2015/16 player previews: Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart is a fierce competitor. If that wasn’t a takeaway for you after last season, you clearly weren’t watching the Celtics enough.

With his relentless defence Smart solidified himself as the Celtics point guard of the future and started 41 games in his rookie campaign. Smart demonstrated that he can do much more than just play tough defence as he proved to be able to make clutch shots when the Celtics desperately needed him to.

I’m sure you all remember the amazing buzzer beating, game-winner against the Raptors in Toronto that silenced the crowd.

Smart, as with any rookie, struggled with consistency for parts of the season. His three-point shot, whilst dangerous, was overused at times.

The competition between Smart and Isaiah Thomas for the starting point guard role will drive both of them to be better and compete every single night. That is what depth does, it creates competition for spots which is healthy for a team.

Smart averaged just over 3 assists per game last season, this will need to improve if he wants to keep his starting position. From what we’ve seen in the preseason, in particular against the Knicks when he dropped 9 dimes, this improvement will come. He is not where he needs to be yet, but time is most certainly on his side as he enters his second season.

Another season alongside Bradley will only improve Smart’s defence as he can learn in every practice and every game. Playing under Brad Stevens is another key in unlocking Smart’s potential, as we all know Stevens is the master in bringing out the best in his players.

2015/16 player previews: Avery Bradley

Avery Bradley has divided opinion among Celtics fans for years now.

Some (including me), see him as a vital part of the organisation moving forward. Others see him simply as an inconsistent player that struggles with his shot for games at a time during the season.

In reality, Bradley has probably a mix of both in his five seasons in green. This season though, Bradley is better prepared than ever to make a huge mark on the NBA. He has worked hard on his three-point shot over the off-season and with another summer learning to play alongside Marcus Smart, the backcourt will be a defensive nightmare for the opposition.

Bradley is the longest-serving Celtic on the roster and whilst his leadership skills are still progressing, there’s no doubting that the way AB attacks every game is setting a great example for his younger teammates to follow.

If Bradley can consistently knock down corner threes it will be a huge boost to the team and give Isaiah Thomas and Smart the confidence to give him the ball when he’s in his spots and ready.

We all know Bradley is a gun one-on-one defender and I think every Celtic fan around the globe fondly remembers this block on D-Wade in the 2012 playoffs.

That is the kind of play Bradley is known for and if he can do things like that (obviously not every play will be as spectacular) night in, night out, Bradley could find himself on the NBA’s All-Defensive 1st team for the first time in his career. For Bradley’s defence to be recognised by writers and broadcasters who vote on the award, the Celtics will have to be a highly competitive team and make some noise.

With the depth assembled and Brad Stevens calling the shots, the Celtics are capable of doing this.

2015/16 player previews: Jae Crowder

It’s fair to say Jae Crowder and the Celtics are a match made in heaven.

After being acquired in the Rajon Rondo trade, Crowder quickly became a fan favourite in Boston with his hard work and not being afraid to do the dirty work. He signed a 5 year contract worth $35 million in the off-season, which I think will turn out to be an absolute steal.

In the playoffs, Crowder showed the basketball world what he is all about. Defending LeBron James is one of the hardest tasks in basketball and Crowder stood up to LeBron and made every Celtic fan around the world proud. LeBron is used to having it all his own way, but Crowder made it uncomfortable for him.

Crowder didn’t just have an effect on the defensive end, he was efficient on offence and showed he can bury a game-winner.

In season 2015/16 I expect Crowder to really assert himself on this team. He is a leader and he thrives on competition.

Crowder will often be defending the opposition’s best offensive player, so his work will be cut out night in, night out, but I get the feeling Crowder won’t mind that much at all.

Crowder had a good preseason and had a particularly good game against Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks. ‘Melo shot a woeful 4/18 from the field and Crowder was all over him. This performance was very encouraging and proved he has no ill effects from the knee injury he sustained in the final game of the season.

Get ready for some Crowdahhh in season 2015/16.

2015/16 player previews: David Lee

Who could have predicted last season, that the Warriors would have ended up dealing David Lee to the C’s?

There’s no doubt that the Lee trade gives the Celtics a visible boost. The 32 year old big man is undoubtedly a huge upgrade over Gerald Wallace, who was largely relegated to a background role locker room leader and veteran voice of wisdom. Despite Lee’s lesser role with the Warriors last season, never lose sight of the fact that Lee is still the same talented big man he has been all these years. He is, and can be productive on a nightly basis, especially on the scoring and rebounding columns.

He’s proved it during preseason too. Lee averaged 20 minutes of play in five games, with 7.8 points and 7 rebounds a game. He could easily be a double-double machine with heavier minutes, but it’s unlikely the team can afford that option.

Whilst not stacked with top-level talent, the Celtics are still a quiet threat in the East. Lee’s championship experience will prove invaluable to a young team looking to push beyond a first-round playoffs exit. Head coach Brad Stevens has acknowledged the fact as well.

Is it unrealistic for Lee to play anything from 15 to 20 minutes a game, as a starter for the team? What do you think is Lee’s best quality right now?

2015/16 player previews: Isaiah Thomas

Isaiah Thomas was a game changer for the Celtics last season. In just 25 games (including playoffs) for Boston, he changed the fortunes of the team. Now, with a training camp in Boston under his belt, Thomas looks ready to take his game to a whole new level.

In the 21 regular season games he averaged 19 points, 5.4 assists, 2.1 rebounds and 2.6 turnovers per game. That’s some pretty impressive production considering he was thrown in at the deep end and had little practice time with the team as the late season grind took full effect. Couple that with the fact that he sat out 8 games in a row in March with a lower back injury (which didn’t fully recover until the off-season), what he was able to accomplish was even more incredible.

With assists like this one, Thomas immediately became a fan favourite in Boston.

In those 21 games, the Celtics won 14 of them and in doing so made every Boston fan proud. Even when the Celtics were completely out-matched by Cleveland in the first round of the playoffs, the team didn’t give up and fought out every game, making it as hard as possible for the Cavaliers. After eventually being swept in game four, the proud Garden crowd gave the Celtics a standing ovation for making something out of a season many thought would be filled with losses.

Thomas summed up the playoff experience perfectly, stating “we’re proud, but we’re not satisfied.” This sentiment was echoed by his teammates and I’m sure it drove them during the off-season to be better.

Thomas is known as one of the best pick and roll players in the league and this season with the addition of Amir Johnson, I expect this to continue and reach new heights. Thomas and Johnson have looked very comfortable working the pick and roll in training camp and the few preseason games they have played in together.

Obviously Thomas’ size makes it difficult for him to be a force on the defensive end, and larger guards can cause him trouble. Thomas will never be a great individual defender, but if he can improve enough on the defensive end to the point that he can play great team defence, Boston will be able to wear teams down.

The big question that has surrounded Thomas since he was acquired has been whether or not he should be starting? I’m sure this question will continue to be asked throughout the season and for as long as Marcus Smart and Thomas are on the same team. For now though, I believe we should be focussing on the fact that a team run by Smart and Thomas has huge potential to take Boston forward.

The starting dilemma will of course be all up to coach Brad Stevens. Stevens has worked wonders for Thomas’ game and it was amazing how quickly Stevens figured out how to get the best out of Thomas last season. With a training camp and many more practices together this relationship will only be better in season 2015/16.

After making the playoffs last season, the playoffs are once again the goal for this team and Thomas. With a roster that is better than last year, and more stable, I hope to see Thomas take full advantage of this and average somewhere around 20 points and 6 assists a game.

The Boston Celtics season ends in chippy game 4


The Celtics were looking to take game 4 & force a 5th game in Cleveland & things didn’t start well for them as Brad Stevens took a timeout not even 2 minutes into the game to emphasize the importance of rebounding as the Cavs already had 5 2nd chance points. After Love & Olynyk’s arms got tangled, Love ran to the locker room with a dislocated shoulder & would not return. The Celtics weren’t able to take advantage of Love’s injury & Thompson’s 2 early fouls as Cleveland led 29-19 after one.


The 2nd quarter began better for the Celtics as Sullinger & Smart got back to back baskets but the Cavaliers quickly went on a run as LeBron & Co pushed the lead to 18. Out of a Celtics timeout Sullinger & Crowder combined for 7 straight points to get the crowd back into it but as the trend of the series Thompson got an offensive rebound & put back which sparked a run as they got up by 19 points. Kendrick Perkins & Jae Crowder got into a fight which led to Perkins getting a flagrant + a double tech on Crowder & Perkins. A chippy 2nd quarter ended with the Cavs up 21.


The Celtics started the 2nd half aggressive drawing fouls. JR Smith was ejected for hitting Crowder, Jae needed to be helped from the floor as Thomas knocked down a pair from the line. Bass finished a put back dunk over Thompson who picked up his 4th foul on the And 1 play. Bass missed the free throw & in a very unusual way he was 0/3 from the line in the quarter. Crowder was diagnosed with a left knee sprain & would not return to this game. Thomas cut the deficit to 13 after a fast break basket. The Celtics got the crowd amped after Pressey beat LeBron in a jump ball & Sullinger hit a buzzer beater as they cut the Cavs 21 point lead to 9 going into the 4th. The Celtics were shooting 14-25 from the line.


Sullinger, who now had a double double, knocked down a 3 to make it an 8 point game but Kyrie quickly answered. Smart cut it down to 9 with just under 7 minutes left but again, Irving had an answer. Shumpert had 4 straight points to push the Cavs lead to an untouchable 13 points. . After an eventful final minute the Celtics fell victim to a sweep after losing game 4 93-101. Sullinger finished with 21 points & 11 rebounds.

The 2014-15 Boston Celtics overcome a lot of doubters, line-up changes, injuries & anything else that came at them to get the 7th seed. The team played with heart, grit & toughness all season long & had that never say die attitude. They showed us what Celtic Pride is all about. While it’s sad this fun & eventful season has come to an end, this Celtics team will be one I always remember. See you all next season, Bleed Green.


Bonus Boston Basketball

It feels like the beginning of season 2014-15 is already a distant memory. On opening night, the Celtics roster included names like Rondo, Green, Thornton, Faverani and Powell. We saw brief stints in green from NBA veterans Tayshaun Prince, Brandon Wright and Jameer Nelson, even Austin Rivers passed through for a few days. Strange to think that was only a few months ago.

Now with a young core and impressive young coach, the Celtics are headed to the Playoffs in just the second year of a rebuild. The additions of Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Jonas Jerebko and Gigi Datome have given this team a big boost since the All-Star break. The landscape has changed so much since October – even Danny Ainge didn’t see this coming, which is testament to Brad Stevens and his ability to get consistent effort out of this team and to play for each other.

The Playoffs are always a great experience for any player’s development, and it doesn’t get much better than a match-up in the spotlight against the LeBron-led Cleveland Cavaliers. With Danny Ainge, Brad Stevens and owner Wyc Grousbeck stating they want to keep this young core together for the long-term, the 2015 Playoffs will be a great learning curve for the team as a whole.

You can bet a never-say-die mentality and a pumping TD Garden will give this team enough belief to push the Cavs to the brink. Whatever happens in the post-season should be considered a bonus; the Celtics have already been big winners in 2015.