Archive for February, 2009

Surviving without Kevin Garnett

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

It is not intuitive that a team would play better without one of its best players. Maybe in the short run, but over a long stretch of time it just isn’t supposed to work that way. So, it is somewhat curious that the Celtics have assembled an enviable record without Kevin Garnett in the lineup over the last year and a half.

Last year the Celtics went 9-2 without Garnett. This season, due to suspension, illness and injury, the Celtics were a perfect 5-0 without KG before they spent most of the last night’s game with the Clippers like they had been out in L.A. Looking for the Heart of Saturday Night with Tom Waits. Fittingly, it ended on a turnover, one of 20 for the Celtics.

In all it was a bad night for the Celtics who lost a perfectly winnable game when they uncharacteristically blew their cool down the stretch. Paul Pierce picked up a technical after he had a little shove for Mardy Collins following a hard foul and Rajon Rondo failed to gain control of the game. A bad call on the timeout after Rondo missed a free throw? Sure, but they never should have been in that position in the first place.

Last night aside, how have the Celtics managed without KG? Oddly enough, while Garnett may be one of the most unique talents in the league, the Celtics are constructed in a way that covers for his absence. If they were without the services of Paul Pierce or Ray Allen for an extended period of time that would be a different story. The bench is weak in swing men, and is even weaker since the injury absence to Tony Allen. All of which makes the dislocated thumb Pierce suffered against the Clippers potentially a very big deal.

But behind Garnett the Celtics have the productive Leon Powe. Per 36 minutes, Powe averages almost 15 points and 10 rebounds per game, numbers that compare, if not favorably, than at least are in line with Garnett’s production. But Powe wasn’t the first man to replace Garnett.

The first was Brian Scalabrine who turned in a 14-point effort against Phoenix, which combined with a career game by Rondo (32 points, 10 assists and six rebounds) and superior efforts by Pierce and Allen gave the C’s more than enough offensive firepower.

When Scalabrine went out early against Denver, Powe responded with 16 points and five rebounds in 29 minutes. Additionally, Big Baby Davis put together his best stretch of games in a month, so Garnett’s absence was compensated for on the offensive end.

Defensively is where the Celtics miss Garnett the most–and they certainly did against Zach Randolph who ate them up inside–but in one of the more under-appreciated stories this year, the Celtics have become a rebounding machine.

They are the best rebounding team in the league by Rebound Rate (essentially the percentage of available rebounds a team gets), which is a far more reliable indicator than total rebounds. The Celtics were +8 against both Phoenix and Denver and effective rebounding can make any team look better on D. But against the Clippers, while they had a 41-39 edge on the boards, LA was the more efficient rebounding team and won the battle inside.

The key in replacing star players isn’t always who takes their spot in the starting lineup, it’s sometimes who covers for the backup who suddenly finds himself a starter. With Scal, the Celtics have the perfect utility player for those occasions, which is why he usually gets the call to replace Garnett or Kendrick Perkins, as it keeps the bench more or less intact and within their usual roles.

Without Scalabrine, who got whacked in the head against the Nuggets things get trickier. He missed last night’s game, and won’t play Friday either, and his absence was a major concern when Powe, Perkins and Davis all had foul trouble.

But still, the Celtics are in decent shape to ride out Garnett’s injury. The schedule isn’t terribly rough when they come back from the West Coast, with games against Indiana, a struggling Detroit team and the Nets. Cleveland comes to town next Friday and Orlando follows and you know Garnett will be angling to return for those games. Even with the loss last night that decision should have everything to do with his health, as it should be.

Quick thoughts on Mikki Moore

Mikki Moore has a career that defines the term “journeyman.” In 11 NBA seasons he has had 10 jobs with eight different teams (two stints apiece with New jersey and Boston). In those 11 seasons he has played over 2,000 minutes twice and over 1,000 minutes four times.

After a career year in New Jersey, playing alongside Jason Kidd, he had an unsatisfying year and half run with the Kings. Moore is tall, athletic and runs the floor well (he is also said to be one of the all-time good guys in the league, as well). He gives the Celtics length and experience, two qualities that are in short supply on the bench.

What he is not is P.J. Brown redux. Moore doesn’t have that consistent 15-foot jump shot that and he is not nearly the defender that Brown was. That said, Moore represented the best value at the time. There was/and is a lot of talk about Joe Smith, but there were two things conspiring against the Celtics.

The first is that Smith is not available (at least not yet). Since the trade to New Orleans was rescinded, the Thunder have held on to the veteran forward. If he was to become available, a handful of teams, notably Cleveland where Smith played last season, have more of their mid-level exception to offer. In other words, there was no guarantee that Smith would, or even could, come to Boston. A real Mikki Moore is worth more than the thought of Joe Smith.

A look back at Marbury

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

“I don’t feel I’m totally ready. The NBA and college are two totally different games. The NBA is just pick-and-roll, and if the pick-and-roll’s not there, throw it to Hakeem and he scores. How hard can that be? It’s just physical strength. Being ready means adjusting to being around older players. Right now I don’t have anything in common with those guys.”

It is hard to imagine those sentiments were once expressed by Stephon Marbury.

Before the accounts of banishment, betrayal, and buyouts, there was a different story being told of the teenage phenom. In January of 1996, Sports Illustrated printed the article, “Caught In The Middle.” At the center was a basketball wiz from Brooklyn who tried to find a sense of normalcy in a downtown Atlanta barber shop. The story offers a look back at a young Georgia Tech point guard who drove a Suzuki 4×4, senselessly blew games, and grappled with the high expectations of success.

The NBA does not make lottery picks of floor leaders whose teams lose to Mount St. Mary’s at home. With Tech up a point and a minute and a half to play, Marbury threw away a blind wraparound pass. “We don’t need to be forcing it in a close game like that,” says Drew Barry, Marbury’s fifth-year senior backcourt mate. “Stephon’s a great talent. He’s going to be a great player. But right now he has a lot to learn.”

With Barry and forwards Michael Maddox and Matt Harpring, Yellow Jacket coach Bobby Cremins has the nucleus of a pretty good team, and he wants to let Marbury, who was averaging 19.3 points and 4.4 assists at week’s end, grow naturally into the role of leading it. “Why is he not there yet?” Cremins says. “He’s stubborn. And there’s the pressure to perform. The expectations are ridiculous. All this pressure. All this hype. It really pisses me off. He’s had his mind on other things.”

Thirteen years after the Sports Illustrated article was published, has reported Marbury is expected to sign with the world champion Boston Celtics. At this point in his career, one can only hope the only thing on his mind is winning.

Who is Mikki Moore?

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

On Tuesday the Boston Celtics signed free agent big man Mikki Moore. In just a matter of days since being waived by the Sacramento Kings, he had become one of the hottest players on the market. But it wasn’t that long ago that Moore was known for being a journeyman rather than a contributor on a championship-defending team. So who is Mikki Moore?

Full name: Clinton Renard Moore

Born: November 4, 1975

Hometown: Orangeburg, South Carolina

High School: Blacksburg HS, Blacksburg, SC
(Fast Fact: Celtics guard Ray Allen attended Hillcrest HS in Dalzell, SC. Moore and Allen are two of six players currently in the NBA to attend high school in that state.)

College: University of Nebraska (1997)

What’s in a name? The nickname Mikki (pronounced ‘€œMikey’€) was given to Moore as a kid because he liked to eat Life cereal. He also goes by “Snake” for his love of reptiles.
(Fast fact: Former Celtic James Posey goes by the nickname ‘€œMike’€ to his friends and family)

He looks familiar: Moore signed a 10-day contract with the Celtics in 2003. He picked up six fouls in three games, but never scored a basket.

League leader: In 2007, Moore led the league in field goal percentage (.609). The following season he led the league in personal fouls (310).
(Fast fact: Former Celtics center Robert Parish was called for 310 fouls in the 1981 season. He only ranked 10th in the NBA.)

Lucky # 7: Moore will be the first player to wear number seven since Al Jefferson. Tom Gugliotta wore it prior to Big Al in 2005.

Lending a helping hand: Moore’s goal is to touch every community he plays in. He founded the Moore Love Foundation in his home state of South Carolina and bussed 600 children to a Charlotte Bobcats game. As a member of the Detroit Pistons, Moore helped knock down and rebuild homes in drug-infested neighborhoods. He also distributed Thanksgiving turkeys with the Utah Jazz, among other initiatives.

Moore’s Road (Back) to Boston

  • June, 1997: Undrafted in NBA Draft
  • September 30, 1997: Signed as a free agent by the Minnesota Timberwolves
  • October 28, 1997: Waived by the Minnesota Timberwolves
  • 1998-99: Played nine games for Papagou of the Greek League
  • 1998-99: Played remainder of the season for the Fort Wayne Fury of the Continental Basketball Association
  • January 21, 1999: Signed as a free agent by the Minnesota Timberwolves
  • January 27, 1999: Waived by the Minnesota Timberwolves
  • January 29, 1999: Signed as a free agent by the Detroit Pistons
  • February 18, 1999: Waived by the Detroit Pistons
  • October 5, 1999: Signed as a free agent by the Detroit Pistons
  • August 5, 2002: Waived by the Detroit Pistons
  • October 3, 2002: Signed as a free agent by the San Antonio Spurs
  • October 24, 2002: Waived by the San Antonio Spurs
  • 2002-03, 2003-04: Played for the Roanoke Dazzle of the NBA Development League
  • January 6, 2003: Signed by the Boston Celtics to a 10-day contract
  • April 14, 2003: Signed by the Atlanta Hawks for the remainder of the season
  • September 27, 2003: Signed as a free agent by the Seattle SuperSonics
  • October 21, 2003: Waived by the Seattle SuperSonics
  • December 22, 2003: Signed as a free agent by the New Jersey Nets
  • January 7, 2004: Waived by the New Jersey Nets
  • January 28, 2004: Signed by the Utah Jazz to the first of two consecutive 10-day contracts
  • March 4, 2004: Signed by the Utah Jazz for the remainder of the season
  • August 20, 2004: Signed as a free agent by the Los Angeles Clippers
  • August 31, 2005: Signed as a free agent by the Seattle SuperSonics
  • July 7, 2006: Traded by the Seattle SuperSonics to the New Jersey Nets in exchange for a second-round pick in the 2009 NBA Draft
  • July 13, 2007: Signed as a free agent by the Sacramento Kings
  • February 19, 2009: Waived by Sacramento Kings
  • February 24, 2009: Signed as a free agent by the Boston Celtics

Report: Moore and the Celtics

Monday, February 23rd, 2009 has confirmed, through a league source, the Boston Herald‘s report that free agent Mikki Moore is expected to sign with the Boston Celtics once he clears waivers on Tuesday morning. Moore was placed on waivers by the Sacramento Kings last Thursday. According to the Herald, Celtics President Danny Ainge has denied making a formal offer. However their source insisted Moore will pick the Celtics.

Backcourt steps up

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

Shaquille O’Neal was supposed to be a problem for the Boston Celtics. He was supposed to push around their little big men and have the Celtics counting down the days until Kevin Garnett returned from his knee injury. But it was one of the smallest guys on the court who caused the biggest problems. Led by Rajon Rondo, the Celtics backcourt dominated the Phoenix Suns. (RECAP HERE)

Rajon Rondo
32 points, 10 assists, 6 rebounds, 13-18 FG, 1-1 3PG, 5-9 FT, 3 STL

On his 23rd birthday, Rondo made 35-year-old Steve Nash look about ten years older. The Suns had no way of stopping Rondo, not even O’Neal’s presence made a difference — Rondo scored however and from wherever he pleased. The absence of Garnett creates more opportunities for him to take his jumpshot, and judging by his shot chart, there is little need to question whether or not he has developed one.

Ray Allen
31 points, 4 rebounds, 10-15 FG, 4-8 3PG, 7-8 FT

It’s no secret that Allen can’t be left alone on the arc. On Sunday he couldn’t be left alone, period. Allen spread the Suns defense with a balanced attack of long and mid-range shots. Allen was on his mark, hitting 10 field goals and scoring 30 points for the first time since January 11 against the Toronto Raptors. He also set a new franchise record with 72 consecutive free throws made, passing Larry Bird’s previous mark of 71.

Paul Pierce
26 points, 6 rebounds, 8-17 FG, 10-10 FT

The Celtics couldn’t score 128 points without Pierce making an impact. Pierce struggled in the first half (1-8 FG), so when his shot didn’t fall he got to the line (6-6 FT). Then he turned it on in the second half to score 18 points in 22 minutes. The captain played a team-high 44 minutes and by the end of the game had gone to the line 10 times. The Celtics improved to 12-3 when Pierce attempts at least 10 free throws.

The Celtics will travel to Denver to take on the Nuggets on Monday night.

Report: KG out 2-3 weeks

Saturday, February 21st, 2009

According to Marc Spears of the Boston Globe, Boston Celtics president Danny Ainge has said Kevin Garnett will miss 2-3 weeks with a posterior muscle strain of the right knee. Garnett left the court hobbling during Thursday’s loss to the Utah Jazz. Ainge told the Globe, “Rest and ice for KG.”

O’Bryant wasn’t ready

Friday, February 20th, 2009

It turns out Patrick O’Bryant wasn’t ready to play. Not for the Boston Celtics, at least.

‘€œI feel like I’m pretty ready,’€ he said prior to the All-Star Break. ‘€œI never feel like I’m not ready, I don’t want to get down on myself. But I feel like I’m ready. In Doc’s eyes I might not be, so I’ve just got to take his advice and keep pushing forward.’€

The Celtics echoed head coach Doc Rivers‘ opinion when they traded O’Bryant to the Toronto Raptors on Thursday as part of a three-team deal with the Sacramento Kings.

In spite of being a big man on a team in need of length, O’Bryant averaged just 4.2 minutes in 26 games this season (less playing time than everyone on the Celtics except for Sam Cassell and J.R. Giddens). Last summer an informed source questioned if O’Bryant would be able to shake his two-guard mentality in a seven-foot frame. His defensive abilities continued to be a cause for concern.

‘€œHe’s been stressing Celtics D,’€ O’Bryant said of Rivers. ‘€œIt’s different than any other team’s expectations. They’re a championship team and you’ve got to be able to play at a championship level.’€

O’Bryant was looking forward to growing as a shot blocker and rebounder in the second half of the season. He was eager to back up Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins off the bench. Now he can try to do the same for Chris Bosh.