|What Carlos Arroyo brings to the Celtics||03.08.11 at 4:10 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Before their open practice on Tuesday, Celtics coach Doc Rivers introduced their newest player, Carlos Arroyo, to his teammates. His new team proceeded to pummel him like baseball players do at home plate after someone hits a game-winning home run. With that bit of bonding out of the way, Arroyo began his crash-course in running the Celtics’ offense.
“He’s a point guard,” Rivers said emphasizing the last two words. “He’s been a point guard all of his life. Some of the stuff he’ll pick up pretty quickly.”
The Celtics have essentially played without a true backup point guard since Rajon Rondo took over the starter’s job in 2007. Eddie House and Nate Robinson — two shoot-first small guards — mainly filled that role, while the Celtics also tried Sam Cassell and Stephon Marbury as late-season experiments, with decidedly mixed results.
“It’s nice,” Rivers said of having a true backup point. “It’s just going to take him some time, but he knows how to run a team. That’s going to be great for us.”
Delonte West is supposed to be that player, but he has been unable to stay on the court; missing time with a broken wrist and a sprained ankle. Rivers said that West was definitely out Wednesday against the Clippers and called him “doubtful” for Friday’s Sixers game. The new hope is Sunday against the Bucks.
Rivers has been concerned about playing Rondo too many minutes. He has posted the following totals in his last six games: 43, 34, 42, 39, 42, 38. That 34 came in a relatively comfortable win over the Clippers. Rondo had to take himself out for a quick rest in the fourth quarter of their game against Golden State and looked a step slow on Sunday against the Bucks. While rookie Avery Bradley has stepped in admirably, the Celtics desperately needed a veteran hand at the position.
Into that spot steps Arroyo, who started 42 games for the Heat this season before being waived to make room for Mike Bibby. The 31-year-old Arroyo is the definition of a veteran journeyman, having played for six teams (the Celtics are his seventh) in his nine-year career.
His best season came back in 2003-04 when he started 71 games for the Jazz and averaged 12.6 points and five assists per game. Since then he’s bounced around between Orlando and Miami where he saw duty as a spot starter and backup. He was making 44 percent of his 3-pointers with the Heat, but he is a 34 percent shooter for his career.
“At this point in my career, everybody knows what I’m capable of,” Arroyo said. “Hopefully I can do a little bit more here and help the team. That’s what I came here for.”
Asked about what happened in Miami, Arroyo took the high road.
“I went from starting to not playing and I’ve got to respect that,” he said. “That’s coach [Erik Spoelstra's] decision. My job is to stay ready. I’m a true professional when it comes to that and I understand how the NBA works. I was just waiting for my time and hopefully my time is now.”
|Fast Break: Celtics go Buck-hunting||03.06.11 at 11:39 pm ET|
The Celtics have reached the non-glamorous portion of their schedule, but the games with the Bucks cont just the same as their network showdowns with the Lakers, Heat and Magic. With 21 games left, the Celtics have two goals: Integrate their new players into something that resembles a workable rotation and try to get the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
Winning road games against teams like Milwaukee — who play good defense and make you grind it out — and with only nine players is what great NBA teams do. The Celtics escaped with an 89-83 victory thanks to clutch play from Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett and took another step toward achieving their season-long goal.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Paul Pierce comes up big: With Rajon Rondo (eight turnovers) and Ray Allen both struggling, Pierce picked up the slack and scored 23 points to go with five rebounds and four assists. Pierce was the best player on the floor for the Celtics.
Kevin Garnett, clutch defensively: With time running out and the Celtics clinging to a three-point lead, Garnett stopped the Bucks dead with a huge blocked shot. On the previous possession, Garnett knocked down a 15 foot jumper that gave the Celtics a four-point lead.
Nenad Krstic in the low post: The Celtics knew what they were getting when the traded for Krstic — a dependable 7-footer with decent shooting range. But what they didn’t know is that he also has a very good back to the basket game. That’s because the Thunder just didn’t have any use for it. But Krstic is not only a good shooter — he made his first six shots — he’s a solid passer. The Celtics have been looking for a low-post presence for years and while Krstic lacks the brute force of Shaquille O’Neal, he is capable of providing offense.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Injury delay for Shaq: A few days have stretched into a few weeks and now we are working on a few months before Shaquille O’Neal returns to the team. Doc Rivers told reporters in Milwaukee that Shaq would probably not return against the Clippers on Wednesday as planned and his return date is still anyone’s guess. It’s beginning to look like it might be a race between Shaq and Jermaine to see which O’Neal will get back on the court first.
Offensive rebounds and turnovers: The Celtics old problems didn’t go away with their new cast of characters. The Bucks destroyed them on the glass for the first half with 10 offensive rebounds and the Celtics hurt their own cause with 17 turnovers (eight by Rondo).
Bench issues: With Carlos Arroyo on his way to Boston and the O’Neals, Delonte West, Von Wafer and Glen Davis all out with injuries, the Celtics had just nine players and their second unit consisted of Avery Bradley and three guys who have been with the team for about 10 days. While Jeff Green continues to find his way, Troy Murphy still has not made a shot and Sasha Pavlovic threw up an airball on his first attempt. The bench played better in the second half, maintaining a slim lead before turning it back over to the starters.
|Fast Break: Celtics escape, but continue to progress||03.04.11 at 10:00 pm ET|
With each passing day, the trade that sent Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson begins to look a little better from the Celtics‘ perspective. Word came down today that Robinson had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and will be out 4-6 weeks. Considering the fact that the Celtics traded four players who are injured (including Marquis Daniels and Semih Erden) and replaced them with healthy players, that’s already a net positive.
But what about the on-court results? New center Nenad Krstic has already shown his value as an offensive threat and against the Warriors on Friday night, Jeff Green had his coming out party. Green, who had scored just 18 points in his first three games, erupted for 13 in the first half and finished with 21 points in 28 minutes.
Despite some anxious moments at the end, the Celtics have now won four games in a row after their 107-103 win (recap) and while they would certainly like to close games out better, they’ll gladly take the wins while sorting things out.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Ray Allen should take more days off: The veteran sharpshooter took Thursday off from practice as a precaution. Doc Rivers said that Allen told him his legs were feeling a little sore so Rivers told him to hit some golf balls. Allen showed up for Friday’s game wearing a compression sleeve on his right leg, but any concerns soon evaporated as he made his first seven shots and finished 9-for-13 with 27 points.
A glimpse of what Green can do: The problem for the Celtics and their new forward is simply one of opportunity. Beyond playing the minutes behind Paul Pierce, what else can they do with him? That’s a question Rivers raised Thursday at practice and really, there isn’t a good answer.
But with Glen Davis out for a few days with a strained knee, Rivers used Green with the starters and it resulted in unreal production. Of all the things Green provides, the ability to get out on the break with Rajon Rondo is the most appealing and the two connected for a series of highlight-worthy plays. Unlocking Green’s potential is one of the priorities of the last six weeks and Friday night was a positive step.
Paul Pierce’s quiet excellence: Just another 27-point, seven-rebound night for Pierce, who is the glue that holds everything together.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Troy Murphy will need some time: Murphy has now played 26 minutes and missed all seven shots that he’s attempted. Rivers said he wanted to run him until he dropped and he’ll have to keep giving him minutes while he figures things out on the fly.
Von Wafer strains his right calf: It never ends for the Celtics. After dropping seven points in just six minutes, Von Wafer limped off the court with what the team called a strained right calf. There was no immediate update on how long Wafer will be out, but he did not return to the game. That’s a tough blow for Wafer, who has played well in limited opportunities this season.
Second half fades: It happened late in the third quarter against the Suns, but this time the culprits were the starters as they allowed the Warriors to almost erase a huge lead late in the game. Monta Ellis scored 41 points, tying the mark set by Kobe Bryant for most against the Celtics this season. The Celtics escaped, but this late-game trend needs to stop.
|What Sasha Pavlovic brings to the Celtics||03.03.11 at 6:37 pm ET|
“He was pretty good,” Rivers said. “There was one game at the Garden where they went ISO against us offensively where he kicked our butt. I reminded Paul [Pierce] and Ray [Allen] of that quite a lot over the last couple of days.”
Those years with the Cavs were the best of Pavlovic’s career. He averaged nine points a game and shot over 40 percent from 3-point range on the 2007 team that made an unexpected run to the NBA finals. At 6-foot-8, 205 pounds, Pavlovic offers the Celtics a big and experienced player to back up both wing positions.
“One of the things we’ve always liked about him, he’s a competitive defender,” Rivers said. “He doesn’t back down from guys. I think he can fit in well with us. He’s a skilled player as well.”
Pavlovic has played in just 14 games this season, splitting his time between Dallas and New Orleans. He was thrilled when he got the call from the Celtics, who officially signed him on Thursday in time to go through his first practice. He’s here to provide depth, toughness and hopefully some outside shooting (he’s a 35 percent 3-point shooter for his career).
“I think I can do pretty good defensively,” Pavlovic said. “I can shoot open 3’s. I’m just going to keep it simple. There’s a lot of great players on this team, whatever my role is going to be, I’m going to be happy to do it.”
With Pavlovic on board, the Celtics are currently at the maximum 15 players on the roster. Chris Johnson is nearing the end of his first 10-day contract with the team. They can either sign him to another 1o-day deal, or let him walk and open up another roster spot.
|Glen Davis to have MRI on left knee||03.03.11 at 2:06 am ET|
Glen Davis knew something was wrong before his feet touched the ground. For most of the season he has been battling pain in his left knee, and as he went up for a game-capping dunk against Phoenix Wednesday night, he sensed that he would not have a happy landing. Davis hobbled off the court with the help of the team’s medical staff.
The Celtics are calling it a strained left patella tendon and Davis is scheduled to have an MRI Thursday. While he said he’s not concerned, he also acknowledged that his knees have been a problem this season.
“That’s why I don’t jump that high,” Davis said. “That’s why I missed that dunk [against Miami]. I can’t jump. My knees hurt.”
The Celtics won’t know the extent of Davis’ injury until the MRI, but the feeling in the locker room was that he would likely miss some time.
“It’s hard,” Kevin Garnett said. “We’re back to this injury bug. Hopefully he’s not out for too long. Baby’s a trooper. He’s been playing hurt throughout this whole year and some last year.”
|Fast Break: Total eclipse of the Suns||03.02.11 at 10:13 pm ET|
Now that the new pieces are settling into place, the Celtics can go about the important business of trying to secure homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs. What seemed like a difficult task a few weeks ago has suddenly emerged as a real possibility. In dismantling the Suns 115-103 Wednesday night at the Garden, the Celtics have opened up a modest game and a half lead over Miami (two ahead in the loss column).
With Troy Murphy in the fold and Sahsa Pavlovic soon to follow, the Celtics are suddenly armed with healthy reinforcements for the stretch run. It will not be easy to hold off Miami, but every effort like the one they had Wednesday will help the cause. Yes, there were some anxious moments in the fourth quarter when the Suns sliced a 29-point lead to single digits, but the Celtics were never truly threatened and coach Doc Rivers had the opportunity to get his newcomers some needed minutes.
Late in the game, Glen Davis injured himself when he landed awkwardly on a dunk. If he is out for any length of time that would be a major blow for a team that needs all the time together it can find.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Kevin Garnett has no use for Channing Frye: Lost in all the moves and transactions, Kevin Garnett‘s rematch with Channing Frye was mostly swept under the rug. It was a little over a month ago when Garnett low-blowed Frye and kickstarted a new round of ‘KG is a dirty player’ talk, punctuated by Suns coach Alvin Gentry saying that he had lost respect for Garnett.
Think Garnett was into this game? He dropped 28 points and eight rebounds on 12-for-14 shooting in just 24 minutes and absolutely destroyed Frye, who left the game in the third quarter after running headlong into Vince Carter. By then, Garnett’s work was done and his point was made. (Garnett returned to the game when it tightened up and finished with 11 rebounds).
Speaking of retribution: The last time these two teams played, Rajon Rondo had one of his worst nights of the season, shooting 1-for-6 with seven turnovers. Rondo was at his creative best against the Suns with 14 points, 15 assists and just one turnover.
Defense from 23-feet and in: The Suns were 21-for-54 from inside the arc, and it took a late surge to reach that number.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Defense from beyond 23 feet: The Suns shot 12-for-23 from behind the arc, which kept them in the game.
Growing pains: As nice as that 29-point lead looked, it was mostly built by the starting five. Once they left, a disorganized second unit gave much of it away. With Delonte West out with an ankle injury, the reserves lack a strong point guard to guide them through rough patches.
They got away with it in the first half against Phoenix’s sieve-like pick and roll defense, but they weren’t so fortunate in the second half when Marcin Gortat started erasing every shot in sight. The Celtics figure to have more ups and downs over the next few weeks as they try to figure each other out.
Free throw shooting: Making 67 percent from the line isn’t going to cut it, but more importantly the Suns decided to put Rondo on the line in the last two minutes and he went 2-for-4 (he finished 4-for-7). Hack-a-Rondo is a desperate gamble, but until he becomes at least a 70 percent shooter from the line, it’s going to continue to be a strategy for opposing teams.
|Source: Celtics expected to sign Sasha Pavlovic||03.02.11 at 7:41 pm ET|
Pavlovic played 10 games with the Mavericks and four with the Hornets this season. The 27-year-old saw action in 71 games with the Timberwolves last season and was a part-time starter with the Cavaliers for four seasons before that. He’s 6-foot-8 and can play both the off guard and small forward positions.
Pavlovic’s best season was in 2006-07 when he averaged nine points a game and made over 40 percent of his 3-pointers on a Cavs team that advanced to the NBA finals. He adds depth behind Paul Pierce and Ray Allen and will probably compete for playing time with Von Wafer.