Sullinger benched after late arrival

February, 1, 2015
Feb 1
BOSTON -- Boston Celtics center Jared Sullinger arrived late to the team's morning walkthrough on Sunday and was removed from the team's starting lineup.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Sullinger will come off the bench and the team will start Tyler Zeller at center for its matinee against the Miami Heat.

"The one thing that I don’t want to do is make a bigger deal of this than it is, but Sully got caught in a little bit of traffic this morning and he was four or five minutes late to our walkthrough," said Stevens. "It's just that we had already gone through a couple of things and so I decided to [change the lineup]. Not a trend, not a problem, not a short- or long-term problem. I just felt like Zeller had gone through what we needed to go through. And we’ll catch Sully up before the game."

Sullinger has been slumping lately and his late arrival, as minor of an infraction as it might have been, was not a good look. With a team full of young, impressionable bodies, Stevens likely punished Sullinger to stress that a situation like that is unacceptable for this team.

Zeller, who has started 26 games this season, will start alongside Brandon Bass up front.

For the Miami Heat, both Luol Deng (calf) and Dwyane Wade (hamstring) are out. Miami will starting local product Shabazz Napier, Mario Chalmers, Danny Granger, Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside.

Young scores 33 with Red Claws

February, 1, 2015
Feb 1
Boston Celtics rookie James Young scored 33 points while on assignment with the Maine Red Claws on Saturday evening.

Young finished 12 of 20 shooting overall, including 9 of 13 beyond the 3-point arc. The Red Claws set a new team record with 22 made 3-pointers during a 109-104 loss to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.

Andre Dawkins added 17 points on 6-of-15 shooting (5 of 12 beyond the arc). The Red Claws shot 48 percent from behind the 3-point stripe for the game.

The Celtics recalled both Young and Dawkins on Sunday to join the team for their matinee against the Heat.

WALTHAM, Mass. -- While most NBA teams steer clear of scheduling games on the biggest day on the NFL calendar, the Boston Celtics have embraced the role of Super Bowl appetizer.

The Celtics will play on Super Bowl Sunday for the seventh consecutive season on Sunday when they host the Miami Heat in a 1 p.m. matinee at TD Garden. It's one of just two games on the NBA calendar -- the Lakers and Knicks joust at 2 p.m. -- and will offer a diversion for Boston sports fans left anxious by the crawl to the 6:30 p.m kick off of Super Bowl XLIX between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks.

"We like the date for a number of reasons: Our Sunday matinee games are really popular with families and the Super Bowl Sunday games in particular give fans a good primer while they're waiting for kick off," said Celtics team president Rich Gotham. "We're usually done by 3:30, so people have plenty of time to get to wherever they're going to watch the game. We think it's a great double header for fans and a nice tradition."

Maybe more so than any other day of the year, the Celtics locker room will clear out quickly after Sunday's tilt. Players are typically sprinting off to Super Bowl parties, particularly when they have a rooting interest -- like Tacoma, Wash.-native Avery Bradley has with the Seahawks in each of the past two Super Bowls.

This year, the weather will add a layer of difficulty to the Celtics' party planning. With snow set to invade the region on Monday, Boston is expected to travel to New York on Sunday in advance of Tuesday's game against the Knicks.

"Obviously, all of us want to watch [the Super Bowl]," admitted Celtics coach Brad Stevens. "There’s obviously a great deal of interest. We’re finding out exactly when we’re going, but it sounds like we may have to travel to early because Monday is supposed to be nasty around here."

A short flight could allow the Celtics to trek to New York immediately after Sunday's game and still be settled for kickoff. Stevens said he'll be sure to conference with noted Patriots superfan Gerald Wallace about the team's plans.

Before turning their attention to pigskin, the Celtics are hoping to maintain their Super Sunday success against a Miami team that's nearby in the Eastern Conference standings. Boston has produced a 5-1 record in their recent Super Bowl matinees.


Super Bowl

Practice: Olynyk out until after break

January, 31, 2015
Jan 31
WALTHAM, Mass. -- Some leftover headlines after the Boston Celtics practiced on Saturday at the team's training facility:

Olynyk out until after All-Star break

Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he was told before Saturday's session that injured second-year big man Kelly Olynyk would be sidelined "at least another week-plus," and said he does not "anticipate him playing until after the All-Star break."

Olynyk sprained his right ankle after landing awkwardly on an opponent's foot in Portland earlier this month. The Celtics play five games over the next seven days before throttling down leading into an extended All-Star break. The team seems content to use the upcoming break in the schedule to get Olynyk back to 100 percent for when the team resumes play on Feb. 20 in Sacramento.

The Canada native was named to the World roster at the Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star weekend, but his progress from the ankle injury will dictate whether he plays in the annual rookie/sophomore showcase.

"I think that, if he’s fully healthy and he could play a game for us on that day, then he’ll play in it," said Stevens. "If he’s not fully healthy and he wouldn’t normally play a game for us, then he won’t play in it."

Still Smarting about offensive foul

Celtics rookie Marcus Smart said he was still upset that he was whistled for an offensive foul for kicking out his leg and making contact with an opponent on a made 3-pointer as Boston attempted to rally back from a 19-point deficit against the Rockets.

"Actually, I am [upset] because when shooting, and they slap my hand back, all my momentum forces my body to come forward and that forces my legs to get kicked out," explained Smart. "I talked to the official and he said that the ball was so far gone that that contact shouldn’t affect me. But then once I told him what they were doing and it was forcing me to do that, then he said he’d look at it. I was surprised that they called it, but at the same time I wasn’t."

Replays show that Smart flared his right leg out to initiate contact with a charging Corey Brewer before the two tumbled to the ground. Smart has a reputation for embellishing a bit to draw whistles and it seems the referees got this one right.

That didn't stop Smart from lamenting his rookie status.

"[The referee] didn’t say that, but that’s kinda went through my head -- I’m a rookie," said Smart. "That’s the non-surprising factor that came in."

Smart does deserve credit for avoiding foul situations while playing some inspired -- and physical -- defense against James Harden during Friday's loss.

Asked for his secret to success against Harden, Smart said: "Keep my hands back. Everybody knows that he shoots a good amount of free throws because he draws that contact and he gets those calls, so I just tried to keep him in front of me and show my hands and I think I did very well on that part."

Shooting for the stars

With a matinee looming Sunday, the Celtics went through a light session that closed with a heavy emphasis on shooting drills.

That was by design for a team that struggled to knock down shots on Friday, including some bad late-game misses by Jared Sullinger from beyond the arc.

"It's good to get back in the gym, good to do a little shooting at the end of practice today just to see the ball go through the net," said Stevens.

Sullinger acknowledged his shooting woes and said the key for him is simply getting in the gym and shooting until he's comfortable again.
WALTHAM, Mass. -- Most NBA players and coaches feign ignorance when asked about playoff standings and whether they pay attention to the jockeying. Which is completely laughable considering that everyone around the NBA is obsessed with win-loss records and playoff possibilities.

So it was refreshing that Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens didn't come down with a case of standings amnesia when asked Saturday about whether he pays attention to where his team sits in the Eastern Conference.

In fact, Stevens took particular pride when it was relayed that some of his players had recently noted Boston's playoff potential.

"You’re competitive. You play this game. You grow up playing this game. [The playoffs are] a great thing for them to be talking about," said Stevens. "I think it’s awesome."

Buoyed by three wins in four games during their recent trek out west, the Celtics' playoff odds swelled and John Hollinger's computerized playoff odds had the team projected as the eighth seed in the East earlier this week.

Consecutive losses dropped Boston's odds from 44.5 percent to 29 percent entering Saturday's action, but the Celtics remain the last team out in the current projections. Boston was 2 ½ games back of Charlotte for the final spot before Saturday's games.

"I [pay attention to the standings] because they are up and around," said Stevens. "But, my biggest thing -- and I really felt this way yesterday at halftime [Friday] because I didn’t think we played well in the first half [against the Rockets] at all -- was I just gotta continue to keep my focus on playing well and playing as good of basketball as we can. I thought in the second half, a couple of our shots didn’t fall, but, man, we played pretty darn well. And so that was encouraging moving forward. But, we just can’t have halves like we had in the first half, because it’s not going to be a fun day for us when we do."

After Friday's game, veteran Brandon Bass was asked about whether he thinks about the playoffs and admitted he does because "that's the best part of the year." Added Bass: "The journey is awesome, but I think you go through the season to get to the playoffs."

Sitting 13 games under .500 with 37 games remaining in the season, Boston seems an unlikely playoff squad, but the dilapidated East has kept the Celtics in contention.

Boston plays a Miami team on Sunday that's nearby in the standings with the Heat currently 3 ½ games up on the Celtics while currently occupying the seventh seed. Stevens was asked if games against potential playoff squads mean more to Boston.

"All of them matter exactly the same," said Stevens. "I think that’s the bottom line, because we have little to no margin for error with the position we are in. I think every game matters exactly the same. And they only count as one, either way. But when you’re talking you’re inside 40 games and you’re behind, every single one of them matters. So there’s no more importance placed on one than another to us."

Celtics assign Young to Maine

January, 31, 2015
Jan 31
The Boston Celtics assigned rookie James Young to the Maine Red Claws of the NBA Development League following Saturday's practice.

Young is expected in uniform tonight when the Red Claws host the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. Young joins fellow assignee Andre Dawkins and the 3-point-favoring tandem have potential to re-write the Claws records beyond the arc on Saturday night. Dawkins, assigned while on a 10-day contract with Boston, already set a team record with eight 3-pointers in a game last week.

Young, the No. 17 pick in June's draft, has appeared in eight games for the Red Claws this season while averaging 22.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.5 steals in 32.6 minutes per game. He's shooting 47.9 percent (35-73) from beyond the arc.

Hop HERE to watch Saturday's game.

Notebook: Stevens and security

January, 31, 2015
Jan 31
BOSTON -- Even as the Boston Celtics have endured their rebuilding lumps, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has pledged unconditional support for head coach Brad Stevens, joking at times that he'd like to give him another six-year contract for his tireless efforts in trying to steer Boston back to contender status.

[+] EnlargeBrad Stevens
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images
The 38-year-old Stevens knows the NBA is a bottom-line business and, given Boston's struggles the past two seasons, appreciates that support, particularly knowing how fast a coach -- like Orlando's Jacque Vaughn -- can find himself on the hot seat during the rebuilding process.

Stevens didn't want to discuss Vaughn's situation -- though he did note that "Jacque is a really good coach" -- but reaffirmed his appreciation for the patience displayed by his own bosses.

"I’ve said it from Day 1 here, the biggest thing is that our ownership and our leadership team has been very good with me, very supportive," said Stevens. "At the end of the day, you’re really just focused on coaching your team as well as you can and doing it the best of your ability everyday. I think when I was going through at Butler, and we were having all kinds of success, I just kept learning and re-learning how important it was to not focus on anything but coaching the team. Then you come here, and we’re experiencing our fair share of growing pains and it’s the same answer: Focus on what you can control. You do it as well as you can. You hope that people appreciate that, and at the same time, we understand that it’s a really competitive business."

McHale on new-look C's

Rockets coach -- and Celtics Hall of Famer -- Kevin McHale was asked to assess the Celtics after trading away star players Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green.

"Rondo dominated the ball and was able to make plays. I’ve always liked Jeff Green, I thought Jeff Green was one of those guys that was kinda a great guy that could do a little bit of everything very well," said McHale. "From watching them while preparing [for Friday's game], [Jared] Sullinger is going to be more aggressive, it seems like the perimeter guys more handling the ball more now that Rondo is not there. They are all being more aggressive and trying to make plays. It just seems like some things have opened up a little bit and now the guys are handling the ball. They play hard every night, hit the glass pretty hard -- they're a physical team."

Stevens explains late-game strategy

The Celtics were faced with a tough late-game situation on Friday. Down three with 27 seconds to go, Stevens elected to foul instead of playing for a stop and having a short-clock situation for a final potential shot.

Avery Bradley gave a foul with 21 seconds remaining, but Corey Brewer made both freebies to push Houston's lead back to five. Bradley missed a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession to essentially seal Seattle's win.

"You know, it was tough with 55 seconds left," said Stevens. "I just went with the percentages on [Josh] Smith. When there’s a small differential, it’s difficult. We had one time out, and so you get a stop, you get the ball back with 5 seconds, you’re bound to have to shoot a 3. They have everybody in there that can switch. Their length and athleticism made it hard for us to get a sniff at a 3 late. If you could notice, Marcus Thornton had to drive the ball, Avery got it blocked on the last one because it’s -- they can swallow you up with their switching."

Loose Balls

• Stevens said it was good to be back home after a season-long six-game road trip out west. With the region still shoveling out from this week's blizzard (and bracing for more snow on its way), Stevens did quip, "I never thought I'd choose to go to Minnesota for [better] weather."

Tayshaun Prince's postgame wisdom: "The key to every game is how you start the first quarter, how you end the second quarter, how you start the third, and how you end the game. Lately, that’s where we’ve been kind of up and down a bit. If we can get those things in order, everything will take care of itself. But the most important thing is you’ve got to play with some energy."

C's give glimpse of defensive potential

January, 30, 2015
Jan 30
BOSTON -- The progress that Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens so desperately craves from his team requires 48 minutes of quality basketball, so getting half of that amount is supremely insufficient. After Boston made some noticeable strides on its recent road trips, Stevens, now more than ever, desires to emerge from games with more than silver linings.

But even Stevens seemed could make a tiny exception after Friday's 92-87 loss to the Houston Rockets. After turning in an absolute first-half dud, the Celtics responded with what Stevens termed "as good of a half of defense as we've played all year."

The Celtics limited these jet-fueled Rockets to a mere 33 second-half points on 11-of-38 shooting (28.9 percent) while forcing 13 turnovers. Rookie Marcus Smart spent much of the second half draped over superstar James Harden while the likes of Evan Turner, Avery Bradley, and Jae Crowder aided an effort that limited Houston's star to 1-of-8 shooting and 3 points after the intermission (Harden finished with only 14 points on 4-of-21 shooting overall, though his seven assists were a big reason the Rockets held on to win).

Lifeless on defense during a first half in which the Rockets put up 60 points on 52.2 percent shooting and led by as much as 19, the Celtics came out of the locker room as if they'd been hooked up to a caffeine intravenous drip.

Players spent the second half hurtling around the court, denying Houston perimeter players an opportunity to drive and sprinting to the ball as it moved around the court. The Rockets generated a mere nine third-quarter points on 4-of-20 shooting as Boston rallied back into the game. The defense gave the Celtics ample opportunities to pull even, but Boston never quite got over the hump despite pulling within one possession on multiple occasions.

Rockets coach Kevin McHale said after the game that, "We played hideous offensive basketball for 27 minutes." And Stevens admitted that guys like Harden probably missed some shots they typically make.

But the Celtics played some really inspired defense after the intermission, particularly when they forced Houston to play in the halfcourt.

Consider this: The Rockets generated a mere 23 points on 48 possessions in their halfcourt offense during the second half of Friday's game, according to Synergy Sports data. That's an impossibly low 0.479 points per possession. Houston was 8-of-32 shooting in those situations, including a mere 1 of 13 beyond the 3-point arc.

As Stevens singled out in his postgame chat with reporters, the Rockets got some easy second-half points in transition (Synergy had them for 10 points on eight transition plays finished; 1.25 points per play) and those were crucial in Houston hanging on.

Stevens can find some progress in the team's defensive effort; his challenge is to ensure it's played more consistently.

"To hold that team to 33 points is good -- and six or eight of those were on free throws at the end [of the game]. So I mean, you felt like you were guarding and making it difficult."

Smart will attract much of the attention for his physical nature with Harden. When you talk silver linings, having a 20-year-old rookie who isn't afraid to check one of the league's elite scorers 1-on-1 is something you can certainly hang your hat on.

As Brandon Bass noted after the game: "I think [Smart's defense was] why [Celtics president of basketball operations] Danny [Ainge] drafted the young guy."

Bass also hinted after Friday's game that Stevens gave it to the team a bit at halftime. After some encouraging signs out west on the recently concluded six-game trip, including winning a pair of 1-point games against Denver and Portland, while also hanging tough against an elite Golden State squad, Stevens was clearly disappointed that his team took such a big step backwards against Houston.

But the Celtics responded and nearly came all the way back against a talented Western Conference opponent (even if the Rockets were playing without Dwight Howard).

"We just didn't start the game off with energy," said veteran Tayshaun Prince. "Obviously, a team like Houston, when you let them spread the ball around and get aggressive, it's hard to stop them offensively."

Boston picked up its energy in the second half. If it can bottle that play, it will be competitive on a nightly basis moving forward. Boston sits 15th in the league in defensive rating after Friday's game, allowing 103.6 points per 100 possessions. Stevens would like to see his team climb into the top 10 by season's end.

That requires a more consistent effort and a full 48 minutes of defense on a nightly basis.
BOSTON -- The frustration that the Boston Celtics experienced in the first half of Friday's visit from the Houston Rockets could be summed up in one sequence in which Evan Turner missed a layup on a hard drive to the basket, then missed two quality putback opportunities at the rim before latching onto the arm of Donatas Motiejunas while completely exasperated by the ball's defiance in a game the Celtics already trailed by double digits.

The Celtics finally got something going in the second half, cutting a 19-point deficit as low as three on multiple occasions, including in the final minute, before Houston held on for a 93-87 triumph at TD Garden.

After Houston scored 60 first-half points on 52.2 percent shooting, the Celtics frustrated the visitors by limiting the Rockets to a mere nine third-quarter points on 4 of 20 shooting. Boston kept scrapping and closed within a possession on three occassions but could never get the equalizer to drop (and they had plenty of chances). It was Motiejunas who had a putback and an alley-oop layup to help fend off Boston each time it closed within 3 late in the game (and Corey Brewer added two big free throws with 21 seconds to play).

Motiejunas finished with a career-high 26 points on 11-of-16 shooting to go along with 12 rebounds. Josh Smith had some ill-advised second-half shots, but added 15 points (on 6-of-13 shooting) with 10 rebounds. With a defensive spark from rookie Marcus Smart, the Celtics limited James Harden to 14 points on 4-of-21 shooting.

Brandon Bass and Marcus Thornton each scored a team-high 17 points for Boston. The Celtics shot just 35.6 percent (32 of 90) overall.

Loose balls: The Celtics went 10 deep with their rotation. Phil Pressey and James Young were healthy DNPs. ... The Rockets were without Dwight Howard (right knee edema). ... The Rockets finished with a 46-32 advantage in points in the paint. ... Boston limited its turnovers (12 for 16 points), but didn't capitalize much on the ones by Houston (17 turnovers, 18 points).

What it means: The Celtics have lost two straight while dropping to 16-29; the Rockets improve to 33-14. Boston is back in action on Sunday in a Super Bowl appetizer when it hosts the Miami Heat at 1 p.m.

W2W4: C's vs. Rockets (Game 45 of 82)

January, 30, 2015
Jan 30
The Boston Celtics (16-28, 9-13 home) host the Houston Rockets (32-14, 16-7 away) on Friday night at TD Garden (7:30 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:


The Houston Rockets are showing the ability to morph into a team with a functional bench to complement James Harden and Dwight Howard.

Lately, reserves have had to fill in entirely for Howard, who will miss a third straight game Friday night when the Rockets visit the Boston Celtics.

Houston's star center will reportedly miss at least the team's stops in Boston and Detroit before having his ailing right knee re-evaluated. After an MRI Wednesday, the team revealed via its official Twitter feed that Howard is suffering from edema in the knee, which is caused by fluid building up in body tissues.

His absence didn't keep the Rockets (32-14) from a third straight win Wednesday, defeating Dallas 99-94 with 47 points coming from reserves.

For the season, the Rockets rank near the bottom of the league with 27.2 bench points per game while shooting 40.4 percent, which is better than only Charlotte. In the last four, they've averaged 42.8 points on 47.4 percent shooting.

Part of that increased contribution Wednesday came from the return of Terrence Jones, who had 10 points in 21 minutes of his first appearance after missing 41 games due to nerve inflammation in his left leg.

Joey Dorsey has started at center and scored a total of four points in the past two, but reserve Josh Smith has helped make up for Howard's lost production. He's averaged 14.3 points while shooting 55.9 percent during this winning streak.

"I'm starting to find my way, starting to find spacing and other avenues to be productive and efficient," said Smith, who saw plenty of the Celtics (16-28) as a starter in the Eastern Conference but has been limited to 11.5 points on 33.3 percent shooting in his last two matchups.

Field-goal attempts were evenly distributed against the Mavericks, with Donatas Motiejunas taking a team-high 16, James Harden 14 and Smith and Corey Brewer 13. Harden averaged 20.0 shots in the previous 13 games Howard missed.

"We've got so many weapons now," said Harden, who averaged 37.0 points in his previous four before scoring 17 against Dallas. "We've got a lot of depth on this team, a lot of guys that can contribute. When we've got so many guys contributing -- six guys in double figures -- it's kind of hard to beat us."

Harden scored 26 against the Celtics in a 104-90 home win on Nov. 1, but he's been limited to 17.3 points on 37.8 percent in three career starts in Boston. Jones was healthy for the early-season meeting, scoring 25, and is averaging 20.3 points while shooting 66.7 percent in three games against Boston.

The Rockets have won three straight in the series while limiting the Celtics to an average of 89.0 points and 35.9 percent shooting, and Houston will be trying for its eighth win in 10 meetings.

The Celtics return from a 3-3 road trip against the West, though they're a bit down on its conclusion -- Wednesday's 110-98 loss at league-worst Minnesota.

"If you want to make it to where we're trying to make it, these games cannot happen," Jared Sullinger said after scoring 16 points on 6-of-16 shooting.

(Read full game preview)

Impatience masked by Even Stevens

January, 29, 2015
Jan 29
Brad StevensAP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
WALTHAM, Mass. -- One day after former Boston Celtics coach Rick Pitino praised Brad Stevens and cited his patience with the team's current rebuilding process, Stevens volleyed the admiration but playfully questioned the suggestion that he's forbearing.

"I don’t think patient would be the first word that anybody that knows me would describe me as," quipped Stevens, who acknowledged Thursday that his true emotions are often shielded by a stoic outward appearance. "But I think that’s anybody in competitive sports; I’m not unique in that regards."

Pitino showered Stevens with kind words after leading Louisville to an 81-72 win over Boston College in his first time coaching back in Boston since resigning as coach of the Celtics in 2001.

Stevens was flattered by Pitino's comments.

"I heard what he said, and it was really nice," Stevens said. "I think he’s a really good coach. I had a chance to coach against him twice and so I feel like he knows the game. He’s been through so much, both in the NBA and in the college game, so I really appreciated his perspective on things.

"When I first decided to come [to the NBA], I knew that there was going to be a building process; we talked about that. You can’t project a timeline and that’s the toughest [part]. But there are days like Thursday and Friday, back-to-back, that you sneak out those 1-point games and you just hope that, again, maybe that spearheads something. Maybe that gets you going in a good direction. That’s something that you can point to with young guys and maybe continue to grind, fight, and do tough things. I don’t know how patient anybody is in this business. But I do enjoy watching progress being made. I think that the focus, for me, has to be on continuing to coach this team as well as I possibly can every day and continue to coach the individuals as well as we can as a staff everyday. It is hard to keep that in mind when things don’t go your way. But you’ve got to do it."

(Read full post)

Practice: Thumbs up from Turner

January, 29, 2015
Jan 29
WALTHAM, Mass. -- Boston Celtics starting point guard Evan Turner was one of five players whom coach Brad Stevens held out of the team's offday workout on Thursday, but Turner reaffirmed that a lingering right thumb injury shouldn't force him to miss any game action.

[+] EnlargeTurner
David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports
Turner originally sprained the thumb in a loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Jan. 14. Despite having it wrapped during recent games, the injury has been aggravated with Turner in apparent discomfort at times during Boston's recent road trip.

Turner wasn't wearing any sort of wrap as he meet with reporters after the team's workout Thursday and said of the thumb, "It's all right. It's getting better each day. It'll be fine... When it gets bent back, it kind of hurts a little bit. I'll be fine."

Turner is averaging 9.2 points, 4.5 assists and 4.5 rebounds over 25.3 minutes per game. Those numbers improve to 10.8 points, 5.8 assists and 5.4 rebounds over 28.7 minutes in the 19 games he's played as a starter.

Stevens said any decision about whether Turner plays rests with the player and team trainer Ed Lacerte. "That's Evan and Ed's call," Stevens said. "I"m just a coach who -- if they say, 'Yes, he can play’ or ‘Yes, I am playing,’ then he plays. I don’t ask any questions beyond that. If he can’t play, he can’t play. If he doesn't feel comfortable playing, he’s not going to play. That hasn’t been the case thus far."

Stevens said the team held out Turner, Avery Bradley and Tayshaun Prince. Shavlik Randolph (hamstring) also sat out, while Kelly Olynyk remains sidelined by a right ankle injury.

No sleep 'til Houston

After concluding a season-long six-game road trip with a loss on Wednesday night in Minnesota, the Celtics arrived back in the Boston area around 2 a.m. on Thursday morning. Stevens elected to put the team through a light practice/walkthrough Thursday afternoon and the Celtics will skip their usual morning shootaround on Friday before hosting the Houston Rockets.

"I figured that, while we’re on a unique travel schedule and sleep schedule, we’ll stay on it as long as we can," Stevens said. "Most of those guys are fine. A couple of them are in the same situation as I am where, hey, no matter what time you get home, your kids get up at a certain time and you better be up. Most of these guys got to sleep in."

Dawkins drops in

Andre Dawkins, the D-League standout signed to a 10-day deal last week by the Celtics, joined his teammates for the first time Thursday after spending the start of his stint on assignment with the Maine Red Claws.

Dawkins got practice reps Thursday and spent time after the session getting up shots with Jae Crowder.

Said Stevens: "Another reason we practiced today was it was a good chance to get Andre with these guys for a day. I thought that was a good opportunity because Maine plays [Friday] and Saturday."

Dawkins was promptly reassigned to Maine after Thursday's practice.

Stevens recalled Dawkins from his Duke days and said, "He was certainly elite shooting the ball, that’s always stuck in my mind. I watched what he did in the D-League early on in the year, and so I was excited that we got a chance to sign him."

Asked about trying to avoid pressing while on a short-term deal, Dawkins said, "Just got to play basketball. They brought me in for a reason. They obviously saw something in me. Just got to keep doing whatever it is that got them interested in the first place."

Hop HERE for Dawkins' D-League game log. He set a team record with eight 3-pointers during a loss to his last team -- Sioux Falls -- on Saturday.
WALTHAM, Mass. -- Boston Celtics second-year big man Kelly Olynyk wore a protective boot over his sprained right ankle while meeting with reporters after Thursday's practice and said he's uncertain when he'll resume basketball activities while waiting for pain and swelling to subside.

Chris Forsberg/ESPN BostonKelly Olynyk sported a boot at Thursday's practice.
Olynyk injured the ankle when he landed awkwardly on the foot of Portland's Thomas Robinson chasing a rebound in last Thursday's win over the Trail Blazers. Olynyk returned home from the team's extended road trip for further testing and could be sidelined until late February, especially with an extended All-Star break looming next month.

"It’s tough with something like an ankle, everyone is different," Olynyk said. "It could be a week, it could be three weeks, it could be a month -- you never know. I'm just trying to get better and evaluate it each day and take the next step whenever it’s deemed necessary."

Olynyk said he has immersed himself in treatment.

"Lots of stuff -- you’d probably have to talk to [team physical therapist] Todd [Campbell] or [team trainer] Ed [Lacerte], they can tell you better," Olynyk said. "It’s almost treatment overload, just trying to do whatever you can to keep that swelling down, get the pain out of there and try to get it moving as best we can."

Olynyk admitted the injury was "pretty painful" and he realized soon after landing that he couldn't put any pressure on it as he limped off the floor. Pain lingered into this week, but Olynyk believes he is progressing.

The 23-year-old Olynyk was recently voted into the Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star weekend, earning a spot on the World roster in the league's modified rookie/sophomore showcase. The Canada native said he'll wait to see how he progresses before deciding if he can participate in the event and said he hasn't considered whether he'll attend All-Star weekend in New York if he's unable to get on the court.

Olynyk, who played in the Rising Stars game last year as a rookie, said he was honored to be voted in again by the league's assistant coaches given the surfeit of young talent in the league.

Olynyk is averaging 11.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1 steal over 24.5 minutes per game in 40 appearances this season. He missed 10 games last year with an ankle sprain and said that process will help him gauge when he's ready to return to action this time around.

Pitino thinks Stevens is 'tremendous'

January, 29, 2015
Jan 29
If this whole NBA head coach thing doesn’t work out for Brad Stevens, the Celtics coach can take solace in knowing he still has advocates in the college ranks.

Rick Pitino is one.

Pitino, who piled up a 102-146 record in three-plus seasons with the Celtics, received a smattering of boos Wednesday night when introduced pregame for his first game coaching back in Boston since 2000-01. And after he led his No. 10 Louisville Cardinals past Boston College 81-72, he was asked about the job Stevens is doing on Causeway Street so far.

“Way before he came here, I said to my AD and staff, ‘When I retire, go after that guy,’ ” Pitino said. “He was at Butler at the time. I said, ‘Whatever it costs, get that guy.’ ”

Tom Jurich probably appreciated the suggestion, but is no doubt happy with his current coach for now.

The Louisville coach was nothing but complimentary of Stevens and Celtics president Danny Ainge.

“It’s tough,” Pitino said. “When I took over, they won -- I don’t know -- 14, 15 games. And [Stevens has] taken over the same type of situation except he has a lot of patience and I had very little.

“He’s gonna do a fabulous job because it’s not gonna get to him, the losing. He understands the journey. He understands it. He’s gonna do a great job. They play competitive, they’re gonna get better, and better, and better.”

“They got themselves, I thought, one of the top three coaches at any level,” Pitino said. “I thought he was always tremendous.”

Jack McCluskey is an editor for and a frequent contributor to Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.

No charity for Celtics at stripe

January, 29, 2015
Jan 29
The free-throw disparity that the Boston Celtics endured during Wednesday's 110-98 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves might have been more alarming if it didn't feel like the norm.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Bass
AP Photo/Ben Margot
The Celtics attempted a mere nine free throws while drawing just six shooting fouls while Minnesota generated 32 free throws while registering 11 shooting fouls.

You can chalk some of that disparity up to Boston playing its sixth road game in 10 nights to close out its longest trip of the season. It seems fair to assume that Boston's legs were a bit weary and the Celtics were content to settle for perimeter jumpers (49 of Boston's 91 shots came from beyond 16 feet) rather than attack the basket.

But a lack of free throws isn't a new issue for Boston. The Celtics rank 27th in free throws attempts per game this season, the same spot they occupied last season. The Celtics have ranked in the bottom third of the league in free throw attempts per game each of the past five seasons and you'd have to go back to the 2009-10 campaign to find them at the opposite end of the spectrum (10th overall that year).

In a way, the Celtics seem resigned to their lack of free-throw generation. Celtics coach Brad Stevens has expressed a desire to drive up the team's attempt rate, but also acknowledged that his squad, as currently constituted, is built to generate points in other ways. Boston guards, as a whole, don't create a lot of dribble penetration, a problem that's long been lamented, even when Rajon Rondo was still here and seemed reluctant to draw fouls going at the basket.

To be certain, there is no obvious link between free throw attempt rate and success. As an example, the Sacramento Kings are far and away the leader in the NBA in free throw attempt rate (the ratio of free throws generated compared to field goal attempts) at .372 this season and the Kings own the same exact 16-28 record as Boston.

The Celtics FTA rate is a meager.224, ranking them 29th overall (only the Knicks are worse at .216). That said, the Golden State Warriors (.250) are in the bottom five overall; the Spurs (.268) are on the cusp of the bottom 10; and the Atlanta Hawks (.281) are middle of the pack. Low free-throw attempt rates are not an insurmountable obstacle for quality teams.

What aids Boston -- and some of those other top squads mentioned -- is how it limits free throws for opponents. The Celtics rank 12th with opponents owning a .270 FTA rate this season. The Hawks (.248) and Spurs (.263) both reside in the top 10 for opponent FTA.

Building towards the future, it certainly wouldn't hurt Boston to seek players that can get to the line more frequently, particularly when the team's shots are not falling. Boston is hopeful that rookie Marcus Smart will get to the line more often as he gets comfortable as a driver at the NBA level and young bigs like Jared Sullinger and Tyler Zeller must learn to draw more whistles when working around the basket.

Consider that Jeff Green led the Celtics while averaging 4.4 free throw attempts per game this season. With his recent departure, Boston's new leader in free throw attempts per game is Brandon Bass at a mere 2.6 per contest. That's sobering when you consider old friend Paul Pierce averaged 7.2 free throw attempts per game over his 15 seasons with Boston.

The Celtics rank dead last in the NBA drawing only 18 personal fouls per game. For a team that struggles to generate consistent offense, not getting to the line often certainly doesn't make that task any easier.

Boston's young nucleus of players might simply need to learn how to draw fouls. If you look at blocked attempts per game, it suggests Boston is generating foul opportunities. That Kings team that leads the league in FTA rate is getting blocked a league-high 6.1 times per game, suggesting a lot of activity around the basket. Boston ranks eighth while getting blocked 5.5 times per contest. If the Celtics could turn one or two of those blocks into trips to the foul line each game, it would go a long way towards boosting their FTA rate.

For now, the Celtics simply must continue to figure out how to get by with a lack of charity.



Jared Sullinger
14.1 2.2 0.7 28.8
ReboundsJ. Sullinger 8.1
AssistsE. Turner 4.4
StealsM. Smart 1.1
BlocksK. Olynyk 0.7