|Five Things We Learned as Celtics — without Rajon Rondo and Marcus Smart — hold on for win over Bulls||11.08.14 at 11:01 pm ET|
The Celtics had every reason to look disjointed on Saturday night in Chicago. On the back end of their second game in as many nights, the team was without not only Rajon Rondo (who required a minor surgical procedure to remove a pin from his wrist) but also Marcus Smart following his injury on Friday.
But the Celtics instead showed tremendous energy and intensity for most of the night, building a big enough lead — a 20-point advantage at one point, the first time in five years that the team had built such a large advantage in Chicago — that they were able to withstand a late, spirited charge by the Bulls and claim a 106-101 victory on the road. The Celtics shot 52 percent from the floor and had excellent ball handling and distribution, with 25 assists and just 12 turnovers.
Here are five takeaways from a contest that allowed the Celtics to improve to .500 (3-3) for the season:
MAYBE THE THE CELTICS CAN SHOOT
The Celtics‘ 52 percent performance from the floor on 81 shots represented the third time this year (in six games) that the Celtics have shot at least 50 percent from the floor, tied for the most such contests in the NBA this season. The Celtics are now shooting 47.4 percent from the floor on the season, fifth best in the NBA to this point.
MAYBE THE CELTICS CAN CONTROL THE GLASS
With Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger leading the way, the Celtics have been one of the better rebounding teams in the NBA so far. The C’s grabbed 45 boards, seven more than the Bulls reeled in, continuing a pattern that had seen the Celtics enter the night with the third-highest rebound percentage in the league (53.8).
|Asset Management: Evan Turner’s Celtics future||10.15.14 at 6:08 pm ET|
I think we can all agree the Celtics won’t be raising banner 18 in the immediate future, and more likely than not the 2014-15 NBA season will result in another lottery pick come June, regardless of how ardently Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley & Co. argue the contrary. It’s been a year since Danny Ainge traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Nets, launching the process of stockpiling draft picks and cap-friendly contracts. Since the Celtics failed to cash in those commodities in exchange for fireworks this summer, this season’s preview will have a Wyc Grousbeck theme, focusing on the hodgepodge of C’s pieces in a series we’ll call Asset Management. Next up: Evan Turner.
Evan Turner isn’t this good.
At least, he hasn’t been, not at the NBA level. Through four preseason games with the Celtics, though, Turner is producing at a level we haven’t seen since his Ohio State days, and there’s reason to believe he can maintain that success.
His performance on the 76ers and briefly the Pacers hasn’t proved worthy of the No. 2 pick in 2010. The averages of 13.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists from 2011-13 aren’t so bad, but he’s never posted a true shooting percentage better than 50 percent and submitted a PER (12.4) worse than the C’s top seven rotation players last season. Likewise, his assist-to-turnover ratio (1.39) ranked among the league’s worst for guards who dominated the ball as much as he did in 2013-14. By few measures has Turner been a productive basketball player.
All of which seems strange for a 6-foot-7, 205-pound consensus collegiate player of the year who was considered by DraftExpress “a dynamic shot-creator” and “one of the best perimeter stoppers in the draft” after three seasons on the Buckeyes. What happened to the guy who ranked among the 10 most efficient college players in 2009-10?
|Celtics practice notes: Rajon Rondo improves, Jeff Green returns, rotation starts coming together||10.14.14 at 2:01 pm ET|
The Celtics kicked off the preseason with a busy stretch of four games in just six nights. They since have had an off day, then practice resumed on Monday and Tuesday in Waltham leading up to Wednesday’s game against the Raptors in Maine.
Here are some notes from prior to Tuesday’s practice.
Rajon Rondo shows improvement
Rondo has been on the court shooting the ball prior to each preseason game, which is a very good sign. He also has been doing ball handling with his broken left hand (with a brace on it). All signs point to Rondo being right on schedule in his recovery, if not ahead of schedule.
“We’ve increased his conditioning within workouts,” Brad Stevens said. “So what we’ve done is, the last couple of days, we’ve actually worked him out with a couple of other guys early in a small group. And then he’ll do all of the non-contact stuff in our workout, which [Tuesday] will be most of the workout. So that’ll be good. He’s getting there, it’s just a matter of he can’t be involved in contact.”
Jeff Green returns from calf injury
Green has been practicing this week, and Stevens indicated he will be in shape to play against Toronto.
“Yeah, he’ll play [Wednesday],” Stevens said. “That’ll be part of his conditioning.”
With the emergence of Evan Turner so far this preseason, Stevens would like to find ways to get Turner and Green on the court at the same time now that Green is back. It’s something Turner sees going well.
“I think Jeff and I have a good rapport,” Turner said. “It’s all about communication, and once again, [Green] is our go-to-guy. I just want to play, so whatever he wants I’m going to do.”
Turner expressed confidence that he and Green will be able to play off one another.
“We attempted to,” he said with a laugh. “We played together before he got hurt, too, so I think clearly he will have to get re-acclimated because he hasn’t played in the last couple of weeks, but it should be fine.”
|Why you should care about Monday’s Celtics game: Marcus Smart, James Young debut; Evan Turner shines||10.06.14 at 10:29 pm ET|
As if the start of basketball season starting up wasn’t reason enough for you to care about the Celtics‘ preseason opener on Monday night, then Marcus Smart and James Young making their NBA debuts — and leading the Celtics to an easy 98-78 victory over the 76ers — should be. (See the box score here.)
Smart spoke before the game about being nervous: “Of course, [there’s] always nerves,” he said. “First game at a different level, there’s always going to be nerves, but [I’ve] just got to figure out how to calm them down.”
His nerves were evident as he finished with just two points (0-8 FGs). Despite not shooting the ball particularly well, his effort on both ends of the floor was unmatched. He played lockdown defense on each and every possession coming up with three steals in the process. Although his shots weren’t falling, Smart did a good job running the offense, particularly leading the fast break. He ended up with six assists in his 27 minutes.
Young began the game cold, and his nerves were perhaps most evident when he missed his first two free throws just moments after stepping onto the floor. But he picked up the slack in the second half and was able to finish in double figures with 10 points on 3-8 shooting. Young was just 1-5 from 3-point land, but had several unlucky bounces off the iron.
OTHER REASONS YOU SHOULD HAVE CARED ABOUT MONDAY’S GAME
Evan Turner shined while playing multiple positions.
In the absence of Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green, Turner was exactly what the Celtics needed to fill both roles. Turner started the game at small forward and started the second half at point guard for Brad Stevens, yet was the C’s best player regardless of position. Turner flirted with a triple-double in his 31 minutes, posting 15 points and 10 rebounds to go along with six assists.
Jared Sullinger still is a rebounding machine.
Sullinger got the start at power forward and was his usual self in terms of crashing the glass. Like much of the team, Sullinger did not shoot the ball well (4-15 FGs) but he still found ways to be effective. Sullinger ripped down 13 boards and still managed to score 10 points.
There still are some veterans who can score.
Not many people came into this season excited about Brandon Bass or Marcus Thornton, but they can both still fill it up. Bass finished with 15 points and nine rebounds in just over 19 minutes of action, while Thornton scored 14 in only 14 minutes off the bench. Bass and Thornton don’t figure to be a big part of the future in Boston, but with both of their contracts expiring at season’s end, their strong play makes them both viable trade candidates.
The Celtics will take on the Knicks in Hartford on Wednesday night.
|Celtics open training camp, Brad Stevens ready for more aggressive approach||09.30.14 at 7:04 pm ET|
The Celtics kicked off training camp Tuesday with two-a-days at the team’s training facility in Waltham. It’s somewhat of a new trend for the team, which has journeyed to Newport, Rhode Island, for training camp the last several years.
Brad Stevens had a simple state of mind as to why the team is staying local.
“Because my office is here,” he said. “The computer is there, the TV I know how to work is in the same place. The equipment guys don’t have to carry thousands of bags. The video guys don’t have to move their whole life. It made a lot more sense to stay here. … The kind of work we get done is a lot more important than anything else, like where we do it.”
Stevens indicated he may have moved things along a bit too slowly last season and wants to take a more aggressive approach this time around.
“I’ve got a great idea about how fast or how slow I need to go,” he said. “Right now, in a lot of ways I’m trying to throw as much at them as possible in the next three days and then we’ll break it down after that.”
Added Stevens: “I thought I was too gradual last year and so we’re going to be a lot quicker in that. But at the same time, at the appropriate time, after a couple of days we’ll stop and hopefully break it down.”
With Rajon Rondo out of camp with a broken hand, Stevens briefly explained the team’s point guard situation on the first day of camp: “We had three teams, Evan [Turner], Marcus [Smart] and Phil [Pressey].”
Turner is less of a true point guard than Smart and Pressey, but that doesn’t concern Stevens.
“One thing is you don’t really know [is how Turner will respond], but he’s better with the ball than not,” Stevens said, adding: “Not withstanding Rondo, he’s as good of a pick-and-roll player as we have.”
Continued Stevens: “We have one point guard healthy that has NBA experience and that’s Phil Pressey. And that’s not a lot of it. I’m not as worried about [the point guard position] because I think people are going to put you in a box for your position, and I’m just not going to do that. I’m not going to worry about it. [Turner’s] a ball handler, he can make plays, he’s smart. And then I think that keeps our other guys in the positions that they’re most comfortable.”
The Celtics continue camp in Waltham all week before hosting a practice at the TD Garden on Friday for season ticket-holders.
|Jared Sullinger, Evan Turner finally get chance to team up in Boston||09.29.14 at 9:04 pm ET|
Jared Sullinger and Evan Turner officially became teammates for the first time on Monday when Turner finally inked a two-year contract that made him a member of the Celtics. It’s been a long time coming, however, and the two are excited to finally share the floor while wearing the same uniform.
While Sullinger was a freshman standout at Ohio State, it’s often forgotten that Turner would have been a senior on that team had he not left the Buckeyes a season early to enter the NBA draft. Despite never having the chance to team up in Columbus, the two are old friends that often work out together at Ohio State in the offseason.
At Celtics media day on Monday, Sullinger was asked whom he thought the best former Buckeye on the team was, and his answer was somewhat surprising.
“You have to give it to Evan, just because he won national player of the year,” Sullinger humbly proclaimed. “But I also went further than him in the tournament. He did three [years] and I did two, let’s just put it that way,” Sullinger added with a smile.
Sullinger then offered his opinion on what we can expect now that he is teammates with Turner.
“He brings a multidimensional-type player. Honestly, he’s a great basketball player,” Sullinger offered. “He can do a lot of things, he can play the point [guard], play two [guard], play three [small forward]. I think in the NBA you have to have multiple guys that play multiple positions in order for a team to win, and I think Evan brings that.”
Sullinger was asked if he played any role in influencing Danny Ainge to bring Turner to Boston or if he had offered any type of scouting report on his fellow Buckeye.
“No, you pretty much know the scouting report on Evan, everybody does,” Sullinger responded. “If you go one year through the NBA, playing a lot of minutes, I think from the owners down everybody knows your scouting report and what type of player you are.”
|How Evan Turner’s signing impacts Celtics||07.22.14 at 8:56 am ET|
Four years after NBA experts argued whether Evan Turner or John Wall deserved the No. 1 overall selection in 2010, some of those same folks are debating Turner’s value in relation to undrafted free agent Chris Johnson.
After all, the former No. 2 pick’s agreement with the C’s likely signals the end for Johnson and fellow non-guaranteed signees Chris Babb and Keith Bogans.
Terms of the deal have not been made public, but the Boston Herald’s Steve Bulpett reports Turner will earn a portion of the team’s mid-level exception. Upon cutting Johnson, Babb and Bogans, the Celtics would fall $5.1 million below the luxury tax, opening the 15th and final roster spot for the 25-year-old. The non-taxpayer mid-level exception for the 2014-15 season is $5.3 million.
Most likely, Turner’s deal will expire in the next two years, allowing him to improve his value before the NBA’s new TV deal sends the salary cap soaring in 2016.
The Ohio State product’s value has never been lower. He only netted Danny Granger‘s expiring contract for the 76ers in February and didn’t warrant an $8.7 million qualifying offer from the Pacers this summer. Acquired to bolster Indiana’s hopes of an NBA Finals run, Turner ultimately lost his bench role to the immortal Rasual Butler in the Eastern Conference finals. No player who earned as many minutes as Turner (2,457) had a worse PER last season (12.4), and his true shooting percentage has never eclipsed 50 percent.
Turner isn’t a complete bust. Compiling respectable career averages of 11.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists, he started for a Sixers squad that nearly took out the Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2012. He’s averaged 14.4 points (50.6 TS%), 5.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 14 career games against the C’s.
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