How would you rate Celtics coach Brad Stevens' first NBA season? (AP)

Before the season started, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge offered this caveat: "I guess just realistic expectations is what I preach to the fans." And, realistically, the C's weren't all that good. In fact, by most statistical measures, they were terrible.



BEN ROHRBACH

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Following a season-ending 118-102 loss to the playoff-bound Washington Wizards at TD Garden, Celtics captain Rajon Rondo talked about what he’s learned from this 25-win season and how he can become a better leader. Rondo also acknowledged that he would like input on the make-up of the roster next season.

Following a season-ending 118-102 loss to the playoff-bound Washington Wizards at TD Garden, Celtics captain Rajon Rondo talked about what he’s learned from this 25-win season and how he can become a better leader. Rondo also acknowledged that he would like input on the make-up of the roster next season.

“Every team is different,” Rondo said. “This is a new [situation] with me being the only guy here back when Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were here. [Roster rebuilding] isn’t new. I still think I have been involved. I was in trade talk myself. Danny Ainge has always been in communication with me, what he has planned and what he has in store for this team.

“Being a leader, I just have to do it more than talking.”

Asked if that means doing it more by example on and off the court, Rondo answered, “Correct.”

How will a 25-57 season drive him this offseason?

‘€œMotivation for next year we have a lot to work on and I look forward to next year,” Rondo said. ‘€œA good group to play with and a lot of great guys a lot of young guys just trying to be better.’€

Does he want to be back?

“Next question,” Rondo said, referring to comments he made a week earlier indicating he feels he is a part of the team’s future.

Rondo said he will not watch the NBA playoffs, which begin this weekend. Instead Rondo maintains he looks forward to a summer of work as he continues to build his legs back to 100 percent, 15 months after ACL surgery on his right knee.

If he puts in the work, Rondo figures the rest of the team will follow.

‘€œIt shows the group of guys we have,” Rondo said. “It starts with Danny Ainge and it starts with Brad Stevens. We had guys like Chris Babbs and Chris Johnson to come help us and help brighten their future.’€

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

The Celtics‘ loss combined with a Jazz double-overtime win left both teams tied for the NBA’s fourth-worst record.

The Celtics‘ loss combined with a Jazz double-overtime win left both teams tied for the NBA’s fourth-worst record.

As a result, the teams split their lottery odds, each receiving a 10.4 percent chance at the No. 1 pick and a 33.5 percent chance at a top-three selection. A coin flip will determine their positioning should neither team end up in the top three on May 20, and the worst-case scenario for the Celtics is the eighth pick in the June 26 draft.

Meanwhile, the Wizards’ victory over the C’s pulled them even with the Nets at 44-38. Since the Celtics also own Brooklyn’s pick, another coin flip later this week will determine if they receive the 17th or 18th pick.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

Prior to the game, Jared Sullinger addressed the crowd on Celtics fan appreciation night, “Hopefully we’ll come back next year,” which wasn’t exactly a great omen for the final game of the regular season. While a handful of C’s scored in double figures, they fell under the Wizards spell, 118-102.

Prior to the game, Jared Sullinger addressed the crowd on Celtics fan appreciation night, “Hopefully we’ll come back next year,” which wasn’t exactly a great omen for the final game of the regular season. While a handful of C’s scored in double figures, they fell under the Wizards spell, 118-102.

Kelly Olynyk led the Celtics with 24 points while adding seven rebounds and five assists. Jeff Green (20 points), Avery Bradley (18), Brandon Bass (16) and Chris Johnson (10) also reached double digits.

Sullinger, Rajon Rondo, Kris Humphries and Jerryd Bayless all sat out, nursing various minor injuries.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Rondo a no go: With what the team described as a sore left hamstring, Rondo called it a season before the final game of the year. His final home game came April 4. When all was said and done, the Celtics captain played 30 games this season, and the C’s lost 24 of them — including the final eight. Mission accomplished?

No defense: Prior to the game, Danny Ainge lamented his team’s lack of a post presence and a general absence of cohesiveness, and the Celtics held true to form on the defensive end. The Wizards shot better than 50 percent and reached 100 points midway through the fourth quarter. In the end, the Celtics were one of the NBA’s five worst defenses this season, and the C’s brass must address that issue from a personnel and tactical standpoint.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Turn up the Bass: The Celtics handed out the ninth annual Auerbach Award before the game, and there was no other choice but Bass. He’s been the most consistent green teamer all year, producing somewhere around his season averages of 11 points and six assists each month. And he had himself a game against the Wizards, too. Previous winners: Paul Pierce (twice), Al Jefferson, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo and Doc Rivers.

K.O. punch: Olynyk entered the night averaging 15.6 points on 62.1 true shooting to go along with 7.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game this month. As a result, he earned his third straight start to finish the season, and he didn’t disappoint. As Ainge said before the game, “I’€™ve been really happy with how he’€™s improved.”

Full-court Pressey: With Rondo on the mend, Phil Pressey made a serious case to stick around in the Celtics locker room next season as a backup point guard. He averaged five points and seven assists per game in the final month of the season and had at least nine dimes in four of his final six appearances of the year.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge addressed the media before the final game of the regular season. Here’s a transcript of his press conference (with a few notes sprinkled in between).

Danny Ainge

Danny Ainge

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge addressed the media before the final game of the regular season. Here’s a transcript of his press conference (with a few notes sprinkled in between).

On the season: “It was a long season — I guess not that long — but it was a tough, tough year, and I saw a lot of positive things from individuals. I thought our team gave good effort most nights. I think consistency was our biggest challenge, and I don’t think the team was a great fit, great mix, but individually I like what I saw in almost every player. I just feel like we didn’t have the size inside to protect the rim. I thought that was a big factor that cost us a lot of games. And we didn’t finish a lot of games down the stretch.”

(Notice Ainge liked what he saw from “almost every player.” One comes to mind. His name rhymes with Ref Mean.)

On the personnel: “I think we started the season out very concerned with the personnel. I thought Vitor [Faverani] gave us some size at times; his injury hurt us some there. He was a rookie and playing inconsistent, but showing signs of being a presence inside. I think all the way up the trade deadline we looked at opportunities to make our team better, but we wouldn’t sacrifice draft picks to make us better for just this year. But we look for opportunities to make our team better in the longterm.”

(Take note that Ainge offered the caveat of “just this year” in regard to trading draft picks.)

On Brad Stevens: “I think Brad did a great job this year. He’s a special person and a great coach, and the players see it. The players see his work ethic, they see his integrity, and they see his intelligence, so I think he’s earned the respect of the team in a really difficult situation this year. And I know he’s going to get better. He’ll be better next year, and he’ll be better the next year. He’s a sponge, and he’s very intelligent with a great work ethic, and I couldn’t be happier. … I have no worries about Brad. Brad is maybe the only thing in this whole organization I’m not concerned about.”

(As for those “rumblings” that were reported recently, it doesn’t sound like the coach is going anywhere.)

On the future: “I don’t know. How does anybody know that? What do you want me to like make a prediction or something? I don’t know anything about what we can do. I’m hopeful. I’ll work my tail off to duplicate what we’ve done in the past, but there are no guarantees.”

(That “I don’t know anything about what we can do” is a little reality check, huh?)

On Kelly Olynyk: “I think Kelly had a really good second half. I think he gained some confidence when he went to the All-Star break and represented the rookie team. I think I’ve been really happy with how he’s improved. The coaches did a good job of getting him stronger, a good job of teaching him the game, and I think he’s a great, great player. It’s just like all young players. We say this every year. Consistency is the challenge, and Kelly has gotten more consistent as the year’s gone on. And if you get three really good games out of 10, that’s not bad for rookies. You hope he gets seven out of 10 good games as they progress, and I feel that Kelly will get more consistent just with experience.”

(“A great, great player” might be excessive, but you have to like what you’ve seen from Olynyk down the stretch.)

On Rajon Rondo: “I think that Rajon will have the best year of his career next year. I think he’s sort of in a phase of his life where he’s matured. He’s just smarter, the game has slowed for him. I think he’ll be really healthy and fresher with a summer of strength. You sort of bypass the mental anguish from coming back from the knee surgery and the ACL, and that’s been sort of the pattern for guys in the past. The first 20-30 games is an adjustment period, so I’m confident he’ll have the best year of his career.”

(One key takeaway other than the obvious: Ainge made it a point to note Rondo’s maturation this year.)

On Jared Sullinger: “Sully had a good year this year. I think that he wants to be in better shape, and we talked about that all year. And I think that he can [be a totally different player next year]. … I think that Jared is still very young, and I don’t think he understands, yet, how good he is. He’s heard it. He’s heard it from a lot of people — his father, from his anent to his coaches — how good he can be. But until he believes how good he can be and really puts in the time — and I really do believe that Jared will this summer and is going to be in better shape next year.”

(Not holding any punches there. Sullinger’s minutes have suffered this season as a result of his conditioning.)

On free agents: “I’m not talking about free agents right now. I don’t know the answer to that. There’s not very many difference-makers in the free agent class right now. We also don’t know — there’s a lot of players with player options and team options, and so let’s wait and see who the free agent class is until we comment on it.”

(Read: If Carmelo Anthony doesn’t use his early termination option, then trades are the way to go.)

On Jeff Green: “I think that this has been a transition year for us. I think Jeff had a good year. Jeff has been consistently a very good 3-point shooter and very good in transition offense throughout his whole career, and I think that he got even better at that this year and he got more versatile. He shot the ball over the 3-point line, he shot the 3 off the dribble, things that we wanted and we encouraged him to do to expand his game. He became more of a focal point of the offense, and he had his ups and downs with that, but I think his game is complete and I think that Jeff is improving as a player. I think he still has a lot of growth still left in his game, and I think he’s going to have a better year next year than he had this year.”

(Ainge is probably really hoping opposing general managers are reading this right now.)

On Avery Bradley: “Avery had a good season. I’ve seen improvement in Avery this year, and the biggest issue with Avery has just been health. He plays hard, and he’s had some injuries, but none of them are injuries that should prevent him from becoming a great player.”

(And he’s probably hoping Bradley’s agent keeps that first part in mind during the negotiating process.)

On Rondo’s market: “Listen, there’s no one person that’s more important than the whole organization. We need to be good, because we all want to be good. I want my coach to stay, I want Jeff Green to want to be here, I want free agents that are out there looking at us play to want to play here. I want fans to want to come to the game. Everybody wants to win, but not just for one player, not just for one person. We all want to win, and that’s what we are trying to accomplish.”

(Even Rajon Rondo is tradable this summer. And that Jeff Green line was a little strange, no?)

On offseason fireworks: “I think the Fourth of July we’ll have some fireworks. I don’t know. We’re hopeful. I have some ideas and some plans that I’d like to do, but there’s just no guarantee that we can do it. We need to find good trading partners. We always are trying to make fireworks every summer. We try to do something that’s unique and special, and we will definitely try this summer.”

(Well, that should make you feel a little better about the “I don’t know anything about what we can do” line earlier.)

On acquiring assets: “That depends on what else we can accomplish, what other options we have. I could see that possibly happening, acquiring more assets. I could see giving up our assets — our young assets and some draft picks — for players as well. And everything in between.”

(More draft picks! Less draft picks! Younger! Older! It’s all on the table.)

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

This is the second in a series on the parallels between Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge‘s last team to miss the NBA playoffs and this year’s lottery-bound squad. A deeper look at the C’s player personnel, potential trade packages and financial flexibility should offer insight into whether or not Ainge can recreate the 2007 magic of acquiring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen seven years later in 2014. (Hence, Double ’07.)

Part 1: Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Celtics captaincy

In order to justify holding Pierce on ice as a keeper, Ainge needed to land a big fish who could restore a winning culture to the Bay State’s once proud basketball franchise. Garnett did that and then some. Now, seven years later, the C’s president must reel in another catch, and the solution may reside in the Land of 10,000 Lakes once again.

For all the bellyaching about whether or not Kevin McHale helped steer Garnett to his former team, the Celtics offered the best package at the time. In the end, the deal centered around a double-double machine in Al Jefferson, and it’s not Ainge’s fault the Timberwolves drafted Jonny Flynn over Stephen Curry.

Come to think of it, Minnesota’s failure to capitalize on that Garnett trade may ultimately force the T-Wolves to deal Kevin Love. If David Kahn had played his cards right in the draft since 2007, he could have revealed a starting lineup of Curry, Love, Jefferson, Paul George and DeMar DeRozan within three years.

But, alas, the Timberwolves aren’t an uber-exciting All-Star squadron. They’re a .500 team. In the Western Conference, that gets you a lottery pick, and it doesn’t sit well with a perennial NBA All-Star. Just ask Garnett. Like KG in 2007, Love is nearing the end of his contract (Garnett had two years left, Love has one) and would require some convincing to sign an extension in Boston beyond his current deal.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, Ainge must ask himself two questions: 1) Is Kevin Love the kind of franchise-altering player who can help return the Celtics to their former glory, and 2) Do they have enough to get him?

Garnett Love

As good as Love has been — ranking among the league’s top five in scoring and rebounding in his last two healthy seasons — any comparison to Garnett is premature. A perennial All-NBA and All-Defensive selection, KG in 2007 was already well on his way to one of the greatest power forward careers in basketball history.

The current Timberwolves power forward, however, is only 25 years old and has almost 25,000 fewer minutes on his legs than Garnett did at the time the Celtics traded for him. Needless to say, he will be in high demand.

Statistics aside, it’s impossible to measure Garnett’s heart. From hurling medicine balls against a wall at practice to smashing his head into a stanchion before games and pumping out knuckle pushups during them, he accepted nothing less than maximum from anyone who shared the floor with him. Keyon Dooling once called him “the greatest teammate in the history of the NBA,” and it’s hard to imagine Doc Rivers disagreeing with that sentiment.

Still, all of Garnett’s desire didn’t translate into much team success in Minnesota. His Wolves sandwiched seven straight first-round playoff exits and three consecutive lottery seasons around a trip to the conference finals. At the time, he seemed destined to join Charles Barkley and Karl Malone among the greats never to win a title.

While Love hasn’t quite entered that conversation yet, he’s the subject of a similar discussion. As The Wall Street Journal pointed out last week, he currently counts himself among the game’s best players never to appear in the playoffs. If that doesn’t make a basketball player hungry for victories, then it’s time to change professions.

Come July, it will have been two years since Love declared, “Something has to happen in Minnesota,” and little has changed. As one of the few elite 2015 NBA free agents in his prime (Rondo is another), Love could force Timberwolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders‘ hand by internally stating his desire to sign elsewhere next season. As was the case with KG, The T-Wolves won’t want to be left with nothing in return.

Whether Love would want to sign an extension with the Celtics is an entirely different matter. Pierce and Garnett shared a bond that went back to junior high, and Rivers helped discredit KG’s perception of Boston, ultimately convincing him to wear the green he came to love. It remains to be seen if Rondo and Brad Stevens can have the same influence on superstar talents, but first Ainge must outbid the competition for Love’s services.

Jefferson Sullinger

Last season, Jefferson recalled the fledgling 2006-07 Celtics fondly. ”In the time we were here, when we were losing, we hardly ever got blown out,” he said. “It was always close games, but we were just such a young team, we didn’t know how to finish those games. I knew if we could’ve stayed together, things could’ve got better for us.”

The same can be said about this year’s edition. These young C’s rarely leave the locker room without discussing plans to get together, and they’re record of 7-34 when trailing by five or less in the final five minutes is the stuff of legend. But that didn’t stop Ainge from trading Jefferson, and it shouldn’t stop him from dealing Jared Sullinger.

Heck, Jefferson has now twice declared, ”€œIf I were Danny Ainge, €œI would’€™ve traded me for Kevin Garnett, too.”

The similarities between Jefferson and Sullinger go beyond their jersey number. Both late-round draft picks and 22 years old at the time, Big Al and Sully respectively averaged near identical numbers per 36 minutes in 2006-07 and 2013-14 (Jefferson: 17.2 ppg, 11.7 rpg, 1.4 apg; Sullinger: 17.3 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 2.1 apg).

Keep in mind, too, that Jefferson had just one year left on his rookie deal, and Sullinger is under control for two more seasons at short money. Other than Rondo, he is easily the C’s most attractive player on the trade market.

With Kris Humphries‘ $12 million salary coming off the books this summer, the Celtics don’t have the equivalent of Theo Ratliff‘s expiring contract to sweeten a Love deal, but they have plenty of young pieces a la Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair and Ryan Gomes and four times as many first-round picks to package around Sullinger.

If Sullinger, Jeff Green or Brandon Bass, Joel Anthony‘s expiring deal and two (or even three) first-round picks sounds too steep, remember that the hardest part of rebuilding in Boston is landing that next big fish, and Love is a heckuva catch. In the end, as Ainge says, it’s always better to be the team trading four quarters for a dollar.

Love, like those cold Minnesota winters, isn’t as much fun all alone. Partners help the seasons pass a little easier, especially one as unselfish as Rondo. Heck, Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck already promised the fireworks. It’s now up to Ainge and Saunders — who like McHale spent some time in Boston — to make the Love connection.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach