Celtics won't give up without Rondo

December, 20, 2014
Dec 20
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BOSTON -- There was a touch of defiance in his voice. Polite defiance, mind you, but Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens still bristled a bit when it was suggested that some fans assume that the Celtics are content to tank the remainder of the 2014-15 season following the trade that delivered point guard Rajon Rondo to the Dallas Mavericks.

[+] EnlargeBrad Stevens
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images
"First of all, this team is going to prepare every day to win games," Stevens said before Friday's tilt with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He acknowledged that some of the young players on his roster are going to have to step up and embrace leadership roles to replace what Rondo meant as captain, but Stevens made sure to stress that the goals of this team haven't changed because of one player's departure.

"I think the deal is, this is our team," added Stevens. "This is how we're getting ready to win every single night. And we are building every single night to be the best that we can be. Tonight, tomorrow, the next night, and it's never going to stop. I'm excited about the guys in the locker room. Time will tell how we do, but I'm excited about the guys we have."

It's hard to gauge Boston's true potential after Game 1 of the post-Rondo era -- it was the basement-dwelling Minnesota Timberwolves on the opposite sideline after all -- but there's something to be said for the way Boston dominated the final six minutes of the game en route to a 114-98 triumph at TD Garden.

The Celtics have now won three straight games, matching their season high. While there are still 58 games left in the season, Boston shuffled into the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff standings, at least for one night.

For a team that just traded away its best player, the Celtics were a pretty jovial bunch after Friday's game. While players admitted to being surprised -- and maybe a bit disappointed given Rondo's departed talents - many were quick to point toward the opportunity that still exists for them. Like Stevens, they don't like the idea that they're supposed to just wave the white flag on the season.

As Boston's remaining young core were savoring Friday's victory, the team's three newest faces -- Jameer Nelson, Brandan Wright, and Jae Crowder -- convened at the interview podium to assess their new squad and hold up their new uniforms.

"On the plane ride up [to Boston] we were looking at the standings and the team is right here, goals are still attainable, playoffs are reachable," said Wright. "We just want to come in here and do the best we can. Do what we do best: Play hard, add an aspect to this team that hopefully pushes up in those standings."

Added Crowder: "That's what we talked about on the way up here. I still feel like we have a chance to make a push in the Eastern Conference, to make the playoffs and that's our goal. And that's how we're going to influence those guys to keep fighting, each and every day, to get better as a unit and see what happens."

[Read full story]
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BOSTON -- No Rajon Rondo, no problem for the Boston Celtics.

OK, it certainly helped that the first game in the post-Rondo era came against the basement-dwelling Minnesota Timberwolves. But Boston's young remaining core closed the fourth quarter with the sort of flair that was often missing with Rondo this season en route to a 114-98 triumph at TD Garden.

The Timberwolves clawed within a possession with under six minutes to play, but Boston scored the game's next eight points -- Marcus Smart and Jeff Green sandwiching 3-pointers around a Green dunk -- and pushed its lead as high as 15 after another Smart triple capped a 15-3 run.

Kelly Olynyk scored a team-high 21 points off the bench, while Jared Sullinger posted a double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds) as Boston put six players in double figures for scoring. Avery Bradley had a season-high seven assists and Boston generated 29 total assists on 48 field goals.

No new faces: The Celtics didn't have any of the three recent additions in Brandan Wright, Jae Crowder and Jameer Nelson. The three newcomers were still taking their physicals and were inactive for Friday's game.

Loose balls: Boston shot 56.5 percent overall (48-of-85). The Timberwolves shot 50 percent beyond the arc, but 45.2 percent overall. ... The Celtics were also without Marcus Thornton (calf strain) and James Young (shoulder subluxation).

What it means: Boston has now won three in a row, matching a season high, while improving to 10-14 overall. The Timberwolves fall to 5-20. Boston departs on a two-game Floridian road trip that visits Miami and Orlando next week.

Danny Ainge: Very difficult to move Rondo

December, 19, 2014
Dec 19
9:15
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BOSTON -- Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said lingering uncertainty about Rajon Rondo's future in Boston, along with the team's inability to immediately surround him with impact players, contributed to his decision to trade him to the Dallas Mavericks.

[+] EnlargeDanny Ainge
AP Photo/Charles Krupa
The Celtics shipped the four-time All-Star point guard and rookie power forward Dwight Powell to Dallas on Thursday night for Brandan Wright, Jae Crowder, Jameer Nelson, two future draft picks and a $12.9 million trade exception. And while Ainge admitted that giving up the best player in the deal ran counter to the team's typical philosophy with swaps, he believed it was the right move for the Celtics moving forward.

The Mavericks had called Boston to inquire about Rondo's availability in the years since former point guard Jason Kidd's departure, while the Celtics had inquired with Dallas about Wright and Crowder in recent seasons. A deal came together quickly in recent days when both sides revisited those talks, even as attempts to add a third team fizzled.

"There was definitely uncertainty into what might happen [with Rondo as a free agent] this summer," Ainge said Friday night while addressing reporters for the first time since the swap. "That was a big factor. We liked the players that we got in the trade. But, listen, with his impending free agency, and the uncertainty of what might happen this summer, I think that gave us the impetus of wanting to do a deal."

Encouraged in part by Rondo's desire to be part of a contending team, the Celtics explored adding impact players this offseason -- Kevin Love among the most notable -- but were unsuccessful, and a team that won 25 games last year continued to struggle in the early stages of the 2014-15 campaign.

Ainge noted the team was also eager to see how Rondo performed this season, further removed from ACL surgery, and as the focal point of a young team. While Rondo dazzled as a distributor, he failed to take over games -- particularly in the fourth quarter -- the way an elite player on the verge of a maximum contract might be expected to.

It all added up to Thursday's swap, though it still wasn't easy for Ainge to bid farewell to the last remaining member of the team's latest Big Three era.

"It was hard. Yeah, it was very difficult to move Rajon," Ainge said. "I know it's a business in professional sports, but you really develop a lot of close relationships and I loved watching Rajon, I loved visiting with him, our one-on-one conversations were fun, entertaining, frustrating sometimes. And always a surprise.

"The guy was a very unique person. But watching him grow and watching him develop as a man and as a person and as a basketball player, I just enjoyed my interactions with him. It was an emotional time as we met last night. It was not an easy thing to do. But I believe it was the right thing to do."

[Read full story]

Rajon Rondo 'fired up' to join Mavs

December, 19, 2014
Dec 19
9:11
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videoDALLAS -- The opportunity to play for a contender again has Rajon Rondo feeling revitalized after leaving a rebuilding franchise in the Boston Celtics.

"There's one goal that you have in mind, and I'm dying to get another ring again," Rondo said in his introductory news conference after joining the Dallas Mavericks in a blockbuster trade. "I want another parade."

The Mavs acquired Rondo along with rookie power forward Dwight Powell from the Celtics in exchange for center Brandan Wright, point guard Jameer Nelson, small forward Jae Crowder, a protected first-round pick, a second-round pick and a $12.9 million trade exception in a deal finalized Thursday night.

Rondo played in two NBA Finals and won one championship during his eight-plus seasons in Boston. But the Celtics have been rebuilding since trading Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in the summer of 2013, going 25-57 last season and getting off to a 9-14 start entering Friday this season.

Rondo attempted to approach the situation with professionalism, but the Mavs anticipate getting a much more motivated version of the four-time All-Star point guard, who says he physically feels "closer to where I used to be, if not better" after battling back from a torn ACL in his right knee suffered in January 2013.

"It was very challenging these last couple years," Rondo said. "I've been fortunate enough to play for future Hall of Famers and great teams and a great coach in Doc Rivers. And to get back to that situation and be able to play with future Hall of Famers and a great coach and a team that's ready to contend for a title, I'm fired up. I'm ready to go."

Mavs owner Mark Cuban made it clear that the team fully intends to re-sign Rondo, whose contract expires after this season, to a long-term deal this summer.

"We're past the days of rent-a-player," Cuban said, calling Rondo the definition of a franchise cornerstone. "We want him to be here for a long time and we want to earn his desire to stay here. We have to convince him that he wants to be here because we know we'll want him. We're going to do everything possible to keep him here forever."

Rondo's response: "I'm definitely excited and optimistic about the situation here. ... The future seems bright and I'm just looking forward to winning a championship as fast as possible, and hopefully we can keep this team together."

[Read full story]

W2W4: C's vs. Wolves (Game 24 of 82)

December, 19, 2014
Dec 19
12:00
PM ET
The Boston Celtics (9-14, 6-8 home) host the Minnesota Timberwolves (5-19, 2-9 away) on Friday night at TD Garden (7:30 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:

Post-trade fallout: Celtics coach Brad Stevens talked Thursday about the difficulty in getting his team to focus even as trade rumors swirled around his team. Now Stevens must figure out how to keep his team on task in the aftermath of Thursday's trade, even when all the talk is likely to focus on a player that's no longer here in Rajon Rondo.

Wolves in focus: The Wolves have been as bad as their record suggests. Minnesota ranks 26th in offensive rating (98.4), 28th in defensive rating (109.5), and 29th in net differential (minus-11.1). About the only advanced metric that leaps off the page -- in a positive way -- is Minnesota's offensive rebounding rate (sixth overall). The Timberwolves do crank the pace, ranking fourth in the league while averaging 98.7 possessions per 48 minutes (Boston is first at 100.49).

Loose Balls: Celtics rookie guard Marcus Smart tested his injured ankle/Achilles at Thursday's practice and, assuming no setbacks, he could be back in the lineup Friday (and Boston needs some ball-handlers with Rondo's departure). ... Boston can match its season-high three-game winning streak. ... A couple notes from STATS LLC: The Timberwolves have lost nine of 10 and would record their third losing streak of four or more games with a defeat Friday. ... Boston has won eight straight at home against Minnesota since a 99-97 loss on March 6, 2005.

(Read full game preview)

Celts assistant McCarty gets charge dismissed

December, 19, 2014
Dec 19
11:59
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FRAMINGHAM, Mass. -- Boston Celtics assistant coach Walter McCarty has agreed to pay more than $20,000 to a contractor for the purchase and installation of kitchen cabinets, and in exchange a larceny charge will be dismissed.

The MetroWest Daily News reports that under a deal reached in court Thursday, the 40-year-old McCarty has until Dec. 31 to pay the money.

Prosecutors say McCarty ordered more than $30,000 worth of cabinetry for the home he's building in Wayland. He paid $12,000, but authorities say a second check for the balance bounced, and several requests by the contractor for the money were ignored.

McCarty's lawyer says the case was a misunderstanding and that McCarty's bank account had been compromised.

[Read full story]

New Celtics choose jersey numbers

December, 19, 2014
Dec 19
10:49
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The Boston Celtics announced the jersey numbers for their latest acquisitions:

Brandan Wright: 12
Jameer Nelson: 28
Jae Crowder: 99

Crowder is only the third player to wear No. 99 in team history and first since Darko Milicic. Nelson is first to wear No. 28 since Mickael Pietrus. Wright takes the digits from departed Dwight Powell.

[Basketball Reference: Celtics number register]

MacMullan: Rondo leaves complicated legacy

December, 19, 2014
Dec 19
10:36
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He wasn't just KG and Pierce and Ray's little brother -- he was yours, too.

[+] EnlargeRajon Rondo
Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports
When Rajon Rondo arrived in Boston, with that spindly body and those giant grizzly bear mitts, he was only 20 years old but already oozing intrigue. Even though he spent a chunk of his rookie season playing behind Sebastian Telfair -- Sebastian Telfair! -- the kid conjured up at least one play every week that made you exclaim, "Whoa.''

A no-look bounce pass. A deft steal in backcourt that was equally electric for his team and demoralizing for the unsuspecting opponent. That little hesitation that froze players in their tracks and enabled him to glide to the basket unhindered.

The athletic ability -- and the exceptional court vision -- was unmistakable. Tubby Smith, who coached Rondo at Kentucky, once told me his former point guard had the speed of an Olympic sprinter. What he didn't tell me (though others with knowledge of Rondo's time there did), was when the point guard jumped to the pros after his sophomore season, the coaching staff was strangely relieved.

It wasn't easy with Rondo -- it never has been.

Trying to chat with him during that rookie season was a herculean challenge because he often responded to dialogue with a blank expression that made you wonder if he was bored, or simply refusing to listen.

Turns out he heard everything; he just needed time to process it. One day I mentioned a sick pass he whirled back to Ryan Gomes in transition after he lured everyone -- including his teammates -- into believing he was going strong to the hole. The startled Gomes dropped the ball out of bounds. Rondo turned and ran upcourt with a look of absolute disgust.

When I queried him about his reaction, Rondo told me, "He should have had it, right?"

Yes, he should have.

Doc Rivers knew he had something special, but the little brother was used to doing things his own way, and Rivers, a former point guard, wasn't going to stand for that. He hauled him in, told him his teammates couldn't stand him. Rondo's apparent disinterest in his coach's comments left Doc seething, but a couple of days later, after a heap of introspection, Rondo came back around, and asked how he could be better.

It took some time, but you watched him grow up and refine both his skills and his image.

Before you knew it, Rondo blossomed into a starter, an All-Star, an NBA champion.

[Read full story]

C's to face national TV Rondo

December, 19, 2014
Dec 19
10:20
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NBA TV announced Friday that is has added the Jan. 2 game between the Dallas Mavericks and Boston Celtics, which should serve as Rajon Rondo's first game against his former team.

It'll also be the first time that Boston will be on the other side of national TV Rondo. Rondo has long saved his best performances for the national stage.
Rajon Rondo TradeESPN Illustration
There's an awful lot to digest in the aftermath of the Boston Celtics' shipping Rajon Rondo to the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday. Let's break it down in bite-sized chunks while analyzing the deal, examining where Boston stands, and predicting what lies ahead as the Celtics alter the direction of their rebuilding process.

TRADE BREAKDOWN

The Celtics sent Rondo and rookie Dwight Powell to the Mavericks in exchange for Brandan Wright, Jameer Nelson, Jae Crowder and future first- and second-round draft picks. The team also waived second-year center Vitor Faverani in order to facilitate the trade. While most Celtics fans are disappointed with the return haul for the All-Star point guard, you must keep in mind that Rondo will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, diminishing some of his total value at this point. What did Boston get in return?

• Wright is an intriguingly efficient player, one who is shooting a ridiculous 74.8 percent from the floor while ranking fourth in the NBA in player efficiency rating (26.1) and third in win shares per 48 minutes (.274). With Boston, he'll likely get a chance to showcase whether he can maintain such lofty numbers in elevated minutes (he's averaging 18.7 minutes per game this season). Is Wright long for Boston? We'll know by February when he -- and his digestible $5 million salary -- could potentially be dealt again in order to bring back more future assets. Wright is an unrestricted free agent after the season.

Brandan Wright, Rajon Rondo, Jameer Nelson
Getty ImagesBrandan Wright (left) provides the biggest upside for the Celtics in the Rajon Rondo trade, while Jameer Nelson (right) will step in as Boston's ranking veteran point guard.
• Nelson becomes the oldest player on Boston's roster (five months older than Gerald Wallace). He started 23 games for the Mavericks this season, averaging 7.3 points and 4.1 assists over 25.4 minutes. Nelson's last game with the Mavericks saw him post 0 points and 0 assists over 26 minutes. It's probably better for Boston to give the bulk of its point guard minutes to youngsters Marcus Smart and Phil Pressey (or even Evan Turner). Nelson has a $2.9 million player option for next season.

• Crowder is a 24-year-old swingman who has played limited minutes this season (career-low 10.6 per game). He can provide some defensive help on the wing. The former second-round pick (34th in 2012 draft) is due a $1.2 million qualifying offer next season.

• The draft picks are the true prize for Ainge, who adds to Boston's surplus (more on that below). The Celtics are unlikely to see the Mavs pick until 2016, but will likely have four first-rounders in that draft. Ainge can pick which selections to take his swings with and package the others to try to bring in more established talent. Draft picks are a premium in a league where the cap is rising and there's a value on low-cost, high-potential talent that you have under long-term control at the start of their careers.

• The Celtics also generated a $12.9 million trade exception that could help them bring in starter-caliber talent in the next year's span. Or consider what Boston did with the $10.3 million exception it got from trading away Paul Pierce, using it in July to help bring in Tyler Zeller, Marcus Thornton and future draft picks.

GOODYBE, RONDO

The Celtics were hopeful that Rondo would be the one to lead Boston through this rebuilding process, even giving him the captaincy upon his return from ACL surgery in January. But his play had yet to return to the game-changing level we'd seen pre-injury (though he remained an elite distributor, even when surrounded by an inexperienced core). And maybe sensing that it was easier to start fresh than both pay Rondo maximum money to stick around and try to find a superstar sidekick to pair with him, the Celtics moved quickly to find the best in-season deal possible in advance of the February rush.

Rondo's departure closes the book on Boston's most recent Big Three era. Rondo will be remembered fondly for helping the 2008 team win a title, for all the dazzling moments on the court, his toughness, and his stubbornness that initially endeared him to his veteran teammates. Rondo will be celebrated like the rest of his 2008 title teammates when he returns here with the Mavs in early January. The hard part for Boston fans will be watching him from afar as he should thrive in Dallas, where he'll be surrounded with star talent and reinvigorated by the chance to contend again.

WHAT'S NEXT FOR BOSTON?

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What do you think of the Celtics' decision to trade Rajon Rondo to the Mavericks?

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There are still two months for Ainge to tinker with this roster and it certainly seems like more moves will follow.

The Celtics will almost certainly put a premium on developing their young core, particularly rookie guard Marcus Smart once he's healthy enough to stay on the floor. If Smart is inserted as the starting point guard, that gives Boston an insanely young core with starters Smart (20), Avery Bradley (24), Jeff Green (28), Jared Sullinger (22), and Tyler Zeller (24). Add in Kelly Olynyk (23) and Evan Turner (26) as key reserves, along with rookie James Young (19) when he's healthy enough.

With a focus on the future, the tough losses that frustrated Boston early in the season won't sting quite as much now. The team must hone in on individual development and build team chemistry within its young core. And, if we're being honest, each loss now means only a better chance at a quality draft pick.

It's fair to wonder if Boston will be aggressive in shopping veteran players who don't seemingly fit the team's future plans. The likes of Brandon Bass (29), Marcus Thornton (27) and even Nelson (32) might intrigue contenders looking to bolster their rosters before playoff runs.

The biggest question mark here is Green, who holds a $9.2 million player option for next season. Having the best year of his career, Green might be more likely to opt out this summer and seek a higher payday given the growing cap (and salaries to match the rise). With that in mind, might Boston be willing to sell high if they can net additional future assets from a contender before the February deadline?

(Read full post)

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Rondo: Time in Boston meant so much

December, 18, 2014
Dec 18
11:59
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Former Boston Celtics captain Rajon Rondo posted a series of Tweets thanking Boston fans and expressing excitement his future in the aftermath of being dealt to the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday:
My time in Boston has meant so much. I've grown up with this city both as a basketball player and person. The love I have for the most loyal and supportive fans in the league is unmatched.

My teammates have shown nothing but heart the last couple of seasons. They are some of the hardest working guys I have played with and I wish them the best.

I've experienced my most successful and challenging years with the Celtics, fans, and city. The opportunity to play with guys like Dirk, Monta, Tyson and the young talent of Chandler is exciting. I look forward to building something special in Dallas.

[Rajon Rondo's Twitter feed]

5-on-5: Good deal for Celtics?

December, 18, 2014
Dec 18
11:35
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Playing a game of 5-on-5 following the Celtics-Mavericks swap and wondering: Is this a good deal for Boston?
Elhassan: Yes and no. Snagging an excellent finisher in Wright was a great get, those picks add to an already impressive stash, and Jameer Nelson is one of the most respected vets in the league. But you have to wonder if the Celtics jumped the gun by dealing Rondo so early. Could they have gotten more out of a bidding war?

Ford: Yes. It's not a huge haul, but the Celtics have been shopping Rondo for two years. I think Danny Ainge overturned every single rock. I think it's safe to say this was the best he was going to get. Brandan Wright is very underrated both as a player who could help the Celtics and as an asset -- his contract is very tradable. Nelson doesn't fit their long-term plan but is another potentially valuable trading chip. Crowder was a nice throw-in. The first-round pick probably comes to them in 2016, when it's top-seven protected, which may be a good thing. Ainge is collecting assets right now, and I think he picked up a couple of decent ones for Rondo.


Forsberg: It's probably about as good as Boston was going to get in-season. Maybe getting leery about either paying Rondo max money in the summer, or losing him without compensation, the Celtics assured themselves a handful of future assets while hitting reset on the rebuild.

Holmes: The Celtics risked losing Rondo for nothing in free agency, but now they have valuable assets to further their long-term rebuilding process. That's a win for them. Sure, an All-Star would've been a nice get in return, but the market wasn't that great.

MacMahon: Frankly, I figured the Celtics would be able to get more. High-flying big man Wright went from a reclamation project when he arrived in Dallas to one of the NBA's most efficient reserves. Crowder has some potential as a gritty role player. Nelson is near the end of a solid career. If Rondo fits in Dallas, the first-round pick will be awfully late.

[Read full 5-on-5]
In officially announcing the trade that delivered Rajon Rondo to the Dallas Mavericks, the Boston Celtics included the following quotes in their news release, including one attributed to the team's four-member managing partners.

“We would like to thank Rajon for everything that he has done for the Celtics organization and the success we have experienced during his tenure with us,” said Danny Ainge, Celtics President of Basketball Operations.

“We would not have won Banner 17 without Rajon and will always consider him one of our most valuable Celtics, both on the court and in the community working with kids. We will always cherish the time he was here,” said Celtics Managing Partners Wyc Grousbeck, Irv Grousbeck, Steve Pagliuca and Robert Epstein.

Celtics release Vitor Faverani

December, 18, 2014
Dec 18
9:45
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The Boston Celtics announced the release of second-year center Vitor Faverani on Thursday night in order to facilitate the completion of the trade that delivered Rajon Rondo to the Dallas Mavericks.

Faverani hasn't participated in on-court activities other than light shooting since February when he injured his knee. He underwent two surgeries, including one in September after experiencing lingering pain and swelling in the knee while attempting to resume basketball workouts in training camp.

The Celtics had hoped to have Faverani back on the court for mid-December, but had recently pushed that timetable back to the new calendar year. With a need to shed a body while bringing back three players from Dallas, Faverani was deemed expendable.

Faverani will eat Faverani's $2.1 million salary. The third and final year of his contract next season was nonguaranteed.

Faverani appeared in 37 games for Boston last season, averaging 4.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2 blocks over 13.2 minutes per game. He was Boston's opening night starter last year before fading and spending time in the NBA Development League where he suffered the knee injury.

Ironically, the man nicknamed El Hombre Indestructible never could get healthy enough to save his spot on the roster this season.

Video: MacMullan on Rondo trade

December, 18, 2014
Dec 18
7:40
PM ET
video

ESPN's Jackie MacMullan breaks down why Rajon Rondo is a perfect fit for the Mavericks and why Boston made the move.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jeff Green
PTS AST STL MIN
19.6 1.5 1.0 34.0
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Sullinger 8.2
AssistsE. Turner 3.3
StealsK. Olynyk 1.3
BlocksK. Olynyk 0.8