|Jermaine O’Neal: Now, ‘I feel like I know what I’m doing’||12.24.11 at 12:30 am ET|
No one was more disappointed about the way last season ended in Miami than Jermaine O’Neal. He had just begun to find his legs in the playoffs, playing significant minutes and becoming a force after injuries to his left knee and left wrist caused him to miss 58 regular season games.
But now he’s healthy and ready to go. He says he hasn’t felt this good since finishing the 2009-10 season in Miami, when he played and started 70 games.
“I felt strong, I felt knowledgable about the system,” O’Neal said. “Now I feel comfortable with the guys and the guys felt comfortable with me. I think the coaching staff feel comfortable with me. Last year, no one knew what to expect since I wasn’t out there.”
Doc Rivers called him the “MVP of training camp” and believes the C’s will be getting the real O’Neal this season. O’Neal doesn’t want to disappoint.
“I think all of us want to do the job Doc expects us to do,” O’Neal said Friday. “I feel like we have enough size, enough mobility to play the style of game we want to play.”
O’Neal, if healthy, could be a huge difference-maker this season for the Celtics. He has average 14 points and just over seven rebounds a game and is considered one of the best defensive centers in the league when healthy.
“You talk about our size, there’s not many teams that have legitimately three or four seven-footers,” O’Neal said. “We have 6-10, 6-11, three or four of those guys who can really do a lot of different things. I think a lot of guys are just mentally focused on doing their jobs. If we do our jobs, we’ll be fine.”
O’Neal could never get on track last season, battling injuries and splitting practice time with Shaquille O’Neal and Glen Davis as the Celtics desperately searched for an answer in the low post. Read the rest of this entry »
|NBA Offseason Review: Southeast Division||12.22.11 at 5:23 pm ET|
Given the drama (and comedy) that was the NBA lockout, the ensuing free agency frenzy and the vetoed trade by a commissioner of a group of owners who was acting as the general manager of an individual team that is owned by that same group of owners, it’s easy to get confused about who landed where. This is the fourth of six daily division-by-division reviews leading up to opening day.
2010-11 record: 58-24
2010-11 standing: Won Southeast Division; lost NBA Finals to Mavericks, 4-2
NBA draft picks: 28. Norris Cole
Key additions: Shane Battier (free agent); Eddy Curry (free agent)
Key substractions: Mike Bibby (free agent); Zydrunas Ilgauskas (retired)
2011-12 starters: PG Mario Chalmers; SG Dwyane Wade; SF LeBron James; PF Chris Bosh; C Joel Anthony
2011-12 wins over/under (sportsbook.com): 49.5
2011-12 prediction: 51-15
2010-11 record: 23-59
2010-11 standing: 5th in Southeast Division
NBA draft picks: 6. Jan Vesely; 18. Chris Singleton; 34. Shelvin Mack
Key additions: Ronny Turiaf (trade)
Key substractions:Josh Howard (free agent); Yi Jianlian (FA)
2011-12 starters: PG John Wall; SG Nick Young; SF Rashard Lewis; PF Andray Blatche; C JaVale McGee
2011-12 wins over/under (sportsbook.com): 19.5
2011-12 prediction: 21-45
Keyon Dooling has been around long enough to let his eyes tell him what he sees while blocking out all the noise.
He’s heard all of the chatter about the limitations with Rajon Rondo (whom he calls Ray) and his jump shot. But from what he’s seen so far, up close and personal, he’s been impressed.
“I think it’s just a matter of confidence with Ray,” Dooling said of Rondo, not Ray Allen. “I think because he’s got good mechanics and he knows when to shoot. It’s just all about his confidence. He’s fun to watch.”
As a matter of fact, he’s been so enamored with Rondo that he wants his two-year-old son to model his play not after daddy but daddy’s teammate.
“I was telling him earlier that I’ve got a two-year-old son and I want him to play ball like Rondo,” Dooling said. “So, I think Ray’s going to be very important to our championship run this year.”
As for his own play, he was scoreless in 15 minutes while handing out four assists. He considers himself a “Rondo-like” leader of the second unit, and he was disappointed that the second unit let a double-digit lead slip in the second half Wednesday in the preseason finale.
“I think if you look at us, I think the thing that is apparent or obvious is that our defense is ahead of our offense,” Dooling said. “We had a spurt with our second unit that was very disappointing. So, we’ll go back to the drawing board. We’ll be in practice a little bit earlier than the rest of the guys and we’ll try and continue to build our continuity with the second unit.”
Helping along the way is, of course, head coach Doc Rivers, who pulled Dooling aside several times during a break in the action to talk over things.
“It’s been fantastic,” Dooling said after Wednesday’s scrimmage. “Doc has been great so far. I’m a guy who sits back and I just watch him, watch him work, I watch him when he’s thinking of a play, staring into space, when he’s writing down on the board what he’s saying, how’s he motivating all the guys. Doc’s a guy I just want to sponge off and learn as much as I can.”
|The legend of Greg Stiemsma, Celtics player at large||at 10:24 am ET|
As Celtics training camp invitee Greg Stiemsma‘s buckets started to pile up Wednesday night against the Raptors, so too did his potential nicknames. “Stiemroller” or “McStiemy” were just two of the many batted around.
Regardless, one thing is for certain: Stiemsma made a name for himself in Boston, as the Garden crowd grew louder and louder with each of his seven points (3-8 FG), five rebounds and two blocks.
“It was fun,” Stiemsma said of the fan reaction. “It’s fun to have those guys behind you. I know Boston is a great sports town. They love their Celtics. I’m just having fun out there and trying to stick around for as long as I can.”
Indeed, just how long Stiemsma sticks around remains to be seen. The Celtics could make final roster cuts as soon as Thursday, and coach Doc Rivers suggested the C’s would leave the 15th spot open for a potential free agent signing. Draft picks JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore should make the roster out of camp, so that leaves one open spot to be filled by Stiemsma, Gilbert Brown, Michael Sweetney or Jamal Sampson.
“I just hope I showed I belong, that I can play at this level and that I can help this team,” said the 6-foot-11, 260-pound Stiemsma. “Whether it’s three- or four-minute stretches or whatever it may be, in practice, whatever it is, I feel like I can step in and help them out.” Read the rest of this entry »
While Jermaine O’Neal was off getting his in-game massage, Doc Rivers was making the following observation about Rajon Rondo: the Celtics need him to shoot and score if they are going anywhere this season.
Rondo certainly didn’t disappoint in his preseason finale, making the first two jumpers he attempted on his way to 6-of-10 shooting and a team-high 17 points as the Celtics beat the Raptors, 81-73, Wednesday night.
Rondo started off strong from the floor, something Rivers is looking for this season.
‘Yeah, yeah, we want him to just shoot it; I don’t care how many times he shoots,” Rivers said. “What I did like more than his jump shot was that he got to the foul line, I think six times in the first half. That’s ‘ we need that.’
Speaking of scoring, something the Celtics are going to need lots of if Paul Pierce is sidelined with a heel problem, Kevin Garnett posted up several times in the first quarter as well as spotting up high in the Celtics offense and passing to an open teammate down in the paint.
‘Well he looks good,” Rivers said. “He looked ‘ the first couple of days he was out of synch a little bit, but now he looks great. His jumper looks good again, he’s aggressive. I like the fact that he looks more aggressive offensively, which we need him to be. He needs to be ‘ he needs to score more this year for us. And I don’t care where it’s from. The purists are saying on the post. I don’t care if the ball goes in, it still counts as the same. Where he gets it from ‘ he just has to be more aggressive offensively for us.’
As for the Celtics bench, it looked strong at times, led by the new Big Baby, Brandon Bass.
‘You pretty much ‘ I got a good feel,” Rivers said. “The good news is we’ve had a lot of practices. You would’ve hoped a couple of guys, honestly, separated themselves, and they didn’t. But hey, listen, we’re going to just throw them out there and hopefully someone separates themselves when the game ‘ season starts. We may have to do a couple of positions by committee.’
|Fast Break: Celtics steamroll Raptors in preseason||12.21.11 at 10:03 pm ET|
Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo (17 points, 6 assists) got the preseason Garden party started, Greg Stiemsma (7 points, 5 rebounds) kept it going and E’Twaun Moore (11 points) closed it out in a 81-73 victory against the lowly Raptors finale on Wednesday night.
Heck, C’s fans were even treated to a Michael Sweetney sighting, whose bucket in the waning moments of the fourth quarter brought the house down and signaled closing time on the preseason.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
The Steamroller: Playing for a roster spot, 6-foot-11, 260-pound Greg Stiemsma turned in what might have been his best performance since leading the Randolph High Rockets to three straight Division 4 Wisconsin state titles. In between, he’s played in renowned basketball hotbeds like South Korea and Sioux Falls, S.D. Wednesday night, Stiemsma totaled all seven of his points in the first half, garnering more applause from the Garden crowd with each bucket. Then again, the Celtics were playing the Raptors … in the preseason.
JO’s D: In limited action, the 33-year-old Jermaine O’Neal let his presence be known. Showing what Celtics coach Doc Rivers has been saying throughout training camp — that his starting center has looked better than ever in green — O’Neal owned the paint on the defensive end, blocking four shots in 11 minutes. Although, O’Neal did leave the game to return to the locker room in the third quarter never to return (with no visible injury).
Rondo’s jumper: Perhaps the most encouraging sign — and the one that could benefit the Celtics the most throughout the season — was not only Rajon Rondo‘s willingness to shoot from the perimeter, drive through the lane looking for his shot and get to the free throw line, but his ability to score in all three aspects of the game. Rondo established himself early and often as the best player on the floor, draining a couple 18-footers, getting to the line six times and totaling 17 points in 22 minutes.
|Irish Coffee: Celtics sour grapes over David West||12.20.11 at 11:06 am ET|
Ainge reportedly offered a sign-and-trade package of Jermaine O’Neal and a younger player to the Hornets for West, who would then be signed to a three-year, $29 million deal, according to ESPN.com’s Jackie MacMullan.
Instead, Bird signed the free agent to a two-year, $20 million contract, offering a higher annual value and a shorter window until West’s next free agency period, when he likely wouldn’t be coming off reconstructive knee surgery.
“Once it got down to the end, I think his ego kicked back in,” Allen told MacMullan. “He wanted the dollars. I guess it comes down to ‘What is a championship worth to you?’ Think of all the guys who have made $20 million and could be considered one of the best ever, but they get chided because they never won. We [the Big Three] all had to do less when we won. We’re still taking less to make it work. But it’s worth it. No one can ever say to KG [Kevin Garnett], Paul [Pierce] or me, ‘You guys never got your ring.'”
“I’m very disappointed,” Rivers told Jackie Mac, “but we’re moving on with the guys we have.”
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