|01.08.09 at 2:31 pm ET|
In the midst of a three-game losing streak, the Boston Celtics have recalled rookies J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker from the NBDL’s Utah Flash. Giddens (17.3 points, 6.5 rebounds) and Walker (18.7 points, 5.3 rebounds) have been standouts on the Flash given the playing time to develop. Both players welcomed the assignment and have been preparing for their recall since October.
Some players would rather forgo playing time to stay in the NBA, but you seemed to embrace the D-League. What was your reaction when you found out you were assigned to the Utah Flash?
JG: Well I was excited because I had an idea that I was going down there. My brother and some of my closest people talked about it, how it was going to be a good opportunity to go down there and get into game shape and just gain confidence and become better every day. So whenever I do get the chance from the Celtics to play, then I’ll be in the best shape possible and I’ll be able to take a good swing at it.
BW: I was excited to have a chance to be able to play again, so I was excited about going. J.R. was already down there and I just welcomed it.
It took no time for you to become the leading scorers on the Flash. What kind of improvements have you seen in your game already?
JG: I’m just trying to be efficient and attacking the basket and finding teammates who are open and using my size to rebound and doing just more of whatever I can, whether it’s enhance or defense or make somebody better by running the court. Just doing whatever I can to help the team win.
BW: Just trying to cut down on my turnovers right now, pass out of double teams, so that’s the only difference. Just learning how to play in a 48 minute game, learning how to play hard but still pace yourself where you have enough to finish the game out.
When you get called back up to the Celtics, which versions of Bill Walker and J.R. Giddens can we expect?
JG: I know I’ll be a lot more confident and feel more fluid with my movements on the court and I’ll feel like I’m in better shape. Being an athlete I feel like being in games in crucial because you use a certain amount of energy when you’re playing. When you’re not in game shape you’re not as quick and you’re not as on point as you normally would be.
BW: Probably a more confident Bill Walker. Just having some game experience on this level and knowing what I can do and what I can’t do, so I’m learning the ropes.
This is the first time Giddens and Walker have been recalled. The Boston Celtics roster stands at the league-maximum 15.
|01.08.09 at 12:53 pm ET|
With less than two weeks left to vote, Rajon Rondo still struggles to crack the top 10 among all guards. Dwight Howard leads all players while LeBron James is catching up. Paper ballots close on January 11 and fans may vote online at www.nba.com through January 19. The 2009 NBA All-Stars will be announced on January 22.
2009 NBA ALL-STAR BALLOTING EASTERN CONFERENCE
Forwards: LeBron James (Clev) 1,940,162; Kevin Garnett (Bos) 1,375,814; Yi Jianlian (NJ) 1,216,348; Chris Bosh (Tor) 751,927; Paul Pierce (Bos) 486,656; Hedo Turkoglu (Orl) 366,174; Shawn Marion (Mia) 264,888; Danny Granger (Ind) 199,200; Josh Smith (Atl) 163,145; Michael Beasley (Mia) 157,286; Tayshaun Prince (Det) 144,337.
Guards: Dwyane Wade (Mia) 1,818,717; Allen Iverson (Det) 1,278,600; Vince Carter (NJ) 856,498; Ray Allen (Bos) 552,094; Devin Harris (NJ) 474,637; Gilbert Arenas (Wash) 403,577; Luke Ridnour (Mil) 379,806; Derrick Rose (Chi) 293,483; Jose Calderon (Tor) 274,509; Joe Johnson (Atl) 236,993; Jameer Nelson (Orl) 227,226.
Centers: Dwight Howard (Orl) 2,102,368; Samuel Dalembert (Phi) 257,527; Rasheed Wallace (Det) 255,950; Jermaine O’Neal (Tor) 224,583; Andrew Bogut (Mil) 198,811; Al Horford (Atl) 191,105; Brendan Haywood (Wash) 178,868; Ben Wallace (Clev) 159,132; Emeka Okafor (Char) 133,501; Zyrdrunas Ilgauskas (Cle) 122,607; Kendrick Perkins (Bos) 85,855.
|01.08.09 at 8:14 am ET|
You can sense the concern growing each and every day. What was a juggernaut headed for 70+ wins two weeks ago is now a team that has lost three straight, six of eight and in second place, IN ITS OWN CONFERENCE. Talk about a change of direction. The Celtics haven’t hit a bump in the road, they’ve hit a Boston-sized pothole that has messed up their alignment and they desperately need a trip to the garage to get it fixed. Problem is their next pit stop is against the Cavaliers, the team ahead of them in the East, in Cleveland Friday night where they haven’t lost at home this season in 18 games. Wednesday night, someone named Von Wafer drilled a three with 44 seconds remaining and the Celtics couldn’t overcome Yao Ming’s 26 points as Houston handed the Green their sixth loss in eight games since Christmas.
|01.07.09 at 9:15 pm ET|
There were about seven and a half minutes left when Kevin Garnett began his slow walk to the scorer’s table. Everything Garnett does when he’s off the court is deliberate. It’s a veteran’s move to save whatever reserves of energy he has left, and Garnett knows every trick in the book. But this walk seemed slower for some reason. Maybe it was the sleeve wrapped around his right calf, or maybe it was just the effect of another grueling night in what seems like an endless parade of games.
All around him bodies were hitting the floor. Ron Artest and Ray Allen were in the process of untangling themselves under the basket after yet another high-speed collision. Every loose ball was a fight to the finish. and every shot was being contested. If you’re a fan of the NBA, this is why you watch games in January.
As Garnett made his way on to the court there was a feeling that the moment was there. This was when the Celtics blocked out all the things that have been plaguing them for the last two weeks–all the back-to-backs, all the travel, all the little breakdowns–and made a stand.
A few minutes later, Artest committed his sixth foul after locking Paul Pierce in an abdominal stretch. Artest glared at Pierce, who never so much as turned around. With a wave of his hand, Pierce motioned his nemesis to the bench. It was straight-up cold blooded.
There were more moments. A Pierce jumper from the top of the key tied it. Garnett blocked a shot by the quicksilver guard, Aaron Brooks, and outfought three Rockets for the ball. This was it, only it didn’t happen. (Go here for a recap).
A journeyman shooter named Von Wafer knocked down a 3-pointer in front of the Celtics bench with everyone in green hollering in his ear. Yao Ming got a rebound because he’s 7-foot-6 and then dropped in a layup, because as Doc Rivers sighed after the game, “He’s long. Real long.”
It was the Celtics third loss in a row and their sixth in their last eight games, and they knew it before it was over. “You could see it in their eyes in the huddle with about 40 seconds left,” Rivers said. “(Shoot). We’re going to lose this game. It wasn’t (a lack of) confidence. It bothered them.”
The Celtics play Cleveland on Friday and you wouldn’t find a soul on press row who would take them, or the points, in that one. They’re tired. The bench is struggling. The defense isn’t right. The offense has gotten bogged down. They’re exposed?
The Celtics were having none of it afterward. “I told the guys we need to get our defensive swagger back,” Pierce said. “It’s been broken these last 10 or 12 days. We know what we’re capable of. It’s just going back to basics and getting the job done. The confidence is still there. It’s a long season and that’s what we try to tell each other. We bend but don’t break. That’s what it’s all about.”
This is the reality of the situation. The Celtics have never gone through a stretch like this in the Paul-Ray-Kevin era. Yes, they had some issues in the playoffs, and no, the regular season isn’t nearly as important. But, and there is a but, the Celtics have not gone through a stretch like this before, and the rest of the league is licking their chops at a chance to knock the champs down a peg or two.
The issues didn’t start with the losing. There was a feeling at the end of the 19-game winning streak that things weren’t quite right. Rivers voiced his concerns then but they were drowned out by the record-setting run.
“Now you believe me,” Rivers said before tip-off. “I don’t know if it’s inevitable or not. It doesn’t change who we are or who we think we are. It doesn’t affect us a staff and what we have to work on. These are the dog days. From Christmas to the All-Star break. Last year we really focused though it. We did a hell of a job.”
Now, they head into Cleveland into what will surely be as hostile an environment as they will see until the playoffs in April. It will make Atlanta look like Romper Room and they need of a win. You could see the glint in Pierce’s eye when he was asked about Friday’s showdown.
“This is the team we put out of the playoffs,” he said. “This is the best home team in all of basketball. We’re going to get their best punch. We have to be ready for their best shot. The way they have been playing at home has been unbelievable, but the way we are playing, this is a great way to get back on track.”
|01.07.09 at 7:28 pm ET|
- I’m hoping for more Pierce vs. Artest action in the fourth quarter. They love to hate each other on the court and I haven’t seen another player target Pierce as intensely as Artest.
– Huge 3 for Pruitt. He can be explosive when given the minutes.
– Adalius Thomas wants you to get up out your seats and make some noise. His message was just as effective and a lot less startling than Big Baby’s frenzied plea earlier.
– Double fouls issued to Artest and Allen. Looked like Artest pulled Allen to the ground but the Celtics are going to have to fight for this one tonight.
– “In the Air Tonight” is on so you know what that means. KG is about to be unleashed on the Rockets.
– What was that? On a drive to the basket Artest bobbled to ball, seemed to pass it back and forth to himself a few times, then landed on the fans sitting courtside before the shot clock ran out.
– Artest fouled out with three minutes to go. Pierce kindly pointed to the bench, not once, not twice, but enough times to rattle Artest. Were those tears a la Big Baby we saw on the Jumbotron? The Pierce vs. Artest battle is over but everyone got their money’s worth. I’ve never seen Pierce react so strongly to the disqualification of another player.
– Excitement aside there’s no ignoring Perk’s struggle tonight. He is scoreless and reboundless in the second half and hasn’t found a way to contain Yao.
– Rondo, who has been quiet as well, doesn’t have to stress about finding his teammates when they are getting him the ball. Nice dish from KG to Rondo under the basket to give the Celtics a one-point lead with 1:30 to go.
– Homecourt advantage? Pierce got whistled for an offensive foul with a minute to go. Wonder if Artest is snickering about that from the bench. That late game call could come back to haunt the Celtics.
– It did.
|01.07.09 at 6:54 pm ET|
This is the Bizarro-world game. The Celtics shot 12-for-18 in the first quarter and the Rockets shot 12-for-18 in the second. A big reason was the small lineup employed by Rick Adelman. Aaron Brooks, in particular, ran circles around the Celtics defense. The good news for Boston? Only five turnovers in the first half.
This is a big half for the Celtics, maybe their biggest of the season to date. Read the rest of this entry »
|01.07.09 at 6:42 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo can’t pinpoint exactly why the Boston Celtics have been struggling but he has a few ideas on how to get back on track. On Wednesday, the Cs point guard explained how he wanted to bounce back against the Houston Rockets:
Be up for the challenge: ‘Doc told us from the beginning that it’s going to be like that every night. We’d be a team’s Game 7, especially the Warriors, Charlotte, New York and they played extremely hard.’
Match the intensity: ‘We’re definitely getting every team’s best shot. Guys are playing extremely hard against us every time we play one particular team. So we’ve got to come out every night and it starts with defense. We have to talk more, communicate better, play better, and get it going on the offensive end as well.’
Want it more: ‘We just need to get down and dirty. We need to fight for loose balls, get out on hustle plays, win the hustle wars … Not the whole games but it seems like in key possessions they’re outhustling us.’
Remember Ubuntu: ‘We’ll stick together. This is a tough time for us right now but we’ve just got to handle the adversity and I’m sure we’ll bounce back from it.’
Build momentum for the road: ‘We’re just in a slump right now and we’ve got to find a way to get out of it. And it starts tonight. But we’ve got to carry it over when we go to Cleveland (on Friday).’
Stay confident: ‘Every game we go through right now, the tough times can only you stronger. Like they say, if it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger. We’ll find a way.”