The first ambiguous Celtics trade rumor of NBA trade deadline week comes courtesy of Sam Smith at Bulls.com (h/t HoopsHype): “The asking price if you can get [Rajon] Rondo is said to be two unprotected first rounders.
The first ambiguous Celtics trade rumor of NBA trade deadline week comes courtesy of Sam Smith at Bulls.com (h/t HoopsHype): “The asking price if you can get [Rajon] Rondo is said to be two unprotected first rounders.”
Seven teams other than the Celtics currently own two first-round picks in the 2014 NBA draft: Charlotte, Chicago, Oklahoma City, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Utah. Only the 76ers and Magic currently own a pair lottery picks this June, and Philly already appears to have a point guard of the future.
Naturally, a host of other teams would have multiple picks to offer over the next couple years, but the hard part is also finding a lottery-bound trade partner with expiring contracts to match Rondo’s $12 million salary (because who wants late first-round picks and more money on the books?). Plus, the Celtics already own as many as 10 first-round selections over the next five seasons, and at some point they have to find players rather than assets to rebuild the franchise.
This the Kelly Olynyk that Danny Ainge saw all along.
Heading into his first All-Star weekend, the rookie is showing real signs of finally getting into an NBA groove.
In 31 minutes Wednesday night, Olynyk had 15 points and 10 rebounds in 31 minutes off the bench. On Monday night, in a win in Milwaukee, the rookie out of Gonzaga had 14 points and 11 rebounds in 21 minutes.
In six games in February, Olynyk is averaging eight points, 6.7 rebounds and 20 minutes off the bench. Drafted 13th overall by the Mavericks last June and immediately acquired by Ainge in a trade, Olynyk was seen as an athletic big man who could draw bigs out of the paint, shoot effectively and create his own shot on drives to the basket.
‘He’s starting to get a good feel for [the offense],” coach Brad Stevens said Wednesday of Olynyk. “There’s a base offense, there’s a set offense, and then there’s play-in and space and understanding and picking where your opportunities are when you have those kind of structured-but-unstructured opportunities. And he’s really starting to figure that out. On all the pick and rolls where he’s playing off, whether he’s rolling, whether he’s picking and popping, whether he’s playing in the seam ‘ and then when he catches, where does he go from there?
“Does he drive it, does he pass it, does he go into hand-offs? He’s got a really good feel for the game and he’s starting to really pick up where people are around him, which is opening up opportunities for himself and others. And then I think defensively he’s just been more aggressive to the ball, and I think that that’s part of his rebounding is purely going after the basketball and not just being a guy that gets his guy off.’
Olynyk picked up his second straight double-double, scoring 15 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in a 104-92 loss to the San Antonio Spurs at TD Garden. Those are the first two double-doubles of his career.
“I’m definitely trying to be aggressive, trying to open some things up for other guys out there and just take advantage when stuff is there,” Olynyk said.
“The thing about minutes is the more you play, the more opportunity you’re going to have. Sometimes you’re going to have four rebounds in a minute and a half. Other times, you’ll go six or seven minutes without a rebound.”
With increased playing time comes more assertiveness. “It’s definitely something that comes playing more,” Olynyk conceded.
Olynyk is wise not to complain about playing time because he knows that not only is he paying his dues but he’s getting valuable time on the bench to watch exactly what Stevens needs from him on the floor.
His development was stunted somewhat by a sprained ankle that caused him to miss 10 games in late November and early December. His minutes average went from a season-high 23.6 minutes in November down to 14 and 16 in December and January respectively. Olynyk started six games in November but has been relegated to the bench for his development ever since.
There is the chance that could change, of course, if Brandon Bass and/or Jeff Green are traded before the Feb. 20 deadline next week. Until then, Olynyk will take the minutes when he can get them.
The Celtics head into the All-Star break with a record of 19-35. With this season’s diluted NBA product, that gives them the sixth-worst record in the league.
Marcus Smart returned to Oklahoma State for his sophomore season to work on his outside shooting and maturity, but he still struggles with both. (AP)
Even the smallest of streaks makes a difference when it comes to the number of ping pong balls owned come lottery time. Boston got hot and won 4-of-5 games starting on Super Bowl Sunday, a streak that took them from the third-highest odds of winning the lottery to the eighth. The C’s fell to the Spurs on Wednesday night, though, which, combined with unlikely recent wins by the Jazz and Cavaliers, has them sitting in the sixth spot.
The Celtics are on pace for about 28 wins by season’s end, but with the trade deadline around the corner, and the tanking only expected to become more obvious, no predictions are safe. The C’s could find themselves selecting anywhere in the lottery, which makes for excitement but also causes uncertainty.
Here’s a look at what some of the top draft prospects have done in the past week, plus a brief look at some players on the rise.
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State, sophomore ‘ As everyone knows by now, Smart only hurt his draft status in the past week. On Saturday night at Texas Tech Smart had a decent game, but his name was in the headlines for another reason.
With 6.2 seconds left, and the Cowboys on their way to a fourth consecutive loss, Smart’s frustration boiled over in the worst way. Falling into the crowd going for a block, Smart was helped up, but he did not head to the court as expected. Instead he went deeper into the crowd and argued with a fan who had been heckling him. Smart then shoved the fan, which isn’t tolerated in any sports forum.
Both the fan and Smart have since apologized for their actions, but that was not enough to save Smart from a suspension. Smart missed his team’s blowout loss to Texas on Tuesday, and will miss the next two games to round out a three-game ban. His return, oddly enough, will come against Texas Tech, but this time on Oklahoma State’s home floor.
“Marcus made a big mistake [Saturday] night, he knows that,” Cowboys coach Travis Ford said Sunday. “We talked about it extensively. He knows we don’t condone things of that matter. He has owned up to it.’
Added Ford: ‘Marcus is a young man that has been in the public eye for quite a bit. And I think we’d all agree for the highest percentage of the time, he’s conducted himself as a tremendous young man. But he made a mistake that he’s going to pay for.”
Smart probably will end up paying a steeper price than his three-game suspension once the draft rolls around.
The main reasons Smart returned to school were to improve his 3-point shooting and become more mature. He is shooting only 28 percent from behind the arc this season, and clearly maturity remains an issue. Smart will have to show serious improvement in those two areas to even keep his draft stock where it was, but in all likelihood it already has begun to drop.
Jabari Parker, Duke, freshman – Picture how bad Saturday night was for Smart. Now picture the opposite — that was Parker’s Saturday evening in Chestnut Hill.
With Danny Ainge sitting front row at the Conte Forum, Parker had a career night for the Blue Devils. He torched Boston College for 29 points and 16 rebounds (both season highs), to go along with three blocks while shooting 12-of-17 from the field.
‘Jabari was a monster today,’ Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. said afterward. ‘He played more like a veteran.’
That seems to be how many feel on a nightly basis. Wrote ESPN insider draft analyst Chad Ford on Parker’s versatility: ‘He might be the most well-rounded freshman forward since Carmelo Anthony. Like Anthony, there’s a belief that his play alone could deliver Duke a national title. Although best college player doesn’t always mean best NBA prospect, in Parker’s case, it just might.’
High hopes indeed. Some, like myself, even believe that Parker is more well-rounded than Anthony was as a freshman.
Joel Embiid, Kansas, freshman – Embiid is struggling through multiple injuries this week. The big man has a sprained knee as well as back issues that most likely are going to cause him to miss some time.
In his last three games Embiid has not topped 18 minutes, and that 18-minute stint came in Monday’s overtime loss to Kansas State in which he committed only one foul. Clearly something is wrong.
The first thing that comes to mind is Greg Oden. If the injuries continue for Embiid it certainly will raise eyebrows about him being the No. 1 overall pick, simply because of what we have seen in the past. But Embiid is much smoother than Oden, and most big men for that matter. He graces the court much like a small forward, which should keep scouts optimistic.
Said Jayhawks coach Bill Self: ‘Joel is beat up. He’s beat up. I’m not going to make an excuse for him because you have to perform. But he’s going to need some time off. I don’t know how much time, but he’s going to need some time off.’
Embiid’s status for Saturday’s game against TCU was unknown as of Thursday, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him sit out a game or two.
Andrew Wiggins (Kansas) and Julius Randle (Kentucky) have done nothing to help or hurt their causes in the past week, but there are some prospects on the rise close behind them. Here are some brief notes on them.
Noah Vonleh, Indiana, freshman ‘ Vonleh has been working his way up draft boards all season, and he could end up in the top five when June arrives. He does not have eye-popping scoring totals, but Vonleh’s rebounding combined with his efficiency is gaining attention.
Vonleh is averaging 11.5 points and 9.6 rebounds on the season, but his rebounding has been on the rise of late. In his last four games Vonleh is shooting 15-for-26 from the field. With a percentage like that, Vonleh really should be looking for his shot more often. Once he does, he could become a double-double machine in the NBA.
Tyler Ennis, Syracuse, freshman – Ennis may not be the most talented in his freshman class, but he could be the most valuable to his team. He is wise beyond his years and really knows how to lead his team as a point guard (evident by the 24-0 start ‘Cuse is off to).
Ennis’ season averages are 11.9 points, 3.3 rebounds and 5.6 assists, but this is a player who goes beyond the numbers. Obviously Rajon Rondo would have to be on the move if Ennis was to end up in Boston, so it’s unlikely we see him in green. Someone is going to get a good leader with a strong will to win, though; his game-winner at Pittsburgh on Wednesday was ridiculous.
Chris Walker, Florida, freshman – Walker was ineligible to begin the season, but he has been able to play in Florida’s last three games. As the third-ranked team in the nation, the Gators have no reason to push Walker into a big role right away.
At 6-foot-10, Walker is a freak athlete who is built more for the NBA than college basketball. In his 16 minutes of play this season, Walker has shot 4-of-5 from the field for eight points while collecting six rebounds and swatting away a pair of shots. If Walker enters the draft without getting a chance to showcase his talent by playing major minutes, an NBA team will end up with a serious steal.
With so many exciting prospects, as well as an ever-changing landscape in the NBA, mock drafts are really just guesses at this point. But using Thursday’s NBA standings, here’s a look at what the lottery could look like if the draft were held now.
1. Bucks: Joel Embiid – Despite being banged up, Embiid is still the front-runner for the top pick — too much potential to pass up.
2. 76ers: Jabari Parker – Really a toss up with Wiggins, but Philly has nice young pieces in place and Parker seems like the right guy to tie them all together.
3. Magic: Andrew Wiggins – This works well for the Magic who are rumored to have Wiggins atop their draft board. He would immediately become the cornerstone of the franchise.
4. Kings: Dante Exum (Australia) – Exum is the mystery man overseas, but people who have seen him play love him. He is a 6-foot-6 combo-guard the Kings have interest in. Although probably far-fetched, some scouts have mentioned Exum as a potential top overall pick.
5. Lakers: Julius Randle – Simple, the Lakers take the best player on the board, they will have no trouble building through free agency.
6. Celtics: Noah Vonleh – With no franchise center or dominant wing scorer left on the board, Boston probably takes the best player available. Smart could be that guy come June, but this is if the draft were today.
7. Jazz: Gary Harris (Michigan State, sophomore) – Utah drafts for a need here, and that need is small forward. Harris is the best on the board at that position.
8. Cavaliers: Aaron Gordon (Arizona, freshman) – Gordon has drawn some realistic Blake Griffin comparisons. Great fit next to Kyrie Irving for a Cavs team erasing its current rebuild and starting over from scratch.
9. Nuggets (from Knicks): Marcus Smart – Smart is too talented to fall out of the top 10 no matter what. The Nuggets have size already, and even though they have Ty Lawson, I maintain that Smart can play off the ball.
10. Bobcats (from Pistons): Doug McDermott (Creighton, senior) – The ‘Cats have wasted plenty of picks on young talent that has not developed. McDermott puts up over 25 PPG and is a proven scorer, perfect fit in Charlotte.
11. 76ers (from Pelicans): Rodney Hood (Duke, sophomore) – Hood takes a backseat to Parker on many nights, but he is an inside-out forward who would go well with Philly’s young talent. Ironically, the Sixers end up with Parker and Hood in this mock.
12. Magic (from Nuggets): Tyler Ennis – With Jameer Nelson aging and potentially on his way out of town, Ennis is a perfect fit. Yet another connection: Ennis and Wiggins played AAU ball together and would now team up in the NBA.
13. Timberwolves: Dario Saric (Croatia) – Saric is considered a ‘point power forward’ but could probably play the three alongside Kevin Love or the four with Love in smaller lineups. Saric would make for a good fast break with Ricky Rubio.
14. Grizzlies: James Young (Kentucky, freshman) – Young is a great outside shooter and can help try to fill the void that Rudy Gay left.
As Kris Humphries left on Wednesday night to begin a six-day NBA All-Star break leading up the Feb. 20 trade deadline, he gave his best to some of the team’s locker room attendants “in case I don’t see you again.”
Likewise, rookie Kelly Olynyk wanted to make sure Phil Pressey didn’t leave Chris Johnson hanging on a high five because “you never know what day will be your last.” (Pressey left him hanging anyway.)
But Rajon Rondo — the subject of so many trade rumors surrounding this team — kept a poker face. As if Rondo has another face. “I don’t watch TV,” he said of handling the uncertainty of his team’s future and his future with the team. “It’s been like that my last eight years as a Celtic. Until the trade gets pulled, I’ll play as a Celtic.”
“There are only two guys maybe that are in the rumors,” said Rondo. “As far as us, just play the game. Guys that aren’t in rumors, sometimes their names get called. We have a pretty young team, but for the most part, we don’t talk about the trades or anything that could happen, because you never know. It’s part of the game.”
Instead, he’ll use the All-Star break to rest his sore right knee for whatever the second half of the season may bring. Or, as the Celtics captain said, “I’m just going to chill — take a trip at an undisclosed location.”
Some part of Rondo must wish he was partaking in the festivities down in New Orleans. After all, he’s been selected to the All-Star Game each of the past four seasons, participating when healthy from 2010-12. “No,” he said.
Well, maybe the NBA asked him to participate in some capacity. Perhaps the skills competition? “No.”
Surely, he would have accepted the offer if it had been expected. “No,” he persisted. “I need the rest.”
Rondo wished rookie Kelly Olynyk and sophomore Jared Sullinger the best in Friday’s Rising Stars Challenge, but it didn’t appear he had all that much interest in watching. “That’s Valentine’s Day, right?”
As long as we’re off the subject of basketball — because why talk hoops after losing to the Spurs bench — Rondo answered a question about which event at the Winter Olympics he would like to enter in typical Rondo fashion.
“Maybe snowboarding,” said. “I don’t know how fast they’re going. That’s the scary part about it. You’ve got to be a little crazy to do that. I think it’s fun. I’ve never even watched them, but this year in particular I’ve watched a lot of the winter sports. It’s very unique. I’m sure they may look at us the same way, but what those guys do, you can’t duplicate and try on your own. It’s just something they’re professionals at, and they’re very good at it.”
What about curling? “No. That’s pretty hard. That’s kind of hard. I don’t know. I wouldn’t win, but I’ll compete.”
Rondo answered these question about the Winter Olympics about as seriously as one can discuss snowboarding and curling, which is somehow a commentary on the state of this Celtics locker room. Strange times ahead.
“It’s kind of weird. I don’t know if I’d want to play it, but I always grew up watching figure skating with my mom. It’s pretty impressive. I don’t think I could ever do that, but I’ve got a lot of respect for them. I grew up with the Tonya Harding “Tonya Tapper” and that whole deal, so I’m waiting for some action in that sport. It hasn’t come in a while.”
While he could easily be screaming “Why me?” crumpled on the floor somewhere in the depths of the Garden, Humphries isn’t taking the Nancy Kerrigan approach to this 19-35 Celtics season just yet.
“I didn’t come here thinking that we were going to be struggling like this,” he said. “I think you’re a loser if you come in and say this is where we’re going to be at, so I can’t really comment further than that.”
Since he arrived in Boston before training camp, Humphries has said all the right things about joining a rebuilding team 10 years into his NBA career, and his willingness to accept the various roles Brad Stevens has given him throughout the season may have made him more than just a $12 million expiring contract on the trade market. Not that he would know anything about that after another productive night (15 points, 6 rebounds in 23 minutes).
“I think you guys are more in touch with what’s going on than we are, so I’ll look and see what you guys are writing later. You just enjoy the break. If you get that call, you get that call. Otherwise, we’ll see you Wednesday in Phoenix.”
Tim Duncan offered a reminder of what can happen when the Ping Pong balls don’t fall the Celtics way, turning back the clock 17 years after the C’s missed out on one of the game’s great power forwards. Duncan finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds to held the Spurs hand the Celtics their second loss in three games, 104-92.
Six Celtics scored in double figures — led by 15 points from Kris Humphries and Kelly Olynyk (10 rebounds) — but the Celtics dropped to 19-35. Here’s what went wrong (and right) entering the All-Star break.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Worst first: Sans two of their big three — Tony Parker (back) and Manu Ginobili (hamstring) — as well as key contributors Kawhi Leonard (hand) and Tiago Splitter (calf), the Spurs still dug the Celtics an early hole. Led by Marco Belinelli, who posted nine first-quarter points and five early assists without Avery Bradley (ankle) to frustrate him, San Antonio shot 56 percent as a team and led 25-19 after one.
Green thumbs down: It was an ugly Jeff Green outing this time around. He missed his first six shots before knocking down a 3 at the end of the first quarter, and then failed on a couple bunnies before sinking a buzzer-beating layup to limit the damage to 48-44 at the break. He had more turnovers (2) than rebounds (1), assists, steals or blocks at the half. Green’s engagement early once again proved an indication of his overall performance.
Not going streaking: After logging six straight double-doubles, Jared Sullinger‘s string came to an end. The reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week started 2-of-9 from the field (0-2 3P) and sat for a large stretch of the second half in favor of Olynyk, Kris Humphries and (wait for it) Joel Anthony.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Early KO: After recording the first double-double of his career on Monday, Olynyk had himself another nice outing against the Spurs. He had 10 points, six rebounds and two assists — a welcome sight after an up-and-down (mostly down) couple months. Another encouraging sign: He split his four early buckets between the paint and midrange.
Right guard: In 15 first-half minutes stretching midway through the first quarter to a few minutes before halftime, Bayless put himself on early triple-double alert, gathering four points, four boards and six assists. He bolstered a backcourt without Bradley and actually helped the Celtics dig themselves out of an 11-point hole with Rondo on the bench. Behind Bayless, the Celtics even grabbed a short-lived 36-34 lead six minutes into the second quarter.
Long-distance Rondo: The Celtics point guard didn’t make three 3-pointers in a game for the first seven years of his career, and now he’s accomplished that feat in two of his last three games. He connected on 3-of-6 attempts against the Mavericks on Sunday and drilled all three tries against San Antonio. In just 10 games this season, Rondo already has 10 triples — the same number he had in both his 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons.