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What to make of Nate

02.17.10 at 12:03 pm ET
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UPDATE: Reports that Nate Robinson have been traded to the Celtics are premature according to a source, but it is still likely to happen at some point.

The rumors are swirling that the Celtics may be closing in on New York Knicks guard Nate Robinson at the trade deadline. The Celtics may have competition for Robinson in the form of the Lakers. Both teams have also been said to be in on Chicago guard Kirk Hinrich, but the Lakers seem reluctant to take on more salary obligations and Hinrich’s deal extends for two more seasons beyond this one.

For now, let’s take a look at what Robinson would actually bring to the Celtics. Even though he is only listed at 5-foot-9, Robinson is one of the NBA’s premier athletes as evidenced by his status as a three-time dunk champion. He also played football at the University of Washington, starting six games at corner before deciding to concentrate on basketball.

Robinson’s biggest strength is as a scorer. He has started only 61 times in 312 games, but he averages 12.5 points for his career in about 24 minutes a night. He is also a decent 3-point shooter, although certainly not the caliber of Eddie House, whose minutes he would presumably take.

Robinson has had his problems with Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni. He was benched for 14 games in the middle of the season before rallying the Knicks to a comeback win over the Wizards in early February with 23 points. Robinson lasted only three more games before falling out of favor again. He hasn’t played for the Knicks since Feb. 9.

The Celtics second unit has suffered from a lack of a true lead guard. Marquis Daniels has performed the task capably since he returned from his injury, but he is more of a facilitator on offense. While Daniels was out, Doc Rivers often had Ray Allen or Paul Pierce initiate the offense for the second unit and he experimented with Rajon Rondo in that role with the second team as well. But those are merely stop-gap solutions.

Robinson is in the final year of his contract, which presents a few minor problems. He is what is known as a base year compensation player, which makes it difficult, but not impossible to make the trade math work. He also has veto power over a trade, but he is believed to be open to a trade to the Celtics and for good reason. The Globe’s Gary Washburn reported that Robinson would earn a $1 million bonus if he is on a playoff team.

Read More: Nate Robinson, Rumors,

Fast Break: Celtics vs. Kings

02.17.10 at 12:40 am ET
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With trade rumors swirling around a possible acquisition of Nate Robinson, the Celtics found themselves locked in an offensive struggle against one of the fastest-paced teams in the league. That might have been OK to play the Sacramento Kings style earlier in the season, but the Celtics can’t afford to mess around with sub-.500 teams anymore.

Enter the bench. The very same bench that Danny Ainge seems determined to try to tweak between now and the trade deadline Thursday.

Playing one of their most inspired quarters, the second unit took an 11-point lead behind the hot shooting of Eddie House and the interior defense of Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis. The Celtics rode that effort, and survived a shaky fourth quarter, en route to a 95-92 win over the Kings Tuesday night.

Wallace, Davis, House and Marquis Daniels all played major roles in the victory and helped the Celtics overcome a lackluster performance from the starting five. It’s only one game, of course, but if they had played that well for the majority of the season (and been healthy enough to try) Ainge wouldn’t be attempting to perform a makeover at the deadline.

Turning Point: Despite the bench’s efforts, the Celtics still had to work for it. Paul Pierce, who had a sub-par shooting game otherwise, drilled a 3-pointer with 1:38 remaining that put the Celtics ahead, 89-87. The Kings helped out mightily by missing four free throws down the stretch.

Player of the Game: Rasheed Wallace. The backup big man has maintained throughout the season that he, and the Celtics, will get things right when it counts. Tuesday night was a step in the right direction. Wallace finished with 17 points, five rebounds and three blocks, but it was his play down low that was so effective. Wallace dominated on the block in the first half and was also an active presence defensively. He shifted back outside in the second half, but he served a reminder that once again he is the Celtics best post-up player. When he wants to be.

* The starters were shredded defensively in the first quarter as the Kings shot 55 percent and made 5-of-8 from 3-point range. A balanced scoring effort and a lack of turnovers helped the Celtics match the Kings, 30-30.

* Ray Allen and Paul Pierce both went 5-for-15. Rajon Rondo also struggled, going 1-for-6.

* Kevin Garnett had nine rebounds through the first three quarters and almost recorded his first double-digit rebounding game since Dec. 18 against the Sixers, but he couldn’t get over the hump.

* Eddie House made four 3-pointers, something he hasn’t been able to do since a Dec. 30 blowout loss to the Suns.

* Glen Davis had five offensive rebounds in just 17 minutes of action.

Read More: Celtics, Fast Break, Kings,

Third quarter wrap: Celtics vs. Kings

02.16.10 at 11:57 pm ET
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After three quarters, the Celtics lead 76-69.

The dreaded third quarter collapse never came, but the Celtics still have work to do if they are going to start off their west coast trip with a win. The turnovers returned with the starters as they gave it away seven times in the quarter, but the Celtics were able to overcome that by tightening up defensively.

The Kings shot just 5-for-19 in the quarter and the Celtics have been able to control the defensive glass. Of the five starters, only Kevin Garnett is shooting over 50 percent from the floor. Garnett us 4-for-6 with nine points and nine rebounds.

Halftime wrap: Celtics vs. Kings

02.16.10 at 11:11 pm ET
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After a sloppy first quarter defensively, the Celtics rode their bench to a 57-52 halftime lead over the Kings. Led by Rasheed Wallace’s 10 points, and inspired defensive play, the Celtics took control midway through the quarter and led by as many as 11 points.

Wallace was hardly the only bench contributor. Eddie House knocked down three 3-pointers, Glen Davis had six points and six rebounds and Marquis Daniels did his usual all-around number with seven points, three rebounds and a steal.

The second unit’s production was critical because Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo shot a combined 4-for-15. Despite that, there were other positive signs for the Celtics offensively. They only turned the ball over five times and made half of their 12 3-point attempts.

Read More: Celtics, Kings,

First quarter wrap: Celtics vs. Kings

02.16.10 at 10:39 pm ET
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With trade deadline rumors swirling, the Celtics returned to action in their first game back from the All-Star break and looked a lot like the team that skidded into the break. At least defensively. The Kings shot 55 percent from the floor and made 5-of-8 3-pointers as the two teams played to a 30-30 tie.

Kevin Garnett scored six points go with three rebounds and two assists, while Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis combined for nine points off the bench. Sacramento rookie Omri Casspi led the way for the Kings with 10 points, and a nasty block on Garnett.

New rumor: Nate Robinson

02.16.10 at 10:17 pm ET
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Reports from the New York Daily News and the Herald have the Celtics talking to the Knicks on a deal for guard Nate Robinson. The Celtics reportedly tried to acquire Robinson in January when the offensive-minded guard had fallen out of favor with Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni.

Robinson is in the last year of his contract and he isn’t part of their long-term plans. The Celtics would presumably offer up  expiring contracts in exchange.

Acquiring Robinson would be tricky, however, because he is a Base Year Compensation player, or BYC. That which means that his trade value isn’t worth as much as his $4 million contract. Salary cap guru Larry Coon addressed this in a December entry on the New York Times Off the Dribble blog.

The key takeaway:

“Robinson made $2,020,179 last season, and re-signed for $4 million, triggering BYC. This means his outgoing salary for trade purposes is $2,020,179. Since teams can only acquire as much as 125 percent (plus $100,000) of their outgoing salary, the Knicks can accept no more than $2,625,223 in exchange for Robinson.

“The team at the other end of the transaction would use Robinson’€™s full $4 million salary, rather than his BYC amount. Working the math the other way, this means that another team would have to trade away at least $3.12 million in order to acquire Robinson.”

So yes, it gets a little complicated.

If the Celtics were able to pull this off, they would acquire a scoring threat who is averaging 13.2 points and 3.7 assists in 30 games this season.

Read More: Nate Robinson, Rumors,

Rondo’s improved shooting

02.16.10 at 2:27 pm ET
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One of the most important storylines of the 2009-10 Celtics season has been Rajon Rondo’s emergence into a full-fledged star. His assists are up, his steals are way up and he has the big contract and All-Star appearance to back him up.

But the true revelation with Rondo this season has been his improved mid-range game. His traditional field goal percentage is up slightly from just over 50 percent to 52.9 percent, but that only tells part of the story. For that we need to turn to Hoop Data, a website that tracks where a player shoots, and how often he makes it.

For stat geeks, Hoop Data is a treasure trove of interesting numbers. For example Glen Davis has his shot blocked a fairly amazing 21 percent of the time, which helps explain why he has had so much trouble finishing around the basket.

Back to Rondo. According to Hoop Data’s numbers, he has improved his shooting percentage at the rim and raised it significantly from 10-15 feet in to the basket. That would be the in-between game so many purists long for.

In 2009, Rondo took a little more than half his shots at the rim and made over 61 percent of them, which is very good for a point guard. This season he has increased his attempts slightly (from 5.1 to 5.4), and also improved his percentage to over 65 percent. That meshes with how most people see Rondo–as a player who can get to the basket and finish well despite his size.

To give you an idea on how that compares to other point guards, only San Antonio’s Tony Parker takes as many shots per game and finishes as well as the rim as Rondo.

Rondo’s real work has come slightly farther out. From 10 feet and in, Rondo’s accuracy goes from 40 percent in 2009 to 53 percent in 2010. From 10-15 feet away from the basket, Rondo’s percentage jumps from 35.2 to 52.5 percent. He has also upped his attempts from those distances over the previous season.

What all that shows is a player understanding how to utilize his ability to beat defenders off the dribble, and how to score once he does.

It’s not all good news for Rondo. His accuracy on longer shots and 3-pointers has dropped, as has his free throw shooting, which is a genuine cause for concern since it removes him from late-game situations. Rondo may never be a great long-range shooter, but if he can continue to master the in-between game–and get his free throw shooting up to a respectable level–he won’t have to be one to be effective.

Read More: Rajon Rondo, Shooting, Stat Geek,
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