|11.26.09 at 9:34 am ET|
Like most NBA players Paul Pierce doesn’t tend to show up at many games when he’s not a participant. After you live in the arena, why would you choose to go to watch the show?
But Pierce made an exception in 2001 to watch Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Lakers and Sixers, or more specifically, between Los Angeles and Allen Iverson. That season belonged to Iverson from the time they threw the ball up on opening night until the time he stepped over Ty Lue at the end of Game 1 of that series.
As it turned out that first game would prove to be Iverson’s nadir in the NBA. The Lakers recovered from that opening loss and steamrolled Philly ‘ cut their hearts out, as Kobe Bryant said ‘ en route to the Lakers first title of the Kobe-Shaq era.
Word began to filter out before Wednesday’s game with the Celtics and A.I.’s old team that Iverson was going to call it a career. Things had gone south quickly in Memphis and when even the Knicks passed on taking on the mercurial guard, his options were basically down to nobody.
Probably. Most NBA observers at the TD Garden likened the ‘announcement’ (Iverson himself has not spoken about it) as a sort of boxing retirement. Rather than leave himself out there twisting on the NBA waiver wire like a journeyman looking to catch on for one more paycheck, the move was seen as a matter of saving face.
Procedurally, it means nothing. Since he is not under contract to any team Iverson does not have to file official retirement papers with the league and therefore is still free to sign on with anyone who might have an immediate opening for a scoring guard, however unlikely that scenario may be.
Danny Ainge told the Herald this week that the Celtics have had internal conversations about Iverson but couldn’t come to a consensus and it’s doubtful that any organization would take a chance on him after the debacle in Memphis.
If this is the end, the other Celtics veterans spoke glowingly about Iverson. ‘I’m just happy I had a chance to play against him,’ Pierce said. ‘He’s one of the top 50 players to ever play the game.’
Of all the Celtics, none has competed against Iverson more than Ray Allen. From their Big East days to their battle in the 2001 Eastern Conference Finals — still one of the great underrated series of the past decade — and on through the years, the two came into the league in the same draft class and the news made Allen a little wistful.
‘We had a long standing history,’ Allen said. ‘It’s somewhat sad. He’s been someone who’s been good for a long time in this league. He’s someone I always competed with for a majority of my career. Not only do I think about him, but I think about my whole class and all the guys that I started with and fell off and before you know it, it’s a generation past. This is like gravy time for me to still be able to play and feel good about it and be strong. My body still feels great and fresh.’
Allen was asked to reflect back on that Sixers-Bucks series when Milwaukee had Allen, Glenn Robinson and Sam Cassell and the Sixers had, well, they had Iverson and a rock solid defense anchored by Dikembe Mutombo.
‘There was a lot of back and forth,’ Allen said. ‘It was a great series. The one thing about that series was anyone could have won it. We felt we had a great team that could have beat the Lakers that year. I guess it’s something you always talk about.’
That Sixers team came about at exactly the right time in the city of Philadelphia and left a lasting, indelible image. After they beat the Bucks in Game 7 the streets were clogged around City Hall and a most curious thing happened in the city of Brotherly Love ‘ people actually showed each other love, pouring out of gridlocked cars and literally dancing in the streets.
Things may have unraveled in the aftermath, but like Pedro pitching for the Sox in the late 90′s, the city stopped when Iverson was playing.
‘He’s in that five or six,’ said Rasheed Wallace, native son. ‘If he was to go walk in Philly right now everybody would be like, ‘Damn what’s up, A.I.?’ You’re the man and this and that. He’s up there in that elite class with Mo, Doc, Fo, Fo, Fo, Feets, Hersey the Hawk, Bobby Jones. You definitely have to have Chuck in there. It can go in any type of order depending on who you’re talking to that knows their Philadelphia basketball history.’
For the uninitiated that would be Mo Cheeks, Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Andrew Toney and Bobby Jones, whose name was so perfect he didn’t need another one. Chuck was Bubba Chuck, Iverson’s other nickname. The one his friends call him as opposed to the ones given to him by marketers and the TV commentators.
Indelible yes, but Iverson also came with baggage. Lots and lots of baggage. His critics have had a field day of late with Iverson’s claims that he wouldn’t play a limited role for the Grizzlies and the Pistons the year before. They point to the fact that the Sixers got better when they traded him and that the Nuggets became a contender when they swapped him for Chauncey Billups.
It’s become harder for his defenders to make his case, especially when the basketball truths seem so self-evident that Iverson’s singular style has become more detriment than positive.
‘It’s hard,’ Allen said. ‘He had issues in Memphis. What are other teams thinking? It’s hard to say. Overseas looks very attractive if he feels like he’s got basketball left in him. I’m sure he can make a good sum of money going overseas. Whether it’s it for him in the NBA, I would think that basketball isn’t out of his blood.’
That’s the toughest thing about Iverson’s ‘retirement,’ and why that word needs to have quotes around it. Iverson may not be done with basketball, but basketball may be done with him.
|11.26.09 at 12:14 am ET|
|11.25.09 at 11:32 pm ET|
“He’s been MVP to me,” Rivers said. “Now only with his play, but all over. He was on guys in the second quarter and then at halftime about our play. He’s doing everything you ask him to do. He’s guarding guys, he’s rebounding, he’s making big shots, he’s taking charges. I mean, I don’t know what else. He can cook Thanksgiving dinner for someone and then he’ll be doing it all. He’s been terrific.”
With the Celtics up by two points and less than a minute to play, Philadelphia’s Andre Iguodala got up a full head of steam and went straight to the basket. Iguodala is listed at 207 pounds, but at least 200 of that is muscle. Pierce stepped into the lane and took the contact.
“Well you know, it’s what we talk about,” Pierce said. “If the charge is there the coach wants us to step up and take the charge. That’s pretty much the only thing I could have done in that situation.”
Later in the game with the Celtics holding a three-point lead, Pierce and Rajon Rondo both executed the Celtics strategy to foul with less than 10 seconds remaining and not give the opponent a chance to tie the game.
“That’s something we talk about,” Pierce said. “That’s something we work on in practice. We were in that situation last year against the Bulls [in the playoffs] and Ben Gordon made a 3 and we should have fouled. That’s our strategy if it’s under 10 seconds that’s our strategy to foul.”
|11.25.09 at 10:15 pm ET|
Doc Rivers was asked before Wednesday’s game if his team should be worried about a letdown against a Sixers team that was without two starters, and whom they had throttled by 29 points in Philly earlier this month. Doc’s Response? Um, yeah. Didn’t Golden State beat Dallas the other night with just six players, the coach asked.
The Celtics haven’t been able to take very much for granted since that first Sixers game and it became obvious very early that Philly had come to play, even after a wrenching loss to the Wizards the night before and even without Lou Williams and Elton Brand.
In the end the Celtics took every punch and landed a few more of their own in a 113-110 victory. The win continued their recent trend of playing down-to-the-wire games against sub-500 teams, but they’ll take it. Again.
Player of the Game: Paul Pierce. For everything that is going wrong with the Celtics, Pierce continues to play out of his head. It wasn’t just the 27 points, five rebounds and six assists either. With the Celtics clinging to a 107-105 lead, Andre Iguodala came steamrolling down the floor and Pierce stood his ground and took the charge.
Turning point: Rajon Rondo raised a few eyebrows through the first three quarters by continuing to pass up layups in favor of making an extra pass. One time he caught Kevin Garnett underneath the basket on a give-and-go-and-give leaving Garnett no choice but to fling the ball toward the hoop while he was already underneath it.
But in the fourth quarter Rondo finally came alive, taking the ball aggressively to the hoop and looking to score. The Celtics used a small lineup during this stretch and Rondo took advantage of the space available on the floor. Things become so much easier for the Celtics when Rondo has the mindset to finish once he breaks down the defense.
* Once again the Celtics were beaten on the offensive glass. The Sixers had 10 offensive rebounds in the first half, which led to 18 second-chance points.
* Philly is in the bottom third in the league in 3-point shooting at a tick over 32 percent. Naturally the Sixers shot 13-for-20 from 3-point range.
*One area the Celtics did excel in was getting to the free throw line, making 30-of-39. Garnett was 9-for-12.
* Rasheed Wallace didn’t exactly “break out” of his shooting slump, but he did make two of six from beyond the arc.
* Kendrick Perkins, Ray Allen and Garnett all spent considerable portions of the fourth quarter on the bench. The Celtics and Sixers were both using small lineups, which left Perk out even though he had 12 points and eight rebounds in 22 minutes. Garnett was spelled by Wallace as part of his regular rotation, while Allen gave way to Marquis Daniels. After 15 games the only thing that’s obvious about the rotations and lineups is that Rivers is still looking for the right combinations.
* Great coaching move and execution in the final seconds as the Celtics were able to foul Iguodala, and then Jason Kapono with a three-point lead instead of letting either of them get off a chance at a tying shot. While it’s clearly the right strategy, very few teams actually carry through with the play or execute it correctly.
|11.25.09 at 7:54 pm ET|
The Sixers are without starting point guard Lou Williams and power forward Elton Brand for Wednesday night’s game with the Celtics.
Williams suffered a fractured jaw in their game Tuesday with Washington, while Brand has been struggling with a sore hamstring. Rookie Jrue Holiday will start in place of Williams and Jason Smith gets the nod for Brand.
|11.25.09 at 7:51 pm ET|
The NBA referee gambling scandal was rekindled on Wednesday night when a source indicated that 13 NBA officials had contact with a reputed gambler, according to a report by WHDH-TV.
Former NBA official Tim Donaghy served 15 months in federal prison for admitting he worked with gamblers to provide tips on NBA games. The source told 7News on Wednesday that gambler Jimmy ‘The Sheep’ Battista implicated 13 other officials.
The first game Battista and Donaghy bet on together was the Celtics-76ers game in Dec. 2006 — a game Donaghy officiated and one the Celtics covered with ease. The source says Battista is making these claims as he works to finalize a tell-all book deal.
|11.25.09 at 7:45 pm ET|
After indicating that guard Tony Allen could be ready to face the Philadelphia 76ers, head coach Doc Rivers said on Wednesday that his defensive specialist still wasn’t quite ready to make his 2009 debut after injuring his left ankle in the preseason.
“I don’t have a clue when,” Rivers said. ‘No relapse. I really don’t Just not ready to play yet. It’s getting closer.”
Allen played in just one preseason game – on Oct. 9 against the Knicks – and hasn’t played in game action since.