Celtics

Blakely: Celtics should pursue Noel, but Cousins? No thanks

Blakely: Celtics should pursue Noel, but Cousins? No thanks

BOSTON— Admit it!

When you first saw Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins giving the verbal business to a Sacramento columnist twice his age and half his size earlier this week, “trade ‘em to [pick a team]” came to mind.

And when Philadelphia’s Nerlens Noel reminded us all that his value is worth more than eight minutes, yup, he needs to be sent packing as well.

The  Celtics have been linked with both players in the past.

And while there’s no question each has a skill that would benefit Boston, there’s only one of these two that makes sense for the Celtics to consider.

It’s Nerlens Noel.

Let’s forget for a moment that he’s a Massachusetts native, which I have been told multiple times has “absolutely zero” to do with Boston’s interest in him.

Noel is an athletic, rim-protecting big man whose biggest knock up to this point in his career is how injuries seem to dog him at every turn.

And while no team likes the idea of players grumbling about minutes, there’s a different tone when I talk to league executives about Noel and what’s happening in Philadelphia.

“I never like to hear that stuff, guys complaining about minutes publicly,” an assistant GM told CSNNE.com on Saturday. “But Philadelphia...they have too many bigs and they’re trying to make it work but you know and I know and Nerlens knows, somebody is going to get the short end of things when it comes to minutes. And Nerlens doesn’t want to be that guy.

The assistant GM added, “young guys don’t mind learning and not playing if the guy ahead of him is better or more experienced. They see it as paying their dues. But that’s not the case with Nerlens. He’s as good or better than all their bigs except maybe [Joel] Embiid. So he’s like, ‘why am I not playing?’ And whatever they’re telling him, it’s not what wants to hear for sure.”

In addition to Noel, the Sixers are also trying to find minutes for Embiid, Jahlil Okafor, Dario Saric as well as Robert Covington, who has looked strong in their small-ball lineup at power forward. And while Ben Simmons is considered more of a wing player, at 6-foot-10 he too will likely see some playing in the frontcourt because of the mismatch potential he presents.

In other words, Philly’s frontline isn’t going to get any less congested anytime soon.

But the Sixers have been reluctant to trade him not only because of his talent, but also because of their track record of bigs getting hurt is pretty extensive. The last thing they want to do is part ways with a big and then find themselves experiencing a shortage up front if there are added injuries to their roster.

And as far as Cousins is concerned, the Celtics’ connection with him has been more fantasy that for real, according to a team source who indicated they have not had any talks at any time with the Kings about acquiring Cousins.

That coincides with reports that the Kings have not made it known to other teams that they are interested in trading Cousins, even as all involved understand that moving him is becoming more and more inevitable.

The Celtics may not be pursuing Cousins, but if the Kings get to the point where they are willing to trade him you can bet Boston will be one of the teams they will talk to.

Boston has young, up and coming talent, lots of draft picks and players whose character isn’t an issue – an important factor that will come into play if Sacramento does in fact try to trade Cousins.

Look, talent is not an issue here.

The 6-foot-11 center has lots of it.

But here’s the issue.

As much talent as Cousins has, it doesn’t trump the trouble that seems to follow him at every turn.

The recent blowup he had with a Sacramento-based columnist was just the latest in a long string of bad predicaments that Cousins consistently finds himself involved with.

If all the NBA were about was securing the best talent, acquiring him would be a no-brainer.

But that’s not how this works.

And for those of us who have spent some time talking with Cousins in the past, he comes across as a very likeable guy who is often misunderstood.

But as you talk to him and listen to his words and see his actions, he’s misunderstood because he consistently allows himself to be put in predicaments that don’t portray him in the most flattering light.

And he gets upset at those who call him out on it, rather than him making the obvious changes needed.

He’s a talented headache waiting to be had, which is the last thing Danny Ainge or Brad Stevens wants or needs right now.  

This group of Celtics certainly have their flaws, but you really don’t see them play the blame game too much.

When a guy screws up, he knows it, usually owns it, and they move on.

And the screw-ups are usually limited to what happens on the floor, not what transpires at a night club.

There is no denying that the Celtics are in the market for adding a player who can provide a stronger frontline presence whether it’s better scoring or an upgrade defensively.

And if you know anything about Ainge, he’s always looking to get as much talent while rendering the least amount of assets which makes both Cousins and Noel palatable because their respective teams have to know by now that they’re not going to get comparable value for them via trade.

If you’re the Celtics, you take a call from either franchise if they want to talk about these players.

But as far as seriously considering a trade, there’s only one choice that can help the Celtics (it’ll be later rather than sooner), both on and off the court, and that’s Noel.

Celtics continue comeback narrative with win vs. Hawks

Celtics continue comeback narrative with win vs. Hawks

The Boston Celtics trail by double digits. The Celtics rally to make it relatively close by halftime. Boston continues to gain ground in the third, pull it out in the fourth.

Rinse. Recycle. Repeat.

That has been the Celtics’ mantra this season, with the latest chapter in their comeback narrative being a 110-99 win at Atlanta.

“We need to put an emphasis on playing with space and getting the ball to the other side of the floor,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “It just stuck too much early on. We were staring at some post-ups that if we got it to the other side, maybe you could take advantage of.”

MORE:

Boston (15-2) fell behind by as many as 16 points against the Hawks (3-13), the second straight game the Celtics have rallied from a double-digit deficit.

In Boston’s 92-88 win over Golden State on Thursday, the Celtics fell behind by as many as 17 before rallying for their most impressive win of the season.

That said, it still shouldn’t take away from what happened on Saturday against an Atlanta team that despite their record, has shown signs of playing better in their recent games.

Players are aware of the penchant they’ve shown thus far for falling behind only to mount a furious comeback for the win.

“We don’t try to (go down early),” said Kyrie Irving following Saturday’s win which extended their winning streak to 15 straight which is the fifth-longest streak in franchise history. “Some teams, they go on runs and whether that be us giving up some easy ones or giving up some turnovers or doing things we can correct. When we do correct them, it turns into a different game.”

And that is what makes this stretch of play so impressive.

The Celtics have not played a full game; instead they have had stretches of good play that have often masked their mistakes early in the game.

That’s why head coach Brad Stevens, obviously pleased with the team’s success, knows as well as anyone that his team has to become more consistent in their play if they are to get the most out of these wins and continue to build off of them and achieve their ultimate goal – getting back to the NBA Finals.

“We’re going to keep playing,” Stevens said. “But the biggest thing is, we can’t keep digging these holes.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Stars, studs and duds: No lack of confidence for Brown

Stars, studs and duds: No lack of confidence for Brown

When it comes to the top backcourts in the NBA, you seldom hear about Kyrie Irving and Jaylen Brown.

That may soon be changing if they have more games like the one they delivered on Saturday as Boston put together a solid second half to pull away from the Atlanta Hawks, 110-99.

Irving had a game-high 30 points which was his second game with at least 30 points scored – both against Atlanta.

MORE:

And Brown, who had a strong 22-point performance in Boston’s win over Golden State on Thursday, was even better against the Hawks in tallying a career-high 27 points.

We all know about Irving who has established himself as one of the NBA’s top guards.

But is Brown on the way?

One thing Brown won’t have to develop going forward is, confidence.

He has long maintained that he believes he’ll be among the best in the league. It’s just a matter of him performing at a high level at both ends of the floor, consistently.

“I’ve always had that confidence, I can play with the best in the world,” Brown told NBC Sports Boston’s Abby Chin following the win over Atlanta which extended Boston’s winning streak to 15 in a row. “It’s just a matter of coming out, doing it. My teammates found me tonight. We had a good team win tonight.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 110-99 win at Atlanta which extended the Celtics’ winning streak to 15 in a row which is the fifth-longest winning streak in franchise history.

 

STARS

Jaylen Brown

Back in his home state of Georgia, Jaylen Brown delivered another monster game for the Celtics by scoring a career-high 27 points on 10-for-13 shooting with four 3-pointers.

Kyrie Irving

Irving had his most efficient game this season for the Celtics, tallying 30 points on 10-for-12 shooting to go with four rebounds and five assists.

Dennis Schroder

Atlanta’s best scorer delivering a strong 23-point, 9-assist performance for the Hawks.

 

STUDS

Jayson Tatum

He only had 14 points, but they all came in the third quarter and they included a few crowd-quieting dunks.

John Collins

He came into the league with the reputation of being a high motor player, and he has not disappointed. His hustle and energy led to him tallying 18 points and seven rebounds.

Marcus Morris

When the offense struggled mightily in the first half, it was Morris’ scoring that kept them within striking distance. He finished with 14 points, 10 of which came in the second quarter.

Kent Bazemore

He was Atlanta’s number two scoring option most of the night, and finished with 19 points.

 

DUDS

Boston’s first quarter defense

The Celtics can’t keep digging themselves these early holes, expecting they will turn it on and find a way to climb out of them. The Hawks led 35-20, fueled in large part by shooting 64.7 percent (11-for-17) in addition to out-rebounding Boston 8-6.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE