Celtics notebook: Wall has room to grow

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Celtics notebook: Wall has room to grow

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

WASHINGTON It's weird to see Rajon Rondo out there as the poised veteran playmaker.

But on nights like this, it's obvious.

Yes, John Wall got the win in leading the Wizards to an 85-83 victory over the Boston Celtics.

And Wall, who had 16 points and four assists, is indeed a player on the rise in the NBA.

There's little doubt that someday, he'll be among the NBA's top point guards with Rondo, Deron Williams of Utah, New Orleans' Chris Paul and Chicago's Derrick Rose.

But his time to shine at that level, isn't now.

He came up with a slew of big plays down the stretch for the Wizards.

But he also made his share of mistakes that allowed the Celtics to have a fighter's chance down the stretch when, truth be told, Boston's play should have not afforded them such a luxury.

Paul Pierce's potential game-winning shot was set up by Rondo stripping the ball from Wall.

That was one of four turnovers by Wall, who has spent most of this season ranked among the NBA's leaders in turnovers.

Still, the more you watch him play, it's clear that he will a player to watch for many years to come.

"He's going to be a great young point guard, if he continues to work on his game and stay humble," Rondo said. "He has a bright future ahead of him."

Celtics coach Doc Rivers agrees.

"He plays hard. he's aggressive," Rivers said. "He's got a great step and speed, and he's competitive. He plays far beyond his age."

West on the mend

C's guard Delonte West was with the Celtics in Washington, yet another example of his return being sooner rather than later.

Injured players don't normally start to travel with the team unless they are relatively close to returning to action.

"There's still a lot of stiffness in the wrist," West told CSNNE.com. "But it's getting better and better everyday. That's the only way I can explain it."

Boston has had a number of games this season in which the use of West would have been helpful.

Saturday's loss to the Wizards was one of those games.

Rajon Rondo had 13 points and nine assists, but he spend significant stretches of the game on the bench with foul trouble.

And his replacement, Nate Robinson, had his struggles scoring (six points on 3-for-8 shooting).

West said as badly as he wants to be out there, he's not trying to rush back too soon.

"When I come back, I want to be back, ready to help this team win games," he said. "I'm patient; trying to be, at least."

Odds and ends

Semih Erden, starting in place of Shaquille O'Neal (right hip), had six points and a career-high 11 rebounds. It is the second time in as many nights that the 7-foot rookie from Turkey set a career high. In Boston's win over Utah on Friday, Erden had a career-high 14 points. Andray Blatche picked up a technical foul for shoving Kevin Garnett. It was yet another game in which Blatche allowed Garnett to get into his head, and lead him to doing something foolish. Ray Allen made a pair of 3-pointers on Saturday. He now has 2,537 made 3-pointers, and needs 24 to pass Reggie Miller (2,560) for the NBA's all-time lead in that category.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Blakely: Celtics not as feared as they were last season

Blakely: Celtics not as feared as they were last season

BOSTON -- On more than one occasion Monday night, the Boston Celtics were a discombobulated bunch with some players thinking they were running one play, while others were thinking the play called was something totally different.
 
You see that stuff in the preseason and to a certain extent in the regular season for a lot of teams. It is in those moments that we’re reminded that this Boston Celtics team is a work in progress on so many levels.
 
Because of that, we all need to hit the pause button when talking about them as a team inching closer towards Eastern Conference supremacy.
 
After the first month of the season, they have yet to show that they are going to be better than last season’s 48-win ball club.
 
The big problem a year ago was the offense bogging down and for the most part, not making shots. This year, it’s the team’s defense that has let them down on many nights.
 
And with that comes a sobering reminder this crew is good, but at best are maybe top-five in the East.
 
As a team on the rise, beating teams you’re not supposed to has to happen with some semblance of regularity.
 
There were only three teams on the Celtics’ docket this season thus far that they should have been beaten by without there being any argument: Golden State, San Antonio and Cleveland.
 
They were beaten in all three, two of which (Golden State and Cleveland) had final scores that did not indicate the level of dominance they had over the Celtics.
 
The average margin of defeat in the three games was 9.3 points, but two of them (San Antonio and Golden State) were at the TD Garden, which is supposed to be the equalizer for upset-minded teams.
 
But in each game, Boston put up a decent fight only to fail to emerge victorious.
 
The struggles against the upper echelon teams of the NBA has nothing to do with not having a superstar or a great rebounder or any of the kazillion reasons/excuses offered up as to why they’re not better.
 
It’s hunger.
 
It’s effort.
 
It’s about being blinded by the internet clicks that tout them as one of the best teams in the East, and them not seeing the danger that comes with embracing all that patting on the back.
 
It makes you soft.
 
It makes you fat and happy.
 
And maybe most significant, it creates a false sense of arrival before you’ve left the tarmac.
 
That’s where the Boston Celtics are right now: a team that seems to have forgotten why they were the team nobody wanted to play last year.
 
It wasn’t that teams feared playing them. It was the fact that they knew playing the Celtics would be tough, and it would force them to play a lot closer to their full potential than they were used to if they wanted to win.
 
It was because everyone knew that to beat the Celtics, you don’t have a choice but to play hard because you damn well knew they would.
 
Not anymore.
 
They bring that toughness to the game in small doses, like an intra-venous drip full of hope and promise, providing just enough to life to keep their fans optimistic but not nearly enough to kill the noise of their haters and critics.
 
And while the season is still young, the Celtics need to start racking up some quality wins.
 
Right now, their most impressive win is a toss-up between beating Charlotte 104-98 on Oct. 29, or a 94-92 win at Detroit on Nov. 19.
 
Boston plays at Orlando on Wednesday, a team that’s likely to be back in the lottery again. But after that, they travel back to Boston where they’ll host Toronto -- a game that they desperately need to not only to pad their win total but also provide a much-needed boost of energy and confidence going forward.

The Celtics have to find that hunger, that collective desire that we’ve seen in the past which has propelled them to greater heights than we’ve seen thus far.
 
Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford… you can go down the roster and the mission for all of them has to be the same: play harder, for longer, and be smarter about it, because this team has too much collective talent to be just three games above .500.
 
At 12-9, Boston is third in the East and trail conference-leading Cleveland by three games for the best record in the conference. But then you look at the teams behind the Celtics and realize that they’re only two games out of having the ninth-best record in the East.
 
It speaks in part to the season still being in its infancy stage. But it’s also telling as to how Boston does not have a huge margin of error when it comes to losing winnable games.
 
And as we’ve seen thus far, the Celtics can play with any team in the NBA and hold their own.
 
But beating them is a totally different narrative that this squad has yet to write.