Archive for October, 2012

Irish Coffee: C’s chemistry at a 9 or 10 but not ’08 level

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

After the Celtics started an unofficial training camp almost a month early, Rajon Rondo organized a players-only trip to Los Angeles and everyone drew parallels between the C’s Euro trip prior to the 2008 NBA championship run and their exhibition expedition to Turkey and Milan this preseason, we’re quick to assume this unit can form a bond on the court as quickly as that one did. After all, both groups returned only six players from the previous year.

On a scale from 1 to 10, Jeff Green called this team’s current chemistry a nine. In typical Rondo fashion, he placed it at a 10. And Kevin Garnett said, “Chemistry is very, very high, man.” But Paul Pierce disagrees.

“We’€™re still building chemistry,” he said. “Chemistry sometimes doesn’€™t happen overnight like in ‘€™08, so we’€™re still trying to build that. When you look at the number of new players we’€™ve got, we’€™re still trying to implement them.”

Let’s get one thing straight: This group isn’t anything like the one five years ago. That 2007-08 team started 29-3. Twenty nine and freaking three. For a variety of reasons, don’t expect this team to replicate that feat.

“As far as being ready, we’€™re going to continue to get better as the year goes on,” added Pierce. “We’€™re not where we want to be, but that’€™s going to come as we play more games, as the year goes along, until we reach our peak.”

(more…)

Introducing the Celtics’ backup point guards, all of them

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Over the past five seasons the following players have attempted to fill the role of Rajon Rondo‘s backup: Eddie House, Sam Cassell, Stephon Marbury, Tony Allen, Nate Robinson, Delonte West, Keyon Dooling and Avery Bradley.

Also appearing in minor roles: E’Twaun Moore, Carlos Arroyo, Gabe Pruitt and the immortal Lester Hudson. (Oliver Lafayette never played in an actual game, but go ahead and throw his name in there as well along with Jamar Smith.)

“We’€™ve never really had, like, a true backup point,” said Doc Rivers. Of the dozen or so players listed above only two players — Marbury and Cassell — were anything like true point guards, but they sure have tried almost everybody else on the combo guard platter.

This year figures to be different. No, they still don’t have a true backup point guard, but what Rivers does have are four guards who can all handle the ball.

“I like it,” the coach said. “I like that there are multiple guys. Instead of trying to force and find a guy who’s a point guard, just find two guys who can dribble.”

An example happened in Saturday’s exhibition game against the Knicks. With Rondo off the floor, Jason Terry and Courtney Lee were on the court together. In Rivers words, the two were “interchangeable.” If one of them was pressured in the backcourt, the other one brought the ball up the floor and initiated the offense. (more…)

Kevin Garnett: ‘Jeff [Green]‘s a lot more aggressive’

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Following the final Celtics preseason game, C’s coach Doc Rivers called Jeff Green the most impressive player in their eight games against European and NBA competition, and Kevin Garnett offered some insight into why.

Green sat at his locker across the room, unbeknownst to Garnett as he explained the difference between this Green and the one who came to Boston for the final 26 games of the 2010-11 season.

“Jeff’€™s a lot more aggressive than I can remember, man,” said Garnett. “I can remember when he first got here. Maybe he was just understanding his role or whatever — at times he was tentative.”

A laugh came from across the room. Garnett looked up, saw Green and yelled: “What’s up J?”

“But now I think he has a different appreciation,” Garnett continued. “He’€™s playing like it, man. He’€™s playing like he knows he’€™s going to be here. He understands his role, he’€™s aggressive and we’€™re going to need that from him. I told him he’€™s got an old school game like James Worthy. To see him back, to see him refreshed, doing the things he loves to do, it’€™s good to see him back, so I’€™m happy for him.”

And Green shouted back: “Appreciate it.”

It wasn’t the first time Green heard the Worthy comparison. Throughout the preseason, Celtics broadcasters Mike Gorman and Brian Scalabrine made the same analogy — one Green wasn’t comfortable making himself, offering his respect to the Lakers Hall of Famer via Twitter.

He’s not Worthy, but Green earned Garnett’s praise. His knees wrapped in ice and his post-surgery heart healthy after playing more minutes than any other member of the C’s this preseason, Green averaged 13.9 points (49.4 FG%, 40.0 3P%, 67.7 FT%), 4.9 rebounds and almost four free throws in 30 minutes a night through eight games.

Fast Break: 76ers sink Celtics in final preseason game

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

Dorell Wright (20 points) and Nick Young (15 points) led the 76ers in scoring, and no member of the Celtics scored more than 12 points. It was that kind of night at the Garden in the C’s eighth and final preseason game — an 88-79 loss to Philadelphia.

The Celtics finished 3-5 during the preseason (2-4 against NBA teams), but more importantly emerged from those eight games with a healthy Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett entering their final week of training camp before facing the Heat on opening night.

Rondo (12 points, 10 assists) and Jeff Green (12 points, 10 rebounds) each notched a double-double, but the rest of the Celtics shot a combined 17-of-44 (38.6%). Here’s what else went wrong (and a few things that went right, too).

WHAT WENT WRONG

Captain lost at sea: With all the attention that Rondo, Garnett and even Ray Allen garnered this past offseason, Pierce has been somewhat of a forgotten star entering this year — as much as the franchise fixture can be. Still, over his previous three games, he shot 58 percent and scored 63 points on 36 shots. Last night? Not so much. Pierce finished his night 3-for-12 from the field and missed all three of his 3-point attempts.

Sloppy second: Despite sticking to an eight-man rotation that included the usual suspects (except for Jason Terry), the Celtics got completely outplayed by an undermanned Sixers squad in the second quarter. Pierce, Green and Courtney Lee shot a combined 3-for-13, and the C’s shot 33.3 percent as a group. Suddenly, a 22-21 Celtics lead transformed into a 51-41 halftime hole from which they couldn’t escape.

Turnovers: For all that’s changed from last Celtics season to this one, one aspect certainly hasn’t. The turnover bug continues to plague these C’s, as they racked up 21 turnovers that led to 19 76ers points. Pierce was the biggest culprit, committing five, but multiple giveaways by Green and Brandon Bass didn’t help, either.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Pointed in the right direction: After the summer of Rondo, when he declared himself the game’s best point guard, the C’s floor general has emboldened the belief that he’ll enjoy a career year — no small feat for a 26-year-old with four All-Defensive bids and three All-Star nods in addition to an All-NBA selection, an assist crown, a steals title and an NBA championship. Once again, he looked sharp, collecting 12 points, 10 assists and four rebounds against just one turnover.

Two’s a crowd: With a wealth of options at his disposal — including Terry, Lee and eventually both Avery Bradley and Leandro Barbosa — Celtics coach Doc Rivers continued to try just about anything and everything, opting for Green as his starting shooting guard. As he’s done in just about every role he’s been asked to play this preseason, Green produced at the 2, totaling four points, five rebounds, two steals and a pair of blocks in the opening quarter. The logjam at the off-guard spot isn’t such a bad problem for a coach to have.

Lee from 3: Shooting just 4-for-17 from 3-point range in his first seven preseason games, Lee had yet to knock down multiple triples in a single game. This from a career 39 percent 3-point shooter. In his final attempt before the regular season begins on Oct. 30, Lee connected on 2-of-3 long-balls. He also reached double-digit scoring (10 points) for the fifth time in eight games.

Irish Coffee: Limiting Doc Rivers’ Celtics lineup options

Friday, October 19th, 2012

Celtics coach Doc Rivers has options. Kind of like Leonardo DiCaprio has options. It’s hard to choose from the depth and versatility of talent at his disposal, so he tries every combination at his disposal. Eventually, the cream rises to the top, and that appears to be what has happened over the C’s past two preseason games against the Nets. In other words, Rivers may have found his Gisele Bundchen, Bar Rafaeli and Blake Lively of lineups.

In the first three-plus quarters of the two games against Brooklyn — before Micah Downs, Kris Joseph, Robert Kurz or Fab Melo made obligatory fourth-quarter appearances — Rivers used 23 different lineups. Other than starters Rajon Rondo, Courtney Lee, Paul Pierce, Jared Sullinger and Kevin Garnett, no unit played longer than 8:36 together. Before making any observations, here are the combinations, playing time and plus/minus statistics.

(more…)

Fast Break: Celtics find their groove in rout over Nets

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

After the Celtics lost another preseason game on Tuesday, Rajon Rondo didn’t sugarcoat his thoughts. “We’€™re nowhere near where we want to be,” he said. “We’ve got to be a better pick and roll team [defensively], a better help-side team and obviously a better rebounding team.”

The preseason wins and losses don’t matter, but at some point the C’s wanted to start playing like the team they expect to see on opening night in Miami. Finally, in the first quarter of their exhibition rematch with the Nets in Brooklyn, the Celtics looked like the Celtics.

With Jared Sullinger and Courtney Lee in the starting lineup, the Celtics held Brooklyn to 3-for-16 shooting and just 15 points in the first quarter. They forced seven turnovers and came up with six steals — three by Lee — and generally made life miserable for Brooklyn’s regular starting five.

When the starters went out, the reserves — led by Jeff Green, Jason Terry and Brandon Bass — were efficient and productive. The Celtics shot 56 percent in the first half and had a 59-44 at the break. After a sluggish start to the second half, they picked it up again and cruised to a 115-85 win.

Here are some takeaways:

Paul Pierce is in regular-season form: After dropping 29 points on 17 shots against the Nets on Tuesday, Pierce said that it was time to get going. “I was really disappointed with the way I played the last couple of games, he said. “So, I wanted to start picking it up right now.” Consider his game picked up. Pierce followed up Tuesday night’s effort with 18 points on just 9 shots, including 4-for-4 from 3-point range.

Jared Sullinger and Brandon Bass played together: Like a lot of teams, the Nets don’t really have a backup center so when they went with Andray Blatche and Reggie Evans, Doc Rivers countered with Sullinger and Bass. It was the first time the two have been in the lineup together and while it’s not fair to call either one of them a “center,” they held their own inside. It’s yet another interesting look, especially with Darko Milicic (wrist) and Chris Wilcox (back) out of the lineup.

At one point Rivers had Sullinger, Bass and Green on the floor along with Rondo and Lee, making for a far more athletic and dynamic look than anything he’s been able to put together in years.

Jason Terry and Courtney Lee on the break: After years of watching the Celtics not run with Rondo, it’s a little strange to see backcourt partners who can’t wait to get up and down the floor with him. Lee’s young legs and athleticism were an obvious draw when he was acquired him from Houston, but Terry has been a bit of a revelation in transition. His favorite move is to hang back as the trailer and wait for Rondo to find him for wide-open 3′s on the secondary break, while Lee is straight speed to the rim.

Lee finished with 18 points on 8-for-12 shooting, while Terry made all 5 of his 3-pointers for 15 points. The roles will sort themselves out, but it seems clear that Rondo will have plenty of options next to him this season.

Kevin Garnett had a solid night: In four preseason games, Garnett has averaged less than 5 points and 4 rebounds in just under 15 minutes of action. It’s not as if anyone was worried about KG’s lack of production. Still it was still time for him to kick it up a notch, and he did with 14 points on 7-for-9 shooting in 22 minutes.

Kris Joseph made an impression: It sure looks like the second-round draft pick from Syracuse will make the final 15-man roster, but nothing is ever guaranteed in the NBA until it is contractually. Given some time with the regulars and all of the fourth quarter to make an impressions, Joseph dropped in 11 points to go with 5 rebounds and showed the kind of versatile offensive game the Celtics liked when they drafted him.

Celtics add Leandro Barbosa to backcourt mix

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

It was only a matter of time before the Celtics made a move for a veteran guard and in Leandro Barbosa they landed the best of a thin lot. To be sure, Barbosa has fallen off from his peak seasons with the Suns when he averaged around 20 points per 36 minutes and registered a PER of 19.4 in 2009 with a True Shooting percentage of .588.

The last two years have not been as kind, however. He was limited by a wrist injury in 2009-10 and then traded to Toronto, where he had more injury problems that affected his shooting, as well as his overall game. Barbosa was then traded again, this time at the deadline to the Pacers, where he saw action in 22 games and struggled in the playoffs, particularly against the Heat.

Barbosa did open some eyes with a strong performance during the Olympics when he averaged 16 points and shot 40 percent from 3-point range for Brazil, and while his days as a change-of-pace sixth man may very well be behind him, he’ll be joining a Celtics team that simply needs backcourt depth.

Barbosa isn’t a true point, but he can handle the backup job behind Rajon Rondo. He’s not the scorer that Jason Terry is, but he can create his own shot. He’s not nearly the defender that Courtney Lee and Avery Bradley are, but unlike Bradley, he’s ready to start the season.

As a fourth or fifth guard he’s more ready than Jamar Smith, who was waived on Tuesday to make room along with Dionte Christmas, and in keeping with the other offseason moves engineered by team president Danny Ainge he offers versatility and some scoring punch.

With Barbosa on board for the veteran minimum, the Celtics have 14 players on guaranteed contracts. Second-round pick Kris Joseph is the likely candidate for the final spot and they will just barely fit under the hard tax line imposed by luxury tax apron. In other words, this is likely Ainge’s final piece to the 2012-13 puzzle.

Barbosa’s not a game-changer, but the Celtics are a little better than they were at the start of the week and a lot deeper in the backcourt.