m thinking about.”
From the day he arrived, Moore has handled himself confidently. He has no doubts that he belonged and it wasn’t an accident that he was usually among the 13 active players during the postseason where he saw action in nine playoff games, mostly in mop-up situations.
“I don’t think there’s ever a time when he’s not confident,” his former Purdue teammate JaJuan Johnson said. “He’s been the man since he was younger. He’s always been confident, he’s always been the better player where he’s from. I think that’s good for him. He’s mentally tough. I’ve never seen him playing basketball get down. He’s always focused on the task at hand.”
Moore has mostly run the point in summer league and while his size (6-foot-4, 191 pounds) says point guard, he may be better served playing off the ball. Moore had another good game in the Celtics’ 82-73 win over the Nets on Tuesday, scoring 15 points on 5-for-12 shooting with five rebounds, four assists and just two turnovers.
Through two games, he’s the team’s leading scorer with 31 points and has eight assists against just four turnovers. He’s shooting just 39 percent, but he’s also had to create most of his shots himself. He’s not a natural playmaker at the point, but he’s been solid.
“He’s growing, he looks good,” said summer league coach Ty Lue. “He plays at his own pace. You can never speed him up. You can never fluster him. He’s doing a good job.”
There’s a long way to go between now and July 22, but Moore is making the most of his opportunity.
|Jared Sullinger takes over and other observations from first day of summer league||07.09.12 at 6:48 pm ET|
ORLANDO — Jared Sullinger has always been the focal point of the teams he’s played on, but this was his first taste of life in the NBA and he didn’t want to seem presumptuous.
“I didn’t want to come into the game thinking like, ‘It’s all about me, it’s all about me,’” he said. “Playing all my life, where everything goes through you, I didn’t want to be like that today because I got some teammates that can really play. So I was just trying to feel it out in the first half and the second half, we were falling behind, so I decided to step up and try to score the basketball.”
That’s exactly what he did as he scored 14 of his 20 points in the second half of the Celtics’ 73-65 win over Oklahoma City in their first summer league game. Sullinger worked down low and it’s clear that he’s comfortable on the block. He also stepped out and made a couple of mid-range jump shots. He even put the ball on the floor, spun into the lane and completed a three-point play.
“He’s just a gamer,” said C’s summer league coach, Ty Lue. “He knows how to play the game. Guys can be taller and more athletic, but he just knows how to play. He’s very skilled and he knows how to play the game. We wouldn’t have won the game without him today.”
Ever since the Celtics were able to select Sullinger in the first-round of the draft, his ability to play has been a constant theme. He’s not the most athletic player and there are obvious concerns about his back, but his basketball IQ is high and it’s evident watching him operate on the block that he has put in work over the years.
Summer league games are what they are. They can run anywhere from highly entertaining to long, drawn-out slogs and this game ranked more toward the latter end of the scale. Points were tough to come by, but the Thunder also had four first-round picks in their starting five, including center Cole Aldrich and Sullinger more than held his own.
This raises an interesting question as to whether the power forward can slide over and play some center minutes with the Celtics. Team president Danny Ainge raised the possibility during the rookies’ introductory press conference and while it wouldn’t be wise to throw him out there against the likes of Dwight Howard or Andrew Bynum, Sullinger said he welcomes the phsyical pounding that comes from playing with the big guys underneath.
“That’s fun. That’s always fun,” he said. “Get to bang around in the post, back to the basket. You get to guard someone taller than you, it’s a challenge. It’s always fun doing that. At the same time, it’s always fun guarding quicker basketball players. It was fun today.”
Growing up in Ohio, he was tested early by his brothers Julian and J.J. who made sure their little brother learned how take punishment, and more importantly, how to overcome it and still play your game.
“When you go through the air on concrete and they throw you to the ground and you’ve got scrapes all over your arms, you learn to concentrate on making the shots, instead of just scraping your arm,” he said. “Every time I’d cry, they’d yell at me because I’m always worried about the scab or something, instead of worrying about making the shot. When you’ve got two brothers like that, it’s not choice but to make the shots.”
All in all, it was a positive first step in Sullinger’s transition to the NBA. Here are some other observations: Read the rest of this entry »