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Magic 9-Ball: Rajon Rondo Trade Barometer v4.0 12.09.14 at 1:20 pm ET
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Let’s face it: This is the season of Rajon Rondo. As interesting as it is to evaluate the frontcourt progress of Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk, Avery Bradley‘s offensive potential and Jeff Green‘s surprising consistency, the biggest questions the Celtics must answer all involve Rondo. Just how good is he? Will he be traded? What can they get in return? In a weekly feature on Green Street, we’ll take stock of the Celtics captain’s status every Tuesday.

RAJON RONDO TRADE VALUE

Either Rondo hasn’t fully recovered from the knee injury he suffered nearly two years ago or he’s no longer capable of carrying the Celtics offense the way he once did during four straight trips to the NBA All-Star Game from 2009-13.

We may have to accept one or the other as fact.

Rondo’s 32.1 minutes per game are the lowest of his career since former Celtics coach Doc Rivers handed him the keys to the duck boat during the 2008 playoff run, and he’s been atrocious in back-to-back performances this fall after sitting out those games last season. The Celtics have played three back-to-backs this year, and here are the point guard’s performances in those contests.

  • Celtics 106, Bulls 101: DNP. The Celtics opted to keep Rondo home in order to remove screws from his surgically repaired left hand.
  • Celtics 109, Pistons 102 (OT): 34 min, 2 pts (1-6 FG, 0-1 3P), 8 ast (4 to), 3 reb, 3 stl. At the end of regulation and for portions of overtime, the C’s deliberately kept the ball out of Rondo’s hands, even benching him for a stretch in favor of Evan Turner, a superior free throw shooter.
  • Wizards 133, Celtics 132 (2OT): 21 min, 0 pts (0-3 FG), 4 ast (3 to), 2 reb, 1 stl. Rondo did not return once Marcus Smart replaced him with 5:20 remaining in the third quarter and the Celtics trailing by 20.

As you can see, the C’s finished 2-1 in those games, only losing to the Southeast Division-leading Wizards in double overtime. Any way you slice it, there’s been a stark contrast between rested Rondo and fatigued Rondo.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Marcus Smart, NBA, Rajon Rondo
5 things we learned in Celtics’ crazy 2OT loss to Wizards 12.08.14 at 10:58 pm ET
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Where to even start with this game?

After collecting their best win of the season on Sunday, the Celtics almost did the same on Monday on the tail end of a back-to-back with the Wizards. Paul Pierce and company were looking for revenge against Boston, a team they felt they shouldn’t have lost to on Sunday, but Washington was in for more than it expected before finally coming out on top, 133-132, in a wild double-overtime affair in Washington. (Click here for the full box score)

The Wizards came out hot and opened up a lead as large as 23 points. This didn’t phase the Celtics, as their bench completely turned the game around (much, much more on this later) along with Jeff Green. Boston cut the lead down and needed an Evan Turner 3-pointer with just 0.6 seconds left in regulation to send the game to overtime tied at 110.

The C’s dominated the early part of the overtime, led by Green, Kelly Olynyk and Marcus Smart. But, the Wizards came back from down seven points to tie it at 121 with under a minute left thanks to a huge 3-pointer, by who else but Pierce. After Brandon Bass missed a potential game-winner on a breakaway, the game went into double-overtime.

The second overtime was almost identical. It started with a 3-pointer by Smart, like the first one did, and Boston continued to open up another seven-point lead. The Wizards fought back again, though. John Wall gave them a one-point lead with 44 seconds left on a 3-point play that put his athleticism and speed on display. It ended up being the final score of the game, as Turner was unable to connect on an isolation play and Smart couldn’t convert on a put-back attempt at the buzzer.

Pierce was huge in the win scoring 28 points on 9-for-12 shooting, while Wall was able to score 26 to go with 17 assists and seven rebounds (although he did have nine turnovers). Green led the Celtics with 28 points, but the rest of the damage in the near upset was done by the bench.

Here’s five things we learned in the epic loss:

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Jeff Green, Marcus Smart, Paul Pierce
D-tales from the D-League: James Young shines, Marcus Smart struggles 12.05.14 at 12:26 pm ET
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James Young played the best game of his professional career, scoring 31 points and pulling down nine boards for the Maine Red Claws in Thursday’s 110-106 win over the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. Young was efficient, shooting 9-for-15 from the field, including 7-for-10 from beyond the arc. He still had some defensive lapses, but his shooting stroke was quite impressive.

Fellow Celtics rookie Marcus Smart struggled in his first Red Claws appearance. Turns out he can’t shoot in the D-League either, as he missed his first 11 shots.

Dwight Powell had a great fourth quarter, getting to the rim with ease. He was an efficient 9-for-14 and finished with 21 points.

Read More: James Young, Marcus Smart,
Marcus Smart on Celtics-Lakers rivalry: ‘We’ve got 17 [championships]; they’ve got 16′ 12.04.14 at 1:38 am ET
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Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart

In his first action in almost a month, Celtics rookie Marcus Smart played just 4:38 of the first half of Wednesday’s 109-102 overtime win over the Pistons, but he feels ready to contribute more.

“It felt good to be out there,” said Smart, who missed all three of his 3-point attempts, collecting two assists and a pair of fouls. “Last game I played was Nov. 7, so it’€™s always a good feeling to get back out there with this group of guys and get a feel for the game again. I felt like I could’€™ve gave more, but we’€™re taking things slow, and that’€™s just kind of how it goes.”

Celtics coach Brad Stevens sounded more cautious about Smart’s availability so soon after a severe ankle sprain, opting instead to play Phil Pressey and Gerald Wallace a combined 26 minutes.

“I didn’t think he looked ready,” said Stevens. “It had nothing to do physically. He hadn’t practiced. I felt like it would be better to go with Phil and Gerald. They would give us the same things that Marcus gave us, and they’ve been traveling with the team and everything else. That’s kind of tough to just throw him in there. I didn’t even see him until we got to the gym today.”

“What he says goes,” countered Smart. “If he felt like I wasn’€™t ready, then that’€™s what it is. I thought I was ready. I was lagging a little bit until my ankle got warm, and then once it did, by that time I was already out of the game. But, like I said, we’€™re just taking things slow, so it’€™s all good.”

The Celtics do not plan on practicing Thursday and will hold only a walk through session prior to Friday’s game, so there isn’t much of a window for Smart to make up for lost time. Still, Smart is optimistic he’ll be able to impact his first career game against the Lakers.

“It’€™s the rivalry,” he said. “We’€™ve got 17 [championships]; they’€™ve got 16. Everybody knows that. I’€™m excited. I definitely feel like I’€™ll be ready Friday to give a little bit more, but it really comes down to how coach feels and if he feels like I’€™m able to give more.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Marcus Smart, NBA,
Marcus Smart will play Wednesday according to all indications 12.03.14 at 6:20 pm ET
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After a 10 game absence, it appears the Celtics will finally have Marcus Smart back in the lineup on Wednesday when they take on the Pistons in Boston. Smart has been recovering from a severe left ankle sprain that occurred at home against the Pacers on Nov. 7.

“Indications are that he will be available to play,” Stevens said of the rookie prior to tip-off.

So how much will Smart be available to play on Wednesday?

“Well, I don’t know,” Stevens replied. “Just because he hasn’t even practiced, really, with us. It’s hard to tell. He probably won’t play quite as much, he could be on a little bit of a minutes [restriction]. So, [it’s] hard to tell. I think we need what he brings on a normal basis, so hopefully he’s able to do that.”

Smart also briefly answered some questions in the locker room about an hour before Wednesday’s game regarding the ankle:

How healthy his ankle is: “I’m pleased with the progress. I’m not saying it’s 100 percent, but it’s durable.”

How many on court drills has he done: “I’ve actually been doing quite a few things. A lot of cutting, jumping, full-out sprints.”

Is he secure with his ankle: “As of right now, yes I am.”

Any swelling: “No, if it was swelling I wouldn’t even be trying to give it a go.”

Will he be wearing a brace: “Just taped it really tight. I can barely move right now, which is probably a good thing.”

Has he always taped his ankles: “[I was] always a tape guy, just the day I hurt it I forgot to put on tape … I really forgot.”

And the obvious follow up, will he ever forget to tape again: “Never again.”

In the five games Smart did play in for the C’s (including the game he got injured during), he averaged 6.8 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.2 steals. Although he struggled mightily with his shooting, Smart’s best quality had been his defensive intensity. Stevens will be counting on Smart bringing the same intensity in his return on Wednesday.

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Marcus Smart returns to practice, Avery Bradley tries to focus on being aggressive 11.26.14 at 4:37 pm ET
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Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart

The Celtics‘ main focus during their practices on Wednesday and Thursday will be on preparing to battle a tough Bulls team when Chicago arrives in Boston for a Black Friday matinee. However, a share of the spotlight will be on Marcus Smart’€™s return to practice, with the hope that he can suit up after missing seven games with a sprained left ankle.

“It’€™s just a matter of him getting back out here, and it’€™s more about conditioning than it is about anything else right now,” offered Brad Stevens. “€œJust because he hasn’t done anything on the court physically, as far as five-on-five in the last three weeks, or whatever it’€™s been.”

One thing the team certainly will not do is rush Smart,€“ especially after Avery Bradley attempted to return prematurely from an ankle injury just last season.

“I don’€™t know [if Bradley can offer Smart any help on returning],”€ Stevens said. “Again, I trust our medical team and medical staff, and I think that Marcus and Avery, I’€™m sure, will share that discussion and talk about that. We don’€™t want anybody to come back before they’€™re physically able, because, obviously, you don’€™t want to put yourself in a bad spot.”

Bradley knows he put himself in a bad spot last year, so his advice to Smart was simple.

“€œIt’€™s tough. This is his first year. Obviously he wants to help our team out and he’€™s a little disappointed that he hasn’t been able to every single game,” Bradley said. “He’€™s back, but one thing everyone’€™s been telling him is just make sure that your body feels good, listen to your body.”

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Brad Stevens, Marcus Smart,
Brad Stevens preaches defense at practice, Marcus Smart speaks for first time since injury 11.13.14 at 7:34 pm ET
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Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart

Following Wednesday’s home loss to the Thunder, Brad Stevens took the Celtics through a practice that lasted almost two hours on Thursday afternoon and not surprisingly, the focus was on defense after the C’s let up 109 points to a severely short-handed Oklahoma City squad.

“I think we wanted to talk about some things we were doing defensively and not doing defensively,” Stevens said. “We watched a lot of film of that. And then, you know, we’ll see what the carryover looks like. [But it clearly] was a defensive oriented film session and review session.”

Stevens added: “We did some good things. But we did not sustain them, and that was the other emphasis [Thursday].”

There was some positive news coming from the session.

Marcus Smart was up and walking around at the Celtics‘ practice facility, and also spoke to the media for the first time since spraining his left ankle during last Friday night’s game.

“I’ve sprained my ankle before, plenty of times,” said Smart. “It’s a part of the game, it’s a part of being an athlete. But I’ve never been in that type of pain with my ankle before, so it was something new to me.”

The pain was obvious since Smart was ushered off the court on a stretcher, but even though the sprain turned out to be less serious than what seemed at the time, the rookie is being cautious about how he handles the injury moving forward.

“I’m just taking it slow, taking my time, [I want to] make sure I’m 100 percent,” Smart said. “I don’t really want to rush anything right now. Even though I’m going to feel better before I really am, I’m just trying to make sure that, you know, I’m 100 percent before I step on the court again.”

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Read More: Brad Stevens, Marcus Smart, Marcus Thornton,
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