Archive for December, 2011

Doc Rivers not pulling punches: We need to start fast

Saturday, December 24th, 2011


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The Celtics tipoff their 66th season Sunday in New York, and never has it been more important to start fast.

Each team will have 66 games to get to the postseason. There is much less margin for error to find your rhythm, just ask Doc Rivers.

“I think you have to start fast and I think you have to stay fast,” Rivers said Friday, 48 hours before the season opener at Madison Square Garden. “Now, the calming down part, if we’re playing unbelievable, I’m going to calm them down. If we’re playing poorly, either way I’m going to leave that up to you guys.”

Rivers asked the media to keep everyone on a even keel, because he’ll be busy with other matters, like managing his team through a compressed schedule.

“If that does happen, I’m going to ask you guys, can you calm them down because I’m not going to notice,” Rivers said. “I really don’t notice when people are excited or not because I’m into the team, so you guys can watch that for me and report back.”

NBA Offseason Review: Atlantic Division

Saturday, December 24th, 2011

Given the drama (and comedy) that was the NBA lockout, the ensuing free agency frenzy and the vetoed trade by a commissioner of a group of owners who was acting as the general manager of an individual team that is owned by that same group of owners, it’s easy to get confused about who landed where. This is the fifth of six daily division-by-division reviews leading up to opening day.

NBA Offseason Review: Pacific Division
NBA Offseason Review: Northwest Division
NBA Offseason Review: Southwest Division
NBA Offseason Review: Southeast Division
NBA Offseason Review: Central Division

NEW YORK KNICKS

2010-11 record: 42-40
2010-11 standing: 2nd in Atlantic Division; lost Eastern Conference first round to Celtics, 4-0
NBA draft picks: 17. Iman Shumpert; 45. Josh Harrellson
Key additions: Tyson Chandler (free agent); Baron Davis (amnesty); Mike Bibby (FA)
Key substractions: Chauncey Billups (amnesty); Shawne Williams (free agent); Ronny Turiaf (FA)
2011-12 starters: PG Toney Douglas; SG Landry Fields; SF Melo Anthony; PF Amare Stoudemire; C Chandler
2011-12 wins over/under (sportsbook.com): 39.5
2011-12 prediction: 40-26

NEW JERSEY NETS

2010-11 record: 24-58
2010-11 standing: 4th in Atlantic Division
NBA draft picks: 25. Marshon Brooks; 31. Bojan Bogdanovic; 36. Jordan Williams
Key additions: Shawne Williams (free agent); Shelden Williams (FA)
Key substractions: Sasha Vujacic (free agent); Travis Outlaw (amnesty)
2011-12 starters: PG Deron Williams; SG Tony Morrow; SF Damion James; PF Kris Humphries; C Brook Lopez
2011-12 wins over/under (sportsbook.com): 21.5
2011-12 prediction: 25-41

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

2010-11 record: 41-41
2010-11 standing: 3rd in Atlantic Division
NBA draft picks: 16. Nikola Vucevic; 50. Lavoy Allen
Key additions: None
Key substractions: None
2011-12 starters: PG Jrue Holiday; SG Jodie Meeks; SF Andre Iguadola; PF Elton Brand; C Spencer Hawes
2011-12 wins over/under (sportsbook.com): 30.5
2011-12 prediction: 34-32

BOSTON CELTICS

2010-11 record: 56-26
2010-11 standing: Won Atlantic Division; lost Eastern Conference semis to Heat, 4-1
NBA draft picks: 27. JaJuan Johnson; 55. E’Twuan Moore
Key additions: Brandon Bass (trade); Keyon Dooling (trade); Chris Wilcox (free agent)
Key substractions: Jeff Green (injury); Glen Davis (trade); Shaquille O’Neal (retired); Nenad Krstic (Russia)
2011-12 starters: PG Rajon Rondo; SG Ray Allen; SF Paul Pierce; PF Kevin Garnett; C Jermaine O’Neal
2011-12 wins over/under (sportsbook.com): 41.5
2011-12 prediction: 41-25

TORONTO RAPTORS

2010-11 record: 22-60
2010-11 standing: 5th in Atlantic Division
NBA draft picks: 5. Jonas Valanciunas
Key additions: Aaron Gray (free agent); Jamaal Magloire (FA); Rasual Butler (FA)
Key substractions: Sonny Weems (free agent); Reggie Evans (FA)
2011-12 starters: PG Jose Calderon; SG DeMar DeRozan; SF James Johnson; PF Andrea Bargnani; C Amir Johnson
2011-12 wins over/under (sportsbook.com): 16.5
2011-12 prediction: 13-53

NBA Power Rankings, 2011-12

Saturday, December 24th, 2011

Let’s be honest here. No one really knows how this NBA season is going to turn out. It will take weeks, if not months, for teams to figure out who they are how they want to play and it’s a question of when (not if) injuries will begin to mount in this jam-packed schedule.

With that in mind, we’ve divided the initial Power Rankings into tiers beginning with the true contenders all the way down to the lottery-bound cellar dwellers. There will be an immense amount of change in the Power Rankings once the games begin for real and teams begin to separate themselves. Last year’s record are in parenthesis.

THE CONTENDERS

Miami (58-24): The Heat have had a year to play together and there are no more excuses for a team with two of the top five players in the league, an All-Star big man and a stronger supporting cast with the addition of Shane Battier. The road to the finals in he East runs through Biscayne Bay Blvd and the West is in the midst of a major reorganization. This is the year for LeBron James to finally break through and bury his demons.

Oklahoma City (55-27): During the playoffs, Thunder guard Russell Westbrook experienced what Rajon Rondo has been dealing with his entire career. When he’s great, they’re practically unbeatable and when he’s off he gets most of the blame. This is also a big year for Kevin Durant, who quietly took a minor step back last season. The Thunder are the anti-Heat and now that they have their playoff legs underneath them, they seem almost predestined to meet in the finals.

Chicago (62-20): The Bulls are just hanging out, quietly bringing back their entire rotation and adding Rip Hamilton to take some of the scoring load of Derrick Rose. The key in this short season is their young and athletic frontline including unheralded Omer Asik and Taj Gibson. The problem is they don’t matchup well with Miami.

OLD AND IN THE WAY

Dallas (57-25): Rather than keep their championship team together to try and squeeze one more title out of their aging core, the Mavericks let Tyson Chandler, DeShawn Stevenson and JJ Barea walk and added Lamar Odom for a bag of magic salary cap beans. The Mavs are dangerous as long as Dirk Nowitzki still breathes, but they are also eying next summer when they will have tons of cap space to reload for another run.

LA Lakers (57-25): Speaking of Odom, he’s looking more and more like a straight salary dump, which is curious for a team that almost landed Chris Paul. It’s hard to see what the end game is for a franchise that hired Jason Kapono and Josh McRoberts to play meaningful minutes. Still, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum are enough of a foundation to at least make them dangerous.

Boston (56-26): The Celtics are clearly in a transition stage as they added useful complimentary players, but didn’t change the team’s core or address their future. Everyone knows the deal: If Rondo and the Big Three are healthy and happy when May comes around, the Celtics will be the proverbial playoff team that no one wants to play. Beyond that is anyone’s guess.

San Antonio (61-21): No one is talking about the Spurs, which is totally fine with Tim Duncan and company. It’s not like they’ll fall completely off the map, but they’re not likely to be any better this season, either. The Spurs are in a strange kind of limbo: Their potential for disaster isn’t as great as Boston or the Lakers, but their days as a contender are likely over.

Orlando (52-30): As long as Dwight Howard remains, the Magic have to be taken seriously, but if he leaves their roster has disaster written all over it with commitments to players no one else wants. Orlando didn’t address any of its major needs and it’s hard to see how this ends well. (more…)

Jermaine O’Neal: Now, ‘I feel like I know what I’m doing’

Saturday, December 24th, 2011


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No one was more disappointed about the way last season ended in Miami than Jermaine O’Neal. He had just begun to find his legs in the playoffs, playing significant minutes and becoming a force after injuries to his left knee and left wrist caused him to miss 58 regular season games.

But now he’s healthy and ready to go. He says he hasn’t felt this good since finishing the 2009-10 season in Miami, when he played and started 70 games.

“I felt strong, I felt knowledgable about the system,” O’Neal said. “Now I feel comfortable with the guys and the guys felt comfortable with me. I think the coaching staff feel comfortable with me. Last year, no one knew what to expect since I wasn’t out there.”

Doc Rivers called him the “MVP of training camp” and believes the C’s will be getting the real O’Neal this season. O’Neal doesn’t want to disappoint.

“I think all of us want to do the job Doc expects us to do,” O’Neal said Friday. “I feel like we have enough size, enough mobility to play the style of game we want to play.”

O’Neal, if healthy, could be a huge difference-maker this season for the Celtics. He has average 14 points and just over seven rebounds a game and is considered one of the best defensive centers in the league when healthy.

“You talk about our size, there’s not many teams that have legitimately three or four seven-footers,” O’Neal said. “We have 6-10, 6-11, three or four of those guys who can really do a lot of different things. I think a lot of guys are just mentally focused on doing their jobs. If we do our jobs, we’ll be fine.”

O’Neal could never get on track last season, battling injuries and splitting practice time with Shaquille O’Neal and Glen Davis as the Celtics desperately searched for an answer in the low post. (more…)

Pavlovic Ready to Fill Starting Role for Injured Pierce

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

WALTHAM — Friday after practice, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said team captain Paul Pierce is unlikely to play on Sunday’s opening day match-up against the Knicks.  According to Rivers even if trainer Ed Lacerte clears him to play, Pierce will not be in the starting lineup and will only log about 15-20 minutes in the contest. Rivers said the void left by Pierce’s nagging right-heel injury will be filled, most likely, by ninth-year veteran, Sasha Pavlovic.

Pavlovic played 17 games in Boston last season, and was signed late in this year’s shortened training camp. Pavlovic feels better about his role on the team following last season’s stint, and also realizes he has large shoes to fill Christmas day. “I feel a lot more comfortable,” Pavlovic said. “It’s going to be tough with Paul not going, but whenever coach calls my name I’m going to be ready.”

Pavlovic played with three other teams last season, before signing with the Celtics at the tail end of the year. Before last year Pavlovic played one year in Minnesota. Though, he is best known for being a key role player for five seasons in Cleveland, including the 2006-07 team which made a run to the NBA Finals. (more…)

NBA Offseason Review: Central Division

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

Given the drama (and comedy) that was the NBA lockout, the ensuing free agency frenzy and the vetoed trade by a commissioner of a group of owners who was acting as the general manager of an individual team that is owned by that same group of owners, it’s easy to get confused about who landed where. This is the fifth of six daily division-by-division reviews leading up to opening day.

NBA Offseason Review: Pacific Division
NBA Offseason Review: Northwest Division
NBA Offseason Review: Southwest Division
NBA Offseason Review: Southeast Division

INDIANA PACERS

2010-11 record: 37-45
2010-11 standing: 2nd in Central Division
NBA draft picks: None
Key additions: David West (free agent); Louis Amundson (trade); George Hill (trade)
Key substractions: Josh McRoberts (free agent); Brandon Rush (trade); Mike Dunleavy (FA); T.J. Ford (FA)
2011-12 starters: PG Darren Collison; SG Paul George; SF Danny Granger; PG David West; C Roy Hibbert
2011-12 wins over/under (sportsbook.com): 31.5
2011-12 prediction: 36-30

CHICAGO BULLS

2010-11 record: 62-20
2010-11 standing: Won Central Division
NBA draft picks: 23. Nikola Mirotic; 30. Jimmy Butler
Key additions: Richard Hamilton (buyout)
Key substractions: Keith Bogans (waived); Kurt Thomas (free agent)
2011-12 starters: PG Derrick Rose; SG Hamilton; SF Luol Deng; PF Carlos Boozer; C Joakim Noah
2011-12 wins over/under (sportsbook.com): 46.5
2011-12 prediction: 49-17

(more…)

Could Mickael Pietrus be the final piece of Celtics roster?

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

On Wednesday, Celtics coach Doc Rivers hinted that the team would keep one of their 15 roster spots open in case someone else was waived or bought out. On Thursday, the C’s waived three of their own players, bringing their count to 14 and sure enough, Phoenix elected to cut ties with Mickael Pietrus, a 6-foot-6 wing player, who would fit in nicely on a team that needs depth at both wing positions.

Pietrus still has to pass through waivers, but if he’s available he’d be an upgrade over whatever is left in the free agent market.

The 29-year-old Pietrus has had a consistent eight-year career in Golden State, Orlando and Phoenix. He takes a lot of 3’s and makes them at about a 36 percent clip. He’s developing a reputation as an offensive player who passes only as a last resort, but the Celtics could use a little of that on their second team (in moderation).

He’s also a willing defender with the required length and athleticism to be a versatile backup. He’s more of a defensive stopper in theory than a legit Bruce Bowen doppelganger, but the tools are there.

Pietrus was great in 2010 playoffs with the Magic, averaging better than 10 points a game and shooting 39 percent from 3-point range as Orlando advanced to the NBA finals, knocking off the Celtics in the second round in the process.

His departure from Phoenix is not without some controversy. He had surgery on his right knee in July after he was declared unable to play with the French national team. The Suns traded him to Toronto, but the deal was negated after he failed the physical.

Suns coach Alvin Gentry told the Arizona Republic, “He was really our kind of player — a big guy who can shoot. In order for it to be a good fit, you’ve got to want to be here and I’m not sure he was every fully engaged about being here.”

If his knee holds up, Pietrus would be a solid fit for the Celtics who need more depth on the wing and a proven backup to Ray Allen. They have four wing players behind Allen and Paul PierceMarquis Daniels, Sasha Pavlovic, Avery Bradley and E’Twuan Moore, and none of them is a proven 3-point threat. (He’d be an interesting fit, as well. Pietrus was involved in the Kevin Garnett-Channing Frye incident last season, throwing a left hand in the vicinity of Garnett’s thorax).

For all the concern about the lack of centers, the Celtics actually have six frontcourt players including rookie JaJuan Johnson and Greg Stiemsma behind the likely rotation of Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O’Neal, Brandon Bass and Chris Wilcox. Their biggest need by far is depth on the wing behind Allen and Pierce and Pietrus is one of the few players available who could play both roles.