|Brandon Bass re-signs with Celtics||07.05.12 at 5:00 pm ET|
Brandon Bass never wanted to leave, and now he won’t have to. The veteran power forward agreed to a three-year deal with the Celtics, per a league source, filling a major hole in the team’s front line. Bass told the Herald that the deal was for $20 million total, but it’s unclear how the deal breaks down in terms of an annual salary.
Using reported figures for Bass, Kevin Garnett and free agent guard Jason Terry while adding in rookie contracts for first-round picks Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo, the Celtics have committed an estimated $56 million to nine players.
The key word there is estimated. It’s important to note that new contracts can’t be officially signed and finalized until July 11 when the league completes its internal audit and arrives at a salary cap number as well as a luxury tax threshold.
By using the full mid-level exception to sign Terry, the Celtics would commit themselves to staying under the salary tax apron, which is expected to be a little more than $74 million. Once a team goes over the apron, it can’t use the full mid-level or the bi-annual exception and the cap becomes a hard cap.
Yes, this all gets confusing, but as it stands the Celtics have somewhere in the vicinity of $18 million to complete their roster with Jeff Green and Ray Allen still unsigned, as well as other internal free agents like Mickael Pietrus and Greg Stiemsma. It’s also worth noting that the Celtics have E’Twaun Moore and Sean Williams signed to non-guaranteed minimum contracts.
Allen met with the Heat on Thursday and the Associated Press reported that he would spend the night in Miami after a planned meeting with the Clippers on Friday was canceled in the wake of the Clippers agreeing to terms with Jamal Crawford. With Los Angeles out of the picture it appears to be a two-team race for Allen, although the Grizzlies have also expressed interest.
Miami is limited to offering Allen the taxpayer mid-level, which starts around $3.1 million per year. The Celtics have offered a two-year, $12 million deal. The Boston Herald reported that they could include a no-trade or a trade kicker in the deal.
As for Green, his agent David Falk said that he was optimistic a deal would get done, although it might not happen until next week. Falk reiterated that Green’s goal was to return to Boston. The Celtics had Green signed to a one-year deal for $9 million last season before an aortic aneurysm was detected, so it’s not out of line to expect a new deal to be constructed along similar parameters.
In other words, it’s still possible for the Celtics to bring back Allen and Green and still have enough left to complete the roster, but it will be tight. The deal for Bass is another strong step in that direction. Locking up a starting power forward for less than $7 million a year is an exceptionally savvy signing.
Bass averaged a career-high 12.5 points and 6.2 rebounds for the Celtics this past season after he was acquired from the Magic in a sign-and-trade involving Glen Davis. After beginning the season as the team’s sixth man, Bass joined the starting lineup for good after the All-Star break and helped the Celtics surge back into contention.
One of the game’s top mid-range-shooting big men, Bass made 48 percent of his shots from 16-23 feet, a percentage that put him on par with big man All-Stars like Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki and Celtics teammate Kevin Garnett. The Celtics love his ability to make shots because that helps open up the court for Rajon Rondo‘s slashing game.
With Bass back in place, Garnett will presumably stay at the center position although their frontline still needs work before it can be completed. Still, the Celtics’ lineup is beginning to take shape.
|What Kevin Garnett’s return means for Celtics||06.30.12 at 12:18 pm ET|
Kevin Garnett arrived in Boston five years ago with the promise of rebirth for a franchise that had grown stale. He was a savior then — plucked from Minnesota for almost half a roster’s worth of young players and draft picks – and he was treated as such.
On a team of prideful individuals, Garnett’s persona stood out as the defining one. Dedicated to the point of insanity and private to the point of aloofness, Garnett kept close watch over his basketball family and kept everyone else at bay. Something changed over the course of those five years, culminating last season in a Garnett that was slightly more accessible and endearingly human.
No one could have predicted five years ago that Garnett would ultimately become an institution, but here we are. He’s become one of us: a Bostonian in more than just an address and a Celtic in more than just a uniform. When his contract expired, there was never a question of going anywhere else, it was only a matter of whether he’d come back for more.
We have our answer, as Garnett will sign a new deal, reportedly for three years and $34 million, roughly half the monetary value of his last contract, and assuring he will be in a Celtics uniform for almost a decade.
Garnett’s new deal sets in motion an offseason that now takes on a defined shape. The Celtics are still contenders, and team president Danny Ainge has flexibility to build the rest of the roster. Salary cap economics being what they are, Ainge is limited to a degree, but he has a host of options at his disposal that weren’t as obvious 24 hours ago. Read the rest of this entry »
|Mickael Pietrus: ‘I had to take a shot and make it’||06.06.12 at 1:48 am ET|
Mickael Pietrus hit a pair of crucial 3-pointers in the fourth quarter Tuesday night as the Celtics held off the Heat, 94-90, in Game 5 at American Airlines Arena in Miami. Pietrus hit 5-of-8 shots from the floor and finished with 13 points off the bench as the Celtics moved to the brink of the NBA finals for the third time in five seasons by taking a 3-2 series lead over the heavily favored Heat.
Pietrus said he received a special source of inspiration on Monday via text message from former Celtic and current TNT NBA analyst Shaquille O’Neal.
“I got a text from Shaq, he was telling me keep believing and keep playing, so that’s what I did,” Pietrus said.
Pietrus hit a huge 3-pointer to cap a wild flurry midway through the fourth as the Celtics and Heat were battling for control of the game. With the Heat on a 9-0 run to go up 78-72, Brandon Bass had his dunk blocked by Dwyane Wade, but the loose ball went out to Rajon Rondo, who touched it immediately to a wide-open Pietrus on the right baseline. Pietrus drilled it to cut the Heat lead to three and help spark Boston’s comeback.
“When Rondo took that rebound and kicked it out to me, I knew I had to take a shot and make it, so that’s what I did,” Pietrus said.
“The one thing you know about Pietrus is he’s going to shoot it. He’s been down this road before,” Doc Rivers said, giving credit to Rondo for touch-passing to Pietrus on the wing.
With 2:11 left and Miami back in the lead at 83-82 on a Mario Chalmers 3-pointer, Pietrus stepped up and did it again, nailing another trey on a pass from Pierce. The triple put Boston up 85-83 and again quieted the crowd, which was anticipating a Heat run to close out the game as in Game 2.
“I’m very happy with the way we’ve been playing defensively and I think it’s up to us to go home and close it out,” Pietrus said.
|Game 2: Rondo, Rondo, Rondo||05.29.12 at 7:45 pm ET|
MIAMI — Just about everyone would take the following stat line from their point guard: 16 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. But Rajon Rondo is not just anyone, and for the Celtics to hobble their way out of Miami with a series split, he has to play much better in Game 2.
Rondo had a horrid start to the opener, with all four of his turnovers coming in the first quarter. Then, he turned it on in the next 12 minutes, scoring eight points and handing out four assists while the Celtics tricked the game up with a number of smaller lineups featuring four wing players on the court at the same time. “Fools gold,” Doc Rivers called it.
That’s not sustainable, and the Heat got them out of that early in the second half, when coach Erik Spoelstra put Dwyane Wade on Rondo and kept him 10 feet off the ball. Rondo’s seen that defense before and while giving him room can allow him to pick defenses apart with his passing, it doesn’t work if, A) the defender is as big and talented as Wade, and B) no one on the Celtics can make a shot.
Wade was allowed to roam, which disrupted passing lanes, timing and whatever rhythm is left in the Celtics’ offense. Rivers said after the game that he thought Rondo let his analytical side take over instead of just relying on his speed and instincts.
“You can’t read [defenses] and play a speed at the same time,” Rivers said. “We got through it a lot: ‘Rondo, just trust your instincts. Your speed has to be part of it, your instincts will take over, you’ll make the right decisions.’ We have to give him more room and guys have to hit shots.”
Asked how many defensive looks they threw at him, Rondo deadpanned, “Fourteen.” But given a day and half to prepare, he should have a better plan of attack.
“You could say that, but teams make adjustments,” he said. “They may guard me the same Game 2, they may not. They may throw some different things at me. At the end of the day, you got to make changes throughout the game. You can’t just come into a gameplan and stick to it, because good teams in the conference finals will make adjustments.”
True enough, but Rondo has to be on it from the opening tip if the Celtics are going to have a chance, and Boston has to help him by getting defensive rebounds and getting the ball to him quickly in transition. The Heat have made stopping him their top priority and 16-9-7 isn’t going to cut it. Read the rest of this entry »
|Veteran Celtics win with old reliable: Defense||05.22.12 at 1:50 pm ET|
In the new Big Three era, when the moon is large, the food is prepared properly, and whatever other wacky Kevin Garnett-ism you want to use to describe the Celtics playing to their potential, there has been one constant. If unsure of the answer, let Mickael Pietrus spell it out for you:
“D-E-F-E-N-S-E,” Pietrus said. “That’s the key. When offensively things aren’t going well, you can always count on everybody to play great defense. That’s our coach’s mentality. That’s the Celtics’ mentality.”
The Celtics have finished in the top five in points allowed every year since the 2007-08 season. This year has been no different. During the regular season opponents scored 89.3 points per game against the C’s, good for second-fewest in the NBA. Through 11 games of the playoffs, Boston has allowed just 84.9 points per game. But in the first half of the pivotal Game 5 Monday night, the Celtics struggled to execute defensively and the 76ers took advantage, shooting 54.8 percent while taking a three-point lead at halftime.
“Understanding what got us here,” Garnett said about the keys to the Celtics’ success. “Riding out our defense. I think when we get erratic and we get away from being disciplined defensively, it makes it hard on us. When we stick to our principles and our schemes, it’s hard to score on us.”
What transpired over the course of the second half proved Garnett is absolutely right. The Celtics regained some semblance of control in a wildly unpredictable series with their 101-85 victory. Some analysts will point to the Celtics getting to the free throw line 17 more times than the Sixers; others will speak about Brandon Bass outscoring the entire Philly team, 18-16, in the third quarter. And those are valid reasons why Boston prevailed, but they also are anomalies.
However, the C’s defense binding together and holding the 76ers to just 35 second-half points on 37.1 percent shooting is hardly surprising. As Garnett said, it is what Boston is built on. The C’s active hands served as a catalyst to completely reverse the feel of the game. In the third quarter alone, the Sixers had six turnovers and the Celtics had four steals, turning what had been a three-point deficit into a nine-point lead entering the fourth quarter. From that point on, the Celtics never looked back.
“It’s due to their adjustments,” Elton Brand said. “The first two games they were playing our pick and roll and our drag screens a certain way, now they are playing it a different way, and it doesn’t always bode well for us to execute. We’ve been turning the ball over. They’re long and athletic, so we’ve been going into those traps.”
|Kevin Garnett: Philadelphia’s ‘got fair-weather fans’||at 1:04 am ET|
For 24 minutes of Game 5, the Celtics looked lazy, old, disinterested and whatever other adjective you want to use to describe a team that appeared resigned to the fact that Father Time wasn’t willing to cooperate and the Eastern Conference semifinals were slipping away to the younger, fresher legs of the 76ers.
Whatever they felt, the hushed Garden crowd sensed it, too. And then the third quarter happened.
Whether it was the ridiculous offensive foul call on Kevin Garnett against Spencer Hawes four minutes after halftime that elicited chants of “bull[stuff], bull[stuff]” or the barrage of Brandon Bass buckets, the Celtics awoke a Boston crowd that sleepwalked through the first half. Or was it the other way around?
“This goddamned crowd here sparks you,” said Garnett (20 points, 8-of-17 FG). “It doesn’t take much here, man. … When speaking about this crowd, man, it’s like plugging in. They’re enthused from 48 minutes on, from the tip on, so I can’t see the difference between minute from minute. I feel like every minute I look up, I see my family, I see people yelling, I see the drunk, fat guy. I can decipher one from the other. This crowd is ridiculous, man. I love it.”
Brandon Bass wasn’t the only one coming into Game 5 who might have wondered where all his playing time went.
Greg Stiemsma was lost on the Celtics bench, while Ryan Hollins was spelling Kevin Garnett off the bench. Stiemsma was a DNP-Coach’s Decision on Friday night. He has eight, 11 and four minutes respectively in the first three games before a goose egg in Game 4.
But on Monday, maybe it was just as simple as Doc Rivers wanting to change the atmosphere as Stiemsma – not Hollins – came in for Garnett in the first quarter and the Sixers leading, 12-11.
So often in the series, and in the playoffs, when Garnett has come off the floor, the Celtics have struggled. But this time, while not pouring in 27 points like Bass did, Stiemsma was crucial in stabilizing the struggling Celtics bench, which lost Ray Allen to the starting lineup. Stiemsma came in with 5:46 left in the first and immediately paid dividends.
He didn’t register a block until 1:23 left in the quarter. It was actually his motion off the ball and rolls to the basket that made a difference. Imagine that – Stiemsma making offensive moves and Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo looking for him on cuts to the basket. In his first two minutes, Stiemsma hit a lay-up off a screen-and-roll from Pierce. He dunked on a baseline cut to the basket on a pass from Rondo and he connected on a jumper from 14 feet on a feed from Rondo.
“Tonight was another opportunity, its been like that the whole season,” Stiemsma said. “For the most part I think I’ve taken advantage of it and tonight was just another one of those nights where got some looks early, got myself going and I was just happy we won at the end.”
“I just kind of went with the flow of the game, how it was going, if I missed my defense couple times early when we got those buckets, a layup and a dunk, it really slows the game down, really makes you feel a lot more comfortable.”
Stiemsma didn’t do much in the second half. He didn’t need to as Bass took a spear to the heart of the 76ers and the Celtics carved out a 101-85 win in Game 5. But it was Stiemsma who gave the Celtics some life early on when the Sixers were looking and hoping to pull away for their second straight win in Boston.
How good was Stiemsma? He made all five shots he attempted and finished with 10 points, three blocks and two rebounds in 14 minutes.
“Its playoff time so as long as we’re winning I’m happy,” Stiemsma said. “It’s tough to see us struggle, but at the same time I don’t feel like I was playing the same way I was at the end of the year, either. So it felt good to get out there and feel comfortable again.”