|Irish Coffee: Is Greg Oden pick Sam Bowie 2.0 or worse?||12.01.10 at 11:18 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Amid countless comparisons of Greg Oden to Sam Bowie that surfaced after another season-ending Oden injury, I got to thinking: Is Oden’s draft selection over Kevin Durant worse than the biggest “what if” in NBA history — picking Bowie over Michael Jordan?
As the Celtics welcome the Trail Blazers to Boston on Wednesday night, it’s as good a time as any to determine — through three seasons — which Portland pick was more unfortunate.
First, let’s take a look at Oden and Bowie’s averages through their first three seasons:
Greg Oden vs. Sam Bowie
82 ….. GAMES ….. 119
9.4 ….. POINTS ….. 10.8
7.3 … REBOUNDS … 8.5
1.4 ….. BLOCKS ….. 2.6
0.6 …. ASSISTS …. 2.7
0.4 ….. STEALS ….. 0.7
Bowie played one more partial season (20 games) for the Blazers before playing at least 60 games per season in six of the next seven year for the Nets and Lakers. He actually averaged a double-double (14.7 points, 10.1 boards) during his first season in New Jersey.
There’s serious doubt whether Oden will ever suit up for the Blazers again, as he hasn’t played since December 2009 and becomes a restricted free agent at the end of the season.
And now let’s examine Durant and Jordan’s averages through their first three seasons:
Kevin Durant vs. Michael Jordan
236 ….. GAMES ….. 182
25.3 ….. POINTS ….. 31.7
6.2 … REBOUNDS … 5.7
2.7 …. ASSISTS …. 5.0
1.2 ….. STEALS ….. 2.6
09 ….. BLOCKS ….. 1.2
The only solace Portland fans can take from all of this is that, while Oden may be a bigger bust (medically) than Bowie, Durant also isn’t as good as Jordan. Have you looked back lately at Jordan’s statistics in just his third season? He averaged a ridiculous 37.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 2.9 steals and 1.5 blocks per game.
On one hand, there’s no doubt the Blazers would’ve won the NBA title in 1992 had they drafted Jordan, since they lost to his Bulls in the Finals, 4-2. And they might’ve hung a couple more banners around that one. On the other hand, the present-day Blazers would be championship contenders for the next 10 years with Durant.
Either way you slice it, the knife still cuts deep through the heart of Portland.
CELTICS ROCK CLEVELAND
Well, for one final week for what will likely be a fairly long time, Cleveland is the center of the NBA universe. The discussion ranged from the Cavaliers‘ rematch against the Celtics on Tuesday night to the return of LeBron James on Thursday night.
Let’s start with the rematch, which turned into a 106-87 Celtics vengeance victory against the Cavaliers (after we explained why the C’s would cover the seven-point spread, please send 25 percent of your winnings to the WEEI offices in Brighton).
”No matter what team I’m coaching, we match up against Boston and there’s a little extra incentive for me,” Scott told the Akron Beacon Journal. ”All of that is because of the ’80s. It was fun, but it’s a little different now because Doc is over there. You have a good friend on the other side, it kind of waters it down a little bit. But anytime I see that green and white, I want to beat them.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Bill Livingston compared the Heat’s Three Amigos to the Celtics’ Big Three, and the contrast was none too kind:
For his part, James could have stayed here and been beloved, or he could have gone to New York, the nation’s media capital, or Chicago, the best basketball fit. Instead, he went to Miami, where he would not have to be a leader anymore.
The Boston Big Three, however, stood squarely in the shadows of the Larry Bird–Kevin McHale–Robert Parish triumvirate of the 1980s. They played beneath 16 championship banners hanging from the rafters. And they promptly won a 17th.
They were old and tired of losing. The Heat’s newcomers are young and used to babying.
”You don’t want to see anything stupid happen,” Gilbert told the Akron Beacon Journal. ”I’m sure a lot of them will make their feelings known, but as long as everybody plays by the rules and doesn’t go over the top, I think everything will be fine. I really believe that Cleveland people will do the right thing.”
Meanwhile, even while LeBron is trying to say all the right things, he still manages to sound pretty disingenuous (note the “showcase my talent” line):
“I think it’s going to be very emotional for myself,” James said. “I’ve got a lot of great memories in that city. So many times, from ups and downs, and a lot of things that I’ve done in my life, I give a lot of thanks to that city, lot of thanks to those fans for giving me the opportunity to not only showcase my talent but grow from a young boy to a man.”
Considering Shaquille O’Neal played with LeBron in Cleveland and has had plenty of homecomings himself — in Orlando, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Cleveland — reporters asked him if he’d be watching on Thursday night:
”My situation in Orlando was a six, my situation in LA was a seven,” O’Neal told the Akron Beacon Journal. ”This is like a 12.”
“I’m a silly fan,” O’Neal told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I’m anxious to see if he’s going to do that powder thing,” referring to when James fills his hands with powdered white rosin and tosses it in the air before the game.
Great point by Shaq. There’s no way he does “that powder thing” before the game, right?
DELONTE WEST’S TIMETABLE
I read about 87 stories about Delonte West‘s successful wrist surgery yesterday, and all of them said the team had no timetable for his return, which is why I was surprised to read this in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Wednesday morning:
“We don’t know his timetable [to return] yet,” Boston coach Doc Rivers said. “I’ve heard anywhere from two to three months or longer.
“That’s a tough one for us. That hurt us. My plan going into the year was to literally have two units — a starting unit and a second unit — because of the age of our team. But now we have to scrap those plans and some of our starters are going to have to play different minutes.
“It’s not what we wanted, but the season takes its own turns and you just have to adjust to them.”
Two months? That would mean a Feb. 1 return date — leaving plenty of time for West to rehab his way to health heading into the playoffs. That’s not nearly as bad as I thought.
Count Dallas Mavericks center Tyson Chandler among the NBA players on Kevin Garnett‘s side in the whole Charlie Villanueva “cancer patient” saga. He explained how easy it is to get caught up in trash talking to Sports Illustrated’s Ian Thompsen:
“I love [Garnett], I love what he does. I look at it this way: He gives you his heart and soul every single night out there, and if it takes him to pump himself up and do whatever he has to do, I’ll take that rather than him collecting a check and not giving you a great effort. That’s the other side of it — the guys you feel like are not giving you as much as they can. So I’ll take him screaming and talking and pumping his chest and doing whatever it takes you to do to give what you got. I’ve admired him and looked up to him before my career started.”
You wonder how many NBA players feel the way Chandler does about Kevin Garnett and how many players feel the way Joakim Noah does about him.
WILL BRANDON ROY PLAY?
Celtics fans have already missed Durant and John Wall at the Garden this season. Will they also miss another NBA star when Brandon Roy‘s Blazers come to town Wednesday night?
According to the Oregonian, even after playing 33 minutes in a loss to the 76ers on Tuesday night, Roy expects to suit up for the Trail Blazers agains the Celtics:
Roy said he expects to play Wednesday against Boston. It would be his first back-to-back games since returning to play with a sore left knee.
However, Celtics fans might be robbed of the only opportunity to see Joel Przybilla. A tragedy, I know.
(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)
|Fast Break: Celtics handle Cavaliers||11.30.10 at 9:36 pm ET|
Six Celtics reached double figures, including Glen Davis and Marquis Daniels, who combined for 33 points off the bench. Kevin Garnett contributed 11 points and 10 rebounds, as the Celtics won their fourth straight and improved to 13-4.
WHAT WENT WRIGHT
Bench contributions: In 84 total minutes off the bench, Daniels, Davis and Nate Robinson combined for 41 points (on 17-of-34 shooting), 19 rebounds and six assists.
More importantly, their energy gave the Celtics a much-needed boost in the second quarter, as they outscored the Cavaliers 35-22 and built a comfortable 11-point lead at halftime.
Points in the paint: The Celtics absolutely obliterated the Cavaliers in the post, outscoring them 60-26 in the paint. Davis (17 points) and Garnett (11 points) led the way for the C’s. Pretty impressive, considering Shaquille O’Neal (6) was relatively quiet on the night.
Attacking the basket: Rondo repeatedly blew past the revolving door of defense that was Mo Williams and Ramon Sessions. He scored 16 of his 23 points around the bucket in addition to dishing out 11 more assists on dribble drives.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Thanksgiving weekend hangover: Whether it was rust from having Saturday and Sunday off or the Celtics not taking the Cavaliers seriously, the C’s looked sluggish early — digging themselves a 17-8 hole after the first six minutes. Anderson Varejao and Mo Williams combined for 11 points in that span.
Free throw shooting: The Celtics shot just 13-of-23 from the charity stripe. With a 74.6 combined free throw percentage, the Celtics entered Tuesday night’s game against the Cavaliers ranked 21st in the league.
Hickson’s yellow shoes: Wearing what may have been the ugliest shoes ever to appear on a basketball court, J.J. Hickson scored only one point in the game. His yellow sneakers were so awful that my girlfriend joked that the distraction they cause might be the secret to the Cavaliers’ semi-success this season.
|Irish Coffee: The Celtics Vengeance Factor||at 11:48 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
I love vengeance movies. Good (“Kill Bill”) or bad (“The Punisher”). I’ll watch it. And I’ll love it.
So, in the wake of last week’s Celtics victory over the Raptors and in the face of Tuesday night’s rematch against the Cavaliers, I got to thinking: How good are the post-Kevin Garnett-trade C’s at exacting revenge?
Examining the Celtics’ record over the last three-plus seasons in rematches against opponents following a regular-season loss in their previous meeting, it’s clear these C’s are pretty damn good at vengeance — like Charles Bronson in “Death Wish” good — especially against sub-.500 teams.
After losing to the Raptors by one on Nov. 21 this season, the Celtics handled Toronto during a nine-point victory in their rematch five days later. It marked their first shot at vengeance of the 2010-11 regular season.
Since the start of the 2007-08 season, the Celtics have a record of 26-11 in rematches following a loss against that team in their previous meeting. Their average margin of victory in those 26 wins was 10.3 points.
Against sub-.500 teams during that same span, the C’s are now 9-0 in vengeance opportunities. Tuesday, the Celtics have another shot, as they face a 7-9 Cavaliers club that beat them 95-87 in Game 2 of the season.
The Celtics are favored by seven points in Tuesday night’s game. I’m just saying.
A CAVS TRAP GAME?
There’s no question that Thursday’s Cavaliers game against the Heat means more to Cleveland than Tuesday night’s rematch against the Celtics. And rightfully so, considering LeBron James‘ return to the town he dissed in his “Decision.”
But the Cavs are trying to avoid looking past the C’s, because — based on their comments to the Akron Beacon Journal — they expect the vengeance factor.
”We really took advantage of them playing the night before,” [Cavaliers guard Mo] Williams said of the first meeting against the Celtics. ”We ran, we ran, we ran. It was a new-look team at the time that didn’t know what to expect. I expect to see a better, more prepared Boston tomorrow.”
If the Cavs’ game plan against the Celtics was a secret before, it isn’t any longer.
”One of the reasons we were successful the first time is we got up and down the floor and put Shaq in a lot of pick and rolls,” [Cavaliers coach Byron] Scott said. ”That won’t change. We’ll still try to do that. If we do that like we did the last time, our guards will get wide open shots. We just have to keep it spread as much as possible and get the ball moving side to side.”
Well, then. I guess the Celtics don’t need to videotape any Cavaliers practices.
Oh, and speaking of LeBron’s return to Cleveland, if you haven’t already, read Adrian Wojnarowski‘s piece on James’ egotistical behavior. It’s probably the best insight into the Akron product you’ll read — including gems like these …
[Dwyane] Wade was one of the Team USA players who’d watch incredulously as James would throw a bowl of fries back at a renowned chef and bark, ‘They’re cold!’ Or throw his sweaty practice jersey across the court and command a team administrator to go pick it up. Everyone wants James to grow out of it, but he’s never showed much of an inclination for self-examination and improvement. And he’s never surrounded himself with people who’d push him to do so.
The fundamental problem for [Heat head coach Erik] Spoelstra isn’t that James doesn’t respect coaches — he doesn’t respect people. Give LeBron this, though: He’s learned to live one way with the television light on, and another with it off. He treats everyone like a servant, because that’s what the system taught him as a teenage prodigy. To James, the coach isn’t there to mold him into the team dynamic. He’s there to serve him.
I’m not sure why I do this to myself, but I’ve been following the 24-part series of profiles about the Lakers bloggers on the Los Angeles Times website.
Here’s what I’ve learned (in vast generalizations): Somehow, they’re all Lakers fans, yet none of them came from Los Angeles. Take one blogger’s story about how he became a Lakers fan as an example:
Born and raised in NYC, I didn’t really start watching much basketball until I found myself living in Cambridge, Mass., coming out of college and rooming and living with a crazy Celtics fan during the ‘85-‘86 season. I got one look at Magic Johnson and the Showtime Lakers, and I was instantly hooked. I eventually found myself living and working in L.A. early in my film/TV career in ‘87, ‘88 and some of ‘89 where my love for the Lakers was truly forged. I have been following the team religiously ever since.
They all hate, hate, hate the Celtics, which I’m sure fuels their objectivity:
Opposing team, player you dislike the most: The Celtics and all things green. Paul Pierce and the ‘wheelchair’ incident will always cause me to gag. More recently, however, Lebron and his now infamous ‘I’m going to take my talents to South Beach…’ episode have trumped the hatred I have for the Celtics. I’ve never disliked a team more than I do this Heat team at the moment — I hate the Celtics, but I loathe the Heat.
Ladies and gentlemen, your L.A. Times basketball bloggers!
Sports Illustrated named Drew Brees its Sportsman of the Year. Back in 1968, Bill Russell became the first NBA player to capture the honor. Here’s what the former Celtics player-coach told SI about winning the award:
(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)
|Shaquille O’Neal misses practice unexcused||11.29.10 at 2:08 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Forgetting the time practice begins is not the best way to endear yourself to the coach – especially when it comes after the coach gives you and the rest of the team the Thanksgiving weekend off. But Shaquille O’Neal can be lucky that he’s built up a lot of goodwill with Doc Rivers.
“You get over it,” Rivers said. “Listen, if a guy had a history, then you deal with it differently. When a guy doesn’t have a history or something, it happens. It’s life, you move on. You do whatever you do, fine [the player] or whatever all that stuff is. I never release that stuff and it’s not a big deal.”
The Celtics center missed practice on Monday when he forgot when practice began, according to coach Doc Rivers. Team spokesman Jeff Twiss confirmed that O’Neal did make the team flight to Cleveland for Tuesday night’s game. The absence comes after the 12-4 Celtics were given Saturday and Sunday off by the coach to enjoy the Thanksgiving weekend. Glen Davis had to take his place in practice for the short-handed C’s.
“Today, we only had 11 guys, which sucks,” Rivers said. “It hurts your practice because that means most of your guys are on the floor for the entire practice. That’s not the way to go. He got times mixed up, he missed one, he owes us one. We’re good.”
Asked if he would punish O’Neal, Rivers joked, “I was going to spank him. He may not hurt. It may hurt me.”
Then Rivers was asked if he handles star players differently than other players.
“It depends on who you are,” Rivers said. “If you have a history of that, we deal with it. It’s a human game and it always will be. I don’t have a set rule for one guy or two guys. Each guy is an individual basis is what I’m saying. You deal with it that way. You put money in the bank. If you’re a guy who tends to use his money up, then it’s a little shorter.”
The Celtics had a 90-minute practice that began at noon at their complex in Waltham.
|Irish Coffee: Top 5 Tommy Moments||10.28.10 at 10:36 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
The Worcester Telegram’s Bill Doyle had a nice piece on Tommy Heinsohn and Mike Gorman entering their 30th season as the Celtics‘ broadcasting team.
Get this: Tommy actually believes he’s calmed down in his tenure as the color man.
“I stopped making it World War III,” Heinsohn told Doyle.
We’ll see about that. Here’s five of Tommy’s greatest moments as an announcer caught on tape:
1. “This is getting ridiculous. This is absolutely ridiculous.”
2. “Can I say it now? I … LOVE … WALTER!”
3. “I’ve seen a lot of players, but I can say this without a moment’s hesitation: Jackie was HORRIBLE. SUCKED!”
4. “This is absolutely — NBA: It’s stupid.”
5. “Wait a minute. That’s a terrible call. That is a TERRIBLE call.”
THE LONGEST SECOND
In case you missed it, with one second remaining on the shot clock last night, Cleveland’s Anthony Parker managed to catch an inbounds pass, swing the ball left to right, set up for a 3-pointer and get it off.
I’m sure Tommy got a kick out of that call, especially considering it basically ended the C’s chances against the Cavaliers last night.
“We’re at home,” Byron Scott countered. “It’s supposed to be a long one second.”
The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Bill Livingston explained why Cleveland fans thanked the C’s for defeating the Heat and deserved that extra-long second …
It was a very long second. But the Cavs and their fans had waited a very long time, through the spring, the summer, and into the fall for a break. This morning, the Cavs can look down in the Eastern Conference standings on the Miami Heat, albeit by only a half-game.
It won’t last. But neither did the false savior.
The Plain Dealer’s Mary Schmitt Boyer called the Celtics Cleveland’s “archrival.” Isn’t that cute? They think C’s-Cavs is a rivalry …
By beating the archrival Eastern Conference defending champion Celtics in their first regular-season game since the departure of LeBron James, the Cavs served notice that they’re still here and they can — and will — win without James.
Jim Ingraham of Ohio’s Morning Journal reveled in the victory, taking a shot at LeBron …
No fan base has ever needed a win on opening night more than this tortured, tormented fan base, abandoned as they were by a self-absorbed tag-along, looking for a shortcut to a championship ring.
They were rewarded for their loyalty with a rousing king-cleansing opening night victory.
SHAQ: OBAMA’S WARMUP ACT
Apparently, President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton need Shaquille O’Neal‘s help ingratiating themselves to foreign diplomats. According to the New York Daily News, an autographed pair of Shaq’s shoes is among the gift items given to government leaders on overseas trips.
(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)
|The NBA 30 on 30: Blogosphere Forecast (4 of 7)||10.26.10 at 11:04 am ET|
NBA fans live a team’s ups and downs. They react to every draft pick, trade and free-agent signing. They debate the merits of the 15th man. They find significance in the most insignificant stats. They simply KNOW their team. So, too, do bloggers. That’s why we sought the opinion of the league’s best blogs — one for each of the 30 teams — to break down the team they cover and, of course, the Celtics.
ON THE BULLS: The Chicago Bulls are a team with a lot of strengths, but the early injury to Carlos Boozer has hurt their odds of building up continuity this season.
Much like the Celtics, they carry considerable injury risk going forward. Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Boozer, Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson and Ronnie Brewer all have injury risk on top of that of a normal player, while Kyle Korver, C.J. Watson and Keith Bogans are also struggling with various minor injuries in preseason.
A healthy Bulls team would have a puncher’s chance at any team in the East if they jelled well and played to their full potential. But a Bulls team that can’t get on the floor together to build continuity is closer to Atlanta and Milwaukee than to Boston, Orlando or Miami.
The big question mark will be how much of an upgrade Tom Thibodeau is from Vinny Del Negro. The Bulls’ schemes have given fans a reason to be hopeful, and if Thibodeau can get more out of the talent than Del Negro the roster might have more upside than a cursory glance would indicate.
Given the injuries and unknowns, a realistic upside for the Bulls is an Eastern Conference Finals loss to Miami, while a realistic downside is a first-round exit to one of the Big 3.
I’d place the Bulls fourth in the conference with my expectations set at a second-round exit at the hands of Miami, Boston or Orlando after a hard-fought, first-round victory against Atlanta or Milwaukee.
ON THE CELTICS: The Boston Celtics strike me as a team that should play well this season and have another excellent postseason.
There is some legitimate fear that the wheels could fall off the bus at any given point, given that the vast majority of key players are at the age where injuries increase and performance can rapidly spiral downward.
However, the team is excellently coached and has tremendous depth, continuity and experience. Their upside, if all goes well, is NBA Champion. They were a Kendrick Perkins ACL away from likely winning the chip last season, and they’re the one team that has a shot to give Miami fits in the Eastern Conference.
Their downside is as a fifth seed that gets bounced early in the playoffs if they struggle to integrate new personalities, can’t find solid rotations once Perkins is back or struggle with age and injuries.
I’d place the Celtics third in the East in the regular season, but I think they’ll top Orlando in the second round. I’d place my expectations at an Eastern Conference Finals loss to the Miami Heat in a tough series.
ON THE CAVALIERS: The Cavaliers are indeed going through a transition phase, but transition may be the name of the game for this team.
Under new head coach Byron Scott, the team wants to get out and run in transition and use a new motion offense to try to implement a team-oriented approach. This is obviously a shock to the system after years of watching LeBron James dominate the ball himself and stand around dribbling.
The Cavaliers have looked good so far in the preseason, relying on the new youth movement with guys like J.J. Hickson, Daniel Gibson and Ramon Sessions showing a lot of improvement.
The team has heard all offseason how they are nothing now that LeBron is gone, but most of these players know nothing but winning. There is still a winning mentality on this team, and they are already playing with a chip on their shoulders as they look to prove doubters wrong.
This is a team that will be better conditioned than most teams and will not be outworked by many teams.
Having said that, there are still some major issues. A lack of true center will be a major problem for this team, as will be the potential defensive setback the team faces from losing a lockdown wing defender like LeBron.
Above all else, though, there’s no true go-to guy here. That will cost this team many games in the fourth quarter’s waning minutes.
This will be a gritty team that will play hard and make things tough, but ultimately there’s no replacing a LeBron James in one season. I predict a record of 31-51.
ON THE CELTICS: Well, obviously, I saw firsthand what Shaquille O’Neal brought to the Cavaliers last season. It wasn’t pretty, and he often complicated things as the team struggled to adapt to his presence.
In fact, the Cavaliers actually seemed to play better without Shaq when Anderson Varejao could slide to the 5 and Hickson could play the 4. So, I’m not optimistic about what Shaq has left to offer the Celtics this season.
Having said that, I still expect the Celtics to be one of the top three contenders in the East this season. The Big 3 plus Rondo is an effective core, and adding Delonte West should prove to be a nice boost to the team’s depth.
Much like last season, I expect to see the Celtics more or less coast through much of the regular season and then really turn it on in the postseason.
The Eastern Conference is stronger, but I don’t see anyone in the Atlantic threatening the C’s alpha-dog status there. I project a record of 52-30 and another division title. And I expect the Celtics to be the Heat’s toughest out in the playoffs.
ON THE PISTONS: After a year full of sprained ankles and utter disappointment, the Pistons have a clean slate heading into the new season.
While there isn’t a completely clean bill of health after the Jonas Jerebko injury, the Pistons are much healthier and claim to be very determined to prove their doubters wrong in 2010-11.
Unfortunately, while less injuries and DETermination should lead to more wins, it won’t be enough to put the Pistons back into the playoffs. Record: 36-46.
ON THE CELTICS: With everyone talking about the Heat this year, it might be easy to forget about the Celtics again (similar to how the Magic stole their spotlight last year with their 2009 Finals run).
But, similar to how they surprised teams in the 2010 playoffs, the Celtics are as for real as they were in 2008. The additions of both O’Neals should boost their defensive presence inside and even open things up a little on the offensive side for their own Big 3.
If they can stay relatively healthy, I’d say they’re a lock for 55 wins this season.
ON THE PACERS: To most NBA onlookers, it will not be a remarkably different season in Indiana than the past few. But for Pacers fans, there will be at least one key difference: Hope.
With the acquisition of Darren Collison, the continued — and perhaps vast — improvement of Roy Hibbert and the expected rock-solid production of Danny Granger, the team should for the first time in a half-decade have a true foundation.
This foundation is not earth-shattering. No one will be calling them The Big 3. But it is an actual nucleus, and a lot of people smarter than me think that Paul George, the team’s first-round pick No. 10 overall), should already be included in talks of a more promising future.
Tyler Hansbrough and Josh McRoberts, to a lesser degree, are expected to show some people that they can be valuable rotation players in this league as well.
On top of all that, the team has a bevy of expiring contracts to use as trade assets if they so desire. Some $30 million will be coming off the books next summer, and since so many GMs/owners will likely be looking to clean their salary caps up before the looming CBA negotiations/probable lockout, Larry Bird should have plenty of opportunities to get some quality players back for any of Mike Dunleavy ($10.5 million), T.J. Ford ($8.5 million) or Jeff Foster ($6.7 million).
I expect the front office to flip about half of its expiring contracts (they also have the Jamaal Tinsley buyout, worth around $5.5 million, “expiring” come June) for some mid-tier players they want (think the Kevin Martin deal last year). Then they’ll let the rest expire. Come summer, that will let them fill some more holes through free agency.
No, they won’t be getting an Amar’e Stoudemire, a Chris Bosh or a Carmelo Anthony — but they’ll have a direction by the time this season ends. That will feel like something new to fans.
And if they can somehow play well enough to score a seventh or eighth seed and get into the playoffs this year, well, Pacers fans can truly consider this the beginning of a new era for a franchise that needs nothing more desperately than to begin a new era.
ON THE CELTICS: The Celtics should make the Eastern Conference Finals in their sleep. Until we see just how good the Heat are, it’s tough to call anything more than that.
And if Miami is as dominant as I think they’ll be, the Celtics might just be too old, but if Eric Spoelstra‘s boys don’t jell completely, there’s no reason that Boston can’t win the whole thing.
The depth on this roster is somewhat absurd. Obviously, a lot of people aren’t expecting much out of the law firm of O’Neal & O’Neal, but they’re two big bodies that will make a difference and take a ton of defensive pressure off of Kevin Garnett and Perkins.
You certainly don’t want to rely on Jermaine O’Neal to score in the post at this point, but he still alters shots, swats weak attempts and takes charges at a high level.
The Delonte West acquisition was huge. Even with Nate Robinson and Marquis Daniels, the team lacked some ballhandling ability outside of Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce last year. He gives them a guy off the bench who can go off for 20, just be a spot-up shooter or even initiate the offense. Plus he guards people.
Nate has his strengths (namely energy and hustle), but he can’t do all that. That will make this team more dynamic — presuming, ya know, he keeps his head on straight.
With Ray Allen, Paul and KG all one year older, the bench is going to be key. They need consistency out of the reserves, and if Doc Rivers can figure out how to keep all these bodies happy — something I’m sure he will, like he did last year by keeping Nate ready to go even while glued to the bench — there’s no reason, other than a possibly unstoppable Heat juggernaut, that they can’t bring home Banner 18.
ON THE BUCKS: Milwaukee — with its eager, younger players and overlooked veteran additions — likely has its sights set on the Celtics.
The two teams had a few memorable moments last year and could have had something special in the playoffs had things worked out on the last day of the season.
Milwaukee focused on keep their core players from last season while looking to address their main weaknesses this offseason, namely free-throw shooting and power forward size and depth.
The Bucks seemed to have succeeded on both accounts and will very likely be in the hunt for the Central Divison crown. If they capture it, they still may have a hard time surpassing the Celtics’ win total.
A top-four finish doesn’t seem out of the question for the Bucks, and at the very least a playoff spot seems certain.
ON THE CELTICS: Last year, the Celtics seemed prime to fade into the sunset of NBA teams who once were contenders. This year, they seem to have reloaded and added considerable depth to counter their considerable age.
Everyone is talking about the O’Neal’s, Shaquille and Jermaine, but let us not forget that the Celtics quietly, and wisely, picking up Delonte West this offseason.
After trotting out Nate Robinson, Eddie House and at times even Tony Allen as a backup point guard last season, the Celtics definitely needed to address their backup point guard position this past summer. West’s steady hand (I can’t believe I just wrote that and meant it) could be very useful when Rondo is out of the game.
The added bulk up front helps, too, especially if the new technical rules lead to numbers quickly adding up for KG and Perkins. The Celtics have added new blood and appear to be in as good a shape as any of the teams in the East that don’t play in Miami.
Another division title and top-four seed likely awaits the Celtics at year’s end.
Stay tuned for Part 5 of this seven-part series: the Eastern Conference’s Southeast Division.
|Doc Rivers: C’s just ‘other team that’s playing’||10.25.10 at 8:43 pm ET|
WALTHAM — So finally, thankfully, mercifully no more hype – just the game.
Ever since the game was announced as part of the full NBA schedule on Aug. 10, news and sports outlets across the country and the globe circled Oct. 26 on their calendars as a “must-cover” event at Boston’s TD Garden.
Doc Rivers maintains those news and sports outlets won’t be in Boston Tuesday to see a great game but what they think will be one of the greatest teams in NBA history.
‘All eyes will be on the game in Boston, but I think all eyes will really be on Miami. We’re the other team that’s playing and we’re just going to show up. But I’m sure everybody is there to see Miami.
‘It’s opening night, it’s great. It’s opening night at home. We’ve had a lot of time to prepare for the game, which is nice, and we’re ready to play.’
And it’s fitting that James plays his first official game on the same court he played his last for the Cavaliers. But unlike Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals last May 13, James will be playing alongside players named Wade and Bosh, even if those three played very little together in the preseason because of Wade’s nagging hamstring injury.
‘I would say it probably hurts them more than it hurts us,” Rivers said. “It probably hurts both teams, not being able to scout them and see what exactly what they’re going to do when they’re all on the floor. You can make the case that not being able to practice at all [together] it may hurt them as much. I don’t think it matters. I guarantee you that Wade will have the ball a lot, so will LeBron and so will Bosh.’ Read the rest of this entry »
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