Jared Sullinger

Jared Sullinger

HARTFORD – The Boston Celtics beat the New York Knicks 106-86 Wednesday night at Hartford’s XL Center in Hartford (see box score here). With few standout individual performances beyond Jared Sullinger’s 23 points on 12 shots, the real star of Thursday night’€™s game was the Celtics‘ team defense.

The Celtics played  aggressive,  jumping in passing lanes and contesting jump shots. They finished with x14 steals and held the Knicks to 40 percent shooting.

The young Celtics guards, especially Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley, played at a frantic pace, leading to a number of scoring opportunities in transition. And the Knicks did not do themselves any favors, as they committed 28 turnovers.

Self-proclaimed underrated supserstar Carmelo Anthony also struggled, scoring just 10 points on 3-of-9 shooting from the field opposite Evan Turner.

OTHER REASONS TO CARE AOBUT CELTICS-KNICKS:

Marcus Smart made a shot!

Four, actually. After an 0-for during his NBA debut, Smart scored 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting. He scored 10 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, in the second quarter. Smart, who normally looks to attack the basket, showed no hesitation taking jump shots. He also looked adept at running the offense, leading the team with six assists.

Evan Turner again played well at multiple positions.

He seems to be one of the only Celtics players who can generate his own shot. Although he only scored nine points, he attacked his defender off the dribble and was willing to make the easy pass, racking up four assists.

Avery Bradley was looking to shoot.

Known as a defensive specialist, Bradley has been working on his jumper from the day he joined the Celtics. Thursday night, Bradley was aggressive, taking eight shots in the first half. Despite only scoring 11 points, Bradley continued to look to score, especially early in the shot clock.

James Young did not play due to a strained left hamstring.

The Celtics rookie sustained the injury while warming up before Monday’€™s game against Philadelphia. Young said he felt a “€œfew pops”€ while stretching before the game, but neglected to mention anything to trainers or coaching staff, saying, “€œI just wanted to go out there and play.”€

When it was suggested to Young that he maybe should have mentioned the injury to the team earlier, Young chalked up the mistake to inexperience, explaining, “€œI’€™m still learning.”

It’€™s unclear how long it will be before Young is back on the floor. Prior to the game, Celtics coach Brad Stevens characterized the injury as more “week to week” than “œday to day,” but Young downplayed the injury, saying he thought he may be ready in a couple of days.

Despite the apparent injury, Young had a solid performance in his NBA debut, scoring 10 points in 15 minutes against the 76ers. The injury is a frustrating setback for the 19-year-old who will need as many minutes as possible in order to distinguish himself as an NBA ready player, especially on a Celtics team deep at the wing.

Blog Author: 
Sam Packard

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: Marcus Thornton.

Marcus Thornton

Marcus Thornton

The second-round pick that later became Marcus Thornton was traded for a dude named Stanko Barac when “Li’l Buckets” was still a Kilgore College sophomore, and thus his well traveled NBA road was paved before it even started.

Dealt again on draft day for a pair of future second-round picks, the LSU transfer immediately launched an assault on a list of doubters that’s weirdly evergrowing for a player whose NBA potential as a volume scorer was rather accurately assessed by DraftExpress from the start. In his only full season on the Hornets, Thornton averaged 14.5 points on 55.0 percent true shooting in 25.6 minutes a night alongside point guards Chris Paul and fellow rookie Darren Collison.

Traded in season twice — from New Orleans to Sacramento for Carl Landry in 2011 and from the Kings to the Brooklyn Nets for Jason Terry and Reggie Evans last season — Thornton has been consistently productive ever since. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound shooting guard has averaged between 17.3 and 20.3 points per 36 minutes and produced a PER between 14.0 and 18.2 each step of the way — save for a 46-game stretch in Mike Malone’s system to start last season.

Outside of his 3-point percentage (36.1), Thornton’s career through five seasons compares fairly favorably to Boston’s own Dana Barros, another oft-traded and under-appreciated scoring threat from age 22-26.

  • Thornton (2009-14): 8,894 min, 13.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.5 apg, 0.9 spg, 53.8 TS%, 15.9 PER
  • Barros (1989-94): 7,473 min, 9.2 ppg, 2.7 apg, 1.6 rpg, 0.8 spg, 55.3 TS%, 15.3 PER

The following winter, Barros submitted the finest season of his 14-year career, averaging 18.3 points (63.2 TS%) per 36 minutes and earning a 1995 NBA All-Star Game invitation. Now, let’s not jump to any conclusions about Thornton’s All-Star campaign this winter, especially since players on average are better now than in the mid-1990s and statistical appreciation for a player’s contributions has evolved beyond, “Hey, this guy can really fill it up.”

Of the 42 rosters that have allowed 109 points per 100 possessions since he entered the league, Thornton’s been on four of them, and those groups were slightly worse with him on the floor. That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for his defensive impact. So, Thornton is who he’s always been — a scorer, plain and simple — and he believes a healthy Rondo can help him return to being the productive one he was as a rookie on Paul’s Hornets.

“Playing with Rondo, you’re going to get shots, because he’s looking to pass first,” he said. “So, with a scorer like myself, you kind of get the big eye when you have a guy like that out there. I’m looking forward to it, and I’m ready to go. … Playing with guys like CP and Rondo, you get a different feel. They’re actually looking for you first until they’re going into their own thing, so just playing with those guys as a scorer it makes you want to play every night.”

He’s not exactly hiding the fact he’ll be looking to shoot this season, and a Celtics team that ranked among the five worst offensive groups in the league last year will give him the green light. Take Monday’s preseason opener, for example, when Thornton attempted 13 shots in 14 minutes. How much playing time he ultimately earns will depend entirely upon how porous the C’s defense is with him on the floor. Still, he’ll have plenty of opportunity to prove himself in Rondo’s absence, and perhaps defensive stalwarts Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart will fuel his fire.

“Avery picks up 94 [feet],” said Thornton, “so being out there with those guys will only amp up my level.”

Regardless, Thornton’s true impact is as an $8 million expiring contract, an asset that helped Brooklyn acquire a productive veteran (Jarrett Jack) and a 20-year-old first-round pick project (Sergey Karasev) in the C’s three-team trade with the Cavaliers over the summer. His value should only increase come trade deadline time, since he’ll have the eye of both playoff teams in need of scoring and lottery clubs shedding salary cap space next summer.

Asset Rating: C

This has been another edition of Asset Management. Check out more Celtics player valuations below.

Asset Management: Jeff Green’s Celtics future
Asset Management: Tyler Zeller’s Celtics future
Asset Management: Kelly Olynyk’s Celtics future
Asset Management: Marcus Smart’s Celtics future
Asset Management: Avery Bradley’s Celtics future
Asset Management: Jared Sullinger’s Celtics future

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

As if the start of basketball season starting up wasn’t reason enough for you to care about the Celtics‘€™ pre-season opener on Monday night, then Marcus Smart and James Young making their NBA debuts — and leading the C

Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart

As if the start of basketball season starting up wasn’t reason enough for you to care about the Celtics‘€™ pre-season opener on Monday night, then Marcus Smart and James Young making their NBA debuts — and leading the Celtics to an easy 98-78 victory over the 76ers — should be. (See the box score here.)

Smart spoke before the game about being nervous: “Of course, [there'€™s] always nerves. First game at a different level, there’€™s always going to be nerves, but [I'€™ve] just got to figure out how to calm them down.”€

His nerves were evident as he finished with just two points (0-8 FGs). Despite not shooting the ball particularly well, his effort on both ends of the floor was unmatched. He played lockdown defense on each and every possession coming up with three steals in the process. Although his shots weren’€™t falling, Smart did a good job running the offense, particularly leading the fast break. He ended up with six assists in his 27 minutes.

Young began the game cold, and his nerves were perhaps most evident when he missed his first two free throws just moments after stepping onto the floor. But he picked up the slack in the second half and was able to finish in double figures with 10 points on 3-8 shooting. Young was just 1-5 from 3-point land, but had several unlucky bounces off the iron.

OTHER REASONS YOU SHOULD HAVE CARED ABOUT MONDAY’S GAME

Evan Turner shined while playing multiple positions.

In the absence of Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green, Turner was exactly what the Celtics needed to fill both roles. Turner started the game at small forward and started the second half at point guard for Brad Stevens, yet was the C’€™s best player regardless of position. Turner flirted with a triple-double in his 31 minutes, posting 15 points and 10 rebounds to go along with six assists.

– Jared Sullinger is still a rebounding machine.

Sullinger got the start at power forward and was his usual self in terms of crashing the glass. Like much of the team, Sullinger did not shoot the ball well (4-15 FGs) but he still found ways to be effective. Sullinger ripped down 13 boards and still managed to score 10 points.

– There are still some veterans that can score.

Not many people came into this season excited about Brandon Bass or Marcus Thornton, but they can both still fill it up. Bass finished with 15 points and nine rebounds in just over 19 minutes of action, while Thornton scored 14 in only 14 minutes off the bench. Bass and Thornton don’€™t figure to be a big part of the future in Boston, but with both of their contracts expiring at season’€™s end, their strong play makes them both viable trade candidates.

The Celtics will take on the Knicks in Hartford, Conn., on Wednesday night.

Blog Author: 
Julian Edlow
Dr Nick Leung for the Newton Wellesley Orthopedics Association joins Ben to talk about Rajon Rondo's broken hand.
Tyler Zeller

Tyler Zeller

As the Celtics continued their training camp in Waltham on Thursday, one of their newcomers has been gaining the attention of his teammates. Tyler Zeller’s name has been the first out of many players’ mouths when asked they’ve been asked who has impressed them the most in camp this season.

“When you ask that question, it’s got to be somebody new, so it really narrows the list down,” Zeller joked. “But it’s one of those things where it’s really an honor for somebody to say that about you. But at the same time I’ve got to continue to prove that and continue to get better.”

Brad Stevens spent time recruiting the Zeller brothers for years while at Butler — all three of them. Ironically, Tyler may have been the brother that Stevens felt he was least likely to end up coaching one day.

“When I was an assistant I recruited Luke, who is the oldest, very hard and didn’t get him,” Stevens said. “And then [I] figured out we weren’t going to get Tyler pretty quickly. And then I recruited Cody, the youngest one, probably the hardest because I had known him since I recruited Luke.”

Joked Stevens: “But I clearly, if he wanted to come, I would have taken him.”

Now that Stevens got his guy, or at least one of them, he is seeing a lot of things in Zeller’s game that are going to earn him minutes in his first year in Boston.

“Like I’ve said all along, he just runs the floor,” Stevens said. “He’s a very unselfish player, he’s a smart player. He stands out because he does little things well. He’s a guy that can score on the block in the right matchup, but his strength is in beating people to spots.”

Running the floor is something Stevens repeatedly has spoken about while referring to Zeller since his arrival. However, running is something that Zeller had to learn to enjoy.

“I actually hated running as a kid,” Zeller claimed when asked where that reputation came from. “I had an AAU coach in seventh grade who used to make us run all the time in practice, I used to hate it. As soon as I got off his team I started running a lot.”

Added Zeller: “Pretty much I just wanted [running] to be over, basically. In time I’ve come to like it and enjoy it. It is something that makes me unique. They always say to play to your strengths.”

Training camp will wrap up for the Celtics over the weekend, then Zeller and the C’s will be off to the races on Monday night when they open up the preseason playing host to the 76ers at TD Garden.

Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow

Blog Author: 
Julian Edlow

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: Jared Sullinger.

Jared Sullinger

Jared Sullinger

Sullinger’s No. 1 goal this summer was to work himself into better shape, an objective both Celtics president Danny Ainge and coach Brad Stevens publicly supported, and then he showed up to training camp looking an awful lot like the guy who finished last season in need of improved conditioning.

“I’m not where I want to be, but really, really close,” said Sullinger. “Getting up and down in practice has really been helpful. Especially because of the pace that we’re playing, there’s no choice but for me to get in shape.

“So, as long as practices stay like this — and with the competition we have with Brandon [Bass] and Tyler [Zeller] and Erik Murphy and Dwight [Powell] and Kelly [Olynyk] — you have no choice but to play as hard as you can.”

That competition could further cut into his minutes, especially since Stevens has adopted the annual league-wide preseason mantra of pushing the pace and has other frontcourt contributors on the roster more suited to do so. After Wednesday’s practice, Stevens said of Olynyk, “I think our best bet is to make him a big part of what we’re doing,” and then added of Zeller, “He runs hard to the rim. … I think we’ll see a lot of that this year” — both of which could mean more time on the bench for Sullinger this season.

An argument could be made Sullinger was the C’s most productive player during his time on the floor last year, averaging 17.3 points and 10.6 rebounds per 36 minutes, and yet his playing time hovered around 25 minutes per game for much of the winter. It’s hard to imagine his conditioning wasn’t a contributing factor.

With the possible exception of Zeller, Sullinger remains their best interior scoring option, but the undersized big man attempted nearly a quarter of his shots last season from beyond the 3-point line despite almost two-thirds of his successful field goals coming within 8 feet of the basket. Both Ainge and Stevens encouraged him to continue shooting 3-pointers and Sullinger cited nagging hand injuries as the reason for his 26.9 percent shooting from distance — the third-worst among those who attempted 200 triples in 2013-14 (only Michael Carter-Williams and Josh Smith were worse) — but it’s becoming increasingly evident that he’s a player without a discernible NBA role.

“Positions don’t really matter in this crazy media craze that y’all try to put a position on me, so it really doesn’t matter to me,” countered the 22-year-old Sullinger. “Whatever helps the team win, that’s my main goal.”

That’s an admirable approach, but for a Celtics squad not expected to win a whole lot of games, it’s not as practical as Ainge might like. Sullinger’s name arose on Boston’s side in just about every Kevin Love trade scenario, and there’s little doubt the Celtics would part ways with him for the right player, but he’s not nearly the trade bait a more traditional big like Al Jefferson was in 2007. Sullinger still has value, particularly with another year left on his rookie contract, but he hasn’t proven to be quite the big fish the C’s had hoped for when he fell to them at No. 21 in 2012.

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
Asset Management: Tyler Zeller’s Celtics future
Asset Management: Kelly Olynyk’s Celtics future
Asset Management: Marcus Smart’s Celtics future
Asset Management: Avery Bradley’s Celtics future

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach
The debut edition of the We Hate Dwyane Wade show. Ben and Sam preview the Celtics and talk about other summer news around the NBA.

The Celtics kicked off training camp Tuesday with two-a-days at the team’€™s training facility in Waltham. It’€™s somewhat of a new trend for the team, which has journeyed to Newport, Rhode Island, for training camp the last several years.

Brad Stevens had a simple state of mind as to why the team is staying local.

“Because my office is here,” he said. “The computer is there, the TV I know how to work is in the same place. The equipment guys don’€™t have to carry thousands of bags. The video guys don’€™t have to move their whole life. It made a lot more sense to stay here. … The kind of work we get done is a lot more important than anything else, like where we do it.”

Stevens indicated he may have moved things along a bit too slowly last season and wants to take a more aggressive approach this time around.

“I’ve got a great idea about how fast or how slow I need to go,” he said. “Right now, in a lot of ways I’€™m trying to throw as much at them as possible in the next three days and then we’€™ll break it down after that.”

Added Stevens: “I thought I was too gradual last year and so we’€™re going to be a lot quicker in that. But at the same time, at the appropriate time, after a couple of days we’€™ll stop and hopefully break it down.”

With Rajon Rondo out of camp with a broken hand, Stevens briefly explained the team’s point guard situation on the first day of camp: “We had three teams, Evan [Turner], Marcus [Smart] and Phil [Pressey].”

Turner is less of a true point guard than Smart and Pressey, but that doesn’t concern Stevens.

“One thing is you don’€™t really know [is how Turner will respond], but he’€™s better with the ball than not,” Stevens said, adding: “Not withstanding Rondo, he’€™s as good of a pick-and-roll player as we have.”

Continued Stevens: “We have one point guard healthy that has NBA experience and that’€™s Phil Pressey. And that’€™s not a lot of it. I’€™m not as worried about [the point guard position] because I think people are going to put you in a box for your position, and I’€™m just not going to do that. I’€™m not going to worry about it. [Turner'€™s] a ball handler, he can make plays, he’€™s smart. And then I think that keeps our other guys in the positions that they’€™re most comfortable.”

The Celtics continue camp in Waltham all week before hosting a practice at the TD Garden on Friday for season ticket-holders.

Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow

Blog Author: 
Julian Edlow

Celtics rookie James Young knows he has a lot to learn in his first season, but he’d rather his classroom be the bench in Boston than the court in Portland, Maine. When asked if he’d welcome the possibility of playing 30 minutes a game for the Maine Red Claws — the C’s NBA Developmental League affiliate — Young was less than enthused.

“Definitely not,” Young said from the Celtics media day in Waltham on Monday, adding, “If it happens, it happens, but I just want to stay here and get better like that.”

While Maine may not be the most tantalizing of destinations for the first-round pick from Kentucky, it may be he best opportunity to develop his skills. Young is only 19 years old and given the number of swingmen the Celtics have on the roster, it’€™s difficult to imagine him getting a lot of playing time early in the season.

Young will look to impress coaches during training camp and preseason, but if he’s unable to prove that he’s NBA ready, it’€™s likely he’ll quickly become familiar with America’€™s Vacationland.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach