Insider: C's will rack up mileage

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
8:05
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ESPN.com IllustrationThe Celtics have the worst four-in-five stretch of the 2014-15 season.
The Boston Celtics will be tops in the league in one category this season: The longest distance traveled as part of a four-game-in-five-night stretch. From Insider's Tom Haberstroh:
After analyzing the travel distances of every game this season, I discovered that the Boston Celtics effectively pulled the short straw and will have the longest 4-in-5 trip, covering more than 3,000 miles from Portland to Denver to San Francisco to Salt Lake City. Four games in four cities with only one built-in travel day. It gets worse: You'll notice that each of the second games on the back-to-backs will be played at high altitudes, where the air is thinner and the lungs are screaming. Oh, and they'll be losing an hour of sleep on both overnight trips due to time-zone differences. The Celtics will need all the four-leaf clovers they can find.

If the Celtics struggle as much as many expect in year 2 of this rebuild, then late January could be an especially grueling grind.

[Read full story Insider]

Green: Trying to take next step as leader

September, 18, 2014
Sep 18
7:20
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BOSTON -- When Boston Celtics forward Jeff Green was asked about some extended summer stubble dangling from his chin, team president Rich Gotham playfully interjected that he must be going for a "Bill Russell look."

Chris Forsberg/ESPN BostonCeltics team president Rich Gotham, Jeff Green and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at an education event in Mattapan.
Green, who returned to the area this week to start ramping up toward the start of Celtics training camp later this month, joined Gotham and U.S. Secretary of Education (and hoops junkie) Arne Duncan for an event to support the My Brother’s Keeper initiative in Mattapan. Green added to his Russell look by wearing the latter's familiar blue button-down shirt and blazer, but when the conversation shifted to basketball, it steered more toward the current rebuild than the Russell-hung banners that served as Green's backdrop as he fielded questions.

"You can't really put a timetable on the rebuilding process," said Green. "As long as you continue to get better each day -- going to practice and just get better -- that’s what it’s going to take for us to get better as a team and to increase wins. I think we ended the season well and this whole summer each guy took it upon themselves to get better, which is going to make our team better."

What did Green focus on during the offseason?

"Just get better as a player, all around," he said. "I don’t have one or two things that I focused on completely throughout the whole summer. I think it was more just becoming a better all-around player and trying to take the next step to becoming a leader on this team."

The 28-year-old Green is coming off a season in which he averaged a career-high 16.9 points over 34.2 minutes per game. But despite welcoming the bull's-eye that landed on him with Rajon Rondo sidelined for the start of last season, Green never quite flourished as the sort of go-to presence that many hoped he might develop into (particularly after a strong playoff showing to close the 2012-13 season).

Green expressed optimism about what a healthy Rondo can add to a young Celtics core this season ("With him being 100 percent healthy, I think he’ll make our team just that much better," said Green) but the question remains whether the advancements of Rondo's supporting cast, and Green in particular, can help Boston take the next step in its rebuild.

On this night, the conversation at the Mildred Avenue School leaned heavier on education than hoops. While recovering from heart surgery that paused his basketball career, Green went back and finished his degree at Georgetown in 2012. This past summer, he made a $1 million donation to the school (which was matched by the Indiana Pacers' Roy Hibbert, while Patrick Ewing and agent David Falk pledged an additional $3.3 million toward the construction of an on-campus facility that will bear the name of Hoyas coaching legend John Thompson Jr.).

"Georgetown has done a lot for me in so many ways," said Green. "They gave me a great education. They gave me an opportunity to play basketball at a high level. And with the personnel that’s around that school, Big John [Thompson Jr.], the professors, my coach, [John Thompson III], they also made me a better person. I owe a lot to them for getting me to where I’m at, so it was a no-brainer for me to just give back in order to help build a new facility in John Thompson Jr.’s name. He’s done so much for that school, I think he’s really deserving of it. I think it’s going to be great for the school in the long run."

With a focus on Thursday's education event, Green added: "[Kids] look up to NBA players and to put our story out there about how we got to where we are and how education got us to the point we are now, I think it’s big for these kids to hear. I think that’s why we are out here, spreading the word, that education is very important. And it should come first."

A few more notes and quotes from Green's brief Q&A with reporters:

Meeting the new guys: Green said he's spent time this week meeting the newest faces on the team, including rookies Marcus Smart and James Young. "I’ve had a lot of time to talk to the guys, get to know them off the court, but also work out with them, get to know them on the court," said Green. "We’ve become close through the last couple days that I’ve been here. And they’ve been here for a long time. They’ve been working hard to get ready for this upcoming season."

Beard Inspiration: Russell > Harden: Given the option of picking Russell or former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate James Harden for his beard inspiration, Green joked, "I would go with Bill Russell before James Harden. It’s something that just grew; I wasn’t planning it. Just a different look, nothing big."

Players in the community: Gotham was asked about having the Celtics players involved in community activities, whether it's Green at the education event or newcomer Tyler Zeller at a food bank in Lowell earlier this week. "It’s really important," said Gotham. "The kids look up to the players. To have guys like Tyler, like Jeff today, this is their offseason. They are not under any obligation to do this kind of stuff, yet they value their role as a mentor to these kids and they know they make a positive difference by just spending time with them. Just the simple act of showing that they are willing to spend their time, that sends a great message to these kids, that someone’s caring about them, someone is thinking about them. We’re lucky, we have a great crew of guys who are able to not only make that statement, but also set an example like Jeff going back and getting his diploma at Georgetown, the importance of education."
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Jeff Green

Pressey family on opposite sides of rivalry

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
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New Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott formally filled out his staff on Tuesday, bringing former Boston Celtics assistant Paul Pressey on board as an assistant.

Pressey, who served on Doc Rivers' staff in Boston, has worked with Scott during his previous stops in Cleveland and New Orleans. The catch here? Pressey's son, Phil, is currently a backup point guard with the Celtics, putting father and son on opposite sides of the league's most storied rivalry.

The two annual meetings will mean a little extra for the Presseys. Phil retweeted a note that joked, "this means war."

Zeller eager to earn starting center role

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
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LOWELL, Mass. -- Four days before his July wedding, Tyler Zeller learned that he had been traded to the Boston Celtics. He phoned his wife-to-be, Caitlyn, who was too busy preparing for the big day to answer her phone.

Chris Forsberg/ESPN BostonTyler Zeller delivers a donation from the Celtics to the Merrimack Valley Food Bank.
"She was getting her hair done -- a practice 'do or whatever -- and her mom picked up. I was like, ‘I need to talk to my fiancÚ,’" explained Zeller. "[His mother-in-law] was like, ‘OK, she’ll call you when she gets done.’ I was like, ‘No, no, no, I kinda need to talk to her now.’ [The conversation] went well, she took it very well and she was very excited to be here."

The Zeller family visited the Merrimack Valley Food Bank to help sort and distribute goods on Tuesday afternoon. Zeller also met with Boston reporters for the first time since the July swap that saw Boston bring him on, along with Marcus Thornton, as part of a three-way trade in which the team utilized a hefty trade exception.

With two months to process the change of address, Zeller expressed excitement to be with the Celtics. In fact, he used the word "excited" nine times during a nine-minute Q&A with reporters, particularly when referencing a partnership with head coach Brad Stevens.

"I know Coach Stevens is a very intelligent basketball coach; his basketball IQ is kinda off the charts, so I’m very excited," said Zeller. "And working him the past few weeks, everything has been very exciting, just to see his basketball knowledge and just how detailed he is."

The 24-year-old Zeller -- the middle of three NBA-playing Zeller brothers -- is familiar with Stevens after the former Butler helmsman recruited his siblings. Stevens has previously admitted he never really had a shot at Tyler, who landed at the University of North Carolina.

"He didn’t recruit me as heavily, but he recruited my older brother, Luke, very heavily, so I kinda got to know him through that," said Zeller. "I’m just very excited because of his basketball IQ and how brilliant of a coach he is. I know Gordon Hayward, who played for him, and he was always excited about his basketball IQ."

Zeller doesn't remember the first time he crossed paths with Stevens and jokes that, "I actually wasn’t very good at basketball at that point in time."

He's gotten decidedly better, emerging as the 17th pick in the 2012 draft. Now Stevens is hoping to maximize that potential in Boston, where a roster lacking pure size ought to give Zeller every opportunity to earn heavy minutes at the center position.

But Zeller isn't taking the starting spot for granted.

"I think [starting at center is] my goal this year," said Zeller. "I have a lot of work to do to earn that spot. I expect to have to earn it. But I think it is a great opportunity."

The first step in that process was bulking up this offseason. Zeller, who played at around 250 pounds in Cleveland last year, said he has added about 10 to 15 pounds with a desire to increase his ability to joust among the league's giants.

"I feel like I’m doing well," said Zeller. "I felt like last year I played a little underweight and if I gained 10-15 pounds, I’d be able to hold my own a lot better down there. I was able to do that, and hopefully I can continue to get better and better. I hope that will help me hold my own, rebounding-wise, as well as in the post."

Zeller is hoping to find a balance between adding bulk and maintaing an ability to run the floor. He's hoping to fuel an up-tempo offense by rebounding and pushing the pace.

Read on for other notes and quotes from his Q&A:

(Read full post)

Stevens: Rondo 'a big part' of future

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
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Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Rajon Rondo is "a big part of what we're doing" and heaped praise on the All-Star point guard whose future has been the source of constant speculation as he enters the final year of his contract.

"I love him," Stevens told the Berkshire Eagle while taking in a women's soccer match at Williams College, where his cousin, Alex McInturf, plays for the Ephs. "I really think he's a big part of what we're doing. Hopefully, he can have a great year right from the get-go. I thought last year was tough from the standpoint that he never did have a chance to do any drill work or to rebuild habits. He just had to be thrown into the fire."

Added Stevens: "[Rondo has] been great. He's been very active. He's been in and around Boston most of the summer. He just got back from a trip to China. He was back mid-last week. He's been in the weight room and been around every day."

Stevens also offers some insight on the offseason, rookies Marcus Smart and James Young and being more comfortable in Year 2 of coaching in the NBA.

Read the full story from the Berkshire Eagle.

(h/t: Red's Army)

#NBARank: Babb + Bogans at tail end

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
2:45
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Boston Celtics guards Chris Babb (No. 499) and Keith Bogans (462) are among those at the tail end of ESPN.com's annual ranking of the league's 500 players.

Babb, with a rating of 1.31, creeps on the list a spot ahead of Indiana's Shayne Whittington. After starting last season in the D-League, Babb can take solace in simply being on the list after finishing the 2013-14 season with Boston. His ranking only hammers home his long odds to stick on Boston's overcrowded roster.

Bogans, with a rating of 1.83, finds himself in a land typically reserved for roster long shots. After being excused from the Celtics last season, Bogans plummets after being ranked No. 307 before last season.

Other Boston players that landed in spots 400-500 unveiled on Monday included Phil Pressey (413th, 2.28 rating) and Chris Johnson (424th, 2.19).

[Read full #NBARank]

Rookie Young eager to play with Rondo

September, 13, 2014
Sep 13
7:25
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James YoungRobert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports
What is James Young looking forward to most during his rookie season with the Boston Celtics?

"Playing with [point guard Rajon] Rondo," Young told the team's official website during a recent video Q&A. "He's a player I looked up to growing up, and he sees the floor very well and has a high IQ for the game. So just getting open with him and seeing if we have can have a good connection."

Young and Rondo are both Kentucky products and Young is clearly eager to see if Rondo's playmaking can generate some open looks at the NBA level.

Asked about his first interaction with Rondo, Young added: "I met him two days ago in the weight room. We talked a little bit, nothing too serious... and we had a chance to play with each other a little bit in the open gym."

What can Rondo do for Young?

"By seeing me when I'm open at all times," added Young. "He sees the floor very well, so I'll just try to get open and he'll deliver me the ball."

Young also talked about his favorite play (his dunk pictured above against UConn in the national title game), what he's working on this summer (footwork, defense, and his right hand), and his favorite movie ("Friday").

[Additional reading: Our friends at Masslive.com transcribed some more of Young's answers]

Will C's be more watchable than we think?

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11
11:35
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As part of its 2014-15 season preview countdown, USA Today is ranking the 30 NBA teams based on watchability. The Boston Celtics landed at No. 29, just one spot in front of the basement-dwelling Philadelphia 76ers.

[+] EnlargeRajon Rondo
AP Photo/Michael Perez
It's not hard to understand Boston's low position. You have a rebuilding team coming off a 25-win season that made only minor tweaks this offseason. Heck, the NBA schedule-makers seem to agree with the rankings considering Boston landed only one national TV game -- an unremarkable mid-January tilt with the Atlanta Hawks.

Maybe we're drinking the green Kool-Aid, but we'd suggest that the Celtics have potential to be much more intriguing, even to casual viewers this season. We're not suggesting that this team deserves a massive vault in the watchability rankings, but Boston will almost certainly lure more eyeballs this season, particularly among those diehards that love to hopscotch on League Pass.

Here's a few reasons for potential intrigue:

Healthy Rondo: One prominent theme that's emerging as the new seasons nears is a sense from Celtics players/management that some have simply forgotten what a healthy Rajon Rondo is capable of. As Celtics team president Rich Gotham noted last week, "I think a healthy Rondo is a huge difference-maker for us." Further removed from the ACL surgery that limited him to 68 games over the past two seasons, it'll be interesting to see if Rondo can return to All-Star form and just how much he's able to elevate the play of a young supporting cast.

Competitive games: The Celtics lingered near the top of the league in close games for most of last season, playing a total of 49 games that were within five points in the final five minutes (that was tied for fourth most overall). Boston's lack of proven closers contributed to the team going 15-34 in those games (its .306 winning percentage the second worst mark in the league). Will Boston win more of those close games this season? That remains to be seen, but last year's efforts suggest that the Celtics will often keep things interesting (and trigger plenty of late-game "League Pass alerts.")

Can young talent take next step?: There's maybe no bigger reason to watch this year's team than the development of the youngest players. The Celtics have an intriguing young nucleus with players at all different stages of their development and lingering questions about just how good they can become. You've got someone like 23-year-old shooting guard Avery Bradley coming off his first big payday this offseason and he must prove he can be a consistent two-way threat to justify the team's spending. Then there's recent draftees like Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk, both of whom will be expected to take the next step in their developments with potential to assert themselves as key parts of the team's future. Then there's rookies Marcus Smart and James Young. Even as the No. 6 overall pick, Smart has created an awful lot of buzz this offseason for both his personality and potential. The 19-year-old Young might even spend a good chunk of the season in the D-League shadows if he simply needs game reps to further his development, but there will be interest in his progress after just one season at Kentucky.

Reshaping on the fly: Even if the Celtics are completely unwatchable -- and their offense sputtered so badly at times last season that that could be a reality -- there's going to be lingering intrigue about how the team reshapes during the season. There will be constant speculation about Rondo's future, particularly with his looming status as an unrestricted free agent, while the team brought in other veteran bodies like Marcus Thornton and Evan Turner, who could attract interest from contending teams later in the season depending on their individual performances.

Again, we're not expecting this team to make a surprise run at a high berth in the Eastern Conference. During our Celtics Summer Forecast, our panel predicted a mere three-game improvement from this team. But in terms of pure watchability, even the casual fan might find themselves more invested this year. Gotham stressed that, this season, "the future will come a little bit more into focus."

Ignore the record and focus on the progress, and the Celtics might just be more watchable than you think.

Grantland: C's 2nd in Court Power Rankings

September, 9, 2014
Sep 9
10:15
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Grantland: Court Rankings


Grantland ranked all 30 NBA teams by their court design and we've got good news and bad news for fans of the Boston Celtics. The good news? Boston ranked No. 2 in the power rankings. Writes curator Zach Lowe: "The parquet looks nice even without the history, and we can’t penalize Boston just because you could purchase actual pieces of the floor where things like “Havlicek stole the ball!” actually happened. The logo, designed by Red Auerbach’s brother Zang, has stood the test of time; even the Celtics’ new alternate logo is just a white silhouetting of the original. There isn’t a shade of green like Boston’s in all of U.S. pro sports. It appears to have gotten darker over the years, but the team insists the Celtics are still using the exact shade they featured in 1981 — if not earlier. It is the best color in the NBA."

The bad news? A certain Los Angeles-based rival landed at No. 1.

[Read Grantland's NBA Court Power Rankings]

Insider: C's 24th in Future Rankings

September, 9, 2014
Sep 9
1:11
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ESPN Insider projected the future success of all 30 NBA teams based on a five-category ranking system -- players, management, market, draft, and money -- and the Boston Celtics landed 24th overall.

Future Rankings Celtics


A snippet from Insider's Kevin Pelton: "Our panel certainly isn't sold on the Celtics' talent, ranking the team 29th in players. To improve that score, Boston will need recent draft picks Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger to take a major step in their development. Lottery pick Marcus Smart also figures to step into a larger role at point guard when -- not if -- Rondo is traded. Beyond that group, Boston is paying a lot of money to inconsistent wings Avery Bradley and Jeff Green and has young prospects with more questions than answers at this point."

Rapid Reaction: It's worth noting that the "players" category is weighted at 50 percent of the total score, with each remaining category worth no more than 16.7 percent. With the panel believing a Rondo trade is inevitable and uncertain on the development of Boston's younger players, it should be no surprise that the Celtics landed in the bottom third of the future rankings. What remains to be seen is whether the team will ultimately elect to move on without Rondo, or whether they'll build around him and hope that, if he can rebound to All-Star form during the 2014-15 season, he might help accelerate the team's rebuilding process by attracting additional talent to town. The Celtics will hope that their treasure trove of assets gives them multiple routes to navigate this rebuild, while believing their younger players will make the strides necessary to help the team be competitive again. Ultimately, there are too many variables to accurately predict how bright Boston's future truly is, but the team certainly hopes it has positioned itself better than Insider's ratings predict. -- Chris Forsberg

[Read full Future Rankings Insider]
BOSTON -- This time last year, members of Brad Stevens' coaching staff were scrambling to simply get to know each other and prep for the start of the new head coach's first training camp.

This time around, there's a lot more continuity and an understanding of everyone's responsibilities.

[+] EnlargeRondo
Barry Chin/Getty ImagesCeltics assistant coach Walter McCarty works with Rajon Rondo last season.
"We’ve just all been on the same page," said assistant coach Walter McCarty. "I thought we did a really good job last season coming together, getting to know each other before the season, and getting our assignments and learning how to work together. But we’ve really developed a great chemistry and learned how to work efficient. It’s been a great summer, we spent a lot of time together at summer league, and just being in the office -- all just trying to make our team better. It’s been a really good summer for us."

McCarty and the fellow members of Stevens' staff have stayed busy this offseason with a steady flow of players visiting the gym for offseason workouts, everyone working towards a goal of being on the same page in Year 2.

"It’s been great. Guys have been in, they’ve been working hard, they’ve been eager to be in and be around," said McCarty. "They want to learn as much as possible and work on their games and see how they fit into our system. It’s just been a good summer having these guys in. Getting your guys to come in, it’s tough in the summer. But we’ve had a lot of guys in all summer, it’s just been awesome to see."

Stevens' staff lost one member when veteran assistant Ron Adams elected to take a job with the Golden State Warriors. It's expected that Boston will slide Darren Erman into an assistant role after he worked as an assistant coach for player development with the Warriors (this after four years as a coaching assistant in Boston). The Celtics will have familiarity bringing back bench assistants Jay Larranaga and Micah Shrewsberry, along with McCarty and Jamie Young.

McCarty knows a 25-win campaign left a sour taste in everyone's mouth last season, but the coaches are eager to build off it.

"I think having that year is going to help us out a lot," said McCarty. "It kinda let us know what we need to work on, where we need to go from last season, what are some of our strengths with our players, and what schemes work for us. [Last year], not really knowing that, it was kinda tough. We had to learn things on the fly. But I think we have a good grasp of what it is that we want to do defensively and offensively. Starting out in training camp, we’ll be able to establish some really good habits and move from there."

Sullinger, Turner finally set to team up

September, 6, 2014
Sep 6
12:00
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BOSTON -- Jared Sullinger will always wonder what might have been if Evan Turner had returned for his senior season at Ohio State.

evanalmighty12 on InstagramEvan Turner and Jared Sullinger will finally get to be teammates in Boston.
Sullinger sounds fairly certain that the Buckeyes would have competed for a national championship. Even after Turner leaped to the NBA, Ohio State won its first 24 games of that 2010-11 season and earned the top seed in the East before being upset by Kentucky in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

The two are finally set to team up this season for the Celtics. Turner's signing isn't official yet, but Sullinger is excited to soon have another Buckeye in Boston.

"We were talking about [missing each other at Ohio State] a couple weeks ago," Sullinger said Friday after leading a youth basketball clinic at Hennigan Elementary School in Jamaica Plain. "If it wasn’t for the lockout the following season, [Turner] probably would have stayed for his senior year and the team we would have had my freshman year would have been special."

The two players worked out together at Ohio State this summer with Turner posting a snapshot of him and Sullinger on Instagram after the duo scrimmaged some current members of the Ohio State squad. Sullinger said both he and Turner are excited about the potential to play together.

But Sullinger also acknowledges that Turner's stock is low at the moment after he faded from Indiana's playoff rotation despite being acquired from Philadelphia for a postseason push last season, but expects big things from him.

“I think everyone is down on him because of how the trade happened and what happened in the trade and how Indiana played," said Sullinger. "I think people misunderstand Evan. He’s a great basketball player, great teammate. I’ve known him for years, he’s all about winning. That’s his main goal. We bring a great opportunity for him."

Celtics prez Gotham preaches optimism

September, 5, 2014
Sep 5
8:15
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BOSTON -- Boston Celtics team president Rich Gotham still shudders when he reflects on sitting in the lottery war room in late May when the team's draft fate was determined and dreams of a top pick were dashed. While pleading for patience as part of the team's current rebuilding process, he's not bashful in admitting that he hopes that both he and the team can avoid the lottery process again for the foreseeable future.

[+] EnlargeRich Gotham
Essdras M Suarez/The Boston Globe/Getty ImagesCeltics president Rich Gotham says "the expectation for this year's team is that the future will come a little bit more into focus."
And three months after the ping-pong balls defied Boston, and a couple months since Boston plucked Marcus Smart (6th) and James Young (17th) in the 2014 draft, Gotham expressed an excitement about the team's youngest players and their future potential.

"I've been loving Marcus Smart's play, because he's just tough," said Gotham, admitting he often peeks at the on-court offseason action whenever he's at the team's training facility in Waltham this summer. "He goes out there and he competes. I saw James Young for the first time the other day, and I saw him stroke a couple of lefty 3-pointers from the a couple feet beyond the arc and I was like, 'Hmmm, we could use that.'

"It's exciting. I'm a hoops junkie. I love watching the young guys, I love watching their development, I love thinking about what these guys could become. I watched our draft workouts, but the best workout I saw all summer was Kelly Olynyk putting on a shooting clinic hitting 3s. We bring in all these guys, but we've got great guys on our team. It's exciting to think about how these guys will develop over time.

"The franchise, we're committed to being patient as we need to be to get the team to where it needs to go. What you want, most importantly, is to have options. Whether it's developing your young guys and utilizing those draft picks -- and utilizing them well -- and getting guys that can help you hang that next banner. Or it's using those picks and cap space as assets to acquire other players, whether it's via trade or free agency. I think we have all those options available to us, and they'll continue to be available to us for the foreseeable future. And that's really all that you can ask for. You can't be too hasty in trying to make things happen just for the sake of trying to make it happen in order to appease any sense of impatience. You gotta stay true to the process."

[Read full story]

Slim Sullinger ready for new season

September, 5, 2014
Sep 5
3:25
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BOSTON -- Jared Sullinger smiled wide, but wouldn't bite when asked if he'd dropped any weight this offseason.

"Maybe," a trimmer-looking Sullinger playfully offered Friday at the Hennigan Elementary School after leading some students through an afternoon hoops clinic as members of the Celtics organization joined more than 150 volunteers from Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and City Year to revitalize the school's grounds. "I can’t tell you everything, but maybe."

Chris Forsberg/ESPN BostonJared Sullinger looked slimmer at Friday's community event in Jamaica Plain.
The eye tests seems to suggest a more fit Sullinger, but the coy player only acknowledged that he's in a better place now further removed from the back surgery that stunted his rookie season and erased the offseason before his sophomore campaign.

Earlier this offseason, Sullinger expressed a desire to improve his conditioning with the goal of maintaining his production in the fourth quarter of games. But he's realistic when asked if he thinks that will happen this season.

"Only time will tell," said Sullinger. "Playing with a 24-second shot clock, going through training camp, going through games, back-to-backs, only time will tell. I can’t really commit to that statement until December."

Asked if he's met his offseason goals to this point, Sullinger said: "Not all the way, but still pushing towards them." Pressed on whether he's got a specific weight/conditioning goal for the start of training camp later this month, Sullinger playfully noted, "Me and [strength and conditioning coach Bryan Doo] have an understanding, so there you go."

One thing Sullinger can promise is that he'll be better than the start of camp last season as rehab from disc surgery had left him tentative.

"[Last summer] they shut me down," said Sullinger. "I couldn’t play until September. Full-blown basketball with contact, playing 1-on-1, things like that so I was kind of behind the 8-ball and stayed behind the 8-ball. This year, I’m in front of the 8-ball right now, hopefully going to hit the corner pocket so we’ll see."

Added Sullinger: "My biggest thing was health last year. I think I was a little afraid at the beginning of training camp, due to my back, the contact and all of that stuff. I was afraid what was going to happen in the middle of the season. But now I know what I can do, I know my back is going to hold up and, the beautiful thing about it is, that I have another year to show who Jared Sullinger can be."

So what can fans expect from Jared Sullinger this year?

“Nothing different," said Sullinger. "The biggest thing is to win. Last year was tough. We lost a lot of games and I know a lot of those guys on the team and the coaching staff, we are not used to losing like that. I think we are trying to change the culture."

A handful of leftover notes and quotes from Sullinger's Q&A with reporters:

Basketball-heavy summer: Sullinger said he's spent most of his summer in his native Ohio, working with his father, Satch, Ohio State video coordinator Jake Diebler, and his best friend (and former Ohio State teammate) Evan Ravenel. Sullinger said that included some beach work in the sand to "help my explosiveness." But Sullinger said the most helpful workouts of the summer have simply been on the basketball court. "I played a lot of ball this summer between the Columbus Pro-Am, and open gyms with the overseas guys that come back to Columbus. I got a lot of basketball in this summer and it really helped."

Ready to surprise: Echoing what Avery Bradley said last month, Sullinger believes the Celtics have the talent to be more competitive than most think. "Oh yeah, for sure. We have a lot of guys that can play multiple positions and at the same time, we have a lot of guys that can score the basketball. With us adding Marcus Thornton, Evan Turner, Tyler Zeller, I think those types of guys is only going to help us, not hurt us."

Dancing in the rumors: During Boston's offseason pursuit of Kevin Love, Sullinger's name often came up as a potential piece of a return package. He brushed off having his name float in rumors. "You know what, summertime, I don’t pay attention to basketball, honestly. Summertime is all about yourself, as selfish as it sounds. You try to get yourself better to go into next season, regardless of where you’re at. With all of those things going on, I think my Mom, Dad and brothers knew more about that situation than I did because it was in one ear and out the other."

In one ear, out the other: Those trade whispers often led to a discussion about Sullinger's future potential, a topic that's reverberated ever since he slid to the Celtics at No. 21 in the 2012 draft. "“Goes in one ear and out of the other. No disrespect to you all, but [I] don’t like y'all, don’t listen to y'all. I’m just being blunt and honest. All of the stuff I’ve heard about me, and what I can and can’t do -- who I can be, who I won’t be -- I just stopped listening to y'all a long time ago." Sullinger was asked if it adds fuel to his fire. "You can say that, but at the same time, I already have fuel in my fire, just because of everything that happened before my rookie year going into the draft. How I go from a top-5 pick to a top-10 pick to everyone saying I was going to fall into the second round. That’s why I love Boston so much. I go out and give it my all every game because they gave me a chance when a lot of other teams wouldn’t and that means the world to me and that’s the reason why being a Boston Celtic means so much to me."

In focus: Smart's defense

September, 4, 2014
Sep 4
9:15
AM ET
Marcus SmartEthan Miller/Getty Images
On Wednesday, Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix Tweeted how scouts consider Boston Celtics rookie guard Marcus Smart the potential next "great perimeter defender." Smart's defensive potential isn't in question, but it did get us wondering just how well he graded out last season during his sophomore season at Oklahoma State.

A handful of stats that stand out while examining the defensive stats logged by Synergy Sports:

• Of the 279 Division 1 players that defended at least 250 possessions last season, Smart ranked fourth while allowing a mere 0.655 points per play, according to Synergy Sports data. Opponents shot just 27.6 percent against him overall. Smart also created turnovers on 13.9 percent of those total plays defended, a number that ranked him in the top quarter of that same sample.

• Sticking with that same sample, Smart ranked fifth in score percentage (the percentage of possessions that finished with points) with opponents scoring on just 29 percent of total possessions last season. The average was 36.1 percent.

• Zoom in on Smart in strictly man-to-man situations and his numbers improved even more. Smart allowed 0.618 points per possession, a number that ranked in the 95th percentile among all defenders. Of those with at least 225 defended possessions in man-to-man defense, Smart ranked fifth overall among 243 qualifiers.

• The number that jumps out most in Synergy's play-type breakdown: Smart in post-up situations. Maybe showcasing his physicality, Smart allowed a mere 0.545 points per play defending in the post, while creating turnovers on 31.8 percent of those possessions (albeit, a small sample of just 22 possessions defended).

With all numbers, we remind you to take into consideration that Synergy numbers grade only possessions finished as it's almost impossible to fully quantify Smart's perimeter defense (for instance, he doesn't get credit in a situation where his defense forces the shot clock low and another player takes the late-clock shot).

But the bottom line is that last season's sample as a whole reflects well on him as a defender, as did his glimpses at summer league (though his Synergy numbers weren't nearly as glossy; as he allowed 0.792 points per play overall in a small sample of 53 total possessions finished).

Our friend Jay King over at MassLive.com did a nice job rounding up some quotes from the summer where Celtics coaches/players gushed about Smart's defensive potential.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jeff Green
PTS AST STL MIN
16.9 1.7 0.7 34.2
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Sullinger 8.1
AssistsR. Rondo 9.8
StealsR. Rondo 1.3
BlocksB. Bass 0.9