Celtics

Summer League takeaways: Jabari Bird impresses once again

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Summer League takeaways: Jabari Bird impresses once again

LAS VEGAS – Winning is always the goal when it comes to playing in the NBA, but Summer League results are more about making progress than making game-winning shots.

The Celtics lost 82-69 to the Denver Nuggets, but there were indeed some positives they could take away from the experience.

Here are three takeaways from Boston’s matchup against the Nuggets.

Jabari Bird

For the second time in as many nights, Jabari Bird showcased what we’ve seen in spurts – athleticism and tremendous versatility. In addition to defending multiple positions, Bird’s ability to score attacking the rim from various points including some highlight-quality above-the-rim plays, speaks to the promise that the Celtics are hoping to tap into this season. For the game, Bird finished with 24 points on 9-for-17 shooting along with three rebounds and an assist.

Three-point shooting

Whether it’s the summer league version of the Celtics or the ones we’ll see in the regular season, this team will have nights when the 3-point shot won’t fall. That’s exactly what we saw on Saturday as the Celtics opened by missing 13 of their first 14 three-point attempts. The struggles didn’t let up as time went on, with the Celtics finishing a dismal 22.2 percent (4-for-18) shooting from 3-point range.

Transition Defense

The Celtics had too many empty possessions where they didn’t get back quick enough on defense. And to the Nuggets credit, they made the Celtics pay for this most of the time. The Nuggets would finish the game with 16 fast-break points compared to just six for Boston.

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Al Horford injury: Danny Ainge has positive update on Celtics forward

Al Horford injury: Danny Ainge has positive update on Celtics forward

Al Horford may miss some time, but the Boston Celtics don't appear concerned about it.

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge insisted Horford will be "fine" despite a left knee injury that has caused him to miss the last three games.

"He has tendinitis in his knee," Ainge said Thursday on 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Toucher & Rich. "... We're giving him the extra rest so that it's not a lingering effect. He could play now if he needed to, but we're just trying to give him the rest to get back to being 100 percent."

The C's can afford to take things slow with Horford, as Aron Baynes, Daniel Theis and rookie Robert Williams have helped fill the frontcourt void in his absence.

"We're just trying to give Al the time because we do have depth, especially at the center position," Ainge added. "So, he's taking a little bit of extra time."

Ainge didn't provide a timetable for Horford's return, but with a back-to-back looming Friday at home against the Atlanta Hawks and Saturday in Detroit against the Pistons, it's possible the veteran forward could miss one or both of those contests.

Gordon Hayward and Jaylen Brown also missed Wednesday's thrilling overtime win over the Washington Wizards due to illnesses, but Ainge said Hayward was "feeling better" Thursday morning and hopes both players can return to action this weekend.

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Danny Ainge's helpful message for Terry Rozier comes from experience

Danny Ainge's helpful message for Terry Rozier comes from experience

The bad news: Terry Rozier is in a tricky situation on the Boston Celtics. The good news: He has a boss who can relate.

After starting during the playoffs last season, Rozier is back in a reserve role behind All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, playing just 23.3 minutes per game compared to the 36.6 he averaged in the playoffs.

The adjustment has been rocky at times, with an early November report suggesting he wanted to be traded and a cryptic tweet that fanned the trade rumors. But Danny Ainge isn't concerned about Rozier -- because he's shared some of the young guard's frustrations.

"The way that so much stuff gets reported and written now, it could be nothing or it could be Terry saying something to somebody at some point like, ‘Damn, I’m just frustrated,’ and that leads to him being really frustrated,” Ainge told Yahoo Sports' Ben Rohrbach on Tuesday.

“Heck, we’re all frustrated half the time. I played 18 years of professional sports, and half the games I didn’t play as well as I wanted. When I played well, I usually wasn’t as frustrated, regardless of what role I was playing."

Ainge played seven-plus seasons in Boston but didn't really carve out his role until his fourth year. Even then, he was (at best) a fourth or fifth option on a loaded squad that included Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish and Dennis Johnson.

Even when Ainge averaged 14.8 points over 35.2 minutes per game during the 1986-87 season, he knew Bird, McHale and Parish were ahead of him in the pecking order. He embraced that role, however, helping the C's win titles in 1984 and 1986.

While Rozier's situation obviously is different, there still are some parallels as he fights for minutes on a talent-laden roster that includes All-Stars Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford.

And Ainge believes he's making progress.

"Some of the things that Terry has gone through early have been predictable and understandable and even expected,” Ainge said. “He is still very humble and wanting to do the right thing, but he has big dreams and big goals. That’s why he’s special.

" ... I’m giving Terry all the credit for having a paradigm shift, and he’s playing better. It’s a good message for all the players. You don’t always get what you want, but the choices you make are important. You can either pout and feel miserable or you can have a positive attitude and make a positive impact."

Rozier told Rohrbach his "attitude" has changed thanks in part to repeated conversations with Ainge, and it's shown on the court: The 24-year-old is averaging 10.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.2 assists in the month of December.

"I was going through some stuff at the start of the season," Rozier said. "But something changed two or three weeks ago, and I’m feeling good about where I’m at.”

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