|Irish Coffee: Ranking Danny Ainge’s Celtics assets||12.20.13 at 1:59 pm ET|
The recent trade rumors surrounding the Celtics aren’t going away any time soon, so for the purposes of any trade discussion between now and the Feb. 20 deadline — real or imaginary — let’s rank all the assets available to president of basketball operations Danny Ainge in order of value (highest to lowest). Here goes.
RAJON RONDO: Albeit completely unfounded, the mere fact people debated whether a Kings package of Ben McLemore (2013 No. 7 overall pick), Isaiah Thomas (18.9 ppg, 5.5 apg, 59.5 TS%, 22.8 PER, 730 minutes), Jason Thompson (10.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg over six NBA seasons), Marcus Thornton (18.7 ppg in 2011-12) and two first-round picks was enough for Rondo should tell you all you need to know about the Celtics point guard’s value.
2014 CELTICS FIRST-ROUND PICK: Whether this was the stumbling block in an Omer Asik deal or not, Ainge should rightfully think thrice before dealing either first-rounder in this coming June’s loaded draft. While the Celtics still own a one-game lead atop the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference’s No. 4 seed, they’re only 1.5 games out of the lottery, and most GMs would be willing to gamble against the C’s making the playoffs.
JARED SULLINGER: If the 2012 NBA draft took place tomorrow, how many players would be selected over Sullinger? Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal and Andre Drummond are likely the only four you’d definitely take over the Celtics sophomore since he’s returned from back surgery. Under control at least through 2015-16 for a grand total of $5.1 million, Sully has arguably been the C’s most important player this season.
|Donny Marshall on M&M: Celtics talking to Kings about trading Rajon Rondo for Isaiah Thomas, others||12.18.13 at 11:15 am ET|
Marshall turned heads earlier this week when he said Sacramento is a possible landing spot for Rondo, who has yet to play this season as he works his way back from a torn ACL suffered in January. According to Marshall, there is a multi-player deal in the works between the Celtics and Kings.
“This is actually something that the teams are talking about,” Marshall insisted. “The name that people would understand and would know is a guy like Isaiah Thomas. He’s a great little guard. He’s having career highs right now, he’s averaging about 18, 19 points a game. He’s a scorer. He’s a guy who can run the point for you, but he can also score. He’s one piece.
“I think the other piece, you throw in some other athletes — remember, they just made a trade, Sacramento, to get Rudy Gay, Aaron Gray. And they’ve had some other guys there that they’re trying to move. The key for them is two future first-round picks. If you’re to stay on that same theme that the Celtics have been on, to get young and to be good for a long time, how do you do that? You get them through the draft. ‘¦ I think here’s another opportunity to not only get a couple of good players now, young players, but you get two future first-round picks. To me, it makes total sense.”
Added Marshall: “Guys are always going to be talked about. In Rondo’s situation ‘¦ it makes sense. Do you want to be mediocre? Do you want to finish sixth this year? Not that anyone is going to try to tank — this team is playing terrific. ‘¦ I’m happy that they’re playing the way they’re playing. But for the fans and for that market, to be mediocre is not fun. ‘¦ That, I don’t think the Celtics deserve. The fans don’t deserve that, the players don’t deserve that. The way you get past that sooner than later is trying to move a guy like Rajon Rondo. And that’s not to be disrespectful to a player like Rondo.”
The Celtics also reportedly are pushing to acquire disgruntled Rockets center Omer Asik.
“You talk about Omer Asik, they want to now try to find a package to get him out of Houston. Brandon Bass is a name that they’re throwing in there. I don’t think Jeff Green will be a guy that you would want to [trade]; I think he’s untouchable, in my opinion. I think that’s one guy you can try to continue to build around, but there are some other pieces that will go.
“A complete dismantling? No. But I think Danny [Ainge] will do what he’s always done. He will think these things through. He will talk to all of his guys around him. The one thing that’s great about Danny is he always has people around him that are smarter than him. I love that theory. Because now you go to them and you trust them, and those people are doing their due diligence to make sure the team is going in the right direction.
“I don’t think they’ll dismantle, but I do think Danny will take some pieces that he can build around and and not completely be in the basement, but put himself in a position to be able to get — I think they can get some of those lottery picks. I really think they can get some of those game-changers in the next two drafts.”
|Ricky Rubio on Rajon Rondo’s return: ‘It’s hard’||12.17.13 at 12:58 am ET|
Rajon Rondo has returned to practice, and, according to his coach, the Celtics point guard’s return is entirely up to him, but Ricky Rubio knows recovery from ACL surgery isn’t over when you step back on the court.
“It’s hard,” said Rubio, who scored just six points on 2-of-12 shooting in a 101-97 loss to the Celtics. “It depends on how he feels and how he tries his knee. It’s something I’ve been through, and I can tell you from what I’ve been through that it wasn’t easy. It took a tong time, and even when I was playing, it took a couple months for me to be myself again. Everybody’s different, so I wish and I hope the best for him, but from what I felt, it’s hard.”
Rubio tore his left anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments when his left knee buckled while trying to defend Kobe Bryant in the final moments of a loss to the Lakers on March 9, 2012, just under a year before Rondo tore his right ACL in the final minutes of a double-overtime loss to the Hawks on Jan. 25 of this year.
|Celtics start fast, hold off Nuggets||12.06.13 at 9:59 pm ET|
This time, the Celtics found a way to hold their 27-point first half lead.
Jordan Crawford scored 22 while Avery Bradley and Kris Humphries each added 18 to lead a balanced attack as the Celtics raced out to huge first half lead and held on for a 106-98 win over the Denver Nuggets Friday night at TD Garden. Jeff Green scored 15 while Brandon Bass added 14.
The win improves the Celtics to 9-12 on the season, which is still good for first place in the underwhelming Atlantic Division.
The Celtics couldn’t have asked for a better start than the one they got Friday night against the Nuggets.
Led by six points from Bradley, the Celtics raced out to a 14-0 lead to open the game. Bradley finished the first quarter with 13 points and the Celtics made 17-of-26 shots (65.4 percent) to open a huge 39-15 lead over a Nuggets team that entered the game 11-7 and in third place in the Northwest Division of the Western Conference.
The Celtics built their lead to 27 when Vitor Faveriani hit a three to open the second quarter.
From that point, the Nuggets began to claw their way back into the game, outscoring Boston 29-25 in the second quarter. Still, thanks to back-to-back dunks from Humphries and Bradley to close the first half, the Celtics led by 20 at the half, 64-44.
Randy Foye hit a three to start a 9-0 Denver run to open the second half. JJ Hickson converted a layup that cut the lead down to 11, 64-53, in the first two minutes of the half. Ty Lawson drilled a pull-up jumper with 7:42 left in the quarter as Denver capped a 20-4 spurt that cut Boston’s lead down to four, 68-64.
Denver would draw to within three twice in the third, the last time coming on a Timofey Mozgov dunk with 3:31 left in the quarter that cut Boston’s lead to 76-73.
Crawford’s three with 39.5 seconds remaining and the shot clock winding down gave the Celtics a 106-96 lead and sealed Boston’s ninth win of the season.
The Celtics avoided repeating last season’s epic 27-point collapse in Atlanta. On Jan. 25, 2013, the Celtics led the Hawks, 48-21, in the second quarter but couldn’t hold on in the second half, losing 123-111, in double-overtime. That was also the last game Rajon Rondo played, as he tore his right ACL late in the game and has been out of action since.
|Carmelo Anthony recruiting Rajon Rondo to Knicks?||at 9:55 am ET|
In an interview with USA Today’s Jason Jordan, Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill Academy boys basketball coach Steve Smith, whose teams featured Rajon Rondo and Carmelo Anthony at the prep level, claimed the Knicks superstar is lobbying the Celtics point guard to join him in New York.
JJ: Are you confident that he’ll be just as good, if not better, coming off of the ACL tear?
SS: No, I think he should be fine. He took a long time off and he’s rehabbed the right way. Whether he stays in Boston or not who knows. I know, talking to Melo , he’s recruiting Rajon to come to New York. Melo thinks he’ll come, too. You never know about that stuff though. I think either way, Rajon will be fine.
Last month, New York Daily News writer Frank Isola reported the Knicks eyed Rondo as their “primary target” and attempted to package Iman Shumpert, Raymond Felton and Amar’e Stoudemire in a deal for the three-time NBA All-Star — a preposterous proposal that Celtics president Danny Ainge said never reached his desk. Even if Ainge was willing to trade Rondo within the division, New York cannot currently trade a first-round pick earlier than 2018 and seemingly does not have the assets to acquire Rondo no matter how creative the offer.
Likewise, Rondo is signed through next season, when he could command a maximum contract on the free agent market, but the Celtics would be able to offer a significantly better deal than the Knicks should Ainge deem his rehabbing star a centerpiece worth building around. However, all of New York’s burdensome contracts, including Anthony’s, expire at the end of next season as well, so it’s not out of the question for the two former Oak Hill Academy stars to join forces. Rondo didn’t transfer to play for Smith until two years after Anthony graduated.
Of course, the NBA has strict rules against any form of tampering with players under contract for other teams.
|Pump the brakes on Rajon Rondo’s return||12.05.13 at 11:21 am ET|
Everybody can just pump the brakes on Rajon Rondo‘s imminent return.
After conflicting reports over the past week about whether or not Rondo has been cleared to return to practice 10 months after surgery to repair the ACL in his right knee, The Boston Globe’s Baxter Holmes is reporting that the Celtics point guard is not scheduled for a checkup with famed surgeon Dr. James Andrews for another two weeks. As a result, while Rondo has participated in limited practice work, he reportedly has not been cleared for full contact.
Likewise, in an interview up the dial, Celtics president Danny Ainge said Rondo would not return to the court for good until his knee is “back to 100 percent.”
“I don’t think he’s close,” Ainge said. “I don’t think it’s going to happen in the next few weeks. We’re not on pins and needles about it. We’re being very cautious with Rondo. He’s still got a little bit of a limp. He needs to get his strength back.”
So, if Rondo won’t be cleared for full contact until mid-December at the earliest and then must rehab his knee to full strength, it’s safe to assume we won’t see him in a Celtics uniform until 2014.
Meanwhile, the first-place C’s (8-12) have 11 games left on the December slate, and seven of them are against teams with better records. The other four — the Knicks (twice), Nets and Cavaliers — aren’t walkovers, either.
And things get worse in January. The Celtics visit the Bulls and host the Pelicans for a Jan. 2-3 back-to-back, and then face a brutal West Coast swing against the Thunder, Nuggets, Clippers, Warriors and Blazers from Jan. 5-11. If Rondo doesn’t return by then, the standings could look a whole lot different. After all, as SB Nation’s Paul Flannery noted, the C’s may own the No. 4 seed now, but they’re much closer to the East’s worst record (4.0 games up on the Bucks) than they are to the conference’s best mark (9.5 games behind the Pacers).
|Avery Bradley ‘can’t wait until’ Rajon Rondo returns||12.04.13 at 1:10 am ET|
As the past few days have brought conflicting reports about whether Rajon Rondo has already met with Dr. James Andrews or will do so in New York next week, the only certainty is that his return is on the horizon, and it couldn’t come at a better time for a Celtics squad that just assumed first place in the Atlantic Division.
“I think that’s going to be big and good for us to have a player like Rondo,” said Bradley, one of only five players on the current roster to play with him. “He’s a very good player, and that’s going to open up everything for everybody. Everybody’s going to get a lot of open looks, because he’s a great player. I can’t wait until he comes back.”
The C’s have shown a remarkable ability to stick with teams through the first three quarters of games, winning the ones when a handful of guys contribute on the same night — like Tuesday’s win over the Bucks, when Bradley’s 15 points, including a ridiculous over-the-backboard bucket, gave the Celtics six players in double figures.
“Everybody on our team I feel like can have a big game any night,” said Bradley. “That’s the good thing about our team. We have a lot of good players that could have breakout games. Jared [Sullinger]’s been playing well, Jordan [Crawford]’s been playing well and Jeff [Green]’s been playing well, and that brings a lot to our team when we have those guys come out every single night and take turns having big games.”
Except the Celtics can’t depend on six guys all coming to play every single night if they hope to cling to the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. Just ask Gerald Wallace. They’re lacking star-power, especially when they need to execute in the final minutes of close contests. As Celtics coach Brad Stevens said, “It’s hard sometimes when things tense up late.” Basically, they need Rondo. Half of their 12 losses have been by six or seven points, and Bradley knows Rondo’s return could mean the difference between competing regularly and winning regularly.
“It could be big for us,” he said. “I know once he comes back, a lot of teams are going to hate to play the Celtics.”
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