Archive for December, 2010

Irish Coffee: Shaq & Big Baby unimpressed in Orlando

Monday, December 27th, 2010

Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

In the aftermath of the Magic’s 86-78 streak-busting win over the Celtics on Christmas Day, both Shaquille O’Neal and Glen “Big Baby” Davis couldn’t keep quiet.

First, O’Neal ripped official Bob Delaney — the only man to wear No. 26 on the floor during the game — and that might cost him a hefty fine from the NBA offices. Here’s what he said, according to ESPN.com:

“We have two premier big men out there.  He is pushing, I’€™m pushing. Let us play. I guess they [fans] come out to see No. 26 play. He was a great player out there today. They paid all that money to see No. 26 come play. My thing is, if you’re going to call it, call it the same way every time. Don’t pick and choose who you are going to call it against.”

Then, Davis sounded off about the weaknesses of both the Magic and their superstar center, Dwight Howard. Just a few days before Christmas, Davis said he didn’t “really care” about Orlando, and it turns out he still doesn’t. Here’s what Big Baby had to say:

“They can’€™t beat us. They can’€™t. With Shaq in the game. We just have too many guys. They came out and played better than us today, but if you are talking about a seven-game series. I don’€™t think they can beat us.” (via the Orlando Sentinel)

“I have been playing Dwight since 2004, when I was playing against him in the AAU circuit. His game hasn’t really changed. It’s not like he has a jump shot, or a new spin move. He has the same moves since high school. He has the same post moves.” (via CSNNE.com)

(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’€™s Irish Coffee or a future mailbag? Send an e-mail to brohrbach@weei.com or a Twitter message to @brohrbach.)

Fast Break: The end of the streak

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

The end of the Celtics 14-game winning streak came inauspiciously. For 45 minutes, they had controlled their matchup with the Orlando Magic, and then in the final three minutes and 20 seconds, everything fell apart in an 86-78 loss. The Celtics were outscored 15-1 over that span as the absence of Rajon Rondo finally caught up to them.

Nate Robinson shot 2-for-15, Ray Allen shot 3-for-13, and Paul Pierce once again had to direct the offense instead of working into the flow. The Celtics have felt for weeks that they weren’t playing their best basketball, but still they found ways to win. It was only a matter of time until that run ended, but it was still something of a shock that it fell apart so quickly in game they seemingly had in their back pocket.

WHAT WENT WRONG

The limits of Nate Robinson as a point guard: It’s been said again and again that Robinson is not a true point guard, and he’s not. The Celtics have tried to figure out a way to play with Robinson in place of Rondo that allows him to be him, and also allows them to continue to function as a pass-first, unselfish unit.

But in order for that to work, Robinson has to make shots. The Magic laid off Robinson and let him fire away from the perimeter. He was 0-for-5 in the first half and 1-for-10 before he knocked down a wide-open 3-pointer. When Robinson did go to the bench, the Celtics went with Avery Bradley, which was more about defense than running the team.

The Celtics not only don’t have a point guard right now, they don’t have a backup either. That is took this long to catch up to them is a testament to all the other things they’ve done well, but it was only a matter of time.

J.J. Redick is Ray Allen’s Kyrptonite: Once again Allen had a dreadful time shooting the ball against Orlando, and once again Redick was with him every step of the way. It’s been like this since the 2009 playoffs and it’s well past time to give the former Duke sharpshooter his due. He’s become much more than just a jumpshooter, unfortunately for Allen.

Jermaine O’Neal will need some time: O’Neal’s return came at the perfect time with Semih Erden feeling ill, but it was clear watching him play that he’s going to need a few games (at least) to get his conditioning back. There’s no sugar-coating this: Jermaine O’Neal has been a huge disappointment so far this season.

However, there is ample time for him to save his career and salvage his reputation in Boston. If the Celtics are going to do what they want to do this season, they will need him and in order to get there he’s just going to have to burn minutes.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Even without Kendrick Perkins, the Celtics still had the right gameplan for Dwight Howard: Without Perk, the Celtics went on the offense to defend Howard. They did this by pounding the ball in to Shaquille O’Neal early in the game in the hopes of getting Howard in foul trouble. It worked as Howard picked up his second late in the first quarter and was in foul trouble again early in the third quarter.

Howard continued to be his own worst enemy, getting called for a 10-second violation on a free throw attempt and compounding that by getting a technical foul. He didn’t score his first basket until a minute into the fourth quarter. The Magic’s trades were all about helping Howard, but if he is going to ascend to true MVP-level, he still has to learn to help himself against teams like the Celtics.

Defense, defense, defense: The Magic shot less than 40 percent and Howard never got going. This loss was all about the offense. The defense was once again, dominant.

Paul Pierce as point forward: For one half anyway, Pierce was the best point guard on the floor, scoring 16 points and dishing out four assists as the Celtics took control. The Celtics are asking a lot from Pierce, and this time they may have asked too much because he wasn’t able to build on his first-half performance.

Celtics sing ‘Let It Snow’

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

Preview: Celtics at Orlando, Game 28

Friday, December 24th, 2010

For the last three years, the Celtics have kept one eye the Magic and the other on the Lakers. Truth be told, the Celtics always saw Orlando as their prime challenger in the Eastern Conference and that bore out in two rugged playoff series.

The 2009 Celtics took the Magic to seven games without Kevin Garnett. They were undone ultimately by Garnett’s injury, but also by a lack of size up front behind Kendrick Perkins. So, they went out and signed Rasheed Wallace. Say what you want about Sheed’s time in Boston, but he was a difference-maker last year against Orlando when the Celtics won in six games.

For their part, the Magic cut ties with Hedo Turkoglu and brought in Vince Carter to replace him. Carter was supposed to be able to create offense from the wing, especially against a team like the Celtics who were able to play Dwight Howard straight up, effectively negating their double-team kickout for open 3-pointers.

Unfortunately for the Magic, it didn’t work as planned and with the Celtics gathering strength and the Heat on the rise, Orlando general manager Otis Smith elected for the big shake-up, trading Carter, Marcin Gortat, Mickael Pietrus, Rashard Lewis, a draft pick and cash in exchange for Jason Richardson, Gilbert Arenas, Earl Clark and Turkoglu.

The moves leave the Magic with an upgrade at the 2-guard spot (Richardson is simply much better than Carter at this stage of their careers) and woefully thin up front behind Howard. They also brought in two high-stakes gambles in Turkoglu and Arenas, who will either recapture part of their glory days or definitively prove that they are past their primes.

The results so far have been mixed. The Magic dropped games to Atlanta and Dallas, but they recovered in a big way Thursday with a blowout win over the Spurs. “We certainly have a great deal of respect for the old Orlando team,” Danny Ainge told The Big Show on Thursday. “I don’€™t know what’€™s going to happen with this new Orlando team. On paper they’€™re still a great basketball team. I just don’€™t know what to expect.”

CELTICS (23-4, 10-0 last 10, 14-game winning streak)

Offensive Rating: 109.4 (Points per 100 possessions, 10th)

Defensive Rating: 99.3 (Points allowed per 100 possessions, 1st)

Pace: 91.0 (20th)

Likely Starters: Nate Robinson, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal

Rotation: Glen Davis, Marquis Daniels, Semih Erden, Jermaine O’Neal

Injuries: Jermaine O’Neal (Knee, probable), Rajon Rondo (Ankle, doubtful), Delonte West (Wrist, out), Kendrick Perkins (Knee, out).

MAGIC (17-12, 2-8 last 10)

Offensive Rating: 106.1 (16th)

Defensive Rating: 102.2 (6th)

Pace: 91.4 (19th)

Likely Starters: Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, Brandon Bass, Dwight Howard

Rotation: Gilbert Arenas, J.J. Redick, Ryan Anderson, Quentin Richardson

Injuries: Malik Allen (Ankle, questionable), Daniel Orton (Knee, out). (more…)

Ray Allen likes playing on Christmas

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

Many players, and coaches, have expressed their dislike for playing on Christmas Day, which is one of the NBA’s showcase days. Ray Allen, however, is not among them.

“I always felt like it was a privilege,” Allen said Wednesday night before the Celtics played the 76ers. “You come into the league and you see the team playing on Christmas, it’€™s always the upper echelon teams in this league. You feel like you made it. It’€™s a similar feeling with playoff basketball. People at home are watching and you want to be one of those teams playing.”

Allen said that one of the highlights of his Christmas was watching Michael Jordan play. He also acknowledged that players aren’t the only ones who have to do their jobs.

“That’s just the environment we live,” he said. “It’s entertainment. We work, everyone else in the building has to work. I think these are those times you appreciate them and you take full advantage of them because when we retire we’€™re not going to be a part of them. You try to enjoy it now because it doesn’€™t last forever.”

Danny Ainge sheds some light on why Rajon Rondo didn’t play for Team USA

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

One of the enduring mysteries of the past summer is why Rajon Rondo was the last player left off the United States national team that participated in the World Championships. Rondo left the team shortly before the competition began.

Rondo has rarely spoken about it, although he did dispute the notion that he was cut during the Celtics media day. “No I [wasn’t],” Rondo said. “It was a good experience. I don’€™t regret it all. I made a lot of good friends. [Mike Krzyzewski] is a great coach. I had a great experience.”

The official word was that Rondo withdrew from the team because of an personal issue (he had a death in the family) and because he was tired from the long playoff run. Speaking to The Big Show on WEEI, Celtics president Danny Ainge offered a little more insight.

“I think Rajon really didn’t want to do it,” Ainge said. “He was pretty tired after the end of the NBA finals and he needed some rest. He’s not a real attention seeker and I don’t think he wanted to play for the US team. They came back to him again and he said he really didn’t want to do it, and they came back again and he finally relented. They got it down to 13 players, I think he sort of volunteered to be the guy to not do it. I just don’t think it’s a dream, a passion of his to play on the US team. I don’t think there was any more to it than that.”

Danny Ainge on Big Show: ‘I like this team much better’

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

Celtics president Danny Ainge joined The Big Show for his weekly Thursday appearance and noted that he doesn’t think this season’s Celtics team will have the same kind of letdown as last season’s squad.

“I think this just a better team,” Ainge said. “I like this team much better. I like the depth better. I feel more more confident in this team and what we’re capable of doing. Last year we came very close. I feel like us at all positions. We’re playing now without Delonte [West] and Rajon [Rondo], which makes it very difficult, and we’re still finding ways to win.”

The key for Ainge is that injuries haven’t affected Paul Pierce or Kevin Garnett as they did last season.

“I think last year’s regular season, we didn’t play with a lot of resolve, but we also had more injuries to more key players,” Ainge said. “Paul and KG weren’t near the same and both of those guys are having great years.”

To hear the whole interview, go to The Big Show audio on demand page.

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