|Fast Break: Celtics sail past Clips||02.27.11 at 1:20 am ET|
It took the Celtics a half to get going, but once they got it together the Clippers were no match for them in a 99-92 Celtics victory Saturday night in Los Angeles. (Recap.) Paul Pierce had a team-high 24 points, while Ray Allen added 22 and Kevin Garnett had 16 points and 10 rebounds. Rajon Rondo also had 11 assists.
Here’s what went right and what went wrong on a night when Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic officially became Celtics.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Free throw shooting: The Celtics are an offensive team that relies almost exclusively on making shots from the floor. They don’t get on the offensive glass much and they rarely get to the free throw line relative to other teams. On a night when they struggled to get shots to fall, the Celtics made it work at the free throw line where they took a season-high 41 attempts and made 35 of those shots. They also recorded 14 offensive rebounds, six from Krstic.
Kevin Garnett’s defense on Blake Griffin: It’s not as if Garnett was able to stop Griffin, who had 21 points and 11 rebounds. The rookie phenom had his usual collection of spectacular jams and is an open-floor terror. But Garnett was able to work Griffin out of the low post in the halfcourt and make things difficult on him. Griffin is so good he was still able to flip home impossible shots, but Garnett’s defense was a subtle mastery of the art and a reminder of how technically proficient he is at his craft.
Third quarter: After a first half that was absolutely dreadful (see below), the Celtics outscored the Clippers 34-17 in the third quarter and had 10 assists on 11 field goals, up from just six on 12 in the entire first half. The C’s also clamped down defensively, limiting the Clippers to one shot and controlling the glass.
WHAT WENT WRONG
The first half: The Celtics were fortunate to be down just seven points after a half in which they shot 34 percent and turned it over nine times. Garnett, Pierce and Glen Davis shot a combined 4-for-16. (All three, but especially Pierce completely turned his game around in the second half.) The Celtics looked disorganized on offense and slow on defense. They were able to hang around by going to the free throw line 17 times, converting 15 shots.
First reaction is a mixed bag: The first glimpse of the new-look Celtics suggests these guys are going to need some time to get used to playing with one another. While Krstic provided some opportunistic work on the offensive glass, he was also a step behind in the defensive rotations and spent most of the first half in foul trouble, while Green appeared tentative.
All that’s to be expected, and it’s worth mentioning that the Celtics actually have four new players getting minutes right now counting Delonte West and D-League pickup Chris Johnson.
As with the rest of the team, the second half was a totally different story for the players who are trying to fit in. Green appeared more confident and West ran the team flawlessly in the fourth quarter. It’s going to take time for all the pieces to fit, but Saturday night’s game was a good first step.
|Celtics stun NBA, trade Kendrick Perkins||02.24.11 at 4:34 pm ET|
In moves that shook up the entire NBA, the Celtics pulled off three deadline deals that will affect them now and in the future. According to a source, team president Danny Ainge traded Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to Oklahoma City for forward Jeff Green and center Nenad Krstic.
In a separate deal, the Celtics also dealt rookies Luke Harangody and Semih Erden for a second-round draft pick. That deal is about clearing roster space for veteran free agents who are expected to be bought out of their contracts, most notably Troy Murphy.
The Celtics also traded Marquis Daniels to Sacramento for cash. As a player with Early Bird contract rights Daniels had the right to veto the trade, but his agent, Mark Bartelstein, said that he would not. They are more concerned with Daniels’ health than his career at the moment.
But it’s the initial deal that was so shocking. Perkins has recently returned from a torn ACL in his right knee and had moved quickly back into the starting lineup. But Perkins injured his left knee against the Warriors and was going to be held out of the rest of the team’s West Coast trip. With Jermaine O’Neal and Shaquille O’Neal also sidelined by injuries, Perkins was the only veteran center left standing.
With Perkins gone, the oft-repeated line from coach Doc Rivers that no one had ever defeated the Celtics with their starting five will stand.
Robinson, on the other hand, was rumored to be available for the last week. His inconsistent play, and the return of Delonte West made him expendable.
In return, the Celtics received Green and Krstic. Ironically, Green was drafted with the fifth pick in the 2007 draft, which the Celtics used to acquire Ray Allen. Green is averaging 15 points and 5.6 rebounds for the Thunder, but he is a poor 3-point shooter and not much of a rebounder for his size. Krstic is a veteran 7-footer who will help fill in some of the gaps left by Perkins, but the two are very different players.
There’s still more coming. The Celtics will have 12 players left on their roster. That opens the door for Ainge to sign as many as three veteran free agents. Murphy is one name who has been mentioned most prominently, although the Celtics figure to have competition from Miami, among other contenders.
Beyond this season, these moves could clear ample cap space for the future. Krstic will be an unrestricted free agent after this season and Green will be restricted. With only Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Avery Bradley under contract beyond the 2012 season, the Celtics could be prime players in the next great free agent class that is likely to include Dwight Howard, among others.
The present is cloudy at best. First and foremost will be restoring calm to a locker room that is among the tightest in the league. Perkins was a major force in that both on the court, and off. Second, is how Rivers intends to use Green who is a versatile forward. With Green and Glen Davis, the Celtics could use a variety of lineups to counter teams like Miami and the new-look Knicks.
|Trade deadline updates||02.24.11 at 10:14 am ET|
All day long we’ll be updating this post with news and analysis from across the NBA as the trade deadline ticks down to 3 p.m. Check back often for updates. (Note: All contract information comes from Sham Sports, recognized as the best independent source for contract numbers on the Internet).
The deal: Clippers trade Baron Davis and an unprotected 2011 first round draft to Cavaliers for Mo Williams and Jamario Moon
Source: Yahoo’s Marc J. Spears who says they have a deal in principle
Analysis: This is a money dump, pure and simple. Davis has two years and over $28 million left on his deal. He has also feuded with Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who taunted his player during games in full earshot of reporters. To rid themselves of Davis’ contract the Clips threw in an unprotected No. 1 pick in this year’s draft.
While that looks like typical Clippers shortsightedness in a league where lottery protection on draft picks is usually a given, this year’s draft is said to be among the weakest in years. Still, the draft always yields unexpected gems and the Cavaliers will now have two lottery picks.
In return, the Clippers received Williams who has had an injury-plagued season for the woeful Cavs. Williams has two years and $17 million left on his deal (he has an early termination option after this year and a player option for the year after that). Moon is in the last year of his contract, which pays him $3 million.
In a basketball sense, the Cavs got the better player but that’s not why they made this deal. With a massive rebuilding project ahead of them, the Cavs are stockpiling draft picks. If Davis shows up motivated and stays in shape, that’s just a bonus.
Williams isn’t nearly the playmaker that Davis is and that could have an effect on Blake Griffin, who was on the receiving end of all those Davis lobs for his highlight-reel dunks. This deal does open the door for rookie point guard Eric Bledsoe to take on a larger role.
Winner: Cavs (slight edge)
Both teams got something they wanted. The Clippers got rid of Davis, and saved some money in the process, while the Cavs got a high draft pick. We’ll have to wait for the draft to see just how valuable that pick becomes.
|Danny Ainge plays the waiting game as trade deadline nears||02.23.11 at 11:58 pm ET|
As the clock ticks toward 3 p.m. and the end of the trade deadline Thursday, the Celtics are in the same position they were last week. They would like to make a move for a backup small forward, but they don’t have many assets other teams want and they don’t seem to want to give up the few that teams do want — namely Semih Erden and Avery Bradley.
Now that Kendrick Perkins will be held out of the remaining three games on the team’s West Coast trip, and Shaquille O’Neal seems no closer to a return, Erden is once again being counted on as a contributor, and not just a developmental prospect.
While the 24-year-old Erden is not ‘young’ by NBA standards, 7-footers with emerging offensive skills on cheap second-round contracts are rare. You wouldn’t package him for a stopgap like say, Utah’s Raja Bell, who has two more years left on his contract.
The problem is that the Celtics just weren’t built to make an in-season trade, which team president Danny Ainge has acknowledged time and again. All the pieces were supposed to be in place, but then Marquis Daniels bruised his spinal cord and that was the one area where they didn’t have a contingency plan.
The Celtics don’t have any contract-friendly veterans stashed at the end of their roster and the one that they would most like to part with — Nate Robinson’s — has an extra year left on his deal. Daniels has what’s known as ‘Early Bird’ rights and thus would be able to block any trade that involved him if it comes to that and Von Wafer and Luke Harangody don’t make enough money to match up with anyone on their own.
Despite their obvious need, Ainge has played his hand tightly this trade season and he doesn’t want to make a panic trade. If he can make a move he seems determined to make the price drop, which would take him right up to the deadline.
In the interim, the Celtics have been linked to players like Corey Brewer and Kirk Hinrich who wound up elsewhere, and for a brief moment to Shane Battier who has gone nowhere. As quickly as a rumor surfaces, it gets shot down just as fast. The other names haven’t changed: Anthony Parker, Dahntay Jones, Josh Howard.
While the deadline clock ticks, the secondary market for veteran free agents who are bought out of their contracts has begun to take shape. The first domino to fall is Troy Murphy who was traded to the Warriors and who is expected to be bought out of the final year of his contract. Once that process clears he will be free to sign with any team for the veterans minimum and is said to have Miami and Boston high on his list.
Murphy doesn’t address the Celtics need at small forward, but he can shoot 3′s and rebound and would offer a new wrinkle to the second unit. The Heat are in the same position as the Celtics. They also don’t have many tradeable assets, which is why they made Mike Miller available. Expect Miami and Boston to battle it out on the veteran free agent front.
Elsewhere, there were other deals that had an impact on the Celtics, the most notable coming from New Jersey when the Nets swiped Deron Williams from Utah (click here for a breakdown).
Also, the Hawks acquired Hinrich and Hilton Armstrong from Washington in exchange for Mike Bibby, Maurice Evans and Jordan Crawford. Hinrich isn’t the shooter that Bibby is, but he is a much better defender, which is important come playoff time.
Despite the blockbuster moves, there have been a dearth of smaller transactions and that’s the game the Celtics are playing. With less than 24 hours remaining, that market is still taking shape.
|Kendrick Perkins to miss at least three games with knee injury||02.23.11 at 11:24 pm ET|
The good news for Kendrick Perkins is that he didn’t re-injure his surgically repaired right knee. The bad news is that he injured his left knee in a collision with Golden State’s Steph Curry during the Celtics game with the Warriors Tuesday night and will miss the rest of the team’s West Coast trip. The new injury has been described as minor, but it’s enough to keep Perkins off the floor and once again reduces the depth at center to the bare minimum.
With Perkins out of the lineup, the Celtics are down to Semih Erden and Glen Davis to man the center spot. Erden played 17 minutes in his return from his own injury problems Tuesday, while Davis handled the majority of the second-half minutes in Perkins’ absence.
The Celtics play the Nuggets on Thursday and then return to Los Angeles for a game against the Clippers on Saturday before finishing up the trip with a game against Utah on Monday.
|Trade deadline stunner: Nets acquire Deron Williams||02.23.11 at 3:02 pm ET|
For three-plus seasons, the Atlantic Division has been the Celtics kingdom. All of a sudden, it has become a madhouse. A day after the Knicks acquired Carmelo Anthony, the Nets swooped in and landed Deron Williams from Utah for Devin Harris, rookie Derrick Favors and draft picks. Harris and Favors were two of the key pieces in the Nets pursuit of Anthony, but there’s two significant differences here.
First, unlike the Anthony saga, which dragged on throughout the entire season, the Nets-Jazz trade was consummated quickly and with zero media attention. Second — and most importantly — the Nets made the move with no assurances that Williams would sign an extension before he can opt out of his deal after next season. Indeed, Williams was as unaware as everyone else that this deal would go down.
Williams can’t sign an extension until the summer, which leaves New Jersey a limited window to sell their new point guard on the prospect of headlining the franchise once it relocates to Brooklyn.
The deal has layers of ramifications and intrigue. Obviously the Nets have to be giddy about stealing some of the limelight from their brethren across the Hudson river, but beyond that the Jazz are now armed with high-value draft picks and young big men including Favors, Paul Millsap and former Celtic Al Jefferson. This also closes an unfortunate chapter in Utah’s history that began when longtime coach Jerry Sloan left the team after a reported blowup with Williams about the direction of the team.
For now, though, Williams is New Jersey’s most significant addition since it pried Jason Kidd loose from Phoenix. If he stays, the prospect of Williams matching up with Rajon Rondo four times a season is enticing. As an added bonus, if the Knicks actually are able to snag Chris Paul in free agency after next season, the Atlantic Division will become point guard central.
The issue for the Celtics is obvious. They will be a much different team after next season (assuming there is a next season). All of their key players besides Rondo and Paul Pierce will either be off the books or have new deals in place. With the Knicks, Nets and even the young 76ers gathering steam, competition will be fierce and the Celtics will be facing an overhaul. That’s a discussion for another day — and another collective bargaining agreement.
We haven’t yet reached the zero-hour of this season’s trade deadline, but it’s hard to imagine anyone else making a bolder, and more far-reaching move than the Nets did when they shook up the NBA and acquired Williams.
|What the Carmelo Anthony trade means for the Celtics||02.22.11 at 10:37 am ET|
The Knicks finally got Carmelo Anthony and all it took was trading two of their top three wing players, their point guard, a young 7-footer, draft picks and $6 million of cash. All that for a player who is not a top-10 talent and who in seven years in the NBA has made it out of the first round of the playoffs once.
In the process, the Knicks got significantly older at the point by swapping Ray Felton for Chauncey Billups and dumped two shooters — Wilson Chandler and Danilo Ganillari — for two forwards who can’t shoot — Corey Brewer and Renaldo Balkman. They also sold a good chunk of their future by surrendering a No. 1 draft pick in 2014 and two second-rounders obtained from Golden State.
As it played out, it became apparent that Anthony wanted no part of a trade to anywhere except New York, so the Knicks also pulled off the rare trick of upping the price in a trade while bidding against themselves.
There’s also no telling how the future of the NBA will look once a new collective bargaining agreement is in place. Once Anthony signs his long-rumored extension, he and Amar’e Stoudemire will lock up a huge portion of whatever salary cap is in place, which could mean that the likes of Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Dwight Howard would be beyond their financial grasp in 2012 when Billups comes off the books.
But hey, they got their man.
It’s not as if Anthony is a bad player. He and Stoudemire form a potent scoring combination at forward, assuming they can work out how to play together. It’s just a question of how much his services are really worth. Smart teams understand value and this deal is not smart. The Knicks were played like desperate teenagers on the last day of a binge in Tijuana, and if it’s true that Isiah Thomas is really pulling the strings, then they got what they deserved.
The Knicks spent the last two years undoing the wreckage that Thomas wrought and they were finally were able to put an actual basketball team on the floor. It wasn’t a team that was going to win a championship this year or next, but it was one with assets and flexibility and now most of that is gone.
In the short-term, the new-look Knicks may have upped the star power, but they aren’t going to be beat the Celtics, Heat or Bulls. There are too many holes, especially up front where Ronny Turiaf is the only defensive-minded big man left standing. Their defense, not exactly a strength to begin with, won’t get any better with Billups and Anthony guarding the perimeter.
The NBA future holds nothing but uncertainty, and the Celtics future is cloudier than most. Beyond Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce, the Celtics have none of their top 12 players under contract beyond next season. Presumably Kendrick Perkins will be part of the equation and possibly Glen Davis as well.
As the dust settles from the Melo drama, ask yourself this: Would you rather have the Celtics’ present? Absolutely. Then ask yourself if you would rather have a roster with Rondo, Perkins and a well-run front office calling the shots or Stoudemire, Anthony and dysfunctional chaos?
The Knicks got their man. Whether they can do anything else will ultimately tell if the whole thing was worth it.