Green, Sullinger show great promise for Celtics


Green, Sullinger show great promise for Celtics

ISTANBUL Even in the preseason, the Boston Celtics are not a team that's about moral victories.

But there were plenty of positives they could take away from their 97-91 loss to Turkish power Fenerbahce Ulker on Friday.

None stood out more than Jeff Green, who came off the bench to score 16 points with most coming in the fourth quarter as Boston tried to rally back.

Green's play was impressive when you consider it was the first game he has played in more than a year.

The 6-8 forward underwent season-ending heart surgery after a routine physical showed he had a heart abnormality.

Despite missing all of last season, the C's still gave him a four-year contract this summer worth about 36 million.

And while it may seem a bit high, Green's play on Friday gives Boston hope that such a lofty price tag will ultimately be viewed as a steal along the same lines as the five-year deal Rajon Rondo signed in 2009.

"I was tired," Green said. "But it felt good."

He was very comfortable; played with great speed," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "

While Green's play certainly was a show-stealer, Boston was also pleased with the solid support they got from Jared Sullinger who like Green, had 16 points off the bench.

"He was terrific," said Rivers, who added that he will look for more ways in the future to play Sullinger with the Celtics starters.

Despite playing a relatively strong game, Sullinger spoke about the need for him to get in better shape and continue to grow on the floor and embrace the role he will be called upon to play for Boston.

"I played well, but I can do a lot better," he said. "I'm a little out of shape; just being able to sustain long minutes."

He added, "I just play hard. I'm not always searching for the ball."

But following this loss, the Celtics will seek out ways to cut down on their turnovers.

They finished with 25 for the game.

Rivers said the C's try to keep turnovers to around 14 a night, a number the C's were flirting with by halftime.

But this is the preseason, a time for growth, experimentation and if you're lucky, a player to emerge as a major contributor.

It's still early, but the C's may have found a couple in Green and Sullinger.

Green's play wasn't all that surprising when you consider many of his baskets came on straight-line drives to the basket, something he's adept at doing because of his quickness.

And when you throw in the fact that he's looking more comfortable at both small forward and the power forward position, he gives Boston the kind of versatility that they have envisioned him delivering.

As for Sullinger, a lottery-pick talent who fell to the C's at No. 21 in last June's NBA draft, he continues to play with a chip on his shoulder that bodes well for his future with the Celtics.

But one good game, a preseason one at that, does not make a career.

Both players had their share of miscues that contributed in some fashion to the loss.

But the problems don't override the promise each showed in the C's first game this season.

Pregame number: Al Horford to the rescue


Pregame number: Al Horford to the rescue

Tonight’s pregame number to watch is 45.4%. That was the Celtics' score frequency on pick and rolls finished by the screener last season, which was the worst rate in the NBA.

Score Frequency: The percentage of possession in which the team or player scores at least 1 point.

The major problem for the Celtics last season was personnel, as Jared Sullinger finished the most pick and roll plays for the C’s after setting a screen, and he was -- to put it nicely -- freaking terrible. Sullinger was the second-worst roll/pop man in the league, averaging a paltry 0.87 points per possession.

Fortunately, the Celtics replaced Jared Sullinger with four-time All-Star Al Horford, who is one of the elite roll/pop men in the NBA. Last season, Horford finished fifth in the NBA averaging 1.13 points per possession as a roll/pop man and boasted a more than solid 57.1 eFG% on those plays. 

eFG% (Effective Field Goal Percentage): Measures field goal percentage adjusting for the fact that a 3-point field goal is worth one more point than a 2-point field goal. The equation is ((FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA

If you watched the preseason, then you already know the kind of impact Horford can have on the Celtics half court offense. So keep an eye out for those pick and rolls tonight and throughout the season, and we should see that 45.4% Score Frequency jump somewhere closer to 50%.

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 “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 “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.”