Chicago Bulls

Surprise! Celtics have a former MVP to deal with tonight

A. Sherrod Blakely

Surprise! Celtics have a former MVP to deal with tonight

MINNEAPOLIS – One of the great things about this Celtics coaching staff is how they have been able to pivot in whatever direction is necessary when an unexpected factor enters the game-preparation equation like, say, an opponent signs a former league MVP whose best years came with the coach of the team he just signed with.

On Thursday, the Minnesota Timberwolves announced the signing of Derrick Rose. who spent six of his nine-plus seasons playing for current Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau in Chicago.

In that time, Rose was a three-time All-Star and 2010-11 MVP – accolades he has not accomplished anywhere else.

With that kind of resume and the familiarity with Thibodeau and a number of ex-Bulls on the Timberwolves roster, what impact does that have on Boston’s preparation for tonight?

Not a whole lot, for several reasons.

For starters, it’s not an absolute that Rose will play tonight, although the fact that Rose mentioned in his presser about being given a small package of plays to work with, leads you to believe he’ll be given a starter's kit of plays to go with tonight. 

Even if Rose does play, he won’t play a large chunk of minutes and like most new guys, he’ll likely be looking to feel his new teammates out rather than try and take over and control the game’s flow.

And it’s not like the Celtics have not seen Rose play this season.

In his lone game against Boston this season with the Cavs, Rose had 14 points, four rebounds and two assists.

He was solid, but far from spectacular.

The Celtics are more likely to try and take advantage of his unfamiliarity with his new team, on the defensive end of the floor. It isn’t as much about him knowing or not knowing what the Celtics want to run, as it is how his teammates handle various situations.

Having had one shoot-around which is what Rose went through Thursday morning, isn’t going to be enough.

It is going to be a process, one that the Celtics should take advantage of when the opportunity presents itself – and it will at some point tonight.

While Rose is quite familiar with the Timberwolves system that has some similarities from Thibodeau’s time in Chicago, there are some significant differences in terms of the personnel and how Thibodeau uses them.

And when Thibodeau coached Rose, he was one of the top players in the NBA.

Now, he’s 29 and a role player trying to help a team that’s focused on getting to the playoffs.

It won't be an issue tonight, but it is worth keeping an eye on going forward. 

But with his return, there are still questions about his health, as well as his desire to play the game.

While in Cleveland, Rose once again had his share of injuries and wound up leaving the team in November to reportedly re-evaluate whether he wanted to continue playing the game.

He re-joined the team the following month and reportedly got married during his leave of absence to his longtime girlfriend Alaina Anderson. who recently gave birth to their child.

But it does bring into question how would he handle another physical setback.

Rose feels as though he still has a lot of basketball left in him to play.

The Celtics will get a glimpse of that tonight.



Celtics take care of business against Bulls

Celtics take care of business against Bulls

When the regular season ends for Boston and they officially begin gearing up for the playoffs, there won’t be any talk of Monday’s win over Chicago. 

This was a team Boston was supposed to beat with no problem.


And since coming back from the All-Star break, the Celtics have done just that -- beat the teams they’re supposed to, with relative ease. 

While that may not seem like that big a deal, it is for a team that spent the better part of this season mounting comeback win after comeback win over all teams, good and bad ones. 

For them to be at a point where they’re handling bad teams with ease, is indeed a sign of their growth from where they were when the season began. 

“We played well,” Boston’s Jaylen Brown said after the win. “We came with the right mindset. Last time we played them on this floor, they beat us by 20-plus points. We knew that coming in, so we wanted to get them back.”

Mission accomplished.

Here are five other takeaways from Boston’s 105-89 win over Chicago.


In Boston’s loss at Houston, it was definitely a below-average Al kind of game. But to his credit, he made it clear that his play against the Rockets was bad and that he had to be better for the team going forward. He wasted no time going to work against the Bulls, scoring nine of his 13 points in the first quarter which helped set the tone for Boston’s blowout win.



The strength of the Celtics is their bench. Words you didn’t expect to see, certainly not based on how this group played at the start of the season. But since coming back from the break, the Celtics’ second unit has been as strong a bench as there is in the NBA. They scored a season-high 67 points at Houston on Saturday, and followed that up with 44 points against Chicago on Monday. Since the all-star break, Boston’s bench has averaged a league-best 54.2 points per game according to



There is no mistaking at the Boston Celtics are a better team when Kyrie Irving isn’t on the floor with them. But to their credit, they have managed to make up for his absence consistently this season, with Monday’s win at Chicago being the latest example. Without Irving on the floor this season, Boston has an impressive 5-2 record which includes wins in the last four games without him by an average of 14 points per game. 



Often overlooked in Boston’s success this season has been Jaylen Brown’s role as the team’s No. 2 scorer. When the opportunity to step up in a more prominent role – like when there’s no Kyrie Irving around, Brown has often made the most of it. In seven games this season without Irving, Brown has averaged 16.1 points while shooting 47.4 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from 3-point range – all better than his regular season average in each of those offensive categories.



Celtics head coach Brad Stevens has leaned on Shane Larkin when the team has been in a bit of a jam, whether it be injury-related or the team needing a spark of some kind. But Monday was the first time Stevens called upon him to fill the role of being a starter. Although he was filling in for Kyrie Irving (left knee soreness), Larkin wasn’t charged with producing Irving-like numbers. What he did was play his game, contribute at both ends of the floor and take advantage of whatever in-game opportunities came his way. He made all three of his 3-point attempts, finishing the game with nine points along with four rebounds, four assists and two steals.


Brad Stevens' decision to start Shane Larkin pays off

Brad Stevens' decision to start Shane Larkin pays off

Shane Larkin was anything but an obvious choice for Brad Stevens when it came to pick who would start in place of Kyrie Irving who was out with a sore left knee.

Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier have been the guys to fill in for Irving in the past. And with both playing so well off the Celtics bench, it would have made a lot of sense for Stevens’ pool of possible replacements for Irving was a pool of two.


And while we’ve heard Stevens speak of how he’s confident in any player on the roster, these are the times when Stevens’ words are put to the test.

His decision to go with Larkin worked well for both the player and the team as Boston had no problem beating the Chicago Bulls 105-89.

Larkin, making his first start for the Celtics and first in the NBA since 2016, had nine points on 3-for-3 shooting to go with four rebounds and four assists. 

“I felt good,” Larking told reporters after the game. 

Although Larkin was filling in for the Celtics’ leading scorer, he knew his role wasn’t about replicating what Irving brought to the table. 

Aware that the Celtics have others who can score besides Irving, Larkin was more concerned with his defense and making sure he got his teammates the ball where they could play their game.

“I was trying to get in the lane and let those guys be effective,” Larkin said. “I felt it was a good job today.”

Said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens: “He was great; he was great. We talked about who should start and everything else. When you trust all three of those guys, then it becomes who do you want to play off the bench. He was really good tonight.”

His teammates echoed similar sentiments. 

“It was nice to see him step up to the challenge,” said Boston’s Al Horford. “Shane is a professional, very professional. He stays ready. It was good to see him with that … he brings a lot of energy anytime that he comes on the floor. And tonight we needed it.”

And unlike some games we’ve seen pitting the Celtics against a cellar-dweller, they did not give the Bulls any hope that this game would be anything other than a blowout. 


Larkin, making his first NBA start since 2016, was mindful of how important it would be for the Celtics to get off to a good start. 

Boston did just that as they more than doubled up the Bulls in the first quarter which ended with the Celtics holding a commanding 35-16 lead.

“It was very important for me and the team,” Larkin said. “Last time we were here they jumped on us early. Today, we wanted to make sure we hit them early. On my end, every time I’m out there I’m trying to make positive impact play.”