|Are the Magic a threat?||01.23.09 at 12:01 am ET|
The Orlando Magic had the best record in the East, so it was only fair to say they were the best team. At least that was the credit the Boston Celtics were giving them before Thursday’s match up. But of the 41 games the Magic had played entering the game, only one had been against the Celtics. It was a loss.
The Magic have said they wanted to beat the best to be the best. In the last two seasons they lost to the Detroit Pistons early in the playoffs. Now the Celtics are the measuring stick in the East and after Thursday’s 90-80 loss to the defending champs (RECAP HERE), the Magic have failed to stack up twice.
It’s true the Magic haven’t received all the recognition they deserve nearly halfway through the season. Despite winning 16 of their last 19 games, they have flown relatively low under the radar and the talk of the East is still LeBron James vs. the Celtics. But there is a reason for that. Even with one of the most dominating big men in the game, the Magic do not have what it takes to unseat the Celtics in the postseason.
There is no denying the power and talent of Dwight Howard. He is a beast on the glass and can body through the paint with authority. But the reality is Howard is 23, only three months older than Rajon Rondo. The Celtics point guard has three proven veterans to turn to whereas the veterans on the Magic turn to Howard.
On Thursday the Celtics held Howard scoreless for the entire second and third quarters. In that time he picked up four fouls and had to limit his defensive intensity late in the fourth before fouling out with 2:30 to go. The glaring question is, can Howard lead a team in a seven-game series?
Point Guard Play
Jameer Nelson is having a breakthrough year, averaging 17 points up from 11 last season, and is finally emerging as the point guard the Magic have been anticipating since 2004. However surging performances aren’t always consistent. It’s been said that as Rondo goes, so go the Celtics. The same can be said for Nelson and the Magic.
Rajon Rondo (through 44 games)
Wins: 11.9 PPG, 54.8% FG, 8.2 APG, 5.1 RPG, 2.5 PF
Losses: 7.0 PPG, 32.4% FG, 7.3 APG, 4.1 RPG, 3.0 PF
Jameer Nelson (through 36 games)
Wins: 18.1 PPG, 54.4% FG, 52.1% 3PG, 5.7 APG, 2.9 PF
Losses: 12.9 PPG, 37.4% FG, 19.4% 3PG, 4.0 APG, 4.1 PF
The Magic are the best three-point shooting team in the league. They hit an NBA-record 23 treys this month against the Sacramento Kings and entered Thursday’s game shooting 53.9% 3PG in their last five match ups. At some point, though, legs get tired and the finesse can fade, especially in a six or seven-game series.
The Magic’s leading three-point shooter Rashard Lewis may be dangerous from inside and out, but he wasn’t a threat when he only shot one-for-four from long range against the Celtics. The team as a whole shot 7-for-22, which was actually worse than the Celtics 0-for-6 performance. The Cs compensated for their slump by going inside. The Magic, on the other hand, lived and died by the deep three.
The Celtics weren’t wrong for giving the Magic credit. They are one of the hottest teams in the league centered around one of the most exciting players to watch. But the season isn’t even halfway over and the Magic are not prepped for a title run just yet. They wanted to beat the best in the playoffs to be the best, but the first step is beating the best in the regular season.
|One less option||01.22.09 at 3:16 pm ET|
When rumors began buzzing about the Boston Celtics need for a back up center. Alonzo Mourning’s name had been mentioned in the mix of veteran big men. On Thursday, Mourning put those rumors to rest when he announced his retirement from basketball.
“I truly feel it’s best that I retire,” Mourning said at his press conference. “When you’ve got something you love and you’re passionate about, it’s hard to let that go. But at 38, I feel I’ve physically done all I can for this game. It has been an amazing ride.’
Mourning had been rehabbing from a knee injury he suffered over a year ago with the Miami Heat. The 15-year veteran, who had already overcome a kidney disease to win an NBA championship in 2006, decided to leave the game with a positive attitude.
“It’s not a sad day, but it’s a day to celebrate,’ he said. ‘I can think of a million people right now that would have loved to walk the path I’ve walked. The ups and the downs made it even more joyous.”
In addition to Mourning, the Dikembe Mutombo and Joe Smith were also mentioned as possible acquisitions for the Celtics. Mutombo re-signed with the Houston Rockets in December after losing patience with Cs. Smith is still under contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
|Walker committed to Boston||at 12:10 am ET|
Bill Walker has close ties to his community. So close, in fact, that he tattooed the numbers of his childhood address on his neck. When the Boston Celtics rookie got recalled from the NBA Development League this month, he was eager to give back to the city he’s now calling home.
Last weekend Walker, along with Kendrick Perkins, Gabe Pruitt, and J.R. Giddens, served home-cooked meals to 150 men and women at the Boston Rescue Mission. The food was prepared by members of the Celtics staff as part of the Shamrock Foundation.
‘[The best part was] just them being so happy that we’re there,’ Walker said. ‘Just being somebody who actually could take enough time to come down there and just sit and talk with them, serve them food, things like that. Little things like that do mean a lot to people.’
Boston is one of the many places where Walker, 21, wants to make a difference. Even though he is just starting his NBA career, he already has made plans for years to come.
‘That’s just something I want to do when I’m done with basketball, just to try to help the communities that I’m in first and then expand,’ Walker said. ‘So that was just fun, going back and trying to cheer up a couple people.’
For more information on the Celtics community outreach, visit www.celtics.com.
|Cousy’s All-Star history||01.21.09 at 8:57 am ET|
On Thursday the 2009 NBA All-Star teams will be revealed. While a lack of fan votes has put Rajon Rondo‘s selection in question, it was 55 years ago today that another Celtics PG made his mark on the game. On January 21, 1954, Bob Cousy scored 10 of his 20 points in overtime to lead the East to a 98-93 win. It was the first overtime in All-Star history. Cousy won All-Star MVP honors and appeared in 13 All-Star Games over his career.
The 2009 All-Star teams will be announced on TNT prior to the Celtics-Magic game.
|Rondo makes Suns pay||01.19.09 at 11:52 pm ET|
On Draft Night 2006, the Phoenix Suns selected Rajon Rondo with the 21st pick and traded him to the Boston Celtics. It was a move to stay under the salary cap, avoid the luxury tax, and free up money for future acquisitions. Three years later, nearly $75 million in payroll could not stop him.
‘The challenge is what everybody’s challenge is with him ‘ keeping him in front,’ said Suns head coach Terry Porter following the Celtics 104-87 victory. ‘He does a great job of penetrating, getting to the paint, and causing havoc that way.’
This season Rondo is set to earn $1.3 million, a bargain by NBA standards and nearly one-tenth of Steve Nash’s salary. On Monday night he proved he was worth every penny the Suns did not pay for him. Rondo posted 23 points, seven assists, and five rebounds, six more than Amar’e Stoudemire (RECAP HERE).
‘There were a lot of fast break opportunities for me,’ he said after the game. ‘They missed shots, that was key for us all night long. We got stops on defense and that allowed me to push it up on the break and get easy looks at the basket.’
Rondo scored more than half of his points in the paint against the Suns $35 million front court of Shaquille O’Neal and Stoudemire. Whereas other teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks have collapsed on Rondo, the Suns let him have his way at the hoop.
‘He’s improving all the time. He’s emerging as one of the elite guards in the league,’ Nash said. ‘I think regardless of whether he’s shooting the ball well and he needs to improve there, his game has improved. I think it’s made the shooting not as big a question. He’s become a better and better passer. He’s a great athlete who does a lot of things for his team on the floor. He’s emerging as one of the elite guards in the league.’
Even though Rondo says he does not think about being traded, his performance only accentuated the Suns’ Draft Night loss. Over the years they have also drafted and dealt point guards Nate Robinson and Sergio Rodriguez, as well as forward Luol Deng. After missing out on Brandon Rush in the 2008 Draft, the Suns are left with little depth at the one-spot and a point guard who turns 35 next month.
‘Well, we’ve had a few draft night trades to stay under the salary cap that were difficult in the big picture,’ said Nash. ‘Our franchise is built on a business model that tries to stay under the cap as much as we can. It’s just how it’s been.’
It’s games like this that could have the Suns wondering what might have been. But for Rondo, it’s just another game.
‘I just try to get better every game,’ he said. ‘No one particular night I can try to say my confidence has been boosted, but I just try to stay consistent as possible because there’s a lot of ups and downs in the NBA. I had a good night tonight, shooting the ball but it’s all about the win.’
Three years ago it was all about the money for the Suns. On Monday night it was all about the win for Rondo.
|Suns expecting big game from Shaq||at 7:38 pm ET|
‘Any time we get an opportunity to have a size difference with Shaq in the paint, we always try to go to him,’ Amare Stoudemire said prior to Monday’s game. ‘We try to feed it to him, see if he can take advantage of that. And if not, we go to our other options. So tonight will be a pretty good night for Big Fella if he can dominate out there and stay out of foul trouble.’
The Celtics have to alter their plan of attack without Kendrick Perkins (shoulder). Doc Rivers is looking for Kevin Garnett to use his quickness to outplay Shaq, while the biggest mission for back ups Leon Powe, Glen Davis, and Brian Scalabrine is keeping a body between O’Neal and the basket. The Suns, though, aren’t changing their gameplan.
‘I think it changes the fact that having Scalabrine starting as opposed to Kendrick Perkins, that’s a bit of a difference. But as opponents we can’t look at it that way,’ said Stoudemire. ‘We’ve got to attack it as if he were playing, so we should go inside to the big fella. Shaq should have a pretty good game tonight.’
The Suns are one of the few teams who figured out the key to beating the Celtics last season. Stoudemire scored 28 points off of 10-for-23 shooting and Steve Nash added 18 in the Suns’ 85-77 victory. Combine that with former Charlotte Bobcat Jason Richardson’s success against the Cs and the Suns think they know how to get it done tonight.
‘I’m pretty sure he knows how to defend the guards out there,’ Stoudemir said of Richardson. ‘As a team, we’ve just got to pull together. We beat them last year, Bobcats beat them. What we’ve got to do is just keep playing how we’ve been playing.’
|Uncovering Allen’s Game||at 12:13 pm ET|
Ray Allen makes basketball look easy. He could knock down three-pointers in his sleep, right? Allen is featured on the cover of the latest issue of The Improper Bostonian, where he explains that his game isn’t as effortless as it seems.
A long time ago, somebody told me that they thought God had blessed me with a jump shot, and the ability to be a great NBA player. That surprised me. I was like, ‘Do you really believe that?’ God blessed me with health, a healthy family and the ability to go out and find for myself what I wanted to do. He granted me with the competitive drive to want to be the best and the sound mind to accomplish my goals. But that came through focus and dedication, not from some Godgiven right.
Allen’s dedication to his professional and personal life made him an easy choice for the cover story. Away from basketball he is involved with the Joslin Diabetes Center, where his son Walker received treatment for Type 1 Diabetes.
“Since it’s our Man issue, Ray Allen seemed like the perfect fit,” said Megan Lisagor, editor of The Improper Bostonian. “He embodies the qualities of a good guy–dedicated on the court to his craft and off the court to causes like juvenile diabetes. He’s focused and humble. Not to mention, he’s incredibly smooth!”
This issue of The Improper Bostonian hits newsstands this week.