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

Rajon Rondo is his own worst critic, which is saying something. (Getty Images)



The Celtics have yet to name a temporary starting point guard while Rajon Rondo heals from a broken left hand that he suffered on Thursday. In all likelihood it will be Phil Pressey, who had experience in that role last year when Rondo missed time with a torn ACL. But it’s still too early to eliminate Marcus Smart’s name from the conversation.

Brad Stevens most likely will try multiple options during the preseason before deciding on his opening night starter. Whether it’s Pressey, Smart or even Evan Turner who steps into the role, we do know that we will be seeing more of Smart sharing the backcourt with Avery Bradley early in the season — a scary thing for opposing guards.

“First off, he’s a really good kid off the court,” Bradley offered on Smart. “He comes in every single day and works hard … and these were workouts that weren’t mandatory. He’s an amazing defender; he can really run a team. He’s a very good player, I’m excited to get a chance to play on the same court with him.”

Asked if he had thought about playing defense alongside Smart, Bradley said: “No, I haven’t pictured it. But a lot of people make jokes and say, ‘Man, I would hate to play on the opposite team against you and Marcus. Bringing the ball up the court and you guys taking turns picking people off full court.’

“It’s definitely cool to know that people are already nervous to play against me and Marcus on the same team on the court together. I’m excited, like I said, to get a chance to play with him and for us to be able to learn from each other.”

Smart was happy to hear Bradley’s comments.

“It means a lot,” he said. “Nobody wants to be known as not a hard worker or somebody that doesn’t work at all. You want to have that reputation of working hard and it’s just a sign of respect that that’s what people think of me.”

Added Smart: “Right now, yes, Rondo is out. And this team has taken a hit from that. I’m just going to come in and work my tail off just like if he was here. I’m going to embrace it.”

Although Smart never mentioned taking on the starting point guard role, he seemed very motivated to make good on the extra minutes he is sure to receive one way or another during Rondo’s absence. If there’s one positive to Rondo missing time from a fan’s perspective, getting to watch Bradley and Smart spend extra time hounding opposing backcourts is certainly going to be it.

Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow

Blog Author: 
Julian Edlow

Jared Sullinger and Evan Turner officially became teammates for the first time on Monday when Turner finally inked a two-year contract that made him a member of the Celtics. It’s been a long time coming, however, and the two are excited to finally share the floor while wearing the same uniform.

While Sullinger was a freshman standout at Ohio State, it’s often forgotten that Turner would have been a senior on that team had he not left the Buckeyes a season early to enter the NBA draft. Despite never having the chance to team up in Columbus, the two are old friends that often work out together at Ohio State in the offseason.

At Celtics media day on Monday, Sullinger was asked whom he thought the best former Buckeye on the team was, and his answer was somewhat surprising.

“You have to give it to Evan, just because he won national player of the year,” Sullinger humbly proclaimed. “But I also went further than him in the tournament. He did three [years] and I did two, let’s just put it that way,” Sullinger added with a smile.

Sullinger then offered his opinion on what we can expect now that he is teammates with Turner.

“He brings a multidimensional-type player. Honestly, he’s a great basketball player,” Sullinger offered. “He can do a lot of things, he can play the point [guard], play two [guard], play three [small forward]. I think in the NBA you have to have multiple guys that play multiple positions in order for a team to win, and I think Evan brings that.”

Sullinger was asked if he played any role in influencing Danny Ainge to bring Turner to Boston or if he had offered any type of scouting report on his fellow Buckeye.

“No, you pretty much know the scouting report on Evan, everybody does,” Sullinger responded. “If you go one year through the NBA, playing a lot of minutes, I think from the owners down everybody knows your scouting report and what type of player you are.”

When asked why he thinks he will fit well in Boston, Turner was quick to mention that he has known Sullinger for years and that it was something that made him feel comfortable here. However, much of the focus on Turner was regarding him being the No. 2 overall pick just four years ago and the expectations that go along with that.

“Too much is given, much is expected, which is the way of life,” Turner said about living up to his draft stock. “One thing I always have to say is that I’m going to get better every year. Look at each past year and the year before and I feel like I’ve made jumps.”

Turner said his adjustment to the Celtics will be much easier since he will be starting the season in Boston rather than what he went through in being traded during the season in 2013-14, going from the 76ers to the Pacers.

“Joining a team midseason, my eyes were kind of wide open,” Turner explained. “I tried to learn on the fly, tired to get a rhythm on the fly, that was a big turn for me. I tried my best to fit in and do what I possibly could to contribute to the squad.”

But when speaking on getting familiar with the pieces in place in Boston, Turner was much more optimistic.

“I’ve played pickup with these guys a few times and I’m decently familiar,” Turner said. “Coach [Brad] Stevens and I speak a lot on system and stuff and make sure I’m familiar and that’s pretty much it.”

Added Turner with a smile: “That’s what training camp’s for, right?”

Turner, Sullinger and the Celtics will begin training camp on Tuesday at the team’s practice facility in Waltham.

Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow

Blog Author: 
Julian Edlow