Celtics Quesiton of the Day: Which rookie will have the biggest impact?


Celtics Quesiton of the Day: Which rookie will have the biggest impact?

For most of Doc Rivers' tenure as Celtics head coach, rookies have been no more than glorified spectators with front row seats. Like most coaches, Rivers needs to see more than just talent.

He has to see trust; specifically, trust among teammates.

For first-year players on veteran, championship-focused teams like the Celtics, that's not something that comes about automatically. It takes time which is why the rookies that ultimately contribute in their first year for the C's, usually begin the season at or near the end of the bench before working their way up into a meaningful role.

Last year at this time, nobody knew who Greg Stiemsma was other than the Celtics' brass who were simply looking for another warm body to get them through training camp.

Injuries and opportunity collided, which paved the way for the then-26-year-old rookie to play and parlay that chance into a two-year deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

There will be at least five rookies in the C's training camp later this month looking to have their own Stiemsma experience. That includes first-round picks Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo, along with second-round selection Kris Joseph who played at Syracuse University with Melo.

They will be joined by a couple of summer league standouts in Jamar Smith and Dionte Christmas.

While it's pretty clear that all of them will start off buried deep on the depth chart, it's not a stretch to think that at least one will emerge and help the Celtics some this season.

Who will it be?

As much as this Syracuse grad would love to toss out Joseph or Melo as the rookie to see the most action this season, that scenario is unlikely to happen.

The best rookie for the C's this season will be Jared Sullinger.

His play in summer league got many in Celtics Nation excited about his potential with the Green Team.

The most impressive thing about Sullinger never made its way on to the stats sheet. His court awareness maybe more than anything else, is why he has the best chance of any of the Celtics rookies of playing right away.

Despite questions about his size (6-foot-9, 265), one thing that's not an issue is his high basketball IQ. It is an intangible quality, but one that's pretty apparent in Sullinger when you watch him play.

At times, he'll draw contact on plays when he doesn't really have much of a chance at making the shot.

He's able to position himself for tip-out rebounds when he can't get good enough position to corral it himself.

There will be possessions when he'll ask for the ball on the post, get it, and recognize a double team before it comes and find an open teammate. He understands how to set opponents up for him to score, and he's wise enough to recognize when the pass is there to be made.

Those are the kind of plays that Sullinger is capable of making when given an opportunity, but seldom seen while at Ohio State because that wasn't necessarily the role they needed him to play.

"I can pass the ball," Sullinger said. "Score, rebound, pass, defend, whatever the team needs me to do, that's what I'll do. That's how I've always played."

From the days of Red Auerbach roaming the sidelines to the "Ubunto" era, doing "whatever the team needs" has been part of the foundation of all the great Celtics teams.

While that alone gives Sullinger a shot at playing early, he will also be motivated by the fact that so many teams passed on him on draft night in part because of concerns about his back.

Considered a lottery (top-14) talent, Sullinger fell to the C's who snatched him up with the No. 21 pick.

"I preach to the players it's not where you go, but being in the right fit," said Sullinger's agent, David Falk. "You wouldn't expect a player of his caliber to go 21. I think he's in a great situation. I'm thrilled that he's here. A lot of teams will regret they were intimidated by a lot of the information that was floating around about not drafting him."

For Sullinger, ultimately his play will come down to being ready when opportunity presents itself.

If you play for the Celtics and you are a big man, sooner or later a shot at playing time will come your way.

In recent years, the C's have seen their share of setbacks and injuries to post players that has ranged from a player missing a game here and there, to others being out for extended periods of time.

When those times roll around, players like Sullinger will be called upon -- and expected -- to contribute.

For a rookie, that's all you can ask.

Young understands work isn't done after claiming Celtics final roster spot

Young understands work isn't done after claiming Celtics final roster spot

WALTHAM, Mass. – For so many years the game of basketball came easy – almost too easy – for James Young.

He stood out on a young Kentucky team that played at the highest levels, delivering the kind of performances as an 18-year-old college freshman that catapulted him into the first round of the NBA draft.

To be so young and already having achieved a childhood dream, to be in the NBA, Young was too young to realize how quickly the dream could become a nightmare if he didn't put in the necessary work.

The past couple of weeks have not been easy for Young, aware that the Celtics were torn as to whether they should keep him around this season or waive him.

They choose the former and instead waived his now-ex teammate R.J. Hunter, on Hunter’s 23rd birthday no less.

One of the first acts Young said he planned to do following Monday's practice was to reach out to Hunter, offer words of encouragement to a player he looked upon as a brother, a brother who is in a state of basketball limbo right now which could have easily been the latest chapter in James Young’s basketball narrative.

And that’s why as happy as Young is to still be donning the Green and White, his work towards proving himself to this team, to this franchise is far from done.

You listen to veterans like Jae Crowder, a second-round pick who has come up the hard way in the NBA, they speak of how Young now takes the game more serious.

Even Young acknowledged that he didn’t take the NBA game and the need to work at staying in the league as serious as he should have initially.

“I wasn’t playing as hard (early on),” Young admitted. “I just was satisfied being where I was, being too comfortable. My confidence was down. I have to change that around.”

Crowder, a straight-no-chaser kind of fellow, said as much when I asked him about the changes he has seen in Young.

“He’s taking stuff a little more serious,” Crowder said. “It’s growing up. He came in as a first-round draft pick and was on the borderline of getting cut. I don’t know what else is going to wake you up.”

That’s part of what made this decision so difficult and on some levels, left players with mixed emotions about the decision.

For those of us who followed this team through training camp, there was no question that Young had the better camp.

But the one thing that was never questioned with Hunter, was his work ethic. He made his share of mistakes and missed more shots than a player with a sharpshooter's reputation should, but you never got a sense it had anything to do with him not working as hard as he needed to.

That was among the more notable issues with Young who came into the league as an 18-year-old. That youth probably worked for him as opposed to Hunter who played three years of college basketball and was expected to be seemingly more NBA-ready.

Even though Hunter’s NBA future is on uncertain ground now, he’s too young and too talented to not get at least one more crack with an NBA team.

And by Boston waiving him, he really does become a low-risk, high-reward prospect that an NBA team might want to take a closer look at with their club. 

And Young remains a Celtic, doing all that he can to climb up the pecking order which now has him as the clear-cut 15th man on the roster.

He might see more minutes than rookie Demetrius Jackson and possibly second-year forward Jordan Mickey, but Young’s future with the Boston Celtics is still on relatively thin ice.

“I told him this morning, this might be the first time he’s earned anything in his life,” said Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations.  “He earned this by his play, day-in and day-out. He was given a lot as a young kid with a lot of promise, a lot of potential. We talked about earlier this summer, he had to come out and win a spot with some good competition and he did. He needs to keep doing what he’s doing.”

More than anything else, Young has been consistent in his effort, overall energy and attention to detail. But it remains to be seen if Young has done all that to just secure a roster spot, or has he truly grown up and figured out what has to be done in order to be an NBA player.

Celtics break ground on new practice facility


Celtics break ground on new practice facility

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- When it comes to finding ways to attract the best talent, colleges and universities often seek to upgrade their training facilities as an enticement to prospective players.
So why should it be any different at the pro level?
The Boston Celtics had a groundbreaking ceremony Monday morning for The Auerbach Center at New Balance Headquarters.
“When you think he was hired in 1966 and they’re still honoring him, it’s very humbling,” said Randy Auerbach, Red’s daughter.
New Balance officials echoed similar sentiments about the legendary Red Auerbach, the architect of arguably the greatest dynasty in professional basketball.
“Red Auerbach was a true entrepreneur whose passion for winning and dedication to the sport of basketball and the Boston Celtics was equally matched with his commitment to people and his local community,” said Jim Davis, Chairman and Owner at New Balance.  “New Balance is extremely proud to join with the Boston Celtics in honoring his professional achievements and personal values through ‘Red’s House’ at our Boston world headquarters.”
Celtics president Rich Gotham cited several benefits to moving the team to a state-of-the-art practice facility closer to Boston.
Among the reasons given was the potential for the practice facility to be a potential enticement for free agents.
“Players spend more time in the practice facility than they do in the arena they play in certainly, and maybe more than they do at home,” Gotham said. “So having a place where they feel comfortable, a place where they want to spend time to improve themselves across the board … it’s all coming together in a pretty big way. The best players know it’s integral to their success that make sure that support is there, that infrastructure is there. So when we’re out talking to a player, we’re going to be talking about this practice facility we’re building. Because we do think it’s an important part of our story.”
Some of the features of the new practice facility will include:
·  Two state-of-the-art parquet floor basketball courts where the team will practice
·  Leading edge audio-visual technology throughout the facility
·  Expanded strength and conditioning, training, and recovery facilities
·  Best-in-class locker rooms and players’ lounge
·  Physical therapy areas including hydrotherapy pools
·  Sports science and nutrition facilities
·  Expanded media work room, press conference and broadcast facilities
·  A flexible hospitality area designed for community relations activities, partner gatherings and other guest events
·  Work space for the team’s coaching and basketball front office staffs
While the facility will have all the bells and whistles you would come to expect in a new facility, Gotham said there will be a balance of sorts struck between that and the franchise’s longstanding history.
“What will be clear is it will be … at that intersection of, which is a strange intersection, of innovation but honoring our tradition,” Gotham said. “This will be a building that’s state-of-the-art, moving forward. But at the same time, I think one of the things we’re lucky to have is this treasure trove of great guys who came before us who left great wisdom and great quotes. You can see a lot of that built in. Coach Stevens is big on having motivational phrases around for the guys to see every single day when they come in for practice. If those come from Red Auerbach and Bill Russell, all the better. You’ll see us incorporating those kind of things.”