Friday marked just the second start in the NBA career of 20-year-old Marcus Smart.

It’s no wonder he isn’t quite ready to assume complete control of the Celtics‘ offense, even with the deck cleared following the trade of Rajon Rondo to Dallas last week.

Smart worked hard Friday (5 points, 6 assists in 31 minutes) but it wasn’t enough in the end as the Celtics fell to the Brooklyn Nets, 109-107.

“A lot of confidence, actually,” Smart said. “It just shows I’m getting back to the player that I was in the preseason and getting back to what this team needs, energy-wise, on the defensive end, and just trying to help my team.”

But asked if he’s ready to assume the role of Rondo, Smart stopped short of that complete commitment.

“Not really. I don’t feel like there’s a guy on this team,” Smart said. “Everybody’s the guy because you never know on any given night, it can be somebody’s night.

“It’s a lot. It’s a lot that comes with it but obviously, I’ve done a lot in my life and throughout my whole career through basketball to prepare me for this type of situation and to just to do whatever I can to help this team come out with victories.”

Still, only at 20, he’s earning the respect of his peers around the NBA. Take Kevin Garnett. KG fell on top of him while scrambling for a loose ball in the third quarter. After Smart got the ball ahead on the break, Garnett tapped him on the backside for his hustle on the floor. Afterward, Garnett said he was “trying to trip his ass.”

“Knowing KG, I wouldn’t be surprised,” Smart said. “The guy goes hard. That’s who KG is and that’s why a lot of guys respect him.”

Smart could laugh because he’s becoming more and more comfortable assuming command of his team.

‘€œFelt very comfortable. Practiced the other day helped that. Went over some plays and getting guys in the right spots so I was able to know where guys were going to be and try to find them today.’€

Smart found out on Christmas Day that he was starting on Friday.

“Coach [Brad Stevens] called me before practice and told me that I was going to be starting and just to keep bringing the energy,” Smart said.

“Both, practice time and conditioning. With an injury you tend to sit on the sideline and your conditioning goes and its easy to get out of shape then it is to get into shape. Getting those minutes and practice time has put me back into the shape that I was in in the preseason.’€

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

In many ways, coming back to TD Garden was surreal and odd for Kevin Garnett Friday afternoon.

In many ways, coming back to TD Garden was surreal and odd for Kevin Garnett Friday afternoon.

It was the first time the 38-year-old future hall of famer has been back to Boston since the Celtics traded Rajon Rondo away to the Dallas Mavericks. And it might be the last time he gets a standing ovation from the Garden crowd that had a love affair with his game for six unforgettable seasons in Celtic green.

After Garnett’s Nets managed to escape with a 109-107 win over the Celtics, Garnett reflected on playing a Boston team that no longer has any members of the 2008 championship squad.

“I’ve been getting a lot of ‘Rest in peace’ texts and stuff, so I had to change my number,” Garnett said. “It’s all good, though. We’re infinite. Once you win once, you win forever.”

Garnett didn’t have a big role in Brooklyn’s win. He had just six points and four rebounds in 17 minutes and didn’t play the final 17 minutes in which the Nets rallied from a 12-point deficit to win.

Before Friday’s game, he received a standing ovation in the dark from the fans who came out to see him play in Boston for perhaps the last time in his career.

“It’s always love here,” said Garnett. “It’s always an appreciation that I can never give back, other than the salute. Winning is infinite. And I’ll always have that special relationship with this city.”

Garnett admitted that he has indeed given some thought to the end of the road coming at the end of this season and that Friday might have been his swan song in Boston.

“At this stage it’s always somewhere lurking in the back, probably whether I admit it or not,” Garnett said. “But, if I’m being truthful with you, sometimes [I do think about it]. Seeing Paul [Pierce] the other day, he was in town to play the Knicks and we had a conversation. So, at this stage, we know that things are not taken for granted, but more appreciated. It crosses [my mind], I wouldn’t lie about that.”

Celtics coach Brad Stevens missed Kevin Garnett’s time in Boston by mere days in the summer of 2013, when Paul Pierce and Garnett were dealt to Brooklyn while Stevens was hired to take over for Doc Rivers. Stevens doesn’t think Garnett is ready to hang up the laces at the end of the season.

“My general thought is that he looks like he has too much energy to retire,” Stevens said. “Whether it’s talking to our players, talking to our bench, talking to his teammates — the passion which he brings to the game is top-notch.

“And I think you can learn a lot from a guy like that if you’re a young guy that’s never been around him. And you know, I told Jae Crowder this when Garnett got introduced and everybody went nuts as they should: If you play the right way here, people appreciate it. And, obviously, he did that and he led others to do that.”

Garnett was pressed about Rondo and whether – deep down – he was surprised the guard was traded out of Boston.

“Little bit. Little bit. But nothing surprises me after Michael Jordan moving to different teams, Shaq moving to different teams,” said Garnett. “Players in the history going to different teams. I guess at that point, it’s just a matter of when and where.

“It’s very weird. I just saw [Celtics trainer] Ed Lacerte in the locker room and he told me it was kind of bittersweet. Obviously, I’ve been in contact with Rondo since [the trade], just for his well-being. I kind of stay in touch with all the guys. … Obviously, we all stay in touch, just caring about his well-being. I’m just glad everything worked out.”

How does Garnett think Rondo will do in Dallas?

“What do I expect from him? To be himself,” Garnett said. “Obviously, he has all the players, bit more of a firm base, little more of a championship base around him. And I see him adapting to that with no problem. I’ve watched him play, I’ve seen him getting up on [defense] like old times. He’s talking, being himself. I expect great things out of him. I wish him the best.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

BOSTON — If the Boston Celtics had a Christmas hangover they could only hide it for three quarters.

Jared Sullinger

Jared Sullinger

BOSTON — If the Boston Celtics had a Christmas hangover they could only hide it for three quarters. Headaches and nausea spread throughout the sellout crowd at the TD Garden after the Celtics squandered a seven-point lead during the forth quarter of their Friday matinee against the Nets, eventually losing, 109-107, Friday afternoon (Box Score). 

For a complete recap, click here.

Jared Sullinger had a chance to tie the game in the final seconds, but missed a fall-away jumper after receiving a full court pass from Gerald Wallace. With stars Deron Williams and Brooke Lopez playing limited minutes, Jarret Jack led the way for the Nets, netting a game-high 27 points. Alan Anderson had 15 points off the bench, including a devastating game-tying three late in the fourth quarter.

In the first three quarters, the Celtics appeared to be in control. Jeff Green had 22 points, while four of his teammates also notched double figures. Green did most of his damage early, hitting 5 of his 6 first quarter shots. Avery Bradley, who has struggled with his jump shot all season, took the reigns during the second quarter, scoring seven points during a key 10-2 run.

Rookie Marcus Smart shined in the third quarter. Making his second career start, Smart looked sharp on both ends of the floor, making smart passes and playing great on-ball defense. He brought the general demure sell out crowd to its feet with the below high-energy

Marcus Smart Steal and Assist.

Thanks to @MrTripleDouble10 for the .gif

Blog Author: 
Sam Packard

In his weekly power rankings, Yahoo Sports reporter Marc Spears dropped an interesting nugget.

In his weekly power rankings, Yahoo Sports reporter Marc Spears dropped an interesting nugget.

The Lakers and Celtics had mutual interest for a Rajon Rondo deal, but the Lakers weren’€™t willing to give up injured rookie Julius Randle, a source said.

A previous report from Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski suggested the Lakers offered Steve Nash‘s expiring $9.7 million expiring contract and Houston’s 2015 first-round pick in exchange for Rondo.

Likewise, USA TODAY’s Sam Amick reported an offer that would have sent Jordan Hill, a first-rounder and presumably Nash to Boston in exchange for Rondo and Jeff Green going back to L.A. (although Hill owns Bird rights approval of a trade and can’t be dealt until Jan. 15).

Either way, it’s noteworthy that the Celtics discussed trading their captain to the rival Lakers before ultimately sending him to Dallas. The trade talks also suggest Rondo’s breakfast with Kobe Bryant during the Lakers’ most recent visit to Boston was more than “just two [expletives] having breakfast.” It would’ve been fascinating had the Lakers been willing to include Randle in a potential deal.

Blog Author: 

Here’€™s the first question Danny Ainge was asked in his press conference prior to Friday’€™s game: ‘€œWhy did you trade Rajon Rondo?’€

Ainge’€™s answer was brief: ‘€œThere was a definite uncertainty into what may happen this summer. So that was a big factor.’€

That’€™s all Ainge initially said on trading away his largest asset for what will presumably be a late first-round pick and a few misfit parts. Those few words tell us everything we need to know, though.

Ainge believed Rondo was going to bolt in free agency and didn’€™t want to lose him for nothing, so he traded him. It was the right move, plain and simple.

However, uncertainty remained a key word.

‘€œWe like the players that we got in the trade,’€ Ainge expanded. ‘€œBut, listen, I think that with [Rondo’€™s] impending free agency and uncertainty of what may happen this summer, I think that gave us the impetus of wanting to do a deal.’€

Ainge was later asked how long these uncertainties had existed regarding Rondo’€™s future in Boston.

‘€œOh, I think that there’€™s been uncertainty for a while,’€ Ainge claimed. ‘€œYou know, as to what kind of team we’€™d be able to put together. We tried this summer to get some significant players in, unsuccessfully, and there’€™s a price that we won’€™t go [to], either. [A price] that we won’€™t pay for any player in order to make that happen this past summer.

‘€œAt the same time, there’€™s been uncertainty as to what [Rondo’€™s] future would be, and there’€™s been uncertainty as to how he would return and how he’€™d come back and play [after tearing his ACL]. Yeah, I think he’€™s understood that, and I’€™ve understood that and we’€™ve talked about it.’€

Despite being a huge contributor to many Celtics‘€™ teams in the past, Rondo isn’€™t the type of player that could ever help this team win. So getting something for him while you still can makes perfect sense. The only thing I questioned was the timing of Ainge’€™s move, but that was another idea he addressed.

‘€œThe timing and the market was well though through and calculated,’€ said Ainge. ‘€œYou never know what may be available, but I think we had a pretty good feel for the teams that had interest, and consistent interest, over time and we thought all that through: timing and deals.’€

Even though the timing was well thought out, it still isn’€™t an ideal time to try and trade your point guard away. Many, including myself at times, figured there just wasn’€™t a trade out there for Rondo that made sense.

‘€œRight, well you would expect maybe a one-third of the teams in the league wouldn’€™t want to acquire a player of Rajon’€™s stature even when their goal isn’€™t a championship,’€ Ainge said of the market for point guards. ‘€œI think that the top 10-12 teams with a realistic opportunity to win a championship would be the ones that would be interested in acquiring a player such as Rajon at this time. If you look around [at] the teams, this may have been the only one that didn’€™t have, that I would classify, a consideration for an All-Star type guard. Every good team has this level of point-guard.’€

Ainge didn’€™t enjoy letting his star go, but he definitely wasn’€™t going to make the wrong decision because of that.

‘€œIt was hard,’€ Ainge admitted. ‘€œYeah, it was very difficult to move Rajon. I know that it’€™s business in professional sports, but you really develop a lot of close relationships. And I loved watching Rajon, I loved visiting with him, our one-on-one conversations were fun, entertaining, frustrating sometimes, and always a surprise. I mean, the guy is a very unique person. But watching him grow and watching him develop as a man and as a person and as a basketball player ‘€“ I just enjoyed my interactions with him. And so, yeah, it was an emotional time as we met [Thursday] night. It was not an easy thing to do, but I believe it was the right thing to do.’€

On a night where Ainge expressed many uncertainties, one certainly was not pulling the trigger on the deal that sent Rondo to Dallas, we can be sure of that. This was a move Ainge very much felt needed to be made.

Blog Author: 
Julian Edlow

BOSTON — In their first game since the trade of Rajon Rondo, the Celtics defeated the Timberwolves, 114-98 (

BOSTON — In their first game since the trade of Rajon Rondo, the Celtics defeated the Timberwolves, 114-98 (box score here) Friday night at TD Garden.

While Rondo’s departure generated a lot of buzz pregame, the Celtics didn’t allow his absence to affect their play on the court. Separating the two worlds was easy, something Jeff Green predicted before the game.

“At the end of the day, you got to still go and play basketball,” Green said. “Doing something that we love — its not that hard to go out there and play hard and give it all you got.”

That’s exactly what the Celtics did. Despite the score being relatively close for the first three quarters, the Celtics controlled the game for the entire night and were able to pull away in fourth quarter. The Timberwolves got 26 points from Shabazz Muhammad and 19 from Chase Budinger, but their efforts were no match for the team effort put forth by Boston.

Without Rondo, the Celtics had 29 assists, tying their fourth highest total this season. The crisp ball movement led to a balance attack in which six different players scored in double figures.

If there were a standout individual performance, it would have to be Kelly Olynyk. Coming off the bench, Olnynk had an incredibly impressive first half, scoring 14 points in 14 minutes. On the heels of a career-high performance Monday with 30 points in a win over Phillu, he attacked the rim with ease and showed little hesitation when given a open looks beyond the arc. He finished with a team-high 21 points.

Evan Turner started in place of Rondo, and along with Phil Pressey and Marcus Smart, did a serviceable job running the offense. The three-headed point guard trio only had six turnovers while combining for 24 points and 10 assists.

First overall pick and presumptive Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins struggled to find any sort of rhythm, finishing with only five points on 2-of-10 shooting. “Maple Jordan”€ did have a couple of nice blocks, but otherwise was a non-factor.

After the game, the Celtics will take their talents to South Beach to prepare for a Sunday night battle against Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and the 50 or so remaining Miami Heat fans.

Blog Author: 
Sam Packard