|Irish Coffee: Five reasons not to panic about Celtics||03.25.13 at 3:00 pm ET|
Add Kevin Garnett and Courtney Lee to the list of walking Celtics wounded. While neither will join Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger on the season-ending injury manifest, only 13 games remain in the regular season, they’ve lost four straight and the goodwill built from a seven-game win streak without Rondo seems like ancient history.
So, is it finally time to bury the C’s this season? Not so fast. Here are five reasons not to panic about the current state of the Celtics, even if they only have 10 healthy bodies at this point.
They’re firmly entrenched in seventh place, even if they’re only two games up on the Bucks.
Even with Rondo, when the Celtics owned a 20-23 record and sat in eighth place, the best they could’ve hoped for was either a sixth or seventh seed and a chance to avoid the Heat until the Eastern Conference finals.
Well, Doc Rivers‘ Rondo-less charges play seven of their remaining 13 games at home, including a four-game stretch from April 3-10 that includes the Pistons, Cavaliers and Wizards. Not a brutal stretch by any measure. Meanwhile, the Bucks face the Thunder (twice), Lakers, Knicks, Heat, Hawks and Nuggets over their final 13 games — seven of which are on the road. As a result, a seventh seed seems to be the C’s most likely scenario.
Their road record isn’t as bad as it seems, even if they’re a putrid 12-23 away from home.
|Celtics sign Shavlik Randolph for remainder of season||03.21.13 at 6:29 pm ET|
As they did with Chinese Basketball Association imports Terrence Williams and D.J. White before him, the Celtics signed Shavlik Randolph for the remainder of the season. The deal includes an option for next season.
Randolph has appeared in three games for the C’s this season, averaging 3.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in 12.0 minutes per game. He posted highs of six points, eight rebounds and two steals against Charlotte on March 16.
Randolph played the maximum of two 10-day contracts since March 1, so the team had to make a decision about his future on Thursday. Barring an outright cut, the Celtics roster is set at 15 for the remainder of the season.
|Danny Ainge: Jeff Green ‘deserves to be on the court most minutes’||03.21.13 at 6:05 pm ET|
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge joined Salk & Holley in his weekly Thursday afternoon appearance to face questions about his team’s tough losses to the Hornets and Heat, Jeff Green‘s (lack of) playing time and the NCAA tournament.
C’s coach Doc Rivers, who ripped his team’s performance in New Orleans, only played Green 26 minutes and resorted to another off-balanced Paul Pierce isolation jumper in the 87-86 loss. Even Ainge seemed to have questions about those decisions.
“I think Jeff is starting to prove and has proven to Doc that he deserves to be on the court most minutes of the game,” Ainge said. “Doc needs something off the bench, and I think he’s trying to figure all that out.
“And he will. He’s played Jeff at the 2 and the 3 and the 4 this year, and so I think that last night might’ve been a good opportunity for Jeff to play more at the 2. They had two big guys in there. They were killing us on the glass in the second half. I think in one stretch it was 27-9, and that just shows you lack of effort.”
Ainge stopped himself before including Green’s second-half performance as part of that lack of effort, but he did cite Brandon Bass‘ improved play in defense of Rivers’ decision and eventually blamed the loss on the backcourt.
“I think that last night maybe [we needed] some Jeff at the 2 guard,” said Ainge, who watched Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee combine for eight points in 39 combined minutes, “because our guard play was not good last night.’
While Ainge commended Anthony Davis‘ effort in what he termed “a bad loss” — calling the Hornets rookie “a Spiderman” and “a young, athletic KG” — he also expressed disappointment in his team’s late-game execution.
|Celtics sign D.J. White for remainder of season||03.20.13 at 2:33 pm ET|
The Celtics have signed D.J. White for the remainder of the season.
White averaged 2.8 points and 1.5 rebounds in just 6.8 minutes over four appearances since originally arriving in Boston from China on Feb. 28. The two sides reached a deal before the C’s had to part ways with the 6-foot-9, 250-pound big man upon completing the maximum of two 10-day contracts.
The Celtics announced “a multi-year contract” with White, and while terms of the deal were not disclosed, it’s likely the team owns an option for the 2013-14 season — much like the contract Terrence Williams signed earlier this month.
The next domino to fall should be Shavlik Randolph, whose second 10-day contract expires on Thursday. Randolph made the trip to New Orleans for the opener of the C’s three-game road trip, indicating the Celtics expect to reach a similar agreement with the journeyman forward.
|LeBron James ‘glad’ dunk came against Jason Terry||03.20.13 at 2:14 pm ET|
By now, you’ve seen LeBron James‘ monster dunk over Jason Terry that will probably go up against DeAndre Jordan‘s posterization of Brandon Knight for the NBA’s Dunk of the Year. Well, apparently so has LeBron.
“I’ve had a chance to [review] it, and it was one of my better ones,” James told ESPN.com two days after Miami’s 105-103 victory in Boston. “The fact that it happened to J.T. made it that much sweeter. Because we all know J.T. and he talks too much sometimes. And I’m glad it happened to him.”
The beef began when Terry’s Mavericks defeated LeBron’s Heat for the 2011 NBA title. It continued on the eve of Monday’s Celtics-Heat battle, when Terry declared in his diary: “I know ways to beat them,” and, “The blueprint is right here before us and we know it.” Strong words from the 6-foot-2, 180-pound C’s guard.
Then again, so were LeBron’s in the immediate aftermath of earning a taunting technical for standing over Terry like Godzilla over his own carnage. “I seen him down there,” James said Monday. “I guess he didn’t see me.”
Pretty sure he saw LeBron, who stands six inches taller and weighs 70 pounds more than Terry.
|Dwyane Wade: ‘There’s some dislike’ among Heat, Celtics||03.19.13 at 1:00 pm ET|
The celebration in the Heat locker room could be heard from the hallway after Miami’s 105-103 win over the Celtics on Monday night, which seemed strange — considering the absences of Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett — until Dwyane Wade reminded everyone his team doesn’t like Boston all that much.
“It’s a Celtics-Heat game,” said Wade, who scored 16 points in 36 minutes, mostly against Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee. “It’s always like that, man. Whether it’s the first game of the year or the last game of the year, it’s always like that. No matter who’s on the court, no matter who’s playing, it’s going to be a battle, and here they’ve beat us in those games. Tonight, we were able to pull it out, and it just shows the growth of our team.
“We know we’re getting the best from Boston every time we play them,” he added. “There’s a dislike there. It’s a different focus, especially here in this building.”
Conversely, the Garden crowd apparently focused its ire on former Celtics star turned Heat role player Ray Allen.
“Nobody pulled punches for me today,” said Allen, who scored six points in 30 minutes. “I heard some pretty brutal things in the building today, and people really let me know how they felt. I don’t go into it with any expectation, but I’m on the other team, so they’re going to say whatever they can and whatever they think they need to say.”
Maybe that’s why Allen pretended Celtics-Heat isn’t a rivalry in the aftermath of yet another memorable meeting.
“When I played here, our rivals were the Lakers, Pistons and New York,” said Allen. “That’s deep-seeded. It comes from a lot of basketball, and we’ll see how the years go to determine if that’s the case.”
OK, then. So, I guess those 20 games and 980 minutes of basketball between the two teams over the past three seasons have just been all in good fun. I don’t remember Rondo laughing when Wade dislocated his elbow, when Paul Pierce head-butted James Jones, when LeBron James laughed in Garnett’s face or when KG ignored Allen’s return to Boston. It’s kind of a touchy subject, especially if you ask LeBron.
‘Why does it always have to be, ‘They gave us a war’?” said James. “There’s never us giving anybody else a war, huh? That’s how y’all like it? That’s all that matters is the win. That’s all that matters.’
For more on the rivalry — and that’s exactly what it is — read this column: “James, Heat don’t scare Celtics.”
|Fast Break: LeBron James spoils Jeff Green’s career night||03.18.13 at 11:00 pm ET|
Jeff Green (career-high 43 points) became the first Celtics player not named Paul Pierce in more than 12 years to score 43 points in the regular season, and it still wasn’t enough to end the Heat’s winning streak, which LeBron James (37 points, 12 assists, 7 rebounds) extended to 23 games in a 105-103 thriller in the Garden.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Garnett loss: Considering they shot 62 percent from the field in the first half, the Celtics’ offense didn’t miss Garnett all that much — thanks to Green’s monster night. The defense? Different story. After building a 17-point lead, the C’s allowed five straight second-quarter layups. Doc Rivers quickly reinserted Avery Bradley — whose ridiculous chase-down block of Norris Cole gave the C’s a brief lift — but Miami responded with a 12-4 run to close the half, taking a more manageable six-point deficit into the break. That doesn’t happen with Garnett. Of course, neither do the Heat’s 8-0 run to start the second half nor the 18-4 string down the stretch of the fourth quarter, each of which erased comfortable Celtics leads.
LeBron being LeBron: Growing increasingly frustrated with his teammates — even showing up Chris Bosh when the Heat center allowed Brandon Bass to waltz into lane for an offensive rebound on a missed free throw — James took over. He showed again and again why he’s the game’s greatest player, even if for one night Green gave him a run for his money. When he wasn’t posterizing Jason Terry, he was drawing defenders and finding everyone from Ray Allen to Shane Battier for wide-open 3-point attempts.
Bench pressed: At some point, there’s a breaking point. Since Garnett’s absence moved Green into the starting lineup, the reserves featured only two players who started the season with the Celtics. Outside of Jason Terry, who knocked down four of his six attempts in 24 minutes, the C’s didn’t get much from the rest of the roster. For the most part, Jordan Crawford (8 points) seemed lost, Chris Wilcox racked up the fouls and the China trio of Terrence Williams, D.J. White and Shavlik Randolph didn’t see the floor.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Green lantern: Either James and Green switched jerseys, or Green played his best basketball in a Celtics uniform. The C’s closed the first quarter on a 17-0 run, including 12 points from Green, to take a 31-19 lead after one. That momentum carried into the second, as Green scored 22 points in a span of 10:43, nearly playing the Heat to a standstill (24-22) through the games’s first 15 minutes. What’s more, he grabbed six boards in that same span — twice his season average. Basically, Green unlocked God mode for 15 minutes.
Truth matters: You can bet Rivers took mental note as his starting combination of Green and Pierce gave the Heat fits. While Miami attempted to guard one of the two with Udonis Haslem (and for some reasonn Chris Andersen), Green and Pierce took advantage. As the former enjoyed a career night, the latter submitted another retro performance, quietly approaching a triple-double (17 points, 8 assists, 8 rebounds) in tandem.
Quality Lee: Courtney Lee followed up perhaps his most complete performance of the season (13 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks against the Bobcats) with another solid effort against the Heat. He contributed 13 points — including a huge fourth-qaurter triple to snap a 9-0 Heat run — to go along with four assists, three rebounds and three steals. His performance helped offset a mostly underwhelming night for fellow pitbull Avery Bradley, who struggled in the face of fullcourt pressure from Miami’s Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole.