Archive for February, 2011

Report: Heat no longer staring at Shaq

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

According to the Palm Beach Post, the Heat redecorated the walls leading to their locker room over the All-Star break. The face lift included the removal of images from the team’s title run in 2006, which notably included the sweat-drenched face of former Miami (and current Celtics) center Shaquille O’Neal. In place of images from the Heat’s lone title, the team now has posted images of its current stars, including LeBron James, Dwyane Wade (a holdover from the championship team) and Chris Bosh.

Fast Break: Celtics sail past Clips

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

It took the Celtics a half to get going, but once they got it together the Clippers were no match for them in a 99-92 Celtics victory Saturday night in Los Angeles. (Recap.) Paul Pierce had a team-high 24 points, while Ray Allen added 22 and Kevin Garnett had 16 points and 10 rebounds. Rajon Rondo also had 11 assists.

Here’s what went right and what went wrong on a night when Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic officially became Celtics.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Free throw shooting: The Celtics are an offensive team that relies almost exclusively on making shots from the floor. They don’t get on the offensive glass much and they rarely get to the free throw line relative to other teams. On a night when they struggled to get shots to fall, the Celtics made it work at the free throw line where they took a season-high 41 attempts and made 35 of those shots. They also recorded 14 offensive rebounds, six from Krstic.

Kevin Garnett’s defense on Blake Griffin: It’s not as if Garnett was able to stop Griffin, who had 21 points and 11 rebounds. The rookie phenom had his usual collection of spectacular jams and is an open-floor terror. But Garnett was able to work Griffin out of the low post in the halfcourt and make things difficult on him. Griffin is so good he was still able to flip home impossible shots, but Garnett’s defense was a subtle mastery of the art and a reminder of how technically proficient he is at his craft.

Third quarter: After a first half that was absolutely dreadful (see below), the Celtics outscored the Clippers 34-17 in the third quarter and had 10 assists on 11 field goals, up from just six on 12 in the entire first half. The C’s also clamped down defensively, limiting the Clippers to one shot and controlling the glass.

WHAT WENT WRONG

The first half: The Celtics were fortunate to be down just seven points after a half in which they shot 34 percent and turned it over nine times. Garnett, Pierce and Glen Davis shot a combined 4-for-16. (All three, but especially Pierce completely turned his game around in the second half.)  The Celtics looked disorganized on offense and slow on defense. They were able to hang around by going to the free throw line 17 times, converting 15 shots.

First reaction is a mixed bag: The first glimpse of the new-look Celtics suggests these guys are going to need some time to get used to playing with one another. While Krstic provided some opportunistic work on the offensive glass, he was also a step behind in the defensive rotations and spent most of the first half in foul trouble, while Green appeared tentative.

All that’s to be expected, and it’s worth mentioning that the Celtics actually have four new players getting minutes right now counting Delonte West and D-League pickup Chris Johnson.

As with the rest of the team, the second half was a totally different story for the players who are trying to fit in. Green appeared more confident and West ran the team flawlessly in the fourth quarter. It’s going to take time for all the pieces to fit, but Saturday night’s game was a good first step.

Doc Rivers hopes Jeff Green can be the new James Posey

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Doc Rivers told reporters in Denver that he envisioned newly acquired guard/forward Jeff Green as being a player with the skill set to replicate the contributions made by James Posey in the team’s 2007-08 NBA title run. The Celtics coach suggested that the 24-year-old, whom Boston netted along with Nenad Krstic in exchange for center Kendrick Perkins and guard Nate Robinson, offered the ability to spread the floor with offensive weapons.

“We’ve been trying to get that lineup since Posey left. And I think people forget how many times we did that in the playoffs, which was every fourth quarter for the most part,” Rivers told reporters. “We haven’t been able to duplicate that.”

As for the decision to part with Perkins, who was also a part of that 2007-08 championship team, Rivers said that the performance of Shaquille O’Neal would be critical to the way in which the deal is assessed. O’Neal has not played since Feb. 1, but Rivers said that the 38-year-old is expected to return in good health.

“We need to get Shaq healthy. Shaq will be healthy. But if Shaq plays great, then this deal was obviously really, really good for us,” Rivers said. “And that’s on Shaq. Getting Shaq in great shape, getting him ready, getting him healthy is really going to be important for us in the playoffs.”

Meanwhile, though much of the attention on the locker room dynamics of the deal has fallen on the departure of Perkins from Boston, Green’s exit from Oklahoma City was being treated with comparable gravitas. About 12 minutes into his discussion of the deal with reporters at a press conference, Thunder GM Jeff Presti choked up when he discussed Green’s departure. (more…)

Ian Thomsen: After C’s moves, ‘not sure who they are now’

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Sports Illustrated senior writer Ian Thomsen joined the midday show Friday with guest hosts John Rooke and Kirk Minihane to talk about the Celtics‘ moves this week, mainly the trade that sent Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to the Thunder for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic.

Thomsen said the Celtics forged an identity this season as a big physical team, following their NBA finals loss to the Lakers last June. Now, the identity has changed.

“First of all, I was just wondering who the Celtics are now?” Thomsen said of his initial reaction to the trade. “Before they signed [Shaquille O’Neal] last summer, I was wondering who they were. Because they were outrebounded in the finals, the Lakers front line looked too big for them, even when Perkins was playing. But then when they got Shaq, and you thought about Shaq and Perkins as the front line, now you thought that they were going to have an edge to them, they were going to be able to play down low, they’d always have a big man in there, for 48 minutes, potentially.

“And now again, I’m just not sure who they are now, what the edge is. There are things that they can no longer take for granted: that they can guard Dwight Howard one on one, that they’re going to throw a lot of size at the Lakers ‘€” like a big offensive line that creates room for [Rajon] Rondo and all the other guys.

“So, it’s just now going to be interesting to see what’s going to be the new identity of the team. Because no matter what they do, if they get Troy Murphy or anybody else, it won’t be able to replicate what they had in Perkins. And Shaq just won’t be able to give them enough minutes, even if he’s healthy ‘€” 25, 28, 30 minutes, maybe.”

Looking at matchups against the C’s main competition, such as LeBron James‘ Heat, Thomsen said you can evaluate it a couple of ways.

“It’s like a chicken-or-egg thing,” he said. “Do you respond to matchups of other teams or do you create matchups of your own that they can’t deal with? So now, against Miami, was one reason Boston had an edge over Miami this year because of guys like Kendrick Perkins and the physical edge that they clearly have over Miami? So, you can say, OK, you don’t need to worry about Miami’s big men, so you can afford to get rid of Kendrick Perkins. But in letting go of him, are you letting go of your inherent advantage over them. And now are you sort of playing their game as opposed to making them play your game. They’re less of an imposing team without Perkins. They’re playing more to Miami’s style.

“On the other hand, Jeff Green is huge against LeBron. Because the Celtics knew they couldn’t win without a real backup 3 to help [Paul] Pierce against LeBron, to help against Kobe [Bryant], some of these other big guys on the wings. And now they have that. Jeff Green is going to come off the bench, and LeBron is going to know that for the 43 or 44 minutes he’s playing every playoff game this spring, he’s going to have somebody decent guarding him.”

(more…)

Irish Coffee: Danny Ainge discusses Celtics trades

Friday, February 25th, 2011

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

Once the news came down that the Celtics had traded Kendrick Perkins just before the deadline on Thursday, the instant reaction for most Celtics fans probably went something like this: “Wait, what? I’m sorry, WHAT?!?! What is Danny Ainge thinking?”

When they heard the Celtics president shipped Semih Erden and Luke Harangody to Cleveland for a second-round pick, and then sent Marquis Daniels to Sacramento for cash, most fans (at least the ones on Twitter) seemed to think Ainge had lost his scruples.

He didn’t. There’s proof: The full transcription of his interview with John Ryder and Paul Flannery on the Planet Mikey show Thursday night …

WHY MAKE THE PERKINS TRADE?

“We think it upgrades our team, ultimately, is the reason. You always have to give up something of value to get something of value in return. We feel that this will help our team this year and help us in the future as well.”

ARE THERE CONCERNS ABOUT PERKINS HEALTH?

“Kendrick has had some history of injuries, but he’s recovering. Nobody works harder to recover on their injury than Kendrick, and I think that Kendrick will be fine long-term. …

“Kendrick came back, and he looked good. He worked really hard to get back sooner than we even thought. He’s a great young man, but at the same time we feel like we have a lot of centers, and we have great confidence [Shaquille O’Neal] and Jermaine [O’Neal] will be healthy. And [Nenad] Krstic is probably more healthy than all of those guys at this stage.”

HOW DID THE DEAL DEVELOP?

“It’s something that we’ve discussed periodically. I have conversations throughout the year with a lot of teams, and we take some serious and throw some by the wayside. I wanted to see how our team was playing, and our team was playing great in the absence of Kendrick throughout the season. We beat Miami twice and Chicago and LA and so forth.”

WHAT DOES JEFF GREEN BRING TO THE TABLE?

(more…)

Steve Pagliuca on D&C: ‘Put the emotions aside,’ and deal is good for C’s

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Celtics owner Steve Pagliuca checked in with the Dennis & Callahan show and guest hosts Mike Adams and Bob Halloran on Friday morning to talk about the C’s flurry of moves before Thursday’s trade deadline. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The big trade was Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to the Thunder for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic. Pagliuca said he has confidence president of basketball operations Danny Ainge made the right call.

“I have mixed emotions,” Pagliuca said. “I loved Kendrick Perkins as a person and a player, and he helped us get a championship. So, that’s the tough part of the sports business. You’ve got to try to make the club better if you have opportunities. Danny’s done a great job at that over the last eight years, since we’ve been here. He assessed that this was something that would be great for the short run to help us win a championship again, and the longer run.

“I think it could be a win-win for both clubs. Because their club is full of shooters and they need somebody tough inside, and there’s nobody tougher than Kendrick. We picked up a guy, Jeff Green, who was drafted fifth, averaging 15 points a game, he can play the 3, the 4, maybe even the 2 at times. And Nenad Krstic, who’s a great shooter, which really balances [Rajon] Rondo out. Rondo will have a free lane now, because they’ve got to go out and cover Nenad, because he can hit the shot.”

Added Pagliuca: “Danny, again, I think has done a great job. Put the emotions aside ‘€” because he loves Kendrick as well ‘€” but this will be good for the club.”

The C’s also traded Semih Erden and Luke Harangody to the Cavaliers for a draft pick and shipped the injured Marquis Daniels to the Kings for another pick. This leaves some questions at the center position, as Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal remain sidelined with injuries. Pagliuca said that should turn around soon, as the Celtics’ bench will become a major strength.

“We got two starting players ‘€” one averaging 15 points a game; I think Kristic is averaging close to 10 ‘€” so, yeah, it’s going to make us very deep,” he said. “And on top of that, Shaq is working really hard to come back, and Jermaine is looking good; I saw him on the bike the other day. If all the things go our way, we’re going to have a very deep team going into the playoffs. And I think that’s what Danny wanted to accomplish.”

The other question concerns the toughness the Celtics lost with the departure of Perkins. “We’ve got a lot of tough players,” Pagliuca said. “Shaq’s a pretty tough player, and he’s coming back. He’s pretty tough in the paint there. [Glen Davis] is a tough player. Baby can bang with anybody. Krstic is also a fighter. He’s no wallflower as well. ‘€¦ He’s a fiery player and he wants to win. So, I think we’re going to be very tough and our guys will bring it up a notch.”

Danny Ainge on Planet Mikey: Celtics ‘agonized’ over dealing Kendrick Perkins

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Celtics president Danny Ainge joined WEEI Thursday night to talk about the trade that sent Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to Oklahoma City for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic, as well as the present and future of the team in the wake of the unexpected moves. Ainge said that he and coach Doc Rivers “agonized” over the decision but ultimately decided it was the best interest of the team.

“I’€™m as close to Perk as any of them,” Ainge said. “I have a great relationship with him. I brought him in as an 18-year-old. It was very difficult. We shed some tears today, talking to Perk. It was tough. He’€™s a good kid. I think he’€™s going to a great situation for himself and for his future. I think Oklahoma City is a top-notch franchise and they obviously have some great young players. He has a bright future there, so that does make it a little bit easier.”

Ainge said that while both his health and his pending free agency were concerns, neither one was a deciding factor in making the deal. “He wanted to test the market. Last time, he didn’€™t test the market, and this time he wanted to see what his value was, and that was a concern,” Ainge said. “It wasn’€™t so much of a concern that we would have done something just for that purpose. But the fact we were able in our opinion to help our team for this year and protect ourselves for the future was very good for us.”

On the new additions, Green and Krstic, Ainge said: “We’€™re really excited with the guys that we got. Jeff Green is a terrific player. He’€™s a versatile player. He’€™s playing 37 minutes on one of the top teams in the West as a starter. He’€™s 24 years old. He brings length and athleticism to the game and great versatility. And we like Krstic. Krstic is a terrific shooter. I think he complements Rondo’€™s game very well in that he’€™s another guy that can knock down that mid-range jump shot.”

Ainge noted that Shaquille O’Neal was a week away from returning and that he likely would have come back before Perkins did from his knee strain. He also said that he thought O’Neal would be better suited as a starter than someone coming off the bench and that the team played better when Shaq was in the starting lineup. “Shaq has proven to be excellent with our starters,” he said. “The numbers actually show that he has been better with our starters. We beat all the good teams in the league while Kendrick was out.”

As for the developing veteran free agent market, Ainge said that the Celtics would like add a wing, a frontline player and possibly a guard, although he said that was probably the least of their priorities. He added that they may sign just two players and leave another spot available for now.

To listen to the complete interview, click here.