|Preview: Boston Celtics vs. Portland Trail Blazers||12.05.08 at 12:33 pm ET|
On Friday night the Boston Celtics (18-2) will take on the Portland Trail Blazers (14-6) at the TD BankNorth Garden. These are two of the hottest teams in the NBA — the Cs are on a 10-game winning streak while the Trail Blazers have won their last six. The real headline, though, is Greg Oden’s debut at the Garden. After missing all of last season with a knee injury, the Celtic that never-was will play his first game under the 17 championship banners that would not have been possible had the Cs landed the top pick in the 2007 draft.
Perk vs. Oden
Kendrick Perkins and Al Jefferson didn’t want the Celtics to draft Greg Oden. The tight-knit duo were certain they could lead the Celtics to success together, and the addition of Oden would break up their tandem. Now Perk has a new front court partner in Kevin Garnett, posing a formidable challenge for Oden in the paint. Look for Perk to prove the Celtics made the right decision when he goes up against the rookie who once threatened to take his minutes.
Ray vs. Roy
Brandon Roy‘s backcourt versatility makes him one of the trickier guards to defend. If Roy were a traditional point guard the Celtics could put Rajon Rondo on him, but given his size and long-range abilities Ray Allen is the better option to stifle his shooting game. Roy leads the Trail Blazers in scoring with 21.1 points per game and is shooting 50% over the last five contests.
In the last five games …
Celtics: 99.5 ppg, 47% FG, 34% 3PG, 76% FT, 43.1 rpg, 21.1 ast
Trail Blazers: 98.7 ppg, 46% FG, 42% 3PG, 77% FT, 41.1 rpg, 21.6 ast
Check back with WEEI’s Live Game Day Blog for the latest news and updates from the TD BankNorth Garden.
|Checking In with J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker||12.05.08 at 12:09 am ET|
Last month Boston Celtics rookies J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker were assigned to the NBA Development League affiliate Utah Flash. Minutes are hard to come by with the defending world champions and the pair was headed down a road of DNPs. In just a few weeks, though, Giddens and Walker have gone from benchwarmers in Beantown to standouts in Provo. They caught up with WEEI.com in a telephone interview to explain why the grass is still pretty green in Utah.
Some players would rather forgo playing time to stay in the NBA, but you seemed to embrace the D-League. What was your reaction when you found out you were assigned to the Utah Flash?
JG: Well I was excited because I had an idea that I was going down there. My brother and some of my closest people talked about it, how it was going to be a good opportunity to go down there and get into game shape and just gain confidence and become better every day. So whenever I do get the chance from the Celtics to play, then I’ll be in the best shape possible and I’ll be able to take a good swing at it.
BW: I was excited to have a chance to be able to play again, so I was excited about going. J.R. was already down there and I just welcomed it.
After flying from a major city like Boston to Provo, what was your first impression of Utah?
BW: I just looked at the mountains and I was like, ‘Oh I’m not in Boston any more.’ I had fell asleep on the plane so that was the first thing I’d seen.
JG: I played in the Mountain West Conference so I had traveled out to this part of Utah before. I was just trying to soak up the culture. I was just trying to get a feel for it and just soak up the atmosphere out here and just enjoy the experience out here in Utah.
J.R. was assigned to the Flash a week before Bill. How excited were you to be playing together again?
JG: Well Bill’s my partner in crime so it’s like I was excited to have him down here. Just having somebody that you’re familiar with and you’re friends with playing with you makes it a lot easier … He’s made this transition a lot easier for me and I hope that I’ve done the same for him.
BW: It was fun. He told me all the things the team has been up to and helped me with the plays and everything. So he helped me out with that …You always want to go into something like this with somebody you know because it’s a totally different experience if you’re by yourself.
Bill, you mentioned before that you enjoyed rooming with Michael Beasley at Kansas State last season. Now you’re sharing an apartment with J.R. in Utah. How is having a new roommate?
BW: I wouldn’t say I miss living with Mike (laughs). He was just real funny though. Him and J.R. are kind of similar in the effect that they’re very funny guys.
Aside from keeping in touch with your teammates, what kind of feedback have you received from (Celtics President) Danny Ainge or (head coach) Doc Rivers?
JG: They just give me words of encouragement … It means a lot because obviously Doc Rivers, that’s my coach, so he’s pretty high on my priority list. So I’m just happy that he’s thinking of me and knows that I’m down here working to help the Celtics out.
You were part of two Opening Nights this season – one with the Celtics in October and another with the Flash in late November. How did the two compare?
BW: The Garden is definitely a different experience from anything I’ve ever seen, so I don’t think anything is going to be able to top that.
JG: One opening night was a ring ceremony and the other opening night was just kind of introducing the basketball season. There was a lot more tradition in opening night with the Celtics, but the Flash had a great turnout and the fans supported us and you couldn’t ask for a better turnout.
It took no time for you to become the leading scorers on the Flash. What kind of improvements have you seen in your game already?
JG: I’m just trying to be efficient and attacking the basket and finding teammates who are open and using my size to rebound and doing just more of whatever I can, whether it’s enhance or defense or make somebody better by running the court. Just doing whatever I can to help the team win.
BW: Just trying to cut down on my turnovers right now, pass out of double teams, so that’s the only difference. Just learning how to play in a 48 minute game, learning how to play hard but still pace yourself where you have enough to finish the game out.
You went from playing major minutes in college to hardly any in the NBA. What are the challenges in transitioning back to 35, 40, 45 minutes a night?
BW: You get a time where you’re on a break and you’re body is getting beat up that much because you’re not getting any minutes and then all of a sudden you’re thrown in there. It doesn’t matter how much cardio you do. Until you play in the games, that’s the only way you can really, really get into top shape.
JG: When you go from not playing to playing, I’d say the transition’s more fun than hard. It’s obviously difficult because you’re not in game shape and you’re trying to catch your rhythm, which you could be frustrated with your game or conditioning at times. But that’s just part of the game and you’ve got to stay patient. I’m just really excited to come back out on the court because, like I said, I’d rather play than not play.
Out of the two of you J.R. was the long-range player, but so far it seems like role reversal. Bill, a power player on the Cs, has actually taken more shots from behind the arc. What sparked your recent 5-for-9 performance?
BW: I’ve just had more opportunities to shoot the ball down here. With the Celtics you really just play off of the other guys, you’re really not a creator. That’s probably the biggest difference, just the mentality change.
J.R., you used to compete in three-point shooting contests with Ray Allen after Celtics practice. So far you’ve shot 2-for-7 from long range. How does your three-point shot feel?
JG: I wouldn’t say I’m struggling. We’ve only played three games and I’ve taken about six shots, probably less than ten. Now if I had shot like 100 and didn’t make that many then I’d say I’m struggling, but no, the three-pointer feels good. It just hasn’t been sinking but I feel confident and I know I’ll hit a high percentage.
After being away from the team, what do you miss the most about playing with the Boston Celtics?
BW: A lot. Probably being around the guys every day. Just watching KG and those guys play every day because it seems like one of them does something good every game. (Rajon) Rondo just had a triple-double so I missed out on stuff like that.
JG: Just learning everything from being around those guys, seeing how they are every day, and just being in the NBA. It’s been my dream and every experience, good and bad, you’ve just got to take it and just love it.
When you get called back up to the Celtics, which versions of Bill Walker and J.R. Giddens can we expect?
JG: I know I’ll be a lot more confident and feel more fluid with my movements on the court and I’ll feel like I’m in better shape. Being an athlete I feel like being in games in crucial because you use a certain amount of energy when you’re playing. When you’re not in game shape you’re not as quick and you’re not as on point as you normally would be.
BW: Probably a more confident Bill Walker. Just having some game experience on this level and knowing what I can do and what I can’t do, so I’m learning the ropes.
Through the first three games of the D-League season, Giddens is averaging a team-high 23.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and shooting 54% FG. Walker is posting 22 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and is shooting 46% FG. To keep up with their progress, visit www.utahflash.com.
|Sounds of the game… Celtics 114, Pacers 86||12.04.08 at 12:30 am ET|
So, only 55 more wins until the Celtics set the all-time NBA record for wins in a season. That means the Celtics need to go 55-7 the rest of the way. Based on what we’ve seen so far this season, there’s no reason to think they can’t do it. The latest example came on Wednesday. As the Indiana Pacers showed of making a courageous run to stay in the game in the third quarter, Rajon Rondo reminded everyone that he just might be the MVP of the team, lighting it up for 16 points while handing out a career-best 17 assists. Just think, that’s MVP Rondo on the same team with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and vintage Ray Allen, who is tearing it up for the Green so far this season. Now you see why there are those who feel this team may be on the verge of something historic.
|Hibbert Has Close Ties to Celtics||12.04.08 at 12:02 am ET|
Roy Hibbert never played for the Boston Celtics, but with all of his ties to the organization he might as well have.
When the Celtics landed the fifth pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, all signs pointed to selecting the big man from Georgetown. Hibbert had already impressed Red Auerbach and seemed to have the size and potential to help the struggling Cs.
“Playing for John Thompson, [Red] used to come watch our practices at Georgetown for a number of years,” Hibbert said prior to Wednesday’s Boston Celtics-Indiana Pacers game. “He would talk to me after practice and talk to me about big man stuff, and him and Big John would relive some memories.”
Hibbert made an unexpected decision to return to Georgetown for his senior season and played alongside Doc Rivers‘ son, Jeremiah. That year Auerbach passed away. In the short time they talked, Auerbach left a lasting impression on him.
“It was nice because he’s such a nice person and he obviously knows the game really well,” Hibber said. “He’s coached a lot of great players so any time you get to soak up a minute of his time is always great. I went to his funeral and all his former players came. It was a special moment.”
When Hibbert entered the league in 2008, he was appropriately enough traded to Larry Bird‘s Indiana Pacers.
“I always grew up a Celtics fan, obviously of Larry,” Hibbert revealed. “Once you start playing it’s all business, no more admiring. You have to go at it every night and it’s all business so you have to take care of it.”
On Wednesday night the business at hand was tying to beat the Celtics for the second time this season. Hibbert couldn’t afford to be starstruck, even against one of his favorite basketball players.
“Paul (Pierce) [was my favorite] when I was in high school. I have one of his jerseys back home,” he said. “But it’s all business when we get out on the court. It’s nice to be able to play against the greatest players in the world right here.”
Pierce and the Celtics may have got the best of the Pacers, but simply being in the house that Red built was special for Hibbert. Auerbach’s signature scrawled across the court was a reminder of just how much it meant to know the man behind the organization.
“Obviously I’m going to have to work for everything I get but it was nice that he had confidence in me,” he said. “I have a long way to go but it nice that great folks like that would take the time to talk to me and see something in me.”
|Cowboys to Celtics: Allen Stays the Same||12.03.08 at 11:45 pm ET|
A lot has changed about Tony Allen since he entered the NBA in 2005. From overcoming a gruesome knee injury to winning a championship with the Boston Celtics, Allen is far from the basketball player he was at Oklahoma State University. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t the same person.
“He was the exact same way,” said former college teammate and current Indiana Pacer Stephen Graham. “I don’t think he’s changed a bit.”
It has been over three years since Allen and Graham led the Cowboys to the NCAA Final Four. On Wednesday night they were pitted against each other when the Celtics defeated the Pacers. Graham laughed as he recalled Allen’s antics and was not surprised that he is one of the most animated characters on the Celtics.
“My first impression of him was that he was just a guy who didn’t want to be bothered by nobody. He was kind of quiet when he first came to school,” Graham recalled. “But when everybody loosened up, he was the guy who wanted to be in the main scene all the time. He’s pretty much like that now.”
Allen still keeps his teammates loose in the Celtics locker room. He can often be found cracking jokes or rapping loudly to one of his favorite artists.
“For some reason he thought he was Cam’ron,” Graham chuckled.
Allen’s role on the court is another story, though. He went from the spotlight to the bench and accepted his responsibilities as a role player. There is enough offense in the Celtics starting lineup that he doesn’t have to put the ball in the basket to be effective. Read the rest of this entry »
|Mr. Smooth||12.03.08 at 9:31 pm ET|
Ray Allen is the best dresser on the Celtics. That is a fact can not be disputed. He is meticulous in his appearance, something he says he learned from Michael Jordan. If you are a star, you must present yourself accordingly.
It’s not easy to be GQ-ed out all the time (just ask any sportswriter). It takes more than a bit of care and attention to detail, as well as an innate sense of sartorial style. That’s important in the context of Allen as a basketball player in that he is just as particular about his shot.
As effortless and natural as it appears, Allen’s shot is actually the product of hours of practice. Honed under the withering eye of UConn coach Jim Calhoun, who used to start every practice with a pressure-packed free-throw shooting contest, and in his early days in the NBA in shooting drills with the largely forgotten Jeff Nordgaard where the two then-rookies would talk shooting concepts. (Nordgaard isn’t forgotten in Poland by the way, where he’s still lighting it up in the Polish League and has played for the national team there).
Allen’s shot abandoned him just once last year. That it came in the playoffs against Cleveland caused the basketball-watching public to wonder aloud if his magnificent career was in its final days. It’s not, of course, but it’s in keeping with his tenure with the Celtics that as brilliant as he has been, Allen has also largely been overlooked.
He was the leading scorer last night in their win over the Pacers with a season-high 31 points. He was the one who got them off to a quick start by knocking down three 3-pointers en route to 13 points in the first quarter. But on a night when Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins recorded double-doubles and Rajon Rondo earned the first triple-double of his career, Allen’s night went largely overlooked. Read the rest of this entry »
|Pierce’s D Helps Celtics Earn the W||12.03.08 at 9:24 pm ET|
The stat line will tell the story of Rajon Rondo‘s triple-double, Ray Allen‘s 31 points, and Kevin Garnett‘s 14 rebounds. But what it won’t show is the stifling defense Paul Pierce imposed on Danny Granger. Pierce held Granger to just six second half point (20 total) and shut down the Pacers leading scorer.
“Paul’s always been a good defensive player,” Granger said after the Pacers 114-96 loss. “KG’s a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year and I think that’s one of the things that makes this team good. They can score the ball but they also play good defense.”
Granger scored 14 points in the first half with the majority coming while Ray Allen was guarding him. The defensive switch worked for the Celtics and Granger finished the night shooting 7-for-15, including just one basket in the paint. Pierce’s tough defense combined with the Pacers’ exhaustion from Tuesday’s overtime win against the Lakers was too much for Granger to overcome.
“I just got a little tired,” he said. “It’s hard playing back to back games sometimes, especially when you fight so hard to win one game. You have lapses and your legs give out but that’s still no excuse. Everyone plays back to back games. You’ve just got find a way to find through. Tonight we couldn’t.”