Celtics, Rondo fall short of expectations


Celtics, Rondo fall short of expectations

LOS ANGELES There was supposed to be a big time basketball game at the Staples Center last night, and within that game, a match-up between two of the best point guards in the NBA.

In theory, we saw both. But unfortunately, the reality never came close to meeting our expectations. Almost instantly, "Clippers vs. Celtics" became "legitimate contender vs. random also-ran." "Chris Paul vs. Rajon Rondo" became "the undisputed best vs. just another point guard in over his head."

For 48 minutes, we watched one of the most complete teams in the league, and their unflappable leader, simply toy with a squad that so badly wants to be there thats supposed to be there with a point guard who continues to come up short in his first season behind the imaginary wheel.

And the question is: What do we make of it?

How seriously should we take last night's Celtics ass-whooping?

One option is to just keep pointing at the calendar. To remember that it's only December. That it doesn't matter that the Clippers have now won 15 games in a row, while the Celtics have won 14 all season. That none of this will mean a thing come the end of April.

It's to ask, "Are we really going to overreact to the Celtics getting blown out:

1) on the road.
2) on the other side of the country
3) in the first game after Christmas
4) against a bonafide contender that's playing at the very top of its game"


It's also to keep talking about Avery Bradley. To say, at this point, that it's probably worth reserving judgment on this team until Bradley's officially back.

January 2. That's two more games. That's less than a week until the debate is finally settled. And patience is especially logical when you consider that, even if you don't think that Bradley will rescue this team, the Celtics certainly do.

Here's a quick story to back that up:

After last night's game, the media was waiting outside the locker room for Doc Rivers' press conference, and about two steps from the pack stood Billy Crystal. If you don't know, Crystal's a huge Clippers fan, and at this moment, he and his wife were clearly waiting to speak with Doc. When the coach came out, he made a b-line for the Crystals, hugged the wife, shook Billy's hand and said: "I hope you've washed this thing since delivering that baby cow."

No, he didn't really say that. Instead, he made a different joke. Something like "you know you guys aren't supposed to treat former Clippers this way." They all laughed, but then Doc turned a little serious: "Yeah, it's tough for us right now. We're still waiting on Avery Bradley. He's our defensive stopper."

I thought that was interesting. Knowing Doc he'd have been just as likely to say something like: "Yeah, we're just in a funk. We're not playing very good basketball." That's just the way he is. But in reality, and genuinely, the first thing Rivers did was bring up Avery Bradley. He clearly believes that Avery will make a significant impact. He also happens to know more about this team, and basketball in general, than all of us combined.

So why not give it two more games?

Why not wait to see what happens with Bradley before pretending we know everything or anything about this year's Celtics?

Especially when the alternative is so unbelievably depressing.

The alternative leaves Boston with a team that's simply not good enough. A team with a young core led by Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green and Courtney Lee whose minds don't show up every game and aging stars Paul Pierce and KG whose bodies don't show up every game. A team that leaves you asking questions like: Was last night more a matter of the Celtics failing to play as well as they can, or just losing to a much better team? Is Rondo's problem that he wasn't focused, or is that he's just not as good as Chris Paul? And either way, does Rondo even matter? Is he really the problem?

Another way to think about it is like this: Let's say we go back in time and have Rondo and Paul switch teams before last night's game. Rondo plays for the Clippers; Paul for the Celtics. Does that change the outcome? Is Paul as effective when surrounded by four slower, more grounded, 35 starters? Is Rondo as aloof while running fast break after faster break with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan screeching by in his peripheral vision? Does his match-up with Paul negate the Clippers far superior supporting cast?

I don't think so. I think that the Celtics are in trouble either way. And that unless Avery Bradley really does turn things around, there's a lot more trouble ahead.

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

Young understands work isn't done after claiming Celtics final roster spot

Young understands work isn't done after claiming Celtics final roster spot

WALTHAM, Mass. – For so many years the game of basketball came easy – almost too easy – for James Young.

He stood out on a young Kentucky team that played at the highest levels, delivering the kind of performances as an 18-year-old college freshman that catapulted him into the first round of the NBA draft.

To be so young and already having achieved a childhood dream, to be in the NBA, Young was too young to realize how quickly the dream could become a nightmare if he didn't put in the necessary work.

The past couple of weeks have not been easy for Young, aware that the Celtics were torn as to whether they should keep him around this season or waive him.

They choose the former and instead waived his now-ex teammate R.J. Hunter, on Hunter’s 23rd birthday no less.

One of the first acts Young said he planned to do following Monday's practice was to reach out to Hunter, offer words of encouragement to a player he looked upon as a brother, a brother who is in a state of basketball limbo right now which could have easily been the latest chapter in James Young’s basketball narrative.

And that’s why as happy as Young is to still be donning the Green and White, his work towards proving himself to this team, to this franchise is far from done.

You listen to veterans like Jae Crowder, a second-round pick who has come up the hard way in the NBA, they speak of how Young now takes the game more serious.

Even Young acknowledged that he didn’t take the NBA game and the need to work at staying in the league as serious as he should have initially.

“I wasn’t playing as hard (early on),” Young admitted. “I just was satisfied being where I was, being too comfortable. My confidence was down. I have to change that around.”

Crowder, a straight-no-chaser kind of fellow, said as much when I asked him about the changes he has seen in Young.

“He’s taking stuff a little more serious,” Crowder said. “It’s growing up. He came in as a first-round draft pick and was on the borderline of getting cut. I don’t know what else is going to wake you up.”

That’s part of what made this decision so difficult and on some levels, left players with mixed emotions about the decision.

For those of us who followed this team through training camp, there was no question that Young had the better camp.

But the one thing that was never questioned with Hunter, was his work ethic. He made his share of mistakes and missed more shots than a player with a sharpshooter's reputation should, but you never got a sense it had anything to do with him not working as hard as he needed to.

That was among the more notable issues with Young who came into the league as an 18-year-old. That youth probably worked for him as opposed to Hunter who played three years of college basketball and was expected to be seemingly more NBA-ready.

Even though Hunter’s NBA future is on uncertain ground now, he’s too young and too talented to not get at least one more crack with an NBA team.

And by Boston waiving him, he really does become a low-risk, high-reward prospect that an NBA team might want to take a closer look at with their club. 

And Young remains a Celtic, doing all that he can to climb up the pecking order which now has him as the clear-cut 15th man on the roster.

He might see more minutes than rookie Demetrius Jackson and possibly second-year forward Jordan Mickey, but Young’s future with the Boston Celtics is still on relatively thin ice.

“I told him this morning, this might be the first time he’s earned anything in his life,” said Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations.  “He earned this by his play, day-in and day-out. He was given a lot as a young kid with a lot of promise, a lot of potential. We talked about earlier this summer, he had to come out and win a spot with some good competition and he did. He needs to keep doing what he’s doing.”

More than anything else, Young has been consistent in his effort, overall energy and attention to detail. But it remains to be seen if Young has done all that to just secure a roster spot, or has he truly grown up and figured out what has to be done in order to be an NBA player.

Celtics break ground on new practice facility


Celtics break ground on new practice facility

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- When it comes to finding ways to attract the best talent, colleges and universities often seek to upgrade their training facilities as an enticement to prospective players.
So why should it be any different at the pro level?
The Boston Celtics had a groundbreaking ceremony Monday morning for The Auerbach Center at New Balance Headquarters.
“When you think he was hired in 1966 and they’re still honoring him, it’s very humbling,” said Randy Auerbach, Red’s daughter.
New Balance officials echoed similar sentiments about the legendary Red Auerbach, the architect of arguably the greatest dynasty in professional basketball.
“Red Auerbach was a true entrepreneur whose passion for winning and dedication to the sport of basketball and the Boston Celtics was equally matched with his commitment to people and his local community,” said Jim Davis, Chairman and Owner at New Balance.  “New Balance is extremely proud to join with the Boston Celtics in honoring his professional achievements and personal values through ‘Red’s House’ at our Boston world headquarters.”
Celtics president Rich Gotham cited several benefits to moving the team to a state-of-the-art practice facility closer to Boston.
Among the reasons given was the potential for the practice facility to be a potential enticement for free agents.
“Players spend more time in the practice facility than they do in the arena they play in certainly, and maybe more than they do at home,” Gotham said. “So having a place where they feel comfortable, a place where they want to spend time to improve themselves across the board … it’s all coming together in a pretty big way. The best players know it’s integral to their success that make sure that support is there, that infrastructure is there. So when we’re out talking to a player, we’re going to be talking about this practice facility we’re building. Because we do think it’s an important part of our story.”
Some of the features of the new practice facility will include:
·  Two state-of-the-art parquet floor basketball courts where the team will practice
·  Leading edge audio-visual technology throughout the facility
·  Expanded strength and conditioning, training, and recovery facilities
·  Best-in-class locker rooms and players’ lounge
·  Physical therapy areas including hydrotherapy pools
·  Sports science and nutrition facilities
·  Expanded media work room, press conference and broadcast facilities
·  A flexible hospitality area designed for community relations activities, partner gatherings and other guest events
·  Work space for the team’s coaching and basketball front office staffs
While the facility will have all the bells and whistles you would come to expect in a new facility, Gotham said there will be a balance of sorts struck between that and the franchise’s longstanding history.
“What will be clear is it will be … at that intersection of, which is a strange intersection, of innovation but honoring our tradition,” Gotham said. “This will be a building that’s state-of-the-art, moving forward. But at the same time, I think one of the things we’re lucky to have is this treasure trove of great guys who came before us who left great wisdom and great quotes. You can see a lot of that built in. Coach Stevens is big on having motivational phrases around for the guys to see every single day when they come in for practice. If those come from Red Auerbach and Bill Russell, all the better. You’ll see us incorporating those kind of things.”