Sunday Column: Boston’s Playoff Return Shows Progress Under Stevens

Brad Stevens and the Boston Celtics begin their postseason play on Sunday against the Cleveland Cavaliers, and after a semi-successful season, there is optimism surrounding the Green and White. (Photo Credit: Celtics Hub/CelticsHub.com)

Brad Stevens and the Boston Celtics begin their postseason play on Sunday against the Cleveland Cavaliers, and after a semi-successful season, there is optimism surrounding the Green and White. (Photo Credit: Celtics Hub/CelticsHub.com)

By Matt Noonan

The Boston Celtics have returned to the postseason.

Yep, the “glory days” of Boston Celtics basketball has returned. However, don’t get your hopes up because Brad Stevens – the head coach of the month! – will be guiding a roster of second and third depth chart players against perhaps the ultimate favorite to defeat San Antonio in June (or Golden State).

Boston will once again see LeBron James in the “second season,” but unlike previous matchups, this particular series favors King James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and Framingham’s own David Blatt.

That’s right, the Cavaliers are going to win this series, probably in four or five games.

Perhaps six? Well, that would depend, especially if the Celtics could win one (and hopefully two) game(s) on their own parquet.

Yet, no matter the outcome of this series – again, expect Cleveland to win – this is a huge step forward for a team that became the biggest revolving door earlier this season.

Give credit to Stevens and most of the front office as the Green and White became “pit-stop” for a slew of players over the past few months. Players like Tayshaun Prince, Nate Robinson, Jameer Nelson and Austin Rivers stole the headlines when they all landed in the ‘City of Champions’ during Danny Ainge’s ‘Wheeling and Dealing’ escapade. Rajon Rondo was a Celtic – he was on the opening day roster – but was eventually shipped to Dallas.

Once Ainge stopped shuffling the deck, Stevens had a chance to get to know his team – for the most part! – and teach them a style of basketball that resulted in a 40-42 record.

Boston won more games this year, outlasting their 2013-14 squad that captured 25 games, including 16 contests on Causeway Street. This season, the Celtics won 21 games on their home court, 19 on the road, and 12 divisional matchups. Boston also finished 28-24 in the Eastern Conference, but again, don’t let those numbers fool you because the Celtics won’t be playing basketball in May or June (I am sorry, Boston!).

I am a Celtics fan – always have been! – however, I just don’t think this team has what it takes to defeat the second best team in the East. If they were matched up against the Atlanta Hawks, well … I would think they would have a chance. Chicago? Forget it, I like the Bulls because they’ll contend for an Eastern Conference crown.

Boston – on the other hand – should enjoy seeing their beloved Celtics in the playoffs. It is extremely nice to have a winter team extend their season into mid-to-late April, especially after the Bruins’ collapse last weekend. We love having our teams compete in the postseason, we do, but this team won’t be riding Duckboats around Government Center. Instead, most of the players will learn from this opportunity and apply it to next season.

Year number two of Stevens and the Celtics has been a success. They won more games, were competitive with the league’s top teams – remember when they almost beat the Warriors? – and showed they can compete, even if they look like a squad that resembles a college intramural unit.

I am extremely excited to see the Celtics taking a step forward. And now, it is all about playing your best – at least giving your best effort, Brad! – and learning from the experience. I believe in Brad just like I believe in Boston. Better days are ahead for the Green and White, so consider this the start of something special.

All good teams have to go through a “rebuilding” phase in order to contend. Atlanta was a decent team a few years ago and now they’re number one in the Eastern Conference. Toronto wasn’t that good, even when Vince Carter played for the Raptors, but now they’re a 49-win team. And the same could be said for Milwaukee, but the Bucks won 41 games, not 49.

Let’s all enjoy this series – please do the best you can to enjoy it, but remember that while Cleveland is indeed the favorite, Boston will one day be in their shoes and ready to contend for Banner 18.

Will The Celtics Re-Sign Ray Allen?

Do you think Ray Allen will join Miami for the 2012-13 season? (Photo Credit: CelticsTown.com)

By Matt Noonan 

It’s the summertime, which means news can be incredibly slow, which is why Noontime Sports has decided to pose a few questions pertaining toward the various professional sports teams in Boston.

In this particular post, we decided to ask the question: Will Ray Allen re-sign with the Boston Celtics? And below we’ve provided a thoughtful answer.

I doubt it, but I hope my gut is wrong.

Ray Allen is one of the greatest deep shooters in NBA history and it’s certainly possible that a three-year, $9.3 million contract would intrigue the shooting guard to join forces with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

Yet, if he wants more money, and what professional athlete doesn’t these days, he’d re-sign with the Celtics, a squad that could offer him more than the Heat.

When Boston acquired Jason Terry this past week, many believed that particular acquisition marked the end of the Allen era in Massachusetts. However, if Allen really wants to win one more championship before retirement, then why wouldn’t he attempt to do it with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce? Wouldn’t that be the ideal storybook ending?

Allen, Garnett and Pierce most likely have one or two years remaining, so I personally believe it would be the wrong thing for him to leave Boston for the NBA’s “evil empire.”

Boston currently has enough cap room to not only re-sign him, but also add additional pieces that could help the veteran squad compete for Eastern Conference glory against Brooklyn, Indiana, Miami and New York.

According to the Palm Beach Post, Miami put on the full-court press on Thursday to persuade Allen to join the Red and Black. And as noted in Ethan J. Skolnick’s blog post, Allen could see more minutes in a Heat uniform, especially if Wade continues to be hampered by a knee injury. He also mentioned that LeBron posted a picture of the shooting guard in a Heat uniform on Twitter this past week, which obviously was designed through Photoshop, but stirred up excitement by the various South Beach supporters.

All in all, I think there is a good chance that Allen will indeed ink his name on a contract that’ll provide him with a Miami uniform. Although, anything is possible, especially in the world of sports, so don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

Expect Boston to produce a counterattack that could possibly persuade Allen to re-join the Green and White for one last title run before he makes his decision.

What’re your thoughts? Do you think Ray Allen will sign with the Heat or return to the Celtics? Feel free to send your thoughts to NoontimeSports@gmail.com or respond to us on Twitter @NoontimeSports or @NoonSportsBlog. 

Boston Celtics Select Sullinger, Melo

With the 21st Overall Pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, Boston Selected Jared Sullinger! (Photo Credit: Zimbio.com)

By NoontimeSports.com 

Sadly, the Boston Celtics didn’t draft Austin Rivers, who was selected by the New Orleans Hornets, but the Green and White did acquire Ohio State sophomore Jared Sullinger with the 21st overall pick and Syracuse University sophomore Fab Melo with the 22nd overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.

Here are a few tidbits pertaining toward each player.

* Sullinger, who was deemed originally a lottery pick, was red-flagged by NBA doctors due to back issues he sustained this past season with the Buckeyes. The sophomore forward missed two games this past year, but managed to average 17.5 points and 9.2 rebounds per game.

* Sullinger was a sparkplug for the Buckeyes this past season, but sadly Ohio State fell short in the Final Four against Kansas.

* Melo was named the 2011-12 Big East Defensive Player of the Year, averaged 7.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, but missed the NCAA March Madness tournament due to academic issues.

* Melo is a 7-foot center, while Sullinger is a 6-foot-9 forward.

Shapiro: Boston Celtics Draft Preview

Would Royce White be the right piece for the Boston Celtics? (Photo Credit: IrishCentral.com)

By Lucas Shapiro 

Curious to see whom the Boston Celtics will pick tonight?

Aren’t we all?

How Boston picks tonight will be the first indication of what direction the Celtics will go in the potentially post Big Three era.

Here are ten guys that could be wearing a Celtics jersey at the end of the night:

Royce White, (Sophomore | Iowa State | 6’8″ Forward): Although Danny Ainge recently denied it, rumors have been swirling around the NBA that the Celtics had promised White they would draft him as the 21st pick. And for those not too familiar with White, Jonathan Abrams of Grantland.com wrote an excellent piece yesterday portraying the 6’8″, 270-pound forward. He is arguably the most unique NBA draft prospect in years. His hero is John Lennon. He plays exactly like LeBron James. He has a fear of flying. Yet, what makes White so special is how he has overcome adversity to be where he is today. White did not play one minute at the University of Minnesota under Tubby Smith due to the fact he was arrested multiple times, (he also stole a computer). He ended up transferring to Iowa State where he learned the value of being honest and working hard. The product ended up carrying Iowa State to the second round of the NCAA tournament. White is a physical freak with a high skill level. He played point-forward for Iowa State, despite having the body of a power forward. He’d be an immediate impact for the Celtics because they might be losing Jeff Green and Brandon Bass this summer. They also do not have another ball-handler aside from Rajon Rondo, so White could be that guy for spurts of time. The Celtics will need to figure out how to help White with his anxiety issues and fear of flying, but there is a good chance that White could be an impact player for the Celtics right away.

Jared Sullinger, (Sophomore | Ohio State | 6’9″ Power Forward): Let’s get this straight: Jared Sullinger came back to Ohio State, improved his outside shot, improved his free-throw shooting, improved his shot-blocking, lost weight, and carried his team to the Final Four. Yet, for some miraculous reason he is a possibility for the Celtics in the 20’s, (Boston has picks 21 and 22). This is a guy, who was projected to be a Top-5 pick at the beginning of the year, has been knocked down due to bulging discs in his back. A few years ago, former Kansas forward Darrell Arthur fell in the draft due to concerns about his kidney. Yet, in his three years in the NBA, he has averaged 62 games played in per year, so the fact of the matter is that if Sullinger falls to the Celtics, he will be an absolute steal.

Fabricio de Melo, (Sophomore | Syracuse | 7’0″ Center): The Celtics desperately need size and it is unlikely that either Meyers Leonard or Tyler Zeller falls to them. Melo would be the next best 7-footer available. There are a lot of red flags surrounding Melo. He does not have good hands. He is very raw. He is not very intelligent. But one promising sign about Melo is that he improved drastically during two seasons with the Syracuse Orange. When he first walked onto the Syracuse campus, he could barely contribute. He would get lost in defensive rotations and had a hard time getting up and down the floor. So, he lost a great deal of weight before his sophomore year and looked like a completely different player. He made a major impact on the defensive end. It was apparent after he was ineligible for the NCAA tournament that Melo may have been Syracuse’s most important player this past season. He would be a long-term project for the Celtics, but he could fit in, even if he ends up being a guy that grabs a few rebounds, blocks a few shots, and gives a few fouls, which would pay big dividends for Boston.

Andrew Nicholson, (Senior | St. Bonaventure | 6’9″ Power Forward): Nicholson is relatively unknown to the casual basketball fan. He is a big man with a vast set of post moves, as well as deep range on his jump shot. The big problem with Nicholson is that he is 22-years-old, and still had a body that isn’t ready for the NBA. He was a decent post defender in college, but he only allowed 0.77 points per possession in post-up opportunities, which ranked in the 56th percentile in college basketball. At 6’9″ and 220 pound, Nicholson will need to bulk up if he wants to contribute on both ends of the floor in the NBA. He is not an upside pick, but Nicholson could boost the second unit’s scoring.

Moe Harkless, (Freshman | St. John’s | 6’8″ Forward): Harkless is a small forward with a power forward’s game. He has a great deal of potential and could be a sleeper pick for down the road. Think about how great of a pick-up James Posey was for the Celtics a few years back. Harkless could be a similar type of player. He needs to add some polish to his game, but the upside is there.

John Jenkins, (Junior | Vanderbilt | 6’4″ Shooting Guard): If Ray Allen does not return, the Celtics are desperately going to need some outside shooting. Jenkins is arguably the best catch-and-shoot player in the draft. Boston would be an excellent fit for Jenkins because he would not be asked to do anything else. He has some holes in his game, (lack of quickness), but he would always be paired with two of the best defensive guards in the league.

Should the Celtics trade up for Austin Rivers? (Photo Credit: CollegiateStandard.com)

Perry Jones, (Sophomore | Baylor | 6’11” Forward): It is unlikely that Jones will fall this far, but it is not out of the question. If he does land on the Celtics, Kevin Garnett might be the one player in the league that can teach him to play hard. In terms of talent alone, Jones is a Top-3 player in the draft.

Arnett Moultrie, (Junior | Mississippi State | 6’11” Power Forward/Center): The Celtics were the worst rebounding team in the NBA last year. Moultrie is a bit of an enigma in terms of upside, but he certainly can rebound. Would he be an upgrade over Greg Stiemsma? Probably not, but the Celtics are desperate for size.

Draymond Green, (Senior | Michigan State | 6’7″ Power Forward): Green does not have much upside, but the Celtics would know what they are getting. Green is a utility player. He could be like a combination of Marquis Daniels and Leon Powe for the Celtics. When they need rebounds, Green could grab them. When they need toughness, Green can bring the toughness. He would be a great complimentary player to a team that has enough stars already.

Austin Rivers, (Freshman | Duke | 6’4″ Shooting Guard): This is the pick that people do not like on the outside, but secretly want to see on the inside. Everyone wants to see Austin Rivers play for his father. Doc might be the only coach that could connect with him. Who knows what would happen if Austin Rivers is selected by Boston, but according to various rumors on Thursday, the Celtics will attempt to trade up for him. One thing is for sure: Rivers to Boston would make for an amazing HBO “Hard Knocks” series.

Daily Noontime – May 30, 2012

Daniel Nava drove in three runs on Tuesday, as Boston defeated Detroit, 6-3! (Photo Credit: CTPost.com)

By NoontimeSports.com 

It’s “hump day,” which means this week is somewhat over, right? OK… OK… here are some headlines, news and stories from the city of champions.

* The Boston Red Sox earned their 25th win of the season on Tuesday, as they defeated the Detroit Tigers, 6-3. David Ortiz cranked his 11th home run and 18th double of the season, while Daniel Nava recorded three RBIs. Also, Daniel Bard picked up his fifth win on the bump by tossing 5.1 innings and yielding five hits and two earned runs. Bard also recorded four strikeouts before he was relieved in the sixth for Rich Hill.

* Boston has now won 12 games at Fenway Park this season, and will attempt to even their home record on Wednesday against the Tigers — Jon Lester faces Drew Smyly — first pitch is scheduled for 7:10PM.

* According to reports — Carl Crawford is two weeks away from throwing. The Sox outfielder has apparently tallied 60 swings of a tee, but is 10 days away from being able to test the arm, which he believes will be the “true test.”

* The New England Patriots announced on Tuesday that they released the 2007 first-round draft pick of the Indianapolis Colts, Anthony Gonzalez. The wide out, who was a free agent this past winter, has been hampered by injuries and hoped to revive his career in New England.

* Finally, the Boston Celtics will attempt to even their Eastern Conference Finals series with the Miami Heat on Wednesday — tip is scheduled for 8:30PM.