|E’Twaun Moore bullish on Chicago; JaJuan Johnson considering options||07.20.12 at 5:53 pm ET|
Less than 24 hours after the Celtics pulled the trigger on a trade with the Houston Rockets to obtain Courtney Lee, the two former Celtics are not intending on making Houston their long-term home.
A league source tells WEEI.com that after his expected release from Houston, E’Twaun Moore expects to wind up in Bulls camp and get a look with former Celtics defensive guru and current Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau.
The source says the other player, big man JaJuan Johnson, has doubts about his future in Houston and is keeping his options open, should it not work out long term with the Rockets.
On Friday, the Celtics officially announced they traded Moore, Johnson, center Sean Williams and a second-round pick to Houston and forward Sasha Pavlovic to Portland in the deal. The Trail Blazers will also get a second round pick. What remains unspecified is what Portland will send to Houston or the Celtics to finalize the deal.
The source indicated the timeline of events are not certain and are very fluid. The trade is not expected to be affected as Johnson and Moore evaluate their options based on potential scenarios in Houston and Portland.
Per CBA rules, the Celtics cannot re-sign Moore if he becomes a free agent after being released.
Moore and Johnson were selected together by the Celtics out of Purdue in the 2011 NBA draft. Johnson was picked in the first round, 27th overall, by the Celtics while Moore was Boston’s second round choice (55th overall). Due to the lockout, Moore signed a deal with Italy’s Benetton Treviso that featured an opt-out clause that let him return to the Celtics once the lockout ended.
On Dec. 9, 2011 Moore signed a guaranteed contract with the Celtics. He debuted briefly (less than a minute) in the Celtics’ season-opener against the Knicks on Christmas Day.
In the March, with Keyon Dooling and Sasha Pavlovic nursing nagging injuries, Moore saw his playing time increase. He had a career-high 16 points on Jan. 26, against the Magic, going 4-4 from 3-point range. On April 24 and 26, in the final two games of the regular season, Moore established new career highs of seven rebounds and five assists against the Heat and Bucks, respectively.
Johnson had much less playing opportunity. In 36 games, he averaged just eight minutes and 3.2 points and 1.6 rebounds.
|Courtney Lee is just what Celtics need||at 1:41 am ET|
You won’t find Courtney Lee‘s name listed among the great guards in the NBA. He’s not going to make an All-Star team or an All-NBA team. He’s not the first, second or even third option in anyone’s offense. Instead, Lee is a connoisseur’s player. A pro’s pro, if you will.
What Lee does is make teams better. In seven of his eight most frequent lineups with the Rockets last season, Houston had a positive point differential. He’s a shooting guard who doesn’t need to score, but when he does shoot he is very effective, especially from 3-point range and particularly from the corner where he made 49 percent of his attempts last season, second only to Ray Allen. He is also an excellent cutter who rarely turns the ball over.
Lee is not the all-around offensive threat that Allen is — or was — but he is a much-better defender and even capable of sliding over the wing forward spot in certain lineup combinations. He’s also younger and healthier than Allen. With Avery Bradley’s status uncertain to start the season after undergoing two shoulder surgeries, Lee could slide right into the starting lineup and combine with Rajon Rondo and Jason Terry to form a strong three-man backcourt.
All around Orlando and Las Vegas where the Celtics were competing in summer league, scouts and executives all offered the same appraisal of the possibility of Lee joining the C’s: “perfect fit.”
The only question was whether the Celtics’ offer of E’Twaun Moore, Sean Williams and JaJuan Johnson, plus a second-round draft pick would be enough to make a sign-and-trade deal possible and there was some skepticism that it would. As talks went deep into the night on Thursday, it was still uncertain but seemed headed in the right direction.
Moore and Williams have non-guaranteed contracts, which makes them useful for cap math purposes. Johnson has just over $1 million guaranteed on the second-year of his rookie deal, but the Rockets have a surplus of big forwards and sources in Johnson’s camp expressed unease about adding his name to the list. The proposed deal needed a third team to help facilitate the moving parts and the Herald reported that Blazers stepped in with Sasha Pavlovic‘s name thrown into the mix.
If the Celtics can pull it off, it would be the equivalent of turning tap water into a fine Cabernet. If the current parameters hold, Danny Ainge would have traded four non-rotation players for a starting guard, which happened to be their biggest offseason need.
Williams has done little to impress in his short time in Boston and Johnson has clearly fallen behind rookie Jared Sullinger this summer. Moore has been one of the Celtics’ best summer league performers, but he is not nearly the same finished product as Lee and Pavlovic wasn’t likely to return to Boston in any event. (The trade would be a setback for Moore whose contract becomes guaranteed if he’s not waived by midnight on Sunday. If Moore is waived, the Celtics would not be able to re-sign him until after the one-year anniversary of the trade.)
The process is important because the Celtics are creeping ever closer to the magical hard cap line of $74.3 million and by acquiring Lee, they will be left with few options to complete the rest of the roster. Second-round pick Kris Joseph, as well as summer league stalwarts Dionte Christmas and Jamar Smith could be the lucky beneficiaries of the Celtics’ tight cap situation, but if they add another big man it would have to be for the veteran minimum.
None of that should detract from the fact that the Celtics are on the verge of solving their biggest offseason puzzle and for a capped out team with few assets, acquiring Lee is the equivalent of a corner 3-pointer with the shot clock near zero, which just happens to be his specialty.
|Jared Sullinger is sort of looking forward to talking to Kevin Garnett||07.16.12 at 8:26 pm ET|
LAS VEGAS — Jared Sullinger‘s game is as uncomplicated as it is earth-bound. He doesn’t have the athleticism of most of his opponents, but once he gets a feel he finds ways to compensate. Of all the good things about his game, Sullinger simply plays right through defenders and forces them to foul.
After scoring just five points in the first half, Sullinger found his rhythm in the second half of the Celtics’ 87-69 victory over the Hawks and he did his best work at the free throw line where he made seven of his eight attempts. He also knocked down a wide-open 3-pointer (emphasis on wide open).
Now that we’ve established that Sullinger can play in the NBA, it’s time for him to work on his weaknesses. First and foremost, he needs to get in better shape. “I know for a fact I’m getting in better shape with all the games were playing so everything is starting to come easy,” he said.
It won’t be nearly as easy this fall when the Celtics gather for training camp and Sullinger is already anticipating his first meeting with Kevin Garnett.
“I still have a lot to learn so I hope Kevin Garnett is ready for me,” he said.
Asked is he was looking forward to it, Sullinger said, “Yeah, but at the same time, no. It’s probably going to be all the things I don’t do well versus all the things I do well … which I need.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Summer league truths and questions||07.11.12 at 3:36 pm ET|
ORLANDO — The well-worn maxim of summer league play is this: It’s not possible to tell who can play for real in the NBA, but it is possible to tell who can’t. Through three games, there have been few surprise for the Celtics and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Jared Sullinger is a good basketball player, who will compensate for his lack of athleticism with smart play and strong skills. E’Twaun Moore is confidently taking the reins of the team. Fab Melo is active, but raw. Kris Joseph has good skills across the board. JaJuan Johnson has remained an enigma, but he started to hit his stride in the second half of their third game on Wednesday, an 85-77 win over the Pacers.
The good news thus far is that each of them has flashed an NBA skill, but obvious questions remain. Here’s a thumbnail look at each prospect:
The raw numbers are decent — 14.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 11-for-12 from the free throw line — but what has really stood about Sullinger’s game is his feel for rebounding and his ability to pass out of double teams. While concerns about his less-than-ideal physique are legitimate, he’s been able to compensate with his skills, which are numerous.
“He’s a great passer, good rebounder, always in the right position as far as rebounding the ball,” C’s coach Ty Lue said. “He’s going to be good for us.”
Sullinger went 7-for-12 from the floor against the Pacers, operating mostly out of the low post where he is clearly comfortable. The Celtics have not had back-to-the-basket presence like Sullinger since the glory days of Leon Powe, but where Powe was intent on bulling his way to the basket, Sullinger has been able to read the play and make the appropriate pass.
“Getting double-teamed for the majority of your life, you’ve got to learn how to pass,” Sullinger said. “If you didn’t know how to pass, I wouldn’t be here right now.”
He has also shown a knack for getting to rebounds, something that is a major need for the Celtics. At the moment, he’s clearly the most NBA-ready of their roster players this summer.
The question: How much will his lack of athleticism hinder him against NBA competition?
Sullinger has proven he can play at a high level in high school, college and now here in summer league. The larger test awaits. Read the rest of this entry »
|Irish Coffee: When will Celtics develop a scorer?||02.29.12 at 12:17 pm ET|
Whether it’s Gerald Green‘s glorious return to the NBA, the sight of Semih Erden facing them as a starting center or the team’s woeful offensive production, a number of factors led me to this question: When is the last time Celtics president Danny Ainge or coach Doc Rivers has either drafted or developed a scorer?
Clearly, Rajon Rondo is the best player cultivated under the Ainge-Rivers regime, but I don’t think anybody would argue Rondo has markedly improved in the scoring department. His scoring averages per 36 minutes in his rookie season (9.9 points) and last season (10.3) are nearly identical, and we all know about that jump shot.
The best scorer drafted by Ainge has to be Al Jefferson, but even his 36-minute averages didn’t improve much under Rivers, crawling from 16.3 as a rookie to 17.2 in his final Celtics season. Not until he was traded to the Timberwolves did those averages climb into the 20s. Of course Ainge and Rivers deserve credit for molding Big Al into bait to land Kevin Garnett, but the fact remains Jefferson made a leap offensively once he left the Celtics.
The same goes for Tony Allen, Ryan Gomes, Leon Powe and Bill Walker, all of whose 36-minute scoring averages barely budged in either direction on the Celtics, and then saw those numbers rise once they left Boston.
|The JaJuan Johnson experience||02.13.12 at 11:50 pm ET|
Moments before JaJuan Johnson‘s breakout game as a member of the Celtics, his coach was asked if the skinny 6-foor-10 rookie was ready to take on a more meaningful role.
“Not yet,” Doc Rivers replied quickly. “I think he’s getting close. You’ve got to execute when you’re on the floor. That’s an area he has to improve on. He’s talented, but there’s a level, to me, of intensity that you have to play with every night and focus and he’s inconsistent in that. But he’s getting there and he’s a great kid and he will get there.
“We want to use him, but he has to come get it,” Rivers continued. “We’re not going to give him anything.”
Johnson went and got it on Sunday against the Bulls and their talented — and huge — frontline. After a rough first few minutes, Johnson scored 12 points on 6-for-13 shooting and managed to hold his own on the boards. He was credited with just one block, but it seemed like he altered several other shots. Even when the likes of Omer Asik and Joakim Noah were playing through the generously-listed 220-pounder, Johnson kept competing.
As is his custom, Rivers handed out praise judiciously to his young player.
“Yeah, but he’s got to keep doing it,” the coach said. “You know, one game doesn’t make a star. One season doesn’t make a star. So you’ve just got to keep doing it, and he’s got to do it consistently. He will, like I keep saying, he’s a great kid and he wants to do it. He’s young and he’s still learning focus and all that. But he’s a good player.”
Johnson is the latest young player on the Celtics’ roster to get his chance at making a meaningful contribution. With Brandon Bass sidelined for up to two weeks with swelling in his knee and Jermaine O’Neal missing the last two games with an assortment of injuries, Johnson is one of three healthy frontcourt players alongside Kevin Garnett. The others are Chris Wilcox and Greg Stiemsma.
Johnson has patiently waited his turn while fellow Purdue rookie E’Twaun Moore has already made an impact as a reserve guard, and second-year player Avery Bradley has grabbed hold of the backup point guard job. Even Stiemsma, the 26-year-old veteran rookie has been ahead of the first rounder, but Johnson’s talent has been on display, albeit in only 103 minutes with most of that coming in garbage time.
With a huge small-sample size warning blaring in neon blinking lights, Johnson is shooting 55 percent and averaging 18.2 points and almost six rebounds per 36 minutes. He made 3-of-7 shots from 16-23 feet and seems comfortable taking the jumper in the halfcourt. Johnson also got out on the break and finished at the rim, including a highlight-reel alley-oop lob from Rajon Rondo late in the fourth quarter.
Johnson’s breakout performance followed a forgettable seven-minute stint against the Raptors on Friday when he seemed hesitant and confused on the court. Rivers called two quick timeouts and let Johnson — and the rest of the team — have it. Still, without much practice time to work on his game, Johnson has drawn praise from Rivers for his mature approach.
As with the other young players, the hard part starts now. Johnson must perform consistently, night in and night out, while Bass and O’Neal are injured. One game does not a career make, but for the other rookie from Purdue, Sunday afternoon was a positive step.
|Chris Wilcox and JaJuan Johnson may not be Kareem Abdul-Jabar but they were pretty good Sunday||02.12.12 at 9:29 pm ET|
The Celtics were without Jermaine O’Neal and Brandon Bass Sunday. They were going up against a front-court of Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer that destroyed them on Jan. 13 in Boston in Chicago’s win over the Celtics.
You figured the Celtics were in for a long afternoon-into-night. You figured wrong.
Chris Wilcox got the start and scored 11 points and grabbed nine rebounds in 26 minutes while rookie JaJuan Johnson had 12 points in 33 remarkable minutes off the bench as the Celtics stunned the Bulls, 95-91. The Bulls only outscored the Celtics, 40-38, in the paint. Wilcox ran the floor, finishing four Rajon Rondo fast breaks with dunks, while Johnson had the biggest game of his rookie year out of Purdue. Those were two big reasons why.
“I think anybody can run. I mean, [Kareem Abdul-Jabbar] was running at 37, 38, and 40,” Doc Rivers joked. “So it’s not that – whatever your speed is, you’ve just got to do it every time. And I think it’s the consistency of doing it every single time. Chris was phenomenal, though, with his speed, and so was JaJuan. I mean, both of them. The one things we did know when those two were in – you know, our post defense was what it was, and I thought JuJuan overall, except for the very beginning when he first got in, they he kind of – then he kind of caught on, and got into it. After that, I thought his speed and Chris’ athleticism, both of them, had a major impact.”
As for Johnson, Rivers wants to see more.
“Yeah, but he’s got to keep doing it. You know, one game doesn’t make a star. One season doesn’t make a star. So you’ve just got to keep doing it, and he’s got to do it consistently. He will, like I keep saying, he’s a great kid and he wants to do it. He’s young and he’s still learning focus and all that. But he’s a good player.
“And be able to catch. I mean, they both have pretty good hands, okay hands, but, yeah it helps. It really helps. And you know what people miss is I thought Paul and Ray ran – and because they run, and we showed them on the film, we showed old games today on the film – that when the two guards run, Ray and Paul, and it puts them in the dilemma: do they stay out, wide, in the break and take away their threes? If they do that, if one of our bigs run, then we’re going to get it. I don’t believe two bigs on the other team is going to run every single time, is the point I keep making. Someone eventually is going to say, ‘I’m not running back.’ One of those bigs. And we’re going to get a lay-up.” Read the rest of this entry »