"I don't want to talk about Brooklyn, so if you've got any questions about Brooklyn, I'm not going to answer them," he said.
Well ... umm ... so how about this weather?
As the Celtics (10-12) prepare to visit the Nets (6-14), reporters obviously wanted to know how Wallace felt about playing his former team. And while Wallace has been outspoken on plenty of topics, he has shown no interest in talking about his time in Brooklyn ever since training camp started. He maintained that Brooklyn silence on Monday after the Celtics went through an offday workout at Baruch College in the Flatiron District of Manhattan.
A reporter wondered if Wallace's gag order had come internally.
"That was suggested by my mom," said Wallace. "Keep my mouth shut. So I don't want to talk about it."
You'll remember Wallace got fined $10,000 by the NBA for dropping an expletive into his postgame thoughts after a tough loss to the Rockets. You can't help but wonder if he'd have a few choice words after what many perceived as a down year with the Nets.
Wallace did add, "Once [his mother] found out we play [the Nets on Tuesday], she was like, 'Keep your mouth shut.' She told me to put a piece of gum in my mouth, but they took all the gum off the table, so I'm just going to keep it to myself."
Wallace was, however, happy to expound on these surging Celtics, who have won six of their last eight games and sit atop the Atlantic Division (with a three-game lead over that team that Wallace won't talk about, no less).
Wallace said a hectic November, one that often left him exasperated by the team's inconsistencies, may have been the best thing for this young team. It forced them to bond and learn on the fly, and now it's translating to results on the court.
"Working in a new coach, putting in a new system, and then you add four or five brand new guys to the mix -- I think the first month of the season was a real true test for us," said Wallace. "We played almost, what,  games in November? Nineteen games [in the first 31 days]? So it was more of a learning on the job type of situation. I think we improved from it. We got better. We took a bump on the head the first four games. We got better from that. We had some setbacks, and we've came back from that, so I think we've gotten a lot better. That whole month of November was probably the best thing that could have happened to us as a young team."
So what is the ceiling for these transitioning Celtics? Wallace didn't want to look too far ahead, and dipped into the Brad Stevens process-oriented handbook for his answer.
"Our main thing is we just want to keep improving," said Wallace. "We want to keep getting better and better. We came out and had a great game against New York, but we also know we shot great [and] they didn't shoot good. It could easily have been the other way around, so we've got to keep improving, got to keep getting better offensively and keep getting better defensively."
Yes, Wallace didn't want to talk about the Nets, but let's just say that if he was picking a brand of gum to describe his emotions for Monday's game, he'd probably grab a pack of "Extra."
- JARED SULLINGER: "I respect him for that. As a coach, you can’t really get too high off of wins like this because we turn around and play another good team in Brooklyn [on Tuesday] and so we’ve just got to be prepared to win. You can’t get complacent. We’re trying to just stay on top of the Atlantic Division."
- BRANDON BASS: "Coach, day in and day out, he shows great poise. I think it’s rubbing off on me and I think it’s rubbing off on the rest of the guys."
- JEFF GREEN: "We’re not content with where we are at. There’s still some things we can get better at. We’re following [Stevens'] lead. That’s our leader and he knows that there’s still some things we need to work on. He’s not content, and neither are we."
- AVERY BRADLEY: "Even when we were up [Stevens stayed on Boston to keep pushing]. The Knicks are a very good team and we still felt like they had a chance to come back and he told us, 'stay focused on the bench and pay attention to the game. We want to continue to keep talking to our teammates and continue to improve and the game wasn’t over until the buzzer went off."
One month later, in New York, with the Celtics playing their best basketball of the season, Stevens watched his team flat out demolish the Knicks as part of a 112-73 thrashing at Madison Square Garden.
Human nature, of course, would be to celebrate, to puff out your chest and bask in the glow of a 41-point triumph over a team that was supposed to be in the mix for the Atlantic Division title. Human nature would be to celebrate being 6-2 over your last eight games and enjoy having a small cushion atop the division you weren't supposed to have any business competing in.
"I'm not doing cartwheels," said Stevens. "[Celtics players] know I'm not going to do cartwheels... I just said, 'Keep being a team and keep playing together.' The other thing is that we need to keep building off the good things we are doing."
Stevens paused a moment to consider what he had revealed about his postgame speech then smiled.
"It was boring as heck," he added. "It was boring as heck."
Make no mistake, the Celtics enjoyed the heck out of Sunday's win. Rehabbing point guard Rajon Rondo wore a permanent grin on the Boston bench, bouncing out of his seat with each of Mike Woodson's exasperated timeouts to greet his teammates and celebrate their efforts.
And while Boston's postgame locker room buzzed with energy as players made dinner plans for a rare night off in New York City (Keith Bogans and MarShon Brooks serving as the team's Yelp, given the time they've spent in Brooklyn), there was also this notion that Boston couldn't rest on this victory very long.
That, of course, emanates from Stevens.
"Never as good as you think you are, never as bad as you think you are, and you're never far from either," said Stevens. "It's one of those days in a lot of ways. But, also, we played pretty well. Can we play like that every day? Probably not. But can we bring the same intensity level and be as much of a team as we were today? Hopefully."
(Read full column)
"No," Crawford said. "If it was my choice, I would have played last year."
Maybe no player has been more of a revelation this season than Crawford, who has gotten an opportunity to play first-unit point guard as Rajon Rondo rehabs from ACL surgery and has used it to cement himself as one of Boston's key contributors this season. During last year's first-round playoff series against the Knicks, Crawford played sparingly and only drew headlines for barking at Carmelo Anthony after Boston's Game 5 win.
Back at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, Crawford scored a team-best 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting and made six 3-pointers as part of Boston's 114-73 dismantling of the Knicks. Crawford added seven assists, three rebounds and didn't turn the ball over in 31 minutes of floor time. He was plus-38 in plus/minus for the game.
Over Boston's last eight contests -- a span in which the Celtics have posted a 6-2 mark -- Crawford is averaging 17.1 points, 7.1 assists and 3.9 rebounds over 33.6 minutes per game. What's more, Crawford is producing that output on only 12.3 shots per game, shedding his reputation as a volume scorer with bad shot selection.
"He’s playing well," coach Brad Stevens said. "I’ve seen Jordan and all the scoring doesn’t surprise me -- he’s always been really good at it, he’s always been a tough-shot maker. I think the best part about it is he’s picking his spots extremely well and he’s defending extremely well. This is not about guys, what they could do yesterday or what they’ve done in the past. It’s about what you can do to better improve yourself and he’s done a really good job of just getting better and really embracing that."
The lingering question with Crawford is how Stevens will find minutes for him when Rondo is healthy enough to return to the lineup. Ideally for Boston, Crawford can settle in as a second-unit combo guard, maybe chipping away at the minutes being played by undrafted rookie point guard Phil Pressey as he develops at the NBA level. Can Crawford maintain his production playing less consistent minutes with the second unit? That remains to be seen.
With Rondo not expected back until January, it's not something Stevens has to worry about right now. Unlike last season, Crawford is going to get plenty of opportunity to thrive on the floor and he's taking full advantage at the moment.
[Note: For more on Crawford's emergence this season, hop HERE]
Some other leftovers from Sunday's game:
- BRADLEY'S DOUBLE-DOUBLE: Avery Bradley recorded the first double-double of his four-year career during Sunday's win while putting up 13 points and 10 rebounds over 28:24. Bradley admitted he's been trying to improve his work on the glass in order to help Boston's bigs. "It’s been a focus for me because I know my team needs me to do it, especially not having Rondo," Bradley said. "We’re not the tallest team, so they need the guards to help. That’s what I’ve been trying to do every game. I just need to be more consistent with it." Bradley's defensive rebound rate through Boston's first 17 games was a mere 10.4 percent (one of the lowest on the team among regulars). But over the last five games, it's bounced up to 12.4 percent (for comparison, Rondo's career defensive rebound rate is 12 percent).
- C'S NOT CONTENT: The Celtics are playing some really inspired ball the past two weeks and Sunday was maybe their most complete effort of the season. But they refuse to celebrate. "We’re not content with where we are at," said Jeff Green, who scored 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting and was plus-42 overall. "We have some things that we can get better at as far as communication, our defensive schemes, and offensively. ... There’s some things that we can get better at. We enjoy a win like this, yes, but we still have some room to improve and that’s what we need to do [Monday at practice]."
- LOOSE BALLS: Boston's bench will get overlooked amid the gaudy numbers put up by the starters, but Courtney Lee had a very steady afternoon. He scored 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting over 19:36 and played excellent defense at the other end. ... Gerald Wallace didn't put up a shot over 21:22. This is the third game this season that he hasn't attempt a single field goal in at least 21 minutes of play. Wallace chipped in three rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block on Sunday. ... Pressey missed three shots in Sunday's game. He hasn't made a field goal since Nov. 25, a span of six games and 63 minutes of floor time. He's still a steadying presence at backup point guard despite the lack of offensive output.
But over the last eight games, the Celtics have done a rather remarkable job of improving some of their most glaring areas of need and, maybe not surprisingly, they've posted a 6-2 mark during that span because of those advancements.
But one of the lingering issues had been Boston's terrible first-quarter play. It felt as though Boston routinely was digging itself early holes and this young team struggled to claw its way back into games. Through the first 14 games, Boston averaged only 23.6 first-quarter points per game, which ranked 21st in the league, but their quarter differential of minus-2.2 ranked 24th in the league. It doesn't sound like a lot, but Boston rarely gave itself a chance to play with a lead.
That's changed over the last eight games. Boston is now averaging 26 first-quarter points per game (10th best in the league in that span) and its plus-7.3 quarter differential is best in the NBA through Sunday's games.
During Friday's win over the Denver Nuggets, Boston scored the game's first 14 points and led by 24 after the first quarter, which allowed the Celtics to fend off the Nuggets' second-half surges. On Sunday in New York, Boston scored the game's first 12 points and owned a 23-point lead after the first quarter. They are the first team since January 1965 to outscore opponents by at least 23 points in the first quarter in consecutive games, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
"At the beginning of the season, the first quarter was one of our most horrible quarters of the game, and then we found ourselves trying to fight back into the game the last three quarters," veteran Gerald Wallace said. "I think now we’ve made that turn to where the first quarter has pretty much been one of our best quarters and we’re able to maintain [that] through the next three quarters."
So what exactly has changed?
"I think our defense," Wallace said. "We’ve paid real good attention to details, the scouting report, our game plans, and we came out and executed them real well in the first quarter. We’re taking teams out of what they want to do, we’re forcing them to one shot, and we were able to knock down shots on the offensive end."
Avery Bradley noted that the coaching staff is helping players with scouting reports, particularly with how to slow down the opposition on the defensive end.
"The coaches are doing a great job preparing us for the game," Bradley said. "They’re doing an excellent job. They’re just laying everything out for us and telling us what we need to do, and we just have to go out there and give that effort every single game, and I feel like we have a chance to win every single game."
Jeff Green said Boston is making more shots early in games.
"We’re making shots, being aggressive and just executing our plays," he said. "It's as simple as that."
NEW YORK -- Rapid Reaction after the Boston Celtics
THE NITTY GRITTY
Jordan Crawford scored a team-high 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting (connecting on six 3-pointers) while Jared Sullinger added 21 points on efficient 9-of-13 shooting and was a team-best plus-43 in plus/minus. Avery Bradley added his first career double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds), while Jeff Green and Brandon Bass kicked in 16 points apiece as the first-place Celtics cruised. Carmelo Anthony scored a team-high 19 points for the Knicks, but was a team-worst minus-40 in plus/minus. Just check out the final box score for the full carnage.
The Celtics scored the game's first 12 points and 18 of the first 19 before New York generated its first field goal (an Anthony dunk with 5:45 to play in the frame). Boston pushed its lead as high as 25 before the end of the quarter and led 34-11 after 12 minutes. Boston shot 54.5 percent in the frame, including 71.4 percent beyond the 3-point arc (5 of 7 overall). The Knicks didn't even score five first-quarter field goals, finishing 4-of-18 shooting (22.2 percent) with four turnovers. Things only got worse from there for the hosts.
Typically mild-mannered Bass got tagged with a rare technical foul late in the third quarter after barking at an official for no whistle as he muscled in a putback in traffic. The Boston bench couldn't help but chuckle. The Celtics were up 37 at that point.
Courtney Lee had an excellent game off the bench, scoring 10 points over 19:36. ... MarShon Brooks played the final six minutes, scoring six points. ... Keith Bogans was a healthy DNP. ... On the first possession after checking in for the first time, Amare Stoudemire got whistled for a technical for poking Brandon Bass in the face on a shot attempt.
WHAT IT MEANS
The Celtics (10-12) have won three straight and now own a two-game lead in the Atlantic Division (pending how the Raptors fare against a returning Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers). This one was never close. Boston now heads across the city to dance with old friend Kevin Garnett and the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday night.
"I do, I’ve always liked them," said Stevens. "We haven’t had one yet here with our team, but I personally like them because usually you’re done with your preparations by now, anyways, and you’re just waiting the day out getting ready to play. Then you’ve got a late turnaround to what’s next. So hopefully we can play well, and then move on to what’s next a little bit earlier in the day."
Stevens also happens to have fond memories of this arena. Oh sure, Butler lost to Georgetown in the Jimmy V Classic a couple years back, but Stevens noted that Butler winning the preseason NIT here in his final year as an assistant at Butler was an all-timer. "We beat Tennessee and Gonzaga and that was great, one of my fondest memories in coaching to be honest," he said.
A couple other notes before tip-off:
- KNICKS HAVE FOUND THEIR WAY: Stevens has often noted how he always prepares for a team's A-game and he's honest when he gushes about the Knicks' recent play despite a bumpy start. "It’s hard to adjust to playing without [Tyson] Chandler, initially, [but] they’ve done that now," said Stevens. "They are playing [Andrea] Bargnani at the 5 a lot and that’s a problem. It seems like they’ve found their way. And when they were losing, they weren’t losing by a lot. They were losing a lot of close games against good teams. To me, I understand the record and that’s how they are going to be evaluated because we’re in that business. To me, they’ve looked like a a good basketball team and now they look like a really good team."
- HARDAWAY JR. IN STARTING 5: With Kenyon Martin (sore left ankle) out, the Knicks are starting Tim Hardaway Jr. That means Carmelo Anthony will spend more time at the 4 (likely meaning more time matched up with Brandon Bass after the two often jousted in last year's playoffs). New York's other starters: Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert, and Bargnani.
- RIVALRY RENEWED: Disregard the records, particularly New York's early struggles. The Celtics and Knicks still have plenty of history and, after New York ousted Boston from the first-round of the playoffs last season, Avery Bradley said he wouldn't mind a little revenge. "The Knicks have always been a team that we got to battle with," said Bradley. "We definitely got a nasty taste in our mouth from the playoffs last year. We kinda feel like they kinda embarrassed us a little bit. I feel like [Sunday] is going to be a chance to get a little payback."
- SLOWING MELO: Naturally, Carmelo Anthony is a focal point entering the matchup. As Gerald Wallace noted, "He has the ultimate green light. He’s able to pull-up and he’s a very good shooter. He’s probably the best scorer in the league. And he has the ball in his hands probably 95 percent of the time and is always looking to pull the trigger, as we call it. He’s ready for his shot. so you’ve always got to be on guard with him. There’s no relaxing or taking a minute off when you’re guarding Carmelo." The more interesting aspect to watch might be how Boston's guards handle New York's ball-handlers. Bradley struggled with Raymond Felton last season and the Celtics have to prevent the dribble penetration that plagued them in last year's playoffs.
- OPPORTUNITY TO ATTACK: Tyson Chandler is out after breaking a bone in his right leg last month. Without one of the top defenders and rim protectors in the league, the Celtics know there's an opportunity to attack the basket. "I know they’re a lot different defensively, especially with Tyson out," said Wallace. "He’s been their anchor. He’s been their main guy. He kind of holds their defense together at the rim. I think with him out, one of the best shot-blockers in the league, then their defense is kind of suspect inside. That’s just me." Can Boston's undersized frontcourt take advantage of Chandler's absence?
- WHAT ELSE?: Wallace admitted noon start times can mess with NBA players. He suggested it's important to jump on an opponent in a matinee meeting. ... Bradley made special note of Timothy Hardaway Jr., who had one big preseason effort against the Celtics and has been one of the league's most efficient offensive players this season. He averages 1.143 points per possession, which ranks in the 97th percentile among all league players, according to Synergy Sports.
(Read full game preview)
Most conservative estimates put it at 35 feet. When it's told in the future, legend will put it somewhere between 50 feet and a football field (judge for yourself in this snapshot). Crawford came off a high pick-and-roll, found an inch of separation, and drilled the contested shot.
"The magnitude of that shot, I could not forget," Stevens said. "He has the ability to knock those shots down, and that's a good trait to have."
Crawford entered the 2013-14 season with basically no expectations. Brought in at last season's trade deadline to be a wild card for the postseason-bound Celtics, Crawford's most noteworthy Boston moment came when he caused a bit of a dust-up while jawing at Carmelo Anthony after the Celtics' Game 5 win at Madison Square Garden in the first round of the playoffs.
Seven months later, as Boston prepares to return to New York for this season's first regular-season meeting with the New York Knicks on Sunday, Crawford has gone from a bit of an afterthought to one of the key cogs for the surprising leader of a disheveled Atlantic Division.
During Boston's past seven games, a stretch in which the Celtics are 5-2 overall, Crawford is averaging 16.3 points, 7.1 assists and 4 rebounds over 34 minutes per game. Crawford has led Boston in scoring in each of its past two games -- both wins -- and hit clutch late-game shots in both to prevent the opposing team from rallying all the way back.
In typical Crawford fashion, he takes it all in stride. He brushes off the notion that he's playing the best basketball of his career (in Boston, maybe, he relents) and shrugged off his late-game clutchness. "It's just the way the game went," he offered after Friday's win over the Denver Nuggets.
During Boston's past seven games, the Celtics own a sparkly 108.8 offensive rating when Crawford is on the floor. Not only is that a whopping 10 points higher than the team's season average (98.7), the rating dips to 95.5 when he's on the bench during that same seven-game span. The team's defensive rating with Crawford on the floor is 101.2 during these seven games, which is in line with the team's season average (101.8).
All of which is a fancy way of saying good things are happening with Crawford on the court, particularly on the offensive end. Ever since joining Boston's starting lineup, he has provided a calming presence alongside backcourt mate Avery Bradley by easing the ball-handling responsibilities. Crawford's player efficiency rating is at a career-high 18.9 (his career average is 14.3) and his true shooting percentage (adjusted for 3-point field goals) is also a career-best 57.1 percent.
(Read full post)
The Celtics weren't even thinking about Tuesday's visit to Brooklyn (and seeing old friends Kevin Garnett and an injured Paul Pierce). Boston was locked in on the improving Knicks and ignoring the fact the New York squads have just one more win combined (10) than Boston does overall at the moment.
The Celtics visit the Knicks for a noon tip Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
"I think every game is an opportunity," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said when asked if Boston had a unique opportunity on this trip. "It’s so early in the year. First of all, I think the Knicks -- and I know people are going to look at their [5-13] record and say what they want to say -- but they played a lot of close games, and sometimes when you haven’t won those close games, they are harder to pull out. But the last two games have not been close. And they have looked every bit the Knicks that everybody expected and then some. The way they shot their 3s, the way they are moving the ball, the way they are guarding with activity and aggressiveness, has been very impressive. They are really good. And again, we can all get caught up in the record, but I get more caught up in how they are playing right now."
But first-year coach Brad Stevens knows it can all be very fleeting and is imploring his team to stay focused on the daily process of getting better.
"It’s just so fragile, because winning is hard to do," Stevens said. "Sometimes you think all is good, but you throw a shot in over the backboard and you win the game, then you feel like, ‘Yeah, that’s going to happen every day.’ That’s not going to happen. It’s so fragile that every little thing has to get better.
"What we have to get day-by-day better at is understanding each other and putting ourselves in the best position for 48 minutes. I think you saw that [Friday] night [against the Denver Nuggets]. We were really good for most of the game, but our stretch that we weren’t, we weren’t very good. We can’t afford those stretches, it’s just not good enough."
And it's that 48 minutes of consistency that Stevens craves most now. The recent wins are nice, but Stevens knows the only way to sustain that success is to be able to play 48 minutes on a nightly basis. The worst teams in the NBA are the ones that are consistently inconsistent.
"It doesn’t matter to me, as far as the total number of wins, it’s more about playing good basketball," Stevens said. "It’s not about putting any additional heat on our team, or anybody else. It’s just about, can we continue to play good basketball? I think we’ve played good basketball in losses that we’ve grown from. And I think we’ve played good basketball in wins. We’ve played one or two wins where we haven’t played as good and we probably didn’t get enough out of it. I’m a lot less concerned about the result. Obviously, you want to go down [to New York] and win, but that isn’t the end-all, be-all, regardless, this weekend. But it is an important thing for us to continue to improve, that’s where the importance lies."
A few more notes from Saturday's brief practice session at HealthPoint before the team traveled to New York in advance of Sunday's brunch with the Knicks:
- OLYNYK OUT SUNDAY, BUT WILL BE PUT TO WORK: The Celtics engaged in a light walk-through/film session on Saturday, so rookie Kelly Olynyk didn't do anything to really test his injured right ankle. The team plans to put him through a more intense workout before Sunday's game in New York with hopes that he'll be ready to then jump back into practice on Monday. Said Stevens: "He told me he’s feeling a little bit better. I don’t know exactly what that means. But I know he’s not playing [Sunday]." Asked what his biggest limitation is at the moment, Olynyk noted, "Just going at 100 percent -- max strength, max jump, all that pushing off." Olynyk, who sprained his right ankle last month against the Pacers, engaged in some post-practice shooting, but confirmed that he hopes to be back at practice on Monday and would be day-to-day after that. For now, he's doing all he can to learn and grow off the court despite missing seven straight games. "You can’t let your mind take a vacation, even if your body can’t physically be out there," Olynyk said. "You have to still be dialed in, still learning, growing, and being a great teammate."
- STEVENS LIKES C'S DEPTH: Boston's first unit staked the Celtics to a big early lead during Friday's visit from the Denver Nuggets, then it was the reserves who fended off Denver's second-half surge. Stevens said he's happy with the balance between the starters and the bench at the moment. "I think we have a lot of flexibility, in large part because we have a lot of evenness," Stevens said. "On any given day, if 1 through 5 aren’t ready, 6 through 10 are better. And it’s hard to even say that we have a 1 through 5 or a 6 through 10, it’s more like a 1 through 10. Because they are all really even and they can all impact the game in a lot of different ways. It's probably 1 through beyond-that, because I think Keith [Bogans] can come in and do things for us and he will, he’ll get his chance. And MarShon [Brooks], we’ve seen what MarShon can do in limited minutes. We haven’t been healthy all year and we won’t be until [Rajon] Rondo's back. But until then, we’re going to have to depend on everybody and that’s where the evenness helps."
- RISE AND SHINE? The Celtics will play a matinee with a noon tip on Sunday in New York. How does that affect players? "It’s real different for me," said veteran Gerald Wallace. "It takes a lot more to get yourself going early in the morning. It’s going to be whichever team comes out and takes [control] of the game." Wallace was asked if there's any mystique left playing at Madison Square Garden. "No, not now. Not anymore," said Wallace. Asked when it wore off, Wallace noted, "The first time I went there. I saw a rat the first time I went there. I was kinda shook off of that. It was different to me."
Humphries played inconsistent minutes at the start of the 2013-14 season, his first with the Boston Celtics, and the only spikes often came when another big was injured or underperforming. Boston leaned most often on its younger players -- Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk and Vitor Faverani -- early in the season, but Humphries pledged to stay ready.
So after practice he'd often join rookie Olynyk for some 3-point work (even though he has shot a mere 18 triples during his 10-year NBA career). After Thursday's practice session, he recruited rookie guard Phil Pressey to run some 17s (the baseline sprint drill that gives most hoopsters nightmares).
On Friday night, with a rare national television stage, early foul trouble for Sullinger opened a rare door for Humphries. The 28-year-old big man responded with his best game in a Boston uniform, putting up a season high 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting with seven rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal over 23:32. Humphries was a team-best plus-26 in plus/minus as the Celtics fended off the second-half surges of the Denver Nuggets while emerging with a 106-98 triumph.
Friday's extended performance afforded Humphries the opportunity to skip his postgame work (though we can't be certain he didn't jump on the treadmill for a quick jog). Humphries slipped on a stylish green twill blazer and turned around to find a rare mob of microphones waiting for him.
He spent the next three minutes stiff-arming questions about his role, all while teammates hurled playful compliments at him from behind the media horde. The final question asked Humphries to describe what this season has been like given his limited role.
"We're winning and stuff; I don't like to focus on me and where I'm at," said Humphries. "We're at the top of the [Atlantic Division], so that's what's important -- whether my role is no minutes, 5 minutes, 20 minutes, or more, I have to contribute and it's not about me, so I don't really want to answer that question."
(Read full post)
But the Celtics are taking better care of the basketball in recent games. Over the past seven outings -- a span in which Boston has posted a 5-2 mark -- the team's turnover percentage has dipped to 15.2 percent overall, ranking Boston tied for 12th in the league in that span. Narrow it down to the past three contests and that number plummets to a mere 12.8 percent, tied for sixth in the league in that span.
During Friday's 106-98 win over the Denver Nuggets, Boston matched its season low by turning the ball over just 10 times (leading to a mere 11 points).
Asked before the game about the downturn in turnovers, Celtics first-year coach Brad Stevens quipped, “We went through some color tests with throwing [the ball] to the right color and trying to avoid throwing it [to the other team]. I was thinking we were really going to get screwed up last week when we went [with road] green [uniforms] at home, but we did well with that."
Turning serious, Stevens added, “No, it’s just learning guys’ strengths and, again, putting them in position to be successful, running better stuff because you understand them better, throwing it to the right guys at the right times, throwing the ball in the post more, playing inside-out -- that has all added up. And certainly I think playing more ball handlers on the court at once -- everyone talks about Jordan [Crawford] being out there at the point, but then you have two guys [with shooting guard Avery Bradley] that are really primary ball handlers in the game at once. And same thing can be said when Phil [Pressey] and Courtney [Lee] are in the game together. That’s helped quite a bit.”
No Boston player had more than two turnovers in Friday's win, and those four guards combined for a mere three turnovers overall. Boston jumped out to an early lead by fueling its offense with ball movement, something hammered home by putting up 25 assists on 43 field goals.
A look at individual turnover rates of the Celtics' players over the first 14 games compared to the past seven:
The only two players with a noticeable increase are Brooks and Bogans, the two guys playing the least. Most everyone else has brought their number down, with notably significant drops from the likes of Bradley and Crawford, the team's primary ball handlers. What's more, big men are handling the ball better and Gerald Wallace, plagued by a case of the fumbles early in the year, has done a nice job bringing his own turnovers down. Stevens went out of his way to note Friday that he wants Wallace handling the ball without worrying about those early-season turnovers.
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Play Podcast ESPN NFL analyst Ron Jaworski discusses how Rob Gronkowski's injury could affect the Patriots' playoff success, the Eagles' offense, Peyton Manning's throwing style and more.
Play Podcast Mike Greenberg and Cris Carter cover Week 14 of the NFL season, including Rob Gronkowski's injury, Panthers-Saints, Peyton Manning's big day, the drama in Washington and more.
Play Podcast Two-time World Series champion Johnny Damon dishes on Jacoby Ellsbury's decision to sign with the Yankees, what moving from Boston to New York is like and more.