Asked by one reporter to name his favorites in the NBA’s Eastern Conference this season, Celtics president Danny Ainge listed the Cavaliers, Bulls and Wizards.

Playoffs? Celtics president Danny Ainge and coach Brad Stevens aren’t talking about playoffs. Are you kidding me? (Getty Images)

Asked by one reporter to name his favorites in the NBA’s Eastern Conference this season, Celtics president Danny Ainge listed the Cavaliers, Bulls and Wizards.

“You left off the Celtics,” another media member countered.

“I did. Yes, I did. Good observation,” said Ainge, pausing, and then adding, “but I do believe the extraordinary is possible.”

Ladies and gentleman, the 2014-15 Boston Celtics, where the extraordinary is possible, but the reality is the roster looks an awful lot like the edition that won 25 games this past season.

“There were things that we wanted to do that we weren’t able to do,” said Ainge. “There were some things that were tempting that we didn’t do, that I’m very glad we didn’t do. I like that we were able to get some things accomplished, although we weren’t able to get a big, big deal accomplished that we wanted to. But I’m excited about our two young guys that we drafted, I’m very happy that we have Avery [Bradley] coming back and I really like our young core.”

It’s no secret the Celtics wanted Kevin Love, but all reports indicated their interest never amounted to much. Now, it seems, there was another trade ownership considered “a major deal” this summer that Ainge dismissed.

“I expected a lot of activity, phone calls and possibilities,” said C’s owner Wyc Grousbeck. “We got all of those. We didn’t consummate a major deal that I certainly would’ve welcomed, probably, to be honest, but we have a lot of assets, and I like how we used our first-round picks. I’m not claiming to be the basketball guy, but what I see from my fan’€™s standpoint is [James] Young and [Marcus] Smart both look like they can really add something to this team.”

Asked to clarify if “a major deal” reached his desk, Grousbeck retreated. “I always welcome a major deal in a sense, because that’s what happened in ’07, and I have fond memories. It’s not going to be easy to rebuild. We’re on that path. I think that we’re going to be better this year. That’s my hope. That’s my expectation, and we’ll let it play out.”

Whatever the deal was — whether it was Josh Smith or any number of second- or third-tier talents — it wasn’t ’07. Grousbeck’s motivation for making a deal, any deal, major or minor, was twofold: 1) “fireworks” and 2) tickets.

Ainge, however, has ulterior motives.

“It’s challenging, because there are always things you think you might be able to do to get a tiny bit better, but our goals are much bigger than that,” Ainge said of the temptation to make a trade for the sake of making a trade. “We want to hang banners in Boston, and ultimately that’s what drives all of our decisions.”

So, the C’s instead made the best of their trade exception from dealing Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett  — adding Tyler Zeller, Marcus Thornton’s expiring contract and another first-round pick — drafted the best players available at their two slots and signed Evan Turner off the scrap heap, letting Kris Humphries and Jerryd Bayless walk.

“We obviously lost some pretty good players from last year’s roster, obviously, that went to other teams, and I’m happy for those guys, but I really like what we’ve added,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “I like the fact that we can improve individually with the guys that were here, and I’m a big believer in that this is a game of small details that really add up at the end, and hopefully we can be better in all of those other things with the people that were here, and hopefully the new guys add to our collective ability to win, and obviously that’s the goal.”

That coach-’em-up mentality worked at Butler, but even if it translates with another young NBA roster in his second season, how many extra wins are we talking about here? 30? 35? Enough to make the playoffs in the East?

“I don’t know what my expectations are,” said Ainge. “I really want to see this team get together. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter what my expectations are. It matters what their expectations are, the trust that they have in each other and the belief in what they can accomplish together. I think they’ll build a unity as this training camp goes on, but I’m excited to see them. I’m excited to see how it all works and how Marcus Smart sort of fits in with Bradley and [Rajon] Rondo and Jeff [Green] and how Evan fits in — I think two terrific players — and how Kelly [Olynyk] and [Jared Sullinger] have improved over the offseason. So far, they look really good, and I’m excited about them.”

This is the sell Ainge and Stevens and Grousbeck are making to Celtics fans after a fireworks-free summer, and it’s a tough one to buy. But, hey, at least they’ve still got all those assets. And Rondo. For now.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

The Celtics want none of your Rajon Rondo questions. (Getty Images)



BEN ROHRBACH

BIO | ARCHIVE


Vitor Faverani and Gerald Wallace are both expected to be healthy enough to participate when Celtics training camp begins next we

Vitor Faverani

Vitor Faverani

Vitor Faverani and Gerald Wallace are both expected to be healthy enough to participate when Celtics training camp begins next week, but whether Faverani will be in uniform on opening night remains a different story.

Each underwent season-ending surgery in March to repair a torn left meniscus, and the 32-year-old Wallace also had left ankle surgery. Both “should be all clear” when official practices begin Tuesday, said coach Brad Stevens, although Faverani faces a potential suspension for his DUI arrest this summer.

“We’re still contemplating [disciplinary action],” said team president Danny Ainge, “but there will be some consequences, absolutely. But I won’t make those public.

“Health-wise, Vitor’s knee has been up and down,” Ainge added. “He’s been on the court some, but he still had some challenges. I do expect him to be ready to go by training camp. We’re just being extra cautious with him right now, but he’s been on the court playing, doing drills. He’s had some setbacks with the swelling, but we’re hopeful that he can make it through training camp.”

As for Wallace, “I don’t know completely on Gerald,” said Ainge. “I think he’ll be ready to go by training camp, but I haven’t seen Gerald yet. He’s an old cagey vet, so we’ll probably see him on Media Day [Monday].”

Following his trade from the Nets to Boston last summer, Wallace didn’t show up until Media Day in 2013, either. Meanwhile, a number of other Celtics, including Faverani, have been working with Stevens in recent weeks.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge continued to straddle the fence on The Rajon Rondo Question — to trade or not to trade his four-time NBA All-Star point guard — during a Q&A

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge continued to straddle the fence on The Rajon Rondo Question — to trade or not to trade his four-time NBA All-Star point guard — during a Q&A session with former WCVB-TV sportscaster Mike Dowling at Worcester’s Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“The truthful answer is I really don’t know,” Ainge told the congregation on Sunday, according to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. “I have no intention. I’m not trying to trade Rondo, but because he’s a free agent this summer, he assured me that he wants to stay in Boston. We’d love to keep him in Boston.”

On the other side of the fence, “The possibility of a trade is not out of the question,” Ainge added. “Nobody is untradeable, but I don’t see that happening.”

According to the T&G’s Bill Doyle, Ainge told the several hundred gathered that the Celtics approached Rondo’s agent about a contract extension to no avail each of the past two summers. Of course, Rondo’s value the last two offseasons isn’t close to what he could command as an unrestricted free agent next year should he submit another All-Star caliber season. In the meantime, Ainge will keep on straddling that fence.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

I think we can all agree the Celtics won’€™t be raising banner 18 in the immediate future, and more likely than not the 2014-15 NBA season will result in another lottery pick come June, regardless of how ardently Rajon RondoAvery Bradley & Co. argue the contrary. It’€™s been a year since Danny Ainge traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Nets, launching the process of stockpiling draft picks and cap-friendly contracts. Since the Celtics failed to cash in those commodities in exchange for fireworks this summer, this season’€™s preview will have a Wyc Grousbeck theme, focusing on the hodgepodge of C’€™s pieces in a series we’€™ll call Asset Management. Next up: Avery Bradley.

In NBA circles outside Boston — and even some in Celtics Nation — Bradley’s four-year, $32 million contract extension received extensive criticism this summer, which seems weird for a player of his caliber. Let’s think about this.

When compared to Detroit’s overpayment of Jodie Meeks (3 years, $19.5 million), Bradley’s average annual value of $8 million doesn’t seem so bad, but teams were frugal with guards this offseason, and a deal like San Antonio’s with Patty Mills (3 years, $12 million) makes Bradley’s price tag appear a bit high.

Play along for a minute and take a look at these numbers from 2013-14.

Player 1: 18.4 ppg (44.4 FG%, 41.7 3P%, 79.5 FT%), 3.1 rpg, 2.2 apg, 0.9 spg
Player 2: 14.9 ppg (43.8 FG%, 39.5 3P%, 80.4 FT%), 3.8 rpg, 1.4 apg, 1.1 spg

If you were paying attention this past season, you’ll recognize Bradley as Player 2 in this scenario. Player 1? None other than Klay Thompson, the shooting guard Golden State wouldn’t give up to land Kevin Love. The same Thompson whose agent, Bill Duffy, recently dubbed his client, “the top two-way, two-guard in basketball,” in an attempt to land a maximum contract extension from the Warriors that would start at roughly twice Bradley’s average annual value.

Is Bradley the offensive talent Thompson has proven himself to be? Of course not, although his 40 percent shooting on 200 3-pointers wasn’t so bad. Just 12 guards matched that feat in 2013-14: Bradley, Thompson, Curry, Mills, Meeks, Goran Dragic, Jose Calderon, D.J. Augustin, Marco Belinelli, Arron Afflalo, Joe Johnson and Bradley Beal.

And how many of them have an NBA All-Defensive nod on their resume? Only one: Avery Bradley, who at 23 years old also happens to be the second-youngest member of that group behind Beal. The backcourt mates for much of that shooter’s dozen were also fairly impressive. Mills and Belinelli had Tony Parker, Dragic had half a season of Eric Bledsoe, Calderon had Monta Ellis, Johnson had Deron Williams, Beal had John Wall, Thompson and Curry had each other, and Bradley had, well, Jordan Crawford, Phil Pressey and 30 games of Rajon Rondo‘s rehab stint.

So, why the criticism? Bradley’s inability to stay on the court has been the biggest roadblock on his path to success. His 2012 double shoulder surgeries cost the Celtics a shot at a third NBA Finals in five years and set him back 30 games the following season. Ankle sprains and an Achilles strain cost him another 22 games last year. The shoulder issues haven’t popped up since and Bradley has been training all summer in a program designed to limit the injury risk to his lower extremities, but that “injury prone” label won’t go away until he proves otherwise.

Since playing 33 games alongside Rondo and essentially saving the Celtics season in 2012, the apparent backcourt of the future has shared the floor in just 26 games over the past two years. Somehow, Rondo and Bradley have only played a combined 63 games in their four years as teammates. Every season, we’re teased by the possibility of this wonderfully complementary pair — Rondo’s passing wizardry offensively and off-ball gambling defensively combined with Bradley’s 3-point-splashing, backdoor-slashing ways on one end and on-ball lockdown ability on the other. And every year we’re left wondering what might have been. Barring a preseason injury or a blockbuster trade involving Rondo, we’ll at least see them in the same season-opening starting lineup for the first time, and that’s something.

If Bradley keeps displaying that All-Defensive talent and 40 percent shooting from 3 while avoiding serious injury for the next four seasons, he’ll be worth that $8 million annually and then some, regardless of whether Rondo or Marcus Smart mans the other guard position by the end of that contract. The Celtics are banking on it.

Asset Rating: B+

This has been another edition of Asset Management. Check out more Celtics player valuations below.

Asset Management: Jeff Green’s Celtics future
Asset Management: Tyler Zeller’s Celtics future
Asset Management: Kelly Olynyk’s Celtics future
Asset Management: Marcus Smart’s Celtics future

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

The Celtics are coming off of their worst season since 2006-07. Despite high expectations this offseason, the team is entering 2014-15 with a similar roster to last season, which comes with similar expectations. However, Brad Stevens will be in his second season as coach, Rajon Rondo will begin the season healthy and Danny Ainge has added some new, young talent. But it’s still clear that the Celtics are entering yet another rebuilding season, leaving us with some major questions. We’ll try to find some answers in this five-part series called Rebuild Spotlight.

Brad Stevens showed signs in his first season with the Celtics that he can be an elite NBA coach. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Brad Stevens showed signs in his first season with the Celtics that he can be an elite NBA coach. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Despite just 25 wins in Brad Stevens’ debut season in Boston, the verdict is in on the coach: He’s the real deal. That was the hope when Ainge lured Stevens away from Butler with a six-year contract, but now we have clarity. After dazzling in his first season on the NBA sidelines, Stevens has made it clear that he is going to be as much a cornerstone of the Celtics’ rebuild as anyone.

Of course, much like the young players he coaches, Stevens must reach his full potential if he is going to lead the Celtics back to contention. The C’s were a solid defensive team right away last season; they were 14th in defensive rating heading into the All-Star break, but finished 20th at season’s end. Stevens wants to establish a defensive identity, and with Avery Bradley (who sees Boston having a top-10 defense this season) returning and the addition of Marcus Smart (whom scouts believe is the league’s next great perimeter defender), improvement on that side of the ball is expected.

Defense will be Stevens’ focus when training camp begins, but the Celtics’ offense, untraditionally, is where the biggest improvements are needed. Frankly, last season was a mess offensively, regardless of whether Rajon Rondo was on the floor or not.

Boston finished the season 27thin offensive rating and 28th in turnover rating. Until those numbers change, the losses are going to continue to pile up. Last year’s plan was to make Jeff Green the featured piece on offense. Yet, he failed to prove himself as a consistent option when all signs pointed to Green compiling career numbers.

On the other hand, Bradley (23 years old) and Jared Sullinger (22) stepped in as strong offensive options when healthy. Stevens would be silly not to present his younger stars with larger roles in the offense this season. Obviously, beginning the season with a healthy Rondo to go along with the additions of Smart, fellow rookie James Young, Tyler Zeller, Marcus Thornton and Evan Turner have to prove to be of some help.

Stevens likely will be dealing with an offense by committee like he was last season, this time with Rondo at the helm from the get-go. Bottom line is that there must be more offensive fluidity if the Celtics expect to up their win total from a year ago, particularly in terms of attempting to find some sort of consistency that Green couldn’t provide.

When it comes down to it, Brad Stevens is a fantastic leader for the Celtics going forward. His job is certainly not in any kind of jeopardy at all, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t expect improvements this season. Stevens has had a year to settle in and learn the ropes of the NBA. This season, prepare to watch him take the next step toward becoming one of the elite coaches in the league.

Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow

Blog Author: 
Julian Edlow

I think we can all agree the Celtics won’€™t be raising banner 18 in the immediate future, and more likely than not the 2014-15 NBA season will result in another lottery pick come June, regardless of how ardently Rajon RondoAvery Bradley & Co. argue the contrary. It’€™s been a year since Danny Ainge traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Nets, launching the process of stockpiling draft picks and cap-friendly contracts. Since the Celtics failed to cash in those commodities in exchange for fireworks this summer, this season’€™s preview will have a Wyc Grousbeck theme, focusing on the hodgepodge of C’€™s pieces in a series we’€™ll call Asset Management. Next up: Marcus Smart.

Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart

We can’t blame Smart for the Celtics landing the sixth overall overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft. It would’ve be nice to score Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, as the 76ers did, or Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton, as the Magic did. But the Celtics had the sixth and 17th picks — not third and 12th or fourth and 10th — so they’re banking on Smart and James Young being the best available talents at those slots, and so far at least we have no reason to believe otherwise.

The more we hear about Smart, the better fit he seems in Boston. He’s a defensive bulldog on the court, a likable character off it and a leader in both arenas, all traits the Celtics have sorely lacked since Kevin Garnett‘s departure.

If nothing else, Smart completes quite the defensive triumvirate in the backcourt. With him and Avery Bradley each capable of hounding the ball-handler, Rajon Rondo is free to gamble while defending the NBA’s dearth of off-guards — or, better yet, Smart and Bradley annoy the hell out of everyone, and they all rub off on Marcus Thornton — providing the Celtics a puncher’s chance on that end of the floor, despite the absence of a paint-protecting frontcourt.

Offensively, Smart’s Summer League stats (29.4 FG%, 25.7 3P%) didn’t do much to quell concerns about his shooting, although Rondo and Bradley have illustrated the ability to improve in that area, even as criticism persists. Jump shots can improve. Defensive effort, generally, doesn’t, and that’s why Smart went sixth and Young 17th.

Thus begins Smart’s future on a franchise with a wild lottery history that includes Len Bias, Eric Montross, Ron Mercer, Chauncey Billups, Paul Pierce, Jerome Moiso and Joe Johnson. One tragic, one sublime, and all gone too soon in one way or another. That’s why they call it a lottery, I guess. It’s a crapshoot, sometimes it’s just crap, and we don’t know well Danny Ainge rolls the dice since he’s traded every other top-10 pick he’s ever had.

It’s also not Smart’s fault his career will forever be linked to Rondo’s. If we’re being honest with ourselves, using the sixth overall pick in a loaded draft on a player who mans the same position as their captain, only All-Star and soon-to-be free agent leaves the Celtics with two choices going forward: 1) Trade Rondo and keep Smart, or 2) Keep Rondo and trade Smart. Both could be a mistake, either could be brilliant, but one will happen, because Ainge’s two most valuable players are both point guards, and either could fetch a hefty sum in return.

Asset Rating: A

This has been another edition of Asset Management. Check out more Celtics player valuations below.

Asset Management: Jeff Green’s Celtics future
Asset Management: Tyler Zeller’s Celtics future
Asset Management: Kelly Olynyk’s Celtics future

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach