Boston Celtics: What we know so far

The Boston Celtics have gotten off to an exciting start to the season, taking many people by surprise. Although they still sit under the .500 mark with a 4-6 record, the Celtics have played competitive basketball. Predicted to finish in the Eastern Conference cellar, Boston is a couple of possessions away from 6-4 or 7-3.
The Celtics have had no trouble putting the ball in the basket, scoring 106.8 point per game, good for third in the NBA behind Dallas and Golden State. Boston is also shooting at an impressive .485 clip. The troubles lie on the defensive side of the ball where Boston ranks 28th in opponents points per game and tied for 24th in opponents field goal percentage.
Getting stops will continue to be an issue
Jared Sullinger
So far the Celtics have lost games in which they scored 113, 114, and 120 points.  They lost games in which they led in the fourth quarter to Phoenix, Cleveland, and Oklahoma City, where games tend to grind to a halt. The Celtics have been effective at turning games into tr

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How Rajon Rondo Allows Avery Bradley to Thrive with the Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics guards Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley are undersized, but still compliment each other very well. It’s difficult not to blend in with a healthy Rondo—who’s regained his stranglehold on the assist leaderboard—and Bradley is taking full advantage of the opportunity (especially on offense).

Last season, with Rondo on the sidelines, Bradley was out of place and awkward as Boston’s lead ball-handler. He was asked to create for others when he had a hard enough time consistently carving point-scoring inlets for himself. Bradley isn’t a playmaker, and each off-the-dribble excursion into the dark depths of a defense read like an eternal pessimist’s choose-your-own-adventure story. 

The ball isn’t meant to be in Bradley’s hands when the shot clock is above 18, but that’s where it was for a whole year. He was miscast, and everyone knew it. Now that Rondo is back, Bradley is thriving in a role better suited to his skill set. He’s off the ball, making baseline cuts and spot-up threes. He’s also facing less restriction from a defense that’s constantly worried about stopping the Celtics’ best player.

Last year’s struggles weren’t a complete waste of time, though, as Bradley molded one of the league’s best pull-up jumpers into his repertoire. But it’s good to rest most of the team’s ball-handling duties on Rondo’s lap. It’s where they belong.

Bradley’s touches per game have fallen from 47.7 to 38.1, per NBA.com. His usage rate is down, and his assist percentage is at a career low 5.7. Not all this season is peachy, however. Bradley’s PER is dangerously close to single digits, he isn’t getting to the free-throw line (11 attempts in 10 games) and, somehow, his turnover rate is actually up from last year. 

It’s early in the season, though, and most of these figures should balance out eventually (most notably his outside shot). Bradley’s three-point percentage is considerably lower than it was last season, but that shouldn’t be cause for concern.

Rondo is giving Bradley more time and space to get deep shots off. Roughly 19 percent of Bradley’s attempts during the 2013-14 season were three-pointers with the closest defender over four feet away. That percentage is up to 27.6 this year, per NBA.com. Not all of this is Rondo’s doing, but a good chunk certainly is. Just over 40 percent of all passes that Bradley catches comes from Rondo (by far the most of any teammate). 

Bradley’s field-goal percentage on two-point shots is also markedly up from a year ago (from 45.1 to 51.6 percent). Even though Bradley doesn’t score on this play, his brilliantly timed off-ball cut off Rondo’s penetration shows just how easily he can put himself in position to score. Rondo’s chaos is Bradley’s gift.

Bradley has played just 80 minutes without Rondo by his side this season—a sample size too small to extract much meaning. But an interesting takeaway to note is where Bradley shoots with Rondo on the floor (as opposed to without him).

A higher chunk of Bradley’s attempts come in the restricted area, the non-restricted area of the paint and behind the three-point line (both above the break and in the corner) with Rondo feeding him. When Bradley is by himself, exactly half his looks are mid-range jumpers. This isn‘t the worst news ever, considering that Bradley is an above-average shooter from this area of the floor, but it’s far from ideal. 

Over the long-term, Rondo’s impact should make Bradley a far more efficient, effective player—someone who can focus on his strengths and not worry about fumbling through his weaknesses (of which there are several with the ball in his hands). 

Boston’s offense functions as a top-five unit when Bradley and Rondo are both on the floor, and it’s no secret why. The four-time All-Star is making life easier for his young teammate, and the more they play together the better they’ll be.

 

All statistics are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com or NBA.com, unless otherwise noted.

Michael Pina is an NBA writer who’s been published at Bleacher Report, Sports on Earth, FOX Sports, Grantland and a few other very special places. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelVPina.

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7 Grizzlies Players Battling Stomach Virus Ahead of Friday’s Game vs. Celtics

The Memphis Grizzlies sit atop the Western Conference with an impressive 10-2 record to start the 2014-15 NBA season, but a fluky medical situation may harm their immediate future.

According to The Associated Press (via ESPN.com), seven Grizzlies have a stomach virus and are questionable to play in Friday’s game against the Boston Celtics.

The ill players are swingman Quincy Pondexter, center Kosta Koufos, forwards Jarnell Stokes and Jon Leuer and guards Tony Allen, Beno Udrih and Courtney Lee.

That will certainly make Friday’s matchup more interesting. Boston enters Thursday as the third-highest scoring team in the Association, while the Grizzlies sport the No. 2 scoring defense. Since Memphis’ formidable big man tandem of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph doesn’t appear to be impacted by the stomach bug, the Grizzlies could still handle their business.

The fact that Mike Conley Jr. isn’t named among the sick players gives Memphis a better chance to carry on its early year momentum, too, in that he can match up better with Celtics star point guard Rajon Rondo.

The Grizzlies picked up their second loss of the season on Wednesday to the Toronto Raptors

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‘The Butler Way’ still a work in progress for Stevens’ Celtics

The Butler Way isn’t being tossed out the window: It’s simply making its transition into the NBA.

      
 

 

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Celtics radio announcer photobombs TV broadcast

The boss-est of boss moves out of @SeanGrandePBP pic.twitter.com/K9C2x0RwTP
— Connor (@CMIslesBlog) November 20, 2014

Boston Celtics radio voice Sean Grande played an awesome prank on his television cohorts last night, photobombing this picture of television announcers Mike Gorman and Brian Scalabrine with a sign that read, “Support artists listen to the game on radio.”
Actually, it’s great advice considering the Celtics were in Philly to play the 76ers.  Anything to avoid watching the Sixers play basketball this year should be done at all costs.  Listening to them play might not be so offensive to the senses.
The post Celtics radio announcer photobombs TV broadcast appeared first on Awful Announcing.

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Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers 11/19/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The Boston Celtics looked to pull themselves out of their recent skid on Wednesday, when they took on the Philadelphia 76ers. The Celtics had dropped three straight after opening the season 3-3, and faced a reeling Sixers squad who had dropped each of their first 10 games in convincing fashion. 

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Report: Celtics ‘Bravely’ Saying Rajon Rondo Won’t Be Traded

The Boston Celtics apparently aren’t ready to part with Rajon Rondo just yet.
Celtics president Danny Ainge is denying that any Rondo deal will take place, according to a story from Bleacher Report.
“They’re definitely bravely saying they won’t trade him at this point,” one general manager said, according to NBA writer Howard Beck. “I definitely think it’s the right thing to trade him. I think Danny knows it.”
Many believe Ainge has no choice but to trade Rondo. Otherwise, the Celtics risk losing their star point guard and getting nothing in return next summer when he hits free agency.
Rondo is averaging 10.6 points, 11.6 assists and 8.4 rebounds so far this season.
Photo via Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports ImagesFiled under: Boston Celtics, Justin Leger, Top Stories

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Rajon Rondo’s Resurgence Leaves Rebuilding Celtics with Difficult Decisions

BOSTON — Rajon Rondo fills the box score and, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, the box score brings Rajon Rondo, in all his dazzling eccentricity, to life.

Click on Rondo’s assist column on the NBA‘s website, and watch the wizardry unfold:

The two-handed overhead bounce pass in transition.

The no-look, behind-the-back flick.

The running, underhand lob, placed perfectly at the rim.

The ball fake at the hip, setting up the overhead hook pass.

And the results: Driving layup. Jump shot. Dunk. Layup.

This was not a highlight reel from 2012, and those baskets were not scored by Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.

These were four of Rondo’s 16 assists against Cleveland last Friday, and those plays were completed by Kelly Olynyk, Brandon Bass, Jeff Green and Tyler Zeller.

Times change and legends move on, but Rajon Rondo remains the Boston Celtics‘ constanta darting, driving, whimsical, whirring assist machine, turning ordinary sets into extraordinary plays.

Check the rankings. The Celtics, with a roster of neophytes, and not a single ace scorer among them, have the NBA’s sixth-leading offense, in points per possession. They are No. 1 in assist ratio (19.2 per 100 possessions) and No. 2 in points created by an assist (60 per game).

Two years after the breakup of the Big Three, a year removed from the jettisoning of Pierce and Garnett, the Celtics are a team in transition—and that transition is defined, indisputably, by the feisty point guard with the Stretch Armstrong limbs and the Madame Tussauds visage.

This is Rondo’s time and Rondo’s team, however long the arrangement may last.

The Celtics are at a crossroads and so, too, is Rondo, now 28 years old and approaching free agency for the first time in his career. For the next several months, they will be mutually assessing one another, the franchise and the franchise player, each party trying to determine the intentions and capabilities of the other.

Do the Celtics view Rondo, a four-time All-Star, as the foundation of another title contender?

Does Rondo see enough potential in this rosterand in the draft picks and salary-cap room being hoarded by team president Danny Aingeto believe in a Celtics revival?

And if they do ultimately decide to stay together, can the Celtics and Rondo agree on contract terms next July, when Rondo will almost certainly be seeking a maximum salary?

These are the questions that may come to define the Celtics’ season, or at least the period between now and the Feb. 20 trade deadline. Rival executives say that Ainge has been firm in his stance that Rondo will not be dealt. But many of those same executives believe that Ainge has to trade Rondo, to avoid losing him for nothing next summer.

“They’re definitely bravely saying they won’t trade him at this point,” said one general manager, who nevertheless added, “I definitely think it’s the right thing to trade him. I think Danny knows it.”

Rondo’s representatives are said to be pursuing a max contractfive years and an estimated $106 million if he stays in Boston, four years and about $79 million if he signs elsewhere. His resume justifies the demand. Rondo has been one of the NBA’s top point guards for the last seven years, and one of the few who can dominate a game with his passing alone.

And though his status was in doubt after tearing a knee ligament in February 2013, Rondo has recovered beautifully. Through eight games, he is averaging a league-leading 11.6 assists per game, along with 10.6 points and 8.4 rebounds. His bounce and his dexterity have returned.

“My body feels a lot better, my legs are a lot stronger,” Rondo said, comparing his play now to last season, when he was just making his way back. “I can get into the paint a lot easier now, this year. Last year, I was pretty slow. So this year I’m a step faster.”

Those who know him best say this Rondo looks pretty much like the Rondo who helped anchor that 2008 title team, and the one who steered the Celtics to within one game of the NBA Finals in 2012.

“Without a doubt,” Pierce told Bleacher Report. “He looks like he’s finally healthy now. He looks like the floor general. He’s moving well. He looks stronger, finishing. I mean, he looks great out there, man. He’s one of the top five point guards, man, if he’s healthy.”

Seven years ago, after years of frustration and futility, the Celtics had a similar decision to make on Pierce: trade him and start over, or find a suitable surrounding cast and keep building. Ainge held on to Pierce, then struck gold that summer, landing Garnett and Allen in two blockbuster trades.

It’s unreasonable to bank on another Garnett-Allen haul, but it’s also risky to simply let Rondo walk away and bank on landing another foundational star. Pierce, for one, believes Rondo could be the centerpiece for another Celtics powerhouse.

“People think those players grow on trees, when they don’t,” Pierce said. “When you get those types of players, you’ve got to keep them. And then you’ve got to try to find other players of that caliber to go with them.”

No team is better positioned than the Celtics to make another blockbuster trade. Ainge is sitting on a cache of first-round draft picksup to eight in the next four yearsthanks to the trades of Pierce and Garnett to Brooklyn last year, along with the deal that let coach Doc Rivers leave for the Los Angeles Clippers. Ainge has also assembled a raft of young, reasonably priced talent that could be packaged in a deal, or a series of deals, as he did in 2007.

The question becomes one of timing, a sort of chicken-and-egg puzzle: Can the Celtics find a worthy co-star for Rondo before Rondo decides to go find his co-star elsewhere?   

Or could Rondo take a leap of faith on the Celtics next summer, in the belief that he’ll attract the help he needs?

“Philosophically, we know who the players are, we know who the guys are that we would love to get,” Ainge told Bleacher Report. “But we also know that certain players don’t make as much of a difference. We can’t sell our stockpile of assets just to appease one player. We’ve got to be smart in rebuilding. And we do have to remain patient. And yet at the same time, be ready to jump into the fray and pay a high price for special players, transcendent players.”

Ainge targeted one such player this past summer, pursuing Minnesota’s Kevin Love after Love demanded a trade. But Love steered his way to Cleveland, to join LeBron James, and just as critically, the Cavaliers had a prime assetNo. 1 pick Andrew Wigginsthe Timberwolves‘ coveted.

Superstars don’t hit the market often, and a blockbuster trade can’t be manufactured out of thin air. So while Rondo’s free agency creates an urgency for the Celtics front office, there also isn’t much Ainge can do until another All-Star in another city demands a trade.

Ainge has indicated a desire to re-sign Rondo. Rondo has indicated, on multiple occasions, his desire to stay. It doesn’t necessarily mean it will happen. Again, the Pierce situation in 2007 is instructive.

“A player like Paul, and a player like Rondo, I think they’re willing to do what’s best for the franchise for a certain period of time,” Ainge said. “But I think there is a window in that sort of process as well. So we’re in a situation right now where Rondo, we’re trying to decide, is he worth a contract that he wants this summer? And he’s trying to decide, is this where I want to stay?

“Now, we know that this is where he wants to stay, assuming that we are a competitive team. We believe that. It’s a place he would like to stay. But what sort of team we can put together may be a factor in that in the offseason.”

There is intrigue, as well, in the pieces Ainge has already assembled—for their promise as supporting players and as potential trade chips. Rookie Marcus Smart has the look of a lockdown defender. Jared Sullinger, now in his third season, is developing into a solid inside scorer. Avery Bradley is a defensive menace. Green and Bass are reliable veterans who could fill a need for any number of playoff teams.

And then there is Olynyk, the lean, lithe 7-footer drafted with the 13th pick in 2013. Olynyk is shooting a team-high .478 from 3-point range, .592 overall and averaging 12.8 points and 6.2 rebounds. Team officials consider him a future star.

At present, none of the Celtics’ young prospects merit that labelbut then, few people predicted that Al Jefferson would become a dominant post scorer when the Celtics shipped him to Minnesota as part of the package for Garnett seven years ago.

And, of course, the decision to draft Smart was widely viewed as a statement on Rondo: either as a hedge against Rondo leaving, or as an outright plan to replace him. Smart also has the size to play alongside Rondo.

The Celtics (3-6) lack the talent to win many games this season, but they move and pass and compete, all of which makes them quite enjoyable to behold. Rondo, after years of quietly playing the role of fourth star on a team defined by the Big Three, is embracing the chance to be the ringleader of this young crew.

“I think they’re still learning to play with him,” coach Brad Stevens said. “He makes passes and plays that other guys don’t see, or it happens quicker. So sometimes it’s a little bit of a surprise, and they have to get used to that. But he raises all ships with his passing.”

Stevens said this team is “still very much in a building and growth stage,” with necessarily modest goals. The Celtics defense, he notes, needs drastic improvement.

For now, the Celtics are simply looking for steady, measurable progress. Will it be enough to convince Rondo to stick around for the next phase? Are the Celtics convinced he’s the one to lead them forward? The answers to those questions, more than anything else, will determine the franchise’s future.

“This is going to be his best year of his career, I think,” Ainge said, though not because Rondo is on any sort of salary drive. “Knowing Rondo, he just wants to show that he’s one of the elite point guards in the NBA again. But yeah, he is a foundational piece that we already have that’s right there. But there is uncertainty for this upcoming offseason.”

On Ainge‘s desk is an oversized version of the 2008 championship ring, serving as a paperweight. Over his shoulder is the 2008 Larry O’Brien trophy. All around the team offices are posters and mementos of the franchise’s glorious past. The Celtics’ history is one long series of builds and rebuilds and banner ceremonies.

“I enjoy where we are right now,” Ainge said. “Everybody wants to go out and win 60 games a year. We’ve had our stretch of that. But we’re working toward that again.”

 

Howard Beck covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @HowardBeck.

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Morris, Suns pull out 118-114 win over Celtics (Yahoo Sports)

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 17: Jeff Green #8 of the Boston Celtics goes for the lay against the Phoenix Suns during the game on November 17, 2014 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

BOSTON (AP) — The Phoenix Suns rely on their fast-break offense. It was Eric Bledsoe’s defense that keyed their latest win.


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Recap: Celtics drop barnburner to Suns with another late game collapse

Different Opponent. Same Result.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one in the last four weeks. The Celtics played a wildly entertaining, back-and-forth game against a very good basketball team. They looked poised to come away with a big, early season victory… but they didn’t.
The Cs twice rallied from double digit deficits and held a 114-112 lead with under a minute to go after the dunk of the year from Jeff Green and ensuing free throw, but the Suns scored the last six points of the contest to come away with the road win, sending the Celts to a third straight loss.
The Green:
Another aggressive, complete, offensive performance from Jeff Green (28 points, 10-17 from the field, 8-9 from the line and a couple of MONSTER slams)
Tyler Zeller (19 points, 7 boards) had his best game of the season, dueling with back-up center counterpart Alex Len off the bench for the Suns. Len finished with 19 and 7 including two crucial free throws late to stretch the Suns lead to four with 20 seconds to pl…

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