|Irish Coffee: Celtics rookie Marcus Smart isn’t ready to start and other things we learned from Rajon Rondo’s China tour||08.27.14 at 1:55 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo is in the midst of his annual trip to China, which means more exchanges between the Celtics point guard and a media contingent that probably understands his dry humor better than Boston’s. Take this, for example.
- Hoop China: “Who’s the next Rajon Rondo?”
- Rondo: “Nobody.”
- Hoop China: Straight face.
- Rondo: “Nobody.”
- Hoop China: Smiles all around.
The folks at Red’s Army deserve an award for keeping up with the four-time NBA All-Star’s Anta tour, and fan extraordinaire @KWAPT has more Chinese sources than the CIA. For the most part, Rondo provided the same stock answers we’ve grown accustomed to — “My leadership role has grown each year” and Kevin Garnett‘s “like a big brother to me” — but his answer to a question about whether Marcus Smart could start in the backcourt this season provided some insight into his feelings about the Celtics drafting another guard with the No. 6 overall pick.
“No,” Rondo said flatly. “He’ll play a lot of minutes, but starting as a rookie at the guard position is probably impossible or one of the toughest things you can do. Only so many guards have done it in the past, especially playing at that high level, but he’ll be ready. He’ll come in ready. He seems pretty humble, and we’ll get to work.”
Avery Bradley is probably Rondo’s closest confidant on the team, so it should come as no surprise he knocked Smart down a notch, but his response also suggests he fully expects to start the season on the Celtics. Still, the roster’s youth with the additions of Smart and James Young seems to be a sticking point for Rondo.
|Avery Bradley: Celtics have chance to make playoffs||08.21.14 at 6:07 pm ET|
Consider Avery Bradley the first to declare the Celtics a playoff team this season, and he won’t be the last. In all honesty, would you want a player who entered the season already resigned to the lottery? Of course you wouldn’t.
“I feel like we have a chance to make the playoffs and make a lot of noise this year if we listen to [Celtics coach] Brad [Stevens],” Bradley told reporters from his youth basketball camp in Dartmouth. The former second-team All-Defensive selection added, “I feel like we have a chance to be a top-10 defensive team in the NBA this year.”
While any NBA player worth his salt — and Bradley’s new four-year, $32 million deal can buy an awful lot of sodium chloride — should believe both statements to be true, the question is whether either is believable. The Celtics finished with the league’s fourth-worst record (25-57) and ranked 19th in points allowed per 100 possessions (108.6). Have they done enough to climb 14 games in the standings and allow .025 fewer points per possession?
Barring a trade, the Celtics will feature at least 10 of the 15 players who finished last season. They’ve replaced Kris Humphries and Jerryd Bayless with Tyler Zeller and Marcus Thornton while adding Evan Turner and a pair of rookies. Marcus Smart is the only one of the bunch who comes with a solid reputation defensively, and he’s expected to play behind Rajon Rondo to start the year. That’s not much of a sales pitch.
Rondo is the wild card, of course, and Bradley suggested his backcourt mate has returned to form as the player who earned Third Team All-NBA and Second Team All-Defensive honors during his last healthy season. While a three-headed monster of Rondo, Bradley and Smart could theoretically form one of the league’s grittiest guard groups defensively, the Celtics still lack the rim-protecting big Danny Ainge sought this summer. Are you confident Tyler Zeller, Kelly Olynyk and Jeff Green can hold down the frontcourt? Me neither.
Meanwhile, the Eastern Conference’s other sub-.500 squads all took steps forward. The Hawks return a healthy Al Horford. The Knicks surrounded Carmelo Anthony with a few more serviceable players, including Jose Calderon and Samuel Dalembert. The Cavaliers did something, although I can’t quite remember what it was. The Pistons hired a coach with a history of winning two-thirds of his regular-season games. And the Magic, 76ers and Bucks respectively added young talent, a healthy impact center and a combination of the two.
So maybe it’s a stretch to imagine the Celtics a playoff team with staunch defense. Or maybe Stevens can extract career years from Rondo, Bradley and Jeff Green; help Olynyk, Zeller and Jared Sullinger make the leap; expedite Smart and James Young‘s contributions; and invent a time machine for Gerald Wallace. Either way, the only way the C’s come close to proving Bradley right is to match his confidence entering training camp.
|Celtics sign Kansas State SG Rodney McGruder, Indiana PF Christian Watford to fill out training camp roster||at 9:52 am ET|
In addition to signing Penn State point guard Tim Frazier, the Celtics have inked former Kansas State shooting guard Rodney McGruder and former Indiana power forward Christian Watford, presumably to non-guaranteed contracts, according to Hoop365′s Mark Deeks.
While Frazier, McGruder and Watford sounds like a law firm, the reality is the trio fills out the C’s training camp roster and allows them to stash the organization on the Red Claws this winter. The biggest wrinkle, as Deeks points out, is the newly signed Celtics bring the roster to the offseason maximum of 20 players — before Evan Turner has made his deal official.
However, with their commitment to all three undrafted rookies likely minimal for 2014-15, the C’s will have six non-guaranteed contracts, including Keith Bogans, Chris Johnson and Chris Babb. Trading Bogans, or anybody really, remains a possibility. In other words, the Celtics have options to make room for Turner, and none of the six non-guaranteed players are expected to be on the 15-man roster when the Nets come to town on Oct. 29.
McGruder averaged 15.6 points (44.2 FG%, 33.6 3P%, 75.2 FT%), 5.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.3 steals in 33.5 minutes per game as a Kansas State senior in 2012-13. Undrafted out of college, he played last year for the Magic in the Orlando Summer League, the Bobcats in Vegas and the Thunder during preseason.
Ultimately, McGruder signed with Atomeromu SE in Hungary, where he averaged 14.1 points (47.6 FG%, 23.2 3P%, 70.1 FT%), 5.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.5 steals in 27.9 minutes. In Vegas again this summer, he averaged 4.0 points and 3.6 rebounds in 12.2 minutes for the Warriors.
Watford averaged 12.3 points (43.2 FG%, 48.0 3P%, 81.1 FT%) and 6.3 rebounds in 27.9 minutes as an Indiana senior in 2012-13. Also undrafted out of college, he has sandwiched summer league stays with the Pacers, Mavericks, Pistons and Warriors around a season on Hapoel Elite in Israel, where he aerated 9.6 points (42.9 FG%, 30.5 3P%, 80.4 FT%) and 5.2 rebounds in 26.1 minutes. He and McGruder were teammates in Vegas this summer.
|Celtics president Danny Ainge uses first tweet to accept ice bucket challenge||08.20.14 at 9:34 pm ET|
‘ Danny Ainge (@danielrainge) August 21, 2014
Using his first tweet on a Twitter account that had fewer than 150 followers, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge accepted an ice bucket challenge with the help of his grandchildren, and then asked the same of Celtics owners Wyc Grousbeck and Steve Pagliuca, former C’s teammate Kevin McHale and “all 80,000 missionaries serving in the Mormon mission.” Now go follow @danielrainge (h/t @C_Ball2).
|Larry Bird accepts ice bucket challenge in tube socks||at 3:34 pm ET|
As graceful as ever, a tube-socked Larry Bird accepted the ice bucket challenge. Praise Basketball Jesus.
|Celtics invite Penn State PG Tim Frazier to camp||08.19.14 at 10:19 am ET|
As is their custom, the Celtics added another point guard with a reputation for not being able to shoot, signing Penn State’s Tim Frazier for training camp.
The 6-foot-1, 170-pound Frazier will join Rajon Rondo, Marcus Smart and Phil Pressey as the fourth floor general in Waltham next month. The C’s will already have the requisite 15 players under guaranteed contract, so – barring a trade – the 23-year-old’s deal gives them another body during preseason practices while offering him a chance to make their D-League roster or another NBA team.
The Celtics extended Red Claws contract offers to all four training camp invites last season, signing Chris Babb, Damen Bell-Holter and Kammron Taylor in Maine (DeShawn Sims signed overseas). Babb ultimately made the C’s roster in February, earning a non-guaranteed deal for training camp again this fall.
Frazier returned from a torn left Achilles in 2012 to average 14.9 points (43.0 FG%, 29.1 3P%, 78.5 FT%), 5.4 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 1.6 steals as a senior. His 641 career assists set a school record. He totaled 17 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists and six steals in 90 minutes over four summer league games for the 76ers last month.
“We love his poise,” Sixers assistant coach Chad Iske told reporters in Philadelphia. “He’s a seasoned college player, and we’re looking for point guards that can run a team and take charge of the group that’s out there and be a coach on the floor. He’s done a pretty good job of that, and we’ve seen progress in the right direction.”
Penn State announced Frazier’s signing on the basketball team’s Twitter account.
‘ Penn State Hoops (@PennStateMBB) August 19, 2014
|Kris Humphries praises Celtics coach Brad Stevens||08.14.14 at 11:22 am ET|
After a disappointing 25-win campaign, few Celtics changed uniforms, but the only outgoing veteran to play all of last season in Boston gave coach Brad Stevens high marks, and that should sit well with the organization.
In a conference call introducing the new Wizards forward to the media in Washington, D.C., Kris Humphries lauded the first-year Celtics coach for helping him improve his game 10 years into his NBA career.
“I talked to Brad all the time, and it’s just one of those things where, ‘Man, you got me a lot better,’” Humphries told reporters Wednesday. “Handling the ball, making plays, things like that. Shooting. I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful for the opportunity to keep playing in a lot of situations like the one I was in.”
Arriving early to training camp last summer, Humphries won over skeptics inside the Celtics organization and out by taking younger players under his wing, keeping quiet early in the season despite limited minutes and eventually earning a spot in the starting lineup through continued effort. Ultimately, his numbers per 36 minutes (15.1 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.6 bpg, 55.2 TS%, 18.2 PER) ranked among the best of his career.
His patience during a trying year was commendable, and while another former Celtic will receive much of the applause when the Wizards make their only trip to Boston this season on Dec. 7, a tip of the cap should be reserved for Humphries, too. The 29-year-old publicly remained open to returning to the Celtics this summer, but ultimately chose a chance to contend for an Eastern Conference crown with the Wizards, and who can blame him?
“When you’re on a team like [Washington], which I feel blessed to be in this situation, everything you do is important and you feel important,” Humphries added in the conference call. “Whatever you do on a winning team is magnified. You feel better doing stuff when you’re working towards something. It’s a little tougher when you’re playing the right way, making sacrifices, and your team doesn’t have a chance to make the playoffs.”
His sign-and-trade with the Wizards also gave the Celtics a $4.3 million trade exception, so a Humphries era that began in Boston with one inopportune photo wasn’t so bad after all. As for the Keith Bogans experience …