|Studs and Duds: Hot-shooting Celtics fly past Wizards||11.06.15 at 9:52 pm ET|
It’s the law of averages. Eventually, the shots would start falling. But no mathematician would have predicted this.
The Celtics (2-3) shot 45 percent from the field and defeated the visiting Wizards 118-98 on Friday night. Led by Jared Sullinger’s 21 points, five Celtics finished in double figures. The C’s dominated the first half, outscoring the Wizards 72-49. It was the first time the Celtics had scored 70 in a half since the modern-day Big Three did it in 2010. They also excelled from beyond the arc, knocking down a season-high 12 3-pointers.
Bradley Beal scored a game-high 24 points for the Wizards, a fast-paced team that struggled to keep up with the high-flying Celtics. The C’s hands were extremely active on defense, forcing 24 turnovers on a season-high 18 steals.
For a complete box score, click here. To go beyond the box, read on.
|Why Celtics won’t sign Jared Sullinger, Tyler Zeller to contract extensions now||11.02.15 at 2:03 pm ET|
The NBA salary cap is expected to expand $20 million next summer, so Sullinger and Zeller have no reason to sign a team-friendly extension based on the league’s current salary structure. Likewise, the C’s have little incentive to sign Sullinger and Zeller to player-friendly deals now, because of the former’s conditioning issues and the latter’s inconsistent production.
Consider that fellow 2012 NBA Draft first-round pick Jeremy Lamb, who couldn’t crack the regular rotation in Oklahoma City for his first three seasons, is reportedly signing a three-year, $21 million contract extension two games into his Hornets career. Sullinger and Zeller should receive an average annual value of $7 million next summer if they respectively eat a handful of Big Macs for lunch every day and fall to fifth or sixth on the C’s frontcourt depth chart this season.
More likely, both will be seeking double-digit millions per season next summer, and by not offering them that kind of cash flow right now, the Celtics can monitor their progress closely now and maintain significant salary cap flexibility in 2016, when both become restricted free agents and represent $12.2 million in combined cap holds come July 1.
|How much will Jared Sullinger play at the start of season?||10.23.15 at 9:01 am ET|
It’s the weighty question that hangs over the Celtics.
How much will Jared Sullinger contribute at the start of the season?
There are subsets to that question, as well. Like how much will he be able to contribute, what will his role be and perhaps most of all, what does head coach Brad Stevens envision as a realistic starting point when the season opens Wednesday against the Philadelphia 76ers.
The 6-foot-9 power forward listed at 260 pounds played three stints Thursday in a 99-85 preseason win over the Knicks at TD Garden. His final line: 19 minutes, 6-of-10 from the field, eight rebounds and a team-high 16 points.
“I think he played at the end of the game because we wanted to throw the ball at the post and score,” Stevens said. “So obviously, there were other guys in the game that hadn’t played up to that point, but he had played three stints, [and] that was his third stint.”
At the start of camp, Sullinger acknowledged that his family and former NBA star John Lucas all but had an intervention to help him with his weight approaching 300 pounds and his conditioning. Sullinger can look out on the floor and see a long list of names that are fighting with him for significant playing time, names like Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko and David Lee. Games like Thursday seem to be an indication that he’s at least headed in the right direction as he builds his stamina off the bench.
“You know, time will tell how it all works itself out with minutes but I thought he did a lot of good things,” Stevens said. “As the season goes on, we’re always going to factor in good play. So that’s a good thing.”
|Stud and Duds: Undefeated Knicks top Celtics, 101-95||10.17.15 at 12:40 am ET|
The Knicks frontcourt set the tone early and prevented the Celtics from settling into their comfort zone offensively.
New York defended the paint well and forced a number of second-half turnovers, holding the C’s to just under 40 percent shooting from the floor and preventing them from getting into an offensive rhythm in a 101-95 loss. The Celtics managed a fourth-quarter comeback, but came up short when the Knicks knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers.
Derrick Williams led the charge for New York with 19 points and five rebounds, as the Knicks improved to 4-0 during the preseason. The Celtics fell to 3-1. In an encouraging sign, second-year Celtics wing James Young scored eight of his 10 points in the fourth quarter. Seeing him score is always a good sign, and this was easily his best game of the preseason.
Stud of the night: Isaiah Thomas.
In only his second start in a Celtics uniform, Thomas scored 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting, including a pair of 3-pointers, and dished five assists in 24 minutes. The C’s offense was at its best in transition against the Knicks, and Thomas was a big part of that, doing most of his damage on the run. In the second half, when it came to driving to the hoop and interior scoring, the Knicks’ defense made stops and prevented the Celtics from scoring in the paint.
Dud of the night: Kelly Olynyk.
After a solid outing against the Nets, Olynyk struggled against the Knicks. New York contested his jumpers and forced Olynyk to take off-balanced attempts. He finished 1-for-7 with an underwhelming line of two points and three rebounds in 11:49. Olynyk has played well early in the preseason, but couldn’t find an offensive groove against New York’s Robin Lopez, Kyle O’Quinn and Lance Thomas — much like teammates Amir Johnson, David Lee and Jared Sullinger.
Vine of the night
Celtics coach Brad Stevens was handed just the second technical of his NBA career after a no-call in the second half, when Knicks guard Cleanthony Early undercut Tyler Zeller on a fast-break dunk. Stevens didn’t think twice when he stepped onto the court to plead his case. I agree coach, that was a foul. Always great to see Stevens riled up.
Whine of the night
In his best game of the preseason, so far, Jared Sullinger still only scored five points against the Knicks, although he pulled down 10 rebounds. O’Quinn may have given Sullinger the ounce of motivation he needed to grab 10 boards, tossing the Celtics forward around the paint and even making layup attempts difficult. O’Quinn also earned a flagrant foul after sending Sullinger to the floor in the third quarter. It’s a positive sign to see Sullinger grab 10 boards, but 1-for-8 from the floor and 3-for-6 from the free throw line isn’t going to fly for a guy who was considered one of the Celtics’ biggest scoring threats entering his fourth NBA season.
Stat of the night
The Celtics amassed 18 turnovers, while the Knicks only had seven. When the Knicks opened up a double-digit lead in the second half, the Celtics responded with a run in the third quarter. But after things got chippy between the two teams (see: O’Quinn’s flagrant foul), the Celtics made bad passes and committed a number of turnovers that led to an 88-80 fourth-quarter lead by the Knicks.
@ of the night
Avery continue to shoot well this preseason and a couple of steals. What more can you ask more? #CelticsTalk
‘ CausewayStreetBlog (@CausewayStreet) October 17, 2015
Avery Bradley continues to knock down jumpers throughout the preseason, but he cooled off a bit in New York. Bradley finished 3-for-7 from the field, including one 3-pointer. It would have been nice to see him take more shots in the third quarter, but it was great to see him fill up the stat sheet. He also pulled down eight rebounds and had three assists.
|Tyler Zeller, Jared Sullinger face contract extension conundrum||09.22.15 at 11:54 am ET|
As anticipated, negotiations between the Celtics and their trio of players entering the final year of their rookie contracts — Jared Sullinger, Tyler Zeller and Perry Jones III — haven’t moved beyond an initial discussion.
“I’ve had preliminary conversations with the representatives of those players, and we’ll see how it goes in October,” team president Danny Ainge said from Plymouth, where the C’s hosted their annual charity golf tournament to benefit the Shamrock Foundation. “We have until October to make those decisions, and we’ll see how training camp goes.”
Ainge and the agents for Sullinger and Zeller are expected to be far apart on negotiations. The C’s will seek team-friendly deals for a pair of players who haven’t established themselves as anything beyond role players, while those two — as all free agents will be — are anticipating hefty raises when the salary cap balloons $20 million in 2016. As for Jones, he may not even make the roster, so he won’t be signing an extension for an entirely different reason.
“Obviously, it would be nice to have an extension, just because it’s a little more security, but at the same time you’ve got to approach the year, and you can’t be heartbroken if you don’t get it,” said Zeller, one of two players (Jonas Jerebko) at the charity golf event. “You have to be fully prepared. Either way, I’ve got to do my job this year. I have one more year on my contract, so I’ve got to go out and do as much as I can to help our team this year.”
While Sullinger was not present Tuesday, his father was in a foursome at Plymouth’s Old Sandwich Golf Club. The Celtics brass has not seen Satch Sullinger’s son this summer, as the fourth-year big man is not one of eight players working out in Waltham, but Ainge has followed Jared Sullinger’s training regimen on social media. Sort of.
“My eyes aren’t good enough to see the Twitter pictures, nor do I believe most of the Twitter pictures, but I’m not worried about that,” said Ainge, who has criticized Sullinger’s conditioning in the past. “I know Jared is putting in the work this summer. It’s a big year for him and for us, and I’m confident he’s going to have a terrific year.”
But there’s at least a chance neither Sullinger nor Zeller will earn the starting positions they held at various points last season, since the arrival of veterans David Lee and Amir Johnson presents a logjam in the frontcourt. And that could present a problem for a pair of players who need playing time now to increase their value next summer.
“It’s one of those things where hopefully your play speaks for itself,” said Zeller. “You’ve just got to go and find your little niche and what your team needs, where you fit, and hopefully that will kind of talk for itself and get you playing time. And if it doesn’t, you’ve just got to keep working and keep trying to find a spot for you.”
|Danny Ainge will have contract talks with Tyler Zeller, Jared Sullinger||09.04.15 at 6:33 am ET|
The Celtics have until Oct. 31 to decide if they want to offer contract extensions to Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger, two extension-eligible players that are still on their rookie contracts.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge told The Boston Globe that he’s had meetings with Sullinger and Zeller’s agents and that talks will continue through October.
“Obviously, those are two guys that we like moving forward,” Ainge told the Globe. “So, yeah, there will be more discussions with both of them, probably during the month of October.”
Zeller, who is coming off the most impressive season of his young career, earned a starting spot in the lineup at center last season. Averaging 10.2 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, Zeller may have the best chance of signing a contract extension with the Celtics before November.
Sullinger, 23, is coming off of another injury-plagued season, playing only 58 games last year. He averaged 13.3 points and 7.6 rebounds, but the Celtics may hold off on offering him a contract extension until they see health improvements. Sullinger still is young, but as he’s had back and foot surgeries, the Celtics have seen him play one complete season throughout his three-year career. His weight and conditioning also have become a concern, a problem that Sullinger has worked on this summer, gearing up for the upcoming season.
Newly acquired forward Perry Jones is another player who is eligible for a contract extension, but he will have to fight for a spot on the roster. Jones, who was traded to the Celtics from Oklahoma City, could be cut from the team since the Celtics have to eliminate one of their 16 guaranteed contracts to get down to the league maximum of 15 players.
|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.
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