|Brad Stevens on Kevin McHale: ‘I don’t agree with the firing’||11.18.15 at 8:40 pm ET|
“First and foremost, we’re in a business where expectations certainly drive decisions at times,” Stevens told reporters before his team hosted the Mavericks. “I don’t agree with the firing, but it’s not my choice to make. I think Kevin is a great coach. Kevin has been great to me. Kevin is obviously a great Celtic. People love him everywhere they’ve been. Everybody that you hear from loves working with him, loves being around him, so to me, from the outside looking in, it looks like 11 games in making a rash decision, but it’s not my call.”
OK, so Stevens didn’t exactly blast the Rockets, but he questioned them, and it’s nice to see behind the curtain. Only 32 people in the world have the job at any given time, so the NBA coaching fraternity can be a tight-knit bunch. Stevens said he wasn’t too familiar with McHale outside of the Hall of Famer’s work as a coach, leading the Rockets to the Western Conference finals last season, but noted that McHale and C’s president Danny Ainge are “close friends,” dating back to their time together in Boston during the 1980s.
Another guy who spent time with both Ainge and McHale on the ’80s Celtics was Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, who also had some pointed remarks for former C’s assistant general manager Daryl Morey, now the GM in Houston.
“I was extremely surprised that McHale was let go,” Carlisle said before Wednesday’s game. “Here’s a guy who has such amazing integrity as a person. You watch him on the sidelines, and he walks with a limp because of the sacrifices he made to become one of the greatest champions in history. He loves and respects the game so much.
“It’s surprising when something like this happens — shocking — but he’s going to be fine,” added Carlisle. “He’s going to get a chance to get some rest here, probably jump on TV and have a blast doing that, and then there will be a lot of teams wanting to hire him, because he did a fantastic job in Houston. When you look at their team over the last few years, their roster was constantly in flux, and he just did an amazing job putting that together and bringing those guys back from down 3-1 in the conference semifinals. That’s a guy with some great coaching credentials, and his other championship credentials really go without saying.”
As for whether the 1985-86 Celtics were the greatest team in NBA history, Carlisle agreed with Ainge: “Yes.”
|Studs and Duds: Celtics bottle up lethargic Rockets||11.16.15 at 10:37 pm ET|
Brad Stevens has entered unfamiliar territory, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
With their 111-95 victory Monday over the Rockets, the Celtics are now two games over .500 for the first time in the coach’s tenure. After struggling in the first quarter, the Celtics finished outscored the Rockets 87-67 to finish the game. Isaiah Thomas led the way for the C’s with 23 points, while Avery Bradley (21) and Jae Crowder (16) were also in double figures.
The two teams played with polar opposite energy levels. The C’s played with their normal aggression/desperation, while the Rockets looked as disinterested as a prepubescent boy at a middle school dance. The Celtics were extreme active in the passing lanes, which led to a season-high 16 steals. MVP runner-up James Harden was held to only 16 points on 4-of-10 shooting.
For a complete box score, click here. To go beyond the box, read on.
STUDS OF THE NIGHT: Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas.
The pair spread their 44 points across all four quarters. In the first, Thomas carried the C’s, starting the game 4-for-5 from the field with 10 points and three assists. In the second half, it was Bradley’s turn, as he scored 13 points while sitting out the final eight minutes. Both finished 4-for-7 from beyond the arc. Thomas actually started over Bradley, who was able to score 21 points in only 20 minutes. Thomas scored a similarly efficient 23 points in 24 minutes.
DUD OF THE NIGHT: The entire Houston Rockets staff, basketball team, record label and crew.
It really didn’t seem like the Rockets ever wanted to win this game. A number of times they neglected to run back on defense. Mike Gorman was personally disgusted and offered his public condolences to Rockets head coach Kevin McHale, who I imagined just shrugged his shoulders and sighed the whole night. The Celtics seemed to win every 50-50 ball and on numerous occasions just ripped the ball out of the hands of Rockets players.
|The Rajon Rondo trade rumor mill begins in earnest||07.14.14 at 10:50 am ET|
Having missed out on Chris Bosh in free agency, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey‘s search for a third star to pair with Dwight Howard and James Harden continues with Rajon Rondo and Kevin Love, per ESPN’s Marc Stein.
The Celtics captain is reportedly a “longtime Houston target” on the trade market.
While the Rockets have created a boatload of salary cap wiggle room, trading both Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin in addition to letting Chandler Parsons walk, Morey has few assets remaining to deal for either Rondo or Love, let alone both.
Houston reportedly dealt its 2015 first-round selection in the Lin deal and acquired a protected No. 1 pick from the Pelicans, but because teams cannot complete trades that could leave them without a top pick in consecutive seasons, the Rockets could not offer the Celtics or Timberwolves a first-rounder until 2017.
Likewise, following Parsons’ departure, the Rockets have few players to offer not named Howard or Harden. The newly acquired Trevor Ariza‘s four-year, $32 million deal by way of a three-team trade cannot be dealt for another two months.
While the Celtics and Rockets could both get themselves under the cap to complete a deal, Houston’s offer would have to include some combination of Terrence Jones (12.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 1.1 apg, 57.7 TS%, 19.1 PER), Patrick Beverly (10.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.7 apg, 1.4 spg, 54.5 TS%, 12.4 PER) and unsigned first-round pick Clint Cappela. None of those names exactly scream equal value for either Rondo or Love.
Still, Rondo will be on the trading block should the Celtics not acquire Love themselves, and Morey is a creative GM capable of involving other teams in a package enticing enough to land the C’s point guard. This isn’t the first Rondo trade rumor you’ve seen, and it won’t be the last, but it may really be the beginning of the end of his Boston tenure.
|The NBA’s big problem, according to Jeremy Lin||01.14.14 at 12:38 pm ET|
As if a game involving a team riding an eight-game losing streak and trailing by 20 points couldn’t have gotten any uglier, the Celtics began fouling Dwight Howard, over and over, midway through the fourth quarter.
Once Rockets coach Kevin McHale inserted his center into the final frame against his former team, the Celtics hacked a Howard seven times in 3:27, resulting in 14 mostly terrible free throw attempts for the viewing pleasure of the fans who remained until the bitter end. It wasn’t pretty, and that’s a problem for the NBA, because it worked.
“It freezes everybody,” Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin explained after his team’s 104-92 victory at the Garden. “We just don’t get rhythm. We don’t play offense for a while. We’re just watching. We get cold, and then there’s no flow. At that point, their goal is to freeze us, so they are accomplishing that.”
As Howard missed 8-of-14 from the line, the C’s slashed a 16-point deficit to seven and could’ve sliced it further had they not turned the ball over three times down the stretch. These are the Rajon Rondo-less Celtics, after all. Then, the two-minute mark hit, the C’s could no longer foul Howard off the ball and had to play real defense, which promptly resulted in a pair of Houston layups that mercifully brought their ninth straight loss to an end.
“I would probably support a change in the rule that would call it intentional or call it like it would be called int he last two minutes,” admitted Stevens. “But because it’s a rule and usually if a guy’s making one out of two, it makes you think twice. To his credit, he made one almost every time up to the foul line. But we were scoring, and so we were getting a plus-one in about 10 or 15 seconds off the clock for the better part of three or four possessions. And then we went dry, and that’s when the two-minute mark hit anyways and we really couldn’t do it anymore.”
To paraphrase: The Celtics, like most teams, Hack-a-Howard because they can, even if they don’t like it. And why should they? It’s ugly and cheap, like an inflatable doll, and nobody wants to see that. Especially fans.
So, what should the NBA do about it? Take a cue perhaps from Shaquille O’Neal himself, who once said of the Hack-a-Shaq technique, “The only thing I call cowardly is when you’re up by 10 and do it. That’s a coward move.” Adam Silver could make it his first order of business upon taking over for David Stern as commissioner: Off-the-ball whistles become intentional when a team is leading by 10 points. That way ugly basketball can’t get any uglier.
|Report: Rockets end Omer Asik trade talks with Celtics||12.19.13 at 1:19 pm ET|
The Rockets plan to keep Omer Asik after all, according to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowksi.
Houston has ended talks on an Omer Asik trade and plan to keep him for now, league source tells Yahoo Sports.
‘ Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) December 19, 2013
The Celtics appeared to be the leading contenders for Asik’s services, and Houston reportedly would have received Brandon Bass, Courtney Lee and a first-round pick in return, but the two teams haggled over which of the C’s nine first-round picks over the next five years would be included. Surely, Celtics president Danny Ainge balked at the inclusion of either of his 2014 first-rounders or any future pick that may end up in the lottery.
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey set a self-imposed deadline of Thursday to deal Asik, although the league alerted Morey that he had until Friday to make a trade and still deal the newly acquired players by the deadline.
And as we’ve learned in recent years, so-called dead trade talks have been resurrected, and the two teams could still strike a deal before the NBA’s trade deadline of Feb. 20.
|How Danny Ainge’s Celtics can acquire Omer Asik||12.16.13 at 1:25 pm ET|
As we’ve discussed in great detail, the Celtics have the picks and assets to enter just about every NBA trade conversation, so it comes as no surprise that they have reportedly entered the Omer Asik sweepstakes.
The advice offered to us on Sunday was stern: Keep an eye on Boston. The Celtics possess two players in different salary ranges that would presumably fit in useful ways next to Dwight Howard: Jeff Green and Brandon Bass. The Celts also have a spare first-round draft pick or two to plug into any trade equation to sweeten the deal for Houston, amid rising suspicions around the league that Morey’s Rockets are going to find a way to come out of the Asik saga with at least one future first. — Marc Stein, ESPN.com
The Rockets set a self-imposed deadline of Thursday to deal Asik, who requested a trade last month and even sat out a game due to concerns that resulted from the Dwight Howard signing this summer. The 7-footer hasn’t played since Dec. 2 after suffering a bruised right thigh and getting his swollen right knee drained.
This season and next, Asik is owed $20.1 million of his uniquely structured three-year, $25.1 million deal, including $14.9 million next year, although he would count $8.4 million against the salary cap. Make no mistake, though, Asik is a catch. The 27-year-old Turk played every game of his first three NBA seasons, culminating in career averages (10.1 points, 11.7 rebounds) during his first winter in Houston. He’s widely considered an elite rebounding center with an improving offensive game whose impact is measured best by advanced analytics.
But how much would the Celtics be willing to give up for Asik? First, Rockets GM Daryl Morey‘s asking price.
|Jared Sullinger ‘happy to hack’ while Celtics winning||01.12.13 at 1:29 am ET|
Jared Sullinger may be soft spoken but he certainly isn’t shy.
For the fifth time in 36 games, the Celtics rookie fouled out of a game. But all of the fouls are rolling off his back during a five-game winning streak that has transformed the Celtics from a 14-17 team to a 19-17 club that is starting to click and move up the Eastern Conference standings.
“As long as we’re winning I’m happy. Happy to hack,” Sullinger said with a big smile. “No biggie.”
Sullinger wasn’t laughing with 10:01 left in the game Friday when he picked up his fifth foul, with the Celtics leading 83-69. The Rockets scored the next 12 points.
But earlier in the game, Sullinger was the biggest reason the Celtics built a double-digit lead. He had 14 points and eight rebounds off the bench in the first half. That was the same number the Celtics starters had combined late in the first half.
“It’s coming easier,” Sullinger said. “Obviously, it’s been 36 games, so I should be used to the NBA by now. It’s just me and my comfort zone right now.”
“He’s playing better, so the coach has more confidence in him,” Doc Rivers added. “That’s [No.] 1. I said it early in the year, when he’s on the floor, he does the right stuff. And a lot of stuff you don’t see, just being able to throw him the ball. How many rookies have we ever thrown the ball to at the top of the circle, and he decides which way he wants to go with it? He just has a great calm about him. He helps us. Especially with that second unit, because you gotta always have a passing big in our offense, and he gives us that extra passing big.”
Sullinger finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds, his second straight double-double.
‘We’re just playing hard, we’re in a groove right now. Five games, you know obviously we’re in a great groove right now,” Sullinger said. ‘I’m just playing hard, that’s all it is.’
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