After playing eight games since the the season kicked off on December 25, the Boston Celtics will have four game-free days before their next contest on Wednesday against the Dallas Mavericks.
This time wont be used for rest, though. The Celtics still have work to do.
This season there are six new faces on the bench, six players who went through a shortened training camp with the Celtics. They will use these days to hit the gym and continue the build the units that came together a month ago.
We havent found our identity yet, Keyon Dooling said of the reserves. I think this is a good way for us to get a little bit of a break. It was a bad loss for us tonight at home but it gives us some extra motivation to get in the gym on Sunday. Well be in the gym, well be working and trying to get better. Weve got to embrace where we are. In order to help this team, weve got to come in and do something positive and tonight we werent positive at all.
On Friday night, the Celtics bench combined for just 14 points in a loss to the Indiana Pacers. Brandon Bass, who averaged 14.5 points in his previous two games, led the reserves with five points. Dooling and Bradley tied with four, while Chris Wilcox chipped in a free throw. Marquis Daniels and Greg Stiemsma were both scoreless in around seven minutes each.
Head coach Doc Rivers was not pointing blame at the reserves. With high-scoring players in the starting lineup, it has never been on the shoulders of the bench to carry the offensive slack. He, too, will work on ways to improve the group.
Theres going to be nights like that, he said. I would say this: Brandon was two-for-seven and he missed five great shots. So, thats going to happen. We do have to get more out of our bench. And I told Keyon at halftime because you could see, he actually played pretty well tonight but I told him thats on me. Ive got to find something that works with them that we can give them. Theyre an energy group; theyre not a scoring group. But weve got to come up with something, and so thats not on them.
BOSTON -- For the second year in a row, the NBA trade deadline has come and gone with the Boston Celtics making no moves.
The Celtics were focused on trying to land either Chicago’s Jimmy Butler or Indiana’s Paul George, but Boston’s efforts never gained momentum in the final hours leading up to Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline.
And while there were a handful of potential deals that would have made Boston slightly better, that improvement -- and the cost attached to it -- was just more than Ainge and the Celtics were willing to pay.
And so they hit the final stretch of the season with a roster that – for now at least – looks identical to what they had at the start of the season with one difference --health.
Most of this season, the Celtics have had multiple players out with injuries or various ailments. Currently, Avery Bradley (right Achilles) is the lone Celtic dealing with a significant injury.
And after Bradley practiced some on Thursday, there’s a chance that he might be on the floor Friday night at Toronto.
But there is no question that a significant segment of Celtics Nation is disappointed that Boston didn’t engineer a trade of some sort.
“We’re trying to upgrade our team,” said Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations. “But it is a delicate balance between short-term goals and long-term goals. Obviously, both are very important. We’re excited where we are on a long-term basis. And this year we didn’t make any trades. Last year we didn’t make any trades.”
But in standing pat a year ago, the Celtics solidified their salary cap space to where they could have offered a pair of max contracts to Al Horford – which they did – as well as Kevin Durant who met with Boston but ultimately decided to sign with Golden State.
And by not including their first-round pick last season, the Celtics have Jaylen Brown who is one of the better rookies in this year’s class.
“So we’re happy with the direction that we’re moving,” Ainge said.
But standing pat was not on the agenda for the teams surrounding Boston in the East.
Boston’s inability to strike a deal is in sharp contrast to what teams surrounding them did during this trade season.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are the team Boston and the rest of the East are chasing. They acquired Kyle Korver earlier this month, a player who ranks among the NBA’s all-time great 3-point shooters.
Washington added Bojan Bogdanovic from Brooklyn today, providing some much-needed firepower for a Wizards second unit that ranks among the NBA’s lowest scoring groups.
Toronto recently traded for Orlando’s Serge Ibaka, giving the Raptors a defensive-oriented big man who can stretch the floor.
Also today, the Atlanta Hawks picked up Ersan Illyasova from Philadelphia, which should help them space the floor better.
Each of those teams addressed a very specific need, something the Celtics were hoping to do.
But more than a player, the Celtics could benefit from a roster with improved health.
The team’s preferred starting five -- Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Al Horford and Amir Johnson -- has a 15-6 record this season. To put that in perspective, that’s a winning percentage of .714 which would be tops in the East and third overall in the NBA for this season.
And with most of the players seemingly back to full strength health-wise now, it’s understandable to some extent why Ainge would be willing to stick with this group for the rest of the season.
“As you’ve been watching lately, we’ve been winning a lot of games with everybody,” Ainge said. “Players ten through fifteen contributing to our wins. We like the depth of the team, we like the youth of the team, we like the energy and enthusiasm of the team and I’m very anxious and excited to watch in the second half.”
But just like when they stood pat last year, the decision puts the onus on the players and the coaching staff to step their game up.
“I roll with the guys in this locker room until something changes,” Isaiah Thomas said prior to the trade deadline. “I always mean that.”
Said Jae Crowder: “We have to take care of what we can control and that’s night-in and night-out, try to get wins.”
Mitch Moreland and Sam Travis hit three-run homers and left-hander Brian Johnson started and pitched two scoreless innings to help the Red Sox win their spring training opener, 9-6, over Northeastern University on Thursday in Fort Myers, Fla.
Johnson, who made one spot start in his MLB debut with the Red Sox in 2015 but then was derailed by injuries and anxiety issues last season, struck out three and walked one Thursday. He's expected to start the season at Triple-A Pawtucket, where he went 5-6 with a 4.44 ERA in 15 starts in 2016.
Moreland, the left-handed hitting first baseman signed to a one-year deal after spending his first seven seasons with the Texas Rangers, and Travis, a right-handed hitting first base prospect coming back from knee surgery last season, each hit three-run homers in a six-run third inning.
Pablo Sandoval, attempting to reclaim the third-base job after missing nearly all of last season after surgery on his left shoulder, went 1-for-2 with a double.
The Red Sox open Grapefruit League play Friday afternoon when they host the New York Mets at JetBlue Park.