Boston Celtics Starting 5: Your Complete Weekly Preview of Everything Celtics
Hello and welcome to the first installment of Boston Celtics Starting 5.
Every week I will be providing the readers with a healthy dose of everything involving the boys in green. From a quick recap of the previous week to a glance ahead to the upcoming games, this is your source for all the big stories involving the team. You'll even get a chance to partake in all of the fun.
So without further ado, let's get this show on the road.
The Week in Review
Wednesday, Dec. 5 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves – W 104-94
Friday, Dec. 7 @ Philadelphia 76ers – L 95-94 (OT)
Saturday, Dec. 8 vs. Philadelphia 76ers – W 92-79
Graced with the return of Rajon Rondo, the Celtics put together a pretty nice week. They looked really good during their two victories against two solid opponents. Even though they may have lost a close contest on Friday, the performances of Paul Pierce (27 points) and Rondo (16 points, 13 rebounds and 14 assists) should take away much of the pain.
After struggling for most of the season, Jeff Green is looking like he’s finally begun to regain his old form again.
During November, Green averaged 8.7 points per game and shot 42.1 percent from the field in 15 appearances. His play seemed to hint that Green was struggling to get back on the court after missing all of last season due to surgery following being diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm.
It was a disappointment for a player who provided a spark off the bench for Boston during the 2010-11 season.
However, December has brought about the return of that production for Green. Maybe, even better than it was before.
In four games this month, the 26-year-old is averaging 15.3 points per game, shooting 56.8 percent from the floor and draining 60.0 percent of his shots from three-point range (6-of-10). Furthermore, he’s put together consecutive 15-plus point outings for the first time this season—his fourth in the last five games.
It’s a turning of the corner that could prove highly beneficial for a Celtics team that is high in demand for some bench production. The team currently ranks No. 20 in the league in that category.
Here’s to hoping he can keep it up.
By the Numbers
Zero – the amount of rebounds Kevin Garnett finished with during the Celtics’ 92-79 victory over the 76ers on Saturday night.
You’d have to go back all the way to Jan. 21, 1997, for the last time Garnett failed to grab a rebound. It marks only the fourth such occurrence in his 17-year NBA career.
24 – the amount of triple-doubles Rondo has recorded since 2008-09.
Did You Miss Me?
The Celtics will have an added incentive in ringing in the New Year this time around. That’s because that’s the projected timetable for the return of injured guard Avery Bradley.
President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge broke the news last week:
I think our timetable is to get him back probably after the West Coast trip,” Ainge said. “I mean, that’s hopeful. I hate doing timetables, but we are getting closer, and he is looking good. We’d like to get him practicing, and we’re going to contemplate the possibility of some rehab games in Portland, maybe one or two. Maybe none. But we’ll be really careful with Avery.
The West Coast trip Ainge speaks of wraps up with a Dec. 30 matchup against the Sacramento Kings. That hints at the possibility of Bradley returning for Boston’s home game against the Memphis Grizzlies on Jan. 2.
The 22-year-old has even stated recently that he believes he is "more closer" to practicing with the team.
However, at his young age, the Celtics would be wise to handle Bradley’s return with a little more caution. Sure, his return would greatly improve the team’s sluggish defending. But is it worth the risk of prematurely bringing back one of Boston’s biggest defensive assets?
A rehab stint with the Red Claws sounds like the best first step.
Some people would rather cough up a large sum of money than to kiss Celtics’ rookie Jared Sullinger.
Well, in Chris Wilcox’s case, it’s more so how he rejected the offer.
During the fourth quarter of Friday’s 95-94 loss to the 76ers, the jumboton “Kiss Cam” concluded with a shot of both Sullinger and Wilcox sitting next to each other on the Boston bench.
The Philadelphia fans got a kick out of it, prompting the 10-year veteran to flash the middle finger to the cameraman for all in attendance to see.
It’s a lack of focus that will cost the forward/center.
NBA Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Stu Jackson announced Sunday that the league had fined Wilcox $25,000 for his actions.
Close but No Cigar
Rondo had quite the return, following his two-game suspension.
In three games last week, the Celtics' point guard averaged 13.3 points, 12.0 assists and 7.7 rebounds per game. He was stellar in each game, earning him a Player of the Week nomination.
Rondo had 17 points and 11 assists in Boston’s 104-94 victory over the Timberwolves on Wednesday. However, he easily one-upped that effort, recording a triple-double (16 points, 14 assists and 13 rebounds) in Friday’s loss to the 76ers.
The 26-year-old nearly recorded a second one with his efforts Philadelphia on Saturday (seven points, 11 assists and nine rebounds).
Tweet of the Week
Courtney Lee took to Twitter following his costly three-point miss during Friday's loss.
It's great he's taking responsibility for his shortcoming during the game. Now, how about one for the entire season thus far?
Wednesday, Dec. 12 vs. Dallas Mavericks – 8:00 p.m. EST (ESPN)
Friday, Dec. 14 @ Houston Rockets – 8:00 p.m. EST (ESPN)
Saturday, Dec. 15 @ San Antonio Spurs – 8:30 p.m. EST
It’s not the easiest schedule for the Celtics this week. Up first, the team plays host to a confident Mavericks team that has won three of their last four games. Following that, Boston flies to Texas to begin a three-game road trip.
While the team is 7-4 at home this season, they’re only 4-5 on the road. On the other hand, the Celtics have won four of five match ups against Western Conference foes thus far.
Boston currently ranks No. 17 in the league in three-point shooting this season, hitting 34.7 percent of their shots.
The mark itself is decent. However, lately, they’ve been downright atrocious from downtown.
In their last three games, the Celtics shot 14-of-53 (26.4 percent) from beyond the arc—the worst percentage in the league in that span. Oddly enough, the team has managed a 49.5 overall field goal percentage.
More specifically, Paul Pierce shot 2-of-16 (11.7 percent) from range, while Jason Terry—5-of-17 (29.4 percent)—didn’t fare too much better.
Boston will have to improve on that front, as they play the No. 6 and No. 10 team in the same category.
“Will Avery Bradley’s return give the Celtics a top-2 seed in the Eastern Conference come playoff time?”
-Jimmy (Dover, MA)
Before the season began, I predicted that the Celtics would not only secure a top-two seed in the playoffs, but they would also make another run toward the NBA Finals this season. With all their offseason acquisitions paired with the grit they displayed during last year’s playoffs, I thought it was a no-brainer.
However, going off what I’ve seen so far in their 11-9 start, I just might have to retract that prediction.
But that doesn’t mean that Bradley’s return won’t help improve Boston in several categories.
For starters, the Celtics are currently allowing opponents 96.7 points per game. Last season, the team finished No. 2 in the league, allowing only 89.3 points per game. Furthermore, during the 28 games Bradley was in the starting lineup the team allowed only 84.7 points per game.
It’s no secret that Bradley’s perimeter defense could match up with that of any other defender in the league. It’s a huge asset Boston would gladly welcome back to the team.
However, what the team needs to shoot back up to elite status goes well beyond just one player.
Some of that blame can be credited to the underwhelming performances from players who were expected to boost the team’s bench. Instead, Jeff Green has struggled to regain his rhythm and Courtney Lee has been downright disappointing—he currently holds a dreadful PER of 7.2.
Throw in their rebounding woes, and Boston really has some work to do if they hope to snatch a top-two seed this year. Especially when you consider the surprising starts of New York, Atlanta and Chicago.
As it stands now, I think a four or five seed is fitting for the Celtics.
Speaking of rebounding…
“Would you ever consider putting Paul Pierce at shooting guard and Jeff Green at small forward to add more athleticism to the roster? Especially in terms of rebounding.”
-Jethro (Lancaster, MA)
If you asked me this question a week ago, I would of said no emphatically.
However, with the recent strong play of Green, this move could provide some interesting results for the Celtics. Although, I do see any change of this manner proving to be more of a stopgap solution until Bradley’s return than anything else.
At 6’6”, Pierce would provide Boston with a significant height advantage over their current shooting guard, 6’2” Jason Terry. Thus far, Terry has only brought down an average of 2.0 rebounds per game. Pierce, on the other hand, averages 5.4 per game. He would provide the team with both a boost in points and rebounding at the position.
During his time with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Green served primarily as the team’s starting power forward. He averaged numbers of 15.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game over three seasons.
His recent run of play—16.0 points and 4.2 rebounds per game during an average of 24.2 minutes per game in his last five outings—might suggest that the 26-year-old is returning to his superior level of play.
At the small forward, Green would pretty much make up for the production the Celtics were getting with Pierce at the position.
The only concern comes with Pierce’s declining level of play.
At 35 years old, the miles are starting to add up. Boston wouldn’t want Pierce running around the court with his old legs. Not to mention, in a position that favors a lot of catch-and-shoot, Pierce’s current 41.5 field goal percentage ranks as the second-worst mark of his 14-year career.
Pierce has proven to be more of a wing player who likes to control the ball. So having him coming off screens isn’t the best utilization of his skills.
Considering the impending return of Bradley, this is a move that head coach Doc Rivers is better suited to simply pass up.
Even more on rebounding…
“Should Danny Ainge pursue a trade for a rebounding big man, or should they wait on Bradley’s return and see where they are?”
Let’s face it: The Celtics are downright awful at rebounding.
Boston ranks dead last in the league in the category, averaging 38.3 rebounds per game. In fact, they’ve ranked in the bottom two of the league in rebounding in each of the last three seasons.
Bradley and his 1.4 career rebounds per game average are not going to change that. The Celtics need to bring someone in now.
However, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Anderson Varejao should be their top priority.
Varejao is putting up insane numbers, averaging 15.2 rebounds per game to go along with his 14.5 points per game. He’s already posted 15-plus points and 15-plus rebounds in the same game nine times this season. That includes a streak of five-straight games from Nov. 26 to Dec. 3.
At 5-17, the Cavaliers are definitely in the midst of rebuilding. Which makes moving the 30-year-old in favor of some younger players from the Celtics—such as Jared Sullinger, Fab Melo and/or Brandon Bass—a very possible scenario.
However, with the center’s stock at the highest it’s ever been, Cleveland could likely demand a steeper price. One that might include Boston giving up the services of Bradley—a move Rivers would likely be against.
If the two teams can come to some sort of agreement on a deal, Varejao might just prove to be the answer the Celtics need under the rim.
Also check out: 4 Players the Celtics Must Pursue Before the Trade Deadline
Comments, suggestions or just want to get your question posted in next week's edition? Just send them along to Sebastian on Twitter at @SP7988