Celtics

That's all for Sullinger

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That's all for Sullinger

Earlier this week, we learned that Jared Sullinger had been passed over for a spot in the Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star Weekend. And upon hearing the news, the city of Boston's general reaction fell somewhere in the middle of anger and shock.

No Sully? NO SULLY?!

And then everyone got over it. After all, we were talking about the Rising Stars Challenge, a game with no meaning whatsoever, and one that we'll all declare a joke after five minutes of fast break dunks. Still, it hurt to see Sullinger get snubbed (he should have made it over Tyler Zeller). It was the principle. It was the knowledge that if anyone on this Celtics team deserved any recognition, it was the rookie out of Ohio State. He'd worked so hard. He was so ready and willing to learn. He was a sponge. He was improving by the game, and already more than capable of holding his own. He had the NBA's most devastating ass since Rick Mahorn.

Even if it didn't really matter, Sullinger deserved a spot in that game

And I just assumed he'd get there:

"But here's the good news," I wrote on Wednesday. "He'll probably make it anyways. I mean what would All-Star weekend be without at least a handful of players dropping out with injuries? We already saw it with Rondo, and it won't end there. Chances are that at least one of these nine rookies will turn an ankle or bang a knee over the next two and a half weeks."

Blah.

At this point, we'd all more than welcome a sprained ankle or bruised knee for Sullinger. We'd prefer to hear that he's going to miss a few weeks after being attacked by a pack of wild dogs. Anything but his back. Anything but the only reason that a player with his talent dropped so far in the draft. Anything but the worst-case scenario.

But that's where we are. Exactly one week after Rajon Rondo became the first player in NBA history to tear his ACL without anyone noticing, we learn courtesy of the arch angel of basketball death that Sullinger needs surgery on his once-again ailing back, and will miss the rest of the year.

What's this mean for the Celtics?

Well, Brandon Bass will likely see a bump in minutes. Jeff Green might have to play a little more power forward. They've called up Fab Melo, so maybe he'll see some run? If there was ever a time to bite the bullet and extend an offer to Kenyon Martin, you'd have to think that time is now. (UPDATE: I somehow forgot to mention Chris Wilcox. Then again, Doc has forgotten about him a bunch this year, too.)

But for right now, concerns over who will fill in for Sullinger pale in comparison to the emotions surrounding the fact that they need a fill-in at all. That it's his back. That it's going to be a long time before he is back. And the other questions: Does it stop here? Is one surgery and eight months on the shelf the only thing standing between Sullinger and a happy, healthy career? Or is this just the beginning?

It's too early to speculate. Especially since, at this very moment, optimism is hard to come by, and common sense suggests a future that no one wants to accept. Either way, life was a whole lot easier when a meaningless Rising Stars snub actually meant something.

And when all those teams who passed on Sullinger were still overly cautious suckers.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Marcus Smart upgrade to questionable for Game 5

Marcus Smart upgrade to questionable for Game 5

BOSTON –  Once considered a long shot to return by Game 7 of Boston’s first-round series with the Milwaukee Bucks, Marcus Smart may be on the floor as soon as Tuesday night's Game 5 matchup.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said there was no update on Smart following the team’s practice on Monday, but the team has since upgraded Smart's status to “questionable” for Game 5 – the first time he has been listed as anything other than “out” since he had his right thumb surgically repaired last month.

In the past couple of weeks, Smart has increased his workload and made it clear that he was inching closer to getting back on the floor possibly ahead of schedule. 

Prior to Boston’s Game 4 loss, Smart discussed his potential return. 

“I feel ready, I feel strong enough to get back out there,” Smart said at the time. “I’m just waiting for the OK.”

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It appears his most recent visit to the doctor went as planned with Smart now likely cleared to practice – and with that clearance, available to play. 

The return of Smart would be a huge plus for a Celtics team that has struggled mightily in this first-round series against Milwaukee from a defensive standpoint. 

During the regular season, Boston had a league-best defensive rating of 101.5. But against the Bucks, Boston’s defense has slipped to second-to-last among playoff teams which has heavily factored into the series now being tied at two games apiece. 

You can count Boston's Jaylen Brown among the Celtics eager to get Smart back into the fold. 

“When he gets in there he changes the whole game on defense,” Brown said. “He’s definitely missed so when he comes back that’ll make a lot of our jobs a whole lot easier.”

Stevens had similar sentiments about Smart. 

“Marcus is one of our most reliable players for the last four years,” Stevens said. “No question Marcus as been a huge part of us.”

Smart has appeared in 54 games for the Celtics this season, averaging 10.2 points, 4.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds while playing 29.9 minutes per game.

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Jaylen Brown's crucial flub in Game 4 was actually officiating error

Jaylen Brown's crucial flub in Game 4 was actually officiating error

BOSTON -- The NBA’s two-minute report on Boston’s Game 4 loss at Milwaukee revealed a trio of incorrect non-calls in the closing moments of play, two of which went against the Celtics in their 104-102 loss. 

With Boston ahead 100-99 with less than a minute to play, Jaylen Brown lost the ball on a driving lay-up attempt. 

No call was made on the play, one that Brown thought he was fouled on. 

The two-minute report confirmed “that (Khris) Middleton makes contact to Brown's arm that affects his driving shot attempt.”

Had the call been made, Brown would have gone to the free throw line with 43.5 seconds to play with the Celtics already ahead by one point. 

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But on the ensuing Milwaukee possession following the non-call, Malcolm Brogdon drained a 3-pointer that put the Bucks ahead 102-100.

With 47.9 seconds to play, the two-minute report also indicated that an offensive foul should have been called against Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo. The two-minute report indicated that, “Antetokounmpo extends his arm and wards off (Semi) Ojeleye's arm, affecting his ability to contest the shot attempt.”

And with 1:14 to play, Antetokounmpo was fouled by Jayson Tatum although no call was made. On the play, the two-minute report says that, “Tatum clamps Antetokounmpo's arm and pushes him, affecting his (freedom of movement) and ability to receive the pass.

On the ensuing possession following the non-call, Tatum hit a jumper that put the Celtics ahead 100-99 with 52.4 seconds to play. 

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been asked about officiating quite a bit in the last few days. And his response in each instance remains relatively the same.

"I'm not going to ever say anything bad about referees because they have a really tough job," Stevens said. 

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