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Rajon Rondo: ‘They have to hit the deck, too’ 05.29.12 at 9:21 am ET
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Kevin Garnett fouls LeBron James at the end of Game 1. (AP)

MIAMI — Late in the fourth quarter of the Celtics’ Game 1 loss to Miami, Kevin Garnett delivered a foul on LeBron James and then shared some of his famous internal monologue with James, who laughed back at him.

Asked later if he thought James and the Heat were “showboating,” Garnett responded, “A little bit. Little bit. It’s all good. They’re home, they’re comfortable. And when you’re comfortable, you do things like that. We’ve got to make sure we take them out of their comfort zone and fight a little harder.”

The comfort zone was something the Celtics talked about after the game in regards to James and Dwyane Wade, who combined to shoot 60 percent and score 54 points. Coach Doc Rivers said his team allowed them to play “in extreme comfort,” tough words for a team that lives on its defensive pressure.

Rajon Rondo said the C’s needed to “shrink the floor,” which is one of their main defensive principles. Someone asked if that meant being more physical and Rondo replied, “I mean, nothing dirty, but you know, they have to hit the deck, too.”

Two problems here. One, they can’t hit what they can’t catch, and two, who’s going to do it? This is one of the most mentally tough Celtics teams of recent years, but they don’t have an enforcer. It’s not their game. The issue for the Celtics isn’t hitting Miami, it’s stopping the Heat before they get there.

Regardless, expect this to be a huge thing for the next day and a half until Game 2 tips on Wednesday.

Read More: Dwyane Wade, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James, Rajon Rondo
Ray Allen searching for ways to fix free throw woes 05.29.12 at 3:14 am ET
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Ray Allen

MIAMI — Ray Allen doesn’t miss free throws, and when he does he usually finds the flaw quickly and corrects it. But after missing four more against Miami in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, he’s now shooting 60 percent at the line this postseason.

“It’s hard to say,” Allen said. “I know I don’t have good timing right now. I know the shot feels fine. If it’s short I know I do have less lift on it. It’s just timing. It’s just rhythm. It’s just getting shots up. Trying to understand what I have, what my lift is. I just take it day by day and try to figure what I’m dealing with.”

Allen was the first player out of the locker room at halftime, and he went straight to the free throw line, where he got up more shots. That’s his answer to everything — more work — but the bone spurs on his ankle clearly have affected his shooting from all areas of the court. He made only one of his seven field goal attempts, and since going 7-for-14 in Game 2 against Philadelphia, he is 13-for-43 overall and just 6-for-25 from 3-point range.

“He got a bunch of wide-open shots tonight,” Doc Rivers said. “With him it’s just balance.”

Allen’s shot appeared to be off line most of the time. Usually he misses by a matter of degrees. Lately it’s been off by several inches.

“I believe you guys know what I’m dealing with,” Allen said. “There’s nothing really to talk about. It’s like a battle within myself that I have to try and win. It’s a daily situation that I have to deal with, and this is the time that I have to be out here and do what I can to try and help this team win. When the season’s over with I have to deal with whatever I have to deal with personally. You always talk, if it was the playoffs would you play? It’s the playoffs.”

Read More: Ray Allen,
Game 1 pregame: Ray Allen remains in the starting lineup 05.28.12 at 12:44 pm ET
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The Celtics will be watching Ray Allen closely as the Eastern Conference finals tip off Monday night. (AP)

MIAMI — The Celtics honestly don’t know what to expect from Ray Allen on a game-by-game basis, but they’re not ready to make a change. Asked if he considered starting Mickael Pietrus ahead of Allen, coach Doc Rivers said, “No. We’re going to stay the way we are.”

Still, there is concern over Allen who was challenged defensively against the 76ers and will be facing a far-greater problem in guarding Dwyane Wade who scored 99 points in Miami’s final three games against the Pacers.

“It’s tough. Really, you don’t know,” Rivers said. “We don’t know game to game with him. We don’t know how he’s feeling, then we don’t know how he’s going to deal with it during the game. The way we coached him so far, is with the eye that’s how we have to coach him. We have to watch him. If we feel like he’s moving enough to help us, we keep him on the floor. If he’s not moving enough, then we take him off the floor.

“Then the second decision is, do we put him back on the floor. It’s every game — in Game 7, the argument our staff was having. ‘Take him off, take him out, bring him in.’ Honestly, it’s just luck sometimes. We left him in and he made two 3’s. But the hook was close, I can tell you that.”

Despite their injuries, the Heat are not overlooking the Celtics by any means.

“We understand the challenges we have ahead of us,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “They have championship experience. You can not discount that. They’ve proven that in the last two series, everyone was counting them out. They’re exactly where they want to be. Everybody counting them out and claiming that they’re this or they’re that. They’re not. That’s how they’ve been able to win. They grind games. They do it with their defense and they do it with timely offense.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James
Avery Bradley’s season is over, but his future is bright 05.25.12 at 1:35 pm ET
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Avery Bradley has emerged as an important player for the Celtics' future. (AP)

WALTHAM — Avery Bradley came into this season as a question mark. He leaves it as a potential future cornerstone.

Bradley had surgery on Friday for his injured shoulder, which had repeatedly popped out during the playoffs. It’s a huge loss for the Celtics, who have come to rely on his tenacious on-the-ball defense and the jolts of athleticism he provided the offense.

“Avery’s a big blow. There’s no doubt. If I’m the guy on the other team and I don’t have to play against Avery Bradley, I would sleep a little better,” Doc Rivers said. “No one wants to play against Avery. Our guys don’t want to play against him in practice. He’s a pain in the ass defensively. That’s what he does, and that’s not here anymore.

“We’re a great defensive team. What Avery did was allow us to be a great defensive team and put an individual on one guy and say, ‘Go shut him down.’ We don’t have that anymore. So now we have to go back to being just a great defensive team.”

Bradley’s loss has an effect on everyone on the court, but his absence is most acutely felt by Rajon Rondo. With Bradley in the game, Rondo didn’t have the responsibility of guarding the ball. That hasn’t meant as much for Rondo against the 76ers, who have several guards who can attack off the dribble, but at the same time, losing their best perimeter defender puts the Celtics at a disadvantage.

“It’s so unfortunate,” Ray Allen said. “This season has probably been one of my more challenging seasons just from a team perspective just because we lost so many guys. Probably one of the more resilient teams that I’ve had because we’ve had so many guys step up and play well. My heart goes out to him because I know what he’s dealing with, I’ve been dealing with it myself.”

Beyond the ramifications for this season, Bradley’s emergence has been an unexpected revelation. As a rookie, he could barely stay on the court. In his second season, he not only established himself as one of the best on-the-ball defensive guards in the league, he also found ways to contribute offensively.

Bradley developed a knack for cutting to the basket and showed the strength and athleticism to finish inside. He also mastered the art of the corner 3-pointer, knocking down 56 percent of his attempts. With Bradley as a starter, the Celtics offense suddenly became dynamic and efficient, scoring over 112 points per 100 possessions.

“His growth this year has been terrific,” Rivers said. “He’s become a very valuable piece of this basketball team.”

It remains to be seen if the Celtics can go forward with an undersized backcourt and have it hold up over the course of an 82-game season, but one way or another, Bradley is a vital part of their future, and that’s not something anyone could say with certainty even three months ago.

Read More: Avery Bradley,
The Reverend Keyon Dooling and the value of flexin’ 05.23.12 at 12:41 pm ET
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PHILADELPHIA — Larry Brown had a question for Doc Rivers regarding his bench. “Do you have anybody like Posey?” Brown asked. “You need someone on your bench to tell the starters the truth.”

Ah, James Posey. For years the Celtics have been trying to recapture the spirit and toughness of the no-nonsense Posey who demanded respect on his first day on the job and proved to be an invaluable cog in the 2008 championship team.

The player who personifies the 2012 reserves is veteran guard Keyon Dooling. He had an up-and-down regular season, but in the playoffs he’s given them 10 minutes a night of pressure defense and 52 percent shooting. Along with Marquis Daniels, he also began the goofy dance sequence on the bench they call “Flexin’” that has become something of an impromptu craze.

Often described as the consummate teammate and a coach in-waiting, Dooling’s value goes beyond the good times on the bench. At halftime of Game 5, he laid it on the starters. Dubbed a “sermon from Rev. Dooling” by Brandon Bass, he told them to play for each other.

Dooling declined to go into specifics on his halftime talk, saying, “That ain’t for me to talk about. That’s for others to talk about. I don’t need to self-promote my halftime speeches.”

The specifics don’t matter as much as the intent and there’s no doubt his words had an impact.

“It’s one thing for the coach to say it, it’s a whole different ballgame when somebody in the locker room says it,” Rivers said. “It’s tough for the starters to say it to each other because it was them. You need a guy to do it with credibility and Keyon has that.”

How does a player who’s been out and out of the rotation and plays less than 10 minutes a night earn credibility on a team stacked with All-Stars and future Hall of Famers?

“With his work ethic,” Rivers said. “Credibility to me is consistency. If you’re consistent with your actions every day, whether things are going well for you or not, you think about Keyon there’s been times when he’s been out of the rotation, he’s been injured. But he’s a pro. When you have that it’s pretty easy to follow.”

Added Dooling, “You’ve got to respect years. Everybody knows how hard it is to have an NBA career that last for 12 seasons. You’ve got to have a sense of respect for it.”

Dooling’s been been instrumental in helping a team with eight new players forge some kind of an identity beyond their core four and there’s no doubt he has everyone’s respect.

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Keyon Dooling,
Issues for C’s: Avery Bradley’s shoulder, team’s margin for error 05.20.12 at 9:42 pm ET
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The Celtics are very concerned about Avery Bradley's shoulder. (AP)

WALTHAM — Avery Bradley‘s shoulder popped out of place early in the second half of Game 4, but at some point between the time he walked off the court in agony and the time he reached the end of the bench, trainer Eddie Lacerte was able to pop it back into place.

“It’s just tough. It really is. I swear a lot of people would not be playing, and the only reason he is is because he wants to,” Doc Rivers said on Sunday before the team conducted practice. “I am concerned at some point that he may not be able to anymore. We don’t know what game that is, we don’t know what day he can finish it. We can keep going all the way and he can play [or] tomorrow could be his last game.”

The 21-year-old Bradley has impressed his teammates with his toughness, but they also know that there’s a line and he’s right on the verge of crossing it.

“A lot of young players would probably sit down, worry about their future, their career,” Paul Pierce said. “At the end of the day, Avery has to do what’s best for him and his family and possibly for the long run. Hopefully he doesn’t have any long-term injuries due to the fact that he’s playing. I think it’s a fine line there, too.”

There’s the issue for the Celtics. They are 18 points better with Bradley on the court than when he’s off — the second-best mark behind Kevin Garnett‘s absurd plus-56. When Bradley picked up his fourth foul early in the second half of Game 4, they were ahead by 18 points. When he returned, they were down by one.

“We don’t ever do it the easy way, but I don’t know if we could,” Rivers said. “Not because of the mental, just because we are thin. There are times we do break and it’s more for other reasons than basketball.”

It’s not just Bradley, of course. Ray Allen is playing through bone spurs that would likely put him on the sidelines if it was the regular season. Mickael Pietrus and Pierce have knee issues. Every team in the league has injury issues, but few teams left in the postseason are as thin, or as old, as the Celtics.

“That’s the scariest part of our team,” Rivers said. “I’ve said it for three months. We are very thin. We don’t have a big margin for error. We don’t have it even when guys are healthy. Our good players have to play well to give our bench guys a chance to stay on the floor longer, which allows us to get more rest. There’s a minute number in every game that I’m concerned with our starters. When they get over that, we struggle. There’s a lot of things going on in a game every night for us. Quite honestly a lot of teams don’t have to deal with, but we do and we know that.”

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Avery Bradley,
Celtics look to get Paul Pierce open 05.16.12 at 12:31 pm ET
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The Celtics are going to try to find different ways to get Paul Pierce open in Game 3. (AP)

PHILADELPHIA — The Celtics have had a hard time getting Paul Pierce open for shots in the first two games of their series with the 76ers. Part of that can be attributed to Pierce’s sprained knee. A lot of it can be attributed to Andre Iguodala’s defense. Whatever the reason, the Celtics are going to try to make adjustments for Wednesday night’s Game 3.

“We’re not sure where those spots are yet,” Doc Rivers said. “Usually with Paul, the elbow isos are great, but right now he can’t get away from anybody with his leg. We’re going to go to more pin-downs for him and do different things. You usually didn’t have to get a body off of him. He can usually shake the body on his own. I think now we have to use him a lot like Ray [Allen] and bring him off screens.”

Pierce was 2-for-9 in Game 2 and is just 5-for-20 in the series. Rivers added that he may try to get more post-up looks for Pierce to try to get him going.

Asked about the severity of Pierce’s injury, Rivers said, “I don’t do percentages. I don’t think Iguodala cares what percentage he is and that’s what counts. When he’s on the floor he’s 100 percent and that’s how we play our guys, that’s how we view it. Whether he is or isn’t really doesn’t matter. We have to get 100 percent out of him of what he has, that’s what we have to do.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Avery Bradley, Brandon Bass, Kevin Garnett
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