Rivers on Dooling: 'He's just coming on'

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Rivers on Dooling: 'He's just coming on'

MINNEAPOLIS Keyon Dooling is an 11-year veteran, but he might as well be a wet-behind-the-ear rookie when it comes to gaining the trust of Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers to put him on the floor during critical moments.

Dooling's presence has been a huge plus for the C's locker room, but multiple injuries along with a condensed schedule have afforded him few opportunities to prove his worth on the court.

Now that he's healthy, the 6-foot-3 guard is starting to string together the kind of play the Celtics envisioned him providing.

And the timing could not be better, with the C's (28-22) in a tightly contested race for the Atlantic Division crown all while once again dealing with injuries.

There were a number of players who stepped up in Boston's 94-82 win over Utah on Wednesday, but few delivered as big a shot as Dooling's 3-pointer in the fourth quarter that broke open a 66-all tie after the C's squandered an 18-point lead.

"Keyon, he's just coming on," said Rivers.

Boston came into the season planning to play Dooling at both guard positions off the bench, although more time would be spent as Rajon Rondo's backup at the point. That would have allowed Avery Bradley to come off the bench and play the bulk of his minutes behind Ray Allen.

But a sore right knee injury kept Dooling out for seven games in January. Less than a week after returning from that injury, he suffered a hip pointer injury that kept him out for another nine games.

With him out, Bradley played more at the point and has since blossomed into a reliable role player off the bench, or a last-minute fill-in as a starter.

Bradley, a second-year guard who played sparingly as a rookie, has indeed come a long way in gaining Rivers' trust.

And he did it the only way it can be done, and that's making the most of every opportunity to play.

Dooling is starting to follow a similar path with the C's now.

"At the end of the day, everybody's banged up this time of year," Dooling said. "But I'm starting to earn Doc's trust a little more; starting to find my niche and role on this team. I want to continue to try and execute it every night."

That means coming into the game, providing solid defense, steady play in the backcourt and when given an opportunity to make a difference, not shying away from the moment.

Dooling did just that in Wednesday's win.

In addition to the 3-pointer he hit to break a 66-all tie, Dooling would later drill a 20-foot jumper that put the C's up by five points. Boston was able to maintain a two-possession lead or greater for the rest of the night.

Boston went into the fourth clinging to a five-point lead. To see it wiped out less than a minute into the fourth, Rivers would have been justified in yanking the backups and bringing more starters back on the floor.

But Rivers stuck with the second-unit guys like Dooling, and they rewarded him with some clutch plays that went far in extending Boston's home winning streak to seven in a row.

For Dooling, it was just another example of the ebb and flow in his first season with the Celtics.

"Just because you're not a young player means you're exempt from the emotions of the game," Dooling said. "You ride the highs, and sometimes you feel the lows. We're at a point now where a team makes a run, you don't get snatched out. You being out there being able to make plays is a gratifying feeling."

Avery Bradley (Achilles) returning to Celtics lineup vs. Hawks

Avery Bradley (Achilles) returning to Celtics lineup vs. Hawks

BOSTON – The wait is finally over for the Boston Celtics and Avery Bradley.
 
Bradley will return to the Celtics starting lineup tonight after having missed the previous 18 games (and 22 out of 23) with a right Achilles injury.
 
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said Bradley will play with a minutes restriction for the first week, and adjust accordingly.
 
Although Jaylen Brown has done a solid job filling in for Bradley with the first unit, Stevens had every intention of Bradley returning as a starter.
 
“He’s our starting two-guard,” Stevens said. “We started the year really well as far as that group playing together. We haven’t had that group playing together very often. Jaylen and Marcus (Smart) are both able to give us a lot off the bench as well as if we need to plug them into a (starting) lineup later on. We feel good about that.”
 
As far as handling Bradley’s minutes this week, Stevens has a very simple approach to what he needs to do.
 
“I’m just going to play him in the first couple of stints,” Stevens said. “And when his minutes run out he won’t play anymore. It is hard if you’re trying to save minutes for the end. I’m not sure that makes a lot of sense with getting stiff, sitting for a long time, coming off a long lay-off.”
 
Bradley is the Celtics’ second-leading scorer at 17.7 points per game along with a team-high 6.9 rebounds. A first-team All-NBA Defender last season, Bradley is also shooting a career-high 40.9 percent from 3-point range.

Arizona Cardinals place franchise tag on Chandler Jones

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Arizona Cardinals place franchise tag on Chandler Jones

PHOENIX - The Arizona Cardinals, in an anticipated move, have placed a non-exclusive franchise tag on outside linebacker Chandler Jones after failing to reach a long-term deal with the player.

The non-exclusive tag allows the Cardinals to continue negotiating with Jones through July 15. If another team makes him an offer, Arizona can either match it or receive two first-round draft picks.

It's unlikely that any team would express interest in Jones, however, given what it would cost.

Under the franchise tag, Jones would receive about $15 million for the coming season.

Acquired in a trade with New England a year ago, Jones had 11 sacks, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and 15 tackles for loss last season

Jones has 25 1-2 sacks over the past two seasons, third-most in the NFL over that span.

The Cardinals' move came two days before the NFL deadline for making franchise designations.

It also came on Jones' 27th birthday, prompting teammate David Johnson to tweet "Happy BDay to `The Man,' `Mr. Franchise' himself.....The one and only."

The franchise tag move came as no surprise.

Club President Michael Bidwill has stated all along that Jones would not be going anywhere, that the team didn't make the trade - sending guard Jonathan Cooper and a second-round draft pick to New England - to keep him just for one season.

"We're not going to mess around with that," Bidwill said in a recent interview on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. "He's a great pass rusher, but if we can't agree to terms that work for us, we're just going to franchise him, and his people know that."

Jones immediately upgraded what had been an average Cardinals pass rush at best. His fellow outside linebacker Markus Golden had 12 1-2 sacks and seven tackles for loss. Together they form one of the better outside pass rush combinations in the NFL.

By all accounts, the contract talks with Jones have been cordial and Jones has said he wants to stay in Arizona.

"I love it here," he said near the end of last season. "I love the vibe that the people give off and I can see myself being here for a long time."

Chandler heads a long list of free agents that the Cardinals must either re-sign or let go. That group includes starters defensive tackle Calais Campbell, safety Tony Jefferson and inside linebacker Kevin Minter.