Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Celtics Finally Clear to Sign D.J. White

D.J. White's clearance letter has finally arrived from China, allowing him to now sign with an NBA team. As has been rumored, Adrian Wojnarowski now tweets that White is expected to sign with the Celtics with in 24 hours. White will provide the big body up front Boston has been looking for. The Celtics have only been using three big men recently (Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass, and Chris Wilcox), and often playing Paul Pierce or Jeff Green at the power forward spot.

Although White is not a huge name, he will allow Fab Melo, who never cracked the rotation, to be brought back down the the Maine Red Claws. White was a first round pick out of Indiana back in 2008 and has career numbers of 6.3 PPG and 3.4 RPG... not quite a savior of any sorts, but lets just say a suitable bench player. Hopefully White will be in uniform when the Celtics return home to play the Warriors on Friday night.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

C's Shine with Post-Deadline Roster

On a night that Kevin Garnett was out resting, Jeff Green stepped into the starting lineup an dominated. Yes it was against the Suns, but a 113-88 victory on the road without your best player speaks for itself. Green had his best game as a member of the Celtics, scoring a game high (by far) 31 points, to go along with a filled up stat sheet. Besides his 11-14 shooting, Green posted seven boards, four dimes, two steals and FIVE blocks, and it almost seemed like he was playing better than his stat line reveals.

Out of 10 Boston players in uniform NINE finished with six or more points: Green(31), Wilcox(14), Terry(13), Bradley (13), Crawford(10), Williams(9), Pierce(8; almost a non-factor... in a good way), Lee(8), Bass(6). And if you care Fab Melo, the odd man out, did score one point, but this was a complete team showing without their ultimate team player.

Show me one person that thought they would see the following sentence this season: The Celtics trio of Jeff Green, Jordan Crawford and Terrence Williams was terrific! We already went over Green, but Crawford posted 10 points in 17 minutes to go with three rebounds and two assists in his debut and gelled very well with the lineup. Williams was so versatile, playing positions 1-3, something Doc Rivers desperately needs of him. The main role he seemed to fill against the Suns was the backup point guard position when Avery Bradley was on the bench. Williams had nine points in 24 minutes but helped most with his four rebounds and four assists.

So here is what Boston needs to do from here to maximize their success:

1. Rest nights for Pierce and Garnett (particularly on the road against lesser opponents) are not a bad thing. The team can rally around that and get a win, not to mention a fresher KG or PP in the next game, and eventually in the playoffs.

2. Put Brandon Bass on the bench to maximize the size off the bench and more importantly to start Jeff Green. Sometimes seeing something once is enough to be convinced. Green should be a 35-40 minute per game starter the rest of the way. Every night won't be like Friday night, but expect a big bump in production from him.

3. Terrence Williams is the backup point guard. Yes he can still play other positions, but when Bradley is on the bench, leave Lee at the shooting guard. Williams is the answer here. He is a big strong ball handler with natural passing ability. He throws crisp passes and possesses impressive court vision. Boston may really be on to something here.

4. Run! Going small with a Pierce/Green/Garnett front court will help. But this team can really push the fast break, even on made baskets. Wilcox is surprisingly productive in transition as well, and clearly Bradley, Lee, Williams and Crawford are up to the task.

5. TRADE RONDO! I have been saying it for a while and it is too late now... But just one last time let me express that is you subtract an injured and selfish player from this team for a big deadline acquisition (Josh Smith) Boston would have a HUGE addition at NO cost for this season. Why not go for it all right now, open up a one year window and make a push against Miami? Ok, I'm done.

So not to put too much stress over a win against the Suns, but this was Boston's best win of the season. It was convincing, it was without Garnett, it opens up the door (hopefully) for Green to start and get serious minutes, it solves the backup point guard situation, it proves Crawford can fit and fit well. Now keep proving it.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Celtics Acquire Jordan Crawford

It's 3 PM and it LOOKS like the only deal the Celtics will complete is a trade for Wizards guard Jordan Crawford. Although it is not a huge name, Crawford will be a very nice scorer coming off the bench in Boston. The Celtics gave up the expiring contract of Leandro Barbosa who is out for the rest of the year with a torn ACL and Jason Collins. A salary move here for Washington turns into a big plus for the Celtics.

Crawford has bounced around the league, but is only 24 years old and having a nice season. He is averaging just over 13 PPG in 26 MPG this season, a career average of 13.4 PPG. Crawford will fit nicely coming off the bench and gives the Celtics a nice young scoring guard. Nothing groundbreaking, but a great deal none the less.

Now the focus shifts to how Boston will fill the rest of their roster. Between Crawford and Terrance Williams they seem to have solves their backcourt issues, but they could still really use some size up front especially with Collins going. Look for them to ink a big man ASAP.

Available for 1st Rounders

All of the players above have been rumored to be obtainable for a 1st round picks. Although Mozgov is probably not of interest, Gerald Henderson and J.J. Hickson should be if I am Danny Ainge. The Celtics plan on making the playoffs and a very limited draft is ahead for 2013.

Both Henderson and Hickson could fit roles in Boston that are much needed and have plenty of years left in the tank. Although a deal for either is highly unlikely, but all three players could be moved in the next two hours.

Evans to the Celtics?

With just a few hours till the deadline the Celtics have been rumored to be perusing Kings guard Tyreke Evans. Until yesterday Evans and DeMarcus Cousins were told they were "untouchable", but it seems a day has made a difference.

Since cutting ties with Thomas Robinson yesterday in a deal that was clearly to save money before their move to Seattle, it seams Kings ownership is exploring this concept even further. Evans would be a huge boost for Boston who desperately wants to add young talent without parting ways with Paul Pierce or Kevin Garnett.

Stay tuned for updates...

Celtics Rumors

Dwight Howard was dominant on Wednesday night against the Boston Celtics, putting forward what looked to be his best effort of the season. He finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds, one of seven Lakers in double figures. So now at 0-2 out of the break does this increase the likely hood that Danny Ainge pulls the trigger on a deal? Don't be so sure.

It seems extremely unlikely at this point that any of Boston's star players will be included in a deal. Although a Rajon Rondo OR Paul Pierce for Josh Smith swap has been mentioned, Atlanta's asking price has been Rondo AND Pierce for Smith which is far too much for Boston to part with.

Jordan Crawford however is available on the Wizards roster. The Celtics are interested, and want to try to move Fab Melo for a player that can jump into the rotation at guard right now. This deal seems to make a lot of sense and would improve the team as it stands now.

Courtney Lee, Jeff Green and Brandon Bass appear to be the most likely players to draw interest outside of the big three, however no deal for any of them is on the horizon. Melo seems to be the most likely to go before the 3PM deadline.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

News and Notes

Terrence Williams, who signed a 10-day contract earlier this week, will be eligible to play tonight at the Lakers. The Celtics were waiting to receive a clearance letter from Williams' team in China in order for him to play, which they did this afternoon.

Despite what Danny Ainge says, ESPN's Chris Broussard tweets thats GMs insist that Rondo is available although it is unlikely he will be traded while injured. Even though this probably will not happen, Ainge is onto the right idea here. Rondo is not the long term answer in Boston so why not try to move him for a big name out there like Josh Smith from the Hawks, or Marcin Gortat from the Suns with some draft picks? Add value to an already hot team and go for it all this year.

C's Fall to Nuggets out of the Break

Boston played well most of the game, particularly Jeff Green, Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee; but the Celtics fell short in the final minutes in Denver. This did not come across as a terrible loss to me. Although it would be nice to come out of the break as hot as they went into it, there were a lot of encouraging signs in Tuesday nights game. Denver was just better in the final five minutes and was able to pull away on their home floor, a place the Nuggets have lost only three times this season.

The Nuggets play an uptempo pace, and at their high altitude it makes it tough on opponents. Surprisingly the aging Celtics played well under those conditions, but couldn't get the stops when they needed them. Here's Paul Pierce on crunch time; "Every crucial possession that we needed a stop we didn't get the stop that we needed and they were able to pull away." Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson had game highs with 26 points and Kenneth Faried did what he does finishing with 16 boards.

Despite the loss, the encouraging signs were once again in the role players. Both Kevin Garnett and Pierce played poorly, but Green and Bradley stepped up with season highs in points: 20 and 17 respectively. Courtney Lee was hot early and dropped 15 despite sitting most of the fourth quarter.

The Celtics are back at it against the Lakers tonight in L.A. on the national scene on ESPN. Surely there will be a lot of trade discussion. Despite Danny Ainge claiming Rondo is unavailable, there are many mixed reports out there from other executives.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Heading into the Break

The All-Star break comes at an interesting time for the Boston Celtics, one of the NBA's hottest teams this month. The C's are winners of eight of their last nine games, each without Rajon Rondo, with victories over the Heat, Clippers, Nuggets, and Bulls.

Surprisingly enough the only loss of the stretch was at the Bobcats, but the argument can be made that the loss was a fluke. It came on the road a night after playing triple overtime at home against Denver, and the team had to cart Leandro Barbosa off the court in the third quarter with his torn ACL.

It has become clear that unless Danny Ainge receives an offer that knocks him off his seat, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce will remain in green. But with all the injuries moves need to be made, and they need to be made soon so this team is not playing so short handed after the break. It's unrealistic to expect a blockbuster trade as fans speculated before, but here are some realistic expectations:

1. Ainge and Doc Rivers are not going to rush this despite the urgency. Both want to wait till the deadline and pick their shots. Maybe they can work out some type of deal that benefits the team more than signing a free agent right now.

2. No one will be ruled out... Ainge has mentioned looking in Europe, Doc has mentioned looking in China... Let's hope not.

3. If Delonte West was really a player of interest, he would already be in Boston. He has a long history with the Celtics and has already made a comeback with them. Doc seems to like him so if it hasn't happened yet, don't expect it to.

4. D-League players will be looked at, especially guards. The name Shelvin Mack keeps coming up and sounds like it would be a good option.

5. Expect Boston to play with some 10 day contracts so they can see what they have, and essentially "try players out" before committing to them.

Celtics fans will see what the future has to hold, hopefully moves are made soon for the good of the team. The current roster has been hot, but they are going to need a deeper bench if they want to stay hot and have continued success in the postseason.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Barbosa's Season Appears Over

The Celtics streak came to an end last night in Charlotte, the team just seemed to run out of gas after riding a wild hot streak. Leandro Barbosa went down with a knee injury in the third quarter of the loss, Gary Washburn tweets that Kevin Garnett has been told Barbosa's season is over. The injuries wont stop piling up for Boston, Barbosa was doing a great job filling in for the Celtics in their "Rondo-less system".

The Celts will now have to search for another guard to plug into the system. Delonte West is still available and has a history with Doc Rivers. The team has just as big a void to fill in the front court as well with the hole Jared Sullinger left. Expect Danny Ainge to make plenty of additions, even if they do not come by trade, over the next couple weeks.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Improbably Victory

Paul Pierce and the Boston Celtics welcomed the hottest team in the NBA on Sunday night, the Denver Nuggets. It took three overtime periods, but the Celtics pulled out their seventh victory in a row, now claiming the hottest team title for themselves.

After the Clippers win, we all expected it to be tough to find a better win... the Celtics did Thursday night against the Lakers. Fans had the same reaction, but Sunday night topped it once again. Paul Pierce owned the night, finishing with his most impressive triple-double of his career: 27 points, 14 rebounds, and 14 assists. Pierce knocked down an off balance three pointer with five seconds left in double overtime to tie the game up when it looked like it may finally be coming to an end. Kevin Garnett had a big night as well finishing with 20 points, 18 boards, and six assists of his own. Keep in mind that the aging veterans racked up the minutes, Pierce (54) Garnett (47), and will have to go at it again Monday night in Charlotte.

Jason Terry and Jeff Green were huge parts of the game coming off the bench for 42 and 41 minutes respectively. Green had some huge shots in clutch spots to tally 17 points. Terry had his best night in a Celtic uniform with 26 points, but most important was his steal on Andre Miller towards the end of the third overtime.

As mentioned Boston will go at it with the Bobcats on the road on Monday night. We'll see if they are up to the challenge after a long night. The Celtics will be going for their eight victory in a row before playing the Bulls on Wednesday in their last game before the All-Star break, some much deserved rest.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Addition by Subtraction

Post Rajon Rondo ACL tear (which we learned today is only a partial tear), the Celtics have been playing their best basketball of the season. Each win seems to be more impressive than the last, and Doc Rivers has his roster playing as one. The Lakers are not even in the playoffs at the moment, but any team lead by Kobe Bryant is a competitive team... and Boston torched them on Thursday night.

The game was broken open at the end of the third quarter with a Paul Pierce three pointer, coming just after a Jeff Green dunk and block that essentially iced the game. Pierce's three put the Celtics up 95-69 entering the final period, click here for link to sequence. Kobe was able to finish with 27 points, but no doubt Pierce was the star of the night finishing with 24 to go along with seven rebounds and six assists (neither played in the 4th quarter). The upwards production in scoring without Rondo in the lineup has been incredible, especially Thursday night with eight players finishing with over eight points: Pierce (24), Green (19), Kevin Garnett (15), Courtney Lee (13), Avery Bradley (10), and Chris Wilcox and Brandon Bass (8 each).

With KG's sixth point of the game, he reached the 25,000 point mark for his career, the 16th player of all time to accomplish the task. There was a tribute in which Garnett acknowledged the crowd in the second quarter. As usual, Garnett was humble about his accomplishment. He attributed it to longevity, hard work and his teammates, click here for his post game interview with TNT. Just another reason it was such a special night in the TD Garden.

Not too long ago Celtics fans were wondering when they would see the day Rondo would return, now some are imagining the possibilities without him. Danny Ainge has admitted it is very unlikely that Pierce and Garnett will be moved to other teams, and both players have come clean that they would rather retire than be part of a rebuilding stage.

Now back to the question that was asked when Rondo went down... where do the Celtics go from here?

The answer: Trade Rondo.

It has become evident that Rondo is a selfish unselfish player... in other words he cares so much about getting the assist that he will go against the team's best interest to get it. If the team needs him to be getting "hockey assists" and keep the ball moving, he has seemed unwilling. The ball was always in Rondo's hands rather than moving to the open man to keep pressure on the defense as it is now!

They almost certainly will not get around to it this season, but over the summer would be a perfect time.   Rondo will have 2 years left on his deal (paying him $12M and $13M), an affordable contract that a small market team would LOVE to acquire.

So pretend Rondo is on the block on draft day, here is what Ainge should look to do: It's silly to pretend that I know what players will be in trade talks, but here is an idea of what Boston should demand in return. Boston NEEDS a young big to pair with Jared Sullinger, start here with a young big man that shows potential. Preferably a long leaper that can block shots, the opposite body type of Sully.

Then they will need a true point guard to replace Rondo. Not one that controls the ball as much as Rondo or plays 40 minutes a game, BUT one that has a better handle than the current guards on Boston's roster. Someone that can push the ball up the court, but winning comes first. Someone that has a more natural role in the offense than Rondo.

And finally, it shouldn't be too much to ask for a first round pick in addition when giving up a young star with a great contract like Rondo. As mentioned, small market teams should be lined up to take a deal like this, the key is finding the right players and the right contracts in exchange.

One thing is for sure, if the Celtics keep this up for the rest of the season, the Rondo trade talk can do nothing but heat up...

Thursday, February 7, 2013

One of the More Fun Nights the Regular Season Offers

Tonight at the TD Garden is the most enjoyable night for me outside of the postseason each year. The night the Los Angeles Lakers are in town. A historic rivalry renewed, and always a chance of greatness. No matter what the records of the two teams, and the players missing from each roster, tonight provides the opportunity to see two first ballot hall of famers go head to head with a top 10 player of all time. And with the Lakers only here once a year (NBA Finals excluded) it is a rare sight to go and see.

It was 17 summers ago that Kobe Bryant was here working out pre-draft for the Celtics, and has ever since been dominating. It was five years ago that the Celtics topped the Lakers in the NBA Finals, and when Bill Belichick had these words to offer Kobe. It was three years ago that Kobe got his revenge and topped the Celtics on the same stage.

So forget the train wrecks that the start of both teams season's have been, because tonight could be a turning point for either team. But most of all a fun night for the fans that get to attend, and the true fans who appreciate the greatness the game has to offer.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Go Figure

The Celtics have not lost a game since both Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger went down for the season. Improbable wins over the Heat and now Clippers have given a whole new life to the Celtics' season. In between those two wins were convincing double digit wins over the Kings and Magic all at home in the TD Garden.

Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett have been leaders through the stretch, and their names are becoming less and less likely to come up in trade talks with each win. The latest rumor surfaced with the Clippers in town and having strong interest in KG. But Boston was quick to let LA know that it is going to take more than Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler to get their attention. Here are Garnett's thoughts on the trade rumors courtesy of Hoops Rumors.

The key to their victories actually seems to be the bump up in scoring that the team has seen in their "no point guard system".  The offense has been thriving without Rondo in what seems to be a much more free flowing way. Rather than forcing the ball to Rondo to get it up the court, there are now six legitimate options to handle the ball (Bradley, Terry, Lee, Barbosa, Pierce, and Green). All six of them have taken advantage of their opportunity and are playing more effective than they were when Rondo was in the lineup. In particular Jason Terry and Jeff Green have found their rhythm. Terry in the sense that he has come out of his slum, and Green by becoming a consistent contributor. Leandro Barbosa has gone from not knowing if he is going to play (when Rondo is in the lineup), to being one of the top scoring options off the bench in this new system.

We'll find out more later this week when the Celtics travel to play the upbeat Rudy Gay Raptors team before hosting Kobe and the Lakers in Boston on Thursday night.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Back Spasms Will End Sullinger's Season

Promising rookie Jared Sullinger is done for the season and will require back surgery, as reported here by Adrian Wojnarowski. This could not come at a worse time after the Celtics just loss Rajon Rondo for the season too. Sullinger's back issues were made known during his sophomore year at Ohio State, which is why he slid from a potential top five pick to the Celtics at 21st overall.

Sullinger was really starting to come on, and just began starting for the Celtics over Brandon Bass. Sully has been the teams best rebounder of late, and on a team already lacking size... this is a big loss. The injury is really going to leave Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers with no choice but to call up, and maybe even play Fab Melo on Friday night against the Magic.

The Celtics most likely will start looking for replacements for Sullinger, but in the mean time they will have to make due with the thin front court that they have. At the same time they will continue trying to monitor Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce's minutes, meaning more minutes for some guys who have barely even been playing this season.

Although Doc will presumably assure the media and the fans that this season is far from over, it is starting to take the feel of a lost cause after two devastating blows in one week.