|Video: Shaq conducting the Pops||12.21.10 at 10:21 am ET|
This is Shaquille O’Neal leading the Boston Pops through a holiday favorite Monday night at the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
The Harvard Square Statue move was an unique bit of modern art and even inspired our own Rob Bradford to try the same stunt (the Bradtue). What’s next for Shaq, a reenactment of Paul Revere’s famous ride?
|Fast Break: Lucky 13 for Celtics||12.19.10 at 3:28 pm ET|
After beating the Pacers 99-88 Sunday afternoon at TD Garden, the Celtics have now won 13 straight games. They didn’t play particularly well or efficient and it wasn’t aesthetically pleasing, but in order to keep that streak going, they’re going to have to do the kinds of things they did Sunday.
Yes, they gave up way too many offensive rebounds and the bench is woefully thin behind Glen Davis and Marquis Daniels, but the Celtics have figured out a formula for winning regular season games. Get a lead with the starters and then turn it on defensively in the fourth quarter.
Three different players scored 18 points, including Davis off the bench and Ray Allen added 17. They were balanced and they made the plays when they had to make them.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Paul Pierce gave the game what it needed: That’s the phrase the Celtics captain likes to use to describe his contributions and in recording a triple-double he pretty much gave the Celtics everything they needed. Pierce didn’t do much scoring (18 points on just eight shots), but he was a distributor (12 assists) and helped Kevin Garnett work the glass with 10 rebounds.
Pierce is playing some of the most responsible basketball of his career. That shouldn’t be viewed as faint praise. Garnett and Rondo have secured the headlines, and rightfully so, but Pierce remains the Celtics on-court leader.
Shaquille O’Neal returned: Foul trouble limited Shaq’s time on the court, but after finishing Thursday’s game with just nine players, the Celtics welcomed the return of any player, let alone the big fella. Shaq wasted little time making his presence felt with 11 points in five minutes including an obscene posterization of Jeff Foster on an alley-oop.
Shaq played 22 minutes, which is right in line with the amount he had been playing and the Celtics needed it as Semih Erden was limited with a groin injury.
Nate Robinson had a Nate Robinson game: With Rajon Rondo out for the foreseeable future, it falls on Robinson to handle major minutes at the point. Robinson is not going to be Rondo. Not now, not ever. They are completely different players with different skill sets, but the one thing Robinson can do is provide instant offense and he was able to score 18 points.
Robinson also provided athletic, hustling plays all over the court and for that the Celtics will indulge him the occasional pull-up 3-pointer on the break.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Defensive rebounding: The Pacers shredded the Celtics on the boards in the first quarter, racking up six offensive rebounds. The Celtics were able to tighten up in the second, but the Pacers got up 50 shots in the first half, which allowed them to stay in the game despite shooting just 40 percent.
The problems returned in the third quarter. As is usually the case, the Celtics problems on the glass started before the shot attempt …
Dribble penetration: This is where the Celtics really miss Rondo, or at least the healthy version of Rondo. Darren Collison and T.J. Ford were both able to breakdown the Celtics defense, which not only allowed the to combine for 31 points and 24 shot attempts, but also caused the Celtics help defense to leave rebounding gaps on the boards.
The bench is thin: Davis and Daniels have been fantastic. Erden has given the Celtics a boost. But right now, with all the injuries, the Celtics need to get something out of either Avery Bradley or Von Wafer. It hasn’t happened yet.
|What the Orlando moves mean for the Celtics||12.18.10 at 10:31 pm ET|
In two separate trades over the course of one day, the Orlando Magic turned over almost half of their rotation for an upgrade at the scoring guard position (Jason Richardson) and high-priced gambles on two of the league’s worst contracts (Hedo Turkoglu and Gilbert Arenas). In doing so, they ditched the services of two former All-Star wing players whose production has plummeted (Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis) and two well-paid role players (Mikael Pietrus and Marcin Gortat).
There are a lot of moving parts for the Magic, who over the last two and half weeks have lost six of seven games and watched as the Celtics asserted themselves as the favorites in the East and the Heat established themselves as the best team in their division.
The Celtics have always considered the Magic their toughest conference challenger and many of their offseason moves have been done with the Magic in mind. Orlando general manager Otis Smith clearly felt that his team needed an overhaul to try and keep pace.
The particulars are as follows:
Orlando gets: Gilbert Arenas from Washington and Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkulgu and Earl Clark from Phoenix.
Orlando gives up: Rashard Lewis to Washington and Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat, Mikael Pietrus, a 2011 No. 1 pick and $3 million to Phoenix.
Phoenix and Washington’s motivations are clear. The Suns, who are going nowhere fast, shed Turkoglu’s onerous contract, which still has two years remaining after this season and get an intriguing big man with potential in Gortat along with a serviceable player in Pietrus. The cash will help the inevitable $4 million buyout on the last year of Carter’s contract. The Wizards obviously get rid of Arenas, who still has three years, $60 million and just as much baggage next to his name.
But these trades are all about the Magic, or more specifically, Dwight Howard, who as Yahoo’s Kelly Dwyer points out, can opt out after the 2012 season. If this team had reached its limit, then it does them no good to continue playing out the string until Howard becomes a free agent.
Assuming for the sake of argument that the personalities of the new players will mesh with coach Stan Van Gundy, which is the huge blinking neon light of an X-factor in this discussion, the Magic have gotten better offensively. They have shooters everywhere to put around Howard and in Arenas they have a scoring guard who can create his own shot.
That is particularly important against the Celtics, who are one of the few teams capable of playing Howard straight-up. Without the double-teams, the Magic had trouble getting their shooters open for shots against the Celtics in the playoffs until they switched to a constant pick-and-roll attack. Carter was supposed to be that player, but he wasn’t able to do it.
The Magic should also play faster, an obvious adjustment for a team with so many perimeter players, a dominant rebounder and a lack of size beyond Howard. All of this makes it even more important that Delonte West is able to return from his broken wrist because Van Gundy now has a number of different lineup combinations he can use and the Celtics could use West’s defensive versatility.
Here are five essential realities of the deal from Orlando’s perspective. Read the rest of this entry »
|The education of Avery Bradley||12.17.10 at 3:25 pm ET|
Avery Bradley is a good listener. That may not seem that important, but to the veteran Celtics it is a very big deal. They have a tendency to notice things about the young players who join the team. Not so much on the court, although that is obviously an important part of the equation, but about how they conduct themselves.
Do they pay attention during the huddle, even though they have less of a chance of getting in the game than Lucky the mascot? Do they ask questions when they don’t understand something? Do they listen?
It’s telling that such famously hard-to-please veterans as Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett have praised Bradley’s approach in his first season for exactly those reasons.
“I really like the kid, actually,” Pierce said after the Celtics beat the Hawks Thursday night. “I see how he works and soaks up so much in practice and you can see him wanting to get better. He’s always asking questions and he’s always in the huddle.”
For Bradley, this is a no-brainer. When the vets talk, he listens and tries to absorb whatever lesson he can.
“Seeing their success, I would feel dumb if I didn’t listen to those guys,” Bradley said. “They know what they’re talking about. When they tell me those things I want to listen so I can become a better player. They’re trying to help me all the time. When I do something wrong, they pull me aside and that just shows that they care about me and want the best for me.”
For the first time in his career, Rajon Rondo is the elder statesman at his position. In past years the Celtics brought in vets like Sam Cassell and Stephon Marbury to play behind him. It’s the endless circle of life in the NBA and now Rondo is the mentor. It’s a role he has taken an interest in with Bradley, often staying after practice to watch carefully as he plays in 2-on-2 games with fellow rookie Luke Harangody, Von Wafer and assistant coach Ty Lue.
Those games happen after every practice and it’s a way for them to stay active. Bradley, in particular, seems to use those runs as a way to test out in-game situations. Rondo will usually watch intently from the sidelines and then offer his wisdom in private.
“He’s a great listener,” Rondo said back in November. “That might not sound like much, but that’s big for a young guy to come in. He’s very humble. He works extremely hard. He’s going to be a great player in this league someday when he gets his opportunity. I always tell him to stay ready.”
With Rondo out for a few weeks, his opportunity is coming sooner than anyone imagined, and truthfully a little sooner than Doc Rivers had envisioned. But with only 10 healthy bodies, opportunity is here.
“You don’t try to put too much in his head,” Rondo said. “You just try to let him learn for himself, but he can always ask me or Nate [Robinson] or coach Rivers. So he has some good guys in front of him who are willing to teach him the game.”
Those lessons come the hard way in the NBA. Take Thursday night’s game when Hawks guard Jeff Teague went off on Bradley. Bradley had barely checked in when Teague stripped him and soared in for a dunk.
“You have to have a short memory,” Bradley said. “People make mistakes, you’re going to make mistakes, especially at this level. You got to go to the next play.”
Things didn’t get much better for Bradley as Teague continued to dominate him. But late in the first quarter, Bradley dove into a scrum and came up with a loose ball leading to points for the Celtics on the other end. It wasn’t much, but it was something positive for Bradley to take into the next game and validation that he wasn’t going to back down.
“You can talk all the trash to him in practice and when you look up he’s staring you right in the eyes and he’s going nowhere,” Rivers said a few weeks ago. “I think our veterans really appreciate that in him.”
Even with all the injuries, nothing is guaranteed for Bradley. The Celtics have options, not necessarily ideal options but options nonetheless. Marquis Daniels has done spot duty as a backup point guard and Pierce and Ray Allen are more than capable of bringing the ball up the court and initiating the offense. So, the onus is on Bradley to take advantage of this opportunity.
In the end, everyone agrees that he has a bright future. He is a tenacious on-the-ball defender who is not afraid to get up on his man and force the action. “He’s very physical,” Rondo said. “He gets through the picks, he gets up into you, he turns you, makes you dribble with your back to the basket.”
His offensive game is still developing and while his size — 6-foot-2, 180 pounds — says point guard, he may be better suited playing off the ball where he can work his mid-range game. The comparison has been made to a smaller version of Tony Allen, without the turnovers, and if he reaches that point this season the Celtics would be thrilled.
But all of that is in front of him. He missed valuable time this summer after undergoing ankle surgery, which kept him out of the Orlando summer league and the majority of training camp. Once the season began, he rolled over Pierce’s foot in practice, which caused him to miss another week.
The learning curve will be steep, but the best thing Avery Bradley has going for him is that he’s willing to learn.
|Ainge: Rajon Rondo will miss a couple of weeks||12.16.10 at 4:30 pm ET|
Speaking to WEEI’s Big Show, Celtics president Danny Ainge said that he thinks Rajon Rondo will be out for “a couple of weeks” following a sprained ankle he suffered in the fourth quarter of the Celtics 118-116 win over the Knicks Wednesday night.
Rondo had to be helped back to the locker room, but he did return after the game.
“I think that the adrenaline was still flowing,” Ainge said. “I think that Rajon is young, and he feels fast and he loves to play, to his credit. I couldn’t believe he was back on the court last night. He wasn’t moving very well, even when he got back out on the court. You could tell he was still in a lot of pain, and certainly after the game it started puffing up. This morning there was a lot of swelling, and he definitely needs some time off.”
There is obviously no definitive timeline yet as to how long Rondo will be out, but he has been visibly bothered by a growing number of injuries, including plantar fasciitis and a hamstring injury that has caused him to miss four games.
Rondo has steadfastly maintained that he is fine, and his teammates have noted, and appreciated, his toughness. But Wednesday night, even Rondo seemed resigned. “It’s a little bit of everything,” he said with a sigh. “Something new every game. It’s just part of it.”
After the Knicks game, reporters were ushered into the team’s training room in the visiting locker room at Madison Square Garden, a place that is normally off-limits to the press, to talk with Rondo who was sitting on a bench with his left shoe off. “It hurts,” he said. “But all ankle sprains hurt.”
CSNNE’s Greg Dickerson reported that Rondo was on crutches as he made his way to the team bus.
While he expressed his desire to continue playing, few among the Celtics believed that would be possible. Without knowing the extent of the injury, Paul Pierce noted that it didn’t look good.
“He’s been banged up over the last month.,” Pierce said. “There’s probably a slim chance we’ll have him [Thursday]. So, we’ve played a few games without him. We’ve got to make adjustments, that happens. But hey, what’s new for us? We got a lot of guys going down right now, and we keep finding ways.”
In his absence, Nate Robinson has played some of his best games this season. He scored 22 points in a loss against Toronto (the last game the Celtics have lost) and followed that up with a 16-point, 10-assist performance against the Hawks. In a win over New Jersey on Dec. 5, Robinson scored 21 points to go with six assists and six rebounds.
All told, Robinson is shooting 25-for-40 and 11-for-19 from 3-point range in his four starts.
“Nate has been playing very well for us,” Ainge said, “And now he’s going to have to step it up and play more minutes.”
|Fast Break: Celtics outlast Knicks||12.15.10 at 9:47 pm ET|
NEW YORK — Call it whatever you want, but there’s no doubt the Knicks have the Celtics attention now. In an unreal game of ebbs and flows, runs and counters, these two teams went back and forth for three quarters. And then things got really crazy.
It ended when Paul Pierce hit an elbow jump shot with four-tenths of a second left on the clock and Amar’e Stoudemire’s 3-pointer was ruled late.
It had everything you could possibly want in an NBA regular season game and while the Celtics will take the 118-116 victory, they know they haven’t seen the last of the Knicks.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen did what Garnett, Pierce and Allen do: Say this for the Big 3, they knew what was at stake Wednesday and they knew they had to do. Garnett rebounded and posted, Allen made big shot after big shots and Pierce did everything else. It was a vintage performance.
And then Pierce won the damn thing himself with an elbow jumper with .4 seconds left.
The bench came to play: Really, the bench. The Celtics were down 34-26 after the first quarter and they were lucky it was that close. Doc Rivers turned to his bench and Nate Robinson, Marquis Daniels and Glen Davis — along with Semih Erden and Ray Allen — brought the Celtics back into the game.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Amar’e all night: The Celtics started the game with Semih Erden on Stoudemire, which didn’t work. Then they tried Glen Davis on Stoudemire, which didn’t work all that well either. The only Celtic who was able to bother Stoudemire was Kevin Garnett, but Doc Rivers kept that matchup to a minimum.
Ray Felton ran the show: The game was played almost entirely at the Knicks pace and that was a credit to Felton who got the better of Rajon Rondo most of the night. It wasn’t a good night for Rondo who was pulled in the third quarter and also appeared to roll his ankle in the fourth quarter.
|Preview: Celtics at Knicks||12.15.10 at 9:28 am ET|
Just so we’re clear: This is not a rivalry, but it is a big game. The Celtics have won 10 straight games and are back atop the Eastern Conference. The Knicks have won eight straight and 13 of their last 14 and are looking like the best New york team in a decade.
While the Celtics downplayed the significance Tuesday at practice, the Knicks Raymond Felton was more outspoken. The truth is, this is a huge game for the Knicks. This is the game that will either validate their early-season success or take them back to reality. They know that and so do the Celtics, which should make for one heck of a show at the world’s most famous arena.
“Whenever the Knicks are playing well and there’s energy in the building it’s good for everybody,” Doc Rivers said. “I loved it as an opponent. I loved it when I was playing there. It’s the only building alive still, as far as the old buildings. It has that energy.”
What makes this matchup so compelling is that the Knicks and Celtics are practically diametrically opposed in terms of philosophy. The Celtics preach defense, while the Knicks try to win with offense. Boston takes the fewest 3-pointers in the league and New York takes the most. The Celtics move and execute you to death in the halfcourt, while the Knicks try to spread the floor and let their controlled version of chaos reign.
No, this isn’t the Lakers. It’s not the Magic and it’s not the Heat. But it’s New York, Madison Square Garden and the two hottest teams in the league. Throw in the New York-Boston element, make it about an up and coming challenger against an undisputed regional champion and it makes for a uniquely unexpected winter treat on the NBA calendar.
CELTICS (19-4, 10-0 last 10)
Offensive Rating: 109.3 (9th)
Defensive Rating: 98.7 (1st)
Pace: 91.0 (21st)
Likely Starters: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Semih Erden
Injuries: Shaquille O’Neal (Calf, shin, questionable), Jermaine O’Neal (Knee, out), Kendrick Perkins (Knee, out), Delonte West (Wrist, out).
KNICKS (16-9, 9-1 last 10)
Offensive Rating: 111.6 (4th)
Defensive Rating: 109.6 (23rd)
Pace: 96.4 (Third)
Likely Starters: Ray Felton, Landry Fields, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Amar’e Stoudemire
Injuries: Kalenna Azubuike (Knee, out) Read the rest of this entry »