|To keep or not to keep: What to do with Celtics||04.29.15 at 11:14 pm ET|
Celtics coach Brad Stevens and team president Danny Ainge aren’t going anywhere. That much we know. Everyone else on the roster is up for debate. Certainly, nobody is untradeable, so let’s attempt to project how these C’s players fit into Ainge’s puzzle this coming summer with a game of ‘to keep or not to keep.’
BRANDON BASS (unrestricted free agent)
Through all the upheaval, Bass was the rock of the 2014-15 Boston Celtics. Built like a Chevy truck, the 6-foot-8, 240-pound big man appeared in all 82 games for the second straight season. (He’s missed just eight games since arriving in Boston four years ago.) Splitting his time between starting and reserve roles, Bass produced the best per-minute numbers of his career this past summer while averaging the fewest minutes of his Celtics tenure (23.5). He remains one of the league’s elite midrange shooters and double-handed dunked his way to a decent percentage around the rim, but concerns about him linger.
He’s neither an exceptional rebounder nor rim protector defensively — an issue that killed the Celtics against the Cavaliers — and does not fit Stevens’ floor-stretching mold offensively. There wasn’t much of a trade market for an undersized power forward who brings few of the skills required for such players in today’s NBA at $6.9 million, and his disappearance in the playoffs may have sealed his fate at any rate.
Verdict: Not to keep.
AVERY BRADLEY (signed through 2017-18 for $8.3 million per season)
Playing the most minutes of his career, Bradley took a slight step back from a stellar offensive season in 2013-14, when he shot 40 percent from 3-point range. Still one of the league’s best marksmen from midrange, his 3-point percentage dipped to 35 percent this year. Not a playmaker by any stretch, Bradley was asked to shoulder a less-than-ideal offensive load in the absence of capable scorers, and his efficiency would benefit from improved offensive talent easing the defensive pressure around him.
As for his own defense, Bradley returned to bulldog form, hounding Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving throughout the first round. Irving averaged 25.1 points per 100 possessions on 38 percent shooting opposite Bradley in the series and 41.2 points per 100 possessions on 58 percent shooting with him on the bench. That brand of on-ball defense, particularly when paired with Marcus Smart’s similar skill set, is invaluable.
|Isaiah Thomas on being swept out by Cavs: ‘We feel like we deserve more’||04.26.15 at 11:56 pm ET|
Instead, those fans will have to settle for having made life difficult for four games on LeBron James and company.
That, however, is not enough to satisfy players or coaches, as they admitted after Sunday’s 101-93 season-ending loss in Game 4 at TD Garden.
“We feel like we deserve more,” Isaiah Thomas said. “We’re proud, but we’re not satisfied. We see that this team has a lot of potential, we work hard, we like playing with each other, we play extremely hard and those are the keys to success. Its frustrating to see the season end like it did, but we got to try to build from this and come back next year ready for war.”
“It’s not about individuals, we are going home, so we could care less how we played at the end of the game,” Jared Sullinger said in referencing the several second half charges the Celtics put on only to come up short. “The fact of the matter is, we didn’t get any wins, and it was a good way to, I guess, end the season but at the same time our main focus and objective was to get a win tonight and we failed.”
|Lou Williams wins Sixth Man over Isaiah Thomas||04.20.15 at 12:57 pm ET|
Williams received 78 of the 130 possible first-place votes from a panel of sportswriters. His 34 second-place votes and 10 third-place votes gave him a total of 502 points. Meanwhile, Thomas received 33 first-place votes, 46 second-place votes and 21 third-place votes for a total of 324 points — the second-highest total in the voting.
Williams appeared on 122 of 130 ballots, as Jamal Crawford (131 points), Andre Iguodala (100), Tristan Thompson (33), Nikola Mirotic (24), Marreese Speights (20), Corey Brewer (12), Manu Ginobili (12), Taj Gibson (8), Aaron Brooks (1), Chris Kaman (1), Anthony Morrow (1) and Dennis Schroder (1) all received votes. How 30 writers left Thomas off the ballot entirely is a mystery.
We’ve already covered in great deal why Thomas deserved the award over Williams, so we won’t get too far into the weeds here, except to say Thomas averaged more points, assists and rebounds while shooting better from everywhere on the floor and submitting a superior player efficiency rating.
|Mike Gorman on MFB: Celtics will beat Cavaliers in 6 games||04.17.15 at 1:58 pm ET|
Celtics CSNNE play-by-play commentator Mike Gorman joined Middays with MFB to discuss his predictions for the C’s upcoming playoff series against the Cavaliers. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
“It’s how you’re playing right now that matters, it’s not what you did before,” Gorman said. “And you could take a pretty substantial sample size of the last 36 games where Celtics have gone 24-12. … They’ve got the fifth-best defense in the league over the last 38 games. They have got, also — this number surprised me when I was doing the research — when Isaiah Thomas is on the floor according to the NBA statistics, they have the second-best offense in the league. Only Golden State has a better offense than the Celtics do when Isaiah Thomas is on the floor.”
Added Gorman: “There are going to be certain keys to this series that goes along right from the very beginning. One to watch for in the first quarter of the first game is the intensity level of both sides, who’s the more energetic teams that’s on the floor. And are the officials going to let Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart play very tough defensively against the guards of Cleveland.”
Cleveland is the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, and the Celtics occupy the No. 7 seed after a 40-42 season. Vegas oddsmaker Westgate SuperBook has the Cavs as the favorites to win the NBA championship.
“Yes, [the Cavaliers] have more talent, but [the Celtics] play as a team,” Gorman said. “The Celtics I think are third or fourth in the last two months in fewest turnovers a game. They take care of the ball, they’re not reckless. … I think one of the keys to this game when you watch it on Sunday is the Celtics need to make Cleveland have six, seven, eight touches per offensive possession. You can’t have somebody get a rebound, fire it to LeBron, LeBron goes the length of the court and gets a dunk or Kyrie [Irving] gets a kick from LeBron and gets a 3 off one pass. You’ve got to make them play offensively and move the ball around. If the Celtics can do that, I think they can keep this game well within reach.”
For more Celtics news, visit the team page at weei.com/celtics.
|Celtics roundtable wrap-up: Team awards||at 12:58 pm ET|
With the end of the regular season, WEEI.com’s Celtics writers — Julian Edlow, Sam Packard and Ben Rohrbach — have come together to hand out some team awards. On Sunday Ben Rohrbach will have a complete preview the first-round playoff series between the Celtics and Cavaliers.
Julian Edlow: It sounds so corny to make a coach the MVP, but it’s the truth. Brad Stevens is the Celtics‘ MVP. What he’s done, going from a revolving door of players into a tight-knit team that’s hotter than anyone in the East, is truly remarkable. Each and every one of Stevens’ guys love playing for him, and it shows out on the court.
Sam Packard: I was leaning toward Stevens, too, for all the reasons Julian mentioned, but for variety’s sake I will take a player. I think Avery Bradley is the MVP this season. In addition to his great defense, Bradley has been the Celtics‘ most consistent scorer. If he could just extend his range out about three feet, he would be an All-Star.
Ben Rohrbach: Brad Stevens. When the front office trades your team’s top scorer (Jeff Green) and top playmaker (Rajon Rondo), injuries claim your last three first-round picks for at least 15 games apiece (Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk and Marcus Smart), and you’re operating at various stretches of the season with Avery Bradley, Brandon Bass, Evan Turner and even Tayshaun Prince as your best player, it’s probably safe to say your coaching played an important role in your team winning 40 games.
JE: The playoffs are as big of a surprise as we could have imagined. No one saw this coming when the C’s were 16-30 just 2 1/2 months ago. Fast forward to the postseason and Boston is 40-42 — finishing up at 24-12 since Feb. 2. And for those who would consider changing the playoff format, and I’m not against this, the Celtics still would be in with the 16th-best record in the league. But if the playoffs were too broad of an answer, getting Isaiah Thomas is a big surprise, too. He’s a huge reason that they are where they are.
SP: Who knew Evan Turner could be this good? No matter what he does, he is going to be the most hated Celtic on Twitter, but I have been really impressed by his ability to run the offense this year. His 2.5 turnovers a game are annoying, but the guy needs the ball in his hands to make plays, and he does exactly that. This year he joined Larry Bird, Antoine Walker, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo as the only Celtics to have three triple-doubles in a season.
BR: Turner. Anybody who thought a guy who ranked 205th in assist-to-turnover ratio last season would essentially be running the point as arguably the most important player for a playoff team this year is kidding themselves.
|An oral history: How Brad Stevens’ Celtics earned a playoff date with LeBron James’ Cavaliers||04.15.15 at 2:16 am ET|
JULY 9, 2014
In what seemed on the surface like a minor move, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge sent a $10.3 million trade exception — acquired for dealing Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Nets in 2013 — to the Cavaliers for Tyler Zeller, Marcus Thornton’s expiring contract and Cleveland’s 2016 first-round pick.
Ultimately, the trade transformed the NBA, allowing the Cavs to free up enough cap space to bring LeBron James back home. From a Boston perspective, the reward of a young center project and a couple more tradable assets was worth the risk of altering the Eastern Conference’s balance of power for the foreseeable future.
AUGUST 21, 2014
‘A lot of people might say that we can’t be this, we can’t be that,’ Celtics guard Avery Bradley — fresh off signing an oft criticized four-year, $32 million contract extension — told a group of bewildered reporters from a basketball camp. ‘I feel like with the coach that we have, we can be anything that we want to be. We just have to listen to [Brad Stevens] and buy into what he’s trying to do, his plan for us. I feel like we have a chance to make the playoffs and make a lot of noise this year if we listen to Brad.”
AUGUST 27, 2014
During a tour through Asia, Celtics captain Rajon Rondo declared himself ‘in great shape’ after his return from ACL surgery. ‘I want to win another championship,’ he told Hoop China, before adding, ‘You can’t have a great team every year.’ When asked if sixth overall pick Marcus Smart could eventually start for the Celtics this season, Rondo replied, ‘No. He’ll play a lot of minutes, but starting as a rookie at the guard position is probably impossible or one of the toughest things you can do.
SEPTEMBER 23, 2014
Asked by one reporter at the C’s annual preseason charity golf outing to name his favorites in the East this season, Ainge listed the Cavaliers, Bulls and Wizards.
‘You left off the Celtics,’ another media member countered.
‘I did. Yes, I did. Good observation,’ said Ainge, pausing, and then adding, ‘but I do believe the extraordinary is possible.’
SEPTEMBER 29, 2014
Amid widespread speculation that Rondo had broken a bone in his left hand at a trampoline park, the Celtics point guard addressed those rumors at media day, assuring everyone the injury resulted from a slip in the shower. In his 12-minute session, Rondo professed his love for both Boston and Stevens, confirmed his desire for a max contract and conceded again, ‘I know this isn’t a championship team.’
SEPTEMBER 30, 2014
‘We have one point guard healthy that has NBA experience, and that’s Phil Pressey,’ Stevens said as training camp opened. ‘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. [Evan 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.’
OCTOBER 2, 2014
Zeller drew rave reviews from his new teammates as the biggest surprise in camp. ‘He just runs the floor,’ Stevens said. ‘He’s a very unselfish player, he’s a smart player. He stands out because he does little things well. He’s a guy that can score on the block in the right matchup, but his strength is in beating people to spots.”
|Isaiah Thomas: Making playoffs would mean ‘everything’||04.13.15 at 8:49 am ET|
With the playoffs just a win away, Isaiah Thomas can sense a dream finally coming true.
Thomas has been a key spark to the Celtics improbable run to the postseason, and he was again Sunday. As the Celtics raced out to a 9-0 lead, a cakewalk seemed likely.
But the Cavaliers, playing without LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and JR Smith, actually made a 18-4 run and the Celtics were back on their heels. Enter Thomas. His energy and drive to the basket turned the Celtics back in the right direction and the Celtics outscored Cleveland, 34-9, in the second quarter. Game over.
“Just how locked in,” Thomas said of the second quarter. “What we’re trying to do is get to the playoffs so coach [Brad Stevens] said we were a very mature team, for 48 minutes. That’s a good thing.”
Thomas had a big impact with his 17 points off the bench Sunday. But he couldn’t control what happened in Indianapolis as the Pacers stayed alive with a win over Oklahoma City. So, Thomas had to wait another two days to celebrate his first playoff berth. If the Celtics can beat the Raptors Tuesday night at TD Garden, Thomas and the Celtics won’t have to worry about what the Pacers do against Washington.
“It’s everything,” said Thomas, who has toiled four years for the Kings and Suns. “In my NBA career I haven’t been to the playoffs so it’s something that I want to experience. I heard it’s fun, it’s exciting and it’s a new season. Once you make the playoffs, everybody’s 0-0 and it’s a new season so I’m excited about it, hopefully we do get it.
“We’ve just been trying to lock in and focus in on what we’re trying to do which is get to the playoffs. Staying in the moment, taking every day by day, game by game, and like I said, really focusing in on what we’re trying to do.”
Thomas is one of several Celtics who have fed off the mindset of Brad Stevens. The coach has drilled into his team the importance of not looking beyond the next game. It’s worked.
“He’s just laid back, you try to feed off of him as much as possible but he’s so even-keeled, you can’t really read his mind,” Thomas said. “He’s just always about staying in the moment, no matter what it is, good or bad, stay in the moment, don’t think about the future or the past, have a short memory. That’s one thing coach is very, very positive with.
“Your coach is your leader, basically. You look to him for advice, for confidence, things like that. He’s so even-keeled that he’s at the same [point], he’s never too high, never too low. That’s a great thing to have, everybody’s not like that.”
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