|How good can Jared Sullinger be? ‘He’s not there, he can get better’||02.08.14 at 3:29 pm ET|
There’s not a big man hotter than Jared Sullinger, at least three games into February.
He is averaging 23.7 points and 12.7 rebounds in registering a double-double in his first three games of the month. Not coincidentally, the Celtics have followed up their worst month in history with a 3-0 start to February.
Friday night, he had a career high 31 points and 16 rebounds in posting his fourth straight double-double overall in a 99-89 win over the Kings. Perhaps just as impressive is the fact that he accomplished those numbers against another power big in DeMarcus Cousins.
“I think we’re doing a better job looking for him,” Brad Stevens said. “He feels a little bit better even though that dislocated finger’s still wrapped up. I think he feels better every day, and you know, it’s like we talked about last week: fair or unfair, that’s who we need him to be. And so that’s the opportunity in front of him. He’s capable and I’m not saying that you have to get a double-double every day but he’s darn near capable of doing that. And so I think that the more that we can continue to build off that, the better.
“[Sullinger] is a 6-foot-7 [big man]. That’s the one thing. And that’s what makes Jared unique is he’s a big, strong guy that can score over bigger guys in the post. But then, that’s why it’s so critical, and we’ve talked about it, that he continues to work and refine his perimeter game, which he’s obviously doing well with. But it’s not where it will be someday.”
What is Sullinger’s ceiling?
“How high does he reach?” Stevens deadpanned. “He’s not there. That’s the good news. He’s not there; he can get better. And I think, obviously, 31 and 16 is great; can you do that every night? No one in the league is doing that every night. But the bottom line is, as he continues to improve, as he continues to get more games underneath his belt, as he continues to get further away from the surgery and gets another more freshness and another summer of work and all of those things, I just think that the sky’s the limit. He’s playing at a nice level, there’s no question about it, but I really believe that he can be a consistent double-double guy.’
Sullinger is averaging 13.4 points and a team leading 8.1 rebounds in a season where he easily could be considered the team MVP. His scoring is up nearly four points from his rookie season and his rebounds are up one per game over last season.
“It is just more space, in college I was double all the time so I had to find ways to score,” Sullinger said. “That’s why my offensive rebounding has been the way it has been, I had to find other ways to score in college.”
Something else that’s been better in the last three games is Sullinger’s demeanor on the court.
“I just went out and played my game I have been doing it for the last couple of games and just have been letting go. I am showing better body language according to my father,” Sullinger said with a sheepish grin.
While the winning may be hurting the team’s draft position, Stevens is just happy that there are clear signs that the right pieces are in place.
“I think the nice part about it is at the end of the day, you had Phil Pressey out on the floor at 22 or 23 years old, you had Kelly Olynyk on the floor, you had Jared Sullinger on the floor, you had a lot of young guys on the floor but it was also we had a lot of real savvy basketball players out there,” Stevens said. “And I think this team is really figuring out what they do best individually and playing off of that. I thought the guy who really lifted us in a lot of ways was Gerald (Wallace). I thought his physicality and toughness all over the court was great.”
|Mike Petraglia talks Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger with NBA insider Jessica Camerato||at 2:26 am ET|
|Jared Sullinger, Jerryd Bayless provide offensive punch, lead short-handed C’s to win||02.07.14 at 9:50 pm ET|
The short-handed Celtics have suddenly won three straight.
Jared Sullinger scored a career high 31 points and grabbed 16 rebounds to lead the short-handed Celtics to their third straight win, a 99-89 victory over the Kings Friday night at TD Garden. All three wins (Orlando, Philadelphia and Sacramento) come against losing teams that figure to provide much stiffer competition for draft position in the NBA lottery this spring.
Gerald Wallace added eight points, grabbed 12 rebounds and dished nine assists as the Celtics have followed up their worst month in history (2-15 in January) with three straight wins to open February.
Jeff Green added 17 points on 6-of-20 shooting to help the Celtics improve to 18-33, which may not be great news in the long run. Boston moved 3.5 games ahead of last place Philadelphia in the Atlantic Division.
The Kings took advantage of the depleted Celtics early on, building a 29-19 lead late in the first quarter. DeMarcus Cousins was big early on, scoring 13 of his team-high 31 points in the opening quarter. Cousins and Sullinger each finished with 31 points and 16 rebounds. Sacramento led 29-21 after 12 minutes.
But Olynyk led the Celtics back in the second quarter, scoring nine of his 11 first-half points off the bench. Olynyk couldn’t miss in the first half, hitting all three field goals, including a 3-pointer, while draining all four free throws. Olynyk had eight of Boston’s 12 points in a 12-0 run that put the Celtics on top, 31-29. Boston outscored Sacramento, 28-17, in the second quarter to grab a 49-46 halftime lead.
The Kings scored the first six points of the second half, taking a 52-49 lead, moving coach Brad Stevens to call a time out. After the break, the Celtics responded with a 10-0 run. The Kings responded with the game’s next seven points to tie the game again, a trend that continued for most of the third quarter as the Celtics led, 71-69, heading into the final 12 minutes.
Isaiah Thomas added 24 points for the Kings and got into a brief scuffle with Bayless late in the fourth quarter under the Kings basket. The tussle came close to spilling into the stands but was brought under control just in time. Both players were assessed technicals but remained in the game.
The Celtics opened the fourth quarter on an 18-4 run and were never threatened down the stretch. The Celtics have Saturday off before hosting the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday evening (6:30 p.m. ET) at TD Garden.
For more, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.
|Celtics sign Chris Johnson for rest of season||at 8:11 pm ET|
The team announced just before Friday’s game with Sacramento that they have signed 6-foot-6 swingman to a multi-year contract.
Johnson 23, has appeared in eight games for the Celtics and has averaged 7.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.3 assists in 21.6 minutes in eight games. He posted a career-high 12 points against Brooklyn on Jan. 26 and recorded a career-high four steals against Washington on Jan. 22.
Johnson had appeared in 20 games for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the NBA Development League earlier this season where he had averaged 19.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.0 block in 37.2 minutes per game.
According to Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com, Johnson will be paid at a prorated rate based on a salary of $320,000 this season, allowing the Celtics to stay below the luxury tax threshold.
adding Chris Johnson's pro-rated salary ($320K), C's now at roughly $70.94 million in luxury tax calculations, about $810K shy of line.
— Chris Forsberg (@ESPNForsberg) February 8, 2014
Thankful for another day!
Chris Johnson‘s second 10-day contract expired at midnight, but the Celtics have already informed the 23-year-old wing they will sign him for the remainder of the season. Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the news.
The 6-foot-6 Johnson has averaged 7.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.0 steals in 21.6 minutes over eight games in a Celtics uniform, registering an impressive 60.9 true-shooting percentage. His performance convinced Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge to fill one of the team’s two open roster spots for a pro-rated minimum salary that translates into less than $500,000 against the cap.
“I think it’s a great story, but it’s not like it’s some miracle,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters after Thursday’s practice. “It’s the result of hard work, doing the right things, not being scared of the moment, taking advantage of opportunities, those type of things.”
As the Celtics did with Chinese imports Shavlik Randolph, D.J. White and Terrence Williams last season, they are expected to give Johnson, who was playing for the D-League’s Rio Grande Valley Vipers three weeks ago, a non-guaranteed deal for next season that will keep him around until training camp.
Thanks to the Courtney Lee deal, the Celtics still have roughly $1 million worth of wiggle room under the luxury tax line after signing Johnson, granting them some flexibility as the trade deadline looms.
|Celtics remain unbeaten with Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley backcourt||02.05.14 at 9:33 pm ET|
The Celtics hadn’t won two games in a row since Dec. 13 and 16, gathering Ping Pong balls as they slid down the NBA standing over the past month, but the C’s improved to 2-0 with Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley in the starting backcourt.
Rondo approached triple-double territory (8 points, 11 assists, 9 rebounds), Bradley contributed 14 points before tweaking his ankle again and the two combined for five steals in a 114-108 victory against the host 76ers.
Jeff Green led all scorers with 36 points, helping the Celtics (17-33) avenge last week’s buzzer-beating loss to Philadelphia (15-35) in the Garden. Jared Sullinger (19 points, 10 rebounds, third straight double-double), Brandon Bass (18 points) and Jerryd Bayless (11 points) also reached double figures.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Backcourt’s back: After missing two weeks with an ankle injury, Bradley picked up where he left off, scoring 17 points in his return on Sunday and reaching double figures against the Sixers within the game’s first 10 minutes. Despite playing four seasons together, Bradley and Rondo haven’t even started in the same backcourt for half a season’s worth of games. How that duo performs the rest of the way could dictate whether they remain teammates for years to come. The early returns are positive — on both sides of the ball, as Bradley and Rondo also helped keep Michael Carter-Williams (11 points) and Evan Turner (12 points) in check.
Green thumbs up: Likewise, Green showed signs of the uber-athletic potential everyone imagined in his pairing with Rondo. Green had a baker’s dozen by halftime, and Rondo assisted on three of his five field goals — including back-to-back buckets during a 10-0 run that helped the Celtics establish a nine-point lead just before halftime. Green’s confidence tends to build momentum when he’s involved early, and Rondo may help make that a trend.
Sharing the wealth: Actually, just about everybody benefited from Rondo’s presence. The C’s assisted on 13 of their 14 first-quarter field goals, taking a 34-23 lead after one, and finished the first half with 19 dimes on 23 FGs. Rondo had nine of the 19. While the Sixers made their runs to cut into the advantage — even taking the lead in the second quarter — the Celtics‘ execution on the offensive end helped keep them at bay.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Awkward Klynyk: Kelly Olynyk continues to endure some growing pains. Brad Stevens severely limited the rookie’s minutes during an all-around poor performance. In one tough-to-watch stretch, a Philadelphia shot clock violation bailed him out of biting on a Spencer Hawes up-fake from beyond the arc, and then he committed a horrific turnover in transition. He finished with one point and two giveaways in 12 minutes.
Sloppy second: Stevens rested Rondo with a seven-point lead midway through the second quarter, and the 76ers immediately rattled off a 10-2 run that included a pair of Carter-Williams buckets in his absence. The stagnant C’s were forced to bring back the still recovering Rondo after just three minutes. Through three quarters, the Celtics outscored the Sixers 68-57 with Rondo on the floor while Philly owned a 25-20 advantage with him on the bench.
Avery’s ankle: Bradley tweaked his ankle again late in the fourth quarter and sat the final 3:16. After his performance alongside Rondo the last two games, any more missed time would be another devastating blow.
|Irish Coffee: Rajon Rondo, financial planning for NBA free agency and a Celtics conspiracy that just makes cents||01.31.14 at 5:49 pm ET|
Celtics captain Rajon Rondo is due $12.9 million next season — the final year of a five-year, $55 million extension he signed in October 2009 — and the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement makes any suggestion he’d rather test the free agency waters than sign another longterm extension an obvious one.
In the simplest terms, Rondo stands to make twice as much money on his next contract if he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2015. So, when he tells reporters, “I may want to go through” free agency, as he did after Friday’s practice, who can blame him? For years, Paul Pierce said the same, because it makes financial sense.
The following timeline — cobbled together using Larry Coon’s NBA Salary Cap FAQ and input from the Celtics front office — details what max contract Rondo can sign at different points over the next 18 months, and should help explain why Rondo won’t sign an extension this season and may not end up signing one next season.
(Even if Rondo doesn’t ultimately sign for max dollars, which he probably won’t, this exercise should still demonstrate the vast difference in money available to him at various times in his near future.)
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