|Weekly NBA Draft Watch: Free agent possibilities for Celtics this offseason||05.01.14 at 12:33 pm ET|
After a flurry of draft-related news, we finally have reached a standstill. The date for underclassmen to declare has passed, and as expected all the big names are in. So what do we have to look forward to?
The draft combine will take place in Chicago from May 14-18, and it’s something Celtics fans will want to keep an eye on. Many of the top prospects will attend, a great way to gauge how each player looks on the exact same measuring stick. Much of the Celtics‘ destiny relies on May 20, when the lottery reveals what pick Boston will hold. Of course, June 26 is the actual draft date, when everything will come to a head.
But the draft is not the only way to acquire talent this summer. Whether Danny Ainge decides to use or trade his draft picks, there is a solid free agent pool that Ainge will not be able to ignore. Trading for Kevin Love is the sexy solution to Boston’s problems at the moment, and it’s not all that unrealistic. Other stars are bound to be available come draft day as well.
Draft picks and trades rely on different variables, however. You can’t make a GM trade you a player, nor can you make a player fall to you in the draft. Free agents, on the other hand, come with far less complications. Of course they can choose their destination (or be matched by their current team if they are restricted), but there is nothing standing in Ainge’s way of pursuing free agents this summer.
With that said, following is a look at some free agents who have a realistic chance of at least being on Boston’s radar.
Lance Stephenson — Stephenson has had a breakout season for the recently struggling Pacers. At one point, this looked like a team destined to stay together. But Indy is self-destructing in the first-round against eighth-seeded Atlanta. Something will need to change next season.
|Brad Stevens sends a clear message to his Celtics: ‘We’ve got to have a defensive DNA’||04.17.14 at 9:30 am ET|
Brad Stevens saw a lot in his first season in the NBA as a head coach.
After the 57th and final loss of the season, he gave some insight as to what he learned from his maiden voyage in the pro ranks of basketball.
“I think the best thing I learned is that this is not fun to not win but it doesn’t define who you are or how you go about your business. One of the things that I’m probably most happy about with our team is that they didn’t change necessarily who they were. They didn’t let the losing or the multiple losses affect them or their approach, and I hope that I was the same way.”
The best advice for what would be a long season came at the start of the season, when Celtics assistant coach and long-time NBA veteran coach and scout Ron Adams offered some perspective on patience.
“I learned a lot about the NBA game and how it’s played,” Stevens said. “It’s a different kind of basketball. Ron Adams told me at the beginning of the year, ‘If I went and coached high school after 22 years coaching in the NBA, I wouldn’t know what’s going on. It’s 32 minutes, no shot clock. I’d really have to adjust to that.’ I think that’s probably true no matter which way you go. But it is an adjustment. The part I felt most comfortable was in the game, once we got used to the time outs, the 24-second clock and all that other stuff.”
All that other stuff for Stevens starts and ends with better and more consistent defense. It’s what separates talented teams from winning teams in the NBA. It’s what separates teams that can close out games and protect leads from those – like the 2013-14 Celtics – who lose close games time after time down the stretch. Stevens very rarely called his team out after games of this lost season, with a notable exception coming after a lackluster home loss to the Sixers on April 4. But after the final game Wednesday, a 118-102 defenseless loss to the playoff-bound Wizards, he delivered a clear and present message to any player that might return next season.
“So there’s a couple different ways to look at it: are you going to get better in your role, or are you going to expand your role? What I mean by that is: are you going to get better at what you do well, or are you going to get better at some other things that make you, that give you the chance to instead of be the eighth guy be the fifth guy, instead of be the fifth guy be the third guy. We have a lot of great data to be able to share and subjective thoughts as well, and I think we can get better with the guys in the room. I think we clearly are going to need to add to our team to be better, but I told them at halftime, I said, ‘We can start it on October 1st or we can start it right now.’ That is, we’ve got to have a defensive DNA to start next season at a little bit different level than I thought we did at the end of this season. I thought we tried to compete defensively early-on in the year; I didn’t think we made the strides that I would’ve liked to have made.”
Stevens took the time Wednesday at halftime of a game in which they surrendered 38 points in the first quarter and 68 points in the half to remind his team of exactly what he will expect going forward.
“At halftime, I was obviously disappointed in our defensive effort,” Stevens said. “I knew, just look out there, we were undermanned a little bit, but I thought we could play better defensively and it thought we came out in the second half with a great deal of spirit and fight, a little bit more aggressiveness, and it was great until we were worn out. And I thought we wore out and we didn’t have any juice in the last 10 minutes or so, prior to that little run at the end. Credit them; they put us in a world of hurt in a lot of different match-ups. It’s a good basketball team who’s playing well right now, who, as I said earlier, is really sitting pretty for the future because they’ve got really good players at the one and the two that are both very young, that have a chance to be elite at their positions.”
|Rajon Rondo wants a say in rebuilding of Celtics: ‘Danny Ainge has always been in communication with me’||at 12:12 am ET|
Following a season-ending 118-102 loss to the playoff-bound Wizards at TD Garden, Celtics captain Rajon Rondo talked about what he’s learned from this 25-win season and how he can become a better leader. Rondo also acknowledged that he would like input on the make-up of the roster next season.
“Every team is different,” Rondo said. “This is a new [situation] with me being the only guy here back when Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were here. [Roster rebuilding] isn’t new. I still think I have been involved. I was in trade talk myself. Danny Ainge has always been in communication with me, what he has planned and what he has in store for this team.
“Being a leader, I just have to do it more than talking.”
Asked if that means doing it more by example on and off the court, Rondo answered, “Correct.”
How will a 25-57 season drive him this offseason?
“Motivation for next year we have a lot to work on and I look forward to next year,” Rondo said. “A good group to play with and a lot of great guys a lot of young guys just trying to be better.”
Does he want to be back?
“Next question,” Rondo said, referring to comments he made a week earlier indicating he feels he is a part of the team’s future.
Rondo said he will not watch the NBA playoffs, which begin this weekend. Instead Rondo maintains he looks forward to a summer of work as he continues to build his legs back to 100 percent, 15 months after ACL surgery on his right knee.
If he puts in the work, Rondo figures the rest of the team will follow.
‘It shows the group of guys we have,” Rondo said. “It starts with Danny Ainge and it starts with Brad Stevens. We had guys like Chris Babbs and Chris Johnson to come help us and help brighten their future.’
|Fast Break: Rajon Rondo-less Celtics fend off Bobcats||04.11.14 at 9:46 pm ET|
The Celtics coughed up a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter, but an inspired Rajon Rondo-less effort fended off the Bobcats in a 106-103 victory that snapped a nine-game losing streak. Meanwhile, Orland’s loss to the Wizards gave the Magic sole possession of the NBA’s third-worst record.
Avery Bradley led the Celtics (24-55) with 22 points. Jared Sullinger scored 20 while Jeff Green, and Brandon Bass each added 18. Kelly Olynyk (12 points) and Phil Pressey (10 points, 13 assists) also reached double figures. Pressey’s rebound tap to Bass in the closing seconds sealed the victory.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Avery good night: The real shame in Rondo’s absence was another missed opportunity for the Rondo-Bradley backcourt. While the two provided the few highlights (43 points, 14 assists, 8 rebounds, 6 steals) against Atlanta in their first game together in almost two weeks, Rondo was not in uniform to play Batman to Bradley’s Robin against the Bobcats. Not that it mattered, as the soon-to-be restricted free agent led the Celtics with 14 points by halftime.
Triple take: Almost everybody got in on the C’s 3-point shooting effort, but Bradley again led the way, draining his first three attempts. Pressey and Olynyk also buried a pair each during their 9-of-13 start from distance.
Fighter’s mentality: Led by the consistent effort of Bass and a surprising spark from Green, the Celtics closed the third quarter on a 12-0 run, snagging an 84-75 lead entering the fourth quarter. Pressey’s dive for a loose ball and pass from his behind to a breaking Olynyk drew a playoff-like response from the Garden crowd. While the C’s would have been better served with the loss, the fight they showed may also pay dividends down the road.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Rondo no go: While Rondo’s absence should have benefited the Ping Pong count, his late scratch surprised the Garden crowd. When Brad Stevens addressed the media two hours before the game, Rondo was slated to start the first night of the team’s final back-to-back, but he returned from warmups with a bruised left shin. His status for Saturday’s game in Cleveland — originally a scheduled day off — remains uncertain. With Kemba Walker (groin) also sidelined, fans instead watched a starting point guard matchup between Phil Pressey and Luke Ridnour.
Big Al: As the Celtics have all season, they struggled against a talented offensive big man. This time it happened to be old friend Al Jefferson (32 points, 10 rebounds), who torched Sullinger & Co. with a variety of post moves for 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting in Charlotte’s 29-point first quarter. He signed a three-year, $41 million deal with the Bobcats over the summer, and while pundits criticized his move to a franchise in perennial peril, his 21.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists for a team surprisingly ranked among the top defensive units in the league. Suddenly, that $41 million doesn’t seem so bad, especially when you consider the C’s are paying Gerald Wallace $30.3 over that same span.
Bumps and bruises: Jerryd Bayless suffered a right knee sprain in the fourth quarter and did not return. Additionally Sullinger rolled his left ankle and left for the locker room in the third, but returned after getting some tape on it. The last the Celtics want to see is injuries pile up in the last few games.
|Celtics tie franchise record with 13th straight road loss||04.09.14 at 10:15 pm ET|
The Celtics continued their losing ways, dropping their ninth straight game, losing to the Hawks, 105-97, Wednesday night in Atlanta.
The defeat was also the Celts’ 13th straight road loss, tying a franchise record originally set in 1979. The C’s only two road wins over their last 15 games away from TD Garden came against the NBA’s two worst teams, Philadelphia and Milwaukee.
The Celtics are now tied with Orlando for the third-worst record in the NBA, standing at 23-55. They have four games remaining, playing the Bobcats and Wizards at home, with road games against Cleveland and the Sixers.
Milwaukee owns the NBA’s worst mark at 14-63, while Philly stands at 17-61. Utah (24-54) and the Lakers (25-53) are right behind Boston and Orlando.
Doing in the Celtics against the Hawks — who are clinging to the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference — was a fourth quarter in which the C’s were outscored 35-20.
|Sad Brad: The night the Celtics broke Coach Stevens||04.05.14 at 2:22 am ET|
Following each of the Celtics‘ first 52 losses this season, Brad Stevens always seemed to find the silver lining. Avery Bradley‘s defense. Chris Johnson‘s effort. Even Chris Babb‘s shooting. You name it. But after a 111-102 home loss to a Sixers team fresh off a 26-game losing streak, a dark cloud hung over the coach.
The captain knew it. “They were playing harder than us,” admitted Rajon Rondo.
The rookies knew it. “They scored more points than us,” added Kelly Olynyk, “and we didn’t play that hard.”
And the coach sure as heck knew it. “They played well,” said Stevens. “We played not well. That’s it.”
Including Wednesday’s 26-point debacle against the Wizards, the Celtics just suffered perhaps their two worst losses — or best, depending on how you look at it — and that’s saying something in a season full of defeat.
|The best of Rajon Rondo, Celtics broadcaster extraordinaire||03.31.14 at 11:56 pm ET|
Clearly nervous to start the broadcast, as evidenced by his forced smile finding the camera in the pregame, Celtics captain Rajon Rondo settled into his role as color analyst, offering some fascinating insight with a little help from consummate play-by-play man Mike Gorman. Here’s the best of Rondo’s TV debut.
RONDO ON THE CELTICS
On himself: “I’m almost at 100 [percent]. I’m feeling great. Each game, I’m getting stronger, my endurance is getting better. I feel strong. Each game, I’m trying to continue to get better. Offensively and defensively, just continue to try and look explosive. It’s definitely hard to be away from the game that you love. You take it for granted sometimes, but it was definitely a humbling experience. I’m glad I went through it. [I learned] patience. I’m very antsy. I love to do things on my own and when I want to get it done, but the patience is very key as far as being able to sit down.”
On Kris Humphries: “I didn’t know Kris was as good a shooter as he is. Kris definitely can hit a mid-range shot, and that’s why we play together. We have great chemistry. He’s definitely very professional. He wasn’t playing a lot at the beginning of the season, but he stayed in the gym, stayed working, and looking at him now — the starting center for the Boston Celtics.”
On Sullinger: “I’m very impressed. Coming off knee surgery is definitely different, obviously speaking from experience, but coming off back surgery with his size it’s definitely tough to … play the way he’s been playing. Our bigs don’t get enough credit. They’ve done a great job, especially in our pick-and-roll defense and the way they shoot the ball.”
On Phil Pressey: “To be in his situation — he’s a rookie not knowing when he’s going to play, when he’s going to start, when he’s going to get minutes — he’s been terrific. He’s very professional. He’s been in the gym working extremely hard. I’d like to see him [drive] more. He’s a pass-first point guard like myself, but he’s so quick, he can get in there, throw a couple floaters, a couple layups to create shots for himself as well.”
On Chris Johnson: From Day 1, since he’s come in, he’s been a pro. He’s a very confident player. When he started a couple days ago, we were playing the Toronto Raptors, and [DeMar] DeRozan had it going. I said, ‘You want me to check him?’ And he said, ‘No way.’ You need guys like that — that want the pressure, that want to compete out there on the floor with you every night — and he’s definitely one of those guys. He feels like he belongs, and he’s definitely belonging right now.”
On Brandon Bass: “He’s a very athletic guy. He’s the most athletic guy on the team besides Jeff [Green].”
On Jeff Green: He’s the best athlete on the team “by far. The things he can do are amazing.”
RONDO ON THE BULLS
On Joakim Noah: ‘”He pretty much fills up the stat sheet. He reminds me a little bit of myself. He plays hard on both ends of the floor. What I like about Joakim most is that he competes on every play. … He’s a guy you want on your team. He does everything on the court.'”
More on Noah: “I think this is 10 years for Noah and I that we’ve played against each other. We played each other in AAU and obviously in college, so Noah and I have been battling for a long time. A very long time. About two years ago, we came to an understanding, because we were always going at each other, and we didn’t never really understand why, but I think it’s because we both love to compete. He’s a guy who’s going to bring it every night, and I do the same, but we don’t play the same position, so one game we were at the free throw line and just thought about why we even go at each other. We kind of squashed it. No beef. No big deal. He’s fun to compete against.”
On Mike Dunleavy: “Gotta keep him going left. Dunleavy loves to go right, and coach [Tom] Thibodeau does a great job drawing up plays letting him go to his right hand.”
On Jimmy Butler: “Definitely a player you want on your team. He doesn’t get a lot of plays called for him, but he still makes plays on both ends of the floor.”
On Kirk Hinrich: “I love playing against Hinrich. He competes. I love playing against guys that compete. Every night he’s going to bring it no matter his matchup or his size. I remember one year in the playoffs, he checked myself, Ray [Allen] and Paul [Pierce] in one game, so whatever defense the coach asks of him, he’s pretty much going to do it.”
Of course, Rondo literally checked Hinrich into the scorer’s table during the 2009 playoffs.
More on Hinrich: “He’s definitely a physical guard. He’s one of the most physical guards we have in our game. He’s stronger than he looks. He plays hard.”
RONDO ON THE GAME
On the first quarter: “You’ve got to fight over the screens a little bit more. They’re setting the tempo. I’d like to see the Celtics get aggressive, because they’ve set the tone so far. Any Thibodeau team [is physical]. In the past, when he was with us, we were pretty high up, but this team in particular — Noah’s intensity, the way Hinrich plays the ball, the way Jimmy Butler plays the ball — they’ve got to be 1 or 2 on top of the league.”
On defending D.J. Augustin: “Give Pressey credit. He’s been pressuring the ball, staying close to his body. That’s what the Celtics couldn’t do last night.”
RONDO ODDS AND ENDS
On captaincy: “Being the older guy on the team or one of the oldest guys on the team, I have to be more vocal. The last couple years I’ve been able to stay behind KG [Kevin Garnett] or Paul, listen to those guys talk, but now this year my role has gotten bigger like it has each year, as I’ve been in the league eight years, so just try to continue to talk and also lead by example. Try to get out there, be the first one on the floor, stay in the weight room, continue to get better and encourage my teammates to do the same.”
On lessons from Garnett and Pierce: “Every night. You can’t pick and choose when you want to be a captain or a leader. If you want to be it, you’ve got to be it every day.”
On 2006-07 vs. 2013-14: “Try to continue to go one game at a time, keep your best foot forward, stay positive, stay in the gym, don’t get discouraged. Things aren’t always going to go as great as they were in college. This is the league, so it’s definitely an adjustment. You can’t win every game, but for the most part, continue to stay professional and continue to go to work.”
On 2009 series vs. Derrick Rose: “I love those memories. Great series, great battle going against one of the best point guards in the game, so we had fun going at it. Luckily, we came out with the victory 4-3. It was a tough battle. Doc [Rivers] played me around 47 or 48 minutes a game. We had a couple overtime games that series, and I was able to play the entire game. Obviously, being young helps. I definitely hate to come out. It’s part of the game, but if I could play every minute I would.”
On learning Brad Stevens: “Obviously, the coaching change is different, playing for one guy for seven years and chaining to a brand new guy, so I got to sit back during this injury and watch him from afar.”
On up-tempo vs. half-court offense: “Up-tempo. Up-tempo. Those are the funnest games to play. Teams like the Knicks, the Suns, the Denver Nuggets, the run-and-gun, the shootouts, those are games you want to be involved in, but a game like this isn’t bad. That’s what these games come down to at the end of the day in the playoffs. You have to be able to get stops and score and execute in the half-court offense.”
On playing point guard: “Basically, whenever the guy’s open, just try to hit him. And if not, try to get guys in the right spots offensively, so we can execute. For the most part, a lot of the plays do allow me to have the ball in my hands and create for my teammates.”
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