Celtics

Stevens believes Ojeleye has chance to be one of 'better defenders around'

Stevens believes Ojeleye has chance to be one of 'better defenders around'

BOSTON – Kyrie Irving was having yet another big night scoring the ball. Al Horford was in double-double mode again. Jaylen Brown had rediscovered his shooting touch. Ditto for Terry Rozier, at least at the start of the fourth quarter.

And yet when you talked with Celtics players following Boston’s 108-94 win over San Antonio on Monday night, one of the first names to come up was Semi Ojeleye.

Yes, the second-round pick from SMU selected by the Celtics in last June’s NBA draft has been delivering some first-rate defense in limited doses.

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The 6-foot-7 forward first caught the attention of Celtics fans when his man-to-man defense against Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo was on display and proved to be critical to Boston’s road win over the Bucks last week.

And on Monday, Ojeleye was at it again defensively, holding his own against another elite scorer, Rudy Gay.

“I think Semi has a chance to be one of the better defenders around,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.

Ojeleye was flattered when told about Stevens’ comments about his defense.

“Those are big shoes to fill,” he said. “With the defenders we have on this team, like (Marcus) Smart already. You want to be like those guys; just try to follow their lead.”

What makes Ojeleye such an unusual talent defensively is his combination of strength, leaping ability and lateral quickness – the kind of defensive trifecta that will continue leading to opportunities to play even in limited minutes.

For Ojeleye, his play defensively has been impressive. But the process to be an impact defender, begins well before Stevens calls his number to enter games.

“I just try to watch film,” Ojeleye said. “Try to prepare. These are great guys. I’m not going to stop every play. You do what you can.”

And that is why he has become a player that Stevens has not shown any hesitation in turning to when he needs a defender who can hold his own in man-to-man coverage, but is agile enough to not get burned in case he has to switch out on another player.

You can count Al Horford among the Celtics players who are big fans of Ojeleye’s defense.

“He really moves his feet really well,” Horford said. “He has a good sense defensively.”

And if Ojeleye's perimeter-shooting game comes along, who knows where that defensive talent combined with a more reliable jumper will take him.

He has struggled with his shot most of this season (he came into Monday's game shooting 14.3 percent from the field, 16.7 percent from 3-point range), but came up with some big shots in the second half and finished with seven points and four rebounds on 2-for-5 shooting.

“It was great to see it go through,” Ojeleye said of his long 3-point make out of four attempts. “I’m thankful. I praise God for that, to be honest.”

Knowing how much his defense has meant to the Celtics already, his teammates were naturally ecstatic for him when he finally got a shot to go down on Monday.

“I feel like that (3-pointer) kind of officially opened the game up,” Horford said.

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Report: Celtics sign veteran forward Jarelle Eddie

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Report: Celtics sign veteran forward Jarelle Eddie

The name Jarelle Eddie may not be familiar to you, but he's spent some time with the Celtics.

Four days, to be precise, just prior to the start of the 2014-15 season. He was signed on Oct. 23, right after being waived by the Atlanta Hawks out of training camp, and then released on Oct. 27.

But now he's back . . . 

Eddie, a 6-foot-7, 220-pound small forward, went undrafted after playing four seasons at Virginia Tech. He's bounced from team to team over the last four years, and actually got into 26 games with the Wizards in 2015-16.

Here's a look at some of his most recent work, with the G League's Windy City Bulls:

Celtics need to find No. 2 scorer behind Irving

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Celtics need to find No. 2 scorer behind Irving

BOSTON -- Everyone knows Kyrie Irving’s value to the Celtics is extremely high.
 
But it really hits home on those nights when he’s not in the lineup, as was the case in Boston’s 89-80 loss to Philadelphia on Thursday.
 
Irving didn't play due to a sore left shoulder.He's carried the load offensively for most of this season for a team that has the best record in the Eastern Conference, so it's not surprising the Celts scored the fewest number of points they've scored in any game this year.
 
But it highlights the need for the Celtics to develop a number 2 scorer who can, when needed, step into the more prominent role as the team’s go-to guy.
 
Boston has good players, but none have elevated their play to that of being the next-best scoring option to Irving.
 
Al Horford is a four-time All-Star (with a fifth on the way  this year), but he has never been a player you can turn to for consistent, big-time scoring. That’s because his game is deeply rooted in getting others involved and playing high-level defense.
 
Jaylen Brown has the right mindset most nights, but his all-around game offensively is still evolving. And while he is the team’s number two scorer at 14.2 points per game, that average falls well short of what the No. 2 scorer on most teams isdoing offensively. In fact, Atlanta, Indiana and Sacramento are the only teams in the NBA whose No. 2 scorer has a lower average than Brown.
 
Then there’s Jayson Tatum, a player who has shown all the early stages of superstar-itis. But as talented as he is, the 19-year-old Tatum is similar to Brown from the standpoint of not being ready to emerge as the team’s second-best scorer.
 
“That’s why Gordon (Hayward) was such a good signing for them,” an NBA scout texted NBC Sports Boston. “He gave them a legitimate, high-level second scorer who on some nights would be your best scorer or your best player.”
 
Hayward suffered a dislocated left ankle injury in Boston’s season-opener, and is expected to miss the remainder of this season.
 
Irving’s injury is nowhere close to being that serious. In fact, there’s a very good chance that he will be back in the lineup Sunday when the Celtics host the Orlando Magic.
 
But that doesn’t make up for the team’s lack of a second scoring option.
 
Here are five takeaways from Boston’s 89-80 loss to Philadelphia.
 
 

REBOUNDING

Work on the glass is always going to be a challenge of sorts for the Boston Celtics, making that early run of strong board games a faint memory. Because what we saw against the Sixers was more along the lines of what we’re accustomed to seeing out of the Celtics when it comes to rebounding. The Sixers decisively won the battle on the glass 41-31, serving as a reminder that the narrative surrounding this team when it comes to rebounding hasn’t changed a bit.

TURNOVERS

Brad Stevens described his team’s offense against Philadelphia as being “sloppy” and, truth of the matter, he was being kind. They were hot mess on so many levels against the Sixers. Credit Philly for having a game plan defensively that worked really, for all but the final few minutes of play. No facet of play better illustrated this than the 19 turnovers committed by Boston, which led to 15 points. It’s not the points scored by the Sixers that were the big problem. It’s the fact that those turnovers meant fewer opportunities to score which is the last thing a team without Kyrie Irving needed.

JAYSON TATUM

Against New Orleans, he didn’t take enough shots. And last night against Philadelphia, he didn’t make the ones he usually does. I wouldn’t call what Tatum is going through now hitting the rookie wall. Because he has played so much already, teams have plenty of film and have definitely adjusted the way they have defended him. Now it’s on him to find other ways to impact the game offensively that may not necessarily be his first or second go-to move. He had some nice off-the-dribble moves against the Sixers, finishing with 11 points on 4-for-11 shooting. Tatum needs to continue ratcheting up his aggression at both ends of the floor, which we saw some of that against the Sixers. Now he just needs to keep it going.

SHANE LARKIN

It was just one game, so it would be foolish to get too excited about Shane Larkin’s play against Philadelphia. But there was a lot to like about how he came off the bench and provided some energy and a spark to a team that seemed to be going through the motions. He had eight points on 3-for-6 shooting but more important, he was really aggressive with his drives and decision-making, which is the kind of performance Boston needs others beside Larkin to bring to the floor when their number is called.

JOEL EMBIID

For all that went Philly’s way on Thursday, you still have to give a great deal of credit to Joel Embiid for his play at both ends of the floor. Boston could not stop him on the block or from 15 or so feet out, as he lit the Celtics up for 26 points on 10-for-19 shooting along with 16 rebounds and six assists. It was the second straight game Boston had been dominated by an opposing big man, raising more concerns among Celtics Nation that Boston needs to address its frontcourt by adding another big between now and the playoffs.

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