At 19-38 the Boston Celtics are enduring one of their worst seasons ever. For a franchise that has a league leading 17 championships and a .591 regular season win percentage all-time, a down year like this is nothing to be overly concerned about.
The Celtics knew when they sent Kevin Garnett and Paul Piece to Brooklyn and traded head coach Doc Rivers to the Los Angeles Clippers for a first-round pick that they were going to take a couple of steps back this season. Every franchise has to do it at some point. The Celtics were fortunate to squeeze an extra season or two with Garnett and Pierce as their center pieces, but like all good things, it had to come to an end at some point and this summer was that time.
The departures of Garnett, Pierce and Rivers have been compounded by Rajon Rondo’s absence for all but 12 games so far this year.
This is a development year, and for this franchise they are few and far between. They should benefit from this one for many years to come, though. Brad Stevens is getting to learn the NBA head coaching ropes without any pressure. Jeff Green, Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger are having strong seasons with expanded roles. They’re going to have a high draft pick in one of the most highly-regarded draft classes in recent memory. And, most importantly, Rondo is healthy and on the road back to being one of the more productive point guards in the league.
Although their second round pick Colton Iverson, who they acquired in a draft night trade, is not with the team this season, he’s another piece of the Celtics’ future that is developing to be a difference maker in coming years, only overseas in Turkey. Iverson is playing with Besiktas CT and averaging 8.6 points and 6.6 rebounds in 21.6 minutes a game.
The Celtics have kept a close eye on Iverson and have stayed in frequent contact with him, making the cross country journey recently to watch him in person.
“It’s great to know that they’re still supporting me, watching me evaluating me, helping me think about ways that I can better,” Iverson said to Basketball Insiders. “I know they’re really invested in me right now; I am going to try and put in the hard work and do everything I can to be ready, when they are ready for me be to be ready for them. I am going to keep working every day. Knowing that they have my back and are supporting me right now is a great motivation and I’ll keep working harder than ever before.
“It’s a special feeling knowing that such a prestigious organization is really counting on you to get better and work hard and do the things for them that they need. I am trying to live up to the expectations right now even though I am not technically part of the team; I am just trying to get better. If and when they do need me, to be ready to produce and help the team win any way possible. I know it is such a big time organization, they have legends that have played there and so many championships, it really is a high expectation that you have to be ready for and ready to live up to.”
Iverson exploded onto the draft scene during his final year of eligibility at Colorado State, where he transferred to for his senior year after three years of being a role player at Minnesota. He went from being completely off the radar to a draft pick by putting up 14.2 points and 9.8 rebounds a game. With all the makings of a blue collar big man in the same mold of Kendrick Perkins, who helped the Celtics win a championship in 2008, Iverson was given a small list of things to add to his game this year in Turkey.
“My offensive game definitely needed improvement for the next level,” Iverson said “Having the post moves to go against pros so I’ve been working on that this year, stepping out being able to knock down 10-15 foot jump shots, working on pick-and-roll defense, which is going to be huge in the NBA because 75 percent of the offense in the NBA is pick-and-roll. Being able to guard that will really benefit me and just continue rebounding, which is what I’ve always been good at, if I can continue rebounding at a high level that will really transition well into the NBA.”
As Iverson states, pick-and-roll defense will be key for him at the next level. Fortunately, the style of play and defensive schemes in the Turkish league give Iverson the chance to work on it every game.
“It was a little bit different for at first because Summer League we relied on the guards to fight through screens and you basically were just like a second source,” Iverson said. “Right here it’s all on the big man to contain penetration, stop the guard completely, then allow for recovery and get back and guard your man in time. You have to be able to that and it happens really fast. It’s a little bit different over here because there is no defensive three seconds so it’s a little bit more crowded in the paint, I guess that helps you a little bit. It’s definitely on the big man to contain penetration on any pick-and-rolls.”
He’s also been forced to step away from his comfort zone inside the paint offensively and work on becoming more versatile like the Celtics’ desire.
“There is definitely not as much back to the basket game here, there is a lot more setting screens, being at the high post, the short corner,” Iverson said. “It’s a little bit different for me, it’s a bit of an adjustment. I think it’s going to benefit me in the long run because I am expanding my game and I’m learning to have the ball in different situations and scenarios. Even though it is different for I think I am benefitting from it and the experience of it.”
Iverson’s contract expires at the end of the season, after which he plans to come back to the states and train at Impact Basketball in Las Vegas, Nevada as he did in preparation for the NBA Draft until he can join the Celtics’ summer league team.
Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge recently hinted that the team could swing big to make some improvements this season. Last time the Celtics were this bad was the 2006-07 season where they went 24-58. The next season they went 66-16, a record for the biggest turnaround in a single season in league history. If anyone knows how to rebuild in a hurry, it’s him. As an affordable, defensive-minded center who is still improving, Iverson could easily fit into his big plans.
Clippers Officially Sign Glen Davis
The Los Angeles Clippers announced today that they have signed free agent forward Glen Davis. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed. Davis will be available to play in the Clippers game vs. New Orleans tonight and will wear uniform number 12.
Davis, 28, appeared in 45 games (43 starts) this season with the Orlando Magic averaging 12.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 30.1 minutes per game. A native of Baton Rouge, LA, Davis is reunited with Clippers head coach Doc Rivers, who coached him for four seasons in Boston and together were a part of the 2008 NBA Championship Celtics team.
A seven-year NBA veteran, Davis has appeared in 417 career games (120 starts) with both Orlando and Boston, averaging 8.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.0 assists in 23.1 minutes per game.
Originally drafted by Seattle with the 35th overall selection in the second round of the 2007 NBA Draft, Davis was traded to Boston along with Ray Allen as part of a Draft Day trade. After four years with the Celtics, Davis joined the Magic on Dec. 12, 2011 along with Von Wafer in exchange for Brandon Bass.
The power forward has made 69 career Playoff appearances, averaging 8.3 points and 4.2 rebounds in 21.9 minutes. Last season, Davis averaged a postseason-best 19.0 points and 9.2 rebounds for the Magic in five playoff games (all starts).
Davis enjoyed a successful college career, playing three seasons at Louisiana State University. He averaged 16.7 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.16 blocks in 95 games (93 starts) at LSU, with his best year coming in 2006 when he led the Tigers to the Final Four and was named the SEC Player of the Year and a first-team All-American, leading the SEC in scoring (18.6) and rebounds (9.7).
Kemba Walker, Kevin Love Named Players of the Week
The Charlotte Bobcats’ Kemba Walker and the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Kevin Love today were named NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week, respectively, for games played Tuesday, Feb. 18, through Sunday, Feb. 23.
Walker led the Bobcats to a 4-0 week behind averages of 22.5 points (tied for seventh in the conference), 8.8 assists (second in the conference) and 5.5 rebounds. His 40.5 minutes per game ranked third in the East. Walker tallied 20-plus points three times and eclipsed the 30-point plateau once. He scored 24 points, handed out a career-high 16 assists and added five rebounds on Feb. 19, during a 116-98 win over the Detroit Pistons.
Love helped the Timberwolves to a 2-1 behind a league-best 36.7 ppg and 12.7 rpg (fourth in the league). He recorded a point-rebound double-double in all three contests, and notched one triple-double with 37 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists on Feb. 22, during a 121-104 win over the Utah Jazz. Love leads the NBA with 47 double-doubles on the season.
Here is a recap of the week for Walker and Love:
Kemba Walker, Charlotte Bobcats
Feb. 18 @ Detroit: Collected 22 points, six assists and four rebounds in a 108-96 win over the Pistons.
Feb. 19 vs. Detroit: Tallied 24 points, 16 assists and five rebounds during a 116-98 win over the Pistons, finishing a home-and-home sweep.
Feb. 22 vs. Memphis: Scored 31 points and added eight rebounds and five assists in a 92-89 win over the Grizzlies.
Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
Feb. 19 vs. Indiana: Scored 42 points and added 16 rebounds in a 104-91 win over the Pacers.
Feb. 22 @ Utah: Collected a triple-double with 37 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in a 121-104 win over the Jazz.
Feb. 23 @ Portland: Posted 31 points and 10 rebounds during a 108-97 loss to the Trail Blazers.
Other nominees for the Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week were Charlotte’s Al Jefferson, Golden State’s Stephen Curry, Indiana’s Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers’ Jamal Crawford and Blake Griffin, Miami’s Chris Bosh, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, Portland’s Damian Lillard, Sacramento’s Isaiah Thomas, Toronto’s Kyle Lowry and Washington’s John Wall.
Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team
Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.
“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”
Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN
NBA PM: Patrick Beverley Set the Tone for Clippers in Season Opener
Patrick Beverley set the tone for the L.A. Clippers with his aggressive defense in their season opener.
“The LA Clippers are going to the Western Conference Finals. Guaranteed.”
That bold statement was made by Charles Barkley during TNT’s coverage of last night’s matchup between the Lakers and Clippers.
While Barkley may have had his hot take canon primed and in mid-season form, that should not overshadow the fact that the Los Angeles Clippers put together a strong showing in their first regular season game since the departure of Chris Paul.
Blake Griffin logged 29 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, two steals and knocked down three of his six three-point attempts. Griffin was aggressive and showed no hesitation on his jumper, which seemed to open up lanes for him to drive to the basket (where he is most effective). DeAndre Jordan was fantastic as well, contributing 14 points, 24 rebounds, one assist and one steal.
While the Clippers lost some significant contributors from last season, including J.J. Redick, Luc Mbah a Moute and Jamal Crawford, the team had some returning and new players show that they are capable of filling the void.
Milos Teodosic was just 2-9 from the field, but knocked down two three-pointers and looked comfortable and effective running the team’s offense. Danilo Gallinarni shot just 3-13 from the field but looked healthy and spry, displaying the kind of mobility that is necessary to play the small forward position. His ability to act as a secondary playmaker wasn’t on full display, but there were moments where it was apparent that he could be a big help in generating open looks for his teammates. Lou Williams also looked good in his Clippers debut, scoring in a variety of ways off the bench and contributing six assists as well. Wesley Johnson continues to look confident and aggressive, a continuation from his preseason performances, and is starting to knock down the open shots his teammates are creating for him (which has been a problem for him in the past).
While the Clippers looked solid in their opening act without Paul, it should be noted that the Lakers are a young team overall and their defense has been a major problem for the last few seasons. While the Lakers have added some promising young talent over the offseason, like most young teams, they are going to struggle to slow down veteran teams with potent offenses. It would be a mistake to think the Clippers can replicate this sort of offensive performance every night, especially against the better defensive teams in the league. However, perhaps the most promising part of the Clippers’ season debut was the fact that they seemed to feed off of and embrace the gritty demeanor and style of play that Patrick Beverley brings to the court each and every night.
Last night’s game was the NBA debut for rookie point guard Lonzo Ball, who many predict will develop into a star player. Unfortunately for Ball, his opening night matchup came against Beverley, who earned a spot on the 2017 All-Defensive First Team. Beverley repeatedly guarded Ball past half court, pushed him around and did everything he could to throw him off of his game. He held Ball to three points, nine rebounds and four assists in 29 minutes of action.
Beverley, like every NBA player, has heard the hype and noise surrounding Ball and his future in the league (most of it from his outspoken father, LaVar).
“I just had to set the tone,” Beverley said. “I told him after the game that due to all the riffraff his dad brings, that he’s going to get a lot of people coming at him. I let him know that after the game. What a better way to start than spending 94 feet guarding him tonight — welcome the young guy to the NBA.”
Beverley is one of the more aggressive defenders in the NBA and is known for trying to get under the skin of his opponents, so Lonzo may not face this level of intensity in every game. But based on Beverley’s comments, it’s clear that he expects other players around the league to defend Lonzo aggressively as well.
Snoop Dogg, the rapper and passionate Lakers fan, summed up the issue for Ball arguably better than anyone else has so far.
“His father put him in the lion’s den with pork chop drawers on,” said Snoop.
For his part, Lonzo complimented Beverley on his aggressive defense.
“[Beverley] plays hard. He knows his job. He does it very well,” said Ball. “He gets under people’s skin and plays defense and does what he can to help his team win.”
Beverley set the tone for the Clippers, who looked crisp and confident throughout the game. Griffin’s three-point shot looks like it could finally be a reliable part of his offensive arsenal. Jordan was very active on the glass, pulling down 24 rebounds (possibly inspired in part by his commitment to donate $100 per rebound this season to help the effort to rebuild his hometown of Houston after the damage inflicted by Hurricane Harvey). The rest of the supporting cast played with the sort of cohesion and confidence that takes at least a few weeks into the season to develop. Again, the Clippers’ performance could have stemmed primarily from the Lakers’ shaky defense, but it was encouraging to see the team play with such force and confidence in the absence of Paul.
The Western Conference is extremely talented and deep, so it’s unlikely that the Clippers will make it to the Western Conference Finals as Barkley predicted. However, challenging for a spot in the playoffs and perhaps even doing some damage once there seems to be in the realm of possibility. This is especially the case considering how much of an impact Beverley had Thursday night, both defensively and in setting the tone for the rest of his new teammates.
Morris Bringing Leadership To Celtics
Marcus Morris chats with Basketball Insiders for a one-on-one exclusive.
Returning just one starter from last year’s top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics underwent wholesale changes this past offseason.
Gordon Hayward signed a super max contract. Danny Ainge pried Kyrie Irving away from the Cleveland Cavaliers in a blockbuster deal. Jayson Tatum was selected with the third overall pick in the NBA Draft.
In early July, though, there was an under-the-radar trade executed that hasn’t been mentioned much. Surprisingly, Celtics guard Avery Bradley was sent to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Marcus Morris, a heady wing with size and versatility to add to a revamped core of players.
Bradley was a mainstay with the franchise for seven years and played a vital role as a part of Brad Stevens’ system, but Boston decided to move in a different direction. As for the man they got in return, he’s thrilled to be there.
“It makes me feel good,” Morris told Basketball Insiders of Ainge dealing one of his best former players for him. “It makes you feel wanted.
“This is my first time since I’ve been in the NBA I’ve been on a team with a bunch of guys that [are] All-Stars. With the maturity of the team being this high and having them high expectations on us, I’m excited to get the season going and see how far we can take this.”
The Detroit Pistons likely wanted to keep him, but the organization clearly felt Bradley’s skill set was too good to pass up. For Morris, he insisted there was no indication that his old team would send him away, but he hasn’t been bashful about talking up his new home.
“Had no idea that I was gonna be a Boston Celtic, but I’m ready for the challenge, you know?” Morris said. “I’m excited. Boston, being a Celtic—it’s something that growing up you don’t really see happening, but when it happens it’s an amazing thing.
“It’s like playing for the Patriots, you know what I mean? One of the most heralded teams and most heralded franchises, and Boston is one of those.”
Entering the seventh season of his career, Morris has remained a steady part of the league. During his time in Detroit, he started nearly every game for the Pistons and found a comfort zone that he believes will carry over in Boston.
“Just continue to be consistent, continue to build on my last past couple of years,” Morris said of his personal goals. “I really felt like I carved my spot in the NBA the last two years—averaging 14 a year and helping my team get to the playoffs one of those years, so I really think I’ve carved a niche in this league.”
The success has come thanks to his versatility and the NBA’s current direction pointing towards that type of game. All of a sudden, not having a defined position makes a player more valuable, something Morris is thankful for as he continues to bring a little bit of everything to the table.
“For guys like me, it’s great,” Morris said. “Coming into the league, I had this ‘tweener’ thing on my back and now it’s like [freaking] great to be a ‘tweener’ at this time. I’m actually happy that it’s switching to my position and guys that can do multiple things are being utilized more in this league.”
Putting the ball in the basket has come fairly easy for Morris, who averaged 14.1 points per game on 42.6 percent from the field over 159 games with Detroit. He’s able to stretch the floor and provide solid spacing offensively, and he envisions doing more than that for this Celtics group.
“And leadership,” Morris said. “I’m not too much of a vocal guy, but I’m a passionate guy on the court. I think that’ll rub off on guys. I love scoring. I love shooting the ball. But that’s not the only thing I do.
“I’ve been a tough defender around this league for the last past years and I’m really looking forward to hanging my hat on that again and just doing whatever it takes for my team to get to that next level.”
Stevens is aware of the impact Morris can bring in the locker room and on the floor. When he returns from a sore knee to make his debut for Boston, that’ll show through his play.
“He’s a guy that can stretch the floor at the four,” Stevens said. “He’s a guy that can guard two through four. He’s tough. He’s smart. He works the right way. We’ll be better with Marcus Morris for sure. The versatility is a very important part of what we want to be.
“Whether he is starting in a couple of weeks or whether he’s coming off the bench, at the end of the day he’s gonna be a critical, critical part of our team.”
While he’s waited to come back, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have stepped up in his absence. With Hayward likely sidelined for the rest of the season, that success will have to be sustained. Morris is a big believer in this promising duo and sees how grounded they are to make that happen.
“They’re mature guys for their age,” Morris said. “Jaylen, I think he’s 20. He’s definitely a lot more mature than I thought. Jayson, too. He’s way more mature than your average 19-year-old.
“At the end of the day, it’s just basketball. I think those guys, they’re ready for the challenge. They love the game. They always in the gym, so I think it’ll be easy for ‘em.”
Part of Morris’ role is guiding those two and the other younger pieces that Boston has as they try and establish themselves as professionals. He’s kind of a coach per se, which is somewhat fitting considering what he did this summer.
Most basketball fans are aware of “The Basketball Tournament” that takes nationwide. For those that aren’t, it’s a single-elimination competition between 64 teams in which the champion receives a $2 million prize. Morris was the head coach of Team FOE—standing for Family Over Everything.
Along with his fellow Kansas alums, including his brother Markieff and Thomas Robinson, Morris coached his team to the final game. Team FOE was in front most of the game but ultimately fell to Boeheim’s Army, a squad filled with former Syracuse Orangemen.
“I was on my way man,” Morris said of coming close. “I actually liked it. I’m a smart guy. Me and basketball stuff, I can put it together real well. I was kinda upset we lost in the fashion that we lost, but we’ll be back next year.
“I’m a smart player,” he said regarding a potential future on the sidelines. “I know the game really well. Coaching comes easy for some guys and I’m just one of those guys.”
You could hear “Coach Morris” down the line, but for now and for years to come, Marcus is focused on his first year with Boston. It’s a team that surely has the talent to be the top team in the East it’s pegged to be. Stevens is a basketball savant with great leadership.
Even without an All-Star like Hayward and a 0-2 start, the Celtics should still be a force to be reckoned with. There’s an even greater demand for them to achieve their potential, especially knowing eyes will be on them, but Morris welcomes the challenge.
“Man, it’s pressure on every team,” Morris said. “It ain’t like it’s just all on the Boston Celtics. It’s pressure on every team. What’s a game without pressure anyway?
“Pressure makes it the best thing. That’s what we need to do anyway. I enjoy the pressure. Me personally.”
Shouldering the load won’t be easy, but if it comes down to it, Morris will be swimming instead of sinking. When all is said and done, he shares the same aspirations as most players do—raising the Larry O’Brien trophy in the summer.
“I want to the win the championship,” Morris said. “You put this type of team together to get to those positions. I’m looking to be playing in June and trying to get to a championship.”