|NBA Power Rankings, 1/3||01.03.12 at 10:54 pm ET|
With the Celtics, Lakers, Mavericks and Spurs all hovering around .500 through the first two weeks of this shortened season, has the balance of NBA power officially shifted? The way I see it, a team can own any of three distinct advantages after an abbreviated training camp and during a season in which they’re playing every other night: 1) an experienced core; 2) young, athletic talent; and 3) depth. The Celtics own one of those advantages.
In the early going, the power picture remains blurry, so I’m taking a new approach to the rankings: Who would win a seven-game series if they played right now? For example, I’m of the opinion the C’s would lose a playoff series to any of the five teams ranked higher than them and defeat any of the 24 teams ranked lower. Got it? Good.
1. Miami (5-1): The Heat returned an experienced core, possess a ton of talented young athletes and got deeper with the additions of free agent Shane Battier and rookie Norris Cole. There’s a reason Dwyane Wade & Co. are better than 2-to-1 favorites to win the NBA title. This season is so short, LeBron James might not even have time to figure out a new way to choke.
2. Oklahoma City (5-1): The Thunder won five of their first six games, and Russell Westbrook (38.0 FG%, 10.0 3P%) hasn’t even hit his stride yet. They’re incredibly young, incredibly talented and incredibly deep. And they also have Kendrick Perkins. I kid. I kid.
3. Chicago (4-1): Good news: Derrick Rose is still pretty good. Bad news: Rip Hamilton is still pretty old.
4. Dallas (2-4): Without Tyson Chandler holding down the paint, the Mavericks rank 27th in the league in both rebounding and points allowed. Meanwhile, Lamar Odom‘s field goal percentage (19.5%) is almost as bad as his success rate in getting Khloe Kardashian pregnant (too soon?). Yet, the Larry O’Brien trophy remains in Dallas — probably on Mark Cuban‘s pillow, but still.
5. L.A. Lakers (3-3): Even after Andrew Bynum‘s four-game suspension combined with Kobe Bryant‘s wrist injury and a back-to-back-to-back to start the season, the Lakers emerged 3-3. It could be worse. Don’t forget: It’s never a good think when Black Mamba has a chip on his shoulder, and he might lose a cool $75 million for allegedly cheating on his wife Vanessa (who woulda thunk it?). Read the rest of this entry »
Doc Rivers wanted to make sure Greg Stiemsma had the confidence to assume the role of playing and starting for the Celtics. He wanted to hear it from the man himself and then the Celtics coach wanted the rookie – who’s been around the world playing basketball – to let his teammates know he was ready.
“We had the silly ‘ he’ll recall it, but we had the silly day where he wouldn’t shoot and I made him stand in front of the whole team and say, ‘My name is Greg Stiemsma; I’m a shooter.’ And we kept making him repeat it. Everybody started. About two weeks ago, everybody was laughing. He said, ‘I can shoot. I’m a shooter.’ And he is. And it was good,” Rivers said after Monday’s 100-92 win over the Wizards.
It worked. Stiemsma, filling in as starting center for Jermaine O’Neal, scored 13 points and hauled down seven rebounds in 21 minutes. He added two blocks – including one that got Wizards coach Flip Saunders ejected just over a minute into the game – two assists, three fouls on 5-of-7 shooting. Not bad for a guy who had to be convinced by his coach that he was good enough to be taking shots in the NBA.
‘Stiemsma was terrific,” Rivers said. “He was absolutely wonderful. And I was so happy when he just took the shot. My favorite play of the whole game was he missed a shot and they threw it right back to him and he shot it again. I mean, that’s terrific. That was ‘ I thought the whole bench was excited over that because it’s what we’ve been saying.”
After playing at the University of Wisconsin, Stiemsma went overseas to play in South Korea and Turkey. He came home to play in the D-League. He got a look from the Timberwolves and Cavaliers but couldn’t stick on an NBA roster. Monday night, he finally got his first NBA start.
And after hearing the crowd cheer for him every time he touched the ball in preseason and on Friday night, he was ready to take the big stage Monday.
‘I’m trying to bring some energy every time,” he said. “I take my shot when it’s there and not force anything. I just want to take care of the ball.’
Kevin Garnett has been huge in helping Stiemsma, as our Paul Flannery points out. Stiemsma has been doing everything he can to contribute, since he figures to become more and more important as the Celtics manage the hamstring of Jermaine O’Neal through the course of an accelerated schedule.
‘I’ve just try to be his sponge and just learn as much as I can from him,” Steimsma said. “He doesn’t make mistakes too often so he’s in the right spot every time. So if I can just mimic him, it’s going to help my game.
‘With every opportunity I’ve had I feel like I’ve tried to step up to the plate and come out and perform well and tonight was another opportunity. I was happy to get the opportunity and to play well on top of that.’
And now, thanks to Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett, he will do so with a lot more confidence.
|Paul Pierce: ‘I was expecting to be me’||12.31.11 at 2:00 am ET|
The box score may have read just 12 points in 23 minutes for Paul Pierce in the first game of his 14th NBA season Friday night, helping the Celtics beat the Pistons, 96-85, at TD Garden for their first win of the season.
But more than that, the Celtics captain felt good about his ailing right heel. After bruising the heel just before the opening of camp on Dec. 9, he took part in just one practice with the team before being reduced to watching practice from the sidelines.
He had to watch in a suit on the sidelines as the Celtics dropped their first three games for the first time since the 2006-07 season.
“It felt good to finally get back out there with my teammates,” Pierce said. “Didn’t have much practice time, just have to get in shape in these games and just feels good to be out there.”
What were his expectations after just one practice and no games to get him in basketball shape?
“I was expecting to be me,” Pierce said. “I don’t settle for anything less. I work tremendously hard. I did a lot of things and did what I could do, other than practice. I just stayed focused, got my shots every day, I was on the [exercise] bike, and Doc [Doc Rivers] wanted me to be aggressive and just play the way I play, and that’s what I tried to do.
“It felt good. I think the rest of my body is a little bit more sore than anything, since I haven’t had any physical contact or up-and-down basketball in quite a while.”
After six points in 15 minutes in the first half, Kevin Garnett found Pierce open for a pair of threes early in the third quarter, as the Celtics put the game away with a 36-21 spurt.
“We moved the ball, with Kevin making the two passes, wide open for the threes and I just wanted to try to be aggressive,” Pierce said. “Everything is going to come if I just continue to play hard. The timing, the chemistry, it will all come. I’m not going to hold anything back. So, I’m just going to go out there and continue to play the way I play.”
As impressive as his six points in four minutes of the third quarter were, his presence bolstered a smothering Celtics defense, something that had been missing in three losses. Read the rest of this entry »
|Doc Rivers not pulling punches: We need to start fast||12.24.11 at 1:01 pm ET|
The Celtics tipoff their 66th season Sunday in New York, and never has it been more important to start fast.
Each team will have 66 games to get to the postseason. There is much less margin for error to find your rhythm, just ask Doc Rivers.
“I think you have to start fast and I think you have to stay fast,” Rivers said Friday, 48 hours before the season opener at Madison Square Garden. “Now, the calming down part, if we’re playing unbelievable, I’m going to calm them down. If we’re playing poorly, either way I’m going to leave that up to you guys.”
Rivers asked the media to keep everyone on a even keel, because he’ll be busy with other matters, like managing his team through a compressed schedule.
“If that does happen, I’m going to ask you guys, can you calm them down because I’m not going to notice,” Rivers said. “I really don’t notice when people are excited or not because I’m into the team, so you guys can watch that for me and report back.”
|NBA Offseason Review: Atlantic Division||at 10:00 am 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 fifth of six daily division-by-division reviews leading up to opening day.
NBA Offseason Review: Pacific Division
NBA Offseason Review: Northwest Division
NBA Offseason Review: Southwest Division
NBA Offseason Review: Southeast Division
NBA Offseason Review: Central Division
2010-11 record: 42-40
2010-11 standing: 2nd in Atlantic Division; lost Eastern Conference first round to Celtics, 4-0
NBA draft picks: 17. Iman Shumpert; 45. Josh Harrellson
Key additions: Tyson Chandler (free agent); Baron Davis (amnesty); Mike Bibby (FA)
Key substractions: Chauncey Billups (amnesty); Shawne Williams (free agent); Ronny Turiaf (FA)
2011-12 starters: PG Toney Douglas; SG Landry Fields; SF Melo Anthony; PF Amare Stoudemire; C Chandler
2011-12 wins over/under (sportsbook.com): 39.5
2011-12 prediction: 40-26
2010-11 record: 24-58
2010-11 standing: 4th in Atlantic Division
NBA draft picks: 25. Marshon Brooks; 31. Bojan Bogdanovic; 36. Jordan Williams
Key additions: Shawne Williams (free agent); Shelden Williams (FA)
Key substractions: Sasha Vujacic (free agent); Travis Outlaw (amnesty)
2011-12 starters: PG Deron Williams; SG Tony Morrow; SF Damion James; PF Kris Humphries; C Brook Lopez
2011-12 wins over/under (sportsbook.com): 21.5
2011-12 prediction: 25-41
2010-11 record: 41-41
2010-11 standing: 3rd in Atlantic Division
NBA draft picks: 16. Nikola Vucevic; 50. Lavoy Allen
Key additions: None
Key substractions: None
2011-12 starters: PG Jrue Holiday; SG Jodie Meeks; SF Andre Iguadola; PF Elton Brand; C Spencer Hawes
2011-12 wins over/under (sportsbook.com): 30.5
2011-12 prediction: 34-32
2010-11 record: 56-26
2010-11 standing: Won Atlantic Division; lost Eastern Conference semis to Heat, 4-1
NBA draft picks: 27. JaJuan Johnson; 55. E’Twuan Moore
Key additions: Brandon Bass (trade); Keyon Dooling (trade); Chris Wilcox (free agent)
Key substractions: Jeff Green (injury); Glen Davis (trade); Shaquille O’Neal (retired); Nenad Krstic (Russia)
2011-12 starters: PG Rajon Rondo; SG Ray Allen; SF Paul Pierce; PF Kevin Garnett; C Jermaine O’Neal
2011-12 wins over/under (sportsbook.com): 41.5
2011-12 prediction: 41-25
2010-11 record: 22-60
2010-11 standing: 5th in Atlantic Division
NBA draft picks: 5. Jonas Valanciunas
Key additions: Aaron Gray (free agent); Jamaal Magloire (FA); Rasual Butler (FA)
Key substractions: Sonny Weems (free agent); Reggie Evans (FA)
2011-12 starters: PG Jose Calderon; SG DeMar DeRozan; SF James Johnson; PF Andrea Bargnani; C Amir Johnson
2011-12 wins over/under (sportsbook.com): 16.5
2011-12 prediction: 13-53
|Jermaine O’Neal: Now, ‘I feel like I know what I’m doing’||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
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