|Irish Coffee: Why Atlantic Division matters to Celtics||12.04.12 at 1:36 pm ET|
The Celtics (9-8) are almost a quarter of a way through their season and rank fourth in the Atlantic Division.
The Knicks (12-4), Nets (11-5) and 76ers (10-7) all own better records. During the first four of their five consecutive Atlantic crowns, the Celtics owned no worse than a five-game lead through 20 games and seemingly had the division wrapped up by Christmas. Last year, the C’s started 10-10, fell behind by four games and spent the season chasing the Sixers for a fifth straight title. And that was without either of the New York teams involved.
“When you look from top to bottom, it’s a well-balanced division,” said Paul Pierce. “So, each and every game is important. At the end of the day, our goal isn’t to try to win the division; our goal is to win the championship. As far as the division is concerned, it’s about as competitive as it’s ever been since I’ve been a Boston Celtic.”
Declaring they’d rather win an NBA title than the Atlantic Division sounds nice and all, but announcing their aim “isn’t to try to win the division” is a mistake, since doing so gives them a better chance to reach that larger goal.
The Celtics need look no further than May as a prime example. If they hadn’t caught the 76ers, a) the C’s face the Bulls as the No. 7 seed on the road and likely lose in the first round if Derrick Rose doesn’t tear his ACL; and/or b) they play Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals in Philadelphia, where they lost 2-of-3 playoff games.
Can the Celtics win a sixth straight Atlantic Division crown and set themselves up for another date with the Heat in the conference finals? Of course, but it’s going to be a lot tougher to chase down three teams rather than one.
|Doc Rivers: ‘I don’t know if I want to rally around my 6-foot guard’||11.29.12 at 9:46 pm ET|
On Thursday, after practice, he expanded upon those thoughts and clarified himself.
“We don’t work on toughness, we work on smartness,” Rivers said. “We work on being prepared and playing with a force. Listen, the toughness stuff is so overblown. You can’t be tough anyway. I don’t know who is tough anymore. Having said that, we have to be better. I have to prepare them better. They have to come ready. They have to come with the right intentions, the right focus. So, there’s a lot of things we can improve to improve our team.
“It’s a long season to do it. But you can’t wait to do it. You have to do it now.”
“We’re getting mauled on the rebounds every night. So, if I’m another coach, I have to tell my team, ‘Guys, they’re not very physical. they’re not blocking out, they’re not putting bodies on anybody. You can attack this team.’ Until we stop the attack, they’re going to keep doing it.”
Rivers, who played for the Hawks, Knicks and Spurs, made it clear he doesn’t need or want Rajon Rondo to be an enforcer to show the Celtics are the right kind of tough.
“I don’t know if I want to rally around my 6-foot guard being the enforcer. That’s nice but at the end of the day, if that’s the threat you’re sending, the other team has to feel [good]. Listen, the message should’ve been sent by the scoreboard and the offensive rebounds and all the talking the other team was doing. That should’ve been the message. If that’s got to be the message, then we’ve got real problems.
“I was a leader on some teams, I wasn’t on other teams. I didn’t need anybody to tell me to do things right. At some point, you have to do it yourself.”
WALTHAM — Rajon Rondo has been suspended two games without pay (approximately $268,000) for fighting with Brooklyn’s Kris Humphries during the second quarter of the Nets‘ 95-83 victory over the Celtics at TD Garden on Wednesday. Additionally, Brooklyn’s Gerald Wallace has been fined $35,000 and Boston’s Kevin Garnett has been fined $25,000 for escalating the altercation. The penalties were announced Thursday by Stu Jackson, NBA Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.
Rondo will serve his suspension on Friday, Nov. 30 when the Celtics host the Portland Trail Blazers and Saturday, Dec. 1 when the Celtics play the Milwaukee Bucks at BMO Harris Bradley Center.
WALTHAM — Rajon Rondo spoke for the first time since being ejected from Wednesday night’s game for fighting. Rondo said he spoke with the NBA office about an hour before Thursday’s practice and made his case for his involvement in the altercation with Brooklyn’s Kris Humphries, after Humphries fouled Kevin Garnett in mid-air on a baseline drive to the basket with 29.5 seconds left in the second quarter.
“I talked to the NBA,” Rondo said. “They recorded the conversation. I just explained what went on, what happened [late] in the second quarter. I told them the truth. I don’t know what’s going to happen. They haven’t made any decisions yet. I’m just waiting to hear back from the league. I went through practice hoping I’ll play [Friday] but you never know.”
Before getting suspended two games without pay ($268,000), Rondo said he was prepared to accept whatever penalty was dished out.
“You never know, you just never know,” Rondo said. “It’s out of my control. Whatever the consequences are, that’s what they are. I don’t think I did anything dirty. I didn’t try to start a riot. I don’t think it was more than a pushing war. That’s about it.”
What Rondo did insist was that he was just standing up for Garnett, and not trying to project a bad-boy image.
“I thought the play on Kevin was a malicious play,” Rondo said. “I got hurt last year on a similar play like that, a guy going up in the air defenseless, on his way down. I just pushed Humphries and after that it was a pushing war.”
Rondo was fouled hard by Humphries in the first quarter but insisted that had nothing to do with his run-in with the Nets forward.
“I’ve been fouled by plenty of bigs,” Rondo said. “It had nothing to do with that. I wasn’t frustrated at all throughout the game. I was frustrated at myself but there weren’t any dirty plays up to that point that I thought made me do what I did. It was just a bad foul on Kevin, that’s all.
“I know I have to be out there for my teammates, that’s the only thing about it. But I was sticking up for my teammates. I didn’t try to start a fight. I’m not trying to be a bully. I just didn’t think the play was fair that he made on Kevin.
“This game is a contact sport, it’s an emotional game. I play with an edge every night. I think that’s what separates me from a lot of guys. I’m not going to let that be taken away from my game. I didn’t do anything dirty. This is a new day and era, the style we play the game. Back in the day, the ball would’ve been checked up, some free throws would’ve been made and we would’ve kept going. But this is a new era and we have different rules now.”
As for being worried that he is building a negative reputation in the league office, Rondo said his incident Wednesday had nothing to do with his previous two suspensions, when he was disciplined for run-ins with NBA officials.
“[Wednesday’s] actions were completely different from the other two I believe,” he said.
Rondo laughed when asked if he’s worried that he’s looked at as a “repeat offender” in the league’s eyes.
“Repeat offender? Is this a trial? But to [the NBA office], I think I play the game the right way,” he said. “I’m not a dirty player. Sometimes I let my emotions get the best of me but I have no intentions of hurting anybody out there. I go out there and compete every night. And that’s how I play the game. I play the game hard, I play the game with an edge. I’m not a trash-talker. I don’t play the game dirty. When one of my guys is disrespected, I just retaliated. Not in a bad way.
“Just shoved, which led to… some guys are calling it a fight [but] no punches were thrown, it wasn’t a brawl. It was just five guys on the court, breaking each other up.”
|At least Rajon Rondo delivered an early Christmas present: The newest Boston-New York rivalry||at 12:41 pm ET|
If nothing else, the brawl between Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo and Nets forward Kris Humphries gave birth to a brand new Celtics-New York rivalry.
“Anyone know where I can get a quick Tetanus shot in Boston?” Humphries tweeted along with a picture of his battle wounds after Rondo shoved him into the front row.
The C’s response? “Some guys are tough,” answered Jason Terry. “Some guys pretend to be. He’s one of those that pretends to be. I played with him. Maybe that’s the role [Brooklyn coach] Avery [Johnson] wants him to have, but he could leave that to somebody else.”
Terry dubbed Humphries “soft,” a term coach Doc Rivers used to describe his Celtics. Added Terry: “Humphries might as well come play with us then, if that’s the case.”
Meanwhile, Reggie Evans, who beat out Kevin Garnett for the title of “dirtiest player in the NBA” in a Sports Illustrated poll of players last season, lobbed this grenade at Rondo via the New York Daily News: “That’s just like a mosquito in your face. Eventually, you are going to swat at the mosquito, right? You aren’t going to let mosquitos in your face. You are going to get bumps all over your face. So, you have to knock the mosquito down.”
Added Brooklyn point guard Deron Williams: ‘We’re not going to back down. It’s not about being tough guys or anything like that. But we’re not going to back down.’
And newest Nets star Joe Johnson, who also witnessed Rondo’s last suspension-worthy act in the C’s-Hawks playoff series this past May, to The New York Times: ‘We’re trying to hold our own at this point. If you want to do anything special in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics are in the way.’
As Garnett said, “This ain’t the Girl Scouts. This ain’t the Boy Scouts. This is the NBA.” And this is Boston-New York. If nothing else, Rondo gave everyone an early Christmas gift, because the next meeting between the Celtics and Nets — at noon on Dec. 25 — just got more interesting. Get your Girl Scout cookies ready.
|Irish Coffee: Summer of Rajon Rondo gives way to winter||at 2:12 am ET|
All summer, everyone from president Danny Ainge to coach Doc Rivers and on down the line told anyone who would listen that this is the 26-year-old point guard’s team now. No longer Paul Pierce‘s. Not Kevin Garnett‘s. But a matured Rondo’s. Then, Wednesday night’s Nets game happened.
Just as he did last season, when he thew a ball at one referee and chest-bumped another, Rondo let his emotions get the best of him, completely overreacting to a hard Kris Humphries foul on Kevin Garnett late in the first half.
As referee crew chief James Caper said after a home Celtics loss to the Nets that was much uglier than the 95-83 final at the TD Garden, “Rondo initiated everything that proceeded after the foul.”
In other words, just as he was last season, Rondo will be suspended, especially considering he threw closed fists as he shoved Humphries into the stands. His history won’t help, either. Speculation sets the over/under on games the Celtics will be without their so-called leader at 3-5 games, but as New York Times reporter Howard Beck suggested, “Nate Robinson and J.R. Smith got 10 games each because they continued fight into the stands.”
Just like his legendary 37-game double-digit assist streak of John Stockton proportions, Rondo’s maturation process came to a screeching halt against the Nets. With it, probably, goes his Most Valuable Player aspirations. When’s the last time an NBA MVP was suspended for fighting during a season? This was the year he was supposed to make the leap. Instead, he takes a step backwards. After the game, Rondo left without speaking to the media, leaving Pierce, Garnett and the rest of his Celtics teammates to face questions only he could answer.
|Fast Break: Rajon Rondo ejected, streak ends and Celtics lose||11.28.12 at 10:09 pm ET|
The Bruins aren’t playing, so somebody had to fight at TD Garden.
Rajon Rondo shoved Kris Humphries into the stands, resulting in dueling ejections, and Kevin Garnett manhandled Gerald Wallace, drawing double technicals (Wallace’s second, earning himself an ejection). More on that in a minute, but the Celtics and Nets also played basketball.
Andray Blatche (13 rebounds) and Jerry Stackhouse each scored 17 points, and the Nets owned the Celtics, 95-83. Meanwhile, Rondo departed with just three assists in 18 minutes, effectively ending his 37-game double-digit assist streak and leaving him tied with John Stockton for the second-longest such stretch in NBA history.
If you’re looking for positives, Kevin Garnett (16 points, 10 rebounds) recorded his second straight double-double.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Streak stopped: Where to begin? Starting with a brawl seems appropriate. With 29.5 second remaining in the first half, Humphries gave Garnett a shoulder shove. Rondo came to his defense, thrusting Humphries into the first row. Behind them, Garnett and Wallace got into it. Punches appeared to be thrown. Rondo, Humphries and Wallace all received ejections. Garnett got a technical. And suspensions will follow. Just like that, the streak ended. Rondo returned to the locker room with only three assists, seven shy of a 38th consecutive game with 10 or more assists.
BlatcheHouse: One’s 38 years old and the other was benched by the Wizards for the final month of last season for lack of conditioning. Of course, we’re talking about Stackhouse and Blatche, who somehow combined for 16 points and 10 rebounds before halftime. Before the break, the former’s shooting (3-4 3P) and the latter’s offensive rebounding (5) helped the Nets establish a lead as large as 21.
99 problems: We could be talking about any number of issues here. Brooklyn’s 3-point shooting and offensive rebounding or Jeff Green‘s apparent knee injury, Courtney Lee landing hard on his elbow and Chris Wilcox‘s illness, to name five. But with Jay-Z in attendance, the Celtics had 99 problems, and turnovers most definitely was one. They committed nine in the second quarter alone, including five in a span of seven possessions.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
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