Celtics rain 3′s, cool Heat.

Game 69 of 82: Miami Heat @ Boston Celtics

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The LeBron-less Miami came out on fire, connecting on 6 of their first 7 shots as they took a 12-7 lead at the first timeout. The Celtics responded, tying the game on a Jeff Green 3 at 14-14. The Heat then went on a 9-0 run before Sullinger nailed a 3, which he followed up with yet another shot from deep shortly after. Miami closed the quarter on a 18-6 run led by Haslem’s 12 points , Chalmer’s 8 assists & took a 34-22 lead at the end of 1.

The second quarter seemed to be all about the three ball. Boston started the second frame on a 9-5 run to cut the Heat lead to 9 on an Avery 3 with 8:44 left in the half. Bayless & Avery nailed back to back 3’s for the Celtics to get the Heat lead down to 6 with 6 left in the half. Ray scored for the Heat & KO followed with a 3 to cut it down to 3. Miami pushed the lead back to 7 on a Wade jumper. The Celtics outscored Miami 31-25 & trailed 59-53 at the half.

Halftime statistics:

  • Celtics 9-18 from 3, Miami 1-5
  • Heat shot 56%, Celtics 48%
  • Miami 32 points in the paint, Celtics 8

The Celtics began the second half on a 10-2 run to take a 2 point lead after AB scored 6 straight, followed by a Green layup that forced a Miami timeout. Miami responded with a 6-0 run to lead by 4. The Celtics answered with a 6-0 run to retake the lead. Avery nailed a 3 to give the Celtics a 4 point lead before Norris Cole and Ray Allen hit 3′s with a Bass basket in between to tie things back up. The Celtics had 4 tries of it to end the quarter but couldn’t get a shot to fall & Boston led 80-78 after 3, outscoring Miami 19-27 in the quarter.

The Celtics pushed their lead to 5 with 9:30 left with 2 Sullinger free throws. Avery hit his 6th 3 on the night, followed by a Rondo jumper to put the Celtics up 6. Ray Allen tied the game with a pair of free throws with 4:30 left. Green hit a 3 and Rondo forced a jump ball against Haslem, won it & scored to put the Celtics up 5 with 1:44 left. Wade cut it to 3 but Rondo answered with a jumper to put the C’s on top by 5 with 18 seconds left. Miami missed a 3 & the Celtics, with some quick passing, Miami couldn’t foul & Boston ran out the clock & won it 101-96.

Turning point: with the Celtics up 3 and Haslem grabbed an offensive board in the final 2 minutes, took a risk with 5 fouls & forced a jump ball. Rondo won the jump ball & scored at the other end.

Bonus: Rondo highlight reel!

Notable statistics:

  • Celtics shot 51%, Heat 49%
  • Heat had 81FGA, Celtics 77
  • Celtics 13-28 from 3, Heat 4-17
  • Miami 37 rebounds, Celtics 36
  • Celtics & Miami had 29 assists
  • Miami 50-20 in points in the paint

Player stat lines:

  1. Rajon Rondo: 9-10-15
  2. Avery Bradley: 23-4
  3. Brandon Bass: 18-4
  4. Jeff Green: 13-4-3
  5. Jared Sullinger: 14-4-3
  6. Kelly Olynyk 10-5

Kelly’s Playing Olright

The expectations on most rookie big men must be set reasonably low as players transition from the tempo of the college game into the faster pace of the NBA. However, this isn’t always the case when those rookie bigs are drafted in the top 15 of their class.

Kelly Olynyk displayed a high basketball IQ from the word go, especially when he was named player of the tournament for the 2013 Summer League in Orlando. However, the pace of real NBA games meant Olynyk had trouble finding his feet over the first few months of the season proper.

The turnaround in Kelly’s game over the past two months or so can be put down to something rather simple: confidence. This added confidence can be attributed to several factors. A familiarity with Coach Stevens’ system and his teammates (especially Phil Pressey), an understanding of the tempo of the game and his opponents, and just being comfortable knowing his own game is good enough at this level.

Tommy Heinsohn noted that Olynyk’s selection to the Rising Stars game at All-Star weekend may have helped him feel like he truly belongs at this level.

He is no longer hesitating with the ball in his hands, instead taking the shots that are available to him straightaway, demonstrating a higher arc on his jump shots too. If the shots aren’t there, he simply illustrates a very smart passing game to find an open teammate. Olynyk runs the floor very well for a big man, and his ability to finish around the rim is very impressive. In February he averaged 8.4 points per game, substantially improving on averages in December and January of 6.1 and 6.3 points per contest.

Since his return from a toe injury, Kelly has posted averages of 16 points at 53% field goal percentage, 6 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 22.5 minutes of court time over those 3 games.

Not only is Olynyk putting up better numbers and looking comfortable in offensive sets, he is also playing with an added aggression which has seen a spike in his rebounding numbers. Over the months of December and January, Olynyk averaged 3.6 and 3.8 boards per contest respectively. In February, those numbers jumped to 6.5 rebounds per game. This is no coincidence, as he actively pursues rebounds and positions himself a lot better than he used to.

It also seems as though Kris Humphries’ tutelage has been working on Olynyk, as he looks to have added some size and muscle since the start of the season.

Danny Ainge has now drafted Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk over the past two offseasons, with both big men showing enormous potential to be something special for the Celtics going forward. As Kelly continues to improve, it’s exciting to think about what the future holds for this young and promising team.

- Michael (@mickyt34)

Navigating The Rest Of Season 2013/14

As the February trade deadline passed and no moves were made by Danny Ainge since mid-January, the 2013/14 version of the Boston Celtics won’t be one of the most memorable teams in the franchise’s decorated history. Since the beginning of the season and the appointment of rookie Coach Brad Stevens, this season was always about development and working towards something great in the near future. With 23 games remaining and injuries mounting, surely it is time to throw caution to the wind and see what the more inexperienced players have in their arsenal.

With the news Gerald Wallace may miss the final seven weeks of the season, an opportunity for substantial playing time is now up for grabs. As Avery Bradley will return soon, most minutes will be distributed to Jerryd Bayless, Kelly Olynyk and Kris Humphries (in addition to the starting five of Rondo, Bradley, Green, Bass and Sullinger). This is assuming all players will be available to play at the same time, something that has been a rare occurrence with the amount of injuries this team has been dealt with.

This leaves a great opportunity for the likes of Chris Johnson, Phil Pressey and 10-day contract recipient Chris Babb to compete for extended minutes at the guard/forward positions.

Phil Pressey has shown flashes of the player he can become, starting in place of Rajon Rondo on second nights of back-to-backs and playing with the composure required of an NBA-calibre point guard. In January, an impressive night against Toronto in his first career start saw him dish out 10 assists with 0 turnovers, followed later in the week by a 20 point and 4 assist outing against Washington, highlights what Pressey is capable of.

His future with the Celtics appears bright after Danny Ainge traded away Jordan Crawford and MarShon Brooks to give the 5’11” rookie some meaningful playing time. It might be time to give Pressey a more established role behind Rajon Rondo to showcase what he can do on a consistent basis, instead of barely playing to starting from one game to the next.

Chris Johnson really forced his way onto this team, and since being signed to a multi-year deal at the beginning of February, he has continued to play hard on both ends of the floor. Playing to his strengths and knowing his limitations, Johnson would seem the most likely candidate to take the majority of Gerald Wallace’s minutes. It will be interesting to see how Johnson responds to the added responsibility.

Finally, Danny Ainge signed Chris Babb to a 10-day contract to cover the plethora of injuries the Celtics roster currently holds. Babb appeared in five preseason games for the C’s, most notably a 12-point outing in only 8 minutes of action against the Knicks, knocking down 4-5 shots from 3-point land. Babb was unlucky with the amount of guards that jammed the roster at the beginning of the season, but now finds an opportunity to show what he can do at the highest level.

Coach Stevens has been thrown many curveballs in his first season in the NBA, and has been able to navigate his way through all the surprises along the ride very well to this point. Injuries, player frustration, an imbalanced roster, and many losses have all reared their ugly heads at different times. Stevens has always preached never getting too high or too low, and has always instilled confidence into his players whilst keeping a level head at all times. He has been the perfect man for the job.

With Boston headed for the lottery in this draft, now is the time to embrace the injuries the Celtics have been handed and to identify which players will stick as the team moves forward. With a decent selection in the draft, two trade exceptions, and a huge amount of picks at his disposal, Danny Ainge is looking at who will remain in green this offseason, as the Celtics look to climb back into contention at a rapid rate.

- Michael (@mickyt34)

What is the best path for a Celtics rebuild?

With the trade deadline approaching, we take a look at the hard decisions in the week ahead for Danny Ainge and what path he may take for a rebuilding Celtics squad.

Since the big trade in the off-season, debate swept across Celtic nation around how this great franchise can get back to where it belongs: contending, year in year out.  Some think that the best path to rebuild is to completely bottom out, some say that free agency may be the key, whilst others think that going all in by trading away all their chips is the path to glory.

Each method has their own pros and cons, read on as we look through the options in detail.

Rebuilding through the draft

This lengthy method involves trading off most, if not all veterans (Rondo, Green, Bass, etc) whilst keeping young talent.  This would let the team completely bottom out and contend for consecutive top picks.  Philadelphia have gone this exact route this season, setting the tone by trading their young All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday for a rookie (Nerlens Noel) who is coming off ACL surgery and has yet to play a single minute in the league.

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Pros: If the correct players are drafted, this could potentially set a franchise up for long-term success.  There have been some teams over the years that have hit home runs with their picks.  Oklahoma City, as previously discussed, is the first team to come to mind – besides the obvious choice of drafting a transcendent talent in Kevin Durant, they followed this pick up the next year by selecting both Russell Westbrook (4th pick) and Serge Ibaka (24th pick). They then lucked out again the following year by getting James Harden with the 3rd pick.  Although Harden was traded due to financial reasons, they were still able to convert him into Jeremy Lamb, who is starting to break out for them in a solid bench role, and the rights to draft Steven Adams – who looks to be the starting centre of the future once they can find someone who will take Perk’s terrible contract on.

Portland and Golden State are two other great examples of how drafting well can set a franchise up, with both teams figured to be major players in the Wild West in the foreseeable future with young cores.

Cons: For every franchise that has successfully built through the draft, there are a few others that have not fared as well.  Some teams draft for need, possibly leaving the better player on the board (Sam Bowie/Portland anyone?), sometimes players just don’t pan out as people thought they would, and sometimes teams without any veteran presence can just be too young and lose their way.  Cleveland could check all the boxes here.  The Cavs have had a staggering four top-4 picks in the past 3 years, including two number 1 picks (not to mention the 1st pick to take LeBron back in 2003).  To put that in perspective, the Celtics have had the 1st pick once (1950), and they have only selected with the 2nd pick once (’86 – but that is too sad a story to tell).

Cleveland currently find themselves stuck in no man’s land; they want to compete in order for their young superstar in Kyrie to want to stay (cough *LeBron* cough).  If they prove incapable of shaping the roster up, they could see Kyrie bolt in free agency, taking them once again back to square 1, which is exactly how/why LeBron left the Cavs.

Clear cap space, sign free agents

From the in-season trades that Danny has executed so far, this is something that could definitely be on the cards.  The goal here is to trade/position contracts so that they can all expire within the same year, opening up enough space to sign big-time free agents.  The LA Lakers are doing just that this year – with only Kobe and Nash (likely to retire) on the books for next season.

heat_lebron_wade

Pros: Two words – Miami Heat.  No one was able to do what Miami has done – completely strip their roster down to nothing but their own all-star (Wade) + some minimum wage players, sign an All-Star who is also the best player in the game (I felt dirty saying that, but, fair’s fair).  Pat Riley’s master plan worked to perfection here and Miami are currently the 2-time reigning champions with a good shot at a 3-peat.

Cons: There are only a handful of teams that could get away with trying/executing this plan.  The Lakers will always attract the free agents (except Dwight – HA!) due to the celebrity lifestyle and warm climate. Miami was attractive to LeBron because he wanted to team up with Wade, and, let’s face it, Cleveland isn’t exactly a desired location.  New York was always a destination that players wanted to go to, but, this line of thinking backfired on them in the summer of ’10 as they cleared their books in anticipation of signing LeBron – how did that work out for them?  LeBron bolted for Miami, left New York scrambling to sign somebody, and made the worst contract in the league 4 years later with Amare locked up for 5 years/$100 million without insurance for his already shaky knees, whoops.  Up until this day, New York are in salary cap hell, and they are currently not even in the playoffs picture in the pathetic East.

Go all in!

This is something that us Celtics fans are quite familiar with.  Build up a boatload of assets (including expiring contracts, draft picks, and solid young players) and trade them all in for a star or two. The Celtics are once again, in prime position to do something like this in the upcoming year.

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Pros: Banner #17.  The 2006/07 season is very similar to the current season with great young players, an All-Star entering his prime, and the team armed with multiple draft picks.  The Celtics were able to flip these into two Hall of Famers (on the wrong side of 30) whilst keeping our other main pieces in tact and the results were pure bliss.  Miami’s 2006 championship team achieved the same by trading their chips for Shaq, followed by Antoine Walker.

Cons: It is up to the GM to ensure the players that they are receiving fit the personnel of the team and the coaching style.  There’s no point in getting a big name player just for the sake of it.  Both New York Teams have suffered as the Knicks traded half of their team, including multiple picks just to land Melo, leaving them with an imbalanced roster.  This unfortunately now leaves them in a terrible situation – losing record, salary cap hell, and this years’s pick is owned by Denver in the Melo deal, who incidentally is coming up to free agency after this season.

Brooklyn finds itself in a similar situation; although their team is more balanced, they are an aging, injury-prone team and much like New York, they mortgaged their future for a small window for the title.  Once a team trades away multiple future firsts, and if things don’t work out –much like Brooklyn and New York– it could set up a vicious cycle where these teams keep trying to dig themselves out of a hole by trading more of their assets (young players/draft picks) for immediate help, a dangerous game to play (reference: New York in the past 13 years).

All in all, I believe the Celtics just have too many assets to just rebuild through the draft and wait for these young players to mature.  Even the greats needed help, with Cleveland gutting their team to get LeBron, only for him to leave. Tim Duncan was drafted by a San Antonio squad that already had David Robinson, Sean Elliot and Avery Johnson on their roster.  If Ainge can trade some of the vets that don’t figure to be in the long term plan such as Bass, Green, Hump (and hopefully Wallace), the Celtics will be in great shape to land a star through the draft to put next to Rondo and our budding star Sullinger – leaving the team with enough assets to get further help down the line.

I think the only way Danny goes all in with his chips is if we land a pick outside the top 5, and are unable to get one of the coveted top players in the draft this year.  This is very dependant on who is available, and how that talent will fit in with the remaining personnel, but Danny knows talent. Back in 2006, Ainge had the chance to trade for Allen Iverson who was still in his peak, but ultimately decided against it due to the price tag, and how he would have fit with Pierce, which in hindsight, was the smart move.

I believe Danny will make some moves to clear off some future salary, namely Bass and Green as he is reportedly making a run for the 2015 free agency field.  It’s likely he makes the team worse in the short term without trading any of the future core, tries to collect a top 5 pick, and then either attempts to trade for another star, or tries to sign one with the lure of Rondo + young stars.

How do you think the trade deadline will go down?  Who do you think Ainge will trade, if anyone at all?

- Dave @big_dave31

Green Kick Of The Week ft. Jared Sullinger’s Jordan XX8′s

Jared Sullinger is currently playing the best ball of his short NBA career. He has been crashing the boards and also scoring in the post; it has been an absolute pleasure to watch.

He has been doing all this great work in Jordan’s. This week’s winner of KOTW is Jared Sullinger and his Air Jordan XX8 ‘BHM’

credit: getty images

credit: getty images

Jordan released four different 2014 ‘BHM’ PEs, most Jordan Brand sponsored players have rocked at least one of the colourways on the court. This includes Jeff Green and Gerald Wallace. Both have laced up the same colourway as Sullinger, but I decided to give the win to Sullinger because he has been beasting lately.

‘BHM’ colourways are dedicated to Black History Month and the players love to pay homage to the celebration by wearing the ‘BHM’ kicks.

credit: solecollector.com

credit: jordan.com

All ‘BHM’ colourways have been awesome this season, and the Jordan XX8 version is certainly in the upper echelon. Black and purple were the main colours this season and they certainly don’t disappoint.

What are your thoughts on Sully’s kicks? Do you want him to keep ‘em or dump ‘em?

Positives in the Celtics’ Rebuilding Season So far

After an abysmal first half of the season, it’s important to stay positive during the Boston Celtics’ rebuilding season. Of late, the Celtics have lost 19 of their past 22 games (Currently 15-33 overall in win-losses). Statistically, that doesn’t look very good. For the morale in the locker room and the players’ mentality it probably doesn’t sit well either. From blow out losses against title contenders to buzzer beaters against struggling teams (for example the recent loss against the 76ers), we’ve seen it all. There have been a few positives to take out of this season.

Boston Celtics v EA7 Emporio Armani Milano

  1. On the bright side, we’ve watched Jared Sullinger grow into the player Danny Ainge envisioned when he was drafted 21st overall in 2012. In a season that has had more lows than highs, Sullinger has been one of the bright spots. The Celtics are currently without a pure center on their roster after assigning Faverani to the Maine Red Claws.  This has resulted in Sullinger playing out of position for a majority of the season.  However, despite this, he is still averaging 12.8 points and 7.8 rebounds in 26.6 minutes of play.  To top it all off, Sully’s efforts have been rewarded with an invitation to play in the rookie/sophomore (Rising Stars Challenge) game during the All-Star Weekend in New Orleans.
  2. Another positive to take out would be Avery Bradley. Bradley has stepped up his game since the departure of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. He struggled last season offensively after Rondo went down but boy has he stepped up thus far. With a career average of 8.5 points per game, he’s now currently averaging 14.5 points per game this season. He is also currently shooting 43.9% from the field this season.  The ability of Bradley defensively has never been questioned.  If he improves his offensive consistency and with a fit and healthy Rondo and other role players on the Celtics team, who knows what the future brings for the C’s.
  3. I would also give a shout out to Kris Humphries – a man many Celtics fans (myself included) did not want to see in green. When traded to the Celtics, he was viewed as nothing more than an expiring contract, waiting to be disposed when the right deal came along. Over the course of this losing streak, Hump has shown himself to be a reliable, consistent and valuable contributor to this Celtics team. Humphries gives it his all every time he’s on the court night in, night out and becoming a valuable contributor in the Celtics frontcourt. As a result of his contributions, fans that once booed him in the past, now cheer for him. His play has also made it quite likely he’ll remain in Boston beyond this season.
  4. The return of Rajon Rondo. Although the Celtics haven’t won since Rondo has returned, it is great to see him back playing. Not yet back to his explosive best, the Celtics are sure to turn things around once Rondo is 100%.  Time will tell when this will happen. For now it’s important that Celtics nation stays patient.
  5. Finally, I also want to give a shout out to rookie Kelly Olynyk who was selected to the rookie/sophomore game with Sullinger. Bright future ahead of him! Good pick in last year’s draft. I try not to look at the Celtics record too much and if I happen to become depressed at our current situation, I just think to myself “At least we don’t have the worst record in the league” or the best one: “At least we didn’t draft Anthony Bennett.”

What do you think has been the best silver lining for the C’s this season?

- May @mshirtad

Green Kick Of The Week feat Jeff Green’s Jordan XX8 SE

It’s been a very emotional week for Celtics fans. The return of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett will forever be etched in my mind and I’m sure yours too. It really proved just how awesome sport is and how great the Celtics organisation is.

Whilst all the attention was rightfully on Pierce and Garnett, Jeff Green laced up a flashy pair of Jordan’s. This weeks winner of Green Kick Of The Week is Jeff Green and his Air Jordan XX8 SE ‘Award Season’ kicks.

credit: nicekicks.com

credit: nicekicks.com

These kicks stand out from the crowd with their gold outer and black lining. Green wore these on the same night as the Grammy Award’s, which was absolutely no coincidence.

Uncle Jeff wasn’t the only Celtic to lace up these flashy Jordan’s; other Jordan Brand players Gerald Wallace and Jared Sullinger also rocked these kicks against the Nets. But there can only be one winner and Green had been close to winning in prior weeks, so I decided he deserved it.

The XX8 SE is the rear of these two pair of kicks. The front pair is the Melo M10 credit: sneakernews.com

The XX8 SE is the back pair of these two kicks. The front pair is the Melo M10 credit: sneakernews.com

What are your thoughts on the Air Jordan XX8 SE ‘Award Season’ colourway? Do you think Green should keep ‘em or dump ‘em? Let us know in the comments!

Brad Stevens – Baptism by Fire

With half of the season in the history books, we look at how Brad Stevens has performed in his first NBA season so far.

Celtics Hire Brad Stevens as Head Coach – Press release from the Boston Celtics, July 3rd, 2013

Living in Australia and following the NBA almost religiously meant that the college game has never really been high on my priority list (except in a season like the current where Boston look to be a lottery player).  So when the Celtics announced that they had signed Brad Stevens, my reaction was – who?  I thought that the next Celtics coach was Brett Brown, one of Pop’s main guys in San Antonio, and an ex-Australian Boomer national coach.  It wasn’t until further information and stories regarding his decorated college career started coming out, coupled with one of the first things he did as head coach that got me giddy about the signing.  I was impressed with coach Stevens at his introductory press conference – showing maturity beyond his years, poise, and an abundance of knowledge.

How would that equate in his transition from the college game to the pros though?  This is what everyone asked, and rightfully so after the failed Rick Pitino experiment that left so many Celtics fans (including myself) extremely bitter.  After a long line of college-to-pro coaching failures, there were certainly doubts about Stevens’ ability to be able to coach at the NBA level, with major differences both in-game rules/timing and player personnel.

Like Rick Pitino, Brad Stevens was one of the best college coaches going around prior to signing with Boston. The difference between the two situations was that Pitino was given the keys to run the franchise to the ground and coach, whilst Stevens can just focus on coaching and let Danny Ainge take care of personnel.  The relationship between the GM and coach is extremely important for any basketball franchise – why get players that would not fit into the coaches style and vice versa?  Championship #17 came with Danny and Doc collaborating perfectly together through a rebuild, now Danny is hoping for the same magic with Stevens as they share the same philosophy on scouting talent: using advanced stats and analytical data to best determine a players worth and how they can be used.

Brad+Danny

Coach Stevens’ inaugural NBA season has been anything but smooth as he has had to deal with a multitude of issues, which include:

The Piling Losses
The Celtics are on track to lose more games this season than what Stevens would have lost in 6 years at Butler – ouch.  This is all part of the ‘plan’ given the way that the roster is constructed.  Still, at only the halfway point of the season, the team has already endured 3 losing streaks with 4 or more games and that has to take its toll with both the coaching panel, and the players.  Stevens however, has been extremely patient with his young ball club, and preaches growth from each player game by game rather than living and dying in the W-L column – an approach that the players have embraced.  Despite the lack of top end talent on the roster, the players have played extremely hard for him – just look at a game recap from any of their losses where the common theme is the resiliency and fight that this team has.

Imbalanced Roster
The roster that Coach Stevens inherited was quite simply put, a mess.  He had 4 power forwards that deserved minutes, with the only true centre being a rookie and an unknown import. He also had 5 shooting guards that deserved minutes, with the only one true point guard being an undrafted rookie.  The logjam at the shooting guard position caused some friction with Courtney Lee, Keith Bogans and even MarShon Brooks, who all at different times in the season, voiced their displeasure to the media regarding their lack of playing time.  On top of all this, Rondo – the best player and final link to the Celtics’ last championship – sat out the first half of the season.

By empowering his young players and showing confidence in them, we have seen some of our youngsters take a giant leap forward, showing both improved play and leadership qualities.  His calm demeanour is something that his players certainly value highly.

Stubborn Veterans
One of the main questions asked after the hiring of Stevens was announced was how would he get along with Rondo?  Known for being extremely stubborn, being linked in altercations with both coaches and even former team mates, media pundits wondered out loud whether Rondo would will be moved.  Almost immediately after Stevens joined the Celtics, he reached out to Rondo by visiting his summer camp – by Stevens’ willingness to reach out to Rondo, they have forged a great relationship with Rondo going as far as saying that they are ‘best friends’.

To date, Stevens has proven himself more than capable of the task at hand, surprising the league with a surge early in the season that saw the Celtics atop the Atlantic division.  Even after a large win or loss, the players know that they cannot get stuck on the one game for very long, which is something he has drilled in to each and every person.

“You’re never as good as you think you are, you’re never as bad as you think you are, and you’re never far from both sides” – Brad Stevens, December the 9th, 2013 after beating the Knicks by 41 @ Madison Square Garden.

In a season that has seen so much change, Brad Stevens has proved to be the correct man to rebuild the Celtics – with both Stevens and Ainge at the helm, I have no doubt that the team is in great hands and will return to glory sooner rather than later.  What do you think of Brad Stevens?  Has he lived up to expectations so far, or has he been a disappointment, do you think he is the next great coach?

Here’s a bonus video on my personal favourite Brad Stevens moment of the season.  This is his reaction after Jeff Green hit a miracle 3 pointer with 0.6 of a second left against the defending champs in their own building.

- Dave

The Bus To Banner 18

Danny Ainge is a smart man. He is always a few steps ahead of other GMs around the league. For this reason, all Celtics fans should have total confidence in where he is taking this team.

Over the last couple of weeks, we have seen moves made to create cap space and gather even more draft picks, leading to the departures of Courtney Lee, Jordan Crawford and MarShon Brooks. All signs are pointing to the future, as Ainge is shaping the roster to be prepared for the 2014 offseason and beyond.

“We have a long way to go. There’s a lot of good positive things that are happening with our team and a lot of good development with a lot of our young guys. We have some good veteran guys who have set great examples, hard-workers for our young guys. And I feel like we’re figuring out who we want on the bus.” – ESPN

Who will be on the bus that leads this team back up the conference standings and all the way to banner 18?

On The Bus

Rajon Rondo

Put all trade rumours aside, this man is going nowhere. The newly appointed Captain of the Celtics has proven over his rehabilitation that he is fully committed to Boston. He put in countless hours with the trainers, travelled with the team to support his teammates and be the leader, and was also recognised for his community work in the month of December.

Even putting all of this aside, Rondo is an All-Star point guard determined to find his open teammates rather than shoot the ball. This calibre of point guard is becoming more important and harder to find in the NBA, and Danny Ainge would only consider moving Rondo if they received a star of the game in return.

Rondo’s existing contract will be up after the 2014/15 season, but there are already whispers of a contract extension for Mr. Triple Double in the wake of his return to the floor. Expect #9 to be the co-pilot to Coach Stevens through this period.

Jared Sullinger

It’s hard to believe the big man is only in his second season. It’s even harder to believe how well he has been playing when he had an interrupted preseason as he recovered from back surgery. All signs point to continous improvement. Sully has shown great character to put aside an offseason indiscretion that could have easily derailed many athletes, and his commitment to keep improving should see Sullinger remain in green for a long time.

Phil Pressey

The question Celtic fans keep asking is: How did this guy go undrafted? The calming influence Pressey plays with shows maturity beyond his rookie status, and the good news is he will only improve with more experience. Having great court vision allows Pressey to find his open teammates, while his ability to dish out on-target assists is reminiscent of another point guard on this roster.

A contract that could see him with the Celtics for three seasons on low money indicate the confidence Ainge showed in Pressey from the outset, and after trading away Jordan Crawford to give him more minutes, all signs point to Pressey being on the bus for the future as a great foil to Rondo.

Kelly Olynyk

Summer League. This is where rookies can showcase their potential, and Olynyk was better than all of his teammates and opponents in the 2013 Summer League. As is the case with many big men finding their way in the NBA, there have been growing pains as Olynyk’s physicality and rebounding ability have come into question, which is all part of being a rookie.

He has shown flashes of brilliance, and an occasional ability to light up the scoring sheet already in his short career. His calm demeanour underneath the basket and high basketball IQ have been highlights of Olynyk’s game thus far. The only way Kelly will be out of Boston would be in a blockbuster-type trade as a trade chip, which is all speculation at this stage.

Waiting At The Depot

Avery Bradley

Bradley has had a very consistent season on both ends of the court. He has proven his ability to knockdown mid-range jumpers off the dribble, off screens and the catch and shoot, keeping his opponent honest defensively.

This improvement on the offensive side of the ball has been good for the Celtics this year, but Bradley will head into the 2014 offseason as a Restricted Free Agent. It will be interesting to see how much teams are prepared to offer Bradley. The financial side of basketball may become too much for Ainge to keep Bradley on board. Watch this space.

Kris Humphries

Remember when Boston fans had reservations surrounding this man playing for our team? With Rondo? What a difference 6 months makes. Humphries has been a true professional in his entire time with the Celtics. He began the season warming the bench and logging DNP’s, but he kept his mouth shut and worked his way into the rotation, then as the first big off the bench, to become the starting centre on this team.

Leading via hard work is crucial for a veteran, as it sets a great example for his young teammates. His upbeat personality and hustle on the floor actually have Celtic fans and reporters reconsidering Hump’s future with this team. Originally, the general consensus was to trade away Humphries and his expiring contract before February’s trade deadline. Now we are wondering whether Ainge may decide to bring him back next season. Things will become much clearer next month.

Jeff Green

As we saw against Washington, Ironman is capable of big scoring nights. When he plays with aggression, he is one of the best small forwards in the league. The problem for Uncle Jeff lies with his inconsistency. Some nights he can be unstoppable, other nights he is barely sighted.

It is this inconsistency that has brought his name up in trade rumours in the past week, and why he was mentioned when the Rockets were shopping Omer Asik in December. Green would be a great foil on a contending team, but more likely as a role player than a starter. It remains to be seen whether Green will stick with the Celtics in the long run.

Vitor Faverani

El Hombre Indestructible started the season in great fashion, posting big numbers in points and boards before crashing back to earth. Now buried on the bench, Vitor is with the Celtics on a cheaper contract, and should stick with the team unless he is part of a trade package.

Jerryd Bayless

Acquired only two weeks ago in a trade for Courtney Lee, Danny Ainge holds Bayless in high regard. Capable of posting big numbers off the bench, he is a proficient ball-handler and is still relatively young for his experience. A free agent at season’s end, Balyess has spoken of his desire to stick with the Celtics beyond this year.

Gerald Wallace

While there are many people who would be incredibly happy to see Crash leaving Beantown, it is very unlikely due to his awful contract. While he can provide leadership to this young team, Wallace has called out his teammates publicly on numerous occasions and it is something that has worn pretty thin with fans. Unless a rival GM goes temporarily insane, the Celtics will be stuck with this contract until it expires at the end of the 2014/15 season.

Joel Anthony

The two-time NBA champion came to Boston with draft picks to relieve Miami of luxury tax issues last week. A solid veteran presence, Anthony’s game is based on defending and rebounding. He holds a player option of $3.8 million for next season, and from a financial perspective it would make sense for Anthony to pick up this option. Luckily Anthony is a professional who will always support his team regardless of his personal situation.

Brandon Bass

It’s becoming increasingly likely that this hard worker won’t remain with the Celtics beyond this year. With Kris Humphries providing a veteran presence to Sullinger and Olynyk, it’s hard to see where Bass can fit into this team’s future. On a reasonable contract, Bass would be a nice complementary piece to a contending team. While his service to the team over the past three seasons has been solid, and at times undervalued, it would appear his days may be numbered.

End Of The Line

Keith Bogans

An expiring contract and being excused indefinitely due to being upset with a lack of playing time? All signs point to the relationship between Bogans and the Celtics ending very soon.

It will be interesting to watch the next month unfold for Danny Ainge and the Celtics. After the success of Shavlik Randolph’s 10-day contract last season and the surprise play of Chris Johnson this week, it’s no surprise if Ainge continues to plug holes in the roster along the way.

Things will become much clearer after the trade deadline passes. Holding a $10 million exception and an abundance of draft picks to exchange, we will be keeping a keen eye on who will find themselves a seat on the Celtics’ bus to banner #18.

- Michael (@mickyt34)

Humphries Working Hard

Buried in a front court rotation at the beginning of the season, Kris Humphries continued to plug away, work hard in practice, and be an ultimate professional in supporting his teammates from the bench. Not once did he complain about his lack of minutes, despite logging 4 DNP’s due to coach’s decision in the first 8 games of the year.

Behind Jared Sullinger, Brandon Bass, and rookie bigs Kelly Olynyk and Vitor Faverani, Humphries wasn’t discouraged. He has been in the league long enough to know it would only be a matter of time until an injury or poor play would give him an opportunity to prove his worth on this team. And he sure has taken that opportunity.

His playing style of physical rebounding, an impressive ability to block shots and defend the paint, good finishes around the rim, and a nice mid-range jump shot are great qualities to have in a power forward. Humphries has been a great hustle player as the first man off the bench over the month of December, averaging 19.6 minutes while putting up 8.6 points at an impressive 62%, and 5.1 rebounds per contest.

Against Atlanta tonight, Humphries posted a season-high 18 points and 10 boards to register his first double-double for Boston. Such has been Humphries ability to force his way into the rotation via hard work, he has now become the first player off Coach Stevens’ bench, while poor old Vitor Faverani is now logging DNP’s.

Not only does this help in the short term for the development of the Celtics young bigs, to learn from Hump on how to run the floor and to make the most of the opportunities given to you, it also helps increase his trade value.

An expiring contract from a very capable power forward and a professional is something that should be very appealing to a team looking to make a deep post-season run. It is highly unlikely that Humphries will still be in green by February’s trade deadline. Danny Ainge will have the opportunity to add more picks and create more cap room for the 2014 offseason, something all Celtic fans should be very excited about.

In the meantime, we can continue to admire a player Celtic fans originally didn’t want on their team. A will to put his body on the line and continue to make the right decisions on the floor have been a pleasure to watch.

Share your thoughts on Humphries’ recent strong play with us in the comments!

- Michael (@mickyt34)

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