|Irish Coffee: Danny Ainge’s masterful Celtics summer||07.20.12 at 3:48 pm ET|
How do you think David West is feeling right about now? If you’ll recall, when he snubbed the Celtics for the Pacers in free agency last summer, he said, “In Boston, everybody is kinda realistic about the window that the Celtics have. Me looking at where I’m at, I think my window is a little bit wider.”
Since then, after watching the Celtics take the Heat to the brink in the Eastern Conference finals, West has seen his Pacers match Roy Hibbert‘s max contract (4 years, $58 million) — dedicating roughly $36 million annually to a “Big Three” of Hibbert, Danny Granger and George Hill — trade Darren Collison for Ian Mahinmi, and sign Gerald Green (3 years, $10 million) and D.J. Augustin (1 year, $3.5 million) as their biggest free agent splashes.
Meanwhile, Celtics president Danny Ainge painted his best masterpiece since acquiring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in 2007 for Al Jefferson, the No. 5 overall NBA draft pick and a bunch of garbage. Not willing to call Ainge’s offseason a masterpiece? Take a look at what he had to work with this summer.
|Rest for the weary and other Celtics summer league notes||07.18.12 at 3:11 pm ET|
LAS VEGAS — After playing seven games in nine days, the Celtics’ summer league team is getting the day off. After knocking off the Bulls, 79-74, on Tuesday night, they have now won six of their seven games and both in Vegas. It’s a credit to coach Ty Lue, who has done a terrific job getting a dozen guys who just met to play hard and play as a team, while also finding time for a 10-man rotation each night.
“If you’re going to put on a Celtics uniform you’ve got to play hard every night,” Lue said. “KG, Paul [Pierce], [Rajon] Rondo and Doc [Rivers], they’re not going to accept anything less.”
On Tuesday, it was E’Twaun Moore‘s time to shine. The second-year guard has been their most consistent performer throughout summer league and the Bulls’ game was his best to day. Moore hit 10-of-19 shots and scored 25 points including five key points down the stretch when the Bulls cut into a double-digit lead.
The Celtics have until midnight on Sunday to guarantee the second-year of his contract and he’s made strong case for not only sticking with the team, but also getting a chance to earn a rotation spot. While he’s not a natural point guard, Moore has played with his trademark calmness and rarely gets rattled. He’s been solid with the ball outside of a four-turnover effort against the Pistons in Orlando in the C’s only loss.
Tuesday’s game played directly to his strengths as Jared Sullinger battled through a 3-for-15 shooting night and the C’s needed a scorer.
“E’Twaun is trying to be a point guard, but he’s a natural scorer,” Lue said. “It’s a fine line between the two, but we know he can score and attack. With Jared shooting 3-for-15 tonight, he had to step up and score. That’s what point guards do. If guys are rolling you’ve got to give him the ball. If they’re not, then you have to step up and score.”
Despite a tough night offensively, Sullinger drew praise for continuing to attack the glass. He pulled down 14 rebounds, including five on the offensive glass. Fellow forward JaJuan Johnson also hit the boards, pulling down 12 rebounds in his strongest rebounding effort of the summer session. Read the rest of this entry »
|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 »
|Chris Wilcox: ‘This is a blessing for me even to be here’||07.14.12 at 2:29 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Among teammates, coaches and even owner Stephen Pagliuca, Chris Wilcox is known to be a fun-loving man.
So, it was with great humor and appreciation that Pagliuca listened to Wilcox tell him recently that if only he had been able to play against Miami, things might have turned out differently for the Celtics.
“It’ll be even more special to have all these guys on board and we’ll win that seventh game against Miami this year,” Pagliuca said with a smile and chuckle. “Chris said he would’ve made the difference and I think he was right.”
It was no laughing matter in March when Wilcox became the second Celtics player in three months to undergo heart surgery after being diagnosed with a heart irregularity.
He was officially waived by the Celtics on March 23, but like with Jeff Green, who had heart valve surgery two months earlier, there was an unwritten agreement that the team would offer him a contract once he was medically cleared to resume basketball activity. Saturday was that time, as Wilcox, a much-needed veteran big man in the C’s front court, was formally re-introduced in a press conference at the team’s practice facility.
“I’m good. I’m back now. I’m full contact,” Wilcox said. “I can do everything, lifting weights, just to a minimum though, lifting weights. Everything else, I’m back and I’m ready.
“By training camp, I’ll definitely be full-go. I’ve been working hard all summer, trying to get back right, being prepared and it’s going along well.”
What’s been the biggest challenge of training since heart surgery?
“Cardio. Your cardio, your wind,” Wilcox said. “You have to re-train your whole body over again after surgery like that. So, I think the main thing for me is the my cardio so I’ve just been running, trying to get my wind up. That’s the main thing right now.
“This is a blessing,” Wilcox continued. “This is a blessing for me even to be here right now. So, I’m just going to take full advantage of all my situations and all the opportunities that have been coming my way. And it’s a blessing to come back to a team and be able to pick up where I left off. 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 »
|Jared Sullinger takes over and other observations from first day of summer league||07.09.12 at 6:48 pm ET|
ORLANDO — Jared Sullinger has always been the focal point of the teams he’s played on, but this was his first taste of life in the NBA and he didn’t want to seem presumptuous.
“I didn’t want to come into the game thinking like, ‘It’s all about me, it’s all about me,’” he said. “Playing all my life, where everything goes through you, I didn’t want to be like that today because I got some teammates that can really play. So I was just trying to feel it out in the first half and the second half, we were falling behind, so I decided to step up and try to score the basketball.”
That’s exactly what he did as he scored 14 of his 20 points in the second half of the Celtics’ 73-65 win over Oklahoma City in their first summer league game. Sullinger worked down low and it’s clear that he’s comfortable on the block. He also stepped out and made a couple of mid-range jump shots. He even put the ball on the floor, spun into the lane and completed a three-point play.
“He’s just a gamer,” said C’s summer league coach, Ty Lue. “He knows how to play the game. Guys can be taller and more athletic, but he just knows how to play. He’s very skilled and he knows how to play the game. We wouldn’t have won the game without him today.”
Ever since the Celtics were able to select Sullinger in the first-round of the draft, his ability to play has been a constant theme. He’s not the most athletic player and there are obvious concerns about his back, but his basketball IQ is high and it’s evident watching him operate on the block that he has put in work over the years.
Summer league games are what they are. They can run anywhere from highly entertaining to long, drawn-out slogs and this game ranked more toward the latter end of the scale. Points were tough to come by, but the Thunder also had four first-round picks in their starting five, including center Cole Aldrich and Sullinger more than held his own.
This raises an interesting question as to whether the power forward can slide over and play some center minutes with the Celtics. Team president Danny Ainge raised the possibility during the rookies’ introductory press conference and while it wouldn’t be wise to throw him out there against the likes of Dwight Howard or Andrew Bynum, Sullinger said he welcomes the phsyical pounding that comes from playing with the big guys underneath.
“That’s fun. That’s always fun,” he said. “Get to bang around in the post, back to the basket. You get to guard someone taller than you, it’s a challenge. It’s always fun doing that. At the same time, it’s always fun guarding quicker basketball players. It was fun today.”
Growing up in Ohio, he was tested early by his brothers Julian and J.J. who made sure their little brother learned how take punishment, and more importantly, how to overcome it and still play your game.
“When you go through the air on concrete and they throw you to the ground and you’ve got scrapes all over your arms, you learn to concentrate on making the shots, instead of just scraping your arm,” he said. “Every time I’d cry, they’d yell at me because I’m always worried about the scab or something, instead of worrying about making the shot. When you’ve got two brothers like that, it’s not choice but to make the shots.”
All in all, it was a positive first step in Sullinger’s transition to the NBA. Here are some other observations: Read the rest of this entry »
|The boulder on Jared Sullinger’s shoulder||07.02.12 at 2:37 pm ET|
ALLSTON — For most, if not all of his basketball life, people have doubted Jared Sullinger. They told him he was too big. They told him college would be too fast. They looked at his 6-foot-9 frame carrying 268 pounds and wondered how he’d keep up with faster, sleeker and taller opponents.
Sullinger can point to the 17 points and 10 rebounds he put up in each of his two seasons at Ohio State. He can tell them how he led the Buckeyes to the Final Four, the Big 10 championship as a freshman and the 65 games he won in his two seasons there. But he also knows that none of that really matters to his critics.
“If you consider me [going] to the Boston Celtics a drop then I’ll do it all over again, without a hesitation,” Sullinger said. “It’s been like that all my life. When I was younger, everybody said I was too big. Going into high school they said I wouldn’t be able to play that fast. Going into college I wouldn’t be able to keep up. So, it’s just the way I live my life. I’m just ready to get started.”
The only reason Sullinger was available with the 21st pick in the draft was because he was red-flagged at the Chicago scouting combine in May due to a bulging disk in his back. The Celtics say they have done their due diligence and will take steps to help him. It’s a concern, but in terms of risks/rewards, they feel the latter far outweighs the former.
“I don’t have any back problems, but it is what it is and I’m just playing basketball now,” he said. “I finally have a job and now it’s time to take the next step and get ready to play.”
This is how it is for Sullinger now. He will always have to prove himself, but now he knows where he will be and for his agent, David Falk, he’s in a perfect place.
“I’m not worried about the number, I’m worried about being in the right environment to grow and develop,” Falk said. “I’m thrilled that he’s here. Playing for Doc Rivers, who is a great motivator, a great coach. Having a chance to play with people like Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce who are Hall of Famers. He’ll get a post-graduate education as a rookie.” Read the rest of this entry »