Boston Celtics: 2012SummerLeague
Stutz had been playing for the Minneosta Timberwolves, but an overpopulated roster made floor time scarce, and when his agent called him on Friday night to discuss playing for Boston the rest of the way, Stutz decided to walk through the open door.
"My agent called me basically last night and said, 'Hey, the Celtics need a guy. Do you want to go play for them?' I thought I'd jump on the opportunity," Stutz said.
Partly because Melo was able to play on Saturday, Stutz was used sparingly in his Celtics summer league debut, playing a total of 3:09, all in the first half. He missed his only shot and grabbed a single rebound, but coach Tyronn Lue praised the effort he saw from his new big man.
"Garrett came in and gave us some good minutes," Lue said. "He really doesn't know what we're trying to run, but he did a good job."
Not knowing the Celtics' system might be Stutz's greatest obstacle. His late addition to the team mirrored the hasty departures of E'Twaun Moore and Sean Williams prior to Thursday's game as part of the trade for Courtney Lee.
"[I] hadn't had a single practice with them, no shootaround, basically I showed up about five minutes before, got a five-minute rundown," Stutz said. "They told me a couple of simple defensive coverages like pick-and-roll stuff, told me two or three simple sets and then were like, 'We'll just play you a couple minutes and see what happens.' Just go out there and I thought I'd play my butt off and hope for the best."
While it's unlikely Stutz will be able to show enough in the Celtics' final game of the summer to earn any sort of training camp invitation -- Saturday's addition of veteran center Jason Collins hindered Stutz's chances even further -- he said he'll put all of his cards on the table on Sunday and hope for the best.
"I can only control the circumstances that I can control," Stutz said. "I'll just give it my all and play as hard as I can and hopefully get a chance to make a shot or two, but really just play great defense, rebound, and do whatever the Celtics need me to do."
Rondo is the first rotation player to make an appearance in Vegas for the C's, and he didn't hesitate to dispense advice to many of the younger players on the roster.
"It was good for Rondo to come in and support the young guys," summer league coach Tyronn Lue said. "Guys have been playing hard, playing great. For him to come around and encourage guys, speaking up, having time in timeouts and stuff like that is good encouragement for them."
Dionte Christmas appeared to benefit from Rondo's presence more than any other player. Rondo pulled Christmas aside multiple times during Saturday's game, and Christmas came through with one of his best all-around efforts, totaling 17 points, seven rebounds and six assists -- his highest total of the summer.
"In about five minutes I learned so much from him, just by talking to him and him seeing things I didn't see on the floor," Christmas explained afterward. "Me, I never really play the point guard, but he was just telling me some things that I can see coming off, and I think it helped. I had six assists today, and he was just telling me some things to do at the [point guard spot], and it really helped. I can only imagine what a whole season would do playing under Rondo, so that would be great."
Rondo remained involved all the way down to the Celtics' final possession, and Lue admitted he had a hand in changing the final play, which ended up being an inbound in the left corner to Jared Sullinger, who drove through the lane for a sweeping hook shot that clanged off the back iron.
"Yeah, it was supposed to be a pin-down. Actually, Rondo talked me out of the play I wanted to run. He changed the play. Like always," Lue joked. "[Sullinger] was supposed to pin-down and then we'd throw it in direct to the post and then go to work, but Dionte was looking high the whole time, and then [Sullinger] was deep and he had to pop out, and it was a little too late for the play. We told him we wanted him to get a basket or two free throws."
Rondo was ushered to the team bus shortly after the game and didn't speak with reporters, but he's expected to be around again Sunday when the Celtics wrap up their summer league schedule against the Los Angeles Clippers at 6:00 p.m. ET.
HOW THE GAME WAS LOST: John Henson and Tobias Harris each scored 22 points to pace the Bucks, with Harris knocking down two pivotal free throws with 5.9 seconds left to seal the win for Milwaukee. Henson also chipped in nine boards, while Larry Sanders produced an 11-point, 15-rebound double-double to help propel the Bucks' effort. Dionte Christmas led the Celtics once again with 17 points, seven rebounds and six assists, while rookie Jared Sullinger came through with a 16-point, 11-rebound double-double, and Jamar Smith added 16 points.
C'S REGROUP FOLLOWING THURSDAY'S TRADE: The Celtics looked fully rejuvenated after playing flat for the majority of Thursday's loss to the Kings, following the swift departures of E'Twaun Moore, JaJuan Johnson and Sean Williams, who were traded in a package to the Rockets for Courtney Lee. Friday's day off, combined with having played a full game with a disheveled unit Thursday, seemed to be all the medicine Boston needed to get its team mojo back. Smith looked more comfortable running the point, while Christmas provided his usual stability as a do-it-all player. Craig Brackins continued his emergence, while Sullinger re-established himself as more of a focal point of the team's offense. The bench and coaching staff were as animated as ever, and the Celtics took advantage of a balanced second-half offensive attack to try to secure the win before falling in the final seconds.
C'S FALL IN FOURTH: Playing their first real wire-to-wire game since arriving in Las Vegas, the Celtics went with Sullinger, Brackins, Christmas, Smith and Fab Melo for most of the final 6 minutes to try to close out the Bucks. The two teams traded baskets and free throws for the majority of the time, with Sullinger and Henson taking center stage around the 4-minute mark. Sullinger scored on a right-baseline drive, Henson followed with a basket of his own, and Sullinger converted two free throws shortly after. Christmas came through with six straight points for Boston, and Smith buried a huge 3-pointer from the right wing with a minute to play, putting Boston up 1. But with the C's still up 1, Christmas couldn't get a right-side layup to fall, despite drawing considerable contact, and Harris sank his two free throws just seconds later. The C's looked to Sullinger for the last shot, but his dribble-drive and running hook found the back iron and bounced out.
BRACKINS STRONG AGAIN: For the second consecutive game, Brackins came through with a strong effort for the Celtics, showing off the versatility that led to a 15-point outing -- his second straight night hitting double figures in points. The 6-foot-10 forward buried three 3-pointers, but also scored on a putback off of an offensive rebound and came through with a thunderous, right-handed dunk on the right block. Despite playing minimal minutes earlier in the week, Brackins has taken full advantage of the extra time available since Johnson and Williams left the team.
STUTZ DEBUTS: Garrett Stutz, a 7-footer out of Wichita State, joined the Celtics' summer league roster due to the departures of Johnson and Williams. It was a largely uneventful premiere for Stutz, who logged a mere 3:09 of floor time, going 0-for-1 from the field with a rebound.
"I don't know where that puts me at on the food chain, but it's tough, I mean, that's the NBA, it's a business," Christmas said of Moore's departure. "Whether the coaches and the GMs and people like me, then hopefully they can do something for me. But, again, I'm not only just playing for the Celtics, I'm on an interview for 29 other teams, so hopefully if I can't get with the Celtics, I can get with somebody else."
Boston still seems to be Christmas' preferred choice. After a productive stint in the Orlando summer league that saw him average 12.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4 assists per game, Christmas stuck with the Celtics in Vegas, and C's president of basketball operations Danny Ainge confirmed Thursday that Christmas is in the discussion for a training camp spot.
"We've been talking to Dionte. We'll continue," Ainge said. "We'd like to see him there [in training camp]."
"It'd be a great opportunity," Christmas said of playing in Boston. "You have guys like Paul Pierce and [Rajon] Rondo and Kevin Garnett, great vets. They know the game, and I could learn a lot from guys like Paul Pierce and Jason Terry, and coach Doc Rivers, great coach. So that would definitely be an honor for me to play with those guys."
Consistency has been a word thrown around at summer league more than any basketball has been thrown at the hoop. The Celtics have been no strangers to the term, as all week the likes of rookies Fab Melo and Jared Sullinger have been seeking it. The same was true for second-year forward JaJuan Johnson up until Thursday, when he was included as part of the trade package for Lee. But Christmas has been a player who's personified the word all week, as he's thrived as a steady scorer and playmaker for the C's.
Through three games in Vegas, Christmas has averaged 16 points on 50 percent shooting, including a 41.7 percent mark from 3-point land. His 19 points in the Celtics' 91-82 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Thursday were a high for him in Vegas, as summer league coach Tyronn Lue relied on him to help fill the void left by the absences of Moore and Johnson. The solid outing only reaffirmed Christmas' status as one of the few constants for Boston all week.
E'Twaun Moore, JaJuan Johnson and Sean Williams were all held out of the Celtics' 91-82 loss to the Sacramento Kings, due to their apparent inclusion in a trade for free-agent guard Courtney Lee. Meanwhile, rookie Kris Joseph found himself limited by his left knee, which he hyperextended during the first half of Boston's 79-74 win over the Bulls on Tuesday. He was joined on the injury shelf shortly after by fellow rookie Fab Melo, who bruised his left hand early in the third quarter of Thursday's loss and didn't return.
Rivers, who's no stranger to having to alter his lineups due to injuries and other personnel moves, can certainly relate. Just last season the Celtics were forced to carry on without Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox (both battled heart ailments that required surgery), while Paul Pierce was limited by a sprained left MCL and shoulder surgery kept second-year shooting guard Avery Bradley out of the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat.
"Now I see how it feels," Lue said when the comparison to Rivers was mentioned after the game. "It's a tough call, but I thought guys competed. I thought we played hard, but I didn't think today we shared the ball. I don't think we moved the ball, made the extra pass, hit guys when they were open. I thought we had a little head-dropping when things weren't going our way, which we haven't been accustomed to. But it's part of a learning experience, part of the guys growing up."
When asked about Lue's coaching performance prior to Thursday's tilt, Rivers joked that he should retire with just one loss between two summer leagues (the C's went 4-1 in Orlando last week) under his belt. Instead, things grew noticeably more difficult for the remaining members of Boston's Las Vegas roster. The C's are taking Friday off before wrapping up their slate in Vegas with a back-to-back Saturday and Sunday.
At the start of the week, Lue had plans to practice Friday, but Thursday left him with just seven healthy bodies, prompting the cancellation.
"Who are we going to practice with?" Lue quipped after Thursday's loss. "Fab's out, [Johnson], E'Twaun, everybody's gone. We've got seven players. What do you want us to do? Want me to suit up? Damon Jones? You want us to suit up, do something?"
Moore left the floor first, and stepped inside the tunnel leading to the team's locker room with Celtics head coach Doc Rivers for a private word. A few minutes later, Williams did the same, as Moore put on his backpack and climbed the stairs of the Thomas and Mack Center, eventually leaving the arena. Williams exited himself just a few minutes later.
Johnson was never seen in the arena Thursday, but in a matter of minutes, a Celtics squad with a 6-1 record with all of the chemistry and confidence in the world was torn apart, leaving summer league coach Tyronn Lue and the rest of his team to rally against the Kings. The Celtics eventually lost 91-82 -- the first blemish on their Vegas schedule.
"Right when we got here, [Celtics president of basketball operations] Danny [Ainge] came and said certain guys couldn't play," Lue said afterward. "It's part of the business. It happens all the time."
The absences of Moore and Johnson were noticeable from the start. Moore has been perhaps the team's most poised player, running the team at the point guard spot with a sense of calm and certainty, while also contributing in the scoring column whenever he's been needed. Johnson, meanwhile, had a productive 7-point, 12-rebound outing in Tuesday's victory over the Chicago Bulls, and was looking to build off of that performance. The Celtics mustered just 16 first-quarter points on 6-of-17 shooting (35.3 percent) on Thursday, marking the first time they've failed to eclipse the 20-point mark in the opening frame since arriving in Vegas.
"It's just crazy because there was no notification," rookie forward Kris Joseph said afterward. "You kind of realized what happened as the game went on. Guys weren't around, and that's just the business side of this sport right here. We had to go ahead and do what we had to do without them. Those guys were key parts of this summer league team, and we're just going to have to adjust. Now that we've played a game without them and we did what we did tonight, we'll be able to adjust these next two games."
Melo downplayed the injury after the game and is currently listed as day-to-day. The Celtics will take Friday off and resume play Saturday night against the Milwaukee Bucks.
"[The hand is] OK," Melo said afterward. "I banged it and I'm just going to get an X-ray."
With 8:46 remaining in the third period, Melo moved into the paint to help defend Sacramento's Thomas Robinson but banged his left hand on the elbow of the Kings' Jimmer Fredette. Melo was visibly wincing in pain, exited the game shortly after and did not return.
Celtics summer league coach Tyronn Lue said he doesn't know if Melo will play the rest of the weekend. Boston, currently 2-1 in the Las Vegas summer league, wraps up its schedule Sunday afternoon against the Los Angeles Clippers.
LAS VEGAS -- Rapid Reaction following the Boston Celtics' first loss in the Vegas summer league, 91-82 to the Sacramento Kings on Thursday:
HOW THE GAME WAS WON: Jimmer Fredette paced a balanced Sacramento offensive attack that saw five players score in double figures. Fredette scored 19 points on 4-of-7 shooting, while making nine of his 10 free throws. Thomas Robinson came through with a formidable 15-point, 16-rebound double-double for the Kings while Dominique Johnson and Yancy Gates also put up double digits in the scoring column. The Celtics were paced by Dionte Christmas' 19 points, while Jonathan Gibson and Craig Brackins put in 12 apiece off the bench.
CELTICS SHORT-HANDED: The Celtics were without three members of their roster Thursday, as E'Twaun Moore, JaJuan Johnson and Sean Williams all didn't play after reportedly being traded to the Houston Rockets in a deal for Courtney Lee. The absences were noticeable, particularly those of Moore and Johnson -- two mainstays in the rotation. The Celtics, so far a juggernaut on offense this week, struggled to score for much of the evening, with Christmas coming through as the only consistent source of offense. Christmas started alongside Jamar Smith, Kris Joseph, Fab Melo and Jared Sullinger.
CHRISTMAS KEEPS C'S IN IT: Though the score was fairly lopsided when all was said and done, Christmas proved to be one of the few players capable of keeping the Celtics in the game. He scored nine of Boston's 16 third-quarter points, keeping the deficit at single digits for much of the frame. Christmas' need to step up even more than he already has this summer was evident when it became clear Moore and Johnson wouldn't participate.
C'S RALLY LATE: Down double digits for the majority of the fourth quarter, the C's cut it to 9 with just over a minute and a half to play, thanks to a Craig Brackins 3-pointer followed by a Stephane Lasme breakaway dunk. Jamar Smith put in a late 3-pointer from the left corner, but a fast-break dunk from Robinson capped things for Sacramento.
SULLINGER, MELO STRUGGLE: Sullinger and Melo were largely nonfactors Thursday, with Melo contributing no points and three rebounds in just over 13 minutes, while Sullinger grabbed 10 rebounds but mustered only six points, going 2-for-7 from the field. Both seemed to have their hands full with Robinson, who swooped in for rebound after rebound and proved to be a solid force on the defensive end, bothering many of Sullinger's shots around the rim.
BRACKINS MAKES MOST OF MINUTES: Brackins, who played sparingly in the Celtics' first two games in Vegas, played a week-high 21 minutes Thursday, and came through with 12 points and three rebounds. He showcased his soft stroke from the field, but also drove into the lane numerous times, even throwing down a powerful dunk on the right side during the third quarter.
Of course, coming through with great box scores never hurts one's cause for a job in the NBA, and that's what Moore did Tuesday night, pouring in a Summer League-high 25 points on 10-of-19 shooting to go along with seven rebounds and two assists as the Celtics escaped a Chicago Bulls comeback and emerged with a 79-74 victory to move to 2-0 in Vegas action.
But these weren't 25 selfish points from Moore. While the Summer League is known for players who chuck the ball at the basket in the hopes of getting noticed, Moore played a patient, calculated game on Tuesday, taking his shots when they became available and never sacrificing the team offense for his own shot selection.
"He's always been a scorer, but he's trying to convert into a point guard, trying to run a team," Celtics Summer League coach Tyronn Lue said. "But we just want him to be aggressive, looking for his shot, and attack and look to score. He had a great night, carried us."
Moore came out on fire as he buried back-to-back left baseline turnaround jump shots as part of a 5-for-6 shooting effort in the first quarter that saw him finish with 11 points.
"I just hit a few early, so I said, 'Why not keep going, keep shooting?' It felt good, so why not be aggressive?" Moore said. "Any time you hit your first couple, it gives you confidence going into the rest of the game, so I just kept looking for it."
Smith averaged 9.2 points over five games in Orlando, shooting 45 percent from 3-point land, and through two games in Vegas, he's showing no signs of taking his finger off the trigger. Smith is averaging 10.5 points and continues to shoot well from deep, as he's connected on 50 percent of his 3-point attempts.
"I've got good scorers on my team," Smith said. "Pretty much everybody on our roster can score, so whenever we're all in the game, everybody's looking for shots and we've got people who can create too, so my teammates give me good looks. I've just got the job of trying to knock them down."
While the training camp invite gives Smith a bit more security moving forward, he acknowledged that now isn't the time to ease back on the aggressiveness. He's taking shots when they're available, but more importantly, he's doing his best to make sure they're the best shots possible.
"You have to be conscious that the shots that you're taking are good shots," Smith said. "Anybody can shoot. You can shoot from halfcourt. But the thing on our team that I like, I feel like everybody takes bad shots sometimes. We take a couple a game, but for the most part, we all get good shots."
The Celtics and Bulls traded baskets for the majority of the first quarter, but Smith helped the Celtics pull away in the final minute. With just more than 30 seconds remaining in the opening frame he buried his first 3-pointer from the right wing, and followed it up with a tough fadeaway jumper at the buzzer, giving the Celtics a 23-18 advantage heading into the second quarter. Smith buried two more threes in the second frame, with the second coming in the final minute, upping Boston's lead to 51-32.
"He can shoot the ball. I get mad when he turns down shots," C's Summer League coach Tyronn Lue said. "If you turn down another shot, you're done for the rest of the summer league. But every time he shoots, I think it's good. He's got a nice stroke, a great stroke. He's been playing very well for us. Even in games that were close, he's made big shots. He's made big shots to give us a bit of momentum when teams are making runs."
Team officials offered no update on his status after the game, leaving him questionable for Thursday's tilt with the Sacramento Kings (6:30 p.m. ET). Joseph and the rest of the Celtics will have the day off on Wednesday.
HOW THE GAME WAS WON
E'Twaun Moore poured in a team-high 25 points on 10-of-19 shooting to lead the Celtics. Dionte Christmas chipped in 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting, while Jamar Smith knocked down three of his six 3-point attempts en route to 11 points. Jared Sullinger cleaned up the glass, grabbing a game-high 14 rebounds, while JaJuan Johnson took down 12 boards while chipping in 7 points.
CELTICS HANG ON
The Celtics closed the first half on a 21-2 run to take a 53-32 advantage into the break and managed to keep a steady lead heading into the final quarter (70-53). From there, though, they went ice cold, as they hit just two of their first 15 fourth-quarter shots. The Bulls clawed within 74-69, but Moore scored four points late to help Boston survive.
MOORE HOT FROM THE START
Moore wasted no time firing away on Tuesday night, knocking in five of his six shots in the opening quarter, totaling 11 points. He kept his hot shooting hand going for the remainder of the game, serving as a consistent source of offense for the full 40 minutes. As the Celtics fought some cold shooting in the fourth, Moore managed a floater in the lane with 1:27 remaining, giving Boston a 76-69 lead.
SULLINGER A BEAST ON THE BOARDS
Sullinger might not have come through in the scoring column as noticeably as in past games (7 points), but he cleaned up the glass with authority, totaling a game-high 14 rebounds, with five of those coming on the offensive end. During one memorable sequence late in the third quarter, Sullinger battled what looked like half the Bulls squad, including 6-foot-10 Henry Sims, for an offensive rebound. He ultimately secured it, missed the putback, fought for another rebound, and got his shot blocked, but it was a relentless effort that showcased another aspect of his promising game.
IMPROVEMENT FOR JOHNSON
After coming through with a largely quiet effort on Monday, Johnson proved more assertive in virtually all areas on Tuesday. Johnson posted 7 points and 12 rebounds, with his overall activity level the most noticeable difference. Multiple times Johnson came off of screens for free throw-line jumpers, and during the first quarter he faced up his man on the right baseline before lofting a soft jump shot over him.
CHRISTMAS, SMITH WITH HOT HANDS
Christmas and Smith -- two guards who might boast the best chance of earning an invite to training camp in the fall -- combined for 29 points on 10-of-20 shooting. Both showed a willingness to shoot, and, more importantly, an ability to hit shots on a consistent basis. Christmas in particular continues to be one of the most active members of the squad. While not afraid to launch shots of his own, Christmas has shown a real ability to get where he wants on the floor, which opens up his chances of creating for his teammates.
Still, after putting in a very active effort that saw him register seven points and five rebounds off the bench, Melo can comfortably say he took a step in the right direction on Monday.
"Fab was great [in the] first half," Summer League coach Tyronn Lue said. "Defensively, being in the right spot. In timeouts he was attentive, he ran our stuff right. He ran our plays. He was great, Fab was great in the first half. Awesome."
Shortly after checking in, Melo put his stamp on the game with a slick touch pass in the lane to Sean Williams, who slammed it home. But the play after that was arguably the most encouraging. Melo retreated on defense and positioned himself nicely to draw a charge on Atlanta's Mike Scott.
"I love it, just to get a stop, it's our ball, and they get a foul," Melo said of his desire to take charges. "So it's a great stop. That's the thing I'll be looking forward to doing this season."
Less than a minute later, Melo contested a perimeter jump shot, took a gamble by hustling up the other end of the floor assuming a rebound would be secured, and it paid off as he was rewarded with a loud two-handed slam.
Melo finished off his productive first half by tipping in a JaJuan Johnson miss and, somewhat surprisingly, rifling in a tough turnaround jump shot on the right baseline with less than four seconds left, garnering a "wow" reaction from the crowd.
"I thought today was the best first half he's played the whole summer league," Lue said. "He's getting better and better, calling out the coverages. I thought he was great on help, when guys got beat off penetration, took a charge. I just thought he was in the right spot a lot in the first half."
7 - Jared Sullinger - F - 6-9 - 260 - Ohio State
12 - JaJuan Johnson - F - 6-10 - 221 - Purdue
13 - Fab Melo - C - 7-0 - 255 - Syracuse
40 - Jonathan Gibson - G - 6-1 - 171 - New Mexico State
41 - Jamar Smith - G - 6-3 - 185 - Southern Indiana
43 - Kris Joseph - F - 6-7 - 215 - Syracuse
50 - Dionte Christmas* - G - 6-5 - 205 - Temple
52 - Stephane Lasme - F - 6-8 - 215 - Massachusetts
55 - E'Twaun Moore - G - 6-4 - 191 - Purdue
56 - Sean Williams - F - 6-10 - 235 - Boston College
63 - Craig Brackins - F - 6-10 - 230 - Iowa State
* Will play in Orlando league only
Johnson, Moore, and Williams were on the roster last season, while Sullinger, Melo, and Joseph are Boston's rookies. Lasme nearly made the roster a couple seasons back and has spent time with the Maine Red Claws, as have Craig Brackins and Jamar Smith. Remember that some of these players, in addition to auditioning for NBA jobs, might be of interest to the Celtics as they take over control of the D-League Claws this season.
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