|Celts Make it Five Straight||10.18.09 at 6:09 pm ET|
Marquis Daniels can do a lot of things on the basketball court. That’s a big reason why the former undrafed free agent has had a long and productive career as a role player.
Coming into the Celtics preseason game with the Raptors Sunday in Toronto, Doc Rivers figured to see just how many things Daniels could do on the court. He has already proven himself as a capable ball handler and backup swing man, but Rivers wanted to see him running the point and playing small forward for extended stretches of game action in the Celtics 101-82 victory over Toronto. (Click here for a recap).
Daniels was in the 3-spot for about six minutes of the second quarter when he ran with Rajon Rondo and Eddie House in the backcourt and Glen Davis and Rasheed Wallace up front. The lineup had some rough spots offensively, but they were active and pesky on defense and Rivers may have found yet another combination to play with once the regular season starts.
There was talk of other more exotic lineup combinations, but few materialized Sunday. Instead Ray Allen and Rondo played 30+ minutes and Kevin Garnett checked in with a 21-point, 28-minute afternoon. The starters were in rhythm offensively in the first half, shooting 78 percent in the first quarter as Garnett and Allen combined to go 10-for-12 for 23 points.
The second half was more ragged, but all in all, it was another productive preseason outing for the Celts who have won five straight.
A few other observations:
Allen finds his stroke: As the Celtics check items off their preseason to-do list, they can add another notch after Allen finally had a hot shooting night. Coming into the game, Allen was shooting just 36 percent in his four outings. But after going 6-for-6 in the first half and finishing with an efficient 20-points, the veteran shooter is back on track.
Not that anyone should have been worrying about Allen. He is coming off one of the best shooting seasons of his career and he came into camp in terrific shape. But Allen is in the final year of his contract and his season will be watched carefully for any signs of slippage. As a general rule, when shooting guards in their 30’s lose it, they tend to lose it quickly.
Allen has been able to defy the ravages of time and has the game to continue being a successful shooter for a few more years. Whether that will translate into another big contract remains to be seen.
Inside the matchups: The Celtics don’t figure to get a lot of competition from the Atlantic Division this year. The Knicks and Nets are in various stages of their rebuilding programs and while the Sixers and Raptors should find themselves in playoff contention, neither is likely to make a serious move in the east.
Still, the games against Toronto are some of the more intriguing ones for the Celtics because there are three great individual matchups — Rondo vs. Jose Calderon, Paul Pierce vs. Hedo Turkoglu and Kendrick Perkins vs. Chris Bosh.
Rondo and Calderon are two of the top point guards in the conference, while Pierce and Turkoglu love to mix it up with each other. The two are among the craftiest practitioners of their art in the league and Pierce has tremendous respect for Turkoglu.
Perkins, meanwhile, is on the cusp of earning serious defensive cred around the league, especially after he battled Dwight Howard with one arm in last season’s playoffs. Bosh is one of his toughest covers because the Raptors big man can go inside and out and because he has several inches on Perkins.
Give Bosh the edge Sunday. He had Perkins in foul trouble for most of the afternoon and finished with 15 points and eight rebounds, but expect to see some great battles during the regular season.
NOTES: As expected, Tony Allen (ankle) and Bill Walker (knee surgery) didn’t play. Former Celtic Patrick O’Bryant had two points, four rebounds and five fouls in 12 uninspired minutes. The teams combined for 43 turnovers and 54 fouls.
The Celtics have two more preseason games — at New York Tuesday and at Cleveland Wednesday. Don’t expect to see much against the Cavs.
|‘Rare’ lineup for Celtics on Sunday||10.17.09 at 4:25 pm ET|
Rivers will start Paul Pierce, along with Ray Allen and Marquis Daniels, with Daniels the most-likely choice to start at the point. Daniels, who has played big guard as well as small forward, has been getting time in practice as the point behind Rajon Rondo.
“We’re just going to do that [Sunday] to see what the other team does defensively,” Rivers said Saturday.
|Doc: ‘I like where we’re at||at 2:45 pm ET|
“For us, it’s just getting better with continuity on both ends, working on all the little things. I like where we’re at, honestly. I like our team. The answer to ‘Are you ready to play the first game?’ You don’t know that until you play it. You think you are all the time but I do like where our team is at,” Rivers said.
The Celtics are 4-1 in preseason and play in Toronto on Sunday in the sixth of eight preseason games.
|Anatomy of a Rumor||10.16.09 at 10:58 am ET|
On Tuesday, Comcast aired a conversation between Paul Pierce and Greg Dickerson, who asked Pierce about his contract situation. For those who don’t know, the captain has a $21.5 million option sitting on the table for the 2010-11 season. Ordinarily, this would be a no-brainer. As a general rule NBA players (or anyone else, for that matter) don’t leave $21 million sitting on the table.
But the Celtics will have some interesting financial decisions to make after this season. Ray Allen’s contract will be up, and we’ll know by the end of the month if they have extended Rajon Rondo or whether he’ll be a restricted free agent. Add to that Wyc Grousbeck’s cryptic comment last summer that there was a scenario where the Celtics could be a player in the fabled free agency class of 2010, and suddenly the Pierce option is no longer such a no-brainer. (Worth noting that Grousbeck said that before the Celtics signed Rasheed Wallace to a three-year deal).
Before we get to all that, let’s go to the videotape.
Pierce said two things of note during the conversation.
“I definitely want to retire as a Celtic. As far as my option goes, I haven’t really given it any thought.”
“I want to do what’s best for the team. If that means doing whatever to keep guys here and make this team strong for the next three or four years, I’m willing to do it.”
That’s pretty consistent with what Pierce has said at other times during camp. But CSN’s Gary Tanguay wrote on his Twitter page: “Pierce told CSN he will re-work his contract to keep players in Boston,” which then made the rumors page on Hoops Hype, which brought it to the attention of True Hoop, which had an item by ESPN’s Marc Stein outlining the scenarios by which “doing whatever” became Pierce opting out and/or signing an extension, which could spread out the cash and free up some cap space, which got play on Celtics Blog and Celtics Hub Thursday night, to name two.
First things first. The Celtics already have about $33 million-plus committed to Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins, Glen Davis and Wallace for 2010-11. Add to that a “cap hold” of $6.3 million for Rondo if he doesn’t sign an extension, and we’re already looking at about $40 million for five players before Pierce even does anything, let alone before the team makes a decision on Allen. The salary cap for this season is set at $57.7 million and there has already been talk that will trend down in 2010-11. (Celtics Blog has a good look at the down and dirty).
Second, this sets up an unrealistic set of expectations for Pierce, who has already shown on the court that he is willing to “do whatever” to help the Celtics win games. That should be more than enough before anyone asks him to leave a pile of dough on the table.
The Celtics are positioned to win this season, if everyone stays healthy. There are way too many factors at play to go much beyond that.
|Progress as usual for Celtics||10.11.09 at 5:16 pm ET|
Ray Allen played 15 minutes in the first half and got up exactly one shot.
The Celtics first unit ran the same play, and only that play, during the entire first quarter when they were operating in the half court.
In other words, it’s dangerous to read too much into any preseason game, let alone one that featured 35 turnovers and 56 personal fouls, but for the purposes of discussion, there were several bright spots for the Celtics on Sunday. Of note:
Kevin Garnett’s comeback continues: Garnett logged 21 minutes and scored 12 points to go with six rebounds. He was also moving up and down the floor with a noticeably easier gait.
“Sprint,” Garnett said when asked what he was most encouraged by. “I thought today I got up and down. I tried to put pressure on their defense, get in the middle, call for the ball. As far as being aggressive this is probably the most aggressive I’ve been since I’ve come back and played. Reaction time was a lot better, a lot faster.”
Garnett was also back to old feisty self as he got mixed up with New Jersey’s Yi Jianlian during the first quarter.
“Wasn’t nothing,” Garnett said. “He don’t know me, I don’t know him.”
Good day for the captain: Garnett shot 6-of-8 from the floor but he wasn’t the Celtics’ most effective scorer. That was Paul Pierce, who scored an almost effortless 25 points on 8-for-12 shooting, operating mostly against New Jersey rookie Terrence Williams. But once again the most encouraging sign for the Celtics beyond their general health was the play of the second unit.
“To tell you the truth I thought our second unit was a lot more impressive than we were,” Pierce said. “They were the ones that pushed the lead out and they’re looking like they’re jelling well together. We are still coming along as a unit, but that’s the process of preseason.”
The rotation begins to take shape: Much has been made about the versatility of the C’s second unit thanks to veteran additions Rasheed Wallace and Marquis Daniels, but as good as they’ve been, the team will begin to integrate the starters with the reserves into forming a cohesive rotation.
From the beginning of the preseason Doc Rivers has brought Wallace in first off the bench to get him time with the starters, but beyond that look for a few more combinations to begin taking shape.
“The one group we haven’t had ‘ Rasheed, Kevin, Eddie [House], Paul and Ray ‘ that’s a group that you’d like to have on the floor,” Rivers said. “You have to be careful with the point guard. The three teams that we’ve played all pressure all the point. That’s dangerous for us.”
Rivers has a bunch of options at his disposal, and depending on matchups, foul trouble or injuries, he can mix and match as the season progresses. Finding ways to utilize House (who scored 13 points) always will be a top priority.
As the preseason games begin to pile up, Rivers said he’ll give veterans Pierce, Garnett, Wallace and Allen time to take some games off. The Celtics have two back-to-backs coming up, with the first set coming this week when they play at New York Tuesday and then the Raptors in Hartford Wednesday. They have another back-to-back set next week as well, which seems like a good time to work out some rotation kinks.
Health update: Everyone played, with the exception of Tony Allen, who is working his way back from an ankle injury. “There’s going to be good days and bad days [for Allen],” Rivers said before the game. “We’re not going to know until he gets on the floor.”
|Kevin Garnett’s strong debut||10.07.09 at 11:39 pm ET|
Kevin Garnett’s highly anticipated return to live game action was sharp, efficient and uneventful. The first two adjectives are nice, but the last is the most important for the Celtics as they began pursuit of another NBA championship in a 96-90 loss to the Rockets in their 2009 preseason opener in Hidalgo, Texas, Wednesday night. (Click here for a game recap).
On the Celtics’ first possession, Garnett popped out and drained 20-foot jump shot. A few possessions later Garnett again played pick-and-pop and knocked down another. The jumpers were a pleasant reminder of the Garnett we all remember, as were the six points, five rebounds and two steals, but what was most telling in Garnett’s 14 minutes (8 in the first half, 6 in the second) was that he was mobile getting up and down the floor and active on defense in his first game since March 25.
The only blemish was when he couldn’t get up quickly enough on a Rajon Rondo lob, but that’s partly timing as well. Garnett’s second half was mostly nondescript, although he did work in a post-up on the left block where he showed his usual deft footwork.
The Celtics are still 20 days from the actual season-opener, Oct. 27 in Cleveland, and there’s a lot of training camp left for Garnett and his surgically repaired knee to grind through, but Wednesday night in the Texas border town was a positive first step.
A few other quick observations from the Celtics opener:
THE REPLACEMENT REFS ARE A PROBLEM
It’s hard to find a lot of sympathy for NBA refs at any point in time, but count on a growing sentiment to emerge among the players and coaches as the preseason continues. The game was too fast for the refs at times and there was an awful lot of hand-checking that went uncalled.
And yet there were still 102 free throws, which even for a preseason game is way too many. NBA players are adept at adjusting their games to the refs, but what they want more than anything is consistency, which was in short supply. There were some funky calls, including a travel on Ray Allen for a move he’s been making since before he played Jesus Shuttlesworth in “He Got Game.”
The easiest prediction of the night was the technical foul on Rasheed Wallace after what he thought was a clean block.
THE SECOND UNIT SHOULD BE MUCH BETTER THIS YEAR
Beyond Garnett, the most impressive player on the floor for the Celtics Wednesday was Marquis Daniels, who finished with seven points, three rebounds and a team-high five assists. Whether or not he can actually be the backup point guard is still an open question, but after watching the opener it may not even be the right question.
Daniels split time at the spot with Eddie House and rookie Lester Hudson, but with Daniels and Wallace on the floor the Celtics are incredibly versatile, which helps negate the need for a creator type of point guard. Daniels looks like he can be the long sought-after replacement for James Posey defensively, but it’s Wallace who is the long sought-after replacement for Posey offensively with his ability to stretch the floor.
The biggest mark against Daniels’ game is that he is not a particularly good long-range shooter, but he is a terrific slasher, and with House and Wallace stretching the perimeter there should be ample room for Daniels to operate.
The second unit looks to be a combination of House, Daniels, Wallace, Brian Scalabrine and Glen Davis, and you’ll notice that all five can play more than one position, which allows the Celtics to mix and match “positions” depending on the matchups.
PATIENCE REQUIRED FOR RONDO’S IMPROVED JUMPER
It’s a positive development for the Celtics that Rondo spent part of his summer working with former NBA sharpshooter Mark Price. That’s exactly the kind of extra effort the Celtics have been looking for from the mercurial guard.
Rondo’s work with Price focused on correcting a mechanical flaw, and that will take some time for him to work through. He wasn’t particularly effective, going 1-for-4 from the floor and only 5-for-8 from the free throw line, but in just 17 minutes of action he didn’t get much of a chance to show it off, either.
This obviously is a big October for Rondo as he eyes an extension. The deadline is Oct. 31 to get something done, and while it’s not like he’ll make any more or less bank based on his preseason shooting numbers, the extra work will go a long way toward validating a long-term commitment.
|Doc Rivers on D&C, 10/6||10.06.09 at 11:38 am ET|
Celtics coach Doc Rivers appeared on Dennis & Callahan Tuesday morning to discuss the team’s preseason preparations as the C’s get set to play the Houston Rockets in Hidaglo, Texas, on Wednesday night.
Following is a complete transcript. To hear the interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Do you worry about your guys … when you make a trip like that [to Hidalgo, Texas, on the Mexico border]?
I worry more about [Greg] Dickerson doing it than our players. I’m hoping he actually goes and we can steal his passport so he can’t come back.
No, you do worry about it. Guys like going over and having fun or whatever. We have great guys, and we’ll talk to them about it so you’re not that concerned. But you’d rather [they] not be there, let’s put it that way.
Give us several significant highlights to camp at this point. What are we missing here so far?
I think Rasheed [Wallace] and Marquis Daniels, they really have solidified our bench. It’s a veteran bench, very similar to two years ago. Rasheed’s ability to stretch the floor will be amazing when he plays with [Kendrick Perkins] or Kevin [Garnett], it doesn’t really matter which one he plays with, he still stretches the floor, he has the ability to take 5s out. And Marquis Daniels, he’s really good for our team. He’s a small forward, he plays 2 guard as well. From his position, he can handle the ball, and that frees up Eddie [House]. The old point forward ‘ if you remember the Paul Pressey days in Milwaukee, where he handled the ball, and then Sidney Moncrief and Marques Johnson and those guys came off picks. Well, it will be very similar to us with the second team.
Is Rasheed going to be beloved here in Boston?
Yeah. The one thing we knew about Rasheed was the fact that his teammates that he’s played for loved him. He’s always been a great teammate. He’s one of the more verbal talkers on defense in the league ‘ him and Kevin. And it’s amazing. During camp, I have a lot of college coaches come in and they watch camp. And that’s the one thing they keep saying is ‘ well, there’s two things: “Boy, your bigs have a chance to be really good.” The second thing is, “I’ve never seen a team talk as much on defense, especially Rasheed, Perk and Kevin.” So, those are the things they’ll notice. But they’ll love him. I’m sure there will be a couple of nights where he’ll get into an exchange with someone else in stripes, and we’re going to have to deal with that. But that’s not going to be an issue, in my opinion.
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