Even Isaiah Thomas throws his hands up when it comes to the starting question. (Getty Images)

The question is asked, repeatedly, and Isaiah Thomas never bites.

It wasn’t exactly NBA competition, but the Celtics got themselves a win in their preseason debut, defeating European host Olimpia Milano, 124-91.

In their first game of the pre-season, the Celtics defeated Olympia Milano 124-91 Thursday night in Milan. Isaiah Thomas led the team with 18 points, while Avery Bradley, David Lee, Marcus Smart, and Jared Sullinger were also in double-figures.

(Box Score)

Game Notes

  • The victory was never in question and at no point was the game close to competitive. The fact that former Purdue standout Robbie Hummel, who played small forward in the NBA, was playing center for Olympia Milano, should give you an indication of the talent level of the Italian Club. Despite this being a meaningless game against an inferior team, the Celtics looked sharp, especially on defense.
  • David Lee looked great attacking the basket in the pick-and-roll. Lee gives the Celtics something that they severely lacked last season, offensive talent. He finished with 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists.
  • Jared Sullinger was not one of the top 4 big men to play and didn’€™t enter the game until the second quarter. This caused a brief moment of  pandemonium on Celtics Twitter.

    Once Sullinger eventually checked in, he was effective, scoring 14 points on 7-10 from the field.

  • Brian ‘€œWhite Mamba’€ Scalabrine is a broadcasting gem. Watching him ruthlessly swat the shots of young Italians will always be a good time. He combines a fun personality with astute analysis and I hope to see him more on the CSN broadcast this season.

The quality of the competition will improve drastically, as the Celtics travel to Spain to play Real Madrid on Thursday at 3PM.

Blog Author: 
Sam Packard

Over the next month, we’ll chronicle the 25 most consequential trades of Danny Ainge’s tenure as Celtics president of basketball operations. When we’re done, we’ll have a better understanding of Ainge’s philosophy and success rate on the trade market. Perhaps by the end of this exercise we’ll even feel better about the future of this rebuild. At the very least, we’ll have something interesting to debate while we wait for preseason to play out.

With that out of the way, here’s No. 5 on the list of Danny Ainge’s 25 most consequential trades.

Feb. 24, 2011: Goodbye, Kendrick Perkins.

ARRIVING in Boston

  • Jeff Green: During his 222 games over four seasons in Boston, Green’s month-by-month splits read like a volatile stock. Bullish one night, a lost teddy bear the next. His averages on the Celtics (14.6 PPG, 53.9 TS%, 4.2 RPG, 1.5 APG, 14.0 PER) were highly comparable to the ones he produced as a third option in Oklahoma City. He filled that same role admirably at times for the C’s — even if he only shared the court with Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in 46 games — but it all fell apart when he showed up to media day in 2013, declared he “could care less” about Pierce and Garnett’s departure, and then dubbed himself “that guy” moving forward.
  • Nenad Krstic: The Celtics finally renounced Krstic’s rights to clear salary cap space this past summer. A knee injury and Doc Rivers‘ trust issues cost him a shot to succeed in his half-season with the Celtics in 2011, which is too bad, because that group could’ve used his skill in the post with big bodies dropping left and right.
  • Oklahoma City’€™s 2012 first-round pick (Fab Melo): Melo began his career in Boston by falling out of a folding chair and ended it by walking into a doorframe on his way to the D-League. So, yeah, this was a missed opportunity, especially since Draymond Green and Khris Middleton were still on the board at No. 22 overall.

DEPARTING to Oklahoma City

  • Kendrick Perkins: Everybody remembers Perkins as the center on a starting five that never lost a series, when healthy. And that last part was the problem. He wasn’t healthy. He was cooked. After shooting 60.2 percent from the field, averaging a double-double per 36 minutes and anchoring a top-five defense in 2009-10, he tore his ACL in Game 6 of the finals and would never be the same — not in Boston and not in Oklahoma City, where he signed a $34 million extension to average four points and six boards for parts of five seasons.
  • Nate Robinson: The Robinson acquisition in 2010 was worth it, if only for the Shrek and Donkey game, but the C’s had tired of his antics by the middle of the 2010-11 season, and he played just four games for OKC before wearing out his welcome on the Thunder, Warriors, Bulls, Nuggets and Clippers over the next four years.

This is by far the most controversial of Ainge’s most consequential trades. The fan base believed Ainge tore out the Celtics‘ heart and tossed Ubuntu in the trash by dealing Perkins 12 games after his return from knee surgery. There was some truth to that, as Rajon Rondo revealed during “The Association” documentary. But that’s where it ends.

The Celtics were not winning the 2011 NBA championship with Perk. Even Tommy Heinsohn wouldn’t dispute this. Take a look at the postseason averages for Perkins and Jermaine O’Neal that season, and tell me any different.

  • Perkins: 28.2 MIN, 4.5 PPG, 49.0 TS%, 6.1 RPG, 0.8 BPG, 6.1 PER
  • O’Neal: 21.9 MIN, 5.8 PPG, 54.3 TS%, 4.2 RPG, 1.8 BPG, 11.9 PER

And for anybody who thinks Perkins’ defensive presence would’ve slowed the Heat in the 2011 Eastern Conference semifinals, consider the Celtics held Miami to 90.0 points per 100 possessions with O’Neal on the floor in the playoffs — a mark that would’ve ranked as the NBA’s best defense that season … by 7.4 points per 100 possessions.

“Well, they could’ve had both Kendrick Perkins and Jermaine O’Neal for that series,” you say. True. But the Heat ran the Celtics ragged with smaller lineups keeping up a pace that would’ve ranked among the league’s fastest in 2011. Perkins would not have stopped that bleeding, nor would he have been able to back up Pierce any better than Von Wafer or mend Rondo’s dislocated elbow. (Although, he might’ve ended Dwyane Wade‘s career in retaliation.)

The Celtics lost that series in five games, taking four losses by an average of 9.5 points. Had Perkins remained in Boston, it would’ve been no different. And then he would’ve left anyhow. Perkins co-signed the trade by refusing a four-year, $22 million extension from Ainge — a contract that still could’ve warranted exercising the amnesty clause.

With that in mind, the question becomes whether signing Green to a $35.2 million deal in 2012 was worth four years of misguided fans complaining about how the Celtics would’ve won a title if they hadn’t traded Perkins. Green played his best ball during his only other playoff appearance in Boston, averaging a team-high 20.3 points on 58.2 percent true shooting during a six-game loss to the Knicks in the first round of the 2013 playoffs. Things might’ve been different had Rondo not torn his ACL in January of that year, but it was downhill for Green and the green after that.

At least Ainge was able to spin Green into a future Memphis first-round pick, a 2017 L.A. Clippers second-round pick, Jonas Jerebko, two months of Gigi Datome’s man bun fun and a $7.7 million trade exception last season. Meanwhile, the Thunder had to send a future first-rounder of their own just to dump Perkins on Utah at the deadline. So, while some folks still live in a fairy tale past when it comes to this trade, Ainge has kept his focus on the future ever since.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

Perry Jones III missed a second consecutive Celtics practice with knee soreness on Friday.

Perry Jones

Perry Jones

Perry Jones III missed a second consecutive Celtics practice with knee soreness on Friday.

The Celtics acquired Jones, a 2019 second-round pick and cash considerations from the Thunder in exchange for a future second-round pick this past July. He averaged 4.3 points and 1.8 rebounds in 14.7 minutes over 43 games in Oklahoma City last season, showing considerable promise in a 32-point, seven-rebound effort against the Clippers before suffering a separate knee injury in early November 2014.

Jones fell to No. 28 in the 2012 NBA draft due to knee problems that a scout told CBS Sports reporter Seth Davis would limit his career to “3-4 years in the league.” This would be his fourth NBA season.

The Celtics currently have 16 players signed to guaranteed contracts with room for only 15, and Jones was already the favorite to be left off the roster at the end of training camp. This setback does not bode well, particularly if the soreness lingers, but he is expected to travel with the team to Italy.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

Over the next month, we’ll chronicle the 25 most consequential trades of Danny Ainge’s tenure as Celtics president of basketball operations. When we’re done, we’ll have a better understanding of Ainge’s philosophy and success rate on the trade market. Perhaps by the end of this exercise we’ll even feel better about the future of this rebuild. At the very least, we’ll have something interesting to debate while we wait for preseason to play out.

With that out of the way, here’s No. 7 on the list of Danny Ainge’s 25 most consequential trades.

July 10, 2014: Hello, Tyler Zeller.

ARRIVING in Boston

  • Marcus Thornton: In order to shed salary for the return of LeBron James, Cleveland essentially sent Jarrett Jack to Brooklyn for Thornton, and Boston took the latter’s expiring $8.6 million contract off the Cavaliers, hands.  While on the Celtics, Thornton continued to be what he’d been in his five previous seasons — a productive scorer off the bench who wasn’t worth the four-year, $31 million deal Sacramento signed him to in 2011.
  • Tyler Zeller: The 7-foot North Carolina did what most players have done under Celtics coach Brad Stevens — develop in almost every respect. Zeller averaged 17.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists per 36 minutes last season, taking strides as a mid-range jump shooter and rim protector. A year later, Cleveland’s 2012 first-round pick still has a year left on his rookie contract and doesn’t become a restricted free agent until next summer.
  • Cleveland’€™s 2016 first-round pick (top-10 protected): Granted, this pick will fall in the late 20s come June, if not 30th overall, but even the lowest first-round pick is a valuable asset in a league that protects them dearly.

DEPARTING to Cleveland

  • $10.3 million trade exception: The Celtics also included a conditional second-round pick that never came to fruition, so this is all they gave up — the trade exception created upon dealing Paul Pierce‘s salary to Brooklyn.

Feb. 19, 2015: Hello, Isaiah Thomas.

ARRIVING in Boston

  • Isaiah Thomas: Playing in a crowded Suns backcourt behind Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic, Thomas was in the midst of a Sixth Man of the Year-worthy campaign, averaging 15.2 points on nearly 40 percent shooting off the bench. The 5-foot-9 point guard added 3.7 assists and 2.4 rebounds in 25.7 minutes a night over his 46 games in Phoenix — consistent with the 36-minute averages that made him one of the league’s most efficient players in Sacramento. He was even better in Boston, averaging 19.0 points and 5.4 assists in 26 minutes. Oh, and he’s working on one of the league’s best contracts, which declines from $6.9 million each year through 2017-18.

DEPARTING to Phoenix

  • Marcus Thornton: After leaving the Celtics, Thornton was stuck on the end of the Suns bench. He scored a total of 32 points in nine appearances for Phoenix, and then missed 14 of the final 15 games with a toe injury.
  • Cleveland’€™s 2016 first-round pick (top-10 protected): See? Told you low first-round picks are still valuable.

There may be a handful of Ainge’s trades more consequential than this one, but you won’t find any more creative.

In some serious origami, Ainge turned a piece of paper into Tyler Zeller and Isaiah Thomas. Actually, I’m not even sure trade exceptions are printed on pieces of paper. They might just be in the ether. In which case, Ainge literally pulled a 24-year-old starting center and a Sixth Man of the Year candidate out of thin air. Is that good? I think that’s good.

There isn’t much more you can say about how this shook out for the Celtics, to be honest. It’s some Gandalf-level stuff.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

The @T_Rozzay3 speech to #Celtics fans after the open practice. pic.twitter.com/xwBiSZ3Tiu

It’s a tradition for the Celtics to force rookies into making season-opening speeches in front of the Garden crowd, and so Terry Rozier found himself addressing fans gathered for the team’s open practice in Boston on Tuesday night.

“I’m Terry Rozier, and I just want to say thank you from me on behalf of my teammates for coming up here to cheer us on,” he said. “Hopefully you all will cheer us on to another championship this year. Appreciate you all coming out. Thank you.”

Rozier joins Celtics teammate Avery Bradley in the belief that the Celtics can actually win an 18th NBA title this season.

“€œIf we continue to work hard, anything’s possible,” said Bradley, who now has the distinction of being the longest-tenured member of the team at age 24. “If you buy into what the coach is trying to do and this Celtics culture, I feel like anything is possible and we can definitely have a chance to make it to the championship if we do those things.”

For what it’s worth, Celtics coach Brad Stevens also lists a title as his goal for this season and every season.

“I had one goal at the last job, and that was to win the national championship, and I have one goal at this job, and that’€™s to win an NBA championship,” said Stevens, whose team was swept in the first round of the 2014-15 NBA playoffs. “That’€™s the only thing I’€™ll ever put down as a goal. That’€™s the only thing I’€™ll ever talk about as a goal to our players.”

As they should, the C’s think they’re contenders now. Of course, there’s a difference between believing and seeing.

For the record, the Green Team of Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Jonas Jerebko, Amir Johnson and Kelly Olynyk handed the White Team of Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Evan Turner, David Lee and Tyler Zeller a 63-59 loss at the open scrimmage, so at least half the roster will be starting the season as losers. These are the facts, people.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics hope to celebrate a higher percentage of 3's this year.</p>
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