|Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett from enemy’s perspective||01.25.14 at 1:53 am ET|
As the Celtics prepare to welcome Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett back to Boston on Sunday, one member of the new-look franchise knows the two legends of the game all too well from the opposite side of the ball. Joel Anthony endured three straight playoff meetings against the Celtics from 2010-12 as a member of the Heat.
“More than anything, you just wanted to beat them,” said Anthony, who entered the league the same year Garnett came to Boston. “You really, really wanted to beat them. They made you want to be like that because of how they played and how they competed. It’s really the beauty of the game, the beauty of basketball — the whole competition aspect and what you love about the game – to be able to have those type of moments, those battles, those types of feelings and emotions. That’s what it’s all about — to be able to have those battles with that team was special.”
Particularly after a brutal loss to an undermanned Thunder team, Anthony’s reminiscence of those series — a five-game Celtics win before LeBron James‘ arrival during the magical 2010 run, the five-game Heat victory when Rondo dislocated his elbow in 2011 and the epic seven-game Eastern Conference finals in 2012 — will make any basketball fan long for one more matchup between those grit and balls C’s and King James ascending to his throne.
“You respected who they were, what type of team they were and how good of a team that they were,” Anthony said. “Those were the games that guys really got up for, because we knew we were going to be in a battle with those guys every single night and every single minute on the floor. That was just the biggest thing, knowing that they were such competitors — that team was such a tough team to play against every single night.”
As Pierce and Garnett’s arrival in Nets uniforms will attest on Sunday, those days of meaningful Celtics-Lakers and Celtics-Heat playoff meetings are long gone — a chapter in NBA history that will be remembered the same way Larry Bird‘s Celtics and Magic Johnson‘s Lakers ultimately made way for Michael Jordan‘s Bulls.
There were a lot of tough battles for LeBron when he was in Cleveland and with us in Miami, a lot of pain from losing to that team,” added Anthony. “They were an extremely good basketball team, and so to be able to win those games was big, because it was really a huge step for us to be able to get that monkey off our back in terms of surpassing a team that you struggled against and that you respected, but that you wanted to beat more than anything.”
Was it really mutual respect, or was there more to it than that? Because it sure seemed like there was more to it than that. “I think there was some dislike in there,” said Anthony. “Yeah, there was some dislike in there.”
Regardless, Anthony remembers Pierce and Garnett the way most everyone does.
“KG’s intensity and demeanor,” he said. “Defensively, especially, he changed how that team was. They kind of took on his identity. And, in terms of Paul, his ability to hit those big shots. They’d find a way to keep it close, and Paul would end up getting the ball in some kind of iso and find a way to always make big shots.”
Yup, that’s Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in a nutshell. Even Rajon Rondo, who called their homecoming “just another game,” knows deep down Sunday will be special. There are too many memories for it not to be.
|Rajon Rondo: Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett return ‘just another game’||01.25.14 at 12:39 am ET|
In between providing one-word answers about his current state of play, Celtics captain Rajon Rondo likewise shed little light on his expectations for Sunday’s Boston homecoming for Nets Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
“It’s just another game,” Rondo said after an 18-point loss to the Kevin Durant-less Thunder. “We need to win.”
Like his team’s record, which dropped to 15-30 after a 16th loss in 19 games, the point guard’s return from ACL surgery has been a work in little progress. As one member of the Celtics organization said afterwards, Rondo was really only Rondo for one play. His minutes limit prevents him from getting into a rhythm, and as he said, “Plays I usually make, I’m not making right now, but I still feel positive and I’m OK with my progression right now.”
Here’s a sample of what was a typically tenuous Rondo interview after a 101-83 loss to Oklahoma City.
Do you feel like you’re more of yourself out there every game? “I’m getting there.”
Is it disappointing the way you guys came out tonight? “Yeah.”
What happened? “We didn’t get stops.”
How do you judge your progress? “I just take it one game at a time.”
Is there something you’re looking for? “Yeah, but I don’t want to say.”
|Fast Break: Kevin Durant-less Thunder strike down Celtics||01.24.14 at 9:45 pm ET|
While Carmelo Anthony was scoring 56 points through three quarters at Madison Square Garden, the Celtics netted just 59 through 36 minutes in Boston, and the Kevin Durant-less, Russell Westbrook-less Thunder swept the parquet with them, 101-83, handing the C’s their 16th loss in 19 tries.
Only Jeff Green (16 points on 17 shots), Gerald Wallace (13 points) and Brandon Bass (11 points) reached double figures for the Celtics (15-30). Rajon Rondo had five points, eight assists and two rebounds in his fourth game back — and first since resting on Wednesday.
WHAT WENT WRONG
No slim reaper: After setting the NBA world on fire over the past month, Durant rested against the Celtics. The Thunder surprised the media with news of Durant’s apparent shoulder injury before the game. It was his first DNP of the season and only trip to Boston in 2013-14 — an unfortunate revelation a couple hours before tipoff for Celtics fans who paid to see one of the game’s most fascinating players face their lottery-bound home team.
Lambasted: With Durant sitting and Westbrook still nursing an injured knee, the Celtics had a real chance to slow one the league’s top-five offenses, but Jeremy Lamb had different ideas. The UConn product scored 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting in 15 first-half minutes, leading Oklahoma City to a 50-46 advantage at the break.
Rondo’s reintroduction: As Brad Stevens has noted, Rondo is still in preseason form. The spacing of his minutes-per-quarter prevent him from getting into a rhythm, and he’s not finishing around the rim for whatever reason (confidence, legs, confidence in his legs). After scoring a single point and missing all eight shots against the Heat and resting against the Wizards, Rondo finished with five points on seven shots.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Sharing is caring: With the unselfish duo of Rondo and Phil Pressey manning the point, the Celtics actually ran an offense, resulting in 10 assists on 11 buckets and a 73.3 field goal percentage in the first quarter. That trend tapered off a bit while 17 turnovers and the Thunder’s 53.8 percent shooting didn’t help matters.
Crashus Clay: In two home games since Rondo’s return, Wallace has shown signs of life, scoring in the double digits and filling up the stat sheet. After posting a 14-4-5 with three steals and two blocks against the Lakers a week ago, he totaled three assists, two rebounds and three steals against the Thunder. Now, if he could only contribute on a more consistent basis, he might raise his grade from the first-semester report card.
|LeBron James, Kevin Durant headline NBA All-Star Game starters||01.23.14 at 9:44 pm ET|
The NBA announced the starters for the 2014 NBA All-Star Game, and naturally leading MVP candidates LeBron James and Kevin Durant are the leading vote-getters for the Eastern and Western conferences, respectively.
The roster includes no Celtics, who are in danger of failing to produce an All-Star for the first time since 2007, when Paul Pierce suffered through an injury-plagued season, and only the 10th time in the game’s 63-year history.
Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green are the C’s only hopes for a spot when the voting from coaches reveals the final seven Eastern Conference All-Stars on Jan. 30, but neither is expected the make the roster (unless Rondo receives the sympathy vote for his fifth selection). Each received more than 100,000 fan votes – well shy of a starting spot.
Old friends Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett edged out Rondo and Green in the fan voting for backcourt and frontcourt players, respectively, although Green received 26,006 more votes than Pierce. Here are your 2014 starters:
Bryant, who received his 16th All-Star bid despite participating in just six games this season, will likely be replaced in the starting West backcourt by Chris Paul (804,309 votes) due to the Lakers star’s knee injury.
Likewise, should Wade’s knee injury keep him from participating in his 10th All-Star Game, John Wall (393,129) would be the second starting guard alongside Irving in the East. Among the remaining healthy Eastern Conference guards, only Allen received more votes than Rondo, but his fate lies in the coaches’ hands now.
|Rajon Rondo will sit vs. Wizards, Celtics announce||01.22.14 at 4:40 pm ET|
The Celtics cited “precautionary reasons” for holding out Rondo in just his fourth scheduled game since returning from ACL surgery.
Meanwhile, Jerryd Bayless (toe) and Avery Bradley (ankle) are also expected to miss Wednesday’s game, leaving only undrafted rookie point guard Phil Pressey and recently signed D-League guard Vander Blue as the only healthy members of the C’s backcourt against Wizards starters John Wall and Bradley Beal.
Keep in mind veteran guard Keith Bogans was granted leave from the team over a playing time dispute and remains on the roster for $5.1 million.
|Sonny Parker: Jabari ‘not entertaining’ NBA future until after Duke season||01.21.14 at 2:08 pm ET|
Despite a recent report on NBA.com suggesting Duke freshman phenom Jabari Parker plans to remain in college after this season, the father of the projected top pick in this June’s NBA draft remains adamant that a decision has not been made — and the subject will not even be broached until after the season.
“My wife, my son and I haven’t talked about it,” Jabari’s father, Sonny Parker, who played for the Warriors from 1976-82, told WEEI.com. “We honestly don’t know. After the season, we’ll talk about it. That’s what I told Coach K [Mike Krzyzewski] when he was recruiting Jabari, and that’s what I tell him now.
“We just want Jabari to enjoy the season. People can speculate all they want, but it’s not a discussion. Right now, he’s dealing with being a student-athlete at Duke. He’s not entertaining that.”
All of which makes the Bulls.com report a bit confounding for the Parker camp:
“The growing view among NBA executives seems to be Jabari Parker will not leave Duke this year. Chicagoan Jahlil Okafor, a Parker friend and big man, is going to Duke next season. Parker is a bright young man with a strong family and the feeling is he understands both the importance of education and feels he owes Duke and the chance to have a great Duke team, which more than likely is the next two seasons. Plus, Parker has seen what staying in school has done for other greats compared with the tough starts for even stars like Kobe Bryant.”
While it’s true the Blue Devils, who have been forced to play Parker out of position at the 4 and 5 this season, will welcome a remarkable Class of 2014 — including the nation’s top center and point guard recruits in Okafor and Tyus Jones, respectively (as well as Justise Winslow, the apparent small forward heir to Parker) — the question remains: How could NBA executives know Jabari’s future when he apparently hasn’t even made up his mind?
“We’re not thinking about that right now, and we don’t want him thinking about it,” added Sonny Parker. “He doesn’t want it to be a distraction for his teammates. I don’t know where they’re getting their information, because we really don’t know what he’s going to do. He just wants to have fun, concentrate on this season and enjoy school.”
A remarkably humble elite basketball recruit who led Chicago’s Simeon Career Academy (Derrick Rose‘s alma mater) to a record four straight Illinois Class 4A state titles, Parker has always placed equal values on education, his Mormon faith and a love for basketball, so this speculation was inevitable. After maintaining a 3.71 GPA at the prep level, Parker earned all A’s and B’s in his first semester at Duke, according to his father.
During the recruiting process, his family even suggested the 6-foot-8, 235-pound wing could remain in college all four years, but Krzyzewski told The Dan Patrick Show last month that he expects Parker to enter the 2014 draft.
“Everybody’s got him one-and-done,” said Sonny Parker, who knows many mock drafts have his son listed as high as the No. 1 overall choice. “We know the projections. We know what people are saying. Right now, he just wants to win a championship. Everybody’s saying he’s coming out, but he’ll let us know. That will come from him.”
Meanwhile, Parker is averaging 19.1 points (48.6 FG%, 40.9 3P%, 74.5 FT%), 7.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.1 blocks and 0.9 steals in 29.1 minutes per game for the Blue Devils (14-4). After his scoring average dipped to 10.8 points on just 32.2 percent shooting over a five-game stretch that included losses to Notre Dame and Clemson earlier this month, Parker bounced back with 23 points on 14 shots against N.C. State over the weekend.
“All these people are saying he hit a wall,” Sonny Parker said. “He’s not hitting a wall.”
|Brad Stevens, Celtics still uncertain about Rajon Rondo’s status against Lakers||01.15.14 at 11:17 pm ET|
While Brad Stevens and his Celtics players, depleted backcourt and all, could simply be maintaining the mystery, they sure seemed sincere denying any knowledge about the All-Star point guard’s plans for Friday.
“He hasn’t told anybody,” said Avery Bradley. “We honestly don’t know.”
Rondo dressed and participated in the layup lines for Wednesday’s streak-busting win against the Raptors, but was never a consideration despite this week’s departures of Keith Bogans, Jordan Crawford and MarShon Brooks.
“Well, we were up three with no timeouts trying to get the ball inbounds and one of the best passers in the world was sitting right next to me, so no,” said Stevens. “He would not have been [available]. I told [assistant coach] Jay Larranaga he was next, and [assistant] Walter [McCarty] was right after him, depending on what we needed.”
The coach said he still hasn’t been told whether or not Rondo will be available to play against the Lakers. If so, “he’s only going to play 18-20 minutes.” Members of the organization contend the decision is entirely up to the point guard. He’s been practicing for weeks, has been cleared to play and faces no known hurdles in his rehab.
Yet, Bradley & Co. maintain: “I’m not sure if he is going to play. I’m not sure when he’s going to play.”