|01.14.10 at 9:32 am ET|
1. Cleveland (7): The Cavaliers‘ improvement has very little to do with the addition of Shaquille O’Neal (who looks slower than ever). It’s about what we all knew it would be about: the talent and urgency of LeBron James. This is his last year in his home state, and he’s playing like he wants to make it memorable.
2. LA Lakers (2): The Lakers, along with the Celtics and Spurs and other smart teams, are basically playing chess right now. They know if they show up and give a decent effort, they’ll win three out of every four. So it’s more about pacing themselves for June than anything else.
3. Boston (1): Doc Rivers was fined 25 grand for arguing an awful call against the Hawks. He took it too far, and his team often takes it too far, but NBA officiating is generally atrocious. Why not encourage more former players to transition to officiating? I’m not saying Hall of Famers such as Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and John Stockton would be interested, but the journeymen (like current refs Leon Wood and Haywood Workman) would eat it up.
4. Dallas (5): Dirk Nowitzki lost me a couple years ago. The 67-win team that lost in Round 1 put me in a bad place, and I didn’t think I’d ever come back. Well, he’s got me back now. I don’t care what the numbers say: He’s playing the best ball of his career.
5. Orlando (3): Of all the elite teams in the league, the Magic are easily the most inconsistent. My guess is that they’ve got a couple guys on the roster griping about minutes. As crazy as it sounds, I’ll bet they make a trading deadline move that will actually result in shortening their rotation.
|01.13.10 at 10:05 pm ET|
At times this season the Celtics have struggled against mediocre teams. Fortunately for them the Nets aren’t mediocre. They’re awful. It’s been a long time since epic Nets failures of the past like Dennis Hopson and Dave Feitl roamed what is now called the Izod Center. Time and the Jason Kidd era may have made people forget that stretch of futility, but this year’s Nets seem determined to outdo even the worst of those teams
The final score was 111-87 but in truth the Celtics could have named the number because the Nets clearly didn’t want to be there. At one point in the second quarter after Brook Lopez had rebounded a missed free throw, Rajon Rondo snuck around behind Lopez and literally ripped the ball from his hands. Lopez outweighs Rondo by almost 100 pounds.
The Celtics will take any kind of win they can get right now, but it can’t be minimized that the Nets were an embarrassment.
Player of the Game: Paul Pierce/Rajon Rondo (tie). There is no rule that says we can’t have co-players of the game and while Pierce was scoring 24 points, Rondo was dishing out 14 assists. Pierce exposed the Nets lack of interior defense early when he went to the basket and dunked while three Nets watched. Rondo simply ran the team perfectly, while also keeping his teammates from trying to get their scoring averages all at once.
Turning Point: The opening tip. The Nets had no chance in this game and to the Celtics credit, they didn’t give them any either. Early in the game Ray Allen went up for a jump shot and there wasn’t a New Jersey defender within five feet of him. It’s one thing to be devoid of talent, it’s another to not compete.
* The NBA sent a curious mixed message with their decision to fine Doc Rivers $25,000 and also rescind the Flagrant 1 foul on Glen Davis from Monday night’s game against the Hawks. In effect Rivers was fined for protesting a call the league later overruled.
* Speaking of Davis, he scored 13 points for the second straight game, which seems like a solid step in the right direction. But late in the game he was fouled hard by newest Net Kris Humphries and it appeared to bother his surgically-repaired thumb.
* Tony Allen threw down an incredible one-handed alley-oop dunk off a pass from Paul Pierce in which he appeared to start his leap from behind the basket.
* Brian Scalabrine had another strong game, scoring 11 points and adding four points and four rebounds. Scalabrine has had a difficult season but if he can build on these last two games he might be able to get back on the right track.
* Bill Walker finally got some playing time and played well in six minutes of mop-up action. There has been a small outcry for Walker to get more minutes but barring any type of injury situation it just doesn’t look like it’s going to happen this season. The knee surgery he underwent in training camp set him back and he has now fallen behind J.R. Giddens in the young-player derby, which is a dubious honor since Giddens doesn’t play much either.
|01.13.10 at 5:55 pm ET|
Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers has been fined $25,000 for his conduct surrounding his ejection on Monday, January 11, it was announced today by Stu Jackson, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations. The incident occurred with 6:16 remaining in the third quarter of Boston’s 102-96 loss to the Atlanta Hawks at TD Garden in Boston.
|01.13.10 at 10:33 am ET|
In the aftermath of the loss to the Hawks Monday night, there were many conflicting emotions. Some players didn’t like how the game was called. Others expressed uncertainty about the was the team was handled once Doc Rivers was ejected. But one player refused to pay any of that any mind; Paul Pierce.
“We don’t make excuses,” Pierce said when asked about the officiating. When someone asked about four of the starters playing 40+ minutes, Pierce pointed out that the Hawks had done the same thing.
Pierce is the captain, and in pro sports the whole notion of the captain isn’t nearly as important as people like to think it is. But he is the public face of the franchise and the first person to respond to the media’s questions. In essence Pierce helps set the tone for how the press deals with the rest of the locker room. Pierce was stoic and measured in the face of adversity Monday night and added yet another layer to his leadership credentials.
CELTICS (26-10, 5-5 last 10)
Points Per Game: 100.7
Points Allowed: 93.8
Differential: +6.9 (First)
Offensive Efficiency: 109.1 (10th)
Defensive Efficiency: 101.6 (Third)
Pace: 91.8 (21st)
NETS (3-34, 1-9 last 10)
Points Per Game: 89.8
Points Allowed: 101.1
Differential: -11.4 (30th)
Offensive Efficiency: 97.3 (30th)
Defensive Efficiency: 109.6 (22nd)
Pace: 92.3 (18th)
Injuries: Harris. Read the rest of this entry »
|01.12.10 at 11:58 pm ET|
Last week, Rajon Rondo helped pull off one of the most memorable plays of this season ‘ an inbound lob from Paul Pierce with 0.6 seconds left that Rondo converted for a basket to force overtime against the Heat. The scheme worked because Rondo was the most unsuspecting target on two fronts: Not only was he the smallest player on the court for the Celtics, he usually is the guy dishing, not receiving.
Rondo considers his passing skills to be a natural ability. He didn’t grow up studying point guards. He didn’t even grow up watching basketball at all. Finding the open man was just something that came to him on the court.
‘I don’t know if it’s a skill. Maybe it’s just natural,’ he said. ‘I think it’s just like a natural feel for the game. I pride myself on making guys better, so I would rather do that than score the ball.’
Rondo set the school records for most assists in a single game (31) and season (494) at Oak Hill Academy in 2004. He went on to lead the SEC in dimes (4.9 APG) as a sophomore at the University of Kentucky.
Now in his fourth season with the Celtics, Rondo is seeing the court better than ever before. He leads the Eastern Conference with 9.6 assists per game and ranks fourth among all players ‘ behind only Steve Nash, Chris Paul and Deron Williams. He has already recorded 336 assists in his first 35 games of the season, closing in on his mark of 393 from the 2008 championship campaign and more than half-way to last season’s tally of 659. (The Celtics currently rank second in the league with 23.83 assists per game.)
As part of WEEI.com’s ‘Inside the Game’ series with the Celtics, Rondo talked no-look assists, alley-oops with Kevin Garnett, the impact of Ubuntu, and the art of passing:
Wait for it: Identifying who is open is only half the battle. The key is knowing when to dish it.
‘It just depends on the defense, where he’s at on the court. You can’t really predetermine when to make the pass. It just has to be like a natural instinct. Sometimes you can try to predetermine and it can go either way. It can be a turnover or it can be a good pass. When the opportunity presents itself, you’ve got to make the decision at a certain time.’
No formula for the no-look: Rondo has a way of baffling his defenders by making the pass they least expect.
‘Maybe just practice, try [no-look passes] every once in a while. But not now. You try to be solid and not make the home run pass, but it’s just natural for me. I don’t really try to do it to get the oohs and the ahhs. It’s the play I feel I need to make at the time. I may not be able to make the simple pass and it has to be the trickery bounce pass or the no-look pass to confuse the defense.’
Dynamic dunking duo: The chemistry on the court between Rondo and Kevin Garnett makes alley-oops look effortless. But as Rondo explains, it takes a certain kind of player to pull off the dunk.
‘Everybody can’t do it. There are guys in the league that can do it, but it may be four or five things ‘ you’ve got to have the athleticism, perceptiveness, the setup, knowing when to do it, you’ve got to be a good player. Part of the reason why [Garnett] gets so many lobs is because people fear him getting the ball. If he gets the ball, he’s going to score, so they try to deny him the ball. He has great coordination, great timing. When he spins out, he loses track of the ball, so after he turns around he has to go up and find the ball and then find the rim. It’s not as easy as it looks. He does a great job at it.’
Passing off the credit: Rondo draws a direct correlation between his stats and his teammates’ offensive performances. The Celtics are ranked second in the league in field goal percentage (48.7 percent) this season, helping Rondo rack up the assists.
‘You know what’s different? Guys like Rasheed Wallace, Ray Allen, they’re making shots. It’s pretty simple. I may be making a couple better plays, my assist-to-turnover ratio, but other than that, guys are making shots. [Kendrick Perkins] is shooting at a high level, KG is shooting at a high level, Paul went 100 percent from the 3 (twice in December). Guys are making shots. Not that we didn’t in years before, but this time I’ve got to give them all the credit, really. Without them making shots, there’s no assists.’
Ubuntu = APG: He may only be 23, but Rondo learned an important lesson early in his career. Now he wants to share that with his younger fans.
‘I think that stands out the most on the court’ unselfishness. It’s not necessarily ballhandling, it’s being unselfish for your teammates, sacrificing for your teammates. My situation is me giving up the ball to make somebody better. KG and Perk just defensively helping out when I may get beat off the dribble, their unselfishness just to come over and help makes me look better or maybe not look as bad as I was on defense. So, for a team to be a great team, I think you have to have a lot of people sacrifice a lot of things. We had the Big Three that came in, all leading their teams in scoring, they all had to sacrifice shots. They all did a great job of it. It’s not just me. It’s the whole team. It’s the whole team concept. That’s where Ubuntu comes in. I can go on and on about it.’
|01.11.10 at 11:51 pm ET|
He admitted as much after his team dropped a 102-96 decision to the Atlanta Hawks at TD Garden, a game that turned on a dime when the Celtics head coach was assessed consecutive technical fouls for arguing a flagrant foul on Glen Davis when he tried to stop Marvin Williams from a lay-up with 6:16 left in the third and the Celtics up, 67-57.
|01.11.10 at 11:40 pm ET|
“Looks like a week, maybe. It’s day-to-day but I would say maybe a week. Maybe less. It’s going to be day-to-day.” Rivers said, adding x-rays were negative on the player who was already filling in for another injured Celtic – Kevin Garnett.
The foot began bothering him Sunday night after Boston’s win in Toronto. The team decided to hold him out when it was determined he couldn’t push off.
The team was made aware of it shortly after Wallace came off the court following pregame warmups. Brian Scalabrine started in his place. In addition to Wallace, the Celtics were already without Garnett [right knee] and Marquis Daniels [left thumb].
Latest from Bleacher Report
- Why Celtics Will Be Better Than Expected in 2014-15
- Should Celtics Fans Buy or Sell Rondo's Hot Start?
- Lessons Learned from Celtics so Far
- Why Green Will Finally Succeed in Boston
- C's Big Offense Showing a Sign of Things to Come?
- Green's Transition to PF Could Reshape NBA Career Arc
- Could Rondo's Play Increase the Chances He's Dealt?