|Hawks represent a “machine” Brad Stevens is familiar with: Could Boston model Atlanta’s success?||01.15.15 at 3:23 pm ET|
Back in 2007 the Celtics inspired the NBA when they put together what became known as the Big Three. Since then, the Heat accumulated their own successful trio, which LeBron James is now trying to replicate in Cleveland. Teams around the league are all scrambling to put together their own Big Three, but superstars are not easy to come by. Danny Ainge has found that out since trading away Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
Meanwhile, after collecting an impressive victory in Boston without two of their top players, the Hawks are far from scrambling in search of stars. Sitting at 31-8, they’ve lost just two games since Thanksgiving. The first-place team in the Eastern Conference? It’s not the Bulls, the Wizards and certainly not LeBron’s struggling Cavs. That would be the Atlanta Hawks.
One key is balance. All five of the Hawks’ starters average at least 11.9 points, but it’s not just about scoring. They can all rebound the ball, starting with the front court duo of Al Horford and Paul Millsap. They can all distribute the ball, but the head of the monster is the crazy-quick Jeff Teague. Kyle Korver is “the most challenging player in the league that averages less than 13 points to prepare for,” according to Stevens. That can be attributed not only to Korver’s lights-out shooting from downtown, but the fact that if he’s doubled he knows how to pass out of it and if his man leaves him it’s an automatic 3-pointer. Then there’s Demarre Carroll, a do-it-all type player with the ability to drop 22 points like he did on the C’s when other starters sat out, despite being the least heralded of the five.
Bottom line is that it’s a tough group of players, but even tougher when you see how fantastic they all gel together. On top of that, Atlanta has seven players coming off the bench that all average over four points, so depth isn’t an issue. Depth is also something the superstar-less Celtics seem to have, but with such a young team they have been unable to find the same type of cohesiveness that the Hawks have.
“I think you have to look and redefine who the superstars are with our own eyes everyday, right?” Stevens said following the game when asked about how Atlanta wins without superstars. “And so I would argue that they’ve got a couple guys on their way. And I don’t know what qualifies a superstar, but I know this: Nobody in the league can keep Jeff Teague in front of them. Nobody. And [Dennis] Schroder — I’m not saying he’s a superstar yet, he’s a young kid –but nobody can keep him in front of them. And then they space it with shooters, so now it’s a basketball team, right? And Millsap’s been and All-Star, Horford didn’t play tonight, he’s been an All-Star, Korver didn’t play tonight, he’s a really good player. So they’ve got a great group and it fits well, and you might have a budding superstar in that group, right?
“The other thing that I’d say about them that stands out, jumps off the page, jumps on the page when you’re coaching against them, jumps off the page when you’re watching film: Big-time savy,” the coach continued to gush. “The game comes really easy to them. It’s slow on defense. They can see things coming. They play well together. They know the biggest threats. They react to the biggest threats. And offense, they stay spaced to make the right basketball play time and again. And I agree with you that the superstar thing and factor is a big part of this, but there’s something to be said about a group that just — it’s like a machine. They’re a machine. They’ve really got a good thing going already.”
Another thing that makes the Hawks so good is their coaching. With Mike Budenholzer at the helm, the team has taken on a new identity since his arrival in 2013, and this may be a machine that Stevens recognizes. Budenholzer coached under Gregg Popovich from 1996-2013, winning four championships in the process. The Spurs have been an organization that Stevens has practically been obsessed with since he’s been on an NBA sideline, now the Hawks might be joining that same elite class.
It seems like the Spurs/Hawks’ style is the type of play that Stevens is most interested in coaching, it’s ultimate team basketball, which might be played best in a superstar-less system. In other words, the Celtics greatest success may come from Danny Ainge searching for the perfect fits in Boston while his youngsters develop, rather than waiting for the next KG trade to fall into his lap. Ainge has been actively working the trade market of late, so he certainly isn’t waiting around, but he may want to take a look at the Hawks blueprint if he wants to taste the champagne again soon.
Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow
|Jared Sullinger: ‘We can’t play hero ball [because] we don’t have heroes’||01.06.15 at 8:58 am ET|
Jared Sullinger played one season with Paul Pierce. But that one season was enough to learn a very valuable lesson from the former captain.
One man can’t win a game. He can make a shot or haul in a rebound or make a big defensive play. But Paul Pierce learned from Doc Rivers at an early age that “hero ball” – the act of putting your team on your shoulders and trying to do it all yourself.
Monday night was yet another example of that for the 11-21 Celtics as they fell behind 50-36 at the half and by 22 in the second half before making a meaningless run in a 104-95 loss to the lowly Hornets at TD Garden.
Down 22, Stevens took most of his regulars out and turned to his bench, led by 13 points apiece from rookie James Young and Jae Crowder. But it wasn’t enough. The lesson?
“It’s a natural habit from a ton of great players,” Sullinger said. “These are all great players. We didn’t get to the league by accident. We’re great players and our natural ability comes out and we try to make that home run play. But as a team, that hurts you. As a team, that hurts you. It’s not just one individual, it’s everybody. Sometimes, I do it. We just have to step outside of ourselves and put he team first and then the home run plays will naturally spit themselves out in our system.
“We have to understand that one play is not going to make up an 18-point deficit,” Sullinger said. “That’s definitely what it’s called. It’s called hero ball. We can’t play hero ball. We don’t have heroes.
“Being a hero makes you a failure, makes you a failure. You can’t play one on five at all. As a team, the system is going to spit out who’s going to score, who’s night it is. You just have to play basketball and do better.”
Brad Stevens tried to make the same point.
“That’s the type of coach he is but as a team, we just have to do better,” Sullinger said.
Sullinger made a point after Monday’s 104-95 loss shows the weaknesses a fragile, young team has.
“No, not at all. Not at all,” Belichick said. “It’s natural. If you look around at everybody in this room was a big impact in college basketball or a big impact at wherever they played. And, their ability of us as individuals automatically says, ‘let me put the team on my back.’ As a team, you can’t do that. It’s not just one person, it’s everybody.
Look at Evan. He was a national player of the year. Tyler was an 18-10 guy at North Carolina. Marcus Smart was the man at Oklahoma State. James Young was the man at Kentucky. Jeff Green at Georgetown. I could go on and on and on. Everybody at one point was a focal point.”
Re: James Young back in: ‘Yea all his hard work he’s been putting in. Going back and forth from Maine to Boston and all the hard work he’s been putting in throughout the couple weeks is finally showing. I’m so proud and happy for him and the best is yet to come.’
|5 things we learned in Celtics’ crazy 2OT loss to Wizards||12.08.14 at 10:58 pm ET|
Where to even start with this game?
After collecting their best win of the season on Sunday, the Celtics almost did the same on Monday on the tail end of a back-to-back with the Wizards. Paul Pierce and company were looking for revenge against Boston, a team they felt they shouldn’t have lost to on Sunday, but Washington was in for more than it expected before finally coming out on top, 133-132, in a wild double-overtime affair in Washington. (Click here for the full box score)
The Wizards came out hot and opened up a lead as large as 23 points. This didn’t phase the Celtics, as their bench completely turned the game around (much, much more on this later) along with Jeff Green. Boston cut the lead down and needed an Evan Turner 3-pointer with just 0.6 seconds left in regulation to send the game to overtime tied at 110.
The C’s dominated the early part of the overtime, led by Green, Kelly Olynyk and Marcus Smart. But, the Wizards came back from down seven points to tie it at 121 with under a minute left thanks to a huge 3-pointer, by who else but Pierce. After Brandon Bass missed a potential game-winner on a breakaway, the game went into double-overtime.
The second overtime was almost identical. It started with a 3-pointer by Smart, like the first one did, and Boston continued to open up another seven-point lead. The Wizards fought back again, though. John Wall gave them a one-point lead with 44 seconds left on a 3-point play that put his athleticism and speed on display. It ended up being the final score of the game, as Turner was unable to connect on an isolation play and Smart couldn’t convert on a put-back attempt at the buzzer.
Pierce was huge in the win scoring 28 points on 9-for-12 shooting, while Wall was able to score 26 to go with 17 assists and seven rebounds (although he did have nine turnovers). Green led the Celtics with 28 points, but the rest of the damage in the near upset was done by the bench.
Here’s five things we learned in the epic loss:
|Rajon Rondo passes Paul Pierce in career Celtics assists||11.14.14 at 8:04 pm ET|
After stealing the ball from Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love, Rondo found Kelly Olynyk for a layup 1:27 into the contest, recording his first assist of Friday’s game and the 4,306th of his nine-year career in Boston.
Pierce amassed his 4,305 assists in 1,102 games over 15 seasons on the Celtics. Rondo still trails Larry Bird (5,695 assists in 870 games), John Havlicek (6,114 in 1,270) and Bob Cousy (6,945 in 917) on the career list. Judging by the company he keeps, Rondo’s not so bad.
|Paul Pierce wore a Celtics jacket to Derek Jeter’s final game||09.29.14 at 9:23 am ET|
He’s a Wizard now.
Apparently, Kevin Garnett wasn’t kidding when he said in January, “I think we’ll always bleed green as long as we’re playing basketball and as long as we’re living. Even when they bury us six feet, this is what it’s gonna be.”
|Report: Kris Humpries off to Washington after Celtics and Wizards complete sign-and-trade||07.15.14 at 3:22 pm ET|
The Kris Humphries era is over in Boston.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, the Washington Wizards will sign the big man to a three-year, $13 million deal after the two teams complete a sign-and-trade deal.
Kris Humphries has agreed to a three-year, $13M deal with Washington, league source tells Yahoo Sports. Team option on third year.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 15, 2014
Humphries and Jared Sullinger were Boston’s most consistent low-post threats last season. Humphries averaged 8.4 points and 5.9 rebounds in 69 games. The Celtics limited his time to only 19.9 minutes per game, looking to give younger players like Kelly Olynyk more playing time.
On Monday, Humphries told WEEI’s Rob Bradford that he “could definitely return” to Boston after becoming a free agent this summer.
The Wizards and Celtics are working to complete a sign-and-trade for Humphries now.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 15, 2014
Humphries came to Boston in June 2013 as part of a trade between the Brooklyn Nets and Celtics. The Celtics received Humphries, Gerald Wallace and three future first-round picks in exchange for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry.
In June, 2013, the Brooklyn Nets and Celtics and four other players (plus three future draft picks) to Boston in exchange for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry. The deal was finally completed on July 12, 2013.
Prior to his time in Boston, Humphries was most famous as the one-time husband of Kim Kardashian.
|Paul Pierce agrees to 2-year deal with Wizards||07.13.14 at 6:31 am ET|
The 36-year-old replaces Trevor Ariza on the Washington roster after Ariza agreed to terms with the Rockets earlier Saturday. Pierce had drawn interest from the Rockets, Dallas and the Lakers before agreeing with the Wizards.
Pierce spent one year with Brooklyn, averaging a career-low 13.5 points per game, having totaled 21.3 points per game for his career.
Obama , J Wall here I come
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