Archive for December, 2010

Paul Pierce pulls no punches: ‘I really didn’t come to play’

Friday, December 31st, 2010

Paul Pierce did what a captain usually does after an emotional loss, one without two stars in the lineup.

After scoring just 12 points and grabbing seven rebounds in 36 minutes of an 83-81 loss to the Hornets Friday, Pierce was not about to make excuses for a team that was missing Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett. As a matter of fact, he put most of the blame squarely on his own shoulders.

“Maybe Paul Pierce has to do a better job in stepping up his game,” Pierce said in third person. “I really didn’€™t come to play to today, evident when you look up, six turnovers, but we only lose by two. The responsibility is on the guys out on the floor.

‘€œRegardless of the injuries, I’€™ve [said before] injuries are going to happen. Regardless of the injuries, we’€™ve still got to show up to play. There’€™s no moral victories’€¦and the guys that we put out there have got to be ready. We’€™re on the home court with guys who know how to play the game’€¦a game that we feel like we should win.”

The Celtics used an 18-0 run in the fourth quarter to open an 73-66 lead with under seven minutes remaining, only to see the Hornets outscore them, 17-8, down the stretch.

Doc Rivers: ‘There is no rotation right now’

Friday, December 31st, 2010

The easy question for Doc Rivers and the Celtics is replacing Kevin Garnett in the starting lineup. That job will fall to Glen Davis, as expected. The harder part is figuring out what to do what to do when Rivers has to go to his bench. For the time being, that’s a game-by-game process.

Rivers can go big with Semih Erden and Jermaine O’Neal backing up Davis and Shaquille O’Neal. Or he can go small with Paul Pierce and Marquis Daniels as forwards.

“We’€™re going to do both,” Rivers said before the Celtics took on the Hornets. “Again, for right now, there is no rotation. There’€™s the starters and then we’€™ll figure it out from there on. “The game will dictate that, foul trouble may dictate that. We just have to be ready as a staff.”

Rivers said he’s not a fan of going small, although circumstances and matchups may push him in that direction. Beyond the uncertainty, Rivers is also concerned that players may try to do too much without Garnett, and he’s not just talking about Davis. “That’€™s my biggest concern for everyone. Not just Glen, but everyone,” Rivers said. “That’€™s the human nature. We’€™re going to win games for this period of time with being a team. We’€™re not going to win any other way.”

Rivers also appealed for patience with Jermaine O’Neal, who is working his way back after missing 19 games with a knee injury. “It’€™s a tough time for Jermaine too,” the coach said. “Coming off the injury, he has to make sure he’€™s not trying to doo to much himself and we have to be careful with his minutes.”

But Rivers isn’t giving up on these games. The Celtics play 11 of their next 13 at home starting with this afternoon’s contest with the Hornets and he anticipated trying to make a big push during this stretch when the season started.

“Right now we are a game to game team, and that’€™s all we can be with all the injuries we have,” Rivers said. “But we have to be a game to game team that’€™s trying to win games.”

Rajon Rondo won’t be playing against Chris Paul, Hornets

Friday, December 31st, 2010

Despite being listed on the active roster for the Celtics‘ game against New Orleans Friday afternoon, Rajon Rondo will not play, according to Celts’ coach Doc Rivers. “He’s just not ready to play,” Rivers said. “He’s close, though. He’s getting better. He’ll be back soon. Maybe the next game or game after. We just don’t know yet, but he’s getting closer.”

Rondo has missed six games since spraining his left ankle on Dec. 15 in New York. During that span the Celtics have gone 4-2. For more Celtics news, check the Celtics’ team page at weei.com/celtics.

Preview: Hornets at Celtics, Game 31

Friday, December 31st, 2010

No team in the NBA has had an odder beginning to their season than the New Orleans Hornets, who started the season by winning 11 of their first 12 games, and then lost 13 of their next twenty. The on-court ups and downs are a very small part of the Hornets’ story, however. In early December, the NBA announced that they had purchased the team from owner George Shinn, setting off all kinds of panic alarms about the future of the franchise.

While the Hornets operate in limbo, the ingredients for a solid team are in place. They rank among the top teams defensively. David West is still a decent scorer, Emeka Okafor has solidified his role as a defender and rebounder, and of course, there is Chris Paul, who is re-establishing himself as the best point guard in the league.

Beyond that trio, the Hornets have problems. Marco Belinelli has predictably cooled off after a hot start and Trevor Ariza has struggled offensively. Their poor shooting on the perimeter helps explain the Hornets lackluster offensive numbers, even with Paul. A second unit that has yet to establish itself is another cause for concern.

As long as Paul is there, the Hornets remain a dangerous, albeit flawed team, and until their franchise situation is resolved, their future remains murky.

HORNETS (18-14, 4-6 last 10)

Offensive Rating: 104.2 (Points scored per 100 possessions, 23rd)

Defensive Rating: 102.6 (Points allowed per 100 possessions (7th)

Pace: 90.1 (Possessions per game, 26th)

Likely Starters: Chris Paul, Marco Belinelli, Trevor Ariza, David West, Emeka Okafor

Rotation: Jarrett Jack, Jason Smith, Willie Green, Quincy Pondexter

Injuries: West (Ankle, questionable)

CELTICS (24-6, 8-2 last 10)

Offensive Rating: 108.3 (11th)

Defensive Rating: 99.4 (1st)

Pace: 90.9 (22nd)

Likely Starters: Nate Robinson, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Glen Davis, Shaquille O’Neal

Rotation: Marquis Daniels, Jermaine O’Neal, Avery Bradley, Von Wafer

Injuries: Rajon Rondo (Ankle, questionable), Kevin Garnett (Calf, out), Semih Erden (Flu, questionable), Delonte West (Wrist, out), Kendrick Perkins (Knee, out).

KEY MATCHUP: Chris Paul vs. Nate Robinson (or maybe, Rajon Rondo)

If Rondo is able to play, and there is doubt after Doc Rivers told WEEI that Rondo has experienced swelling in his ankle after workouts, then the task of guarding the NBA’s best point guard falls to Robinson.

The NBA’s point guard trinity consists of Paul, Rondo and Utah’s Deron Williams. (Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook are closing in, but not there yet, while Tony Parker, Jason Kidd and Steve Nash linger). Rondo has the ring, as he supposedly said to Paul in their contentious meeting last fall, but Paul is still the league’s standard-bearer at the position. There are lots and lots of numbers that back Paul up, but a more interesting debate is what would happen if you put Paul on a team like the Celtics and Rondo on a team like the Hornets.

Certainly Paul is a more accomplished scorer than Rondo and may be better-suited to a team that needs him to dominate that area, but Rondo has flourished playing with future Hall of Famers, and of course he has the playoff success that Paul doesn’t. Perhaps it’s telling that both teams would have to think long and hard about trading one for the other.

THREE STORYLINES

1. Will Rondo play?

It appears to be a game-time decision, and if he can’t go the Celtics will have their hands full with Paul.

2. How will the Celtics adjust to life without Kevin Garnett?

Glen Davis will likely start, which leaves a huge hole on the bench where Davis is soaking up 30 minutes a night behind Garnett and Shaquille O’Neal. That means more time for Jermaine O’Neal who played well against the Pistons. Doc Rivers could also go small with Paul Pierce and Marquis Daniels as the forwards.

3. It’s an afternoon game after a long road trip.

The schedule leads to its own problems as the Celtics returned home Thursday after a week on the road. There has been precious little practice time the last month and it generally takes teams a game to return to form after a road trip. The injuries don’t help either. This has all the makings of a grind-it-out game between two of the NBA’s top defenses.

Danny Ainge on The Big Show: Kevin Garnett has a strained calf

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

Celtics president Danny Ainge told The Big Show Thursday that after an MRI and a thorough examination, Kevin Garnett would likely be out a couple of weeks with a strained calf muscle.

“It’s a muscle injury, a strained calf,” Ainge said. “It’s actually the softer side of the leg below the knee. It’s not anything to do with his knee, which is great news, and it’s one of those injuries that he may be out for a couple of weeks at the most. That’s my guess. It’s always a guess. I’ll just say two weeks. I think that’s on the conservative side.”

Ainge said that when he saw Garnett go down and grimace in pain that he was hoping it wasn’t serious, but he did flashback to the Utah game in 2009. “That was a specific injury that he had and had been playing with,” Ainge said. “KG had been playing with a sore leg for weeks before that Utah injury and it wasn’t something that just happened. he had that bone spur on there for much longer than before that Utah game.”

Ainge also had an update on Rajon Rondo who has missed six games with an ankle sprain. “Rajon is getting better,” Ainge said. “It was a pretty severe sprain. Rajon is in a situation where he could play, but he’s in pain still. He has pain on both sides of the ankle and we just don’t want to get him back on to the court until he can play hard.”

Here are more highlights from the interview: (more…)

Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo among leaders in All-Star balloting

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo are among the starters for the Eastern Conference in the latest round of All-Star balloting, released Thursday by the NBA. Garnett and Rondo both ranked second at their positions (behind Miami’s LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, respectively).

Orlando center Dwight Howard has the most votes of any Eastern Conference player, with Shaquille O’Neal in second at the center position.

Garnett leads Amar’e Stoudemire by about 75,000 votes for the second starting forward spot with Paul Pierce a distant fourth. Rondo’s lead over Derrick Rose is a little more than 50,000 votes. Fans can vote on NBA.com and the final results will be announced Jan. 27.

Here’s a breakdown of the latest results as supplied by the NBA:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Forwards: LeBron James (Mia) 969,459; Kevin Garnett (Bos) 712,555; Amar’€™e Stoudemire (NYK) 637,486; Paul Pierce (Bos) 381,348; Chris Bosh (Mia) 260,007; Josh Smith (Atl) 193,897; Carlos Boozer (Chi) 159,073; Danilo Gallinari (NYK) 127,726; Andre Iguodala (Phi) 115,660; Danny Granger (Ind) 107,145.

Guards: Dwyane Wade (Mia) 938,402; Rajon Rondo (Bos) 777,310; Derrick Rose (Chi) 721,122; Ray Allen (Bos) 392,441; John Wall (Was) 169,219; Gilbert Arenas (Orl) 144,889; Brandon Jennings (Mil) 128,556; Raymond Felton (NYK) 105,425; Joe Johnson (Atl) 99,598; Jamal Crawford (Atl) 97,809.

Centers: Dwight Howard (Orl) 988,572; Shaquille O’Neal (Bos) 410,663; Joakim Noah (Chi) 153,657; Al Horford (Atl) 120,404; Andrew Bogut (Mil) 110,153; Andrea Bargnani (Tor) 92,822; Brook Lopez (NJ) 77,048; Roy Hibbert (Ind) 70,698; JaVale McGee (Was) 59,508; Ben Wallace (Det) 44,375.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Forwards: Kevin Durant (Okc) 735,521; Carmelo Anthony (Den) 602,516; Pau Gasol (LAL) 597,201; Dirk Nowitzki (Dal) 447,737; Tim Duncan (SA) 436,651; Blake Griffin (LAC) 435,857; Lamar Odom (LAL) 232,299; Luis Scola (Hou) 197,728; Kevin Love (Min) 171,945; Caron Butler (Dal) 168,937.

Guards: Kobe Bryant (LAL) 1,153,694; Chris Paul (NOH) 585,690; Manu Ginobili (SA) 403,632; Steve Nash (Pho) 321,659; Deron Williams (Utah) 313,011; Jason Kidd (Dal) 234,779; Russell Westbrook (Okc) 233,593; Tony Parker (SA) 219,378; Vince Carter (Pho) 185,213; Eric Gordon (LAC) 179,917.

Centers: Yao Ming (Hou) 637,527; Andrew Bynum (LAL) 376,283; Brendan Haywood (Dal) 215,905; Nenê (Den) 211,475; Marc Gasol (Mem) 205,227; Emeka Okafor (NOH) 172,012; Chris Kaman (LAC) 131,741; Marcus Camby (Por) 111,346; Andris Biedrins (GS) 65,908; Robin Lopez (Pho) 62,199.

NBA Power Rankings, 12/30

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

1. San Antonio (27-4): At some point, you’ve just got to hand it to the Spurs. Like the Celtics, they did lose to the Magic in Orlando this week, but they just keep winning games — against good opponents, like the Lakers. Like their leader, Tim Duncan, they’ve quietly dominated this NBA season.

2. Dallas (24-6): How in the hell did the same Mavericks team that has beaten the Thunder, Spurs, Jazz, Heat and Magic on the road lose to the Raptors by eight at home? Just for that, they can’t be any higher than No. 2 — even if Dirk Nowitzki is contending for his second MVP honor. Although, Thursday night’s showdown with the Spurs could change all that.

3. Boston (24-6): The Celtics have lost twice since Thanksgiving — on the road, on Christmas and on a back-to-back — so you can’t beat them up too bad. Despite their recent 14-game winning streak, they’re just not the same efficient team without Rajon Rondo mixing the drink offensively and Kevin Garnett stirring it defensively. Their returns could boost them back to No. 1.

4. Miami (25-9): The Heat are on fire. They’ve won 16-of-17 (no thanks to Mike Miller), including six games against .500-plus teams and their Christmas Day win over the Lakers. Yet, they’ve lost 3-of-4 to the only teams they really need to worry about this season: The Celtics and Magic.

5. Oklahoma City (22-11): Over the last month, Kevin Durant has reinserted himself into the MVP conversation (along with teammate Russell Westbrook). In December, Durant has averaged 29.2 points, 6.2 boards, 3.5 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.1 steals while shooting 51.4 percent. Not bad. (more…)