Rondo influenced Heat rookie Cole's season

744214.jpg

Rondo influenced Heat rookie Cole's season

BOSTON -- In the Celtics second game of the season, a rookie in just the second game of his career scored 20 points to help the Heat take away a 115-107 win in Miami.

Now only days before the postseason, Heat rookie Norris Cole looked back on how his success against Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo has influenced his first year in the NBA.

I learned that I could potentially be good in this league performing against one of the top point guards in Rondo, he told CSNNE.com prior to the Celtics' 78-66 win. It was my first home game so I was playing with a lot of bottled up emotions and I still was able to perform, learn how to perform under a certain amount of pressure at this level, and learn some of the Xs and Os of the game under great defenses.

Cole played 29 minutes off the bench, shooting 8-for-16 from the field and 4-for-6 from the line in the December 27 game. He also recorded four rebounds, four assists, and three steals.

Along the way, Cole paid attention to Rondos moves. He has tried to incorporate them into his game throughout the season.

He rebounds well for a guard, very well, Cole said. He controls just about everything that happens on the team. Being a leader and being able to affect the game on both ends, I think thats what I took the most from it and thats what I try to add to my game.

Cole entered that early season game with high expectations, and they were affirmed. He has taken that approach to every game he has played so far. Chances are, its a similar mindset to Rondos.

I always expect to play well, Cole said. Thats what we work hard for every day. I have very, very high expectations.

Avery Bradley (Achilles) returning to Celtics lineup vs. Hawks

Avery Bradley (Achilles) returning to Celtics lineup vs. Hawks

BOSTON – The wait is finally over for the Boston Celtics and Avery Bradley.
 
Bradley will return to the Celtics starting lineup tonight after having missed the previous 18 games (and 22 out of 23) with a right Achilles injury.
 
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said Bradley will play with a minutes restriction for the first week, and adjust accordingly.
 
Although Jaylen Brown has done a solid job filling in for Bradley with the first unit, Stevens had every intention of Bradley returning as a starter.
 
“He’s our starting two-guard,” Stevens said. “We started the year really well as far as that group playing together. We haven’t had that group playing together very often. Jaylen and Marcus (Smart) are both able to give us a lot off the bench as well as if we need to plug them into a (starting) lineup later on. We feel good about that.”
 
As far as handling Bradley’s minutes this week, Stevens has a very simple approach to what he needs to do.
 
“I’m just going to play him in the first couple of stints,” Stevens said. “And when his minutes run out he won’t play anymore. It is hard if you’re trying to save minutes for the end. I’m not sure that makes a lot of sense with getting stiff, sitting for a long time, coming off a long lay-off.”
 
Bradley is the Celtics’ second-leading scorer at 17.7 points per game along with a team-high 6.9 rebounds. A first-team All-NBA Defender last season, Bradley is also shooting a career-high 40.9 percent from 3-point range.

Thomas says he's 'not even worried about' bad blood with Schroder

Thomas says he's 'not even worried about' bad blood with Schroder

BOSTON -- No matter what Isaiah Thomas and Dennis Schroder say, you get the feeling there’s still some bad blood between these two.
 
It goes back to the playoffs last season when Thomas slapped Schroder in the face and extended into their last meeting in which Schroder said Thomas spoke unkind words about his family in Atlanta (allegations that Thomas has repeatedly denied).
 
Following Atlanta’s shoot-around this morning, Schroder doubled down on his previous comments about Thomas having said things about his family.
 
“Everybody heard it, too,” Schroder said earlier today. “My family sat courtside too. Thabu (Sefolosha) heard some things; he was involved in that. It is what it is. We just try to compete and it’s getting heated in the game. It is what it is.”
 
I asked Thomas about the Schroder allegations following Boston’s 104-98 win at Detroit on Sunday night.
 
“Man, I’m past that. I’m not worried about that guy,” Thomas said. “Once he did that the last game, where he tried to damage my character, (saying I was) talking about his parents … I’m past that. Hopefully we can beat the Atlanta Hawks. I’m not even worried about him.”
 
Schroder speaks a similar tone about his approach to tonight’s game.
 
Boston (38-21) is looking to build off the win at Detroit which snapped a two-game losing streak.
 
Meanwhile, the Hawks (32-26) have lost three straight -- each defeat by at least 15 points -- and four of their last five.
 
In the last two losses, Schroder was suspended for one game because he missed practice following the All-Star break (he told the Hawks there was a visa mix-up) and was late arriving to the team bus for another so he began that game on the bench.
 
That’s why the beef that still exist between both players isn’t likely to be a major deal tonight; at least that’s what they want us to believe.
 
“We gotta win,” Schroder said. “We lost two in a row after All-Star break. I think the team is more important than a player on the other team. We just focus on winning this game and try to compete for 48 minutes.”
 
Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer will be the first to tell you that Schroder’s competitive drive is among the reasons the franchise hasn’t looked back on its decision to trade all-star Jeff Teague and give Schroder the keys to running the team.
 
He has certainly had his moments when that decision might be questioned, but for the most part he has shown the kind of growth individually that they were hoping for as a full-time starter.
 
This season he’s averaging career highs in scoring (17.4) and assists (6.3) per game.
 
However, Atlanta hasn’t enjoyed the same level of success this year that we’ve seen from them recently.
 
A fixture among the top two or three teams the past couple of years, they are currently fifth in the NBA, trailing East-leading Cleveland by 8.5 games and the No. 2 Celtics by 5.5 games.
 
And while Boston does have a nice cushion with 24 games left to play, they know a strong finish will position them to better control their postseason destiny -- something that hasn’t been the case the past couple of seasons in which Boston began the playoffs on the road as a lower seed.
 
As much as the need to win will be front and center tonight, all eyes will be on the two point guards.
 
But in the end, both understand that tonight’s game isn’t about which of them can out-perform the other.
 
“Dennis is a competitive guy, as is Isaiah,” Budenholzer said. “They both are more concerned about their teams and what’s best for their teams.”