|Ageless wit and wisdom from Shaquille O’Neal after turning back the clock||01.15.11 at 12:15 am ET|
The date was April 8, 2009. The site was New Orleans. Shaquille O’Neal led his Phoenix Suns to a 105-100 win over the Hornets. O’Neal scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and accomplished it in 36 minutes, 38 seconds of action.
That was the last time O’Neal played 35 minutes in a game – before Friday night.
On a night when the Celtics were without three big men and another fell into early foul trouble and had a sore groin, O’Neal delivered the goods.
The 38-year-old center played a season-high 35 minutes, scoring 23 points on 10-of-12 shooting, leading the Celtics to a 99-94 win over Charlotte Friday night at TD Garden. After the game, O’Neal said he wasn’t motivated by Doc Rivers‘ pre-game jab that the future Hall-of-Famer is day-to-day and will be for the rest of the season because “he’s old as hell.”
“I would agree,” O’Neal said without hesitation. “I’ve been around a long time. I knew that whatever happened I was going to be ready. I’ve been in foul trouble and haven’t really played a lot of minutes so there was really no excuse for me to be tired. I just came out and got a few more touches tonight and just did what I do.”
The signs were there early on that Shaq was ready to turn back the clock 5-10 years – like when he ran the court with Rajon Rondo and finished the two-man break by flushing down a jam on an alley-oop from Rondo with 9:36 left in the first quarter.
“It helps a lot when he’s out there looking for me,” O’Neal said of Rondo. “He’s played well. It’s my job when I get the ball I have to finish. Whether its low or a little drop off.”
O’Neal added that he’s on the Celtics to do whatever the team needs, especially while Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins and Jermaine O’Neal are out of the lineup.
On Friday, it was Shaq who had to help out the bench when Semih Erden picked up fouls early and often. When Erden was whistled for his fourth with 1:29 left in the third quarter, neither Shaq nor coach Doc Rivers were particularly pleased.
“I was [ticked] too. Shaq wants to play but he doesn’t want to play 35 minutes and he had just said coming out, ‘Give me a blow here’ and then bam, bam, Semih’s out,” Rivers said. “With Shaq, it’s just too many minutes. You know, tonight we had no choice. It’s not a big deal for one night; I don’t worry about it. And we don’t play again until Monday, so that’s nice. It came at the right moment.”
It was just Wednesday, when O’Neal played just over 13 minutes, that Rivers felt Shaq took a foul just to get out of the game and get a seat on the bench in the second half.
“You know a lot of times I get fouls helping out so I got to be selective,” O’Neal said. “So I knew we were a big man short so it was like a couple lay ups I knew I had to let go. I was just trying to play smart.”
So how does he go from 13 minutes to 35 minutes, 13 seconds in the span of 48 hours?
“I live in Sudbury and the people at Sudbury Farms won’t allow me to eat junk food,” O’Neal explained. “So I’m eating salad, eating fish. I’m really in shape and work out every night. I’m ready. I came here to be ready.”
As for his role now, O’Neal said he’s not worried about that.
“I’m here to do whatever Doc asks me to do,” O’Neal added. “I knew that whatever happened I was going to be ready. I’ve been in foul trouble and haven’t really played a lot of minutes so there was really no excuse for me to be tired. I just came out and got a few more touches tonight and just did what I do.”
The Celtics are hopeful to have Garnett back on Monday night after a nine-game absence due to a strained right calf.
Oh yeah, Shaq turns 39 on March 6. Maybe Doc will have something special planned for his big man that night.
|Shootaround: Delonte West looks smooth in practice||01.13.11 at 8:08 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Delonte West continues to work on shooting drills before and after practice as he rehabs his broken right wrist.
With a protective brace on his right wrist, West can dribble to his left and right but has yet to be cleared to return to contact in practice. He is still two weeks away from beginning his formal rehab to strengthen the wrist.
West suffered a nasty fracture of the wrist on Nov. 24 against the Nets at TD Garden. The initial prognosis was that he would be lost for the regular season and was “hopeful” to return for the playoffs.
But following surgery on the wrist, West has been steady progress and last week received good news that he could discard the hard cast and go with just the protective brace. He is still at least two weeks away from aggressive rehab on the wrist and is hopeful to return to action sometime at or around the All-Star break.
|Kevin Garnett is ‘pretty close’ to returning but that won’t happen Friday night||01.13.11 at 4:16 pm ET|
WALTHAM — In a sign that he is close to returning to game action, Kevin Garnett took part in contact practice with the Celtics on Thursday for the first time since straining his right calf against Detroit on Dec. 29. Coach Doc Rivers said that Garnett participated in a little more than half the practice, going through plays and running up and down the court but ruled him out of Friday’s home game against Charlotte.
“He went through half the practice or more than that, actually,” Rivers said. “He looked pretty good. He’s not playing [Friday] but he looked pretty good. Besides just his wind, I thought his movement was very good. I want to see him another practice but he’s getting close.”
Rivers said trainer Ed Lacerte and team doctor Brian McKeon checked out Garnett and cleared him to participate in all of the contact drills and plays in practice.
“That was him and Eddie, they just thought he could go and Dr. McKeon, all three, thought he’s fine so we let him go,” Rivers added. “There were a couple of times I wanted him off the floor and he stayed on the floor and did all the pick-and-roll defense live. We went up and down and he did all that live.”
The Celtics are 5-3 in the eight games without Garnett in the lineup.
|And the hits keep on coming as Semih Erden pulls his groin||01.13.11 at 4:13 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Doc Rivers paraphrased Bill Parcells following Thursday’s practice that didn’t include injured forwards Semih Erden and Jermaine O’Neal.
“This is who we are right now,” Rivers said in announcing the latest injuries to hit the Celtics’ front court.
Jermaine O’Neal had an MRI Thursday on his sore left knee that acted up in the second half of Monday’s game against Houston.
Rivers is concerned that surgery will likely be needed to correct the issue.
“Don’t know yet,” Rivers said following practice Thursday. “I know he did [have] an MRI. Honestly, my guess is they’re going to have to do something. So, I don’t know that. I’m just using my doctorate right now. My guess is they’ll probably have to do something.”
Complicating matters is a groin pull sustained by back-up center Semih Erden, which kept him out of practice Thursday and limited the Celtics to nine healthy players. With Kevin Garnett still out with a strained right calf, Kendrick Perkins (right knee) not yet cleared for contact practice and Shaquille O’Neal getting limited minutes to save his stamina for later in the season, the Celtics are struggling with depth in the front court.
“It puts more pressure on them,” Rivers said of his remaining healthy front-court players. “Semih couldn’t practice today. He has a groin pull. So, that’s what we are. We have 15 players. We’re going to send Avery [Bradley] down [to D-League] pretty soon, too, so he can get some reps playing basketball. I just think he needs to play basketball. It’s part of it.”
The Celtics face Charlotte on Friday night at TD Garden as they continue their season-long six-game homestand, likely without Garnett, Erden and Jermaine O’Neal.
|Energy savings pay off for Nate Robinson and the Celtics||01.13.11 at 2:43 am ET|
Doc Rivers may have liked the way his team was playing in the first half than Monday night. He went as far as to say if the Celtics somehow managed to lose Wednesday to the 8-27 Kings at TD Garden, he could sleep well knowing his team played good, solid basketball.
But the truth of the matter is that Celtics fans were downright concerned when they saw the Kings – without their top scorer Tyreke Evans – wipe out an 8-0 lead and actually grab a lead, albeit very brief, in the first quarter. The Celtics kept spinning their wheels in the first half, even with Paul Pierce scoring 15 of his 25 points in the first quarter.
The Celtics – without big men Kevin Garnett and Jermaine O’Neal- looked fatigued and out of rhythm. They needed a spark and Nate Robinson was only too happy to provide it. Robinson came in and made 6-of-9 shots, including 4-of-5 from long distance.
Robinson was just 11-for-32 in his six games this month entering Wednesday. His 16 points off the bench provided instant energy and eventually allowed Doc Rivers to give his starters the fourth quarter off.
“That’s how you have to play every night,” Robinson said. “Play with a lot of energy and be yourself. Everything else will fall into place.”
After allowing the Rockets to make 21-of-34 shots in the second half on Monday, the Celtics – with a 57-49 halftime lead – were determined not to let it happen 48 hours later.
“Just continue to pick it up on defense,” Robinson said. “We have been lacking the last couple of games. Rebounding was a talking point as well. As a team today we dug down deep. We were like ‘we have to rebound and get stops and run’. We did that and got a lot of easy buckets tonight.
“Just do things harder. There is always another notch that you can go too. Just pick it up. We have to pick each other up regardless if it’s the starters or second team, everybody has to be tuned in together and play a full 48 minutes.”
Robinson had 16 to lead four bench players in double figures. Another player in double figures, Marquis Daniels with 12, could see what Robinson meant to the Celtics on Wednesday – instant energy and a very important player to help take minutes from Rondo and preserve him for the second half of the season.
“Little Nate played good tonight,” Daniels said. “He’s shooting the ball real well. He got his bird wings going. He’s playing real good right now. We just have to stay focused and stay hungry.”
In total, Semih Erden, Daniels, Robinson and Von Wafer all scored at least 10 points, outscoring Sacramento’s bench, 56-47. Daniels said it was very refreshing to see not only Robinson but the rest of the bench contribute offensively so the starters could enjoy the rest of the game from their courtside seats.
“Definitely, I saw Paul icing early, Ray is icing early, Rondo. It’s always a good thing to see those guys icing early,” Daniels said. “We are going to need those guys later down the line.”
|Doc Rivers thanks Danny Ainge for the chance to make Celtics coaching history||01.12.11 at 11:34 pm ET|
Doc Rivers remembers the 2006-07 season vividly, and for all the wrong reasons.
The Celtics had just completed the second-worst season of their existence, losing 58 times and Rivers would have totally understood if his boss decided that – in addition to changing the roster – it was time to change the coach.
But GM Danny Ainge saw something in Rivers and convinced Celtics ownership to stick with Rivers since he felt he was the right coach to handle the egos and personalities of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. One championship and one near-miss later over a span of four years, Ainge has been greatly rewarded for his loyalty.
On Wednesday night, following a 119-95 win over the Kings at TD Garden, Rivers passed K.C. Jones for third on the franchise’s regular season all-time coaching wins list with 309. And it was Ainge whom Rivers thanked for giving him the chance.
“Yeah, you know, I don’t know what that means, honestly,” Rivers said. “It’s awesome, I guess. I mean, I just don’t know what that means, yet, because I’m not thinking about it much, I’m not done. But it’s nice. And, listen, it’s Danny Ainge at the end of the day. I’m full-aware of that. We were bad for two years and he stuck with me. And believed in me. And so, at the end of the day it’s Danny Ainge more than me.”
Rivers, whose record stands at 309-221, trails only Tommy Heinsohn (427) and all-time leader Red Auerbach (795) on the franchise’s all-time list. Rivers guaranteed one thing Wednesday, he won’t be shooting for first. “No. That ain’t gonna happen. I can guarantee you that!”
|With an eye on big picture, Doc Rivers admits ‘I don’t like where we’re at right now’||01.11.11 at 2:16 am ET|
Sure, Monday was a very distasteful and bitter pill to swallow for the Celtics. But really what concerned Doc Rivers afterward was how he felt his team approached the game.
With or without Kevin Garnett and with or without the high-scoring Kevin Martin in the game for the Rockets, Rivers felt his team was capable of a whole lot better than they showed in a 108-102 loss at TD Garden.
But the trademark defense that has been a staple of these championship-driven Celtics has not been there in the last week, and Rivers fears that if they start falling in love with scoring instead of doing the dirty work, they’ll lose something a lot more important – home court advantage in the NBA playoffs.
Don’t look now but not only are the Spurs putting some distance between themselves and the Celtics – who fell to 28-9 – but the Miami Heat have, in the space of about three weeks, caught up to them with a torrid winning streak.
If the Celtics aren’t careful, they not only might have to win an NBA Finals Game 7 on the road like last year in LA but they may have to do the same thing against Miami just to get there.
“To me, you can see them thinking about the individual game and not the ramifications of the entire season,” Rivers said of his team. “And playing Game 7 on the road. And hell, not just in the Finals if you make it there, but in the playoffs. In the East, which is going to be difficult. This year’s not like last year where you can coast. You don’t have home court this year, you could go home.
“You know especially at home, I think we need to really take advantage of games where their best player isn’t playing, guys coming off injury,” captain Paul Pierce added. “These games mean a lot down the road, and but at the same time, they’re going to suit up and play, and we got to understand that nothing is given to us cause their down a man, or they’ve been struggling for most of the year. We got to put our work boots on and come with our A game, we’re not taking advantage of this, there are a lot of games that we’re letting slip away that we’re supposed to win” Read the rest of this entry »
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