Archive for February, 2011

Fast Break: New Celtics, familiar results

Monday, February 28th, 2011

This is going to take some time, but while Celtics coach Doc Rivers learns how to use his new toys (he had Jeff Green playing everything from the 2-guard through the four-spot), the Celtics remain the Celtics in the fourth quarter. Locked in a tight battle with Utah, the veterans made the right plays and executed down the stretch.

Ray Allen and Paul Pierce made huge shots. Kevin Garnett was dominant defensively and on the boards and Rajon Rondo made the right decisions and also sank a crucial jumper. The Celtics won 107-102, which gave them a 3-1 West Coast trip and also kept them two games ahead of the Heat in the loss column for the best record in the conference.

They have the next six weeks to figure out what kind of team they will be, but when it comes time to win games, they haven’t forgotten their formula.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Kevin Garnett is Kevin Garnett again: In the midst of all the turmoil, Garnett has very quietly run off a string of double-doubles on this West Coast trip. After scoring 18 points to go with 14 rebounds he now has seven in his last eight games. Garnett was at his best, though, on the defensive end, where he switched over to Al Jefferson late in the game and shut the big man down.

The key moment came when Garnett and Jefferson were called for double technicals late in the fourth quarter. The T’s didn’t stop the chatter between the two players and Jefferson was obviously primed to get the ball and score. He got the ball, but Garnett gave ground at the right moment and caused a travel. It was a classic veteran trap and Jefferson fell right into it.

Rajon Rondo takeover: Rondo scored only six points in the first half and passed up a couple of easy looks to make passes instead, but in the second half he reverted back into an attacking machine. When Rondo doesn’t look for his offense he makes himself so much easier to defend. But when he keeps the threat of scoring alive, it makes him nearly impossible to defend.

Nenad Krstic is no Perk offensively: Krstic is known as a player who can step outside and make jump shots, but he’s also shown in limited time an ability to score with his back to the basket. The Celtics don’t use a lot of post-ups as part of their regular offense, but Krstic has a nice touch around the basket and is also able to roll smoothly to the basket. Offensively, he is a definite upgrade from Kendrick Perkins‘ limited repertoire.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Krstic is no Perk, defensively: Then there’s the other end of the floor. Krstic will get better as he gets used to playing in the Celtics’ defensive scheme (and also gets used to playing alongside Garnett). Early on he’s looked slow in rotations and a step behind the play. Krstic was also abused by Jefferson, who scored 18 of his 28 points in the first half. It wasn’t all Krstic’s fault, but the Jazz went flying through the lane time and again for layups. The Celtics will have to adjust to Krstic as much as he will have to adjust to them.

Glen Davis continues to struggle: Over his last three games, Davis has shot 9-for-28. Over the last two months Davis has been as up and down as any Celtic, but they keep using him in the fourth quarter. Davis remains the best — and maybe only — option for getting crunch-time minutes with the other four starters, but if Rivers wants to continue to experiment he may take a look at his closing lineup over the next month and a half.

Delonte West is hurt again: The Celtics got bad news even before this one started as West rolled his right ankle during an informal workout on Sunday. He missed Monday’s game with Utah and is likely to miss Wednesday’s game when the Celtics return home to play the Suns. With Nate Robinson in Oklahoma City, the Celtics are relying on West to be the third guard, not only backing up Rajon Rondo, but Ray Allen as well.

But it’s at backup point guard where they desperately need his steady hand and veteran experience. Rookie Avery Bradley took those minutes against Utah and was more aggressive and confident than he’s been to date, but Bradley is not the answer this season. The Celtics need West to be healthy.

Report: Knicks to buy out Corey Brewer, who could fit with Celtics

Monday, February 28th, 2011

In a mild surprise, the Knicks are working on a buyout with Corey Brewer, per ESPN’s Marc Stein, presumably to make room for Jared Jeffries once he clears waivers. Stein has the Celtics in the mix for Brewer’s services, along with the Thunder, Spurs and Mavericks.

Players have to be placed on waivers by the end of Tuesday to be eligible for another team’s playoff roster. Once a player is bought out of his contract, he must be placed on waivers. The waiver period is 48 hours. If no one claims him, Brewer will become a free agent and can sign anywhere for the veterans minimum.

As part of the Florida team that won back-to-back national championships, and later as a lottery pick, Brewer carries solid name recognition. But in four years in the NBA he has proved to be a limited offensive player. Brewer is a 40 percent shooter from the floor and a 41 percent shooter from 3-point range. He’ll also turn 25 this week, so there’s much development time left for him. Still, he’s an athletic 6-foot-9 and has value as a wing defender.

Why the fuss over Troy Murphy

Monday, February 28th, 2011

On Sunday, Golden State reached a buyout with forward Troy Murphy. On Monday they put him on waivers. Once he clears the 48-hour waiver process, he is a free man and eligible to sign with any team that will have him for the veterans minimum. Players are rarely claimed on waivers in the NBA because teams must be under the cap and have roster space available to put in a claim.

Once he clears, Murphy is expected to choose between Miami and Boston — and assuming he does — he will get to do something that has eluded him during his 10-year NBA career: Play a game in the postseason. Murphy has appeared in 639 regular seasons and scored over 7,500 points and recorded over 5,000 rebounds, but he has never once seen the playoffs.

For the first nine years of his career he played on poor Golden State and Indiana teams. He did it with solid distinction, averaging 12 points and eight rebounds and shooting 39 percent from 3-point range. But over the summer he was traded to New Jersey in a larger transaction that saw players like Darren Collison go to Indiana and Trevor Ariza wind up in New Orleans.

Murphy’s value was primarily as an expiring contract, but the native of Morristown, NJ figured to add some scoring punch and veteran mentoring for rookie Derrick Favors. It didn’t work out that way. Murphy clashed with Nets coach Avery Johnson and was effectively banished. Murphy played just 18 games for the Nets and logged fewer than 300 minutes, while his shooting percentages tumbled. He was dealt again at the trade deadline for Brandan Wright and Dan Gadzuric‘s expiring contract.

So why all the attention?

Despite his struggles this season, Murphy has a long track record as a dependable performer. He’s a very good defensive rebounder and at 6-foot-11 he is the quintessential stretch-four — a big man who can step out on the perimeter, make shots and spread the defense. He’s also easily one of the best players available in a thin free agent lot.

For the Celtics, Murphy would bring his shooting ability as well as offer insurance in case anything happens to Kevin Garnett or Glen Davis. With uncertainty surrounding the health of Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal, he also could conceivably serve as backup center in a lineup with Garnett, and offer even more flexibility for coach Doc Rivers.

But perhaps the real carrot for the Celtics is keeping him away from Miami. The Heat suffered a major blow when they lost Udonis Haslem earlier in the season and Murphy would offer a big body and a shooter for a Miami bench that needs help.

Delonte West sprains ankle, out for Utah game

Monday, February 28th, 2011

During an informal workout Sunday, Celtics guard Delonte West sprained his right ankle when he stepped on another player’s foot and will be out for the Celtics game Monday night against Utah. Doc Ricers told reporters in Utah that West is also questionable for Wednesday’s game with Phoenix when the team returns to the Garden.

This latest injury once again puts the Celtics in a bind as West is the only experienced point guard on the roster behind Rajon Rondo, following Nate Robinson‘s trade to the Thunder. Rookie Avery Bradley, who has played 10 minutes in his five games since returning from the D-League will likely back up Rondo for the time being.

Another option for Rivers is using Paul Pierce as a point-forward. That worked in stretches earlier in the season when Rondo was out with injuries.

Stephen A. Smith on D&C: ‘I still believe that Rasheed Wallace is going to come back’

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Veteran columnist and radio host Stephen A. Smith joined the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning to talk about the Celtics and NBA news. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Smith made news recently by speculating that Rasheed Wallace would end his retirement and return to the Celtics. Smith explained that Wallace indicated last June ‘€” when the player talked about his retirement ‘€” that he would consider returning after the trade deadline this season.

“He was alluding [in June] to coming back once the trading deadline expired if the Celtics needed him, that he would think about it,” Smith said. “And throughout this year, he had been saying one day, he wants to come back, the other day, he doesn’t want to come back. ‘€¦ He was going back and forth throughout the year. One day he wants to come back, another day he doesn’t want to come back. One minute he’s thinking about going to Orlando, the next minute he misses all the boys he was with in Boston last year.

“So, I simply said I think he’s going to end up coming back to Boston, because I believe that Boston is going to be the team that fights the Lakers for the world championship, and I believe that Doc Rivers is the ultimate motivator. And I think if you have an opportunity to play for Doc Rivers for a couple of months, that’s not something that you’re going to turn down. I still believe that. I still believe that Rasheed Wallace is going to come back.”

Smith called the trade of Kendrick Perkins to the Thunder “a devasating blow” to Boston, but he remains convinced that the Celtics will beat the Heat and win the Eastern Conference en route to an NBA title. Smith said he can’t pick a team that starts Erick Dampier at center, and that the Celtics can slow the games down, taking away the Heat’s uptempo style.

“If [the Celtics] play the kind of defense they always play, I can’t see how the Miami Heat can beat them in a seven-game series,” he said.

Added Smith: “I believe in Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal, and I think somehow, someway, specifically Shaquille O’Neal can offset the loss of Kendrick Perkins. And I think that will be enough to get you back to the NBA finals, where I believe they will beat the Los Angeles Lakers.”

The Perkins trade hurts the Celtics more emotionally than physically, Smith explained. “There’s no doubt in my mind that the Boston Celtics made the right move for the long term,” he said. “But short term, I think it’s a devastating blow. Kendrick Perkins is a big body, a wide body, he’s very, very physical. And I’m one of those people who firmly believes that if Kendrick Perkins hadn’t gotten hurt in Game 6 of the NBA finals that the Boston Celtics would be the reigning defending world champions right now. I think they would have beaten the Lakers in Game 7.

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Irish Coffee: ‘The Association’ observations (Episode 3)

Monday, February 28th, 2011

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

Episode 3 of “The Association: Boston Celtics” didn’t disappoint. Filmed in the midst of all the drama surrounding Kevin Garnett‘s on-court antics, the Celtics All-Star forward became the focal point of the show. We got some rare glimpses of Garnett behind the scenes, like running the beaches in his hometown of Malibu and looking out over the Pacific Ocean. He gave us some true gems that could only come from the mind of KG:

  • “I feel like my intensity is right where it needs to be. If you’re going to be anything in this league, you’ve gotta have an edge. There’s no room for soft. There’s no room for a person who’s going to give ground. Hell, yeah, I’m trying to gain an advantage out here. If you’re not, then you’re in some trouble. If you can’t handle it, get off the court.”
  • “My job is to stop you, so I don’t anticipate you liking me. I don’t anticipate you trying to be my friend, because I’m not trying to be your friend.”
  • “Half the stuff you probably hear about me is not even true. I’m not doing anything different than what I’ve been doing the 15, 16 years I’ve been playing. It’s nothing personal towards anybody I play. It’s the way I play, night in and night out.”
  • “Game 7 was a time where I was speechless, and if I were sitting here to tell you it didn’t give me an extra push, then I would be lying.” [followed by a loooooooooooong pause]
  • “The league knows what we are. Everybody. Ain’t nothing to talk about. All our talk is in our play, so stay tuned.”
  • “Water is tranquil. It’s tranquility to me. You get a sense of peace. I’m on of thoes people that sort of embraces the moment. I reflect. It’s a tranquil moment for me. It’s crazy that a lot of people when they meet me, they expect me to be this intense guy, and a lot of times I’m just laid back and as cool as anybody else.”
  • “Everybody says they want to win, but sometimes actions are different from words. That’s what’s most important to me when it comes to basketball.”
  • “See y’all in the Finals.”

Garnett may have been the focus of the episode, but his supporting cast should get some Bust Supporting Actor nominations, too. Here are a few more observations:

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Examining the Celtics’ buyout options

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

In the year and a half since Leon Powe left Boston after the 2009 season, he has played just 34 games. He also has not played in a game since Jan. 5. But Powe is available after he was waived by the Cavaliers and that’s enough to put him on the Celtics‘ radar screen as they look to fill two, and possibly three, roster spots before the playoffs.

The Celtics currently have 13 players on the roster counting Chris Johnson, whom they signed to a 10-day contract out of the D-League. In the wake of the trades that sent Semih Erden, Luke Harangody and Marquis Daniels out of town, team president Danny Ainge finally has the flexibility to add more pieces.

“We’€™d like to add someone at each position,” Ainge said in an interview with WEEI. “A wing player, either a great shooter or a defender, not both. We’€™d like to shore up our frontline. We would probably look for another guard, but that’€™s probably the least of it.”

Here’s how the roster looks as of Sunday night:

PG: Rajon Rondo, Delonte West, Avery Bradley

SG: Ray Allen, Von Wafer

SF: Paul Pierce, Jeff Green

PF: Kevin Garnett, Glen Davis

C: Nenad Krstic, Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Johnson, Jermaine O’Neal

(Note: Johnson is on a 10-day contract. The Celtics have the option of signing him to another 10-day contract when this one runs out. Then they would have to decide whether to sign him for the rest of the year.)

The issue for the Celtics right now is the limited number of players who might be available. To be eligible for someone’s postseason roster, players under contract must be waived before Tuesday, March 1. They can sign any time after that, but as Tuesday’s deadline draws near, the pool continues to shrink, not expand.

The Bobcats apparently plan to keep center Joel Przybilla. Jared Jeffries was bought out by the Rockets, but he is expected to go back to New York. You can forget about any Marcus Camby dreams and Sam Dalembert is staying with the Kings.

UPDATE: Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports reported Sunday night that the Clippers have reached a buyout with Rasual Butler. According to Spears, his list of teams includes the Celtics.

Then there’s the strange saga of Rip Hamilton. According to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Hamilton nixed a trade that would have sent him to Cleveland and then declined overtures on a buyout, while also orchestrating an embarrassing boycott of coach John Kuester, with whom he has been feuding.

The real prize in the buyout season is Troy Murphy, who has reportedly worked out a buyout with the Warriors as of late Sunday. Murphy will be the most coveted name available, with the Celtics competing with Miami for his services. It says something about the shallow pool of talent available that a player who has seen action in just 18 games and logged less than 300 minutes this season will be that in demand.

Which brings us back to Powe. He’s 27 years old with bad knees, but again, he’s available. Powe is still beloved in the locker room and he’s obviously familiar with Doc Rivers‘ system. Even in limited minutes, he’s shown flashes. He also may be one of the few legitimate options. Murphy and Powe are the two best big man options and acquiring one, if not both, will be the Celtics’ biggest priority.

Here’s a look at some other players who may interest the Celtics. (more…)