Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big storyline. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
Through six games this month, the Celtics are averaging a ridiculous 114.3 points per 100 possessions with Pressey on the floor. That’s an insane number for a team that owns an offensive rating of 99.6, third worst in the league this season. But Pressey has jump-started Boston (his rating is 8.7 points higher than the team’s average this month) while playing 26 minutes per game in six appearances in April, including leading the team to consecutive victories in spot starts for Rajon Rondo.
If anyone was paying attention to these lottery-bound Celtics, we’d fully expect an irrational sports radio caller to suggest that Pressey should be starting over Rondo. They’d note how the rookie has a 6-4 mark as a starter, while the Celtics are a mere 24-43 the last two seasons when Rondo plays. A heightened sample size would almost certainly bring Pressey back to earth a bit, but it’s undeniable that he’s making good things happen during his time on the floor.
Consider this: Pressey ranks 18th in the NBA in points created by assists per 48 minutes at 23.3, according to the league’s player-tracking data. That number is better than the likes of Deron Williams (22.8), Kyle Lowry (22.7) and Tony Parker (22.1).
Pressey has done a great job pushing the pace this year, especially in the second half of the season (as the first stat in that excerpt shows). He’s played with a lot more confidence… and… he’s faced some pretty crappy teams. But he’s done well, and he’s gone from “non-guaranteed deal around for just a season” to “hmmm, maybe he can really be our back-up?”
There’s no doubt, this point guard knows how to point guard. He’s an excellent passer with a generally good idea of where the ball should go. But he’s been prone to the same rookie mistakes you might expect from a young point guard, like getting too caught up in runs and making unnecessarily flashy passes on breaks hoping to get a huge pop from the crowd.
He’ll learn his way out of those mistakes. I’m still not sold on the kid being here for the longer-term for various reasons, but now we can throw one more reason in there: he’s playing well enough to potentially be valuable in a trade.
I’m not sure how other GM’s feel about Pressey, but I think he’s been upgraded from a “trade for and immediately cut” candidate to “trade for and see if he fits during camp” candidate. If a team is, in fact, looking for a back-up point guard, Pressey has proven he can at least compete for a job. I’m not saying he’s going to make or break any trades, but any player who can play like Pressey has over the past month at least becomes more than ballast included to make the financials work.
One player who’d be upset to see Pressey go is his new bestie, Kelly Olynyk.
“I kind of feel like he thinks like me,” Pressey said of Olynyk. “Some of the passes that I see, he sees it as well. That just comes from him being able to pass the ball as well. We just click. I can’t really explain it. He just knows. He has a knack of being in the spots where I’m going to pass it. I try to find him as much as possible.”
If a veteran doesn’t ask Pressey to nab a Gatorade out of the team’s locker room cooler, he’ll ask Olynyk. Being first-year players, dealing with the inconsistent playing time, prolonged slumps, and the uncertainty of belonging at the highest level, Pressey and Olynyk have found they have more in common and a comfort level that’s soaring.
“Since summer league we’ve been with each other,” Pressey said. “I’ve have some ups and downs. He’s had some ups and downs. We’ve kind of feel for each other like all rookies should. It’s kind of fun to see us both doing well because we know what each other’s doing off the court, working as hard as we can to get to where we are now. We’re just with each other every single day almost for the past seven months.”
I don’t know if you’ve been paying close enough attention, but these guys are pretty much inseparable.
There’s no doubt these guys have carried their friendship onto the court, and they’ve helped each other play a lot better in the second half of the season. It’ll be interesting to see, if Pressey sticks around, how much time they get together next season. Pressey will stay on the second unit, but will Olynyk? (hold that thought)
Anyway, with two games left and Rondo battling a phantom shin injury, Pressey will get plenty of minutes to keep doing what he’s doing. Maybe he’ll eventually keep doing it long enough where people like me will stop viewing him for the things he can’t do, and start looking at the things he can.
Page 2: Speaking of Olynyk
Later in the same quarter, though, Olynyk beat coverage and a dwindling shot clock with a step-back jumper that was right out of the arsenal of the player he is often, and unfairly, compared to.
“He’s got it all going!! That was a Nowitzki shot!!” Tom Heinsohn roared (If it’s possible to roar through Twitter).
Olynyk later admitted that, yes, he stole the shot in the same way a young guitarist admits to lifting licks from Jimi Hendrix or Eric Clapton.
“Something I’ve been working on a little bit — getting that shot off, especially with these athletes you see,” said Olynyk. “Sometimes it doesn’t work out. But I had the opportunity to bring it out tonight and luckily it went in.”
I’d like to see Olynyk grow (literally… hit the weights, kid) into a starting center for the Celtics. We live in a non-traditional world of 5’s now, and while Olynyk doesn’t fit the typical description of a lithe, super-athletic small-ball center, he does have the skills to be a matchup problem at that position. He’ll need to do a few things…
1: Get stronger. If he’s going to actually play that position, he’s going to have to get strong enough to handle those guys in the post. He’s going to have to stand his ground as the few real big men left in the game try to back him down. You can’t give in, and you can’t wear down quickly.
2: Get quicker. So much of being quick, especially in this position, lies between the ears. A fundamental knowledge of the opposition’s tendencies (both personal matchup and team’s) allows you to anticipate things. When you can beat someone to a spot because you’ve anticipated that move, it inherently makes you “quicker” because you make up for whatever you lack in actual lateral movement speed by simply being there first rather than reacting to a move. It takes a lot of studying. It takes a summer of watching film even when you’re on vacation. It’s a lot of hard mental work that goes hand in hand with the physical work.
3: Get more consistent. This is an obvious one. This is the repetition part of the summer… where he shoots each shot in his arsenal hundreds of times a day to make it automatic. If he has to do it at home with his dad swatting him with a broom so he can pretend to be as tall as Roy Hibbert… so be it. His dad’s a coach… he knows the drills.
I’ve said since last summer when Olynyk wowed the summer league crowd in Orlando, this kid’s got the tools to be a pretty good player. He’s starting to show them more often. On Thursday he can go take a little vacation for a few weeks… get his mind and body right… and then in March, he can start working on next season.
I’m excited for this kid. I’m excited for what he can do with the teammates he has coming back next season (I assume). I think he’s going to be part of a winning team in Boston.
The rest of the links
CSNNE: Blakely: Celtics “exactly where they should be” | Sullinger throws towel at Olynyk | Stevens: We’ve done a lot of good things | Grousbeck: Rebuilding process will take time | ESPN Boston: Lottery Rivals: Celtics and Lakers tied | SC featured: Boston Strong | Will these wins work against C’s?