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).
"That’s all stuff down the road," Stevens said of the draft picks. "And I don’t know that I would really know exactly how to answer that. Because it’s a little bit out of my view right now, as far as what’s really important for us right now today. Hard to tell. I think we’ll be able to better assess that down the road. But right now, we’re trying to play better than we did Wednesday night [when Boston lost by 20 to the Golden State Warriors]. We were playing a good team and, they’ll do that to you if you don’t play well, But our B game is not good enough against teams of that caliber."
The Celtics will stick with their recent starting 5 featuring Rajon Rondo, Jerryd Bayless, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, and Kris Humphries. The Nets counter with Deron Williams, Shaun Livingston, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, and Mason Plumlee.
Asked about the job that Pierce has done playing the power forward spot in smaller lineups, Stevens said the idea that the former Boston captain is "undersized" is false.
"I don’t really look at it as a position," he said. "[Pierce is] a player. And great players can play multiple positions a lot of times. They certainly can guard multiple positions. The league is such that, if you can find a 3 man that you can move to the 4, because of his size, body, and intelligence, then that’s a great benefit. You see that when San Antonio goes small with a [Boris] Diaw, you see that when the Heat go small with LeBron [James]. You see it across the league. And, obviously, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they’ve hit their stride by playing that way because we say he’s undersized -- it’s not really undersized. He’s bigger than our 4s, for the most part. And we have a few of them. He’s a big strong guy down there and he can hold his own on the block, and then he can really stretch you on offense."
Faverani, sidelined since early February with swelling in his knee, had left knee arthroscopy to repair a torn lateral meniscus at New England Baptist Hospital. The procedure was performed by Celtics team physician Dr. Brian McKeon and assisted by Jason Rand, PAC.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said what was planned as a simple scope soon turned into a pretty major repair.
"When they went in and scoped his knee, they found a meniscus tear," said Stevens. "The way it was explained to me, it was near the root. That was the source of his major discomfort the past couple weeks. And so, it’s going to be a pretty significant rehab and so that was obviously not good news."
Faverani averaged 4.4 points and 3.5 rebounds over 13.2 minutes per game spanning 37 appearances during his rookie season. The Brazilian import started fast in his rookie season, but playing time diminished and he spent time bouncing between the Celtics and Maine Red Claws of the D-League. He was on assignment with the Claws when he suffered the knee injury on Feb. 4 in Delaware. With Maine, Faverani averaged 12.8 points and 9 rebounds over 25 minutes per contest in four appearances.
"He’s obviously had some up moments, had some down moments, like a lot of rookies," said Stevens. "He’s a guy that, to be the very best that he can be, just continues to work and he has a good work ethic for scoring on the block and also refining his jump shot, which he does work really hard on.
"On the other end of the floor, anybody with that size, you need him to protect the rim as well as he possibly can. And he really had some good moments doing that, and he had other moments when he didn't do it as well. I think it’s just going to be a process of growth with him and getting better at that. And hopefully he gets healthy so he can work on some of the things that will help him do that better."
Faverani's surgery comes on the heels of veteran Gerald Wallace undergoing season-ending surgery for his own torn meniscus on Tuesday.
Faverani is under contract for two more seasons, the final of which is nonguaranteed. The Celtics used a portion of their midlevel exception to sign the 25-year-old big man last summer.
(Read full story)
- PIERCE'S RETURN, PART II: Old friend Kevin Garnett didn't make the trip because of lingering back spasms, but Paul Pierce is back in Boston again. This won't be quite as emotional as that late-January visit in which the video tributes to Pierce and Garnett overshadowed the game. But it's still Pierce in Boston and that makes the game a bit more intriguing.
- ADDED MOTIVATION: PICK IN FOCUS: The Nets struggled early in the season, but have rallied above .500 and currently sit as the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. Boston has a vested interest in Brooklyn's regular-season record as the Celtics are almost certainly going to receive the Nets' first-round pick in June (Atlanta has a chance to swap with Brooklyn, but the Hawks currently sit four games back of the Nets). Brooklyn's pick is currently pegged in the middle of the first round and every loss helps Boston's cause a bit.
- LOOSE BALLS: Pierce isn't the only former Celtic back in Boston. Jason Collins, who played 32 games for the Celtics last season before being traded for Jordan Crawford at the deadline, is helping the Nets this season (Brooklyn is 5-1 since he signed). ... STATS LLC notes that Brooklyn has won 15 of 16 against teams which are currently under .500. Boston has dropped seven straight and 23 of 25 against opponents that have winning records. ... The Celtics are coming off a 20-point shellacking from the Golden State Warriors. Jeff Green said the team doesn't "want to keep embarrassing ourselves."
(Read full game preview)
Even die-hard Celtics supporters might be content to hibernate for the final 21 games of the regular season and rise on May 20 when the annual pingpong-a-palooza will determine where the Celtics will pick in this year's NBA draft.
Recalling those fleeting visions of Tim Duncan or Kevin Durant in green, you know by now that the NBA determines its draft order by a lottery process. Teams with the worst records have the best chance at a top spot, but those pingpong balls have a mind of their own.
It's worth noting that the worst record in basketball hasn't landed the top pick in the draft since 2004 (Orlando Magic). In fact, over the past nine years, here's a quick rundown of where the team that emerged with the top pick ranked in the final standings:
2013: Cleveland Cavaliers (3rd-worst record)
2012: New Orleans Hornets (tied-3rd worst)
2011: Los Angeles Clippers (8th worst)
2010: Washington Wizards (5th worst)
2009: Los Angeles Clippers (tied-2nd worst)
2008: Chicago Bulls (9th worst)
2007: Portland Trail Blazers (6th worst)
2006: Toronto Raptors (5th worst)
2005: Milwaukee Bucks (6th worst)
Over the past decade, that averages out to teams with the fifth-worst record in basketball claiming the top spot.
That's part of the reason the Celtics haven't been afraid to win games this season. As hard as teams try to lose to better their draft position, the pingpong balls often have a way of scorning them (as the 1996-97 and 2006-07 Celtics know too well).
But it's undeniable that the lower you finish in the regular-season standings, the more likely you are to have a decent pick (even if you get leapfrogged along the way).
Here's what we know about the 2014 draft lottery: The bottom two positions are likely cemented. Milwaukee is 12-48, and even after gutting its roster and with the potential it might not win another game this season, Philadelphia (15-46) will be hard-pressed to make up the 2½-game difference on the Bucks.
The standings are a bit more cluttered from there. The Orlando Magic (19-44) own the third-worst record in basketball and have a two-game cushion over the Celtics (including three games in the loss column).
(Read full story)
The Nets' defensive quarterback did not make the trip with the team to Boston and will miss his fourth straight game on Friday due to his ailing back. Rookie Mason Plumlee could start again in place of Garnett.
The Nets, who have won four straight games, did not practice on Thursday. But general manager Billy King doesn’t expect Garnett to be out for a significant amount of time.
“The one thing with KG as we have done with all our guys, it is more about getting them to the point where they are ready for the stretch,” King said in an interview on SiriusXM NBA Radio. “There is no timetable on it. Just day to day. When he is ready and shows he is ready to go he will be back. I don’t expect it to be a long time.”
The Nets (30-29) beat Milwaukee, Chicago and Memphis without Garnett. Defensively, they held those three opponents to an average of 90.6 points and also recorded 14, 19 and 14 steals in each of those wins.
“[Garnett’s absence] makes guys step up,” Williams said. “And I think guys have stepped up to the challenge.”
Paul Pierce knows more than anyone how bad Garnett wants to play, especially in a game back in Boston. When the Nets played in Boston for the first time this season on Jan. 26, the Celtics franchise honored Pierce and Garnett with an emotional tribute. It was a sentimental return for both former Celtics.
“It is tough for him,” Pierce said of Garnett not being able to play. “We had a chance to see him get out on the court and do some extra stuff [on Wednesday before beating Memphis]. But he is a competitor. He hates to sit out. The good thing is we need him to get his rest so he can come back full strength.”
(Read full story)
A snippet from Ford: "Parker's abilities as a scorer and rebounder could make him an immediate upgrade at the 3 while giving the Celtics more incentive to move Jeff Green this summer."
With the Nets' pick, Ford has the Celtics taking Michigan guard Nik Stauskas at No. 15.
3.0: Parker at No. 4; Stauskas at No. 15.
2.0: Dante Exum at No. 4; Chris Walker at No. 20.
1.0: Parker at No. 5; James Young at No. 24.
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