|List: Danny Ainge’s best, worst draft day moves||06.23.11 at 8:37 am ET|
The Celtics’ season has been over for a while now, and if you’re still in mourning, we’re sorry. But it’s times like these when it’s best to look to the future, and in this case, that means Thursday’s NBA draft. The C’s have the 25th pick in a relatively thin class, but as history has shown, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge always is capable of creating some draft day drama. Here are a few of Ainge’s best moves when the Boston is “on the clock” (followed by a few he’d rather have back).
5. Drafting Ryan Gomes in the second round in 2005
Overall, the 2005 NBA draft was a disappointment for the Celtics (see below), but Ainge managed to pluck a promising talent out of the second round. Boston took Ryan Gomes of Providence with the 50th pick, one spot ahead of Robert Whaley and two spots behind Mickael Gelabale. Gomes started 33 games in his first year and 60 his second year, and ended up averaging 12.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game in 2006-07. In the same fashion as Al Jefferson, Gomes saw his trade value increase with his breakout season, and he eventually was used as one of the many pieces in the Kevin Garnett trade.
Gomes never was a back-to-the-basket player in college and was vastly undersized in the NBA. Still, he’s managed to develop into a solid small forward for the Clippers and is averaging over 10 points per game in his career.
4. Trading for Kendrick Perkins in 2003
In his first year as general manager, Ainge had two first-round picks in one of the most talented draft classes in NBA history. No, he didn’t miraculously trade up for LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, or Dwyane Wade, but he did trade draft picks Dahntay Jones and Troy Bell to the Grizzlies for their first-round picks, Marcus Banks and Kendrick Perkins. You might only recognize one name from that transaction, but KP43 is the only one that mattered.
|Big Al tears ACL||02.09.09 at 2:54 pm ET|
Former Boston Celtic/Minnesota Timberwolves big man Al Jefferson is out indefinitely after tearing his ACL during Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Hornets, according to multiple reports. An MRI revealed the extent of the injury on Monday. Jefferson, who received a standing ovation at the Garden earlier this month, was having a breakthrough season. He was averaging 23.1 points and 11.0 rebounds through 50 games. No date for surgery has been set. Jefferson was the centerpiece for the Kevin Garnett trade in 2007.
In a statement on Timberwolves.com, head coach Kevin McHale said, “This is an unfortunate situation for Al and we wish him a quick recovery. Al has been playing at an all-star level all season and has been our go-to-guy on the court. Knowing Al, he will work hard in his rehab efforts to get back on the court as soon as possible.”
|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||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
|More than trade bait||01.30.09 at 6:21 pm ET|
An NBA title with the Boston Celtics has made it easy to forget about Kevin Garnett’s days with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He is no longer the player who couldn’t win it all. Rather he is the champion who proved anything is possible.
Yet the former Celtics who were involved in the blockbuster deal are still known as ‘the guys traded for Garnett.’ It has been two seasons, though, since the move and now they are ready to make a name for themselves in Minnesota.
“We’re thankful for what [the Celtics] gave us but now we’ve got to set our own trends, set our own careers,” Ryan Gomes said in a telephone interview. “We’re not with the Celtics anymore. We know who they have and what they’ve accomplished, but now we’ve got to try to set other goals for ourself.”
Gomes, Al Jefferson, and Sebastian Telfair are the only remaining players on the Timberwolves from the 2007 trade. (Gerald Green and Theo Ratliff have signed with other teams.) Last season they finished 22-60, their worst record since the pre-Garnett era. In attempt to establish a new identity, the Timberwolves made off-season moves to acquire a highly-touted rookie and veteran shooter. Nonetheless they got off to an eight-game losing streak.
“What people should understand is that we had high expectations coming into this season, with the trade of Mike Miller and getting Kevin Love and Brian Cardinal and Rodney Carney,” explained Gomes. “We had high expectations and it didn’t work out for the first 35 games.”
The Timberwolves were 4-15 when head coach Randy Wittman was replaced by former VP of Basketball Operations Kevin McHale. Ironically it was a Celtic great who got the Timberwolves playing their own style of basketball. They headed into the new year hot off a five-game winning streak.
“In the beginning we did go through a rough time,” Gomes said. “Our schedule in the month of December was real tough and we were trying to find ourselves. But now we’ve found ourselves and I think that’s why we’re playing well. Everyone’s understanding their roles and fulfilling them, and I’d say that’s the most important thing. Whenever you have success that means everyone’s doing their part.”
Gomes points to a demoralizing loss as the source of their improved play. In December the Timberwolves (then 6-24) blew a 29-point lead in the third quarter to the Dallas Mavericks. In spite of losing, the Timberwolves gained confidence and momentum.
“We ended up losing that game and that was what turned it around,” said Gomes. “We had seen what we could become and where we were at, and then they took it away from us. They kept fighting and kept pushing through it and believing they could win, and I think that’s what we took out of it. We had a tough stretch where we lost 13 games in a row early in the season and that game showed that we can bounce back and we can make something of the season. There’s a lot more games to be played, and once that came in January we got off on the right foot and we’ve been rolling ever since.”
The Timberwolves are 9-3 since January 1, including upsets over the New Orleans Hornets and Phoenix Suns. They will look to continue their streak when they face the Celtics on Sunday in Boston. Their former teammates have taken notice.
“First of all, Big Al’s playing like an All-Star,” said Kendrick Perkins. “Second of all, Randy Foye has stepped his game up. Rodney Carney, the rookie (Kevin) Love, Sebastian (Telfair), they’re all playing well. Since coach Kevin McHale got the job, they’ve been playing well. They’re playing good defense and I’ve been watching them lately on TV, so they’ve been playing really well.”
With just under 40 games left on their regular season schedule, the Timberwolves are nine games out of the eighth spot in the Western Conference. A postseason berth is a longshot, but Gomes doesn’t mind waiting. Even if their time doesn’t come this season he is confident it’s only a matter of time before the Timberwolves establish themselves as a playoff contender.
“I think the Timberwolves are a team on the rise and this year is not over,” Gomes said. “We’ve got a lot of games to play and if we play the way we’ve played this month for the rest of the season, who knows where we’ll be. Hopefully we can maybe sneak in the playoffs and if not we could be right there. Next year should be our breakout year to take what we did this year and carry it over next year from the beginning and have a successful season. So the Timberwolves should be a team that teams should be worried about in the West and in the East because of the way we’ve been playing lately.”
|A Big All-Star Push||01.23.09 at 9:47 am ET|
When is there a possibility that 22 points and nearly 11 rebounds per game not good enough for an All-Star selection? When you play on the 13-27 Minnesota Timberwolves.
“Big Al” Jefferson has been quietly running up the leaderboards since being traded from the Boston Celtics in July of 2007. His performance, which includes 22 double-doubles, went relatively unnoticed in fan voting. So the T’Wolves are doing everything they can to make sure Jefferson receives the recognition he deserves in spite of their losing record.
The organization has less than a week to win the votes of the Western Conference coaches who will vote on All-Star reserves. They have developed a marketing campaign – “Big Al’s Road Trip: Navigating his way to Phoenix” – and mailed each coach a Sony GPS device. The devices have been named the “Double-Double Machine” and play a highlight video set to Lupe Fiasco’s “Superstar.”
“It would mean a lot,” Jefferson told the media. “Just growing up, before I even knew I was going to be an NBA player, just watching the All-Star games on TV you always wanted to be there as a kid. Me having that chance to make it, it would mean a lot to me. It’s something I could talk about for the rest of my life.”
All-Star reserves will be revealed next Thursday, January 29. Celtics Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo, and Kendrick Perkins are also on the Eastern Conference ballot. Kevin Garnett was named as a starting forward for the East.
|Big Al Gets Love in Minny||11.01.08 at 9:40 pm ET|
Al Jefferson’s talent is old news to Celtics fans who watched him shine in the days of 18-game losing streaks and failed youth movements. After all, he was the main attraction for the Minnesota Timberwolves in the Kevin Garnett deal.
But the spotlight doesn’t shine on the T’Wolves and Jefferson is overshadowed by big men on winning Western Conference teams. Until his squad is a postseason contender, Big Al will struggle to receive the same recognition as players like Amare Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer, and David West.
This season, though, one of Jefferson’s newest teammates is spreading the word of his talent. Rookie Kevin Love, who is blogging on NBA.com, is already advocating for more publicity for his mentor.
“Al’s great to me, especially in practice. There are people who like to say he’s not athletic, he’s a below the rim player, he can’t run, and that’s what some people say about me. But people focus on what he can’t do rather than what he can do. He’s going to come out and get 20 and 10 and in practice he works his butt off, he’s one of the hardest workers, if not the hardest. It shows on the court and on the stat sheet. You can’t really do much to stop him. He’s just a great player.”
Thanks to K-Love, Jefferson is getting the love he deserves.