No one on the Boston Celtics is particularly pleased with a 4-8 record to this point, especially considering a handful of close games that have slipped away. But when the team takes a minute to reflect on the big picture on Thanksgiving Day, coach Brad Stevens and his charges can be thankful for progress.

[+] EnlargeBrad Stevens and Jared Sullinger
Jim Davis/The Boston Globe/Getty Images
"I think the biggest thing is, you look at it from the record standpoint and, again, you’re disappointed in a couple of the close losses," Stevens told reporters before Wednesday's practice. "But I’m not disappointed in the progress or how we’re playing; [it's] closer to meeting our standards, which is good. Hey, we’ve gotta make up some ground as these coming months happen. But at the same time, it’s still about getting better and playing to what we’re trying to do from a day-to-day basis. I feel good about where we are headed, but we have to [win games]. And that’s a big difference."

The bad news for Boston: The Celtics are 2-5 in games that were within five points in the final five minutes of regulation. For a team that had been hoping to take a step forward in what the league defines as "clutch" games, that's an initial regression after finishing a woeful 15-34 in those close games last season.

The good news: In a less-than-imposing Eastern Conference, Boston is still only a game out of a playoff berth -- not that you put too much stock in that this time of year -- and Boston hasn't dug itself any sort of insurmountable hole while navigating a brutal November schedule.

As the Celtics returned to the practice court after a two-day break on Wednesday, one thing Stevens stressed was that he doesn't sense any overwhelming frustration among his players.

"I don’t sense the frustration level to be as high as maybe it's made out to be, because a lot of that is made out after a game where you lose close and, that soon after, everybody’s disappointed, everybody is -- you lose a little perspective immediately after a game," said Stevens. "Then when you have time to step back, when you have time to focus on what you're doing well, you have time to focus on what you’re not doing well, then you can really make strides forward and I think everybody realizes we’re making a lot of strides."

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Marcus Smart limited in return to practice

November, 26, 2014
Nov 26
Boston Celtics rookie guard Marcus Smart returned to practice Wednesday, but only participated in part of the session, as he works his way back from a left ankle injury.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Smart
Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
Smart removed himself from Wednesday's closed practice, according to the team. While it does not appear to be an encouraging sign that Smart will return for Friday's matinee with the Chicago Bulls, the Celtics have another session Thursday before finalizing his status.

Smart suffered a severe sprain and bone bruising after stepping awkwardly on a defender's foot while driving at the basket against the Indiana Pacers on Nov. 7. Despite being stretchered off the court, the team set a return timeline of 2-3 weeks and had recently begun targeting Friday's game, particularly with four days off preceding Chicago's visit.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has stressed that the team would not rush Smart back to game action and would only reinsert him when he felt comfortable enough to return.

"I think, obviously, you want him to be as close to pre-injury [health] as possible, otherwise he shouldn’t be full-go," Stevens said before Wednesday's practice. "Is there a transition period? Absolutely. But sometimes in those first couple days, you’re so excited to be back out that you actually play pretty darn well. So it’s just a matter of him getting back out here and it’s more about the conditioning than anything else right now, just because he hasn’t done anything on the court, physically, as far as 5-on-5, in the last three weeks."

Celtics guard Avery Bradley, who missed time last season in part due to returning too soon from an ankle injury, said teammates have encouraged Smart to "make sure that your body feels good, listen to your body."

Smart seems to have heeded their veteran advice on Wednesday.

Stevens was asked whether Bradley's setback last season might leave the team leery about bringing Smart back too soon this time around.

"I trust our medical team and medical staff and I think that -- Marcus and Avery I’m sure will share that discussion and talk about that," said Stevens. "We don’t want anybody to come back before they are physically able, because you don’t want to put yourself in a bad spot, or make a lingering [injury] worse and make it linger longer than it otherwise would. I think [Smart has to] talk to others and he’s gotta get their perspective, and he’s gotta put his faith and trust in our medical team. Because they are excellent at what they do."

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Celtics hoping to work Smarter

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
The Boston Celtics are hoping to have rookie guard Marcus Smart back on the practice court on Wednesday afternoon. His return to game action won't be far behind and could come as early as Friday's matinee against the Chicago Bulls.

[+] EnlargeSmart
Nat Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
It's unfair to think that (1) Smart will be 100 percent healthy as he recovers from a severe ankle sprain and bone bruising or (2) his presence alone will remedy some of the woes that Boston's defense has endured this season, and particularly since he injured his left ankle earlier this month.

But Smart's return certainly will help Boston, giving the team back one of its most impactful players despite his rookie status.

Consider this: Smart owns the team's best on-court net rating -- the difference between the team's offensive and defensive ratings. Boston is plus-11.3 points per 100 possessions during Smart's 102 minutes of floor time. Most notably, Boston's defensive rating is 100.2 with Smart on the court, which is 6.7 points per 100 possessions better than the team's season average and 8.2 points better than when he's off the court.

You can make the case that it's a factor of a small sample size, but remember that two of Boston's early-season games came against Dallas and Toronto, the two top offenses in the league. The Celtics are a better defensive team when Smart is on the floor with his ability to harass multiple positions.

In individual defensive data logged by Synergy Sports, Smart is allowing a mere 0.61 points per play and ranks in the 97th percentile among all league players. The league's player tracking data might be even more impressive. Smart is limiting opponents to 28 percent shooting, which is a staggering 15.1 percent lower than the average of the shooters he's defending.

The Celtics showed some encouraging strides defensively in Sunday's loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. Smart is only going to help the defense tighten up, particularly when you consider he'll be helping to defend players who have typically been checked by the likes of Evan Turner or Marcus Thornton, two players whose individual and team defensive numbers are not quite as glossy.

Again, it's likely that Smart will need some time to reintegrate and he might not be as crisp while that ankle recovers. But he's going to help Boston. A glance at Boston's top two-man lineups finds Smart accounting for a handful of them. The Smart-Jared Sullinger lineup had a net differential of plus-38.3 in 43 minutes of court time (pairing an offensive rating of 134 with a defensive rating of 95.7). Smart and Rondo were plus-11.8 in net rating in 45 minutes together.

Smart had to be stretchered off the court after stepping awkwardly on the foot of Indiana's Lavoy Allen while driving to the basket back on Nov. 7. Tests revealed only a severe sprain of his left ankle and bone bruising, and the team announced his recovery would take two to three weeks. Friday's game would be exactly three weeks from the injury.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has noted that the team will not rush Smart back until he's ready. If he wakes up Wednesday -- or Friday morning -- and the ankle doesn't feel right, there's no sense in forcing him to go.

But there's no denying that Boston is a better team with a healthy Smart.

While the Celtics enjoyed a second straight off-day on Tuesday, Smart traveled north for a "Teaming Up Against Cancer" pep rally with students at South Lawrence East Elementary School.

Smart told the students about watching his older brother, Todd Westbrook, lose his battle with cancer. And Smart applauded the efforts of the elementary school kids, who are wrapping up a monthlong program aimed at raising awareness for social causes.

"I was 10 years old when I lost my brother to cancer,” said Smart. “Seeing these kids here and what they’re doing teaming up against cancer, it almost brings tears to your eyes that somebody so young understands and they can make a difference at their age."

Time for Olynyk to take his shots

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24
BOSTON -- Early in the fourth quarter of Sunday's loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, with the Boston Celtics in desperate need of an offensive spark, second-year big man Kelly Olynyk received the ball beyond the 3-point arc with a fair amount of space between him and his defender. And he hesitated.

[+] EnlargeKelly Olynyk
Bill Baptist/NBAE/Getty Images
So long, in fact, that by the time Olynyk finally elected to pump fake, Joel Freeland had parked himself in front of Olynyk with a hand in his face and didn't even consider biting. Olynyk tried to drive, met resistance from Freeland in the paint and settled for an off-balance, one-footed fadeaway from the blocks that missed badly.

It was Olynyk's third and final shot attempt of the night. He missed all three and finished scoreless for the second time in four games.

Let's start with the positive: Going up against a tough opposing front line and forced to help against some very talented guards, Olynyk played some inspired defense. He was not without his missteps, but from this view it was one of his more encouraging defensive efforts of the season.

What Sunday's loss hammered home is that Olynyk is still a bit too shy at times with his offensive game, and it's on both him and the Celtics to figure out ways to make sure he's more involved.

The NBA's player-tracking data detail how Olynyk touched the ball 50 times on Sunday night, the third-highest total on the team behind only Rajon Rondo (94) and Jared Sullinger (64). Not only did that lead to only three shot attempts, but, despite being credited with 42 total passes (most on the team behind Rondo), Olynyk registered just one assist and was not credited with any secondary assists.

Boston endured its worst offensive performance of the season and Olynyk was hardly the only Celtic to struggle offensively. But the early portion of the 2014-15 season has only confirmed how much of a weapon Olynyk can be at that end of the court. His ability to stretch the floor and shoot from beyond the 3-point arc is a major reason coach Brad Stevens named him the team's starting center despite not having the typical center build.

Olynyk quietly ranked 10th in the NBA in field goal percentage (55 percent) and 14th in 3-point percentage (45.2) entering Monday's action. He's averaging 11.8 points over 26.4 minutes per game, while also grabbing 6.1 rebounds per contest.

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Celtics recall Young from Maine

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24
The Boston Celtics recalled rookie James Young from the Maine Red Claws of the NBA Development League on Monday.

Young scored 22 points while helping Maine improve to 4-0 with a win over Delaware on Sunday evening. Celtics coach Brad Stevens had said that, with Maine idle until Friday, Young would be recalled to Boston on Monday to resume workouts with the parent club.

For more on Young's second trip to the D-League, hop HERE.

Power Rankings: C's slip a spot

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24
The Boston Celtics dipped a spot to No. 23 in this week's NBA Power Rankings. From curator Marc Stein:
Marcus Smart is nearing his return from that scary injury, Rajon Rondo has already posted a triple-double along with two near misses and a brutal November schedule that still features home dates with Chicago and San Antonio is almost over. So we'll ignore (for now) where the Celts rank on D.

(Read full Power Rankings)

Defensive effort buoys Celtics despite loss

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24

BOSTON -- The irony, of course, is that on the night the Boston Celtics put together their best defensive effort of the season, the offense that has kept them competitive on most nights endured one of its worst performances.

The end result, then, was all too familiar: Another loss, this time a 94-88 defeat to the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday night at TD Garden. Boston has dropped five of its last six, its only win coming after a rally against the winless Philadelphia 76ers. And yet the frustration that has permeated the team's locker room after recent defeats was replaced with a curious optimism that, if Boston can continue to play defense like it did against one of the league's most potent offenses, it's going to give itself a chance to truly compete on a nightly basis.

"I don’t know that I’ve been as encouraged as this time," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "I don’t feel the same because I’ve felt like we were kind of hanging onto whether or not we made shots, or how we played on the offensive end. And that wasn’t the case today, so that’s why I leave here encouraged. I think, as we enter a five-day stretch before we play two more contenders, we have something to build off of, instead of just trying to believe we can do it without any real proof. So today is good proof for us."

Here's Stevens' proof: Boston's defensive rating for the game was 95.3, or 11.6 points per 100 possessions better than the team's head-shaking season average. Boston still sits 25th in defensive rating, but Sunday's effort is something to hang its hat on considering the Blazers entered the game with the third-best offensive rating in the league. Over Boston's last three games, the team's defensive rating is 99.3, which would position the team in the top 10 in the league.

[+] EnlargeOlynyk
Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY SportsBy stepping up their defensive intensity against the Blazers, the Celtics believe they have something to build off of despite another close loss.
The challenge for Boston now is (1) maintaining this sort of defensive intensity and (2) doing it for longer stretches of games. The Celtics put together a strong first half in which they truly frustrated Portland, only to have second-half lapses -- along with Boston's own offensive woes -- let the game get away.

"I feel like we came out with a great defensive intensity," said Celtics guard Avery Bradley, who pestered Damian Lillard for much of the night. "Unfortunately, we were not able to make shots, but I felt like we played well for the most part."

Bradley was asked what the team could take from watching film of Sunday's effort.

"I don’t even think we need to watch film," he said. "[Defensive success] all comes from effort and wanting to play defense. We wanted to go out there and prove that we are a good defensive team if we all give 100 percent on the defensive end, and that’s what we did. Everyone was trying hard tonight. We don’t need to watch film; we know what we need to do."

The Celtics will take the next four days off before hosting the Chicago Bulls in a Friday matinee. As frustrated as the team is in opening the season with a 4-8 record -- all while knowing it has rarely put together a 48-minute effort -- Sunday's showing represented something positive the team can finally cling to and use as a blueprint moving forward.

"We had a great mindset going into the game," Celtics captain Rajon Rondo said. "We had a great scouting report, Coach told us guys’ tendencies. At halftime, we made a couple of adjustments but not too many, and we went out and did it. Instead of just keep talking about it, we actually executed defensively tonight."

Rondo, who has been a beacon of optimism during Boston's struggles, remains convinced the team is close to a breakthrough.

"I'm always optimistic," he said. "I truly believe in this team and we’ve got a lot of great pieces on this team. ... We’re just going to stay consistent, stay positive and keep chugging away."

The Celtics have maintained that getting over the hump might take just one win that would provide a much-needed spark.

"We need a win, we need something to get us going," Bradley said. "We need a [winning] streak -- I think the longest streak we’ve had so far is two games. We need to get it going."

The Celtics will be helped by a schedule that will downshift after this month. The Celtics host two championship contenders in the Bulls and Spurs to close out November, but December's slate isn't nearly as daunting. The competition eases a bit, potentially offering a greater margin for error.

Boston's hope is that the challenging November has positioned the team to take advantage of what lies ahead. That, for all the bumps in the road to this point, there's a chance to turn it into a positive.

Stevens said before the season that the Celtics would know by Christmas exactly what they are. Early returns suggest a team not very dissimilar from the one that struggled to finish out close games last season while posting only 25 wins.

December should offer the Celtics a chance to prove they're better than that. But the Celtics absolutely need to show they can play with the defensive intensity displayed on Sunday in order to really make strides.

It's the only way to ensure the optimism remains in their locker room.

Jeff Green: Trade rumor is false

November, 23, 2014
Nov 23
BOSTON -- Boston Celtics forward Jeff Green stressed after Sunday's loss to the Portland Trail Blazers that any frustration he is experiencing is merely a factor of Boston's early-season struggles and does not represent unhappiness with the organization.

[+] EnlargeGreen
AP Photo/Charles Krupa
Green said he received a text directing him to an undisclosed article that suggested he desired to be traded from Boston. Unprompted, Green addressed the story -- one that most of the assembled media was unaware of -- after Sunday's game.

"Before you start, I just want to clear the air about some B.S. rumor that came out," Green said. "I don’t know if the person who made this article is in this [group of reporters], but the rumor about me wanting to get traded is definitely false. I said that I was frustrated with losing, not frustrated with the team. So if the words didn’t come from my mouth, I'd appreciate if you do not write a dumb--- article like that."

During an on-camera interview following Friday’s loss in Memphis, Green told CSNNE that his frustrations with losing were at an "all-time high" and he added, "I'm tired of losing." The station's website later reported, citing a league executive, that Green's value could be high this offseason when he has potential to opt out of his deal and become a free agent.

Green's frustrations, however, seemed to stem from another site that combined the two reports and took his quotes out of context, suggesting his frustrations left him yearning for a trade out of Boston.

Green said reporters are "going to write whatever you want to write, I just want it to be the truth."

Green was asked how he feels about Boston and whether he wants to be here long term to see through this rebuilding process.

"I want to stay here," Green said. "I love this team. I love being here."

Later he added, "If I didn’t [want to be here], I wouldn’t have signed [his most recent] contract to come back here. I’m happy where I’m at, happy with the coach, management, front office, everybody. I haven’t been happy like this in years. It’s a good place for me."

The Celtics acquired Green in a much-scrutinized trade for Kendrick Perkins in February 2011. He missed the entire 2011-12 season after undergoing heart surgery, but returned to sign a four-year, $36.2 million contract in August 2012.

That contract includes a $9.2 million player option for the 2015-16 season. Green could elect to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason by declining the player option.

Green is averaging a career-high 18.4 points per game over 35.3 minutes in 12 appearances this season. Often criticized for his roller-coaster play, this may be Green's most consistent string of games in a Boston uniform.

Jeff Green

BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics looked like they had cured many of their defensive ailments in the first half of Sunday's matchup with the Portland Trail Blazers.

But Boston endured a hiccup, allowing the Blazers to score the first 10 points of the final frame, and its offense went missing over the final 12 minutes, allowing the visiting Blazers to post a 94-88 triumph at TD Garden.

LaMarcus Aldridge finished with a team-high 20 points and 14 rebounds for Portland, which rallied thanks in large part to Chris Kaman (16 points) and Steve Blake (11 points) off the bench.

Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger scored 19 points apiece to pace Boston.

First-half clamps: The Celtics limited the Blazers to 35.4 percent shooting in the first half (17 of 48) and just 28.6 percent beyond the 3-point arc (2 of 7). Boston led by as much as 10 midway through the second quarter, but were up just 49-44 at the intermission.

Second-half collapse: The game was tied after three quarters, but Portland outscored Boston 22-16 in the final frame. The Blazers shot 52.6 percent after the intermission and 41.7 percent beyond the arc.

Loose balls: The Celtics rolled with a 10-man rotation, which included extended minutes for veteran Gerald Wallace. ... Rookie Dwight Powell and second-year guard Phil Pressey were healthy DNPs ... Rookie James Young, on assignment with the Maine Red Claws of the NBA Development League, scored 22 points in a win over Delaware. ...

What it means: The Celtics dip to 4-8 on the season, while the Blazers climb to 10-3. ... Boston has the next four days off before hosting the Chicago Bulls in a Friday matinee.

Faverani out until January?

November, 23, 2014
Nov 23
BOSTON -- Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens was hesitant to set a firm return timeline for rehabbing center Vitor Faverani, but suggested the team is now eyeing a return to practice in December with potential game action to follow in the new year.

Meeting with reporters Saturday for the first time since his second knee surgery last month, Faverani said that his rehab is progressing slowly and the team had not established a potential timeline for his return. Both Stevens and Faverani admitted that he will not meet the 6-8 week timeline initially established after surgery last month, but Stevens offered his best guess on when we might see the Brazilian big man.

"When he initially had that surgery, I heard 6-8 weeks, just like you did, and I’ve been told it’s going to go longer than that," said Stevens. "Probably well into December, maybe first of the year. So, I hate standing up here and acting like I know medically what’s going on, but I know that he’s frustrated, and I know that he’s working everyday and they are working with him."

Pressed on Faverai's potential to return to basketball activities, Stevens added: "What I had thought was he’d be practicing some time in December, but again, I don’t want to put a timeline on him because I’m speculating now. We’d be hopeful that he’d be practicing sometime in December and maybe ready to play by the first of the year."

Faverani averaged 4.4 points and 3.5 rebounds over 13.2 minutes per game in 37 appearances last season. He opened his rookie campaign as the team's starting center, but faded quickly while learning the team's defensive system and ultimately spent time with the Maine Red Claws of the D-League, where he believes he originally injured the knee in February.

Faverani rehabbed with hopes of resuming basketball activities at the start of training camp, but lingering pain and swelling in the knee contributed to him trekking to Spain for a second surgery with a more familiar doctor from the start of his pro career overseas.

"We’re just taking our time," Faverani said Saturday. "I don’t know [when I'll return]. I don’t want the same to happen to me, like before -- back to play before I can. I don’t want to injure it any more."

Faverani is earning $2.1 million this season in the second year of a three-year pact he inked with Boston in the summer of 2013. The final season of his deal is nonguaranteed.

C's hopeful Smart can practice Wednesday

November, 23, 2014
Nov 23
BOSTON -- Boston Celtics rookie guard Marcus Smart is targeting a return to practice on Wednesday as he works his way back from a severe ankle sprain suffered earlier this month.

The Celtics, with a four-day break after Sunday's game against the Portland Trail Blazers, are scheduled to take Monday and Tuesday off before returning to the practice court on Wednesday. Coach Brad Stevens said the team is hopeful Smart can participate in his first full session since being injured on Nov. 7, but said his status for Friday's game against the Bulls remains uncertain.

Smart suffered the severe left ankle sprain and bone bruising when he stepped on the foot of Indiana's Lavoy Allen. The rookie has increased his activities lately, including some on-court shooting, but Wednesday could be the first real test to see how close he is to a return to game action.

"He's been doing his work in the weight room, as far as conditioning goes, so he hasn’t gotten a lot of basketball-specific conditioning. We’ll see how much work he needs to do once he gets back out on the court," Stevens said. "That’s a concern, certainly."

In five appearances, Smart, the No. 6 overall pick in June's draft, was averaging 6.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.1 steals over 20.4 minutes per game. Boston found success with smaller three-guard lineups that often featured Smart alongside the starting backcourt of Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo. The Celtics have missed Smart's defensive tenacity on the perimeter.

Celts assign Young to Maine

November, 23, 2014
Nov 23
BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics assigned rookie James Young to the Maine Red Claws of the NBA Development League on Sunday.

Young is expected to be in the starting lineup when Maine welcomes Delaware on Sunday evening.

The Celtics are hosting the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday, but with four days off to follow, it's a good bet that coach Brad Stevens will utilize a tight rotation. That made it more likely that Young would receive game reps in Maine.

"We’ve decided, and after some talk, after some deliberation, that the idea of potentially not playing versus playing 30+ minutes, as far as his game conditioning, as far as his overall development -- [the Red Claws] are trying to play exactly like we’re trying to play, so he’s just going to be able to go and fit in and do that," Stevens said before Boston's game on Sunday night. "We sent James because he didn’t get a chance to go up their [for an intrasquad scrimmage earlier this month], and then [fellow rookie] Dwight [Powell] is a guy that we can see using in spots [Sunday night versus Portland], especially defensively."

This is Young's second assignment of the season to the D-League. Young scored 21 points in the Red Claws' 81-80 win over the Fort Wayne Mad Ants last Sunday.

[Update: Young scored 22 points on 7-of-16 shooting with eight rebounds (and five turnovers) as Maine improved to 4-0 on the young season. With Maine idle until Friday, Young is expected to be recalled by Boston on Monday.]

W2W4: C's vs. Blazers (Game 12 of 82)

November, 23, 2014
Nov 23
The Boston Celtics (4-7, 2-4 home) host the Portland Trail Blazers (9-3, 1-2 away) on Sunday night at TD Garden (6 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:

Blazers at a glance: Giving the usual glance at where the next opponent ranks in the top advanced metrics, Portland looks impressive. The Blazers rank third in offensive rating (108.7) and seventh in defensive rating (99.5), while ranking in the top 10 in total rebound rate (4th), assist ratio (8th), and true-shooting percentage (6th). The Blazers do an awful lot well -- and there's no glaring weaknesses to exploit. They're shooting 46 percent overall and nearly 40 percent beyond the 3-point arc. The Celtics will need their defensive A-game to compete.

Coach's take: LaMarcus Aldridge is the focal point while averaging 21.4 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. But coach Brad Stevens heaped praise on the entire team. "[Aldridge is] not their only All-Star," said Stevens. "And they’ve got guys in [Wesley] Matthews and [Nick] Batum and [Steve] Blake that are great shooters as well. I think I heard a stat that Wesley Matthews has hit the fifth most 3s in the NBA last year. [Damian] Lillard is in the argument for the best shooter in the league just because of the percentage he shoots [47.6 percent overall and beyond the arc] and the difficulty of shots he hits. So I think that you’ve got great shooting, surrounding a very talented post guy, who can also shoot the ball. I think a guy that just complements everybody well is [Robin] Lopez, he probably doesn’t get enough attention, both on his offensive rebounding and on his post ability."

Aldridge altitude: ESPN the Magazine recently spotlighted Aldridge's shot technique. How does an undersized big like Jared Sullinger stop that? "You don’t really stop players, you try to stop their rhythm," said Sullinger. "There’s going to be times when he’s going to make shots, and we’re going to have to live with it. Just how tough of a shot is he going to make? Thats the biggest thing. As a basketball player, you know you’re not going to stop everybody you’re not going to hold them to zero points, but you try to make it as tough as possible for them to score."

(Read full story)


Practice: Lessons learned in Memphis

November, 22, 2014
Nov 22
WALTHAM, Mass. -- After Friday's loss in Memphis, Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens said the Grizzlies' frontcourt of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph "smoked" his team and suggested Boston's young bigs like Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk could "learn a lot" from watching Memphis' veteran duo.

[+] EnlargeMarc Gasol
Justin Ford/USA TODAY Sports
Asked to expound upon that notion after Saturday's practice, Stevens said: "What I was really talking about in that situation was how well they play off one another, how well they read things. How Randolph hits you right at the right time to get his post position; how if you’re fronting him, he seals you right at the lane and Gasol reads it and flashes and plays high/low; how good Gasol is at getting to the seam in pick-and-rolls, because he doesn’t roll to the rim like a Brandan Wright or a Tyson Chandler in Dallas, where they are flying around and dunking everything. They run to the elbow and play out of that seam and find that seam for the pocket pass. Then [Gasol] has the ball with no pressure and he’s able to pick his spots. I think it makes your defense really have to react and you really have to play hard on every possession with multiple efforts just to keep them a little bit off balanced. Easier said than done for the entirety of the game."

So what did Sullinger take from battling Gasol and Randolph?

"Just how physical they are," he said. "They play really well together. They play like a tandem, that’s the biggest thing."

Can third-year Sullinger and second-year Olynyk get to a similar level of continuity as Boston's starting frontcourt?

"Yeah, it’s going to take some time," said Sullinger. "[Gasol and Randolph] played, I think it’s going on their fifth year, or something like that together. It takes time to build something like that."

Stevens admitted that film review from the Memphis game only confirmed what he saw on the court.

"I felt we had a pretty good idea of what we did and didn’t do," he said. "Obviously, they guarded us in a way that I thought made us a little passive and stagnant. Then, the biggest difference in the game were the interior guys, not only Randolph and Gasol, but [Jon] Leuer really played well for them."

A handful of notes from Saturday's session:

Frustration of losing: Stevens was asked about his team's mental psyche when losses mount against good teams. "It should be [frustrating]. I hope it is. I think that’s a good thing. The key is then how do you respond from that? I think it’s a unique situation, in that we play 82 games, and you have to be able to bounce back and be able to respond. But if it’s not tough, then that’s not good. So I think that’s a good thing." Boston is 4-7, but that's still only a ½-game out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference (albeit, with a long way to go and a lot of teams crowded in that area).

Smart out on Sunday: Rookie guard Marcus Smart engaged in some post-practice stretching with his teammates, but did not participate in the brief on-court activities. Stevens said Smart is out for Sunday's game against the Portland Trail Blazers, though had previously said the team hopes to have Smart back on the court later this week. Boston has a four-day break before hosting the Chicago Bulls on Friday afternoon.

Light session: After traveling home from Memphis after Friday's loss, the team didn't spend much time on the court Saturday. While noting Smart's lack of participation, Stevens also noted: "We didn’t do anything physical, other than jog through. It wasn’t much that he could of done. [Rookies] James [Young] and Dwight [Powell] didn’t get any reps either." Boston did watch some film before and after the session. "Today['s pre-practice film review] it was a not-great possession followed by a good possession, just to show the difference, and how small the difference in what you look like physically and how quickly you react and those type of things, both offensively and defensively. No more than 10-15 minutes. It depends on what we’re trying to show after practice, whether it’s the opponent, or whether it’s more of our stuff, or whatever the case may be. I usually try to keep the film sessions fairly quick and to the point."
Chris Forsberg/ESPN BostonVitor Faverani gets up shots after practice on Saturday.
WALTHAM, Mass. -- Boston Celtics second-year center Vitor Faverani said his knee is feeling better, but is still not close to resuming basketball activities and the team has not established any timeline for his potential return to game action.

Faverani, five weeks removed from a second surgery on a balky left knee, engaged in some light shooting Saturday as his teammates stretched following an afternoon practice. Faverani then met with reporters, but had little news on his progress.

"My knee is good; I'm happy," said Faverani, who suggested he feels "100 percent" better following a second surgery in Spain last month. But asked what activities he's able to engage in, Faverani said he's been limited to pool work and the exercise bike. He said there's potential he'll try the AlterG non-weight-bearing treadmill next week to resume running.

The Celtics suggested a 6-8 week recovery after Faverani's second surgery, but it appears he's not close to that timetable. Faverani said the team has not recently discussed when he might be back on the floor.

"We’re just taking our time," said Faverani. "I don’t know. I don’t want the same to happen to me, like before -- back to play before I can. I don’t want to injure it any more."

He added: "[A return to basketball activities] depends on my knee. It depends on how my knee recovers. We're working hard everyday to get better. I'm happy with the progress."

Faverani averaged 4.4 points and 3.5 rebounds over 13.2 minutes per game in 37 appearances last season. He opened his rookie campaign as the team's starting center, but faded quickly while learning the team's defensive system and ultimately spent time with the Maine Red Claws of the D-League, where he believes he originally injured the knee in February.

Faverani underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in March and the team hoped to have him back on the floor for the start of training camp. Faverani tried to ramp up his activities at that point, but experienced pain and swelling in the knee.

The team agreed to let him trek to Spain to seek a second opinion -- and ultimately undergo surgery -- with a doctor that's treated him throughout his pro career.

Faverani seemed positive Saturday despite the lack of progress.

"It’s tough, but it’s my life," said Faverani. "Everybody has injuries, this is my first injury. I’m just happy because [the team has] great doctors, great therapy guys. I just hope to get better."

Celtics coach Brad Stevens said earlier this month that there hasn't been much progress with Faverani and the team didn't have a timeline for his return.

After the surgery last month, Stevens said: "I feel bad for Vitor, I think he’s frustrated, too. Because he gets back, gets on the court and, for whatever reason, he gets swelling and pain. He just wants to get a clean bill of health. It’s been a while."

Indeed, Faverani couldn't recall the last time he played 5-on-5 basketball when asked Saturday.

"I can’t remember. Before my first surgery," he said. "I worked really hard all summer in Spain, but I never played basketball. Here, I got [up] shots, worked, but never 5-on-5."

Told it might have been in the D-League where he hurt himself, Faverani smiled and offered, "Maybe. I don’t remember. It’s a long time ago."

Faverani is earning $2.1 million this season in the second year of a three-year pact he inked with Boston in the summer of 2013. The final season of his deal is nonguaranteed.



Jeff Green
18.4 2.0 1.2 35.2
ReboundsJ. Sullinger 8.4
AssistsR. Rondo 10.7
StealsR. Rondo 1.7
BlocksJ. Sullinger 0.9