|Irish Coffee: Grooming Celtics rookie Jared Sullinger||10.11.12 at 8:00 am ET|
Jared Sullinger isn’t easily fazed. Not even when they called him and the other Celtics rookies in front of the entire organization during a team dinner and made him sing his favorite song: Jay-Z‘s “Public Service Announcement.”
Check out my swag’ yo, peep the way I wear it
No matter where you go, you are what you are player
And you can try to change, but that’s just the top layer
Man, you was who you was ‘fore you got here
Fitting. Sullinger isn’t intimidated by a team full of headstrong veterans whose system has produced one championship, two NBA finals appearances and three Eastern Conference finals showings in the past five years, and that’s because his basketball journey started almost from the day he was born.
|Jared Sullinger is not Glen Davis||10.08.12 at 2:44 pm ET|
There’s a tendency to equate rookie forward Jared Sullinger with former Celtic Glen Davis for reasons that have little to do with basketball. The similarities are essentially size-related. Like Davis, Sullinger is slightly undersized for the power forward position and like Davis, Sullinger will need to keep his weight in check. But that’s basically all there is to the comparison.
We have over the last few months a decent sample of Sullinger’s work and there is simply little to equate the two players on the court. Unlike Davis, for example, Sullinger is comfortable on the low block. He has a nice array of post moves and is far more polished than the average rookie. Indeed, Sullinger may have the best post moves of anyone on the Celtics‘ roster since the halcyon days of Al Jefferson.
Sullinger also has a strong awareness on the court of where to be to receive passes from Rajon Rondo. This played out several times in their recent exhibition game against Milan when Sullinger made his debut in the starting lineup. Simply being a target under the basket, and having the hands to catch Rondo’s rocket passes, could make a huge difference for a team that struggled mightily to score points last season and had far too few chances at the basket.
Where they are similar is that both players need to come up with counters to height mismatches in the post. Davis relied on quickness, while Sullinger will use his body to ward off defenders to employ those polished moves. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts over the course of the season, but style-wise they couldn’t be more different.
That’s also true on the defensive end where Davis has made a career out of being able to guard bigger players. For all the abuse he took at the end of his tenure, it’s worth remembering that when he was at his best, Big Baby was an integral part of the Celtics’ rotations and often played out of position at center. It’s unclear if Sullinger can handle the same kind of responsibility. The rookie still has a lot to learn on the defensive end, and his learning curve will have to be steep if he plays major minutes this season.
But Sullinger offers yet another dimension that Davis lacks, and that’s the ability to get rebounds. He racked up 15 boards in the C’s two exhibition games in Europe, including eight on the offensive glass. Scoring and rebounding were two of the Celtics’ three biggest weaknesses last season — turnovers were the third — and Doc Rivers has to be pleased with what his rookie has shown thus far.
It’s still way too early of course to know what kind of a player Sullinger will end up becoming, but it’s seems reasonably clear already that what he is not is another Glen Davis.
|What we learned from Celtics second preseason game||10.07.12 at 2:26 pm ET|
We may as well start the season now because Rajon Rondo is clearly ready. Rondo repeatedly torched Milano’s defense, burying his first seven shots including a 3-pointer and four free throws in the first quarter as the Celtics left Europe with a split of their exhibition schedule after a 105-75 victory.
Everyone goes under screens on Rondo and everyone knows that when he’s making jump shots there’s basically no way to guard him. It’s way too early to tell if Rondo has conquered his shooting demons — especially at the free throw line where he made all 10 of his attempts in two preseason games — but it’s worth pointing out that he shot a respectable 39 percent on his jumpers from 16-23 feet last season.
Still, the early returns are encouraging and Rondo looks like he’s ready to take his game to another level this season. Here are more takeaways from the C’s preseason victory:
JARED SULLINGER STARTED: When the Celtics acquired Brandon Bass from the Magic, they originally had him as a scoring sixth man whose outside shooting would help open up the floor and take some pressure off the starters. Bass moved into the starting lineup midway through the season and fit in well, but the addition of Sullinger could present an interesting situation for coach Doc Rivers.
Sullinger’s offensive game is way ahead of his defense, which is to be expected for a rookie, and the Celtics have often tried to cover up defensive deficiencies by pairing those players with Kevin Garnett. So great is KG’s impact defensively that the C’s feel he can compensate for at least one weaker defender. Perhaps a little more juice offensively at the start of games would help break them of their slow-start habit and it’s not as if Bass isn’t capable of playing off the bench.
Preseason caveats apply, but it’s obvious that the Celtics will not bring Sullinger along slowly. He had 9 points and 7 rebounds, including three on the offensive glass.
JASON TERRY STARTED TOO: This may be less interesting. Terry and Courtney Lee both figure to play about 30 minutes a game regardless of who’s in the starting lineup, but it’s worth noting that after Lee struggled through a rough preseason opener that Terry got the call instead. That’s the great part of Terry’s game: He can start or relieve.
Terry pumped in 11 points and was an absurd Plus-29 in 28 minutes. Lee had a much stronger outing, making four of his five shots and finishing with 11 points. Read the rest of this entry »
|What to watch for: Preseason Celtics in Turkey edition||10.05.12 at 12:43 am ET|
Preseason NBA games go something like this: Hey, basketball’s back! Then the second quarter starts and you’re reminded that it’s preseason. By the time the second half tips off, everyone’s trying to not get hurt, while rookies and free agents are looking for that one shot of glory.
The Celtics will play Fenerbache Ulker on Friday afternoon in Istanbul, and while there’s only so much that can be determined in the first exhibition, there are still a number of things worth keeping an eye on as they begin to take shape for the upcoming season.
Here are five areas to watch:
THE NEW-LOOK BACKCOURT: It will be jarring to see the Celtics lineup without Ray Allen in his customary spot, but more than appearances, the C’s guards will have an entirely different feel. Courtney Lee is likely to start with Jason Terry operating as a sixth man. Lee won’t get nearly as many touches as Allen did, and it will be interesting to see how Doc Rivers adjusts the offense without Allen running off so many picks.
One of the benefits of Avery Bradley‘s emergence last season was that it allowed Rivers to take Rajon Rondo off the ball defensively. That has tremendous value, not only because Bradley is such a good defender, but it also allowed Rondo the chance to conserve energy on the defensive end. Lee brings a tough defensive-mindset to the position, but can he handle the fullcourt pressure defense that Rivers prefers?
HOW WILL JEFF GREEN BE UTILIZED? This is the key question, maybe for the whole season. Green has not fared well defensively as a big forward, but if Kevin Garnett is lined up next to him that could alter the dynamic considerably. Another big question that Rivers hinted at already: Can Green and Paul Pierce function together as a forward tandem?
One of the biggest reasons that Green was not an overnight success in Boston is that he was never able to fill a consistent role. Part of that is on him for not being assertive enough and part of that is on Rivers to create one.
IS JARED SULLINGER READY? It’s been a tough camp for Chris Wilcox, who is dealing with back spasms in addition to trying to return from heart surgery. Wilcox is the only veteran backup 4 on the roster, and if he can’t go on Friday, that would seem to give the Ohio State rookie an early opportunity to make an impression.
SPEAKING OF ROOKIES: Dionte Christmas, Kris Joseph and Jamar Smith are part of a battle for what could be two open roster spots. Christmas received a higher guarantee than the others, so he would appear to have a leg up heading into the camp. That can all change quickly, however.
Need is a relative term for a squad with championship aspirations and veterans at nearly every position, but the two that stand out are backup point guard (Smith) and depth on the wing (Christmas and Joseph).
ALL THAT AND DARKO TOO: The over/under on how long it takes Tommy Heinsohn to compare Darko to Bill Russell has been set at eight minutes. Tommy’s not in Istanbul, but has there even been this much intrigue for a backup center?
Heinsohn aside, for one of the first times in his career the expectations for Darko are actually reasonable and manageable. If he can give the C’s 15-20 minutes a night as a backup center, they will be thrilled. Rebounding has been a major point of emphasis for Rivers during camp, and that’s where the Celtics really need Darko to make a difference.
|Irish Coffee: Where do walking wounded Celtics stand?||10.02.12 at 5:54 pm ET|
“Knock on wood,” as Paul Pierce said, because the Celtics haven’t been this healthy during training camp the past three seasons. In 2010, Kevin Garnett returned from his season-ending knee surgery the spring before. A year later, Kendrick Perkins sat with an ACL tear. Last season, a foot injury kept Pierce from playing opening night.
“The key for us if we’re going to win another championship is going to be our health,” said Pierce. “You have to be good; you have to be lucky. Sometimes those are things you can’t control. Since our first year we won it, we haven’t been lucky enough to be healthy, so hopefully we’re healthy this year and we can make another run at it.’
Role players like Tony Allen, Leon Powe, the O’Neal brothers, Delonte West, Mickael Pietrus or even Ray Allen last season have also kept the C’s doctors busy the past few years. Youth doesn’t guarantee health, but it certainly helps. At least they’re not keeping a trainer’s table warm for the Jermaine O’Neals of the league anymore.
Ironically, the youngest members of the Celtics — Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger — are two of the biggest question marks among a handful of health concerns, so let’s see where the C’s walking wounded stand.
|Irish Coffee: Top 10 Celtics Media Day moments||10.01.12 at 5:36 pm ET|
Considering the Celtics have been unofficially practicing together since early September, Friday’s Media Day at the team’s practice facility in Waltham seemed less like a welcome home party than years past and more like an interruption of a team’s quest for the franchise’s 18th NBA championship already in progress. That attitude is reflected in the top 10 moments from this year’s Celtics Media Day compared to the same post last season.
10. Chris Wilcox on missing the playoffs again: “I was fresh out of surgery when they made it to the playoffs. The whole time, I was just trying to see whatever I could do. I was like, ‘Doc, there’s no way I could come back?’ And he was like, ‘Don’t even think about it.’ So, it was just motivation, because I can’t watch basketball and not play it. … I’m out trying to walk on treadmills and doing all these different kind of things, just trying to get back, because I wanted to be around basketball. I’ve never been to the playoffs before. That was going to be my first experience, and then that had to happen, so it was tough.”
9. Jared Sullinger on dropping to the Celtics: “Everybody was knocking me for the back problems and all this crazy stuff, but I could care less. Like I told everybody, if I dropped to the Celtics at 21, and I could go back and redo everything — and me not getting hurt — I’ll get hurt again and slide all the way back down to 21, just so I could be with the Boston Celtics. I’d redo it, because it’s a great organization, great vets, great team.”
8. Courtney Lee on the Celtics’ championship tradition: “Every organization I’ve been with, winning has always been the key, but here you believe — you feel it, you see it. We’re not even starting training camp yet, and we had our whole team here Sept. 4, and everybody was dedicated to getting better. The motto of it was to win a championship. The first day I got here, on the fourth, all Rondo was talking about is a championship and getting back and winning. Once you hear that from your star players, you don’t want to let them down, so that motivates you to get on the same page, and that’s all it’s about: Winning.”
|Danny Darko: What do Celtics see in center’s future?||09.26.12 at 12:14 pm ET|
Just because Celtics owner Steve Pagliuca says the Celtics can roll out five or six 7-footers doesn’t make it true.
Sure, since the addition of Darko Milicic on a one-year, $1.2 million veteran minimum contract, the C’s feature three legit 7-footers (Milicic, Jason Collins, Fab Melo) and Kevin Garnett, who insists he’s 6-foot-11 but had a bird’s-eye view of Nenad Krstic‘s receding hairline. Throw in 6-foot-10 Chris Wilcox, and Pags isn’t far off. That group could give forwards Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger and Jeff Green a Napoleonic complex.
Still, the Celtics can roll out all the bigs they want. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be any good. We heard the same rhetoric when the C’s entered the 2010-11 NBA season with Shaquille O’Neal, Kendrick Perkins, Jermaine O’Neal and Semih Erden at the 5. So, what should the Celtics expect from these pillars of Boston?