Ainge: I've spoken to Rondo about suspensions

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Ainge: I've spoken to Rondo about suspensions

WALTHAM The Boston Celtics are gearing up for a Rajon Rondo-less game courtesy of a two-game suspension following an incident against Brooklyn this week - the third time in nine months.

Players being suspended is nothing new to the Celtics or any of the league's 29 teams. It happens.

But for a star player to be suspended so often, in such a short period of time, is a bit disturbing. Not only for its impact on his team, but also the potential impact on that player's reputation.

Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, acknowledges Rondo's suspension tally is high.

He has spoken with Rondo since the latest incident landed him a two-game suspension, but would not elaborate on any specifics regarding their conversation.

But it's safe to assume that the frequency at which his suspensions has come lately, was a topic of discussion.

"I think it's high," Ainge said of Rondo's rash of suspensions recently. "I just hope the next nine months is better. It's not good; there's nothing good about it. But I love the kid. He's a competitor, he's a warrior. He'll get it under control. I'm confident he will."

That competitive fire, which makes him such a good player and teammate, also fuels his rage when he feels a player - or officials - are wrong towards him, his Celtics teammates, or both.

But finding the balance between that competitiveness and not hurting his team, has proven to be challenging at times for Rondo.

"He's not happy with the fact that he's not there to help his team in the next two games, and the last game against Brooklyn," Ainge said. "Rondo is a very emotional player, he's a tough competitor. He realizes it's more important to play."

But as much as not having him around is at the central thoughts of both Rondo and the Celtics, none of them are naive enough to believe that something similar to this won't happen again.

"If it happens once in the next nine months, maybe that's progress, right?" Ainge said. "I don't expect Rondo will play the rest of his career and not go over the line emotionally."

A three-time All-Star, Rondo was suspended following an incident in the second quarter of Boston's 95-83 loss to Brooklyn on Wednesday. In addition to tonight's game against Portland, Rondo will also be suspended for Saturday's game at Milwaukee.

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Celtics-Knicks preview: Thomas scoring at record pace in fourth quarter

Celtics-Knicks preview: Thomas scoring at record pace in fourth quarter

WALTHAM, Mass. –  As the fourth quarter rolls around, you will occasionally catch Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas looking down at his wrist, a gesture to remind anyone watching what time it is – Thomas time.

There are those who elevate their play in the fourth quarter of games, and then there’s Thomas who continues to smoothly navigate his way in unchartered fourth quarter scoring territory.

The Celtics begin the second half of the season Wednesday night against the New York Knicks, and there sits Thomas atop all players in the NBA when it comes to fourth-quarter scoring.

But that’s not all.

He’s not only dropping more points than any other NBA player in the most important quarter of them all, but he’s doing so at an unprecedented level of 10.1 fourth-quarter points per game.

Since NBA.com/stats began tracking fourth quarter scoring with the 1997-1998 season, no player has averaged more than 9.5 fourth-quarter points (LeBron James, 2006) in a season.

What makes Thomas’ fourth quarter heroics so impressive is that everyone in the building – fans, coaches, opponents – knows that’s when he’s looking to be most impactful for the Celtics and yet he still can’t be stopped.

Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford acknowledged how tough it is to limit Thomas despite knowing he’s looking to take over games in the fourth.

“It’s hard because the blitz game is impossible because they don’t roll,” said Clifford whose Hornets were beaten 108-98 by Boston on Monday. “If you watch the teams that try to blitz them, you’re going to give up basically lay-ups. We had things in to get the ball out of his hands but the way they played and the stuff that they usually go to late, they didn’t get to. He (Thomas) made some terrific plays; he’s a terrific offensive player.”

Despite what he does in the fourth and his overall scoring average of 28.2 points which is ranked among the league’s leaders, there are still lots of doubters as to how good Thomas.

Regardless of how you view his play, he has consistently played at a level this season that places him among the game’s best players.

And at the rate he’s scoring in the fourth quarter, he’s establishing himself as one of the great closers in the game.

Consider the list of players in the past decade who led the league in points scored in the fourth quarter.

  • 2016: James Harden (7.7)
  • 2015: Russell Westbrook (7.1)
  • 2014: Kevin Durant (7.9)
  • 2013: Kevin Durant (8.4)
  • 2012: Kevin Durant (7.3)
  • 2011: Amare Stoudemire (7.1)
  • 2010: LeBron James (8.0)
  • 2009: LeBron James (7.7)
  • 2008: LeBron James (9.1)
  • 2007: Dwyane Wade (8.2)

You have All-stars, All-NBA First Teamers, league MVPs as well as a few future Hall of Famers.

As good as those players were in their respective seasons, when the game mattered most – the fourth quarter – Thomas numbers (for now at least) stand head and shoulders above them all.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens gives Thomas a lot of credit for being such a consistent scorer, particularly in the fourth quarter.

But as good as Thomas is, he’s not out there getting all these baskets on his own, either.

“It says a lot about the fact that he’s got a lot of skilled guys around him that are hard to leave,” Stevens said. “When you’re playing Kelly (Olynyk) and Jonas (Jerebko) together with him, there’s a lot of space on the floor to operate. When those guys are at the four (power forward) and five (center), when you’re playing guys like Al Horford who can space the floor or Avery (Bradley) or Jae (Crowder), you know, those types of guys … at the end of the day I think that it’s a combination of a lot of things.”

And for opponents, a lot of problems.

“He’s been playing well,” Hornets guard Kemba Walker said of Thomas. “He’s been playing better than anyone in our league. He’s playing with great confidence and making the plays for his team to win games. He’s been great.”