|Goran Dragic ‘surprised’ Isaiah Thomas landed in Boston||03.25.15 at 11:54 pm ET|
Goran Dragic requested a trade from the Suns, so when Phoenix general manager Ryan McDonough also dealt Isaiah Thomas minutes before the deadline, the news came as a bit of a shock.
“If I’m honest, I was a little bit surprised, especially because I asked for the trade,” said Dragic after his Heat beat the Celtics, 93-86. “But that’s how the NBA goes. It’s a business.”
Following Dragic’s Third Team All-NBA campaign in 2013-14, Phoenix acquired Isaiah Thomas on a four-year, $27 million contract in a sign-and-trade with the Kings — seemingly as insurance should restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe find a lucrative contract offer elsewhere.
Only the Suns then reached a five-year, $70 million deal to keep Bledsoe in Phoenix. In theory, the Suns entered this season capable of extending the two-point-guard attack that worked so well last season over a full 48 minutes, but reality eventually took over on the court.
“Unfortunately, we had three point guards at the same position and only one ball,” added Dragic, who scored a game-high 22 points Wednesday, “so it’s kind of hard to satisfy everybody.”
In the end, Dragic landed in Miami, where he’s excited about the Heat’s playoff potential, especially if they can ever get healthy, and Thomas found his way to Boston. While rumors spread that the two former teammates butted heads in Phoenix, both players squashed that notion.
Asked about the on-court dynamic between the two during their 46 games as a backcourt tandem, Thomas said, “It was nice. When we did play together, it worked. He’s a hell of a player.”
“I talked with Isaiah. He’s happy here. He was a great teammate. We had a good relationship,” added Dragic, who then offered a glowing scouting report on Thomas, who returned from injury on Wednesday. “He can score in bunches. He’s an offensive-minded player. If he’s hot, he can score 30 points easy. He has that quality to put his team on his shoulders, especially on offense.”
As for Thomas’ new backcourt mates, Dragic is also impressed and seems to think they complement him well. “[Marcus Smart] is aggressive like Avery Bradley. They’re really good defenders on the ball. … It’s always nice to have these kinds of players on your team, because you know they’re going to defend the whole game, and they’re going to cause a lot of problems for the offense.”
|5 things we learned in dramatic Celtics victory over Suns||02.23.15 at 11:47 pm ET|
In a blowout turned thriller, it was Thomas who had the most frustration to vent after being traded by the Suns and then being ejected from his first game as a Celtic. He led the C’s (21-33) over the Suns (29-28), 115-110, Monday night in Phoenix.
Thomas had a late 4-point play, followed by an acrobatic finish at the rim that essentially sealed a Boston win after Phoenix had cut the deficit to just a single point in the fourth.
Avery Bradley had a game-high 23 points for the Celtics, while Thomas had his second 21-point game off the bench in as many games as a member of the Celtics. Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight led the way for the Suns, scoring 21 and 20 points respectively.
For a complete box score, click here.
In a pick-and-roll league like the NBA, having a player like Thomas is crucial. The Celtics now have an offensive threat — a player that draws double teams because he can come off of a pick and make a quick decision to pass, shoot or drive to the rim. At 5-foot-9 he’s small in stature, but his value to the Celtics going forward is enormous. Not to overreact to someone who figures to be just a piece of Boston’s future success, but if Thomas’ skill set is so obvious in just a couple of games with a depleted squad, just wait until he’s not the focal point of the opposing defense. You can see why Danny Ainge has been chasing Thomas these past couple years. He was an absolute game-changer down the stretch of the only game we’ve had the pleasure of watching him finish in green. Aside from his 21 points and seven assists, Thomas led his team by a wide margin in plus/minus, finishing as a plus-21 in his 27 minutes of play.
CREDIT AVERY BRADLEY
In WEEI.com’s recent Celtics roundtable I wrote that Bradley was the one guy that needed to improve his play. Maybe he’s been reading Green Street during his down time on the road trip? Bradley has been fantastic of late. He came out and set the tone early with 14 first quarter points, and then had a huge steal and 3-pointer late to help seal the victory. And he did it all while hounding the athletic backcourt of Bledsoe and Knight — finishing with six steals to go with his 23 points (8-for-14 from the field).
|Report: Celtics ’emerging as a contender’ for Goran Dragic||02.18.15 at 10:14 am ET|
Surprise, surprise: The Celtics have entered the Goran Dragic sweepstakes.
According to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, C’s president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has placed a call to his former assistant general manager, Phoenix Suns GM Ryan McDonough, about the NBA’s reigning Most Improved Player.
ESPN sources say Celtics emerging as contender on the outside for Goran Dragic in trade with Phoenix
‘ Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 18, 2015
Dragic, who is expected to decline his $7.5 million player option for the 2015-16 season, has alerted the Suns he will not re-sign in Phoneix come July, per USA TODAY’s Sam Amick. Given the team’s wealth of point guards after signing Isaiah Thomas and Eric Bledsoe for a combined $97 million this past summer, McDonough is reportedly seeking to trade Dragic by Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline.
Enter Ainge, who has enough draft picks, expiring contracts and affordable young talent to join any trade discussion. But how much are the Celtics willing to pay for a 28-year-old point guard who can walk in June? (See: Rondo, Rajon.)
Granted, Dragic is coming off a Third Team All-NBA season and has 9,118 fewer NBA minutes on his legs than the 28-year-old point guard they traded two months ago — not to mention an entirely different skill-set than Rondo — but Ainge will have to compete with a host of other teams for the Slovenian’s services, including reported suitors in the Heat, Kings, Knicks, Lakers, Pacers and Rockets. Ainge’s familiarity with McDonough, which led to the exchange of Brandan Wright for draft picks last month, can’t hurt in that regard.
Would Brandon Bass‘ $6.9 million expiring contract and pick(s) be enough to land Dragic? Or would the C’s have to include Kelly Olynyk or another burgeoning young talent? The Suns, who currently lead the Thunder by a half-game for the Western Conference’s eighth playoff seed, could use another floor-spacing big man after losing veteran locker room favorite Channing Frye to the Magic in free agency.
Additionally, the Celtics must determine whether the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Dragic — a willing defender and brilliant playmaker who submitted a remarkable statistical season in 2013-14 (20.3 points, 5.9 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.4 steals in 35.1 minutes per game while producing a 60.4 true shooting percentage and 21.4 player efficiency rating) — could coexist with Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley in the backcourt. (Unless, of course, either Smart or Bradley is shipped back to Phoenix in exchange for Dragic). The feeling here is that Dragic and the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Smart could wreak the same kind of havoc Dragic and Bledsoe did during the Suns’ 48-win campaign last season.
According to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Dragic has included the Los Angeles Lakers, New York and Miami among his list of preferred landing spots, demonstrating a willingness to re-sign with a team currently out of championship contention, but it’s unclear whether he’d be open to staying in Boston. Dragic’s agent, Bill Duffy, also represents Rondo, whose desire to test free agency led to his trade. Just as with Rondo, though, the C’s — or any organization acquiring Dragic — could offer an additional year and roughly $25 million more on the open market. With the NBA’s new television deal expected to increase the salary cap in 2016, Dragic could command a max contract this summer.
For more on the impending trade deadline decisions Ainge faces, click here.
|Celtics trade Brandan Wright to Suns for pick(s)||01.09.15 at 6:01 pm ET|
The Celtics traded recently acquired and underused forward Brandan Wright to the Suns for a future draft picks(s), the team announced on Friday night. Yahoo Sports guru Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the trade on Twitter.
In exchange for Wright — seemingly the prized jewel in Celtics president Danny Ainge’s trade of Rajon Rondo — Suns general manager Ryan McDonough is sending a Timberwolves pick to his former employer that is top-12 protected for this season and next before turning into a pair of second-round picks in 2016 and 2017.
The 6-foot-9 Wright came to the Celtics with the league’s highest field goal percentage (74.8 percent), but then played in just eight games for Boston, averaging 3.3 points and 2.1 rebounds in only 10.8 minutes a night.
In essence, the Celtics have turned Rondo into Jae Crowder, Jameer Nelson’s relatively low $2.73 million expiring contract, a late 2016 first-round pick from Dallas and two second-round picks from Minnesota in 2016 and 2017.
Meanwhile, the Celtics are nearing a deal that would send Jeff Green to the Grizzlies in exchange for Tayshaun Prince‘s $7.7 million expiring contract and a future first-round pick, according to Wojnarowski, likely giving Ainge nine No. 1 selections over the next four seasons.
|Fast Break: Raptors claw Celtics, Rajon Rondo ends up in stitches||03.26.14 at 9:46 pm ET|
At the end of the third quarter, Rajon Rondo was getting stitches on his face, Jared Sullinger was 3-for-11 from the field and the Celtics trailed by 15. They never quit — far from it — but still suffered a seventh loss in their last eight games, 99-90 to the Atlantic-leading Raptors. (Yes, the ones from Toronto are winning the division.)
Rondo (9 points, 15 assists) returned from an elbow to the face in the fourth quarter, and Sullinger (26 points, 8 rebounds) totaled 19 points on just six shots in the final frame, but the C’s (23-48) couldn’t erase a double-digit Raptors lead. Avery Bradley (16 points) and Chris Johnson (13 points) also reached double figures.
The Celtics are currently tied for the league’s fifth-worst record.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Closing second: After regaining the lead with five minutes to play before halftime, the C’s defense fell apart. The Raptors converted their final six shots of the half, raising their field goal percentage from 40.6 to 50.0 at the break. Toronto’s nine-point halftime lead rapidly reached double digits early in the third quarter.
Interior defense: Back-to-back relatively uncontested Jonas Valanciunas third-quarter buckets punctuated a putrid night defensively for the Boston bigs and forced a Brad Stevens timeout. Out-rebounding the Celtics and outscoring them in the paint, Toronto’s starting frontcourt combined for 36 points and 16 rebounds in the first 30 minutes as the Raptors built a 68-54 lead midway through the third.
In stitches: A horrific third quarter only got worse when a Greivis Vasquez elbow split open Rondo’s face between his eyebrows. Replaced by Phil Pressey 5:42 into the frame, Rondo received nine stitches before returning to the bench with a bandage on his face a couple minutes into in the fourth quarter. He returned with 8:05 left.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Mondo Rondo: The Celtics captain singlehandedly kept them in the game through the first 15 minutes. He had his hand in their first eight field goals (2 layups, 6 assists). A couple Green drives broke up Rondo’s perfect start, but he got right back to work. When Rondo took his first breather 3:09 into the second quarter, he had impacted 13 of the C’s 15 field goals (3 layups, 10 assists), and they led 35-33.
Johnson on the rise: As he has for much of his brief Celtics tenure, Chris Johnson made the most of his minutes. Checking in for Green, who submitted the prototypical Jeff Green performance, Johnson was everywhere. In 10 second-quarter minutes, he converted a 3-pointer, a pull-up 8-footer and a fast break layup while halting DeMar DeRozan‘s fast start (including a highlight reel chase-down block after Kelly Olynyk failed to convert a 3-on-1). Johnson’s effort anchored a 13-0 run that erased a double-digit Raptors lead early in the second quarter.
Sully late: After finishing 0-for-3 in the first quarter and scoring only seven points through three quarters, Sullinger erupted in the fourth. He made three consecutive 3-pointers to cut Toronto’s lead to four in the final minutes.
|Celtics eclipsed by Suns late in return of Avery Bradley||03.14.14 at 9:52 pm ET|
Alex Len’s three-point play with 54.1 seconds left broke an 80-80 tie and lifted the Suns over the Celtics, 87-80, Friday night at TD Garden. Kris Humphries led the Celtics with 11 points and 13 rebounds. The Celtics lost their third straight and fell to 22-44 on the season.
Cold shooting from the field put the the Celtics in an early hole, falling behind by as many as 11 in the opening minutes of the second quarter. But strong rebounding, led by Kris Humphries, allowed Boston to work their way back in, cutting the halftime deficit to two, 46-44.
The Celtics again went cold from the floor in the third quarter, making just four of their 20 shots from the field. As a result, Phoenix grabbed a 61-53 lead with 3:24 left in the third. But the Celtics again showed their resiliency, cutting to the deficit to just four, 64-60 heading into the fourth.
The Celtics continued that momentum by scoring the first nine points of the fourth quarter to cap an 11-0 run and grab a 69-64 lead, matching their biggest lead of the game.
Phoenix came back with the next six points to take a 70-69 lead. The Celtics led 78-75 before the Suns scored five straight, including the go-ahead basket, a turnaround jumper by Markeiff Morris with 2:30 left, putting Phoenix up, 80-78. Jeff Green‘s two free throws with 2:02 left tied the game again, 80-80.
After Len’s three-point play, the Celtics could not get off a shot close to the basket and the Suns put away the game with two breakaway layups.
The Celtics are off Saturday and begin a brief two-game road trip Sunday evening in New Orleans. They play in Dallas Monday night before returning home to play the Miami Heat Wednesday night at TD Garden.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Cold feet: The Celtics shot just 37.5 percent from the floor in the first half, making just 18-of-48 shots, including 2-of-12 from long range. Good defense and Phoenix sloppiness kept the Celtics in it, as Boston trailed by just two, 46-44 at the half. It didn’t get much better in the third quarter as the Celtics shot just 20 percent on 4-of-20 shooting.
Gone fishing: There are games where Brandon Bass can take over and find his shots in the paint and under the glass seemingly at will. Then there’s nights like Friday. He started but never got into a rhythm, scoring just eight points on 4-of-12 shooting, playing 21 minutes. Part of this was due to the fact that coach Brad Stevens elected to go with a smaller, three-guard lineup of Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley and Chris Johnson for the better parts of the second and third quarters. Throw in the continued emergence of Kelly Olynyk and guards Jerryd Bayless and Phil Pressey and there was little time left for Bass.
Green-out: Like Bass, Jeff Green can look like a world-beater one game and come out with a dud the next, like Friday. He had just nine points in 36 minutes on 2-of-14 shooting.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Bradley’s back: Avery Bradley returned to game action for the first time since injuring his ankle Feb. 9 against Dallas. The team’s shutdown defender came off the bench with 3:24 left in the first quarter. With 5:09 left in the third, Bradley showed his offensive skills, getting into traffic, knocking down a 10-footer and drawing the foul for a three-point play. He finished with nine points in 17 minutes.
On the rebound: The Celtics attacked the glass with authority in the first half outrebounding the Suns, 27-24. Leading the way with six in the first half was Kris Humphries, who grabbed six of his xx for the game in the opening half. Humphries finished with his seventh double-double of the season, scoring 11 points while grabbing 13 rebounds.
Balancing the scales: The only player not to get into the scoring column in the first half was Chris Babb, the undrafted rookie out of Iowa State who was signed to his second 10-day contract on Monday. Even Joel Anthony got into the mix for the first time since playing four minutes against Golden State on March 5 and scoring two points in the first half, his first points since netting four against Atlanta on Feb. 26.
Rondo passes knee test: With about seven minutes left in the third quarter, Rondo drove to the left side of the basket for one of his patented dishes under the basket but he lost his footing, slipping to the court. His knee was protected by the black ACL brace he wears and he remained in the game and played the remainder of the third quarter with no apparent ill effects.
|Fast Break: Celtics extend win streak to four games||01.09.13 at 9:54 pm ET|
Riding the best game of Jared Sullinger‘s young NBA career, the Celtics won a season-best fourth straight game, 87-79 against the Suns, and improved to 4-1 since Avery Bradley’s return on Jan. 2.
Sullinger (12 points) grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds to record the second double-double of his rookie season, as the C’s (18-17) climbed above .500 for the first time since Christmas Day.
In a balanced effort, Sullinger, Jeff Green (14 points), Jason Terry (13 points), Kevin Garnett (10 points), Bradley (9 points), Rajon Rondo (8 points, 8 assists), Paul Pierce (7 points, 7 rebounds), Brandon Bass (6 points, 5 rebounds) and Courtney Lee (6 points) all scored between 6-14 points.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Green machine: On back-to-back second-quarter possessions, Green threw down ferocious dunks on separate Suns to hand the Celtics a 38-33 lead and force a Phoenix timeout. The first came on a dribble drive over old friend Jermaine O’Neal, and he slammed the second on a fast break oop from Bradley over Michael Beasley.
Rotating schedule: Actually, the entire Celtics bench once again performed admirably. Green, Terry and Sullinger were the C’s three highest scorers as the reserves outscored their Suns counterparts 47-16. Bradley’s return has helped coach Doc Rivers find some consistency in his rotations, and the Celtics appear to be responding to their more clearly defined roles.
On the defense: The Celtics are slowly climbing the NBA’s defensive ranks. After allowing 98.1 points per game through December, the C’s have gave up an average of just 86.3 points in Bradley’s first four games back. In his fifth, the Suns didn’t reach 70 points until 4:15 remaining in the fourth quarter. Even lineups that contain Green and Terry, who aren’t exactly known for their defensive prowess, appear to be grasping the C’s defensive schemes.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Dudley do right: Quietly, Boston College product Jared Dudley has carved out a nice NBA career for himself. He’s averaging double-digit points for the third straight season, shooting 40.5 percent from 3-point range in his five-year career and dishing out a career-high 2.7 assists per game. Against the Celtics, he amassed 14 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, doing all the little things to keep the Suns in the game.
Bigs problem: It wasn’t a matter of whether the length of the Suns frontcourt would hurt the Celtics; it was a question of how much. The 6-foot-11, 240-pound Marcin Gortat and 6-foot-9, 245-pound Luis Scola entered the game averaging 24.5 points and 15.1 rebounds between them, and they combined to surpass both those numbers against the Celtics (28 points, 22 rebounds). In all, the Suns totaled 50 points in the paint.
Aunt Chippy: Whether the Celtics instigate it or not, there’s been some serious chippiness in their recent stretch of games. Two games after Rondo’s suspension for bumping a ref and two nights after Carmelo Anthony grew infuriated with Garnett, Rondo and Suns forward P.J. Tucker logged technicals and both Green and Courtney Lee took hard falls to the parquet floor. While some of their success can be attributed to the intensity, there’s a line between aggressiveness and overaggressiveness, and the Celtics have been riding it.
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