Celtics

Celtics zone a work in progress

674806.jpg

Celtics zone a work in progress

CHICAGO For years, Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers has shunned the notion of playing zone defense.

This season, Rivers and his staff have embraced it whole-heartedly - sort of.

While the results of its use have been mixed, one thing we know for sure - it is very much a part of the C's defensive strategy this season.

Rivers totally gets that his team must improve in this particular facet of play, but finding a solution can only come about once the problems are identified.

And there are problems - lots of them.

RELUCTANT BUYERS

For a team that prides itself on playing great man-to-man defense, asking - no, expecting - them to play zone is not something that's embraced quickly.

That initial reluctance has certainly played a role in Boston's struggles at times in a zone defense.

"Our guys are starting to buy into it," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who added that there are still a couple who "don't get it yet."

And as Rivers reminded reporters this week, most NBA teams that play a zone, don't play it anywhere close to what you see in high school.

"You can't think it's the high school zone where you just stand still and point," Rivers said. "Because guys will torch you."

TALK IT UP!

Another often overlooked aspect of playing good zone defense, is communication. It's always important to talk, especially on defense. But when playing in a zone, it becomes a necessity. Opponents facing zone defenses are constantly in search of holes that they know exist, when teams play a zone defense.

Without a strong level of communication, those gaps and seams that teams are looking to exploit, have far too often taken on the form of wide open jumpers for opponents.

Chicago's Luol Deng had 23 points in Boston's loss on Thursday, a tally that included him making 6-of-9 3-pointers - some of which came against Boston's zone defense.

Boston's Doc Rivers credits the team's use of the zone for allowing them to get back into the Bulls game, a game in which they trailed by 16 before making it a toss-up in the fourth.

"The one thing with our league," Rivers said. "If you stay in zone too long, eventually they're going to find some holes and I thought they (Bulls) did that. But our communication broke down some on that as well."

Zone 'D' in, bad man-to-man out

It seems the only time the Celtics go with a zone defense, is when their man-to-man defense bails on them.

In the Bulls loss, Boston fell behind by double digits and just like that, the zone defense was back.

"Our zone defense got us back in the game," said Rivers who believes it has been effective at times for the C's. "We were down, so we were looking for something to change the tempo of the game."

And the C's continue to search for ways to change the misfortune of what has been a difficult season.

"It's been a frustrating year," Rivers said. "We just gotta keep fighting through this maze. It's gonna turn OK. I really do believe that. We just have to hang in there. I think it'll turn our way.

Rivers added, "I like our team. I like the way we're starting to play. We're just not winning games."

Smart 'not worried' about lack of contract extension with Celtics

Smart 'not worried' about lack of contract extension with Celtics

CLEVELAND – For the third year in a row, a first-round pick of the Boston Celtics is unable to come to terms on a contract extension prior to the deadline.

That means Marcus Smart will become a restricted free agent this summer. Last year it was Kelly Olynyk (now with the Miami Heat) and in 2015 it was Jared Sullinger (now with Shenzhen Leopards of the Chinese Basketball Association).

Both the Celtics and Smart's camp intensified their discussions in recent days as the October 16th 6 p.m. EST deadline drew near.

MORE:

While there was progress made, there wasn’t enough to get a deal done.

Smart has repeatedly indicated that he wants to re-sign a long-term deal to stay in Boston.

And the market for the 6-foot-4 guard became clearer based on the contracts that some of his fellow rookie class of 2014, were receiving.

Denver’s Gary Harris agreed to a four-year, $84 million contract after establishing himself as one of the better young two-way talents in the NBA last season. And at the other end of the financial spectrum, you would have to look at Phoenix’s T.J. Warren who signed a four-year, $50 million contract.

More than likely, Smart’s deal next summer will fall somewhere between the deals those two players received.

As much as Smart would have preferred to get a deal done heading into the season, it’s not something that he’s going to cause him to lose any sleep.

“Get it done now, or get it done in six months, I’m OK either way,” he told NBC Sports Boston. “I’m not worried about it.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

All signs point to LeBron James playing against Celtics Tuesday

160304-lebron.jpg

All signs point to LeBron James playing against Celtics Tuesday

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- A sprained left ankle injury kept LeBron James out of all but one of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ preseason games, and has created a certain element of uncertainty as to whether he’ll play against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night. 
 
While it has yet to be determined for sure if he’ll play, all indications are that the 15-year veteran will be in the starting lineup as the Cavs kick off their quest to remain the team to beat in the East.

“I never hide stuff from you guys. I really don’t know,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said when asked if James would play against the Celtics. “Depending on how he feels, but I really don’t know.”
 
However, James looked pretty comfortable shooting the ball after practice with a trio of former Celtics in Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and Jeff Green. 
 
And if you listen to the man who would likely start in James’ place -- J.R. Smith -- there’s nothing to worry about Cavs Nation. 
 
According to Smith, James will play. 
 
“We were talking about it, he’s never missed, since he was 8 years old and he started playing, he’s never missed a first game,” Smith said. “I’m preparing for him to play.”
 
Despite having played more than 41,000 minutes -- only 33 players in NBA history have done so -- James has been one of the game’s more durable players. Last season James he sat out only eight games, and that was the most he has missed in a single season.
 
 "He's gonna go [Tuesday]," Smith said. "He's gonna go, trust me [on] that. I don't care what he's gotta do, he's gonna play."