|What Troy Murphy brings to the Celtics||03.01.11 at 12:37 pm ET|
This is about flexibility. Before team president Danny Ainge traded Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to Oklahoma City for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic, the Celtics were a team that could essentially play one way. They had size — and lots of it — but aside from playing Glen Davis at center, the Celtics had less options matching up with teams that play unconventional lineups. Like, Miami.
But Ainge wasn’t done dealing, and he also dropped Semih Erden and Luke Harangody on Cleveland and Marquis Daniels on Sacramento. That opened up three roster spots to be used on the veteran free agent market, and it appears that Ainge has landed the biggest prize in 6-foot-11 forward Troy Murphy. ESPN’s Marc Stein reported that Murphy has chosen the Celtics over the Heat — a move that can’t become official until Murphy clears the waiver wire on Wednesday.
Murphy has played just 18 games this season and seen less than 300 minutes of action after he fell out of favor in New Jersey. He’s also never been in the playoffs. But over a 10-year career, Murphy has shown the ability to step outside and make 3-pointers. He’s also a very good defensive rebounder. As an added bonus, the Celtics keep him away from the Heat.
His best season came in 2008-09 with the Pacers, when he averaged 14 points and 12 rebounds per game and shot 45 percent from behind the arc. He’s a 39 percent career shooter from 3-point range, and that ability to space the floor is highly-valued with the Celtics. Doc Rivers now has three big men who can knock down long jumpers in Murphy, Krstic and Kevin Garnett.
The question is where Murphy will fit with a team that already has Garnett and Davis absorbing the minutes at power forward, along with Green. For starters, Murphy will provide insurance and depth during the regular season. Before the deadline moves, Rivers was sometimes forced to use Harangody as a backup power forward and while the team liked his energy and toughness, he was undersized for the role.
Rivers could also use Murphy at the center spot alongside Garnett. While not his customary position, he did log some time there with the Pacers and the Celtics have used Davis in that role as an undersized center.
Assuming he can recapture his form, Murphy is a better outside shooter than Davis and a far better defensive rebounder. That’s not to say he will pass Davis in the rotation. Davis is much better defensively and he’s also proven to be an integral part of the Celtics, but Murphy gives Rivers another option, and again, that’s what all of Ainge’s maneuvering is really about. With Murphy soon to be added to the fold, the Celtics frontcourt roster looks like this:
SF: Paul Pierce, Green
PF: Garnett, Davis, Murphy
C: Krstic, Shaquille O’Neal, Jermaine O’Neal
What the Celtics lose in size, they make up for in versatility. With six weeks, and 24 games left in the regular season, the onus is on Rivers to pull all the pieces together.
|Kendrick Perkins signs extension with Oklahoma City||03.01.11 at 11:30 am ET|
Kendrick Perkins hasn’t even played a game yet for his new team in Oklahoma City, but he has agreed to a four-year contract extension with the Thunder. Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski has the total value of the deal worth $34.8 million.
That’s a good deal for Perkins and it also helps explain why the Celtics would have made him available at the trade deadline. Earlier this winter, they offered him a four–year extension worth about $23 million. That was the most the Celtics could have offered him under the current collective bargaining agreement. Perkins turned it down believing he could get more as unrestricted free agent.
“We offered him all that we could offer him,” team president Danny Ainge said in an interview with WEEI. “He wasn’t really interested in doing a contract extension, which I understand. He wanted to test the market. Last time he didn’t test the market and this time he wanted to see what his value was and that was a concern.”
But the Thunder had more room to maneuver under the cap, as detailed by Sham Sports (scroll down to the bottom), and they used that extra space to up the offer for Perkins. It’s unclear how high the Celtics would have gone in an offer for Perkins had he reached unrestricted free agency, but it also seems unlikely they would have gone that far with him.
In the end, this deal works out well for the Celtics. Perkins stays out of the Eastern Conference and as an added bonus goes to a team that is now better-equipped to battle the Lakers. It also works out well for Perkins who outproduced his current contract and gets paid before the looming summer labor uncertainty. The Celtics got almost eight years out of the 27th pick in the draft and landed Jeff Green in the process.
|Fast Break: New Celtics, familiar results||02.28.11 at 11:37 pm ET|
This is going to take some time, but while Celtics coach Doc Rivers learns how to use his new toys (he had Jeff Green playing everything from the 2-guard through the four-spot), the Celtics remain the Celtics in the fourth quarter. Locked in a tight battle with Utah, the veterans made the right plays and executed down the stretch.
Ray Allen and Paul Pierce made huge shots. Kevin Garnett was dominant defensively and on the boards and Rajon Rondo made the right decisions and also sank a crucial jumper. The Celtics won 107-102, which gave them a 3-1 West Coast trip and also kept them two games ahead of the Heat in the loss column for the best record in the conference.
They have the next six weeks to figure out what kind of team they will be, but when it comes time to win games, they haven’t forgotten their formula.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Kevin Garnett is Kevin Garnett again: In the midst of all the turmoil, Garnett has very quietly run off a string of double-doubles on this West Coast trip. After scoring 18 points to go with 14 rebounds he now has seven in his last eight games. Garnett was at his best, though, on the defensive end, where he switched over to Al Jefferson late in the game and shut the big man down.
The key moment came when Garnett and Jefferson were called for double technicals late in the fourth quarter. The T’s didn’t stop the chatter between the two players and Jefferson was obviously primed to get the ball and score. He got the ball, but Garnett gave ground at the right moment and caused a travel. It was a classic veteran trap and Jefferson fell right into it.
Rajon Rondo takeover: Rondo scored only six points in the first half and passed up a couple of easy looks to make passes instead, but in the second half he reverted back into an attacking machine. When Rondo doesn’t look for his offense he makes himself so much easier to defend. But when he keeps the threat of scoring alive, it makes him nearly impossible to defend.
Nenad Krstic is no Perk offensively: Krstic is known as a player who can step outside and make jump shots, but he’s also shown in limited time an ability to score with his back to the basket. The Celtics don’t use a lot of post-ups as part of their regular offense, but Krstic has a nice touch around the basket and is also able to roll smoothly to the basket. Offensively, he is a definite upgrade from Kendrick Perkins‘ limited repertoire.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Krstic is no Perk, defensively: Then there’s the other end of the floor. Krstic will get better as he gets used to playing in the Celtics’ defensive scheme (and also gets used to playing alongside Garnett). Early on he’s looked slow in rotations and a step behind the play. Krstic was also abused by Jefferson, who scored 18 of his 28 points in the first half. It wasn’t all Krstic’s fault, but the Jazz went flying through the lane time and again for layups. The Celtics will have to adjust to Krstic as much as he will have to adjust to them.
Glen Davis continues to struggle: Over his last three games, Davis has shot 9-for-28. Over the last two months Davis has been as up and down as any Celtic, but they keep using him in the fourth quarter. Davis remains the best — and maybe only — option for getting crunch-time minutes with the other four starters, but if Rivers wants to continue to experiment he may take a look at his closing lineup over the next month and a half.
Delonte West is hurt again: The Celtics got bad news even before this one started as West rolled his right ankle during an informal workout on Sunday. He missed Monday’s game with Utah and is likely to miss Wednesday’s game when the Celtics return home to play the Suns. With Nate Robinson in Oklahoma City, the Celtics are relying on West to be the third guard, not only backing up Rajon Rondo, but Ray Allen as well.
But it’s at backup point guard where they desperately need his steady hand and veteran experience. Rookie Avery Bradley took those minutes against Utah and was more aggressive and confident than he’s been to date, but Bradley is not the answer this season. The Celtics need West to be healthy.
|Report: Knicks to buy out Corey Brewer, who could fit with Celtics||02.28.11 at 5:20 pm ET|
In a mild surprise, the Knicks are working on a buyout with Corey Brewer, per ESPN’s Marc Stein, presumably to make room for Jared Jeffries once he clears waivers. Stein has the Celtics in the mix for Brewer’s services, along with the Thunder, Spurs and Mavericks.
Players have to be placed on waivers by the end of Tuesday to be eligible for another team’s playoff roster. Once a player is bought out of his contract, he must be placed on waivers. The waiver period is 48 hours. If no one claims him, Brewer will become a free agent and can sign anywhere for the veterans minimum.
As part of the Florida team that won back-to-back national championships, and later as a lottery pick, Brewer carries solid name recognition. But in four years in the NBA he has proved to be a limited offensive player. Brewer is a 40 percent shooter from the floor and a 41 percent shooter from 3-point range. He’ll also turn 25 this week, so there’s much development time left for him. Still, he’s an athletic 6-foot-9 and has value as a wing defender.
|Why the fuss over Troy Murphy||02.28.11 at 1:59 pm ET|
On Sunday, Golden State reached a buyout with forward Troy Murphy. On Monday they put him on waivers. Once he clears the 48-hour waiver process, he is a free man and eligible to sign with any team that will have him for the veterans minimum. Players are rarely claimed on waivers in the NBA because teams must be under the cap and have roster space available to put in a claim.
Once he clears, Murphy is expected to choose between Miami and Boston — and assuming he does — he will get to do something that has eluded him during his 10-year NBA career: Play a game in the postseason. Murphy has appeared in 639 regular seasons and scored over 7,500 points and recorded over 5,000 rebounds, but he has never once seen the playoffs.
For the first nine years of his career he played on poor Golden State and Indiana teams. He did it with solid distinction, averaging 12 points and eight rebounds and shooting 39 percent from 3-point range. But over the summer he was traded to New Jersey in a larger transaction that saw players like Darren Collison go to Indiana and Trevor Ariza wind up in New Orleans.
Murphy’s value was primarily as an expiring contract, but the native of Morristown, NJ figured to add some scoring punch and veteran mentoring for rookie Derrick Favors. It didn’t work out that way. Murphy clashed with Nets coach Avery Johnson and was effectively banished. Murphy played just 18 games for the Nets and logged fewer than 300 minutes, while his shooting percentages tumbled. He was dealt again at the trade deadline for Brandan Wright and Dan Gadzuric‘s expiring contract.
So why all the attention?
Despite his struggles this season, Murphy has a long track record as a dependable performer. He’s a very good defensive rebounder and at 6-foot-11 he is the quintessential stretch-four — a big man who can step out on the perimeter, make shots and spread the defense. He’s also easily one of the best players available in a thin free agent lot.
For the Celtics, Murphy would bring his shooting ability as well as offer insurance in case anything happens to Kevin Garnett or Glen Davis. With uncertainty surrounding the health of Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal, he also could conceivably serve as backup center in a lineup with Garnett, and offer even more flexibility for coach Doc Rivers.
But perhaps the real carrot for the Celtics is keeping him away from Miami. The Heat suffered a major blow when they lost Udonis Haslem earlier in the season and Murphy would offer a big body and a shooter for a Miami bench that needs help.
|Delonte West sprains ankle, out for Utah game||02.28.11 at 1:28 pm ET|
During an informal workout Sunday, Celtics guard Delonte West sprained his right ankle when he stepped on another player’s foot and will be out for the Celtics game Monday night against Utah. Doc Ricers told reporters in Utah that West is also questionable for Wednesday’s game with Phoenix when the team returns to the Garden.
This latest injury once again puts the Celtics in a bind as West is the only experienced point guard on the roster behind Rajon Rondo, following Nate Robinson‘s trade to the Thunder. Rookie Avery Bradley, who has played 10 minutes in his five games since returning from the D-League will likely back up Rondo for the time being.
Another option for Rivers is using Paul Pierce as a point-forward. That worked in stretches earlier in the season when Rondo was out with injuries.
|Examining the Celtics’ buyout options||02.27.11 at 4:55 pm ET|
In the year and a half since Leon Powe left Boston after the 2009 season, he has played just 34 games. He also has not played in a game since Jan. 5. But Powe is available after he was waived by the Cavaliers and that’s enough to put him on the Celtics’ radar screen as they look to fill two, and possibly three, roster spots before the playoffs.
The Celtics currently have 13 players on the roster counting Chris Johnson, whom they signed to a 10-day contract out of the D-League. In the wake of the trades that sent Semih Erden, Luke Harangody and Marquis Daniels out of town, team president Danny Ainge finally has the flexibility to add more pieces.
“We’d like to add someone at each position,” Ainge said in an interview with WEEI. “A wing player, either a great shooter or a defender, not both. We’d like to shore up our frontline. We would probably look for another guard, but that’s probably the least of it.”
Here’s how the roster looks as of Sunday night:
PG: Rajon Rondo, Delonte West, Avery Bradley
SG: Ray Allen, Von Wafer
SF: Paul Pierce, Jeff Green
PF: Kevin Garnett, Glen Davis
C: Nenad Krstic, Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Johnson, Jermaine O’Neal
(Note: Johnson is on a 10-day contract. The Celtics have the option of signing him to another 10-day contract when this one runs out. Then they would have to decide whether to sign him for the rest of the year.)
The issue for the Celtics right now is the limited number of players who might be available. To be eligible for someone’s postseason roster, players under contract must be waived before Tuesday, March 1. They can sign any time after that, but as Tuesday’s deadline draws near, the pool continues to shrink, not expand.
The Bobcats apparently plan to keep center Joel Przybilla. Jared Jeffries was bought out by the Rockets, but he is expected to go back to New York. You can forget about any Marcus Camby dreams and Sam Dalembert is staying with the Kings.
UPDATE: Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports reported Sunday night that the Clippers have reached a buyout with Rasual Butler. According to Spears, his list of teams includes the Celtics.
Then there’s the strange saga of Rip Hamilton. According to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Hamilton nixed a trade that would have sent him to Cleveland and then declined overtures on a buyout, while also orchestrating an embarrassing boycott of coach John Kuester, with whom he has been feuding.
The real prize in the buyout season is Troy Murphy, who has reportedly worked out a buyout with the Warriors as of late Sunday. Murphy will be the most coveted name available, with the Celtics competing with Miami for his services. It says something about the shallow pool of talent available that a player who has seen action in just 18 games and logged less than 300 minutes this season will be that in demand.
Which brings us back to Powe. He’s 27 years old with bad knees, but again, he’s available. Powe is still beloved in the locker room and he’s obviously familiar with Doc Rivers‘ system. Even in limited minutes, he’s shown flashes. He also may be one of the few legitimate options. Murphy and Powe are the two best big man options and acquiring one, if not both, will be the Celtics’ biggest priority.
Here’s a look at some other players who may interest the Celtics. Read the rest of this entry »