Boston Celtics: New York Knicks
Less than three weeks after Rondo's former high school coach said that Carmelo Anthony was recruiting Rondo to join him in New York, league sources told ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst that the Knicks have concocted a potential plan to pry Rondo from Boston before he reaches free agency:
Even as there has been growing speculation with Anthony's future, the Knicks seem to be quite sure he's going nowhere. And they've already got his help lined up. According to league sources, the Knicks' first prong is to try to attract the Celtics' Rajon Rondo. This idea has been tossed around in various forms for a while now, it's not shocking. But the way the Knicks are hoping to get Rondo is a little unusual.
It's not in free agency in 2015 but later this season or next summer when he comes back from a torn ACL. The Knicks are hoping Rondo will be interested in making a maneuver similar to what Anthony did back in 2011 and eventually try to force a trade to the Knicks, sources said. The Celtics have consistently denied they want to trade Rondo. But once this trade deadline passes, and it isn't clear if he will even play before February, Rondo will have only one guaranteed season left on his contract. Like with Anthony when he applied pressure to the Denver Nuggets by threatening to leave in free agency, the Knicks wonder if Rondo will be able to have a say in where he might be traded if the Celtics end up fearful he'll leave in free agency.
That may seem contrived, yes, but this isn't a made-up scenario. It is a genuine option. You have to give the Knicks this: It has worked before. If that fails -- and who knows how Rondo will mesh with this Celtics team, it could work well and he could want to stay -- the Knicks fully believe they will get one or two of the following in free agency in 2015 when they expect to have large salary-cap space: Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Roy Hibbert, Marc Gasol, Tony Parker or Rondo when his contract is up. Under certain circumstances, [LeBron] James himself could be a free agent again that summer.
The first inclination is to point and laugh, but let's play along. A handful of thoughts and reminders here:
- RONDO TRADE IS UNLIKELY THIS SEASON: Danny Ainge has screamed it from a mountaintop every chance he's gotten (and few have listened), but the Celtics want to see how this team fares with Rondo as its centerpiece and believe he can be the guy they build around moving forward. With Rondo suggesting this past weekend that he's not likely to be back on the floor until late January or early February, it's hard to imagine the team seeing enough in less than a month's span to (1) Decide the team's future based on that glimpse and (2) Entertain trade offers from teams, especially when Rondo is still reestablishing his value coming off ACL surgery. The Celtics are more likely to use the final three months of the season to determine whichs parts work best with Rondo and shape the roster around him moving forward.
- THINGS ARE A LITTLE MURKIER AFTER THIS YEAR: Next season, Rondo will enter the final year of his contract, one that will pay him a reasonable $12.9 million. Let's say that, for whatever reason, the Celtics determine Rondo is not the centerpiece of their future or they simply don't want to pay him upwards of max money on his next deal, there is the potential that they would look to move him sometime between July and February. His reasonable contract value makes it likely that another team would have to offer a combination of established talent and future assets (and, more likely, eat some of Boston's cap clog in the process). Which brings us to the Knicks...
- WHAT CAN THE KNICKS OFFER?: The Knicks don't have a first-round pick to offer until 2018 having already dealt away its 2014 and 2016 picks (the Stepien Rule is protecting the Knicks from further mortgaging their future by not allowing them to trade away first-round picks in consecutive drafts, though they could offer a swap of places with their few remaining picks). There's reasonably priced young talent (Iman Shumpert, Tim Hardaway Jr.), but not seemingly enough to land a talent like Rondo (you don't trade an All-Star without getting one in return). The bottom line: Even if the Celtics decided to move Rondo, there's almost certainly teams out there that could offer much more intriguing packages than what New York could concoct. The Knicks have mortgaged their own future in previous attempts to put together winning teams and it's biting them now.
When Doc Rivers was here he used to joke about wanting LeBron James to come play in Boston. That doesn't mean it was going to happen. The Knicks can cross their fingers and hope Rondo finds his way to New York, but maybe they ought to just focus on making better personnel decisions regarding what they can control.
Bonus link: Over at ESPN Insider, Tom Haberstroh says the Knicks are dreaming.
To that point, the five possessions that Melo finished with Green guarding him in the fourth quarter played out like this: turnover, missed 12-foot jumper, missed 3-pointer, missed 10-foot jumper, blocked layup attempt.
No need to grab your calculators. That's zero points allowed on five defended possessions over the final 8 minutes, 19 seconds as the Celtics rallied from an 11-point deficit for their second victory over New York in six days. In the fourth quarter, Anthony finished 1-of-8 shooting for three points and was minus-11 in plus/minus for the frame.
This win didn't come nearly as easily as Boston's 41-point shellacking of the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. But the Celtics can thank Green for helping them rally after kicking away a 17-point first-half lead.
Green actually labored through the first three quarters. Not only did he have just four points on 1-o-f 3 shooting, but he was minus-19 in 19:38 of floor time. He played nine inspired minutes to close out the game and produced a clutch driving layup with 9 seconds to play to put the game out of reach.
After talking with Sullinger, reporters shuffled over to chat with Green, and this time the first question was phrased so as to highlight his defensive contributions.
"That was the only way I could be in the game at that point. Offensively, I played like poop," admitted Green, his family-friendly choice of words leaving Sullinger cackling in delight nearby. "I had to find a way to allow Coach [Brad Stevens] to put me on the floor, and, defensively in the second half, that was the only way I could be on the floor, so I had to step it up on that end."
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Asked to explain the decision to stick with Faverani, Stevens quipped, "Very little brain power put to it. All vision of, ‘Hey, that guy’s really in a nice groove.’ [Brandon] Bass is our best bet on [Andrea] Bargnani if Jeff [Green is] going to guard Carmelo [Anthony]. And we’ve got a nice rhythm going. Vitor made a huge 3, made a huge catch-and-finish with a minute to go, but more than anything I felt like we had rim protection at a pretty good level down in the paint with him in the game and we were also rebounding. So, all gut, no math or science behind that one. That was just one of those lucky things that happened the right way."
With Boston down seven with less than nine minutes to play, Faverani drilled a 3-pointer to help aid the rally. Later, with Boston clinging to a two-point lead, Faverani worked a little pick-and-roll with Jordan Crawford that led to an easy layup and a two-possession lead with 1:07 to go.
Heck, Faverani even got switched onto Anthony at times during the fourth quarter and made it tough on New York's superstar with his length.
Stevens lamented not giving the first-year center more time during Wednesday's loss to the visiting Los Angeles Clippers. This time around he stuck with Faverani and was rewarded. And Sullinger was perfectly fine with playing the role of spectator down the stretch.
"I’m happy for Vitor," said Sullinger. "He’s been a pro's pro, never complained. ... He played great [and] helped us win."
- LEE'S CONTRIBUTIONS: It'll blend into the scenery a bit, but Courtney Lee scored 14 of his 18 points in the first half Friday, helping Boston build as much as a 17-point first-half lead. He finished 6-of-8 shooting overall and made all three of his 3-point attempts over 19:05. Lee has noted he has put in a lot of work on his shot this season, and the results are obvious. "I’ve been satisfied with my shot," said Lee. "I knew it was going to get better, but I feel a lot better with the release and shooting and whatnot. And like I said, repetition, every day after practice."
- OLYNYK'S RETURN: Rookie Kelly Olynyk returned from a 10-game absence to chip in four points, four rebounds and a block over 14:20 (he did a have a team-high three turnovers). Asked how the ankle responded to the activity, Olynyk said, "Pretty good. A little sore, obviously, but I was happy with it." Olynyk's night was highlighted by a third-quarter chasedown block. After committing a turnover in the offensive end, Olynyk hustled as Iman Shumpert streaked the other way and the Celtics big man produced an emphatic swat that left Olynyk tumbling to the ground on the baseline. Said Olynyk, "I don’t remember [the block]. I made a bad post-pass to Brandon Bass, turned it over, so I had to do something."
- C'S NEEDED THIS: Stevens took great pride in how his team gutted out this victory (especially after breezing to a 41-point win over the Knicks five days earlier). Said Stevens: “I wouldn’t want to go through it again, but that’s exactly what our team needed. We needed to have a lead, lose it, be backed up against the wall, and figure out a way to win. Because we talked about how in some of these games, like Wednesday night, the air kind of went out of the tires in the third quarter and we kind of -- we didn’t feel like we just stayed connected throughout the whole last 24 minutes, which is easy to do. Ninety-nine percent of the teams in the world will do that in those circumstances, in circumstances like tonight. But what you want to do is tighten, tighten it even more, stay together, become even more accountable, more resilient, and even tougher together, and that was what happened tonight. We had 10 guys play well at different points in time throughout the game, but it was very unpredictable."
- PRAISE FOR BENCH: Boston's bench combined for a measly four points in Wednesday's loss to the Clippers, but rebounded to register 38 points on 14-of-23 shooting overall (60.9 percent). Said Stevens, "Good to have those guys come in off the bench and play well. I thought Gerald [Wallace] was really good tonight. Courtney was obviously good. Phil [Pressey] was good and Vitor, obviously, in the second stint was very, very good and I thought Kelly ran out of gas in the fourth quarter, but looked pretty good in the first half."
BOSTON -- Rapid reaction after the Boston Celtics defeated the New York Knicks 90-86 on Friday night at TD Garden:
THE NITTY GRITTY
Each team owned a double-digit lead at one point, but the Celtics rallied from 11 down in the fourth quarter and Avery Bradley's go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:38 to play helped Boston emerge. Jared Sullinger scored a team-high 19 points (though the team rode rookie Vitor Faverani as its center down the stretch). Courtney Lee scored 18 points off the Boston bench, while Bradley finished with 13 points and five rebounds and cranked up the defensive intensity in the final frame. Carmelo Anthony scored a game-high 26 points, while Andrea Bargnani added 22 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists to pace the Knicks.
TURNING POINT I: C'S FIRST-HALF RUN
The Celtics tried to turn this into another laugher with a bench-propelled 14-0 burst early in the second quarter. What had been a one-possession game saw Boston live at the free throw line while opening a game-high 17-point lead. Sullinger -- running with four reserves -- scored half of Boston's points on the surge. New York went more than five minutes overall without a field goal, missing nine straight shots during the drought.
TURNING POINT II: KNICKS RALLY AHEAD
The Celtics were still up 13 with 2:18 to play in the first half, but New York trimmed that lead to six before the intermission. Less than five minutes into the second half, the game was tied and the Knicks soon surged ahead by as many as seven after a couple Bargnani jumpers put the visitors out front 69-62. New York would lead by as many as 11 points, but ...
TURNING POINT III: BRADLEY PUTS BOSTON AHEAD
Bradley's 3-pointer from the right wing gave Boston its first lead of the fourth quarter with 2:38 to play. Vitor Faverani added a layup off a feed from Jordan Crawford and the Celtics' defense made it stand up.
After missing 10 games with a sprained right ankle, Celtics rookie Kelly Olynyk returned to game action on Friday night. The rookie big man made his only shot while chipping in four points, four rebounds and a block over 14:19.
Lee gave Boston a first-half spark, scoring 14 over the first two quarters (making all four shots he took, including three triples in that span). He finished with 18 points in 19 minutes of action. ... Phil Pressey gave Boston some second-half energy reflected in his team-best plus-16 in plus/minus overall. ... Kris Humphries missed his second straight game with a sore right knee. ... Keith Bogans and MarShon Brooks were healthy DNPs. ... Kenyon Martin suffered an abdominal muscle strain in the fourth quarter and did not return.
WHAT IT MEANS
The Celtics snap a two-game losing streak while moving to 11-14 on the season. Boston gets the weekend off from game action with this five-game homestand continuing next week with visits from Minnesota (Monday), Detroit (Wednesday) and Washington (Saturday).
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said there were no limitations on Olynyk, but said he'll monitor his conditioning as the game goes on.
"[Conditioning] might be a factor. And you just gauge that," said Stevens. "Again, that’ll be something where you just kinda gauge it as he goes along. Adrenaline plays a huge role, too. A lot of times the first game back, guys play really really well. You never can tell with those things."
Fellow backup big man Kris Humphries will miss his second straight game with a bruised right knee. Stevens said Humphries had been playing through pain, but the team drained the ailing knee during Thursday's off day, which should have him available again for Monday's visit from the Minnesota Timberwolves.
"I’ve been told that Humphries should be back on Monday," said Stevens. "He had a knee bruise that they actually drained [Thursday]. He played through it for a couple of games and it just got worse and worse. I thought it was smart for him to talk about it, rather than keep gutting it out because he needed to have something done."
Stevens is hoping that by getting Olynyk back, and possibly more floor time for Vitor Faverani, the Celtics can add some needed size to a second unit that generated a mere four points in Wednesday's loss to the Clippers.
"I probably have brought [the reserves] out a little too soon [on Wednesday]," said Stevens. "I thought I played Jeff too long of a stretch in the second half. I didn’t like the small lineup as much as I thought I would the other night. We didn’t really have much choice the other night because of our lack of bodies. I think, obviously, we’ll go back to being more traditional off the bench. Hopefully we can play those guys for longer stretches and I think that will help them produce a little bit better."
A couple more pregame notes:
- SHUMPERT STARTS FOR KNICKS: Iman Shumpert, who missed the Knicks' last game with a bruised left knee, is back in the starting lineup against Boston. New York is without Raymond Felton (hamstring) for the next three weeks and Pablo Prigioni starts in his place on Friday. Kenyon Martin, who missed Sunday's game, is also in New York's starting lineup, allowing Carmelo Anthony to shuffle back to small forward.
- STEVENS NOT EXPECTING REPEAT: Stevens downplayed the lopsided nature of Boston's 41-point victory in New York on Sunday and he kept on preaching that before Friday's rematch. "Each game is its own entity, each game is its own separate thing. The Knicks are extremely talented, as we all know. I’ve always thought Mike [Woodson] was a really good coach and you’ve got a guy like Carmelo, who on most nights will be the best individual player in the gym. So you really got a lot of things that don’t add up to what happened on Sunday. That’s part of sports. That’s why we have to attack and play as well as we can and understand that last Sunday has nothing to do with tonight. And our guys understand that."
- DON'T GET OVERCONFIDENT: The Celtics posted a 41-point thrashing over the Knicks on Sunday, handing New York its third worst beating ever at Madison Square Garden. Boston isn't consistent enough to expect a similar result without giving maximum effort. A little two-game slide should be enough for the Celtics to enter focused on the task at hand (and trying to replicate the positives from Sunday's romp). One thing is certain: Brad Stevens will be reminding his team that Sunday's result has no impact on how Friday's game will play out.
- SOMETHING IN RESERVE: The Celtics got a measly four points from their bench during Wednesday's loss to the Clippers. Even missing a couple bigs (Kelly Olynyk and Kris Humphries), the Celtics need more from that second unit. It's putting a lot of stress on a first-unit offense to shoulder that scoring load. The Celtics were hoping to get Olynyk back after a 10-game absence from a sprained right ankle and -- if he can shed some rust -- he could provide a boost off the pine.
- DEFENDING THE 3-POINT LINE: The Celtics have slipped back to No. 3 in 3-point defense and triples hurt the team Wednesday when a pair of late-game bombs helped the Clippers hold on down the stretch. The Knicks rank 18th in the league in 3-point field goals (34.7 percent), but their percentage spikes considerably in wins (ranking sixth best in the league at 42.5 percent in victories).
- WHAT ELSE?: Celtics will catch a break with Raymon Felton (left hamstring) sidelined for the next few weeks. ... Backcourt mate Iman Shumpert (bruised left knee) is day-to-day as well after getting dinged up on Wednesday.
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"No," Crawford said. "If it was my choice, I would have played last year."
Maybe no player has been more of a revelation this season than Crawford, who has gotten an opportunity to play first-unit point guard as Rajon Rondo rehabs from ACL surgery and has used it to cement himself as one of Boston's key contributors this season. During last year's first-round playoff series against the Knicks, Crawford played sparingly and only drew headlines for barking at Carmelo Anthony after Boston's Game 5 win.
Back at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, Crawford scored a team-best 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting and made six 3-pointers as part of Boston's 114-73 dismantling of the Knicks. Crawford added seven assists, three rebounds and didn't turn the ball over in 31 minutes of floor time. He was plus-38 in plus/minus for the game.
Over Boston's last eight contests -- a span in which the Celtics have posted a 6-2 mark -- Crawford is averaging 17.1 points, 7.1 assists and 3.9 rebounds over 33.6 minutes per game. What's more, Crawford is producing that output on only 12.3 shots per game, shedding his reputation as a volume scorer with bad shot selection.
"He’s playing well," coach Brad Stevens said. "I’ve seen Jordan and all the scoring doesn’t surprise me -- he’s always been really good at it, he’s always been a tough-shot maker. I think the best part about it is he’s picking his spots extremely well and he’s defending extremely well. This is not about guys, what they could do yesterday or what they’ve done in the past. It’s about what you can do to better improve yourself and he’s done a really good job of just getting better and really embracing that."
The lingering question with Crawford is how Stevens will find minutes for him when Rondo is healthy enough to return to the lineup. Ideally for Boston, Crawford can settle in as a second-unit combo guard, maybe chipping away at the minutes being played by undrafted rookie point guard Phil Pressey as he develops at the NBA level. Can Crawford maintain his production playing less consistent minutes with the second unit? That remains to be seen.
With Rondo not expected back until January, it's not something Stevens has to worry about right now. Unlike last season, Crawford is going to get plenty of opportunity to thrive on the floor and he's taking full advantage at the moment.
[Note: For more on Crawford's emergence this season, hop HERE]
Some other leftovers from Sunday's game:
- BRADLEY'S DOUBLE-DOUBLE: Avery Bradley recorded the first double-double of his four-year career during Sunday's win while putting up 13 points and 10 rebounds over 28:24. Bradley admitted he's been trying to improve his work on the glass in order to help Boston's bigs. "It’s been a focus for me because I know my team needs me to do it, especially not having Rondo," Bradley said. "We’re not the tallest team, so they need the guards to help. That’s what I’ve been trying to do every game. I just need to be more consistent with it." Bradley's defensive rebound rate through Boston's first 17 games was a mere 10.4 percent (one of the lowest on the team among regulars). But over the last five games, it's bounced up to 12.4 percent (for comparison, Rondo's career defensive rebound rate is 12 percent).
- C'S NOT CONTENT: The Celtics are playing some really inspired ball the past two weeks and Sunday was maybe their most complete effort of the season. But they refuse to celebrate. "We’re not content with where we are at," said Jeff Green, who scored 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting and was plus-42 overall. "We have some things that we can get better at as far as communication, our defensive schemes, and offensively. ... There’s some things that we can get better at. We enjoy a win like this, yes, but we still have some room to improve and that’s what we need to do [Monday at practice]."
- LOOSE BALLS: Boston's bench will get overlooked amid the gaudy numbers put up by the starters, but Courtney Lee had a very steady afternoon. He scored 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting over 19:36 and played excellent defense at the other end. ... Gerald Wallace didn't put up a shot over 21:22. This is the third game this season that he hasn't attempt a single field goal in at least 21 minutes of play. Wallace chipped in three rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block on Sunday. ... Pressey missed three shots in Sunday's game. He hasn't made a field goal since Nov. 25, a span of six games and 63 minutes of floor time. He's still a steadying presence at backup point guard despite the lack of offensive output.
NEW YORK -- Rapid Reaction after the Boston Celtics
THE NITTY GRITTY
Jordan Crawford scored a team-high 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting (connecting on six 3-pointers) while Jared Sullinger added 21 points on efficient 9-of-13 shooting and was a team-best plus-43 in plus/minus. Avery Bradley added his first career double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds), while Jeff Green and Brandon Bass kicked in 16 points apiece as the first-place Celtics cruised. Carmelo Anthony scored a team-high 19 points for the Knicks, but was a team-worst minus-40 in plus/minus. Just check out the final box score for the full carnage.
The Celtics scored the game's first 12 points and 18 of the first 19 before New York generated its first field goal (an Anthony dunk with 5:45 to play in the frame). Boston pushed its lead as high as 25 before the end of the quarter and led 34-11 after 12 minutes. Boston shot 54.5 percent in the frame, including 71.4 percent beyond the 3-point arc (5 of 7 overall). The Knicks didn't even score five first-quarter field goals, finishing 4-of-18 shooting (22.2 percent) with four turnovers. Things only got worse from there for the hosts.
Typically mild-mannered Bass got tagged with a rare technical foul late in the third quarter after barking at an official for no whistle as he muscled in a putback in traffic. The Boston bench couldn't help but chuckle. The Celtics were up 37 at that point.
Courtney Lee had an excellent game off the bench, scoring 10 points over 19:36. ... MarShon Brooks played the final six minutes, scoring six points. ... Keith Bogans was a healthy DNP. ... On the first possession after checking in for the first time, Amare Stoudemire got whistled for a technical for poking Brandon Bass in the face on a shot attempt.
WHAT IT MEANS
The Celtics (10-12) have won three straight and now own a two-game lead in the Atlantic Division (pending how the Raptors fare against a returning Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers). This one was never close. Boston now heads across the city to dance with old friend Kevin Garnett and the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday night.
"I do, I’ve always liked them," said Stevens. "We haven’t had one yet here with our team, but I personally like them because usually you’re done with your preparations by now, anyways, and you’re just waiting the day out getting ready to play. Then you’ve got a late turnaround to what’s next. So hopefully we can play well, and then move on to what’s next a little bit earlier in the day."
Stevens also happens to have fond memories of this arena. Oh sure, Butler lost to Georgetown in the Jimmy V Classic a couple years back, but Stevens noted that Butler winning the preseason NIT here in his final year as an assistant at Butler was an all-timer. "We beat Tennessee and Gonzaga and that was great, one of my fondest memories in coaching to be honest," he said.
A couple other notes before tip-off:
- KNICKS HAVE FOUND THEIR WAY: Stevens has often noted how he always prepares for a team's A-game and he's honest when he gushes about the Knicks' recent play despite a bumpy start. "It’s hard to adjust to playing without [Tyson] Chandler, initially, [but] they’ve done that now," said Stevens. "They are playing [Andrea] Bargnani at the 5 a lot and that’s a problem. It seems like they’ve found their way. And when they were losing, they weren’t losing by a lot. They were losing a lot of close games against good teams. To me, I understand the record and that’s how they are going to be evaluated because we’re in that business. To me, they’ve looked like a a good basketball team and now they look like a really good team."
- HARDAWAY JR. IN STARTING 5: With Kenyon Martin (sore left ankle) out, the Knicks are starting Tim Hardaway Jr. That means Carmelo Anthony will spend more time at the 4 (likely meaning more time matched up with Brandon Bass after the two often jousted in last year's playoffs). New York's other starters: Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert, and Bargnani.
- RIVALRY RENEWED: Disregard the records, particularly New York's early struggles. The Celtics and Knicks still have plenty of history and, after New York ousted Boston from the first-round of the playoffs last season, Avery Bradley said he wouldn't mind a little revenge. "The Knicks have always been a team that we got to battle with," said Bradley. "We definitely got a nasty taste in our mouth from the playoffs last year. We kinda feel like they kinda embarrassed us a little bit. I feel like [Sunday] is going to be a chance to get a little payback."
- SLOWING MELO: Naturally, Carmelo Anthony is a focal point entering the matchup. As Gerald Wallace noted, "He has the ultimate green light. He’s able to pull-up and he’s a very good shooter. He’s probably the best scorer in the league. And he has the ball in his hands probably 95 percent of the time and is always looking to pull the trigger, as we call it. He’s ready for his shot. so you’ve always got to be on guard with him. There’s no relaxing or taking a minute off when you’re guarding Carmelo." The more interesting aspect to watch might be how Boston's guards handle New York's ball-handlers. Bradley struggled with Raymond Felton last season and the Celtics have to prevent the dribble penetration that plagued them in last year's playoffs.
- OPPORTUNITY TO ATTACK: Tyson Chandler is out after breaking a bone in his right leg last month. Without one of the top defenders and rim protectors in the league, the Celtics know there's an opportunity to attack the basket. "I know they’re a lot different defensively, especially with Tyson out," said Wallace. "He’s been their anchor. He’s been their main guy. He kind of holds their defense together at the rim. I think with him out, one of the best shot-blockers in the league, then their defense is kind of suspect inside. That’s just me." Can Boston's undersized frontcourt take advantage of Chandler's absence?
- WHAT ELSE?: Wallace admitted noon start times can mess with NBA players. He suggested it's important to jump on an opponent in a matinee meeting. ... Bradley made special note of Timothy Hardaway Jr., who had one big preseason effort against the Celtics and has been one of the league's most efficient offensive players this season. He averages 1.143 points per possession, which ranks in the 97th percentile among all league players, according to Synergy Sports.
(Read full game preview)
The Celtics, though, have yet to show interest in the deal, instead preferring to unload forward Gerald Wallace in a trade, sources said.
The Knicks have inquired about Rondo in trade talks before, but both times the Celtics made it clear they were not interested in trading him.
Rondo currently remains sidelined while recovering from February ACL surgery.
Sources did say the Celtics would be willing to take on Stoudemire's contract if they could unload some of their longer deals, namely those of Wallace and Courtney Lee.
The Knicks may be reluctant to take Wallace back because they're hesitant to take on salary beyond the 2014-15 season.
The Knicks have three large contracts (Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Andrea Bargnani) coming off their books at the end the 2014-15 season and would like to be in position to acquire a top-flight free agent.
A trade including Wallace and Stoudemire would seem to benefit the Celtics financially. Boston is in rebuilding mode, and Stoudemire's contract expires a year before Wallace's.
(Read full post)
Fortunately for Sullinger, all the readily available numbers that he's posted on the court thus far have been supremely flattering. Through four preseason games, Sullinger is averaging team bests at 12.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. What's more, after finishing a plus-23 during Saturday's 111-81 thrashing of the New York Knicks at the Verizon Wireless Arena, Sullinger is now a glossy plus-31 through four games (not bad for a team that's 1-3).
Like the scale, Sullinger doesn't judge his preseason by the stats. He lets his body dictate his progress. Before the start of training camp, Sullinger admitted he was uncertain how fast he could get back to game shape, but suggested he was a long ways off. His on-court play has suggested someone that's very much ahead of schedule, even if Sullinger refuses to admit it.
"I have to do a couple more things," he said. "As of right now, [he's] on schedule."
Stevens knows these games -- especially a back-to-back like consecutive tilts with the 76ers and Knicks that Boston just endured -- is particularly helpful for Sullinger.
"Right now, I think we could use a day of practice more than an exhibition game. But I think, for [Sullinger], these are good," said Stevens. "These are really good. He played a large chunk [Friday night] in the third and fourth quarters without any rest -- to the point where I took him out and would’ve put him back in had the game been close at the end, because he was really playing well, and we were playing well."
Sullinger said what we're seeing on the floor is the result of hard work away from game action.
"I just think that’s the extra time that me and [head strength and conditioning coach] Bryan Doo and [assistant strength coach] Armand [Lavallee] have put in off the court between just getting extra conditioning in when we don’t have a hard practice," said Sullinger. "I’m just trying to get myself to drop a few pounds and be in the best possible shape and be in the best condition to help."
Read on for more notes, including Jeff Green making an impact as his shots won't fall, embracing the future, and no victory lap for Stevens:
THE NITTY GRITTY
Coming off an abysmal effort during Friday's loss to the Philadelphia 76ers in Delaware, Brad Stevens said Saturday's game would be a telltale sign of how his team responds to adversity. Boston opened the game on a 10-0 burst and never looked back while delivering its most sustained effort of the preseason (and emerging with its first win in four tries). Even before the game, Stevens noted, "I told the team today, I don’t want to use the back-to-back thing as an excuse. I know it’s something that everybody is going to talk about, but everybody’s got them. Everybody’s gotta do it. Nobody should be more excited about playing a game today than us." Jordan Crawford put up 13 points, a team-high seven rebounds, and three assists over 25:44, while rookie Kelly Olynyk added a team-high 15 points, six rebounds, three assists, and two steals over 25:01.
Everything. OK, we're sure Stevens will find something to quibble with (particularly since the win came with the Knicks sitting out some key starters). But the Celtics started fast (making 7 of their first 10 shots, including four 3-pointers while jumping out to an 18-4 lead after six minutes) and the reserves never relented, pushing the lead as high as 37 as Boston led the entire way... Boston shot 54.2 percent (39 of 72) from the floor and that helped them dominate the rebounding category (45-34 overall). Like Crawford, Brandon Bass grabbed a team-high seven rebounds over 18 minutes... The Celtics put seven players in double figures including Avery Bradley (13), MarShon Brooks (12), and Jared Sullinger (12)... Veteran swingman Gerald Wallace got a night off as part of planned rest.
You could nitpick that Jeff Green had another lackluster shooting night -- 3 of 12 overall -- but he scored 11 points and was a team-best plus-24 in plus/minus. We'd still like to see him around the basket more (half of his shot attempts were beyond the arc and he had just one rebound over 29:20)... Kris Humphries was the only Boston regular in the minus (-5) but he had two blocks and played physical when he was on the floor (drawing some hard fouls)... You know what the real bad was in this one: eight (EIGHT!) delay of game penalties. The league is emphasizing the slowdown when players throw the ball to the referee after made baskets, but the post-basket whistles only delayed the game more than the actual infraction.
Coming off the back-to-back, the Celtics will take Sunday off before getting back on the practice floor on Monday. That'll be a much-needed session after a game-heavy week that saw four games in six days. The Celtics have another back-to-back with visits to Brooklyn (Tuesday) and Toronto (Wednesday).
Bogans came to Boston in July as part of the blockbuster swap with the Nets. He inked a three-year, $15.9 million contract while being acquired via sign-and-trade. Bogans projects deep on the depth chart at a crowded shooting guard position, but the team will lean on his veteran experience on the floor and off.
A few other quick hits from pregame:
* WALLACE GETS NIGHT OFF: Celtics forward Gerald Wallace will get a planned night off on Saturday. Stevens has often noted how Wallace lives up to his "Crash" nickname while playing at full throttle in practice and games. The 13th-year veteran gets the tail end of the back-to-back off to rest his bumps and bruises.
* STARTING LINEUP: The Celtics will go with a starting 5 of Avery Bradley, Jordan Crawford, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, and Jared Sullinger. Stevens liked what he saw from the Bradley/Crawford combo early on in Friday's game. "I thought early on they were pretty good and can get a lot better. There’s a lot of correctable things there. I think one of the things that they both need to do for us is score and so, they both can’t have a mindset of pass-first, get everybody else involved. They both understand that. Sometimes that’s hard when you’re playing with another point guard. Sometimes it’s hard when you’re a point guard for the first time in a long time. I think what we all think is there’s a prototypical way of doing things. It’s okay to be different and that’s the way those guys can approach it and hopefully approach it by committee here as we move forward."
* EXPECT MORE BROOKS: After logging a DNP -- Coach's Decision in Friday's loss to Philadelphia, Stevens said we'll see more of MarShon Brooks against the Knicks. He said part of his decision to take it easy on Brooks Friday was that Wallace would rest on Saturday.
* HOW WILL C'S BOUNCE BACK? The Celtics are coming off a rather atrocious performance in a loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night in Delaware. Said coach Brad Stevens after that game: "Any time you don’t have maximum effort, it’s disappointing. But it’s the reality of basketball, sometimes you don’t have it and you have to be better the next day. I think that will be very telltale, how we show up [Saturday]." Boston is 0-3 this postseason and the win-loss record won't dictate the success of the Celtics' exhibition slate. But after making progress between the first two games of the preseason, the team took a clear step back on Friday.
* FEELING GREEN: It's still very early in the preseason, but some are already overreacting to Jeff Green's quiet start. Green finished 2-of-11 shooting for four points in Friday's loss to Philadelphia. What's more, only one of his attempts came at the rim, suggesting a player who's having trouble being as aggressive as he might like. Pegged as the go-to guy this season, particularly in the absence of Rajon Rondo, Green could get his critics off his back with a more assertive effort against the same team he feasted on last postseason.
* STRONG AT THE START: The Celtics have dug themselves early holes in all three preseason games. Stevens noted that the team has struggled at the start of as many as five of the six halves they've played. "We have to start better," he said. Stevens thought Philadelphia set the tone on Friday and Boston has yet to do that in the first and third quarters of any game it has played.
* LINEUP IN FOCUS: Looking for that better start, it will be interesting to see how the Celtics shuffle their starting lineup. One thing is clear: The Jared Sullinger-Gerald Wallace tandem has been the team's best early-season combo. Might Stevens consider going with a smaller lineup early, maybe pairing Green and Wallace together with Sullinger at the center spot? This is the time to experiment and with Wallace being the best player on the floor for the Celtics so far this preseason, maybe that could ease some of the pressure on Green. Another lineup combo we'd like to see: Avery Bradley and Phil Pressey together in the backcourt.
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