Rookies prove their worth in crunch time


Rookies prove their worth in crunch time

HARTFORD -- With five seconds left in regulation, Doc Rivers pulled his crunch time unit together for a final huddle.

Jared Sullinger, Kris Joseph, Dionte Christmas, Jamar Smith, and Micah Downs gathered on the court. Five rookies, including three undrafted players and a training camp invitee, were on the court to close out the game against the New York Knicks.

"He didn't say it," said Christmas, "But we knew once the fourth quarter came and he left us out there, we knew what time it was."

With the veterans on the sidelines, the group of young players, including fellow rookie Fab Melo, finished out the fourth quarter and played all of overtime in their 98-95 loss to the Knicks. While winning is always the focus, the players took away valuable experience being on the court.

"It felt good as a rookie knowing that he had that much confidence in our rookies," Smith said of Rivers. "For us to go out there and finish the game, unfortunately we didn't win, but just knowing that he had that confidence in us was pretty cool."

The young players have kept their ears open in practice. Even though they have several teammates ahead of them in the rotation, they have listened attentively to the strategies and schemes outlined by the coaches just in case they are called upon.

"We do a lot of different drills where we're down," explained Smith. "Sometimes we do a drill where we're down six with a minute-and-a-half left. We do a lot of different situational things, and I think that helped us more than anything."

While the young Celtics do not have that much experience in NBA games, they have plenty of it playing together. The rookies reported to practice facility in Waltham in August. They also bonded with the team during the trip to Europe. Getting to know one another helped them to communicate and reach their teammates late in the game.

"Just being with these guys every day, and especially being in Europe for the week, we saw each other all day long, every day," said Downs. "When you're in that type of situation, you get to learn the ins and outs of each other, not only on the court but off the court -- what people like, what their interests are, things like that. When you know that about your friends and your teammates, it makes everybody come together better and be more cohesive."

The Celtics veterans have also pushed their younger teammates throughout training camp, day in and day out in practice.That tough love is already paying off.

Said Sullinger, "Going against the starting five every day, playing against those guys, and trying to compete with those guys really helps us out at the end of the day."

They showed it in only their third preseason game.

Magic Johnson named Lakers president of basketball ops, Kupchak fired

Magic Johnson named Lakers president of basketball ops, Kupchak fired

Magic Johnson was named the Los Angeles Lakers' president of basketball operations after longtime Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak and vice president of basketball ops Jim Buss were fired, the team announced.

"Today I took a series of actions I believe will return the Lakers to the heights [late owner] Dr. Jerry Buss demanded and our fans rightly expect,” Jeanie Buss, Jerry Buss' daughter, Jim Buss' brother and Lakers president and co-owner, said in a statement. “Effective immediately, Earvin Johnson will be in charge of all basketball operations and will report directly to me. Our search for a new General Manager to work with Earvin and Coach Luke Walton is well underway and we hope to announce a new General Manager in short order. Together, Earvin, Luke and our new General Manager will establish the foundation for the next generation of Los Angeles Lakers greatness.”

Johnson, the Hall of Famer guard who led L.A. to five NBA titles, said in the same statement: “It’s a dream come true to return to the Lakers as President of Basketball Operations working closely with Jeanie Buss and the Buss family. Since 1979, I’ve been a part of the Laker Nation and I’m passionate about this organization. I will do everything I can to build a winning culture on and off the court. We have a great coach in Luke Walton and good young players. We will work tirelessly to return our Los Angeles Lakers to NBA champions.”

Johnson, part of a group that owns MLB's Los Angeles Dodgers, returned to the organization as an adviser earlier this month. Johnson coached the Lakers briefly in the 1993-94 season, going 5-11. 

Johnson's new job with the Lakers won't change his role with the Dodgers, according to the L.A. Times.

The current Lakers have the third-worst record in the NBA at 19-39 after finishing with the second-worst mark in the league (17-65) last season. Kupchak was named an assistant GM under Jerry West in 1986 and in 2000 took over for West as GM. 


Drummond to Boston? Pistons big man's tweets fuel speculation

Drummond to Boston? Pistons big man's tweets fuel speculation

BOSTON -- Two of the NBA’s biggest names on the trade market, Serge Ibaka and DeMarcus Cousins, changed zip codes (Ibaka to Toronto from Orlando, Cousins to New Orleans from Sacramento) without the Celtics showing much interest in swinging a deal for either player.


Could it be because they had their sights set on Detroit’s Andre Drummond all along?
Pistons general manager/head coach Stan Van Gundy has made no secret about talking with lots of teams about his players leading up to the trade deadline, well aware that his team has been one of the league’s biggest underachievers.

Detroit (27-30) is eighth in the Eastern Conference, trailing first-place Cleveland by 13 games.
Drummond was reportedly offered to Sacramento as part of a deal for Cousins, so it should not come as a surprise that his name has found its way into the rumor mill.
Still, Drummond only added fuel to the rumor mill fire by re-tweeting the eyeball emojis posted by the Celtics' Isaiah Thomas, something Thomas did shortly before Boston added Al Horford to the mix last summer.

And then Drummond followed that up by posting his own set of eyeball emojis on Tuesday, which adds to the speculative nature of a trade-deadline season that ends Thursday at 3 p.m.

Drummond, a former UConn standout, is an easy-going, fun-loving guy, so the emoji stuff isn’t all that out of character for him. But he also changed his Twitter profile picture to him waving goodbye. after removing Pistons information from his bio.

Is he pulling our leg, or giving a heads-up that the Celtics are close to pulling off a trade?
A league source tells that while no deal is imminent, Boston is a possible landing spot for Drummond if the Pistons are, in fact, planning on trading him. That, says the source,"is not a definite. [Van Gundy] knows he has to do something significant with that team, if not at the deadline [then] definitely this summer.

"So he’s looking to find out the value for all his guys, Drummond included.”