Don’t grab those old Paul Pierce Celtics jerseys out of the cellar. It doesn’t look like a Boston return is going to happen.

Though never really rumored that a Pierce return was imminent — or even a likely, for that matter — there was some hope among C’s supporters that maybe, just maybe, the Truth would return for one final ride in green.

That does not look likely, per a tweet Tuesday night from Los Angeles Times basketball writer Brad Turner.

The 38-year-old certainly is not the same player who helped bring the Celtics Banner 17 in 2008. In his first season with the Clippers in 2015-16, Pierce averaged just 6.1 points in 18.1 minutes, shooting a horrid 36.3 percent from the field compared to a 44.7 marker his previous 17 seasons.

A return to the Clippers would mark the first time Pierce has stayed with a team for consecutive season since he played for the Celtics. After getting dealt to the Nets in the monumental trade that led to the Celtics drafting Jaylen Brown, Pierce played one year in Brooklyn then one year with the Wizards before landing with the Clippers.

Blog Author: 
Logan Mullen

Some experts say the Celtics have the easiest schedule in the NBA. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Some experts say the Celtics have the easiest schedule in the NBA. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

With the release of the 2016-17 NBA schedule, the start of what has on paper begun to shape up as one of the most interesting season’s in recent Celtics memory is inching closer and closer.

So what challenges stand in front of the Celtics?

According to ESPN’s Chris Forsberg and a group of other insiders, the Celtics actually have the easiest schedule in the league. Let’s take a look:

Five notable games

Nov. 3 at Cavaliers

What a way to really get the season going. The Celtics’ fifth game of the year will be against the team that is one of the top contenders to stand in their way in the East. Though you’re hard-pressed to say a game at the beginning of November will have a long-term impact of the makeup of the season, this game will be a good jumping off point for the Celtics to see how they stack up against a top team when (most likely) both sides are healthy. What’s more, it will be the second game of a back-to-back, with the C’s squaring off against the Bulls the night before.

Nov. 18 vs. Warriors

A game that needs no explanation, the Celtics’ home matchup against the most highly-touted side going into this season comes a few weeks in. At that point, team identities will have been formed and an indication as to where teams are headed in their seasons should start becoming clear. Oh, and Kevin Durant too. That will be an interesting reception for the prized free agent who snubbed Boston this offseason.

Nov. 25 vs. Spurs

Another measuring stick to how the Celtics compare to top talent, it will also be the first time they see the Spurs without the incessant reminder that they didn’t get Tim Duncan in the 1997 draft.

Jan. 13 at Hawks

The Celtics don’t see the team that bounced them in the first round of the 2016 postseason until mid-January, and it will be on the road as well. For redemption sake, it will be a good matchup to see how they stack up against the new-look Hawks eight months later, but it will also be compelling to see how Al Horford squares off against his former team.

April 5 vs. Cavaliers

The Celtics in a sense bookend their season with the Cavs, and if the season goes in the direction everyone imagines it will, this will be a gargantuan game in terms of postseason preparation. It will be at home with just four more games following and will likely have postseason seeding implications as well.

Toughest stretch

Feb. 24 to March 10

The nine-game stretch immediately following the All-Star break in the above time frame is going to be a pivotal one largely because of travel demands and the class of opponents. First, there is a West Coast roadtrip in the back end of this time frame, which will see the Celtics take on the less-formidable Lakers and Suns, followed by matchups against the Clippers and Warriors, and then finishing up with the Nuggets.

Prior to embarking on the West Coast trip, the Celtics will have to face the Raptors and Pistons on the road, then the Hawks and Cavs at home.

In a crucial point in the season, the turnout of those nine games will likely have a big impact on testing the team’s resilience and ability to beat good teams during exhausting stretches from a travel standpoint.

Lightest Stretch

Nov. 6 to Nov. 16

Though peppered with flights that include a trip down south, the Celtics have a forgiving five games in 10 days stretch that will see them take on the underwhelming Nuggets, Wizards and Knicks to start things off, with the Nuggets and Knicks games being at home.

They’ll then jet over to Indianapolis to take on a veteran, though stunning Pacers team before wrapping things up in New Orleans against the Pelicans.

This stretch is arguably the lightest they’ll have this season, which is potentially good, because the next game back after the Pelicans is the Warriors matchup in Boston.

Schedule Quirks

— As unforgiving as an NBA schedule can be with back-to-backs — many of which involve traveling between the two games — the Celtics got a bit of a surprise: getting two six-game homestands this season. Last season, they never had a homestand stretch more than five games.

— The Celtics will play each Eastern Conference team four times, with the exception of Hawks, Pacers, Bucks and Magic

Blog Author: 
Logan Mullen

Apr 26, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Terry Rozier (12) shoots the ball against the Atlanta Hawks in the first quarter in game five of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Terry Rozier has made his case for why he deserves an increased role for the Celtics next season (Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports)

When Celtics coach Brad Stevens turned to Terry Rozier in his team’s playoff series against the Hawks last April, the 6-foot-2 rookie did not disappoint.

After averaging only 8 minutes in 39 regular season games, Rozier made his presence felt in his first NBA playoff series – averaging 4.8 points and 3.4 rebounds in 19.8 minutes.

He knocked down shots, did a stellar job on defense and most importantly, became the facilitator who Stevens could rely on for valuable minutes.

However, past performances doesn’t necessarily cement Rozier into the Celtics’ 2016-17 rotation. His opportunity in the playoffs was due in large part to Avery Bradley (right hamstring) having to sit out the entire series after the Celtics’ Game 1 loss in Atlanta. But Rozier’s skillset as a pure point guard will certainly increase his chances in becoming one of Stevens’ go to guys off the bench next season.

In a sixth man role, Evan Turner emerged as the team’s secondary facilitator for two years in Boston. As the secondary ball handler, Turner helped keep opposing teams at bay while the starters rested.

Now with Turner gone (now playing for the Trail Blazers), many expect Rozier to take on an increased role and he used the Celtics’ Summer League platform to prove why he’s ready to step up to the challenge. Rozier was the team’s MVP this summer – averaging 20 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists.

As the floor general – Rozier set up his teammates, led the team in scoring and forced turnovers on the opposite end. He also proved he can score at the rim and has an outside touch – something the Celtics are always looking for off their bench.

As he heads into his sophomore season, Rozier believes he was always ready for the kind of opportunity he received in the playoffs and has used this summer to work on becoming a smarter point guard.

“One of the things I said before training camp is that I’m smarter [now],” Rozier told Boston.com. “I felt like I could always play, but I just feel that my opportunity came late obviously in the playoffs [last season]. I got to see that as a rookie early and it made me smarter to just see things. Then, this summer I went over a lot of things and touched on things I could do as a point guard. I think I just became smarter more than anything.”

As Turner leaves behind an important role for this young team, look for Rozier to continue to make a strong case for himself in training camp and in the preseason as a guard who’s ready to become Isaiah Thomas’ backup point guard. He has shown that he can read opposing defenses, get the ball to his teammates and his underrated quickness allows him to score at the rim.

Much like Bradley and Marcus Smart, Rozier is a defensive-minded guard.  He has a knack for suffocating his opponents in the backcourt and has the potential to blossom into a consistent scorer. 

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has noticed Rozier’s vast improvement and believes he’ll have no problem earning minutes from coach Stevens next season.

“I think that Terry Rozier has made a great case for himself for next year,” Ainge told Boston.com. “He’s been our best player from the first day of training camp, just didn’t get a lot of opportunities because of our depth at guard. I think he’s winning a spot [in the rotation].” 

 

Blog Author: 
Josue Pavon

The Celtics now know their path to a third straight postseason appearance under Brad Stevens. 

The NBA released its full schedule on Thursday and some of the highlights for the Celtics include early match-ups against Eastern Conference rivals, holiday season showdowns, and the first home games on consecutive nights in over 15 years. 

The Celtics went with Jaylen Brown at the third pick. (Jerry Lai/USA Today Sports)

Jaylen Brown makes his Celtics debut on Oct. 26 vs. Nets. (Jerry Lai/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics now know their path to a third straight postseason appearance under Brad Stevens. 

The NBA released its full schedule on Thursday and some of the highlights for the Celtics include early match-ups against Eastern Conference rivals, holiday season showdowns, and the first home games on consecutive nights in over 15 years. 

On Wednesday, Oct. 26, Al Horford makes his Celtics debut, joining 2016 All-Star Isaiah Thomas and 2016 first-team All-Defense selection Avery Bradley as they welcome the Brooklyn Nets to TD Garden to tip-off the 2016-17 season. One week later, the Celtics will host Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo and the new-look Chicago Bulls on Nov. 2 before traveling to Cleveland the next night for their first encounter with LeBron James and the 2016 NBA Champion Cavaliers.

Later in the month, Celtics fans get their chance to let Kevin Durant know how much he disappointed them and Tom Brady when he, Stephen Curry and the Warriors come calling on Friday, Nov. 18 at TD Garden.

The Celtics have holiday home games this year with a matinee matchup against LaMarcus Aldridge, Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs the day after Thanksgiving, Friday, Nov. 25, and a Friday night tilt against Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Dec. 23. The Celtics also play on Christmas Day for the first time in four seasons, when they travel to New York to face off against Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose and the Knicks.

The team will host home games on consecutive nights against Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday, Jan. 6 before taking on Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday, Jan. 7, marking the first time the Celtics have hosted home games on consecutive days since the 1998-99 lockout-shortened season.

The Celtics will welcome the Cavaliers to town on Wednesday, March 1, 2017 for the first of two match-ups in Boston this season. The Celtics close out the regular season on Wednesday, April 12 at home against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Here is the full schedule: 

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 6.39.16 PM

The complete 2016-17 Celtics schedule.

Individual game tickets will be available exclusively to members of Club Green, presented by Mohegan Sun, in a one-day-only presale on Thursday, August 18. Fans can sign up for Club Green at celtics.com/subscribe. Individual game tickets will go on sale to the general public on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016 at noon. To purchase seats, fans can go to Celtics.com, call 800-4NBA-TIX or visit the TD Garden Box Office.

 Celtics faithful throughout the country can catch the team on ABC, ESPN and TNT a combined 22 times this upcoming season. Additionally, Boston will make six appearances on NBA TV.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Isaiah Thomas

Isaiah Thomas

Isaiah Thomas has had a busy summer. From recruiting Kevin Durant, to jet-setting to China to handing out ice cream at Faneuil Hall, the Celtics point guard has hardly been off this offseason.

In an interview with Celtics.com on Wednesday, Thomas talked about his trip to China, the team’s No. 3 pick Jaylen Brown, and what else he’s been doing this offseason when not recruiting, flying or giving away ice cream.

For the full interview, click here.

The 27-year-old went to Beijing as part of NBA Cares, an initiative to help continue to grow the game. He was joined by Karl-Anthony Townes of the Timberwolves as well as Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell of the Lakers. While there, they hosted clinics, meet-and-greets and NBA Finals viewing parties.

“It was a blessing to be able to be considered to go. Once they asked me to go I definitely wanted to see Beijing and what it was like,” Thomas said. “I’ve been to China before but it was definitely a smaller, but it was a good experience. I was hoping to meet Yao Ming but I didn’t get to, but it was nice to be in China and experience their culture a little bit.”

In his All-Star 2015-16 season in which he played in all 82 games (while starting 79), Thomas admittedly was a little banged up when the season concluded with their first round departure at the hands of the Hawks. As a result, he cited that he gave himself a little bit of time away from basketball at the start of the offseason.

“The first four to six weeks of offseason I didn’t play basketball, my body was hurting,” he said. “I needed some injuries to heal in my body so I really relaxed, spent time with my family, my kids and watched the playoffs so that was my biggest thing. Now I’m back working out, I’m healthy and I’m trying to just continue to get better each and every day so I can get ready for the season.”

Added Thomas on how the team plans to get better: “Work. Continue to work, continue to get better. Don’t be satisfied with what we did cause honestly we felt like we came up short, we felt like — give credit to Atlanta — but we felt like we could’ve beat them.”

With the Celtics often at the forefront of any and all rumors prior to the draft holding the prized third overall pick, many people were openly disappointed with the selection of Brown out of Cal. In Thomas’ case, however, he got a little reassurance that it was the right pick.

“He’s talented. Jaylen Brown is talented, he’s a workhorse,” said Thomas. “He’s somebody that when we drafted him, the older Isiah Thomas he always texts me, but he texted me and said ‘you’re going to like him. You’re going to like him. He works hard, he’s a good kid,’ So I’m excited to get to meet him, get to know him, and get to work on the court.”

He added: “The other draft picks I don’t know too much of them but they got drafted for a reason so hopefully they can help our team right away and make an impact.”

Thomas set a career high in points per game this season at 22.2. He was also just shy of his assists per game record of 6.3, turning in 6.2 helpers this season. He led the team in both of those categories this season as well. And that success was due to a number of factors according to the point guard.

“My work, my hard work that I put in. I prepared for the season like no other, I prepared to be a All-Star, that was one of my goals. But also everything just fell into place,” Thomas said. “My teammates are exceptional to where they want me to be myself, they allow me to be myself and they put me in the best position to be who I am, and same with the coaching staff. They’re a hardworking group of guys and they just want me to be me. So it’s kind of easy for me to go out there and just play because all the guys from the first guy to the last guy they just want me to be myself and it’s a great moment to have that, especially on a team like the Boston Celtics. So hopefully I can just build on it, which I will, and we can go a little further.”

Added Thomas about the season following an All-Star nomination: “This is my biggest summer yet. So making the All-Star team and then the next year is a big year not just for myself but anybody in that situation. I want to make the All-Star [game] an annual thing where I’m voted in by coaches, voted in by the fans. The next goal is to be a starter in the All-Star Game hopefully. So I’m just going to continue to work and continue to get better and never be satisfied with just one All-Star appearance.”

And when asked how he feels he stacks up against, the “elite” point guards of the league, Thomas went with his go-to phrase.

“All I’m going to say is men lie, women lie, numbers don’t,” Thomas said. “My numbers stack up against those other guys, those other top superstar guys you could say but at the end of the day I’m going to continue to work, continue to show that I’m just as good as any other point guard in the NBA.”

Blog Author: 
Logan Mullen

Even with temperatures in the 90s in the dead of August, it’s not to early to start thinking about Christmas, and it appears the Celtics will be decking the halls of Madison Square Garden on December 25.

Even with temperatures in the 90s in the dead of August, it’s not to early to start thinking about Christmas, and it appears the Celtics will be decking the halls of Madison Square Garden on December 25.

According to a report from The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, the Celtics and Knicks will be one of five games to be played on Christmas, with the Warriors and and Cavs set to tangle in a NBA Finals rematch, per ESPN’s Marc Stein.

The Celtics haven’t played on Christmas Day since 2012, when they ran through Brooklyn on the road 93-76. For reference, Rajon Rando was the leading scorer with 19 points, Kevin Garnett grabbed 10 boards and Paul Pierce had 10 assists. The Celtics still have had less than favorable results on the holiday posting an overall record of 12-17 on Christmas.

The Celtics/Knicks matchup will feature some new faces tossed into the Boston/New York rivalry with Celtics’ addition of Al Horford and the Knicks’ addition of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.

The league generally schedules the games based on how a team stands in terms of their marketability, so don’t be surprised to see the Heat, Lakers, Clippers or Bulls (all of whom played on Christmas last season) potentially get thrown into the mix this year.

Blog Author: 
Logan Mullen

Jan 27, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Miami Heat shooting guard Ray Allen (34) warms up prior to a game against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden.  Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Ray Allen played five seasons (2007-2013) with the Celtics (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Former Celtics shooting star Ray Allen has been in contact with team officials about making a potential comeback in Boston.

In an interview with the Hartford Courant, Allen says he’s spoken with two of his former teams about making a possible return — the Celtics — where he won his first NBA championship — and the Bucks — the team that drafted him back in 1996.

“I would love going back to those places if it worked out,” Allen told the paper, “because both teams are good, too. It doesn’t necessarily have to be championship-or-bust for me to go back to the NBA.

“I want to be in a situation where I thought I could help, play a little bit and help where they have good young talent.”

Allen, who was a member of the Celtics’ new ‘Big 3’ alongside Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, helped lead the team to an NBA championship in 2008. He last played for the Celtics in 2012 before he turned down a two-year contract to stay in Boston and signed with the rival Miami Heat for less money — a move that some C’s fans deemed as unforgivable at the time.

Allen went on to win his second NBA title with the Heat in 2013 before losing to the Spurs in the finals the following year — which ended up being his last season in the NBA.

Now, at age 41, Allen says he’s still in great shape despite sitting the last two seasons.

“I worked out the other day in New York with a friend of mine,” Allen said, during a break from his annual instructional camp at East Granby High. “I was shooting, I was going through my routine like I’d always done. Yeah, I was a little winded, but I was able to go through my routine like I’d always gone through my routine and I didn’t feel like I’d missed any time in doing what I was doing. For me, it’s not ‘Can I do it anymore?’ It’s how I feel after I do it. And yesterday, I felt great.

“I could not have learned all that I’ve learned in 20 years of my life, dealing with coach [Jim] Calhoun, and how to sleep right, eat right, and then go to the NBA and do what I’ve done there and then afterwards just drop the ball and let everything go. I still weigh the same I weighed in college.”

He expects to make a decision by the start of training camp.

“At the start of the year, if nothing pans out, then basically I’ll retire,” Allen said. 

Allen, who’s a 40 percent career shooter — shot 37.5 percent from deep in his last season with the Heat. 

After finishing with the third-worst 3-point shooting in the league, the Celtics are in dire need of an outside shooter, and there isn’t another player in NBA history who’s made more 3-pointers than Allen. He’s holds the all-time regular season (2,973) and playoff (385) record for most 3-pointers made.

The C’s currently have 18 players under contract but can sign up to 20 players before the regular season — where they have to trim the roster down to 15.

Blog Author: 
Josue Pavon

Dec 26, 2015; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens talks to guard R.J. Hunter (28) during the fourth quarter against the Detroit Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

R.J. Hunter will be fighting for playing time from Celtics coach Brad Stevens. (Tim Fuller/USA Today Sports)

Could 2016-17 be R.J. Hunter’s breakout season?

We’ve seen Hunter’s outside shot look very promising in exhibition and summer league games, but we’ve yet to see him put it together on a consistent level during the regular season.

The Celtics have been in dire need of a knockdown 3-point shooter since the departure four years ago of Ray Allen — a player who opponents constantly had to cover at the arc. Last season the Celtics finished with the second-worst 3-point shooting in the league (33 percent, better than only the Lakers). Hunter’s outside touch certainly could help boost them into the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference, but he’s going to have to earn a spot in Brad Stevens’ rotation first.

Hunter, 22, played in 36 regular-season games last season, shooting 30 percent from behind the arc in only 8.8 minutes a night. In a crowded backcourt, it was hard for Stevens to find playing time for the rookie — who was behind Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart and Evan Turner on the depth chart. But with Turner out of the picture (now playing for the Trail Blazers), his minutes will be up for grabs.

Hunter, coming off being a star in college at Georgia State, said last season’s transition to the pro game matured him.

“I’ve always played, so I had to kind of see the game from another angle,” Hunter told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I have a better appreciation for team ball, for winning and for just being on the court. I remember at the end I just wanted to be on the court to be a part of a win. It was humbling.”

In the playoffs, Stevens turned to Hunter for offense after losing Bradley (hamstring) at the end of Game 1 — and eventually the entire series — and Hunter responded with abysmal performances. He shot 22 percent from the floor, including 20 percent from deep, and averaged a single point in 8.4 minutes. Making matters worse, Hunter couldn’t keep up with the Hawks on defense — he was late closing out on Kent Bazemore and caught behind screens in trying to cover Kyle Korver.

For a rookie who hadn’t cracked Stevens’ rotation all season long, it’s easy to see how Hunter could fail under pressure in the postseason. However, as he heads toward his second year in the league with a taste of playoff basketball in him, it may instill confidence in the young guard.

As a 3-point threat, Hunter could open up lanes for Thomas and Smart. Opponents would be forced to close out on his shot, which would allow the C’s to spread the floor and improve their offense.

In summer league play last month, Hunter was impressive from outside — reassuring his potential in becoming a go-to shooter for the C’s second unit. In five games, Hunter hit 11-of-24 3-pointers (45 percent). His best performance of the summer was against one of the league’s better young shooters, as he held his own against Suns guard Devin Booker. In a shooters’ duel, Hunter shot 4-of-6 from deep and finished with 17 points, while Booker knocked down 3-of-5 from behind the arc and finished with 24 points. 

Although he may be one of the team’s better outside shooters, Hunter is going to need to outshine his teammates before the start of the season. His 3-point shot is what separates him from guys like Terry Rozier, James Young and Demetrius Jackson – players who will be fighting for roster spots this fall.

After Thomas and Bradley, he’s the team’s most efficient backcourt 3-point shooter, and if he’s able to shoot at a high rate this season it would give Stevens a weapon he’s never had with the Celtics.

Blog Author: 
Josue Pavon