|03.13.09 at 10:37 pm ET|
The name Gasol is like a four-letter word, plus exclamation, among Celtics fans.
On Friday night, the legend grew. As Leon Powe was destroying the Memphis Grizzlies with a monstrous 30-point, 11-rebound performance, Pau’s brother Marc was trash-talking with teammate Rudy Gay at the free throw line.
Ray Allen was a witness to it and heard every word loud and clear.
“Gasol and Rudy Gay were talking on the free throw line,” Allen said. “So (Gay) says, ‘You’ve got to guard Leon.’ (Gasol) says, ‘I don’t care about Leon, let him get 40.’ I looked at him and said, ‘You want him to get 40, he’ll get 40 on you, don’t sleep on him.’ And he goes, ‘As long as it’s not Pierce.’ I said, ‘If it’s 40, we’re still going to win.’ ”
And win the Celtics did, 102-92, over the Grizzlies at TD Banknorth Garden on Friday night. Powe was the biggest reason, with his career-high 30, 11 board, five blocks and three assists.
“So, the free throw line banter was pretty funny tonight,” Allen continued.
And no one was laughing harder than Powe, who reminded everyone at his locker afterward that he scored 41 in college with California.
He also was giving grief to the man who he’s replacing in the lineup, Kevin Garnett, who is still out another week with a strained right knee.
“Me and KG had a little friendly talk,” said Powe, who played a team-high 41 minutes. “I want KG to come back. My body is getting used to these 40 minutes (a game). But that’s our leader, man, and we miss him so we want to be at full strength. And once we’re at full strength, we’re going to be hard to stop.”
On Friday night, it was Powe who was unstoppable.
|03.13.09 at 12:21 pm ET|
This has to feel like Twilight Zone week for Bill Walker.
On Wednesday night in Miami, he played against his college teammate at Kansas State, one Michael Beasley.
Tonight he goes against his high school chum, and NBA Rookie of the Year favorite, O.J. Mayo.
But after Wednesday night, coach Doc Rivers isn’t going to Walker for any scouting reports. Beasley was 4-for-9 with four rebounds and two assists in 22 minutes as he was a force off the bench for the Heat.
“We talked to him about Beasley, too, and he gave us a bad scouting report so we’re no longer listening to Billy Walker and his scouting reports,” Rivers said Friday morning.
Meanwhile, Mayo, to be fair to Walker, can’t be compared to many others in this year’s rookie class. He has started all 63 games this season, averaging 18.8 points a game. This doesn’t come as a surprise to Walker, who knows of Mayo from their days back in Cincinnati at North College Hill High.
“He’s a very good player,” Walker said of Mayo Friday morning at Celtics shootaround. “He’s been playing at a pro style since he was young. He knows all the tricks. It’s going to be tough to guard him.”
Mayo went on to star at Southern California for one year before turning pro while Walker joined Michael Beasley at Kansas State.
Rivers, like every other basketball fan, was enthralled by the six-overtime thriller between Syracuse and Connecticut in the Big East Tournament that ended at 1:22 Friday morning.
“I was up because I watching the Phoenix-Cleveland game,” Rivers said. “So, I was just going back and forth, it was pretty cool.
“I like UConn and coach Calhoun, I was hoping they lost at the end of it, I really was,” Rivers said. “I was thinking, ‘Forget this Big East Tournament, they’ve got a chance to win the NCAA Tournament.’ I think, in a strange way, it was beneficial. Now they can regroup. They have a chance to get their legs back and get ready for their first game.”
|03.13.09 at 11:57 am ET|
When Rajon Rondo went down near mid-court last Friday night against Cleveland with a sprained right ankle, some bad thoughts were racing through his head.
“I thought it was bad, that’s why I stayed down so long,” Rondo said Friday morning at the team’s shootaround in Waltham, after confirming that he will be healthy enough to return to action tonight against Memphis.
“I hate being hurt,” he said. “I try to get through it as quick as possible. I’ve been getting treatment Even though I’m going to play tonight, I’m still going to treat it the same way the rest of the season.”
“He just wants to get back when he was healthy,” head coach Doc Rivers added. “One of the things I wanted to make sure of was that he was alright to go and he is.”
The Celtics were 0-2 without the services of Rondo. It appears the Celtics will be able to throw that stat out tonight as the starting point guard had a pleasant surprise in store at the team’s shootaround on Friday morning when he declared himself ready to return.
“I feel better,” Rondo said. “I’m going to try and give it a go tonight, definitely. Nobody plays 100 or 90 percent in this league. I’ll be alright. I’ll try to give it a go tonight and see how I feel.
“It’s definitely tough to sit and watch your teammates play, whether they win or lose,” he added. “You always want to be out there supporting them. These past two games have been tough for me but I’m anxious to get back out there tonight.”
Of course, it may have been tough on him to watch but maybe not as tough as it has been on Stephon Marbury, who was scoreless in 24 minutes on Wednesday night, missing all six of his shots from the floor.
Rondo said he won’t be afraid of re-injuring the ankle and wouldn’t be returning if that was still in his mind.
“I think I’ll be able to help the team a lot more than I did then,” Rondo said. “I won’t be as tentative to my ankle as I was then. Hopefully, I’ll be able to cut.”
|03.09.09 at 5:47 pm ET|
Doc Rivers quipped after practice on Monday that he just worked up his best sweat since his playing days.
The former NBA point guard wasn’t joking. He just finished running Stephon Marbury through a five-man ghost drill in which Rivers called out various plays, leaving Marbury to run an offense that included the likes of Mikki Moore, Leon Powe, J.R. Giddens, Bill Walker and Gabe Pruitt.
With five players unavailable due to injury and with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen playing 45 minutes apiece the day before, the Celtics were running on a skelton practice with barely enough bodies to make it worthwhile.
Now, while he’ll have the benefit of Pierce and Allen on Wednesday when the team plays next in Miami, Marbury will have to pick up his mastery of the offense if the Celtics are to find their way on offense and not fall behind by 20 like they did on Sunday in the first half against Orlando.
“Steph ran the set, but he didn’t know what to look for or who to look for and then he’s playing at half-speed, because you could feel him thinking out there on the floor,” Rivers said. “That killed him and it killed the team as well. So, it’s just going to take time. What I’m trying to get him to do is not to press or worry about it. The first thing I told him (Sunday) night was don’t worry about, it’s going to come together.”
Even though he was clearly not playing up to the potential that Danny Ainge saw when he signed him two weeks ago, Marbury was hardly crestfallen about his chances to improve. Instead, he exhibited the kind of confidence required from a point guard of a NBA title contender.
“Yeah, I’m definitely, getting it,” Marbury said. “Today was definitely helpful. As coach said today, learning what we want out of the offense as opposed to just running the sets. As a point guard, you normally know all of the plays, you know where to go and you know what everyone is going to do.”
With Rivers saying on Monday that he foresees Rajon Rondo out for at least the next couple of games with his sprained right ankle, this will be Marbury’s team. Marbury will have a golden opportunity to show that he can pick up the offense in time to be a force for the playoffs.
“For me, asserting myself in the lineups, I need to make sure the guys get the shots who are supposed to get the shots,” Marbury said.
|03.09.09 at 1:48 pm ET|
Please, no jokes about M*A*S*H or Doc Rivers activating himself to help out or how the trainer’s room is overcrowded.
Doc Rivers knows the deal right now.
The Celtics will not dress five players when they play the Miami Heat on Wednesday night in South Florida. Rajon Rondo and Glen ‘Big Baby’ Davis were ruled out of action by head coach Doc Rivers on Monday, both sustaining sprained right ankles over weekend. They join superstar Kevin Garnett (right knee sprain), Brian Scalabrine (post-concussion syndrome) and Tony Allen (left thumb) as injured Celtics on the sidelines.
“Baby and Rondo are out, I know that,” Rivers said. “They’re out for the next couple of games, maybe the next week. Kevin will be out longer than the Milwaukee game. I’m pretty sure of that. I would say Kevin, maybe at the end of the following week at the earliest.”
“Somebody else has to step up and the challenge for me is not doing what I did (Sunday) with Paul and Ray, that can’t happen,” Rivers said. “Obviously, that was a different circumstance because the injuries happened during the game or right before the game. It’s tough to plan for but I still want to keep their minutes down, even in a time of crisis I want to keep their minutes down. We just have to find a way to win games.”
Rondo sprained his ankle on Friday against Cleveland and Davis injured his on Sunday in a loss against the Magic. Only 10 players dressed for Monday’s practice, with Ray Allen and Pierce getting excused after 30 minutes.
“This is a growth period for our basketball team,” Rivers said. “Clearly, we want to win the games but we have an opportunity to grow our team in this little stretch and get them closer together and get them all understanding how hard the work is going to be to win a title. In the long run, I think this might make us a better team.”
|03.08.09 at 4:37 pm ET|
The Boston Celtics have made winning without Kevin Garnett look easy. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers? Not a problem. Shaq and the Phoenix Suns? No sweat. Carmelo Anthony and the Denver Nuggets? Blowout. But then there is Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic. That’s where the Celtics run into trouble.
The Celtics were 8-2 this season without Garnett (knee) heading into Sunday’s game. Last year they went 9-2 without him. The Cs have hardly missed a beat, except when playing the Magic. In spite of their success, they are 0-2 against the Magic without Garnett.
‘They’re a tough team with or without KG,’ Dwight Howard said after the Magic’s 86-79 win. (RECAP HERE) ‘So I think the biggest thing is just trying to match their play on both ends and be physical with them like they’re going to be physical with us. Also knowing that KG is one of their big guys on the defensive end, just go at them and just make them pay.’
The Celtics first loss to the Magic without Garnett (96-93) came on January 27, 2008. Unable to stop the Magic’s big men, Howard posted 18 points and 16 rebounds while Rashard Lewis scored 15 points. On Sunday, Howard posted 18 points and 15 rebounds with Lewis adding 15 points.
‘[Garnett’s] a good player and he plays hard,’ said Hedo Turkoglu. ‘We just try to take advantage of it. Tonight we just tried to move the ball and make a lot of free throws and make the big men play. Rashard and Dwight took care of the mismatches.’
It isn’t just the absence of Garnett’s 16 points and nearly nine boards a game that helps the Magic. The void of his intensity and energy cannot be denied.
‘He’s pretty much their heart and soul of the team,’ Tony Battie said. ‘You can’t forget about (Kendrick) Perkins and Big Baby and (Leon) Powe. They do a great job of filling in for him but it’s hard to replace an All-Star in this league. Not only that, but just his presence and leadership on the court, it’s hard to make up for it. Physically those guys can fill the void but his presence is something they probably miss.’
Both teams were missing pieces on Sunday. The Celtics were also without Rajon Rondo (ankle), Tony Allen (thumb), and Brian Scalabrine (concussion). Glen Davis left the game with a sprained right ankle. The Magic were without Jameer Nelson (shoulder), who also missed last season’s win.
Regardless of their 2-0 record, the Magic still give the Celtics credit.
‘All five guys, whoever steps on the floor, they’re all dangerous,’ said Howard. ‘Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, those guys can light it up. Their bigs are getting better every day. Kendrick did a Kareem shake tonight. It shocked me, but that just shows me that those guys have really been working on their game and they’ve gotten a lot better.’
The Magic’s win brings them within two games of the Celtics for second place in the Eastern Conference. The teams will meet again on March 25 in Orlando.
|03.08.09 at 4:06 pm ET|
When Big Baby Davis hobbled off the court late in the third quarter, his right ankle throbbing, the Celtics bench consisted of the following players: Stephon Marbury, Mikki Moore, Gabe Pruitt, Bill Walker and J.R. Giddens.
In other words, two guys who weren’t even with the team two week ago, two rookies who hardly play and a second-year guard who seen the court since his DUI arrest. “We missed everybody who was not out there,” Paul Pierce said. “It just seems like every game bodies are going down.”
Add Baby to the list that includes Kevin Garnett, who is out at least another week with a knee strain, Brian Scalabrine and Tony Allen who are out considerably longer and Rajon Rondo who missed the game with a sprained right ankle that swelled up over night.
Take all that into account, add in the fact that the C’s sleep-walked through the first half like they hadn’t set their clocks for daylight savings time and it’s a minor miracle that with under a minute to go, Ray Allen had a chance to tie the game with a 3-pointer in the corner. (Click here for a recap).
Allen, who made just about everything else in the fourth quarter had to slightly adjust the trajectory of his shot with all 7-feet of Dwight Howard charging into him. His shot on-line, but not true.
Allen scored 17 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter, but true to form, it was the ones he missed that will stay with him. “There were three shots I missed tonight,” Allen said. “Those are three shots, honestly, those are my shots. I know when I get on the floor (to practice) I’ll take those shots.”
The veteran that he is, Allen knows that to spend too much time worrying about what might have been won’t do him any good, which is exactly the situation the Celtics find themselves in at this very moment. Less than 48 hours after the high of the Cleveland game, they crash-landed into the reality that for the forseeable future they will have to make do with what they have.
“Somehow we have to get through the rest of the season,” said Pierce who passed Robert Parish for third on the franchise’s all-time scoring list. “So I think the most important thing right now is grinding out these games and trying to get healthy going into the playoffs. That’s our focus–getting the guys that need to be healthy out onto the court, because once the playoffs start we are going to need everybody if we are going to make this run.”
At this point no one is sure how long Rondo and Davis will be out. Garnett is targeting next Sunday at Milwaukee at the earliest for his return, but as Doc Rovers cautioned before the game, that’s only an estimate.
“Obviously we want home court,” Rivers said. “But we believe we can win on the road. We have to be healthy to win. If Kevin needs another week, we’re going to give him another week. If Rondo needs a week, we’re going to give him a week.”
The injuries impacted several crucial decisions that Rivers made Sunday, but the biggest was the move to start Stephon Marbury ahead of Eddie House. Afterward Rivers second-guessed himself, saying his instinct was to start House, who has a better understanding of the system, so as not to affect Pierce and Allen.
With Marbury at the controls in the first quarter, the Celtics sputtered and scored just 15 points. While not entirely his fault, ball movement was virtually non-existent and sets didn’t develop as planned. In 20 minutes, he had just four points, no assists and three turnovers and admitted to some frustration. It is far too early to judge Marbury on the court, but it is fair to say that he has a long way to go.
“Like I told you guys, he’s not going to be as good as his first game,” Rivers said. “And it’s going to take a while.”
The flip side to all of that is the only way for Marbury to get acclimated to his new team is to “burn minutes,” as Rivers said, and the extra playing time for Leon Powe, Moore, Davis, et al might prove beneficial down the road. To their credit the Celtics have not made excuses for the injuries and the fourth quarter run was inspiring, if draining; Pierce and Allen played a combined 91 minutes.
“I don’t take the mentality that we are hanging on,” Allen said. “It’s a great opportunity to get valuable minutes because the deeper we are in the playoffs the better we will be as a team. It only makes us better.”
That may wind up being true, but right now the Celtics would gladly exchange on the job experience for a few more healthy bodies.
It wasn’t exactly the way he might have liked it to happen, but when Pierce moved passed Parish on the Celtics all-time scoring list he further cemented his standing among the greatest ever to wear the uniform. The only players ahead of Pierce now are Larry Bird and John Havlicek.
“It’s great when you pass one of the all-time great Celtics, a Hall of Fame player,” Pierce said. “I’ve had the opportunity to play with the same franchise for quite a while now, so to be mentioned among those guys at the top is really an honor.”
Pierce is well aware of the tradition of the franchise of course, and so he understands that those honors take new meaning for his legacy now that he has a championship. “It would look odd when you look at the record books, 20, 30 years from now and say, ‘Bird, Havlicek, Paul Pierce, Robert Parish’ and guys will be like, ‘Who’s Paul Pierce?'” the Captain joked. “So it definitely helps.”
The reality is Pierce’s career is strong enough to stand on its own, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.
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