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Celtics Pregame Notes: Can Amir Johnson help Celtics improve on the glass? 11.30.16 at 6:24 pm ET
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Amir Johnson

Amir Johnson

The Celtics will be back to full strength for Wednesday’s tilt against the Pistons, with Al Horford back in action following the birth of his second child. 

Horford’s addition will be a much-needed addition to a Celtics team still very much attempting to find its touch on the glass. The Celtics have been out-rebounded five of the last six games, due in some aspects to mismatches and guys having to play bigger than they are.

That notwithstanding, the Celtics are heavily reliant on asking guards to grab boards, as the boxing out responsibilities rest on the bigs.

Said coach Brad Stevens, “We ask our bigs to block out. Sometimes when you’re blocking out and you’re the same size or bigger, you can get the ball. But sometimes when you’re blocking out and smaller you just have to keep the other guy from getting it.”

As has been standard since his acquisition prior to the 2015-16 season, Amir Johnson has been tasked with playing a key role in the paint. Standing at 6-foot-9 and occasionally having to run the five, a stat sheet — which currently has him averaging 4.2 boards per game — can be a misleading basis of judgement.

“We’re asking Amir Johnson to guard a lot of fives, so to judge Amir’s performance by his defensive rebound percentage probably isn’t fair, because there’s probably six rebounds a game that somebody else gets in large part because he’s doing his job,” Stevens said.

Jonas Jerebko has found himself in a nice stretch of late off the bench. In his past seven games, the 6-foot-10 forward has averaged 6.4 points per game while shooting 81.8 percent from the field.

Since late last season, the 29-year-old has shown a wide range of versatility as a solid defender, a shooter, and a player with finesse around the basket — as evidenced by his more and more frequent use of a hook shot from just outside the paint.

“[He’s] just trying to do what he’s good at, I think that’s the most important thing. He’s a spacer and he’s a guy that can guard multiple positions and he’s really, really good when he does those things,” Stevens said.

Part of the current run for Jerebko can be attributed to his synergy with Kelly Olynyk, with the two combining well off the bench in Olynyk’s 11 games so far this season. The pair play a similar style, and can pose a threat from both the paint and the perimeter.

“I think people are figuring out how to play and play together and anytime you can do that, that’s better. [Jerebko] and Kelly have been a good combination for a while now, and I think that they kind of play and feed off each other.”

Other Celtics Notes

— Jae Crowder won’t be confined to any minutes restrictions in the foreseeable future. Stevens noted he hasn’t heard about any sort of minutes restrictions since before Monday’s win over the Heat.

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBallWEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

Read More: Al Horford, Amir Johnson, Jae Crowder, Jonas Jerebko
Can the Celtics reel in Marcus Smart? Jae Crowder and Brad Stevens are working on it 11.29.16 at 8:15 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Jae Crowder could see and hear Miami coach Erik Spoestra trying an old trick Monday night to get under the skin of Marcus Smart. 

Crowder and everybody else familiar with Smart knows the third-year guard came out of Oklahoma State with a reputation for letting his intensity turn into anger and frustration, eventually leading to technical fouls or worse. 

“It’s funny because I was telling him [Monday] during the game, Spoelstra was saying, ‘He’s a hothead. He’s a hothead.’ So obviously that was part of the game plane to try to get under his skin a little bit,” Crowder said with a brotherly smile after practice Tuesday.

“A lot of teams know he wears his emotions on his sleeves so they’re going to do stuff like that. And you just have to be more cautious of it and know that it’s just a game they’re trying to play with him. I’m sure as the season goes on he’ll be more aware of it. And hopefully he gets better.”

Tired of getting hacked by Goran Dragic, Smart indeed took a technical foul when he complained about a double-foul with 2:26 left in the game. There’s clearly a fine line for Smart to walk and always has been since he came into the NBA in 2014. 

“I was begging for Spoelstra to get a technical foul because he was saying a lot of stuff. He was everywhere last night, but that’s one of the things he did say. When they went to intentional foul Marcus it was obvious that what they were trying to do was more than just foul. They were trying to get under his skin and play a little physical, and knowing he wanted to retaliate for the most part. So it’s just part of the scouting report on I guess Marcus that he wears his emotions on his sleeve.”

Crowder got his wish when Spoelstra was finally T’d up with 2:11 left as the Celtics pulled away for the 112-104 win. 

“It’s a very fine [line]. He as a person, as an individual, has to control it,” Crowder said. “We as teammates can keep being on him about it, but it’s about him and being able to control it. A lot of players and coaches in this league know he’s an emotional type of guy, so they’re going to try to do everything they can to get under his skin and in his head. But he has to want to put his pride aside and put his emotions aside for the team’s sake. And take care of business.”

Can Crowder see a maturity in Smart?

“Of course. He has not gone backwards in that regard,” Crowder said. “But he’s playing more minutes now than he was when he was a rookie. He’s playing a bigger role now, so we need him to be more locked in on that standpoint. You can’t just give away points at the free throw line on technicals and flagrants and stuff like that. So, we’ll keep pounding it in his head, and he keeps [telling] us he wants to change, so he’ll get better, hopefully.” 

Brad Stevens is also keeping a close eye on Smart’s on-court intensity. 

“I think toughness is such a critical component of a team and everybody brings their own levels of skill to the table and everything else but you have to have a competitiveness and an ability to figure out a way to win that possession,” Stevens said. “He’s able to do that on a lot of possessions.”

There’s an obvious irony to what happened Monday as it’s usually Smart and his intense defense that agitates and gets opposing players out of their game. 

“Well, he plays physical. For the most part, a lot of guys don’t like to play physical,” Crowder said. “They want an easy-flowing game and Marcus don’t play like that. That alone just gets under guys’ skin, just him playing physical and him being a presence on the basketball court with his body and his stature. A lot of players don’t like it. [Hassan] Whiteside is one of those guys who doesn’t like to play that physical. He likes to play physical as long as guys don’t play physical back with him. So, he didn’t like the foul Marcus laid on him late in the first quarter.”

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBallWEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Erik Spoelstra, Jae Crowder
Celtics Friday pregame: Al Horford, Jae Crowder much improved, will travel 11.18.16 at 7:16 pm ET
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The Celtics could be very close to getting two-thirds of their starting front court back.

Al Horford, who missed his ninth straight game Friday night with a concussion, will travel with the Celtics on their three-game road trip, which begins Saturday night in Detroit.

Also on the trip will be Jae Crowder, missing his eighth straight game Friday night with a sprained left ankle.

“Al had, by far, his best day [Thursday],” Brad Stevens said before Friday’s game with the Warriors. “He did on some 3-on-3, some 1-on-1, went up and down [the court]. Felt pretty good. Hopefully, barring no setbacks, we’re closer than further with him.”

With Horford and Crowder out against the front court of Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Zaza Pachulia, the Celtics are in the position of possibly having to put 6-foot-4 Marcus Smart in a mismatch.

“We’ll mix up matchups all over the place. I think some [switching],” Stevens said. “Obviously, the biggest thing is you can’t get caught up in is you’ve got to have a body, you’ve got to be on them. You have to be able to contest their shots. They’re going to hit some shots other people don’t hit. You’ve got to be able to go down and score. That’s what you have to do when you’re playing a team like this.”

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBallWEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

Read More: Al Horford, Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, Jae Crowder
Kevin Durant on animosity for snubbing Celtics: ‘What can they be mad about?’ 11.17.16 at 1:04 pm ET
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Nov 16, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) drives to the basket as Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) attempts a block during the third quarter in a game at Air Canada Centre. The Golden State Warriors won 127-121. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Durant has been a force at the rim for the Warriors in their 9-2 start to the season. (Nick Turchiaro/USA Today Sports)

Kevin Durant feels it’s time for the Celtics and their fans to just get over it. 

There have been few courtships in the history of the NBA like the pursuit of the 6-foot-9 superstar this past offseason. And while the Celtics locked down a solid player in the frontcourt in Al Horford, questions were abound when Durant signed his two-year, $54 million deal with Golden State. 

Why didn’t Durant choose Boston? Why wasn’t Tom Brady enough in The Hamptons? What went wrong? Why can’t Boston draw top free agents?

The Celtics put everything they had into Durant, who instead elected to join the force that is the Golden State Warriors. What ensued in Boston was frustration, and in Jae Crowder’s case, a few off-the cuff remarks.

This Friday will mark the first time Durant faces off against the C’s as a member of the Warriors. For Durant, it was just business.

“Nah, it don’t bother me,” Durant said of Crowder’s comments to ESPN.com’s Chris Haynes. “All these guys that you ask the same questions, you know what you’re going to get from them. So you’re [asking] the same questions. Why am I going to be mad about a guy who has an opinion? I respect all these players. If they don’t respect what I did, I can’t control that.

“I got nothing but love and respect for Jae Crowder and how he approaches the game and how he plays, but we disagree on me coming here,” Durant continued. “That’s just how it is. It’s all good. We’re going to compete no matter what. That’s one thing — you can say a lot of stuff in the media or wherever you are, but we’re going to compete when we’re in between the lines. That doesn’t change anything.”

Durant acknowledged the logic of the frustration of the players and fans, but brings up a valid point — he never actually played in Boston, and he never said he was going to play in Boston.

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBallWEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

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Read More: Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Kevin Durant,
Celtics pregame notes: Al Horford misses 8th straight game, Jae Crowder out for his 7th straight 11.16.16 at 7:25 pm ET
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Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart

The Celtics will continue to be without Jae Crowder and Al Horford, at least for Wednesday’s tilt against the Mavericks, as they continue to learn to play without the pair of mainstays in the lineup.

Crowder is out with a left ankle sprain, while Horford continues to make his way through the NBA concussion protocol. And though returns could be on the horizon given the nature of the injuries, coach Brad Stevens noted he has “no clue” as to an exact timetable for either. The day-to-day nature of of the pair makes coaching decisions challenging for Stevens, but as time has gone on, he’s found a way to ease the process.

“I just kind of go through and scout, and if they’re available I’ll figure that out when the time comes. But until then I’m going unavailable in my own mind, I think that’s the best way to do it, the best way to organize you’re thoughts,” Stevens said. “If Al is able to play down the road, later in the week, we’ll throw Al right in there and I’ll adjust quickly. I think the best way is to plan without those guys, especially if they haven’t played in a while.”

Regardless of results, as of late, the Celtics have still been showing improvement with Crowder and Horford’s absence. And as exciting as those returns may be once they happen, it’s not a sure sign that the C’s will automatically experience an upswing in wins.

“I think it will still be an adjustment when we do [get everyone back] just because those guys haven’t played in a while,” Stevens said. “Until then we still have to focus on playing well, I thought we’ve made good strides the last three games. It was disappointing coming up short against New Orleans, but defensively we’ve made good strides, and we’ve had some younger players do some things they haven’t done before, so that’s a positive step moving forward.”

In the meantime, it has allowed younger players such as Marcus Smart to step up. 

“I think [Smart’s] played pretty well. And he’s always been god competiively, he’s making shots, doing a lot of tough things. He’s playing undersized almost every night that he’s on the floor, by four inches a night usually. So he’s really doing a good job.”

One thing Smart has done so far is hit shots. Not known for being a knockdown shooter by any stretch, he’s shooting 41.7 percent from the field and 35 percent from 3-point territory. Smart noted periodically throughout the offseason and into the season that he has put in quite a bit of work in improving his shot. And while that work has helped, Stevens added that his shot selection has also improved as well, allowing him to shoot higher-percentage shots.

He’ll start Wednesday night, as will Amir Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas.

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBallWEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

Read More: Al Horford, Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart,
Celtics Tuesday notes: Al Horford ‘just not where [he wants] to be right now’ while Jae Crowder returns 11.15.16 at 8:04 pm ET
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Al Horford

Al Horford

The waiting game continues for Al Horford and the Celtics.

The big man is still dealing with the lingering effects of a concussion and said after practice Tuesday that he’s not sure when he might play again. 

Horford suffered the concussion when he was accidentally struck by a teammate at practice on Oct. 31. There was a glimmer of hope when he traveled with the team on the two-game trip through Indiana and New Orleans. But on Tuesday, following a light workout, he told reporters that he’s just not ready. 

“I’m just not where I want to be right now, but trying to work through it,” Horford said. “This is something very new to me, so it’s just trying to get used to this.”

Horford declined to get into what is holding him back in the NBA concussion protocol.

“I’m not at liberty to discuss a lot of those things yet,” Horford said. “On-the-court-wise, the times that I’ve been on, I felt good with my workouts. It’s just to play, I’m just not there yet.”

While Wednesday against Dallas has been ruled out, there is the hope that he might be back in time for Friday’s matchup against Golden State at TD Garden. For Horford, it’s just a wait-and-see game. 

“I’ve been very motivated to come back. This is just something very different,” Horford said. “Like I’ve said, I haven’t dealt with anything like this before. So we’re really taking it day by day. That’s just all I can do right now.

“I want to be out helping my team, and us growing together. But the last thing I want to do is have a setback, come in when I’m not supposed to, and set myself back for a longer period of time. We’re trying to be as smart as we can about this. I just want to make sure that when I’m ready to go, I’m good to go.”

Horford has missed seven games and the Celtics are just 3-4 in that stretch. 

Meanwhile, Jae Crowder took a step forward Tuesday, taking part in shooting drills after practice Tuesday. He suffered a badly sprained left ankle against the Bulls on Nov. 2 and has missed the last six games. He has also been ruled out against the Mavericks Wednesday. 

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBallWEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

Read More: Al Horford, Boston Celtics, Jae Crowder,
Celtics reportedly considering dealing Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder if it means Klay Thompson in return 11.14.16 at 1:49 pm ET
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April 1, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) passes the basketball against Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) during the second quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Could Klay Thompson (11) and Isaiah Thomas wind up teammates in Boston? (Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics and Warriors might be looking to celebrate their meeting this Friday night at TD Garden in style. 

According to Celtics CSNNE broadcaster Brian Scalabrine, the Celtics might be willing to give up their most experienced defensive shutdown player if it means bringing in one of the best shooting guards in the NBA. 

On SiriusXM NBA Radio, Scalabrine said he had heard Thompson might be available and that the specific rumor he heard involved the Celtics. According to Scalabrine, the Celtics would send out Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder and the right for Golden State to swap first-round picks with Boston’s pick from Brooklyn.

In return, Boston would land Thompson, with the Warriors then using the Brooklyn pick to acquire a shot-blocking center. He added on CSNNE Facebook Live that Philadelphia’s Nerlens Noel would be a player the Warriors would acquire with the pick. 

That might seem like a lot for Boston to give up but if Ainge feels Thompson makes the Celtics a serious threat to Cleveland, he would at least consider it. 

“Maybe they’re on what I’m on, and [they feel] it’s impossible to win championships without rim protection against LeBron and Kyrie [Irving],” Scalabrine said. “So who’s your most valuable asset or most unneeded asset at this point?”

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Jae Crowder
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