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Fast Break: Celtics – Timberwolves

11.04.09 at 10:42 pm ET
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Playing in front of a sea of No. 5 jerseys, the Timberwolves were determined to prove themselves against Kevin Garnett and the Celtics. But in the end it was Garnett himself who forced a jumball to secure a 92-90 win for the Celtics, in Minnesota.

Player of the game: Rajon Rondo was outplayed by rookie Jonny Flynn in the first half, scoring just two points. Then he turned it on in the third quarter. Rondo posted 14 points in the third to bring the Celtics back into the game. He didn’t just put the ball in the hoop ‘€“ he baffled the Timberwolves defense, fought to get open, and burned his opponents with quick-thinking plays at the basket. Rondo finished the night with 18 points, 6 assists, and 4 rebounds, and 3 steals.

Turning point of the game: With over 10 lead changes in this game, the deciding play came with 3.6 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Up 92-90, the Celtics were fighting to fend off the Timberwolves game-winning/tying attempt. Garnett forced the jumpball against a driving Corey Brewer and eventually iced the victory for the Celtics.

* Big men dominated the first quarter. Al Jefferson led all scorers with 13 points (6-10 FG) while Kendrick Perkins led the Celtics with a perfect 4-for-4 from the field (8 points).

* Rasheed Wallace added another T to his resume when he got whistled for a technical from the Celtics bench during the second quarter. It was reminiscent of Sam Cassell getting ejected from the sidelines last season without ever actually playing in the game.

* The Celtics were outrebounded 21-16 in the first half. Pierce was the only starter without a board in the first two quarters. Ryan Gomes, on the other hand, had five for the Timberwolves at the three-spot.

* Even though Rondo had the hot hand coming out of halftime, Doc Rivers played up the Celtics strengths and subbed in House at the end of the quarter. The strategy paid off as a well-defended Pierce kicked the ball off to House for the game-tying three as time expired in the quarter. The Celtics carried that momentum into the fourth.

* Kevin Garnett recorded a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. It was his first since opening night against the Cavaliers (13 points, 10 rebounds).

* Timberwolves big man Oleksiy Pecherov made a name for himself with 24 points (9-14 FG) to lead all scorers.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo,

Danny Ainge on the Big Show

11.04.09 at 5:30 pm ET
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Danny Ainge joined the guys on the Big Show to talk about the Celtics hot start, Rajon Rondo’s new contract and what was up with the league’s investigation of the Rondo-Chris Paul tiff from Sunday. Ainge also had some interesting things to say about Allen Iverson, the 2010 free agent market and whether winning 72 games is even a concern.

Here’s the slightly-edited for clarity transcript:

On the team’s fast start:

Ainge: It’s been great, our defense has been excellent, and our shooting, we’ve been making shots every night. It’s been Paul [Pierce] plus one, or Paul plus two or three guys. I think we can even play better.

Did you expect out of the gate that the bench players would be playing significant minutes and playing the same as your first team?

The only surprise has been Glen Davis not playing and Shelden [Williams] stepping up and he had a couple of double-digit rebound games and three double-digit scoring games. So that’s been a big boost for us. As far as everybody else, I knew there would be games when Rasheed [Wallace] would be hot and Eddie [House] would be hot. Marquis [Daniels] is just a good solid, player. He can defend and pass. I guess I expected that. I also think our starters can play better than they’re playing, so that’s very encouraging. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Big Show, Danny Ainge, Rajon Rondo,

Stat geekery: KG rules

11.04.09 at 10:46 am ET
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Another day another stat geek model (stat geek is a term of endearment). This one comes courtesy of Joe Sill at Hoopnumbers, who describes himself as an analytics consultant from Chicago. Sill has a PhD in Computation and Neural Systems from Cal Tech and a BS in Applied Math from Yale, so he’s a pretty smart dude.

Sill works in the field of Adjusted +/-, which is a system that has drawn some attention due to its orginators Wayne Winston and Jeff Sagarin and their work with the Dallas Mavericks. In layman’s terms, Simple +/- ratings, which can be found in most online box scores, account for how many points a team is better or worse with an individual player on the floor. For example, Marquis Daniels was +31 against Philly Tuesday night.

Simple +/- doesn’t factor in context, which is where Adjusted +/- comes into play. (If you want to see the math, see Joe’s page explaining his concepts). Adjusted +/- is said to be “noisy,” which means you might get some odd results over a short period of time, but it’s an interesting concept and it’s getting more and more play in NBA front offices.

The takeway from Sill’s analysis over the last three years, which he calls Regularized Adjusted +/- (RAPM) is that Kevin Garnett grades out the highest of any NBA player, and by a fairly wide margin. The second-highest ranked Celtic is Rajon Rondo, followed by Paul Pierce and then Ray Allen. Interestingly, Allen graded out highest last season on the Celtics.

A good rule of thumb for advanced NBA metrics is that they are a useful way to help tell a story. John Hollinger’s PER rating, for example, is a number derived strictly from the box score and he will tell you that it doesn’t account for individual defense beyond getting numbers like steals, blocks and rebounds. It’s a piece of the puzzle, but not the whole puzzle.

As yet, no one has advanced a truly credible single number that completely explains performance, like VORP in baseball, and there’s a strong thought in the stat community that it may be impossible to find such a number in basketball analysis.

With that in mind, what Sill’s numbers might tell us is that Garnett is far and away the “most valuable” Celtic in ways that don’t necessarily show up in the box score and that Allen had something of a late-career renaissance last season. We saw that manifest itself on the floor last season, especially when Garnett was not on the floor, so the numbers make intuitive sense.

(Hat tip to basketball-reference’s layups blog for directing me to Sill’s site, Hoopnumbers)

Read More: Kevin Garnett, Stat Geeks,

Fast break: Celtics-Sixers

11.03.09 at 9:26 pm ET
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The Celtics improved to 5-0 on the young season with a 105-74 win over the Sixers Tuesday night in Philadelphia. It was the Celtics first game against an Atlantic Division foe and while they struggled offensively at times they remained dominant defensively, holding Philly to 36 percent shooting and 1-for-16 from 3-point range.

The Celtics broke it open in the fourth quarter with 23-5 run, which gave Lester Hudson, JR Giddens and Brian Scalabrine ample time to work on their games. The trio scored 13 points. Philly’s leading scorer, Andre Iguodala scored 17. It was that kind of night.

Player of the game: Rasheed Wallace. Philly’s favorite son shot the Celtics into the lead with three first half 3-pointers and broke it open with three more in the second half. Wallace finished with 20 points and 6 rebounds in 24 minutes of action.

Turning point: It was late in the first quarter and the Celtics were having a miserable time of it offensively. They had scored points on just two of their first 15 possessions and weren’t running anything resembling an offense. That’s when Rajon Rondo popped a 20-foot jumper. The second unit came in soon after that and the hot shooting of Wallace, Eddie House and Marquis Daniels opened up a double-digit lead.

Rondo’s shot was a minor blip in that run, but further confirmation that he has more confidence in his jumper.

* According to the early box score, Marquis Daniels was an unadjusted +21 for the Celtics. What that means in layman’s terms is that the Celtics were 15 points better than Philly when Daniels was on the floor. Unadjusted +/- is not a very reliable indicator of performance over time, but it helps reveal Daniels’ contribution in a way that six points, three rebounds and four assists never will.

* In theory you don’t need a true point guard to run the Princeton offense that new Philly coach Eddie Jordan is employing. That’s good news for Philly because Lou Williams is a lot of things, but a true point isn’t one of them. What you do need are willing passers, good shooters and movement away from the ball. The Sixers had none of that.

* The Celtics opened the fourth quarter with a 69-54 lead. That’s a comfortable margin, but it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see the starters back on the floor at some point to finish it off. Instead, the bench pushed the lead to 33 points and the starters never had to take off their warmups again. Those kinds of unexpected gifts are invaluable over the course of the season.

* Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Kendrick Perkins were a combined 4-for-18. Everyone else was 37-for-54. Frightening.

Read More: Celtics, Fast Break, Sixers,

Making it official: Rondo re-ups with Celtics

11.02.09 at 8:48 pm ET
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WALTHAM, Mass.  — While Rajon Rondo spoke earlier in the day about the long-term security his new deal would provide, the Celtics waited till every detail was in place before announcing Monday night that they have re-signed their All-Star point guard to a contract extension, thus avoiding restricted free agency next summer.

WEEI.com’s Jeff Goodman confirmed through NBA sources that the extension is worth $55 million over five years.

The following was the release from the team:

The Boston Celtics announced today that the club has signed point guard Rajon Rondo to a multi-year contract extension.  Per team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

‘€œWe are extremely pleased to be able to extend Rajon’€™s contract,’€ said Celtics President of Basketball Operations, Danny Ainge.  ‘€œWe believe that he is one of the elite point guards in the NBA and has a tremendous future ahead of him.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Celtics, NBA, Rajon Rondo,

Rivers on Rondo’s Contract: ‘I Can Fine Him More’

11.02.09 at 3:36 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo now has security in the form of the five-year deal to which he’s agreed in principle. At the same time, Celtics coach Doc Rivers also has a form of security in knowing that he will have the dynamic point guard beyond the 2009-10 NBA season. And so, Rivers felt little need to hide his enthusiasm for the deal. 

“I love it. Whenever we can lock up a player like him, that’€™s what you want to do,” said Rivers. “I said last week that I really thought he’€™d be a Celtic for life. Now, with the contract, at least for the most part of it, he will be. That’€™s a good thing.” 

That notwithstanding, Rivers suggested that the deal — which has yet to be finalized — will do little else to change the Celtics. Rondo will be treated as the same player, and the team is unlikely to view the point guard differently just because he received the lucrative deal.

“I just look at him as a player. I’€™m not going to look at him today any differently than I did yesterday. When he screws up, I’€™m still going to yell at him. I can fine him more. I guess that’€™s the good news of the contract. We treat him the same. We treat everyone the same. Our motto here is we’€™re going to coach you the way you should be someday, not the way you are today. That goes for everyone,” said Rivers. “It’€™s obviously a topic of conversation because everyone talks about it all around. It’€™s funny ‘€“ no one made a big deal of it [at practice] today. They kidded him about it. We just went about our business. That’€™s pretty much who we are.”

Rivers did not seem to think that complacency would become an issue for Rondo in light of the financial security of incredible wealth. The idea of a player achieving peace of mind through such a contract, the Celtics coach suggested, was exaggerated.

“As a player, you just play. It’€™s all within. You keep your drive. You keep pushing forward. He’€™s 24 years old. I think that is for guys, that 32-year-old age who get that last contract, that’€™s peace of mind,” said Rivers. “But at this point in his career, I don’€™t think he thinks of it that way. I think he looks at is as something I’€™ve earned, something I’€™ve worked extremely hard for, and I want a couple more of these big deals.”

Read More: Doc Rivers, Rajon Rondo,

Rondo: ‘I’m thankful for what I’m signing for’

11.02.09 at 2:22 pm ET
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WALTHAM  —  Rajon Rondo acknowledged for the first time following Monday’s practice that he has agreed to a five-year contract extension with the Celtics. The deal is worth a reported $55 million.

“I’m thankful for what I’m signing for,” Rondo said.

[To hear Rondo answer questions about his new deal, click here.]

[For audio of Doc Rivers' reaction and what it means to Celtics, click here.]

The deal between Rondo’s agent Bill Duffy and the team has yet to be finalized but Rondo acknowledged it’s a formality.

The team made Rondo available following Monday’s practice as the team will fly to Philadelphia for Tuesday’s game against the 76ers.

“Nothing changes,” Rondo added. “Still have one goal in mind. It’s great to have security but we’re still focused on winning a championship.

“No, it’s not, necessarily, happiness is. I couldn’t deal without my teammates,” Rondo said. “I’ve had great teammates for the past four years. When it’s all said and done, we’re still going to have relationships on the court, regardless of whatever certain guys make. The relationships you build with one another in the NBA, you can’t compare it to money.”

Rondo also added that he’s grateful that his young daughter will be taken care of. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Celtics, NBA, Rajon Rondo,
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