|Celtics remain unbeaten with Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley backcourt||02.05.14 at 9:33 pm ET|
The Celtics hadn’t won two games in a row since Dec. 13 and 16, gathering Ping Pong balls as they slid down the NBA standing over the past month, but the C’s improved to 2-0 with Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley in the starting backcourt.
Rondo approached triple-double territory (8 points, 11 assists, 9 rebounds), Bradley contributed 14 points before tweaking his ankle again and the two combined for five steals in a 114-108 victory against the host 76ers.
Jeff Green led all scorers with 36 points, helping the Celtics (17-33) avenge last week’s buzzer-beating loss to Philadelphia (15-35) in the Garden. Jared Sullinger (19 points, 10 rebounds, third straight double-double), Brandon Bass (18 points) and Jerryd Bayless (11 points) also reached double figures.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Backcourt’s back: After missing two weeks with an ankle injury, Bradley picked up where he left off, scoring 17 points in his return on Sunday and reaching double figures against the Sixers within the game’s first 10 minutes. Despite playing four seasons together, Bradley and Rondo haven’t even started in the same backcourt for half a season’s worth of games. How that duo performs the rest of the way could dictate whether they remain teammates for years to come. The early returns are positive — on both sides of the ball, as Bradley and Rondo also helped keep Michael Carter-Williams (11 points) and Evan Turner (12 points) in check.
Green thumbs up: Likewise, Green showed signs of the uber-athletic potential everyone imagined in his pairing with Rondo. Green had a baker’s dozen by halftime, and Rondo assisted on three of his five field goals — including back-to-back buckets during a 10-0 run that helped the Celtics establish a nine-point lead just before halftime. Green’s confidence tends to build momentum when he’s involved early, and Rondo may help make that a trend.
Sharing the wealth: Actually, just about everybody benefited from Rondo’s presence. The C’s assisted on 13 of their 14 first-quarter field goals, taking a 34-23 lead after one, and finished the first half with 19 dimes on 23 FGs. Rondo had nine of the 19. While the Sixers made their runs to cut into the advantage — even taking the lead in the second quarter — the Celtics‘ execution on the offensive end helped keep them at bay.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Awkward Klynyk: Kelly Olynyk continues to endure some growing pains. Brad Stevens severely limited the rookie’s minutes during an all-around poor performance. In one tough-to-watch stretch, a Philadelphia shot clock violation bailed him out of biting on a Spencer Hawes up-fake from beyond the arc, and then he committed a horrific turnover in transition. He finished with one point and two giveaways in 12 minutes.
Sloppy second: Stevens rested Rondo with a seven-point lead midway through the second quarter, and the 76ers immediately rattled off a 10-2 run that included a pair of Carter-Williams buckets in his absence. The stagnant C’s were forced to bring back the still recovering Rondo after just three minutes. Through three quarters, the Celtics outscored the Sixers 68-57 with Rondo on the floor while Philly owned a 25-20 advantage with him on the bench.
Avery’s ankle: Bradley tweaked his ankle again late in the fourth quarter and sat the final 3:16. After his performance alongside Rondo the last two games, any more missed time would be another devastating blow.
|Irish Coffee: Rajon Rondo, financial planning for NBA free agency and a Celtics conspiracy that just makes cents||01.31.14 at 5:49 pm ET|
Celtics captain Rajon Rondo is due $12.9 million next season — the final year of a five-year, $55 million extension he signed in October 2009 — and the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement makes any suggestion he’d rather test the free agency waters than sign another longterm extension an obvious one.
In the simplest terms, Rondo stands to make twice as much money on his next contract if he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2015. So, when he tells reporters, “I may want to go through” free agency, as he did after Friday’s practice, who can blame him? For years, Paul Pierce said the same, because it makes financial sense.
The following timeline — cobbled together using Larry Coon’s NBA Salary Cap FAQ and input from the Celtics front office — details what max contract Rondo can sign at different points over the next 18 months, and should help explain why Rondo won’t sign an extension this season and may not end up signing one next season.
(Even if Rondo doesn’t ultimately sign for max dollars, which he probably won’t, this exercise should still demonstrate the vast difference in money available to him at various times in his near future.)
|Rajon Rondo: Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett return ‘just another game’||01.25.14 at 12:39 am ET|
In between providing one-word answers about his current state of play, Celtics captain Rajon Rondo likewise shed little light on his expectations for Sunday’s Boston homecoming for Nets Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
“It’s just another game,” Rondo said after an 18-point loss to the Kevin Durant-less Thunder. “We need to win.”
Like his team’s record, which dropped to 15-30 after a 16th loss in 19 games, the point guard’s return from ACL surgery has been a work in little progress. As one member of the Celtics organization said afterwards, Rondo was really only Rondo for one play. His minutes limit prevents him from getting into a rhythm, and as he said, “Plays I usually make, I’m not making right now, but I still feel positive and I’m OK with my progression right now.”
Here’s a sample of what was a typically tenuous Rondo interview after a 101-83 loss to Oklahoma City.
Do you feel like you’re more of yourself out there every game? “I’m getting there.”
Is it disappointing the way you guys came out tonight? “Yeah.”
What happened? “We didn’t get stops.”
How do you judge your progress? “I just take it one game at a time.”
Is there something you’re looking for? “Yeah, but I don’t want to say.”
|Rajon Rondo: ‘I wouldn’t mind staying here for the rest of my career’||01.24.14 at 7:55 pm ET|
Before Friday’s game against the Thunder, Rondo acknowledged that his representatives have been in preliminary talks with the Celtics about a contract extension.
Rondo signed a five-year, $55 million rookie scale extension on Nov. 2, 2009. That deal pays him $11.9 million this season and $12.9 in 2014-15 before he becomes an unrestricted free agent before the 2015-16 season.
“I like to stick to the script,” Rondo told reporters before returning to the starting lineup Friday night against Oklahoma City. “I don’t like change much. I wouldn’t mind staying here the rest of my career. Things don’t always seem to go that way, but like I said before, it’s just a business. I wouldn’t mind extending another 10 years in Boston.”
On Thursday, Ainge indicated that the team is interested in pursuing some type of contract extension with Rondo. Those talks, he said, would likely have to wait until after the season due to the nature of the collective bargaining agreement.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that a contender looking for point guard help could make a push for Rondo at the trade deadline, which is Feb. 20.
Rondo was selected in the first round (21st overall) by the Celtics in the 2006 NBA draft. He is a four time All-Star and led the league in steals with 189 in 2000-10.
|LeBron James, Kevin Durant headline NBA All-Star Game starters||01.23.14 at 9:44 pm ET|
The NBA announced the starters for the 2014 NBA All-Star Game, and naturally leading MVP candidates LeBron James and Kevin Durant are the leading vote-getters for the Eastern and Western conferences, respectively.
The roster includes no Celtics, who are in danger of failing to produce an All-Star for the first time since 2007, when Paul Pierce suffered through an injury-plagued season, and only the 10th time in the game’s 63-year history.
Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green are the C’s only hopes for a spot when the voting from coaches reveals the final seven Eastern Conference All-Stars on Jan. 30, but neither is expected the make the roster (unless Rondo receives the sympathy vote for his fifth selection). Each received more than 100,000 fan votes – well shy of a starting spot.
Old friends Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett edged out Rondo and Green in the fan voting for backcourt and frontcourt players, respectively, although Green received 26,006 more votes than Pierce. Here are your 2014 starters:
Bryant, who received his 16th All-Star bid despite participating in just six games this season, will likely be replaced in the starting West backcourt by Chris Paul (804,309 votes) due to the Lakers star’s knee injury.
Likewise, should Wade’s knee injury keep him from participating in his 10th All-Star Game, John Wall (393,129) would be the second starting guard alongside Irving in the East. Among the remaining healthy Eastern Conference guards, only Allen received more votes than Rondo, but his fate lies in the coaches’ hands now.
|Rajon Rondo will sit vs. Wizards, Celtics announce||01.22.14 at 4:40 pm ET|
The Celtics cited “precautionary reasons” for holding out Rondo in just his fourth scheduled game since returning from ACL surgery.
Meanwhile, Jerryd Bayless (toe) and Avery Bradley (ankle) are also expected to miss Wednesday’s game, leaving only undrafted rookie point guard Phil Pressey and recently signed D-League guard Vander Blue as the only healthy members of the C’s backcourt against Wizards starters John Wall and Bradley Beal.
Keep in mind veteran guard Keith Bogans was granted leave from the team over a playing time dispute and remains on the roster for $5.1 million.
|Celtics keep on losing, this time falling short against lowly Orlando Magic||01.19.14 at 8:44 pm ET|
In the race to claim one of the NBA’s worst records, this would have been a good night for the Celtics. But for those hoping for some wins, the 93-91 loss to the Magic was about as demoralizing a game as this season has presented.
The Celtics lost for the 14th time in their last 16 tries, extending their road losing streak to nine straight.
This one, however, was more than just another defeat. This loss came at the hands of a team seemingly in worse shape than the Celts.
With the victory, the Magic snapped a 10-game losing streak. They had also dropped their last 10 meetings with the Celtics.
Orlando still claims the worst record in the NBA, standing at 11-30, while the Celtics drop to 14-28. Brad Stevens‘ club is now tied with Utah and Philadelphia for the league’s second worst mark.
The loss was sealed when Orlando’s Tobias Harris sunk two free throws after Kris Humphries was whistled for a loose ball foul with 10 seconds remaining.
Avery Bradley lost control of the ball while driving to the hoop as the buzzer sounded, ending the Celtics’ final chance.
In his second game back after recovering from knee surgery, Rajon Rondo scored six points in 21 minutes, going 3-of-10 from the field while dishing out four assists.
The Magic finished with five players in double-figures, with former Celtic Glen Davis recording 17 points and seven rebounds. Arron Afflalo led the hosts with 20 points and 13 rebounds.
Celtics guard Jerryd Bayless was forced from the game after spraining his right toe.