Previewreview: Raptors 86, Celtics 74

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Previewreview: Raptors 86, Celtics 74

TORONTO "Awful. We were awful."

Yes, those were the words of Doc Rivers.

But after the Celtics' last two performances, you would be hard-pressed to know which game he was speaking about.

Many of the problems that plagued Boston against the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night were once again major issues for the C's on Friday. And the result was a second straight loss, this time to the lowly Toronto Raptors, 86-74.

Poor execution, untimely turnovers and a slew of late-reacting rotations all weighed in on the loss.

But as we identified prior to the game, there were other factors came into play.

Here's a look at how those issues played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Celtics' ball movement has actually been pretty good all season. More than 65 percent of their made baskets come via an assist, which is tops in the NBA. In the loss to the Lakers, 22 of their 38 made baskets, or 57.9 percent, came by way of an assist. When you talk about ball movement and assists with the Celtics, Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce are the keys. Injuries have limited them to playing in just 14 games together this season, with Boston going 8-6 with them both in the lineup. In those eight wins, they combine to average 16.9 assists. In the six losses, that number drops to 12.3.
WHAT WE SAW: Ball movement and overall execution on Friday were about as bad as we've seen with this core group. The entire team had a hand in the problems, obviously. But Pierce and Rondo are the two main cogs who can make the C's passing game hum along smoothly, or come to screeching halt. The latter was in effect on Friday, as they combined for just 12 assists - their combined assists average in the seven games both have played in that resulted in a Celtics loss.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Paul Pierce vs. DeMar DeRozan: The two best scorers for their respective teams, this is a matchup Pierce should win all day. But the thing about DeRozan is he, like a lot of young players, plays better at home. On the road, he averages 14 points per game. At home, that number jumps to 16.2. The biggest factor? He shoots the ball better. On the road, he connects on 36.5 percent of his shots. At home, he shoots 43 percent.
WHAT WE SAW: Toronto went with a bigger lineup because of injuries, so this matchup never materialized as expected. Still, DeRozan came out overly aggressive offensively, which worked out well for him and the Raptors. He led all scorers with 21 points on 7-for-13 shooting. As for Pierce, he had an atypical performance in finishing with 12 points on 4-for-11 shooting.

PLAYER TO WATCH: We all know Kevin Garnett shot the ball poorly Thursday night against the Los Angeles Lakers, and research afterward showed that it was historically bad by KG standards. In going 6-for-23 from the field, KG missed his last nine shots - the first time he missed that many consecutive shots as a member of the Boston Celtics. In addition, it was only the second time in his NBA career (at Cleveland, Jan. 29, 2002, then with Minnesota) that he missed his final nine shots of a game. Look for the C's to try and establish him down on the post early, just to get him into a better rhythm shooting the ball.
WHAT WE SAW: It's a shame that Garnett's really strong game offensively (17 points on 6-for-9 shooting, along with eight rebounds) goes to waste. While the numbers were certainly good to see, Garnett - like most of the Celtics - had far too few moments in which their shots or defensive stops, could propel the team to victory.

STAT TO TRACK: The Celtics have been one of the NBA's worst teams at getting to the free-throw line, which is another indictment of how they have a team that relies heavily - arguably, too heavily - on jump shots. Boston averages 19.6 free-throw attempts per game, which ranks 27th in the NBA. They don't necessarily have to get more attempts than that to beat Toronto, but another five free-throw-attempt night, like the one we saw against the Lakers, will make for yet another game in which the Celtics made harder than it needed to be.
WHAT WE SAW: Free-throw shooting wasn't nearly as big an issue on Friday as it was in the loss to the Lakers on Thursday night. Boston was 13-for-18 from the line, which isn't too far off what it usually averages in terms of free-throw attempts (19.6) or free throws made (15.1).

Phil Jackson: Knicks' biggest mistake was not trading for Jae Crowder in 2014

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Phil Jackson: Knicks' biggest mistake was not trading for Jae Crowder in 2014

Knicks president Phil Jackson’s biggest mistake? Taking the job in the first place?

Well, besides that. Jackson tells Today’s Fastbreak that it was not getting Jae Crowder when he had the chance.

Here’s Jackson quote, part of a long interview with Charley Rosen: 

"I think my biggest mistake was actually this…One of the first deals I engineered when I came back to New York was to trade Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to Dallas for Shane Larkin, Jose Calderon, Wayne Ellington, Samuel Dalembert, plus a second-round pick that the Mavs owed to the Celtics. In talking with Boston, I was given the option of taking that pick or else taking Jae Crowder. I liked Crowder but I thought he wouldn't get much of a chance to play behind Carmelo, so I took the pick, which turned out to be Cleanthony Early. While Cleanthony has missed lots of time in the past two seasons with us, he still has the potential to be a valuable player. Even so, I should have taken Crowder."

Jackson’s timeline is actually a little off. The Chandler and Felton to the Mavs deal was actually in June 2014. The Celtics, of course, acquired Crowder at the December 2014 trade deadline in the deal that sent Rajon Rondo to the Mavericks. Still, you get the point. Jackson covets Jae Crowder, who has proven to be a little more valuable than Cleanthony Early. And, in light of where NBA salaries have gone, the five-year, $35 million deal Crowder signed with the Celtics last offseason now seems like one of the biggest bargains in the NBA. 

 

 

Can Jerebko parlay playoff starts to a bigger role with Celtics?

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Can Jerebko parlay playoff starts to a bigger role with Celtics?

Every weekday until Sept. 7, we'll take a look at each player at the Celtics roster: Their strengths and their weaknesses, their ceiling and their floor. We continue today with Tyler Zeller. For a look at the other profiles, click here.

BOSTON – Considering all the different storylines that developed among the Celtics at the end of last season and this summer, it’s easy to forget that Jonas Jerebko was in the starting lineup.

With sporadic minutes in the regular season, Boston found itself trailing the Atlanta Hawks 2-0 in their best-of-seven playoff series.

So what did coach Brad Stevens do?

He shook up the starting lineup by inserting Jerebko. who helped Boston even up the series at two games apiece before the Hawks bounced back and ended the Celtics season after six games.

Those last four games against the Hawks – the only games Jerebko started all season - served as a reminder to many that the 29-year-old could still be an impact performer.

It was the kind of run to close out the season that Jerebko will certainly be focused on trying to build upon this season.

The ceiling for Jerebko: Starter

While he will likely begin the season as a reserve, Jerebko will certainly come into camp with a little more bounce in his step courtesy of a strong showing in the playoffs.

After averaging just 4.4 points and 3.7 rebounds in 15.1 minutes in the regular season a year ago, Jerebko became a major force in the playoffs for Boston.

In his first game as a starter, Jerebko had a double-double of 11 points and 12 rebounds as Boston won Game 3, 111-103.

He was even more impactful 48 hours later with another a second straight double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds) in yet another Celtics victory.

The Hawks made some adjustments in Games 5 and 6 to close out the series, but it wasn’t before Jerebko had put together the best postseason stretch of his career.

Compared to the regular season, Jerebko more than doubled his playing time in those final four games by averaging 31.3 minutes to go with 11.5 points and 7.8 rebounds.

Jerebko will be hard-pressed to return to that role at the start of this season.

Boston signed Al Horford to a four-year, $113 million contract, so you know he’s starting.

And Amir Johnson’s defense and ability to run the floor so effectively will likely result in him resuming a starting role, too.

That leaves Jerebko joining what looks to be a very talented and deep Celtics bench.

Even though he’s unlikely to start, Jerebko will get his share of opportunities to play.

At 6-foot-10, Jerebko has the size to play both power forward and center. And depending on the opposing team’s lineup, Jerebko has the potential play some small forward as well.

It was that versatility that made Stevens turn to Jerebko in the playoffs last season to replace Jared Sullinger, who signed with the Toronto Raptors in the offseason.

And while the idea of Jerebko as a starter seems a bit far-fetched at this point, he is yet another Celtics reserve who has proven himself to be ready to play and play well when given an opportunity to step on the floor regardless of what that role may be.

The floor for Jerebko: Seldom-used reserve

Despite a strong finish last season, Jerebko will once again have to fight and claw for any minutes on the floor. While the Celtics certainly were aided by his versatility, this season’s roster has a number of players who, like Jerebko, can play multiple positions at both ends of the floor.

NBA veteran Gerald Green is 6-8 and will play shooting guard and small forward. But depending on the lineup, it’s not a stretch to envision him playing some power forward. Ditto for rookie Jaylen Brown and starting small forward Jae Crowder sliding up one position.

Beginning the season on the rotation fringes is nothing new to Jerebko, whose role was very much up in the air when the Celtics traded Tayshaun Prince to Detroit prior to the 2015 trade deadline for Jerebko and Gigi Datome.

Gradually, Jerebko earned his minutes and proved he was indeed a valuable piece of what Stevens and the Celtics were trying to build here in Boston.

And now, with a season-plus of time with the Celtics under his belt, Jerebko finds himself once again being challenged to show that he’s more than just a body on the roster.

 

Report: Celtics renounce draft rights to 2013 pick Colton Iverson

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Report: Celtics renounce draft rights to 2013 pick Colton Iverson

By Dan Feldman, NBCSports.com Pro Basketball Talk

The Celtics bought the No. 53 pick in the 2013 NBA draft to get Colton Iverson out of Colorado State, and he thanked them by allowing them to keep his rights the last three years.

Iverson rejected the required tender – a one-year contract, surely unguaranteed at the minimum, teams must extend to retain exclusive negotiating rights to a second-round pick – year after year to sign overseas. Accepting the tender would’ve likely meant Iverson going to Boston’s training camp and getting waived. Perhaps, the timing of that would’ve limited his European options that year. But it would’ve made him an NBA free agent – or, best-case scenario, he could’ve made the Celtics and drawn an NBA paycheck.

As it was, Iverson limited himself to joining Boston and only Boston. If another NBA team wanted Iverson, it would have had to trade for him.

And what does Iverson get for that loyalty? A Celtics contract with at least a partial guarantee?

Nope.

Just a head start on finding another team – which he could’ve gotten for himself three years ago.

Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe:

This is why second-round picks should be more aggressive about accepting the required tender. Even if you get waived, you open NBA options.

Iverson is a strong 7-foot center who plays with physicality. He can help in certain matchups, and he’d make sense as a third center on teams that have first- and second-stringers playing a different style.

But Iverson is 27, and his NBA window may be closing if it hasn’t already.

It’s a shame he spent so many years beholden to Boston, which didn’t want him.

It was probably just courtesy of the Celtics to renounce his rights now rather than have him sign the tender. They would have guaranteed him no money with the tender, and they could have gotten a few minor benefits with it – an extra body for training camp, the ability to assign his D-League rights to their affiliate after waiving him and the slightest chance he impresses enough in the preseason to hold trade value.

But them forgoing those potential advantages, even if out of courtesy, also sends a signal about how little they value him. Teams don’t do these types of favors for players they actually covet.