Archive for March, 2012

Kevin Garnett: ‘I don’t make a lot of friends’

Monday, March 26th, 2012

What we knew: Ryan Hollins came highly recommended to Celtics president Danny Ainge from none other than Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce after the three of them played together in the Los Angeles area over the summer.

What we didn’t know: Hollins and Garnett became fast friends.

“I don’t make a lot of friends, but I can say I made one in him,” said KG. “I like the way the kid approaches the game. He wants to be more than good. You see it in his face. You see it in his work ethic. I’m a big fan of his, so I’m glad he’s here. Like any of the other guys, whatever he wants to know, I’m here for him. So, I’m happy he’s a C.”

It might take a while before Hollins becomes “more than good,” considering the 7-footer has totaled three points and one rebound in his two appearances for the Celtics — understandably appearing lost in the team’s sets on both ends of the floor.

One encouraging sign: After running into Keyon Dooling on a botched pick and roll, Hollins approached head coach Doc Rivers, asking what he did wrong on the play.

Hollins plays with an encouraging energy, attempting to mimic Garnett’s approach.

“I told him to be careful about my intensity,” said KG. “It’ll get him kicked out of the league.”

After all, Hollins earned a technical foul 20 seconds into his Celtics debut against the 76ers on Friday night (along with a fine, according to KG) and a personal foul 10 seconds into Sunday night’s 88-76 loss to the Wizards.

“You might want to be careful with that, you know?” added Garnett. “This intensity comes with a sense of meditation and a sense of under control, but I love his intensity. The kid plays really, really hard.”

Randy Wittman aside, Avery Bradley had a pretty awesome game for the Celtics

Sunday, March 25th, 2012


When your entire team is outscored by a back-up point guard in the first quarter of a regulation NBA game, you’d think you’d be a little more tactful and respectful.

This was the response of Washington coach Randy Wittman when asked about the play of Avery Bradley in Sunday’s 88-76 Celtics win over the Wizards.

“I could have scored those lay-ups,” Wittman said. “I am being serious. We didn’t have anybody guarding him. When I was a player if you gave me four lay-ups o start the game. I’d have a pretty good groove on to make some jump shots. He ought to send us a postcard of thank-yous or something for allowing him to score. I’m sure he thought it was lay-up lines before the game.”

But Wittman was more frustrated at his own team’s incompetence than he was really cutting on Avery Bradley‘s 15 first quarter points on Sunday night.

To Wittman’s point, Bradley hit an 18-foot jumper and then two layups before a 3-points, another three layups. He started the game 7-for-7 en route to a career-high 23 points.

“My main focus is to play hard on the defensive end,” Bradley said. “I was fortunate enough that my teammates could find me in transition.

“I think that it’s just a confidence thing. I’m feeling more confident out there. My teammates make me feel more confident, more comfortable, so then I am knocking down more shots.”

Doc Rivers said he was glad Bradley finally proved what he’d been saying all season – that Bradley can shoot.

“Like I said it’s all about confidence,” Bradley said. “Sometimes I will go into the game being hesitant about shooting. Now if I go into the game if I’m open, I’m open. I’ve been shooting and I’ve been making.

“I just have to keep improving. Doc tells me things I need to improve on, not only him but my teammates, and I’m just hoping to learn whatever I need to get better.”

Now, with Ray Allen out again on Monday, he’ll be asked to do it again on Monday night in Charlotte. But he’ll have to do so nursing the sprained left ankle suffered Friday in Philadelphia.

“It was a little sore, it’s sore now, but I’m just going to get treatment,” Bradley said.

A tired Paul Pierce explains why Celtics can be a ‘tough team to beat’ in playoffs

Sunday, March 25th, 2012


As Paul Pierce was holding court after Boston’s 88-76 dispatching of the hapless Wizards Sunday night, the San Antonio Spurs were doing the same to Philadelphia in the Lone Star state.

As a result, the Celtics find themselves just a half-game out of first in the Atlantic Division again, with a chance to make further hay when they take on the 7-39 Bobcats Monday night in Charlotte.

If the Celtics can take care of business, they could actually find themselves in the No. 4 seed in the East despite the mounting injuries to Ray Allen (ankle), Mickael Pietrus (concussion), Avery Bradley (ankle) and Greg Steimsma (both feet).

But for one night – against the 11-win Wizards – the Celtics looked re-energized if not refreshed after dropping their contest in Philly on Friday night.

“I was actually kind of tired to start the game,” said Paul Pierce, whose 21 points finished just behind Bradley’s game-high 23 points. “You know usually that first game is a rough one but you just try to get your body back adjusted to the time zone, to our home court. When you haven’t played on this court in two weeks it feels like an away game. But our crowd did a good job of keeping us in it, and we got off to a great start. That was the key, especially coming off such a big trip when you have a lot of let downs and lulls, but we responded well.”

As for Bradley, Pierce was grateful for the pick-me-up in the first half since he had just eight points on 3-of-8 shooting in the first half.

“It was great,” Pierce said. “He carried us in the first half. All the great teams and all the champions always have that player who can step up outside the stars and that’s what makes the team, even a better team. And each night we got to have guys, and tonight was Avery. And if that’s something we can have consistently throughout the rest of the year, no matter who it is we are going to be a tough team to beat come playoff time.”

Pierce wasn’t making excuses for beating an 11-win Washington team.

“This is definitely a game we were suppose to win,” Pierce said. “The Washington Wizards are in a rebuilding phase, they traded away a lot of their players, but its just nice to get a win, especially coming off a tough loss and losing Mickael Pietrus.”

Fast Break: Celtics call curtains on Wizards of loss

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

Who needs Ray Allen when the Celtics have Avery Bradley?

Starting in place of the injured Allen (ankle), Bradley emerged as the unlikely offensive hero in a lopsided 88-76 victory against the lowly Wizards (11-37), tallying a career-high 23 points to help the C’s (26-22) climb back to within a game of the 76ers (27-21) for first place in the Atlantic Division (depending on how Philadelphia fared against the Spurs later Sunday night).

Held scoreless for the first quarter, Paul Pierce added 21 points and eight rebounds.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Avery Shuttlesworth: Bradley outscored the Wizards 15-12 all by himself in the first quarter. The same Avery Bradley who had only reached double digits six times all year and entered the game shooting 47 percent from the field. He set a season-high in scoring, and did it by totaling 13 points just 5:15 into the game. By first quarter’s end, Bradley had totaled 15 points on perfect 7-for-7 shooting.

Stieming up: Like Bradley, Greg Stiemsma also started perfect from the floor (4-for-4), totaling 10 points and seven boards by halftime — seemingly on his way to his first career double-double (although he recorded neither a point nor a board after the break). Raise your hand if you had Bradley and Stiemsma as the leading scorers for the Celtics at halftime of a game they led 53-34 through the first 24 minutes.

Stoppable: Whether it was good defense or bad offense — or more likely a combination of the two — the Wizards started an atrocious 3-for-25 from the field, as the Celtics built a 33-12 advantage only 3:20 into the second quarter. The team’s leading scorer, John Wall, missed his first five shots and didn’t score until the final minute of the first half. In fact, Washington didn’t match Bradley’s 15 first-quarter points for the game’s first 16 minutes.

(more…)

Beleaguered Celtics wait for word on Mickael Pietrus

Saturday, March 24th, 2012

Mickael Pietrus was taken off in a stretcher against the 76ers. (AP)

UPDATE: Pietrus has been cleared to return to Boston, where he will be seen by the team’s medical staff.

Just when the Celtics were approaching some kind of normalcy, they had to watch in anguished anxiety as Mickael Pietrus hit the floor with a sudden thud. He lay on the ground for several minutes and left the game with the Sixers on Friday midway through the second quarter after he was loaded on to a stretcher.

There were few firm details on the nature of Pietrus’ injury, but he was taken to a Philadelphia hospital from the arena. In a bit of good news, Pietrus won’t have to spend the night in the hospital but he did remain in Philly for further tests.

Coach Doc Rivers told the media in Philadelphia that Pietrus had an X-ray and CT Scan and would also have an MRI. The official word is a “questionable closed head injury,” which could indicate a concussion.

“It’s just been a hell of a year right now,” Rivers said.

It was just over a year ago when Marquis Daniels suffered a spinal injury against the Magic that required surgery and put him out for the year. In December, the team voided the contract of Jeff Green after a physical revealed an aortic aneurysm that required surgery.

In February, Jermaine O’Neal aggravated a wrist injury that will require surgery to repair a chronic degenerative condition and will keep him out for the rest of the season. In March, tests revealed an aortic condition in forward Chris Wilcox, who will have heart surgery later this month and also be out for the season. The team requested waivers on Wilcox on Friday and signed free agent Ryan Hollins to help out with depth up front.

Without Pietrus, who was subbing for an injured Ray Allen (ankle sprain), and Avery Bradley, who sprained his ankle late in the second quarter, the Celtics didn’t have enough to stay with the 76ers in a 99-86 loss. They were outscored 37-17 in the third quarter, erasing what had been a strong first half in a game that could have vaulted them into first place in the Atlantic Division.

Still, considering all that has happened the last few weeks, their 4-4 road trip looks pretty good. They had one abysmal loss to the Kings last Friday, but otherwise had tough defeats against the Lakers and Nuggets. They beat the Clippers on the second night of a back-to-back, executed late in wins over the Warriors and Hawks and enjoyed an impressive win over the Bucks that gave them the tiebreaker and some breathing room in the playoff race.

“We have a resilient group, though,” said Rivers. “I’m so proud of our team — we just keep sustaining injuries. But guys are just trying to play and win.”

The Celtics return home on Sunday to play the Wizards before heading back out for a back-to-back with the Bobcats on Monday. They have five remaining back-to-backs and one three-in-three, all on the road, in April. They will need to keep that resiliency to finish the regular season, but for now they are simply awaiting word on Pietrus.

Fast Break: C’s beat up in Philly

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

The Atlantic division lead was within grasp Friday night in Philadelphia. With a win the Celtics would usurp the 76ers for first place in the standings. Through 18 minutes, it appeared the C’s were well on their way to that goal as they took a 10 point lead.

Then Mickael Pietrus suffered a jarring injury when he drove to the middle of the paint and awkwardly hit the floor after being fouled. It appeared Pietrus landed on the small of his back. He was taken out on a stretcher and to the nearest hospital.

Boston displayed strong fortitude and gave an admirable effort. But coming into the second night of a back-to-back and with Ray Allen was already unavailable due to an ankle injury, the Celtics simply did not have enough firepower to keep up with the 76ers, falling 99-86.

The 76ers had six players score in double figures. After being held quiet in the first half, Elton Brand (20 points, 10-of-15 shooting) and Lou Williams (19 points) exploded to help lead Philly to victory. For the Celtics, Paul Pierce (20 points, 7-of-11 shooting) and Kevin Garnett (20 points) helped shoulder the scoring load early and Rajon Rondo had a spectacular game setting teammates up with 17 assists, but was held to only six points on a night where they needed him to take more than just five shots that he attempted.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Starting on the right foot: Earlier this month when the Celtics visited the city of brotherly love they were blown out of the gym. With the lead in the Atlantic division hanging in the balance, the C’s came out swinging. Pierce had 11 points in the first six minutes of the game. Bass and Garnett each chipped in eight points in a first quarter that saw Boston shoot 65 percent.

Midway through the second quarter, admist a 76ers’ run, Pietrus violently hit the floor, rendering his night over. Given the nature of the injury, it would be difficult to fault the Celtics for struggling, but the veteran squad regained their composure after being aided by a Doug Collins technical foul, taking a 49-43 lead into halftime. A key to all of this was the Celtics’ efficiency. They did a great job limiting the 76ers opportunities in transition, and only committed five first half turnovers.

Core Performance: With Allen unavailable because of an ankle injury and Pietrus injured in the second quarter, the Celtics needed the rest of their starters to pick up the slack. And they did. Bass, Garnett, and Pierce accounted for 37 of Boston’s 49 first half points, and Rondo distributed the ball extremely well.

WHAT WENT WRONG

The Usual Suspects: The Celtics did well in the first half to impose their will and style of play, but they allowed nine offensive rebounds in the first 24 minutes, and 14 total in the game. On the other end, Boston only corralled three offensive boards.

The 46-35 overall rebounding disadvantage accentuates a season-long issue for Boston. The six-point halftime advantage was largely due to holding the 76ers to just 35 percent shooting from the field. But the margin could have been higher for the C’s had they not relented so many offensive boards and second chances.

Another consistent issue for Boston has been both manufacturing and preventing fast break points. Friday night was no different, as the 76ers held an 18-3 advantage

Third Quarter Meltdown: For the second Friday night game in a row, the C’s were dreadful in the third quarter after competing well in the first half. Last week against the Kings, the Celtics only trailed by one at halftime, but then gave up 41 third quarter points. Friday night, Boston actually led by six at halftime, but gave up 37 points, and only scored 17. Brand, in particular, was dominant, scoring 14 points in the quarter.

Injury Bug: Perhaps the weirdest aspect of these fluke injuries to Boston is that they occur as the player begins to flourish in his role. By all accounts, Jeff Green came into camp early and was excited to contribute. His heart condition found in the preseason dismissed those ambitions before he even participated in practice. Chris Wilcox was having a productive season coming off the bench and proving to be a valuable acquisition late in training camp after struggling with minor injuries initially. But just before this eight-game road trip, his season was ended when team doctors discovered he had a heart condition as well.

Finally, Pietrus’ injury tonight came just minutes after a highlight reel dunk. The affable swingman has been a stalwart for Doc Rivers’ bench and a positive influence in the locker room. In addition to Pietrus going down, Avery Bradley, who has also played well of late, hobbled off the court just before halftime and did not return to the lineup. If either Pietrus or Bradley is ruled out for an elongated period of time, one wonders if it will be the final straw which breaks the Celtics’ back.

Should the Celtics draft Austin Rivers?

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Should the Celtics draft Austin Rivers to play for his father? (AP)

Austin Rivers, the talented son of Celtics coach Doc Rivers, will reportedly declare for the draft after just one season at Duke, per Jeff Goodman of CBSSports. Austin Rivers began the year as the one of the nation’s top recruits but concerns over his lack of ideal scoring guard size — he’s 6-foot-4 — and playing style — high usage rate, undersized shooting guard — sent him from the preseason lottery to the middle of the first round in most draft projections.

Rivers averaged 15.5 points, and shot 43 percent from the floor and 36 percent from 3-point range with 3.4 rebound and 2.1 assists. He also had more turnovers than assists, which indicates that he’s probably more of a scoring guard than a point guard, but he’s still just 19 years old and has the time to develop and figure it out.

Rivers is also undeniably talented. Even if you barely watched him play, you no doubt saw his fluid game-winner that beat North Carolina. Here’s part of the scouting report from Draft Express, who has him ranked 18th at the moment:

“It was Rivers’ athleticism and scoring instincts that made him the catalyst for the Blue Devils offense and defined his role as freshman. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Rivers’s total number of pick and rolls and isolations used this season (356 over 34 games) ranks in the top-5 in the NCAA. Perhaps the only player on Duke’s roster dynamic enough to consistently distort defenses with his dribble penetration and generate his own shot in a pinch, Rivers may not have been his team’s primary ball-handler, but he was the creative force behind his team’s offense all year long, for better or worse.”

It’s worth reading the whole report because he improved steadily in the second half of Duke’s season and again, he’s just 19 years old. (Prediction: Rivers will rise back to the late-lottery).

The Celtics have two first round draft picks in 2012: Their own, plus the one from the Clippers that was acquired from Oklahoma City in the Kendrick Perkins trade. The pick is top-10 protected, but the Clippers seems well on their way to the playoffs, even if they implode along the way.

Those picks are in the 17-18 range for the Celtics and 20-21 for the Clippers, which is exactly where Rivers is slotted to fall at the moment. Even if he was available, it would be surprising if Danny Ainge selected the coach’s son.

First, there’s the simple matter of a coach who is demanding on rookies — a notion the coach says is overplayed — who would also happen to be the rookie’s father. Second, they already have a guard who needs the ball in his hands in Rajon Rondo, a legitimate All-Star point guard, who also happens to have a complicated relationship with the coach.

Coach Rivers has been cagey with his answers about the question. This is what he told Dennis & Callahan in January:

“I would love the opportunity, I guess. It would be uncomfortable. I just think that would be a strange thing to do. Having that said that, I wouldn’t mind. He can score, and I think that would be great for us.”

Doc Rivers has clearly enjoyed watching his son play, often rushing to ACC games during off-days in the Celtics’ schedule. It would be a fascinating story, no doubt, and as coach Rivers said, an argument could be made either way. Still, the educated guess here is that the Celtics will avoid what could be a potentially awkward arrangement.