Jared Sullinger’s 280-pound weight isn’t specifically to blame for his fractured left foot injury that will cost the Celtics’ power forward the remainder of his season. However, it’s been clear to Celtics personnel and fans that the big man was not in the shape he should have been for the third straight season of his NBA career.
Today, in an interview with Toucher and Rich on 98.5 The Sports Hub, Danny Ainge brought this issue to light in pointed fashion. It’s clear excuse time for Sullinger is over. Here are Ainge’s unedited remarks.
“Well, Jared and I have talked a lot about [his conditioning] over the past year. It’s something we take great pride in with our players. Our players have really bought in to our program and a lot of guys – I think every guy has met the goals that they have set in regards to strength and conditioning, and body-fat, and weight, and all the different things our strength coaches do on a regular basis. Jared just hasn’t met his goals. He’s not up to the standards that he wants, and is not up to the standards that we think are in his best interests for the long-term health of his career. He’s not up to par to the standards that we feel are necessary to be a consistent winning player and play with great conditioning. Read the rest of this entry »
Brandon Bass, C27 MIN | 4-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | +6 +/-
At times he made some of the energy plays Sullinger used to pull off, which was kind of cool. Other than that, standard fare for Bass, but you’d hope for more against a terrible Knicks team.
Tyler Zeller, C17 MIN | 4-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | -5 +/-
Early foul trouble and the sudden emergence of Jerebko put the kibosh on Zeller’s night pretty quickly. Not a good look when you’re being outplayed by the likes of Lou Amundson.
Avery Bradley, PG32 MIN | 5-12 FG | 1-1 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 12 PTS | +11 +/-
Mediocre shooting night for Bradley coming off a quietly stellar road trip, and the defense wasn’t quite there, either. Just looked slow. Let’s hope for a bounceback on Friday.
Marcus Smart, PG30 MIN | 6-9 FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 16 PTS | +22 +/-
It’s not just the percentage of 3′s that’s encouraging for Smart, it’s the timing of a lot of them. Tonight he drove the dagger into the Knick’s heart early in the 4th with back-to-back long bombs. “Having cojones” is a skill in my book.
Evan Turner, SG34 MIN | 5-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 12 REB | 10 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | +20 +/-
Bonus points and congrats on the career first, Evan! It was probably the quietest, least flashy triple-double I’ve ever watched, but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t ultra-efficient. I’ll gladly take Turner being efficient on any given night.
Jonas Jerebko, PF21 MIN | 7-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 20 PTS | +15 +/-
That was a pretty fantastic Kelly Olynyk impression from Jonas. He even borrowed one of KO’s patented herky-jerky awkward drives to the basket. Why couldn’t Detroit use him again?
Gerald Wallace, SF7 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | 0 +/-
I’m thrilled Wallace is getting some time now, I’m just not sure even the smallball 4 thing is going to work.
Luigi Datome, SF4 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -1 +/-
Gigi and Geno might have to bareknuckle box for the Celtics’ Victory Cigar title, and Geno might have his work cut out for him.
Jae Crowder, SF29 MIN | 7-12 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 18 PTS | +28 +/-
Now THIS guy as a smallball 4 was pretty effective. Timely 3′s, hustle plays, kept the ball moving, and a +28. I still hate +/- as a stat in itself, but that’s solid.
Isaiah Thomas, PG27 MIN | 3-10 FG | 11-11 FT | 6 REB | 7 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 19 PTS | +21 +/-
Lost a little luster with some poor shooting, and he was mediocre early, but holy 11 free throws, Batman! (You know it’s a weird year when that’s one of the exciting points of the night)
James Young, SG8 MIN | 0-1 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 1 PTS | -8 +/-
You’d think he’d get a bit more garbage run, but he also just didn’t look that good, so whatever.
Brad StevensGetting outplayed by these Knicks for about 34 minutes isn’t really something to write home about, but the last 14 were enough to mostly make up for it. Got creative with lineups when they needed it, and they worked. God help them when they face a team with actually talented forwards and centers.
Tonight the Celtics return to the Hub to take on the woeful New York Knickerbockers. Tonight’s 7:30 game will be the third of four regular season meetings between the division rivals.
Way back on December 12th, the Celtics embarrassingly lost to the Knicks in Boston 101-95. More recently, however, the C’s beat the Knicks 108-97 earlier this month behind Avery Bradley’s 26 points.
This will be the first game in Boston for new comer Isaiah Thomas, who has scored 21 points in each of his first two games with the Celtics. Given the quality of opponent, this could be quite the Garden party for ‘Saiah, who seems to know exactly how to handle an audience.
The Celtics did just lose to the Lakers, who match the Knicks in ineptitude, so the Celtics really can’t afford to mail this one in. Let’s discuss.
The last mock draft I read had the Celtics taking UCLA’s Kevon Looney. As I am unreasonable and superstitious, I am now completely convinced this is what will happen in reality. I’m not psyched on this outcome.
Who is he? He’s Wisconsin’s Mr. Basketball of 2014, that’s who!
Something tells me there was not a lot of competition for the award. I’ve watched a few videos of Looney now, and his go-to move is his patented “Be a Foot Taller Than Everyone Else.”
Feast your eyes on these highlights, as Looney dazzles opponents by dribbling with one hand AND THEN THE OTHER before pulling up for a jumper over Billy from Kenosha, who’s only playing ball because he didn’t get the part of Sky Masterson in the school musical.
The normal grading system is being a little wonky, so we’re doing this manually. Here’s the box score for reference. (I give my HTML skills an A+.)
Brandon Bass: Can you be a team’s wily vet when you’re 29? I think that’s Bass’ current and future role, and I love it. That said, I hate how he howls like a schnauzer when he’s trying to get a foul call during his (often cleanly blocked) layup attempts. Grade: B+
Tyler Zeller: The big man threw on his hard hat for this one! Zeller seems to have officially lost his feathery touch, but as the lone big to see the floor for the Cs, he had to handle every giant Phoenix tossed out there, and he acquitted himself well. That said, Alex Len ate his lunch and his in-flight meal for the return trip to Boston. Grade: B
Avery Bradley: AB trying to create his own shot:
AB working the corners and baseline:
How has AB turned his season around in a blink of an eye?: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Grade: A-
Marcus Smart: He just keeps getting better on D, which is crazy, but he’s still on the ground floor of figuring out the pro offense. Strides are being made, and so are some god-awful passes. (Nifty floater, though!) Grade: B
Evan Turner: Evan, you’re at a crossroads. Look at Isaiah. Dynamic scorer. I’m sorry, but that’s not you. Look at Jae. Picks his spots. Plays smart and always finds a way to contribute. That’s your new role, and I think you could be really good at it. Grade: B-
Gerald Wallace: He hit his first three in a year! He also just kinda fell out of bounds with the ball at one point. Grade: B-
Jae Crowder: He was 4-9 from three, including a late dagger. On many of those shots, there wasn’t a Sun within four feet of him. Methinks that may be due to the next guy. Grade: B+
Isaiah Thomas: It’s just a completely different offense when he’s in there. I think he’d actually work well with AB as a starter. They’re the best shooters, and Thomas can handle the ball, leaving Bradley free to work the baseline. It’s an exciting start so far, and you can’t blame a guy who’s 5’7″ for capitalizing on the chance to stare people down. Grade: A-
James Young: One more minute and he would have tied his PR for the year. I think may favorite part of the broadcast was hearing how surprised Mike Gorman was whenever Young got a rebound. Makes sense, though. The kid needs to build strength. Two more years and 20 more pounds of muscle, and Young is a completely new player. Grade: B-
Shavlik Randolph: I thought he played OK against Boogie. Surprised we didn’t see him. Grade: Inc.
Jonas Jerebko: Not totally surprised we didn’t see him. Grade: Inc.
Luigi Datome: They should just superimpose Luigi’s face onto Gino’s. Grade: Inc.
Phil Pressey: Oh, man. I hate to say it, but we may have seen the last of Phil as a rotation player. Grade: Inc.
Brad Stevens: I love when Stevens gets mad, his expression doesn’t change, and his face doesn’t get red or anything. He just SPEAKS. MORE. DETERMINEDLY. He gets dad mad. I’m excited to see how he works these three-guard lineups going forward. Docking points for the Smart-Young-Turner-Crowder-Bass crunch-time lineup. What was that? Grade: B+
In 25 minutes, Isaiah Thomas had 21 points, 4 turnovers, 3 assists (including a very pretty pass to Smart underneath), two steals, two technicals, and at least 5,000 Celtics fans fall in love with him. Short of giving Jack Nicholson a wet willy, I’m not sure how he could have made last night any more entertaining.
Let’s get the boring dead horse/elephant in the room out of the way first. The offensive foul called on Thomas with a little more than 5 minutes left was a borderline call at best that hadn’t been called throughout the game on anyone else on either team. It’s unfortunate, but it happens, and it wasn’t even close to the worst call of the night (Marcus Smart and maybe even Ronnie Price have pretty strong cases for that honor). The first technical was pretty legit; you can’t make outwardly emotional gestures anymore, and slamming the ball on the floor has been a technical even before the league became stingy about reactions. The second technical was what we’ll euphemistically call “curious”, as the explanation afterwards made it seem like Thomas whipped a 100 mph fastball at Tony Brothers’ head. In a morally just plane of existence, there’s no real reason Thomas should have been ejected.
But basketball is not played in a morally just plane of existence. Referees have different agendas and tendencies, and for all we know Thomas had been working Brothers all night. Regardless of how legit or not the calls were, Thomas let emotions get the better of him in a late-game situation, and it ended up costing him and the team. He handled it correctly after the game, and the team should move on without a hitch.
Fans should move on as well, because the referee nonsense put a wet towel on what was otherwise a fantastic game for Thomas. Thomas was in full attack mode throughout the game, scoring in just about every way imaginable. He hit three’s both off the dribble and off the catch. He beat his defender off the dribble and muscled his way to the hoop at will. He got to the line at an absurd rate – 7 attempts in 25 minutes, something we haven’t seen since Paul Pierce left. He even broke out in the midrange game, hitting a couple of stepback fade-away jumpers that had pretty much everyone in green absolutely delighted. Granted, it was against the Lakers, which means taking the show with an entire salt lick, but it was still exciting to see someone on this team who could put the ball in the basket at will.
The most exciting development for me was seeing a consistently competent pick and roll game. Thomas is so quick and strong, he can get by both defenders involved in the pick pretty much at will. If the defender falls back, Thomas has no problem pulling up for a jumper.
If he can consistently hit from the midrange like he did last night, he’s going to be a nightmare for opponents to defend, and having a pick-setter who can hit from long range will make it all the more dangerous (if only we had some of those…).
Thomas also gave the ball to more Lakers than Celtics, which is a problem. They weren’t even great defensive plays from Los Angeles, just really lazy mistakes from Thomas – a slow lob of a cross-court pass here, a lack of real effort to get away from a press there. It remains to be seen whether this is a full-time trend or just a lack of feel for a new offense, but those kinds of mistakes will drive a team mad, and Coach Stevens will have none of it.
One lineup that will be an interesting prospect for the future is some combo of Thomas-Bradley-Smart, with Smart presumably covering the opponent’s 3-spot. Both Smart and Bradley are strong guys who can handle bigger players, but Smart’s ability to cover taller wings will be the ultimate factor in whether the lineup works or not. One of the concerns coming off the trade for Thomas was how he would impact the development of the other two guards, but having all three on the court together as much as possible will be a boon for this team. They complement each other well, and the amount of quickness and athleticism involved would be absurd.
It didn’t really work last night, as the Lakers guards drove into the paint basically at will, but that was the case against basically any Boston lineup out there. The bigger test will be against lineups with real size, as Eastern teams with bigger athletic wings such as Miami (Deng), Toronto (DeRozan) and Milwaukee (basically everyone) might be too much for a smaller lineup to handle. If Smart or Bradley can handle their own, that adds a strong layer to a team struggling to find an identity because of constant moves and trying to put square pegs into round holes.
It all added up to a pretty stellar debut for Isaiah Thomas. The team already looks much more dangerous offensively when he was on the floor, and the drop-off when he left was palpable, especially in overtime. Problems on defense and ball security will need to be addressed, but for the time-being, there’s an exciting new toy in town. If he can consistently be half as exciting as he was last night (perhaps minus the fiery reactions to bad calls), once some of the other pieces come into place, this team will be interesting on offense going forward.
He gets minimally docked for his efficiency, but you can’t ask for more onions than the shot he drained at the end of regulation.
Marcus Smart, PG31 MIN | 3-9 FG | 5-7 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 11 PTS | -4 +/-
Frustrating night for Smart, and even though he was 0-for-5 from 3-point range, the frustration wasn’t entirely his fault: Sometimes officials just don’t let an aggressive style of defense go. Also sometimes officials are completely incompetent for 48 minutes, and tonight was a bit of both.
The Celtics are in Los Angeles to face the hapless Lakers, the second meeting of the season between two of the most historic franchises in league history.
Last time the two teams met, they notched yet another historic statistic, albeit a rather sad one. When they last played in December -a 113-96 Boston victory- the teams’ combined .286 winning percentage was the lowest total of any Celtics-Lakers game ever. Today the two teams meet having won a combined 31.1% of their games.
This time around the game will be largely devoid of stars, with Rondo in Dallas and Kobe still sidelined. Still, tonight is Oscar night, and while the C’s are in Hollywood, its time to hand out some shiny accolades for some of the best performances of the Celtics season thus far. Read the rest of this entry »
The Celtics announced Sunday afternoon that Jared Sullinger will be sidelined for the rest of the year. Sullinger is out with a stress fracture in his left foot, and after leaving the team to undergo testing back in Boston, it was confirmed the third year power forward will miss the remainder of the season.
Sullinger is the Celtics’ leading scorer and rebounder, and across the board was having himself a career year. Shutting down Sullinger will put extra pressure on Boston’s remaining big men, who in his absence gave up 31 points and 15 rebounds to Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins Friday night.
Sullinger removed himself from practice in Sacramento on Wednesday, and it is believed he first injured the foot in question during Boston’s win over Atlanta before the All-Star Break. Even before the team knew he would miss the entirety of the season, Sullinger said of his injury, “It sucks, honestly, especially with the type of push we’re trying to make.”
In a piece for Boston.com, I explored how the Celtics were able to use a trade exception from the KG/Pierce deal and turn it into Isaiah Thomas. Here’s an excerpt from that article explaining the origin:
The Celtics used the $10.4 million trade exception acquired in the Nets deal in July 2013 to gain multiple assets in a separate three-team trade with the Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers last summer.
At the time of that three-team deal, the Cavaliers were looking to dump salary in order to clear the necessary salary-cap room to sign LeBron James. The Celtics served as a facilitator in that transaction by agreeing to take on the hefty salary of Marcus Thornton ($8.6 million) without sending any salary back to the Nets or Cavs in the trade. As payment for taking on an overpaid Thornton, the Celtics also received a promising young center in Tyler Zeller, as well as a 2016 first-round pick from the Cavs. Read the rest of this entry »