Boston Celtics fans that watched until the end of Saturday's loss to the Washington Wizards were hungry for a silver lining, and newcomer Jae Crowder provided about the best they could find.

[+] EnlargeCrowder
Brian Babineau /NBAE/Getty ImagesOf the three players acquired in the Rajon Rondo deal, Jae Crowder might be the one that sticks longest with the Celtics.
With the obvious caveat of it being trash time in a lopsided game in which both teams had emptied their benches, Crowder produced an eyebrow-raising 15-second sequence in which he (1) grabbed a defensive rebound, (2) hit a 3-pointer as a trailer in transition, (3) stole the ball as the Wizards advanced past midcourt and (4) produced an and-one layup going the other way.

Crowder finished with 10 points, 2 rebounds, 2 steals and a block over 16 minutes of floor time.

Of the three players acquired from the Dallas Mavericks in the Rajon Rondo swap, Crowder may be the most likely to have a future with the team. The 6-foot-7 swingman is due a $1.2 million qualifying offer after the season that's a no-brainer for Boston to extend if he's not a casualty of salary aggregation at the February trade deadline.

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge hinted that Boston has long had an interest in Crowder and you can easily envision former Celtics coach Doc Rivers prodding Ainge to pick the Marquette product in the 2012 draft. But Crowder was off the board at No. 34 to Cleveland. (Coincidentally, he was traded to the Cavaliers in a swap that included current teammate Tyler Zeller.)

Crowder distinguished himself by simply carving out a rotation role on a veteran Mavericks team in recent seasons. His career stat line doesn't leap off the page -- 4.6 points, 2.3 rebounds, 0.8 steals over 15.9 minutes per game -- but he's a competitive and physical defender who is capable of hitting 3-point shots and generating scoring opportunities off cuts.

(Read full post)

Rookie Young assigned to Red Claws

December, 28, 2014
Dec 28
The Boston Celtics assigned rookie James Young to the Maine Red Claws of the NBA Development League on Sunday.

Young, who has sat out the past two weeks with a right shoulder subluxation, recently was cleared to resume game activities. He was in the starting lineup for Maine's game against the Canton Charge.

Young, the 17th overall pick in June's draft, has appeared in five games for the Red Claws this season and is averaging 22.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.8 steals in 32 minutes per game. He has appeared in five games for the Celtics, playing a total of 18 minutes.

[Update: Young finished with 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting in Sunday's game.]

Get Smart: Rookie struggles, sits vs. Wiz

December, 27, 2014
Dec 27
One day you're getting showered with praise by a future Hall-of-Famer, the next you're getting yanked early due to struggles at both ends of the floor. Such is life for Boston Celtics rookie guard Marcus Smart.

Little more than 24 hours after Kevin Garnett praised the No. 6 pick in June's draft for his "work ethic and how hard he plays," Smart endured a series of first-quarter turnovers and struggled to slow John Wall as the Washington Wizards raced away early Saturday en route to a 101-88 triumph over the Celtics at the Verizon Center.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Smart
Ned Dishman/NBAE/Getty ImagesMarcus Smart struggled offensively and defensively against John Wall and the Wizards.
Smart threw away three passes in the first 3 minutes, 36 seconds of Saturday's game and found himself on the bench less than a minute later. He did not return until late in the first half and played only 14:21 overall.

After turning in maybe the best all-around effort of his NBA career in Washington earlier this month -- spearheading Boston's furious fourth-quarter charge against the Wizards in a double-overtime loss on Dec. 8 -- Smart turned in one of his poorer outings on Saturday. Make no mistake, Smart was not the only Boston player who started sluggish on this night, but his struggles are simply accentuated in the aftermath of the Rajon Rondo trade. Smart's development is one of the biggest storylines now for a Celtics team hoping to develop its young core while navigating this uncertain rebuilding process.

After Saturday's game, Celtics coach Brad Stevens tried to absorb some of the heat for Smart's lackluster play, telling reporters, "That's on me. I've got to help him get ready to play."

Some will wonder if Stevens needs to let Smart play through some of his struggles. The problem, in part, is that an overcrowded roster makes it a little too easy for Stevens to call on a veteran like Jameer Nelson, or roll the dice with an energy-giver like Phil Pressey when Smart struggles.

Smart played only 6:38 in the second half of Saturday's game and was subbed out early again in the third quarter before logging five minutes of trash time at the end of the game (the Wizards were up 20 when he entered).

Smart finished with three points, making his only shot, with two rebounds, two assists, four turnovers and three fouls. He was minus-7 in plus/minus.

In the five games since Rondo was traded away, Smart has started three times and is averaging 4.4 points, 3.6 assists, 2.4 rebounds and 1.2 steals over 23.4 minutes per game. He's shooting 41.2 percent in that span, including 36.4 percent beyond the 3-point arc.

The Celtics' offensive numbers are lacking a bit with Smart on the court as the team owns an offensive rating of 96.8 (four points lower than the team's average in that span) with Smart on the floor, though a glossy defensive rating of 98.2 (nearly five points lower the team's average in that span) helps negate those offensive struggles.

Smart is still learning how to be a playmaker at the NBA level, and searching for spots to contribute his own offense. These growing pains are not unexpected. But the Celtics have lost four straight, with Saturday's game being maybe the most disheartening of the bunch given how overmatched they looked early, and fans are left searching for silver linings.

Smart wasn't able to provide one on this night.

The 20-year-old Smart understands that nothing is given at this level and said that he doesn't take this stint as a starter for granted given the presence of more established players like Nelson and Evan Turner who could also handle the ball.

The Celtics have tasked Smart with bringing energy and defense when he's on the floor, especially as he grows into the role of point guard. On Saturday night, Smart failed to bring either of those and Stevens sent a bit of a message with the early hook.

The Celtics needed more from Smart, particularly with slowing Wall, who didn't have a great shooting night, but absolutely set the tone of the game with his first-half play.

Every game is a lesson for Smart and there's plenty he can draw from Saturday's loss. Stevens needs to help guide his rookie along, but it's on Smart to bring his typical energy and defense each night in order to impact the game like he's expected to.
The Boston Celtics were enduring a disastrous first quarter, heavy on turnovers and John Wall driving 360 layups, when Jared Sullinger swiped at a rebound opportunity late in the frame and accidentally tipped in a shot for the Washington Wizards.

That about summed up Boston's night.

The Wizards scored 15 of the game's first 17 points, led by 18 after the first frame and as much as 24 overall, and put it on cruise control en route to a 101-88 triumph over the Celtics at the Verizon Center.

Boston actually played Washington pretty evenly over the final three quarters (the Celtics outscored the Wizards by five in that span), but it didn't matter after the disastrous start. There would be no furious fourth-quarter comeback, like earlier this month in the same building.

Jeff Green finished with a team-high 23 points for Boston but was minus-16 in plus/minus. Old friends Kris Humphries (18 points, 9 rebounds) and Paul Pierce (17 points in 19 minutes) helped pace the Wizards out of the gate.

Over early: A glance at the first-quarter carnage: Green (9 points) was the only starter who scored, and Kelly Olynyk was the only other Boston player to put points on the scoreboard, and the Wizards led 30-12 after 12 minutes. ... The Celtics shot 25 percent (4-of-16 overall) and turned the ball over eight times (leading to 11 points). ... The Wizards shot 54.2 percent (13-of-24 overall) and generated 16 points in the paint. ... Pierce nearly matched his former team's total output by putting up 11 points in the quarter.

Loose balls: The Wizards shot 50 percent overall (45-of-90). ... Boston went 11 deep. Gerald Wallace was a healthy DNP. ... The Wizards led by as much as 24 and did not trail.

What it means: The Celtics fall to 10-18 overall. The Wizards improve to 21-8. Boston, which has lost four straight and seven of its past 10 overall, gets a few days off before hosting the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday in a New Year's Eve matinee.

W2W4: C's vs. Wizards (Game 28 of 82)

December, 27, 2014
Dec 27
John Wall Ned Dishman/NBAE/Getty Images
The Boston Celtics (10-17, 3-8 away) visit the Washington Wizards (20-8, 13-4 home) on Saturday night at the Verizon Center (7 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:


John Wall has been especially frustrating on the offensive end for opponents in recent games, and it peaked with him taking a Christmas Day punch.

It's also resulted in some of the most efficient team basketball by the Washington Wizards over the past few weeks as they try to keep pace with the best in the Eastern Conference.

Things are about to get difficult with a five-game trip against the West, but they have one final tune-up Saturday night at home against the Boston Celtics.

The Wizards (20-8) earned Thursday's 102-91 win in New York behind 24 points and 11 assists from Wall, who appeared to be punched in the back of the neck by Quincy Acy during a fourth-quarter altercation following Wall's spinning layup. Wall was slapped with a technical foul while Acy was ejected and later suspended one game for his flagrant foul.

"I'm just a feisty guy that likes to compete," Wall said. "And I want to win games."

There's been plenty of that while Boston continues to struggle.

The Celtics (10-17) have lost six of seven on the road with the only win coming against league-worst Philadelphia. Their most heated game in that time was a 133-132 double-overtime loss in Washington on Dec. 8, capping a split back-to-back set between the teams to open the season series.

Since the 101-93 loss in Boston on Dec. 7, the Wizards are 7-2 as Wall has averaged 18.9 points and 11.3 assists. Those aren't drastic departures from his season marks of 18.0 and 10.5, but he's shot 53.0 percent in that time after making 42.3 percent through his first 19 games.

(Read full game preview)

3 THINGS TO WATCH (by Chris Forsberg)

Lineup/Rotation: Rookie Marcus Smart seems likely to start for the third time in four games, especially after having the best game of his young pro career in Washington earlier this month. The more difficult decision for coach Brad Stevens is this overcrowded rotation, especially with his bigs. Even with Brandon Bass sitting out the first 3-plus quarters on Friday, there were not enough minutes to go around, particularly when Brooklyn went small and limited the amount of time Stevens played Tyler Zeller in the fourth quarter. Can Stevens find a 10-man rotation that keeps everyone happy? (Hint: Probably not, but until another move happens, he's got to mix and match as best he can).

Heavy underdogs: Well, Vegas doesn't think much of this Boston squad on the tail end of a back-to-back (the Celtics are 10-point underdogs). The Wizards rank in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive rating for the month of December. In fact, the team's plus-8.3 net rating is third in the NBA over the 13 games the team has played.

Turnovers: The Celtics rank 24th in turnover percentage for the month of December. Boston cannot afford to give away possessions against a good defensive team like Washington.

KG talks changing of Celtics guard

December, 26, 2014
Dec 26
BOSTON -- It will always be a bit strange for Kevin Garnett to come back to TD Garden, but something felt particularly odd about Friday's visit. Each time Garnett returns, there are fewer familiar faces on the other side of the court. In the aftermath of last week's trade that delivered Rajon Rondo to the Dallas Mavericks, the Boston Celtics are now completely devoid of members of the 2008 championship squad.

[+] EnlargeKevin Garnett
AP Photo/Michael DwyerAfter the Nets beat the Celtics, Kevin Garnett shared his thoughts on his former team's direction with the departure of Rajon Rondo.
"I've been getting a lot of 'Rest in peace' texts and stuff, so I had to change my number," Garnett joked after his Brooklyn Nets rallied for a 109-107 triumph in a Friday matinee. "It's all good, though. We're infinite. Once you win once, you win forever."

Garnett will always be a Celtic and the 2008 title ensured that legacy. The trade that sent him and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn just 17 months ago started a roster overhaul, which continued with the surprising early-season Rondo deal. Garnett found joy Friday in seeing other familiar faces, whether it was Celtics support staff or the fans who showered him with an ovation when he was introduced as part of the visitor's lineup.

Before the game's opening tip, Garnett skipped toward the stanchion in front of the Boston bench, just like he did during six seasons here, and saluted the crowd beyond the basket before waving to each side of TD Garden.

"It's always love here," said Garnett. "It's always an appreciation that I can never give back, other than the salute. Winning is infinite. And I'll always have that special relationship with this city."

Celtics fans might have given the 38-year-old Garnett a little extra salute while wondering if Friday's contest would mark the final visit of his playing days.

Garnett admitted the future is uncertain but said he takes each season as it comes. He'll assess his playing career after the 2014-15 season ends. But that's not to say the thought about this being his final trip didn't cross his mind.

"At this stage it's always somewhere lurking in the back, probably whether I admit it or not," said Garnett. "But, if I'm being truthful with you, sometimes [I do think about it]. Seeing Paul [Pierce] the other day, he was in town to play the Knicks and we had a conversation. So, at this stage, we know that things are not taken for granted, but more appreciated. It crosses [my mind], I wouldn't lie about that."

[Read full story]

Veteran KG's love tap to rookie Smart

December, 26, 2014
Dec 26
AP Photo/Michael DwyerMarcus Smart earned praise from Kevin Garnett for his hustle.
BOSTON -- No player appreciates grit and hustle more than Kevin Garnett, so it was noteworthy that, after Boston Celtics rookie Marcus Smart went to the floor to corral a loose ball in the third quarter of Friday's game, Garnett gave him a little love for the effort.

The sequence started with Garnett setting a pick on Smart to try to free ball handler Jarrett Jack. Jared Sullinger managed to poke the ball loose and Smart, trying to recover to get it to Jack, managed to change directions and dove onto the floor to corral the loose ball. As Garnett pounced looking to force a jump ball, Smart had the presence of mind to flip the ball over his head and hit Jeff Green at midcourt, allowing him to streak in for an uncontested dunk.

For his efforts, Smart got Garnett's rump in his face. But as the two were tangled on the ground, Garnett gave Smart a quick dap. And after the Nets called timeout following the play, Garnett again patted the rookie on his chest as they got to their feet.

"I admire the young guy," Garnett said of Smart. "I admire the young guy’s work ethic and how hard he plays. Obviously, they brought him in here and [Celtics president of basketball operations] Danny [Ainge] knows talent. Just a good hustle play, just a little tap on the back to say good play. Nothing more, nothing less than that."

One of the fastest ways for a rookie to endear himself to Garnett is on the defensive end, as the likes of former teammate Avery Bradley can attest. Garnett clearly values the defensive abilities of Smart, the No. 6 pick in June's draft. That's quite the compliment, considering Smart was 16 months old when Garnett made his NBA debut two decades ago.

Smart, making his second career start in Friday's game, was humbled by Garnett's show of appreciation. But he shouldn't get too sentimental. When Garnett was asked a second time about the play, he playfully joked, "Actually I didn’t [dap him up], I tried to trip his a-- up."

Smart laughed when Garnett's comments were relayed and added, "Knowing KG, I wouldn't be surprised."

Smart finished with five points on 2-of-6 shooting with six assists, four steals, three rebounds and three turnovers over 30:47. He was plus-5 in plus/minus for the game. Smart continues to find his shot (he did move inside the arc a bit Friday, which was encouraging) and is still learning how to be a playmaker at the NBA level.

"[The hustle play] was great," said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. "He got his hands on a lot of balls. I thought he was pretty good defensively all day."

Nets 109, Celtics 107: Jack of all trades

December, 26, 2014
Dec 26
BOSTON -- Jarrett Jack, one of the players acquired by the Brooklyn Nets as part of a three-team swap that included the Boston Celtics in July, hit a pull-up free-throw line jumper over a chasing Marcus Smart with 27.5 seconds to play as the Nets rallied for a 109-107 triumph on Friday afternoon at TD Garden.

The Celtics led by 11 with under nine minutes to play, but the Nets rallied to tie the game with 4:15 to go. Brooklyn didn't get its first lead of the second half until Jack's jumper.

The Celtics acquired Marcus Thornton, Tyler Zeller, and a Cleveland Cavaliers' future first-round pick as part of a three-team swap that landed Jack in Brooklyn in July. Primarily a bench weapon during his career, Jack started and thrived on Friday. He added some late free throws to cap his game-high 27 points.

Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger -- two players that spent noteworthy time on the bench in the second half of Tuesday's loss in Orlando -- responded with solid efforts to lead the Celtics. Green scored a team-high 22 points on 10-of-18 shooting, while Sullinger added 19 points with eight rebounds.

Sullinger nearly forced overtime when he hauled in a full-court inbounds feed from Gerald Wallace with 1.5 seconds to go, but his turnaround baseline jumper rimmed out.

Smart's start: Celtics rookie point guard Marcus Smart is struggling with his shot, he's still learning how to be a distributor at the NBA level, but his defense and grit have already made him an impact player. Midway through the third quarter, Smart went hard to the floor to corral a loose ball and had the presence of mind to quickly advance the ball to a streaking Jeff Green for an easy bucket that helped Boston open a double-digit lead in the third quarter.

Green Day: Green, who was not on the floor late in the fourth quarter when the Celtics nearly rallied out of a monster hole on Tuesday in Orlando, scored 12 first-quarter points on Friday. His most noteworthy bucket was this nifty reverse alley-oop off a feed from Avery Bradley.

Loose balls: The Celtics initially ran with a nine-man rotation, but Brandon Bass made a fourth-quarter appearance. Gerald Wallace came in late for the full-court heave to Sullinger. Phil Pressey was a healthy DNP. ... The Celtic shot 51.7 percent from the floor; the Nets finished at 49.4 percent.

What it means: The Celtics fall to 10-17 overall, while the Nets move to 13-15. One day after playing old friend Kevin Garnett, it's off to Washington for the Celtics who meet old friend Paul Pierce in the tail end of this back-to-back on Saturday night.

Pregame: Smart back with starters

December, 26, 2014
Dec 26
BOSTON -- Boston Celtics rookie point guard Marcus Smart is back with the starting unit for Friday's matinee against the Brooklyn Nets.

Smart drew his first career start Sunday in Miami, but the Celtics went with recently acquired Jameer Nelson on Tuesday in Orlando. Now Smart will get another chance with the first unit.

Smart said he doesn't take his placement in the starting lineup for granted and knows the team has experienced ball-handlers that coach Brad Stevens right lean on in the starter's role.

For his part, Stevens said he's simply trying to find the right mix for the starting lineup and the rotation as a whole.

"Just keep trying to figure it out," said Stevens. As for starting Smart on Friday, Stevens added: "I wanted to be able to match up defensively a little bit differently. And, one of our thoughts after our first game [with the players acquired from Dallas] was, I didn’t necessarily want a situation where we had all three of the newcomers in at once. And, obviously, that looked pretty good the other night [in Orlando] at the end of the game, so not as concerned about that any more."

Stevens praised the trio of new faces -- Nelson, Jae Crowder, and Brandan Wright -- for nearly willing Boston back from a 27-point, fourth-quarter deficit in Orlando, even if he called the rally a bit of "fools' gold."

"We’ve talked about this a lot -- I think it’s easier to play down 25 than up 25," said Stevens. "You don’t have anything to lose, the other team can start getting tight if you can start cutting into their lead. We’ve been on both sides of that fence. But I thought that, just looking at it for what it was, I thought our guys really played hard. I thought Jameer did a great job, Jae Crowder was excellent, I thought Brandan gave us a lot. It was good. These guys are still -- it’s only been a week since they got on that plane and got here. They are still spinning a little bit, but they played hard the other night."

A couple other notes:

• Rookie guard James Young, sidelined the past two weeks with a right shoulder subluxation, is healthy enough to return to game action, but is inactive for Friday's tilt.

• Guard Marcus Thornton is progressing from a left calf strain, but is still working his way back. Said Stevens: "He's not doing anything up and down the court yet, but progressing well and we hope to get him back sooner rather than later."

W2W4: C's vs. Nets (Game 27 of 82)

December, 26, 2014
Dec 26
Winning streaks of even three games have been hard to come by for every team in the Atlantic Division except first-place Toronto.

The Brooklyn Nets will try to do it for the first time this season Friday night when they visit a Boston Celtics club that has managed to accomplish it only twice.

The results for the Nets (12-15) since Dec. 5 have been no surprise given the matchups. They lost to Atlanta, Cleveland and Chicago, then beat Philadelphia and Charlotte before another three-game skid against Miami, the Raptors and the Cavaliers. Their current two-game run has come at the expense of Detroit and Denver.

The victories have Brooklyn on the verge of winning three straight for the first time since April 4-8. The Nets won three or more in a row seven times last season.

The Celtics (10-16) are in third place behind Brooklyn but have managed a pair of three-game win streaks. The most recent surge featured victories over the 76ers, Orlando and Minnesota before they lost Sunday at Miami and to the Magic on Tuesday.

Boston was horrendous at the start against Orlando, trailing 26-9 after one quarter, but the Celtics rallied before falling short in a 100-95 defeat.

"We didn't play very well," coach Brad Stevens told the team's official website. "That was fool's gold there at the end. I credit the guys that were in at the end."

The league's two worst teams, New York and Philadelphia, trail the Celtics in the Atlantic behind a combined 9-48 record. The 76ers, however, will also get a chance to post a third straight win Friday at Portland. The Knicks won their second and third games of the season but haven't won back-to-back contests since.

[Read full game preview]

Xmas evaluation: It's future over presents

December, 24, 2014
Dec 24
Back in late October, before the start of the 2014-15 season and the arrival of a brutal November schedule, Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens noted how, in his final seasons at Butler University, he used to frontload the Bulldogs' schedule with top competition. The reason?

[+] EnlargeBrad Stevens
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesBrad Stevens' current roster undoubtedly is flawed, but changes should come soon.
"So that, at Christmas, we could honestly evaluate ourselves," explained Stevens. "I think we're going to be able to do that here, too."

For the second straight season, the Celtics find themselves idle on Christmas. With Boston still navigating the rebuilding path, the Celtics are not one of the selected few to headline the NBA's marquee day that features a five-game national slate.

And Stevens was correct in his prediction that this year's team would be able to honestly evaluate itself at Christmas. In fact, the team got a jump on its holiday assessment. With last week's trade of star point guard Rajon Rondo, and whispers that Boston is still active in pursuit of assets, it's clear the Celtics are a team chasing the vision of a brighter future while dissatisfied with the present.

The Celtics will unwrap their Christmas gifts with a 10-16 record this year. For a team that entered the new season seeking progress, that's a disappointing step backward considering the 12-17 mark it owned at this time last year (all while Rondo was still rehabbing from an ACL injury). Danny Ainge was brutally honest in assessing the team when he elected to move on from Rondo to pursue a new, less defined path to contender status.

The Celtics, by virtue of a dilapidated Eastern Conference, remain on the fringe of the postseason putting green, a mere 1 ½ games behind both Brooklyn and Miami. There remains a chance that, even as Boston makes moves with the future in mind, this team could remain in the playoff hunt. And while that might come at the expense of loftier draft position, it's unlikely the team would fight the idea of learning how to win games and getting a much-needed taste of postseason basketball.

But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. These Celtics, as currently constituted, have a flawed roster that's overcrowded at multiple positions. More moves seem inevitable and those tweaks are likely to only further encourage the team to lean heavily on its youngest players for the sake of development.

With the Cavaliers losing Anderson Varejao for the remainder of the season, there are whispers that Cleveland has been in talks with the Celtics about potential three-team swaps. This is where the dirty work in turning this team around is done, and Ainge must take advantage of eager shoppers.

In the immediate aftermath of the Rondo deal, Ainge suggested that the team would "take a deep breath" and "enjoy the holidays" before plotting the next move. But two recent losses only hammered home how overcrowded Boston's roster is. The Celtics need to make a move to simply ease the burden on Stevens.

Remember that Boston made a pair of trades in early January last season, moving Courtney Lee, Jordan Crawford and MarShon Brooks with the goal of decluttering its roster and bringing back some future assets. Overstocked at multiple positions again this year, most notably at the power forward spot, Boston is likely to continue engaging contenders eager to bolster their teams for playoff runs. Celtics fans shouldn't expect high returns as players on a 10-16 team have only so much value. But every little bit helps.

For Celtics fans, this process of exchanging talent for future potential isn't easy to stomach. It was a lot more fun clicking on the TV on Christmas Day and finding Boston among the league's elite.

The Celtics were honest in their evaluation; this isn't where they want to be at Christmas. Sometimes the hardest part in getting where you want to go is admitting the current path isn't the best way to get there.

Will Cavs seek C's help for Varejao injury?

December, 24, 2014
Dec 24
Cleveland Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao suffered a left foot injury in the second quarter of Tuesday's 125-104 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves and will undergo an MRI Wednesday that could reveal a potential long-term injury.

Could the Cavs seek big-man help from an overstocked Boston frontcourt? From's Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein:
[Cleveland] has been seeking additional help for its front line going back to the summer, having specifically targeted Timofey Mozgov of the Denver Nuggets and Kosta Koufos of the Memphis Grizzlies.

Sources say the Cavs, in recent days, have been in contact with the Boston Celtics about working as a facilitator in three-team trade scenarios. The Celtics, blessed with frontcourt depth in the wake of their recent acquisition of Brandan Wright in the Rajon Rondo deal, have been aggressive recently in their attempts to acquire future draft picks.

The Cavs cannot trade their own 2015 first-round pick because they already sent their 2016 pick to the Celtics in a previous deal. But they do own a protected Memphis first-rounder that they could trade.

The Cavs also possess a $5.2 million trade exception to use in a potential deal, which is one of the reasons they sought Mozgov and Koufos, as both of their contracts could fit into that exception.

[Read full story]

Rapid Reaction: No surprise here. Even after Danny Ainge suggested that he'd take a deep breath and enjoy the holidays after the Rondo trade, the Celtics are already onto the next phase of (1) Adding future assets and (2) Unclogging a jammed roster. Boston needs to move a big (or two) and this is exactly the sort of situation that can help them get max value: A contender with a potential hole to fill that might be willing to overpay to make a move before the February rush. The Cavs could seek recent Boston acquisition Brandan Wright with that $5.2 million trade exception. Celtics fans won't like the idea of moving the best player acquired for Rondo, but Wright is a free agent after the season and if Boston can get a pick -- especially one that loosens in protection in future seasons -- then they absolutely have to do it. If that happens, the Celtics will have plucked two first-round picks for Rondo by moving Wright for another (and generate another big trade exception in the process). That Memphis pick is protected for selections 1-5 and 15-30 in 2015, then 15-30 in 2016, before loosening to just 1-5 in 2017 and 20018 (becoming unprotected in 2019).

Roster parity leaves C's in heavy rotation

December, 24, 2014
Dec 24
Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been presented with a rather impossible task: Find enough playing time for the 15 rotation-caliber players on his roster.

[+] EnlargeNelson
AP Photo/Willie J. Allen Jr.Jameer Nelson played 30 strong minutes, while mainstays Jared Sullinger and Jeff Green spent lots of time on the pine.
It sounds like a good problem to have, but it's actually far from ideal. In the aftermath of last week's trade that delivered Rajon Rondo to the Dallas Mavericks, Boston owns an unbalanced roster that's heavy on evenness and thin on separation. There were hardly enough minutes to go around before the swap and now Boston has added three new faces that each deserve a chance to be part of the team's nightly lineup.

That trio of Jameer Nelson, Brandan Wright and Jae Crowder was on the court Tuesday night as the Celtics nearly rallied all the way back from a 27-point, fourth-quarter deficit before falling to Orlando 100-95 at the Amway Center. While Stevens called the fourth-quarter charge a bit of "fools' gold" given the way the Magic likely got lulled into downshifting a bit, Nelson's solid point guard play spearheaded Boston's run and the 32-year-old veteran played 30 strong minutes in a starting role.

When at full health, the Celtics have 15 players who can state a case for floor time. That mix includes rookies who need playing time to develop and veterans with potential to increase their trade value before February's deadline. And in the post-Rondo era, no individual player is so talented that Boston absolutely must have him on the court.

Case in point: During Tuesday's rally, slumping third-year big man Jared Sullinger was merely an observer as he sat out the entire second half. Sullinger is marred in a slump, particularly at the offensive end, and endured his second scoreless game in six outings. Just when it looked as though he was returning to form, Sullinger has taken a step back the last two outings. He reportedly left the locker room Tuesday before it opened to reporters after playing just nine minutes for the game.

Meanwhile, Jeff Green, who had been playing some of the best and most consistent ball of his entire career before the Rondo swap, has gone quiet recently. Green scored only four points over 25 minutes on Tuesday night, his first single-digit scoring effort of the season.

The Celtics came out slowly against Orlando, shooting 9.1 percent (2 of 22) in the first quarter, and that helped the Magic open a 23-point lead by halftime. Leaning on some of the newer faces in the second half was an obvious decision for Stevens, but one that was highlighted when Boston twice rallied within a possession in the final quarter while leaning on the recent imports.

"It was good for me to see [the newcomers] play," Stevens told reporters after Tuesday's game. When asked about determining a new rotation, Stevens added, "[It's] still going to take a lot of time. ... I think one of the things that I'm going to eventually be looking for is clear answers and I don't think that we leave this road trip with those."

Boston still has too many ball-handlers and undersized big men. Some of the Celtics' bench players have identical skill sets, which makes it tough to even slot guys for situational play.

It's obvious that the Celtics must tweak their roster sooner than later, if for no other reason than to save Stevens' sanity as he tries to carve out a primary 10-man rotation. It'll be easier after the trade deadline passes in February, when Boston won't have to worry as much about the need to showcase players and the team's season prognosis will be a bit clearer, maybe allowing Stevens to lean heavier on younger bodies without the fear of potential growing pains.

For now, Stevens' job is challenging. The Celtics soon will get both rookie James Young and veteran Marcus Thornton back from injury and will have to consider ways to get them both floor time. For Young, it might mean more time with the Maine Red Claws of the D-League, at least initially.

These are the challenges of rebuilding a roster on the fly. Boston's overall parity only hammers home the importance of having star presences, something the Celtics clearly lack at the moment.

Everything else you need to know from Tuesday's game ...

Young closer to return: Young participated fully in the team's off-day practice on Monday, but remained inactive for Tuesday's game. Stevens said that Young, sidelined the past two weeks with a right shoulder subluxation, will see team physician Brian McKeon when the team returns to Boston with hopes of getting the go-ahead to return to game activities. The Celtics' crowded depth chart could land Young back in the D-League for reps until there's time available with the parent club.

Nelson's return (Part II): After spending the first 10 years of his career with the team, the Magic honored Nelson during his first regular-season visit to Orlando. Nelson got a tribute video during a preseason game in Orlando in October with the Mavericks, and the crowd (and JumboTron) saluted him again on Tuesday night.

No Rondo, no problem for Zeller: Maybe the person expected to be most affected by the departure of Rondo was third-year center Tyler Zeller, who had developed immediate chemistry and thrived with Rondo in the pick-and-roll and running the floor. Zeller hasn't missed a beat without Rondo, however, going for 22 points in each of his last two games. Zeller had a double-double Tuesday while adding a team-high 10 rebounds over 29:26.
The Boston Celtics nearly rallied all the way back from a 25-point fourth-quarter deficit, but the Orlando Magic held on for a 100-95 triumph on Tuesday night at the Amway Center.

The Celtics got a spark from newcomer Jameer Nelson, who nearly willed Boston back from what seemed like an insurmountable deficit against one of his former teams.

Boston clawed within three (90-87) with 2:34 to play. The Magic called their final timeout and Tobias Harris hit a fadeaway jumper that stopped the bleeding and helped Orlando hang on.

The Celtics trailed by as much as 27 early in the fourth quarter but former Magic players Nelson and Brandon Bass helped activate the rally. Boston was down 18 (90-72) with 7:24 to go, but scored the game's next 15 points, culminating with a Kelly Olynyk 3-pointer to make it a one-possession game.

Boston got within three again with 22 seconds to play, but Orlando did enough to hang on.

Nelson finished with 9 points, 11 assists and 4 rebounds over 29:45 while starting at point guard. Center Tyler Zeller had another big night (22 points, 10 rebounds) while guard Avery Bradley added 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting.

First-quarter woes: The Celtics finished the first half shooting just 9.1 percent (2 of 22) and were staring at a 26-9 deficit after the first 12 minutes. Even with the fourth-quarter surge, Boston shot just 38.8 percent (33 of 85).

Sully benched: Jared Sullinger did not play in the second half and was replaced by Olynyk at the start of the third quarter. Sullinger missed all five shots he took while going scoreless with two rebounds over only 9 minutes, 10 seconds of playing time.

Loose balls: Celtics coach Brad Stevens went 11 deep with his rotation. Gerald Wallace was a healthy DNP. ... Recently acquired Jae Crowder played 10:35, but was on the court for much of the rally. He was a team-best plus-18 in plus/minus. ... Brandan Wright had five points on 2-of-4 shooting over 12:42. ... The Celtics shot 29 free throws with Zeller going 10-for-10 at the stripe. ... The game had no lead changes as the Magic led from start to finish.

What it means: Boston falls to 10-16, while Orlando moves to 11-20. ... The Celtics get a little Christmas rest before hosting the Brooklyn Nets in a Friday matinee at TD Garden.

W2W4: C's vs. Magic (Game 26 of 82)

December, 23, 2014
Dec 23
The Boston Celtics (10-15, 3-7 away) visit the Orlando Magic (10-20, 3-8 home) on Tuesday night at the Amway Center (7 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:

Nelson back in Orlando: Celtics newcomer Jameer Nelson, who spent the first 10 NBA seasons of his career with the Magic, returns to Orlando to play against his former team for the first time on Tuesday. The 32-year-old Nelson is still learning the Boston playbook and identifying his role, but has already embraced the idea of being a veteran leader. “I’ll give everything I have for my guys in this locker room," Nelson told reporters at Monday's practice, according to the Celtics' team website. "I’ll try to help the coaches out once I get comfortable." Nelson was one of three players acquired from Dallas in last week's Rajon Rondo swap. He had three points, three assists, and two turnovers over 20 minutes in his Boston debut Sunday in Miami.

Magic in focus: The Celtics handed the Magic a 109-92 defeat last week in Boston. Orlando is now on a four-game losing streak and its numbers have been pretty ugly in that span. The Magic own an offensive rating of 96.4 during that four-game span and a defensive rating of 106.9. That minus-10.5 differential ranks 27th in the league in that span.

Loose Balls: This is the second game in six days for the two teams, who will play two games five days apart in March to close out the four-game season series. ... Orlando ha averaged only 89 points per game during their four-game losing streak. ... Celtics rookie James Young (shoulder) returned to full practice activities Monday and could be available on Tuesday.

(Read full game preview)



Jeff Green
18.9 1.6 0.9 33.6
ReboundsJ. Sullinger 7.8
AssistsJ. Nelson 6.3
StealsJ. Nelson 1.5
BlocksK. Olynyk 0.8