Celtics caught off guard by Rockets, 108-102

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Celtics caught off guard by Rockets, 108-102

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON The Houston Rockets continue to do what few teams have been able to do consistently - win in Boston.

The Rockets, fueled by the hot-shooting of their starting backcourt, handed the Celtics a 108-102 loss Monday night at TD Garden.

Boston (28-9) has now lost two in a row, and continued a trend of losing to the Rockets at home.

Houston, led by guards Aaron Brooks (game-high 24 points) and Kyle Lowry (17 points, 8 assists), defeated Boston for the third straight time at the Garden.

But history had nothing to do with what went wrong for the Celtics on Monday.

"I told our guys, I thought overall it was probably our worst defensive effort in three, four years as far as overall effort," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers.

It wasn't so much that Houston was making so many shots.

More to Rivers' point, it was the fact that those baskets came with little to no resistance by the Celtics.

"We're a defensive-minded group and for some reason over the last couple games, it's just not happening," said Paul Pierce. "I don't know. I mean, everyone's got to look themselves in the mirror, check their selves at the door and just figure this out, get through this little skid we're on."

Houston began to pull away in the second half as it connected on 21 of their 34 shot attempts, or 61.8 percent.

Following the game, the Celtics locker room was like a ghost town with few players sticking around to explain what happened.

Truth be told, they didn't need to.

The numbers don't lie.

Houston got whatever shot it wanted, with very little fight from the Celtics.

When the Rockets missed, they grabbed rebounds.

It was a thorough beating, for sure.

The disappointment could be spread across the entire Celtics roster, but Rivers was especially down on the play of his starters.

"It's on the starters; it's not on the second unit," Rivers said.

Ray Allen agreed.

"We the starters gave the Rockets too much confidence early," Allen said.

At halftime, Rivers reminded his starters that with key players such as Delonte West (right wrist), Kevin Garnett (right calf strain) and Kendrick Perkins (right knee) still out, it's imperative that they play well in order for the second unit to have a shot at success.

"It shouldn't be the other way around," Rivers said. "And so, just a really disappointing game for us."

Using the fact that the Celtics were short-handed is an excuse that Rivers and his players aren't willing to put out there.

It's not like the Rockets haven't had their share of major injuries to deal with.

In addition to not having Yao Ming, the Rockets were also without leading scorer Kevin Martin (wrist) and Brad Miller (knee) on Monday.

"We need to really take advantage of games where their best player isn't playing, guys coming off injury," Pierce said.

As poorly as the Celtics played for most of the night, they still seemed to have a fighter's chance in the game's closing moments.

The C's fell behind by as many as 12 points in the fourth quarter, but found themselves within 106-102 with 18.5 seconds to play when Rajon Rondo forced an eight-second backcourt violation ... or so we thought.

The officials got together briefly, and said that an inadvertent whistle was blown, and it was Houston's ball.

That would be the last gasp the C's had at stealing a game that, frankly, they didn't play well enough to win.

To say that it was just one of those games, is to diminish the potential rippling effect that losing to sub-.500 team at home, can have on this team.

And to blame it on not having Kevin Garnett?

That's letting these guys off the hook way too easy.

"It's mental," Rivers said. "This game had nothing to do with Kevin Garnett. Kevin Garnett didn't play, and it had nothing to do with it."
A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twittter.comsherrodbcsn.

Phil Jackson: Knicks' biggest mistake was not trading for Jae Crowder in 2014

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Phil Jackson: Knicks' biggest mistake was not trading for Jae Crowder in 2014

Knicks president Phil Jackson’s biggest mistake? Taking the job in the first place?

Well, besides that. Jackson tells Today’s Fastbreak that it was not getting Jae Crowder when he had the chance.

Here’s Jackson quote, part of a long interview with Charley Rosen: 

"I think my biggest mistake was actually this…One of the first deals I engineered when I came back to New York was to trade Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to Dallas for Shane Larkin, Jose Calderon, Wayne Ellington, Samuel Dalembert, plus a second-round pick that the Mavs owed to the Celtics. In talking with Boston, I was given the option of taking that pick or else taking Jae Crowder. I liked Crowder but I thought he wouldn't get much of a chance to play behind Carmelo, so I took the pick, which turned out to be Cleanthony Early. While Cleanthony has missed lots of time in the past two seasons with us, he still has the potential to be a valuable player. Even so, I should have taken Crowder."

Jackson’s timeline is actually a little off. The Chandler and Felton to the Mavs deal was actually in June 2014. The Celtics, of course, acquired Crowder at the December 2014 trade deadline in the deal that sent Rajon Rondo to the Mavericks. Still, you get the point. Jackson covets Jae Crowder, who has proven to be a little more valuable than Cleanthony Early. And, in light of where NBA salaries have gone, the five-year, $35 million deal Crowder signed with the Celtics last offseason now seems like one of the biggest bargains in the NBA. 

 

 

Can Jerebko parlay playoff starts to a bigger role with Celtics?

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Can Jerebko parlay playoff starts to a bigger role with Celtics?

Every weekday until Sept. 7, we'll take a look at each player at the Celtics roster: Their strengths and their weaknesses, their ceiling and their floor. We continue today with Tyler Zeller. For a look at the other profiles, click here.

BOSTON – Considering all the different storylines that developed among the Celtics at the end of last season and this summer, it’s easy to forget that Jonas Jerebko was in the starting lineup.

With sporadic minutes in the regular season, Boston found itself trailing the Atlanta Hawks 2-0 in their best-of-seven playoff series.

So what did coach Brad Stevens do?

He shook up the starting lineup by inserting Jerebko. who helped Boston even up the series at two games apiece before the Hawks bounced back and ended the Celtics season after six games.

Those last four games against the Hawks – the only games Jerebko started all season - served as a reminder to many that the 29-year-old could still be an impact performer.

It was the kind of run to close out the season that Jerebko will certainly be focused on trying to build upon this season.

The ceiling for Jerebko: Starter

While he will likely begin the season as a reserve, Jerebko will certainly come into camp with a little more bounce in his step courtesy of a strong showing in the playoffs.

After averaging just 4.4 points and 3.7 rebounds in 15.1 minutes in the regular season a year ago, Jerebko became a major force in the playoffs for Boston.

In his first game as a starter, Jerebko had a double-double of 11 points and 12 rebounds as Boston won Game 3, 111-103.

He was even more impactful 48 hours later with another a second straight double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds) in yet another Celtics victory.

The Hawks made some adjustments in Games 5 and 6 to close out the series, but it wasn’t before Jerebko had put together the best postseason stretch of his career.

Compared to the regular season, Jerebko more than doubled his playing time in those final four games by averaging 31.3 minutes to go with 11.5 points and 7.8 rebounds.

Jerebko will be hard-pressed to return to that role at the start of this season.

Boston signed Al Horford to a four-year, $113 million contract, so you know he’s starting.

And Amir Johnson’s defense and ability to run the floor so effectively will likely result in him resuming a starting role, too.

That leaves Jerebko joining what looks to be a very talented and deep Celtics bench.

Even though he’s unlikely to start, Jerebko will get his share of opportunities to play.

At 6-foot-10, Jerebko has the size to play both power forward and center. And depending on the opposing team’s lineup, Jerebko has the potential play some small forward as well.

It was that versatility that made Stevens turn to Jerebko in the playoffs last season to replace Jared Sullinger, who signed with the Toronto Raptors in the offseason.

And while the idea of Jerebko as a starter seems a bit far-fetched at this point, he is yet another Celtics reserve who has proven himself to be ready to play and play well when given an opportunity to step on the floor regardless of what that role may be.

The floor for Jerebko: Seldom-used reserve

Despite a strong finish last season, Jerebko will once again have to fight and claw for any minutes on the floor. While the Celtics certainly were aided by his versatility, this season’s roster has a number of players who, like Jerebko, can play multiple positions at both ends of the floor.

NBA veteran Gerald Green is 6-8 and will play shooting guard and small forward. But depending on the lineup, it’s not a stretch to envision him playing some power forward. Ditto for rookie Jaylen Brown and starting small forward Jae Crowder sliding up one position.

Beginning the season on the rotation fringes is nothing new to Jerebko, whose role was very much up in the air when the Celtics traded Tayshaun Prince to Detroit prior to the 2015 trade deadline for Jerebko and Gigi Datome.

Gradually, Jerebko earned his minutes and proved he was indeed a valuable piece of what Stevens and the Celtics were trying to build here in Boston.

And now, with a season-plus of time with the Celtics under his belt, Jerebko finds himself once again being challenged to show that he’s more than just a body on the roster.

 

Report: Celtics renounce draft rights to 2013 pick Colton Iverson

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Report: Celtics renounce draft rights to 2013 pick Colton Iverson

By Dan Feldman, NBCSports.com Pro Basketball Talk

The Celtics bought the No. 53 pick in the 2013 NBA draft to get Colton Iverson out of Colorado State, and he thanked them by allowing them to keep his rights the last three years.

Iverson rejected the required tender – a one-year contract, surely unguaranteed at the minimum, teams must extend to retain exclusive negotiating rights to a second-round pick – year after year to sign overseas. Accepting the tender would’ve likely meant Iverson going to Boston’s training camp and getting waived. Perhaps, the timing of that would’ve limited his European options that year. But it would’ve made him an NBA free agent – or, best-case scenario, he could’ve made the Celtics and drawn an NBA paycheck.

As it was, Iverson limited himself to joining Boston and only Boston. If another NBA team wanted Iverson, it would have had to trade for him.

And what does Iverson get for that loyalty? A Celtics contract with at least a partial guarantee?

Nope.

Just a head start on finding another team – which he could’ve gotten for himself three years ago.

Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe:

This is why second-round picks should be more aggressive about accepting the required tender. Even if you get waived, you open NBA options.

Iverson is a strong 7-foot center who plays with physicality. He can help in certain matchups, and he’d make sense as a third center on teams that have first- and second-stringers playing a different style.

But Iverson is 27, and his NBA window may be closing if it hasn’t already.

It’s a shame he spent so many years beholden to Boston, which didn’t want him.

It was probably just courtesy of the Celtics to renounce his rights now rather than have him sign the tender. They would have guaranteed him no money with the tender, and they could have gotten a few minor benefits with it – an extra body for training camp, the ability to assign his D-League rights to their affiliate after waiving him and the slightest chance he impresses enough in the preseason to hold trade value.

But them forgoing those potential advantages, even if out of courtesy, also sends a signal about how little they value him. Teams don’t do these types of favors for players they actually covet.