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Celtics Tweets of Interest: Jordan Crawford Receives Love; Jared Sullinger Supports Troops

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Don’t look now, but the Boston Celtics have won four straight games. Sure, three of those four victories came against teams who currently own losing records. The Celtics also made a buzzer-beating three-pointer from Jeff Green to overcome the defending champions, the Miami Heat, on the road. The win over the Heat came on the second night of a back-to-back set on Saturday night.

Entering the season, most media members and fans did not know what to expect from the Celtics. The team lost their coach (Doc Rivers), two superstar players (Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce), and their remaining star is rehabbing from a torn right ACL (Rajon Rondo). With some talented freshmen in college basketball, the prevailing belief was the Celtics are tanking to draft one of these players from college.

Eight games into the 2013-’14 season, nobody still knows what to think about this Celtics team. They are standing in first place in the Atlantic Division with the Philadelphia 76ers and they continue to raise questions. Will they be able to sustain this impressive play? Are they really this good? Can Brad Stevens win in the NBA with a lesser team like he did at Butler University? While the season is young, these Celtics are providing excitement with their play.

Here are a couple of tweets:

Jordan Crawford was seen as an offensive-first, selfish player with the Washington Wizards. He was traded to the Celtics last February for Jason Collins and an injured Leandro Barbosa. The Celtics failed to pick up the option on his rookie contract because he was seen as a wild card. Since Stevens inserted Crawford into the starting lineup last Wednesday against the Utah Jazz, the Celtics have taken off. In the 120-105 victory over the Orlando Magic, Crawford scored 16 points and added 10 assists with no turnovers. In the past four games, Crawford is averaging 12.7 points, 5.7 assists, and 1.2 turnovers. Crawford is certainly feeling the love from Celtics fans for his recent play at point guard.

Jared Sullinger has been providing the Celtics with productive minutes off the bench with Gerald Wallace and Courtney Lee. Sullinger took the time on Veterans’ Day to recognize the sacrifices that American soldiers have and continue to make to protect our freedom. Sullinger is another player like Crawford who is looking to shake his image from his arrest for domestic violence in August.

Celtics Have Many Questions in Summer

Paul Pierce (left) and Kevin Garnett (right) may have played their last game in a Celtics uniform.

Paul Pierce (left) and Kevin Garnett (right) may have played their last game in a Celtics uniform.

 

As the Boston Celtics head into the off-season, they have many questions to answer. The first is whether they should retain captain Paul Pierce?

Pierce could make $15.3 million this season unless the Celtics buy out Pierce for $5 million. If the Celtics choose to buy out Pierce, they will have to do it by June 30th. The issue is that the Celtics are already committed to $76 million for next season. If they buy out Pierce, they still do not have a lot of money to spend since they save just $10 million and they are already over the salary cap (likely to be in the neighborhood of $59 million). If the Celtics do cut ties with their franchise cornerstone, this could lead to Kevin Garnett also leaving the franchise. Garnett said after the Game 6 loss to the New York Knicks that his future is tied with Pierce. Head coach Doc Rivers left the door open  to the possibility of leaving the Celtics in his postgame press conference on Friday.

The free agent and draft class is very weak this summer so it will be tough to rebuild this off-season. This leaves trades as the only potential avenue to upgrade the 2013-’14 roster. President of basketball operations Danny Ainge was unable to ship Pierce or Garnett off at the trade deadline because he was asking for a significant return.

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Resilient Celtics Look to Overcome Star-Powered Knicks

The Boston Celtics' Kevin Garnett (left) and the New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony (right) will build on the physicality from their first meeting this year.

The Boston Celtics’ Kevin Garnett (left) and the New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony (right) will build on the physicality from their first meeting this year.

The Boston Celtics have overcome adversity this year to find themselves in the NBA postseason for the sixth consecutive season. The Celtics lost their All-Star point guard, Rajon Rondo, to a season-ending torn right ACL in a January 25th double overtime loss to the Atlanta Hawks. Rookie forward Jared Sullinger was forced to undergo surgery on his back in February that ended his season. Reserve guard Leandro Barbosa suffered a torn ACL in his left knee in the third quarter of the 94-91 loss against the Charlotte Bobcats on February 11th. In a matter 17 days, the Celtics lost three key players in their rotation.

This season has been split into the team with Rondo and the team without Rondo. Prior to Rondo’s injury, the Celtics were 20-23 and they had lost six consecutive games. Then the team improved their play and appeared to rally around people calling for their demise. They won their next seven contests, including a 100-98 overtime victory over the top team in the NBA, the Miami Heat, and were 14-4 in their initial 18 games without their floor leader. The team played well defensively and they spread the ball around. Jeff Green became the player that Danny Ainge hoped he was getting when he sent Kendrick Perkins to the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2011. Green was more aggressive on the offensive end and his speed and length provided fits for the opposition. At one point the team was down to nine active players because of all the injuries. Ainge traded Jason Collins to the Washington Wizards for Jordan Crawford before the trade deadline ended on February 21st. He signed TerrPence Williams, Shavlik Randolph, and D.J. White. All three of these players came from the Chinese Basketball Association and had been unable to stick with a team in the NBA.

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Boston Celtics Relatively Quiet at Trade Deadline

Celtics fans can only hope that Jordan Crawford is bringing his scoring prowess to Boston

Celtics fans can only hope that Jordan Crawford is bringing his scoring prowess to Boston

For all the hoopla that surrounded the Boston Celtics in recent weeks, the trade deadline came and went with minimal activity.  For those of you hoping to see Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and/or Rajon Rondo go in a blockbuster deadline deal, sorry.  For those of you, like me, who anticipated that Celtics GM Danny Ainge would stand pat at the deadline, well you were right (sort-of).  In a late mid-afternoon deal, which first came to light in the early morning, the Celtics and Washington Wizards came to an agreement in which the Wizards sent Jordan Crawford to Boston for ½ of Leandro Barbsoa and Jason Collins.

Crawford has had what many would call an uninspiring NBA career.  He has averaged the following numbers: 26.2 minutes per game, 13.4 points, 3.1 assists, 2.7 rebounds.  Not to shabby for a guy who once was known for dunking on LeBron James before coming to the league. After becoming the 27th pick in the 2010 NBA draft, Crawford put up promising stats for three seasons; however, he continually fell out of favor in Washington, especially after the recent return of John Wall.  That’s what so lackluster about him, he has received 4-straight DNP Coach’s decisions in a row in Washington.

Before we jump to any conclusions, lets be honest, Jordan Crawford isn’t the Celtics savior whatsoever.  What he is, is a bench player who can flat out shoot the ball. When poised, Crawford can score the basketball.  After Barbosa’s ACL injury, Ainge knew he needed someone who could come off the bench and do just that.  While I am not advocating for the deal whatsoever, I look at it as more of a necessity.  I don’t like Crawford as a player, but I really do believe that he has some tremendous upside as far as the rest of the season goes.  Prediction: The Celtics will eventually come to rely on his scoring ability with similarity to their dependence on Barbosa’s.

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Celtics Will Not Be Sellers At Trade Deadline

Boston Celtics forward Kevin Garnett dictates where he wants to go with his no-trade clause.

Boston Celtics forward Kevin Garnett dictates where he wants to go with his no-trade clause.

This is the season for trade rumors and speculation to be at its all-time peak with the deadline approaching. Like every year, the Boston Celtics will be in the middle of the activity.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The Celtics will not be sellers on February 21st, 2013. Besides Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, the Celtics do not have valuable trade chips other than Avery Bradley and possibly Courtney Lee.

The Celtics do not have many players with expiring contracts other than Pierce, who has a player option that is guaranteed at $4 million for next year. The other expiring contracts are for role players such as Leandro Barbosa, Jason Collins, and Chris Wilcox who won’t net much in return. Teams around the league will have to take on contracts for multiple years. The NBA rules state that trades must match salaries.

Garnett is one of four players (Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, and Dirk Nowitzki) to have a no-trade clause in his contract. Since Garnett is fiercely loyal, especially to Doc Rivers, it would be hard for the Celtics to deal him away. Remember before the Celtics traded for Garnett in the summer of 2007, Garnett refused to come to Boston until the Celtics traded for Ray Allen to join Pierce.

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Jared Sullinger Plays Big Role for Celtics’ Reserves

Boston Celtics forward seemed to be getting to every loose rebound against Marcin Gortat and the Phoenix Suns last Wendesday.

Boston Celtics forward seemed to be getting to every loose rebound against Luis Scola and the Phoenix Suns on January 9th.

It is no coincidence that the Boston Celtics won six consecutive games (before they fell to the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday) because of their improvements on the defensive end. The Celtics are getting consistent production from their bench and the rebounding of rookie forward Jared Sullinger.

Sullinger posted double digit rebounds in wins over the Phoenix Suns (16) and the Houston Rockets (11). The 6-foot-9-inch forward has accumulated most of his boards on the offensive end and he has helped the Celtics get out of last place in offensive rebounding.

During the winning streak, Sullinger averaged nearly 10 points and nine rebounds per game. He also corralled 21 offensive rebounds in this stretch against players such as Tyson Chandler of the New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks’ Josh Smith and Al Horford, and the duo of Marcin Gortat and Luis Scola of the Suns.

Despite Sullinger being undersized, he is able to outmuscle bigger players with a big lower mass that is able to push opponents away from the basket. He is also able to do this on the defensive end of the court.

Teammates have praised Sullinger for his basketball intelligence, his interior passing, and the ability to score. Sullinger can also make 15-foot jumpers outside the paint. Most of Sullinger’s scoring has come from within five feet of the basket because he has strong post moves and of his rebounding ability.

At the beginning of the year, the Celtics believed they had strong depth inside with Sullinger or Brandon Bass and Darko Milicic as reserves along with Chris Wilcox. The Celtics lost Milicic because he went back to Serbia to take care of his ailing mother. Bass has struggled with inconsistency. Wilcox suffered a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his thumb and has been out since December 18th. Bass was just reinserted into the starting lineup and Jason Collins is playing limited minutes due to nagging injuries. This has left Sullinger to be a force and to play a big role in the reserve unit.

The biggest reason why Sullinger has struggled is his propensity to accumulate fouls early. This issue has not gone away since Sullinger fouled out in the final minute in the 103-91 victory over the Rockets last Friday. He committed three fouls in the first half of the 100-89 win over the Charlotte Bobcats on Monday. He also got into early foul trouble against the Hornets. Officials will pick on Sullinger because he is a rookie. Sullinger’s size forces him to be physical when defending taller forwards, which means he will get called if the officials are calling a tight game.

At this time last year, Sullinger was battling injuries while playing for the Ohio State Buckeyes against Big Ten competition. He fell to the 21st pick in the 2012 NBA Draft in June because teams were worried about his back and conditioning problems.  Now, he is in the running for Rookie of the Year while helping the Celtics climb back into the Eastern Conference race. Currently, the Celtics are in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, but they are just four and a half games behind the Eastern Conference-leading Miami Heat.

Sullinger has provided the Celtics with energy off the bench. If the Celtics continue to win, they will also need continued production from Sullinger.

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