|03.20.09 at 12:33 pm ET|
Just so you know what they’re thinking heading into tonight’s showdown with the BC Eagles, here are three of the stars from the USC squad. DeMar DeRozan, Daniel Hackett, Dwight Lewis and Taj Gibson took to the podium, otherwise referred to as the dais, on Thursday. Here’s how they answered the questions from the media.
Q. Guys, coming in here, you know, what you’ve done these last five games. I mean, do you feel like you’re a pretty dangerous team just coming in on the right note?
TAJ GIBSON: I feel we’re coming in with a lot of confidence. Guys that are healthy this time of year, throughout the years, guys have been really banged up and injuries played a key role in a lot of our games, losing one point at Oklahoma, a lot of tough road games in the Pac 10.
DANIEL HACKETT: We feel good about ourselves. But we learned a hard lesson last year. Losing to Kansas State in the first round, so we don’t want to get our hopes too high. Stay humble and keep playing our basketball.
Q. Hey, Taj, how does last year’s experience and the previous years help you guys, with you, Daniel and Dwight and Keith Wilkinson all being here before?
TAJ GIBSON: It has its ups and its downs. My freshman year we went pretty far, then the mishap last year we lost to a tough Kansas State team.
Just a lot of experience. I hope we can use it to our advantage.
But, once again, we have a lot of young guys coming around at the right part of the season, so the sky’s the limit. But I know Boston College is a really skilled team, a lot of veterans on that team, so just looking forward to getting back out there and playing. Read the rest of this entry »
|03.19.09 at 10:29 pm ET|
After Tyrese Rice and Rakim Sanders had their moment on the dais, it was Al Skinner’s turn.
Q. Coach, talk about just the fact that, like you mentioned before, that you haven’t necessarily gone on a winning streak per se, but the tournament is going to require you do that. Where do you feel like the team is as far as putting those together?
COACH SKINNER: Can you repeat it?
Q. You talked about not necessarily going on a winning streak per se in the ACC, whatever, but being in a tournament kind of requires you do that, to kind of put wins together. Does the team need to have that experience beforehand or do you trust that they have that ability?
COACH SKINNER: They definitely have the ability, it’s just a matter of doing it. But as you’ve already indicated, you’re in a situation where it requires that. But then saying that is different. This is very different because it is one and done. It doesn’t afford you to look beyond the first game. I think that’s clearly a mistake for anyone to do that, regardless of who you may be. So that situation is very different.
I think the most you should do is look at it as a two game situation, because that’s all you have to do. And you have plenty of time the following week to prepare. But, you really do have to take it one game at a time, otherwise you are doing yourself and your team a disservice.
Q. Does it make it kind of dangerous when two teams seem to be playing some of their best basketball of the year around the same time? Like USC won five straight. You don’t have a winning streak but you are meshing and the chemistry is coming together. Does it make it kind of dangerous when two teams are playing their best basketball at the same time?
COACH SKINNER: What it does, hopefully it will create a great basketball game. And I think that’s what the tournament’s all about.
But you’re not going to be playing any bad teams this time of year.
It’s just not going to happen. So you’ve got to get yourself prepared for get yourself prepared for a great basketball game. And I think we’ve done that.
But again, there are just no bad teams. There are talented guys out there. Outstanding coaches. And so, you know, you have got to put your best foot forward, otherwise obviously you are going to be heading home. Read the rest of this entry »
|03.19.09 at 10:23 pm ET|
The student-athletes of Boston College headed for the comforts of their hotel rooms but not before sharing their thoughts about facing Southern California on Friday night in Minneapolis.
Tyrese Rice and Rakim Sanders took questions from the media on Thursday. Here’s what they said:
Q. I was going to ask, do you guys feel like you’re playing your best brand of basketball right now? And also, even though you haven’t gone on a long, winning stretch, this tournament kind of requires it.
Do you feel like that makes a difference?
TYRESE RICE: I don’t think we are playing our best basketball right now, but we are definitely improving. And we have to be ready for tomorrow.
As far as the winning streak, a lot of the No. 1 seeds have had big winning streaks. Really the only big winning streak right now is Louisville. So you can’t really say much about winning streaks; it is who is going to get hot at the right time or who is not.
RAKIM SANDERS: What he said, we’re improving as a team. I mean, we haven’t like our last game we haven’t won, but we are learning from each game and getting better. So I think yeah.
Q. For both players, guys, talk to me about the national perception. The ESPN talking heads are both predicting Southern California, a fine ball club, to beat you guys rather easily. Despite the fact you are a higher seed, USA Today has you as an underdog in the paper. Nothing is really talking about your team or about the game. How do you guys feel about that kind of lack of respect that you’re getting by the national media?
TYRESE RICE: That’s nothing new when it comes to us. I mean even my freshman year we were No. 10 team in the country and still didn’t get any respect. So it doesn’t mean anything to me. I mean, everybody will always have us as the underdog regardless when we are playing Southern Cal or whoever else.
So we have been playing the underdog roles our whole life. Most of the people on our team have been playing the underdog roles, and we’re fine with that.
RAKIM SANDERS: Really don’t matter to me. At the end of the day, I mean, we’re going to leave it on the court anyway. So it really don’t matter. Read the rest of this entry »
|03.19.09 at 11:44 am ET|
Ray Allen (elbow) and Kevin Garnett (knee) are traveling to San Antonio with the Boston Celtics on their team charter, according to multiple reports. Garnett has not played since February 19 against the Utah Jazz. Allen sat out of Wednesday’s game against the Miami Heat. The Celtics will play the Spurs on Friday night.
|03.18.09 at 11:52 pm ET|
While Paul Pierce is almost certainly not going to beat out guys named Kobe or LeBron or even the Heat’s Dwayne Wade, who was a late scratch Wednesday with a right hip flexor, the Celtics captain showed exactly why he is still one of the most feared players in the league.
He scored 36 points and hauled in 11 rebounds and, with the help of Rajon Rondo’s 27 points and 10 assists, led the Green to a gutsy 112-108 OT win against Miami.
“It almost came down to that we had Paul and they didn’t have Wade,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “When Paul was making all the shots, I thought that last shot he took was in too so, it’s a good win for us, right now even when you get what we’re going through is good. I thought a lot of guys, obviously Paul and Rajon, was terrific.”
Pierce looked like the Pierce of 2006-07 when he HAD to be the guy taking all the big shots at the end of games. Like his three-pointer with 2:27 left in regulation to give the Celtics a 96-95 lead. Like his jumper with 1:49 remaining to give the Celtics a 98-97 lead. Like his jumper with 1:23 remaining to give the Celtics a 100-99 lead. Pierce was 6-for-8 in the fourth quarter, scoring 16 of his team’s 25 points
“When he does that, it’s unbelievable,” Kendrick Perkins said in wonder. “He’s hitting shots, crazy shots. I knew they were in trouble how he came out. When he comes out like that, he’s in attack mode. I was like, ‘Somebody is in trouble tonight.’ He came out just feeling it. He carried us tonight, he and Rondo.”
Pierce was more humble.
‘We just needed a win any way we can get it, right now at this point, it seems like bodies are going down left and right, to get our spirits back up,” Pierce said. “We know that we are injured, we know that we are losing guys every other day, but just to get back on the winning mindframe, is big for us, especially when you are going into San Antonio in a couple of days later. So, this was a big game for us, hopefully on this road trip, we get a couple of bodies back, if not we continue to grind these games out until these guys get better.’
‘They’re up,” Pierce said. “That’s the one great thing about this team. We’ve never been down, we’ve never look at one another, point the finger at one another, and we understand that we just have to keep working. We’re a team that doesn’t make excuses, that doesn’t cry over spilled milk. The situation is what it is and we have to go out there and put our hard hats on and our work boots on and continue to work regardless of who’s out there.’
Jermaine O’Neal has seen this all before. He wasn’t surprised by the show Pierce put on against his Heat on Wednesday.
|03.18.09 at 11:21 pm ET|
‘Foul on number seven, Mikki Moore.’
Those words have become all too familiar since Moore joined the Boston Celtics in February.
Moore has fouled out of the last two games, including Wednesday night’s overtime win against the Miami Heat. (He was gone after playing less than 17 minutes.) Over the last five games, he has been whistled for a league-leading total of 26 personal fouls. (Recap here)
‘I’m playing aggressive, trying to do the right thing, and most of my calls are just touch fouls,’ Moore said after the game. ‘That’s why I’m frustrated. But a foul is a foul. I have to make my fouls count.’
Moore explains there is a difference between a good foul and a bad foul. He should know. He led the NBA with 310 personal fouls during the 2008 season.
‘A bad foul is when it goes negative to the team, when it’s a turnover,’ he said. ‘Like if it’s an offensive foul or if I try to come off somebody’s back and get an offensive rebound. That’s a real bad foul. And if it’s low on the shot clock and I foul a jumpshooter, that’s a bad foul. But if it’s just a hustling foul or I’m going for a loose ball, I don’t think that’s a bad foul.’
Moore admits that part of his foul trouble has come with learning a new system. He is anxious to get adjusted, but knows he has to be patient.
‘I’ve got to stop trying so hard,’ he said. ‘KG told me tonight, ‘Just relax and play, man. Stop trying to do everything.’ That’s what I’ve got to start doing.’
Garnett’s advice was echoed by head coach Doc Rivers.
Said Moore, ‘He said, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day so you’ve got to keep working hard.”
|03.18.09 at 11:15 pm ET|
There are two ways to look at Doc Rivers‘ statement before the Celtics took the court against the Heat. “We’re not going to catch Cleveland,” Rivers told the press without being asked about whether they could catch the Cavaliers. “We have a chance to hold on to that second spot.” (Click here for a recap of the Miami game.)
The first is this. The coach is absolutely right. There are 13 games left in the regular season and the Celtics are down five in the loss column. It’s math.
Now that kind of unprompted candor, even from one of the more honest and realistic coaches in the NBA, is not generally expected. Someone who has been around competitive sports for as long as Rivers knows there’s always a chance, and to concede anything less is to admit to defeat on a certain level.
But admitting defeat is not in this team’s nature (and they have the championship banner to prove it) so clearly this was a different sort of message. After the game, which was as good a win as his team has had in almost two weeks, Rivers talked about a jigsaw puzzle. “It’s corny,” he said. “But we were talking about it today that the only way you can put a puzzle together is with the box. You have to have the picture. So we just don’t have all our pieces together right now. They’re kind of scattered but we’re going to have a chance to put them back together and we know that. And we know the picture and that’s what we want.”
The puzzle pieces are scattered throughout Eddie Lacerte’s training room. They have hyper-extended elbows, sprained ankles and strained knees. But the picture is clearer now after suffering losses to Milwaukee and Chicago and it involves getting the home-court advantage against Orlando in the second round. That’s the puzzle they will try to solve over the next 13 games: Get healthy and stay ahead of the Magic.
That’s a different picture than what was in place a few weeks ago when there was a realistic chance at catching the Cavaliers, but that was then and this is now. There were a lot of words spoken in the aftermath of their gritty win over the Heat without two of their stars and with only three able-bodied big men, but none of them were “Cleveland.”
“One, for us to get on the same page and two, to solidify that second spot,” was how Stephon Marbury put it. “Once everyone gets healthy I think this team will be totally different.”
“Either way, I still feel good about us winning a championship,” Kendrick Perkins said. “I don’t care if we play home or away.”
Say this for the Celtics, when the coach talks about something like this it’s not an accident and it’s not a sub-conscious slip of the tongue. The players were briefed about this subtle change in expectations and they are on board.
“That’s the one great thing about this team,” Paul Pierce said. “We’ve never been down. We never look at one another, point the finger at one another, and we understand that we just have to keep working. The situation is what it is and we have to go out there and put our hard hats on and our work boots on and continue to work, regardless of who’s out there.”
To that end, they milked 41 minutes out of Big Baby Davis, who has been out the last four games with an ankle injury. They had three (relatively) healthy big men and when Davis and Mikki Moore fouled out, they turned to rookie Bill Walker in the final minute of an overtime game.
It was, as they say, a good win. A win that clinched them the Atlantic Division, not that any of them cared because that’s not part of the puzzle they’re trying to solve.
“(The division) doesn’t really mean anything to the Boston Celtics,” Pierce said. “They don’t put that banner up. Maybe in other arenas they put that banner up, but here, it doesn’t really mean a thing.”
Getting healthy matters. Staying ahead of Orlando matters. That was the message the coach delivered Wednesday night and it was heard, and well-received by his team.