Celtics pleased with youthful size in first round


Celtics pleased with youthful size in first round

BOSTON -- With only four players under contract for next season, the Boston Celtics needed front court depth and youth as they rebuilt their veteran roster. They got both in the first round of the 2012 NBA Draft on Thursday night.

The Celtics selected forward Jared Sullinger (The Ohio State University) and center Fab Melo (Syracuse University) with the 21st and 22nd picks, respectively.

"We think we've developed a good culture here, said Celtics assistant general manager Ryan McDonough. The Big Three have set the tone along with Rajon (Rondo) and we look for guys that can fit into that culture. We think this draft kind of fell perfectly almost for us because we got guys that we consider to be potential starters down the road at the power forward and the center position. By all accounts, they're good kids and hard workers."

Sullinger and Melo come from nearly opposite basketball backgrounds. Sullinger has been one of the top players in the country for years. Melo, on the other hand, grew up playing a completely different sport in Brazil and is fairly new to the game in comparison to others in his draft class.

"Jared's been one of the best players in his class his whole life, said McDonough. He was one of the top high school players in the country. He was one of the top freshman in the country last year at Ohio State. This year he put up stats that are almost identical to what he did last year and led his team to the Final Four. He's played against the biggest, longest, most athletic guys in AAU, in high school, in college, and had good success at all levels."

He added, "Jared is one of the better rebounders in the country. He has a great feel for where the ball's going to come off, he has terrific hands, his rebound rate per minute is very good. He's also able to step away from the basket and make shots. And that's an area that he's improved in rapidly I think over the past few years. He was a back-to-the-basket player in high school. He was always the biggest, strongest guy around and he's developed a pretty nice face-up game."

While Melo has not been involved in basketball as long as Sullinger, McDonough has noted quick improvement and willingness to learn.

Fab grew up as a soccer player in Brazil, he said. He's come into the game a little late. I thought he struggled some his freshman year at Syracuse and then I thought he improved rapidly this year. Their coaches gave him great reviews. The difference in their team when he was on and off the court was fairly significant. He's one of the few guys in the country who can block shots and take charges, so he's a defensive presence right now. We also think he's an over-the-top threat on lobs and he's able to step out and make 15-to-17-foot jumpers.

The Celtics explored moving up in the first round but were pleased with the talent available at their picks. With Sullinger and Melo on their draft boards, they are happy they didnt give up either selection.

Were excited, said McDonough. We had these two guys ranked as lottery talents. I think the beginning of the night, we all would have been very pleasantly surprised if you had told us they were going to be there at 21 and 22.

Horford-Celtics partnership gives both stability, chance to win


Horford-Celtics partnership gives both stability, chance to win

BOSTON –  This is not where Al Horford thought he would be right now.
Back in May, the Atlanta Hawks had just been swept out of the playoffs by the soon-to-be NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
Disappointed with the outcome obviously, Horford was a free agent-to-be who was confident that he would be back in Atlanta and the Hawks would retool by adding to their core group which he was a major part of, and they would be back to making another run at it this season.
First there was the draft night trade of point guard Jeff Teague to the Indiana Pacers. 
And during Horford's negotiations with the Hawks in July, they were also negotiating with Dwight Howard and ultimately signed the Atlanta native to a three-year, $70.5 million contract. 
Before the Howard deal was complete, the Celtics had already made a strong impression on Horford during their presentation to him. 
So the choice was pretty clear.
Return to Atlanta and potentially have a major logjam up front with himself, Howard and Paul Millsap, or join a Celtics team that’s on the rise where his five-tool skillset – passing, rebounding, defending, scoring and making those around him better – could be put to great use on a team that’s clearly on the rise. 
Horford chose the latter, giving both himself and the Celtics exactly what they wanted – stability and a chance to win at the highest of levels.
The first shot to see how this basketball marriage looks on the floor will be tonight when the Celtics kick off the 2016-2017 season at the TD Garden against the Brooklyn Nets. 
The preseason isn’t the best indicator of what’s on the horizon now that games count, but Horford’s presence was undeniable.
Boston’s starters which includes Horford, Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder and Amir Johnson, each finished with a positive, double-digit plus/minus in the preseason. 
“He just makes the game so much easier for all of us,” Johnson told CSNNE.com. “He can do so many things out there at both ends of the floor. He’s going to be big for us this season.”
And his impact can be felt both on the floor and inside the locker room, similar to what he brought to the Atlanta Hawks.
“With the way that I go about it is, I’m trying to win,” Horford told CSNNE.com. “I’m gonna work, put in my work, try to help guys get better not only on the court but off the court as well. That’s how I carry myself.”
 And it is that approach to the game that has made his transition to the Celtics a relatively seamless one. 
Horford holds many fond memories of his time in Atlanta, a place that will always be near and dear to his heart. 
But he’s a Celtic now, coming in with the same single-minded focus that drives this organization to continue pursuing the only thing that truly matters to them – an NBA title. 
"Even though I’m leaving a lot behind, as a player you always want to be in the best position you can,” Horford said. “I felt for me being on this team would put me in a position to be able to contend and win an NBA championship. That’s my ultimate goal.”

Rozier's confidence, hard work earning him more minutes in Celtics rotation


Rozier's confidence, hard work earning him more minutes in Celtics rotation

BOSTON – You’ll have to pardon Terry Rozier if he doesn’t have that deer-in-the-headlights look about him when he takes to the floor tonight for what should be the first of many meaningful stretches of playing time.
You see, being harassed with the defensive pressure of Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart while trying to become a pest to Isaiah Thomas (which I’m told Rozier is frequently in practice), has instilled in Rozier the kind of confidence that’s not easily shaken.
That’s one of the main reasons why the Celtics aren’t freaking out about the departure of Evan Turner to Portland this offseason and more recently the sprained left ankle injury to Marcus Smart that’ll keep him out for a few games.
When it comes to filling those two voids, all eyes will be on Rozier.
“When somebody’s hurt, the next guy has to step up,” Thomas said. “Terry has shown he’s ready for that opportunity. He’s worked very hard this summer. I’m proud of him. I’ve been in that position before. He’s been waiting for that opportunity. He’s ready.”
Rozier had an impressive run during summer league as Boston’s best player. And in training camp, he hasn’t let up in being one of the standout performers.
It has led to the second-year guard being exactly where he thought his hard work in the offseason would take him to, and that’s a prominent spot in the Celtics’ rotation.
And in doing so, Rozier knows it’ll likely mean taking some minutes from his veteran teammates like Isaiah Thomas who he credits for always being there to help him grow as a player.
“I’m trying to get better, but I want to play too,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “Getting his (Thomas’) minutes, anybody’s minutes, I’m going for it. But I know he’s not going to lighten up and make it easy for me. I know that. I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
It certainly looks like it for Rozier who has shown growth in just about every phase of his game since he was selected by Boston with the 16th overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft.
There were many who questioned Danny Ainge’s decision to draft a guard so high when he already had Thomas, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart in the fold.
But Rozier has shown the promise that Ainge saw in him coming out of Louisville.

Now it’s just a matter of Rozier getting the kind of minutes and producing, that will ultimately validate the trust and faith Ainge and his coaching staff showed in selecting Rozier.
For Rozier, not being looked upon all that favorably is just par for the course when it comes to his basketball career.
“I’ve been doubted all my life,” Rozier said. “It ain’t hurt me. I always tell myself, ‘they’re gonna fall in love with me because I play hard and they’re gonna fall in love with my intensity level. People didn’t know who I was when I came here; that’s fine. They’ll fall in love with me and my game sooner or later.”