Marcus Smart would get his 2nd career start vs KG & the Brooklyn Nets in Boston as the Celtics would look to get back on the winners list after 2 straight losses.
The Celtics would be in Philadelphia looking to get back on the winners list after a couple of tough losses. They would be without guards, Marcus Smart, Marcus Thornton & James Young.
The Celtics who came into this one on a 5 game losing streak would be looking to end this at home against Detroit. Helping the cause would be Marcus Smart who returned from an ankle injury that had him sidelined for 10 games.
In the 6th game of this early Celtics season, trying to get to .500 at 3-3, Boston would travel to Chicago without their starting Point Guard (Rajon Rondo) & backup Point Guard (Marcus Smart) leaving Evan Turner to handle the PG duties.
The Celtics had the tough task of going into Houston & beating Dwight & the Rockets but led by Captain Rondo they weren’t going to back down. Houston were straight out of the gates playing real aggressive & took a 16 point lead getting Olynyk in early foul trouble. Green & Bass would score 6 points for the C’s but 10 free throws & 60% shooting would have Houston up 22-37.
The 2nd started similar to the first with Houston shooting more free throws as they maintained a double digit lead. A basket by Turner halted the Rockets run & got the game back down to 16 with about half the quarter remaining. Houston would push their lead to 20 on their 21st and 22nd free throw attempts. Jeff led Boston with 8 points but the Celtics shot 0-12 from 3 & lost the rebound battle 28-15 in the first half as they trailed 38-57.
The C’s collapsed a lot in the first half when going for the double team, not getting back out to the wide open shooters.
The 3rd quarter started ugly for both sides but the Celtics managed to go on a 9-0 run, led by Sullinger to climb within 13. Sullinger was hitting the offensive glass consistently to start the quarter & getting second chance points as his 5th rebound & 7th point of the quarter would have the Rockets calling a timeout as Boston made a game of it. Bradley & Zeller picked up their 5th fouls as Harden shot his 13th & 14th free throws for the night to give the Rockets back an 18 point lead. Boston would head to the 4th down 19 as Harden was leading the way with 26.
The 4th had begun & JET would hit a 3 for the Rockets. Rondo’s layup would cut the Rockets lead to 16 & give the Celtics some hope with 8 minutes still to go. Houston responded immediately & pushed the lead back to 22. Jones knocked down a 3 that put the Rockets up by 26. Jeff Green capped of a 5-0 run by the Celtics with a 3, Boston’s first of the night with 4:10 left. Houston shot 40 free throws during the game to win 90-104. Green led Boston with 17.
Boston shot 1-25 from 3 shot 22 less free throws.
Full time statistics:
Jeff Green 17 points, 4 rebounds , 2 assists
Jared Sullinger 14 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists
Rajon Rondo 4 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists
Kelly Olynyk 8 points, 5 rebounds
Brandon Bass 8 points, 5 rebounds
Evan Turner 8 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists
Tyler Zeller 8 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assists
Marcus Thornton 9 points
James Young 6 points
A highlight of the game for the Celtics was a lovely spin move by Sullinger that got him this wide open look
Captain Rajon Rondo & Brad Stevens during the 4th quarter
With our first proper look at the roster after an impressive season opener, what is to follow for the Celtics in 2014-2015?
In a preseason where fans expected fireworks and a top 3 pick, there was disappointment as the off-season brought the Celtics the 6th pick and low-key opportunistic moves. This wasn’t from lack of trying by Danny Ainge and management as the Celtics were one of the most active, trying to land a big fish to pair with Rondo to turbo-charge the rebuild. Once it became apparent that our assets were not as highly valued as we thought, the Celtics held steady – finding bargains wherever they could. By doing this, Ainge has been able to put forth a roster that is more balanced than last year, while not sacrificing anymore cap space beyond this season. Let’s take a look at what to expect from the Celtics in season #2 of the rebuild:
With the roster looking more rounded, Danny is still a fair way away from the finished product. What he has done so far is just collect assets, and flipping them for more valuable assets. The hope here is that these young assets turn out to be legitimate players and once this occurs, he can then decide on whether or not he builds around the young core, or sells the farm in hope of landing other stars. All options are currently still open – much like Houston before they landed James Harden, which is where the Celtics are at right now. Houston had a young, gritty team that remained competitive, but, because they kept their options open, they were able to swing for the fences and land James Harden, followed by Dwight Howard.
Although the roster makes more sense this year, look for Danny to trade away a veteran or two throughout the season, with Bass/Thornton being the prime candidates due to their expiring contracts. There is also the small fact that our star point guard, Rajon Rondo is in the final year of his contract too, so brace yourself for another season full of Rondo trade rumours – it is difficult to see any team offering enough to Danny Ainge to pull the trigger on any Rondo trade, ultimately keeping him in green.
Besides Rondo, the biggest drawcard for potential future free agent signings could very well be Brad Stevens. He has managed to turn discards such as Jordan Crawford and Kris Humphries into players that other teams wanted and he already looks to be doing the same with Evan Turner this year. He seems to have the full trust of his squad and enjoys a great relationship with Rondo, who has been reported as ‘difficult’ time and time again.
With his first year now in the rear-view mirror, Coach Stevens now knows how the NBA games go, he knows exactly he wants and what buttons to push with certain players. His players have spoken about the difference between Coach Stevens this season compared to last and show full confidence in his ability to lead the team as he tries to get this team running like the Spurs “Lite”.
Though starved of top-end talent, the Celtics do boast a legitimately deep squad where we see a minimal drop off between the 4th to 10th player in the squad. Here are the players to watch out for during the season:
Rajon Rondo: With more time removed from his ACL injury in early 2013, Rondo looks to get back to his All-Star best. Although he suffered a minor setback breaking his hand, he is ready to prove his doubters wrong and be the leader and star that this team needs. Being in his contract year, he will be desperate to remind everybody in the league that he is still one of the best point guards in the NBA. Questions were asked on whether or not he can play in Brad Stevens’ offense and after the season opener yesterday, it is safe to say that he will have no problems in that system. Rondo’s biggest question mark is injuries – once thought of as durable player, he has missed 29, 44 & 52 games respectively in the previous three seasons, will he be able to stay relatively healthy this year?
Avery Bradley: Can Bradley live up to the 4 year, $32m extension he signed over the off-season? That will be the question people will ask of him throughout the duration of his contract. Avery has looked to re-dedicate himself back to his bread and butter, his defence whilst further working on his 3 point shot which is not to be ignored by other defences. At the young age of 23, Bradley is already one of the leaders of the team as he is entering his 5th season, being the 2nd longest tenured Celtic (behind Rondo). With Bradley playing exclusively at the shooting guard role, he should further flourish under Brad Stevens – and wreak havoc defensively with Rondo and Smart to play next to.
Jared Sullinger: After his first fully healthy summer as a pro, Sully worked tirelessly on both his fitness base, and his 3 point shooting during the off-season, it showed in the pre-season, as he was the best on the team averaging a double-double in under 28 minutes per game. Fairly or not, Sully was judged critically last season mainly due to his lack of conditioning after missing a large part of the off-season due to back surgery. Fans can only hope that he takes the next leap to a double-double machine in the regular season, and even pushes for a potential all-star selection. He is one of the most important players on the roster due to his leadership and natural feel of the game – he is the team’s best rebounder and is also an underrated passer. If his conditioning will allow him to play at a high level for 30+ minutes per game, he could very well be in the running for most improved player, as some experts have predicted.
Kelly Olynyk: Olynyk will be looking to build on the end of last season, where we saw him string together an impressive set of performances averaging 25.7 points (on 53.4% shooting), 9.3 Rebounds and 3.7 assists in just under 35 minutes in his final 3 games to close the season out. While Olynyk has always been sound offensively, coming into his rookie season, criticism has come from the defensive end of the floor – where people question whether he was quick enough to guard fours, or strong enough to guard fives. His rookie season did nothing to silence the critics defensively – although he wasn’t as bad as advertised, he clearly needed to work on that end of the ball. Coming into this season, we can see that Olynyk has worked on his body as he trimmed some fat and added muscle, making him better equipped to handle the defensive duties. Due to his range of skill, including his shooting/driving and passing ability, look for Olynyk to be a big part of the Celtics revamped offense as he has locked up the starting Centre spot.
Marcus Smart: The Celtics prized rookie has been just as good on defence as advertised, with some experts even picking him as a potential Rookie of the year candidate. Smart has the tools to be able to contribute straight away on the defensive end, but, his offense has looked shaky at times. As Smart plays more games, he looks to be getting more and more comfortable with his role and what he is supposed to be doing out on the court. Will he be able to offensively impact a game and run the team? If Smart can continue to develop his shot and show steady improvement, the sky is the limit for this prized rookie. With a healthy squad, Smart looks to be the 6th man for this team.
Evan Turner: There was no real excitement in the air when the Celtics made the low key signing of Evan Turner for 2 years, $3m per. This was looked at as a low risk/high reward signing after Turner’s value plummeted to an all-time low following his season/playoffs in Indiana. In pre-season, coach Stevens had Turner playing all positions from 1-3 with great success, can this equate to the regular season, and will Turner be able to run the point as good as he did in college, where he was 2010 NCAA Big 10 top scorer and National Player of the Year en route to being the #2 pick in 2010? For the relatively low salary he is on, Turner can turn out to be a bargain as he now has a coach/system where his potential could actually be fulfilled.
Marcus Thornton: Marcus Thornton has been a pleasant surprise for the Celtics, being the spark plug off the bench with lights out shooting and deserves a special mention, but given the logjam at the guard spots, and his expiring contract, is he playing his way out of Boston, or will he be a major part of the team for the whole season?
Every player on the Celtics roster has questions against their names. Can Zeller be the centre that the Celtics so desperately need? Will Thornton/Bass be on the team after the trade deadline? Will Jeff Green be more aggressive and average 20+ ppg? Will James Young show enough to get regular minutes? Can Vitor come back and excite everyone like he did early last season?
At times this season, this young Celtics team will be fun to watch with high energy D, fast paced action, and 3 point barrages. Given the average age of the team, there will be games that we would like to forget, but, expect a more competitive team compared to last year. For this season, the Celtics have a near 100% Rondo, an extra year experience for Coach Stevens, and extra year for our young veterans, and 2 rookies who have tremendous upside. The Celtics may not be contenders, nor they likely may not make the playoffs (I hope I’m wrong), but there is enough talent there to be cautiously optimistic about this team for the upcoming season.
I predict that the Celtics record for the upcoming season will be: 35-47.
What about you? How do you think the Celtics will go this season?
The 2014 offseason gave Celtic fans plenty of hope that a rebuild could be achieved in a short time-frame. Big name players visiting Boston (see Kevin Love), the thought of a legitimate 7-foot centre joining the ranks by sliding in the draft (see Joel Embiid), and an arsenal of trade chips at Danny Ainge’s disposal all created optimism that the C’s were only a couple of great moves away from returning to the top in 2014/15. Now that we know how the offseason has panned out, it would appear we are in for at least one more season of mediocrity.
With Kevin Love moving to Cleveland and making them a legitimate powerhouse alongside LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, the 76ers taking Embiid at pick #3, and Ainge unable to find teams willing to trade with Boston, the Celtics’ front office had to readjust their strategy. Draft night provided the Celtics with the opportunity to pick the best talent available, selecting Marcus Smart and James Young with picks #6 and #17 respectively.
Marcus Smart is a 6’3” point guard out of Oklahoma State, renowned for his defensive tenacity and a level of leadership that exceeds his 20 years of age. As with many young point guards, his offensive game will progress with time, most notably his outside shot (sound familiar?) and decision-making. He holds a story worth reading about.
James Young is a 6’7” shooting guard/small forward who will provide instant offense for a Celtics team that struggled from the perimeter last season. Young was regarded as one of the top shooters in this year’s draft class, but will need to work on his defence to see consistent minutes under Brad Stevens.
From a trade perspective, Danny Ainge played a smart game considering the Celtics inability to find suitable trade partners. Taking advantage of Cleveland’s cap-saving moves, Ainge was able to acquire centre Tyler Zeller and veteran shooting guard Marcus Thornton in a three-way trade with Brooklyn. This trade cost the Celtics nothing, as the trade exception collected in the Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett trade last year was set to expire just days after the trade was completed, essentially handing the Celtics a great opportunity to land a centre with potential at little risk.
Finally, free agency proved a difficult avenue for Boston. With more lucrative teams offering big name players opportunities, the Celtics held tight to remain below the luxury tax again and sign Evan Turner on a low-risk deal. The former number 2 pick struggled with the Pacers last season, and will be looking to improve his market value, while the Celtics have possibly gained a big offensive boost.
Although this deal still hasn’t been officially announced, Turner is expected to be with the Celtics when training camp begins. Ainge has been hanging onto Keith Bogans’ non-guaranteed deal for as long as possible, in the event a trade opportunity presents itself.
Heading into training camp, the Celtics roster looks like this;
PG: Rajon Rondo, Marcus Smart, Phil Pressey
SG: Avery Bradley, Evan Turner, Marcus Thornton, Chris Babb (non-guaranteed)
SF: Jeff Green, Gerald Wallace, James Young, Chris Johnson (non-guaranteed)
PF: Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, Brandon Bass
C: Tyler Zeller, Vitor Faverani, Joel Anthony
While it doesn’t exactly shape to be a playoff-bound team, the season will be interesting to see who the Celtics will move forward with, who will be offloaded before the trade deadline, and how well some of the younger players will develop with another season under Coach Stevens. One thing is for sure, the dedicated fans of the green team will continue to support this team as it pushes through the ups and downs on the way to finishing this marathon.
– Michael (@mickyt34)