NBA Truth & Rumors: January 19

NBA Truth & Rumors: January 19

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON When the D-League was first created, there was a stigma attached to it.

The league promoted it as a developmental league. To the casual basketball fan, the 'D' stood for demotion.

But in recent years, it has become clear that the D-League is indeed about helping develop and evaluate young talent.

And that's why Celtics first-round pick Avery Bradley is exactly where he belongs right now with the Maine Red Claws.

Even before he needed offseason ankle surgery, Bradley was going to have a tough time breaking through a Celtics guard rotation filled with talented, proven veterans.

And with the Celtics looking for him to become more of a point guard, the challenge of playing appeared even more daunting.

However, Boston recognized that there is value in him being surrounded early on his career with savvy, battle-tested veterans such as Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo and Delonte West.

His older teammates have praised him often for his willingness to listen, learn and ask when he's not sure about how to do something.

"That's what I'm supposed to do," he told CSNNE.com. "I feel like I would be stupid not to ask questions, being on a team like this with stars like this. I can learn so much from them."

The same can be said for his time in the D-League.

In two games with the Red Claws, Bradley is averaging 13.5 points, four assists and two rebounds per game.

Midseason Awards

This season has been filled with a number of coaches doing an impressive job, with some getting it done under less-than-perfect circumstances. And it is because of that latter point that I have to give my midseason Coach of the Year award to Chicago's Tom Thibodeau.

The former Celtics assistant has not looked like a rookie coach, which is impressive when you consider the number of proven veterans he has inherited and the fact that he has had to endure a number of injuries to key players.

The Bulls are very much in the hunt for home court advantage in the playoffs. Their talented roster obviously has a lot to do with that.

But so has the leadership displayed by their rookie head coach.

Here's a rundown of my other midseason award winners:

Rookie of the Year
Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers: The rookie of the Year award is a given. How about league MVP?

Sixth Man of the Year
Glen Davis, Boston Celtics: Davis' stiffest competitors for this award (Jason Terry of Dallas and Jamal Crawford of Atlanta) have already won one.

MVP
LeBron James, Miami Heat: His numbers, impact on his current and former team (Cleveland) give him a slight edge over the rest of the field.

Perkins returns as a starter?
There's no denying that having Shaquille O'Neal in the starting lineup has been a major plus for the Celtics this season. But with Kendrick Perkins officially back in the fold in a few weeks, one can't forget how successful the C's have been in recent years with him manning the middle.

So what does Doc Rivers do?

It's simple, really.

You go right back to Perkins.

Since suffering a torn MCL and PCL in his right knee during Game 6 of the NBA Finals last June, Perkins has worked diligently to ensure he'll be able to compete at a high level upon his return which he hopes will be Feb. 4 against Dallas.

The biggest reason you bring Perkins back as a starter, is because he and Kevin Garnett are arguably the best frontcourt defensive tandem in the NBA.

"As far as me with the starting five, or me and KG being the best tandem on defense, we pretty much know each other," Perkins said. "We all got flaws on certain parts of the defensive end. With him, he knows how to cover up my weaknesses. I know how to cover up his."

And by moving O'Neal to the bench, this gives Boston's second unit a huge advantage in the middle against most opponents. But to get the most out of O'Neal with the reserves, the C's have to start developing chemistry with that second unit which hasn't been easy because of all the injuries.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at www.twitter.comsherrodbcsn.

Highlights: Atlanta Hawks 114, Boston Celtics 98

Highlights: Atlanta Hawks 114, Boston Celtics 98

Tempers flared between the Celtics and Hawks, but Atlanta was able to get the best of Boston as they get the victory in the TD Garden.

Blakely: On surface Bogut makes sense for Celtics, but it comes down to chemistry

Blakely: On surface Bogut makes sense for Celtics, but it comes down to chemistry

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics got their butts kicked (again) on the boards Monday night by the Atlanta Hawks who defeated them 114-98.

The Celtics get their butts kicked most nights on the boards, and yet still find a way to win more often than not.

That’s why the possibility of adding Andrew Bogut who was bought out by Philadelphia is so intriguing.

Once he clears waivers on Wednesday, he’ll officially be a man in high demand with teams trying to show him love as if he was Kevin Durant or LeBron James.

But as much as the 31-year-old center on paper seems like a good addition to the Celtics roster because of his rebounding prowess and rim protection on defense, here’s what you have to keep in mind with Bogut or any other player Danny Ainge and the C's front-office brass decides to bring through that door.

Whatever team a new guy joins, he’ll look to play decent minutes and showcase his skills with unrestricted free agency around the corner this summer.

As far as Bogut is concerned, he's one of the more underrated members of Golden State's title squad in 2016.

Draymond Green's all-around game, Steph Curry’s 3-point bombs and Klay Thompson’s two-way talent were all key to the Warriors winning a title two years ago. But lost in their success among fans was Bogut’s defense which covered up for a lot of mistakes, miscues and blown assignments.

Whatever team Bogut signs with, ideally he would be looking to provide that same interior presence.

But here’s another issue.

Adding Bogut means waiving a player, most likely a young player that the Celtics will have essentially decided to give up on.

Since Bogut is a big, the logical target of being waived is Jordan Mickey.

The second-round pick from 2015 has shown improvement, but not nearly enough to garner steady minutes or even sporadic time on this roster.

Amir Johnson and Al Horford are the starters, with Kelly Olynyk and Jonas Jerebko rounding out their four-man big rotation so they're not going anywhere.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens typically plays those four bigs every night, so the idea of adding a fifth to the regular rotation doesn’t make sense.

Will one of those four be cool with not playing some nights or having their minutes severely carved up?

Would Bogut be cool with sometimes playing in games, or sometimes playing the role of waving a towel supporting his team from the bench?

And how does his presence affect chemistry which is a major deal for this team and its success this season.

Boston’s bigs in terms of rebounding, have not been good all season.

We can all agree on that.

And yet despite those struggles, they have the second-best record in the East (38-22) along with being a top-5 or top-6 team record-wise in the NBA.

They’re able to win because they have solid talent and Teflon-strong bonds to where they don't just play with each other, but for each other every night. 

We have seen stretches this season when the minutes have been cut or wiped out altogether for rotation players like Terry Rozier, Jonas Jerebko and Jaylen Brown.

And yet during the time when they are not playing as much, you never hear any public grumbling or private bickering among themselves or to the media.

There is a high level of accountability with Brad Stevens-coached teams that if you’re doing your job well, you’ll play. If not, your minutes might go to a teammate.

The best example of this came earlier this season when Gerald Green was essentially a practice player until Christmas Day when he came up big in Boston’s win over the New York Knicks.

Green saw more minutes going forward, but soon found himself struggling to get on the floor afterwards on some nights and the man whose minutes he took – Rozier – was back in the playing mix. 

During those times when Rozier wasn't playing, he said Green was a fixture in his ear, offering words of encouragement regardless of whether he was playing a lot or not at all. 

“Gerald’s always encouraging me, encouraging the young guys to just keep working, be patient and when your time comes, run with it,” Rozier recently told CSNNE.com. “He’s been a great vet for us young guys.”

And while Bogut wouldn’t come in looking to mess with the team’s chemistry, that doesn’t matter.

Anytime a new guy is added to the mix, it has the potential to be a really good pick-up or a potentially catastrophic equation of subtraction by addition.

In talking with a league executive who Bogut played for earlier in his career, he said Bogut would be a good addition to the Celtics roster from a basketball standpoint.

“But you never know about how they fit outside of that,” the executive told CSNNE.com. “As we’ve seen, sometimes it’s just as important that guys click off the court as it is that they can play together on it. I don’t think that would be an issue, but with new guys and not knowing how that locker room works and its dynamics, you just never really know how it’ll play out.

The executive added, “But if they can get him after the Philly buyout, do it. He can help them. His strength is their weakness; it makes a lot of sense for both sides honestly.”