|05.21.10 at 5:44 pm ET|
According to a report by Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowksi, Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau is a finalist for the head coaching vacancy with the New Orleans Hornets. Avery Johnson was thought to be the leading contender for the job, but he made noise about having control over personnel as well and New Orleans has reportedly no interest in that proposition.
Wojnarowski identifies Portland assistant Monty Williams as the other leading candidate, but leaves open the possibility of other assistants or former coaches such as Mike Fratello and Lawrence Frank emerging.
The Hornets job has obvious benefits; namely coaching Chris Paul, and for a defensive-minded coach like Thibodeau, the possibility of bringing out Emeka Okafor’s game. But it also has drawbacks.
The team is currently in the process of being sold from George Shinn to Gary Chouest and the Hornets have failed to make much of an impact the Crescent City since moving from Charlotte. Additionally, they are also backloaded with bad contracts for players like Morris Peterson, Peja Stojakovic and James Posey. They do have some talent in Paul, David West and young players like Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton.
Thibodeau has been in the running for head jobs in the past, but he may never be hotter than right now as his defense has knocked out Dwyane Wade and LeBron James and is halfway toward eliminating Dwight Howard. That’s three of the five players on the All-NBA team and his work has not gone unrecognized.
“He’s terrific,” Doc Rivers said during the Cleveland series. “He’s the best defensive coach, I think, in the league. I don’t know if there’s a better one and our guys buy into it. I think that’s very important. If they don’t buy into what you’re doing, it’s not going to work. We have a group of guys who are willing to buy in to what we want them to do to what Thibs wants them to do, and that’s why it works.”
|05.21.10 at 4:15 pm ET|
WALTHAM — History and tradition are wonderful, but there are times when the burden can be too great. Times when the ones who built that legacy feel the need to defend it, and in so doing, wind up taking shots at the current structure. Take the Chicago Bears who are getting criticism from Gale Sayers, among others.
The Celtics are one of the most unique franchises in all of sports, and their past is always playing with the present.
Take Paul Pierce’s epic Game 7 showdown with LeBron James in the 2008 playoffs. The immediate comparison, of course, was to Larry Bird in 1988 against Dominique Wilkins and the Hawks. It’s hard to create your own path when everything has already been done before your time.
But the Celtics embrace their history, and it helps that their alumni embrace it too; as history.
“Our guys are the best,” Doc Rivers said. “That’s the biggest thing that I tell people all the time. From afar you think, man you see all these ex-players around, are they still trying to hold on to their little piece? I don’t know about other organizations, actually I do, but this one is different. Our guys so much want you to do well because you’re a Celtic and they don’t worry about their legacy because they have championships too. I think it’s amazing. The best I’ve ever seen. [John] Havlicek, [Bill] Russell, all of them. When they come around all they tell you is that they want you and how to win.”
The video montage that runs before Celtics games features ex-Celtic greats from Red to Larry to Russ all speaking about their time in Boston as players and what it meant to them to be a Celtics. It’s a subtle reminder, although perhaps not that subtle, of the expectations.
“We brainwash [them] a little bit too and we do it on purpose,” Rivers said. “We show a lot of film of those guys. Larry Bird, some of the things he said, all the stuff about playing in Boston. The history of their voice, for [coaching purposes], is far better than the history of their play.”
|05.21.10 at 2:50 pm ET|
The Celtics heard all that and frankly don’t really care how the Magic decide to match up with Pierce.
“Obviously they want to play better defensively, probably on me,” Pierce said Friday. “Who knows what they’re going to do as far as trapping and different matchups. We’re going to make some adjustments ourselves. We still feel like we haven’t played our perfect game yet. We’re still in search of that. It doesn’t affect anything that I’m trying to do offensively when we play the Magic.”
Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy changed things up before Game 1 by having Barnes guard Ray Allen and Vince Carter on Pierce, who has turned Carter inside out by scoring 50 points on just 24 shots in the first two games.
“It doesn’t affect us,” Doc Rivers said. “When you’re down 2-0 you do make some changes. We have to anticipate that. But they’re not going to make many changes. We are who we are, they are who they are, they’re just going to try to do it better. Barnes or [Mikael] Pietrus will probably guard Paul. Vince will go to Ray. That’s how a lot of us thought it would start in the series and now they’re just going to back that.”
Rivers expects Orlando will try to go big with Dwight Howard and Marcin Gortat playing a Twin Towers look and possibly Rashard Lewis sliding over to the 3-spot. But the Celtics won’t vary their personnel much, mainly because they can’t.
“Some teams have the ability to go big, small or change,” Rivers said. “We unfortunately, or fortunately, do not. We’re just going to be who we are and just be the best at that.”
|05.21.10 at 2:29 pm ET|
“You guys [are] asking me all these questions about the ’08 team,” Pierce said Friday after the team conducted practice. “There’s no comparison in the teams. You guys want to make them similar, make them different, make them better. It’s a completely different year. New players that are trying to develop its own identity. Whatever happened then, happened. It’s not the same thing. We’re trying to develop our own identity with this team by winning a championship.”
That came after the third straight question about 2008, but on the first Pierce gave an interesting response.
“It’s a little more challenging, going on the road so much,” he said. “We played probably the three hottest teams in basketball coming into the playoffs. It’s tougher mentally and physically, just the road that we took to get here.”
And if this team wins a title?
“If that happens,” Pierce said. “I’ll be able to answer that.”
|05.20.10 at 9:56 pm ET|
On Thursday, the Orlando Sentinel reported that Barnes would like an opportunity to stop Pierce, who is averaging 25 points per game, the most among all players in the series.
‘I’d love to guard Pierce,’ Barnes told the Sentinel. ‘I got the chance to guard him a little bit the last game and felt that I did a pretty good job. But he’s really rolling right now, so we need to slow him down somehow.’
Pierce is shooting nearly 60 percent from the field in over 41 minutes per game, while averaging seven rebounds and five assists in the Eastern Conference finals.
It is a bounce-back from the Eastern Conference semifinals, in which he averaged 13.5 points off of 34.5 percent shooting from the field and 30.8 percent from 3-point range. His defensive numbers had also dropped to less than five boards and four assists against the Cavaliers.
But there is more to it than just trying to slow Pierce’s offensive attack. Barnes told the Sentinel Pierce has another skill besides scoring. He believes Pierce knows how to sell calls, too.
‘My third foul in the third quarter, when I tried to beat him over the screen, he fell down like I threw him,’ he said. ‘It was ridiculous. But the refs called it, so it was a good play. It was a flop, 100 percent, and that’s how some guys like to play. But if the refs call it, it’s effective.’
Pierce has shot 17-for-21 at the line in the first two games. He drew nine fouls in Game 2.
|05.20.10 at 6:17 pm ET|
The NBA announced Thursday that referee Joe DeRosa will be suspended one game following an incident with a fan in Orlando during Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals. DeRosa, a longtime official and crew chief, will miss the next game he was scheduled to work.
The incident occurred at halftime when DeRosa walked to the scorer’s table with fellow refs Marc Davis and Bill Kennedy. Several Orlando fans were getting on the officials, including Wyndham Vacation Ownership CEO Franz Hanning, who walked up to the table to yell at DeRosa. The ref responded by tossing the game ball to Hanning, who tossed it back.
The NBA said that Hanning was not ejected from the game, as had been reported. Hanning is a friend of Doc Rivers from the coach’s time with the Magic.
After the game, Rivers said this about DeRosa: “Joe, no, he’s not an emotional guy. He’s usually great in these situations, [but] I don’t know what happened.”
|05.20.10 at 4:39 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Everyone wanted to know the answer to one question on Thursday in Waltham. No, it wasn’t whether Paul Pierce’s tweet was real or not as everyone suspected it wasn’t his doing in the wake of Game 2.
The question everyone wanted the answer to was: Are the Celtics overconfident? After all, the Celtics are coming into Game 3 against Orlando at home after winning the first two games of the series on the road, something they have never accomplished in their glorious history.
As always, the introspective Ray Allen provided some interesting insight to the team’s psyche.
“Always, that’s human nature,” Allen said when asked if he understood the concern of overconfidence. “You think you have everything in the bag. You think you don’t have to put as much effort out there to do your job or get the same result that you got before. The same overpreparation, the same focus, the same mental approach we’ve taken to the whole playoffs has to continue.
“The only ‘over’ I want to be is prepared. It’s important that everybody does their job and knows we’ve done our job to get into this situation.”
Kevin Garnett said all the matters is what happens on the court – not when the microphones are on off of it.
“In my estimation, confidence is about what you go out and do versus talking about it,” Garnett said. “We haven’t really done anything but won two games. Now, it’s up to us to defend our home court. It’s important that we stay humble and understand that this is a long process and this is seven games.”
And the reason for the question was Paul Pierce proclaiming to a national TV audience following Boston’s Game 2 win in Orlando that the Celtics were coming home to “close it out.”
“I didn’t like it,” Rivers said. “I don’t mind the confidence part, that’s good, but we want to be humble and we haven’t achieved anything. I think that’s what he was trying to say but it just came out at the end. I wish they’d have taken the mic away the last couple of words but up until then, he was pretty good. We do have to go home and our fans will help us but we have to do it on the floor.
Rivers did not speak to Pierce individually since then but rather the entire team about the appropriate attitude going into Game 3 Saturday night in Boston.
“I talked to the team about it,” Rivers added. “He was part of the team. Unfortunately, I talked to the team, in the locker room, right after the game.”
‘We’ve done nothing’ is clearly the mantra these Celtics have adopted for the 2010 run to a title.
“We’ve done nothing,” Rivers repeated from his comments earlier Thursday to Dennis and Callahan. “We really haven’t. We’ve won two games. We’re up, 2-0. Again, we just have to keep playing. Orlando is the favorite for a reason. They were playing better than everybody in the playoffs for a reason and we can’t take our eye off of that.”
Rivers said it’s hard to keep the players from feeling good about themselves. And actually, he said, they have earned that right.
“You don’t guard against it,” Rivers said. “You just keep focusing on execution and improving and getting ready. And each game is a single game. That’s been our speech through this playoff series, all of the series. Each game is a single game. Game 1 was an individual game. Game 2 was and Game 3 will be as well.”
Rivers is a big fan of the NFL. And Bill Belichick would be happy with the nugget he threw at his team on Thursday.
“As I told our guys, we have yet to beat Orlando on our home court this year and that’s something we have to have a focus on,” Rivers said of Orlando’s two wins in Boston this regular season.
“It won’t be easy but we earned this position and we should be happy with that. We earned getting up, 2-0 but we haven’t had the opportunity to defend our home court. We did our job there but we haven’t done our job at home. And as far as we’re concerned, until we do that, nothing has happened in this series.”
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