Celtics keep Griffin under wraps


Celtics keep Griffin under wraps

By Rich Levine

LOS ANGELES With all of Bostons trade deadline drama, you almost forgot that Saturdays meeting with the Clippers would feature a date with the 6-foot-10, 21-year-old, car-leaping monster whos taken the NBA by storm. But Doc Rivers didnt.

Hes been spectacular, Rivers said of Clippers rookie Blake Griffin before the game. "I think people miss the best part of his game when theyre watching ESPN dunks. Everybodys missing his great passes. Hes already one of the best passing bigs in the league, and he does it all the time. Hes an extremely unselfish kid. Hes very talented. Hes already improved his jump shot. Hes starting to make that up to 15 feet. You know hes just to keep getting better.

But the Celtics didnt want him to get better on their watch. They set out to make things difficult for the soon-to-be Rookie of the Year; make him work for and earn everything. And for the most part they were successful.

Griffin finished with 21 points and 11 boards, but was kept under wraps when it mattered most in Bostons 99-92 win.

We were fine with it, Rivers said of Griffins numbers. He had a couple fast-break buckets which we dont like for anybody, I dont care who it is. Other than that, especially down the stretch, we made it difficult for him to get the catch and made him catch it off the block, which is what we wanted to do. He actually hit some jump shots. Hes a terrific player.

At the heart of the Celtics defensive attack on Griffin was (not surprisingly) Kevin Garnett, who rode the rookie all night, muscled him on the block, battled him for position and who, because of injuries and deadline moves, didnt have much help in the process. But Garnett was up to the task, and will have to be until the new look Cs develop some new chemistry,

Until the ONeal brothers get back, we probably will (have to lean more on Garnett), Rivers said. Hes not going to play any more minutes, though. But Nenad (Krstic) is going to be fine there. Its just him not knowing the schemes. He just didnt know it. But he picks it up quickly. He got one in the second half. Its just going to take some time.

After the win, Garnett typically a man of few postgame words, dished some praise on the explosive rookie: Hes strong, very powerful, Garnett said. Very gifted, a lot of potential. Hes gonna be a real good player.

And for his part, Griffin had plenty of great things to say about the Cs:

The thing about them is how well they move the ball and play off each other, said Griffin. You can tell theyve been playing together for a while. Thats tough to beat when teams are moving the ball and everyone knows their role, everybodys getting shots and everybodys rotating defensively.

Griffin will get another shot at Garnett and the Celtics when he makes his first trip to the Garden on March 9

Rich Levine can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Smart yet to be ruled out of Celtics’ opener


Smart yet to be ruled out of Celtics’ opener

WALTHAM, Mass. – Marcus Smart remains out with a left ankle sprain injury sustained earlier this week, but has yet to be ruled out for the season opener against Brooklyn next week.

An MRI came back negative on Smart’s ankle, which was good news.

But there’s still a high level of uncertainty as to whether Smart will heal in time for the team’s opener at home against Brooklyn on Wednesday night.

He sprained the left ankle in the second quarter of a 121-96 loss to the New York Knicks on Wednesday when he stepped on the foot of Knicks guard Justin Holiday.

Smart fell to the floor and was helped to his feet by teammates Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas in addition to the team’s head trainer Ed Lacerte.

The Celtics are indeed hopeful he will heal in time to play next week, but league sources indicate it’s doubtful due to the nature of the injury and Smart’s history with left ankle sprains.

He sustained one in his rookie season and it kept him out for several weeks and he has had a few minor ankle sprains since then.

Even if he shows signs of being healthy enough to play prior to the opener, the Celtics are likely to be overly cautious to best insure that when he does return he does not re-aggravate the ankle.

Smart appeared in all seven preseason games for the Celtics this season, averaging 8.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.6 steals per game. Smart shot 42 percent from the field, but struggled mightily from 3-point range while connecting on just 13.6 percent of his 3-point shot attempts.

If Smart is unable to play in the opener or potentially longer, look for the Celtics to lean heavily on Terry Rozier who has been the breakout performer for Boston in the summer and in camp.

“I’m just trying to do whatever they need me to do, to help us win games,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “I’m feeling good, real good about where my game’s at now. Obviously we’re a better team in every way, with Marcus out there. But if he’s not ready to go, the next man up has to get the job done. If that’s me, it’s me. I’ll be ready.”








Ainge admits tough decision ahead between Young and Hunter for final roster spot


Ainge admits tough decision ahead between Young and Hunter for final roster spot

WALTHAM, Mass. – With the Celtics waiving Ben Bentil on Friday, Danny Ainge confirmed what has been reported for weeks: the final roster spot for the Celtics will come down to James Young and R.J. Hunter.

“It’ll probably go down to the wire, down to Monday,” said Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations.

Boston currently has 16 players in camp with guaranteed contracts. The league-maximum of 15 players has to be met by Monday at 5 p.m.

“We’re continuing to evaluate and look for opportunities out there,” Ainge said. “If there are any deals to be had which we’ve been looking for, for a few months. Both of those guys [Hunter and Young[ have played very well and have made the decision very difficult.”

Having to make a tough call at the end of training camp is nothing new to Ainge.

But this time around is very unique.

It’s highly unusual for a team to have to waive a former first-round pick that they selected.

Young was the 17th overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft by Boston, while Hunter was selected by the Celtics with the 28th overall pick in the 2015 draft.

“Sometimes the decision is made for me. It’s really easy,” said Ainge. “But this year it hasn’t been that way. Both of those guys have had some outstanding moments in practice, in training camp and in games. So it’s been challenging.”

Boston being in this roster conundrum is due to having lots of draft picks in recent years that either didn’t turn into impact players initially, or were unable to be flipped for more established talent via trade.

In Young’s draft class, Boston selected him with the 17th pick after picking Marcus Smart with the sixth overall pick.

And in 2015, Boston picked Terry Rozier with the 16th overall pick and Hunter with the 28th overall selection. In the second round of that draft, Boston nabbed Jordan Mickey with the 33rd overall pick and Marcus Thornton at No. 45.

Last year’s draft was an even bigger haul for the Celtics, who went into the draft with a record-eight picks.

They traded two of the picks to Memphis, but used the other six which included Jaylen Brown with the third overall selection.

Ainge reiterated that the Celtics like what both players are doing, but doesn’t anticipate a trade scenario presenting itself that would result in both players sticking with the team.

“Unlikely, but always possible,” said Ainge when asked if it were possible for both to remain Celtics.

Both players are still on their rookie contracts, so that along with the increased salary cap teams have now makes each of them a low-risk addition.

However, most of the teams in the NBA have a full roster and the ones that don’t have a couple players in mind to fill out whatever openings exist.

That means there’s a decent chance that Hunter or Young will be waived, clear waivers and can then sign with a team of their choosing.

It sounds good, only if there’s a team to sign with which as stated earlier, is far from a given.