Archive for March, 2012

Celtics’ big man search: Ryan Hollins

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Ryan Hollins is tall, if nothing else. (AP)

For the last three seasons, Ryan Hollins has been an NBA rotation player. First with Minnesota in 2009 and then with the Cavaliers, Hollins has averaged about five points and three rebounds per game as a 16-minute backup center. He’s 7 feet tall, but there’s really nothing that stands out about his game.

He doesn’t create his own shot and while he has a decent touch around the basket and can make a long-distance jumper on occasion, he’s a career 66 percent free throw shooter. He’s the worst defensive rebounding center among players with 20 or more games who play 10-plus minutes per Hoop Data, and he isn’t much of a shot blocker for a 7-footer.

But Hollins is now available after the Cavaliers waived him, and once he clears waivers he’ll undoubtedly be on the Celtics’ list. Despite his overall mediocrity, Hollins has some value to a team like the Celtics. He is athletic and can run the floor, two areas that are in major need of an upgrade.

He’s a center, and with Greg Stiemsma laboring with a sore right foot, the C’s need some protection behind Kevin Garnett, who has played a lot of minutes –about 34 a night — on this road trip. Hollins isn’t a fun name like J.J. Hickson, or as proven as Ronny Turiaf, but he is healthy and had been regularly up until the trade deadline.

As with the other candidates, the Celtics will have to make room on their roster with 15 players under contract. An obvious choices to be waived is Jermaine O’Neal who elected to have season-ending wrist surgery.

The inevitable end for Jermaine O’Neal with the Celtics

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Jermaine O'Neal's time with the Celtics has come to an end, and possibly his career, as well. (AP)

In his year and a half with the Celtics, Jermaine O’Neal played just 49 games and was on the court for only 1,001 minutes. He missed most of the 2010-11 season with a knee injury and on Monday, the team announced that he was going to have surgery to take care of a chronic degenerative wrist condition. O’Neal had wrist issues for years and they became worse after he took a fall in Dallas while trying to take a charge.

“Jermaine worked hard to get himself in condition to play this season despite his ongoing wrist issues,” said Danny Ainge in a statement. “He played through pain the entire year and gave us all he could, but unfortunately after the fall against Dallas there simply wasn’t anything else he could do. We appreciate his contributions to our team over the last two years.”

Make no mistake, O’Neal did play in pain and he played well during the 2011 playoffs, which almost made up for his lack of action during the regular season. The Celtics were hoping for a similar result this season, but they weren’t counting on it.

Ainge tried to trade him for David West during training camp and while he did provide some interior defense in his 20 minutes a night, there always seemed to be an internal battle between the player the team wanted him to be and the player he thought he still was. O’Neal responded to his critics in a fairly epic soliloquy back in December, although it was never really clear who those critics actually were.

“There’s a lot of misconception, a lot of debate, people that supposedly analyze the game,” he said. “When you analyze the game, you’ve got to know what position a team has players in. It’s easy to sit behind tables and say what you think, the fact of the matter with me here, Doc [Rivers] has given a role. All the debate about whether I score, I probably won’t answer that anymore.

“That’s not my role. My role has been given to me and my role has been said, to be a defender, not offensively. The people out there that’s saying I’m struggling offensively. That’s not my concern. I think I’m in the top 10 in blocks. I’m probably leading the NBA in charges as a center. I’m starting to get my legs back as far as rebounding and getting my timing. If you want to judge me, judge me on that. Judge me on how I get out on the pick and roll and help the guards.

“If I’m not rebounding, I’m not blocking shots, I’m not taking charges, I’m not getting on the perimeter and helping the guards, then we have a conversation to have.”

O’Neal was right. The Celtics never asked him to score, and they were almost five points better defensively when he was on the court than when he was off, but it’s still unclear if he actually believed that being a defensive specialist was the best use of his time. Unfortunately for both him and the team, his days as a 20 and 10 guy were long over by the time he came to Boston.With the Celtics he was barely a 5 and 5 man.

His decision to have surgery ends his season and potentially ends his career. Still just 33 years old, O’Neal has spent almost half his life in the NBA, with 16 seasons under his belt.

In his prime he was one of the best players in the league, but his time with the Celtics was mostly one of frustration. Ainge spent $12 million – double that once the luxury tax was collected – and one can make the argument that Rasheed Wallace was actually a better signing. Ainge has taken a lot or criticism over the last few years and his misuse of the mid-level exception is a glaring example.

The end for O’Neal has a touch of symbolism to it. The Celtics are going to get younger and the era of signing aging former stars to be role players is mercifully coming to a close. It’s likely that whoever they wind up signing won’t be nearly as good as O’Neal, but at least they’ll be able to get on the court.

Fast Break: C’s heat up late for win in Hot-lanta

Monday, March 19th, 2012

The Celtics grinded, grinded, and grinded so more en route to a gutsy 79-76 win against the Hawks on Monday night. Ray Allen heated up in the second half and scored 19 points total on 5-of-9 shooting (4-of-6 from 3-point territory), and Rajon Rondo dished out 13 assists. For the Hawks, Joe Johnson scored 25 points points on 9-17 shooting (4-of-5 from 3-point land).

The win improves to Celtics to 24-21 (8-13 on the road) and just two games behind the 76ers for the lead in the Atlantic Division.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Against the Odds: Paul Pierce picked up his fourth personal foul midway through the third quarter. Shortly after, in typical Atlanta fashion, Jeff Teague picked up a technical foul following a thunderous fast break jam. The dunk gave the Hawks an eight-point lead, which was the largest of the game for either team.

When Brandon Bass picked up his fourth foul just a few minutes later, the Celtics looked on their way to a third straight loss. But the Celtics were able to slowly build momentum the rest of the quarter and pull within one going into the fourth quarter, after a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Allen.

Venture the Vice: The Hawks have long considered to be an up-and-coming contender. Monday was a perfect example of why the Celtics are savvy veterans, while the Hawks are still very, very green.

There was the aforementioned misplaced Teague celebration. There was Josh Smith’s curious shot-selection: shooting 2-of-17 after starting the game 3-of-3 from the field. Perhaps most discouraging for Atlanta was that there was no one that stepped up to stop the bleeding as the Celtics went on a 23-7 run to open the fourth quarter, while taking a commanding 15-point lead.

Johnson did heat up late and led the Hawks on an 11-0 run to pull within four points with just over a minute left, but Smith missed an ill-advised three pointer which would have reduced the margin to just one. After trading free-throws, Teague missed a wide-open 3-pointer with 10 seconds left which would have tied the game.

Back On Board: The Celtics rebounding issues have been well-documented. The injuries to the front-court leave them lacking size on their roster. In the 10 games the Celtics have played in March going into Monday night’s contest, they have been out-rebounded by 120 boards.

Boston temporarily-rendered the issue on Monday, only getting out-rebounded 45-40.

Anemic, Yes.  Relatively Speaking, Not Really: The first half of Monday night’s game featured terrible, terrible basketball. Both teams were a combined 28-of-78 shooting (35 percent). And this wasn’t a case of “nothing coming easy” in a match-up of two playoff-bound teams. Neither team was attacking to the basket — as evidenced by the combined eight free throw attempts between each team. Instead, both squads elected to take mid-range jump shots.

The bright side is the Celtics managed to stick around, on the road, despite the putrid performance. The largest lead held by either team was four, and Boston’s 11 first-half turnovers only led to eight points for the Hawks. Doc Rivers and his coaching half certainly won’t be proud of the first 24 minutes, but there is something to be said for hanging tough and staying within reach.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Benched: Greg Stiemsma continued provide Boston with up-and-down play off the bench. He is a liability on offense, but had another productive day defensively — registering four blocks. The rest of the bench no-showed again. Mickael Pietrus, Keyon Dooling, and Avery Bradley combined for 9 points on 3-10 shooting. The Celtics reliance on their starters — which has been an issue for much of the new Big Three era — is concerning, particularly in games where foul trouble is a problem.

The Truth Hurts: Pierce picked up two quick fouls in the first quarter, a third in the second frame, and just a few minutes into the second-half, Pierce was tagged with a fourth foul. Consequently, the Celtics’ captain only played 17 minutes going into the fourth quarter.

In his sporadic playing time, The Truth’s impact was not only minimal, but detrimental. He was 2-of-10 shooting with only two rebounds and four turnovers.

Celtics’ big man search: J.J. Hickson

Monday, March 19th, 2012

It’s not often a team reaches a buyout on a 23-year-old forward who is still on his rookie contract, but that’s what Sacramento has done with J.J. Hickson, per the great Adrian Wojnarowksi of Yahoo! Rare as that move is, it’s even rarer when the team buys out a player when it traded a player — Omri Casspi — and a first-round pick to acquire him, but that’s the Kings these days.

Would he make sense for the Celtics? Sure, but he comes with major caveats.

First, the good news: Hickson can score. He averaged 14 points and 8.7 rebounds for the Cavs in 2010-11. He has a career PER of 14.4 and did we mention he’s only 23 years old?

Now, the bad news: The Cavs traded him after giving him an extended look and he played only 36 games for the Kings while not doing do much with the time he had. Hickson is shooting 37 percent this season. His turnovers are up, his rebounding is down and he’s not exactly known as a defensive force.

Still, Hickson has talent and if he’s available for next to nothing, then it’s a chance the Celtics should take. He clearly has the most upside of anyone currently on the market and they aren’t looking for a 36-minute a night power forward.

However, in order to sign Hickson two things must happen. First, he has to clear waivers and with his low salary (about $2.3 million) and upside, some team may claim him for all of the above reasons. Second, if he does clear waivers, the C’s would have to clear a roster spot by cutting ties with one of their own players.

As with all available big men, the Celtics will have competition. Unlike some veterans, however, they can offer an obvious role as a backup forward and a chance to be part of an interesting rebuilding project while playing alongside Rajon Rondo.

Trade deadline fallout: How the deals affect the Celtics

Monday, March 19th, 2012

The Celtics didn’t do anything about the trade deadline, but a handful of deals have direct, or indirect ramifications for their longterm rebuilding plans.

1. Dwight Howard stays in Orlando

Skip past the drama of the past week and understand that Howard’s decision to not exercise his early termination option is huge for the Celtics. First, it keeps him away from New Jersey who planned to build a team around Howard and Deron Williams. Second, it keeps him with a Magic team that will likely remain capped out for 2012-13. Third, it removes Howard from this summer’s free agent list.

Short of Howard moving to the Western Conference, this is a positive end result for the Celtics, who can now shift their attention elsewhere.

2. New Jersey makes a panic move

After not getting Howard, the Nets traded a top-3 protected pick to Portland for Gerald Wallace in an apparent effort to keep Williams happy. Wallace is a good player and the Nets spin is that the upcoming draft lacks game-changers at the top of the draft. However, what the draft lacks in quality it more than makes up for in quantity and the Nets gave away a coveted future asset for potentially half a season of Wallace.

Williams and Wallace have ETO’s and the Nets run the risk of losing both players at the end of the season. The Nets stay the Nets, in other words. This is good for the Celtics and possibly great for the Mavericks, who will no doubt zero in on Williams this summer.

3. Portland blows it up

Now this was a demolition. The Blazers not only traded Wallace, they also dealt Macus Camby to Houston for Jonny Flynn and Hasheem Thabeet. How does this affect the Celtics? The Blazers cleared a direct path to re-sign Nic Batum, who will be a coveted restricted free agent. Batum would have been perfect alongside Rajon Rondo.

4. Denver acquires JaVale McGee

Interesting move by the Nuggets, who dealt center Nene and his 5-year, $65 million contract. While this seems curious on its face, there is a method the madness. As Mark Deeks wrote, the Nuggets likely never had any intention of keeping Nene through to the end of his deal. He was signed to be traded, which is how a proactive organization goes about its business. (New Jersey, take note).

The principal return was McGee, an athletic shot-blocking freak, known more for his LOL-worthy stunts. However, he’s also an athletic shot-blocking freak and the basketball world is beyond curious to see what happens to McGee now that he is in a structured situation on a good team with a strong-willed coach.

He’ll command huge money as a restricted free agent — again, shot-blocking freaks are rare — and Denver has the upper hand on retaining him. McGee would have been an intriguing possibility for the Celtics, but like Batum he’ll now likely be out of their reach.

Celtics’ big man search: Ronny Turiaf

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

Ronny Turiaf (21) is a presence inside, and he's available after being released by the Nuggets following a trade with the Wizards. (AP)

The big man dominoes are starting to fall as the Nuggets waived Ronny Turiaf after acquiring him from the Wizards in a trade deadline deal. Turiaf is a 6-foot-10, 245-pound forward/center who has posted solid seasons with the Lakers, Warriors and Knicks in his seven-year career. He’s good rebounder and defender with good touch near the basket, averaging 10.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per 36 minutes.

The big question with Turiaf is his health. He played only four games for the Wizards due to a broken left hand this season. Turiaf suffered the injury against the Celtics back on Jan. 1 and it was the same hand that he injured over the summer playing for the French national team. He has not played since the injury, and he told The Washington Post in early March:

“If was just me, choosing to play, I would’ve been back a long time ago. They are putting the strain on myself, on me, because they know sometimes, I may not be the most rational guy when comes to help teammates and to do stuff.”

The other issue with Turiaf is his heart, and for a team that has lost two players to aortic surgery that is no small consideration. After Turiaf was drafted by the Lakers in 2005, doctors found an enlarged aortic root and he underwent open heat surgery. The Lakers voided his contract but re-signed him six months later and he was able to resume his career.

If healthy, Turiaf would be a perfect for the Celtics, who desperately need another big man behind Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass and Greg Stiemsma. Turiaf is versatile enough to play both the center and big forward positions and would provide some needed muscle and size on the interior. With several contending teams look to beef up their frontcourts, the Celtics would certainly have competition for his services.

Irish Coffee: Bill Walton’s St. Patrick’s Day revisited

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

The NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year as a member of the 1985-86 Celtics that finished 67-15 during the regular season — and 41-1 at home in the Boston Garden — on their way to winning 15-of-18 playoff games and the franchise’s 16th NBA title, Bill Walton can wish you a St. Patrick’s Day far better than I can.

So, without further ado, I give you Walton uncensored, about five or six Guinesses deep most likely (from his appearance on the Big Show a year ago):

Bill Walton speaks during the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class announcement, Monday, April 5, 2010, in Indianapolis. Walton was on hand to present the Bob Cousey Award to Greivis Vasquez.

Bill Walton's thirst for life is no secret. Neither is his thirst for Guiness. (AP)

“Go Green. Go Guinness. I’m popping one right now. Ten million pints poured every day around this great globe of ours — the globe, the most perfect orb, just like the basketball. The basketball by itself does nothing, but when you make it an extension of your mind the way that [Rajon] Rondo does, the way that Danny Ainge did and DJ [Dennis Johnson] and Larry [Bird] and Kevin [McHale] and Chief [Robert Parish] and Jerry [Sichting] and Rick [Carlisle] and Scotty [Wedman] and all the guys did — but when you’re able to make an extension of your mind, of what it is you’re doing in life, whether it’s drinking a Guinness responsibly, whether you’re bouncing that magic basketball for the Celtic Green, you can make a difference, and that’s what we’re calling everybody to do on St. Patrick’s Day, the start of the college tournament, the most perfect harmonic convergence ever. Be bold, stand tall, quit your job and chase your dreams. …

“I only drink Guinness, the holy water falling from the sky, delivering spiritual guidance. We’re blessed. We’re so blessed. We’re on record pace, and we’re having the time of our life. …

“When this morning started, and it started more than 24 hours ago, the call to action was to take the day off. Who wants to lead a watered down life? C’mon. Let’s get up and be bold. Forget just taking the day off, just quit your job. Make your dream your job, and that’s what I was able to do. My parents ask me to this very day, ‘So, Billy, did you ever get a job?’ I’m closer than ever to being able to say yes. It’s so special. The remarkable thing about Guinness in our world is that in the mother country, Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday. In Canada, St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday. Somewhere, we got lost along the path, along the golden road to unlimited devotion. …

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