"Whoever would have thought when the trade went through that Brooklyn would have the record they have, and Boston would have the record that we have right now," Bogans said.
Probably not Bogans. A couple of weeks after Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry were introduced at a glitzy press conference at the Barclays Center, the Celtics held a small gathering at their practice facility in Waltham to introduce Bogans, MarShon Brooks and Kris Humphries. (Gerald Wallace was excused to run a youth basketball camp in his native Alabama -- and also to wrap his head around the deal.)
A photo-op led to a viral moment. The three new Celtics looked forlorn holding up their new jerseys next to first-year coach Brad Stevens and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. Stevens is the only one smiling.
Bogans has only fond memories from his time in Brooklyn, where he got a chance to jump-start his career again after a broken ankle wiped out much of his 2011-12 campaign with the team. The trade earned him a hefty pay increase and the fact that Boston has a better record only sweetens things.
Asked if he needles any of his former teammates about their rough start, he smiled again.
"Reggie [Evans]," Bogans said. "I've got to let Reggie have it."
When the Nets visited Boston for the teams' preseason finale in October, Evans found a couple of lemons in the visiting locker room at TD Garden. He grabbed a marker and had teammates autograph them before having a ballboy deliver them across the hall to Bogans and Brooks.
The insinuation: Life handed them lemons, so enjoy the sour taste of losing.
"[Evans sent] me lemons and text messages, telling me how they're going to whoop our [butts] when we come to Brooklyn," Bogans said. Then he shook his head and smiled again. These Celtics have made lemonade.
(Read full column)
Writes curator Marc Stein: "Only three of the league's nine rookie coaches start the new week with a winning record: Brian Shaw (12-8), Jeff Hornacek (11-9) and Mike Budenholzer (11-10). The raves for Brad Stevens are nonetheless steady and justified ... with the Celts at 6-4 since he named Jared Sullinger a starter."
(Read full power rankings)
Garnett and Paul Pierce are toiling in New Jersey for a hugely disappointing Nets team that has been underwhelming under coach Jason Kidd.
The Celtics will face them on the road Tuesday, then will return to the Garden Wednesday, where Rivers and his Los Angeles Clippers will be waiting.
It's nostalgia week for Boston Celtics fans, yet the reunion with Pierce and KG is likely to be underwhelming. Pierce might be sidelined with a broken hand, while Garnett is submitting startling career lows in just about every category, including 6.4 points a game and 36 percent shooting.
"It's not what was supposed to happen."
"My heart breaks for them,'' Rivers said. "It's not what was supposed to happen. It's just so strange. It's amazing how much I watch them.
"I just wanted them to do well. That's all. When I watch them now it's like I'm rooting for (daughter) Callie or (sons) Jeremiah and Austin.''
The Nets are not the only team the coach of the Los Angeles Clippers monitors with regularity. Although he will play them only twice a year, when Rivers sees footage of the Celtics he can't help but stop, rewind, and watch.
In many ways, what he sees is close to unrecognizable: new coaches, new players, new sets, new expectations.
(Read full column)
“I’ve already been past that a long time ago,” Pierce said Monday. “I’m a person that’s always been when it’s time to move on, you move on. You can ask any girlfriend I’ve ever had. That’s just the way it is. There’s no hard feelings. I’m here. This is where I’m at now, and you’ve gotta move on. You can’t mourn or put your head down. (You) just go to work.”
Pierce has had a tough time adjusting to his new team. In 15 games with the Nets (6-14), he’s averaging just 12.4 points on 36.8 percent shooting.
Pierce has missed the last five games due to a broken bone in his right hand. He thinks there’s a “good chance” he’ll play against the Celtics on Tuesday night at Barclays Center, but isn’t certain.
“I’ve had my ups and downs, but it’s not about me,” Pierce said. “It’s about getting this team healthy right now and trying to see if we can reach our potential.
“One of our goals before the season was to try and win a championship. Unfortunately, we didn’t get off to the best start, and I probably haven’t been playing the best basketball, due to some other minor injuries I’ve been dealing with. But I feel like as we continue to get healthy and guys come back and we get our chemistry, we’re gonna be there toward the end.”
Pierce still thinks the Nets have the potential to be a championship team.
“It’s just putting it all together, developing chemistry, getting healthy and then seeing what we’ve got,” he said. “We’ve seen flashes of it at times, but it’s tough when you don’t know who’s going to be in the lineup and who’s going to be out. But injuries happen to every team and it’s something we have to deal with. But I’d like to see us when we get fully healthy and see what our potential can possibly be.”
Pierce will make his regular-season return to Boston Jan. 26. He travelled there for Brooklyn’s preseason game, but was not at the arena while the game was played.
“I think the emotions are already behind me,” Pierce said. “We played them in the preseason. We had our press conference. I probably won’t have any more emotions until I get back into the arena that I played in. But I’ve moved on, they’ve on, Doc (Rivers) has moved on, Ray Allen (has) moved on. So it is what it is.”
Crawford topped Boston in scoring in all three games in wins over the Bucks, Nuggets, and Knicks. He averaged 23.3 points per game in that span (fourth best in the conference) while shooting 61 percent from the field (sixth best in East) to go along with 6.7 assists and 3 rebounds per contest. Crawford also made 12-of-23 3-pointers last week, with half of those coming when he made a career-high six against the Knicks on Sunday.
A snapshot of Crawford's week via the NBA:
Dec. 3 vs. Milwaukee: Tallied a season-high 25 points and added five assists and two rebounds in a 108-100 win over the Bucks.
Dec. 6 vs. Denver: Posted 22 points, eight assists and four rebounds during a 106-98 win over the Nuggets.
Dec. 8 @ New York: Connected on six three-point field goals en route to 23 points, and added seven assists and three rebounds in a 114-73 win over the Knicks.
In the East, Crawford beat out Detroit’s Andre Drummond and Brandon Jennings and Indiana’s Paul George. Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge was the Western Conference Player of the Week.
For more on Crawford's recent exploits, hop HERE or HERE.
Olynyk suffered a sprained right ankle against the Indiana Pacers on Nov. 23 and has missed Boston's last eight games, a stretch in which the team is 6-2 while surging to the top of the Atlantic Division. The Celtics went through some halfcourt work and shooting drills during practice on Monday and Olynyk said he'd have to wait to see how the ankle responds to gauge his availability.
"There might be a chance [to play versus Brooklyn]," said Olynyk. "It depends on how I feel, how [the ankle] reacts to this [workout], how the warm-up goes [before Tuesday's game]. It’s still a little bit tough to go 100 percent, max jump. We’ll see how it goes."
Olynyk said he doesn't have much problem with straight-line running, but it's jumping and cutting that are the concern at the moment.
"It's getting better, still al title bit of pain, a little bit of restrictions," said Olynyk. "But better than yesterday, better than the day before. Trending well, I guess you could say."
Celtics coach Brad Stevens was taking a wait-and-see approach with Olynyk as well.
"Kelly was back full at practice today, but we didn’t do anything live, so it’s hard to say," said Stevens. "I haven’t gotten the clear thumbs up yet from our trainers. I would say that he’s, at worst, questionable for [Tuesday's game]."
Asked how Olynyk looked on the court, Stevens quipped, "He looked like everybody else," then added, "Nothing looked out of place, but again, it’s different when you get into a stance and you play laterally and do all that stuff."
"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)
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