|Chris Wilcox is gaining momentum||01.28.12 at 1:41 am ET|
The numbers didn’t jump off the page for Chris Wilcox on Thursday night in Orlando. In nearly 19 minutes of action, he only scored four points and collected one rebound during the Celtics comeback win over the Magic. But it was the type of performance coach Doc Rivers felt was critical to getting his injury-riddled big man some much-needed momentum going forward.
“He was great,” Rivers said. “I thought he was one of the unsung heroes from [Thursday] night. He’s figured out that he’s not going to beat anybody with height so he plays his defense before the guys gets the ball. I thought he had four or five deflections on Dwight [Howard], and before he could get the ball up [Wilcox] already had his hands on the ball.”
Wilcox figured out more than how to play good defense. Friday against the Pacers he started to find his offensive game as well, scoring a season-high 14 points in 22 productive minutes off the bench.
“Last night got me a little more comfortable,” said Wilcox. “Tonight, I just wanted to play hard. I was a little winded but it was a good one.”
Contributions from the nine-year veteran were vital to a win as the Celtics were playing a second night of a back-to-back, and missing Jermaine O’Neal from the lineup. Wilcox didn’t disappoint.
He came out aggressive, hitting all three of his field goal attempts in the first quarter while the Celtics jumped out to an early lead. At halftime Wilcox was the only player in double digits for either team.
“It definitely builds my confidence up more,” said Wilcox. “I got off to a slow start [this season]. Injuries held me back, and now I’m starting to get into a rhythm.”
Wilcox’s health is coming around at the right time for Boston. His slow start is attributable to signing with the team late in training camp, and missing half the games this season because of a calf injury. Now that the 6-foot-10 forward is healthy again, the Celtics can finally utilize his versatility.
‘He’s huge for us, because he can guard the center position and power forward position,” said Paul Pierce. “He’s a very physical player and he’s a great finisher down low, so he’s going to be a big key for us moving forward as far as our depth at the big man position, especially with Jermaine O’Neal being out.’
It won’t come overnight. Wilcox – as are so many other NBA players – is still trying to find his legs and get in game shape. “If he could play with an oxygen tank, he’d be phenomenal,” joked Rivers. “He’s absolutely dying out there. But he’s still giving us the time and he’s doing everything for us, which is terrific.”
The Celtics hope there are more nights like Friday for Wilcox while he works himself into ideal shape. For now he’s just happy the Celtics are back to their winning ways.
“I’m definitely starting feel like I’m getting back,” said Wilcox. “I’m a little sore, but at the same time we’re all grinding. We’re all sore right now. So we’re all working together and good things are happening.”
|Fast Break: Celtics win fourth straight, reach .500||01.27.12 at 10:06 pm ET|
For 24 minutes against the Pacers, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett looked like a couple guys in their mid 30s playing consecutive nights of basketball, combining for 4-of-16 shooting in the first half, but The Truth and The Ticket made a combined 10-of-14 second-half shots to lead the Celtics to impressive victories in back-to-back games — this time 94-87 against Larry Bird‘s club.
Pierce approached a triple-double for the second straight night, compiling 28 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, while Garnett added 13 points and eight boards (as did Mickael Pietrus). Meanwhile, recently returned Chris Wilcox enjoyed a breakout night for the Celtics (9-9), amassing season highs of 14 points and six rebounds.
Danny Granger‘s 21 points led the Pacers (12-6), who had beaten the C’s in their two previous meetings.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Bench clearing: Led by Wilcox’s six points and three rebounds, the C’s bench played an inspired first quarter, making all four of their shots and taking an early 23-17 lineup when Garnett and Pierce came out flat on the second night of a back-to-back. A lineup of Wilcox, E’Twaun Moore, Marquis Daniels, Brandon Bass and Mickael Pietrus actually stretched a lead when the Celtics needed a lift most.
Sharing the wealth: The Celtics assisted on 21 of their 38 field goals in the first half — without starting point guard Rajon Rondo in action. For the second consecutive night, Pierce (10 assists in Thursday night’s victory) assumed the role as the offense’s main facilitator, recording more assists by himself (5) than the entire Pacers team (4) in the opening half.
Double the fun: Sure, Doc Rivers has a philosophy that his team is better off getting back on defense, but offensive rebounding was a concern for the Celtics last season, as they rarely outworked opponents on the offensive glass. Against the Pacers, the C’s pulled down seven first-half offensive boards and outscored the Pacers for the game in second-chance opportunities, 14-6.
|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 »
|Irish Coffee: Top 10 Celtics Media Day moments||12.14.11 at 1:03 pm ET|
Tuesday’s Media Day marked the official unveiling of the 2011-12 Celtics at their practice facility in Waltham. Some familiar faces. Some new ones. Here are the top 10 highlights from what was a tame afternoon compared to the Shaquille O’Neal hoopla from a year ago.
10. BACK TO SCHOOL: After finishing six courses during the fall and summer semesters at Georgetown, Celtics forward Jeff Green is just two classes away from finishing a major in English and a minor in theology. He plans on completing his degree in the summer to become the first member of his family to earn a college diploma.
“It’s something I can cross off my bucket list,” he said, adding that a diploma and an NBA championship trophy would be comparable achievements to place on his mantle.
Asked if he could avoid being seen in lectures, Green smiled and said, “I’m 6-9. I can’t hide.”
Pierce, 34, called the “42-year-old” Allen (he’s 36) an inspiration to play five more years, and then referred reporters to his website PaulPierce.net/TruthonHealth for any questions. Green wasn’t the only one learning during the lockout; Pierce is apparently now a marketing expert.
8. SUPER SIZE ME: We all remember the Shawn Kemps and Vin Bakers of the 1999 lockout — the guys who showed up to training camp so out of shape their bodies never fully recovered. Allen remembers, too.
“There were some guys back in ’99, when you saw them, it was like, ‘Holy cow, this guy was on vacation for the last three months, didn’t do a thing, didn’t pick up a basketball or a weight,’” Allen said. “And that’s not the case in this locker room. We knew it, because we have too many strong-minded individuals.”
Allen had a front-row seat for Baker’s transformation from a guy who averaged 19.2 points and 8.0 rebounds for their Sonics the season before to 13.8 points and 6.2 rebounds after the last lockout-shortened season. Naturally, the Celtics traded for Baker four seasons later.
“Every day I sat around the house,” said Allen, “I was like, ‘I gotta go work out, because I don’t want to be that guy.’”
7. TOP CHEF: Celtics forward Kevin Garnett cracked one smile during Media Day, when analogizing team chemistry to the culinary arts. “Chemistry is something that you just don’t throw in the frying pan, mix it up with another something, throw something on top of that, then fry it up, put in a tortilla, put in a microwave and heat it up, and then give it to you and expect it to taste good,” he said. “For those who can cook, y’all know what I’m talking about. If y’all don’t know what I’m talking about, you can’t cook and this doesn’t concern you.”
|Irish Coffee: Have the Celtics upgraded their roster?||12.12.11 at 1:22 pm ET|
When Brandon Bass is your biggest offseason acquisition, would you consider that a success? The Celtics needed to get a lot better, and without knowing who the 15th man on the roster will be it’s hard to say they did.
Here’s your 2011-12 Celtics roster, with 14 of the 15 available roster spots all but filled.
Kevin Garnett: $21.2 million
Paul Pierce: $15.3 million
Ray Allen: $10 million
Rajon Rondo: $10 million
Jeff Green: $9 million
Jermaine O’Neal: $6.2 million
Brandon Bass: $4 million
Keyon Dooling: $2.2 million
Avery Bradley: $1.5 million
Marquis Daniels: $1.3 million
Chris Wilcox: $1.3 million
Sasha Pavlovic: $1.3 million*
JaJuan Johnson: $0.9 million**
E’Twaun Moore: $0.5 million***
Total: $84.7 million (plus $14.4 million luxury tax)
*Pavlovic is expected to re-sign for one year at the veteran minimum, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein.
**Johnson has yet to reach a deal, but the rookie pay scale suggests he’ll get just under $1 million.
***Terms of Moore’s guaranteed deal have not been disclosed, so I’m slotting him at the rookie minimum.
Did the Celtics improve themselves at any position from the team that lost the Eastern Conference semifinals in five games to an improved Heat squad? Let’s attempt to answer that question. Read the rest of this entry »
|Meet the new Celtics: Chris Wilcox||12.10.11 at 12:06 pm ET|
WALTHAM — In 2007-08, Chris Wilcox averaged 13 points and 7.7 rebounds per game for the then-Sonics. It was a breakout season for the 24-year-old who drafted eighth overall in 2002. Wilcox followed that up with similar numbers the following season, but as the Sonics became the Thunder, he found himself without a role and was traded to New York where he played a grand total of 330 minutes in 25 games.
He signed as a free agent with the Pistons after the 2009 season, but failed to carve out much of a role with the Pistons, just another veteran journeyman on a team going nowhere. But Wilcox enjoyed a productive final month with Detroit, scoring in double figures 11 times in the final 16 games.
Wilcox does most of his work inside. More than half of his shots come at or close to the basket and he’s a good offensive rebounder, something the Celtics clearly lacked last season. He’s a career 53 percent shooter who has more or less maintained his per-minute rates throughout his career despite serious swings in playing time.
Now the 29-year-old is with the Celtics on a one-year contract with a chance to resurrect his career on a team that needs size and rebounding. He was one of nine players on the practice floor Friday night when the team opened training camp and while the team is clearly in flux, Wilcox wanted a chance to play for a contender.
“This is my first chance of playing for a team of this caliber so I was willing to take this opportunity and come to Boston,” he said. “I wanted to be in a situation where I could win and that’s why I came here.”
|No ordinary Joe, no ordinary trade||02.18.09 at 9:42 am ET|
In the vast universe of NBA players that may have been available, few would have fit better with the Celtics than Joe Smith. The veteran big man possesses just about every skill the C’s bench needs–shooting range, length, experience.
But Smith is gone to New Orleans of all places, along with Chris Wilcox and some future considerations for Tyson Chandler, and indications are the Hornets are going to keep him. That’s too bad for the Celtics, but that’s merely a sidebar to the developing story within this trade, which is Sam Presti is one heck of a general manager.
When Presti took over the then-Sonics he had an unbalanced roster with two high-priced scorers–Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis–and a collection of mishmashed talents. In a year and a half he now has one of the most dynamic rosters in the league.
Trading Allen and letting Lewis walk cleared the runway, while drafting Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook and collecting oodles of draft picks and cap space laid the foundation. But at some point Presti had to avoid the trap that so many small market teams fall into. Namely, utilizing all those assets to acquire a real-live NBA player instead of hoping for an imaginary free agent that may or may not materialize.
In Chandler, Presti obtained a still-young and still athletic shot-blocking, rebounding big man, which is truly one of the rarest commodities in the sport. And he got him for players with expiring contracts he didn’t need without surrendering any of those draft picks.
This is a bad move for New Orleans, no matter how the Hornets try to spin it. Smith and Wilcox might help, but they’re no Chandler. Devon Hardin might be a poor-man’s Chandler or he might be another Saer Sene. The rumors are out that the Hornets are having money problems and it’s hard not to see this deal in any other light.
If there is one benefit for the Celtics it’s that it significantly weakens a contender in the West, but that’s small consolation.