Celtics

Celtics could be interested in bringing back Gerald Green

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Celtics could be interested in bringing back Gerald Green

With the New Jersey Nets in talks of a potential trade with the Atlanta Hawks for Joe Johnson, the domino effect might make its way all the way to Causeway Street.

The addition of Johnson could make the Nets less likely to re-sign Gerald Green, which might then open the door for a potential return to Boston for the former Celtic.

Green, whose youth and immaturity factored heavily in his struggles during his first stint with the C's, returned to the NBA this past season (he had been out since 2009) following a strong showing in the D-League.

In 31 games with the Nets, Green averaged 12.9 points while shooting 48 percent from the field and 39 percent on 3s -- both career highs.

He has at least one fan among the C's hierarchy: head coach Doc Rivers.

Prior to facing Green and the Nets earlier this past season, Rivers made it clear that he was pulling for Green to continue on the course of getting his once-promising NBA career back on track.

"He's not a bad kid," Rivers said. "He's never been a bad kid. He just needed some direction. Sometimes, you have to go through hard times to make it. And I'm really hoping he makes it."

Rivers added, "People look at Gerald and they just saw this freak athlete that won the (2007) dunk contest. Gerald can make shots. He can really shoot the basketball. He just hadn't been taught how to play basketball. I hope it works out for him."

Green, 26, is not a player that ranks at or near the top of the Celtics' wish list. But depending on how free agency plays out, that could change quickly.

Boston has already reached out to representatives for Jamal Crawford -- a player CSNNE.com said last month would be a player of interest to Boston during free agency -- as well as those for Ray Allen, O.J. Mayo, Nick Young and Jason Terry.

Celtics-Hawks preview: C' defense looks to keep up historic pace

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Celtics-Hawks preview: C' defense looks to keep up historic pace

As the wins continue to pile up for the Boston Celtics, so does the praise and adulation from others throughout the league. 

It’s a double-edged sword if you think about it. 

Acknowledging how good the Celtics are, is indeed a sign of respect. 

But it also means Boston plays every game with a large target on its back unlike any of Brad Stevens’ previous Celtics teams. 

And that means every game they play, even those like tonight’s matchup at Atlanta where they will be heavily favored, are dangerous matchups.

Because for some teams, the next best thing to competing against the champ (Golden State) is facing the team with the best record who just knocked off the champ. 

That will be one of the dynamics at work tonight when the Celtics (14-2) kick off a three-game road trip against a trio of sub-.500 teams beginning with the Hawks (3-12).

Boston has shown tremendous focus and attention to detail during their 14-game winning streak. But in that span, the Celtics have never had a trio of teams right behind each other that struggled as much as the Hawks, the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks have this season. 

Not including games played on Friday, Boston’s next three opponents are a combined 11-33. 

All three of those teams would love to be the one to knock off the Celtics, the kind of victory that could significantly shift the direction of their respective franchises from their current downward spin. 

Meanwhile, the Celtics will look to continue to play with the kind of defensive temperament that has catapulted them to the top of the NBA’s defensive standings in several categories. 

“The way they’re beating teams it ain’t pretty,” a league executive texted NBC Sports Boston. “But they win. Last I checked, that’s what matters most.”

And that success has to a large degree, put a bigger bullseye on the Celtics than ever. 

“Now that we have a reputation, I think everyone is coming for us,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “Now we have to come play even harder, and I think we can do that. I think we are more than capable.”

Especially if they continue to defend at a level we haven’t seen in years. 

Boston has a league-best defensive rating of 95.4. A key component in Boston’s strong play defensively has been their ability to win the battle of the boards. They come into tonight’s game with a .530 rebounding percentage which is second in the league to Portland (.539).

And that defense, while praised for how it functions collectively, it also consists of some pretty good individual defenders as well. 

Among guards averaging at least 20 minutes per game, Boston has four players ranked among the top 10 in defensive rating (Marcus Smart, 93.5 defensive rating, 2nd); Jaylen Brown (93.6, 3rd); Terry Rozier (95.0, 5th) and Kyrie Irving (96.4, 8th). 

When you look at forwards, Brown headlines a trio of forwards that includes himself, Al Horford (94.2, 3rd) and Jayson Tatum (96.1, 7th). 

Aron Baynes has the best defensive rating (90.6) among centers, followed by Horford (94.2).

“Our guys are locked in and really trying and again we can really play some pretty ugly basketball at times,” Stevens said. “But I do think that we are competing which is really good.”