"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," Stevens said. "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.
[Read full story from Berkshire Eagle]
(h/t: Red's Army)
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]
"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]
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 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]
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 ]
This time around, there's a lot more continuity and an understanding of everyone's responsibilities.
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."
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."
"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]
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."
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."
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.
Q: Jared Sullinger seems to have been tasked with losing weight and/or getting into better condition for the upcoming season. Do you think the Celtics have an ideal playing weight in mind for him and do you think there is any danger in him losing too much weight given his style of play?
CF: I remember Kevin Garnett saying that Sullinger has "the perfect body for rebounding," and there's been multiple instances where Sullinger has playfully thanked his genetics for his space-creating derriere. I think the Celtics' goal with Sullinger is to simply increase his ability to stay on the floor. He played 27.6 minutes per game last season, but the goal is to get him to where he can play 30+ minutes per game with no drop off in performance. Slimming down a little bit shouldn't hurt him, particularly if he plays more of his natural power forward spot.
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The Celtics garnered only 6 percent of votes among approximately 13,000 sports fans polled last month, well behind the New England Patriots (42 percent), Boston Red Sox (30 percent), and Boston Bruins (21 percent). The Celtics finished ahead of the New England Revolution (1 percent).
Celtics diehards will quibble with the methodology, polling in August -- the NBA's quietest month -- and amidst a quiet offseason as the Celtics continue a rebuilding process after winning just 25 games last season.
Boston sports fans, of course, demand winning from their teams and the Celtics are pleading for patience while trying to assemble a contender again. Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca believes his team's fans understand the process.
"I think it’s tough for anyone to be patient, but the great news it that we have fantastic fans here in Boston," said Pagliuca. "They appreciate the young talent, and I think this team is going to be surprisingly good this year."
The Celtics have searched for ways to accelerate the rebuilding process, but won't sacrifice their surplus of assets at the expense of long-term sustainability. Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck suggested the possibility of "fireworks" this offseason, but the team to this point hasn't found the sort of deal that makes them a surefire contender again.
Pagliuca again stressed patience in the process.
"I think [Grousbeck's words were] misinterpreted," said Pagliuca. "Wyc really meant that we would be out there trying to make something happen, which we are trying to make happen every day. The great thing about Wyc and [Celtics president of basketball operations] Danny [Ainge], we’re patient. To build a championship team, you need patience. We did this once before, and this is a similar model we’re following, where Danny has really accumulated a lot of great assets on the team, and we have nine draft picks over the next five years, it’s going to be a very exciting young roster and we’ll go with it."
• Moser signs in Lithuania: Mike Moser, an undrafted rookie who raised eyebrows with solid play for the Celtics summer league team in Orlando, has reportedly signed to play overseas in Lithuania. Moser was exploring NBA camp invites, but Boston didn't offer a particularly enticing chance to stick on a regular-season roster. The Celtics are already at max capacity of 20 players -- this without even officially signing Evan Turner yet -- and need to trim to 15 before the start of the regular season. The players invited to camp for the Celtics are likely ticketed for the Maine Red Claws of the D-League. Playing overseas offers a more lucrative option for Moser.
• Thornton visits Boston: Marcus Thornton appears to have made his first appearance in Boston since being acquired via trade in July, visiting the area last week. One jersey-watching Tweeter suggests he'll wear No. 27 for the Celtics (last seen on Jordan Crawford last season). Thornton has a relationship with Brandon Bass -- both grew up in Baton Rouge, La. and attended LSU -- and Thornton showed up at Bass' summer camp this offseason.
• Stretch deadline passes: The Celtics appear to have allowed the Aug. 31 deadline to utilize the stretch provision pass. Teams can waive players and pay their guaranteed salaries over an extended schedule (twice the number of remaining years, plus one). Some had wondered if the team might consider that option for players that don't fit the team's long-term future, but in a rebuilding year, the Celtics seem content to pay as much salary as necessary (so long as they stay out of the luxury tax) in hopes of keeping their books clean for future years when they might return to contender status.
• Doc's office: CNN's Rachel Nichols posted a snapshot of former Celtics coach Doc Rivers' home office and there's an awful lot of green in there.
Krzyzewski, of course, is also head coach of Team USA and got another glimpse of Smart when the 20-year-old participated with the USA Select Team that scrimmaged against the senior team last month.
Most of the rumblings out of Vegas were that Smart more than held his own against some of the league's top guards and distinguished himself with his trademark tenacity on the defensive end. While the Celtics have lacked national team ties in recent years, Smart has seemingly put himself on a path for future consideration by working through the national feeder system.
There will be no notable Celtics connections when play in the 24-nation FIBA World Cup tips Saturday in Spain, but Boston does have a couple young bodies in Smart and Kelly Olynyk (Canada) who have immersed themselves in international competition.
Olynyk, battling what was termed a minor case of plantar fasciitis before his rookie campaign with Boston, could only observe while attending training camp last summer with the Canadian national team. But he glowed while recounting his experiences while playing with the national team during a European exhibition last month.
"The national team, there’s something special about playing and competing for your country," said Olynyk. "The national team is a lot of fun. You get to see the world playing basketball, and there’s nothing better than that.
"You go over there and see different countries, play different teams. It's kinda like playing for Boston, going into L.A. and trying to get a win against them and all their fans. But when you go to another country, it’s just a whole different experience. You’re going with a group of 20 guys trying to get a win against a whole country, it’s pretty cool."
Given the quality of talent coming out of Canada in recent years, Olynyk admits he daydreams about potential Olympic competition in future years.
"I played in the world championships in 2010 in Turkey and it was an unbelievable experience," said Olynyk. "Obviously, we didn’t do as well as we had hoped, but with this core group of guys that we have, and the young guys coming up in our country -- basketball is a prominent sport and we’re hoping to get on that plateau at an Olympic level. And that’s something that every kid dreams of, playing for their country in the Olympics. That would be special."
The gruesome leg injury suffered by Indiana's Paul George this summer has ignited conversation about players protecting themselves during events outside of NBA competition. While he downplayed the severity, Olynyk admitted he dinged up his right wrist during Canada's exhibition slate.
There's a balance here, but players like Olynyk and Smart swell with pride when talking about playing for their countries, while also raving about the benefits of playing elite competition. The players believe that it can only help them when NBA play resumes.
While acknowledging the risk involved, Pagliuca also sees a definite benefit in someone like Smart playing with Team USA.
"I think it’s really good experience to play top-level competition," said Pagliuca. "Now Marcus is ready to go up against the [Damian] Lillards of the world, and the great point guards in general."
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