Celtics Summer Storylines: Evaluating Boston’s Successful Las Vegas Trip

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The Boston Celtics’ summer league schedule officially concluded Saturday with a loss in the Las Vegas quarterfinals.

All told, it was a successful trip for the C’s, who dropped two of their three games at the Utah summer league but proceeded to win four of five in Las Vegas and, far more importantly, saw many of their young players make great strides in the process.

For those of you who tend to tune out basketball in the summer months, here’s a taste of what you missed during Boston’s week-and-a-half in Las Vegas:

Smart goes down
Remember when we noted earlier this month that Marcus Smart’s non-stop intensity — while encouraging to see from a player who clearly was a cut above his competitors — made Celtics fans a bit fearful their starting point guard would injure himself in a meaningless summer league game? Well, that’s exactly what happened in Las Vegas.

Smart dislocated two fingers on his right hand Thursday while battling for a rebound during a win over the Portland Trail Blazers. It was a pretty gnarly-looking injury, but X-rays revealed no broken bones, and with two months still remaining before training camp, the 21-year-old has plenty of time to recover before legitimate basketball activities commence.

He will, however, be forced to miss an upcoming NBA showcase in Africa he was scheduled to participate in with teammate Evan Turner.

Rozier steps up
Terry Rozier has done much this summer to win over those who scoffed at his lofty draft position. The 16th overall pick lived up to the high praise of the Celtics’ brass in both Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, showing off the intensity, athleticism and “burst” that made him a pre-draft favorite of coach Brad Stevens and team president of basketball operations Danny Ainge.

The 6-foot-1 point guard is not the most consistent shooter (3-for-10 Tuesday against the Miami Heat; 2-for-12 Saturday against the San Antonio Spurs), but he did hit a number of clutch shots, including Boston’s biggest of the summer: an off-balance, step-back, contested 3-pointer that tied the game in the final seconds of Saturday’s quarterfinal matchup with the Spurs.

“I’m a confident person no matter what I’m doing,” Rozier said, via The Associated Press. “I believe in myself more than anybody. I’m just trying to help the team and do whatever I can.”

Unfortunately for Rozier & Co., Shannon Scott buried a buzzer-beater on the ensuing Spurs possession to send the C’s packing.

Hunter from downtown
After coming alive in his final game in Salt Lake City, R.J. Hunter continued to impress in the second stop of Boston’s summer league tour, showcasing his ridiculous 3-point range while averaging a team-high 15.6 points per game.

The loss to San Antonio might have been Hunter’s best game yet, as the 6-foot-6 shooting guard went 7-for-14 from the floor, 3-for-8 from deep and 5-for-7 from the free-throw line to finish with a personal-best 22 points and five rebounds.

If Hunter can replicate this kind of wing scoring against NBA competition — and, at the moment, that’s a very big “if” — he has a strong chance of landing a spot in Stevens’ rotation, especially if James Young does not show significant improvement. (Hampered by a hip injury, the 19-year-old Young played just two games in Las Vegas.)

Mickey mania
While Rozier and Hunter both showed a great deal of promise in Sin City, the standout for the Celtics was second-round pick Jordan Mickey, who followed up a strong showing in Salt Lake City by ranking among Las Vegas’ best in rebounding (fourth with 9.6 per game) and blocked shots (tied for fifth with 2.6 per game). The 6-foot-8 forward also logged a team-high 30.0 minutes per game, shot 52.9 percent from the floor and ranked second on the Celtics behind Hunter with 13.8 points per game.

The Celtics on Monday signed Mickey to a reported four-year, $5 million contract with two years guaranteed.

Texas product Jonathan Holmes also turned heads in Las Vegas. He’s unlikely to have a home in Boston’s crowded frontcourt but might have earned himself an NBA contract elsewhere.

Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@celtics

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