Greg Monroe

How Greg Monroe is acclimating to Celtics' system

usatsi_10594996.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Photo

How Greg Monroe is acclimating to Celtics' system

BOSTON – Greg Monroe is a low-post, back-to-the-basket scorer who is a willing passer but doesn’t have the deep, long-range shooting touch that’s becoming more common among today’s NBA big men. 

But the big fella has skills, the kind that should be on display more often as he becomes more familiar with the Boston Celtics' system. 

Tuesday was an important step in that process with Monroe going through his first practice with the Cltics. 

Boston acquired the 6-foot-11 center on Feb. 8, just days after he was bought out by the Phoenix Suns.

“It felt good to practice,” Monroe said. “It was good to get some reps, get some good reps at learning the offense, communicating on defense with the guys game speed but not in a game.”

MORE CELTICS: 5 takeaways: Slumping Celtics need to pick up the pace

Monroe has already appeared in three games for Boston, averaging 4.0 points, 5.0 rebounds in 14.3 minutes per game.

The 6-foot-11 center has been picking up the nuances of the Celtics' system at a pretty good clip, but said getting the offensive stuff down has been the bigger challenge.

“Defensively, it’s pretty easy picking up rotations, communications … the language you use is pretty universal,” Monroe said. “Even if the call may be different, it’s still the same positioning that I’m used to so that’s not really hard.”

It’s still early, but his new teammates like what they have seen thus far. 

“More than anything with Greg, he’s a veteran. He knows what to do," said Boston's Al Horford. "He has a very good feel for the post. For me, I’m going to try and help him defensively and on offense, anything I see that can help our team and help him … but he’s picked up our offense pretty quickly. He’s a very smart player. He’s on top of a lot of things.”

One of the keys to Monroe being on the fast track in learning the Celtics' system, has been assistant coach Jay Larrinaga. Celtics head coach Brad Stevens assigns all players an assistant coach to work with throughout the season. 

“He’s been a huge help,” Monroe said of Larrinaga. “Just getting me up to speed, learning the plays, telling me what certain guys like, what Brad expects of me.”

And those expectations have been pretty clear. 

Stevens wants Monroe to be Monroe, a big man who can score in the post, find teammates if they are open and maybe most important, contribute to the culture of winning which has the Celtics (40-18) firmly entrenched as one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. 

And for Monroe, Tuesday’s practice – his first with the team – was a great first step in that process.

MORE BOSTON SPORTS: Patriots Season Report Card: Some trouble on the final exam 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Monroe thrilled to be joining a title contender

Monroe thrilled to be joining a title contender

BOSTON – When it came time to pick a team to sign with, Greg Monroe had some options. Ultimately it came down to taking his talents closer to home, or to a title contender. 

Monroe picked door number two, with the Boston Celtics edging out the Harvey, LA native's hometown team, the New Orleans Pelicans. 

An eight year veteran, Monroe doesn’t mince his words when talking about how important it is at this stage of his career, to play for a team that’s not just a playoff-caliber club, but one with the potential to go deep into the playoffs. 

He got a taste of the postseason life for the first time last season with Milwaukee. 

In six postseason games, Monroe averaged 13.2 points along with 7.3 rebounds while shooting 52.9 percent from the field. 

The 6-foot-11 center made his Celtics debut at Washington on Thursday, scoring five points to go along with six rebounds in 20 minutes on the floor. 

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was pleased with the job that Monroe did, well aware that there’s still a lot that he has to learn about his new teammates, and them about Monroe. 

Being the new guy, Monroe knows there’s a balancing act of sorts he has to walk between being a contributor without stepping on any toes in the process. 

“For sure,” said Monroe, adding, “Especially in a situation like this.”

Boston comes into tonight’s game with a 40-16 record which is tops in the Eastern Conference and third overall in the NBA. 

Monroe has never been part of a team this highly regarded in terms of their play or record. 

He admits part of his thinking in coming to Boston is, “making sure (I) don’t mess up anything.”

That seems unlikely when you consider his strengths – scoring in the post, passing, and decent interior defense – are all qualities Boston can’t have enough of coming off its bench. 

MORE ON NBCSPORTSBOSTON.COM

And in doing so, Monroe will find himself back in the postseason for the second year in a row. 

He can’t wait. 

“It’s exciting,” Monroe said of being in the playoffs. “Last year I was able to play in it. The atmosphere was great. So, I’m looking forward to getting back there again.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Pacers can score, C's can defend, so something’s gotta give

Pacers can score, C's can defend, so something’s gotta give

BOSTON – The foundation of this Celtics team lies in its defense, which finds itself being challenged in some form on a nightly basis.

The Indiana Pacers are the latest high-powered offense Boston will be tested by tonight.

Now, when folks think of high-scoring NBA teams, the Pacers (30-25) aren’t exactly one of the first that comes to mind.

But as their opponents this season will attest, the Pacers can get buckets.

Their 106.7 points per game ranks 12th in the NBA, but more telling is the efficiency by which they generate points.

Indiana generates 108.2 points per 100 possessions, which makes them the sixth-most efficient offense in the NBA, aided by the Pacers shooting 48.2 percent from the field.

Boston ranks among the league leaders in several defensive categories. But their success lies in their approach which they believe has to be established sooner than we’ve seen of late.

“We gotta come out with some fight,” Marcus Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “We gotta come out and hold our ground.”

Here are five under-the-radar storylines to keep an eye on as the Celtics host the Indiana Pacers tonight:

JAYSON TATUM IN THE FOURTH
Regardless of whether he’s scoring or not, good things tend to happen to the Boston Celtics when Jayson Tatum is in the game during the fourth quarter. The 6-foot-8 rookie has a plus/minus in the fourth quarter of +160 which leads all NBA players. The nearest player to him is Houston’s Chris Paul (+112) who is followed by Celtic guard Terry Rozier (+107).

BOSTON ON SECOND NIGHT OF BACK TO BACK
Fatigue is always a concern when talking about the second game of a back-to-back. For the Celtics, this has often been a time to flourish. They come into tonight’s game against the Pacers with a 6-3 record on the second night of a back-to-back set of games.

FREE THROWS
Boston will look to extend its streak of getting to the line more than its opponent to three games in a row tonight. Prior to that, Boston’s opponents got to the line more in 23 of the previous 28 games. Among those teams was the Pacers who were 30-for-38 from the line when Boston squeaked out a 112-111 road win. In that game, Boston was just 8-for-14 from the line. It was the first time since 2009 that Boston won a game after having an opponent make 22 or more free throws than they did.

BAYNES/MONROE SPLIT
The sample size for how Boston’s big-man tandem of Aron Baynes and Greg Monroe will work is as small as you can get – one game. But it is worth keeping tabs on going forward. Boston added Monroe in part because of his playmaking skills and ability to score around the basket which will allow Boston to rest Al Horford and Kyrie Irving at the same time and not necessarily have to stagger their minutes. But Baynes gives Boston an impact defensive presence in the paint, a big man who thrives defensively on being in the right spot at the right time. Boston has the league’s best defense and he’s a big part of that, evident by his defensive rating being a league-best 95.8. In their first game together, Baynes got the start and finished with two points, five rebounds and a defensive rating of 91.7 and an offensive rating of 114.3 in 14 minutes. Monroe came off the bench and scored five points to go with six rebounds, two assists, and two steals with a defensive rating of 87.1 and an offensive rating of 106.4 in 20 minutes.

JAYLEN BROWN
He continues to expand his game to the point where his impact is significant at both ends of the floor for Boston. His offense of late has become quite reliable with him hitting double figures scoring in five straight games, something he had not done since November. Against Washington, he had 18 points in addition to defending Bradley Beal who tallied 18 points but did so on 7-for-27 shooting. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE