Celtics 'take a step back' in loss to Hornets

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Celtics 'take a step back' in loss to Hornets

BOSTON There was a sense of deja vu for the Boston Celtics following Wednesday's 90-78 loss to the New Orleans Hornets.
A fast 21-10 start by Boston which included lots of shots going down, followed by a stretch in which no Celtics player could make a basket or get a free throw to go down.
And the C's second unit, so strong of late, could not deliver at either end of the floor.
It was as if the C's had gone back in time to say, seven or so games ago when they were a sub-.500 team and looked nothing remotely close to being a playoff team let alone one capable of making a deep playoff run.
"You start feeling good about yourselves and you take a step back," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "So I always look at me first, honestly, and I just think there's things that as a coach you've got to just keep trying to do."
In hindsight, Rivers said he probably should have played Leandro Barbosa sooner. Barbosa played less than three minutes on Wednesday but still managed to score seven points which was more than all but one Celtics reserve (Jason Terry, 12 points).
"He's an energy guy," Rivers said.
And there was no doubt the C's were lacking energy players, all game long from the starters as well as the bench.
While the Celtics bench has been able to bail out the starters in a number of games recently, they for a change were unable to build off of a strong start by the starters.
"The second unit, we take full responsibility," said Sullinger whose minutes were limited some because of -- what else? -- foul trouble. "The first unit had a rhythm going and the second unit came out and it was stagnant. We didn't move the ball like we did, we didn't defend like we did, so the second unit takes full responsibility."
While the second unit certainly didn't have one of its better games, the C's struggles were across-the-board on Wednesday with much of it having to do with the Hornets playing with more energy.
"There was a lot of inconsistency especially after the first eight minutes," said Paul Pierce. "We got out to a good lead and then we just broke down too many times. We got momentum, we'd lose it, just break downs defensively. It was just an inconsistent night on both ends of the court."
And for now, that is how this loss can be characterized ... as just one of those nights.
"You're human," Rivers said. "You have them. You start feeling good about yourselves and you take a step back."
But there's no time to reflect too long on Wednesday's loss, not with the Chicago Bulls coming to town on Friday.
"We won't let this game affect our next game," said C's guard Avery Bradley. "We just want to go on and keep building. We took some steps back tonight. But we'll into the gym tomorrow and prepare for Chicago and worry about the next game."
Said Sullinger: "We're just gonna start another streak; that's what we said when we came in here."

Sources: Bulls asking for picks, young veterans in trade for Jimmy Butler

Sources: Bulls asking for picks, young veterans in trade for Jimmy Butler

NEW ORLEANS – All-star weekend is winding down and the Boston Celtics once again are seemingly at the epicenter of most trade discussions.

That’s in part because they have the pieces to help pull off a blockbuster deal for themselves, or become the third team to help facilitate a trade coming to fruition. 

But in talking with league executives and scouts this weekend in New Orleans, all agree that the Celtics are focused more on making a blockbuster-type move, rather than a deal that could make them slightly better than they are now. 

“Anything is possible as you know,” said one Eastern Conference executive. “But they’re not Toronto which is basically 'all in' this year to try and get past Cleveland. Boston’s in the thick of it all, but not pressed to do anything unless it makes them a lot better and to be frank, there aren’t a lot of those potential deals out there for them.”

That’s because the Celtics (37-20) have the second-best record in the East despite their preferred starting five (Isaiah Thomas; Avery Bradley; Jae Crowder; Al Horford and Amir Johnson) having played a very limited number of games (21) together thus far this season.

Even when everyone’s healthy, Boston understands that they still may not be enough to get past the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers. So the addition of a likely role player at the cost of one or more of their major assets (this year’s right to swap picks with Brooklyn or next year’s Brooklyn pick outright), is reason enough for Boston to pause and assess whether the benefit outweighs the cost of what they will have to give up. 

Boston can make a push for Denver’s Danilo Gallinari or his teammate Kenneth Faried who are both available and would help Boston’s overall talent base. They could also revisit Jahlil Okafor discussions or Nerlens Noel with Philadelphia, too.

But for what they need to significantly improve upon where they are now, they have to add a game-changing difference-maker to the mix. 

Chicago’s Jimmy Butler, Indiana’s Paul George and Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins are three players who on paper at least, would meet that criteria. 

Multiple league sources this weekend confirmed that each of their respective teams isn’t making a push to trade them. But like every team in the league, they will certainly listen to any and all offers. Only Indiana and Sacramento have come out publicly to say they are not planning to trade their players, with the Pacers indicating they’re willing to give up their first-round pick in order to add a stable, proven talent to the mix in order to help George going forward. 

Meanwhile, the Bulls have been somewhat indifferent to potentially moving Butler, who is playing his third all-star game tonight. 

That’s why several teams, the Celtics included, have inquired about Butler’s availability. While the Bulls haven’t set any specific parameters, league executives believe they are seeking some combination of high draft picks and young veterans (players with experience who are either near the end of their rookie deals or have team-friendly contracts) just to consider moving Butler.

Boston has exactly what the Bulls are looking for if they decide they are going to move on from Butler and rebuild, but how much are the Celtics willing to give up?

That more than anything else, is what will ultimately determine if a deal between the Bulls and the Celtics comes to pass. Boston loves Butler, and believes he could be part of their continued surge towards becoming an elite team that can bring home Banner 18. But the Celtics are not convinced that the addition of Butler would necessarily catapult Boston to the same level of Cleveland or ahead of them. 

Even if the Celtics decide to stand pat with its team as they are now and let the Feb. 23 trade deadline pass without making a move, the Celtics are still working from a vantage point that few teams in the NBA can work from – a team near the top of their conference with relatively young players all with good team-friendly contracts, and draft picks in the next two years that are each likely to be high lottery (top-14) picks.

"They’re well positioned for the future,” said Steve Kerr, head coach of the Golden State Warriors and the West all-star team. “Because of the young talent, because of the coach (Brad Stevens) and because of the draft picks that they have coming up. They could end up with the number one pick in the draft which is remarkable.”

Kerr added, “That doesn’t happen often when you’re talking about a team that’s one of the best in the league already. Boston’s in a great place.”

Wojnarowski thinks Celtics are perfect candidate for Jimmy Butler trade

Wojnarowski thinks Celtics are perfect candidate for Jimmy Butler trade

Most NBA teams would benefit from adding Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler. But few NBA have the assets to acquire him. The most legitimate suitor in the NBA resides in Boston.

"The potential of a Boston-Chicago deal for Jimmy Butler -- I think it will loom over the entire week," Yahoo! NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski said Saturday. "These teams have engaged on the potential of this trade. They have not gotten far down the road on it. There still needs to be alignment within the Bulls organization -- from ownership to management -- that they want to make the decision to enter a full rebuild.

He added: "But the poential of this deal really illustrates the State Farm right combo, because these are two teams that have exactly what the other wants. Boston has been hoarding assets for years for a couple of season, trying to get in the position to get a star player."

Wojnarowski suggested the first building block for the Butler trade would start with either the 2017 or 2018 Brooklyn Nets' first-round pick, which the Celtics acquired in 2013 in the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trade.

"And Jimmy Butler in Boston, paired with Isaiah Thomas and this Celtics team -- it would put this Celtics team in a position to seriously challenge Cleveland [Cavaliers] in the east, not only in the short term, but also in the long term."

Butler's contract extends to 2020, and then Wojnarowski explained Boston could then sign the guard to another long-term deal. In the meantime, he could help Boston surpass a vulnerable-looking Cavaliers team.