|Avery Bradley rejects Gordon Hayward’s game-winning attempt||03.01.16 at 1:05 am ET|
On a night when the Celtics blocked more shots than they had in seven years, it was only appropriate that one of the smallest players on the court came up with one of the most important rejections in a 100-95 win over the Jazz at TD Garden.
With the Celtics clinging to a 96-95 lead, the bigger Gordon Hayward trying to back the 6-foot-2 Avery Bradley down into the post for a turnaround. But Bradley came off the seal and played it perfectly. He timed his jump perfectly and blocked Hayward with 20.9 seconds left and the Celtics closed out the game with the final four points.
“It was good,” coach Brad Stevens said of the Bradley block. “He had been guarding [Rodney] Hood most of the game and had done a great job on Hood and you knew they were going to one of those two guys and it just felt like he would be our best bet on Gordon late because Gordon had tried to drive it a few times there recently, at the end. And he made a really good play. He guessed right on his turnaround and blocked the shot, came up with the loose ball, and then Amir [Johnson] came up with the loose ball, and I thought that was really a well-played game by both teams, for the most part.
“And it was a heck of a game; it was a heck of an execution game late. They were making plays, we were making plays, and we were just fortunate enough to get those two loose balls off of the block and then off the free throw to kind of seal it.”
Bradley took advantage of his familiarity with Hayward to time his jump.
“I was just trying to play great defense,” Bradley said. “I know Gordon, I knew they were going to go to him and I just wanted to make it hard on him and not foul him, and that’s what I did and I was able to get the block, read the play. I tried to force him in to it, tried to force him into the middle so I could be right hand to right hand and I was able to get the block.”
“He timed it really well,” Hayward said. “It was a good play.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Brad Stevens on Gordon Hayward, Shelvin Mack: ‘I love competing against them’||02.29.16 at 8:36 pm ET|
Brad Stevens doesn’t like coaching against his former players.
In the first quarter he was reminded why. Gordon Hayward, most famous for nearly beating Duke in the NCAA championship game with a half-court buzzer-beater in 2010, had eight points and fellow Butler alum Shelvin Mack had six points as the Jazz took a 29-23 lead.
The two were recently re-united thanks a trade that sent Mack from Atlanta to the Jazz. Mack was placed immediately in Utah’s starting lineup. His first game with the Jazz was against old coach Brad Stevens and the Celtics.
What does he think of coaching against his former players twice in two weeks?
“It stinks,” Stevens said only partially tongue-in-cheek. “I love being out there. I love competing against them. If I was coaching the blue team in practice and they were on the white team a few years ago, I would try to do the very best I could to not let them have a good day. Shelvin has started off great for Utah, as we thought he would. As we’ve seen many times, it’s about opportunity and fit as much as anything else in this league.
“And Gordon has established himself as one of the better young players in the league, and that’s been a great growth process for me to watch because when he committed to Butler, he was a tennis player that played basketball and was growing into his body, and wasn’t near what he is now. Just to watch him the last eight or nine years has been pretty incredible.”
The Hayward story is well-documented but Stevens provided a refresher course before Monday’s game.
“He wasn’t heavily recruited until after he committed to us,” Stevens said. “It was that type of deal. He was great. He really wanted to be there. He really worked. He was always working. He was always in the gym. He was probably one of our bigger gym rats that we had over that time. He’s also a really relational guy, he really enjoys team, he really enjoys people.
“They pounded us last week. They’ve had some great moments, and those two guys are going to continue to have great moments as part of that organization. I just think you should grow, you should get better, you should improve. If you’re stagnating or if you think you’ve got it figured out, you’re going to get caught. I feel bad that those guys had to be coached by a guy that young and that dumb.”
Mack thinks the self-deprecating Stevens might just be a little hard on himself, considering the fact he became the youngest head coach in history to guide his team to back-to-back NCAA championship games.
“I wouldn’t say that,” Mack said when told of the ‘dumb’ reference. “He was very smart, very mature. I’d say he handled the situation great at Butler.
“He’s a player’s coach. He can adapt to his players. I think the NBA is all about, or mostly about, the players. If you adapt to a player and make it easy, I think you have a chance to be a great coach. He’s able to do that, connect with his players, on and off the court. Off the court might be easier than on the court.”
|Brad Stevens shows his smarts in diagramming game-winning play||03.05.15 at 10:58 am ET|
If there was one person in the building not surprised by the brilliant adjustment made by Celtics coach Brad Stevens on the game-winning inbounds play from Marcus Smart Wednesday night, it was Gordon Hayward.
He was, of course, a star player for Stevens at Butler University when the Bulldogs went to back-to-back national title games, losing to Duke and UConn. Hayward was also the man who scored what appeared to be the game-winning basket with 1.7 seconds left, giving Utah an 84-83 lead.
Then the Celtics called timeout. They wanted Smart to inbound the ball. But the rookie was having all sorts of problems getting the ball in. Another timeout. Then Stevens diagrammed a play to get the look that would free Tyler Zeller at the rim, if Smart could get the ball in.
“They switched the play before when Marcus couldn’t get it inbounded with Hayward and (Derrick) Favors,” Stevens said. “So, we wanted to try to get that switch again, so we just ran a little action to get that switch again and then (Rudy) Gobert was on the ball so he wasn’t at the rim. So we were hoping to slip and catch it a little bit cleaner and lay it in, but, you know, that was the goal – and it ended up being Ok.”
Was Stevens surprised that Gobert was on the ball?
“That’s a hard call, and I think that with Marcus Smart taking it out and Gobert on the ball it’s hard to deliver a good pass,” Stevens said.”If Gobert tips it the game’s basically over, unless it tips right to us. So it’s easy to second-guess that stuff, but I won’t because I saw how long Marcus had to throw over just to get the pass to where it was. It’s another reason why we had to throw the ball in the air, though.”
“Coach Stevens drew up a great play,” Smart added. “The first play was supposed to go to Jae Crowder, Utah played it very well and he came back with the counterattack. It was tough, they put a tall defender on the ball and I had to pass-fake the ball to get him leaning one way and Tyler did a great job shoving his man off and just put it at the back of the backboard.”
Zeller caught the ball, gave a quick pump fake and delivered the game-winner as time expired.
‘It was a great pass,” Hayward said of the Smart entry pass from midcourt. “That’s what Coach Stevens does. He’s excellent in those situations of coming up with a play, I know it better than anybody. It’s a great play, great design, they knew we were switching. The pass had to be perfect to get over Rudy (Gobert) and Rod (Rodney Hood), and it was. And then (Zeller) made a good finish too. Credit them with their finish, too, but that’s not where we lost it, though. We should have been better.” Read the rest of this entry »
|The Creative Kevin Love Trade Idea of the Day||07.07.14 at 10:59 am ET|
Over the weekend, Yahoo! Sports columnist Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted, “Here’s something that remains unchanged: Danny Ainge‘s relentless pursuit of creative ways to engage Minnesota on a Kevin Love deal.”
It should come as no surprise that Ainge is continuing to target Love. After all, Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck promised fireworks this summer, and a Love connection is the only big splash left to make. Go ahead, look at the available free agents at point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward and center.
News flash: LeBron James, Chris Bosh and/or Carmelo Anthony aren’t coming to Boston. The Suns, Pistons, Rockets and Jazz are respectively expected to match offers for restricted free agents Eric Bledsoe, Greg Monroe, Chandler Parsons and Gordon Hayward. Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan, Kyle Lowry and Marcin Gortat are off the board. Lance Stephenson, Luol Deng, Pau Gasol and Paul Pierce are rumored elsewhere. That leaves one top-20 player in Tom Ziller‘s great free agent rankings: 5-foot-9 point guard Isaiah Thomas.
Considering he plays the same position as Rajon Rondo and Marcus Smart, Thomas doesn’t exactly qualify as fireworks. Now, look at the unrestricted free agents available in 2015. The two biggest names: Rondo and Love. If Ainge doesn’t pair them now, how confident are you he can do so when they hit the open market next summer? If nothing else, the first week of July has proven high-profile free agents have no interest in the Celtics. Re-signing Rondo and Love would be a different story, since the C’s could offer significantly more money.
In other words, the C’s only real shot to compete in the near future is pairing Rondo and Love. This is a stars league, and those are the only two that set foot in Boston this summer. Other pieces will follow. Otherwise, Ainge might as well trade Rondo and start from scratch, because the Celtics won’t be contending for quite some time.
Ainge will exhaust all options to acquire Love, including every attempt to involve other teams and satisfy Minnesota’s desire to land a legitimate player in return. Since we can get creative, too, here’s one such option he could try.
|2014 NBA free agent small forwards available to Celtics||06.29.14 at 8:54 am ET|
With NBA free agency opening Tuesday, we continue our annual examination of the options available to the Celtics at each position. Today’s focus: Small forwards. Unlike recent seasons, C’s president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is expected to have more flexibility than any summer since 2007 when the league’s moratorium on free agent signings is lifted and the salary cap (an estimated $63.2 million) is officially set on July 10.
- 2014 NBA free agent point guards available to Celtics
- 2014 NBA free agent shooting guards available to Celtics
The Celtics have eight players under guaranteed contracts in 2014-15 for $48.5 million (Rajon Rondo $12.9M; Gerald Wallace $10.1M; Jeff Green $9.2M; Brandon Bass $6.9M; Joel Anthony $3.8M; Vitor Faverani $2.1M; Kelly Olynyk $2.1M; Jared Sullinger $1.4M) as well as $4.1 million in cap holds for first-round picks Marcus Smart and James Young. Pending decisions on or by Kris Humphries, Avery Bradley and Jerryd Bayless, the C’s could have as much as $10 million in cap space — or more if they use the stretch provision on Wallace.
With Green, Wallace, Johnson and Young all under their control for at least the next two seasons, the Celtics seem locked into the position at first glance. Upon closer look, Ainge will surely shop the two years and $18.4 million left on Green’s contract if the youth movement continues, Wallace could be jettisoned, too, Johnson’s contract isn’t guaranteed and Young is just 18 years old. This year’s free agent small forward crop is as good as the shooting guard list is bad, so don’t be surprised if the C’s are linked to every name out there except LeBron James.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at their options, separating the current free agents into three categories.
|Double ’07: Carmelo Anthony, Ray Allen and Celtics triumvirates||05.08.14 at 3:01 pm ET|
This is the third in a series on the parallels between Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge‘s last team to miss the NBA playoffs and this year’s lottery-bound squad. A deeper look at the C’s player personnel, potential trade packages and financial flexibility should offer insight into whether or not Ainge can recreate the 2007 magic of acquiring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen seven years later in 2014. (Hence, Double ’07.)
As if acquiring Kevin Love or another perennial All-Star to pair with Rajon Rondo weren’t difficult enough, in order to restore the Celtics to championship caliber, Danny Ainge faces the harsh reality that Love is not enough.
In today’s NBA, three isn’t a crowd. It’s a necessity. The Celtics don’t win the 2008 title without Ray Allen, just as the Heat don’t win the past two without Chris Bosh (or Allen, for that matter). Making matters worse, few — if any — elite players will realistically change teams in the next couple years. Other than Love, of course.
Of the top-25 players listed on ESPN’s NBA Rank this past season, only Love, Kyrie Irving, Carmelo Anthony and an injured Kobe Bryant failed to make the playoffs. Irving remains on his rookie contract through next season, and Bryant just signed an obscene two-year, $48.5 million deal, leaving Anthony as the next most likely candidate.
|Weekly NBA Draft Watch: Free agent possibilities for Celtics this offseason||05.01.14 at 12:33 pm ET|
After a flurry of draft-related news, we finally have reached a standstill. The date for underclassmen to declare has passed, and as expected all the big names are in. So what do we have to look forward to?
The draft combine will take place in Chicago from May 14-18, and it’s something Celtics fans will want to keep an eye on. Many of the top prospects will attend, a great way to gauge how each player looks on the exact same measuring stick. Much of the Celtics‘ destiny relies on May 20, when the lottery reveals what pick Boston will hold. Of course, June 26 is the actual draft date, when everything will come to a head.
But the draft is not the only way to acquire talent this summer. Whether Danny Ainge decides to use or trade his draft picks, there is a solid free agent pool that Ainge will not be able to ignore. Trading for Kevin Love is the sexy solution to Boston’s problems at the moment, and it’s not all that unrealistic. Other stars are bound to be available come draft day as well.
Draft picks and trades rely on different variables, however. You can’t make a GM trade you a player, nor can you make a player fall to you in the draft. Free agents, on the other hand, come with far less complications. Of course they can choose their destination (or be matched by their current team if they are restricted), but there is nothing standing in Ainge’s way of pursuing free agents this summer.
With that said, following is a look at some free agents who have a realistic chance of at least being on Boston’s radar.
Lance Stephenson — Stephenson has had a breakout season for the recently struggling Pacers. At one point, this looked like a team destined to stay together. But Indy is self-destructing in the first-round against eighth-seeded Atlanta. Something will need to change next season.
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