|10.25.10 at 10:53 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Over the weekend, NBA.com released a series of videos — entitled “NBA Unscripted” — leading up to tomorrow’s opening-night tipoff between the Celtics and Heat.
The footage includes some pretty cool interactions between the C’s Big Three. Here are some nuggets:
Kevin Garnett: “This training camp has some of the same energy that ’07 did. We stepped in the gym, and everybody was there early. I just feel like we’re reliving that. It feels like deja vu a little bit. In ’07, when we were alone, we came in the gym, and there was an energy. You could feel it. There were certain things you didn’t have to say.”
Ray Allen: “After Game 7, we were on the bus, and we started talking about the summer and the future, and we all hurt inside. We all had pain, and to this moment it bothered me to think where we were, what we did and what we could’ve gotten accomplished. We can say that we don’t have regrets, but there are things that we wish we could’ve done better.”
“The more years I play and each year I get more experience, the more of a leadership role I have to take on as the point guard of this team. It’s as simple as that. Whether I play as great as I did the last couple years or not, I’m still the leader. I’m here for a reason.”
Of course, no NBA preview would be complete without plenty of Heat discussion. Unscripted is no different. Here’s a couple tidbits from Miami:
Chris Bosh: “To get to where we want to go, it has to be intense. We know that other teams like the Celtics are out there working very, very hard, so we probably have to go even harder.”
Shaquille O’Neal generates more gems than Tiffany & Co. After posing as a statue (sorry, “Shaqtue”) for an hour in Harvard Square last week, The Big Shamrock is already planning his next stunt, according to USA Today.
Always wondered what Shaq might look like as a woman? Well, on the subway this Halloween, you just might meet Shaquita, a 7-foot-1, 345-pound woman. Ever want to hurl a snowball at Shaq? This winter, he may don a snowsuit and stand in a field somewhere as a human target.
“This is the funnest team I’ve been on in my life,” Shaq told the paper. “Seriously. These guys are great. Usually, I’m the ringleader of bringing fun to a team, but I haven’t even done anything yet. These guys crack me up. Big Baby (Glen Davis) and Nate Robinson, they need their own TV show.”
Still, in the same article, Doc Rivers stressed that Shaq’s maintaining a balance between off-the-court fun and on-the-court production.
“This city wants a winner,” added Shaq. “I want a winner. Everybody on this team wants to win. For me, that’s what it’s all about.”
PAUL PIERCE FEELING FIT
KG isn’t the only Celtics veteran feeling fully healthy after a summer filled with thoughts of vengeance. According to Jackie MacMullan on ESPN.com, Pierce is, too.
“I feel great for the first time in a long time,” Pierce told MacMullan.
After suffering knee, foot and thumb injuries during the 2009-10 regular season, Pierce reportedly had to wear a brace and some serious padding in his shoe just to make it through the NBA Finals.
The most disturbing revelation from MacMullan’s fantastic piece (per usual): After Pierce’s minor surgery midway through last season, his knee would actually pop open and gush liquid (I hope you’re not eating your breakfast with this Irish Coffee).
“I was probably a little stubborn about not letting it heal right,” Pierce admitted to ESPN.com. “I told them I was fine, but I had this fluid leaking out all over the place. It wasn’t so much the pain. I just lost all my strength. I played a lot of last season on basically one leg.”
STEPHANE LASME PHOENIX-BOUND?
Lasme was a stand-up guy in Celtics training camp, and even carried himself with dignity following the news that the C’s cut him from the roster — wishing each of his teammates good luck this season.
The C’s have a deep roster this year, so failing to make the cut shouldn’t deflate a guy like Lasme, who could still contribute to an NBA team.
IT’S PREVIEW TIME
Green Street has you covered for any and all information you could possibly want leading up to tomorrow night’s opener. Paul Flannery has already churned out a ton of impressive stuff, including a great piece on Jermaine O’Neal, a breakdown of the secret to the Big Three’s success, this season’s top five NBA storylines and his Talking Hoops podcast.
Meanwhile, I contacted 30 blogs from around the league to give you a prediction for the team they cover and, of course, the Celtics. I’ll say this: You’ll be surprised by the range of projections. Part 1 is already up on the blog. Stay tuned for the remainder of the Western Conference today and the Eastern Conference tomorrow.
(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)
|10.24.10 at 10:18 pm ET|
NBA fans live a team’s ups and downs. They react to every draft pick, trade and free-agent signing. They debate the merits of the 15th man. They find significance in the most insignificant stats. They simply KNOW their team. So, too, do bloggers. That’s why we sought the opinion of the league’s best blogs — one for each of the 30 teams — to break down the team they cover and, of course, the Celtics.
We’ll begin in the Western Conference’s Pacifiic Division with the first of a seven-part, two-day series …
ON THE WARRIORS: The shackles on the Warriors have finally been removed, as dysfunctional owner Chris Cohan sold the team to a group headed by former Celtics minority owner Joe Lacob. Sheer jubilation and excitement has captivated Warriors fans, as they’ve begged Cohan to sell the team for years, and he finally obliged.
Gone are Don Nelson and Corey Maggette, both of whom were jettisoned this offseason — much to the approval of everyone in and around the team. Keith Smart takes over for Nelson and gets an All-Star power forward in David Lee to add to his core of Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis. Andris Biedrins looks to be healthy for the first time in two years, and the addition of Dorell Wright gives the Warriors a legit NBA frontcourt.
If healthy, the team has an outside shot at making the playoffs as long as they show and execute an actual desire to play defense.
ON THE CELTICS: It seems a foregone conclusion to many that the Miami Heat are going to stroll into the NBA Finals, and the rest of the Eastern Conference has no say in the matter. This is where I disagree. The Celtics quietly had a great offseason, as they accumulated additional front-court depth in Shaq and Jermaine O’Neal, brought back Nate Robinson and added Delonte West to replace Tony Allen.
Add a fully healthy Kevin Garnett, a slimmer Paul Pierce and quite possibly the best point guard in the NBA in Rajon Rondo, and the Celtics are poised to make another Finals run. Kendrick Perkins should return around the All-Star break to provide depth up front, which will keep the front line fresh and ready to go during the playoffs.
I see the Celtics making a return trip to the Finals, as their chemistry, experience and toughness will prove to be too much for Miami and the rest of the Eastern Conference.
ON THE CLIPPERS: The Clippers have long been one of the most unpredictable teams in the NBA (unless you just take the easy route and predict bad things). Every year, they look pretty good on paper, yet every year they seem to underachieve. I call them the anti-synergy team — the whole is always less than the sum of the parts.
Was the recent lack of synergy a function of the seven-year regime of coach Mike Dunleavy, and might new coach Vinny Del Negro be the answer? Unclear. What is clear is that, perhaps more than ever (and forgive me if you’ve heard this before), the Clippers are loaded (on paper). At four positions, the Clippers start a player with an impressive prefix for his name: two-time All-Star Baron Davis, Team USA gold medalist Eric Gordon, 2010 All-Star Chris Kaman and 2009 first overall pick Blake Griffin. Of course, three of those guys were there last season when the Clippers won only 29 games.
Griffin is the key, only partly for his basketball ability (which is almost unlimited). Just as important is the attitude he brings, and the Clippers are hoping it will infect the entire team. While the Clippers have visibly given up on their last three seasons, Griffin has never in his life given up on a single possession. If his presence serves to keep the Clippers playing hard all season, then perhaps the prospect and the reality will finally align for the Clippers.
I expect them to finish near the .500 mark this season, a definite step forward but probably not enough to qualify for the playoffs.
ON THE CELTICS: Five players on the Celtics have combined for a staggering 51 All-Star Game selections in their careers. When the Celtics decided to corner the market on former All-Pros named O’Neal who were willing to take $18M pay cuts, Jermaine (6 All-Star selections) and Shaq (15) joined Pierce (8), Ray Allen (9) and Garnett (13) on what must surely be the most decorated team of all-time.
Yet it may be two other Celtics with just a single All-Star selection between them who hold the key to Boston’s season. For all the accolades of the ‘drafted in the 90s’ crew, Rondo is the engine that makes Boston go, while Perkins is a lynchpin in their stifling defense. How well Rondo plays and how quickly (and how well) Perkins returns from ACL surgery will be major factors in Boston’s fortunes. Rondo is the one guy on the team who is entering elite status as opposed to exiting it, and elite teams always have elite players.
Meanwhile, it’s far from clear that either of the O’Neals has anywhere near enough gas in the tank to do what Perkins does in Boston’s vaunted defense. With so many 30-somethings, health will of course be a factor as well, but if Rondo takes the next step and the team enters the playoffs healthy (including a full-strength Perkins), then I expect the Celtics to give Orlando and Miami a run for the Eastern Conference championship and possibly even bring another banner back to Boston.
ON THE LAKERS: The Champs had a surprisingly busy offseason — picking up a veteran point guard (Steve Blake), another solid, defensive-minded role player (Matt Barnes) and an insurance policy for Andrew Bynum (Theo Ratliff). The Lakers have two simple goals during the regular season:
- Get healthy for the playoffs.
- Win the West.
If I know Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant, they’ll take a clean bill of health in April over the No. 1 seed every single time. The regular season will be a grind, but I expect L.A. to find a way to emerge as the top seed in the West. If Kobe is healthy and Bynum can find a way to stay off the operating table, I like the Lakers’ chances to have another ring ceremony this time next year.
ON THE CELTICS: If the NBA were a horror franchise, the C’s would undoubtedly be Jason Voorhes — the aging, veteran killer who isn’t exactly chasing people down anymore, but continues to get the job done, sequel after sequel. With the offseason additions of the Big Minimum (Shaq), Delonte and the cadaver formerly known as Jermaine O’Neal, the C’s are actually more talented (and deeper) than they were last season. If everyone stays healthy (their biggest concern), I expect Boston to give Miami all they can handle in the Eastern Conference Finals.
ON THE SUNS: The range of goals for the Suns this season goes anywhere from not losing 40 games to a return trip to the Western Conference Finals. It’s almost impossible to predict what the Suns will do this year, given the question marks and variables.
If all goes well (really well), and the team catches breaks along the way, they could certainly be right back at the top of the non-Laker heap. That would require other teams suffering big-time injuries — which played a huge factor last season — along with everything going right in Phoenix.
On the flip side, it’s not inconceivable that the Suns are back in the lottery if a couple of teams improve (and stay healthy). There are just too many unanswered questions going into the season to predict with any degree of confidence that the Suns will win 45 games. At the same time, I can easily make the case that they’ll win 55. That puts the goal somewhere between 40 and 55 wins. That’s the best I can do with this team right now.
ON THE CELTICS: The Celtics are old. Really, really old. And got older by adding Shaq. But we saw last season that Doc Rivers understands how to limp through the regular season and position his guys to be fresh for the playoffs. It’s a risky plan that worked once and may work again.
Or maybe it won’t. It’s so hard to predict when you’re talking about the health of older players. Of course, it’s one of the younger guys, Perkins, who’s the biggest question mark. Even if he returns midseason, it’s going to take months to get him back to where he was.
Fortunately for Celtics fans, the East isn’t that deep past the top three (I’m including the Bulls). Overall, it’s hard to see Boston finishing lower than a sixth seed, and then all bets are off. We know Boston can beat Orlando, and I’m not convinced the Heat will be a great playoff team. This all assumes, of course, that KG doesn’t get fined into the poor house with the new “Respect for the Game” rules.
ON THE KINGS: They’re certainly improved but already dealing with some concerning injuries. Newly acquired center Samuel Dalembert is going to miss a few weeks to start the season, and while I love the potential of DeMarcus Cousins, defensively he’s not there yet. That’s not to say he can’t get there quickly, but as of right now he’s struggling (as to be expected) on that side of the ball.
Assuming Dalembert returns healthy, the Kings’ defense will be far better than it was last season (how could it not be?). They’ve added a great deal of size with rookies Cousins and Hassan Whiteside, along with other big men Dalembert, Jason Thompson and Carl Landry. They’ll be able to pack the lane much more effectively, and their size should be a unique advantage, especially with 6-foot-11 Donte Greene being named the starting small forward.
Tyreke Evans has spent the entire offseason working on his jumper (when he wasn’t speeding down the freeway), and the hard work has clearly paid off. Make no mistake, you won’t ever confuse him with Ray Allen, but Evans adding a reliable jumper and 3-point shot to his arsenal is a scary sight for other Western Conference teams.
The Kings still aren’t there, yet. The West has a lot of really good (but not elite) teams that will clog the bottom rung of the playoff seedings, but a season with 32-35 wins would be a fantastic growing point for the Kings.
ON THE CELTICS: The Celtics are going to continue to face the “age” question throughout the season. When are they going to show how old they are? A lot of people thought you’d begin to see the cracks last year, and it was completely the opposite, as they ran through the Eastern Conference. And I’d be hard-pressed to say they can’t do it again.
I love the additions of both O’Neal’s, and I don’t think we’ve seen the impact Nate Robinson can have yet. I do think the loss of Perkins is a big blow, but one they can manage through. Perk certainly doesn’t get the recognition he deserves around the league, as he’s one of the best defensive big men in the NBA and a cog in what the Celtics do. With that said, the Celtics clearly have the talent to maintain until he’s able to return later in the season.
The East did steal some power from the West with the additions of Carlos Boozer in Chicago and Amar’e Stoudemire in New York, but with the Knicks limited in other areas and Boozer’s injury the Celtics shouldn’t have much issue hanging onto the second seed (not that the Knicks are or were a threat).
They’ll give the Heat a run for their money if they meet in the playoffs. Can they beat them in a seven-game series? That’s a tough call. Injuries will always play a huge factor, but I’m not one of the many ready to just hand over the trophy to South Beach yet. Assuming the Celtics hang on to the No. 2 seed, they wouldn’t meet until the Heat ran through a gauntlet of tough lower seeds. As Garnett so famously said, “Anything is possible,” and I’d be far from shocked to see the Celtics come out of the season hanging yet another Eastern Conference championship banner.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this seven-part series: the Western Conference’s Northwest Division.
|10.24.10 at 4:51 pm ET|
WALTHAM — You could tell immediately after practice on Sunday that this was no ordinary weekend practice. It’s not often the Celtics practice both days on the weekend but Doc Rivers is giving his team every chance to get prepared for the Miami Heat on Tuesday night.
“We didn’t do much today,” Rivers said. “I really went back and forth with giving them the day off or getting them to run through some stuff. A lot of skeleton today and very little contact and going over our defensive schemes.”
Then, on their own, new players like Von Wafer, Luke Harangody and Semih Erden worked on the offensive sets. The intensity was certainly there.
Tempers flared between Delonte West and Wafer during a post-practice drill, the Celtics continued preparations for the Miami Heat on Sunday at their practice facility.
Wafer, who won the last 15th and final roster spot after the final preseason game last Wednesday, played with Harangody against West and Erden in a 2-on-2 drill as extra time is being spent at the end of practice for new players trying to learn the Celtics offensive sets before they open the season Tuesday night at home. Wafer and West exchanged words after West drove to the basket and beat Wafer for a couple of buckets.
“Listen it’s game one, even if it wasn’t Miami, everybody is going to be excited,” Rivers said. “This is a special situation. Let’s just be honest. Everybody is excited about it. Our guys try to downplay it until you walk through the locker room and hear them talking about it. The film is on all day, watching Miami. Let’s just go out and have fun and see what we have the next night. We’d like to win them both.
The Celtics play in Cleveland on Wednesday, the night after their season opener against the Heat at TD Garden.
|10.24.10 at 1:58 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Just days after heading to Harvard Square to pretend he was a statue for an hour, Shaquille O’Neal revealed what his next experiments will be.
Initially, Shaq mentioned that his next public foray will be seasonally-based.
“I thinking of buy a snowsuit, standing in the middle of a field and have people throw snowballs at me,” he said. “Something different.”
But then, after a suggestion from a reporter that he could integrate the ‘T’ into his next field trip, O’Neal latched onto the idea.
“No, never,” he said when asked if he had ever been on the subway in Boston. “That’s a good idea. I’m going to do that. What’s today? Sunday? I’m going to do that next week.”
O’Neal then took it to another level when explaining how he was going to appear when boarding the train. He said that he would be dressing up as a woman named, “Shaquita,” “I’m going to do that,” he said.
As for his experience at Harvard, O’Neal said that the idea came from seeing the discipline of the Buckingham Palace guards and other military personnel.
“For me I can always tell my friends I went to Harvard,” he noted. “When I say I went to Harvard, you can take that for how you want to take it. I went to Harvard, I stood at Harvard, and I graduated from Harvard. So now I’m smart.
“I’ve always liked Boston. The people here have always treated me right. Go to [Legal’s Seafood] and get that clam chowder. Go to (an Italian restaurant) for that big spaghetti bowl. I’ve never had problems in Boston, that’s why I can go to Harvard Square by myself for an hour, people just touch me, have someone say they’re my son. Just have a good time.”
Asked how his experience with the Celtics has been compared to other teams he has been with, O’Neal gave the Celts a notable distinction.
“This is the funnest team I’ve been on in my life,” O’Neal said. “These guys are great. Usually I’m the ring leader of bringing fun to a team, but I haven’t even done anything yet. These guys crack me up. Big Baby and Nate, they need their own TV show. Those guys are funny. Just having certain conversations with all the great players, me and Kevin [Garnett] going back to our LA, Minnesota days. It’s just fun. It’s a close-knit group already. We go to dinner together, movies together, play cards. It’s just a fun group. It’s going to be a fun 735 days for me.”
|10.23.10 at 4:08 pm ET|
The Celtics went through a hard practice at Waltham Saturday. This was a different sort of workout than the one they endured Friday, which stretched out past three hours. As the curtain lifted, they were going through a scrimmage, complete with refs and all the intensity you would expect from a regular season game.
“It was the best practice we’ve had in a while,” Doc Rivers said. “It was good to see. Following yesterday’s fiasco of a practice, I thought today was phenomenal.”
But what really stood out was the sight of Kendrick Perkins, whiteboard in hand, drawing up a play for the second team (usually referred to as the White Team for their jerseys, as opposed to the starters, who wear green). The play was for Von Wafer to come off a back pick, but it didn’t go according to plan.
“We needed a 3 at the time,” coach Perk explained. “We were down six. So I went with a Doc play. We didn’t execute it right.”
This whole exercise was by design. It’s something Rivers learned from Mike Fratello when he played for him in Atlanta. “I saw something during the game,” Rivers said. “We came into the huddle and I said we’ve got to run this. We did it and we won the game, but that was the last time he let me do it.”
Rivers has tried this out with his players at various times — Gabe Pruitt called up a game-winner a few years back — and the benefits work both ways.
“You see a lot when you’re hurt and on the sidelines,” Perkins said. “You put yourself in the coach’s shoes and see what they’re going through. I’m just trying to install it in my head so when I get in there I won’t make the same mistakes.”
“You learn a lot,” Rivers said. “You see what they’re thinking. You see who they think should take the shots. Who they think can make plays. What they learn is they get frustrated when guys don’t execute. That’s how I feel the whole game. It’s good learning tool for everybody.”
“Ray,” Rivers said. “Because it’s always for him. Rondo and Ray are pretty darn good.” Read the rest of this entry »
|10.23.10 at 3:29 pm ET|
You never know what you’re going to get from Kevin Garnett in an interview setting. Some days he might be terse. Other days he may be expansive. On Saturday after the C’s went through practice, KG was in a chatty mood.
“We’ve done a good job of policing ourselves, making sure the standard that we’ve built,” Garnett said. “I can’t speak on other franchises other than one that I played with, but I know that when you come in here and you look up and see all the retired numbers and banners and see the dedication and the sweat and tears that have been poured into this club, that’s a responsibility.”
Wanting to keep the conversation going, I mentioned that when veterans come to the Celtics, they find that attitude refreshing. That was when KG dropped a reference to noted children’s author Beverly Cleary.
“Think about it,” Garnett said. “You’re a writer. If you looked up to Beverly Cleary and different writers who were monumental and whatever it is that inspired you, and you come into their office or to their desk or type at their typewriter, if you have any kind of passion, I don’t know you personally, but if you have any kind of passion about something and you were able to put yourself in their place while they were writing their stories, then you would feel that. It’s no different from basketball. It’s a very prideful thing. It’s a very honorable thing.”
For the record, your correspondent is more of a F. Scott Fitzgerald man, but point taken.
|10.22.10 at 4:26 pm ET|
It happened in the first quarter of a preseason game last Friday in Toronto. Jermaine O’Neal went to take a charge and the impact left him with torn cartilage in his left wrist. His latest injury has kept him out of practice and preseason games for the past week, but after going through a full workout Friday, O’Neal said he would be ready to play Tuesday when the Celtics open up the regular season against his former team, the Miami Heat.
“I feel good,” he said. “Felt pretty good today. I got a little wrap that keeps it safe. I’m not worried about it.”
O’Neal previously missed a week of camp because of a hamstring injury and, earlier this week, Doc Rivers termed this latest setback, “disappointing.”
“He has not had the preseason that we would have liked him to have so far,” Rivers said Tuesday. “Sometimes you can’t avoid it.”
While he has missed time, O’Neal seems to have been passed by the other O’Neal, Shaq, in the competition for the starting center spot. But Jermaine O’Neal isn’t worried about that aspect.
“We don’t compete for the starting time,” he said. “We challenge each other just like everybody else challenges each other. It’s not about who’s starting, who’s coming off the bench, it’s about making each other better and getting ready for the game.”
Jermaine O’Neal said that he and Shaq have had long conversations about their roles, but not about who starts. They know that it will be an adjustment for them, but they both have stressed that they are ready for it.
“We don’t talk about anything else,” Jermaine O’Neal said. “We don’t talk about who starts. There’s no animosity. We understand that we’re going to need everybody to win a championship this year. There’s going to be times where I play well. There’s going to be times where he plays well. The key is picking each other up when we need each other. That’s all we worry about. Everything else is going to play itself out.”
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