|Report: Heat may target Kendrick Perkins in free agency||02.05.11 at 12:30 pm ET|
The NBA is facing massive uncertainty once the season ends if the owners decide to lockout the players, as expected. A new collective bargaining agreement would almost certainly re-write the rules on free agency, but one thing is clear from the Celtics perspective: Kendrick Perkins will be very much in demand.
In his latest After the Buzzer column, Yahoo columnist Marc Spears writes that a source expects the Miami Heat to make a run at Perkins once he hits free agency. That would make sense for the Heat who lack a big man compliment to Chris Bosh on their frontline. Under the current rules Miami would only be able to offer the mid-level exception, while the Celtics would be able to offer Perkins whatever they want to retain his services.
Either way, Perkins will be in demand as a 26-year-old center with proven rebounding and defensive skills.
|Fast Break: Shot down by Dallas||02.04.11 at 10:39 pm ET|
The Dallas Mavericks are a strange team. That’s meant as a compliment. They have a number of smaller players who can create havoc both offensively and defensively. They also have a 7-foot jump shooter in Dirk Nowitzki who might be the MVP of the league. The Celtics usually make teams play the way they want to play, but they were never able to impose their game on the Mavs.
The result was a wildly entertaining, and slightly weird, game in which both teams shot close to 50 percent and got more offensive rebounds than they typically do in a week. It featured Ray Allen raining 3′s, and also blocking a 7-footer at the rim. Nowitzki made one shot in the first quarter, and still finished with 29 points.
It came down to the final few possessions when everything once again went haywire. Rajon Rondo missed a jumper, Allen forced a shot and after getting a steal on the defensive end, Kevin Garnett had a 20-footer rim in and out. That gave the Mavericks life and Jason Kidd answered with an open 3 off a wild scrum from the top of the key. The Celtics had a chance to tie the game, but a Rondo lob to Garnett with 2.5 seconds left sailed a few inches too high.
Ultimately, it goes in the books as a 101-97 loss and a tough way for the Celtics to start their stretch of games against the best teams in the league, a group that definitely includes the Mavericks.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Bad start: The Celtics gave up 34 points in the first quarter (a season-high) and allowed the Mavs to shoot 67 percent from the floor. If that wasn’t bad enough, they also allowed the Mavericks to make 5-of-6 from behind the arc. It was as bad a defensive performance as the Celtics have had all season and left the fighting to get out of the hole all night long.
Cross matchups: Dallas started an unconventional lineup with J.J. Barea, Jason Kidd and DeShawn Stevenson. That led to all kind of cross matchups with Allen guarding Kidd. When coach Rick Carlisle went to Jason Terry and Shawn Marion in his rotation that only led to more strange scenarios such as Kendrick Perkins guarding Marion. The Celtics were never really able to get into a defensive rhythm.
Kevin Garnett may get fined: Another game, another KG incident. His latest misadventure came when he got tangled up with Barea on a layup. Garnett threw an elbow and was given a technical. As they were getting untangled, referee Eric Lewis put his hand on Garnett’s arm and Garnett shoved it aside. That move will likely cost him some money.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Ray Allen just keeps rolling: Allen got off to a slow start, but the thing with him is you never know when he’s going to go off. On Friday it was the third quarter when he drained 5-of-6 shots and scored 14 of his 24 points. If that wasn’t enough, Allen went over Nowitzki for a tip-in and straight blocked Tyson Chandler who was going up for a dunk.
Better bench play: Doc Rivers yanked his starters after a terrible defensive first quarter and it was the second unit that got them back in the game. Their production — 24 points, 10 rebounds and five assists — was solid, but it was their defensive energy that ultimately was more important. Marquis Daniels was the ringleader with 10 points.
The Beast is back (Part V): Just in case there was any doubt, Kendrick Perkins is back, and maybe better than ever. Perkins re-joined the starting lineup with Shaquille O’Neal out with an Achilles injury and responded with his first double-double. Perkins had 13 points and 12 rebounds in 32 minutes and finished what he started. It may have happened sooner than Rivers anticipated, but there’s nothing holding Perkins back now.
|Kendrick Perkins rejoins starting lineup with Shaquille O’Neal sidelined||02.04.11 at 7:53 pm ET|
It happened ahead of schedule, but Kendrick Perkins is once again a starting center. Shaquille O’Neal won’t play Friday night against the Mavericks, and he may not play Sunday against the Magic either as he deals with his latest ailment — an inflamed Achilles.
With Shaq out, Perkins will return to the starting lineup just five games into his comeback from knee surgery. The move was inevitable, but the timetable is a little quick for Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “I wanted to wait a little bit, honestly,” Rivers said. “It is what it is.”
Rivers is hoping to have Shaq back by Thursday when the Celtics play the Lakers (the Celtics also have a game Monday in Charlotte). Asked if Perkins was now the starter for good, Rivers wouldn’t commit one way or another. “I don’t know yet,” Rivers said. “We were probably going to start Perk after the All-Star break anyway, so we’ll see.”
Rivers has been pleased with Perkins’ production, but he still wants to monitor his minutes. It’s not the overall count that concerns the coach, but the extended stretches that worries him. Rivers would like to have Perkins on the floor for no more than seven minutes at a time. The depth behind Perkins includes Glen Davis and Semih Erden.
As for Shaq, this is the latest leg ailment to bother the veteran big man. There has been a hip injury, a calf strain and another one described as a “fibula head” strain. Also, as Rivers likes to point out, Shaq’s 38 years old. Rivers doesn’t think this latest injury will last long, but he also said he’s not sure how long Shaq will be out.
|Game 49: Mavericks at Celtics||02.04.11 at 11:19 am ET|
The Dallas Mavericks have been doing this for a long time. They have been a playoff team every year for the last decade, the second-longest current streak after San Antonio. Their run coincided with the emerge of Dirk Nowitzki as a big-time player and over the years he has remained the one constant.
Steve Nash gave way to Jason Kidd. Michael Finley and Josh Howard were eventually replaced by Jason Terry and Shawn Marion. Through it all, Nowitzki has remained, and despite his MVP season, he remains one of the NBA’s underappreciated superstars.
Nowitzki is having another phenomenal season, perhaps his best since his MVP days. His impact can be seen through his +/- numbers where the Mavericks are more than 22 points better with him on the floor, the highest margin in the league, according to Basketball Value. His impact was even more obvious when he missed nine games and the Mavs went 2-7 during that stretch.
They have since won seven of their last eight and are re-establishing themselves as one of the Western Conference’s prime contenders along with the Spurs and Lakers.
As great as Nowitzki has been, the biggest change has come from the Mavs’ never-ending search for the right complimentary players to put around him. That would be Tyson Chandler.
“He’s the biggest change on their team,” Rivers said. “Chandler has made them a defensive team. They have an anchor now. Just think, they have [Brendan] Haywood coming off the bench. That’s a big, deep basketball team.”
Chandler gives them 10 points and nine rebounds per game, while shooting 66 percent from the floor on a limited arsenal of dunks and put-backs. But it’s his defensive presence that has been the biggest factor, especially in their zone defense.
The Mavs are ninth in defensive rating, up from 12th the season before and 17th the year before that. Additionally, they only give up 20 shots a game at the rim — the second lowest total in the league after Orlando where Dwight Howard patrols the paint.
This may be the same old Nowitzki, but it’s not the same old Mavs.
Offensive Rating: 108.1 (Points scored per 100 possessions, 11th)
Defensive Rating: 104.8 (Points allowed per 100 possessions, 9th)
Pace: 90.2 (Possessions per game, 23rd)
Likely Starters: Jason Kidd, DeShawn Stevenson, Dirk Nowitzki, Brian Cardinal, Tyson Chandler
Injuries: Caron Butler (Knee, out), Roddy Beaubois (Foot, out), Peja Stojakovic (Knee, out)
Offensive Rating: 108.1 (12th)
Defensive Rating: 100.1 (2nd)
Pace: 90.8 (21st)
|Doc Rivers plan for his four All-Stars||02.04.11 at 12:19 am ET|
Before the announcement that the Celtics would have four All-Stars was made official, Doc Rivers joked that he would play the four of them together with whatever player was closest to free agency, “Just so they could see how it feels.” So, get ready Dwight Howard to run with Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
For only the ninth time in NBA history, one team will have four representatives in the All-Star Game. Not surprisingly, the Celtics have done it more than any other teams (four), but to underscore how rare an achievement it actually is, no Celtics team has done it since 1975 when Paul Silas, JoJo White, John Havlicek and Dave Cowens all went together.
“I think it says that the coaches in the league recognize team basketball,” Rivers said.
The team aspect is what has come to define the 2010-11 Celtics. Pierce, Allen and Garnett each average between 11-13 shots per game and 15-19 points. That no one player dominates the scoring is what makes them so successful. An opposing team can try to take one of them out of the equation, but that just opens the door for one of the others.
The Celtics shoot the highest percentage in the league and have the third most assists. Those two things are not a coincidence. Without Rondo to operate the machine they often sputter. Rondo may not be the “best point guard in the NBA,” but he may be the one who can run the Celtics better than anyone else.
If one of them is out, it alters the chemistry just enough to make the Celtics slightly less menacing. “That’s what makes it so difficult,” Rivers said when asked which one was the hardest to replace. “Any one guy that’s out, it hurts our team. We’re so together as a group. There’s not one guy ‘ one guy out affects the entire team.”
The Celtics are where they are with the best record in the Eastern Conference because they have learned how to adjust with one of them is injured. But their championship credentials rely on having them all together.
|Kendrick Perkins may start soon, but will he finish?||02.03.11 at 5:21 pm ET|
Shaquille O’Neal didn’t practice Thursday because his Achilles is inflamed, according to coach Doc Rivers. That makes Shaq questionable for Friday’s game against the Mavericks. “We may play him [Friday], we may not,” Rivers said. “We’ll see.”
When Shaq hasn’t been able to go Rivers has turned to rookie Semih Erden in order to keep Glen Davis in his familiar sixth man role off the bench. But now that Kendrick Perkins has five games under his belt, don’t be surprised if he gets the call.
“We will [make the switch] eventually,” Rivers said. “It’s not a big deal to us. I’m more concerned about who finishes the game.”
The coach has a point. Without Perkins the Celtics have been using Davis at center in the fourth quarter. According to 82games.com, Rivers has used the lineup with the four starters and Davis as much as he has the starting five with Shaq. The Davis-at-center lineup has been productive, and it makes sense due to the minutes limitations on Shaq, as well as his well-documented foul difficulty this season.
But Perkins’ return gives the Celtics options and that’s never a bad thing.
Perkins said he was a little surprised by how quickly he’s been able to get back in the flow. He had 10 points and nine rebounds against the Blazers and eight and 10 against the Kings. He also logged about 93 minutes on the four-game west coast trip and lasted 27 minutes against the Lakers.
“I thought I’d be off by so much,” Perkins said after practice Thursday. “I thought I’d have to get into a rhythm or whatever it may be. I’m just going to keep putting in the hard work. I’m still not where I want to be, but I am happy where I’m at.”
Asked what he felt he needed to improve, Perkins said, “Just my timing. My jumping. That’s about it. Timing and jumping. I feel like I have to get off the floor a little bit better.”
It’s only a matter of time before he rejoins the starting five. The real question will be answered at the end of the games.
|Fast Break: Better late than never for Celtics||02.02.11 at 12:31 am ET|
It took a quarter for the inevitable letdown to kick in, but the Celtics wandered through a disastrous second quarter Tuesday night against the Kings that not only saw them give up 34, it also gave their young opponents a shot of confidence. The good news for the Celtics is they recovered quite nicely with a strong second half in a 95-90 win that capped off their successful west coast trip on a winning note.
The win also means that Doc Rivers will be be the head coach for the Eastern Conference in the All-Star game, a nice tribute in what has been a tremendously rewarding season thus far.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
The aggressive Rajon Rondo is the right Rajon Rondo: It was good to see the point guard carryover his second-half play against the Lakers into this one, and the Celtics desperately needed it. Rondo went to the basket early and often in the first half, even passing up could-be assists for sure-thing baskets. This is the Rondo that captured the imagination during the playoffs last season and the one that keeps opposing defenses on its heels because of his unpredictable style. This is the Rondo the Celtics need in the second half of the season.
Ray Allen is closing in on Reggie Miller: It’s only a matter of time now before Allen becomes the all-time 3-point king. He made four more Tuesday and is now nine away from passing Miller for the most 3-pointers made. On an up-and-down night, Allen was consistent throughout, just like he’s been throughout his remarkable career.
Kevin Garnett brought the good kind of crazy: After a so-so first half in which Garnett didn’t do much to distinguish himself, he brought out the insanely-intent version for the final 24 minutes. Garnett was all over the court, the floor and the boards. Whether it was aggressively challenging DeMarcus Cousins at the rim, or diving on the floor to come up with a steal, Garnett turned it on big-time in the third quarter. Not surprisingly, the Kings made only 6-of-19 shots and scored 17 points as the Celtics reclaimed the lead.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Time to start Perk? Shaquille O’Neal is either hurt or just not into it right now, but he is not giving the Celtics any kind of production as the starting center. Kendrick Perkins meanwhile is still looking to find his rhythm just five games into his return from knee surgery. However, it seems like it’s only a matter of time before Perkins rejoins the starting lineup and with an upcoming slate that features the Mavericks, Magic, Lakers and Heat in the next week and a half, the time may be right for the switch.
Putting out an APB for the bench: Starting Perkins would of course send O’Neal to the bench, which was the game plan all along. Rivers envisioned Shaq being a low-post scoring threat off the bench who would open up the perimeter and also create attention and space for Glen Davis. The Celtics second unit needs something right now because outside of Davis they all seem to be struggling. On an encouraging note, Nate Robinson gave the Celtics strong minutes in the second half and even closed out the game.
Slow down, you move too fast: One of the Celtics bad habits against bad teams is to get into an up-tempo game against them. The result is often turnovers and missed opportunities in transition. The Celtics turned it over 15 times, which contributed to their lackluster play in the first half.