|The Magic of LeBron||04.29.10 at 9:21 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Doc Rivers has seen that lightning-quick, cross-court pass that paralyzes a defense before leaving them powerless to prevent an easy, uncontested basket.
Magic Johnson did it seemingly at will in the 1980s and Rivers had an up close and personal view for it all.
It is precisely for this reason the Celtics coach is worried about LeBron James. Yes, No. 23 can take it to the rim. Yes, James can rebound and block shots. But what James can do to get others involved is the hardest aspect to prepare for in this series against the Cavaliers.
“He’s a bullet passer,” Rivers said on Thursday, two days before Game 1. “He’s the only guy I know of like Magic. The ‘steam’ bullet passes. He throws cross-court passes that are 100 miles an hour and it’s tough to react to.
“We showed the guys that on film and if you’re not down in your stance and you’re standing straight up on the weakside and he makes that pass, there’s no way you’re going to get out to that shooter.”
Rivers tried his best to get his team ready but admitted it’s next to impossible.
“We worked on that [Thursday] and there’s nobody on our team that can throw that pass so the work didn’t look as good. We kept getting out to the shooter and I said, ‘Yeah, we’re throwing softballs.’
“He’s a great passer. In some ways, I think he wants to pass sometimes.”
James is also the leading triple-double threat in the league. But Rivers said, like with Dwyane Wade, the Celtics can live with the points but not the rebounds and assists.
“Well, the 10 [points] and the 10 [rebounds] we can’t have,” Rivers said. “The 30 and the 40 [points] we don’t want and, if he has it, we want him to have it our way, not his way. That’s what upset us a little about Wade in a couple of the games. He got to 46 his way. The big game the last night [Game 5], he got it our way. We kept everyone else out of it so that was good.”
|Time is now for Celtics||at 5:37 pm ET|
WALTHAM — You can tell just by the media crush at the Celtics training facility 12 miles west of Boston on Route 128 that there is a big series about to begin involving the Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The quotes from the participants provide another good clue.
The two teams, as any basketball fan will recall, met in an epic seven-game series in the 2008 playoffs. The series wasn’t decided until the final 30 seconds of Game 7 at the Garden when Paul Pierce and the Celtics outlasted LeBron James and the Cavs.
Before that series, fans and experts hoped for a great series. This time, it’s almost expected. But that’s about where the comparisons end as far as the Celtics are concerned.
‘Two years ago was two years ago,” Pierce said. “They have new players, we have new players. This is a whole new team. This is a different type of team. They’ve got a lot of the same players, we have a lot of the same players but it’s just like you grow up. Things change, you become better. You can’t go off what you did in the past. There’s nothing to that last series.’
Kevin Garnett agreed.
‘They have better players,” Garnett said. “They have Shaq, they have guys that have been there. They have experienced players who were there two years ago. Delonte [West] is better. [Antawn] Jamison is there, has been through the grind. They have better players, more experienced people.’
When the Celtics open their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Cavaliers on Saturday night in Cleveland, it will be the first time in the era of the new ‘Big 3’ they’re opening a playoff series on the road. It will also mark the second time in three seasons the two teams are meeting in the second round.
But whether opening at home or on the road – as will be the case this year – Ray Allen doesn’t believe Boston’s series triumph in 2008 will have much of an impact this time around.
‘I don’t really think it makes a difference,” Allen said following Thursday’s practice. “That was yesterday. Now we’re trying to do this all over again. I’m sure that they remember. Playoffs in their building is tough and we remember Game 7 [in Boston] very vividly but it’s a new series. Even if we did play them last year, it wouldn’t have made a difference then, either. They’re geared up against trying to get past us going to the conference finals. The ground has to give one way or another and we look forward to taking more ground.’
The Celtics were also asked to make another comparison – Miami’s Dwyane Wade and Cleveland’s James – and how beating the former might help them with the latter this series.
‘They’re not close at all, truthfully,” Pierce said. “They have better supporting players. LeBron is playing two or three other guys who have been in the All-Star Game. I can’t say that about Wade. The only similarity is they have one of the top scorers in the league. That’s it. You’re talking about two different players. They’re definitely focal points but other guys, you definitely have to worry about them. There are most consistent players in Cleveland and those guys can beat you also.’
‘LeBron’s a different beast,” added Garnett. “He’s obviously with a better cast than D-Wade. I think D-Wade is one of the best one-on-one players in our game. That’s true with LeBron but I think LeBron defers more to his teammates a little bit, with his supporting cast than D-Wade. He can turn around and he has 35, eight boards and nine assists. That means he’s all-around, not even mentioning the steals and blocks. He affects the game in so many different dimensions.’
Celtics coach Doc Rivers made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Thursday morning to talk about the C’s second-round playoff series against the Cavaliers, set to start Saturday. Rivers said he does not believe LeBron James‘ elbow injury will slow down the superstar. “I don’t think it will have any effect on him,” Rivers said. “I think he’ll be fine. If he shoots Games 1, 2, 3, 4 left-handed, then I would say something’s wrong. Other than that, he’ll be fine.”
Rivers said even if LeBron James is slowed due to his sore elbow, the Cavaliers have enough other weapons to pick up the slack. “They’re a very deep basketball team. They have a lot of different guys,” Rivers said. “We have to guard the 3-point line against these guys. LeBron does what he does. But when all those guys — [Anthony] Parker, Mo Williams, Delonte West, Jamario Moon, [Antawn] Jamison — when they’re standing behind that line making 3’s, then they become unbeatable. That’s the part of the game that we have to take away from them — at least try.”
Rivers gave some insight into how the C’s and other teams attempt to limit James’ impact. “One is if you can force him to his left, you’d like to do that, even though he goes both ways pretty well,” Rivers said. “Two is give him a cushion. And three is if you can force him into being a jump shooter. That’s so much easier said than done. He understands that what teams are trying to do, and he won’t have it for the most part. He’ll still put the ball on the floor.
“As far as guarding him, you can just name [the C’s defenders]. Marquis [Daniels] will get a chance, Tony [Allen] will get a chance, Paul [Pierce] will get a chance, Hopefully, no more than those three.”
Asked what he would like to see from Rasheed Wallace in this series, Rivers said: “Three things: He has to be better defensively for us, especially vs. the pick and roll. Offensively he has to be a low-post presence. And then he does have to knock down a couple of shots, because that will spread their defense.”
Asked about the history of problems between the teams, Rivers implied that his club will focus more on the basketball and less on the extracurricular stuff this time around, although the C’s won’t back down. “We’re just going to come and play,” he said. “We’ll be ready. If it becomes a physical series, we’ll be ready for that as well.”
Rivers said the Celtics’ victory over the Cavaliers two years ago en route to a title won’t mean much now. “[Cavs general manager] Danny Ferry has done an amazing job with them,” Rivers said. “He’s added talent. When you think about their team when we beat them two years ago to their team now, it doesn’t even resemble the same team. They just keep adding talent and skileld players around LeBron. And that’s what they had to do, and they’ve done it.”
Rivers commented on Patriots draft pick Brandon Spikes, who is dating Rivers’ daughter, Callie (they were University of Florida classmates). “My boys got a lot of pleasure out of that the first time Brandon came over to the house, because I’m always intimidating my daughter’s boyfriends but I was saying, ‘Yes, sir,’ to him,” Rivers joked.
To hear the interview, click on the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
|Ainge on The Big Show: ‘We need the Big Four to play well’||04.28.10 at 5:19 pm ET|
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge joined The Big Show on Wednesday and talked about his team’s playoff hopes. The Celtics looked strong in a first-round win over the Heat after struggling for much of the regular season. “I think that the inconsistency is more a state of mind,” Ainge said. “Everyone said we’re going to turn the button on and off. I don’t think we did that except in the course of each game. It was like we came out to play all the big games of the year and many others. And then it would just be like we got disinterested in the fourth quarter, or late in the third. We were one of the worst third-quarter teams in the season, and now we’re one of the best third-quarter teams in the playoffs. To me, it’s all a frame of mind and your approach to the game.”
Ainge said that in order for the Celtics to beat LeBron James‘ Cavaliers, the C’s need Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo to be at the top of their games each time out. “Because we don’t have LeBron, we need a lot of guys to step up and carry us,” Ainge said. “We need the Big Four to play well. It comes down to that. We’re going to get inconsistent performances out of guys off the bench because that’s who they’ve been all year and kind of who’ve they have been in their careers. But we need consistent effort out of our Big Four.”
Asked about the future of his coach, Ainge said, “I’ve wondered about Doc because I know how much of a family man he is. I know how hard it is to coach in this business. I know the emotional toll it takes to be a coach in this league. I think this has been an extraordinarily difficult year for Doc, a challenging year,” Ainge said, adding. “I think Doc will be back next year. He hasn’t told me that, and it’s something that we really don’t talk about. I did talk with Doc earlier in the year about the possibility of doing a contract extension, and he didn’t want to do it [not] because he wasn’t sure he wanted to come back, he didn’t want to do it because he doesn’t want a distraction.” Added Ainge: “I think that Doc does like it here. I think he understands the unique opportunity he has coaching here. And I think that once the season gets over and once he has the chance to settle back, I think he will want to come back.”
Ainge was asked if the Celtics had any chance of being a player with one of the marquee free agents this summer and said it would be doubtful but not out of the question. “The only way it would be possible would be a sign and trade, and that’s very unlikely. The only way we would be able to do it is if a player said, ‘I want to play in Boston, and I’m only going to play in Boston under any circumstances.’ … That team would have to believe that [the player was willing to sign for a mid-level exception] and work out some sort of sign and trade to get that player more money.” Additionally, Ainge confirmed that the Celtics likely would have to entice the other team with a package of a player such as Ray Allen, with his huge contract, and a promising young player.
To hear the interview, click on The Big Show audio on demand page.
|Four Celtics among most popular NBA jerseys||at 11:01 am ET|
Four of the Celtics ranked among the top 15 most popular NBA jerseys this season, while the Celtics ranked second in team merchandise, the league announced Wednesday.
Kevin Garnett (third), Paul Pierce (eighth), Nate Robinson (11th), and Rajon Rondo (15th) made the list, which was topped by Kobe Bryant. The Lakers earned the top spot for most popular team merchandise.
The results are based on sales from the start of the 2009-10 season through April at the NBA Store in New York City and NBAStore.com. Both stores are experiencing record sales years and a combined increase of 20 percent over last year.
Top 15 Most Popular NBA Jerseys
1. Kobe Bryant, Lakers
2. LeBron James, Cavaliers
3. Kevin Garnett, Celtics
4. Derrick Rose, Bulls
5. Dwight Howard, Magic
6. Dwyane Wade, Heat
7. Chris Paul, Hornets
8. Paul Pierce, Celtics
9. Kevin Durant, Thunder
10. Carmelo Anthony, Nuggets
11. Nate Robinson, Celtics
12. David Lee, Knicks
13. Brandon Roy, Blazers
14. Pau Gasol, Lakers
15. Rajon Rondo, Celtics
Top 10 Most Popular Team Merchandise
|Davis plans on attacking the Kingdom||at 12:31 am ET|
Glen Davis was speaking for the Celtics when he characterized the match-up with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers starting this Saturday at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland in the opener of the Eastern Conference semifinal series.
“It’s going to be tougher, we know that,” Davis said. “We’ve got to go there and grind it out. We go to them first. We just have to make sure we go there with the mentality of attack first. It’s just like in every kingdom, sometimes you’ve got to go to the fight, you’ve got to bring it to them, attack their fortress and bust down their wall with a wooden tree and go attack it. That’s how it is.”
Davis and the Celtics will have Wednesday off before returning to practice Thursday afternoon. Game 1 is Saturday while Game 2 will be Monday in Cleveland before the series shifts back to Boston for Games 3 and 4.
While Dwyane Wade had another big game with 31 points in Game 5 Tuesday night, it was Davis who helped keep the rest of the Miami starters in single digits.
‘Our defensive presence was just there,” Davis said. “Game 4 we kind of backed off of that a little bit and D-Wade had a big game, some of the other players on their team. One of the reasons we closed this out is because of defense and kind of [containing] people round D-Wade.”
Davis said the five-game series against Wade and the Heat might just be the perfect tune-up for James and the Cavs beginning Saturday on the shores of Lake Erie.
“It’s just great practice for us against Cleveland,” Davis said. “We had good practices. D-Wade is a great player. LeBron’s a great player and he has good players around him and he makes them better. We have to stop the ones around him.
‘We could do better,” Davis added. “We’re a better team, we’ve been together for a long time and we still make some of the same mistakes. We can always be better.’
Starting Saturday, Davis and the Celtics have little choice if they plan on advancing.
|Return trip not in plan for C’s||04.27.10 at 2:01 pm ET|
WALTHAM — The next time Paul Pierce visits South Florida, he wants to be on a beach having fun in the sun.
“There’s a lot of urgency,” Pierce said. “We don’t want to go to Miami. Hopefully the next time I go to Miami, I’ll be on vacation.”
While there was a lot of focus on the 46 points Wade put up in Game 4 on Sunday, on 16-of-24 shooting from the field, Pierce said it’s Wade’s supporting cast of Quentin Richardson and Michael Beasley that must be contained. And that starts with him.
“Other guys like [Carlos] Arroyo and Beasley can’t have big games for them,” Pierce said. “Wade is going to have the ball most of the time. You have to expect him [Wade] to have big numbers because of that. It’s the other guys definitely we have to shut down.”
While Arroyo was held to just six points in 21 minutes, Richardson and Beasley combined for 35 points while making a disturbing 13-of-27 shots from the field. That’s the stat that concerned coach Doc Rivers afterward and it’s what the Celtics must be aware of in Game 5 if they are to avoid the pain of getting on a plane Wednesday for South Florida.
Kevin Garnett had a slightly different take on what will be needed against the Heat. Garnett wants everyone to remember they can’t win the game by themselves.
“I thought, for the most part, everybody wanted to get this settled in Miami and we were trying to do it with one shot instead of one pass,” Garnett said. “We were one step late on a lot of rotations. They threw a zone at us and we were all out of whack with that.”
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