|The strong and sensitive Delonte West||11.17.10 at 11:35 pm ET|
Shaquille O’Neal has a lot of faith in Delonte West, who made his long-awaited return to the court Wednesday night in the Celtics‘ rout of the Wizards at TD Garden. After all, he played last year with him in Cleveland.
“I learned that you guys think he’s crazy but he’s not,” O’Neal said. “Not at all. I could handle him. We always have conversations about the game. He’s very smart. He’s just misunderstood at times.”
West was a very grateful man Wednesday night. And he wore his emotion on his sleeve. He was eligible to play in an NBA game for the first time since serving a league-mandated 10-game suspension for off-court misconduct involving firearms and a motorcycle in the summer of 2009.
With that behind him – and with the faith and support of his teammates and Celtics management – he entered the game as a sub for Ray Allen with 3:12 left in the first quarter. He was nervous as if he were a rookie making his NBA debut.
“It brought a tear to my eye,” West said of the loud ovation he received from the crowd, many on their feet in support.
Then West was brought back to earth by Washington’s Nick Young.
“Then Nick Young hit three shots in my face, and that dried up my tears real quick.”
West had the ideal scenario to return to the court on Wednesday night and he took advantage, scoring 12 points, grabbing five rebounds and handing out four assists to lead the bench in Boston’s 114-83 win over the Washington Wizards at TD Garden.
“Any game is perfect for me,” West said. “I just want to be back helping out. I’m so excited to be back. Thankful to the lord for this second opportunity and I’ll make the best out of it.’
After playing in practice and in the preseason with the team, West was making his official debut back in a Celtics uniform after serving a 10-game NBA-imposed suspension for off-court misconduct. The Celtics gave the once-troubled guard one more chance, signing him shortly after Minnesota waived him in the summer.
‘It felt great,” West said. “For a minute there in the summertime I thought I wouldn’t see an NBA court again. I thank the Lord, ownership here, the coaching staff, and Danny Ainge. They know what I am about. I’m just blessed to have this opportunity to do what I love to do. They knew the difference between a bad decision and a bad person. I’m just blessed to have this opportunity to do what I love to do.”
West made his debut when he replaced Ray Allen with 3:12 left in the first quarter and Celtics coach Doc Rivers said it was only natural that he showed some initial rust but not for long as West found his rhythm, finding Paul Pierce for an open three on the right wing, a three Pierce drilled to give West his first stat in his first game back – an assist.
‘I didn’t want to do too much,” West admitted. “Sometimes not doing too much is what the team needs you to do. The second unit responded well in the second half. The first half, our timing was just off. Marquis [Daniels] missed a few practices, I’m getting back into the mix. We’re just trying to adjust to playing with one another. Biggest thing is we got the victory. Other kinks we’ll work out.’
He played 21 minutes in his first Celtics game since being dealt to Seattle following the 2006-07 season.
‘In the first half, I just wanted to get my feet wet,” West said. “I noticed that my timing was off a little bit. Guys that know me, I don’t really force much. I let the game come to me. With that second unit sometimes you got to force the flow. When you’re up 20 or 15, it’s hard to go out and want to be aggressive. You want to maintain the lead and give the starters some rest.’
|Danny Ainge on The Big Show: Health of O’Neals ‘a concern’||11.11.10 at 7:30 pm ET|
Celtics executive president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, in his weekly appearance on The Big Show (lsten to the interview at The Big Show audio on demand page) said that the health of centers Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal had become something of a concern. Shaquille O’Neal has missed the last five games while recovering from a bruised right knee, while Jermaine O’Neal was sidelined in the second half of this week’s contest against the Mavericks due to a left knee injury.
Shaq, Ainge said, is expected to return to the lineup against the Heat on Thursday. Jermaine O’Neal, on the other hand, is expected to remain sidelined. While Ainge did proclaim the health of the two centers a concern, he also said that it was not a complete surprise that the team is managing minutes at the position.
“I think that Jermaine and Shaq are a concern with their health,” said Ainge. “I felt like with the four centers we have that we’d be able to make it through the year. I didn’t expect Shaq to play 82 games, and I didn’t expect him to play more than 20-25 minutes a night at the most, and that was if he was playing well.”
With the two O’Neals dealing with their knee issues and Kendrick Perkins trying to work his way back from his torn ACL, Ainge said that rookie Semih Erden will continue to see minutes.
“Semih is going to get a chance to play with the up-and-down health of the two O’Neals,” Ainge said. “He has pretty good instincts about where to be both offensively and defensively. … Sometimes he’s thinking too much rather than relying on his instincts.”
Ainge also touched on the recent remarks by Joakim Noah of the Bulls that were critical of Celtics forward Kevin Garnett. Noah called Garnett “very mean” and “ugly,” comments that Ainge suggested were a non-story.
“I’m sure Kevin’s enjoying it. … It’s hilarious. I’m sure Kevin is enjoying every bit of it,” Ainge said. “I don’t even think this is a story. i don’t even want to talk about it, it’s so boring. … Joaquim Noah popping off is not very interesting.”
Ainge also discussed the early inconsistencies of the Heat, a team that he characterized as alternately dominant and vulnerable, as well as the status of Perkins’ recovery and the nature of his team’s budding rivalry with Miami.
|Irish Coffee: Celtics lack killer instinct||11.02.10 at 11:05 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
We know they love Halloween, but does this Celtics team have a killer instinct?
And Dime Magazine’s Austin Burton raised it again just three games into the 2010-11 NBA season — suggesting Boston has played to its competition through the first three games.
The Celtics did it last season, when they were just average down the stretch before bouncing back to find their rhythm in the playoffs and get with a few possessions of winning another NBA championship. But for a veteran team – led by Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal and the playoff-experienced Rajon Rondo -- that has been through the wars and knows the importance of staying focused and consistent, it’s a red flag.
The Celtics had the killer instinct in 2007-08, when they won 66 regular-season games and the NBA title. A whopping 21 of those victories came by margins of 20 points or more.
They simply didn’t let many games slip away, as they did in Game 2 against Cleveland — dissolving a double-digit lead in the second half against one of the worst teams in the league.
The 2007-08 C’s started 20-2, winning by an average of 16 points and losing only to a pair of teams that reached the second round of the playoffs that season (the Orlando Magic and the LeBron James-led Cavaliers).
Meanwhile, this year’s edition of the Celtics has led all three of its games by double digits late in the third quarter, only to be playing meaningful minutes down to the buzzer.
Against the Heat, an 83-70 lead with four minutes to play dwindled to an 83-80 advantage in the final minute. Against the Cavs, the C’s turned a 66-55 third-quarter advantage into a 95-87 loss. And against the Knicks, Boston owned a 101-90 lead with two minutes left, only to be clinging to a 103-101 advantage in the final minute.
To further the issue, Burton points to tonight’s game as a potential defining moment for this season’s Celtics, especially considering they haven’t played since Friday night.
The Celtics will get another test of their focus on Tuesday, when they visit the Pistons on the road. A fierce playoff rival for the C’s as recently as 2008, Detroit was in the Lottery last year and aren’t expected to do much this year. Ben Gordon‘s and Co. are 0-3 right now, but two of those losses were down-to-the-wire games against playoff teams in Oklahoma City and Chicago. If the Celtics overlook Detroit — perhaps eyeing an upcoming stretch that has them home for the Bucks and Bulls before playing at OKC, Dallas and Miami — Gordon and Rodney Stuckey and the Pistons’ talented scorers will hand Doc Rivers another unexpected L.
Losses piling up are certainly a concern, but as the Celtics showed last year: For this team, what happens in the regular season stays in the regular season. The more concerning number — other than a potentially lower playoff seed — could be the mounting meaningful minutes.
The more games the Celtics are able to demonstrate a killer instinct — turning second-half, double-digit leads into certifiable blowouts down the stretch — the fewer minutes Rivers has to trot out his aged starters.
“I love sitting on the bench in the fourth quarter when you’ve got a blowout,” Ray Allen said in the preseason. “That means everybody as a team gets the opportunity to play. Everybody works hard throughout the week, so when you know guys get a chance to play that’s when you know you’ve got it.”
Which only stresses the killer instinct question: Do this season’s Celtics have IT?
MAGIC DON’T MATCH UP
What the Celtics do have — according to Orlando Sentinel‘s George Diaz — is a considerable matchup advantage against the Magic. In fact, the columnist essentially threw in the towel against the C’s and Heat just a few games into the season. Here’s a glimpse:
The Magic don’t have any players who can break down a defense by going one-on-one, unless Vince Carter steps into a Hot Tub Time Machine and it’s 1997 all over again.
Without one, they won’t have a prayer of beating the Celtics or the Heat in a playoff series.
It may sound like one man’s opinion, but it’s not. Even Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy owned up to that discrepancy after getting blown out by the Heat on Friday.
“Against a good defensive team we have trouble a little bit,” Van Gundy told the Sentinel. “We don’t have — and this isn’t to put down anybody in our locker room — but we don’t have the great one-on-one players. We don’t have Dwyane Wade and James and Pierce and Kobe Bryant.”
That’s got to be fairly eye-opening for any Orlando fan. I had my doubts about the Magic from the start, relaying recently a conversation I overheard at the Garden:
“How come you don’t believe in the Magic?” one guy said to another.
To which the other guy replied, “They still have Vince Carter, don’t they?”
|The Delonte West Timeline||10.29.10 at 4:34 pm ET|
Following HoopsWorld’s report that Delonte West and Von Wafer exchanged blows during a practice before tonight’s 7:30 p.m. game against the New York Knicks at the TD Garden, we put together a simple timeline of an offseason that explains a little why the Celtics may be considering dumping West even before he fulfills the 10-game suspension levied upon him this summer …
- July 15: On trial for six weapons charges from a 2009 traffic stop in Maryland, West pleaded guilty to carrying an eight-inch bowie knife and transporting a handgun on his motorcycle. He was sentenced to eight months of home detention, two months of probation and 40 hours of community service. As a result, NBA commissioner David Stern suspended West for the first 10 games of the 2010-11 season.
The Washington Post reported: “Three guns were found — a 9mm Beretta in West’s waistband, a Ruger .357 Magnum strapped to his leg, and a 12-gauge shotgun in a guitar case slung over his back, authorities said. West also had additional shotgun shells in a backpack, investigators said.”
- July 26: In the wake of “The Decision,” the Cleveland Cavaliers traded West — along with Sebastian Telfair — for Ramon Sessions and Ryan Hollins.
- August 3: In order to save $4.1 million in salary, the T-Wolves released West.
- September 1: The Celtics signed West to a non-guaranteed deal for the veteran minimum.
- September 27: Officially donning a Celtics uniform again on Media Day, West denied rumors that sufraced during the 2010 NBA Playoffs that he and LeBron James‘ mother, Gloria, had engaged in a relationship.
“Not at all,” he told reporters. “I come from an era where you don’t say nothing bad about someone’s parent, so not at all.”
- October 11: In an open diary to the public on ESPN.com, West praised the camaraderie of this veteran Celtics team. He also commented on his past:
“People make mistakes but that’s what life is,” West wrote. “You’ve got to learn from them and keep going. This team is here to win. The unselfishness stands out. Everyone is just submerging themselves within the team. It’s all about team here. That’s the type of player I am anyway, I’m always about the team. I put the team before my individual goals my whole career. It’s good to be on a team like this.”
- October 13: On a preseason road trip, the Celtics sent West back to Boston from New York to undergo testing for the back spasms that had been ailing him throughout training camp.
- October 22: Still healing from his lower back injury, West returned to practice in a limited fashion.
- October 24: In a game of 2-on-2 (West and Semih Erden vs. Wafer and Luke Harangody), West and Wafer exchanged words after West drove hard to the basket and scored consecutive baskets against Wafer — with West telling Wafer to “do something about it.”
- October 26: Shaquille O’Neal told ESPN’s Brian Windhorst that he encouraged Celtics vice president Danny Ainge to sign West, because the two had respect for each other as teammates in Cleveland.
“I know he won’t get out of line,” O’Neal told Windhorst. “There’s five or six guys that he truly respects here. Last year I don’t think he respected anybody but me on that team. So I was able to talk to him.”
“He got out of control a lot of times and usually when people get out of control they shut their buttons off to somebody they respect,” O’Neal added. “I know he respected me because I can get out of control too. I had to yoke (sic) him up once or twice, tell him to let it go bro.”
- October 26: In an interview with WEEI’s Big Show, Ainge admitted that the team considered the risks of re-signing West.
“I think everybody is aware that Delonte has had challenges off the court,” Ainge told The Big Show. We are trying to give him the support that he needs. The players that were with him before, our coach that was with him before and myself and ownership I think we were aware of that risk and I think we were comfortable with that risk.”
- October 29: Following a physical game of 3-on-3 in practice, Wafer returned to the locker room as West taunted him with obscenities, according to HoopsWorld. West allegedly threw a punch at Wafer in the locker room, leading to a scuffle. Now, Ainge is reportedly considering terminating West’s deal.
|Danny Ainge on the Big Show: C’s hope Shaq is ‘not a statue’ on court||10.26.10 at 5:50 pm ET|
Ainge said that his biggest concern about the roster is the risk of injury at the center position and that he expects the team to rely more on their bench depth. He also emphasized how important keeping Doc Rivers on the bench was.
“I can’t say how excited I am to have Doc back,” Ainge said. “I’m not sure our roster but our team there would be a lot of differences. I think the continuity is huge.”
Ainge also talked about the fact that the model the Miami Heat used to build their team this offseason would continue to be a possibility.
“The door is open just with free agency and I don’t know what’s going to happen as we move forward in collective bargaining,” Ainge said. “I think the door is open by us bringing in the Big Three and Miami doing a Big Three.”
Below are the highlights from the interview. To listen to the full audio visit the Big Show on demand audio page.
On his fears about this roster:
I think that I’m a little concerned with the health of our guys. But I feel I probably will be all year. But I’m excited about our team.
Is the idea to use deeper bench to get through the regular season?
Yeah, I think that is our objective to play more people. I’m not as concerned about Ray [Allen], Paul [Pierce] and KG [Kevin Garnett] and [Rajon] Rondo, the guys who are coming back. But our center position just because of [Kendrick] Perk [Perkins], Shaq [Shaquille O’Neal] and his age, and Jermaine [O’Neal] has got a lot of mileage there. That’s probably my biggest concern with the health.
On Marquis Daniels this year:
Marquis played, as you guys remember last year, played really well for us early on in the year. Then he got hurt and never really got in a rhythm. Although, in February he shot like 70% from the field. He had two or three road games out west that were spectacular. When we had Michael Finley come back and Nate Robinson come back and Tony [Allen] was coming back off an injury, there was just a logjam there. And Tony actually won that job back with his great defense. But Marquis has had a good training camp. When he’s gotten an opportunity to play and get in a rhythm off the bench and starting one of the preseason games, I think that he played really well and he’s had a good week of practice.
Ever seen anything like this opening night before?
I never have. Opening day is always a special day. Most places will sell out opening night. I think with some of the excitement that we have with our own team but obviously with Miami and maybe the most significant offseason in the history of any team. I get a kick out of those people who want to criticize Miami for doing something wrong. I think they had a pretty spectacular offseason. You can land some of the guys that they did in the free agent market, not just LeBron [James] and [Chris] Bosh who are very special players but some of the other players, they got some good guys too.
What are you expecting out of Shaquille O’Neal this year?
I hope he’s not a statue tonight. I hope he actually gets off the bench and moves a little bit and talks on defense. Shaq has been great so far, he’s been good in practice, he makes it out on the court almost every day and he’s fun in the locker room. So far he’s been good.
What was behind the decision to bring Delonte West back?
Well you know first of all I think Delonte was a favorite of a lot of people in Boston. He was a fun guy to watch, a lot of people embraced Delonte when he was here as a player. I think a lot of people, including our players, respect Delonte. Not only the guys that played with Delonte like Paul and Rajon and Perk but [they guys who] have been playing against him the last few years as an opponent, they have a great respect for him on the court. So yah I think everybody is aware that Delonte has had challenges off the court. We are trying to give him the support that he needs. The players that were with him before, our coach that was with him before and myself and ownership I think we were aware of that risk and I think we were comfortable with that risk.
On familiarity with West factoring into decision to bring him back:
Not only familiar but actually like him, find him enjoyable, at the same time troubled. What’s happened to Delonte over the past couple years is not shocking to any of us. We know that he has challenges of the court but we love what he brings to the court.
What would have been the difference in the roster if Doc Rivers had left?
It would be different. I’m not so sure if the face of our team would be different, I mean the roster. Paul really wanted to come back, he has his reasons to want to come back and Ray has his reasons to want to come back. So I’m not so sure if those things would have been different. But obviously our team would be different, the personality of the team would be different, the leadership of the team would be different. Doc is a great coach to lead these guys. I can’t say how excited I am to have Doc back. I’m not sure our roster but our team there would be a lot of differences. I think the continuity is huge.
On shelf life of this Celtics’ roster:
I think that none of us have the answer to that. I think that these guys based on how they played last year, they put together a seven to eight game streak in the Orlando [and] Cleveland series last year that was as good of seven or eight games stretch that any Celtic team has ever played, including the ‘08 team, that was two years younger and went on to win a championship. Last year’s team in the middle of that stretch was better than that 2008 team. I think that this team kind of earned the right to try it again.
How important is this game to you?
I think it’s important in that it gives you a real test of where you are, you will be able to tell that. I think that you both teams will show signs of greatness and teams will show signs of it being the first game, who makes the fewest mistakes. This is a team that you don’t want to make mistakes on because LeBron and Dwyane Wade are arguably two of the greatest open court players I’ve ever seen. Turnovers turn into automatic baskets in the other direction, so we have to take care of the ball.
What does this game really mean?
It is good theater. It is a real test. These are two of the top teams, not a lot of people talk about Orlando, Orlando is legit. Orlando is a really good basketball team. So they [Orlando] belong in the same conversation in my opinion. I guess they are getting away from getting all the hype on opening night. I think Miami and Boston are sure aware of Orlando as well.
On whether there is a different view on this season after last year’s results:
I don’t think so. Going into last season before the season started, our motto was win playoff games. With KG’s health starting the year last year and things that happened to Paul during the course of last season, we weren’t right. I do take a little offense to this turning on and turning off thing, I don’t think it works, I don’t think it worked last year. What people fail to realize is that we had number one or number two in the league in blowing fourth quarter, double-figure leads last year. To get a double-figure lead in L.A. against the Lakers at home, against Orlando, you got to show up to play, your just not finishing games for whatever reason. I don’t think that we had the resolve last year but we saw what the team is capable of in the playoffs. I hope this year we don’t have the health issues, or as many and I think we’ll be a better team because we’re deeper.
On whether other teams and players will emulate what Miami did in franchise:
The door is open just with free agency and I don’t know what’s going to happen as we move forward in collective bargaining. I think the door is open by us bringing in the Big Three and Miami doing a big three. New York for three years we heard about how they were creating space and nobody really talked about Miami till last year and Chicago. Teams can create space and opportunities fairly quickly, by trading away players and getting rid of assets to try to free up cap space. But there was only one Miami this year that came away with what everyone was seeking, it couldn’t be New Jersey, New York and Chicago.
|Irish Coffee: Ta-Ta Tony Allen||10.19.10 at 10:48 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …
Tony Allen left for greener pastures. Green as in the color of cash; definitely not Celtics green. How can you blame him? After all, his list of injuries reads like a children’s song: ankles, knees and thumbs, so his earning potential could go at any moment — like a post-whistle dunk attempt.
He signed a three-year, $9.7 million contract with the Memphis Grizzlies. He wasn’t going to get that from the Celtics. And he was never going to play more than 20 minutes — maybe not even 15 — for this year’s C’s squad. So, why not sign with the Grizzlies?
“I was definitely overshadowed,” Allen told The Tulsa World. “Anybody would have been overshadowed considering those Hall of Fame prolific-type scorers that they had.”
He played 18.3 minutes per game for the 2007-08 Celtics team that won the NBA title and 16.5 minutes for last year’s team that reached the finals. He’s gotta be able to play more than that for a franchise that’s never won a playoff game, right? Wrong.
“I don’t think it’s smart,” Memphis head coach Lionel Hollins also told The Tulsa World. “What would you rather do? Win and play 15 minutes a game? Or you may not win as much and play 15 minutes a game. My thing is I would rather play on a winning team and have a chance to win championships — and get a playoff share too.”
Ouch. Getting thrown under the bus by his own coach isn’t going to help Allen’s injury woes.
THE GREAT POINT GUARD DEBATE
There’s a recent theory going around the blogosphere: Should you build your team around a point guard? That’s a big question for Celtics fans, considering two years from now that’s exactly what Danny Ainge will be challenged to do. Other than what will be a 35-year-old Paul Pierce, the only current player guaranteed to play for the 2012-13 Celtics is Rajon Rondo.
|Irish Coffee: Big ‘Swoll’ Baby; NBA goes Euro||10.08.10 at 9:48 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Um, Ok, Big Baby, whatever you say. Is it just me, or is anybody else confused as to what Glen Davis is saying here to NBA TV …
“Everybody on the East Coast watch out. We’re coming. Working hard on the elliptical. Get a nice burn before practice. Get rid of some of this body fat. They ain’t gonna call me Big Baby no more. They gonna call me Big ‘Swoll’ Baby.”
I’m not gonna lie, I actually had to consult UrbanDictionary.com on this one. They define “swoll” as “to be muscular, jacked, strong, etc.” (I also love their use of it in a sentence: “Man, I’m mo swoll than AC Slater“).
So, to get this straight, Davis no longer wanted to be called Big Baby, so last season he suggested Uno Uno, and now he wants to be called Big Swoll Baby. I think I’ve got it now.
The buffer Davis led all Celtics scorers with 20 points in last night’s 96-92 preseason victory against the Nets. Once again, the C’s second unit looked sharp, as Nate Robinson added 17 points and Delonte West scored 12 before leaving in the third quarter with discomfort in his lower back.
If you’ll recall, West missed Monday’s practice with lower back spasms. Not to worry, he stressed.
“I came in at halftime and felt my lower back pinching,” West told ESPN.com. “It’s real minor, but the muscle back there was tightening up and I think the tension was pinching the nerve, maybe. It was real uncomfortable. You saw me out there stretching before I went in for the third quarter, I just couldn’t move the way I wanted to. It’s just precautionary.”
LAKERS NO LONGER WORLD CHAMPIONS
NBA Commissioner David Stern made a bold prediction yesterday: “We’re going to have, really, our most successful season. … I think you’re going to be getting to see some of the greatest basketball ever played.” He made the statement prior to a game between Euroleague champ FC Barcelona and the NBA champion Lakers.
The Spanish team actually defeated the Lakers, 92-88, adding fire to the debate: Should the NBA champs face off against the Euroleague champs in a battle for world domination?
Stern: “I would guess that we will be in continued discussions with our friends at the Euroleague about an expansion of this possibility.”
Euroleague CEO Jordi Bertomeu: “To us, it is something we would like to happen. We would like it because that would mean that we would have met the circumstances, both sporting and economic, to make a game like that possible. We can only hope and expect, and I do, that with the work of our clubs and teams, those conditions will be met. In the event that those conditions are met, and continuing the same collaborations we have had so far between the Euroleague and the NBA, I am sure such a game would be a possibility.”
Jackson: “They’re not up to the competition that we face night in and night out. But that’s not taking anything away from them. The physicality of our game, the size of our players, those are things that night in and night out are very difficult to contest.”
Bryant: “I think they execute extremely well, they know each other extremely well, they move the ball extremely well and that’s what you’re looking for. In the NBA, teams that do that are few and far in between, teams that play together as a unit. You see a lot of isolation game; you see a lot of guys going one-on-one. They do a great job moving the ball, they do a great job helping each other defensively, so I disagree, but, what do I know?”
Bryant hit just 2-of-15 shots in the loss to Barcelona. As we all know, failing to perform in championship games is nothing new to Kobe. Remember his 6-for-24 performance in the final game of the 2010 NBA Finals? Of course. How could you forget?
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