Boston Celtics Stock Watch: Rising and Falling Players After the First Month
While the Boston Celtics struggled to find their identity in the first month of the season, a handful of players stood out from the rest of the bunch.
It's been a bumpy ride for the Celtics so far, but the team is managing to stay above .500 by clinging to a 9-8 record. It took longer than expected, but Boston's highly anticipated bench is finally starting to develop a rhythm. However, some players are now stuck digging themselves out of a hole of inconsistency.
Some players, like Rajon Rondo, have been at the top of their game from the gate. Others, like Jason Terry, have been working through early-season struggles to find a level of consistency.
Here are a few Celtics you should keep an eye on, for good or bad.
All stats are accurate as of Dec. 3, 2012.
Rising: Rajon Rondo
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The 2012-13 season will be the year that Rajon Rondo reaches a new level. That is, the year he becomes a superstar.
Despite the Celtics' inconsistent play so far, all eyes have been on Rondo. The point guard had an outstanding 37-game double-digit assist streak. The streak only ended when Rondo was ejected from last week's game against the Brooklyn Nets after an altercation with Kris Humphries. The incident resulted in a two-game suspension for Rondo.
In previous seasons, Rondo was known for his assists and steals, but not his scoring. Last year, he averaged 45 percent from the field and 24 percent from beyond the arc. This year, his numbers have improved to 51 percent from the field and 31 percent from the three-point line.
It's not just the statistics. Rondo has proven to be a leader through his consistent hard work on the court. When Ray Allen signed with the rival Miami Heat, Rondo knew it was time to step up to the plate. He's bringing the same level of intensity he's always had, but he has added more confidence to his shot selection.
Falling: Paul Pierce
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There's no dancing around the obvious: Paul Pierce isn't the same player he was a few years ago. His productivity hasn't decreased—his numbers are nearly identical as last season—but the team captain can't do it all like he used to.
Doc Rivers has done a pretty good job masking Pierce's age by changing his plays. Whereas Pierce's main method of scoring used to be in isolation, he now relies more on screens and transitions. When he is placed in isolated situations, he's usually facing smaller or slower players.
Pierce has been struggling with his shots. His field goal percentage is down to 41.8 percent. Still, he manages to continue to be the C's leading scorer with 19.2 points per game.
Although Pierce continues to be a consistent scorer, the subtle signs of his old age are becoming more apparent.
Rising: Jason Terry
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Jason Terry had a rough start with the Boston Celtics. The former Sixth Man of the Year has started 12 of 17 games so far this season, but he struggled early to find a rhythm with his new role.
However, through confidence and patience, Terry has finally bounced back and hit his offensive stride. The veteran has put up double-digit points in four of the last five games and has seen a steady increase in minutes.
When Rajon Rondo served his two-game suspension stemming from an altercation with Kris Humphries, Terry was forced to serve as the team's primary offensive facilitator. He performed well in Saturday's game in Milwaukee, finishing with a season-high 11 assists, 15 points, three rebounds, three steals and just one turnover.
Although Terry would prefer to come off the bench, his willingness to step up to the plate is what makes him a great player. As the Celtics' offense gradually improves, Terry seems to be adjusting to an increasing role on the team.
His game isn't perfect, but he sets a perfect example for the other struggling members of the Celtics' second unit.
Falling: Courtney Lee
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Although Courtney Lee has shown significant improvement in the last couple games, his overall performance in the first month was disappointing.
Lee was supposed to be the starting shooting guard in Avery Bradley's absence, but his early-season struggles caused his playing time to decrease. Last year with the Rockets, most of Lee's shots came from transitions and pick-and-rolls. With the Celtics, Lee has better-than-average looks at jump shots that just don't seem to fall.
In three of his first four seasons, Lee shot better than 40 percent from behind the arc. However, his knack for three pointers still hasn't emerged in Boston. In 17 games, Lee only connected on 6-of-25 three pointers.
One bright spot in his game is his defense. Lee's rock solid defense will give him consistent playing time, even when his offense is not quite up to par.
Falling: Jeff Green
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Doc Rivers is disappointed with Jeff Green's performance so far this season. In an interview with Boston sports radio station WEEI, Rivers said, "I know he's better and I know he can be better."
So why isn't Jeff Green playing better? Although he has occasional flashes of great play, Green is failing to be consistent. We know that there's potential because he played well alongside Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City to start his career. Green averaged 15.1 points and six rebounds his last year in OKC, compared to the 8.9 points and 2.8 boards he's putting up this year.
After missing the entire 2011-12 season with an aortic aneurysm, Green was the center of attention at the start of the season. He needs to grasp his positions at the 3 and 4, and it's now or never. He must develop a consistent presence on the court.