Celtics

Monroe, Larkin are thrust into big spots with Celtics

Monroe, Larkin are thrust into big spots with Celtics

BOSTON – When the Celtics signed Greg Monroe, they were adding a guy who was joining his third team...this season!

And in the offseason, they added Shane Larkin to a roster that already had four guards (Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier) ahead of him.

And yet as the Celtics’ postseason journey begins Sunday against Milwaukee, Monroe and Larkin will play prominent roles in Boston’s quest to advance past seventh-seed Milwaukee.

Monroe and Larkin arriving in Boston under less-than-ideal circumstances only to thrive once in town is not unusual since Brad Stevens took over as Celtics coach in 2013.

Evan Turner parlayed a strong two-year run in Boston into a four-year, $70 million deal with the Portland Trail Blazers.

Kris Humphries, a throw-in to the Celtics blockbuster trade with Brooklyn in 2013, would wind up with the Washington Wizards on a three-year, $13.32 million deal.

And more recently, Gerald Green waited for his chance to be a significant contributor last season in his second stint with Boston and made the most of it in the playoffs as an unexpected starter. His play helped lift Boston to a 4-2 first-round series win over Chicago after falling into a 0-2 series hole. He parlayed that into a deal with the Houston Rockets this season. 

Monroe's role has increased significantly since Daniel Theis’ season-ending torn meniscus injury to his left knee.

With Theis in the lineup, Monroe appeared in 11 games while averaging 7.8 points and five rebounds in 15.2 minutes per game.

In the 15 games since Theis’ season-ending injury, Monroe has increased his scoring average to 11.9 points per game to go with 7.3 rebounds while playing 21.9 minutes per game.

And Monroe’s usage rate has also increased from 21.5 prior to Theis’ injury, to 25.9.

While increased opportunity has certainly weighed into Monroe’s improved productivity.

But he acknowledges that the culture that exists here in Boston has also helped foster an environment that he says has made for a very comfortable situation now that he’s acclimated to the franchise and his teammates.

“The thing that’s most important here that people learn, are habits,” Monroe told NBC Sports Boston. “They’ve done everything they could to help put me in the best position possible. I totally understand why guys come here. You learn better habits.”

Larkin echoed similar thoughts on his time in Boston, which came as a surprise to many considering the former first-round pick of the Atlanta Hawks in 2013 left millions on the table by not re-signing with a team overseas.

“I believe in myself. I always believed in myself,” Larkin said. “I knew that if I was given an opportunity whether it was 10 games, 15 games, I would be able to show that I can help a winning situation. I always believed I could be a great player in this league. And it’s been a rocky road. Injuries, broken ankles, just a bunch of ankles, knee problems...It’s been a lot of stuff. I’m going to continue to work, continue to try and get better every single game, every day of practice so when my opportunities do come, I’m going to try and make the best of it. I feel I’ve done a lot of that this season. Hopefully, I can continue to grow and continue to grow and be that player I want to be.”

Larkin credits Danny Ainge, the Celtics president of basketball operations, and the scouting staff for recognizing the importance of finding the best players who are more than just talented but also an ideal fit.

MORE C'S:

“He [Ainge] sees maybe what other people don’t see,” Larkin said. “He sees where guys can come in and help the roster. Coming into the season, I remember the first conversation I had with him, he was like, ‘I don’t know what your role will be this season. I don’t know if you’re gonna play 15 minutes, 20 minutes, five minutes, two minutes, I don’t know. But I do know you fit on our roster. You fit in with what we do here, off the court, on the court. I think you can help us.’ So when you hear that from such a great player and great general manager, you have to take that risk and take that opportunity to come here. And once you get here, Coach Stevens is so great at putting you in position to be successful. He sees what your strengths are, your weaknesses are, he makes everybody play well. That’s a testament to him. They work together and find the right guys that fit the system. That’s why every single year it’s kind of gone in the right direction. Brad’s first year they won 20-something games and every year since they’ve taken a step up.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

 

Celtics Spotlight: Daniel Theis flew under the radar, but can make an impact

Celtics Spotlight: Daniel Theis flew under the radar, but can make an impact

Amid the frontcourt makeover that the Boston Celtics underwent this offseason following the departures of Al Horford and Aron Baynes, the re-signing of Daniel Theis flew quietly under the radar.

The addition of “Plan A” big man Enes Kanter, the importation of French big man Vincent Poirier, and the progress of second-year rim-rocker Robert Williams drew most of the headlines. Theis, who quietly re-signed to a two-year, $10 million deal, was a bit of an afterthought.

Spotlights: Walker | Smart | Brown | Hayward | Kanter |

Tatum | Fall | Wanamaker | Ojeleye | Edwards | Williams

But it was Theis who played the most consistent two-way ball of the preseason, positioning himself to be a potential starter even if coach Brad Stevens elects to mix and match his bigs based on matchups.

It’s a successful season for Theis if… 

… Stevens leans on the German's versatility. One of the few bigs capable of both rim running and popping beyond the 3-point line, Theis can complement mosts players he’s paired with. Theis shot 38.8 percent beyond the 3-point arc last season and, further removed from the meniscus injury that ended his rookie campaign, he seems springier when lobs come his way. Now in his third season in Boston, Theis has a head start on the rest of the big-man stable and might just parlay that into a workload that exceeds the 900 minutes he’s played each of his first two seasons.

It’s a disappointing season for Theis if… 

… he doesn’t make the sort of strides that allow Stevens to play him against the beefier bigs like Joel Embiid, who often bullied Theis last season. Theis is a solid positional defender but he can’t allow himself to get pushed around near the hoop. Ultimately, that defensive consistency might just dictate his playing time.

2019-2020 Outlook

It’s Theis, Theis, baby. His defensive rating last season was similar to Baynes in comparable minutes. Even as Stevens toys with the idea of playing his bigs in short bursts, Theis will have an opportunity to assert his claim to a much bigger role this season. It’s easy to forget how good he was playing before the meniscus injury in 2018. But he won’t be overlooked this season with the Celtics eager to find a consistent two-way option at the big-man spot.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Celtics' Kemba Walker approves of Jaylen Brown's extension: 'He deserves it'

Celtics' Kemba Walker approves of Jaylen Brown's extension: 'He deserves it'

Kemba Walker hasn't been Jaylen Brown's teammate for very long; the two players haven't even played a regular-season game together yet.

But after getting an up-close look at Brown during FIBA World Cup play, training camp, and the preseason, Walker likes what he sees from Brown, who inked a four-year contract extension worth up to $115 million on Monday afternoon.

The deal comes just three and a half months after Walker signed a $141 million contract with Boston — and to Walker, this latest deal reaffirms the franchise's commitment to winning.

“I know what these guys are all about, man, and this organization, they want to win,” Walker told Jared Weiss of The Athletic Monday afternoon. “You have to invest in the players, and Jaylen, he deserves it. I’m super, super happy for him.”

Had Brown not signed on the dotted line Monday, he would've been a restricted free agent next summer. But now he can play out the season with job security instead of potentially getting distracted by questions about playing for a new contract.

“I’m not saying Jaylen would do it, but it can be hard for a guy to be playing for a contract just for one year,” said Walker, who marveled at Brown's intelligence on the court. “He could’ve not took it and played the year out to showcase himself to other teams or even the Celtics again. Now it’s just less pressure. Now he really can just play basketball, work on his game and just continue to get better without worrying about his contract situation. I think it’s a huge burden off his back.”

It sure looked like there was a burden off both Brown and Danny Ainge's backs when the pen was put to paper Monday. Brown posted a picture of the big moment on the Instagram page for 7uice, his official brand. 

Brown's big week continues Wednesday when the Celtics open the season against the 76ers — and then on Thursday, when he celebrates his 23rd birthday.

Blakely & Forsberg predict 2019-20 NBA award-winners>>>>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.