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Preview: Celtics-Heat

01.06.10 at 10:32 am ET
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Paul Pierce has been around for so long that it’s sometimes easy to take him for granted. He popped up on various All-Decade teams, particularly those teams that were put together by careful observers who look more at production than hype. There is no question that his role on a championship team helped his standing, but take a moment to stroll through his career numbers on basketball-reference.com. Pierce has been a model of offensive efficiency and a more complete player than he is usually given credit for.

The Celtics have missed him over the last five games while he dealt with a knee infection following surgery. Would he have been a difference-maker in their losses to the Clippers and Golden State? The guess here is that he probably would have helped them win at least one and probably both, simply by settling things down in the fourth quarter of chaotic games.

Before the team headed for Miami, someone asked Pierce if he thought Eddie House or Ray Allen would make a better team rep in the 3-point contest. Pierce rather nonchalantly suggested that he would make a better candidate and he’s right. The man has been killing it from beyond the arc all season. It’s a minor point in the grand scheme of things, but yet another indication that one of the great players in team history is often criminally overlooked, even in his own town. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Cealtics, Heat, Preview,

Inside the Game: Shelden Williams and the Art of Rebounding

01.05.10 at 10:41 pm ET
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For a player whose career had been filled with uncertainties, one thing was for sure about Shelden Williams.

‘€œShelden has proven he can defend and rebound,’€ President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge said at Williams’ introductory press conference this summer.

The Celtics were drawn to those defensive skills when they signed him during the offseason. They were looking to add another big man to their bench and believed he had the potential to help their team down low.

His rebounding contributions are even more critical now that Kevin Garnett is sidelined. Although he is not the first man off the bench,  Williams tries to make an impression on the boards whenever he can.

Before he began his NBA career, Williams had made his mark on Duke University. In fact, he had made it on backboards around the NCAA.

He graduated from Duke in 2006 as the school’s all-time leader in rebounds and blocked shots. Williams pulled down 1,262 boards over his four-year career and averaged 9.1 boards per game, including 11.2 as a junior. He became the third player in NCAA history to score 1,500 points, nab 1,000 rebounds, block 350 shots, and pick off 150 steals, while earning consecutive Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Williams was selected by the Hawks with the fifth pick in the 2006 Draft. That season he led all rookies in double-doubles and ranked third on his team in rebounds. Even as his playing time decreased and he was eventually traded (he was sent from the Hawks to the Kings to the Timberwolves over the course of two seasons), Williams stayed focused on attacking the boards.

Now on the Celtics, he has accepted the team’s defensive mentality. He is currently averaging 3.5 boards in 13.5 minutes and has recorded 8-, 9-, and 10-rebound games. Even though Williams has only played a total of 377 minutes (9th on team), he has recorded 99 rebounds (7th). He has also grabbed 33 offensive boards (4th), more than Rasheed Wallace and just seven shy of Garnett in 500 less minutes.

As part of WEEI.com’s ‘€œInside the Game’€ series with the Celtics, Williams explained the art of attacking the glass.

Learning at a Young Age: As a teenager, Williams led Midwest City High School (OK) to the Oklahoma Class 6A State Championship.
‘€œI was taught that very early on. My dad always told me about the importance of rebounding and playing defense. Those are two things that are will. If you want to do it, you have a will to do it. Those two things were taught to me at an early age and just kind of stuck.’€

His American Idol: The soft-spoken Williams admired one of the most colorful athletes to ever play the game of basketball.
‘€œDuring my time period coming up, it was Dennis Rodman. He was always going after every single rebound whether he’d be over the top or not. I think that watching him be relentless, I learned from that.’€

Leaving a Legacy: During his record-setting career at Duke, Williams grabbed a personal-best 19 rebounds against Virginia Tech in 2005.
‘€œ[My record] is very important. My shot blocking and my rebounding record will be there for a while so I scratched  my name on the stone, so to speak. My whole career that I was there, no one had averaged a double-double and that’s something I set out to do. I was able to accomplish it in my junior and senior year.’€

There’s a Thought Process: In order to be successful, Williams educates himself on his opponents before they take the shot so he can put himself in the best position once the ball is in the air.
‘€œ[When you go in for the rebound] depends on where the shot’s been taken from. You kind of play percentages. If the ball’s on the other end of the court and I’m on the opposite block, more often than not it’s going to come off the opposite of that block. Also you’ve got to take into account the guy who’s shooting it. Has he been missing his shot? Does he tend to be short a lot of the time? Whatever the case may be, you try to think about that as well.’€

Offensive vs. Defensive: This season the Celtics have been outperformed on the offensive glass. Williams says there is a difference on both ends of the court.
‘€œDefensive rebounding, more often than not for a big, you’re already down there. Most cases you play around the block, closer to the basket. Whereas for offensive rebounding, if you’re setting a pick out there on the wing, you’ve got to run into there. Like I said, there’s a big difference because most time on defense you’re already in the paint … Any time the ball goes up I try to attack the glass. More often than not, not everybody’s attacking the glass all the time, so I try to make myself available, especially on the offensive end, to I keep the ball alive.’€

Make the Extra Effort: At 6-9, Williams still works hard to make sure he has the edge over his opponents at the basket. On this particular day of the interview, he was the last player to leave the court after practice.
‘€œ[I] just try to rebound as much as I can. I try to make the concerted effort.’€

PREVIOUS ENTRIES

Inside the Game: Paul Pierce and the Art of Versatility

Inside the Game: Kendrick Perkins on the Art of Shot-Blocking

Read More: Boston Celtics, Dennis Rodman, Duke University, inside the game

Pierce and Rondo practice

01.05.10 at 3:24 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Where to begin with the Celtics injury situation Tuesday? Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce were on the floor taking part in practice. Kendrick Perkins and Eddie House were home with the flu. Just for good measure, injured swing man Marquis Daniels was spotted sweating through a treadmill workout while the team practiced and Kevin Garnett is definitely not playing on the road trip.

“Yeah,” Doc Rivers said to the media as they tried to sort through where to begin their questions. “The circus continues.”

The good news is that Pierce and Rondo both took part in most of the practice session Tuesday and it seems likely that they will both play Wednesday against Miami, although Pierce looks like the safer bet right now.

“They looked all right,” Rivers said. “Paul looked good. Rondo, you really couldn’€™t tell. He didn’€™t do much. So we’€™ll see tomorrow. I think he’€™s going to go but I wouldn’€™t write that down in pen for sure. Paul probably will go tomorrow it looks like, so that would help us a lot. Getting one of those guys back I’€™d be very happy and if we got both back it would be absolutely fantastic.”

Rondo left without talking to reporters for the second straight day although he did tell Yahoo!’s Marc Spears that he expects to play against the Heat. Pierce did talk and he said that while he’s not 100 percent, he’s feeling confident about returning to the court. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen,

Perkins, House have the flu

01.05.10 at 2:56 pm ET
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WALTHAM — When the curtain rose at Tuesday’s Celtics practice there were two other notable absences. Kendrick Perkins and Eddie House were both home with the flu, coach Doc Rivers said.

As of Tuesday afternoon Rivers said that Perkins might be able to make the team’s flight to Miami where the Celtics will play the Heat Wednesday night. House will almost certainly not make it.

“They’€™re home in bed,” Rivers said. “They’€™re both sick. Perk has the flu. Eddie has the flu. Right now it sounds like Perk is going to be able to get on the flight and I don’€™t think Eddie’€™s going to make the trip. This year especially the league has really impressed upon us that if a guy has a fever he has to stay away from the team. I agree with it, but that’€™s what we have to do. Perk’€™s feeling better. They’re not sure if its food poisoning or the flu, whereas with Eddie there’€™s no doubt that it’€™s the flu.”

When the curtain rose the Green Team (which constitutes the starters) was Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Brian Scalabrine and Rasheed Wallace. That doesn’t necessarily mean that those five would be the starters but it might be an indication of the way Rivers is leaning.

Read More: eddie house, Kendrick Perkins,

Tony Allen’s learning curve

01.04.10 at 4:46 pm ET
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WALTHAM – It is one the great paradoxes of Tony Allen’s career that his biggest problem –besides staying healthy — is turnovers, while his greatest strength is his versatility, which allows him to play multiple positions including, yes, point guard.

When Allen returned from his latest ankle ailment, Doc Rivers tried to make things simple, telling him to cut down on his turnovers and focus on playing defense. That was it. Now with Rajon Rondo hobbled by a hamstring injury, Allen is taking over the reins at the point where he will handle the ball much more than he did before and where things get decidedly more complicated.

One of Rivers great strengths as a game coach is putting his players in a position to succeed, and to that end he had Ray Allen bring the ball up the floor against the Raptors on occasion. But with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett also out of the lineup, Rivers can’t afford to have his best scoring option get bogged down in running the team, so the job falls to Tony Allen. It is, as he said, a learning experience. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Tony Allen,

The return of Glen Davis

01.04.10 at 4:19 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Since rejoining the Celtics lineup for their Christmas Day game against the Magic, Glen Davis has given the Celtics energy and hustle. Last Saturday against the Raptors, Davis gave them something else. In his longest outing of the season — 20 minutes — Davis scored 15 points to go with five rebounds and helped turn the game in the Celtics favor.

It was his best outing since returning from the broken thumb that cost him the first 27 games of the season, and his first since spraining his ankle against Golden State. Despite the bumps and bruises, Davis has played fearlessly, almost recklessly, even with his thumb still supported by a wrap.”I wouldn’€™t play if I was limited,” he said. “I’€™ve got a couple of bumps and bruises here, but I’€™ll be all right.”

Davis has a lot to prove. He knows that and so do his Celtics teammates, but they are solidly in his corner.

“Baby wants it,” Kendrick Perkins said. “He was anxious to play. He came back from the summer this preseason and he was playing great. Unfortunately he had to go out with the injury he had, but I think he’€™s ready to play. It’€™s a great situation for him to get his rhythm back and prove to Doc [Rivers] that he’€™s ready and he’€™s going to help us win.”

Davis helped make a name for himself last season when he stepped in for Kevin Garnett and made some memorable shots during the playoffs. His ability to step out and knock down the 18-foot jumper fits right in with the Celtics system, but he also provides a low post player who can, and will, take the ball strong to the basket.

Now that he’s back on the court, the next step for Davis is developing consistency as a 15-20 minute a night performer. That will take some time, but he appears to be on the right track.

“I’€™m just taking it one day at a time going as hard as possible, making sure I’€™m doing what I have to do,” Davis said. “I’m not worrying about other things. I’€™m not worried about things I can’€™t control.”

Read More: Glen Davis, Kendrick Perkins,

Celtics practice ‘good and bad’

01.04.10 at 3:36 pm ET
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WALTHAM  —  The Celtics have already proven they can beat a lesser team on the parquet of TD Garden without Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo. But on Wednesday, they might have to do the same against the Miami Heat on the road.

Rondo [left hamstring], Pierce and Garnett [both right knees] were all observers again on Monday as Tony Allen, J.R. Giddens and Rasheed Wallace filled in during practice.

“Practice was good and bad,” said Tom Thibodeau, who was filling in for Doc Rivers. “Normally, coming off a day off, it’s a little sloppy but the intensity was good and the intentions were good.”

Read between those lines and the man who ran practice for Rivers on Monday was trying to be kind to the healthy players who are trying to get ready for Miami without Garnett and possibly Rondo and Pierce missing again.

The coaching staff will gather with the players and trainer Ed Lacerte on Tuesday before their flight to Miami and make a determination if it’s even worth traveling the players.

“I didn’t talk to Eddie today,” Thibodeau said. “[Rondo] came out and coaching and involved and he’s chomping at the bit. I assume he’s feeling better but I don’t know that he’s ready yet.

“Paul was moving around and did some shooting and things like that. He’s feeling pretty good. He’s improving day by day.”

Meanwhile, Garnett was spotted lifting weights and conditioning while he recovers from a sore right knee that has him like out another week.

Read More: Celtics, Garnett, KG, Pierce
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