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Celtics undergoing a defensive identity crisis 11.22.12 at 1:14 am ET
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When Brandon Bass tipped home a Paul Pierce jumper with 1:28 left in their 112-100 loss to the Spurs, the Celtics avoided joining San Antonio as the only other team in the last 25 years not to grab an offensive rebound. Instead, they grabbed one — an NBA statistic that’s occurred just 16 times in the past quarter-century.

Of course, three of those 16 occurrences now belong to the Celtics. Only the other two games produced an entirely different result: a 103-79 blowout of the 76ers this past April and a 122-103 defeat of the Pacers during the 2008 championship season. The C’s shot better than 50 percent on both occasions, just as they did in Wednesday night’s loss to the Spurs, so there weren’t exactly a lot of offensive rebounds to be grabbed.

In other words, the Celtics should hope they only have one offensive rebound every night.

“You’re a big believer in offensive rebounds I think; I’m not,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “You can pick on that all you want. That is a number I rarely look at. Statistically, it holds up. I can tell you: You don’t offensive rebound, you stop transition, you win more games than when you get offensive rebounds. I can guarantee you that.”

Sounds great in theory, except for the fact that MySynergySports.com ranks the C’s rank dead last statistically in transition defense, which is a entirely different problem. And a much bigger one.

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Doc Rivers on Kevin Garnett vs. Tim Duncan: ‘Just put up a mirror’ 11.21.12 at 7:18 pm ET
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Celtics head coach Doc Rivers before Wednesday night’s game with the San Antonio Spurs talked about Grinnell College’s Jack Taylor and his 138-point performance on Tuesday, a comparison between Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan, a comparison of Rajon Rondo and Tony Parker and the status of Paul Pierce‘s sprained ankle.

Doc on Rondo vs. Parker: “I’d rather have just one of the game’s best playing tonight. It’s amazing. They’re both terrific, obviously. They’re so different in how they play. It’s amazing how many different point guards there are in the league right now, and they’re all really good. You have to prepare for each one of them in a different way. The big ones, the strong ones, the fast ones, the witty ones. It’s different right now with all the different types of point guards, and each team has built their team around that style of point guard. It’s a good time in the league right now for that position.”

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Fueled by ‘chip on my shoulder,’ Celtics rookie Jared Sullinger earns status as steal of 2012 NBA draft 11.17.12 at 7:01 pm ET
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When Jared Sullinger slipped to the Celtics at No. 21 overall, many pundits quickly declared him the steal of the 2012 NBA draft. And as much as you can make such a declaration 10 games into this season, they were right.

After averaging 17.2 points and 10.2 boards as an Ohio State sophomore, Sullinger recorded the first double-double of his NBA career on Saturday afternoon, amassing 12 points (5-8 FG, 2-2 FT) and 11 rebounds in 26 minutes off the bench in the C’s 107-89 victory against the Atlantic Division rival Raptors.

“I’m used to having double-doubles,” he said, “so it feels good to carry it over to the next level.”

Sullinger’s performance came on the heels of playing a season-low eight minutes on Thursday, when he was benched after giving up an offensive rebound in the C’s 102-97 loss to the Nets.

“He knows his place,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, whose first-year players rarely see the floor. “I think he wasn’t happy about not playing against Brooklyn … but he just knows how to play. He’s a calming effect at times when you put him in, and I don’t think I’ve ever said that about a rookie. It’s nice to have that.”

Sullinger raised his season averages to 3.9 points (51.6 FG%, 100.0 FT%) and 4.1 rebounds in 16 boards a night, but more importantly the Celtics earned a sixth win in their last eight games, and he’s contributed to all of them. When you look at all 14 bigs drafted in the first round, Sullinger is the most productive on any winning team.

“I’m just doing my job,” said Sullinger, who faces No. 9 overall pick Andre Drummond on Sunday. “I could care less. It put a chip on my shoulder, but I could care less how that goes. I’m just out there playing basketball. It’s a great situation. I could’ve been on some other team, worrying about not winning, instead of just playing basketball and being able to have a legitimate shot at winning every night, so it’s a blessing to be here, honestly.”

Here’s how Sullinger stacks up to his Class of 2012 peers: Read the rest of this entry »

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Kevin Garnett puts Rajon Rondo on the same level as Kobe Bryant and LeBron James at 6:48 pm ET
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After Rajon Rondo tallied 20 assists for the second time in nine games in a 107-89 victory against the Raptors on Saturday, new Celtics teammate Jason Terry declared him an NBA Most Valuable Player candidate — and even Rondo himself admitted “MVP is in the picture” — but Kevin Garnett saw this coming three days after first coming to Boston five years ago. We’ll let the league’s 2004 MVP explain.

“I’ve never played with a point guard who is in control of the flow the way he is,” said the 14-time NBA All-Star. “Probably if anybody comes to mind I’m thinking Sam Cassell. He was pretty good at controlling the flow; he could score the ball. But as far as both ends, controlling the game, understanding the flow, knowing when to slow it down, [Rondo]‘s probably the best at it. He’s very conscious of the game from both ends. Usually, you have a point guard who’s a scoring point guard or you have a point guard on the other side of the ball, which is the defensive side, but but as far as 48 minutes on both sides of the ball, he’s the best at it.

“I’ve always looked at someone as the MVP as someone who makes his player not only better, but is able to dictate the game from different stat-wise, is able to get rebounds, does multiple things for his team. That’s personnel. That’s preference. Obviously, I’m going to be biased, because I play with him, and I see his growth and I see how hard he works, but when it comes to his presence on the game, that’s hard. That’s up there with the modern day Kobe [Bryant]s and LeBron [James]es and all that, so I think he gets his knock, because he doesn’t score the ball and all that stuff. But when you look at the overall package, it’s unbelievable what he’s doing.

“After the third day when I first got here, we were doing pickup without you guys knowing, and you could see his potential from how he was dictating the pickup games. I’m not saying he was scoring the ball, but he was dictating a lot of plays from both ends. I evaluate the game from not just a scoring perspective, but a defensive perspective, too. I told him a long time ago, when I first met him, that he had the potential to do both — that he had the energy and the IQ to do both — and it was up to him. Obviously, you all see what this product is coming out to be, and the future is whatever he wants it to be. I’ve always said with Rondo it’s always between his ears, and consistency is everything. Whatever you put into this, that’s what your’e going to get out of it, and he’s doing a great job of it.”

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Opinion: Celtics have to find out what they have with Jeff Green 11.15.12 at 11:20 pm ET
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Jeff Green

A technical foul was the perfect punctuation to Jeff Green’s dunk on Al Jefferson Wednesday night – not because Green deserved the penalty, but because the stoppage in play provided the opportunity for Celtics fans to digest what they had just seen.

Up to that point this season, Green had been a bust. His contract seemed like an albatross of Carl Crawford proportions. With his four-year, $32 million deal, Green is the fourth-highest-paid player on the team, behind only Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo. The problem is Green is playing like the seventh- or eighth-best player on the team, depending on where you rank Jason Terry, Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger and Courtney Lee.

Thursday night failed to offer any additional clarity to Green’s situation, with the forward scoring five points in 25 minutes during the Celtics’ 102-97 loss to the Nets in Brooklyn. It was a performance that made Wednesday’s heroics seem like an aberration.

Even after Green’s 16-point contribution in the win over Utah, he ranked sixth on the team in scoring (8.8 points per game) and seventh in minutes (21.6 per game). At best, he’s marginally overpaid when you consider Bass and Terry will earn $6.5 million and $5 million this year, respectively. At worst, he’s Danny Ainge‘s recurring mistake, first as the centerpiece of the trade that cost the Celtics Kendrick Perkins, and then as a $32 million version of Rashard Lewis.

The dunk of the season so far gave us a chance to see what Ainge saw in Green all along. The 6-foot-9 forward can flush on Al Jefferson in traffic. He can score 16 points in the flow of the game without having a single play run for him. And evidently, his teammates love him.

After Green threw it down on Jefferson, the ensuing scene seemed reminiscent of an And1 Mixtape Tour. Green didn’t deserve a technical; he almost seemed to be staring down Al Jefferson to make sure he did, in fact, dunk on an All-Star center. But perhaps Green’s teammates deserved the technical. Garnett followed Green around the court, cursing in his ear and pushing him in the chest. Other teammates took turns pushing Green, who typically shies away from that kind of contact.

The celebration seemed to stem from the fact that the Celtics need THAT Jeff Green. Garnett’s been saying it, and he’s right. Green needs to be meaner, more aggressive. He needs to dish out more NBA fouls, and he needs to get down low in the paint when Garnett is on the bench.

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Al Jefferson: ‘I would’ve traded me for Kevin Garnett, too’ and other memories of Rajon Rondo and the 2006-07 Celtics at 1:40 pm ET
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During the 2006-07 NBA season, when the Celtics finished last in the Atlantic Division and earned the No. 5 overall pick (Jeff Green) that became Ray Allen trade bait and eventually altered the franchise’s future, I bought a ticket to the Garden for $8. Eight dollars. Even on a measly sportswriter’s salary, that was a bargain.

As Tommy Heinsohn said, the young core of Al Jefferson, Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, Tony Allen and Delonte West consisted of players who were “like puppies: Every time you saw them, you wanted to pet them.”

“We used to have a lot of laughs together, because when I was here, things weren’t going too well as far as winning,” Jefferson said. “But we always had the locker room live with me, [Rondo], Tony Allen, Kendrick Perkins and Delonte West. We all kept it live, and we were fun guys to be around. In the time we were here, when we were losing, we hardly ever got blown out. It was always close games, but we were just such a young team, we didn’t know how to finish those games. I knew if we could’ve stayed together, things could’ve got better for us.”

Considering how those players evolved — a double-double machine (Jefferson), a three-time NBA All-Star point guard (Rondo), a first-team All-Defensive wing (Allen), a starting center on a title team (Perkins) and one tough motherbleeper (West) — that team would’ve gotten better. Those Celtics wouldn’t have won a title in 2008, but you can see why some folks (wrongfully) thought twice about trading Jefferson as the centerpiece of a fairly famous 2007 trade.

“If I were Danny Ainge,” said Jefferson, “I would’ve traded me for Kevin Garnett, too.”

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Admittedly ‘lackadaisical’ Jeff Green finally shows he can be mean 11.14.12 at 11:32 pm ET
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When Jeff Green emphatically dunked on Al Jefferson in the fourth quarter Wednesday night and proceeded to stare the posterized big man down, things got loud. The Garden was full of fans and teammates alike that were happy to finally see an aggressive Green, but one voice overpowered everyone else.

“I heard Kevin Garnett,” Green said after the 98-93 win over the Jazz when asked what he remembered hearing after the dunk.

“I can’t tell you [what he said],” Green added. “Use your imagination. Think Kevin Garnett, and the first thing [that comes to mind]. It was explicit, but he said to me the other day what I needed to be. That’s basically what he said.”

That term would be “an [expletive]-hole,” something Garnett had said Green needed to be following Saturday’s game against the Bucks.

“Jeff’s a really, really nice guy,” Garnett said on Saturday. “Some nights, you’ve just gotta be an [expletive]-hole.”

Green granted that wish when he took a pass from Garnett, drove to basket and dunked with authority over Jefferson. To make it even meaner, Green stared down Jefferson as he walked away, earning him a technical foul for taunting. The 26-year-old Green admitted he earned the tech.

“I did,” he said. “I guess you can’t look at the guy anymore. Courtney Lee said he’ll pay for it, so we’ll see.”

Garnett was not available for comment after the game due to a minor family matter, but he made his thoughts on the play clear on the court, as he could be seen pushing Green and enthusiastically barking his praise following the play.

He wasn’t the only teammate to praise Green, however. As Green prepared to field questions from reporters, rookie Jared Sullinger, whose locker is next to Green’s, gave his teammate daps and said, “Congratulations, Jeff. You made [SportsCenter's] No. 1.”

Green finished the night with 16 points, four rebounds and two assists in a season-high 27 minutes. He said he hopes to see his dunk on SportsCenter, but his biggest takeaway on the night was a much-needed confidence-booster.

“I had been playing a little lackadaisical as far as the effort before the prior couple of games, so it felt good to get that. It kind of boosts your confidence up and gets you going a little bit,” he said.

It isn’t every day that you hear a professional athlete volunteer to a scrum full of reporters and camera that his effort hasn’t been there. That’s normally the type of stuff that gets revealed deep into a 1-on-1, if it all. Perhaps Green just knows that more is expected of him, and he’s ready to be a little meaner.

“I don’t think anybody needs to tell me to be aggressive,” Green said. “It’s something that I see. It’s something that I need to do.”

Ben Rohrbach contributed to this report.

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