The best of the C's Orlando Summer League

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The best of the C's Orlando Summer League

ORLANDO, Fla. The Celtics concluded the Orlando portion of their summer league schedule Friday with a 94-73 win over the Orlando Magic. Boston finished with a 4-1 record, but let's be honest. Teams don't put much stock in wins and losses this time of year.

The focus has more to do with evaluating talent, and seeing how that talent fits in with a team's goals and objectives.

With that said, here's a look at the C's 12-man summer league roster now that their five-game Orlando summer league schedule is complete.

BEST OF THE BEST

Jared Sullinger, F, Ohio State:
Summary: Offensively, picked up where he left off in college as a good scorer around the basket. Better passer and rebounder than expected, a clear result of having a high basketball IQ. However, he tends to fall in love with the long-ball and spends too much time politicin' for calls instead of just playing through them.

Dionte Christmas, GF, Temple
Strengths: Can score in a variety of ways; plays with lots of energy at both ends of the floor; not a lock-down defender, but plays with a certain amount of smarts and savvy. However, he doesn't have a true position and doesn't play with a great amount of athleticism which at times can put him at a disadvantage particularly on defense.
Weaknesses: Doesn't have a true position on the floor. Inconsistent at times.

E'Twaun Moore, G, Purdue
Summary: Spent the bulk of his time at the point guard position, still needs to improve his court vision and setting up teammates. Still, he has the ability to score in bunches and plays with the kind of confidence you want in a floor leader. Like most young players, Moore needs to be more consistent with the things he does best - making shots.

Kris Joseph, F, Syracuse
Summary: A second-round pick, Joseph has been arguably the biggest surprise thus far for the Celtics. He didn't look particularly good in practices, but has played well in most of the summer league games. His mid-range jumper has been solid, but even more impressive has been his defense and rebounding - two things that will bode well in his quest to earn a roster spot with the Celtics.

Jamar Smith, G, Southern Indiana
Summary: Shot the ball well all week, but his ball-handling and defense need work. He did some good things and probably did enough to warrant an invite to training camp.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Sean Williams, FC, Boston College
Summary: He saw limited action, but continues to draw rave reviews from the coaches who see him as a potential rotation player this season. He has the kind of athleticism defensively that the Celtics desperately need. That athleticism coupled with him being such a willing defender makes the decision for Boston to pick up the option on his second season, a pretty easy one.

JaJuan Johnson, F, Purdue
Summary: Johnson's play was up and down throughout the summer league. The C's want to play him some at the power forward position, but even against the young and inexperienced, he struggled to be an effective player in the post. He has the ability to shoot from the perimeter, but his range doesn't extend out to the 3- point line which makes him a "stretch 4" with limitations. He has to step his game up in a number of areas in order to not have a repeat of his rookie season.

Fab Melo, C, Syracuse
Summary: As billed, Melo's defense is ahead - way ahead - of his offense. He was more of a shot-alterer than a shot-blocker. His lateral quickness is surprisingly good on defending pick-and-rolls. Although he's not a great rebounder, he understands angles and how to position himself to draw charges which is rare for a big man with his shot-blocking and shot-altering talent.

Jonathan Gibson, G, New Mexico State
Summary: Other than a 17-point explosion in Boston's win over Brooklyn on Tuesday, Gibson has done little offensively. Although he's undersized, showed signs of being a good on-the-ball pressure defender in the Avery Bradley mold. He's on the bubble for receiving an invite to training camp.

Larry Owens, GF, Oral Roberts
Summary: A fringe NBA player, Owens was relatively quiet until the Friday's win against Orlando. He may in fact get an invitation to training camp, but the prospects of him leap-frogging past a player like Christmas or Joseph, seems unlikely.

BEFORE WE FORGET

Stephane Lasme, F, UMass
Summary: After being the last player cut by the Celtics a couple years ago, it's highly unlikely Lasme will get that close this time around. In fact, getting an invite to training camp will be a bit of a surprise. His defense is still pretty good. But the improvements he has supposedly made in his shooting and ball-handling, were nowhere to be found this week.

Craig Brackins, F, Iowa State
Summary: This former first-round pick had 10 points in Boston's win over Orlando, but this week by no means was a success for him. He played fewer minutes than any other Celtic. He is a big man with 3-point range, something that was not on display until Friday. He'll likely get more opportunities during the Las Vegas summer league with the Celtics to prove that his play on Friday wasn't a fluke and possibly earn an invite to training camp.

Thomas excited for reunion with Green

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Thomas excited for reunion with Green

WALTHAM, Mass. -- When the phone rang this summer, Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas had to do a double-take when he saw the name on the caller ID.

It was Gerald Green, his ex-teammate in Phoenix.

Although they only shared a locker room for 45 games in Phoenix, the two became quick friends.

On the court they developed instant chemistry while coming off the Suns bench. And that bond spilled off the court as Green would later spend time with Thomas in the Seattle-Tacoma, Wash. area in the summer months.

They were cool with each other, cool enough to where Thomas knew it wasn’t in Green’s nature to pick up the phone and call just to say hi.

“Gerald doesn’t call anybody,” Thomas said. “When he called I knew something was up.”

Green said Boston, the team that drafted him in 2006 straight out of high school, was interested in bringing him back for a second stint with the club.

“I tried to put my two cents in and he got here,” Thomas said.

There were several factors that led Green back to Boston, with a chance to reunite with Thomas being high on that list.

Green, already in Phoenix at the time the Suns signed Thomas in 2014, was impressed with the way the 5-9 guard carried himself.

“He was a genuine guy, came in really humble,” Green said. “I saw the talent was there. I knew he had the potential to be one of the best point guards in this league.”

Thomas certainly made a case for such lofty praise with how he performed last season, good enough to earn his first all-star selection.

What really stuck out to Green was that Thomas’ mentality and approach to the game was almost a carbon copy of his own.

“When we stepped on the court we had the same mentality,” Green said. “By any means necessary, get a bucket and play harder than the next team; just try and push the first team, make the first team better every day.”

Thomas was coming off the bench, showing lots of potential and promise that he could carry a heavier load if given an opportunity to do so.

He averaged 15.2 points, 3.7 assists and 2.4 rebounds in 25.7 minutes off the Suns bench in 46 games. Even more significant was that when Thomas did play for the Suns, they were 26-20.

In the games without him, they were just 13-23.

Green was admittedly disappointed they traded away Thomas, believing that season would have had a very different outcome had they not sent him to Boston.

And just like Green recognized Thomas’ skills and how much his team could have benefited from keeping him around, Thomas speaks in glowing terms about Green and what his return to Boston means for the team.

“We needed someone like him; a guy that could shoot the ball, a guy that could space the floor; instant scorer whether he starts or comes off the bench,” Thomas said. “Where the he starts or come off the bench. He’s going to really help us.”

Horford, Johnson wasting no time in developing chemistry

Horford, Johnson wasting no time in developing chemistry

WALTHAM, Mass. – When the news came out that Al Horford was going to be a Boston Celtic, Amir Johnson couldn’t wait to meet his new teammate.

He didn’t have to.

Johnson soon found himself on plane headed to Atlanta to not only work out with Horford, but also try and work out some of the kinks that tend to come up among new teammates in those early days of training camp.

“I took it upon myself when I saw Al was part of the team, I automatically wanted to go down to Atlanta and work,” said Johnson who added that he brought his daughter along for the trip and they went to dinner with Horford’s family during the visit. “I thought it was great just to get that chemistry going. I just wanted to get to known him, make him feel comfortable.”

It’s still early in training camp, but Johnson and Horford seem to be meshing quite well on the floor. 

“The chemistry’s definitely coming along,” Johnson said. “I know when Al wants to roll or pop, and just working my way around it. Al’s more of a popper and eventually he’ll roll. It’s up to me to read whether I stay up or work the baseline.”

Johnson has been in the NBA long enough to know that often the keys to success are subtle nuances that may be overlooked by fans and spectators, but players know are essential to them being successful.

Being able to not only understand a player’s game but figure out how to play well with them, are critical to teammates being successful.

Last season, Johnson was Boston’s primary rim-protecting big man which is a role the 29-year-old Johnson has been cast in the last few years he was in Toronto. Horford brings a similar set of defensive skills to the table which gives Boston a true 1-2 defensive punch along the frontline.

“It’s big time,” Johnson said. “We communicate to each other. It’s all about communication out there; just knowing he can hold it down and he trusts me to hold it down. It’s key.”

GREEN INJURY UPDATE

Gerald Green is expected to get a few more days to rest his hip flexor injury which he said on Thursday was feeling better.

The injury should keep the 6-6 wing from participating in the team’s Green-White scrimmage on Friday, but it isn’t considered serious.

Still, Green is eager to get back and return to full contact work which is why he is getting a steady diet of treatments during the day and returning in the evening for more treatments from the Celtics’ medical staff.

“It’s almost like a precautionary thing; make sure it doesn’t get worst,” Green said.

The injury occurred earlier this week but Green could not pinpoint exactly what he did to suffer the injury.

“I don’t think I stretched properly,” Green said. “I’m not 25 no more. Just try to come out there and go at full speed. Those are things I’ve got to learn now I’m in my 30s.”
Indeed, one of the many benefits of being older now is that Green sees the big picture of things better now, which is why he isn’t trying to rush back to the floor too quickly.

As a veteran, it’s a long season,” Green said. “You’re not trying to do too much to make it worst. Training camp is important, but being healthy at the beginning of the season is even more important.”

RUN, YOUNGSTERS, RUN

Near the end of Thursday’s practice, the Celtics had a full court game of 3-on-3 involving some of the team’s rookies and end-of-the-bench training camp invitees like Jalen Jones of Texas A&M. The 6-7 undrafted rookie had a dunk over Jordan Mickey, a 3-pointer and another strong, uncontested flush at the rim in a matter of minutes. He’s likely to wind up with Boston’s Developmental League team, the Maine Red Claws.

With Thursday morning’s session being the team’s fifth practice this season, head coach Brad Stevens thought it was a good idea to get some of the team’s younger players on the court.

“It was good to play some 3-on-3,” said Stevens who added that it was good for their conditioning since a lot of the running at this point involves trying to get the starters and the likely rotation players as acclimated and familiar with one another as possible. “We try to do that occasionally even through the season just to get everybody up and down.”

TURNOVERS? WHAT TURNOVERS?

Five practices in the books and there’s only one thing that really has stood out to the eyes of Isaiah Thomas.

It’s turnovers.

Apparently the Celtics haven’t committed too many thus far.

“We haven’t turned the ball over as much as teams usually do the first couple of days,” Thomas said. “We’re trying to learn the system, trying to get everybody familiar with what we do. But we’ve been playing well together. Guys are playing hard. Guys have gotten better, worked on their game.”

Ball-handling will be one of the areas to watch during the preseason as the Celtics look to find a replacement for Evan Turner (Portland) who has been one of the team’s best ball-handlers the past couple of seasons.

The Celtics were middle-of-the-pack last season with 13.5 turnovers per game which ranked 14th in the NBA.

Low turnovers often serve as a common trait among playoff teams. Just last season, eight of the top-nine teams in fewest turnovers committed, were in the playoffs.