Celtics rally without Rondo, Smart & beat Bulls to improve to 3-3.

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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.

After a sluggish start to the game from both sides, new starting PG, Evan Turner got Boston on the board first. The Celtics would build a 12-2 lead after Kelly drained a 3 in transition followed by a made Sullinger shot, forcing a Bulls timeout. Dunleavy would tie the game at 18 apiece on a 3 & the Bulls finished the quarter on a 10-2 run to take a 25-20 lead.

Jeff Green tied the game at 27 with a 3 before Gibson through down a slam at the other end. A 10-2 run by Boston had them retake the lead 39-35 as Bradley added 5 points during the run. A made pair of free throws by Turner & a Bradley steal and layup put Boston on top by 10. The Celtics rallied off a quick 7 points to close the half to take a 56-41 (36-16 in the quarter) lead into the half. Bradley led the team with 11 (9 in the 2nd quarter)

Back and forth start to the 3rd quarter as Boston held a 65-49 lead. Boston built the lead to 18 & had the chance to push it to 20 but couldn’t capitalise. The Bulls cut it to 15 on a free throw from Gasol before Olynyk nailed a 3. The whole 3rd quarter was close as Boston outscored Chicago 27-26 & took an 83-67 lead into the final frame.

Brooks hit a 3 for Chicago after Wallace went 1/2 from the line to cut the Boston lead to 14 with 9 minutes remaining. Brandon Bass got a huge steal that led to a Zeller basket to put Boston back up 15. Noah cut the Boston lead to 9 making it the closest it had been for some time. Effort on the offensive glass led to a Brooks 3 for Chicago & it was all of a sudden a 6 point game. Turner hit a steadying shot for Boston, putting them up 8 before Brooks hits another 3. Brooks was fouled on a deep 2 & made both to cut Boston’s lead to 3. Olynyk drove the lane & got fouled. He made it a 2 possession game, going 1/2. Brooks put in his 19th point of the quarter forcing a Boston timeout with 30 seconds left up 2. Turner drove the lane but couldn’t get the shot to fall but Kelly Olynk grabbing his 10th rebound, his 2nd offensive led to 2 made free throws to Evan Turner. Boston held on to win this one 106-101.

Full time statistics:
Kelly Olynyk: 18 Points, 11 Rebounds
Evan Turner: 19 Points, 5 Rebounds, 6 Assists
Avery Bradley: 13 Points, 3 Rebounds, 2 Assists
Jeff Green: 14 Points, 4 Rebounds, 4 Assists
Jared Sullinger: 10 Points, 8 Rebounds, 4 Assists
Marcus Thornton: 11 Points
Brandon Bass: 7 Points, 2 Rebounds
Phil Pressey: 3 Points, 3 Rebounds, 4 Assists
Tyler Zeller: 10 Points, 7 Rebounds, 4 Assists

Rockets stop Celtics perfect start behind Harden’s 26.

Capture

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.

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Screenshot by Justin

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

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Screenshot by Justin

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Screenshot by Justin

Captain Rajon Rondo & Brad Stevens during the 4th quarter

The Road Ahead – How will the Boston Celtics go this season?

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:

 

Front Office:

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.

NBA: Boston Celtics-Brad Stevens-Press Conference

Coaching:

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”.

 

Players:

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?

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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.

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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.

Boston Celtics Unveil New Draft Picks

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?

Offseason Recap: The Marathon Approach

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)

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

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.

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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 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 Green breakdown – Should Jeff Green be traded?

Here’s a question many Celtics fans have had in the back of their minds for a while – is trading Jeff Green a good idea, or bad?

Jeff Green

The problem some people see with Jeff, is his lack of consistency – why the hell can’t he play like he does in his 25+ point games every night? In my opinion he does, but it is all about rhythm. In Jeff’s best games this season, it hasn’t been all aggressive plays. In most of his good/great games he shoots the ball well from the field, especially from the 3, which gives him the confidence to attack with impunity. He has had 2 great fantastic offensive games where he shot 15 & 13 free throws, with the games being a win and a loss apiece.

In the NBA 2013/14 season, Green has had:

  • Two 30+ point games (31 & 39),
  • Eight 20+ point games (29, 26, 25, 24, 24, 22, 22, 20) and
  • Sixteen 15+ point games (19×5, 18×3, 17, 16×5, 15×2)

That makes up 26 of the 44 games played that Jeff has had 15+ points, and he has only had seven games where has scored under 10 points, meaning he has scored in double digits for 37/44 games, or 84%.

Jeff is our leading scorer at 16.2 points a game, with the next closest being Avery at 14.5. Jeff leads us in free throws attempted & made, which shows he is being rather aggressive this year. Jeff is 145/188 from the line this season & the next closest is Brandon Bass at 115-136. Jeff also averages 5.1 rebounds per game and has 223 total on the season, being the 3rd most behind Bass and Sullinger.

On the court:                 Off the court:
14.4 FTA                                6.6 FTA
13.1 AST                                6.6 AST

Here’s an interesting stat I’ll toss into the equation too: Jeff really loves Wednesdays apparently! He has played ten Wednesday games (tied with most of any day with Friday), and Jeff puts up a cool 21.6 PPG while shooting .461% from the field & .451% from deep on those nights. Jeff’s next best game night is Friday, where he puts up 16.3PPG.

Jeff Green’s best games this season

Boston @ Washington Wizards
39 Points on 14/26 shooting (.538%), 8/16 from 3 (0.500%) & 3/5 from the stripe (.600%). 9 rebounds, 3 steals & a block

Boston vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
31 points on 10/19 shooting (.526%) 9/13 from the stripe (.692%) & 2/4 from 3

Boston vs. Los Angeles Clippers
29 points on 10/23 shooting (.435%) 3/7 from deep (.429%) 6/6 from the stripe & 4 rebounds

Boston @ Golden State Warriors
24 points on 11/17 shooting (.647%) 1/2 from 3 & 11 rebounds.

Green’s worst games

(No video lowlights for obvious reasons.)

Boston @ Minnesota Timberwolves
2 points on 0/6 shooting, 2/2 from the line & 7 rebounds.

Boston vs Houston Rockets
4 points on 2/10 shooting (.200%) & 6 rebounds

Boston @ Houston Rockets
4 points on 2/7 shooting (.286%) & 2 rebounds

The question now: is he worth $8.7 million this season & 9.2 million for the next two seasons?

In my opinion I’d keep him around and see how he does for the remainder of this season when Rondo gets going, as I believe his PPG will go up with the passing #9 is capable of. Personally, I don’t think a season average of 16.2 PPG in his first 44 games, in first season of his career as the go-to scorer is honestly that bad. Some nights he will go off for 25+, most nights he will be around 15+ with the occasional hiccup. In the end, it all boils down to the salary cap and how much his perceived value is to the team.

Do you think Jeff is a keeper, or does it really stink badly for you? Let me know what you think @BrandonMckay6 or @CelticAustralia on Twitter.

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