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Two-hundred-ninety days later, Ainge leaned on a wall outside the Celtics' locker room as his team prepped for its 57th and final loss of a harrowing 2013-14 season, a necessary evil in the prickly rebuilding process.
Ainge, looking haggard like most in the Celtics' organization after a grueling season, still wore that same smile as he expressed optimism that the summer would bring the sort of changes that would thrust his team back into contender status.
But Ainge acknowledged the obvious: This season was tough to endure.
"It was a long season," Ainge said before catching himself at the suggestion that a season devoid of a postseason appearance wasn't quite as long as the team is used to after the success of the big three era.
"I guess not that long," he added. "But it was tough, a tough year."
The Celtics bid good riddance to the 2013-14 campaign with a 118-102 loss to the playoff-bound Washington Wizards. Coupled with a double-overtime win by the Utah Jazz in Minnesota, Boston finished the season tied for the fourth-worst record in the NBA. With one of their two first-round picks, the Celtics will have roughly a 33.7 percent chance at a top-three pick and a 10.4 percent chance at the No. 1 selection.
After a season filled with losses, the Celtics can finally revel a tiny bit in defeat. Boston has put itself in position to add another building block by enduring the rigors of the rebuild. And with the 2013-14 campaign in the rearview mirror, here comes the unbridled optimism that only the NBA offseason can provide.
Reflecting on his first season on the bench, one in which he lost more games than he did during his entire six-year stint as head coach at Butler University, Stevens praised his team for how hard it played, even after its lottery fate was sealed.
"I think the best thing I learned is that it's not fun to not win," Stevens said. "But it doesn't define who you are or how you go about your business. So, one of the things that I'm probably most happy about with our team is that they didn't change necessarily who they were, they didn't let the losing or the multiple losses affect them or their approach and I hope that I was the same way."
(Read full story)
The Celtics and Jazz will split 207 ping-pong ball combinations with a random drawing to see who gets the leftover combo (and the higher pick in the event neither vault into the top 3 spots). Both teams will own roughly 33.7 percent chance at a top-3 pick and a 10.4 percent chance at the No. 1 overall pick. Boston can pick no lower than eighth in June's draft.
The Celtic entered the final night with the fifth-worst record in basketball, but were aided by a Los Angeles Lakers victory over the San Antonio Spurs as well as Utah's double-overtime triumph over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
What's more, with Washington's win over Boston, coupled with Brooklyn's loss in Cleveland, the Celtics will pick as high as 17th in June's draft with the Nets' pick received in last summer's swap. A coin flip will break the tie between the Nets and Wizards, who both finished at 44-38, meaning Boston will pick 17th or 18th overall with that selection.
"This can’t be the case anywhere else," Stevens said. "I’ve said this all year, the fans are amazing. I told our team today, Phil Pressey dove on that ball the other night [against the Bobcats] and it was like -- I don’t know what late May is like because I’ve never been here, but I was here for maybe an early June Eastern Conference final game -- it felt like that kind of atmosphere and that kind of reaction. For just playing the game the right way.
"I’ve got a great appreciation for the fans in this town and for the people in this town because our atmospheres have been second to none. And to be quite candid, our team has a long way to go. I think the fans have been a terrific part of the year for me."
The Celtics closed out the 2013-14 season in front of a sellout crowd of 18,624. According to ESPN's NBA attendance data, Boston ranked 11th in home attendance this year while filling 97.2 percent of its seats (742,400 total; 18,107 average). What's more, Boston was a quality road draw (15th overall; 90.5 percent of opposing arenas filled) and that helped the team rank 12th in the league in attendance figures (17,796 average fans per game; 93.8 percent of arenas filled over 82 games).
Some postgame quotes of note as the Celtics closed out the 2013-14 campaign:
" GERALD WALLACE on the season: "I think we as a team are a lot better than our record showed. I think a lot of times, we got caught up in not knowing each other, five guys not being on the same page. And it hurt us throughout some games, especially closing out some games, late in ballgames. But we’ll take it and build on it."
" RAJON RONDO on this year's team: "It’s a good group to play with. A lot of young guys, a lot of guys that are still learning the game and want to study and be better. It’s a great group of guys, not a lot of guys that are knuckleheads or want to go against the grain. Everyone listens and wants to continue to work hard.
" DANNY AINGE on Stevens: "I think Brad did a great job this year. I mean he’s a special person and a great coach. The players see it. The players see his work ethic, they see his integrity and they see his intelligence. So I think he earned the respect of the team in a really difficult situation this year and I know he’s going to get better. He’ll be better this year and the year after he’ll be better than he was next year. He’s a sponge and he’s very intelligent with a great work ethic and I couldn’t be happier."
BOSTON -- Boston Celtics forward Brandon Bass took home the ninth annual Red Auerbach Award before Wednesday's season finale against the Washington Wizards.
The honor, presented each year since the 2005-06 season, is bestowed upon the Celtics player or coach who best exemplifies the spirit of what it means to be a Celtic through performance on the court and off. The award is named in honor of legendary coach, general manager and president of the Celtics, the late Arnold “Red” Auerbach.
"The reason [Bass deserved the award] and I just told him this in front of the team, he’s as good of a pro as we have," said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. "He shows up every day, he’s the first one to the gym on the road, he’s the first one to the gym at home, he takes care of his body as well or better than any of our players on our team nutrition-wise, stretching-wise, in the weight room. And his individual workouts are deliberate to what applies to making his game good. And I don’t think everybody that works on the game anywhere in the world do those things as well as some of the best pros, and I think we need to really embrace that deliberate work-ethic all around the way and Brandon Bass is a great example of that for our team."
Echoed team captain Rajon Rondo: "I think it’s [a] well-deserved [honor]. He’s a great guy, a Class-A guy. He’s a great teammate, very unselfish and he competes every night. He takes great care of his body, on and off the court, and he’s always one of the first guys in the gym. It’s a great accomplishment for Brandon. I’m happy for him."
Previous winners include Paul Pierce (2013, 2006), Al Jefferson (2007), Kevin Garnett (2012, 2008), Ray Allen (2009), Rajon Rondo (2010) and Doc Rivers (2011).
Celtics owners presented Bass with the award before the game. Not only did Bass appear in all 82 games for Boston this season, but he was very active in the community, particularly with his learning-to-swim initiatives.
BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics' 2013-14 season passed Wednesday night at TD Garden after a 118-102 loss to the Washington Wizards. It was 82 games old.
The Celtics went quietly while surrounded by a sellout crowd of 18,624 that proudly chanted "let's go Celtics" in the final minutes.
Despite a flawed roster and a first-year coach, the Celtics enjoyed competitive games and individual development. The team navigated much of the season without point guard Rajon Rondo as he recovered from ACL surgery, but even he couldn't rescue the team upon his mid-January return. The Celtics went 6-24 when Rondo played, and he sat out the final game of the season while dealing with a sore left hamstring.
A private memorial is planned for members of the organization this week at HealthPoint in Waltham, Mass. The public is invited to a public celebration of the season at the NBA draft lottery on May 20.
In lieu of flowers, the Celtics kindly request good-luck charms be donated to the team in advanced of the lottery.
The nitty-gritty: Bradley Beal scored a game-high 27 points on 10-of-14 shooting, while Marcin Gortat put up 15 points and 10 rebounds. Kelly Olynyk scored a team-high 24 points on 10-of-16 shooting, despite foul trouble, to pace the Celtics. Jeff Green added 20 points, while Phil Pressey had nine points and 10 assists. The Wizards shot 56.8 percent overall and led by as much as 26.
Turning point: The Celtics played without Rondo, Jared Sullinger (ankle), Kris Humphries (knee) and Jerryd Bayless (knee), with just eight available bodies suiting up. Add in early foul trouble for Olynyk, along with a whole bunch of defensive indifference, and the game got away pretty early. The Wizards put up 38 points in the first frame and led by as much as 15. Boston made a couple charges but never led.
Boston strong: The Celtics honored a group of Boston Marathon survivors with a moving ceremony at the end of the first quarter. Boston coach Brad Stevens broke his huddle early to have his players applaud those being saluted, and the Wizards did the same. Later, the team honored doctors and nurses from Brigham and Women's Hospital that treated victims in the aftermath of the bombings.
What it means: The Celtics wrap up the season at 25-57 overall, and their .305 winning percentage is the third worst in team history. Aided by the Los Angeles Lakers' win in San Antonio, Boston will finish with no worse than the fifth-worst record in basketball (pending Utah and Minnesota's nail-biter).
BOSTON -- Boston Celtics second-year forward/center Jared Sullinger addressed the crowd before the team's season finale Wednesday against the Washington Wizards as part of Fan Appreciation Night.
Sullinger kept his message short and simple, thanking the fans for their support during a difficult season, then offering: "Hopefully we'll come back better next year."
A snapshot from the Instagram account of Celtics strength and conditioning coach Bryan Doo:
The tongue of the sneakers reads "Boston Strong" with the date April 15, 2013. The sneakers feature the blue and yellow colors familiar to Boston Strong with the initials of victims covering the shoe.
Rondo was asked after Wednesday's game about having Marathon bombing survivors in attendance.
"Pretty much everywhere you go, you learn that, to Bostonians, sports means a lot to this city," said Rondo. "Our four sports are big here. It’s not just one team, one fan. It’s a collective group of guys. The Red Sox, the Bruins, the Patriots, and ourselves. We’ve taken pride in playing for this city. This was a special week for us, every athlete in the city along with all Bostonians as well. It means a lot."
Rondo strained his left hamstring during Monday's loss in Philadelphia and will sit for the fourth time in six games. Rondo, who returned from ACL surgery in mid-January, appeared in 30 games this season.
"He pulled his hamstring, or strained his hamstring, late third quarter of the Philly game," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "He came out, stretched on the sideline, felt good enough, played the rest of the game, but did not feel good [Tuesday] or [Wednesday] morning. Obviously, with a hamstring, that is something that you don’t mess with at any time. From what I heard, he wanted to play, and this morning he just didn't feel good."
The Celtics also will be without Kris Humphries (knee), Jared Sullinger (ankle) and Jerryd Bayless (knee). All three players will miss the final three games of the season while dealing with lingering maladies.
Boston trots out a starting lineup of Phil Pressey, Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass and Kelly Olynyk.
The Celtics will secure no worse than the fifth worst record in basketball with a loss to the Wizards, who can lock up the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference with a victory.
Despite their lottery-bound status, Stevens singled out his team's desire to compete on a nightly basis as the season's biggest positive while reflecting on his first year on the bench.
"The one thing that I probably learned about myself is that it’s been very difficult to not be very good," Stevens said. "It’s hard not being a team that’s contending for a playoff spot, or contending for bigger things than that.
"The thing that I’m proud of is that the team, the coaches, the staff really put in the work for every single game, every single day. I told them this morning, as we went through the walkthrough and prepared like we did for the first game of the season, those guys have done a pretty good job of that all year. The thing that I probably feel most comfortable with is that, regardless of circumstance, we came to work and we tried to get better and ultimately do our best. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been good enough on a lot of nights."
- WHAT'S AT STAKE: The playoff-bound Wizards can secure the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference with a win (or a Charlotte loss to the Bulls). That's attractive because, instead of a first-round matchup with the defending champ Miami Heat, Washington would instead draw either Toronto or Chicago. For Boston, a loss clinches no worse than sole possession of the fifth worst record in basketball. The Celtics would move into a tie for the fourth worst mark with a loss and a Utah win in Minnesota. If the Celtics win and the Lakers lose in San Antonio, the two rivals would finish tied with the fifth worst record and a random drawing would determine who picks first in the event neither leap into the top 3 spots at the draft lottery. Also in play: The Celtics will have an eye on Brooklyn's game in Cleveland. A Nets loss -- coupled with a Washignton win -- could help improve Boston's other first-round draft pick (though it will require a coin flip to decide whether Boston's pick is No. 17 or 18).
- GOOD RIDDANCE, 2013-14 SEASON: The Celtics played hard on a consistent basis and the games were often entertaining until the final horn. Alas, Boston didn't win many close games and, spoiled by six previous years of playoff basketball, most are ready to bid farewell to this transition season. The Celtics will wave goodbye to the regular season and hello to another potential summer overhaul, one that the team hopes can help restore it to contender status next season.
- LOOSE BALLS: This is the fourth meeting of the season for the two teams with the Wizards owning a 2-1 advantage. Boston's only triumph came in overtime on the road in Washington in late January. ... The Celtics are likely to be without Jared Sullinger (ankle), Kris Humphries (knee), and Jerryd Bayless (knee). Rajon Rondo returned for Monday's game in Philadelphia and, barring a setback with his left shin injury, should be available to close out the season. ... It's fan appreciation night an Sullinger will address the crowd before the game. ... Those going to the game, note the later-than-normal tip time for the final game of the season.
(Read full game preview)
Let's disqualify Rajon Rondo here. If he plays in Wednesday's season finale, he'll top out at 31 games played after a mid-January return from ACL surgery. Rondo's stat line is impressive at 11.7 points, 9.8 assists, 5.5 rebounds over a mere 33.3 minutes per game, but the Celtics are 11-30 since his return, including 6-24 in games he appeared. Examining the rest of the field, you could make a case for a number of players, maybe even the departed Jordan Crawford given Boston's early-season success. Our pick? Jared Sullinger.
Despite not having the luxury of a pure center alongside him, Sullinger performed admirably in his sophomore season, averaging 13.3 points and 8.1 rebounds. The Celtics asked him to step outside his comfort zone and he spent much of the season trying to extend his range beyond the 3-point line (to limited success while shooting 26.9 percent beyond the arc). The fact that Sullinger will shoot more triples (208) than free throws (203) is worrisome, but let's chalk it up to experimentation in a transition year. If the Celtics add a pure center next to him, Sullinger needs a serviceable 3-point shot to stretch the floor, but we'd also like to see more back-to-the-basket next season. According to ESPN's new WAR (Wins Above Replacement) metric, Sullinger topped the team and his real plus-minus stats help show that he was a better defender than might appear. Sullinger was the team's best two-way rebounder, giving the team a lift on the offensive glass that hasn't been seen in these parts in recent seasons. All this while coming off back surgery that limited his offseason. We're intrigued to see where Sullinger goes from here, but he certainly was one of the brightest spots this season.
Honor roll: Avery Bradley's blossoming offensive game made him a legitimate two-way threat, but injuries did rob him of nearly a quarter of his season. ... Jeff Green, for all his inconsistencies, is set to start all 82 games for the second straight season since heart surgery, but his WAR is even lower than that of D-League call-up Chris Johnson (albeit in two very different sample sizes).
Kelly Olynyk's late-season exploits make this one a slam dunk. Olynyk, who set a career-high for scoring with 28 points in Monday's loss in Philadelphia, is averaging 15.6 points on 51.5 percent shooting in seven games for the month of April, while grabbing 7.3 rebounds over 25.1 minutes per game in that span. Olynyk's confidence has steadily grown and his natural offensive talents are on display more frequently. There's still strides to be made on the defensive end, but it's clear the 13th pick in last year's draft has a very bright future and, assuming the Celtics add a legit big next season, projects as one of Boston's top reserves.
Honor roll: If not for Olynyk's April strides, Phil Pressey might have made things interesting with his own April emergence. Pressey has been a serviceable backup ball-handler all season, making the most of spot starts as Rondo works his way back from surgery, but his playmaking talents have been on full display recently. ... It's too bad Vitor Faverani's season ended with a knee injury while on D-League assignment. It would have been interesting to get a longer look at him late in the season when he would have had more freedom to make the mistakes that caused him to get plucked from the rotation earlier in the year.
The honor, presented each year since the 2005-06 season, is bestowed upon the Celtics player or coach who best exemplifies the spirit of what it means to be a Celtic through performance on the court and off. The award is named in honor of legendary coach, general manager, and president of the Celtics, the late Arnold “Red” Auerbach.
The award has typically been a nod to the best player on the team, though it made the rounds among Boston's four All-Stars (Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, and Ray Allen) during the Big Three era and the team even bestowed it upon coach Doc Rivers one season.
Here's the full rundown of past winners:
2007: Al Jefferson
So who takes the award this season? Let's handicap the field:
• THE FAVORITE: While he'll top out at 31 games if he appears in Wednesday's finale and he's still shaking rust while working his way back from ACL surgery, it's probably fair to say Rondo is Boston's most valuable player (when healthy) and his efforts to be around the team even while rehabbing him make the captain the favorite to join Pierce and Garnett as repeat winners. Plus, it just seems right that No. 9 would win the 9th annual award.
• THE FIELD: Jared Sullinger put together an excellent sophomore season and represents one of the bright spots for the future. The guess here is he'll be hoisting one of these awards in future seasons. ... Jeff Green will complete his second 82-game season since returning from heart surgery and while we tend to focus on his inconsistencies, Green will finish with a career high in scoring (16.8 points per game). ... Ankle/Achilles woes derailed Avery Bradley a bit late in the season, but his offensive game blossomed this season and he was one of the most impactful players when he was on the court.
• THE DARK HORSE: Brandon Bass did what Brandon Bass does, quietly bringing his hard hat to work each day. He will close out the season having quietly started nearly 90 percent of Boston's games despite plenty of young competition pushing him for that starting gig. What's more, Bass was one of the most active players in the community off the court, most notably with his swimming initiatives. Only Rondo and Bradley have longer tenures here and Bass might be exactly the sort of under-the-radar guy that the Auerbach Award aims to celebrate.
• THE OUTSIDE THE BOX PICK: Given that no player quite screams for the award this year, maybe the Celtics could go the curveball route. It's probably too early to give it to first-year coach Brad Stevens (though he was a soldier for navigating this season with a flawed roster), but maybe this is the year that the Celtics give it to president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. After all, he's the one in the spotlight while navigating this transition process and it was Ainge that ushered int he remodel with the deals that sent Pierce and Garnett to Brooklyn and Rivers to Los Angeles.
[More Red Auerbach Award coverage]
Sunday's "Outside The Lines" spotlighted the role Boston's athletes and teams played in helping the region heal in the aftermath of the bombings at the 2013 Boston Marathon.
“We needed to be together. We needed a gigantic church. We needed a gathering, and a gathering that brings people together, and sports are the biggest venues to do that,” former Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.
OTL: Part 1 | Part 2
(Boston Marathon Blog)
Boston watched its two-game winning streak end Monday in Philadelphia as the 76ers withstood the Celtics' fourth-quarter surge and emerged with a 113-108 triumph at Wells Fargo Center. The Celtics stand in sole possession of the fifth-worst record in the NBA, which would give the team a 29.1 percent chance at a top-three pick and an 8.8 percent chance at the No. 1 overall pick.
A look at the full lottery standings through Monday's games, thanks to our friends at Tankathon:
With the Lakers' triumph over the Jazz on Monday, Boston has a one-game cushion on both sides with a single game to play. With a loss on Wednesday against the Washington Wizards, the Celtics would assure themselves of no worse than the fifth position.
The final-day schedule: The Celtics host Washington; the Jazz visit the Minnesota Timberwolves; and the Lakers trek to meet the San Antonio Spurs.
If Boston finishes in a tie with Utah for the fourth-worst record, the two teams would split the lottery probability for those two spots -- meaning each team receives 103 pingpong combinations (out of 1,000). One extra combination is awarded to the team that wins a random drawing, and that team will also pick first if neither team vaults to a top-three pick.
Likewise, if the Celtics and Lakers end up knotted for the fifth-worst mark, the two teams would each receive 75 pingpong balls and draw for the extra combo and the tiebreaker.
The Wizards will have motivation to end Boston's season with a loss as they jockey for playoff position in the Eastern Conference. Washington needs a win Wednesday to assure itself the sixth seed in the East, which would mean the Wizards would avoid a first-round matchup with the Miami Heat.
Regardless of Wednesday's finale, the Celtics will finish the season with the third-worst winning percentage in franchise history. Boston already owns one win more than the 2006-07 entry that went 24-58. That year, Boston's record was good enough to easily have the second-worst record in basketball (though the pingpong balls defied them and the Celtics landed the fifth pick).
If the Lakers had defeated the Jazz on Monday, Boston would have been in a three-way tie for the fourth-worst record in basketball. In that instance, the Celtics' chances at a higher pick would have been only marginally better (90 pingpong combinations) and the Celtics would have been at the mercy of a random drawing to determine if Los Angeles or Utah would be in front of them for tiebreaking purposes.
The Celtics have one more game to go in this frustrating season, and then all eyes can lock on May 20, when draft position will finally be determined at the lottery drawing.
Despite winning consecutive games entering Monday's tilt in Philadelphia, Boston failed to show progress in that regard while dropping a 113-108 decision at Wells Fargo Center. Stevens might want to avoid the final 88 seconds of the game film: Boston committed four turnovers -- each one more head-shaking than the last -- to help Philadelphia post its third win of the season over the Celtics.
A glance at the miscues:
• With 1:28 to go in a one-possession game, rookie Kelly Olynyk, who has been one of the primary bright spots of this late-season stretch, threw a poor bounce pass to Jeff Green on the blocks, and it was picked by Michael Carter-Williams. Making matters worse, Olynyk got whistled for a blocking foul at the other end trying to take a charge from Tony Wroten in transition (and the call stood even after a lengthy video review).
• With Boston now down five, Rajon Rondo tried to attack the basket early on the ensuing possession, but left his feet to shoot, then decided otherwise with Carter-Williams contesting. Rondo tried to pass to the right wing, but there wasn't a green jersey within 20 feet of the ball and it bounced once before hitting a fan sitting next to the scorer's table.
• Still down five with 25 seconds to go, the Celtics called a timeout to draw up a play. The 76ers smothered Boston's players and Jeff Green had nowhere to inbound the ball, leading to a five-second violation.
• Despite all the miscues, Boston somehow got back within three and the 76ers threw the ball away on an inbounds play with 15 seconds to go, giving the Celtics one last gasp. The Celtics struggled to generate a quality 3-point look and, with about two seconds to go and desperate to get a shot off, Rondo handed off to Chris Johnson beyond the 3-point arc. Johnson elevated and actually made the 3-pointer, but not before a referee nearby whistled the play dead with 0.9 seconds to go because Johnson stepped on the sideline before his shot.
Boston had its chances, but execution hurt the team in crunch time. Stevens pointed out after the game that the Celtics probably let things get away in the first half when they gave back an early 10-point lead and watched the 76ers open a 17-point halftime advantage.
A couple more postgame thoughts from Monday's loss:
• ANOTHER CAREER NIGHT FOR OLYNYK: Two nights after matching his career high for scoring, Olynyk bested his mark by scoring a team-high 28 points on 10-of-19 shooting with nine rebounds and three assists over 35 minutes. Olynyk continues to show a developing touch around the basket, finding opportunities while rolling off pick-and-rolls or attacking the basket in transition. Olynyk hasn't been bashful about drawing contact lately and finished with either hand early against Philadelphia. Of his 10 makes on Monday, six came at the rim, while he also got to the charity stripe for a team-high seven attempts. Olynyk's progress remains maybe the most encouraging aspect of Boston's late-season exploits.
• LOOSE BALLS: GOOD GREEN: Jeff Green quietly put up 27 points in one of his better outings. Green produced eight of his 10 makes near the basket and took only 16 shots overall. Add in three steals and two blocks and only one turnover, and this is exactly the sort of efficiency the team needs from Green. ... Avery Bradley scored 23 points, but he needed 22 shots to get there. Bradley missed nine triples (2-of-11 beyond the 3-point arc). ... Rondo scored his eighth point less than three minutes into the second half, but didn't score again, preventing him from a triple-double (14 assists, 11 rebounds). Rondo took only eight shots but was 1-for-5 after the intermission. Hard to complain with his impact when he handed out seven assists and grabbed seven rebounds and was plus-18 in the final two quarters.
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