OFFSEASON

Rondo pesters LeBron on defensive end

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Rondo pesters LeBron on defensive end

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Rajon Rondo is a good defender, one of the best in the NBA.

Against point guards, he's great.

An undersized shooting guard here and there, he can more than hold his own.

But LeBron James?

James wasn't exactly Rondo'd on Sunday, but Rondo did just enough to pester James into a less-than-stellar performance that was a big part of the Celtics' 85-82 win.

No individual or team will shut James down.

He did finish with a respectable 22 points, even if he needed 21 shots to get it.

But Rondo's ball pressure forced James into doing the two things he dreads the most -- picking up his dribble and looking to score in the post.

Because Rondo's hands are so quick, James couldn't back him down while dribbling, which is what he usually does when teams put a smaller defender on him.

And on the few times he was able to get Rondo backed down into the paint, the C's came with a help defender that forced James to either stop his dribble and pass or take a contested shot.

It was . . . brilliant.

Before you start patting Celtics coach Doc Rivers on the back for having the coaching acumen to make such a bold adjustment, he's quick to tell you the truth of how the move came about.

"It was Rondo's idea," Rivers said. "I told him to pressure the ball. He took that to mean, whoever brought it up. I didn't mean that. He took it that way, and then I stayed with it."

Rondo's defense on James helped the Celtics erase a three-point deficit at the half and race ahead to a lead that peaked at 13 points two different occasions.

At the half, Rondo said Delonte West, a former teammate of James in Cleveland, was among those to tell him to try and pick up the tempo.

"The only way I could do that was pressure the ball," Rondo said.

And with the Heat, usually the ball was in James' hands.

"Rondo's a very good player," James said. "He's definitely going to pick up full court no matter who is handling the ball. He's very long. He can use his length, but it didn't bother us that much."

Yeah.

Right.

Anyway, Rondo's defense was one of the many wrinkles the Celtics threw at the Heat.

Although it was successful, the Celtics seemed poised to switch out of it during a timeout, or so some -- OK, Rondo -- thought.

"When I didn't say anything," Rivers said. "Rondo was surprised."

In addition to his defense, Rondo also picked up the tempo offensively for the Celtics.

By the end of the game, he had his third triple-double of the season with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

"Everything he did on both ends of the court, he went from pressuring the ball to pushing the ball, really set the tempo in the second half," said Paul Pierce.

And as Rivers sat at a podium following the win, he still hadn't made heads or tails as to how it all worked.

"That matchup makes no sense, honestly," Rivers said.

Maybe not, but it's impact was undeniable.

"It gave us life, because he was trying so hard, working so hard, it forced everyone else to join in," Rivers said.

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

OFFSEASON

After flurry of moves, Celtics still aren't done

After flurry of moves, Celtics still aren't done

You’re probably thinking the summer fireworks are finished after the Celtics brought back Tyler Zeller, added ex-Celtic Gerald Green, and signed rookies Demetrius Jackson and Ben Bentil. It’s true, these moves do lower the likelihood of a multifaceted trade, but it doesn’t totally extinguish the odds of something seismic happening.

The Celtics still retain their flexibility, since none of these deals have actually been finalized. Even after they are, they’d still have the pieces required to make a deal work for a superstar like Blake Griffin. It’s not hard to make a valid trade for one player, but it is difficult if it’s a multi-step process like a Russell Westbrook renegotiate-and-extend trade.

“This is not necessarily what the team will be,” a source told the Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach. “There’s probably changes coming.”

Well, yeah. Changes have to come. The Celtics don’t really have a choice here.

Assuming Jaylen Brown is signed, they’ll have 18 players with at least partially guaranteed contracts. So at least three players will have to be exported before the season, since the NBA requires a maximum of 15 players on a roster.

Here’s a look at the Celtics’ current projected depth chart:

  STARTERS BENCH RESERVES ON THE BUBBLE
FRONT COURT Amir Johnson Kelly Olynyk Tyler Zeller  
Al Horford Jonas Jerebko Jordan Mickey Ben Bentil*
Jae Crowder Jaylen Brown* Gerald Green James Young
BACK COURT Avery Bradley Marcus Smart RJ Hunter John Holland*
Isaiah Thomas Terry Rozier Demetrius Jackson  

So, something has to happen. It’s just a matter of what. You can choose to believe the Celtics aren’t actually trying to make a blockbuster move. Or you can choose to believe the signals that have been firing off this month from the Celtics themselves indicating they’re “not done.”

It wouldn’t be difficult for the Celtics to get closer to 15 players by completing a blockbuster trade for a player like Griffin.
 
Perhaps some combination of veterans (Amir Johnson, Avery Bradley, and Jonas Jerebko) with youth (Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, R.J. Hunter, and James Young) and draft picks (2018 Nets pick) could bring in Griffin and Paul Pierce.

Saturday’s moves make sense regardless of any transactions to follow.

Zeller is a bargain at just $8 million as a steadying presence on both ends of the floor. But, if Johnson were dealt, he’d be able to slide right up the depth chart as the team’s backup center.

Green shot 37.2 percent on spot up threes, per SportVU, over the past three years, so he provides spacing as a scorer who can catch fire. Considering Brad Stevens’ track record of sapping every ounce of talent out of each of his players -- hello, Jordan Crawford! -- it’s possible the Celtics will be getting the Green who scored an efficient 15.8 points per game just two years ago in Phoenix, and not the subpar Green who struggled to stay on the court last year in Miami.

If one or two of Boston’s young wings were dealt, Green, on a mere veteran minimum contract, would have an even easier path to playing time as a spark off the bench.

It’s difficult to read into the signings of second-round picks Jackson and Bentil, but either way the should both spend the season developing with the Celtics’ D-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws.

The Celtics haven’t made a move yet, but they also haven’t done anything to suggest they’re entirely done. These moves could be precursors to something significant, or not. But at the least they provide depth to an already impressive roster.

OFFSEASON

Report: Celtics agree to deals with Zeller and picks Jackson, Bentil

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Report: Celtics agree to deals with Zeller and picks Jackson, Bentil

On a busy Saturday for the Celtics, they have brought back center Tyler Zeller and agreed to deals with draft picks Demetrius Jackson and Ben Bentil, Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe reported.

Earlier Saturday, Sean Deveney of the Sporting News reported that the Celtics will sign guard Gerald Green. 

Himmelsbach reports that Zeller's is a $16 million, two-year deal with the second-year not guaranteed. Jackson, the point guard from Notre Dame who was the 45th overall selection in the draft, has a guaranteed deal and Bentil, the forward from Providence who was the 51st player drafted, has a partially guaranteed deal. 

Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald reported that the second-year of Zeller's deal is a team option and that Green agreed to a one-year deal at the $1.4 million veteran mininum based on his nine years of NBA service.

The 7-foot Zeller averaged 6.1 points and 3.0 rebounds in 11.8 minutes a game last season. 

R.J. Hunter, James Young, Bentil and John Holland are in position to fight for the final roster spot, Himmelsbach reports, pending more deals, which the Celtics are reportedly working on. A source told Himmelsbach, that while there are probably changes coming, "There is no big deal right now." 

Bulpett reported that Celtics' talks with the Philadelphia 76ers involving a deal for Sixers' big man Jahlil Okafor have, according to sources, grown "stale" and that the moves Saturday put 2014 draft pick James Young's roster spot in jeopardy.

With Green, Zeller, and No. 3 overall pick Jaylen Brown, the Celtics have has 15 guaranteed contracts and three partial or non-guaranteed deals. 

 

OFFSEASON

Report: Celtics to bring back Gerald Green with one-year deal

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Report: Celtics to bring back Gerald Green with one-year deal

The Celtics will sign free agent Gerald Green, the guard they drafted with the 18th overall pick back in 2005, Sean Deveney of the Sporting News reported.

Green, 30, played for the Miami Heat last season and averaged 8.9 points a game. Deveney reports Green will sign a one-year guaranteed contract. 

Green has been well-traveled since being traded by the Celtics in the Kevin Garnett deal in 2007, the year he won the NBA All-Star Slam Dunk contest. He has played for seven other NBA teams and played two seasons in Russia. His best season was 2013-14 in Phoenix when he averaged 15.8 points a game for the Suns. 

Deveney also reports that sources around the league continue to indicate the Celtics are looking to make a trade for a "star-caliber type" player. Last week, he reported on their interest in the Clippers' Blake Griffin.