|Irish Coffee: Jason Terry, Courtney Lee still searching for magic potion in Celtics’ backcourt chemistry experiment||10.17.12 at 12:08 pm ET|
If you look at their production during the preseason, newest Celtics guards Courtney Lee and Jason Terry appear headed in different directions in terms of adjusting to their new team, but both are confident they’ll end up in the same place when the NBA season starts on Oct. 30 — meshing their strengths into an established system.
“We’re not worried about that,” said Terry. “Right now, we’re just trying to execute what [Celtics coach] Doc [Rivers] lays out there for us, and we know that part of our game will come here shortly. We’ve got three games in a short amount of time to get right and get ready and prepare.”
After struggling in the C’s 97-91 loss to Istanbul’s Fenerbahce Ulker to start the preseason, Lee’s comfort level has steadily progressed, culminating in his most extended minutes (33) and most complete performance (13 points, 4 assists, 2 rebounds, 1 block) during a 97-96 loss to the Nets on Tuesday night. It marked his third start in five preseason games and his third double-digit scoring output in the four games since the opener.
“I was trying too hard to fit in,” Lee said of his early struggles. Obviously, a collision with Fab Melo‘s shoulder that left him with a deep right thigh contusion and kept him out of the C’s unofficial practices from Sept. 6 to the start of training camp didn’t help. “I wasn’t myself. I wasn’t being aggressive at all.
“Doc came to me and said that hurts the team. He needs me to play my game, be aggressive and make the right plays. The more practice we get and the more games we play, I’m getting more and more comfortable with that.”
|What to watch for: Preseason Celtics in Turkey edition||10.05.12 at 12:43 am ET|
Preseason NBA games go something like this: Hey, basketball’s back! Then the second quarter starts and you’re reminded that it’s preseason. By the time the second half tips off, everyone’s trying to not get hurt, while rookies and free agents are looking for that one shot of glory.
The Celtics will play Fenerbache Ulker on Friday afternoon in Istanbul, and while there’s only so much that can be determined in the first exhibition, there are still a number of things worth keeping an eye on as they begin to take shape for the upcoming season.
Here are five areas to watch:
THE NEW-LOOK BACKCOURT: It will be jarring to see the Celtics lineup without Ray Allen in his customary spot, but more than appearances, the C’s guards will have an entirely different feel. Courtney Lee is likely to start with Jason Terry operating as a sixth man. Lee won’t get nearly as many touches as Allen did, and it will be interesting to see how Doc Rivers adjusts the offense without Allen running off so many picks.
One of the benefits of Avery Bradley‘s emergence last season was that it allowed Rivers to take Rajon Rondo off the ball defensively. That has tremendous value, not only because Bradley is such a good defender, but it also allowed Rondo the chance to conserve energy on the defensive end. Lee brings a tough defensive-mindset to the position, but can he handle the fullcourt pressure defense that Rivers prefers?
HOW WILL JEFF GREEN BE UTILIZED? This is the key question, maybe for the whole season. Green has not fared well defensively as a big forward, but if Kevin Garnett is lined up next to him that could alter the dynamic considerably. Another big question that Rivers hinted at already: Can Green and Paul Pierce function together as a forward tandem?
One of the biggest reasons that Green was not an overnight success in Boston is that he was never able to fill a consistent role. Part of that is on him for not being assertive enough and part of that is on Rivers to create one.
IS JARED SULLINGER READY? It’s been a tough camp for Chris Wilcox, who is dealing with back spasms in addition to trying to return from heart surgery. Wilcox is the only veteran backup 4 on the roster, and if he can’t go on Friday, that would seem to give the Ohio State rookie an early opportunity to make an impression.
SPEAKING OF ROOKIES: Dionte Christmas, Kris Joseph and Jamar Smith are part of a battle for what could be two open roster spots. Christmas received a higher guarantee than the others, so he would appear to have a leg up heading into the camp. That can all change quickly, however.
Need is a relative term for a squad with championship aspirations and veterans at nearly every position, but the two that stand out are backup point guard (Smith) and depth on the wing (Christmas and Joseph).
ALL THAT AND DARKO TOO: The over/under on how long it takes Tommy Heinsohn to compare Darko to Bill Russell has been set at eight minutes. Tommy’s not in Istanbul, but has there even been this much intrigue for a backup center?
Heinsohn aside, for one of the first times in his career the expectations for Darko are actually reasonable and manageable. If he can give the C’s 15-20 minutes a night as a backup center, they will be thrilled. Rebounding has been a major point of emphasis for Rivers during camp, and that’s where the Celtics really need Darko to make a difference.
|Irish Coffee: Making the most of Paul Pierce’s minutes||10.03.12 at 6:29 pm ET|
“We’re going to try some things with Paul in the preseason,” said Rivers, “and just see how that goes.”
Last season, Rivers instituted Kevin Garnett‘s 5-5-5 plan, playing his center in five-minute increments. While Garnett’s time on the floor each game barely changed (31.3 in 2010-11 vs. 31.1 in 2011-12), his minutes were less taxing, and that paid dividends in the playoffs, when he enjoyed perhaps his greatest stretch in a Celtics uniform.
The plan is to execute the same plan for Garnett and a similar one for Pierce this season, although both the Celtics captain and Rivers admitted playing that duo on the same 5-5-5 schedule might not benefit the team.
‘Doc is the coach around here,” said Pierce. “I trust his judgment and everything he does. We’ve been together a long time. I’m giving myself to the team. Whatever’s going to be best for the team, that’s what it’s gotta be. I think with me and Doc, we’ll figure things out, because if I’m on fire the first five minutes I can’t come out. Simple as that.”
‘I’m all for it,” countered Rivers. “Paul is a gym rat. Paul is a guy I’ve never really worried about with minutes, but I’m going to watch his minutes. Obviously, if we can keep [Rajon] Rondo‘s minutes down, we will. And Paul’s minutes down. It doesn’t mean we will. It would be nice. I like our bench.’
That last addendum could be the difference this season. Despite approaching his mid-30’s, Pierce’s minutes per game haven’t changed much the past three seasons (34.0, 34.7 and 34.0, respectively), and that can largely be attributed to having Marquis Daniels, Sasha Pavlovic and an ailing Mickael Pietrus behind him.
|Irish Coffee: Top 10 Celtics Media Day moments||10.01.12 at 5:36 pm ET|
Considering the Celtics have been unofficially practicing together since early September, Friday’s Media Day at the team’s practice facility in Waltham seemed less like a welcome home party than years past and more like an interruption of a team’s quest for the franchise’s 18th NBA championship already in progress. That attitude is reflected in the top 10 moments from this year’s Celtics Media Day compared to the same post last season.
10. Chris Wilcox on missing the playoffs again: “I was fresh out of surgery when they made it to the playoffs. The whole time, I was just trying to see whatever I could do. I was like, ‘Doc, there’s no way I could come back?’ And he was like, ‘Don’t even think about it.’ So, it was just motivation, because I can’t watch basketball and not play it. … I’m out trying to walk on treadmills and doing all these different kind of things, just trying to get back, because I wanted to be around basketball. I’ve never been to the playoffs before. That was going to be my first experience, and then that had to happen, so it was tough.”
9. Jared Sullinger on dropping to the Celtics: “Everybody was knocking me for the back problems and all this crazy stuff, but I could care less. Like I told everybody, if I dropped to the Celtics at 21, and I could go back and redo everything — and me not getting hurt — I’ll get hurt again and slide all the way back down to 21, just so I could be with the Boston Celtics. I’d redo it, because it’s a great organization, great vets, great team.”
8. Courtney Lee on the Celtics’ championship tradition: “Every organization I’ve been with, winning has always been the key, but here you believe — you feel it, you see it. We’re not even starting training camp yet, and we had our whole team here Sept. 4, and everybody was dedicated to getting better. The motto of it was to win a championship. The first day I got here, on the fourth, all Rondo was talking about is a championship and getting back and winning. Once you hear that from your star players, you don’t want to let them down, so that motivates you to get on the same page, and that’s all it’s about: Winning.”
|Celtics experiment with small ball||at 1:22 pm ET|
WALTHAM — The buzzword around the Celtics these days is “versatility.” In Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and especially Jeff Green, coach Doc Rivers has a number of different lineup combinations he can use, and he plans to test them all. Rivers pointed to Rajon Rondo, who was getting stretched out behind the media scrum. “He’ll be very happy.”
Their last practice before departing for Istanbul was devoted entirely to using small lineups, although small is a relative term. The C’s believe that the 6-foot-9 Green can force matchups whether he’s at the three or the four and there’s even a thought of playing him and Paul Pierce together with two traditional bigs.
“We put it in [Sunday] but we didn’t work on it,” Rivers said. “Today we’re going to have almost exclusively have small lineups on the floor so that will be fun. This is the first year we’ve ever really worked on it and we’re going to work on it so we can do it every game.”
Green is the key because of his length and athleticism. Last season, Rivers used Mickael Pietrus as a smaller small forward with Pierce playing the four. That lineup was almost born out of desperation as a counter to Miami using LeBron James as the second big around a lineup of perimeter shooters.Rivers doesn’t just want to matchup, he wants to attack and he sees Green as a force in the open court.
“He’s the main guy when you talk about small lineups,” Rondo said. “He played the four at Oklahoma City, he stretched the floor with his shooting. We can get a lot of bigs on the floor as well. He can go from the four to the three. Defensively, he can check one through four, I believe. We expect a lot out of Jeff but he’s fine with that pressure.”
A key to making the smaller lineups work is also coming up with an offense that won’t stall when Rondo is off the court — a frequent occurrence last season. With no traditional backup point guard on the roster and Avery Bradley out for a few months, that task may fall to Terry.
“He’s a better ballhandler,” Rivers said. “I knew he could score of the dribble but he’s really a natural at the point. That surprised me. We have no choice right now with Avery out. We’re trying to create an offense where it’s not a point guard dominated offense, unless Rondo’s on the floor.”
|Jason Terry: ‘My mission is to kill’ Heat, Lakers||09.25.12 at 5:01 pm ET|
The way each member of the Celtics brass lobbied for Jason Terry in his foursome at the team’s annual charity golf outing (owners Wyc Grousbeck and Steve Pagliuca won out, obviously), you wonder whether Doc Rivers & Co. lured Terry more for his ability to replace Ray Allen on the course rather than the court.
But really C’s president Danny Ainge sought Terry for three simple reasons: Scoring, scoring and more scoring.
“We wanted a scorer off the dribble,” said Rivers. “We do it every year right after the season: I always sit down and write Danny a long letter about needs, and that was my No. 1 need.”
So, Rivers knew exactly who to put on speed dial once NBA free agency began, and as Terry said, “When Doc calls, you answer.” The conversation probably went something like this: Your mission, Jason, should you choose to accept it, involves the recovery of a stagnant offense.
“My mission is to kill, whoever that is, whether it’s the Heat or whether it’s the Lakers — hopefully both,” said the 35-year-old Terry, “but that’s my mission, and that’s what I’m here to do.”
|Celtics camp questions: How will the new backcourt look?||09.19.12 at 1:47 pm ET|
For the first time since the Big Three were originally conceived, the Celtics will have a new shooting guard lining up alongside Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Not since Kendrick Perkins was traded to Oklahoma City have the Celtics undergone such an important change.
Ray Allen‘s departure for Miami was really the culmination of a transformation that was beginning to take shape last season. With Avery Bradley in the starting lineup, the Celtics suddenly became a dynamic defensive team that could also score points at a better-than expected rate. The C’s outscored their opponents by almost 20 points per 100 possessions with Bradley in the starting lineup.
Small sample size or no, Bradley’s emergence help point them in a direction that was less dependent on Allen’s shooting and off-the-ball movement, and increasingly reliant on Rondo’s gift for creating offense for others. In an interesting twist, the Celtics tried desperately to re-sign Allen, but when those efforts failed they turned their attention toward completing the transition toward a more versatile and potentially dynamic backcourt.