Celtics still have plenty to play for

Celtics still have plenty to play for
March 25, 2014, 2:15 pm
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WALTHAM, Mass. — The evaluation process is in full effect now, and it ain't just the college kids, either.

As much as the basketball world's focus these days is centered around the NCAA tournament and the NBA prospects playing in it, players currently in the league are under the watchful eye of NBA scouts and executives as well.

You have players near the end of their contracts trying to impress for their next lucrative deal (they hope). And you have young players whose minutes may be up and down, trying to prove they belong in the regular rotation.

That's why teams like the Celtics, who know there's no postseason awaiting them, have lots to play for in these final days of the NBA season.

"For me, just finishing this season out strong and understanding that you are evaluated every time you step on the floor," said second-year pro Jared Sullinger. "I can't just kind of just say forget about this season. I have to come out and play hard."

Sullinger is still on his rookie contract, so he doesn't have nearly as much pressure to impress as Jared Bayless, who will be a free agent this summer.

Well aware of this, Bayless said the best thing for him is to just play his game and not think about his impending free-agent status.

"I'm just going to continue to play my game," Bayless told CSNNE.com. "You can't worry about things you can't control. All I can do is try to improve and help this team close out this season with some wins."

Coach Brad Stevens has been evaluating the entire roster all season. And with a dozen games to play, Stevens said the way he judges players won't change.

"You're judging them based on how efficient they are in the minutes they play," Stevens said. "That's the most important thing, how productive are you when you are on the court?"

But within that, Stevens added, there are intangibles that only the coaching staff sees on a daily basis that's also taken into account when examining a player's body of work.

"There's obviously, the most tangible way for everybody to evaluated is by their statistics in a game," Stevens said. "But we get to see them every day. We get to see their work in the weight room, their work on the court, their practice habits, their shooting before, they're shooting after; all those things that add up."

But there is a balance that has to be struck among players trying to perform at their best, but not being overly selfish along the way.

"It's tough," Sullinger admitted. "But at the same time we understand that this is basketball and we get paid to compete and not let the season just go by. We're competing everyday, we're trying to get better everyday and we're trying to understand that maybe these 12 games can carry over into the next year."

 He added, "as a team, we showed that we haven't given up."