|03.01.09 at 5:23 pm ET|
While Marbury was continuing his image rehab and on-court comeback, Iverson was back in Detroit resting an achy back. The injury coincided with the Pistons’ decision to move him to the bench and reassert Rip Hamilton into the starting lineup and that move coincided with a nine-game losing streak for the Pistons, which has since resulted in road wins over Orlando and the Celtics without Iverson (click here for a recap).
The irony of the situation hung heavily in the locker room as various members of the Celtics took great care not to diss A.I. but sounded wary of the Pistons getting back to being the Pistons, especially if they should meet in the first round of the playoffs.
“You can tell they’re playing the system they played before Iverson got there,” Paul Pierce said. “They run a lot of down screens with Rip. They run a lot of high pick and rolls with (Rodney) Stuckey. That’s what Chauncey (Billups) used to do and Stuckey has been there. Those guys that are out on the court, they’re comfortable with each other. You know when Iverson is out there they’re still trying to figure out how to use each other, how to all be successful.”
It’s not entirely Iverson’s fault that he has found himself at this particular crossroads in his career. After things went south in Philly and he was traded to Denver, the Sixers almost immediately became a better team, while the Nuggets never came close to realizing the sky-high expectations of the AI-Carmelo Anthony combination. He had played one way, his way, for so long and now it seems that it is the only way he can perform.
Once Iverson was traded to Detroit for Billups, the Nuggets emerged as one of the top second-tier contenders in the West (behind LA and San Antonio) and it was not lost on anyone there that better ball movement and better shot selection were the keys to the turnaround. It’s only been two games for the Pistons, but Stuckey has had an immediate transformation, going from a player who seemed lost to one who put together a tidy and efficient 10-point, five-assist performance against the Celtics.
Iverson now finds himself in exactly the same position that Marbury has battled for most of his career. For all the off the court stuff, the most damning evidence against Marbury the player has been the fact that every team he has left (Minnesota, New Jersey, Phoenix and even New York to some extent) has been better without him than they were with him.
Marbury either didn’t know what was up with Iverson, or didn’t care to get into it, brushing off pre-game questions about his long-time on-court nemesis. Since they came into the league together in 1996 they have always been rivals. When Iverson was on his way to winning Rookie of the Year with the Sixers, there was a late groundswell for Marbury’s candidacy based on Minnesota’s improved record with him at the controls.
But as Marbury began his long strange trip around the NBA, Iverson settled into becoming a Philadelphia legend and a beloved in some quarters, reviled in others, cultural touchstone. He won the MVP and led the Sixers to the Finals in 2001, but more than that Iverson represented something larger. He wasn’t the first of the so-called New Jack Jocks, but he was the lead M.C., breaking down Michael Jordan’s ankles one moment and force-feeding the 90′s hip-hop culture on a mostly unsuspecting populace.
It wasn’t just the corn rows and the tattoos, or even the shooting sleeve, that became ubiquitous sign posts of a changing NBA world, it was the forceful singular personality that alternately alienated and excited so many. If Marbury had any cultural significance on the rest of the league it was as one of the first group of players who signed long-term max deals that made he and his peers both franchise cornerstones and cumbersome anchors. As they advanced, Iverson became something of a respected elder statesman, while Marbury’s career disintegrated into vaudeville sideshow.
But now the two find themselves at the end of those long-term maximum contracts with uncertain futures ahead of them. Marbury has at his disposal an enviable proposition. If he can prove that he can fit in with the team-first Celtics and help them win another championship, it could prolong his career another few years (albeit not at a max level).
Iverson doesn’t seem to have that opportunity. Whether or not he’s to blame for what has happened to the Pistons, it was clear that Detroit’s run was coming to an end regardless. The best he can hope for now is to embrace his role as a bench player and try once more to transform his game, but that doesn’t seem likely.
“We just have to play the same way and he has to play that way,” Pistons coach Michael Curry said of Iverson. “I still like playing Tayshaun (Prince) and Walter (Hermann) a lot together at the two and three. Maybe Iverson can come in and spend some time in Will Bynum’s spot.”
In other words, Marbury and Iverson are essentially being asked to play the same role, albeit in entirely different circumstances, and Marbury has finally been dealt the better hand.
|03.01.09 at 4:45 pm ET|
The Internet has been buzzing with rumors of a heated conversation between Rajon Rondo and Boston Celtics radio broadcaster Cedric Maxwell. According to reports, Rondo shot harsh words at Maxwell in the Celtics locker room following Friday’s game against the Indiana Pacers. Maxwell cleared the air with WEEI.com during halftime of Sunday afternoon’s game against the Detroit Pistons.
“Me and Rondo were talking about a card game where he and I had played,” he said. “That’s what we were talking about and we were poking fun at each other. It wasn’t any argument that we had at all.”
Maxwell told Rondo about the rumors. Both he and the Celtics point guard laughed at the reality of their conversation.
“The words were, ‘You played the wrong card the other day when we were playing in the card game,’” Maxwell said. “That’s what that was.”
|03.01.09 at 3:00 pm ET|
At the start of the fourth … Pistons 77, Celtics 70
- Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo start the fourth quarter shooting a combined 4-for-17 from the field. The Celtics are 0-for-8 from three-point range while their backcourt accounts for just 16 of their 70 points. (House and Marbury are scoreless.) Rip Hamilton, Rodney Stuckey, and Will Bynum, on the other hand, have scored 35 of the Pistons 77 points.
- Marbury has hit work cut out for him on D. With House on Bynum, Marbury is left to guard Tayhsaun Prince, who has at least seven inches on him. So far so good — the Celtics forced a 24-second violation on the Pistons.
- Two treys from House have the Celtics right back in this game and the Garden on its feet.
- A behind-the-back pass from Marbury led to a flailing layin from Big Baby, his 17th point of the game.
- Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” just doesn’t have the same effect without KG on the court. A chest pump or two would have really added to the atmosphere.
- Ray Allen gave Pierce a few pointers while Leon Powe shot free throws. Pierce has played every minute of this game so far.
- The Celtics are trying to stay in this game with outside shooting, but they have dominated down low the entire afternoon. With three minutes to go they have outscored the Pistons 38-18 in the paint.
- Without Iverson the Pistons have led a balanced offensive attack. Rip Hamilton is proving why he should be a starter and everyone who has played is on the scoreboard.
- The Garden is clearing out with a minute to go. Repeatedly showing babies on the JumboTron doesn’t exactly move the crowd to their feet.
- Final score … Pistons 105, Celtics 95
|03.01.09 at 2:29 pm ET|
Bad half for the Celtics. No other way to say it. Even without Kevin Garnett, and his loss has been felt in a number of subtle and over ways this afternoon, these are games the Celtics need to win to keep pace with Cleveland for the top seed in the East.
THIRD QUARTER WRAP: After decent start to the half, the Celtics are basically right back where they started, down seven heading into the fourth quarter. They are going to have dig in defensively if they are going to pull this one out.
Third Quarter Observations
– How do the Celtics miss Garnett? Besides defensively, there have been a number of times when Rondo has broken down the defense and looked to kick it to a big man who is either not in the exact right spot or is not the shooter that KG is. Early in the quarter, Big Baby rolled down the lane and got an easy layup. That’s the kind of positioning and away from the ball movement that has been missing without Garnett.
– Perkins has been pushing Rasheed further and further out on the block for that fadeaway. Perk has done a fine job defending Sheed in KG’s absence. Of course just as I typed that Wallace got an and-one against Perkins. But the point still holds.
– It is getting really physical. Rip just launched Ray Allen with a hip check and the elbows are working overtime away from the ball. That’s not to say that it’s chippy, because it’s not. As mentioned before, Joey Crawford is working the game. The two things are almost certainly related.
– This quarter has been a complete reversal from the first two. The Celtics are getting stops, rebounds and then running when it’s there.
– Presumably the second unit is going to have to make something happen for the Celtics to win this game. Outside of Leon Powe, they didn’t exactly rise to the occasion in the second quarter.
– Pierce has gone wire-to-wire today. They really need to figure something out in terms of a back-up for him.
|03.01.09 at 1:32 pm ET|
At the start of the second quarter … Celtics 22, Pistons 20
- The last time Kendrick Perkins and Jason Maxiell met Perk wound up with a flagrant foul and a $10,000 fine. But Perkins has put the January 30th incident behind him. “I don’t really think about that. You just brought it to my mind. I didn’t even think about it, so just go out there and do whatever I’ve got to do and play hard,” Perkins told WEEI.com before Sunday’s game. “I just block it out. I’ve moved on since then.”
- Tony Allen is in taking in the game in street clothes from the Celtics bench. Allen (thumb) will wear a cast on his left hand for another two weeks and hopes to return to action four games before the end of the regular season.
- Looks like the novelty has already worn off. As soon as Stephon Marbury committed a turnover, an angry fan began berating him from the stands.
- Georgia Tech is being represented today. Both Marbury and Pistons guard Will Bynum are former Yellow Jackets.
- Celtics assistant coach Tom Thibodeau spent some one-on-one time with Mikki Moore during a timeout. Moore has picked up three fouls in five minutes, but Doc is leaving him on the court to get acclimated with the Celtics system.
- Leon Powe received a loud ovation when he headed to the bench with nine points and five rebounds in eight minutes.
- Soulja Boy Jr. was recognized during a timeout for his recent feature in Boston Magazine. Seven-year-old Daylon Trotman was named a Person of Interest in the February issue. Trotman has been entertaining Celtics fans to the tune of Soulja Boy’s “Superman” anthem.
- At halftime … Pistons 55, Celtics 47
|03.01.09 at 1:02 pm ET|
We are live from snowy Boston Garden for today’s game between the Celtics and Pistons. The excitement from Stephon Marbury’s debut Friday night has subsisted a little, but not entirely. Marbury was greeted by the familiar throng of notebooks and mini-cams before the game anxious to hear his every word.
In truth there isn’t much more Marbury can say at this point. The real work begins tomorrow and Tuesday when the team is able to hold practices. For now Doc Rivers gave his new guard a few more sets and a few more defensive principles. For his part, Marbury spoke in glowing terms about Tom Thibodeau. “He’s everything they say,” Marbury told the press. “He’s precise on what he wants on the defensive end.”
The Pistons, meanwhile, are in the midst of a transition of their own. Allen Iverson has been moved to the bench and they are struggling.
FIRST QUARTER WRAP: After a slow start, the Celtics have taken a 22-20 lead after one quarter. Paul Pierce has nine points and Rajon Rondo posted a Fat Lever-esque line of two points, four rebounds and two assists. The C’s were able to play their pace in last four minutes or so and wiped out a seven-point Piston lead with a 9-0 run.
First Quarter Observations
– Rondo can get by Rodney Stuckey whenever he wants. It will be interesting to see how he attacks the Detroit defense. On the first possession he had a clear lane but dished it back out. On the second he was met by Rasheed Wallace who altered his shot.
– Now that Detroit has moved Iverson to the bench, and he’s not active today, the Pistons are back to being a team that runs sets for Rip Hamilton and plays inside out with Wallace and Antonio McDyess. It helped them win at Orlando the other night.
– It feels like we’re in the Boston Public Library today. The crowd is a little sleepy.
– If you remember, Ray Allen began wearing his protective sleeve in the playoffs last year after he said fellow UCONNer Rip Hamilton left him with scratch marks up and down his arm. The two are battling pretty good today.
– The pace is entirely in Detroit’s favor right now. They are one of the slowest teams in the league in terms of pace and it is incumbent upon the Celtics to run whenever they can. Of course they need to get stops in order to run and the Pistons are shooting just a tick under 50 percent.
– Joey Crawford is not taking anything off Rasheed. He just banged him for a T. So if you have the first quarter in the Joey-Sheed Technical Pool you’re a winner!
|03.01.09 at 12:23 pm ET|