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: Tyler Zeller.

Tyler Zeller

Tyler Zeller

The list of Celtics centers this season includes Tyler Zeller, Vitor Faverani and Joel Anthony, which seems like a good place to start with Zeller, since Faverani is still recovering from surgery to repair a torn left lateral meniscus and crashed his BMW hatchback into a bus this summer and Joel Anthony won last year’s Brian Scalabrine Legacy Award on a team full of worthy contenders.

Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger and Brandon Bass all have experience playing center, but the Celtics have rolled the dice with forwards starting at the 5 for far too long — since trading Kendrick Perkins, really, save for the Nenad Krstic, Jermaine O’Neal and Shaquille O’Neal cameos — so Zeller at least offers hope, and hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, or so says Andy Dufresne.

Where were we? Oh, yeah, Tyler Zeller of the 21-foot Zeller brother trio. He’s 24 years old, 84 inches tall and runs the floor like a gaZelle(r), which is all promising, particularly if Rondo remains his point guard. Transition dunks are fun, after all.

Offensively, Zeller improved from literally everywhere last season. After shooting an average to below-average percentage everywhere on the court but the free throw line as a rookie, his long legs took tremendous strides in 2013-14, improving as a more selective mid-range marksman and making a more concerted effort to get to the rim, where he lived during his 2012 ACC Player of the Year campaign.

By all accounts, Zeller isn’t the bulky rim protector the Celtics coveted this summer, although he allowed the same opponents’ field goal percentage in the restricted area last season as reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah. Named Academic All-America of the Year in his senior season at North Carolina, Zeller grasps defensive schemes, even if he’s been foul prone to the tune of 4.5 personal fouls per 36 minutes for his NBA career.

Overall, Zeller averaged 13.7 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per 36 minutes while submitting a respectable 58.1 true shooting percentage and 15.4 PER last season. Those numbers make Vitor Faverani and Joel Anthony seem like, well, Vitor Faverani and Joel Anthony, and that bodes well for Zeller’s odds of playing 30-plus minutes.

Zeller, along with Marcus Thornton, became eligible to be traded this week — two months after the Celtics acquired them for next to nothing — but it seems more likely Danny Ainge will wait to see what becomes of the young 7-footer in his first season learning from fellow Indiana product Brad Stevens. Zeller remains under his rookie contract for $4.3 million combined over the next two seasons before becoming a restricted free agent in 2016, so a successful run with the Celtics this winter would make him a valuable piece for this team or another.

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

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. First up: Jeff Green.

Technically, this is a contract year for Green, who owns a $9.2 million player option for 2015-16. Considering the amount of money thrown around by NBA general managers each summer, he may opt out and bank another big paycheck before his 30th birthday, although picking up the option would put him in line to hit free agency just as the league’s rumored new $2 billion TV deal bolsters the salary cap in 2016, and his agent David Falk is as shrewd as they come.

Regardless, Green should be motivated this winter, although we’ve heard that before — in the final 26 games of his rookie contract in 2011, upon returning to the league after heart surgery in 2012 and when Pierce’s departure freed the starting small forward spot for him in 2013. Yet, inconsistency continues to plague the versatile forward, and neither of his Celtics coaches — Doc Rivers nor Brad Stevens — have been shy about acknowledging Green’s erratic effort.

Last summer, Green seemed ready to seize the reins from Pierce, submitting the best performance of his career in the second half of the 2012-13 season and leading the Celtics in playoff scoring that spring, albeit in a first-round exit opposite the Knicks. His declaration last training camp — “The [expletive] mentality is coming” — seemed to support that theory. Instead, his numbers regressed as his playing time increased.

Despite starting all 82 games and playing almost seven more minutes per contest last season, Green’s rebound, assist, steal and block averages all slipped. Likewise, his shooting percentages suffered as his attempts escalated.

While it’s time to let the notion of Green emerging as a first or second option pass, there is still value in a 6-foot-9 athlete who once dropped 43 points on LeBron James. Given Green’s success as a third or even fourth option in both Oklahoma City and Boston, teams in need of offense for a playoff run may come calling again as February’s trade deadline approaches. Rumors involving Green included the Cavaliers, Hawks, Knicks and Rockets this past winter, and one less season on his four-year, $36 million deal should only serve to attract more suitors.

Obviously, the more consistently Green plays, the more options the Celtics will have. These are the two most likely results: 1) With Green’s current contract taking him through his 30th birthday and the outlook for the C’s rebuilding project rivaling the Big Dig, they shop Green for further picks and/or youth; or 2) Green opts out, leaving the Celtics with as little as $30 million committed to seven players in 2015, and his money is spent elsewhere.

The only scenario in which Ainge should keep him beyond this year is if he discovers consistency, the Celtics add a second star to pair with Rondo and they can shift Green back into a third or fourth option. But given the lack of available stars and Green’s failure to meet expectations since his arrival in Boston, that seems like a prayer.

Asset Rating: B+/C-

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

If Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge’s draft history has proven anything, it’s that he knows how to identify elite defensive guards.

If Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge’s draft history has proven anything, it’s that he knows how to identify elite defensive guards. Since 2009, only 11 guards have made the NBA’s two All-Defensive teams, and Ainge drafted three of them: Tony Allen, Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley. According to anonymous scouts contacted by Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix, Ainge may have added another one to the list.

For five straight years, a Celtic manned one of the league’s four top defensive backcourt spots — with Rondo sandwiching a pair of Second Team selections in 2009 and 2012 around two First Team nods and Bradley earning his first bid as a 2013 Second Teamer — but that streak ended last season, when Bradley’s defense took a backseat to his budding offense and Rondo’s already declining defense obviously didn’t recover faster than his knee.

Despite being teammates since 2010, Rondo and Bradley have rarely patrolled the backcourt together. Injuries robbed us of a chance to see Bradley’s on-ball defense mesh with Rondo’s gambling mentality, but the former has adapted his training regimen in hopes of preventing injury and the latter should be fully recovered from ACL surgery.

If indeed Marcus Smart emerges as a lockdown defender on the perimeter, the Celtics could field the league’s most ferocious backcourt on that end, assuming both Bradley and Rondo return to form. And that’s a pretty big deal in a league that’s recently seen the near extinction of traditional centers and a growing emphasis on point guard play.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

The Celtics are in the same old holding pattern, and Rajon Rondo doesn’t know where he’s going to land.

Over the weekend, video surfaced of a behind-the-scenes conversation between ESPN.com’s Jackie MacMullan and New York Daily News writer Frank Isola about the possibility of Rondo being traded.

“€œIt will happen, because he’€™s told them he wants out,”€ MacMullan said. “No one believes me, but that’€™s the truth. And I don’t see how you get 80 cents on the dollar for him. Tell me where. The Knicks? People keeping saying the Knicks; well, who are they going to give you? The Kings want him. … They’ll give up [Ben McLemore], but Rondo has already told [Sacramento] flat out, ‘I will never re-sign with you.’ That’s no good, so where do you go?”

The footage has since been deleted from the YouTube account for ESPN’s “Around the Horn,” but lives on over at Deadspin. Few media members know the inner workings of the Celtics front office better than MacMullan, so her claim that Rondo has essentially demanded a trade is significant — however off-the-cuff that statement may have been. But Jackie Mac has for years held the opinion Rondo isn’t long for Boston, and yet he remains on the roster.

Meanwhile, Rondo and his agent have denied the trade speculation first discovered by MassLive’s Jay King.

So, here we are again. To be or not to be traded? That is the question. Don’t dismiss MacMullan’s stance simply based on Rondo’s denial, since the four-time NBA All-Star point guard has little choice but to claim he wants to remain in Boston until the time comes to move on elsewhere. He and the Celtics would gain nothing by making his desire to be dealt a public matter. Yet, the rumors persist, and it’s not all that difficult to discover why.

The Celtics are expected to enter their second season of a rebuilding project with seven players aged 24 or less, whiffing on Kevin Love and the big-name free agents available this summer. Rondo will turn 29 in February and becomes a free agent in July 2015. He made his intentions of testing the market known – one reason a trade demand makes little sense unless he has certain teams in mind – and Cedric Maxwell has said Rondo wants somewhere in the neighborhood of a five-year, $100 million max contract from the Celtics.

It’s hard to imagine Rondo wanting to be part of a lengthy rebuild, and equally difficult to see Danny Ainge committing that much money to his lone star without the promise of another to pair with him.

So, where does that leave us? With a whole lot of rumors and no trade, apparently. If Ainge liked the Kings offer, he could have pulled the trigger at the deadline in February or on draft day in June. As MacMullan and Isola point out, few other teams would have the pieces to land Rondo, and even fewer are in need of his services.

The C’s seem willing to wait on their point guard’s future, hoping his play ups his trade value while Ainge continues to pursue other stars in an attempt to convince Rondo the rebuilding process won’t be as long as it appeared once Love went to Cleveland. In other words, everybody’s in the same holding pattern they were a week ago.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

With training camp a month away, here comes more Rajon Rondo rumors.

With training camp a month away, here comes more Rajon Rondo rumors.

In a recent appearance on ESPN’€™s Around the Horn game show, ESPNBoston.com’s Jackie MacMullan ‘€“ during a behind-the-scenes clip from the episode ‘€“ was firm in her take that Rondo is hoping to get out of Boston.

‘€œIt will happen because he’€™s told them, he wants out,’€ MacMullan said. ‘€œNo one believes me, but that’€™s the truth. And I don’t see how you get 80 cents on the dollar for him. Tell me where.”

MacMullan went on to say that Rondo has told the Celtics he will ‘€œflat-out’€ not re-sign with Celtics.

The subject of Rondo possibly reuniting with former coach Doc Rivers in Los Angeles also came, with MacMullan responding, ‘€œ[Rivers is] done with Rondo. I mean, they went a good long way together, but that guy Rondo drives him nuts.’€

To see the entire interview, click here.

Blog Author: 
WEEI

While both former and current college athletes are eyeing ways to extract money from the mighty NCAA — and rightfully so, in many cases — Jeff Green is giving back to his alma mater in a big way.

While both former and current college athletes are eyeing ways to extract money from the mighty NCAA — and rightfully so, in many cases — Jeff Green is giving back to his alma mater in a big way.

The Celtics forward donated $1 million to Georgetown University, according to the Washington, D.C. CBS affiliate. His donation will go toward the projected $62 million John R. Thompson Jr. Intercollegiate Athletics Center.

“I’m very fortunate to be in a position to give back to the university and to the program that has done so much for me,” Green told CBS DC on Thursday, his 28th birthday.

While Green has made an estimated $31.7 million in his six-year NBA career since leaving the Hoyas in 2007, the donation is no small chunk of change, even considering his $9.45 million salary this season.

Green spent three seasons under John Thompson III at Georgetown from 2004-07, leading the Hoyas to the Final Four in his third season, and returned to school each summer until graduating with an English degree in 2012.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

Rajon Rondo is in the midst of his annual trip to China, which means more exchanges between the Celtics point guard and a media contingent that probably understands his dry humor better than Boston’s. Take this, for example.

  • Hoop China: “Who’s the next Rajon Rondo?”
  • Rondo: “Nobody.”
  • Hoop China: Straight face.
  • Rondo: “Nobody.”
  • Hoop China: Smiles all around.

The folks at Red’s Army deserve an award for keeping up with the four-time NBA All-Star’s Anta tour, and fan extraordinaire @KWAPT has more Chinese sources than the CIA. For the most part, Rondo provided the same stock answers we’ve grown accustomed to — “My leadership role has grown each year” and Kevin Garnett‘s “like a big brother to me” — but his answer to a question about whether Marcus Smart could start in the backcourt this season provided some insight into his feelings about the Celtics drafting another guard with the No. 6 overall pick.

“No,” Rondo said flatly. “He’ll play a lot of minutes, but starting as a rookie at the guard position is probably impossible or one of the toughest things you can do. Only so many guards have done it in the past, especially playing at that high level, but he’ll be ready. He’ll come in ready. He seems pretty humble, and we’ll get to work.”

Avery Bradley is probably Rondo’s closest confidant on the team, so it should come as no surprise he knocked Smart down a notch, but his response also suggests he fully expects to start the season on the Celtics. Still, the roster’s youth with the additions of Smart and James Young seems to be a sticking point for Rondo.

“Very, very young,” he told Hoop China. “They make me feel old. They’re very young. I’m excited to play with them. They have a lot of energy. James Young’s a great shooter, and Marcus Smart is known for his defense, so we’re going to need that energy from the young guys, and I look forward to playing with those guys.”

In addition to Rondo’s salient points about energy and individual skill sets, I counted three times he used “very” in as many sentences, and a roster that young creates an obstacle this season on his road to a stated goal.

“I want to win a championship,” added Rondo, who proclaimed himself “in great shape” to Sina Sports. “I want to win another championship. I want to continue to improve as a player. I have a lot of individual goals, but for the most part in the team aspect I want to get back to being a contender and compete for a championship.”

While Bradley recently declared the Celticshave a chance to make the playoffs” this season, the consensus outside the locker room is that this is a lottery team once again in the second year of a lengthy rebuilding project.

And, to his credit, Rondo seems to understand that.

“You can’t have a great team every year,” he said. “No one does. If you do, you’re very fortunate, but in the NBA it’s a long season. You can’t win every season. You can’t win every game. It’s just part of it, and you want to continue to try to get better and grow as a player and as a team.”

Throughout last season, Danny Ainge preached this same philosophy, suggesting Rondo has been lucky not to have endured stretches like Paul Pierce did early in his career, and perhaps the current Celtics captain is accepting that fact — a glimmer of hope that he could be willing to re-sign in Boston next summer.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach