Like Rondo did, Wall needs veteran presence

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Like Rondo did, Wall needs veteran presence

BOSTON Washington point guard John Wall has similar Maserati-like speed on the basketball court akin to another former playmaking stud at the University of Kentucky, Boston's Rajon Rondo.

But in seeing where Rondo is as a player, and where Wall's at, there is one difference that will make it all the more challenging for Wall to develop into an upper echelon point guard like Rondo.

It's experience; no, not his experience but rather, the experience of those around him.

The average Celtic is 28.5 years old, while the average Wizards (0-4) player is 25 years old.

The gap is even wider when you compare the C's starters are 32.6 years of age compared to 25.4 for the Wizards.

For all the growth that we have seen in Rondo's game, it just wouldn't have happened if not for the many veterans he has constantly been surrounded with as a Celtic.

Wall hasn't been so fortunate.

"Rondo really developed his first three years," said Wizards coach Flip Saunders. "You hope that John can continue, as far as doing those things."

But Saunders points out the biggest hurdle that will make Wall's development a lot tougher than Rondo's progress.

"Rondo came into a situation with 3 Hall of Fame players," Saunders said. "(Ray) Allen, (Kevin) Garnett and (Paul) Pierce all all going to be hall of fame players. John didn't walk into that type of situation. John has more pressure on him."

And that pressure has at times gotten the best of Wall, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft.

Although he is Washington's top scorer at 14.5 points per game, he has been among the many Wizards players struggling to make shots.

He comes into tonight's game shooting just 32 percent from the field.

"He needs to relax a little bit. He's forcing some things," Saunders said. "He wants it so bad. We've always known that; that he has a tendency to get down on himself when things are going bad. He's a perfectionist. And when he's not playing well, he's the hardest on himself, as anybody. He just needs to kind of let happen."

In other words, he's like . . . Rondo.

The two former Wildcats spent some time together on campus this summer, playing in pick-up games.

"He's (Rondo) somebody that knows how to win at this level," Wall told CSNNE.com. "He just learned and got better year by year. That's what I'm trying to do."

Both Saunders and Rondo believe Wall will continue to improve.

He showed signs of getting on track in Boston's 94-86 win, a game in which he had 19 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.

Wall was good; but Rondo?

Even better.

Not only did Rondo and the C's get the win, but Rondo tallied his first triple-double of the season (14th of his career) with 18 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds.

And while Rondo believes in Wall's talent, not having more veterans around him will make his growth as an elite player much tougher.

"I had veteran guys back me up and I played with," Rondo said. "So they've helped me mature as a player each year. Not a knock on the players he's playing with, but having veteran players is big for a young guy. I've been around these guys for four or five years now. I've seen their work habits. I've seen how they've matured and helped me mature as a man."

Dominique Wilkins reflects on his rivalry with Larry Bird

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Dominique Wilkins reflects on his rivalry with Larry Bird

During our series discussing the 1986 Boston Celtics, we have sat down with many players from that championship, along with members of the media that were close to the team.

This week features a few of the opponents that were very familiar with the 1980’s Celtics  - Atlanta Hawks legend Dominique Wilkins, former Celtics coach (and Hawk) Doc Rivers, and Lakers great James Worthy.

Return of Gerald Green could fill vital bench role for Celtics

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Return of Gerald Green could fill vital bench role for 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 –  Say what you want about Gerald Green, but his athleticism is the one thing you can bank on him delivering.

The 30-year-old Green doesn’t play above the rim nearly as much as he used to, but he does enough to where his presence will indeed be an upgrade for the Celtics this season.

But in terms of what his exact role will be, that will be worked out in the coming months as Green begins a second tour of duty with Boston (the Celtics drafted him with the 18th overall pick in 2005).

The ceiling for Green: Sixth or seventh man

Green’s return will in no way impact Jae Crowder’s status as the Celtics’ starting small forward. And Avery Bradley has nothing to worry about when it comes to Green competing for his spot as the team’s starting shooting guard, either. But Green’s experience will give him a chance to compete for minutes behind both coming off the bench.

At 6-foot-8, Green has the size and length to play both positions. And having played nine seasons in the NBA, Green has learned enough in that time to find ways to impact games in ways besides highlight-quality dunks.

Green is coming off a not-so-stellar season in Miami in which he averaged 8.9 points and 2.4 rebounds, while shooting 39.2 percent from the field and just 32.3 percent on 3s – both numbers below his career averages.

Part of Green’s drop in production last season (he averaged 11.9 points or more in three of the previous four seasons) had to do with the emergence of Justice Winslow, and Green’s own shooting struggles, which eventually led to him playing a more limited role in the Heat offense.

But in Boston, Green won’t be counted on to be a significant contributor in terms of scoring. Instead, he will be seen as a player who can be looked upon from time to time to provide some punch (offensively or defensively) from the wing. If we’re talking offense, Green can help both from the perimeter or as an effectively attacker of the rim.

The floor for Green: Active roster

As much as the attention surrounding Green’s game centers on what he does with the ball in his hands, it his defense that will keep him on the Celtics’ active roster all season. Although Miami sought scoring more often from others, doing so allowed Green to focus more of his attention on defense, which may wind up being the best thing for his career at this stage.

Coming off the bench primarily after the All-Star break, opponents shot 33.3 percent when defended by Green, which was more than 10 percentage points (10.9) below what they shot from the field (44.2) overall.

He was even tougher on opponents shooting 2-pointers against him. They were held more than 15 percentage points (15.5) below their shooting percentage from 2-point range when he was defending versus their overall shooting for the season.

But don’t be fooled.

Green can still score the ball and as he gets older, he’s finding more and more ways to do so.

While much of Green’s NBA success has come about with him attacking the rim, he has progressively improved his game as a catch-and-shoot player. In fact, 54.8 percent of his shot attempts last season were of the catch-and-shoot variety according to nba.com/stats.

That makes sense when you consider that he had an effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) of .491 when he took shots without taking any dribbles, which was better than Green’s eFG% when he shot from the floor and took at least one dribble.

Green’s second stint with the Celtics doesn’t come with nearly as much hype as there was when Boston selected him  out of high school with the 18th overall pick in 2005. Still, he has the potential to fill a vital role for the Celtics now, a role that could go far in determining how successful this season will be for himself as well as the Celtics.  

 

 

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

BOSTON -- Phil Jackson will be the first to admit he has made some mistakes during his tenure in the New York Knicks' front office.

Among the miscues was a deal that would have landed them Jae Crowder.

"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," Jackson told the website, www.todaysfastbreak.com.

Jackson later revealed that in conversations with Boston leading up to the 2014 NBA draft, he was given an option to either keep the second-round pick which was to be conveyed to Boston from Dallas, or take Jae Crowder and allow Boston to keep the second-round pick from the Mavs.

"I liked Crowder but I thought he wouldn’t get much of a chance to play behind Carmelo (Anthony)," Jackson said. "So I took the (second-round) pick which turned out to be Cleanthony Early.”

Ouch!

With Crowder left out of the six-player deal between New York and Dallas, the Celtics were able to engineer a trade with the Mavericks six months later that sent Rajon Rondo and Dwight Powell to Dallas in exchange for Brandon Wright, Jameer Nelson, draft picks and what many believed at the time to be a “throw in” player by the name of Jae Crowder.

Less than two years later, Crowder is the lone player acquired by Boston in that deal who remains on the Celtics roster.

And as we have all seen, Crowder is far from just a warm body on the Celtics’ roster.

The 6-foot-6 forward has emerged as a core member of this young, up-and-coming Celtics squad, a key to Boston going from being a team rebuilding just three years ago to one that’s poised to be among the top teams in the East this season.

And the play of Crowder has been a significant part of that growth.

Last season was his first as an NBA starter, and the 26-year-old made the most of his opportunity by averaging career highs in just about every meaningful category such as scoring (14.2), steals (1.7), assists (1.8), rebounds (5.1), field goal percentage (.443) and starts (73).

Meanwhile, Early has had a pair of injury-riddled seasons which have factored heavily into him seeing action in a total of just 56 games (9 starts) while averaging 4.3 points and 2.2 rebounds while shooting 34.6 percent from the field and a woeful 26.3 percent on 3s.

“While Cleanthony has missed lots of time in the past two seasons with us,” Jackson said, “He still has the potential to be a valuable player.”

That said, Jackson knows he screwed that deal up, big time.

Even with the potential Early brings to the game, Jackson concedes, “I should have taken Crowder."