Celtics zone a work in progress

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Celtics zone a work in progress

CHICAGO For years, Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers has shunned the notion of playing zone defense.

This season, Rivers and his staff have embraced it whole-heartedly - sort of.

While the results of its use have been mixed, one thing we know for sure - it is very much a part of the C's defensive strategy this season.

Rivers totally gets that his team must improve in this particular facet of play, but finding a solution can only come about once the problems are identified.

And there are problems - lots of them.

RELUCTANT BUYERS

For a team that prides itself on playing great man-to-man defense, asking - no, expecting - them to play zone is not something that's embraced quickly.

That initial reluctance has certainly played a role in Boston's struggles at times in a zone defense.

"Our guys are starting to buy into it," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who added that there are still a couple who "don't get it yet."

And as Rivers reminded reporters this week, most NBA teams that play a zone, don't play it anywhere close to what you see in high school.

"You can't think it's the high school zone where you just stand still and point," Rivers said. "Because guys will torch you."

TALK IT UP!

Another often overlooked aspect of playing good zone defense, is communication. It's always important to talk, especially on defense. But when playing in a zone, it becomes a necessity. Opponents facing zone defenses are constantly in search of holes that they know exist, when teams play a zone defense.

Without a strong level of communication, those gaps and seams that teams are looking to exploit, have far too often taken on the form of wide open jumpers for opponents.

Chicago's Luol Deng had 23 points in Boston's loss on Thursday, a tally that included him making 6-of-9 3-pointers - some of which came against Boston's zone defense.

Boston's Doc Rivers credits the team's use of the zone for allowing them to get back into the Bulls game, a game in which they trailed by 16 before making it a toss-up in the fourth.

"The one thing with our league," Rivers said. "If you stay in zone too long, eventually they're going to find some holes and I thought they (Bulls) did that. But our communication broke down some on that as well."

Zone 'D' in, bad man-to-man out

It seems the only time the Celtics go with a zone defense, is when their man-to-man defense bails on them.

In the Bulls loss, Boston fell behind by double digits and just like that, the zone defense was back.

"Our zone defense got us back in the game," said Rivers who believes it has been effective at times for the C's. "We were down, so we were looking for something to change the tempo of the game."

And the C's continue to search for ways to change the misfortune of what has been a difficult season.

"It's been a frustrating year," Rivers said. "We just gotta keep fighting through this maze. It's gonna turn OK. I really do believe that. We just have to hang in there. I think it'll turn our way.

Rivers added, "I like our team. I like the way we're starting to play. We're just not winning games."

Bradley still hurting, will miss Celtics game vs. Trail Blazers

Bradley still hurting, will miss Celtics game vs. Trail Blazers

WALTHAM, Mass. – The right Achilles’ strain that has kept Avery Bradley out of five of the Celtics’ past six games, will continue to keep the 6-foot-2 guard sidelined.
 
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Bradley will not play Saturday against the Portland Trail Blazers.
 
Stevens added that no additional tests have been taken and the Achilles’ itself is structurally fine.
 
“He’s got a lot of soreness around it, and that’s one of those things you have to be ultra-careful with,” said Stevens, who later added that Bradley would not practice with the team today. “When he [Bradley] came back, he said he felt a lot better, and then he played and the next day he practiced. We didn’t do anything live but he did a lot of cutting and did not feel near as good. That’s why he didn’t play Wednesday.”
 
The absence of Bradley was clearly felt in a 117-106 loss to the New York Knicks on Wednesday, a game in which Knicks guard Derrick Rose – the man Bradley would have likely spent defending most of the game – scored 30 points.
 
This season, all-NBA first team defender is  the Celtics’ No. 2 scorer at 17 points per game along with averaging a team-best 6.9 rebounds.
 
In addition, Bradley is shooting a career-best 40.9 percent from 3-point range, as well as dishing out 2.4 assists per game, which also represents a career-high for the 26-year-old.


 

Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown still undecided on All-Star dunk contest

Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown still undecided on All-Star dunk contest

WALTHAM, Mass. – To dunk or not to dunk with the best in the NBA?
 
That is the question Celtics rookie forward Jaylen Brown is grappling with these days.
 
The 6-foot-7 Brown confirmed that he has been invited to be part of the league’s Slam Dunk competition at All-Star weekend, but hasn’t made up his mind as to whether he will participate.
 
Brown said he’ll likely make a decision about it sometime this weekend.
 
While he certainly understands that is indeed an honor for any player to be asked to participate in All-Star weekend, Brown said his trepidation about being part of the slam dunk competition has a lot to do with its potential impact on his body and how that may affect his ability to recharge over the weekend and get ready to finish out his rookie season strong.
 
If he decided to enter the contest, he would be facing some really stiff competition from last year’s winner Zach LaVine of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Orlando’s Aaron Gordon, whose battle last season put their slam dunk competition among the best ever.
 
Facing tough competition is not something that concerns Brown.
 
“I’m not worried about anybody or anything,” Brown said. “I think I have a lot to offer. Just like your rookie year, your body and everything … it’s a lot. All those dunks, they look cool but it takes a toll on your body for sure. I want to put myself in the best position to help the team.”
 
While his focus has been on the Celtics, Brown acknowledged he has been getting a few tips on the competition from teammate Gerald Green, who is also a former Slam Dunk champion.
 
“[Gerald] Green has been coaching me up, giving me a lot of good ideas I wouldn’t have thought on my own,” Brown said. “If I do decide to do it, it’ll be some stuff [nobody] has seen before.”