Celtics keeps rolling, and so do the rumors

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Celtics keeps rolling, and so do the rumors

That's it!

Blow 'em up!

Screw this team and start building for the future!

You heard this from a lot of Celtics fans (and Boston media personalities) in the wake of Rajon Rondo's ACL injury.

You it heard again on Friday after Jared Sullinger suffered a similar fate.

Throw in the towel! These guys are toast!

Screaming!!!

In the meantime, the Celtics have run off four straight wins all four without Rondo, essentially three without Sullinger to climb back over .500. And it's not just that they're winning, but how they're winning that's so impressive. The energy. The ball movement. The commitment to defense. The passion and chemistry. It's a welcome development after what they gave us over the first few months of the season.

Of course, we'd be singing a far different tune had they not salvaged yesterday's win against the Clippers. Had they blown that game, like they were so close to doing, we'd be right back on the negative horse. They'd be the same old apathetic Celtics, undeserving of any expectations. But for now, there's hope. There's reason to remain (relatively) optimistic about the post-RondoSullinger Era.

At the very least, it's worth pumping the breaks on the "blow it up" talk. Especially when it's clear that that's the last thing Danny Ainge wants to do.

But that won't stop the rumors. From now until the trade deadline, short of the Celtics breaking off a 20-game win streak, we'll continue to hear rumblings of numerous deals that might be in the works regardless of how realistic those rumblings are. Why? Because that's the world we live in. No one cares about real. It's all about headlines and clicks.

I'm not breaking new ground here. But that's just the way it is.

For instance, take this latest rumor about a potential deal between the Clippers and Celtics . . .

"Los Angeles Clippers interested in deal for Boston Celtics' Kevin Garnett, report says."

That's the ESPN headline, and when you click on the link, the story starts like this:

The Los Angeles Clippers are interested in acquiring Kevin Garnett from the Boston Celtics, the Sporting News reported Sunday, citing anonymous sources.While the Sporting News reported that officials from both teams talked about a deal before the Celtics beat the Clippers 106-104 on Sunday, sources told ESPN's Chris Broussard that no trade talks have taken place between the teams.
Look at that again.

It takes ESPN all of two sentences to render the headline meaningless. To blow the rumor out of the water. Honestly, if there haven't been any trade talks, then what's the story? That the Clippers wouldn't mind trading for Kevin Garnett? That's not news. It's an obvious and almost useless piece of information. Of course they want Garnett. Outside of the Spurs, any contender would jump at the chance for KG.

But now it's in the pipeline. Now everyone has to jump in and get their jollies. In this case, ESPN is saying: "OK, so someone else started this silly rumor, but we won't tell you that's silly until we can cash in on the sillyness."

By the way, I don't mean to single out ESPN here. Everyone does it. And everyone will continue to do it. It's a vicious cycle. No matter what happens next, the rumors will keep on coming. In turn, we'll be hit with round after round of stories like this refuting stories that were never stories in the first place.

And finally, our heads will collectively explode, bringing an official end to the human race as we know it. It's going to be a trip. And after it's all said and done, the Celtics still won't be any closer to trading Kevin Garnett to Clippers than they were yesterday or today. It will all be a big waste of time.

Unless the Celtics lose to Toronto on Wednesday.

In that case, FIRE SALE!!

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Celtics' ball movement among NBA's best, with or without Thomas

Celtics' ball movement among NBA's best, with or without Thomas

BOSTON – When it comes to winning basketball, keep it moving – the ball that is – has become a staple of the Celtics this season. 
 
And lately they’ve had to do it without Isaiah Thomas, the team’s leading scorer at 26 points per game as well as their top assists guy (6.2) who will miss hish third game in a row Sunday in Oklahoma City because of a right groin injury.
 
The Celtics have split their first two games without Thomas, with the most recent being a 101-94 home loss to Toronto on Friday.
 
When it comes to this team and ball movement, fans are just as divided when it pertains to whether the Celtics move the ball better without the high-scoring Thomas in the lineup. 
 
Regardless of what fans think they know about this team and how they move the ball, the numbers paint a very clear picture that this team’s ball movement is among the best in the NBA, with or without Thomas in the lineup. 

And that will be important on Sunday against an Oklahoma City team that doesn’t rely on the ball swinging from one side of the floor to the other, nearly as much as the Celtics. 
 
The Thunder, led by MVP candidate Russell Westbrook, are dead-last in the NBA when it comes to passes made per game (267.1). 
 
Meanwhile, the Celtics are at the opposite end of the passing game spectrum, averaging 331.7 passes per game, which is second in the NBA (Philadelphia, 354.3).
 
And in the two games without Thomas, Boston has averaged 347.0 passes per game, which ranks second in the NBA in that period of time. 
 
In addition to missing his points and assists, the Celtics must also find ways to make plays in filling the void left by a player who has the ball in his hands a lot of the time. 
 
Thomas’ usage percentage (percentage of plays used by a player while he’s on the floor) of 32.9 percent ranks seventh in the NBA, ahead of notable stars such as San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard (30.9 percent), Portland’s Damian Lillard (30.8 percent), New York’s Carmelo Anthony (29.5 percent), as well as Cleveland’s LeBron James (29 percent) and Golden State’s back-to-back NBA MVP Stephen Curry (28.2 percent).
 
So, considering how involved Thomas has been in the team’s offense, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the numbers in terms of passing and ball movement are better without him than they are when he’s on the floor playing. 
 
What should be surprising is that the gap statistically without him, isn’t greater. 
 
Boston has been a top five team when it comes to assists this season, currently third in the league with 24.7 assists per game. In the past two games without Thomas, the Celtics’ assists numbers have risen to 26.5 per game, but that only ranks fifth in the league in that span.
 
When it comes to potential assists and secondary assists (a.k.a. the “hockey” assist), Boston’s numbers have improved slightly without Thomas as well, but in each category Boston is ranked second in the league. 
 
And that ranking is with, and without Thomas in the lineup. 
 
While it’s not clear if Thomas knows just how close the numbers in terms of ball movement are with and without him playing, he is acutely aware that there are some who believe they are a better team in terms of keeping the ball moving without him.
 
“I can’t control that,” Thomas told reporters on Friday. “At this point, I laugh about it. I know what I mean to my teammates. I know what I mean to this organization, to Brad Stevens.”
 

Isaiah Thomas won't make trip to Oklahoma City for Sunday game

Isaiah Thomas won't make trip to Oklahoma City for Sunday game

BOSTON – Facing Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook with a fully healthy squad is tough. 
 
Doing so without your leading scorer makes the challenge all that much greater. 
 
That is where the Celtics find themselves heading into Sunday night’s game against the Thunder without Isaiah Thomas, who did not travel with the team when they left for Oklahoma City today. 
 
Boston’s leading scorer this season with 26 points per game, Thomas suffered a right groin injury against Houston on Dec. 5 and has missed the Celtics’ past two games because of it. 
 
He was hoping to convince Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge to let him travel with the team, but Thomas acknowledged convincing Ainge was a long shot. 
 
“He’s not really in favor of me going,” Thomas told reporters on Friday. “I’m trying to convince them to let me go. If I’m there, they know I’m going to try and play. I’m shooting for Wednesday [at San Antonio] for the most part. That’s more realistic than Sunday. Hopefully I can play on Wednesday.”
 
Boston has split the two games with Thomas out, beating the you-know-what out of Orlando 117-87 on the road, but dropping one at home 101-94 to Toronto on Friday night. 
 
As disappointed as Thomas is with not being able to play – it’s the first games he has missed since the 2014-2015 season – he understands the potential problems that could surface with an injury like this if he and the Celtics aren’t careful. 
 
“They keep wanting to be very patient with this,” Thomas said. “They don’t want to re-injure it. It is an injury that can get re-injured and be a problem the rest of the season. I don’t want that. On top of that, it gives me time to heal all the other injuries I have.”
 
Among the other injuries Thomas was referring to, is a still-swollen finger on his left (shooting) hand. 
 
The injury was believed to have happened on Nov. 12 against Indiana. 
 
While it was painfully sore, it didn’t seem to be an issue in Boston’s next game against New Orleans when he scored a season-high 37 points. He followed that up with a 30-point performance in a 90-83 win over Dallas.