Could Pierce really come off the bench next year?


Could Pierce really come off the bench next year?

By A. Sherrod Blakely

WALTHAM Paul Pierce has established himself as one of the premier players in the NBA, and has a ton of accolades to validate it.

How about a new one, like Sixth Man of the Year?

Earlier this week, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge discussed the possibility of Pierce coming off the bench next season which would in all likelihood mean Jeff Green would replace him as a starter.

On Friday, Ainge clarified his comments.

"I said that just to get everyone excited," quipped Ainge. "So yeah, I'm sure I'll be hearing from Paul."

While Ainge said on Friday that it will be Doc Rivers' call on who starts at the small forward position, Ainge did say that Green will have a more expanded role next season if he's still with the C's.

The 6-foot-9 forward is a restricted free agent that Ainge hopes to re-sign this summer to a multi-year contract.

"Jeff playing a bigger role, if he comes back, I think that will be the case if he were to come back," Ainge said. "This core group of guys don't have to play the exact same way, or with the exact same players. There are some things that can be tweaked."

Pierce has appeared in 964 regular season games for the Celtics, and has started all but three times.

A career 22.2 points per game scorer, Pierce has led the C's in scoring every year since 2001. This past season, Pierce averaged 18.9 points per game while shooting 49.7 percent from the field and 86 percent from the free throw line - both career highs.

The idea of having him come off the bench has more to do with getting more from Green than it does any shortcoming in Pierce's game.

"He's proven himself," Ainge said of Green having a more prominent role with the Celtics in the near future. "He's been a starter on a 50-win team (in Oklahoma City); probably the third-most important contributor to the team."

Even though he averaged 9.2 points per game and shot 49.7 percent from the field - identical to Pierce's field goal percentage this season - in 22 minutes off the bench, there were some who felt Green didn't do enough to help the C's this season after they traded away defensive stalwart Kendrick Perkins whose Oklahoma City Thunder are still in the playoffs after the C's postseason run ended Wednesday night in Miami.

Ainge said he was pleased with what Green accomplished this season in limited minutes off the bench.

"We knew he wasn't going to start," Ainge said. "We knew he wasn't going to play 35 minutes (per game). We know what Jeff Green is. He's a highly efficient offensive player that plays good defense, has great character, 6-foot-9, versatile and he's young. He's only going to get better because of his work ethic and character."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Horford-Celtics partnership gives both stability, chance to win


Horford-Celtics partnership gives both stability, chance to win

BOSTON –  This is not where Al Horford thought he would be right now.
Back in May, the Atlanta Hawks had just been swept out of the playoffs by the soon-to-be NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
Disappointed with the outcome obviously, Horford was a free agent-to-be who was confident that he would be back in Atlanta and the Hawks would retool by adding to their core group which he was a major part of, and they would be back to making another run at it this season.
First there was the draft night trade of point guard Jeff Teague to the Indiana Pacers. 
And during Horford's negotiations with the Hawks in July, they were also negotiating with Dwight Howard and ultimately signed the Atlanta native to a three-year, $70.5 million contract. 
Before the Howard deal was complete, the Celtics had already made a strong impression on Horford during their presentation to him. 
So the choice was pretty clear.
Return to Atlanta and potentially have a major logjam up front with himself, Howard and Paul Millsap, or join a Celtics team that’s on the rise where his five-tool skillset – passing, rebounding, defending, scoring and making those around him better – could be put to great use on a team that’s clearly on the rise. 
Horford chose the latter, giving both himself and the Celtics exactly what they wanted – stability and a chance to win at the highest of levels.
The first shot to see how this basketball marriage looks on the floor will be tonight when the Celtics kick off the 2016-2017 season at the TD Garden against the Brooklyn Nets. 
The preseason isn’t the best indicator of what’s on the horizon now that games count, but Horford’s presence was undeniable.
Boston’s starters which includes Horford, Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder and Amir Johnson, each finished with a positive, double-digit plus/minus in the preseason. 
“He just makes the game so much easier for all of us,” Johnson told “He can do so many things out there at both ends of the floor. He’s going to be big for us this season.”
And his impact can be felt both on the floor and inside the locker room, similar to what he brought to the Atlanta Hawks.
“With the way that I go about it is, I’m trying to win,” Horford told “I’m gonna work, put in my work, try to help guys get better not only on the court but off the court as well. That’s how I carry myself.”
 And it is that approach to the game that has made his transition to the Celtics a relatively seamless one. 
Horford holds many fond memories of his time in Atlanta, a place that will always be near and dear to his heart. 
But he’s a Celtic now, coming in with the same single-minded focus that drives this organization to continue pursuing the only thing that truly matters to them – an NBA title. 
"Even though I’m leaving a lot behind, as a player you always want to be in the best position you can,” Horford said. “I felt for me being on this team would put me in a position to be able to contend and win an NBA championship. That’s my ultimate goal.”

Rozier's confidence, hard work earning him more minutes in Celtics rotation


Rozier's confidence, hard work earning him more minutes in Celtics rotation

BOSTON – You’ll have to pardon Terry Rozier if he doesn’t have that deer-in-the-headlights look about him when he takes to the floor tonight for what should be the first of many meaningful stretches of playing time.
You see, being harassed with the defensive pressure of Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart while trying to become a pest to Isaiah Thomas (which I’m told Rozier is frequently in practice), has instilled in Rozier the kind of confidence that’s not easily shaken.
That’s one of the main reasons why the Celtics aren’t freaking out about the departure of Evan Turner to Portland this offseason and more recently the sprained left ankle injury to Marcus Smart that’ll keep him out for a few games.
When it comes to filling those two voids, all eyes will be on Rozier.
“When somebody’s hurt, the next guy has to step up,” Thomas said. “Terry has shown he’s ready for that opportunity. He’s worked very hard this summer. I’m proud of him. I’ve been in that position before. He’s been waiting for that opportunity. He’s ready.”
Rozier had an impressive run during summer league as Boston’s best player. And in training camp, he hasn’t let up in being one of the standout performers.
It has led to the second-year guard being exactly where he thought his hard work in the offseason would take him to, and that’s a prominent spot in the Celtics’ rotation.
And in doing so, Rozier knows it’ll likely mean taking some minutes from his veteran teammates like Isaiah Thomas who he credits for always being there to help him grow as a player.
“I’m trying to get better, but I want to play too,” Rozier told “Getting his (Thomas’) minutes, anybody’s minutes, I’m going for it. But I know he’s not going to lighten up and make it easy for me. I know that. I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
It certainly looks like it for Rozier who has shown growth in just about every phase of his game since he was selected by Boston with the 16th overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft.
There were many who questioned Danny Ainge’s decision to draft a guard so high when he already had Thomas, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart in the fold.
But Rozier has shown the promise that Ainge saw in him coming out of Louisville.

Now it’s just a matter of Rozier getting the kind of minutes and producing, that will ultimately validate the trust and faith Ainge and his coaching staff showed in selecting Rozier.
For Rozier, not being looked upon all that favorably is just par for the course when it comes to his basketball career.
“I’ve been doubted all my life,” Rozier said. “It ain’t hurt me. I always tell myself, ‘they’re gonna fall in love with me because I play hard and they’re gonna fall in love with my intensity level. People didn’t know who I was when I came here; that’s fine. They’ll fall in love with me and my game sooner or later.”