|Sobe Kobe…||02.05.09 at 1:43 pm ET|
The Boston Celtics are not in awe of Kobe Bryant.
That simple message was delivered at Thursday morning’s shoot-around here in Waltham, mere hours before they take on the reigning NBA MVP and his Lakers on the parquet of the TD Banknorth Garden.
That, and we’re not changing what we do just for Kobe.
“We just play him,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers announced. “We don’t have any Kobe rules or anything like that. We play our defense every night. We literally don’t change our style. Rarely, we may change them for a possession here or there, but you just try to keep him in front of you and wish for the best of luck because he’s tough. If it were easy to defend him, he wouldn’t be Kobe.”
Yes, Pau Gasol is starting to emerge as a scoring force alongside Kobe as they pick up the slack for their injured big man Andrew Bynum.
“They’re a good basketball team,” Rivers said. “They’re no different. Obviously, they miss Bynum’s length but they’re going to get through the regular season and get him back for the playoffs and they’ll be fine. Kobe has clearly picked it up the last couple of games but so has Gasol. Gasol has had 31 points the last couple of games himself.”
Yes, Kobe has gone off for a combined 97 points against the 21-27 Knicks and the 19-32 Raptors this week.
“We didn’t play in any of those games that we know of,” Rivers keenly observed. “We can’t do anything about that. That’s the way we always look at that. Let’s hope he doesn’t score 97 tonight. That would be very important for us trying to win this game, I can tell you that.”
Ask Rajon Rondo and the Celtics point guard is quick (and right) to point out that the Knicks have just as much to do with the 61 Kobe scored on Monday at MSG as anything else.
“He’s a great player,” Rondo said. “Sixty-one doesn’t happen all the time in the league but a lot of great scorers go off at times. That was transistion game he played against the Knicks. LeBron had 52 last night. That’s just the style (the Knicks) play.”
And yes, the Los Angeles Lakers come to town tonight with a Western Conference-best 39-9 mark, winners of four straight, playing on the same court they suffered their most humiliating loss in franchise history, that 39-point quit job last June in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
“I’m sure they’ve seen it enough,” Rivers said. “I’m sure no one’s run that on TV at all. Well, they should be. Why wouldn’t they be? They’ll be up for the game. We’ll be up for the game.”
Therein lies the key difference between the Celtics and the Lakers. The Lakers are all about superstars, albeit great scoring superstars, but individuals nonetheless. The Celtics, during their second double-digit winning streak of the season, have built their dominance around defense.
Yes, the Celtics are weakened a little by the flu bug that has run through Kevin Garnett and the rest of the team.
“He felt strong,” Rivers said of Garnett at this morning’s shootaround in Waltham. “He’s fine. We’ll find out tonight. It’s easy to feel strong in a shoot-around but when you’re running up and down the floor when you haven’t done it, that’s a different story. I think there are six guys on Z-Paks, probably all due to Kevin, who knows.”
Z-Paks, for those who didn’t go to medical or pharmaceutical school, are antibiotics given to help those fighting off viruses.
The Celtics will want to be at full strength as they try to ward off Kobe and the Lakers.
|Celtics snubbed again||02.04.09 at 4:08 pm ET|
Less than 24 hours after Ray Allen drained a game-winning three over the Philadelphia 76ers, he was not named to the 2009 Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout. It is the second time in a week that Allen has been snubbed. Last Thursday he was overlooked as a reserve on the Eastern Conference All-Star team.
Sharpshooter Eddie House was also left out of the shootout, despite his recent hot streak in which he shot 22-for-32 over a four-game stretch. He has also made more three-point attempts this season than any of the contestants.
Here is a look at who did make the team, compared to Allen and House: (As of February 4)
Eddie House, Boston: 144 – 339 (42.5%)
Rashard Lewis, Orlando: 137 – 327 (41.9%)
Danny Granger, Indiana: 120 – 299 (40.1%)
Ray Allen, Boston: 120 – 293 (39.8%)
Mike Bibby, Atlanta: 114 – 279 (40.9%)
Daequan Cook, Miami: 105 – 256 (41.0%)
Roger Mason, San Antonio: 103 – 229 (45.0%)
Jason Kapono*, Toronto: 52 – 124 (41.9%)
* Defending champion
|Davis jumps into new role||02.03.09 at 11:28 pm ET|
While Ray Allen was the hero of the Boston Celtics dramatic win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night, the Cs would not have been in striking distance if it weren’t for one player stepping up in Kevin Garnett’s absence. For the second straight game, Glen Davis has thrived in his role as the Celtics starting power forward.
Davis posted 12 points (6-11 FG) and 11 rebounds against the 76ers (RECAP HERE). Of his six field goals, only one came in the paint. On Sunday, he added 12 points (5-12 FG) and six rebounds against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Davis isn’t just attacking the hoop like a traditional big man. Big Baby is getting the job done with his jumper.
“I think it’s going to help my game tremendously,” Davis said recently. “If I can spread the floor for my team … I can move up to the four, pick and roll to help out with Paul (Pierce), and hit the jumper. I kind of just train myself to be ready to hit that big shot.”
His preparation paid off when he hit knocked down a 17-footer with 1:30 left in the fourth quarter. The basket brought the Celtics back within three and sparked an 8-to-4 run to close out the game.
This season Davis has developed a knack for mid-range jumpers. Even though the majority of his baskets have come at the rim – his biggest responsibility is attacking the glass – he has been in the zone away from the paint. He entered Tuesday’s game shooting nearly 50% from just inside the arc and almost 40% from the top of the key. Davis has made it a point to fit his jumpshots into his training regimen.
“It doesn’t take that long [in practice],” he said. “I might go 30 minutes hard, just jumper, jumper, jumper, jumper, and get mine in for the day. I just try to do it every day.”
Davis’ shot has been a work in progress over the years, according to his childhood friend, Dallas Mavericks forward Brandon Bass. The two also played college basketball together at LSU. Bass has seen Davis transform from a banger to a finesse player. It’s a move that was necessary for the 6-foot-9 forward to adapt as an undersized big man in the NBA.
“He never had a bad jumpshot,” Bass said. “He always could shoot it, but he wasn’t necessarily a jumpshooter. He was more of a guy you could throw it to on the block and he could get you a bucket, or he’d eat the glass up and get an offensive rebound. When I left [LSU in 2005] he developed a jumpshot a little more.”
Garnett (flu) is expected to return for Thursday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers. While Davis won’t get as many looks off the bench, this extra playing time has helped his confidence with his shot. The skills are there; now it’s just a matter of showcasing them when given the opportunity.
“I feel like I always had the talent to do a lot of things,” Davis said. “It’s just all about working on them and doing them. But I always in college had flashes of myself taking the ball up the court, playing at a smaller position than the power forward and the center. So I know I can do it. It’s just about going out there and doing it and having confidence and working on it consistently.”
|Perkins ‘cool’ with call||02.02.09 at 12:24 am ET|
It’s only the first half of the season and Kendrick Perkins has already been whistled for nine technical fouls and a Flagrant 2. His latest call against Jason Maxiell during Friday’s game against the Detroit Pistons earned him a $10,000 fine. But Perkins isn’t worried about developing a bad reputation around the league. If anything, he says, his early technicals helped the officials understand his game.
“I think it’s mostly gaining the respect from the referees, having a better relationship,” he said prior to the Boston Celtics game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. “So now when I get mad at a call they’re not just quick to jump on me. It’s more of a respect thing.”
Perkins has noticed the referees have eased up since he got called for his ninth T in early December.
“They let me get physical on the block as far as defending people,” he said. “So I think since I’ve calmed down – I haven’t got a technical in about 25 games – so I’ve been pretty cool.”
As for the Flagrant 2 against Maxiell, Perkins attests he was not aiming for his neck. He’ll accept the consequences, though, knowing it comes with the territory of going hard on the court.
“I think I’ve just got to keep going out there playing my game, being physical and just being smart at the same time,” he said. “There are a lot of hard fouls that I’ve given that aren’t flagrant, so it’s cool.”
|Sounds of the game… Celtics 109, Timberwolves 101||02.01.09 at 6:27 pm ET|
Who needs All-Star Kevin Garnett?
Not the Celtics on Super Sunday. When news of Garnett’s flu spread before the game, Paul Pierce knew it was time to step up his game, offensively. In his last three games against Dallas, Sacramento and Detroit, he has posted games of eight, eight and 20 points. Not exactly the stuff that All-Star reserves are made of.
But obviously, when Kevin Garnett, Eddie House and Rajon Rondo are picking up their fair share and more and blowing out the competition in the first half, Pierce has not needed to be THE guy.
But on Sunday, against old friends Al Jefferson (34 points), Ryan Gomes and a vastly improved Sebastian Telfair, he was THE guy, scoring a game-high 36 points from all different angles, including a clinching fadeaway with 2:24 remaining to put the pesky Timberwolves away and clinch Boston’s 11th straight win, improving the Green to 40-9.
|No big surprise: Jefferson and Perkins expected success||02.01.09 at 4:26 pm ET|
If someone had said during the Boston Celtics 18-game losing streak Kendrick Perkins would win an NBA Championship and Al Jefferson would become an All-Star caliber player in less than two years, they would have been laughed at. Yet the pair of big men have made a remarkable turnaround from the dismal 2007 season. And while their accomplishments may have seemed unlikely just a few seasons ago, neither are surprised by the others success.
“It’s funny because his game has improved a lot, of course, because every year you have in this league you get better and better,” Jefferson said of Perkins. “But the things he’s doing now, I’d even seen them when I was here.”
Jefferson and Perkins faced off on Sunday when the Celtics took on the Timberwolves in Boston. (RECAP HERE) Perkins was nonchalant about the match up — “Man, I just want to hoop” — and seemed unfazed by the success of his close friend. The two had a strong chemistry on and off the court, and saw potential in one another early on. So when Jefferson was the centerpiece of the Kevin Garnett deal, Perkins wasn’t shocked.
“He’s grown a lot, but he was doing the same thing when he was here,” Perkins said. “It’s not like he just developed into this star player when he got to Minnesota. That’s why he got traded for Garnett, because he was that type of player before he left here.”
In Jefferson’s last season with the Celtics, he averaged 16 points and 11 rebounds. This season he is ranked first among all centers in scoring (23.2 ppg), fifth in rebounds (10.6), and has recorded 26 double-doubles.
“I think Al is really learning how to be a leader,” Perkins said. “You can tell he’s talking more, he’s communicating on the court, he’s telling guys where they need to be. I think Al’s stepping up, being more of a vocal leader. He’s taking pride in playing defense and it’s really just going from there.”
Even when the Celtics were losing, Jefferson was one of the bright spots on the team. Perkins, however, struggled to learn his role as a defensive presence. He forced baskets and was reluctant to scale down his offensive game.
“The biggest thing when I was here was he was the type of guy who wanted to rush his offense, he wanted to take shots, he wanted to kind of like be a scorer,” Jefferson said. “And Doc (Rivers) used to always tell him, ‘You’re not a scorer. You’re the type of guy who sets pick and rolls. That’s how you get your point.’ And I think that’s what he’s doing now. He finally accepted that and now he gets his points. He scores just as much now just doing his role by setting picks and rolling to the front of the basket, getting offensive rebounds. He’s getting his points that way and I think he’s finally accepted his role and that’s what’s making him a great player.”
It took losing the player he relied on the most for Perkins to improve his game. He is averaging 8.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, and shooting 59.5% from the field this season, compared to 4.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 49.1% FG in his last season before the trade. Perkins soaked up Garnett’s veteran knowledge and even began to implement a high-low pass that he learned from Jefferson.
“That’s all he really needed was a guy like KG who was defensive-minded just to bring him up even more,” Jefferson said. “So the things he’s doing now, I’d seen them when I was here. Perk was always one of the guys that was hard for me to score on even in practice. We used to go at each other so it’s fun watching him grow as a player.”
At just 24 years old, Jefferson and Perkins are only beginning to reach their potential. But regardless of how successful the other becomes, it’ll be no big surprise for these big men.
Perkins Cool With Call – By Jessica Camerato
The Captain and the Truth – By Paul Flannery
|The Captain and the Truth||02.01.09 at 3:52 pm ET|
There were about four and a half minutes left Sunday when a guy in the loge seats yelled out, “All right, Paul. Time to take ov-ah.” It wasn’t a command, and it wasn’t even a plea. It was more of a statement of fact. Of course Paul Pierce would take over because that is what Paul Pierce does in situations like this.
No Kevin Garnett. An 18-point halftime lead that had become five. What else would he do?
The Timberwolves had gone small in an effort to get back into the game which left Randy Foye singled up on Pierce. In retrospect, this may have been a miscalculation. (Click here for a recap of the Celtics’ 109-101 win over the Wolves.)
First Pierce cut into the lane where he muscled up a shot and got two free throws. Next he backed Foye down from the elbow, slowly, deliberately, and then whoosh, he hit him with a spin move, a lay-up and a free throw makes three. For the capper, Pierce simply stared Foye down and drained a 15-footer right in his face.
Game over. Drive home safely.
“I just try to give the game what it needs,” Pierce said after giving the game 36 points, eight rebounds and six assists. “Today, I thought it needed my scoring. I don’t expect to go out and score 30 points a night. When Kevin’s out there we play through him.”
Yeah, but. It must be nice to know you can still do it when you have to, right?
“You go off (like that) and you say, ‘I still got it,’” Pierce said with a wide grin. “Even at 31 (years old).
It’s not that easy, of course. It can’t be. If it was, every Tom, Dirk and Sebastian would do it.
“He didn’t get a lot of credit the other night against Detroit, but I thought he won that game for us in the stretch where he was the one guy out there with the bench and he didn’t score a point,” Doc Rivers said. “His play led to scores, and he knew what he was doing. He was trying to suck guys in and get everybody shots. When he’s the one guy with the second unit he does that as well as anybody.
“And then,” Rivers continued, “he can sense when we need a bucket and he needs to take over games. Clearly you have to have the ability to do that. I think a lot of guys think they can, but very few actually can, and Paul does a great job with that.”
Pierce has reached an interesting stage in his career. He has proven, on the game’s biggest stage, that he is one of the great players in the world. There was never any doubt, for example, that Pierce would make the All-Star team this year even though a superficial look at his numbers would suggest that he is not nearly as productive as he has been throughout his career. His scoring average, to cite the obvious, is the lowest it has been since his rookie season.
A quick look at his last five games tells a disjointed tale.
Orlando: 27 points, 10 rebounds four assists
Dallas: Eight points, five rebounds, one assist
Sacramento: Eight points (1-for-5 shooting), three rebounds, eight assists
Detroit: 20 points, four rebounds, five assists
Minnesota: 36 points, eight rebounds, six assists
It is exactly because Pierce can go an entire game in which he makes one shot and then turn around and effortlessly drop 36 a few days later when his team is missing one of its key players that he has become so great. He has found the last few years the one thing that he has always wanted back from the game: respect.
Early in his professional life he would tick off the names of the teams that passed over him in the 1998 draft and the players they chose while knocking down shots in practice. As the names of the recently departed shuffle off to retirement, or inactivity–Michael Olowokandi, Raef LaFrentz, Robert Traylor, Jason Williams–it becomes clear that whatever the issue was on Draft Day had more to do with bad scouting than with Pierce’s ability or attitude.
He has made seven All-Star teams, but never as a starter. He has never finished in the Top 10 in the MVP balloting and never been voted higher than Third-Team All-NBA, which he has accomplished exactly three times. He was, as he said, “A classic example of a great player stuck on a bad team.” Pierce took a lot of heat for that statement, but in retrospect he was absolutely correct.
Great players are supposed to take all the abuse and make all the shots, but more than that, great players are supposed to lift up their teammates and make them better than they really are. There’s a lot of evidence out there to suggest that that particular notion is entirely bogus. (Would James Worthy and Kevin McHale have been Hall of Famers if they hadn’t played with Magic and Larry? The way you answer the hypothetical reveals how you feel about that argument.)
What we have with Paul Pierce in 2009 is a player who is entirely at peace with himself and his game. We have a player fully capable of going off for 30+ whenever the situation calls for it, and one who is content to provide for others whenever it is not.
That’s the only truth that matters for the Captain.