|WEEI.com predicts 2014-15 Boston Celtics season||10.29.14 at 8:59 am ET|
The Boston Celtics season is upon us, and our WEEI.com round table of Ben Rohrbach, Mike Petraglia, Kevin O’Connor, Julian Edlow and Sam Packard weighs in on five questions facing the C’s this season.
1. What will be Rajon Rondo‘s fate this season?
@brohrbach: We’ve seen “National TV” Rondo, but we’ve never really witnessed “Contract Year” Rondo, and that could be an awful lot of fun. He’s almost two years removed from the ACL surgery, and the broken bone in his hand appears to be only a minor setback. I’m on board with Celtics president Danny Ainge’s assessment that his four-time All-Star point guard will enjoy a career statistical year as the most exciting player on a blah team. Even then, haters will find something to complain about.
As for whether he’ll be traded or not, the Celtics will sure as heck try, but the number of teams in need of a starting point guard, willing to meet Ainge’s asking price and lining up to pay Rondo max money isn’t a long list. It’s a coin flip, but I’m now leaning more toward no deal than deal.
@Trags: Traded by January.
@KevinOconnorNBA: For Rondo to be dealt by Boston, another team needs to get desperate close to the trade deadline. Looking around the NBA, I don’t see many teams willing to cough up what it’ll take, so for now I think he’ll remain with the Celtics all season.
@julianedlow: Rondo plays the year out in Boston. If he was ever going to be traded, it needed to happen by draft night. There are just no realistic packages out there that make sense for Ainge to deal Rondo. I won’t venture a guess as to what happens after this season, but I guarantee it won’t be boring.
Marcus Smart’s shooting was a topic of many discussions during the preseason, to the point that it has begun to steal the spotlight from exactly what kind of player Danny Ainge and the Celtics may have acquired in Smart.
Smart is a premier defender and an elite athlete who may be much more talented on the offensive side of the ball than we give him credit for. We still need to see Smart play alongside Rajon Rondo, but so far Smart is the one who has been keeping himself from being far more efficient.
Ben Rohrbach wrote a well-researched piece earlier in the preseason that focused primarily on Smart’s poor 3-point shooting — something that Smart should try to stay away from early in his career. As Ben points out in his piece, Rondo and Avery Bradley both have significantly improved their shooting in one way or another since the beginning of their careers. So as a long-term goal, Smart never should give up on developing a shot from downtown in the NBA. But now is not the time to pretend to have one already.
Three-point shooting is something that Smart should be working on — and has been working on daily behind closed doors. But if he plays to his strengths, Smart can be far more efficient than we saw overall in the preseason. He did give us glimpses, though, and they looked mighty good.
The best example of what Smart is capable of came in the preseason finale against the Nets. Smart only played 16 minutes, but he dropped 16 points to go along with his four assists and two steals. The important part is that Smart shot 5-for-8 from the field, including 3-for-3 in the paint and 4-for-4 from the free throw line. The numbers can’t get any more efficient than that, but they can grow in volume. Smart rarely attempts 2-point field goals. So much so that he only attempted two per game in preseason action.
Are you ready for this? Smart attempted 7.5 field goals per game in the preseason and 5.5 of them were 3-pointers! This is a 25 percent 3-point shooter we’re talking about who attempted a league-leading 44 3-pointers in the preseason (and made just 11, if you’re not good at math).
|Why you should care about Wednesday’s Celtics win: Marcus Smart had his best game, Jared Sullinger can rebound||10.22.14 at 10:09 pm ET|
The Celtics wrapped up the preseason with a 100-86 victory over the Nets at the TD Garden on Wednesday night (check out the box score here). Brooklyn rested its starters, while Rajon Rondo was out once again with a broken left hand for the Celtics.
Here are other reasons why you should have cared about the Celtics‘ preseason finale:
Marcus Smart had a very strong showing back in the starting point guard role
Smart opened up the game by swishing a 3-pointer out of the corner, which was nice for Celtics fans to see since shooting is one of his biggest weaknesses. However, Smart did a much better job of slashing through the lane than he has in previous games. He was able to connect on three layups in traffic, while also going 4-for-4 from the free throw line. Attacking the basket might be Smart’s biggest strength, so it was certainly positive to see him do so efficiently before the preseason came to an end.
Smart never saw the floor in the second half, but the damage was done. He racked up 16 points in just 15 minutes of action, adding four assists, a rebound and two steals. Perhaps most importantly, he did it on 5-for-8 shooting from the field — all three of his misses coming from downtown. Good things happen when Smart gets into the paint.
Jared Sullinger was a beast on the boards once again
Sullinger is a very good scorer, but he is a phenomenal rebounder. After ripping down 19 boards on Sunday, Sullinger grabbed 13 in the first half alone Wednesday. He finished the game with what is becoming a classic Sullinger stat line — 15 points and 17 rebounds. Sullinger did so while shooting 7-for-10 from the field in 26 minutes of action.
James Young returned from a hamstring injury
Young hurt his hamstring while warming up for the first preseason game, but kept that information to himself and ended up by playing in the game. Young posted 10 points in his debut, but then has missed each preseason contest since. He also didn’t play in a summer league game following a car crash.
The rookie wasted no time Wednesday, nailing a 3-pointer on his first possession in the game. He finished with just five points and four rebounds, but keep in mind it was just his second professional game. Young has plenty of room to grow this season.
|Is Celtics’ Marcus Smart really this bad a shooter?||10.13.14 at 1:48 pm ET|
Following a trend that’s been in decline since his days at appropriately named Marcus High in Flower Mound, Texas, Smart is attempting a higher rate of his shots from distance, even as his 3-point percentage progressively worsens.
Let’s take a look at Smart’s shooting percentages from inside the 3-point line — where he’s an exceptional finisher at the rim and gets to the free throw line with tremendous effectiveness — and beyond it since his junior year of high school.
2010-11 (high school junior): 176-292 2P (.603), 29-84 3P (.345)
2011-12 (high school senior): 143-216 2P (.577), 41-110 3P (.372)
2012-13 (Oklahoma State freshman): 113-243 2P (.465), 38-131 3P (.290)
2013-14 (Oklahoma State sophomore): 114-222 2P (.514), 49-164 3P (.299)
2014-15 (summer league/preseason): 14-41 2P (.342), 13-56 3P (.232)
At the prep level, Smart could get to the rim with ease, but his 6-foot-4, 226-pound frame becomes less of an advantage as the competition level rises. Likewise, scouting plays an increased role at each stage, and defenses are designed to encourage Smart’s shooting while discouraging his penetration.
As a result, the Celtics rookie’s long-distance attempts have increased from 27.6 percent of his total shots in high school to 38.8 percent in college and now 57.7 percent in nine games of summer league and preseason action. Granted, that’s a limited sample size in the NBA — where the 3-point distance is greater and he may be attempting more exhibition 3’s to adjust — but Smart’s excessive poor 3-point shooting remains a concern.
As usual, DraftExpress did a nice job of breaking down Smart’s catch-and-shoot struggles at Oklahoma State, where he was just as bad — if not worse — from mid-range as he was from 3, per shotanalytics.com.
|Why You Should Care About Wednesday’s Celtics Win: Jared Sullinger, Marcus Smart stand out||10.08.14 at 10:27 pm ET|
HARTFORD — The Boston Celtics beat the New York Knicks 106-86 Wednesday night at Hartford’s XL Center in Hartford (see box score here). With few standout individual performances beyond Jared Sullinger’s 23 points on 12 shots, the real star of Thursday night’s game was the Celtics‘ team defense.
The Celtics played aggressive, jumping in passing lanes and contesting jump shots. They finished with x14 steals and held the Knicks to 40 percent shooting.
The young Celtics guards, especially Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley, played at a frantic pace, leading to a number of scoring opportunities in transition. And the Knicks did not do themselves any favors, as they committed 28 turnovers.
Self-proclaimed underrated supserstar Carmelo Anthony also struggled, scoring just 10 points on 3-of-9 shooting from the field opposite Evan Turner.
OTHER REASONS TO CARE AOBUT CELTICS-KNICKS:
Marcus Smart made a shot!
Four, actually. After an 0-for during his NBA debut, Smart scored 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting. He scored 10 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, in the second quarter. Smart, who normally looks to attack the basket, showed no hesitation taking jump shots. He also looked adept at running the offense, leading the team with six assists.
|Why you should care about Monday’s Celtics game: Marcus Smart, James Young debut; Evan Turner shines||10.06.14 at 10:29 pm ET|
As if the start of basketball season starting up wasn’t reason enough for you to care about the Celtics‘ preseason opener on Monday night, then Marcus Smart and James Young making their NBA debuts — and leading the Celtics to an easy 98-78 victory over the 76ers — should be. (See the box score here.)
Smart spoke before the game about being nervous: “Of course, [there's] always nerves,” he said. “First game at a different level, there’s always going to be nerves, but [I've] just got to figure out how to calm them down.”
His nerves were evident as he finished with just two points (0-8 FGs). Despite not shooting the ball particularly well, his effort on both ends of the floor was unmatched. He played lockdown defense on each and every possession coming up with three steals in the process. Although his shots weren’t falling, Smart did a good job running the offense, particularly leading the fast break. He ended up with six assists in his 27 minutes.
Young began the game cold, and his nerves were perhaps most evident when he missed his first two free throws just moments after stepping onto the floor. But he picked up the slack in the second half and was able to finish in double figures with 10 points on 3-8 shooting. Young was just 1-5 from 3-point land, but had several unlucky bounces off the iron.
OTHER REASONS YOU SHOULD HAVE CARED ABOUT MONDAY’S GAME
Evan Turner shined while playing multiple positions.
In the absence of Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green, Turner was exactly what the Celtics needed to fill both roles. Turner started the game at small forward and started the second half at point guard for Brad Stevens, yet was the C’s best player regardless of position. Turner flirted with a triple-double in his 31 minutes, posting 15 points and 10 rebounds to go along with six assists.
Jared Sullinger still is a rebounding machine.
Sullinger got the start at power forward and was his usual self in terms of crashing the glass. Like much of the team, Sullinger did not shoot the ball well (4-15 FGs) but he still found ways to be effective. Sullinger ripped down 13 boards and still managed to score 10 points.
There still are some veterans who can score.
Not many people came into this season excited about Brandon Bass or Marcus Thornton, but they can both still fill it up. Bass finished with 15 points and nine rebounds in just over 19 minutes of action, while Thornton scored 14 in only 14 minutes off the bench. Bass and Thornton don’t figure to be a big part of the future in Boston, but with both of their contracts expiring at season’s end, their strong play makes them both viable trade candidates.
The Celtics will take on the Knicks in Hartford on Wednesday night.
|Celtics open training camp, Brad Stevens ready for more aggressive approach||09.30.14 at 7:04 pm ET|
The Celtics kicked off training camp Tuesday with two-a-days at the team’s training facility in Waltham. It’s somewhat of a new trend for the team, which has journeyed to Newport, Rhode Island, for training camp the last several years.
Brad Stevens had a simple state of mind as to why the team is staying local.
“Because my office is here,” he said. “The computer is there, the TV I know how to work is in the same place. The equipment guys don’t have to carry thousands of bags. The video guys don’t have to move their whole life. It made a lot more sense to stay here. … The kind of work we get done is a lot more important than anything else, like where we do it.”
Stevens indicated he may have moved things along a bit too slowly last season and wants to take a more aggressive approach this time around.
“I’ve got a great idea about how fast or how slow I need to go,” he said. “Right now, in a lot of ways I’m trying to throw as much at them as possible in the next three days and then we’ll break it down after that.”
Added Stevens: “I thought I was too gradual last year and so we’re going to be a lot quicker in that. But at the same time, at the appropriate time, after a couple of days we’ll stop and hopefully break it down.”
With Rajon Rondo out of camp with a broken hand, Stevens briefly explained the team’s point guard situation on the first day of camp: “We had three teams, Evan [Turner], Marcus [Smart] and Phil [Pressey].”
Turner is less of a true point guard than Smart and Pressey, but that doesn’t concern Stevens.
“One thing is you don’t really know [is how Turner will respond], but he’s better with the ball than not,” Stevens said, adding: “Not withstanding Rondo, he’s as good of a pick-and-roll player as we have.”
Continued Stevens: “We have one point guard healthy that has NBA experience and that’s Phil Pressey. And that’s not a lot of it. I’m not as worried about [the point guard position] because I think people are going to put you in a box for your position, and I’m just not going to do that. I’m not going to worry about it. [Turner's] a ball handler, he can make plays, he’s smart. And then I think that keeps our other guys in the positions that they’re most comfortable.”
The Celtics continue camp in Waltham all week before hosting a practice at the TD Garden on Friday for season ticket-holders.