Archive for October, 2012

Stephen A. Smith: Celtics ‘too close’ for Heat to win several consecutive titles

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Stephen A. Smith

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith joined Mut & Merloni Tuesday to discuss the upcoming NBA season and the hot water he’s found himself in over his perceived use of a racial slur last week.

Smith denied saying the slur on ESPN’s “First Take,” though he said he understands that people heard it that way, and that he would have “shook their hands” and accepted it should ESPN have punished him. For Smith’s complete answer regarding the incident, click here.

In discussing the upcoming season, Smith touched on Tuesday night’s season-opener between the Heat and the Celtics, the first game in which Ray Allen will face his old team since rejecting a more lucrative deal from Boston to sign with the defending NBA champions.

Since Allen left, there has been a bit of a war of words between the two sides, as Allen has made numerous comments about the C’s while Kevin Garnett said he deleted Allen’s phone number.

“I think the animosity is real on Boston’s side. I don’t think Ray Allen has that level of animosity for anybody. He’s class personified,” Smith said. “It’s not to say the Boston Celtics are not classy because they very much are, but Ray Allen just isn’t one to get into all of that. That’s never been his MO in all the years that I’ve known him, but the reality of the situation is he doesn’t really have legitimate reasons to harbor animosity.

“When you look at the situation in Boston, yeah you didn’t like getting benched for Avery Bradley, yeah you didn’t like feeling that you were no longer the significant part of the game plan that you were in years past. There’s no way to get around the fact that if you look at the Ray Allen situation in Boston from that standpoint, you have to remember he left them. They offered him twice as much as he’s getting from Miami, even though it was an additional year compared to what Miami was offering him. They offered him more years, they offered him more money and he still decided to leave, but not only did he decide to leave, he decided to leave for somebody that is considered the enemy in that locker room and throughout that franchise in the Miami Heat, particularly since LeBron James arrived.

“That’s why you see Kevin Garnett reacting the way that he’s reacting. Paul Pierce sort of smiled it off, but he’s following KG’s lead because Paul Pierce obviously is a friend of Ray Allen. He loves him. It’s just that he’s a competitor now. Kevin Garnett takes it to another level. Right now he has no love whatsoever for Ray Allen. He looks at Ray Allen as somebody that betrayed him and this franchise. He has no love for him whatsoever. He wants to take him out just as badly as he wants to take the rest of them out and he considers him the enemy. It’s just that simple.” (more…)

NBA Power Rankings, 2012-13

Monday, October 29th, 2012

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It’s almost Halloween, another NBA season is upon us and the league’s landscape changed once again, but the Celtics are title contenders and so too are their most heated rivals. Let’s get right to the 2012-13 debut of our semi-regular NBA power rankings. Here’s the wrinkle: What’s the scariest aspect about each team this year?

Miami Heat1. MiamiLeBron James set the Celtics, Thunder and entire world on fire during his run to a first NBA championship and second gold medal, proving doubters wrong in every corner of the globe (including this cubicle). And he and the Heat only seemed to figure it out midway through the Eastern Conference finals, which means they could be even better, especially with Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis in tow.

Los Angeles Lakers2. L.A. Lakers: A starting five of Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard is terrifying, but so is their bench. The Lakers won’t get 82 games from any of those starters, so how close each comes to that number will determine if they can unseat the Thunder beyond arbitrary power rankings.

Oklahoma City Thunder3. Oklahoma City: After reaching the NBA finals last season, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook got their first taste of what it will take to earn the Larry O’Brien trophy, so they’ll be hungrier than ever. They’ll just have to set the table for Kevin Martin coming off the bench instead of returning Sixth Man of the Year James Harden.

Boston Celtics4. Boston: If the Celtics can reach Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals on grit and balls alone, imagine what they can do with a rotation deeper than six. Once Avery Bradley returns, coach Doc Rivers can go 12 deep and weather most injury storms, which have been downright Hurricane Sandy-esque in recent years.

San Antonio Spurs5. San Antonio: Before losing four straight to OKC in the Western Conference finals, the Spurs won 20 straight and 31-of-33. That’s the value of a deep roster. But I’m still buying more stock in Kevin Garnett, Paul PierceRajon Rondo & Co. than Tim Duncan, Manu GinobiliTony Parker Inc.

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Irish Coffee: Don’t forget about Paul Pierce

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Paul Pierce has been an afterthought this Celtics camp. Well, you know, as much as the captain and face of the NBA’s most storied franchise — and one of the league’s few legit title contenders — can remain in the shadows.

Think about it. The summer began with the return of Kevin Garnett, whose arrival five years ago saved a team relegated to mediocrity for two decades. And it ended with the emergence of Rajon Rondo, who grabbed the reins for the next 10 years. In between, Ray Allen spurned the Celtics, who in turn made their own headlines: Drafting Jared Sullinger, Fab Melo and Kris Joseph; adding Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, Jason Collins, Darko Milicic and Leandro Barbosa; re-signing Brandon Bass; and restoring Avery Bradley, Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox.

Meanwhile, Pierce quietly shared a family photo at the beach here or a picture of his workout routine there. After all, he too rehabbed from injury — a sprained left MCL this past June that may have meant the difference between a Game 7 loss to the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals and a third NBA finals appearance in five seasons.

Heck, Pierce had to share his 35th birthday on Oct. 13 with C’s coach Doc Rivers, who turned 51 the same day. Even his admission to potentially retiring or requesting a trade had Garnett not returned barely moved the needle, as they say. Such is the life now of the 10-time NBA All-Star entering his 15th season for the same franchise.

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Jason Terry on Celtics: ‘We’re legit; we are for real’

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

Jason Terry once again oozing confidence after the Celtics hosted an open practice Sunday at the Garden.

On Celtics-Heat rivalry: “I’ll never forget ’05-06 for me [when the Heat beat his Mavericks in Game 6 of the 2006 NBA finals]. I should be a two-time champion right now, but it wasn’t so. I’ll never forget that feeling, walking off that court in Game 6 in Dallas, when the confetti dropped on our head. I like to remember winning the championship, but what sticks in my mind more than anything is when we lost. I’ve gotta believe it’s a feeling similar to what Boston felt last year in Game 7, so I come right into the rivalry, I’m yearning for it and that’s game No. 1. Whether it was Miami or somebody else, it’s just basketball, it’s the season and it’s Game 1.”

On C’s title chances: “A lot of times when you see your team on paper before the season, you’re like, ‘OK, we might have a chance.’ But as we worked through the September month, which was earlier than usual, into training camp, the trip to Europe to our last practice today, we’re legit; we are for real. And I think to a man we are a very tough team. I think our bench is deep, but our starting lineup is a beast. These are champions. These are guys who know what they want, and the ultimate goal is to win a championship.”

Take your pick, Celtics most unselfish team in NBA

Saturday, October 27th, 2012


WALTHAM — The Celtics under Doc Rivers have made no secret about the key to their success on offense.

Set screens and picks, get your teammate open and the points will follow.

Kevin Garnett is the supreme example and symbol of this philosophy.

Watch Garnett away from the ball during a game and you’ll realize that one of his greatest skills is setting picks. But it’s not just Garnett now. New faces like Darko Milicic, Jared Sullinger and even Jason Terry have been brought in this season. And every single one of them understand the first principle of Celtics offense – do whatever necessary to get your teammate open.

“This is maybe the best pick-setting team,” Rivers said Friday, when asked where this team ranks in terms of setting screens and picks. “Darko loves to pick. Kevin is the best picker in the league. Jared is a good picker.

“JET, surprisingly, if [he's] not the best picker on the team, he’s right there with Kevin. He’s a small, but he loves setting picks. That’s what he did in Dallas with [Dirk Nowitzki], so we’re going to do it here for him.”

Someone who was around last season is big man Chris Wilcox and he sees the value in having Garnett set such a strong, physical example.

“KG shows us every day what we need to do,” said Wilcox. “So all we’ve got to do is just follow his lead and everything else will fall into place. We’ve got to set picks. It’s going to open up everybody. We’ve got guys who can score, so our job is to get them open.”

Sacrifice. It’s one of the cornerstones of the Doc Rivers era and one of the founding principles of Ubuntu. It appears this new group of Celtics team is ready to embrace the age-old concept heading into the season – a good sign for a team looking for a way to get past Miami in the East.

“It’s about sacrifice,” Terry insisted Friday after practice. “It’s about giving up your body when you’re talking about setting picks. A lot of times you’re not going to benefit from it directly, but you’re going to get your teammate open, and that’s what Celtic basketball is all about.

“We’re the best pick-setting team in the league,” Terry proclaimed. “That’s the goal, not only with the best in KG, but 1 through 5, whoever steps on the floor. We’ve made it an emphasis.”

Jason Terry is actually learning to love practice

Friday, October 26th, 2012


WALTHAM — No one is happier to have the season begin on Tuesday night in Miami than Jason Terry.

In the above video, Terry says Rajon Rondo has run him ragged while Doc Rivers has talked him into “loving practice” after spending most of his career hating it.

Doc Rivers is sick of talking about Ray Allen and other notes from Friday

Friday, October 26th, 2012


WALTHAM — Doc Rivers will go with a rotation of starting lineups to start the season, the Celtics coach announced after practice Friday. Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are the certainties when healthy. Rivers said he will rotate Brandon Bass, Jeff Green and rookie Jared Sullinger in the other two spots, depending on various factors.

“Experience, size, it depends on the night,” Rivers said. “I don’t think we’re going to have one starting lineup this year. There’s three that I know of we’ll use. We can move it around.”

The Celtics featured a starting lineup of Rondo, Pierce, Garnett, Green and Bass in their preseason finale against the Sixers, with Sullinger and Courtney Lee seeing significant time as the first two players off the bench.

“We’re going to go the same. Early in year every year, I play 10 guys, whether we have a good 10 or not,” Rivers said with no hesitation. “Ten guys played last year because you have to get through the season, so it’ll be 10 this year for the most part.”

Meanwhile, Rivers said Friday afternoon after practice that he understands his players will be motivated to play the Heat and the Heat and Ray Allen will likely be motivated to play Boston in the season opener Tuesday night in Miami.

“I don’t mind that,” Rivers said. “I don’t think it’s Ray, honestly. I’ve said it before. There may be several guys who want to play against and Ray may want to play against several guys. This is not going to be a ‘Ray-versus-the-Celtics’ game. If it becomes that, we’re going to lose by a lot of points because as good as Ray is, I know of two guys for sure, probably three guys on that team that are a lot better on that team. If we’re focused on Ray, we’re going to lose by 40.” (more…)