|Paul Pierce: Jared Sullinger at All-Star weekend is a ‘no-brainer’||01.14.13 at 9:15 pm ET|
Entering Monday, there wasn’t a hotter rookie in the NBA than Jared Sullinger. The first-year player out of Ohio State was a huge reason the Celtics bench had awoken from its slumber and helped the Celtics run off five straight wins. Sullinger had back-to-back double-doubles against the Suns and Rockets and is averaging 25.5 minutes per game in the first six games of January.
Sullinger is fourth among all rookies in rebounding at 5.9 rebounds per game and tied for fourth in double-doubles with three. But perhaps most significant to the Celtics is the contribution he’s made as a rookie on a team with championship expectations. Anthony Davis (New Orleans), Andre Drummond (Detroit) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Charlotte) are all on teams that will likely be watching the playoffs on TV in the spring.
Celtics captain Paul Pierce said there is no doubt in his mind Sullinger should be part of NBA All-Star weekend activities when a team of the best rookies take on a team of the best second-year players in Houston.
“I think that’s like a no-brainer,” Pierce said with a smile. “In the rookie class, I can’t even name five quality rookies. [Sullinger] is playing well and playing significantly for the ball club. I definitely think he should be there.”
Celtics head coach Doc Rivers says he is not overly concerned about the lower assist totals of point guard Rajon Rondo in the last three weeks. Entering Monday’s game, Rondo averaged 8.3 assists over his last 12 games. He recorded double-digit assist totals in just four of those games.
“I don’t know. Maybe I’ll call [assistant GM, team counsel and stat guru] Mike Zarren and figure it out,” Rivers laughed. “Honestly, bench is playing really well and his minutes are down over the stretch as well. Ball movement is better and maybe it’s a by-product of that, but we can do that and he can still have high assist games as well. It’s just one of those stretches.”
Rivers also spoke about not taking the 9-27 Bobcats lightly. Charlotte started out the season 7-5 before losing 22 of their last 24 coming into Monday’s game in Boston. Rivers also confirmed that big-man Chris Wilcox (thumb) is getting closer to returning, and would dress but not play in Monday’s game as the Celtics need to dress 12 players for the game.
|Irish Coffee: 10 things I heard about Celtics||at 3:50 pm ET|
As the Celtics prepare to extend their season-long winning streak to six against the Bobcats at the Garden on Monday night, here are 10 C’s links of interest we discovered over the weekend.
10. Plenty was made of Celtics superstar Kevin Garnett‘s reported Honey Nut Cheerios remarks about Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony‘s wife, which Celtics coach Doc Rivers vehemently denied on Thursday, but the best take came, naturally, from Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert.
“Oh, snap, crackle and pop, you just got Apple Jacked,” said Colbert. “Kevin’s saying he had your wife, reality star La La Vazquez, as part of this complete breakfast. Folks, this brings me to a tip of my hat to Kevin Garnett for forging a bold new path in product placement. This isn’t just trash talk. It’s Hefty brand trash talk. Forget gym shoes or Sprite, from now on all NBA games should be filled with athletes incorporating national brands into their taunting. Yo mama’s so fat, she should switch to Chobani non-fat Greek yogurt now with active probiotics.”
Apparently, La La agrees, because she wants some free cereal out of the deal.
Not for nothing,but we ALL deserve a check or some free cereal 4all the publicity we’ve given Honey Nut Cheerios! LOL #cantbelieveeverything
— LA LA(@lala) January 11, 2013
9. Two of Garnett’s most influential mentors, former Timberwolves coach Kevin McHale and longtime Minnesota teammate Sam Mitchell, also came to his defense. All things Kevin Garnett tend to be fascinating, and neither Mitchell nor McHale disappointed in separate stellar stories by The Globe’s Gary Washburn.
Mitchell: “Kevin has always taken the attitude that he’s not good enough. The great players feel that way. After 18 years playing in the NBA, why does he play so hard? Not the money. It’s the love of it and the fact that he’s still proving to himself that he deserves to be in this league and he has to go out and earn it and prove it every night.”
McHale: “We spent a lot of time in the gym together when I was not as gray and moved a little bit better. Great kid. Great work ethic. Turned himself into a fantastic player for years and years and years. With his energy level, what he’s still able to accomplish in the NBA, not so much his age, but look at the amount of minutes he’s played. It’s just phenomenal. I’m happy for him.”
|Jared Sullinger ‘happy to hack’ while Celtics winning||01.12.13 at 1:29 am ET|
Jared Sullinger may be soft spoken but he certainly isn’t shy.
For the fifth time in 36 games, the Celtics rookie fouled out of a game. But all of the fouls are rolling off his back during a five-game winning streak that has transformed the Celtics from a 14-17 team to a 19-17 club that is starting to click and move up the Eastern Conference standings.
“As long as we’re winning I’m happy. Happy to hack,” Sullinger said with a big smile. “No biggie.”
Sullinger wasn’t laughing with 10:01 left in the game Friday when he picked up his fifth foul, with the Celtics leading 83-69. The Rockets scored the next 12 points.
But earlier in the game, Sullinger was the biggest reason the Celtics built a double-digit lead. He had 14 points and eight rebounds off the bench in the first half. That was the same number the Celtics starters had combined late in the first half.
“It’s coming easier,” Sullinger said. “Obviously, it’s been 36 games, so I should be used to the NBA by now. It’s just me and my comfort zone right now.”
“He’s playing better, so the coach has more confidence in him,” Doc Rivers added. “That’s [No.] 1. I said it early in the year, when he’s on the floor, he does the right stuff. And a lot of stuff you don’t see, just being able to throw him the ball. How many rookies have we ever thrown the ball to at the top of the circle, and he decides which way he wants to go with it? He just has a great calm about him. He helps us. Especially with that second unit, because you gotta always have a passing big in our offense, and he gives us that extra passing big.”
Sullinger finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds, his second straight double-double.
“We’re just playing hard, we’re in a groove right now. Five games, you know obviously we’re in a great groove right now,” Sullinger said. “I’m just playing hard, that’s all it is.”
|Jared Sullinger and Paul Pierce get revenge on the Rockets||01.11.13 at 9:58 pm ET|
Paul Pierce scored 23 points while Jared Sullinger had 14 points and 11 rebounds off the bench as the Celtics withstood a late charge from the Rockets to win their fifth straight, 103-91, Friday night at TD Garden. Kevin Garnett added 17 points and eight rebounds and Courtney Lee had 14 points for the Celtics, who improve to 19-17 on the season.
James Harden had 21 and Jeremy Lin added 12 points for the Rockets, who had to settle for a season split of their series with the Celtics. Houston beat Boston, 101-89, on Dec. 14 at the Toyota Center in Houston.
Early on, it was a game of runs. The Celtics jumped out to an 8-4 lead before the Rockets responded with a 13-0 spurt, as Jeremy Lin and James Harden hit 3-pointers in the spurt. But the Celtics came back with a 14-2 run of their own as Jeff Green and Courtney Lee hit consecutive threes. Boston took a 24-21 lead after 12 minutes.
Sullinger took over in the second quarter and led a bench effort that dominated for the second straight game. Sullinger had 14 points and eight rebounds in the first half. Those were the same numbers posted by Celtics starters combined until Pierce hit a three with 1:27 left in the second quarter. The Celtics bench had a season-high 36 points in the first half, outscoring the Houston reserves, 36-9, and taking a 53-45 halftime lead.
While the Celtics were held without a free throw in the first half, the Rockets self-destructed at the line, converting just 5-of-12 from the charity stripe. The Rockets finished the game a miserable 12-of-29 from the line.
Pierce came out on fire in the third quarter scoring eight of Boston’s first nine points in a 9-0 run that stretched the lead to 17. Pierce finished the third with 11 points and the Celtics led 78-66 going into the fourth.
The Rockets finally heated up in the fourth quarter and took advantage of Celtics sloppiness and a key foul. Sullinger picked up his fifth foul with 10:01 left and the Celtics leading 83-69. Houston scored the next 12 points thanks to several turnovers. The run was finished off when Harden fed Parsons for a one-handed dunk over Pierce with 7:22 left in the fourth, cutting Boston’s lead to two, 83-81.
But it was Pierce to the rescue. Pierce ended the Rockets’ 12-0 run with a basket with just under seven minutes left. Moments later, he was fouled on his layup and converted the three-point play to put Boston up, 92-82, with 5:51 left. A Garnett fadeaway jumper with 4:42 put the Celtics up, 94-82.
The Celtics continue their five-game homestand on Monday night against the Charlotte Bobcats. For more, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.
The last time Kevin McHale and Kevin Garnett saw each other they shared a heartfelt embrace after a Rockets win. Before Friday’s game, they shared a crowded hallway between the Celtics and Rockets locker rooms and talked about their unique relationship that included a controversial trade in the summer of 2007.
“We spent a lot of time in the gym together,” McHale reminisced. “Great kid, great work ethic; turned himself into a fantastic player for years and years and years. His energy level, what he’s been able to accomplish still in the NBA, it’s not so much his age, it’s the minutes he’s played. Look at the amount of minutes he’s played, it’s just phenomenal. And I’m happy for him. But not tonight.
“We worked on stuff. But he had such a unique skill set. We worked on fadeaways, worked on some post stuff. Especially when teams were more physical, he really learned how to post and get his spot. We worked a lot on positioning. With him, he had such a different skill set, that turnaround fadeaway, and that became kinda his go-to move. But he was such a good player from the elbow, such a good player from all over, that just putting him in the low post, that really was a disservice to KG.
“He was a great high-post passer, elbow passer. He passed out of the post. I’ve said this before, he’s one of the most unique players because he’s going to get 25,000 points before it’s over with and he’s a pass-first player. Which is amazing. Most pass-first players score 8,000 points. He’s going to have numbers that shoot-first guys don’t get. That just goes to show how talented — he’s been a first-pass, he’d much rather just make the play whatever it is than shoot the ball. That just goes to show how gifted he is.”
The biggest difference between the two power forwards? McHale was shoot first while KG is one of the all-time best big-man passers in NBA history.
“I told him pass was a bad word. It was a four-letter word.”
Celtics coach Doc Rivers could relate, as he did before Friday’s game.
“They are the exact opposite,” Rivers said. “Other than that, they are both great players. It’s funny, our Kevin kills you with intensity; that Kevin, we laugh about it now, some of the stuff he said on the floor, he joked around half the time and ended up with 30 points and 20 rebounds or whatever.
“We were laughing, he would always ask me on the first free throw: ‘When are you trapping me? Because I know you are.’ And he would say, ‘I just want to know so I can shoot it quicker when I have to shoot. I’m going to shoot it, I just want to know when.’ He was a fun-loving, great player. Still, I think him and [Hakeem Olajuwon], I don’t know a third, as far as footwork, those two guys were as good as we ever see.”
|Marlon Wayans on Kevin Garnett vs. Carmelo Anthony||01.10.13 at 7:54 am ET|
I knew Wayans brothers movies were bad, but this bad? Maybe supposed Knicks fan Marlon Wayans should have taken a cue from Kevin Garnett after Wednesday night’s Celtics game and responded to any questions from TMZ about Carmelo Anthony by saying, “Y’all have a good night, OK?”