|Irish Coffee: Kevin Garnett’s Secret Santa||11.30.12 at 1:05 pm ET|
After an audible pause, Garnett said: “Absolutely nothing.”
“Nothing at all,” Merloni responded. “Not even a card. Nothing?”
“You know what?” said Garnett. “That whole situation kind of came and went. I wish Ray the best. I wish his family the best. But we have Secret Santas around here, and I want to focus on my Secret Santa.”
In terms of Quote of the Year, it’s going to be hard to top KG’s “I want to focus on my Secret Santa.” I picture Garnett picking a Celtics teammate’s name out of a hat (held extremely high by Fab Melo), guarding that secret with his life and constantly surfing his iPad while wearing an ugly Christmas sweater and sipping hot cocoa in front of a crackling fire. Since we’ll never know whose name he picked from the hat, here’s a suggestion for everyone.
|At least Rajon Rondo delivered an early Christmas present: The newest Boston-New York rivalry||11.29.12 at 12:41 pm ET|
If nothing else, the brawl between Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo and Nets forward Kris Humphries gave birth to a brand new Celtics-New York rivalry.
“Anyone know where I can get a quick Tetanus shot in Boston?” Humphries tweeted along with a picture of his battle wounds after Rondo shoved him into the front row.
The C’s response? “Some guys are tough,” answered Jason Terry. “Some guys pretend to be. He’s one of those that pretends to be. I played with him. Maybe that’s the role [Brooklyn coach] Avery [Johnson] wants him to have, but he could leave that to somebody else.”
Terry dubbed Humphries “soft,” a term coach Doc Rivers used to describe his Celtics. Added Terry: “Humphries might as well come play with us then, if that’s the case.”
Meanwhile, Reggie Evans, who beat out Kevin Garnett for the title of “dirtiest player in the NBA” in a Sports Illustrated poll of players last season, lobbed this grenade at Rondo via the New York Daily News: “That’s just like a mosquito in your face. Eventually, you are going to swat at the mosquito, right? You aren’t going to let mosquitos in your face. You are going to get bumps all over your face. So, you have to knock the mosquito down.”
Added Brooklyn point guard Deron Williams: ‘We’re not going to back down. It’s not about being tough guys or anything like that. But we’re not going to back down.’
And newest Nets star Joe Johnson, who also witnessed Rondo’s last suspension-worthy act in the C’s-Hawks playoff series this past May, to The New York Times: ‘We’re trying to hold our own at this point. If you want to do anything special in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics are in the way.’
As Garnett said, “This ain’t the Girl Scouts. This ain’t the Boy Scouts. This is the NBA.” And this is Boston-New York. If nothing else, Rondo gave everyone an early Christmas gift, because the next meeting between the Celtics and Nets — at noon on Dec. 25 — just got more interesting. Get your Girl Scout cookies ready.
|Celtics Jeff Green, Courtney Lee: Egos hurt worse than knee, elbow||11.29.12 at 11:09 am ET|
In the aftermath of the brawl between Rajon Rondo and Kris Humphries, Celtics guard Courtney Lee claimed the Nets “threw the first punch” during the C’s fourth home loss in eight tries this season. He was speaking figuratively, of course, but the Celtics suffered — literally.
Lee (elbow) and Jeff Green (knee) both left the game with injuries, and each returned in the fourth quarter.
“I’m fine,” said Lee, who had no ice on his left elbow as he talked to reporters after the loss. “I’m fine. It was my elbow. My whole arm was stinging, so I didn’t know what was hurt, but after awhile, it wore off and I was fine.”
Meanwhile, Green limped through the locker room — his sprained right knee wrapped in a protective bandage. Celtics coach Doc Rivers told The Dennis & Callahan Morning Show he “didn’t think” Green was hurt, and team personnel confirmed Green’s return to action indicated nothing serious, but he’ll be re-evaluated Thursday.
|Irish Coffee: Summer of Rajon Rondo gives way to winter||11.29.12 at 2:12 am ET|
All summer, everyone from president Danny Ainge to coach Doc Rivers and on down the line told anyone who would listen that this is the 26-year-old point guard’s team now. No longer Paul Pierce‘s. Not Kevin Garnett‘s. But a matured Rondo’s. Then, Wednesday night’s Nets game happened.
Just as he did last season, when he thew a ball at one referee and chest-bumped another, Rondo let his emotions get the best of him, completely overreacting to a hard Kris Humphries foul on Kevin Garnett late in the first half.
As referee crew chief James Caper said after a home Celtics loss to the Nets that was much uglier than the 95-83 final at the TD Garden, “Rondo initiated everything that proceeded after the foul.”
In other words, just as he was last season, Rondo will be suspended, especially considering he threw closed fists as he shoved Humphries into the stands. His history won’t help, either. Speculation sets the over/under on games the Celtics will be without their so-called leader at 3-5 games, but as New York Times reporter Howard Beck suggested, “Nate Robinson and J.R. Smith got 10 games each because they continued fight into the stands.”
Just like his legendary 37-game double-digit assist streak of John Stockton proportions, Rondo’s maturation process came to a screeching halt against the Nets. With it, probably, goes his Most Valuable Player aspirations. When’s the last time an NBA MVP was suspended for fighting during a season? This was the year he was supposed to make the leap. Instead, he takes a step backwards. After the game, Rondo left without speaking to the media, leaving Pierce, Garnett and the rest of his Celtics teammates to face questions only he could answer.
|Fast Break: Rajon Rondo ejected, streak ends and Celtics lose||11.28.12 at 10:09 pm ET|
The Bruins aren’t playing, so somebody had to fight at TD Garden.
Rajon Rondo shoved Kris Humphries into the stands, resulting in dueling ejections, and Kevin Garnett manhandled Gerald Wallace, drawing double technicals (Wallace’s second, earning himself an ejection). More on that in a minute, but the Celtics and Nets also played basketball.
Andray Blatche (13 rebounds) and Jerry Stackhouse each scored 17 points, and the Nets owned the Celtics, 95-83. Meanwhile, Rondo departed with just three assists in 18 minutes, effectively ending his 37-game double-digit assist streak and leaving him tied with John Stockton for the second-longest such stretch in NBA history.
If you’re looking for positives, Kevin Garnett (16 points, 10 rebounds) recorded his second straight double-double.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Streak stopped: Where to begin? Starting with a brawl seems appropriate. With 29.5 second remaining in the first half, Humphries gave Garnett a shoulder shove. Rondo came to his defense, thrusting Humphries into the first row. Behind them, Garnett and Wallace got into it. Punches appeared to be thrown. Rondo, Humphries and Wallace all received ejections. Garnett got a technical. And suspensions will follow. Just like that, the streak ended. Rondo returned to the locker room with only three assists, seven shy of a 38th consecutive game with 10 or more assists.
BlatcheHouse: One’s 38 years old and the other was benched by the Wizards for the final month of last season for lack of conditioning. Of course, we’re talking about Stackhouse and Blatche, who somehow combined for 16 points and 10 rebounds before halftime. Before the break, the former’s shooting (3-4 3P) and the latter’s offensive rebounding (5) helped the Nets establish a lead as large as 21.
99 problems: We could be talking about any number of issues here. Brooklyn’s 3-point shooting and offensive rebounding or Jeff Green‘s apparent knee injury, Courtney Lee landing hard on his elbow and Chris Wilcox‘s illness, to name five. But with Jay-Z in attendance, the Celtics had 99 problems, and turnovers most definitely was one. They committed nine in the second quarter alone, including five in a span of seven possessions.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
|Irish Coffee: Why Rajon Rondo’s assist streak is more impressive than John Stockton’s or Magic Johnson’s||11.26.12 at 4:50 pm ET|
This topic stemmed from a conversation with Celtics guard Jason Terry about the evolution of the assist after colleague Rob Bradford compared the dwindling distribution of assists to baseball errors: Considering teams in the 1980s scored at a higher rate, is Rajon Rondo‘s current streak of 37 consecutive games with at least 10 assists more impressive than John Stockton‘s string of 37 in 1989 or Magic Johnson’s record stretch of 46 in 1983?
In a word? Yes. Let the 35-year-old NBA veteran of 13 seasons who grew up on ’80s basketball explain.
“It’s just a different style of play,” said Terry, whose longest streak of double-digit assists lasted all of three games in 2003. “Now, it’s a lot more difficult to get those assists per se as in the ’80s. If you look at the style of play, it was up-and-down, run-and-gun. Now, there are much more intricate defenses. There’s also the zone defense, so it makes it a lot tougher to get assists. So, that makes his feat a lot more amazing.”
Great points all around. Let’s look at that style of play. Last season, when Rondo’s streak began, the C’s averaged only 90.4 possessions per 48 minutes. By comparison, in 1989, when Stockton’s stretch started, the Jazz averaged 98.0; and in 1983, when Magic’s string commenced, the Lakers averaged a whopping 103.8. All three hover around the league average that season, so defense has clearly muddled the pace over the years.
To put a finer point on it, not only must Rondo generate his assists on fewer possessions — and thus fewer field goal attempts — but the maturation of defensive schemes over the past quarter-century has also forced lower shooting percentages. Translation: Even fewer opportunities for Rondo to collect his dimes.
|Fast Break: Rajon Rondo stops Magic, ties John Stockton for consecutive double-digit assists||11.25.12 at 8:57 pm ET|
The Magic finally missed a couple of 3-pointers, and for the Celtics, the misses couldn’t have come at a better time. Both Jameer Nelson and Glen Davis missed treys in the final minute, and the Celtics made 3-of-4 free throws down the stretch to escape Orlando with a 116-110 overtime victory.
Rajon Rondo (15 points, 16 assists, 9 rebounds) fell one rebound short of his first triple-double of the season (and 24th of his career), but he did eclipse double-digit assists for the 37th straight game, tying John Stockton for the second-longest streak in NBA history, trailing only Magic Johnson (46).
Kevin Garnett (24 points, 10 rebounds) notched his first double-double since Nov. 9, and Paul Pierce added 23 points despite missing his signature elbow jumper at the end of regulation. Leandro Barbosa (15 points), Brandon Bass (13 points) and Jared Sullinger (11 points) also reached double figures for the Celtics (8-6).
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Blurring the lines: In four first-half minutes, Leandro Barbosa scored 11 points, making all four of his shots, including a pair of 3-pointers and a traditional three-point play. He entered the game averaging 15.8 points, 4.5 assists and 2.7 rebounds per 36 minutes, and that kind of production can’t be ignored. Makes you wonder how many guard minutes will be left for Courtney Lee once Avery Bradley returns.
Painting a masterpiece: Without Dwight Howard to stop them, the Celtics took full advantage of a rare frontcourt strength advantage. At halftime, when the Celtics built a 58-48 advantage, the Celtics owned the advantage in points in the paint (30-16) rebounds (23-21) and second-chance points (10-4). Rarely do the C’s lead any of those three categories, but it’s nice to see Pierce, Garnett and Bass deliver when they should.
Sully tapped: Less than two minutes into his night, Jared Sullinger‘s first attempt got swatted back into his face by Josh McRoberts. It was the beginning of an 0-for-3 start for the Celtics rookie. The larger concern: Opponents have blocked 19.4 percent of Sullinger’s shots this season, which ranks fifth-worst among NBA players who average at least 15 minutes a night. But Sullinger responded, taking a page out of Glen Davis‘ around-the-basket book, making five of his next nine shots to finish with 11 points and six boards in 19:25 off the bench.
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