Archive for September, 2012

Doc Rivers’ coaching challenge

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

While the NBA continues to undergo what the writer Bethlehem Shoals once termed “the positional revolution,” the Celtics largely have stayed true to traditional lineups. There was good reason for this.

In Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett they had four players who not only fit the archetypes of their positions, they could have served as the model for how we think about point guards, off guards, small forwards and power forwards.

All that was missing was a center, and over the years they have used Kendrick Perkins, Rasheed Wallace and the O’Neal brothers to varying degrees of effectiveness. Coach Doc Rivers also used Glen Davis as an undersized 5, but the one time he was truly able to display a unique look was during the championship season of 2007-08 when James Posey took the court with the other four starters.

That all began to change last season when Rivers moved Garnett to the 5 and inserted Brandon Bass into the starting lineup. The change was enormously successful, but the C’s ran into trouble during the postseason against teams like Philadelphia and Miami that could throw multiple combinations at them and create matchup advantages at various positions.

The Celtics lacked depth, which was a major problem, but they also lacked the personnel to counter some of these moves. That may have changed this offseason when they added Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and Jeff Green to the mix. All three players can play multiple positions. And in loading up on 7-footers (Jason Collins, Darko Milicic and Fab Melo) to go along with Chris Wilcox and Jared Sullinger, the Celtics should be deeper, bigger and more versatile.

At some point this winter they also will welcome back Avery Bradley, who found a home playing off the ball on offense while applying tenacious ball pressure on the defensive end of the court.

“When he comes back, I don’€™t know if anyone has a better guard core than us, but we’€™re going to have to wait for that,” Rivers said. “In the meantime we have three guys who can all play multiple positions. That’€™s the way I would always want to coach, and I have an opportunity to do that.”

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10 things we learned from Rajon Rondo interview

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

The summer of Rondo continues. Yahoo! Sports reporter Marc J. Spears caught up with Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo somewhere between his Asia tour, the now infamous players-only Los Angeles minicamp and the team’s upcoming Euro trip — and the quotes are as golden as they get for Rondo aficionados.

Without further ado, here are 10 things we learned from the Rondo interview.

10. Rondo hung out at Paul Pierce‘s house, chilled at Kevin Garnett‘s crib and ate Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles last week, as did everyone on the Celtics but Darko Milicic. Good times.

9. Rondo calls Jason Terry — and not Justin Timberlake — J.T. — and not “Jet.”

8. Rondo indeed organized the L.A. workouts. “I wanted J.T. to play with Kevin. I wanted Courtney [Lee] to see how Paul likes to play. I wanted Paul and Jeff Green to go at each other. I wanted to play with those guys. It was getting guys away from our actual training facility to get a new view.”

7. Rondo refers to himself in the third person. “I wanted the guys to have fun. When you’re with me I want you to say, ‘Man, I had a good time with Rondo.’ And I think that’s what they did.” (Aside: Is “Man, I had a good time with Rondo” the greatest Rondoism ever? Yes. Yes it is.)

6. Rondo definitely didn’t get along with Ray Allen. “If you look at your job, everyone doesn’t always get along with every co-worker they work with.” OK, then.

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Danny Darko: What do Celtics see in center’s future?

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

Just because Celtics owner Steve Pagliuca says the Celtics can roll out five or six 7-footers doesn’t make it true.

Sure, since the addition of Darko Milicic on a one-year, $1.2 million veteran minimum contract, the C’s feature three legit 7-footers (Milicic, Jason Collins, Fab Melo) and Kevin Garnett, who insists he’s 6-foot-11 but had a bird’s-eye view of Nenad Krstic‘s receding hairline. Throw in 6-foot-10 Chris Wilcox, and Pags isn’t far off. That group could give forwards Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger and Jeff Green a Napoleonic complex.

Still, the Celtics can roll out all the bigs they want. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be any good. We heard the same rhetoric when the C’s entered the 2010-11 NBA season with Shaquille O’Neal, Kendrick Perkins, Jermaine O’Neal and Semih Erden at the 5. So, what should the Celtics expect from these pillars of Boston?

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Jason Terry: ‘My mission is to kill’ Heat, Lakers

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

The way each member of the Celtics brass lobbied for Jason Terry in his foursome at the team’s annual charity golf outing (owners Wyc Grousbeck and Steve Pagliuca won out, obviously), you wonder whether Doc Rivers & Co. lured Terry more for his ability to replace Ray Allen on the course rather than the court.

But really C’s president Danny Ainge sought Terry for three simple reasons: Scoring, scoring and more scoring.

“We wanted a scorer off the dribble,” said Rivers. “We do it every year right after the season: I always sit down and write Danny a long letter about needs, and that was my No. 1 need.”

So, Rivers knew exactly who to put on speed dial once NBA free agency began, and as Terry said, “When Doc calls, you answer.” The conversation probably went something like this: Your mission, Jason, should you choose to accept it, involves the recovery of a stagnant offense.

“My mission is to kill, whoever that is, whether it’€™s the Heat or whether it’€™s the Lakers — hopefully both,” said the 35-year-old Terry, “but that’€™s my mission, and that’€™s what I’€™m here to do.”

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Celtics camp questions: Is there enough size?

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

When Kevin Garnett was on the court during the playoffs last season, the Celtics were a team that was good enough to take the NBA champions to a seventh game in the Eastern Conference finals. When he was not, they were something worse than awful.

The difference between a team with KG and one without him was more than 35 points per 100 possessions. That staggering statistic not only proved just how valuable the ageless big man was, but also how truly dependent the C’s were to his presence.

The mid-season move of Garnett to the center position — which he professes to hate — was the key to their turnaround. The move also opened up a starting job for Brandon Bass, and while the duo yielded one of the more undersized frontcourts in the league, the Celtics went 24-10 after the All-Star break.

Garnett is too fast for most centers and possesses a lethal 20-foot jump shot, which allowed the C’s to spread teams out offensively and give Rajon Rondo room to operate in a congested halfcourt. Bass’ steady diet of 15-foot jumpers added a nice complement to their new-look offense. Defensively, Garnett remains a monster. Arguably the best pick-and-roll defender in the league, he was the linchpin of a defense that once again ranked among the best in the NBA.

Both players are back this season and expected to continue in their roles, but old issues still remain up front, namely rebounding and depth. Never a good offensive rebounding team, the C’s became the worst offensive rebounding team, maybe ever. Generally a strong defensive rebounding team, their percentage slipped to below average during the regular season.

That changed significantly in the postseason with Garnett playing more minutes and channeling his 2004 self on a nightly basis, but there’s no way he can keep up that pace for 82 games. (more…)

Celtics camp questions: How will the new backcourt look?

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

For the first time since the Big Three were originally conceived, the Celtics will have a new shooting guard lining up alongside Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Not since Kendrick Perkins was traded to Oklahoma City have the Celtics undergone such an important change.

Ray Allen‘s departure for Miami was really the culmination of a transformation that was beginning to take shape last season. With Avery Bradley in the starting lineup, the Celtics suddenly became a dynamic defensive team that could also score points at a better-than expected rate. The C’s outscored their opponents by almost 20 points per 100 possessions with Bradley in the starting lineup.

Small sample size or no, Bradley’s emergence help point them in a direction that was less dependent on Allen’s shooting and off-the-ball movement, and increasingly reliant on Rondo’s gift for creating offense for others. In an interesting twist, the Celtics tried desperately to re-sign Allen, but when those efforts failed they turned their attention toward completing the transition toward a more versatile and potentially dynamic backcourt.

The two new additions are Jason Terry and Courtney Lee, shooting guards with entirely different styles of play. (more…)

Bill Russell isn’t chasing ghosts

Friday, September 14th, 2012

The news that the great Bill Russell had recently undergone two heart procedures as reported by Peter Vecsey came as a bit of a shock, but Russell is recovering and he talked to NBA.com about that and more in a wide-ranging Q+A.

Russell explains:

    “I had a valve in my heart that had to be replaced and the way you replace it is by open-heart surgery. Well, open-heart surgery sounds difficult but this was not an emergency. It was something I had to do. The same operation in an emergency is life threatening. This was not life threatening

    They took the valve out and replaced it. It only took a couple of hours to do that. I talked to the doctors after and they said they were pleased with the procedure. They said I would be sore after a while and after that, they said I would feel better than I ever did at this point.”

Russell said that he wasn’t able to play golf or drive, depriving him of two of his favorite activities, but he added helpfully that with all that free time around the house he got to be a grouch.

He also offered his thoughts on LeBron James, the new-look Celtics and even Jeremy Lin for some reason, but there was one other part of the interview that caught my eye. When asked about the debate between the 1992 and 2012 Olympic teams he responded:

    I have this theory that it’s impossible to play against ghosts — past, present or future. That kind of discussion is for non-participants. It’s like video games. Whenever someone would ask me how I would play against this guy or that guy, I always thought that it was like playing against ghosts. Past, present and future and I never get into that discussion. You can only play against your contemporaries.

    Basketball — out of all of the sports — is the most evolving. Whoever the best player is, that’s how the game is played for a generation.

This is the best rebuttal to that particular pseudo debate that I’ve seen this summer. Not only is it self-explanatory, it also reveals a keen insight: The best player at any given time dictates the terms of the game. Whether it was Russell, Wilt, Bird, Magic or Jordan the sport belongs to them for a certain amount of time, however long or fleeting it may be. Comparing players from different eras may be an amusing diversion, but it ultimately accomplishes nothing and Russell — as we know — is all about accomplishments.

You can read the whole Q+A here.