Archive for October, 2010

Halftime observations: Celtics-Heat

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

After all the buildup and all the offcourt drama, there was finally a basketball game to be played between the Celtics and Heat. The start was ragged, which was either a by-product of all the hype, or simply two very good defenses playing all out and contesting every shot, rebound and pass.

Either way, the Celtics took a 45-30 lead into halftime thanks to spectacular defense that held Miami to 27 percent shooting (11-for-41) and forced nine turnovers.

The Celtics took a 16-9 lead after one quarter and the numbers were as ugly as the score suggested. The C’s shot 35 percent (7-for-20) with five turnovers. The Heat were much worse, making just 4-of-17 shots and registering six turnovers.

The Celtics settled down in the second quarter and led by as many as 18 points, but the Heat’s struggles on offense remained.

RAJON RONDO IS  ALREADY MAKING USE OF SHAQ

After a rough start where he missed a couple of chippies at the basket, Shaquille O’Neal came over to the Celtics bench where Kendrick Perkins whacked him twice in the head. It must have helped because O’Neal soon converted two dunks off gorgeous feeds from Rajon Rondo.

Rondo racked up six assists in the first quarter and will get a ton of easy assists simply lobbing the ball up to O’Neal. Rondo was the best player on the court in the first half.

CELTICS BIG THREE MAKES ITS POINT

They’re not the original Big Three, but the Celtics version reminded people that they’re still pretty good. Ray Allen led all scorers with 11 points, while Paul Pierce filled the stat sheet with eight points, five rebounds and two assists. Kevin Garnett was active and had good spring in his step, but he also missed a dunk and had another shot blocked. Still, Garnett showed far better range on defense than he showed much of last season.

THE HEAT ARE A WORK IN PROGRESS

Any lingering notion that the Heat would storm the floor and become a juggernaut right off the bat were put to rest early in this game. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James shot a combined 2-for-11 in the first quarter and things didn’t improve much from there.

Carlos Arroyo started at point guard, but Heat coach Erik Spoelstra went with Wade or James at the point for most of the first half. Miami hasn’t had much time together during the preseason and it showed in the first half. The Heat offense looked disorganized and was obviously inefficient.

NINE MAN ROTATION WITHOUT DELONTE

When Delonte West returns, the Celtics will be two-deep at every position. Until he returns from his 10-game suspension, however, Doc Rivers looks like he will go with a nine-man rotation with Marquis Daniels getting time at both wing positions behind Ray Allen and Paul Pierce.

The Celtics bench was strong in the first half with 14 points and seven rebounds. Daniels led the way with six.

Grousbeck on Rondo’s missing headband, LeBron, Wade and Jeff Van Gundy

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck appeared on WAAF’€™s Hill-Man Morning Show on Tuesday morning. His discussion of the upcoming season touched included some pointed remarks about the new Heat nucleus and about a new fashion twist with point guard Rajon Rondo. A transcript of highlights is below. To listen to the interview, click here.

On the excitement surrounding the opener against the Heat:

‘€œIt’€™s caused our team to focus extra hard the whole month of training camp, I’€™m sure. It’€™s really great that we get to have the opener. I guess we deserve it,’€ said Grousbeck. ‘€œWe’€™re the Eastern Conference champs. It’€™s great that [Dwyane] Wade lost last spring on our court. It’€™s great that LeBron [James] has lost every playoff series he’€™s ever played against us. I hope they’€™re listening. It adds to the pot boiling a little bit more.’€

A computer simulation gave the Heat a 70 percent chance of winning the title:

‘€œI wouldn’€™t guess 70 percent tonight. I’€™d give us 70 percent tonight. I love it. I love Jeff Van Gundy. He’€™s a very nice guy, but he can’€™t stand the Celtics because we keep knocking his brother out of the playoffs and he used to be a Knick. But he said they won’€™t lose two games in a row all year, and they will win 73 games. He’€™s made all these predictions about the Heat. I think that adds a lot of pressure. ‘€¦ Let’€™s start them off 0-1 tonight and see how they like it.’€

On the absence of Rondo’€™s headband:

‘€œHe’€™s not going to have it on. He used to wear it upside-down, as a real connoisseur would know and I’€™m sure you noticed, he had an upside-down logo, turning the NBA upside-down. And they won’€™t let him do it anymore. They said they were going to fine him for that. So he said, ‘€˜To heck with you, I’€™m not going to fine it at all.’€™ That’€™s the Rondo headband situation for you connoisseurs of men’€™s accessories.’€

Kendrick Perkins eyes late January return

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

If Kendrick Perkins had a choice he would have tried to play opening night, but it’s not his call and so he is resigned to making the most out of his current situation while he rehabs from knee surgery. Perkins is down 10 pounds to 271 (he’d like to lose 10 more) and has made it a goal to make 300 free throws every day. He doesn’t know a firm date yet for his return, but he said his goal is to be back by late January.

Perkins has been working to strengthen the muscles around his knee with squats and other leg exercises. He said his rehab was more of a mental test than anything. “It depends what kind of person you are,” Perkins said. “If you’re a mentally strong person, you can get through it.”

Perkins also said that he wasn’t threatened by the presence of Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal. “I can’t bring what they bring to the table and they can’t bring what I bring to the table,” he said.

Danny Ainge on the Big Show: C’s hope Shaq is ‘not a statue’ on court

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Celtics general manger Danny Ainge joined the Big Show Tuesday afternoon to discuss the Celtics season opener and his thoughts about the roster heading into the season.

Ainge said that his biggest concern about the roster is the risk of injury at the center position and that he expects the team to rely more on their bench depth. He also emphasized how important keeping Doc Rivers on the bench was.

“I can’€™t say how excited I am to have Doc back,” Ainge said. “I’€™m not sure our roster but our team there would be a lot of differences. I think the continuity is huge.”

Ainge also talked about the  fact that the model the Miami Heat used to build their team this offseason would continue to be a possibility.

“The door is open just with free agency and I don’€™t know what’€™s going to happen as we move forward in collective bargaining,” Ainge said. “I think the door is open by us bringing in the Big Three and Miami doing a Big Three.”

Below are the highlights from the interview. To listen to the full audio visit the Big Show on demand audio page.

On his fears about this roster:

I think that I’€™m a little concerned with the health of our guys. But I feel I probably will be all year. But I’€™m excited about our team.

Is the idea to use deeper bench to get through the regular season?

Yeah, I think that is our objective to play more people. I’€™m not as concerned about Ray [Allen], Paul [Pierce] and KG [Kevin Garnett] and [Rajon] Rondo, the guys who are coming back. But our center position just because of [Kendrick] Perk [Perkins], Shaq [Shaquille O'€™Neal] and his age, and Jermaine [O'€™Neal] has got a lot of mileage there. That’€™s probably my biggest concern with the health.

On Marquis Daniels this year:

Marquis played, as you guys remember last year, played really well for us early on in the year. Then he got hurt and never really got in a rhythm. Although, in February he shot like 70% from the field. He had two or three road games out west that were spectacular. When we had Michael Finley come back and Nate Robinson come back and Tony [Allen] was coming back off an injury, there was just a logjam there. And Tony actually won that job back with his great defense. But Marquis has had a good training camp. When he’€™s gotten an opportunity to play and get in a rhythm off the bench and starting one of the preseason games, I think that he played really well and he’€™s had a good week of practice.

Ever seen anything like this opening night before?

I never have. Opening day is always a special day. Most places will sell out opening night. I think with some of the excitement that we have with our own team but obviously with Miami and maybe the most significant offseason in the history of any team. I get a kick out of those people who want to criticize Miami for doing something wrong. I think they had a pretty spectacular offseason. You can land some of the guys that they did in the free agent market, not just LeBron [James] and [Chris] Bosh who are very special players but some of the other players, they got some good guys too.

What are you expecting out of Shaquille O’€™Neal this year?

I hope he’€™s not a statue tonight. I hope he actually gets off the bench and moves a little bit and talks on defense. Shaq has been great so far, he’€™s been good in practice, he makes it out on the court almost every day and he’€™s fun in the locker room. So far he’€™s been good.

What was behind the decision to bring Delonte West back?

Well you know first of all I think Delonte was a favorite of a lot of people in Boston. He was a fun guy to watch, a lot of people embraced Delonte when he was here as a player. I think a lot of people, including our players, respect Delonte. Not only the guys that played with Delonte like Paul and Rajon and Perk but [they guys who] have been playing against him the last few years as an opponent, they have a great respect for him on the court. So yah I think everybody is aware that Delonte has had challenges off the court. We are trying to give him the support that he needs. The players that were with him before, our coach that was with him before and myself and ownership I think we were aware of that risk and I think we were comfortable with that risk.

On familiarity with West factoring into decision to bring him back:

Not only familiar but actually like him, find him enjoyable, at the same time troubled. What’€™s happened to Delonte over the past couple years is not shocking to any of us. We know that he has challenges of the court but we love what he brings to the court.

What would have been the difference in the roster if Doc Rivers had left?

It would be different. I’€™m not so sure if the face of our team would be different, I mean the roster. Paul really wanted to come back, he has his reasons to want to come back and Ray has his reasons to want to come back. So I’€™m not so sure if those things would have been different. But obviously our team would be different, the personality of the team would be different, the leadership of the team would be different. Doc is a great coach to lead these guys. I can’€™t say how excited I am to have Doc back. I’€™m not sure our roster but our team there would be a lot of differences. I think the continuity is huge.

On shelf life of this Celtics’€™ roster:

I think that none of us have the answer to that. I think that these guys based on how they played last year, they put together a seven to eight game streak in the Orlando [and] Cleveland series last year that was as good of seven or eight games stretch that any Celtic team has ever played, including the ‘€˜08 team, that was two years younger and went on to win a championship. Last year’€™s team in the middle of that stretch was better than that 2008 team. I think that this team kind of earned the right to try it again.

How important is this game to you?

I think it’€™s important in that it gives you a real test of where you are, you will be able to tell that. I think that you both teams will show signs of greatness and teams will show signs of it being the first game, who makes the fewest mistakes. This is a team that you don’€™t want to make mistakes on because LeBron and Dwyane Wade are arguably two of the greatest open court players I’€™ve ever seen. Turnovers turn into automatic baskets in the other direction, so we have to take care of the ball.

What does this game really mean?

It is good theater. It is a real test. These are two of the top teams, not a lot of people talk about Orlando, Orlando is legit. Orlando is a really good basketball team. So they [Orlando] belong in the same conversation in my opinion. I guess they are getting away from getting all the hype on opening night. I think Miami and Boston are sure aware of Orlando as well.

On whether there is a different view on this season after last year’€™s results:

I don’€™t think so. Going into last season before the season started, our motto was win playoff games. With KG’€™s health starting the year last year and things that happened to Paul during the course of last season, we weren’€™t right. I do take a little offense to this turning on and turning off thing, I don’€™t think it works, I don’€™t think it worked last year. What people fail to realize is that we had number one or number two in the league in blowing fourth quarter, double-figure leads last year. To get a double-figure lead in L.A. against the Lakers at home, against Orlando, you got to show up to play, your just not finishing games for whatever reason. I don’€™t think that we had the resolve last year but we saw what the team is capable of in the playoffs. I hope this year we don’€™t have the health issues, or as many and I think we’€™ll be a better team because we’€™re deeper.

On whether other teams and players will emulate what Miami did in franchise:

The door is open just with free agency and I don’€™t know what’€™s going to happen as we move forward in collective bargaining. I think the door is open by us bringing in the Big Three and Miami doing a big three. New York for three years we heard about how they were creating space and nobody really talked about Miami till last year and Chicago. Teams can create space and opportunities fairly quickly, by trading away players and getting rid of assets to try to free up cap space. But there was only one Miami this year that came away with what everyone was seeking, it couldn’€™t be New Jersey, New York and Chicago.

Bill Simmons on D&C: Heat ‘not ready’ to win Eastern Conference

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Bill Simmons joined the Dennis & Callahan show Tuesday morning to discuss the Celtics‘ heavily hyped season-opener against the Heat. Simmons talked about LeBron James and his new crew in Miami and how the Big Three in South Beach will fare this season.

He also talked about the Celtics’ chances for success in the 2010-11 season. Simmons said that Paul Pierce is the player the team could least afford to lose.

“Pierce is the guys who can guard the other small forward, the guy who can take over a little bit at the end of the game. I even think they could survive a Rondo injury. … Pierce is the guy who they’d really feel it.”

Below are some highlights from the interview. To listen to the full audio visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Do you buy into the corporate lie that the Celtics are telling, that the regular season really means more to them this year than it did last year, because hell, had they won five or six more games in the regular season, the seventh game [of the NBA finals] would have been in Boston last year?  Isn’t this an aging veteran team that just needs to get to the playoffs healthy?

That’s a good question, John Dennis. I don’t believe them. I do think the one difference between last year’s team and this year’s team is they have a bench. And when you have a bench, you can win games that maybe ‘€” last year’s team, the starters, they didn’t show up, the team was not going to win. And I think you’ll see when Delonte [West] comes back ‘€” I’ve got to say I was shocked by how good Delonte looked in the preseason. I thought out of everything I watched, that was the one thing I didn’t expect.

He just was bad last year. Obviously, it started out with him riding on a motorcycle with guns, and he got suspended and missed preseason and just was never what he was in 2008, when he was the second-best player on a team that almost bear the Celtics. I think that he is back to where he was, from what I saw. And when you see him and Nate [Robinson] come off the bench, I actually think that’s a backcourt that can swing a game for six, seven minutes. Then you throw in Big Baby [Glen Davis], who’s in fantastic shape. I’m not crazy about Jermaine O’Neal, obviously, but if he’s your 10th man, that’s not a terrible thing.

I just think the difference with last year vs. this year is Paul Pierce can go 5-for-19 in Detroit or Philly or wherever and they can still win the game because they have other guys.

(more…)

Chris Broussard on D&H: ‘Long time’ before Cleveland forgives LeBron James

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

ESPN’s Chris Broussard joined the Dale & Holley show Tuesday afternoon to talk about Tuesday’s Celtics-Heat season-opener at TD Garden. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

Broussard talked about the fallout from the LeBron James decision and how the people of Cleveland remain angry at their former hero.

“The people, they’re not forgiving LeBron, and I don’t know when they will,” Broussard said. “I think, especially if the Cavaliers struggle, it’s going to be a long time before they’re ready to forgive LeBron. ‘€¦ Most people are heartbroken, and that heartbrokenness has turned into anger and depression. They really are still very angry.”

Broussard said this is not a racial issue. “It’s across racial lines,” he said, adding: “In Cleveland, it’s universal that they are down on him. In the ‘hood, in the suburbs, everywhere, black, white, Hispanic, whatever. They’re down on LeBron all throughout Cleveland.”

Asked if James could have not been prepared for the reaction, Broussard said the player doesn’t understand the degree of anger. “I think he’s more surprised at nationally, the beating that he’s taking,” Broussard said. “And he is surprised. But I think it’s nationally. Maybe a little bit of the the vitriol, the intensity it from Cleveland may be surprising. I think he was a little bit taken aback when he saw his jersey burned. I don’t know if the thought of that had ever crossed his mind.

“You got the sense on TV, and even some people in Cleveland that said, “Oh, it was just one or two guys doing it in front of the cameras.’ But we found out in neighborhoods people were burning LeBron James jerseys, cutting up LeBron James jerseys. In our piece, one guy talked about how a guy had been beaten up in the basketball courts because he had on a LeBron James jersey. So, the anger was just very intense. I think that LeBron was more surprised nationally by how negative the reaction has been to what he did.”

Broussard said the questions about the Heat’s Big Three should remind Celtics fans of their Big Three debut three years ago. “A lot of the criticism or the doubts are really similar to what I heard with the Celtics in [2007-08],” Broussard said. “There were serious doubts about that supporting cast. And also about whether or not those three players would mesh.

“I had coaches tell me, ‘Oh, Paul Pierce, he doesn’t care about winning. He’s just wants to get his. He’s going to clash with these guys. He’s not going to get as many shots.’ Things like that. And you saw, they came together. They were older, yes. But these guys in Miami are veterans as well. I mean, seven years they’ve played. They’ve all won ‘€” at least LeBron and [Dwyane] Wade have won individual awards. And [Chris] Bosh has been an All-NBA player and a five-time All-Star.”

The NBA 30 on 30: Blogosphere Forecast (7 of 7)

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

NBA fans live a team’s ups and downs. They react to every draft pick, trade and free-agent signing. They debate the merits of the 15th man. They find significance in the most insignificant stats. They simply KNOW their team. So, too, do bloggers. That’s why we sought the opinion of the league’s best blogs — one for each of the 30 teams — to break down the team they cover and, of course, the Celtics.

We’ll finish the seven-part series with five forecasts from some of the best Boston Celtics bloggers around (Don’t forget to check out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and Part 6) …


BOSTON CELTICS
by Jeff Clark, Celtics Blog

ON THE CELTICS: When you are six minutes away from an NBA championship, what do you do to make up those six minutes in the next year?

You try to get a little bit better. The Celtics are hoping that their gains are greater than their losses.

Is Kevin Garnett‘s improved health enough to make up for the creeping age of this roster? Are Shaquille and Jermaine O’Neal enough to make up for the loss of Kendrick Perkins for half a season (at best)? Is Delonte West enough of an offensive upgrade to make up for the loss of the surprisingly steady defense of Tony Allen?

If the Celtics can stay a little bit healthier, maybe they can win a few more games to give them more home games in the playoffs. Maybe, just maybe, that will be the little edge they need to make up those six minutes and raise another banner.

 
BOSTON CELTICS
by John Karalis, Red’s Army

ON THE CELTICS: With all the talk of what other teams have done this offseason, few people have paid a lot of attention to the fact that the Celtics — a team that was within four minutes of a title — addressed their two most pressing needs: Size and depth.

Now, the Boston Celtics boast what is probably the deepest team in the NBA.

Fast forward to the playoffs – since it would take the most catastrophic of events for this team to miss the playoffs – and the C’s will start their usual rotation of Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, KG and Perk.

That means you have Shaq, Jermaine O’Neal, Glen Davis, Delonte West, Nate Robinson and Marquis Daniels coming off the bench.

A team of those six guys would challenge for the last playoff spot in the East … and they’re backing up a starting five that, as Doc Rivers loves to say, still hasn’t lost a playoff series.

The Celtics’ team chemistry has been remarkable. So, questions as to whether these guys can coexist are already answered.

They matched up well against most Eastern teams already, so the added size will only give the C’s more guys to throw at Dwight Howard.

The added depth will be able to keep up with Chicago or Atlanta. And the combined size and depth are the perfect counter to a heavily front-loaded Heat team.

Ultimately, this Celtics team has too much for the rest of the league. Even if a couple of guys get banged up, they have the depth to overcome it and properly rest guys for the playoffs.

Miami will be really good. The Celtics — with their experience, depth and size — will be just a little better, and they’ll get that 18th banner this year.


BOSTON CELTICS

by Jay King, Celtics Town

ON THE CELTICS: Before the preseason started, I predicted that the Celtics were destined to lose to Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Dwyane Wade and LeBron James were tough enough by themselves. Once Pat Riley paired them together and sprinkled a little Chris Bosh on top, they became the team to beat — regardless of who won the Eastern Conference last season.

Then the preseason happened, I got to see the Celtics play in real life rather than on paper, and I’m no longer convinced they’ll fall to the Heat (Yes, I realize it was just the preseason; bear with me).

I expected many of the older Celtics to digress this season. Instead, almost every Celtic looks better than last year.

Pierce entered camp in great shape; Garnett’s healthy; Delonte was a perfect fit; Marquis added confidence and perhaps an outside shot; Nate looks more comfortable after a full training camp; Davis has matured and potentially taken a leap; Rondo remained Rondo, only one year older and more experienced; Shaq has meshed far better than he ever did in Cleveland (I even saw him hedge a pick-and-roll last game); and Jermaine O’Neal’s addicted to the injured list.

Okay, maybe J.O.’s preseason didn’t work out perfectly, but every other player — stunningly — looks to be improved from last season.

A lot of teams claim to be motivated by tough losses, but the Celtics took that motivation to a next level. They used the devastation from the Game That Must Not Be Named and channeled it into returning in great shape, with only one purpose — winning an NBA title.

One through 12, the Celtics are the NBA’s most talented team. If healthy, they’ll win the East and then take down the Lakers in the NBA Finals. If healthy.


BOSTON CELTICS
by Brandon Paul, Gino’s Jungle

ON THE CELTICS: When asked by WEEI for a brief preview of the Boston Celtics 2010-11 season, the first thing I had to do was run to my desk and grab that fashionable pair of green goggles I’ve worn throughout my time as a Celtics fan.

Now that I took care of that, here’s what I think will go down this year for the hometown boys in green:

The Celtics are back and better than ever this season. After watching six preseason games, the amount of depth on this team cannot be compared to that of any other team in recent memory.

Von Wafer, a guy who had a solid tenure in Houston, was being talked about as a guy that could be cut from this team. That right there says something.

Of course, the team is going to undergo injuries and other hiccups throughout the course of the regular season that may draw some criticism, but if this Celtics team remains healthy come playoff time nobody (not even the Miami Heat) can match their depth and playoff experience.

For that reason, I’m predicting a solid regular season record of 52-30, a healthy team going into the playoffs and … wait for it … wait for it … Banner 18.


BOSTON CELTICS
by Brian Robb, Celtics Hub

ON THE CELTICS: Continuity. I’m a big believer in it as far as the NBA goes.

You take a look at the teams that have made the NBA Finals in the last 20 years, and the vast majority have been seasoned squads — units that have played together for years; players who know each other inside and out — their strengths and flaws, where they will be on the floor, where they like to catch the ball and everything in between.

You can’t buy that kind of knowledge in free agency, and it’s the biggest edge the Celtics’ core will have over their competition next year — one that will ultimately lead them to the NBA Finals.

The Miami Heat obviously have more talent, and they will get their championship(s) down the road, but next year will be a learning experience once the playoffs roll around. And they’ll fall short against the Celtics.

An improved offense, more depth and a deep sense of urgency will be enough to get Boston back to the promised land — where they will earn redemption against the Lakers after coming up empty last year.

Thanks to all who participated in this year’s NBA 30 on 30: Blogosphere Forecast.