"I've been watching some games with him playing and it looks like he's doing pretty well," Smith said.
Rondo did better than pretty well on Sunday as he handed out a season-high 18 assists and did not turn the ball over while pacing the Celtics to a 118-111 triumph.
Only 10 times over the past three decades has a player registered 18 assists and zero turnovers in a regular-season game. The list includes point guard royalty such as John Stockton, Isiah Thomas, Jason Kidd and Steve Nash.
The idea that there's an even greater level for Rondo to ascend to as he gets healthy should be enough to leave Celtics fans salivating. On this night, Rondo added 11 points and three steals over 33 minutes. But it was the way he directed the offense that resonated, particularly after the Celtics committed a season-high 28 turnovers during Friday's win over the Brooklyn Nets with Rondo giving the ball away seven times that night.
"I made a conscious effort to do a better job of taking care of the ball," Rondo said. "Me being the point and having the ball so much in your hands the entire game, it starts with you."
It started with Rondo, but often ended with one of his teammates. The Celtics generated a whopping 38 assists on 47 made baskets on Sunday. And Rondo absolutely owned the floor.
(Read full story)
Rondo said he plans to sit out Wednesday's visit from the New York Knicks on the second night of a back-to-back. Keeping with his typical approach, Rondo will sit out the tail end of a tandem set for the fifth time since returning on Jan. 17.
"If I was ready, I would play," said Rondo, who is likely further influenced by the fact that Boston plays three games in four days and is enduring a stretch that features eight games in 13 days in five different cities.
"It’s a combination of things that bother me in the lower part of my body -- my calves, my Achilles and then my knees," said Rondo. "It’s just a part of those three that are affecting me after games that, the next day, I need to rest."
Added Rondo: "I’m still pretty sore when I wake up. My Achilles bothers me the most when I get out of the bed. Throughout the day, it gets better, but I still don’t want to try to overdo it and [then] something else happens because of that."
Is Rondo surprised he's still sore at this stage of his return?
"It’s an NBA season. It’s tough," he said. "I’m up to 34-35 minutes per night now. I’m doing the right procedures. I’m taking the massage. I’m icing after the games. I’m doing what I’m supposed to do. It’s just, I have to listen to my body."
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said the team is allowing Rondo's body to dictate when he feels ready for back-to-backs.
"It’s really more how he feels the day after a game," said Stevens. "So like [Saturday,] I asked him, 'Are you sore? Are you tired? How do you feel?' And he’s still a little bit sore day after games. Obviously, when we have these 48 hours instead of 24 hours [between games], he can recover and it’s just another day to get his body right. That’s at least the thought. But it’ll be more his call than anybody else’s. He knows his body better than any of us."
Rondo is averaging 12.2 points, 8.8 assists and 4.7 rebounds over 30.8 minutes per game in 18 appearances this season. In four games in March, those totals jump to 14.3 points, 11.3 assists and 5.3 rebounds over 36 minutes per contest.
Read on for more notes, including a post-surgery visit from Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries' sweltering turtleneck.
"Yeah sure, why not?" Babb playfully said he replied. "I’ll stick around for a couple more days."
The Celtics will ink Babb to a second 10-day contract on Monday, keeping the rookie swingman on the roster for at least six more games. Boston is getting healthier, with starting shooting guard Avery Bradley eyeing a return on Friday, but Babb has impressed in short bursts and provides depth during a busy stretch of the late-season schedule.
Through four appearances, Babb is averaging 3.3 points and 1.8 rebounds over 13 minutes per game. The undrafted guard, who was a final cut out of training camp in October and spent much of the 2013-14 season with the Maine Red Claws of the D-League, has proven to be a competitive defender and an invested teammate.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens had said earlier in the night that he hoped Babb would stick around.
"I’d really like to have him around and ... all indications are that everybody feels that way within our organization," Stevens said before Sunday's win over the Detroit Pistons.
What would Babb like to accomplish over these next 10 days?
"Hopefully I make a couple more shots, but that will come," he said. "I’m just really focusing on just playing hard when I get into game, when I get my opportunities. Play hard, be prepared, and know the role. Just continue to do what I’ve been doing."
Babb is savoring the opportunity, knowing that simply getting a chance at this level is sometimes the hardest part.
"That’s 90 percent of the battle, just getting a shot, because there’s so much talent," said Babb. "In the D-League, guys coming out of college, veterans -- so all it takes is for some guys like me is a chance. I was fortunate enough to get one."
BOSTON -- Rapid reaction after the Boston Celtics defeated the Detroit Pistons 118-111 on Sunday evening at TD Garden:
The nitty gritty
Rajon Rondo handed out a season-high 18 assists, bringing his career total to 4,101 and pushing him past Bill Russell for fifth all-time in Celtics history. Rondo added 11 points and did not commit a turnover. Jeff Green hit four 3-pointers as part of a 14-point third-quarter outburst and finished with a team-high 27 points overall. Kris Humphries started fast and overcame foul trouble while chipping in a double-double (20 points, 11 rebounds). Kelly Olynyk added 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting off the bench, while Jared Sullinger kicked in 14 points (and the pair of young bigs combined for 14 rebounds). The entire Detroit starting frontcourt had double-doubles including Josh Smith (28 points, 11 rebounds), Andrew Drummond (18 points, 22 rebounds) and Greg Monroe (22 points, 14 rebounds).
The Celtics were up eight coming out of halftime, but stretched things out a bit behind Green's third-quarter exploits. He hit consecutive 3-pointers and Jerryd Bayless added another triple as Boston's lead ballooned to a game-high 17 points midway through the frame. The Pistons closed within four (with the ball) in the final minute, but Boston was able to hold on.
After committing a season-high 28 turnovers in Friday's win over the Brooklyn Nets, the Celtics watched Rondo, Phil Pressey and Jerryd Bayless combine for 28 assists with zero turnovers. The Celtics had 38 helpers overall on 47 field goals. The Celtics committed just seven turnovers for the game. ... Boston took a whopping 97 shots, but shot 48.5 percent from the floor overall (including 56 percent from inside the 3-point arc). ... Joel Anthony was a healthy DNP. ... Avery Bradley, who is eyeing a Friday return, sat on the bench in street clothes.
What it means
The Celtics (22-41) have now won two straight and closed out this five-game homestand at 3-2 overall. Boston will hold onto the NBA championship belt as it heads to Indianapolis to meet the Eastern Conference-leading Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night. The Celtics are right back at TD Garden to host the New York Knicks (Wednesday) and Phoenix Suns (Friday) later this week.
• SMITH + RONDO TALK REUNION? Calling Rajon Rondo his best friend, Detroit forward Josh Smith admitted the two former high school roommates have talked about joining forces in the NBA. "The conversation comes up," said Smith. "We always tell each other how surreal a moment that would be for us to be able to reconnect again in that realm. With the different free agencies that we both have, it can be far-fetched, but it could be possible too, at the same time." Smith was asked if he thought it might happen last offseason before he signed a four-year, $54 million contract with Detroit. "I thought it could’ve been a possibility, but you know, I’m in Detroit," said Smith. "I’m happy I’m here. He’s still [in Boston]. He’s still creating his market as a Celtic."
• RONDO LIKELY OUT WEDNESDAY: The Celtics have a back-to-back starting Tuesday in Indiana. Playing three games in four nights, Stevens guessed that Rondo would sit out the second night of that tandem when the New York Knicks visit TD Garden. "It’s really more how he feels the day after a game," said Stevens. "So like [Saturday] I asked him, 'Are you sore, are you tried, how do you feel?' And he’s still a little bit sore the day after games."
• WALLACE HANGING AROUND: Gerald Wallace, who underwent season-ending knee and ankle surgery on Tuesday, visited TD Garden. He said he plans to stay in the area through the end of the season (maybe catch a Red Sox game or two along the way) before spending the summer in his native Alabama. His target date to be back at full speed? "Training camp," said Wallace. "That’s my goal right now, so I’m not rushing it. ... Hopefully by training camp I won’t have any worries."
The Celtics are sticking with their recent starting 5 of Rajon Rondo, Jerryd Bayless, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, and Kris Humphries for Sunday's visit from the Detroit Pistons.
- A BIG CHALLENGE: The Pistons are active on the glass, leading the NBA in offensive rebound percentage and sitting eighth in total rebound rate. They've gone even bigger lately with 6-foot-8 Kyle Singler at the 2 alongside the frontline of Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, and Josh Smith. Said Celtics coach Brad Stevens: "They are huge. And they’ve given us problems because of that. And now they’re playing Singler at the 2, and Singler’s a really good player. He can post, he can cut. He’s a hard-driving guy. He’s just a big guy for a typical 2 guard to guard. ... And then Smith and Monroe and Drummond are as big of a frontline as there is. And we’ve struggled with it, to be honest, we’ve struggled with it."
- PISTONS IN PLAYOFF HUNT: Despite dropping nine of their last 11 games, the Pistons remain only three games out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and should have plenty of motivation -- particularly with the currently eighth-seeded Hawks having lost five straight. Celtics players have rallied lately around the idea of playing spoiler over the final 20 games and this is another chance to set back a team looking to play beyond mid-April.
- LOOSE BALLS: This is the third of four meetings this season. The Pistons won the first two meetings, including a Brandon Jennings-led nailbiter in December at TD Garden. Said Stevens of Jennings: He "had a great game and made shots, made huge shots -- tough shots -- on both Avery [Bradley] and our other guards last game." ... Detroit coach John Loyer is 3-9 since taking over for Mo Cheeks on Feb. 9. ... The Pistons have lost eight straight on the road. ... The NBA championship belt is on the line after Boston claimed it during Friday's win over the Nets.
(Read full game preview)
Impossibly, every team in the league has had at least a shot at the belt except the league-leading Indiana Pacers and the Houston Rockets. The Celtics even claimed it once back in mid-January with a win over the Toronto Raptors. Boston ended Brooklyn's one-game reign with Friday's win at TD Garden.
If Boston beats Detroit, the Pacers will get their first crack at the title on Tuesday in Indiana.
Hop HERE for more on the NBA Championship Belt, including the full season standings. It's highly entertaining.
(h/t: JackLynch11 on Reddit)
After missing 16 of the team’s last 19 games due to a lingering right ankle sprain, Bradley resumed basketball activities this week and is eyeing a return to game action on Friday night against the Phoenix Suns.
Given how the ankle injury has lingered -- Bradley returned after an initial five-game absence, only to sit out the past 10 straight when the ankle balked -- some have wondered if the team would consider shutting Bradley down for the season. With the team enduring a rebuilding year, that thought process wonders if it’s worth jeopardizing his long-term health with little to play for beyond pride.
But both the Celtics and Bradley believe there is plenty to play for, including a chance to uncloud his future.
When healthy, the 23-year-old Bradley has put together a quality season, averaging career bests at 14.3 points and 3.9 rebounds over 30.6 minutes per game. He's shown increased confidence shooting the ball and thrived in the midrange, while also putting a heavier emphasis on crashing the glass from the guard position. His defensive talents are well-documented (even if they haven't been on display quite as much this season).
Had Bradley stayed healthy this year, he likely would have put himself in position for a healthy pay raise this offseason. After failing to hammer out an extension of his rookie pact in late October, the Celtics are expected to extend a $3.6 million qualifying offer this summer that will make Bradley a restricted free agent. As a young, defensive-minded guard with a blossoming offensive game, Bradley could draw outside interest and run up his price tag.
But you wonder if the recent absence could leave teams a bit leery. Which is why these final 17 games could be important for Bradley. While he stressed Saturday that he thinks he’s “already proved [his value] throughout this year,” finishing the season strong certainly wouldn’t hurt his cause.
And the Celtics certainly wouldn’t mind getting a longer look at the backcourt of Bradley and (a healthier) Rajon Rondo. The pair, potentially the team’s backcourt of the future, has rarely been on the court together in recent seasons due to injuries.
For his part, Bradley just wants to get on the court.
“I’m just going to go out there and play hard,” said Bradley. “It's the game I love to play, and I feel like, even if we didn’t have a chance to make the playoffs, we should still go out there and prove to our fans and to ourselves that we're going to fight no matter what, even if we don’t have a chance.”
Bradley underwent an MRI earlier this week as part of a reevaluation and that cleared him to resume some basketball activities. He got up shots before the Celtics' off-day walkthrough at the team's training facility on Saturday and said the right ankle that has sidelined him for 16 of the past 19 games feels much better.
"I'm progressing and my ankle's a lot better than it was," Bradley said. "It feels better and it looks better."
Bradley guessed that he's about a week away from a return to game action, a timeline that was echoed by coach Brad Stevens.
"[Team trainer] Ed [Lacerte] just told me Friday is a possibility, but we’ll see," Stevens said. "I don’t want to say with any certainty on Friday or not. It doesn’t look like Tuesday or Wednesday he would play, but hopefully we get him back sooner rather than later."
Bradley started the team's first 43 games of the season before suffering the ankle injury in Miami in late January. He tried to return after an initial five-game absence but the pain persisted, putting him back on the shelf for much of February.
The Celtics have brought Bradley back slowly this time and is eager to get back on -- and stay on -- the court.
"It comes with how I play -- especially with an injury like this -- how hard I play," he said. "It's been unfortunate, but I definitely have to watch it because obviously I'm competitive, I want to help my team and I want to get out there. But that's probably why I've been sitting out so long. They've been holding me back. They don’t want me to make a mistake or go out there and hurt myself again."
The 23-year-old Bradley is averaging career-bests at 14.3 points and 3.9 rebounds over 30.6 minutes per game this season.
Louis Corbett is a huge Celtics fan from the other side of the world. The 12-year-old from New Zealand traveled to Boston to see his favorite NBA team play as part of a wish list of things he wants to see before a degenerative disease takes his eyesight. Below is a recap of his visit from Wednesday night.
Louis Corbett, a 12-year-old New Zealand native with a rare degenerative eye disease, fulfilled one of the top item on his "vision bucket list" Wednesday by taking in the Celtics-Warriors game.
Corbett, whose trip to Boston was funded in part by the Celtics after the team learned of his desire to see his favorite NBA team before he loses his vision, sat courtside near the Boston bench and got VIP treatment throughout the night. He mingled with Celtics coach Brad Stevens, captain Rajon Rondo and other Celtics players before the game; Jeff Green invited him onto the floor to get up shots during pregame warm-ups; and he was honored on the JumboTron at the first timeout.
On a night when Perkins School for the Blind opened the game with a rousing rendition of the national anthem, Corbett left an impression on Celtics players and staffers.
"I’m really disappointed in how we played, for a lot of reasons, but certainly we would have liked to have played better for [Corbett's] family," Stevens said after a 108-88 loss to the Golden State Warriors.
Added Rondo: "It was very exciting to meet him. He came in the locker room before the game. He met me. I didn’t know I was his favorite player. We had some words. Very happy kid. What he’s going through, he still has a smile on his face. He’s very humble. Because we all do what we love to do for a living and you never know, at any moment, it could be taken from you. You just try not to take anything for granted."
Both Green and Rondo sent Corbett home with his game-worn sneakers.
"He is smiling and he is enjoying life," said Green. "We can get down over the little things and then you have a kid who is about to have a surgery in a couple of weeks who is going to be blind and right now he is enjoying one day at a time. Sometimes it puts life in perspective."
The shirts are expected to be worn for Boston's visit to Dallas on March 17. The jerseys are available for sale in the NBA store for $109.95. Here's the store's snapshot:
Just the former captain looking out for the new one.
A couple hours later, in the still-odd confines of the visitors' locker room, Pierce praised Rondo while assessing the new captain's ability to lead Boston back to contender status.
"In the end, me and Rondo share a special bond," said Pierce. "We'll always be friends, we'll always have something in common with our championship, our kids still hang out together."
Amid the heartfelt words came a brief moment of levity.
Pierce said their children "hung out for [Rondo's] birthday, actually," giving himself a good belly laugh knowing full well the hoopla that ensued in these parts after Rondo skipped a trip to Sacramento last month to celebrate his birthday in Los Angeles.
Turning serious again, Pierce offered, "Rondo, I respect him and what he's doing moving forward with this franchise and it will always be that way."
If the Nets' January visit was one of emotion and indulgence for Pierce, this time around it was all about his former squad. Pierce and the Nets were ice cold shooting and the Celtics overcame their own sloppiness to emerge with a 91-84 triumph.
Pierce said it's always emotional returning to Boston, but that this visit couldn't compare to his first game back in a Nets uniform. He savored that night and the tribute video that rolled, allowing him to reflect on his 15 seasons with the Celtics.
This time around, Pierce spent most of his postgame chat with reporters gushing about Rondo and Boston's future.
"They are a young team, they got a mix of some veterans, some young guys they are developing and they are only going to get better," said Pierce. "Rondo is leading them right now, moving into the next generation of Celtics. I think their future is going to be very bright."
(Read full story)
Pierce, the former Celtics captain, has often expressed a desire to return to Boston in some capacity after spending the first 15 years of his career here. Pressed on the issue after the Celtics posted a 91-84 triumph over his Brooklyn Nets on Friday night, Pierce didn't run from the possibility of coming back as a player or executive.
"Yeah, why not?" said Pierce. "Maybe play for them, maybe work for them. Who knows what the future holds?"
The Celtics traded Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn last summer to start a rebuilding process that will be aided by the three first-round draft picks they got in return in the nine-player swap. Pierce is playing in the final year of his current contract and will be an unrestricted free agent after the season.
Pierce said this return to Boston wasn't as emotional as his first trip back in January, but still felt butterflies walking back into TD Garden.
"It’s always emotional when you step into this gym that you’ve spent your whole life playing in," said Pierce. "The tribute last time made it so much more emotional and the cheers. But every time I come into this gym, because I always seen the fans and the people who have been around all these years, it’s always going to be emotional because you miss them since you’ve known them so long. Not at the same level it was last time, but it’s always going to be there."
Pierce spoke highly of where Boston is headed.
"They are a young team, they got a mix of some veterans, some young guys they are developing and they are only going to get better," said Pierce. "[Rajon] Rondo is leading them right now, moving into the next generation of Celtics. I think their future is going to be very bright."
Later Pierce added: "I know the Celtics are going to do whatever it takes. They’ve got great owners, great management to get back to that top level again."
The Celtics entered Friday's tilt 0-6 in games in which they committed 19 turnovers or more. They gave it away 15 times in the second half alone against the Nets, which aided the visitors in rallying within a bucket in the third quarter. But Boston simply couldn't give this game away.
"They were nice enough to put 25 [individual turnovers] on my box sheet here; I think it was a special box score for the coach," quipped Celtics coach Brad Stevens.
But how were the Celtics able to overcome that many giveaways? Inside the team's locker room, Jared Sullinger offered, "I don’t know how you’re going to win turning the ball over so many times, honestly. Maybe we were just lucky that [the Nets] had a bad shooting night."
Added rookie Kelly Olynyk, "I don’t know. I guess when they go 0-for-17 in the first half from [3-point range], it helps out."
That is truly the only explanation. The Nets misfired on 26 triples for the night and shot a mere 36.3 percent from the field (29-for-80) overall. Even though Boston seemed to be kicking the ball into the crowd (or throwing it off a referee) for much of the game, it still couldn't stop the Celtics from building as much as an 18-point, third-quarter lead.
Read on for more notes, including an update on Avery Bradley's health, praise for Chris Babb and Phil Pressey, and why you can't go under screens on Rajon Rondo.
BOSTON -- Rapid reaction after the Boston Celtics defeated the Brooklyn Nets 91-84 on Friday night at TD Garden:
The nitty gritty: Rajon Rondo put up 20 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, while Jerryd Bayless added 14 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals (while finishing a team-best plus-16) to help the Celtics to only their second win in their past nine tries. Jared Sullinger grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds as Boston dominated the glass (finishing with a 51-28 advantage) against undersized Brooklyn. Joe Johnson scored a team-high 21 points on 9-of-21 shooting, while Deron Williams added 20 points for the Nets. Former Celtics captain Paul Pierce finished with 10 points, 3 rebounds, 3 steals, and 1 assist in 21 minutes.
Turning point: The Celtics led by 12 at halftime and as much as 18 early in the third quarter, but the Nets were so cold in the first half, you figured they had to charge at some point. Sure enough, Brooklyn embarked on a 22-6 run to surge within two (70-68) with two minutes to play in the third frame. Fortunately for Boston, the Nets went ice cold again and Boston extended its lead back to 11 just two minutes into the fourth quarter after consecutive buckets by Bayless. The Nets never truly threatened again as Boston posted a wire-to-wire victory.
Loose balls: The Nets shot just 36.3 percent from the field overall (29-of-80) and, after missing 16 straight 3-pointers to start the game, finished 4-of-30 beyond the arc (13.3 percent). Boston turned the ball over a whopping 28 times but limited the damage (26 points) and shot 44.3 percent from the floor overall. Rondo made three first-quarter 3-pointers while setting a new career-high for 3-pointers in a season. Phil Pressey deserves a nod for being plus-15 in 13 minutes of floor time.
What it means: The Celtics (21-41) snapped a two-game losing streak. They're also likely to climb a bit in the standings after entering with the fourth-worst record in basketball. Boston wraps up this five-game homestand on Sunday with a visit from the Detroit Pistons. A trip to Indiana looms on Tuesday before the Celtics return home for visits from the New York Knicks (Wednesday) and Phoenix Suns (Friday).
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