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Rondo… The new Pearl Washington 04.08.09 at 11:49 pm ET
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Stephon Marbury knows old-school point guard play. And he sees it every time he watches Rajon Rondo play.

On Wednesday night during a 106-104 nail-biter over the New Jersey Nets at TD Banknorth Garden, Rondo scored a team high 31 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the floor, while grabbing nine rebounds and dishing out five assists.

It seemed from Marbury’s standpoint, every time Rondo drove to the basket, he scored.

“The guy had [31 ]points and I think he shot all layups,” Marbury said. “He reminds me of Pearl Washington from what they said, back in the days. A guy who didn’t really shoot the jump shots, but just continued to get to the basket and dominated.”

There are cases around the NBA when the point guard looks to score, their team is usually in trouble. Such is not the case with Rajon Rondo and the Celtics. As a matter of fact, it may be just the opposite.

For the third straight game, Rondo scored at least 20 points in leading his team to victory, their fifth straight overall.

‘€œI’€™m pretty comfortable,” Rondo said. “I’€™m probably as comfortable as I’€™ve ever been these last five or six games, just knowing when to take a shot or when to pass it.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Celtics, NBA, Rondo,
Doc: DJ ‘absolutely’ deserves HOF 04.06.09 at 4:34 pm ET
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It came as a surprise to exactly no one that Michael Jordan was a first ballot inductee to the Basketball Hall of Fame in the voting announced Monday morning at the Final Four in Detroit. And names like John Stockton, Utah coach Jerry Sloan, David Robinson and women’s coach C. Vivian Stringer were hardly stunning either.

“That’s awesome,” Celtics coach and former NBA all-star guard Doc Rivers said following his team’s practice on Monday.

“I had a lot to do with that. I guarded Michael, I guarded Stockton, they looked a lot better. I can tell you that. Clearly, first ballot all of them. It’s terrific. Michael may be the greatest player, definitely of our generation, and maybe of all time. Stockton may be the greatest point guard in some arguments,” Rivers said.

But the late Dennis Johnson did not make it.

“That surprises me, I thought he would make it,” Rivers said. “Well, I’m disappointed in that part. I absolutely think he deserves it.”

And a look at the numbers Johnson put up over his 14-year career detail Rivers’ argument. He played in exactly 1,100 games, averaging 14.1 points and 5.0 assists. His numbers were even better in the playoffs. He averaged 17.3 points and 5.6 assists in 180 games, while playing on three NBA championship teams.

Everyone recalls how DJ was brought to Boston in the 1983-84 season, in part, to answer Philadelphia’s Andrew Toney and Maurice Cheeks, and give the Celtics a powerful backcourt influence and provide great defense on Magic Johnson. The Celtics won titles in 1984 and 1986.

But ask Rivers, and he will tell you voters forget what DJ did in Seattle, like leading his team to the 1979 NBA title, earning Finals MVP honors.

“I really believe this, they (voters) only look at him just with the Celtics,” Rivers said. “They forget how great he was with the Sonics. He was unbelievable. He came to the Celtics and they asked him to do what we ask Ray Allen to do, what we ask Paul (Pierce) to do and that is play a role and I actually think he’s being penalized for it.”

NBA.com has a complete bio of Dennis Johnson, who passed away on Feb. 22, 2007 in Austin, TX of a heart attack while coaching the Austin Toros of the NBDL.

Read More: Dennis Johnson, hall of fame, NBA,
Rondo turns ankle, Garnett out this week 04.06.09 at 3:06 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo continues to battle ankle injuries. On Monday, in the team’s first practice since beating Atlanta on Friday night, Rondo was seen limping off the court after turning his ankle.

Doc Rivers said he wasn’t sure of the severity or which ankle was turned but said he didn’t initially think it was a serious injury.

“He just twisted his ankle, nothing bad but instead of keeping him out on the floor, easier to take him off,” Rivers said.

Meanwhile, Rivers said Kevin Garnett is making progress in rehabbing his strained right knee but not enough for him to return this week.

“I’m just really happy with what we see,” Rivers said. “A week ago there was more concern. This week, less concern. He looks great, he’s moving great. You can just tell the difference.”

Rivers ruled Garnett out from games through next Sunday, meaning the star forward won’t be able to play in the team’s final three games as Rivers had hoped.

“He won’t play this week, Wednesday, Friday or Sunday,” Rivers said. “But he’s going to go on the road with us and start practicing. Actually, our hope is start practicing our entire team on this little road trip, which would be really nice since I haven’t seen them in a while, and I think it’s possible.”

Rivers also said Garnett will travel with the team on its road trip to Cleveland and Philadelphia, with the hope of having the entire team together practicing together. Leon Powe and Brian Scalabrine could also return to action in practice.

Read More: Celtics, Kevin Garnett, NBA,
Nothing will be finer than Carolina… Trags Take 04.06.09 at 2:02 pm ET
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National Championship-Michigan State (31-6) vs. North Carolina (33-4), 9:18 p.m. ET, CBS-TV.

They didn’t play close to their best game on Saturday night and the North Carolina Tar Heels still dispatched of the Villanova Wildcats by 14 points.

The Michigan State Spartans are unquestionably the darlings of this tournament, if you can be with a 31-6 record and a No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region. They beat No. 1 Connecticut on Saturday and advance to the national title game just 90 miles from their campus in East Lansing. Their official web site proclaims: “One More. Wear White on Monday Night.”

One of the more overwhelming storylines of this Final Four is the boost that a national championship would give Detroit and the state of Michigan if the Spartans could prevail.

Roy Williams, the Heels coach, would have none of that talk on Sunday.

“You know if we’re playing against the City of Detroit and the State of Michigan, they out number us,” Williams said. “We don’t have as good a chance at that one. But the other thing is you guys have to understand, we left here (Saturday) night at 12:45. We went back, we had a nice little snack and some ice cream and the kids went to bed. I saw them this morning at 11:00 for 30 minutes. We haven’t exactly exhausted the state of the nation’s economy in the last 18 hours.

“So for us, we’re playing Michigan State. I do realize they have a cause. Well, we also have a cause. We want to win a national championship, period, the end. And if you would tell me that if Michigan State wins, it’s gonna satisfy the nation’s economy, then I’d say, Hell, let’s stay poor for a little while longer. I don’t think that’s gonna happen. So if all the workers of America come down and start guarding my butt on the bench, then I’ll start being concerned about it.”

Michigan State has certainly been outstanding guarding people and that’s the No. 1 reason they have gotten to this point. They completely took overall No. 1 seed Louisville out of its game, allowing just 52 points in the Midwest final. They never let Jeff Adrien and A.J. Price get into their game in the national semifinal on Saturday. Now, they are playing their third straight game against a No. 1 seed.

Can they do it again against Carolina? Here’s a vote for reality and against storybook finishes. Carolina simply has too much.

Here’s how North Carolina wins its fifth title tonight in Detroit.

1: Depth. When Ty Lawson picked up two quick fouls on Saturday against Villanova, the Heels didn’t panic. When Tyler Hansbrough picked up his third early in the second half, again no worries. The reason for the calm is the number of bodies Roy Williams has next to him on the bench that can come in, bodies that would be starters on most other Division I programs.

2. Ty Lawson. The bum toe of Lawson has not been a factor and the point guard has played his best basketball in the tournament.

3. Outside-in. As Carolina showed in the first half on Saturday, they have plenty of scorers who can fire from three-point range.

4. Tyler Hansbrough. The Carolina big man can match up with Goran Suton. That will be a fascinating matchup to watch.

5. Us against the world. Carolina knows full well what the atmosphere is likely to be. Playing in Cameron Indoor Stadium, in many ways, is harder than playing before 72,000 in dome stadium.

How they lineup:

Michigan State:

Morgan, Raymar…… f
Roe, Delvon……… f
Suton, Goran…….. c
Lucas, Kalin…….. g
Walton, Travis…… g

North Carolina:

Deon Thompson……. f
Tyler Hansbrough…. f
Lawson, Ty………. g
Danny Green……… g
Wayne Ellington….. g

How they got here:

No. 2 seed Michigan State won the Midwest Regional. Beat No. 15 Robert Morris, 77-62. Beat No. 11 USC. 74-69. Beat No. 3 Kansas 67-62. Beat No. 1 Louisville, 64-52. Beat No. 1 Connecticut

No. 1 seed North Carolina won the South Regional. Beat No. 16 Radford, 101-58. Beat No. 8 LSU, 84-70. Beat No. 4 Gonzaga, 98-77. Beat No. 2 Oklahoma, 72-60. Beat No. 3 Villanova, 83-69.

It certainly won’t be the 98-63 Carolina blowout in the same stadium back on Dec. 3 but Carolina can handle the pressure that the Spartans will throw at them.

Final take:

North Carolina 76, Michigan State 71

Read More: March Madness, Michigan State, North Carolina,
Sounds of the game… Celtics 104, Hawks 92 04.03.09 at 11:47 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo spent the last five minutes of Friday morning’s shootaround in Waltham setting up behind the three-point line. He was making them at roughly a 50 percent rate.

Everyone knows that Rondo is the machine that drives the Celtics offense. He’s know trying to add an extra gear to the machine that produced 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting against the Hawks on Friday night in a 104-92 win at TD Banknorth Garden.

And as is often the case with the soft-spoken Rondo, it was his teammates doing the most talking about his great game on Friday.

‘€œWhen Rajon is aggressive, he’€™s scoring the ball and it opens up everything for all of us,” Paul Pierce said. “Night in and night out you know me and Ray are going to get out touches but when Rajon is out there getting 16 points, getting layups, knocking down jumpers it just opens up the floor for everybody as you can see, Perk getting lay-ups, Baby getting wide open shots, I’€™m getting good looks and our offense gets pretty much unstoppable when he’€™s going.’€

‘€œIt’€™s hard to beat us when a guy like that gets going, you know, he’€™s a wonderful guy, he can do some many things on the court, and when his jump shot’€™s falling, that’€™s even better for our team,” Kendrick Perkins added. “So, Rajon is a big, big player for this team, and he goes out there and contributes, and that’€™s what you saw tonight.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

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UConn can and will… Trags Take 04.03.09 at 3:03 pm ET
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National semifinal-Michigan State (30-6) vs. Connecticut (31-4), 6:07 p.m. ET, CBS-TV.

For a team that is a No. 2 seed playing on its virtual home court, the Michigan State Spartans sure seem like a considerable underdog against Connecticut in Saturday’s first national semifinal at Ford Field in Detroit. There’s good reason.

Michigan State fans, coaches and players need to travel just 85 miles to get to its destination on Saturday evening. And when they get there, there will be a tremendously gifted and motivated team that awaits them.

Back on Feb. 1, when they lost at home to eventual NIT champ Penn State, it seemed a lot longer than 85 miles to Destination Detroit. But this team is coached by Tom Izzo and he never lets his team lose focus or confidence. And he didn’t this time either. They regrouped and, except for a loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten semifinals, the Spartans have been on a mission, winning 10 of their last 11 and playing their best basketball in the NCAAs, reaching the Final Four for the fifth time in 11 seasons.

Their opponent, the Connecticut Huskies haven’t been short on storylines. But certainly, thanks to some ace journalism from Yahoo!, it’s been the wrong kind. Coach Jim Calhoun is once again the lightning rod of a program that is back to the Final Four for the third time since 1999. The last two trips have resulted in titles.

The tournament for UConn began with their coach in a Philadelphia hospital and continued the next weekend with allegations of serious recruiting violations. But the Huskies aren’t playing like there’s another shoe to drop. They’ve taken care of business, playing like a family that has come together in the worst of times. Throw in the best talent this side of Chapel Hill and you have a practically unbeatable combination. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Connecticut, March Madness, Michigan State,
Forest for the trees 04.03.09 at 12:54 pm ET
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The standings, like every other statistical number in sports, don’t lie.

And the standings are telling the Celtics that second seed in the East, and guaranteed home court advantage in the second round, are there for the taking in the final six games of the season.

Heading into tonight’s game with Atlanta, the Celtics lead the Magic by a game for second place in the East. Both teams have 19 losses with Boston ahead by two wins, 57-55. So Orlando has two games in hand on Boston but the Celtics have fate in their own hands for the time being.

What does all that really mean to Doc Rivers as he tries to get Paul Pierce and Ray Allen some rest in the last two weeks?

“It’s human nature and obviously, we want it,” Rivers said at Friday morning’s shootaround. “Don’t get me wrong, I really would like to get the second seed but I don’t worry about it a lot but the bottom line is you’ve just got to play and you’ve got to control your own destiny and whatever happens, happens.”

In other words, don’t expect to see Pierce and Allen playing 45 minutes, or even 40 for that matter, just to get the number one seed.

His younger players like Glen Davis and Rajon Rondo will have the chance to carry the load, especially with Kevin Garnett out for another week.

“We just try to go out there and play the game how it’s supposed to be played,” Davis said. “We can’t worry about what the other teams are doing. We’ve just got to go out there and make sure we do what we need to do to go where we need to go. No matter where we are in the playoffs, we feel like we can compete with anybody and that’s just the way we feel.”

“First is probably out of reach even though Cleveland lost yesterday, we’re still 4 1/2 games out with eight to play,” Rondo added. “We’re not looking ahead to who we’re going to play in the first round but definitely, if we make it to the second round, we want to have home court advantage.”

Read More: Big Baby Davis, Boston Celtics, NBA,
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