|04.29.10 at 10:38 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Gamesmanship is as common this time of year in the NBA as game planning.
With that being said, no one will know for sure just how big a role the banged up right elbow of LeBron James will play in the Celtics-Cavs series.
But the Celtics have their own sense of the seriousness of the injury to King James.
“He’s fine,” coach Doc Rivers said with a big smile. “I tell you what, if he goes three or four games and shoots left-handed only, then I’ll believe that it’s hurting. We’re going to be ready for the LeBron we’ve seen all through the playoffs.”
Of course, James DID shoot a free throw with his left hand in the Game 5 clincher against Chicago on Tuesday night with 7.2 seconds remaining the Cavaliers up, 96-92.
Added Ray Allen, ‘I don’t even pay attention to it. If there’s something wrong with his elbow or any other part of his body, then he won’t play, and we all know that.”
|04.29.10 at 9:21 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Doc Rivers has seen that lightning-quick, cross-court pass that paralyzes a defense before leaving them powerless to prevent an easy, uncontested basket.
Magic Johnson did it seemingly at will in the 1980s and Rivers had an up close and personal view for it all.
It is precisely for this reason the Celtics coach is worried about LeBron James. Yes, No. 23 can take it to the rim. Yes, James can rebound and block shots. But what James can do to get others involved is the hardest aspect to prepare for in this series against the Cavaliers.
“He’s a bullet passer,” Rivers said on Thursday, two days before Game 1. “He’s the only guy I know of like Magic. The ‘steam’ bullet passes. He throws cross-court passes that are 100 miles an hour and it’s tough to react to.
“We showed the guys that on film and if you’re not down in your stance and you’re standing straight up on the weakside and he makes that pass, there’s no way you’re going to get out to that shooter.”
Rivers tried his best to get his team ready but admitted it’s next to impossible.
“We worked on that [Thursday] and there’s nobody on our team that can throw that pass so the work didn’t look as good. We kept getting out to the shooter and I said, ‘Yeah, we’re throwing softballs.’
“He’s a great passer. In some ways, I think he wants to pass sometimes.”
James is also the leading triple-double threat in the league. But Rivers said, like with Dwyane Wade, the Celtics can live with the points but not the rebounds and assists.
“Well, the 10 [points] and the 10 [rebounds] we can’t have,” Rivers said. “The 30 and the 40 [points] we don’t want and, if he has it, we want him to have it our way, not his way. That’s what upset us a little about Wade in a couple of the games. He got to 46 his way. The big game the last night [Game 5], he got it our way. We kept everyone else out of it so that was good.”
|04.29.10 at 5:49 pm ET|
The versatile veteran was supposed to fill several roles, including backup point guard and reserve swingman, but after a solid start, Daniels hurt his thumb and missed 28 games. When he returned in February he put together a string of solid outings but then seemed to regress. By the time April rolled around he was all but of the rotation and he played just six minutes against the Heat, with all of it coming in the Game 2 blowout.
“As a player you want to go out there and compete,” Daniels said. “That’s definitely difficult. You’ve just got to stay ready whenever your time comes. You’re physically ready, you’ve just got to stay mentally ready.”
But what changed?
“I don’t know,” he said. “It’s coach’s decision. They felt like they needed to make a change and it worked out well for us in the first round, so hopefully we can keep it up.”
There’s a chance that Daniels could get some meaningful playing time in this series, however. With LeBron James on the other side, Doc Rivers will need all able-bodied forwards he can find. Paul Pierce obviously is first in line, and then comes Tony Allen, but Daniels could play a role.
Rivers indicated that was a possibility. There also may be a role for Nate Robinson, depending how things play out. Rivers has said that he remains confident in all of his players. He may get a chance to test that confidence in this series.
|04.29.10 at 5:37 pm ET|
WALTHAM — You can tell just by the media crush at the Celtics training facility 12 miles west of Boston on Route 128 that there is a big series about to begin involving the Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The quotes from the participants provide another good clue.
The two teams, as any basketball fan will recall, met in an epic seven-game series in the 2008 playoffs. The series wasn’t decided until the final 30 seconds of Game 7 at the Garden when Paul Pierce and the Celtics outlasted LeBron James and the Cavs.
Before that series, fans and experts hoped for a great series. This time, it’s almost expected. But that’s about where the comparisons end as far as the Celtics are concerned.
‘Two years ago was two years ago,” Pierce said. “They have new players, we have new players. This is a whole new team. This is a different type of team. They’ve got a lot of the same players, we have a lot of the same players but it’s just like you grow up. Things change, you become better. You can’t go off what you did in the past. There’s nothing to that last series.’
Kevin Garnett agreed.
‘They have better players,” Garnett said. “They have Shaq, they have guys that have been there. They have experienced players who were there two years ago. Delonte [West] is better. [Antawn] Jamison is there, has been through the grind. They have better players, more experienced people.’
When the Celtics open their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Cavaliers on Saturday night in Cleveland, it will be the first time in the era of the new ‘Big 3’ they’re opening a playoff series on the road. It will also mark the second time in three seasons the two teams are meeting in the second round.
But whether opening at home or on the road – as will be the case this year – Ray Allen doesn’t believe Boston’s series triumph in 2008 will have much of an impact this time around.
‘I don’t really think it makes a difference,” Allen said following Thursday’s practice. “That was yesterday. Now we’re trying to do this all over again. I’m sure that they remember. Playoffs in their building is tough and we remember Game 7 [in Boston] very vividly but it’s a new series. Even if we did play them last year, it wouldn’t have made a difference then, either. They’re geared up against trying to get past us going to the conference finals. The ground has to give one way or another and we look forward to taking more ground.’
The Celtics were also asked to make another comparison – Miami’s Dwyane Wade and Cleveland’s James – and how beating the former might help them with the latter this series.
‘They’re not close at all, truthfully,” Pierce said. “They have better supporting players. LeBron is playing two or three other guys who have been in the All-Star Game. I can’t say that about Wade. The only similarity is they have one of the top scorers in the league. That’s it. You’re talking about two different players. They’re definitely focal points but other guys, you definitely have to worry about them. There are most consistent players in Cleveland and those guys can beat you also.’
‘LeBron’s a different beast,” added Garnett. “He’s obviously with a better cast than D-Wade. I think D-Wade is one of the best one-on-one players in our game. That’s true with LeBron but I think LeBron defers more to his teammates a little bit, with his supporting cast than D-Wade. He can turn around and he has 35, eight boards and nine assists. That means he’s all-around, not even mentioning the steals and blocks. He affects the game in so many different dimensions.’
|04.29.10 at 5:31 pm ET|
It’s not hard to figure out and it’s definitely not a respect thing. While the Celtics were sleepwalking through stretches of the regular season, the Cavaliers were putting up the best record in the NBA.
“Pretty much I guess, yeah,” Paul Pierce said. “We’re the four seed, they’re the one seed. They’re the favorite to win it all, we are the underdogs.”
It’s a different feeling for the Celtics, but they are embracing their new role.
“Being an underdog is nothing,” Pierce said. “I feel like I’ve been the underdog my whole career. I definitely thrive in that situation. We’ll see how it turns out. There’s no pressure on us.”
In the end, it doesn’t really matter heading into the series. If one team gets up in the series, the other will feel the pressure regardless of who or what is supposed to happen. It’s not like the Celtics are in awe, either.
“I don’t know if we feel like that,” Doc Rivers said. “I think everyone feels like we are. We’ve been there before. Going into the championship series [against the Lakers], no one picked us outside of Boston. I don’t think we care one way or the other. We have to go out there and earn it. Orlando is the defending champions of the East. I don’t know how Cleveland’s been anointed that already. They have to earn it and we want to earn it. We feel good.”
|04.29.10 at 5:22 pm ET|
WALTHAM — In three games against the Celtics this season, Anderson Varejao averaged 13 points, nine rebounds ( with half of them coming on the offensive glass) and about a hundred different migraines. His energy seemed to overwhelm the Celtics and he was a huge key in Cleveland’s 20-point win over the Celtics at the Garden.
“They’re only good because they play hard with a high basketball IQ,” Rivers said. “I can give you a bunch of guys who can play hard but don’t think. They do it intelligently. That’s what made Dennis Rodman so good because his IQ on the floor was ridiculous. Varejao’s just a smart, crafty, hard-playing 7-footer.”
Davis will play a large role in this series. The Celtics are counting on him and Rasheed Wallace to match Varejao’s energy off the bench as well as the other big men options the Cavs can throw at the Celtics.
“Our bench has to play well,” Rivers said. “It doesn’t have to be all of them. The combination of Baby and Rasheed, we need one of them and we would prefer two. They have to play well. We need somebody to match Varejao’s energy. The two games they won he was the best player. He dominated those games with his energy and his effort.”
Varejao has also been known as an irritant, which is part of his job. He’s the kind of player only the hometown fans can love, even though all give him grudging respect. Davis is also an emotional player, but Rivers doesn’t think that will be an issue, at least not for him.
“I’m not worried about him getting under Baby’s skin,” Rivers said. “I am more concerned about the Kevin [Garnett’s] and the Rasheed’s because that’s what he wants to do. Baby’s pretty good with that. Baby will just keep competing back. Baby actually has the ability to get under people’s skin himself. The other guys, they know it. Listen, if I’m Varejao and I can get under their skin, I’m going to try.”
|04.29.10 at 12:52 pm ET|
Reports out of Cleveland indicate that LeBron James has a strain in his right elbow and a bone bruise. He is not expected to miss any time in the upcoming series with the Celtics. As Brian Windhorst of the Plain Dealer put it on his Twitter account: “In technical terms it is a “bone bruise of his olecranon.” In lay terms, it means he banged his elbow and it is sore.”
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