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Celtics exercise third-year option on forward Jared Sullinger

Posted by Baxter Holmes, Globe Staff October 31, 2013 03:02 PM

As expected, the Celtics exercised the third-year option on forward Jared Sullinger's rookie contract, the team announced Thursday.

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge had said earlier in the week that the team would make such a move, which will pay Sullinger, the former first-round draft pick, about $1.4 million next season -- a relative bargain considering his talent level.

Sullinger was suspended by the team for the season-opening loss to the Raptors in Toronto Wednesday. The one-game suspension was imposed by the Celtics for his role in an altercation with his girlfriend in late August that led to him facing domestic violence charges. The charges were subsequently dismissed.

The 6-foot-9-inch Sullinger played just 45 games his rookie season before having back surgery. In those 45 games, he averaged 6.0 points and 5.9 rebounds in 19.8 minutes per game.

During the 2013 preseason, he averaged 10.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1.0 steal in 20.6 minutes per game.

Welcome to Air Canada Centre

Posted by Gary Washburn Globe Staff October 30, 2013 06:37 PM

TORONTO -- The Celtics begin the Brad Stevens era with a game against the upstart Raptors, who will be looking to get their season off to a positive start. The Raptors have high hopes with new general manager Masai Ujiri and returning coach Dwane Casey, who may be coaching for his job this season.

As for Stevens, he has trying to implement a new system with new players in a transition year, so the early going could be difficult to watch for Celtics fans.


PG Avery Bradley
SG Jeff Green
SF Gerald Wallace
PF Brandon Bass
C Vitor Faverani

Inactives: Rajon Rondo

PG Kyle Lowry
SG DeMar DeRozan
SF Rudy Gay
PF Amir Johnson
C Jonas Valanciunas

Inactives: Quincy Acy, Aaron Gray

Officials: Tony Brothers, Steve Anderson, Leroy Richardson

TV, radio: 7:30 p.m., Comcast SportsNet, (WBZ FM, 98.5).

Pregame notes:

• Faverani will receive his first NBA start after playing eight season overseas, impressing Stevens in the preseason. Jeff Green, who started at shooting guard the second half of last season along with Paul Pierce at small forward, returns to that position.

• Stevens said if Jared Sullinger (suspension) had been active, he might have considered starting rookie Kelly Olynyk, who will play his first NBA regular season game in his home country. Sullinger will be eligible to return Friday against Milwaukee.

• The Celtics return home early Thursday, play Milwaukee on Friday and then hit the road for a two-game road trip at Detroit and Memphis beginning Sunday.

Faverani gets start in Celtics opener

Posted by Gary Washburn Globe Staff October 30, 2013 05:45 PM

TORONTO -- Celtics coach Brad Stevens has kept his potential starting five a secret for weeks and his the first lineup of his new regime is rather surprising.

Stevens said Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, Gerald Wallace, Brandon Bass and Vitor Faverani will start tonight against the Toronto Raptors as the Brazilian will start his first NBA game. Stevens said with his international experience, work ethic and performance in the preseason, Faverani, 25, deserves his opportunity.

Faverani, the Celtics' lone legitimate center, has played the past eight years overseas professionally, including the past two with Valencia BC in Spain. He averaged 7.3 points and 4.4 rebounds in eight preseason games.

"He has been through a lot," Stevens said. "He has been a pro. He's played in great environments. But he also understands how pros operate, what the season is like. The thing that struck me about Vitor from the first time I met him was how much a team-oriented person he is and how important that collective group is to him."

Celtics suspend Jared Sullinger for season opener

Posted by Baxter Holmes, Globe Staff October 29, 2013 01:24 PM

The Celtics have suspended forward Jared Sullinger one game for his role in an altercation with his girlfriend in late August that led to him facing domestic violence charges.

Sullinger will serve his suspension during the season opener Wednesday against the Raptors in Toronto.

The charges, which included assault and battery, destruction of property, and witness intimidation, were dismissed Monday in Waltham District Court after Sullinger's estranged girlfriend refused to testify against him.

"While we are satisfied that this was the correct ruling, we are suspending Jared for one game because he failed to meet the high expectations we have for all Celtics employees," Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said in a statement.

Sullinger is a second-year forward and former first-round draft pick out of Ohio State who played 45 games with the Celtics last season before undergoing back surgery.

He was one of the Celtics’ most impressive players through training camp this year, and he averaged 10.1 points and 4.6 rebounds in 20.6 minutes in eight preseason games.

Bill Sharman, former Celtics star, dies at 87

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff October 25, 2013 02:54 PM
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Bill Sharman (far right) was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and coach.

Bill Sharman, who built a Hall of Fame career playing for the Boston Celtics in the 1950s, died Friday at age 87, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Sharman was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1976 after a playing career in which he paired with Bob Cousy and won four championships in Boston. Known as an exceptional free throw shooter, he hit 88.3 percent of those shots and averaged 17.8 points per game.

In 2004, he was also enshrined in the Hall of Fame as a coach for his work in San Francisco and Los Angeles, most notably leading the Lakers to a record-setting 33-game winning streak and, ultimately, bringing Los Angeles its first NBA Finals championship.

Sharman, who also played professional baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers before his basketball career took off, is one of three men named to the Basketball Hall of Fame for both playing and coaching.

The L.A. Times reported Sharman, who suffered a stroke last week, died at his home in Redondo Beach, California.

Rondo: 'I won’t come back unless I know I’m myself again'

Posted by Baxter Holmes, Globe Staff October 23, 2013 11:00 PM

Rajon Rondo said he’ll be returning this season, but the All-Star Celtics point guard who is recovering from knee surgery said he just doesn’t know when exactly.

“Whenever I’m able to jump off my right leg and probably dunk, that’s when I think I’ll be back to play,” Rondo said after the Celtics closed out their preseason Wednesday with a 101-97 win over the Brooklyn Nets at TD Garden, giving Boston a 2-6 preseason record.

Rondo tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in January and had surgery the next month.

He is not expected to play when the Celtics open their regular season Oct. 30 against the Raptors in Toronto, and there has been speculation that Rondo might not play until December or later.

Rondo is still not allowed to do contact drills, but he said he just got fitted for his first brace, “so I don’t think contact will be too far from now. I’m just waiting to get cleared by my doctor.”

He said his right leg is at about 87 percent, “give or take, depending on how my day goes.”

But Rondo, as he has said before, reiterated that he wants to be his old self when he returns.

“If they want me to ease into it -- it’s going to be hard to tell me to ease into something,” he said. “Once I get back out there, I want to go full speed. I don’t want any limitation. That’s when I’ll return, when I’m able to do that.

And when will he know when he’s ready?

“I’ll know when it’s right,” he said. “Everybody is different, each injury is different… For me, when I come back, I won’t come back unless I know I’m myself again.”

Brad Stevens falls asleep during another Red Sox dramatic win

Posted by Baxter Holmes, Globe Staff October 20, 2013 12:32 PM

MONTREAL – It's happened twice now.

First, Brad Stevens fell asleep during Game 2 of the American League Championship Series between the Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.

So, the Celtics coach missed watching David Ortiz hit a dramatic eighth-inning grand slam into the Sox bullpen that tied the score, 5-5, and Stevens missed watching the Sox score a game-winning run in the ninth inning to complete the comeback.

Then, Sunday night, Stevens was watching Game 6 of the ALCS between the Tigers and Sox, but he again fell asleep.

What happened while he was snoozing? Oh, just another dramatic, late-inning Boston grand slam at Fenway Park: Shane Victorino smacking it into the Green Monster seats in the seventh inning.

Victorino's homer gave the Sox a 5-2 lead, and they'd win by the margin, earning their first trip to the World Series since 2007.

But, again, Stevens missed that part.

"I’m absolutely embarrassed and ashamed to say that I fell asleep, but I was really tired," he said here after the Sunday morning shootaround, hours before his team game was scheduled to play a preseason game vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Bell Centre.

After it was mentioned that he missed the Ortiz home run, Stevens joked, "The key to the Red Sox is me falling asleep. Because when I’m watching, it’s hard to score runs. When I’m asleep, magic occurs. It’s unbelievable."

Bill Russell releases statement regarding handgun citation at Seattle airport

Posted by Baxter Holmes, Globe Staff October 20, 2013 08:02 AM

Hall of Fame Celtics center Bill Russell issued a statement Saturday accepting responsibility for the Wednesday incident in which he was arrested at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport after Transportation Security Administration officials found a loaded gun in his luggage.

“Before boarding my flight from Seattle to Boston, I had accidentally left a legal firearm in my bag. I apologize and truly regret the mistake,” he said. “I was issued a citation by the TSA, whose agents couldn’t have been more thorough and professional when dealing with this. I really appreciate their efforts to keep air travel safe.”

Russell was arrested as he attempted to go through security. Airport spokesman Perry Cooper confirmed Friday night that Russell was cited for having a weapon in a prohibited area. The gun was confiscated and he was released. Russell’s gun was a .38-caliber pistol and was loaded with six rounds, according to a TSA spokesman.

Russell was turned over to Port of Seattle police and there were no disruptions at the airport. The 79-year-old has lived in the Seattle area for decades.

He was an 11-time NBA champion with Boston and coached the Seattle SuperSonics from 1973-77.

Russell will be honored with a statue at Boston's City Hall Plaza that is scheduled to be unveiled at 2 p.m. on Nov. 1.

Bill Russell statue will be unveiled Nov. 1 at City Hall Plaza

Posted by Baxter Holmes, Globe Staff October 16, 2013 04:39 PM

A statue of Celtics legend Bill Russell will be unveiled Friday, Nov. 1 at City Hall Plaza, and a star-studded group of Celtics legends, other NBA Hall of Famers, musicians, businessmen, and historians is scheduled to attend, including Russell himself, the Celtics announced Wednesday.

According to the team's release, the following are expected to be in attendance:

  • Bill Russell
  • Bill Russell Legacy Committee member/Bill Russell’s daughter, Karen Kenyatta Russell
  • Bill Russell Legacy Committee member/Celtics managing partner Stephen Pagliuca
  • Bill Russell Legacy Committee member/Celtics legend Tommy Heinsohn
  • Bill Russell Legacy Committee member /Boston Mayor Thomas Menino
  • Bill Russell Legacy Committee member/philanthropist and founder of the Bobby Sager Traveling Foundation and Roadshow, Bobby Sager
  • Celtics managing partner Wyc Grousbeck
  • Celtics managing partner Bob Epstein
  • TNT NBA analyst Kenny Smith (emcee)
  • Congressman Joseph Kennedy III
  • Celtics president Rich Gotham
  • Actress Alfre Woodard
  • Bill Russell Project artist Ann Hirsch
  • NBA commissioner David Stern
  • NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver
  • Red Auerbach’s daughters, Randy and Nancy Auerbach Collins
  • Celtics legend Jo Jo White
  • Celtics legend Sam Jones
  • Celtics legend Satch Sanders
  • Celtics legend Bill Walton
  • Celtics alumnus Ronnie Watts
  • Celtics alumnus Rick Weitzman
  • Celtics alumnus Emmette Bryant
  • Celtics alumnus Togo Palazzi
  • Wife of Celtics alumnus Jim Loscutoff, Lynn Loscutoff
  • Celtics alumnus and LSU coach Johnny Jones
  • NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown
  • MLB Hall of Famer Joe Morgan
  • MLB Hall of Famer Frank Robinson
  • NBA Hall of Famer Julius Erving
  • NBA Hall of Famer George Gervin
  • NBA Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor
  • NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley
  • NBA Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler
  • NBA great Fred Brown
  • Chairman of the Professional Basketball Club, LLC, Clay Bennett
  • Music legend Johnny Mathis
  • Music icon Bill Withers
  • Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson
  • Pulitzer Prize-winning author Taylor Branch
  • Author and human rights activist Kerry Kennedy
  • Host of "The Last Word," Lawrence O’Donnell
  • Co-founder and board member of the National Mentoring Partnership, Geoff Boisi
  • CEO of the National Mentoring Partnership, David Shapiro
  • CEO of the Mass. Mentoring Partnership, Marty Martinez
  • Former senior adviser to the President of the United States, David Axelrod
  • Golden State Warriors president Rick Welts

Five takeaways from Celtics' preseason game No. 5

Posted by Baxter Holmes, Globe Staff October 16, 2013 10:41 AM

NEW YORK – Ex-Celtic Paul Pierce faced his former team for the first time Tuesday, when the Brooklyn Nets beat the Celtics, 82-80, in a preseason game at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. It was the Celtics' fourth loss in five preseason games.

For more on the game, check out our main story and notebook in Wednesday's Globe.

That said, here are my five takeaways from the game for you to enjoy before Wednesday's preseason game in Toronto between the Celtics and Raptors.

1. We'll start with Pierce, because that seems appropriate. He didn't do much, shooting 1 for 6 with 4 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in 27 minutes. But I kept watching him, and the only thing that really came to mind -- other than how odd it was to see him playing against the Celtics -- is how different his role is now.

First of all, if you think back to last season, after Rajon Rondo (knee) went down, Pierce had to assume this complicated role in which he was being asked to score even more along with distributing the ball as more of a point forward. The future Hall of Famer wasn't bad, either, as he more than picked up the slack, along with earning three triple doubles. But the role was just too much of a load and he wore down in the playoffs against the Knicks.

Tuesday, it really sank in how much easier it will be for Pierce in Brooklyn with Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, and Joe Johnson, not to mention Kevin Garnett and some of the others on a deep bench. Pierce won't have to work nearly as hard or be asked to do nearly as much, and that alone could help the 36-year-old be pretty effective for the Nets this season. It may even extend his career for another season.

2. As we touched on in the notebook, Avery Bradley is going to play more off-the-ball defense this season versus just guarding whoever had the ball and, specifically, guarding that player pretty much the full length of the court.

However, it was pretty clear Tuesday night -- as well as in the previous game -- that this is going to be a work in progress. He's still chasing guys up the court, and he's still going for steals that some might call gambles. Why is he doing this? Because it's who he is and it's how he's played defense almost his entire life. You can read my in-depth feature on him from earlier this year to get a better sense of what I'm talking about.

It will take time for Bradley to transition into his new role, and that's not to say that he still won't body-up opposing guards who are bringing the ball up the court; he just won't do it nearly as much.

I do see the reasoning behind Brad Stevens's move here, though. By having Bradley guard someone off the ball, the Celtics can often have him match up against one of the opposing team's top perimeter scorers, which in a way makes him the Celtics' version of a shutdown cornerback. And given that the Celtics don't have a defensive anchor in the middle as they did with Garnett, they'll more often have to focus on players like Bradley keeping their man from penetrating the paint.

3. We keep harping on Jeff Green, but he is paramount to these Celtics, and his struggles are disconcerting. There are three popular schools of thought regarding Green. The first is that he just needs to get to the basket for some easy shots and that will boost his confidence, thus opening up his offensive game. Green subscribes to this theory and said after the game that he just needs to be more aggressive because his shots aren't falling.

"I can’t rely on my jump shot," he said. "I’ve got to attack. I’ve got to get back in attacking mode. I’ve just got to continue to be aggressive."

He was a bit more aggressive against the Nets. He had 12 points on 5-of-11 shooting and scored on a couple nice drives to the hoop, one a powerful baseline slam on Nets big man Reggie Evans and the other a layup in traffic after grabbing a rebound on one end and then taking it the the length of the court by himself.

However, Green settled for outside jumpers and, outside of those aforementioned drives to the bucket, played passively for most of the game. He has repeatedly said after games that it's still early in the preseason, and it's clear that he's tired of being asked about his struggles. But this was a player who Stevens assured us at media day would have more on his plate this season, including potentially playing three positions. Green responded to that with the phrase, "Bring it on." So far, though, Green has simply looked overwhelmed.

Which brings us to the second school of thought. It is essentially the idea that Green is best when he's the second- or third-most dynamic player on a team. He played well alongside Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City and looked solid last season when he played alongside Pierce and Garnett. Those other players soak up most of the attention from opposing defenses, which gives Green more opportunities to attack. It would seem, then, that he's a player who thrives when he's alongside others who have a lot on their plate, leaving him with a manageable portion. It follows, then, that Green isn't fit to be the only dynamic scorer for the Celtics. He could potentially be much better in that role once Rajon Rondo returns, though, but that's a big if.

And then there is the third school of thought, which is that Green is simply not the player that so many want him to be. Yes, he has brilliant games and even strings of games when his size, talent, skill, and athleticism is befitting a top-10 player in the league, and it appears as though Green can, in fact, be among the NBA's elite. But he has never really shown that he can be elite for more than those flashes -- and he might never be that way. It can be frustrating for NBA front offices, for the teams and players and the fans and even the media, because such a player could seem to be more than he is, but he just isn't.

You can believe whatever you wish. I'm reserving judgment because it's still early.

4. MarShon Brooks is caught in a logjam at shooting guard, and it's reflected in his minutes. He has played a total of 50 minutes in five preseason games, but he played 19 in one of them and 16 in another; he didn't play in one game, played two minutes in another, and played just three against the Nets, his former team.

With Jordan Crawford, Bradley, and Courtney Lee all playing the 2-guard -- along with Green at times -- Brooks just might not be able to get on the court this season, and there's really not much else to say. For Brooks, it's disappointing, as he wanted to return to New England (where he attended college) and resurrect his career after playing fourth fiddle with the Nets.

Again, there are still a few preseason games left, so there's a chance something could change, but we knew heading into this season that the Celtics had too many shooting guards and too many power forwards (Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger, Kris Humphries, Kelly Olynyk), which means that some of them will be squeezed out.

5. It was nice for Lee to have a bust-out game, as he hit two clutch 3-pointers that tied the score at 80 in the final two minutes. He missed the potential game-tying shot at the buzzer, but he finished with 14 points, his best outing all preseason.

Lee struggled last season, which he'll openly admit, and, like several other Celtics, it's not yet clear what his role will be this season, especially as he's at a crowded position (see above). But he is an athletic defender who, as he proved against the Nets, has range.

Leftovers: Green has 8 rebounds in five preseason games. Bradley had 9 against the Nets ... Humphries had a solid outing with 12 points and 8 rebounds. His minutes have been up and down as Stevens has tried different combinations, but in the minutes he has played, Humphries has looked solid. He could surprise some Celtics fans this season.

Lastly, a shout-out to the NoMad Hotel in Manhattan's Flatiron neighborhood. I didn't stay here, but I met my younger brother here for dinner at its renowned bar and this spot lived up to the hype. Everyone raves about the roast chicken, and rightfully so. It's definitely pricey, but it was a belated birthday outing for my brother, so I was happy to pick up the tab. Also, if you're into barbecue, as I am in accordance with my Oklahoma roots, I also recommend stopping by Hill Country BBQ near Madison Square Park. Bring an appetite.

Paul Pierce visits Celtics locker room to greet ex-teammates

Posted by Baxter Holmes, Globe Staff October 15, 2013 08:53 PM

NEW YORK – Paul Pierce strolled into the visitor’s locker room armed with a smile Tuesday.

He threw an arm around Phil Lynch, the Celtics’ director of team security, and asked where everyone was, but most were either on the court, in the weight room, or elsewhere. By then, the preseason game here at the Barclays Center wasn’t schedule to tip for about an hour.

No matter. Pierce had come to greet his former teammates before they faced off for the first time since he joined the Brooklyn Nets, and he still planned to do just that.

Pierce found guard Avery Bradley, hugged him, and congratulated him on the recent birth of his son. Pierce asked what Bradley named him. “Avery,” Bradley said. Pierce liked that. Then the 36-year-old forward saw Walter McCarty.

“What up, coach McCarty?” Pierce said before hugging the new Celtics assistant coach and his former teammate.

Pierce then walked toward the back of the room, shouting “Where my boys at?” He disappeared into a room opposite the showers and laughter and high-fives could be heard. Pierce came back out, hugged forward Brandon Bass and a few team staff members, greeted a few Boston-based reporters by name, then walked out.

An hour later here at the Barclays Center, Pierce was the first member of the Brooklyn Nets to be introduced in their starting lineup. Wearing a white No. 34 jersey, he took to center court just before tip-off and chatted and joked some more with the Celtics players.

Then the officials tossed the ball up, starting the game, and Pierce played against the franchise that drafted him in 1998, that he played for in every season since until now, that he won a championship with, and that will retire his number one day.

With seconds remaining in the second half, Pierce stood at the top of the key, ball in his hand, the clock winding down, as usual.

Jeff Green guarded him, and Pierce used a pick-and-roll and cut to the left side of the floor, where he beat Green for a layup.

With that, Pierce scored his first points against the franchise for which he scored 24,021, the second-most in the history of the Boston Celtics.

Garnett out vs. Celtics, Pierce expected to play

Posted by Baxter Holmes, Globe Staff October 15, 2013 08:04 AM

NEW YORK – Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Garnett won't play against his former team Tuesday night when the Nets play the Celtics in a preseason game at the Barclays Center.

But Nets forward Paul Pierce will play against the Celtics, the team that drafted him in 1998 and the team for which he played until he was traded to the Nets this summer as part of a blockbuster deal that included Garnett and former Celtics guard Jason Terry.

Garnett told reporters after the Nets' preseason loss Monday in Philadelphia that if he had the option of playing against the Celtics, he would, but he is being told to sit out and rest.

"It wasn’t my decision. So that’s where I’m going to leave that,” he said. “I am trying to be as positive as I can be. This is not up to me, and I’m being positive. I’m trying to listen and go with the plan that was laid out for me, and being positive with that, so I’m trusting [Nets coach] Jason [Kidd] and what he has in store for myself and I’m going to embrace it."

Garnett downplayed his absence against his former team in the preseason game.

“This is not about me individually, nor is it about Paul [Pierce], nor is it about Jet [Jason Terry] or any individual player here," he said. "We’re working toward getting better and I feel like every night we step on the floor, that’s the goal. And I thought we did that, and (Tuesday's) another chance to get better."

Kidd, however, did say that Pierce would play against the Celtics. Pierce did not travel with the Nets to play against the 76ers in Philadelphia.

Like rest of New England, Celtics in awe of Patriots, Red Sox comebacks

Posted by Baxter Holmes, Globe Staff October 14, 2013 03:44 PM

WALTHAM – Along with the rest of Boston, the Celtics were still in awe Monday over the dramatic comeback wins by the Red Sox and Patriots Sunday.

“That was great, wasn’t it?” coach Brad Stevens said after practice here leading up to the preseason game Tuesday against the Nets in Brooklyn. “I have to admit, I fell asleep at the end of the Red Sox game. I’m sad to say that, but I woke up as they were celebrating.

“I don’t know exactly how it happened, but I’m looking forward to watching the YouTube [clip] of it. And I saw the drive. I saw [Tom] Brady was operating like a surgeon on that last drive. That was really something."

It was also a special day for veteran Celtics swingman Gerald Wallace, a huge fan of David Ortiz and Brady, whom Wallace met Sunday as he attended his first-ever Patriots game.

“That’s like my childhood dream to meet him,” Wallace said. “It was Michael Jordan, then him. I met Michael, played for Michael. I met Brady. I didn’t meet him the way I wanted to meet him. I actually wanted to talk to him, but I understand it’s a game, big game for them, and he’s preparing for the game. I didn’t want to break his process -- just got a quick handshake as he was walking to the locker room.”

But, like many in the stands at Gillette Stadium, Wallace left early.

“I missed the game-winning touchdown pass,” Wallace said. “Then when we gave up the two home runs in the sixth inning, I cut the TV off and started playing Xbox. Something just told me, I just had that feeling in my body, ‘Turn the TV back on.’ I turned it on, bases loaded, and Papi was coming on.”

Five takeaways from Celtics' preseason game No. 4

Posted by Baxter Holmes, Globe Staff October 13, 2013 01:22 AM

MANCHESTER, N.H. – The Celtics snapped a three-game preseason losing streak by routing the New York Knicks, 111-81, Saturday at the Verizon Wireless Arena here.

For more on the game, check out our story in Sunday's Globe.

That said, here are five takeaways you can enjoy with your morning coffee.

1. Let us start off by noting that Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton were absent from this affair. Had they played, everything that follows may well be quite different; in fact, everything that follows almost certainly would've been quite different.

Now that we've got that vitally important qualifier out of the way, we can focus on other subjects, beginning with, well, beginnings, and how the Celtics had a nice one Saturday.

Coach Brad Stevens had harped on how poorly the team had started games and even third quarters in all its preseason games, but it jumped out to an 18-4 lead against the Knicks and opened the second half with a 13-2 run. Instead of being a team in a hole, the Celtics put their opponent in one and the short-handed Knicks never could climb out.

After, Stevens said the key was getting the ball deeper earlier in the shot clock, which is to say that guards would push the ball up the floor quick and try to work it inside. If something was there, one of the Celtics post players had the option of trying to score, but if not, they could kick it back out to the perimeter, where a guard might find himself open.

Stevens noted that he believes a player will shoot better if he's made a couple layups and/or has been attacking the basket. That follows the adage that if a player scores on an close-range bucket early, it will give him confidence that will fuel his outside game.

For the most part, this plan worked well, as the Celtics piled up points up and down the roster, but there was one vitally important player for whom this plan did not work so well...

2. There may come a point when the qualifiers no longer apply to Jeff Green. Soon, we may say that it doesn't matter that it's the preseason, that he's adjusting to a new role as a top scoring option, that he's playing multiple positions, that defenses are focusing on him...or whatever else you might attribute to his early struggles thus far.

In fact, there may come a point – and it may come soon – when there are no qualifiers that give shadows of doubt to Green's rotten preseason start, and all that is left is blunt truth.

Then, we might attribute his struggles, such as shooting 28 percent this preseason, to something else. We might say that he just isn't ready for this role, for what defenses may throw at him, and that he needs the security blanket of another top player (as Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were to him) to truly be as effective as he can be on the court.

But, right now, all we can do is look at all that is new and believe that those qualifiers have more to do with Green's performances than anything else. We cannot simply say there is some huge looming issue that has yet to reveal itself just yet because, yes, it's still early.

However, at this point, we can start to look at Jeff Green and his new role with more skepticism, more doubt. We can look at him and his new role like that at this point because his poor play has given us no other choice. Yes, Green was a team-best plus-24 in plus/minus, but many of his misses weren't overly difficult shots. They were just misses.

"Any time you’ve got a guy that is struggling at all, it’s easy to say that there’s an individual and just changing the individual is going to make a difference," Stevens said before the game. "I don’t think that’s the case [with Green]. It’s too early a sample size to figure out if that’s legitimate.

"But at the same time, I think he would be the first to tell you that making more shots is helpful. And I think that will start with a couple paint makes – getting into the paint, posting up, getting in transition, getting an and-1, getting an offensive rebound, doing something that is a difficult thing to do but is an easier finish. That usually opens the floodgates for making jump shots."

3. We touched on our skepticism regarding the idea that Avery Bradley and Jordan Crawford could function as a point guard duo in which they play together and either can bring the ball up the court and initiate the offense.

The Celtics trotted out that combination in their preseason loss to Philadelphia on Friday (when it didn't really work) and then again Saturday (when it looked, actually, much better).

But after the Knicks game, I'm still not sold. Why? Because Felton wasn't out there and Knicks guard Pablo Prigioni didn't spend too much time trying to harass whichever Celtics player brought the ball up the court.

If you'll recall from last season's playoff series against the Knicks, Felton and Prigioni pressured Celtics guards (namely Bradley) and forced several turnovers. If those two had played Saturday, and if they played at a high level, then I don't think the Celtics would have had as much luck running an offense where two point guards help run the show.

Now, Crawford and Bradley did play well together even though neither faced the kind of pressure that the Knicks would serve up in the regular season. Crawford in particular was impressive as he helped orchestrate the offense while also looking for his own shot. Crawford was so impressive, in fact, that there was talk that we might be seeing a new kind of Jordan Crawford, one who is more mature and team-orientated.

That could well be true, but, again, it's the preseason, so I'd rather wait to see how he plays in the regular season, perhaps at this position, before jumping to any solid conclusions.

Crawford, who had 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting, did say that being a primary ball-handler makes him more comfortable offensively, but the reason why that is the case is interesting.

"You know you don’t have to force shots because the ball can come back to you so you want to get everybody involved, get everybody else ready," Crawford said. "While you’re getting everybody else ready, you find your rhythm."

Like we said, there is, perhaps, a chance that this dual point guard system could work – and work well. As Stevens said before the game, "I think what we all think is there’s a prototypical way of doing things. It’s okay to be different and that’s the way those guys can approach it and hopefully approach it by committee here as we move forward."

So even if Phil Pressey might be the Celtics' best option at point guard because he's their only healthy true point guard while Rajon Rondo (knee) is sidelined, Stevens is, at least, not afraid to try something different and unconventional, which, really, are two words that nicely sum up the idea of having natural shooting guards share point guard duties.

4. Jared Sullinger isn't in as bad of shape as he says he is – or at least that's what we can take from a player who doesn't look all that rusty even though he's been out for about half a year or so after having back surgery.

Sullinger had 12 points and 5 rebounds in limited minutes and was impressive in how he worked down low, either to get positioning for rebounds or to go back up with the ball in traffic. (Another thing, the guy might not jump that high, but he always seems to be one of the first ones to jump; along with his positioning, that skill helps him grab a lot of boards.)

Sullinger has, no doubt, been one of the brightest stars for the Celtics, and the fact that he's still out of shape makes it all the more intriguing about how far along he'll be when he is more in shape. He said he's worked on his conditioning a lot after practices and that he's using these preseason games to improve his conditioning, too.

All we know right now is that Sullinger is ahead of schedule and looks like he could be a force inside for the Celtics this season.

5. This was Stevens' first ever back-to-back, and the effort his team played with in the second game was impressive, especially after it played with very little in the first, a 97-85 loss to Philadelphia.

"I told the team today, "I don’t want to use the back-to-back thing as an excuse,'" Stevens said before the game. "I know it’s something that everybody is going to talk about, but everybody’s got them. Everybody’s gotta do it. Nobody should be more excited about playing a game today than us, and that’s the way I look at it."

Again, anything that happened in this game should be taken with a grain of salt considering who the Knicks left on the bench Saturday. It's easy to look good in several categories when the competition is, shall we say, not that stiff. But, still, this was a Knicks team that the Celtics should have pounded into the court, and they did, leading by as much as 37.

Now, the Celtics have another back-to-back this week, first in Brooklyn on Tuesday and then in Toronto on Wednesday. How they play in the second of those games will be something to watch.

Leftovers: By my count, officials called eight delay-of-game violations when players threw the ball to the referee after made baskets. The league is emphasizing that rule to try and speed up the pace of play, but all those whistles actually slowed down the game. I'm having mixed feelings about this rule at the moment, and it seems the teams and players are too.

Celtics rout Knicks, giving Brad Stevens his first NBA win

Posted by Baxter Holmes, Globe Staff October 12, 2013 09:36 PM

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- After swallowing three straight preseason losses, Brad Stevens finally tasted his first NBA win Saturday, when the rookie Celtics coach saw his team rout the New York Knicks, 111-81, at the Verizon Wireless Arena here.

The Knicks, who beat the Celtics earlier in the week in a preseason game in Providence, were without Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton, so they weren't at their best -- or anything close.

Still, the Celtics played by far their best game of the preseason, offering a performance far different from the night before, when Philadelphia pounded them, 97-85.

After that game, Stevens talked about getting off to a better start, and the Celtics did that against the Knicks, opening the game on an 18-4 run. They led by as much as 18 in the first half and they opened the third quarter on a 13-2 run, setting the tone.

The Celtics led by as much as 37 in the fourth quarter, when most of their key players watched from the bench. Rookie forward Kelly Olynyk had 15 points, leading six Celtics who scored in double figures. Overall, the Celtics shot 54 percent (39 of 72) from the floor.

The Celtics pounded the Knicks on the glass, outrebounding them 45-34.

Ike Diogu scored 21 to lead the Knicks.

Celtics guard Keith Bogans (sprained right thumb) and swingman Gerald Wallace
(rest) sat out. Bogans is expected to be out indefinitely, though he's scheduled to have his thumb re-evaluated Monday.

The Celtics' next preseason game is Tuesday against the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. That game will mark the first of a back-to-back, as the Celtics will play the Raptors in Toronto a day later.

Keith Bogans out indefinitely

Posted by Baxter Holmes, Globe Staff October 12, 2013 06:08 PM

MANCHESTER, N.H. – Celtics shooting guard Keith Bogans is out indefinitely with a sprained right thumb, coach Brad Stevens announced Saturday before the Celtics played the New York Knicks in a preseason game at the Verizon Wireless Arena here.

An MRI confirmed Bogans's sprain, which he suffered in the Celtics' 97-85 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers in a preseason game Friday in Newark, Del. Bogans is scheduled to be re-evaluated Monday at New England Baptist Hospital, so a timeline for return is unclear.

Aside from Bogans, Stevens said that veteran swingman Gerald Wallace will also not play against the Knicks, though Wallace is sitting more just to rest.

The Knicks beat the Celtics, 103-102 in a preseason game earlier this week in Providence.

Five takeaways from Celtics' preseason game No. 3

Posted by Baxter Holmes, Globe Staff October 12, 2013 08:05 AM

NEWARK, Del. – The Celtics dropped their third game of preseason here Friday night, falling 97-85 to the Philadelphia 76ers before a solid crowd at the Bob Carpenter Center.

For more on the game, check out our story in Saturday's Globe.

That said, here are five takeaways you can enjoy with your morning coffee.

1. Coach Brad Stevens started Avery Bradley and Jordan Crawford and had the pair share point guard duties -- a move the Celtics made just to see how it might work.

From what we saw, it wasn't that effective.

It may have something to do with the fact that the 76ers boast some athletic, rangy guards who like to hassle opposing guards, as they did to Bradley and Crawford. It may have something to do with the fact that, overall, the Celtics played poorly, Bradley and Crawford included. Or it may have something to do with the fact that neither Bradley nor Crawford are point guards; they're natural shooting guards – and thus playing out of position.

Granted, it was one game, and the Celtics may break out this ploy in another, perhaps Saturday against New York in Manchester, N.H., and it may work much better, changing my mind about whether this is a viable option. At this point, though, I'm unconvinced.

It needs to be said (yet again) that the Celtics face no easy answers at the point guard spot while Rajon Rondo (knee) is sidelined. Undrafted free agent guard Phil Pressey is the only healthy true point guard on the roster, and he's a rookie who's adjusting to this level of play while, like Bradley and Crawford, learning the new offensive system under Stevens. Oh, plus the whole team is basically new and still adjusting to playing with each other.

So, for the time being, the Celtics will throw whatever it can against the wall and hope something sticks. But the looming issue here is that Rondo could be out until December or later, which leaves the Celtics basically up excrement creek at the point guard position, which is akin to saying that a football team doesn't really have a viable quarterback.

Get my drift? OK. Moving on...

2. As Gerald Wallace detailed in his strong postgame comments, the Celtics played poor from the start – a factor in them falling behind by 18 points in the first half.

"We started the game off like we were cool and we were supposed to win the game,” the veteran swingman said, “and they came out and hit us dead in the mouth.”

But if effort was the only issue, or at least the main issue, then that still doesn't explain some of the bone-headed mistakes we saw. The Celtics had 16 turnovers, but it seemed like many more. Their offense also broke down at times and they failed to get a shot off before the shot clock expired. They didn't play nearly as unselfishly as in prior games.

"We were five individuals out there playing against a Philadelphia team," Wallace said, hitting the nail on the head.

I asked Stevens after the game if he took the mistakes that the Celtics made with a grain of salt, as they're still mixing and matching lineups while the players are still learning the system/each other.

In his response, he took part of the blame but also credited Philadelphia, saying that he didn't want to take anything away from the opponent's performance. Stevens said the 76ers played with "purpose" and "great togetherness" and that they "set the tone."

The Celtics obviously have to do all those things, but it's also important for them not to have any lapses and to limit any and all mistakes, as their margin of error will be razor-thin.

As Wallace said, echoing a point we'll repeat here often, "We’re not going to be one of those dominant teams in the league. We’re not going to get every call. We don’t have the guys that can just dominate and take over the game. We’ve got to play with five people."

3. We touched on this above, but it's worth focusing on more: a better start. The Celtics have spent their last two fourth quarters digging out of double-digit holes, and while they've looked admirable during the excavation process, they should focus more on not getting in that hole in the first place. That's no easy task, but it's a worthwhile one to focus on.

Stevens noted that it's more important to find a group that plays well together "because we've obviously got to play groups for long stretches." That likely means heavy minutes for certain players who may or may not be used to such roles, which brings us to...

4. Jeff Green wasn't himself ... or the player he's supposed to be, again. He had 6 points on 2-of-7 shooting in the Celtics' first preseason game; 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting in the second; and then 4 points on 2-of-11 shooting Friday. He will play multiple roles, though Stevens said they're going to limit his workload and have him play just one or two for now. He's also dealing with defenses that are focusing on him more than ever before.

It's not easy being Jeff Green right now, is the point we're getting at. But riddle me this: when Green is coming up empty on the offensive end, who can the Celtics turn to? Their list of dynamic offensive threats who can create their own shot, especially around the perimeter, is pretty short – and it's even shorter with Rondo out – so the Celtics can't really afford in any game for Green not to be himself ... or the player he's supposed to be.

Green acknowledged before the game that it's tough to find a rhythm in the preseason when the games don't count, the stats don't count and his minutes are fluctuating because the head coach is tinkering with lineups and potential combinations of players.

In truth, Green might not find that rhythm for a while – and it might change some if/when Rondo comes back. Basically, Green's adjustment to his new role as "The Guy" will be a process that won't be completed anytime soon.

5. So, the 76ers were supposed to be the worst team in the NBA. Or, at least they were supposed to stink more than the Celtics, a fellow young team with a rookie NBA head coach.

Then what do we make of Friday's game, when the 76ers manhandled the Celtics?


Not too much. Remember, it's the preseason. (We'll come up with a new saying when the season starts.) How the Celtics look next month, let alone next week, won't be the same. It is a disheartening loss for the Celtics and their fans, though. After all, for as bad as the Celtics might be this season, there was always the belief that they were, at the very least, not as bad as that dumpster fire in Philly that is chasing a top lottery pick and nothing else.

Let's go back to this subject later in the season. If the 76ers again pound the Celtics and their records clearly show which team is more awful, then this game might have, in fact, foreshadowed something. As it stands, it's a bit too early to say which team might be worse – a fact fans care about because next year's NBA draft has some drool-worthy prospects.

Leftovers: The Celtics shot 5-of-21 from 3-point range. There's speculation that this might be a team that fires at will from distance, but their roster is also short on sharpshooters. There are solid shooters, yes, but not lights-out guys. They say that you live by the three and die by the three, and, those extremes sound quite applicable for these Celtics this season ... Hamilton product Michael Carter-Williams gave Bradley all kinds of trouble, a good sign for Carter-Williams because Bradley is one of the league's top perimeter defenders. His development as a point guard will be interesting to watch this season, but from what I saw, his physical tools – mainly athleticism and wingspan – will cause other teams trouble.

Lastly, a shout-out to North 3rd, located in Philly's Northern Liberties neighborhood. It's a very solid late-night spot to grab a meal, as it serves dinner until midnight or later most of the week. I enjoyed this place after a much-delayed flight into town and give it a hearty thumbs-up to you, dear reader. (Kudos to Esquire for the recommendation, too.) Also, when searching for a campus coffee house near the University of Delaware, you can't go wrong with Central Perk on Main Street. Its menu is vast and enticing, and it's a cozy place to set up and write.

76ers hand Celtics third straight preseason loss

Posted by Baxter Holmes, Globe Staff October 11, 2013 08:24 PM

NEWARK, Del. -- The Philadelphia 76ers figure to be one of the worst teams -- if not the very worst -- in the NBA this season.

With a rookie NBA head coach leading a baby-faced roster, the proud but rebuilding franchise is more likely to make the lottery than a splash of any kind.

But the very same could be said of the Celtics, which made Friday's preseason matchup between the teams at the Bob Carpenter Center somewhat intriguing.

And though it is the preseason, the team that's supposedly-worse-than-the-Celtics beat those very Celtics, 97-85, handing Boston its third preseason loss in as many games.

As in the Celtics' preseason game against the New York Knicks on Wednesday, there was a fourth-quarter comeback that fell short.

After trailing by as much as 18 in the first half and 14 in the final quarter, the Celtics cut the 76ers' lead to 5 with 5:39 left.

But Boston couldn't complete the comeback, as it didn't when it charged back from 23 down against the Knicks before losing, 103-102.

Forward Jared Sullinger led the Celtics with 19 points and 9 rebounds in 23 minutes.

Jordan Crawford and Avery Bradley shared point guard duties to open the game but neither was too impressive. Crawford had 12 points and 3 assists and Bradley had 4 points and 2 assists.

Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes each scored 17 to lead Philadelphia. Hamilton product Michael Carter-Williams added 4 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists.

The 76ers led by as much as 18 in the first half and led, 54-38, heading into the locker room.

At that point, Philadelphia had big advantages in points in the paint (30-12), rebounds (33-18) and fast-break points (14-4). The Celtics, meanwhile, only had a pile of bricks, as they shot 29 percent (12 of 41) from the floor, missing 8 of 9 from 3-point range.

In the second half, the Celtics chiseled at the 76ers' lead but were hindered by their own mistakes, whether failing to get a shot off before the shot-clock expired or getting their pockets picked by sticky-fingered Philadelphia defenders.

Friday's loss is the first of a back-to-back set for the Celtics, who are scheduled to face the New York Knicks on Saturday at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, N.H.

Crawford, Bradley share point guard duties against Philadelphia

Posted by Baxter Holmes, Globe Staff October 11, 2013 07:57 PM

NEWARK, Del. -- In yet another lineup twist, the Celtics started Jordan Crawford and Avery Bradley and had the two of them share point guard duties early on.

“That’s something that we wanted to see a little bit,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said before Friday's preseason game against Philadelphia at the Bob Carpenter Center here.

“We haven’t been able to do that much in the preseason, but they’ll both run the team at different times and whoever has it brings it up.”

It’s expected that Bradley will share the bulk of the point guard duties while Rajon Rondo (knee) is sidelined, but Stevens has hinted that Crawford could play that role as well.

In terms of lineups in general, Stevens said there’s a fine line between trying to experiment with the lineup while trying to get other players in a rhythm.

“It’s not easy…but I think it’s the right thing to do right now, because we’re still very much in the process of searching for who’s going to play,” Stevens said.

For forward Jeff Green, this period can be even more stressful as he’s adjusting to a new role as the Celtics’ top scoring option.

“Yeah, playing 20 minutes is something I don’t like,” Green said. “It’s hard. We have a lot of other guys on the team, a lot of guys trying to make a spot, so I know where coach is coming from. I know he’s trying to get a good look at everybody and figure out different rotations and lineups. I try to make due with what’s given.”

Stevens said that he’d like to have a firmer idea of the lineup in place by the Celtics’ final two preseason games, the first of which would be Oct. 20 against Minnesota.

Rondo assumes psuedo-coaching role while sidelined

Posted by Baxter Holmes, Globe Staff October 10, 2013 01:49 PM

PROVIDENCE – Late last season, after undergoing knee surgery, Rajon Rondo returned to the Celtics’ bench and assumed a pseudo-assistant coaching position.

"He probably coaches as much (as any of the players),” former coach Doc Rivers said then of the Celtics' All-Star point guard.

“I always tell him that if he wasn't so crazy he'd be a great coach.”

Rondo is still sidelined as he recovers from that surgery, but he has assumed the same role on the bench during the Celtics’ first two preseason games, including Wednesday in their 103-102 loss to the New York Knicks at Dunkin' Donuts Center.

“He is a guy that wants to know what’s going on, wants to know what the other team is doing,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “He’s really engaged in the game.”

During the Celtics’ first preseason game Monday against Toronto, Stevens said he wasn’t sitting right by Rondo, so he couldn’t hear everything that Rondo said.

“But everything that I heard was very much in a coaching-esque fashion,” Stevens said.

Said forward Jeff Green, “He knows the game, he’s one of the smartest players I’ve been around. He sees things that we don’t.”

Green added, “We look to him for advice and he’s going to give it out. He’s like an extra assistant that we have.”

Five takeaways from Celtics' preseason game No. 2

Posted by Baxter Holmes, Globe Staff October 10, 2013 09:41 AM

PROVIDENCE -- The Celtics dropped their second game of preseason here Wednesday night, falling 103-102 to the New York Knicks before a packed house at the Dunkin' Donuts Center. For more on the game, check out our story in Thursday's Globe.

That said, here are five takeaways you can enjoy with your morning coffee.

1. Vitor Faverani will be a cult hero among Celtics fans. It's going to happen, if it hasn't already. There are multiple factors to consider here: the first is his awesome and marketable nickname -- "El Hombre Indestructible" (The Indestructible Man); but the second, and most important, is his style of play, namely that the raw, 25-year-old Brazilian rookie center is physical and, as he showed against the Knicks, quite fearless.

Here are a couple of his dunks, both of which brought his teammates on the Celtics bench to their feet and underscore my aforementioned point about being fearless. He also hit a step-back 3-pointer on the right wing with a defender in his face in the first half (another fearless move) and added another dunk late in the second half when the Celtics were on the comeback. All in all, Faverani finished with 11 points on 5-of-9 shooting and grabbed 6 rebounds in 20 minutes.

"Vitor is a good player," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said after. "He’s got good feel. You can run a lot of stuff for him; he’s a better shooter than he’s shooting it right now. I think he’s got a pretty good ceiling and he is THE guy on our roster that is a true center, per se. He’s a guy that has to play, I think as we move forward."

Stevens added of Faverani, "He is getting better every single day. Did I think he’d be able to do this on Day 1 in Newport? No. So that’s good, because we’re only 8 or 9 days away from that. He’s getting more comfortable. He’s still got a little bit of a language barrier. But he runs what we want to run out of the timeouts, he doesn’t have any problem translating anything we’re trying to do on the court."

Ah, yes, the language barrier. Don't expect too many eloquent Faverani quotes early on. Here's one from after the game, though, in response to a question about his dunks and the reaction they brought from the crowd: "I’m very, very happy, because the dunks can help my teammates, I can show the coach I can play in the NBA," he said. "I’m very happy."

2. Phil Pressey made his NBA debut, notching a team-high 13 points, a game-high 7 assists and, more important, zero turnovers in a game-high 28 minutes. Though undersized at 5-foot-11, the undrafted free agent point guard out of Missouri was no doubt solid for the Celtics, who signed him to a multi-year deal this offseason. Pressey found a balance between managing the offense and taking what was there for him offensively; he hit four of his five shots and knocked down five of his six free-throw attempts.

Pressey was also the floor general when the Celtics made their big fourth-quarter comeback, and though it's only preseason, he kept his cool as the game got tighter down the stretch, even hitting a couple left-handed layups in traffic to help trim the Knicks' lead.

As Pressey, the son of former Celtics assistant coach Paul Pressey, is the only true point guard on the Celtics' roster, his performance should make the Celtics feel a little better about their options at that position while Rajon Rondo (knee) is sidelined.

"Phil’s going to find time if he keeps doing what he’s doing," Stevens said. "Now, the challenge is is responding to a night where you have a little success, and then responding the nights where you don’t. And just maintaining an even-ness about you. The one thing about Phil is Phil gets in the gym, you [media] have all been around, and he doesn’t leave the gym early. And he’s a guy that can make plays for other people and he made us better [Wednesday].”

Stevens added, "His speed is obviously really good. He’s a hard guy to keep in front. You think you’ve got him stopped and he can just kind of snake by you. But, again, we weren’t perfect but I thought he did some good things.”

Said Pressey: "At the end of the day you just gotta play the game the right way and let the rest take care of itself.”

3. Let's just remember going forward that the Celtics are a rebuilding team that's in the preseason, so everything must be taken with a hill of salt. In fact, I think I may paste this line into most of my takeaway posts for the foreseeable future.

On that note, let's wildly overreact to the fact that the Celtics fell behind by 23 points in the fourth quarter and then came back to re-take the lead in the final seconds.

It's hard to draw too many iron-clad conclusions from that situation, though. They're bringing new guys in and out and, of course, the training camp invitees are going to play their hearts out because they're trying to woo the Celtics brass to earn a spot on the roster.

Still, it was impressive that invitee Chris Babb could come out and hit 4-of-5 from 3-point range to lead the comeback, just as it was impressive how spirited the Celtics played during that stretch.

"I just told the guys in the locker room that, 'That’s the way you’re supposed to play in basketball regardless of the outcome at the end of that game,' Stevens said. "That was fun to be a part of. That’s the way that we need to play. I thought we competed awfully hard at times. And at times I thought they were better than us. And so we need to get better. I mean, we’ve got to be more consistent through 48 minutes and that’s what the preseason’s for."

The fourth-quarter was also valuable in terms of being a practice for late-game situations.

“Very helpful, just because it’s another game to get used to this," Stevens said. "And advancing the ball…I think in the big picture we had a lot of things that happened in that last minute, good and bad, that we can learn from on film. So it’s all positive other than the fact that we came up a point short.”

4. The Knicks gave Avery Bradley all kinds of trouble in last season's playoffs as the natural shooting guard struggled filling in at the point guard spot in the absence of Rondo. It looked like, early on, that would be the case again Wednesday, as Knicks guards Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni were again hassling Bradley, who scored just 2 points in the first half. For the record, Bradley started to find his way a little bit in the second half, and he scored 10 points in the third quarter alone, hitting a pair of 3-pointers.

Bradley has said that the Celtics' offense won't rely on on just him bringing the ball up the court to initiate an offense, and if so that should help him as he adjusts to this role. But while he adjusts, teams may throw pesky defenders at him to really test him out, especially after seeing him struggle against the Knicks, and that could be an issue for the Celtics.

5. After being out-rebounded by 20 in their first preseason game, the Celtics out-rebounded the Knicks, 36-34. Stevens had said before that the Celtics needed to rebound much more by committee, and we saw that, and that they needed to pursue the ball more rather than just focusing on only blocking their man out.

"We’re just going to have to hone in on it," Stevens said. "I thought our guards pursued the ball better. I thought our bigs found bodies better. The other day we just turned and hoped it bounced to us. It’s funny how that works. It usually doesn’t bounce to you when you do that. We needed to do a better job of finding bodies. We did that, but we still have a long way to go."

Leftovers: Jared Sullinger thought his energy in preseason game No. 1 was mostly from adrenaline, as the forward is, after all, still out of shape. He didn't look too bad Wednesday, though he only played 16 minutes. It'll be interesting to see how he handles more playing time...Brandon Bass is sometimes (or often) called "No Pass Bass" because (you guessed it) he doesn't pass once he gets the ball. But the Celtics forward had a career-high five assists against the Knicks, underscoring just how pass-focused this Celtics will be in Stevens' new system. After all, they had 25 assists on 33 made field goals in their first preseason game and then had 28 on 40 made field goals in their second. Those aren't shabby figures.

Lastly, a shout-out to Small Point Cafe in Providence. As a coffee addict, I endorse this joint, as it serves a solid cup of Joe and offers a chill atmosphere on the inside. Also, 121 Local is a solid spot for a pre-game bite before heading over to Dunkin' Donuts Center.

New York Knicks top Celtics in preseason thriller in Providence

Posted by Baxter Holmes, Globe Staff October 9, 2013 08:52 PM

PROVIDENCE – The Dunkin’ Donuts Center crowd turned deafening as the Celtics roared back from a 23-point fourth-quarter deficit Wednesday to take a lead in the final seconds.

But the Celtics couldn’t complete the dramatic comeback and fell, 103-102, to the New York Knicks in the preseason matchup. It’s Boston’s second preseason loss in as many games.

“That was fun to be a part of,” said rookie Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “That’s the way we need to play.” Stevens conceded that it was nice to see his team come back from that deficit in the final quarter, but he added that it would “be nicer if you win.”

Celtics training camp invitee Chris Babb, a guard from Iowa State, hit 4-of-5 from 3-point range in the last frame to trim the Knicks’ lead, bringing his teammates on the bench to their feet.

“My first shot fell and it just kept falling,” said Babb, who scored 12 points in 8 minutes.

The Celtics had a chance to win on their final possession, but Babb’s last-second shot in the lane was blocked.

Undrafted free agent guard Phil Pressey, making his NBA debut, had 13 points and 7 assists to lead six Celtics who scored in double figures. Vitor Faverani had 11 points and 6 rebounds.

Iman Shumpert scored 18 off the bench to lead five Knicks who scored in double figures. Carmelo Anthony scored 7 in about 22 minutes.

The Celtics were much better on the glass, out-rebounding the Knicks 36-34, after being out-rebounded by 20 in their preseason opener Monday against Toronto.

The Celtics also had 28 assists on 40 made field goals, and forward Jeff Green bounced back from his 6-point performance against the Raptors by scoring 10 in 21 minutes.

Boston is scheduled to practice Thursday and then head to Newark, Del., for Friday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Bob Carpenter Center.

The game against the 76ers will be the first of a back-to-back for the Celtics, who will again face the Knicks on Saturday in Manchester, N.H. at the Verizon Wireless Arena.

Rondo: Why would I want to leave Boston?

Posted by Baxter Holmes, Globe Staff October 9, 2013 10:17 AM

When Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce all departed from Boston this offseason, speculation swirled that, for a variety of reasons, Rajon Rondo would be the next to go.

The All-Star Celtics point guard, speaking to reporters Tuesday night at the Four Seasons Hotel in Boston, where he unveiled a new endorsement deal with the Chinese sports apparel brand Anta, strongly disagreed with the notion.

“I love it here," Rondo said, according to this CSNNE transcript. "The fans are great here. And Danny [Ainge] has been straightforward with me. This is my team. Why would I want to leave? Why would I want out? I never really backed away from a challenge. This would be a challenge. I’m looking forward to working with coach [Brad] Stevens. It’s a brand new start for us as a team. A lot of new players and a lot of young guys willing to listen, so I’m very excited.”

Rondo, who is recovering from surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, also said his first instinct was not to be like NFL star running back Adrian Peterson, who suffered that injury, came back in six months and won the NFL MVP the next season.

"I want to be like Rajon Rondo," Rondo said with a smile. "Obviously he came back and had an MVP season. That's the type of season I want to have when I come back. I don't want to come back and just be mediocre or have excuses about why I'm not playing up to par. When I come back, I won't have any excuses. I'll be ready to go. And if I'm not playing up to par, it's just on me. I won't blame it on my knee."

It remains unclear when Rondo might return to action. The Celtics have said he won't be ready by the Oct. 30 season opener against the Raptors in Toronto and there has been speculation that Rondo might not be ready until December.

When asked about the next hurdle for him as far as the recovery process, Rondo said, "Just getting my leg as strong as possible; getting my leg as strong as possible and getting my mind as strong as possible, get back out there and believe in my leg and do the things that I was able to do before this injury."

Rondo also spoke about his comment made during media day that he "didn’t feel anything" when he learned about the trade involving Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce this summer.

"That was blown out of proportion," he said. "I don't really say much and speak out on exactly what happened. I talk to Kevin all the time. I talk to (Pierce). Obviously it was different when the trade went down. I didn't expect it to happen. I had just gotten off the plane. It happens, and that's the business. I'm not going to say it was, 'forget about it'.

"We still talk about them in the locker room today, tell stories about how KG was, things Paul did. At the end of the day, I still talk to every one of those guys. I talk to (Jason Terry), I talk to (Pierce), I talked to (Garnett) yesterday. We still check on each other. It's a brotherhood. It's something that you can't break. We won titles together. We been through the fire together. It's just something for life."

Pierce, Garnett and Terry were traded to Brooklyn in a blockbuster deal that netted the Celtics a cadre of players and first-round draft picks.

Five takeaways from Celtics' preseason game No. 1

Posted by Baxter Holmes, Globe Staff October 8, 2013 09:45 AM

The Celtics dropped their preseason opener Monday night against the Toronto Raptors, 97-89, at TD Garden. It was the first NBA game of any kind for rookie Celtics coach Brad Stevens and for more on his debut, here's our story in Tuesday's Globe.

That said, here are five takeaways you can enjoy with your morning coffee.

1. The Celtics are still mixing and matching on the lineup, trying to find solid pairings of players, but the plus-sized trio of Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger and Gerald Wallace proved to be an intriguing combination of players, as Stevens foreshadowed before the game.

Wallace, a swingman who roams the wing, led the Celtics with 16 points; Sullinger, a big-bodied-but-undersized power forward who has a soft touch around the basket, added 14; and Olynyk, a rookie 7-footer from Gonzaga whose passing and shooting will probably keep him more on the perimeter this season, added 4 points and a team-high 5 assists.

When they played in concert, their differing styles of play meshed together well, as Sullinger could play down low while Wallace and Olynyk played somewhere on the perimeter to within 15 feet or so. Wallace and Olynyk are good enough shooters that defenses can't sag off and crowd the paint, which gives Sullinger some room.

"I love playing with those guys," Wallace said. "Those are two bigs that spread the floor, they are able to cut, and both of them are great passers, so they complement me because they open up the floor for me to drive and they are able to make passes in the paint."

Their quick passing was effective, in part because all three played unselfishly, as Sullinger harped on after the game.

"I mean, honestly, everybody is very unselfish," he said. "They're just always moving, Kelly and Gerald ... They're constantly moving and they're open, so it's easy to find them."

Olynyk didn't light it up on the offensive end in his first NBA game, but Stevens said the rookie's scoring will come along.

"There's probably a little bit of jitters for him too, but he's a good player and his ability to make plays passing the ball makes others better," Stevens said.

Olynyk did admit to a bit of nerves after the game.

"I guess there are a little nerves every time you make the next step, but that goes away once you realize it's just a game of basketball again," he said. "You know you're playing the same thing; the hoops are still 10 feet, the free-throw line's 15. And you know the vets are real good at calming me down, making sure you're all right out there, and just go with the flow."

2. On the offensive end, Stevens kept encouraging his players to move faster, even motioning from the sidelines that they needed to pick up the pace.

The players should get the hang of that in time, but it's worth noting that Kris Humphries said he and Jeff Green ran sprints on the treadmill after the game to help sharpen them up, conditioning-wise.

But overall on offense, the Celtics shared the ball well, earning 25 assists on 33 field goals.

"That's pretty good," Stevens said. "I like that. That's a good place to start. If we can keep moving the ball like that, again, I think we'll knock down a few more of those shots. I think one of the strengths of our team in the first seven days has been an unselfish nature playing the game."

Ah, unselfish. That word was tossed around a lot in postgame interviews, including by Avery Bradley, who filled in at the point guard spot for Rajon Rondo, a role Bradley will be playing for a while while Rondo (knee) is sidelined.

"My job is to make everything else easier on both ends of the floor," Bradley said. "I'm going to try to do that and continue to improve and I know our team is going to continue to improve. I feel like we're an unselfish team and we move the ball well and if we continue to do that, I feel like it will be hard for teams to guard us."

In terms of how Bradley performed, Stevens said that the fourth-year guard, who had three assists and three turnovers, was solid overall. But Stevens added that it's hard to judge his assist totals. "I thought he made a lot of nice plays that led to the next pass," Stevens said.

3. Monday's tilt was Jeff Green's first as "The Guy," also known as the player typically tabbed to lead his team in scoring most every night. Green struggled, scoring 6 points on 2-of-7 shooting from the floor, and said he noticed how the defense was focusing on him.

"All that attention is coming my way, but my shot just wasn't falling," he said.

Sure, it's the first game – the first of many – but it will be interesting to see how Green handles that attention. Before, he only received part of it, as Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett usually collected more focus from opposing defenses. Now, the bulk of it is on Green.

Green said he also wants to channel Garnett's advice and be an (expletive).

"It's coming," Green said. "I didn't bring it (Monday), obviously, the way I played. It's coming. It's coming."

4. He's known as "Crash" and he played as hard as his nickname indicated.

"The one thing I've learned about Gerald Wallace in my short time knowing him is he's going to give it everything he has, regardless of whether it's in practice, an exhibition game, or a regular season game," Stevens said. "That guy plays hard. And it'll be good -- I think that sets a really good tone for our team."

That appeared to be the case, according to Wallace's teammates.

"Gerald is kind of a quiet guy, but he goes so hard, man," Bradley said. "All you can do is respect him. It rubs off on me and I want to go out there and play hard for him."

Added Kris Humphries, Wallace's teammate in Brooklyn and now in Boston, "The funny thing about Gerald, in life he moves around so slow. So slow. But when he gets on the court, he turns it up. He’s a guy that can get layups and get shots. He knocked down shots. He really looked good offensively."

Wallace, who hit 6 of his 10 shots, said he still feels a step or two behind defensively. But he also said "I'm playing more freely now" as compared to his time in Brooklyn, where All-Stars Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and Brook Lopez ate up a lot of the shots and minutes.

Let's not forget that Wallace is entering his 13th NBA season and he's doing it on a rebuilding team with a rookie coach – less than ideal circumstances for a player at this stage of his career. (He pointed all this out on Media Day.)

But it appears that Crash is only wired to play one way, and that alone should have a positive effect on a team with many young players.

5.The Celtics had six rebounds in the first half. That's not a typo. By the end of the game, they were out-rebounded, 46-26, and that wasn't too bad considering how lopsided that figure was earlier in the game.

In fact, given how the Celtics were smashed on the glass, it's surprising that the final margin was single-digits when it could've been a lot worse.

It's early, of course, but the main problem is that the Celtics are undersized, with only one true center – 7-footer Vitor Faverani, who, by the way, is a 25-year-old Brazilian rookie who was last playing in Spain and will need some time to adjust to the NBA game.

"But we have to become a better rebounding team, and that’s not just for our bigs, it means guard pursuit," Stevens said.

The Celtics could attribute some of their rebounding awfulness to the fact that the Raptors shot the ball well (52 percent from the floor) and had so many turnovers (25), which didn't leave too many rebounds to be grabbed. Still, the Celtics need to improve in that area.

"We’ve got to continue to help out when guys are driving and build that wall on the strong-side and stop the ball and fan out from there and have each other’s backs," Humphries said.

Perhaps Wallace put it best:

"That’s one of the main things we realized (Monday) with this team, that we’re small at that forward/center spots, and we have to get in there as guards and help those guys out and get some of those long rebounds, take some of the 50/50 balls and see if we can come up with those or help them box out and help them rebound."

Brad Stevens arrives early for his NBA debut

Posted by Baxter Holmes, Globe Staff October 7, 2013 09:31 PM

Brad Stevens arrived at TD Garden around 2:30 p.m. Monday, five hours prior to the scheduled tipoff for the Celtics’ preseason game against Toronto.

Then on the night of his NBA debut, Stevens, the league’s youngest coach (36) and the new leader of its most championship-rich franchise, walked onto the empty arena's fabled parquet and took a look around.

“I had to see where my seat was,” he said.

He didn’t make the moment out to be anything mystical or magical, and he apologized that it wasn’t something more special. He was simply looking for his seat, he said.

Stevens is, in fact, quite the early bird: when he coached at Butler, he often arrived at Hinkle Fieldhouse at 7 or 8 a.m. on game days and he would stay there until tipoff.

“It’s kind of nice to get here by yourself and close that door and go to work,” he said.

But, as per usual, Stevens, formerly the star coach a Butler, said he didn’t have any nerves before the game, that he was just eager to see how his team would compete and how possible lineup combinations would perform.

His players saw it a little differently. “Yeah, he’s kinda nervous a little bit, but who isn’t?” said forward Gerald Wallace, a 12-year NBA veteran.

Kris Humphries, a nine-year-veteran, added, "As a player, you can tell when someone knows what they are doing and they don’t. We respect his knowledge of the game and it’s going to be an adjustment for him to come out there and get used to the NBA game.”

Seventeen world championship banners hang in the Garden's rafters, the most of any NBA team, but Stevens said the glorious history and expectations that they represent did not weigh on his mind. He said he sees them at the Celtics practice facility anyway.

“They couldn’t be further from my mind right now,” he said.

He said he received a few messages of good luck, but not too many.

“I think most of the coaches probably think, ‘Well, that’s an exhibition game,’” he said. “Maybe they’re saving their ‘good lucks,’ which I’ll take.”

When Stevens walked out onto the court just before the game, wearing a black suit with a white shirt and a green-and-white striped tie, nearby fans reached for a high-five and a few cheers came from the crowd.

It wasn’t a deafening ovation then, nor later when the lineups were announced and he was introduced to the Garden crowd as the Celtics new coach, the replacement for Doc Rivers.

Stevens took a seat in between veteran assistant coach Ron Adams and returning Celtics assistant Jay Larranaga, a former candidate for the Celtics head job.

Then the game began, the start of a new era, and the Celtics missed eight of their first nine shots and fell in a 14-2 hole before bouncing back, scoring 10 straight.

Five things to watch for in Celtics-Raptors

Posted by Gary Dzen, Boston.com Staff October 7, 2013 12:38 PM

Basketball is back. OK, so it's preseason basketball, but we have to start somewhere. With an overhauled roster, the Celtics certainly have plenty to work on before the regular season, and Monday night is the first chance to see them do it before our eyes. Here are five things I'll be focused on when watching the game.

1. Brad Stevens's style of play

Celtics players hinted about the style of play they expected from the team's new head coach at media day and during training camp last week. Kris Humphries said he expected to get out and run. Rajon Rondo said that if Jeff Green got a rebound, he would let Green take the ball up the floor himself rather than look for the outlet pass to start the break. Rondo won't play Monday night, but we'll get a sense of the speed with which Stevens intends to play from the jump. Rebounding is another key factor here. Under Doc Rivers, the Celtics rarely crashed the glass. With a glut of power forwards on the roster, that may change this season.

2. Rondo's involvement

Speaking of Rondo, it will be interesting to see how involved he'll be on the sidelines. Will he sit on the bench? Next to Stevens? Holding a clipboard? Will he actively give instruction to his teammates? Based on training camp, Rondo seems to have a heavy hand in the direction of the team early on.

By the way, did it ever bother anyone that Kevin Garnett refused to sit on the bench during the games he missed? Seems like he skated pretty easily for it.

vitorgame1.jpg3. Lineups

Stevens said over the weekend that he planned on using a different starting lineup in each of his preseason games, and that we shouldn't read too much into any of it. That doesn't mean we have to believe him. Stevens's tinkering will tell us something, from gauging which players work well together, to how small/big he wants to go, to who gets the shots. Don't you just want to see MarShon Brooks and Jordan Crawford out there at the same time tonight?

4. Who is Vitor Faverani?

He's the guy on the left, for starters. When the Celtics signed the Brazilian center to a three-year, $6 million contract, he was off the radar of most Celtics fans. Faverani was funny and engaging during media day, if not always easy to understand ("Not too much questions, please," he told the media). He appeared to be in shape and is bigger than just about anyone else on the roster. Stevens has not yet said how he plans to use Faverani, but he could be a wild card if he can step in and play well.

5. How does the team look without Pierce, Garnett, and Rondo?

Maybe the better question is how does it feel? That's pretty mushy, but for Celtics fans, it's going to feel different watching a rebuilding team than an established one. That doesn't mean it's going to feel worse. As with this year's Red Sox, it may feel good to root for an underdog, to see a collection of less-talented players come together to form something greater than the sum of the parts. It's going to be frustrating and exciting and surprising, and maybe all in the same game.

Avery Bradley focuses on point guard role during training camp

Posted by Baxter Holmes, Globe Staff October 1, 2013 07:56 PM

NEWPORT, R.I. – On the eve of his first training camp, Avery Bradley was a little nervous.

“I probably woke up at, like, 6 this morning. I was excited,” said Bradley, who later admitted to having a few jitters during the morning practice.

Bradley is entering his fourth season, but this is his first training camp, as health issues and the NBA lockout limited him in previous ones.

And during the sessions, he played point guard, a role he’ll likely fill while Rajon Rondo is out, recovering from knee surgery.

Bradley said that while there was plenty that was new on the first day of practice, coach Brad Stevens made him and the other players feel comfortable.

“The plays that I run, it’s kind of like I play point guard, but everybody makes plays for each other,” he said.

When comparing it with last season, Bradley said the two systems are different.

"It’s everybody,” he said. “Everybody is interchangeable. It’s a lot different. I’m not the one always initiating the offense.”

Bradley also enters camp coming off some recent emotional events: the birth of his first son, Avery Bradley III, and the death of his mother.

Bradley described being a father as “amazing.”

When asked if basketball was a sort of therapy for him following his mother’s death, he said, “It’s always been therapy.”

Jared Sullinger impresses on Celtics' first day of training camp

Posted by Baxter Holmes, Globe Staff October 1, 2013 07:54 PM

NEWPORT, R.I. – After being out six months while recovering from back surgery, Celtics forward Jared Sullinger didn’t know what to expect heading into the first day of training camp here Tuesday. He was as curious about his performance as others were.

The test results came back pretty positive, too.

“Pleasantly surprised at his motor, because I thought it was pretty good,” coach Brad Stevens said.

Sullinger felt the same way: surprised.

“Yes, very. I didn’t think I was going to make it through practice,” he said. “Being six months off and then trying to get back in the swing of things, that’s really, really tough.”

Still, Sullinger said he’s “not even close” when it comes to his conditioning. “I’m nowhere near where I need to be,” he said.

He also said he’s “very rusty.” With what? “Everything,” he said. “Timing, footwork, where I need to be on the court, just trying to figure out what I can do. I had back surgery, now I’ve got to modify some things and see what I can do well.”

Sullinger, who played in 45 games his rookie season, did say that he trusts his back and is at the point where he can move without worrying that he might reinjure it.

“I passed that point, mentally, in August,” he said. “The first time I got back on the court, I was really nervous about moving, but now, I’m taking charges again, moving.”

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