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?

ABRondo

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?

Sullinger Is Ready To Star

With the beginning of a new NBA season upon us, it’s that time of year where we can make big statements about what to expect this year. While many people talk of who will win the championship, Most Valuable Player, or who will make the playoffs, I’m turning focus to a third-year power forward that is just primed for a big season.

Jared Sullinger is ready. After showing glimpses of the player he can become in his rookie season, it was ended prematurely by a back injury. He established himself as a consistent starter and important offensive weapon in his second year, which was an achievement in itself. Coming off back surgery, he had a limited fitness base to begin with, and an injury to his shooting hand hampered his jump shot for the final months of the year.

Heading into 2014/15, Sully has been able to get into the best shape of his young NBA career. He has dropped a noticeable amount of weight, and has continued to fine-tune his outside game. Consider this: Sullinger connected on 50% of his attempts from 3-point range this preseason at an average of 3.8 shots per game.

Coupled with his soft touch at the rim, he averaged 14.9 points in just 26 minutes per contest over the past month. Then there’s his average of 10.9 boards per game despite limited minutes. In one game against the Nets, Sullinger produced a game of 21 points and 19 rebounds in just 29 minutes of action. In case those numbers aren’t enough, Sully has become smarter with his defensive work. He no longer commits ‘rookie fouls’ in games, and has adapted well to the pace of his opponents at that end of the floor.

Last season, Sullinger began to receive praise from his peers after he began to rebound the ball at an excellent rate and find a great balance between taking outside shots and knowing when to attack the paint. This resulted in some 20-20 games, while he also displayed an ability to make tough shots in close contests.

Yes, it’s only October, and we have 82 games ahead of us. However, I believe Sully is ready to become an emerging star in this league. I know I can’t wait to find out how well he goes over the next six months.

Share your thoughts with us!

- Michael (@mickyt34)

Smart Move Signals A Changing Of The Guard

First off I would like to congratulate Marcus Smart and James Young on becoming the newest members of the Boston Celtics. I can’t wait to see what both are able to bring to the floor.

We all know that Danny Ainge went in to the draft with the tactic of drafting the best player available, not based on what the team needs right now. This is an obvious thing to do as it is clear the Celtics are a long way from title contenders.

Having said that, by drafting Smart with the 6th pick there is obviously going to be ramifications for the rest of the guards that Boston already possesses.

Credit: Brad Penner

Credit: Brad Penner

Rajon Rondo was the name that many people thought of first.  I truly believe that Smart and Rondo can co-exist. They are both brutal competitors and could form a very dangerous back court duo.

The trade rumours are obviously going to be crazy this off season, but I don’t think Ainge will actively shop Rondo. He is a four time All Star and Captain of the team, they don’t just grow on trees. It will take a huge offer for Ainge to pull the trigger, and I hope the offer doesn’t come.

The player I believe the selection of Smart effects most is Avery Bradley, who is a restricted free-agent. If Smart moves to the shooting guard position, and plays alongside Rondo, Bradley is left as the odd one out. Smart’s rookie contract is going to be a lot cheaper than retaining Bradley, who could ask for up to $9 million this off season.

Avery Bradley has always been known for his defence. Much like Bradley, Smart plays great defence and never gives up on a play. Smart is 1″ taller, and has a 2″ longer wingspan than Bradley. This may not sound like much but on the defensive end a long wingspan is so very valuable.  This only adds to the fact that Bradley could now been seen as dispensable by Ainge.

As much as I love what Bradley brings to the Celtics, I don’t believe he is worth $9 million. Sadly, I think we’ve seen the last of Avery Bradley in Boston.

Phil Pressey showed tremendous promise throughout his rookie season in 2013/14. He went undrafted but showed he can definitely have an impact in the NBA.

The drafting of Smart will have a huge effect on Pressey’s minutes going forward. Smart will take a lot of the minutes that Pressey saw last season. That being said, if Smart is moved to the two guard position, Pressey will most likely still see some court time as Rondo’s primary back up.

I think Pressey is definitely worth keeping around, especially due to the fact that he is cheap and is learning from one of the best in Rajon Rondo.

Jerryd Bayless came to Boston in the Courtney Lee trade last season. Mainly seen as a cost-saving move, he did provide some quality games for the Celtics and was a solid contributor once he became familiar with sBrad Steven’ system.

This off season, Bayless becomes an unrestricted free-agent. Unlike Bradley, Bayless could be signed for a reasonable amount. If the Celtics can sign him for a good price I think he will still have a role to play for the team. He could slot in nicely as a sixth man, behind Rondo at the point and Smart at shooting guard.

Marcus Smart brings so much fight and heart to the Celtics. He is mature beyond his years and has an NBA ready frame and mindset. Whilst his selection could be problematic for individuals, the future of the Celtics looks to be in good hands.

Green Kick of the Week ft. Rajon Rondo’s RR1’s

Rajon Rondo has been rocking some great colourways of his first signature shoe, the Anta RR1, in the last couple of weeks, none more so than what he laced up before the final game of the season earlier this week.

This weeks winner of KOTW is Rajon Rondo and his pair of Anta RR1 ‘Boston Strong’ PE. These are more than just shoes, they are a tribute to the victims of last years Boston Marathon bombings.

photo via @RajonRondo's Instagram page.

photo via @RajonRondo’s Instagram page.

Although Rondo didn’t play in the regular season finale, it was great to see him go to the effort to pay his respects to those affected by the bombings.

As you can see the tongue features a ‘BOSTON STRONG’ decal along with the date of the bombings. The shoe didn’t stop there in honouring the victims, the initials of every victim cover the majority of the outer of the shoe. The blue lining and a yellow sole of the shoe matches the colours of the Marathon’s logo.

credit: counterkicks.com

credit: counterkicks.com

To make these shoes even more special, Rondo is donating these kicks to ‘One Fund‘; a charity set up in wake of the tragedy to help those affected by it.

I don’t know about you, but these kicks are my favourite for the whole season. Rondo was a great leader this year, on and of the court. He won community awards and made many young fans dreams come true through charity work. And people think Rajon is a jerk! I certainly don’t.

What are your thoughts on these kicks? Are these your favourite kicks of the season too?

Offseason Dreaming: Gortat In Green

Although the Celtics season of mediocrity isn’t quite over yet, the remaining 7 games can’t come quickly enough in what has been a long 82-game stand. With this in mind, it’s never too early to look towards the period in June and July this year where Danny Ainge is expected to be very active.

Polish center Marcin Gortat displayed his affections for the C’s in yesterday’s game against the Wizards in DC, which grabbed my attention as a fan excitedly looking towards the offseason.

Early in the contest, Rondo displayed his signature behind-the-back fake pass that left Gortat with his feet nailed to the floor. Down the other end, Trevor Booker attempted a pair of free throws while Rondo and Gortat shared a laugh over the previous play. This may not seem like much, but there is definitely a mutual respect between the pair, as the Polish Hammer took to Twitter after the game to illustrate this point:

As the 3rd quarter wound down with Jeff Green getting ready to sink some free throws, the Celtics players huddled round for a quick discussion, only to be joined by a certain #4 in a Wizards uniform. It was another mischievous act in yesterday’s game, which was literally embraced by Rondo by having his arm around Gortat as well.

Admittedly, these are only two small things that really don’t point to much on their own. Last year in the offseason, Brandon Bass and Gortat worked out together. The former Orlando Magic teammates clearly share a good relationship to still be catching up and playing ball together, which could work well in any recruitment pitches the Celtics may put to the center.

Becoming an unrestricted free agent after this season, Gortat is earning $7.27 million this year and could demand a similar figure on the open market. While the Wizards are obviously eager to re-sign him, with Marc Stein reporting his signature ‘as a top priority’ for Washington, he has the choice of signing with any team around the league.

The Celtics desperately need a quality center on their roster moving forward, if the Omer Asik trade rumours were anything to go by in December last year. At 30 years of age, Gortat has plenty of good years left in the NBA.

Putting together mutual respect between Gortat and the Captain of the Celtics, his relationship with former teammate Bass, his status as an unrestricted free agent and the Celtics with a plethora of picks and money to make it happen, here’s hoping that fun he had with the Celtics yesterday is the start of something much bigger.

Share your thoughts with us!

- Michael (@mickyt34)

 

Green Kick of the Week ft. Rajon Rondo’s Anta’s

Rajon Rondo ditched Nike before the start of this season and joined Anta, where he got his own signature shoe; the Anta RR1.

He has been switching back and forth between green, black and white colourways of the shoe. Last week he changed things up and rocked a brand new colourway against the Raptors at The Garden.

This week’s winner of Green Kick Of The Week is Rajon Rondo and his Anta RR1’s. This colourway is bright and reminds of the striking Nike’s he wore last season.

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These kicks feature my favourite colourway I’ve seen on the Anta RR1. The bright green pattern almost looks like a salute to ‘The Hulk’.

Unfortunately this colourway isn’t available to the public yet. I really hope they are released, although I highly doubt they will be. If they are, I know I’ll be grabbing a pair as fast as possible.

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I’ve been a huge fan of Rondo switching to Anta since the first rumours of the move surfaced, and its colourways like these that prove you don’t need to be with Nike or Jordan Brand to have fantastic kicks.

What do think of these kicks? Do you think Rondo should keep ‘em or dump ‘em?

Green Kick Of The Week ft. Avery Bradley’s No Mercy’s

The 2013-14 season for the Celtics is winding down. Whilst their record isn’t pretty, there have been plenty of positives. The return of Rajon Rondo and the emergence of Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk have been some of my personal highlights.

Another highlight has been watching Avery Bradley find his shooting stroke. He has been especially terrific in the last week. His game against the Heat was tremendous; draining 6 three pointers, and totaling 23 points. He followed that up with another huge performance against Brooklyn. He scored 28 points and grabbed 4 rebounds.

credit: solecollector.com

credit: solecollector.com

Bradley wore an awesome par of kicks against Brooklyn. This weeks winner of Green Kick Of The Week is Avery Bradley and his very bright pair of Adidas ‘No Mercy’ kicks. He also laced them up on St Patrick’s Day against Dallas.

Bradley has now won back-to-back KOTW‘s after taking out last weeks competition with his Crazy 1’s. In my opinion, the Adidas No Mercy’s were a  great choice by Avery. The bright green and black colourway are a great match with the C’s uniform.

credit: @keezcam

credit: @keezcam

More importantly, Avery has been playing great in these kicks.

Do you think Avery should keep ‘em or dump ‘em?

Green Kick of the Week ft. Avery Bradley’s Adidas Crazy 1’s

Avery Bradley made his long-awaited return against the Suns last week. Whilst it took him some time to find his groove, he did have a solid hit out for his first game in over a month.

He made his return in a GOLD pair of Adidas Crazy 1 “Awards Season” kicks. These kicks were more than enough for Bradley to claim his first Green Kick Of The Week title for season 2013-14.

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Bradley wore these sneakers earlier in 2014, but there was some tougher competition that week. As you can tell from the photos, these kicks stand out from the crowd with their gold and white outer.

The Adidas Crazy 1 was a perfect choice for Avery; they are a great match with the Celtics new sleeved St. Patrick’s Days uniform.

Capture

What are your thoughts on these kicks? Do you think ‘The Game Changer’ should keep ‘em or dump ‘em?

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)

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?

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