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Danny Ainge: ‘We’re not ready to cave in yet… It’s going to take more than that’ 02.01.13 at 6:29 pm ET
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Celtics chief basketball executive Danny Ainge says it was the right thing to do for the career of Jared Sullinger to end the rookie’s season and have back surgery now, leaving the Celtics without yet another weapon in their lineup.

The team announced late Friday afternoon that Sullinger underwent successful lumbar disc surgery Friday at the New England Baptist Hospital. Surgery was performed under the direction of Celtics Team Physician, Dr. Brian McKeon. The team announced through its release that Sullinger is expected to be ready in time for training camp for the 2013-14 season.

Ainge said Sullinger spent the last two days in the hospital before the decision was made Friday on advice from specialists to go ahead with the surgery.

The Celtics lost Rajon Rondo for the season to a torn ACL in his right knee on Sunday. Five days later, they have lost their most physical rebounder. The Celtics are 22-23 and have won two straight after a six-game skid, and are hanging on to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Still, Ainge isn’t giving up on the season.

“We’re not ready to cave in yet, are you kidding? It’s going to take more than that,” Ainge said just before Friday’s game with the Magic at TD Garden. “We’ll just have to win in a different way. Jared’s our best rebounder. We don’t have to play that way. Last two games, we played without Jared last game and I think our team looked great. The second half and most of the Miami game, we played smaller ball and were able to win. Against New York, they’re a small-ball team, we played small against them, had a win against them in New York.

“I think we’re going to have to win in a different way without Jared and without Rajon. We’ll see what we have.”

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Jared Sullinger out for the season after back surgery at 4:10 pm ET
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Jared Sullinger.

First it was Rajon Rondo and now Jared Sullinger. The Celtics rookie will miss the rest of the season after surgery Friday to repair his chronic back injury.

The team announced that Sullinger underwent successful lumbar disc surgery at the New England Baptist Hospital. Surgery was performed by the medical staff under the direction of Celtics Team Physician, Dr. Brian McKeon. The Celtics also announced Sullinger is expected to be ready in time for training camp for the 2013-14 season.

Sullinger aggravated his back in the opening minutes of Wednesday’s win over Sacramento. The news came just four hours before the Celtics host the Orlando Magic at TD Garden.

When Sullinger went down four minutes into Wednesday’s game, fears were raised that this was a recurrence of back problems that forced him to miss nearly half of his final (sophomore) year at Ohio State and fall to 21st overall in the NBA draft last June. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge confirmed those fears Friday. Head coach Doc Rivers said before Wednesday’s game that Sullinger was playing at a “top 5″ draft pick level.

The numbers support that. He averaged 7.0 points and 7.2 rebounds in 15 games in January, and finishes the season with averages of 6.0 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. He had four double-doubles, including three in January. Sullinger spent most of the season as one of the best weapons off the Boston bench but Rivers rewarded Sullinger for his development and play by moving him into the starting lineup last Sunday for the game against the Heat.

Sullinger started Wednesday and grabbed one rebound but did not score before coming out with what was first diagnosed with back spasms. He received ice treatment in the locker room and the team was hopeful he could return. Just before halftime, the team revised the prognosis and announced he would not be returning.

The story was first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports Friday afternoon.

The loss comes just five days after the Celtics lost Rondo to a torn ACL in his right knee.

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Danny Ainge ‘would like to see Paul Pierce retire as a Celtic’ 01.31.13 at 5:22 pm ET
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Danny Ainge (AP)

As always, in his weekly appearance on WEEI’s Big Show, Celtics president Danny Ainge spoke openly about the state of his team. He made two things clear following Rajon Rondo‘s season-ending ACL injury: 1) “It’s silly” to think they’ll be better without him and 2) Paul Pierce trades haven’t been discussed.

“He single-handedly carried us many nights, and I don’t see how people don’t see that,” said Ainge. “When people say we’re going to be better without Rondo or the team’s going to do better without him, it’s silly. He’s a great, great player, and he’s proven that time and time again. The guy’s been MVP of probably four or five series over the last five years — not just individual games here and there or triple-doubles on national TV. He’s been the best player in a series against LeBron James. He’s been the best player in a series against Derrick Rose. He’s been the best player in three games of an NBA Finals.”

Even before Rondo’s injury, Pierce’s name has been thrown around in trade rumors. His contract, which has just $5 million guaranteed for next season, seemingly makes him an attractive target around the league.

“Nothing has been talked about with Paul,” said Ainge. “Nothing is close to being done. I too would like to see Paul retire as a Celtic. That would be great. We’re all attached to Paul. He’s been great for the city, the franchise, and he’s been a true pro. Having said that, if something came up, I would talk to Paul. My job is to do what’s in the best interest of our team, regardless of my personal ties or my personal feelings with the players.”

The Celtics president claimed few teams have come calling for any Celtics outside of Ray Allen the last few years — citing the fact “nothing got close” in the recent Rudy Gay sweepstakes — and explained that none of his players have asked that they be kept in the loop about trades (again, except for Allen last season).

Ainge also said he’s not searching for point guard help right now, allowing Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee, Jason Terry and Leandro Barbosa to seize their opportunity.

“We are open [to making deals] and listening, but we don’t feel pressure to do anything,” said Ainge. “Whether we win every game or whether we struggle, I think it all depends on what opportunities are presented. We want to make some change to help improve our team.”

Meanwhile, Celtics rookie Jared Sullinger left Wednesday’s win in the first quarter with back spasms. He missed practice Thursday, is undergoing tests and remains day-to-day. The issues are apparently the same ones that led to Sullinger falling to the C’s in the draft. Ainge admitted, “I’m a little surprised that it’s taken this long.”

To listen to the entire interview, visit the Big Show’s audio page.

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Doc Rivers reminds Paul Pierce that he is ‘still our scorer’ at 1:59 am ET
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Doc Rivers knew everyone would have to pick up their game without Rajon Rondo. He also knew that Paul Pierce had experience doing it. But as the game began, the Celtics coach felt he was too concerned with distributing and not doing what he does best – scoring.

The Celtics’ leading scorer at 18.7 points per game was scoreless before a layup and a free throw with 2:53 left in the second quarter. Time for intervention.

“Listen, that’s how we have to play overall,” Rivers said. “Just simple, good basketball; pass the ball, move the ball. I got on Paul at the beginning of the game because I thought he was trying to be the facilitator – he must’ve read some of your all dumb-ass articles – and then once he started moving the ball, he was great. Because he’s still our scorer. I said, ‘Paul, you’re still our scorer, by the way.’ But overall I thought everybody just played their role, and played great.”

Pierce got the message, finishing with a team-best 16 points and 10 rebounds. The Celtics also made concerted effort of rushing the ball up the court against the athletic Kings.

“Again, not having Rondo, we don’t want teams to get set, where you’ve got to grind out a play and late clock, and moving,” Rivers said. “It’s just easier for us if we can get into our stuff quicker. We just advanced it at the pass, we got early posts for Kevin (Garnett), had some quick lay-ups, easy baskets, that’s what we have to do.”

Pierce wasn’t the only one facilitating the Celtics’ offense. Kevin Garnett (13 points, nine rebounds) established himself early with nine points in the first quarter.

“Yeah, he was terrific,” Rivers said. “He really did. And that’s what he – you know, all of them, everybody has to do their job. Some have to do better. And Kevin I thought tonight was terrific. Really, I thought everyone did what they needed to do. I thought our bench came in and had an unbelievable run. And I thought offensively what we did is if a play worked, we didn’t try to get smart and run another play. We kept running the same play. And when that stopped, we went to another play. It’s simple, and it sounds simple, but that’s what we did.”

The first game the Celtics played knowing Rondo was no longer an option couldn’t have gone much better for the Celtics in a 99-81 win that Boston led by as many as 28 in the third quarter.

“Well it’s important because we believe we can and we want to and we need to,” Rivers said. “So, yeah, I mean it’s vital for us. We have to win every game; that’s how we think. We have to go in every single game and look at them as single games now, and try to win them. But it’s always nice to get off to a start like this.”

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You don’t want DeMarcus Cousins on the Celtics at 1:17 am ET
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After all the trade rumors earlier this month that had the Kings shipping DeMarcus Cousins across the country in exchange for some package of Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger and/or Fab Melo, the third-year center’s Wednesday night in Boston proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that you don’t want him on the Celtics.

Of all the reasons not to package a deal for Cousins, and there are many, the fact he played dumb when asked about the rumored trade isn’t one of them. “I’m sorry,” he said, “I didn’t know that.”

In the span of two minutes during his postgame press conference, Cousins openly questioned his coach and threw the Kings organization under the bus. Do Keith Smart and the Maloof brothers deserve criticism? Absolutely. But after submitting, to put it kindly, a disinterested performance probably isn’t the best time to do so.

Asked about what went wrong in Sacramento’s 99-81 loss to the C’s, Cousins explained: “We made changes that we didn’t really need. That affected the flow of the game. We have a tendency to do that. Sometimes, you’ve got to just keep letting it ride. Sometimes, you’ve got to stick with the original game plan and just let it play through.”

First of all, I don’t even know what that means. Second of all, here’s what went wrong: The Kings allowed 37 points in the second quarter. The Celtics made their first 14 shots and finished 16-of-20 from the field in the frame.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Kevin Garnett: NBA has ‘an agenda’ in snubbing Jared Sullinger 01.30.13 at 11:58 pm ET
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The way Kevin Garnett looks at it, Wednesday’s obvious snub of Celtics rookie Jared Sullinger from the NBA All-Star “Rising Stars” competition in Houston on Feb. 17 should help light even more of a fire under the seat of the rookie out of Ohio State.

Garnett was informed after Wednesday’s game that Sullinger, who is averaging over six points and six rebounds a game for Boston, was overlooked in the annual competition of the best first and second-year players in the league.

“Really? I’m actually shocked,” Garnett said.

Then he expanded upon those thoughts.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” he said. “This league has, I guess, an agenda in what they want. And Jared’s not in that agenda. I hope it creates a monster within him. I hope it does everything [to] encourage him.”

Ironically, the snub and Garnett’s statements come on the same day that Sullinger had a recurrence of his back spasms that bothered him in his senior year at Ohio State, allowing him to drop to 21st in the NBA draft last June, and allowing the Celtics to snap him up.

For more, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.

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Fast Break: Paul Pierce, Celtics run Kings out of Garden at 9:54 pm ET
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In their first full game since learning they would finish the season without All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce (16 points, 10 rebounds) and the Celtics ran the Kings out of the building in a 99-81 victory that had the fans who stayed until the end of the blowout on their feet in appreciation.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Running men: Before Tuesday’s practice, Doc Rivers said his team would kickstart the transition game by way of the pass (rather than Rondo’s dribble) — a la the Celtics of the 1980s — and for one night they succeeded. By halftime, a C’s team that entered the game averaging 13.4 fast break points had already reached double figures, and the running game was a big reason for their 62.5 field goal percentage at the break.

Front of the house: While much of the focus remained on how the backcourt would perform, just about everybody in the C’s frontcourt came to play — thanks in large part to a complete lack of interest from DeMarcus Cousins. Kevin Garnett (13 points, 9 rebounds) and Jeff Green (12 points) combined for 10-of-10 shooting and 21 points in the first half, Pierce got his double-double and Brandon Bass (12 points) played admirably off the bench.

JET taking off: Over the past three games, Jason Terry has made 13-of-25 shots (6-14 3P) and scored at least 12 points in each game. In the first 12 games of this month, he finished 27-of-72 from the floor (9-35 3P) and reached 12 points only twice. The C’s Sixth Man also had at least four assists for the first time in three weeks. All positive signs that the backcourt can replace some of Rondo’s offense.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Back in the saddle: For the first time this season, Jared Sullinger‘s health became an issue. His back is the reason he dropped to the Celtics at No. 21 in the draft, and he asked out of the game in the first quarter against the Kings, walking gingerly back to the locker room ahead of team trainer Ed Lacerte and team physician Dr. Brian McKeon. While the team originally announced Sullinger was “likely to return” despite back spasms, the Celtics stormed to a double-digit lead and quickly declared the rookie “out for the night.”

Foul mood: Has Jason Collins always been this foul happy? He came into the game averaging 8.3 personal fouls per 36 minutes, and things got worse when he committed three personal fouls in 2:38 during the first half. That number is by far the worst of his career, and Collins averaged almost half as many fouls per 36 minutes last season. This year? He has almost as many personal fouls (56) as points and rebounds combined (60).

Royal pain: Basketball fans suffered for having to watch the Kings play on Wednesday night. Outside of Tyreke Evans (19 points, 11 rebounds), nobody played well for Sacramento, especially Cousins, who rarely found the energy to leave the perimeter on offense and played like a saloon door on defense. Kings fans deserve better than losing their team to Seattle for having to watch this group over the past several years.

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