|As the Celtics rotation turns||01.12.12 at 5:11 pm ET|
WALTHAM — On Wednesday night, Celtics coach Doc Rivers looked out on the floor and saw Keyon Dooling, Avery Bradley, Mickael Pietrus and Brandon Bass and thought, this is what he’s been looking for. Energy, fullcourt defense, tempo, pace … all those buzzwords were finally on display.
“Without the second unit [Wednesday] night we’re losing that game by 25 points,” Rivers said. “The second unit got us back in the game with their energy defensively. That’s how I envisioned them when we started this and that was the first night where you could literally see the difference, and probably because Pietrus was part of it.”
Rivers said after the Celtics’ 90-85 loss to Dallas that his new swingman brought a “joy” to the court in his debut. An upbeat, gregarious character, Pietrus quickly endeared himself to his coach, his teammates and the Garden crowd with 18 inspired minutes.
He was playing so well that Rivers left him in the game deep into the fourth quarter before bringing back Paul Pierce at about the 6-minute mark, who had his second straight poor game. Pierce has not talked with reporters since Tuesday when he held court for several minutes after practice, but Rivers said Pierce was fine with the decision.
The second unit didn’t overwhelm anyone with their statistics. They scored 27 points, 19 of them from Bass and Dooling, and had 10 rebounds and four assists. They began coming into the game down 17-9 after the starters got off to a woeful start offensively and by the time they had rotated back out halfway through the second quarter they had cut two points off the lead. Again, not overwhelming, but successful.
Rivers has pinned his team’s 4-5 record on the starters. What he wants from his bench are energy, defense and the ability to shake things up when things start poorly. He’s still searching for the right combination of players, which is understandable.
The Celtics acquired nine players via trade, draft and free agency and all of them come off the bench. Bradley played only 162 minutes last season, so he is also new to the rotation. That’s a lot of moving parts and Rivers has already worked through several variations of a reserve unit.
Here’s how they stand at the moment: Read the rest of this entry »
|Brandon Bass flies under the radar, just the way he likes it||01.05.12 at 5:26 pm ET|
WALTHAM — It’s a measure of Brandon Bass‘ impact on the Celtics in this young season that the narrative has already moved on beyond his lack of assists and turned to his actual production. (Good thing too, because Bass understands his role completely). Bass is averaging 14 points and 6.6 rebounds in 27 minutes a night and providing a real sixth man presence.
One more note on the passing thing. It’s become a joke within the Celtics locker room, but in a good-natured way. Doc Rivers had a great line after their game on Wednesday when he referenced the immortal Yinka Dare who needed — no lie — 78 games to notch his first career assist.
“We told him he was threatening Yinka,” Rivers said. “I don’t want him thinking pass too much. He’s a scorer. You don’t want to screw him up. You don’t want him passing too much. He passes to the basket.”
Bass has fit in easily with his new teammates. He’s funny and engaging, but he’s not a goof. He’s savvy and sharp without being cunning. He also understands that his life is immensely easier playing with four All-Stars who want him to be himself.
“I’m grateful to be a part of this group,” Bass said. “To play with Kevin Garnett, Paul [Pierce], Ray Allen, [Rajon] Rondo, ain’t nobody worrying about me, man. I’m flying under the radar and I want it to stay like that.”
It’s very easy to make yet another comparison between Bass and his childhood friend and former LSU teammate, Glen Davis. Bass has resisted the comparisons, because let’s face it, players want to be judged on their performance, not anyone else’s play. It came up again at practice on Thursday because Magic coach Stan Van Gundy has already taken issue with Davis. (If you took the under on 10 games, congratulations.)
“He’s not playing well, and I’m not sure his mind’s on the right things right now,” Van Gundy said as reported by the Orlando Sentinel. “What we need him to do is defend, which he has done pretty well, rebound better than he’s rebounding and move the ball and set screens.”
Davis didn’t talk with reporters after Wednesday’s game. Same old, same old with Davis, who forever seems to want to be something he’s not while ignoring the things that made him into a valued role player.
“Well, you gotta keep pushing him, and finding Baby’s buttons,” Rivers said. “And Stan will; Stan’s an excellent coach. It’s frustrating at times. But the one thing that Stan knows, and I know, [is] that Baby is not a bad kid. He’ll find it. It’s just, then you gotta find it again. And then again. And that’s just who Baby is. At the end of the day, that’s who Baby is.”
Bass supported his friend saying, “You know, I haven’t talked to him of late, but I mean, Glen knows the situation. He’s been in worse situations than that, so I feel like he’ll be able to overcome it sooner than later.”
The endless comparisons to Davis put Bass in a no-win situation and he’s smart enough to know that he’s better off worrying about his own situation. First and foremost is understanding the team’s defensive scheme. Bass is a willing defender, but the Celtics’ defense takes reps and communication to work and Thursday was their first practice since the season began.
Rivers praised his individual defense, but noted, “If you told Brandon to just guard his guy he’d be terrific. Where he’s still struggling is the rotations and he’ll get it.”
“It’s not a concern, he’s going to get it,” the coach continued. “Chris [Wilcox] is behind a little bit. A lot of their weakside helps are late and stuff like that. We’re just trying to get them to understand guard your guy and the ball at the same time, if you want to just simplify it. They’re into just guarding their guy, especially on the weakside.”
Bass is also learning how to play with Rondo, especially in transition where he offers the best finishing option that Rondo has had in years. “Man I got to have Stickum sometimes on my hands for his passes,” he said. “You never know how he’s going to pass it either. It’s going to be a bounce pass, a lob, you never know, but I’ll be ready whenever he’s ready to pass it.”
|Irish Coffee: Kevin Garnett’s guide to being a Celtic||at 11:30 am ET|
I don’t know much about Kevin Garnett, but I do know this: If you haven’t earned his respect, your name won’t cross his lips. “You’re a nobody.” As Celtics rookie JaJuan Johnson said during the first week of training camp, he wasn’t sure if KG even knew his name. The future Hall of Famer only referred to him as “New” or “Rook.”
Conversely, if Garnett mentions you by name, you’re doing something right. In recent days, young Celtics Greg Stiemsma and Avery Bradley in particular have earned postgame praise from the 16-year veteran.
“I think what you’re seeing is opportunity for the young guys, starting with Greg, and now Avery’s getting a chance to play and taking advantage of it,” Garnett said after totaling 14 points and 12 boards in the C’s 89-70 trimming of the Nets. “I don’t root for young guys a lot, especially when they’re hard-headed and don’t like to listen. We’ve got a good group of guys here, and that includes our young guys. They’re a young group, full of enthusiasm, full of hope and promise and a lot of potential, but they’re good guys, and they work really, really hard.”
It’s no secret hard work goes a long way in Garnett’s book, and we all know KG is going to talk. All they have to do is listen to that team pitch he, his fellow Celtics veterans and coach Doc Rivers are selling, buy in and apply it.
“There are no I’s. There are no You’s. It’s a We. It’s an Our. It’s a They. It’s an Us,” said Garnett. “The first thing you have to have in here is that you have to understand what you’re coming into, understand that being a Celtic is bigger than anybody in this locker room. You’re carrying on tradition. You have to have a work ethic. You have to care about the next guy beside you. If you can’t and if you don’t, then you’re not here. It’s the culture here.’
It’s that simple? Read the rest of this entry »
Sixth man for sixth man but this sixth man can score with the best of them. He did so again Wednesday night when the Celtics desperately needed someone other than Paul Pierce to score with Ray Allen at home with the flu.
Bass came off the bench and scored 15 points and hauled down 13 rebounds, leading a second-half surge that saw the Celtics pull away from the Nets, 89-70.
‘Energy, play good defense, rebound, score when I get good opportunities,” Bass said. “That’s what I think my role is and that’s what I’m going to try to bring every night.”
The only question: Can he keep it up? He is averaging 14 points and 6.6 rebounds in 27.7 minutes over the first seven games. He has averaged 7.8 points and 4.1 rebounds in 18.6 minutes per game over his previous six NBA seasons.
‘Rondo, Paul and KG all put me in a position to shoot, swing and go into pick and roll so I don’t think it’s my job to be a play maker, but I will make a play if I get the opportunity to,” Bass said.
Bass’ reference to not being a playmaker is why he has affectionately earned the reputation as Brandon “No-Pass” Bass, as Paul Flannery wrote on Tuesday. Bass realizes this. So, when he was told he got an assist on Wednesday, he replied, “Oh, did I?”
‘There are opportunities to do lots of different things,” Bass said. “I’m on the floor with three hall of famers and there’s an All-Star in Rondo so you got a lot of opportunities to do a lot of different things.’
‘It’s nice,” added coach Doc Rivers. “I haven’t been able to do this. I did it last year at the end with Jeff [Jeff Green] when we went small and they stayed big. But it’s rare you can come out of a time-out and run a pick and roll for a pop for the big. It’s actually an iso for him to take someone off the dribble. That’s just nice to have. I’ve not ‘ I don’t think I’ve ever had that.’
The other big benefit Bass provides are minutes, minutes that can be used to rest Garnett. Wednesday, the official box score showed Bass with 25 minutes, 45 seconds, just 11 seconds fewer than Garnett, the perfect situation for Rivers.
“Brandon’s so important for us because we take Kevin out of the first quarter at seven; you don’t lose offensively when Kevin comes out, you lose some defense for sure,” Rivers said. “Brandon rebounds well, too.”
|Fast Break: Bradley, Bass help Celtics cut down Nets||01.04.12 at 9:49 pm ET|
Thanks to 24 points from Paul Pierce and double-doubles from both Kevin Garnett (14 points, 12 rebounds) and Brandon Bass (15 points, 13 rebounds), the Celtics outscored the Nets 29-12 in the third quarter and dominated the shorthanded visitors 89-70 on Wednesday night.
It wasn’t all pretty for the C’s, as Providence College product Marshon Brooks‘s 15 first-half points gave the Nets a 35-34 lead after 24 sloppy minutes on both sides.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
The Truth will set you free: Celtics captain Paul Pierce submitted another remarkably efficient effort, totaling 24 points on 14 shots, six rebounds and five assists in under 30 minutes. His production helped the Celtics turn a one-point halftime deficit into a 16-point C’s advantage after three quarters.
Bass is a beast: The Cs Sixth Man once again came up big for the shorthanded Celtics, recording his second double-double of the season and his first since totaling 20 points and 11 rebounds against the Knicks on Christmas Day. Likewise, Avery Bradley turned in his best performance of the season, exerting his usual energy on defense (2 steals) and even contribution offensively (11 points).
The Nets came to town: Playing against a team that isn’t expected to compete for a playoff spot, even with its best players, the Celtics faced a New Jersey squad missing its starting point guard (Deron Williams), center (Brook Lopez) and power forward (Kris Humphries). That alone allowed Celtics coach Doc Rivers to test his bench and survive without Ray Allen and the always enjoyable flu-like symptoms.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Letting the Nets hang around: Just as they did time and time again last season, the Celtics let an inferior team hang around far too long. Sure, they put New Jersey away in the second half, but failure to execute combined with not taking opponents seriously for long stretches of games is never a good thing.
Rondo’s carelessness: Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo may have entered the game with the NBA’s second-best assist average (10.5 per game), but he also came in leading the league in turnovers per game with 4.7 a night. Wednesday night saw a few more unforced errors in his passing game, as he turned the ball over three times in the first half.
Hitting the Brooks: Rookie MarShon Brooks — who was traded by the Celtics for JaJuan Johnson on draft day — started for the Nets and finished with 15 first-half points. New Jersey often ran its offense through the Providence College product. Meanwhile, Johnson did not see the floor for the Celtics in the first half.
|Starting five: Thoughts on the Celtics’ struggles through season’s first five days||12.29.11 at 10:13 pm ET|
Last Friday, before leaving for their Christmas day showdown against the Knicks, Celtics coach Doc Rivers joked that the media would have to calm fans down if his team started the season slowly. Unfortunately for Rivers, Boston’s first three games have left the team winless, with the very panic that Rivers seemed to anticipate ensuing.
Perhaps the most glaring issue through three games is Boston’s proclivity to fall behind early in contests. The Celtics have trailed by sizable margins at the half in each of their three games, the smallest deficit being nine.
Although Boston displayed strong fortitude against both Miami and New York — finding itself within striking distance in the last two minutes of each game after falling behind by double-digits — they know playing catchup is not a winning recipe.
“All the teams were the aggressors initially,” back-up guard Keyon Dooling told reporters Wednesday night, following the team’s loss to New Orleans. “We were on our heels trying to bounce back. We can’t be that type of team. We have to be a hit-first team if we want to be successful.”
Boston showed some of Dooling’s “hit-first” mentality against the Hornets, jumping out to a 9-2 advantage. However, playing in the second game of a back-to-back caught up to the Celtics, as New Orleans finished the first quarter on a 22-9 run. “We played tired,” Rivers told reporters. “We looked tired. It happens.”
Another alarming trend is overall team defense. In the previous four years of the new “Big Three” era, Boston has allowed an average of 92.6 points per game. Meanwhile, this season the Celtics are allowing 106 points per game. Looking even closer, the Celtics gave up 60 or more points in the first half only four times last season. This season Boston allowed 62 points in the first half against New York, and followed that performance by giving up 69 points through 24 minutes two days later in Miami. Read the rest of this entry »
|Fast Break: Celtics hold on to beat Raptors||12.18.11 at 3:32 pm ET|
With only two preseason games and the start of the season just week away, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he would give his starters and his top rotation players significant time in their exhibition game against the Raptors and the coach was as good as his word.
Even without Paul Pierce (right heel) and Sasha Pavlovic (left wrist), Rivers used just 10 players in the first half and the Celtics coach didn’t go deep into his bench until the fourth quarter. It wasn’t a coincidence that the Celtics blew a 10-point lead in the final quarter, but held on for a 76-75 victory in Toronto.
Here’s the good and the bad:
WHAT WENT RIGHT
— Marquis Daniels started for Pierce and played well. He’s one of the team’s better post-up options and he remains a good cutter who helps facilitate the team’s offense with his movement off the ball. With Jeff Green out for the season, Daniels has become an important reserve. He’ll get most of the time behind Pierce and also play some off-guard for the Celtics as well. He came into camp in terrific shape and said that he’s stronger than he was before undergoing surgery for a spinal condition.
— Rivers called center Jermaine O’Neal the MVP of the first week of camp and at times he was the best player on the floor for the Celtics. O’Neal said that he feels more comfortable offensively and understands where he needs to be to contribute. Defensively, his shot-blocking presence is invaluable for a team with a shortage of big men.
— Brandon Bass continues to impress with a diverse offensive game. He hit jumpers coming off down screens and in isolation and ran the floor with Rajon Rondo for a sweet dunk in transition. Bass is the best offensive weapon the Celtics have had coming off the bench in years.
— The Celtics were the worst offensive rebounding team in the league by a wide margin last season. That should change with Bass and Chris Wilcox on board. Both are energy players with athleticism and timing and they weren’t afraid to crash the boards.
— E’Twuan Moore drained a couple of late jumpers, showing again why the team is so high on their second-round pick.
WHAT WENT WRONG
— The hope is that Pierce can return to practice this week, but until he returns the Celtics are dangerously thin at the small forward spot. The Celtics insist that there’s noting to worry about with Pierce, but any time one of their core players misses this much time it’s a concern.
— Without much depth at small forward, Rivers used a number of three-guard lineups with Keyon Dooling, Avery Bradley, Moore, Ray Allen and Rondo. They were successful in speeding up the tempo of the game, something that has been an emphasis throughout camp, but struggled to score without Allen or Rondo in the game.
Shot creation will be something to watch all season from the reserves. The Celtics struggled mightily in that regard last season and while Dooling, Bass and Wilcox are an offensive upgrade, none of them excels at creating his own offense.
— Rookie JaJuan Johnson did not see the court until the fourth quarter, an indication that he has work to do to see some playing time. Rivers has said that Johnson has been up and down throughout camp, which is to be expected for a rookie. The team loves his outside shot and athleticism. He’ll get his chances during the season.
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