|Fast Break: Pacers win ugly, end Celtics’ four-game win streak||01.06.12 at 9:57 pm ET|
The Celtics started the game with their worst offensive half in franchise history and never recovered. Despite lingering around for much of the game, Darren Collison‘s 3-pointer with a minute and a half to play finally put a nail in the coffin on a 87-74 Pacers victory that ended the C’s four-game winning streak and left them with plenty of questions to answer during a four-day layoff before they welcome the defending champion Mavericks to town on Wednesday night.
WHAT WENT WRONG
The first half: The 6-year-olds who played at halftime in the Garden had a better shooting night than the Celtics did in the first half. The C’s matched a franchise low, scoring 25 points on 9-of-34 shooting (26.5%) in the opening 24 minutes, heading to the locker room to a smattering of boos from the home crowd. Paul Pierce was 1-of-9 from the floor at the break. As our own Mike Petraglia noted, the Celtics had only totaled 25 points in a half twice before in franchise history during the shot clock era. It’s a good thing Indiana only shot 13-of-39 (33.3%) for 33 points.
Cleaning the glass: The Pacers had more rebounds at halftime (30) than the C’s had points. David West, who got booed mercilessly almost every time he touched the ball, didn’t help matters, totaling double-digit boards and adding insult to injury after spurning Boston for Indiana during the free agency period. The Pacers out-rebounded the C’s, 47-36, including a 14-7 advantage on the offensive end.
Not benching much: The bench, including Brandon Bass (5 points, 2-7 FG), got outscored by their Pacers counterparts 33-14. Marquis Daniels‘ offensive woes continued, as evidenced by a wide-open missed layup on a scoreless night.
|Live Blog: Celtics take on David West and the Pacers||at 7:30 pm ET|
|Ian Thomsen on M&M: Expect more Rajon Rondo trade rumors||12.22.11 at 2:04 pm ET|
Sports Illustrated NBA writer Ian Thomsen joined Mut & Merloni Thursday to talk about the Celtics, who open the season in New York on Christmas Day.
Thomsen said the early part of the NBA season likely will be tough to watch, following a shortened preseason.
“It will be a lot like April baseball when it’s freezing cold and no one really wants to be out there, including the fans,” Thomsen said. “And then, how many empty seats are we going to see? All the fans that didn’t renew their season tickets, not knowing what the NBA was going to be, if they were going to have a season, not knowing if they wanted to support the team even if they did come back.
“It’s going to be a lot of interesting things to watch for, and almost none of them are positive over the first month, I would say. By the end of the year, I would think the NBA’s hoping everybody forgets all about all of this. Right now, it’s just really interesting to see how it plays out.”
However, Thomsen said he can’t fault the owners for pushing to start the season on Christmas.
“I think this was the right thing to do,” he said. “People are complaining about it, for sure. ‘¦ This was all part of trying to save as much of the season as they could. To me, the greater good was served by that.”
Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
On the Celtics’ near acquisition of David West and why West chose instead to go the Pacers: “They thought they were going to get him. And it would have been a huge get. Now, would he have been lost a little bit here? What was his role going to be alongside Garnett? The talk was Kevin Garnett would shift over to center and then David West would be the power forward. But everyone knows that Kevin doesn’t like to play around the basket. And even now, when Doc [Rivers] says he wants Kevin to be more of a scorer, he’s not saying he has to go inside.
“Maybe from David West’s point of view, where was he going to play? Because this was Kevin Garnett’s team. David West isn’t going to come in and take over for Kevin Garnett this year. So, what were their roles going to be? They sort of play on the same areas on the floor. Maybe that was a big part of it. Whereas if he goes to Indiana, he can take a team that’s on the rise, make them better. They barely made the playoffs last year. They should be much better this year. They have a great coaching staff. It’s not the Celtics. It’s not nearly as close as that. But maybe he can establish himself again coming off knee surgery. After his two-year deal’s up, he can go get another big contract. But they thought they had him, for sure.”
On Rajon Rondo trade rumors: “At times there may be complaints from Danny Ainge that he’s not generating it. But I think he wouldn’t be doing his job if he wasn’t generating it. He should be generating it. He should be trying to figure out what can be done to make the team better. And really, the only thing he has going for him right now is cap space, the chance to play with Paul Pierce, who isn’t going to be traded, and then the ability to trade Rondo. What else does he have? What other assets does he have? So, I think we’re going to be hearing more of it. There’s just no way around it.”
On the C’s improved depth: “It’s really not a bad bench. It compares pretty well to the other second units they’ve had. And if Jeff Green was there, it would be even better. It’s not a bunch of old guys. Keyon Dooling, Chris Wilcox, Marquis [Daniels], Brandon Bass, Avery Bradley, E’Twaun Moore, who looks like he’s going to be able to play a little bit — all these guys, they can come in and do some things to help them.
“What they don’t have is size. It’s the weakest group of big men they’ve had since they brought in Garnett and Ray Allen to go with Pierce. Jermaine O’Neal has a long history of not being able to stay healthy. And Chris Wilcox is an athletic big man but doesn’t have the low-post skills you’d like to have coming off the bench. That might be an issue. Brandon Bass is height deficient like Big Baby [Glen Davis] was. That’s really going to be a problem for them. Really, the bench is OK. The problem is the age of the players that are going to define the team.”
|Irish Coffee: Celtics sour grapes over David West||12.20.11 at 11:06 am ET|
Ainge reportedly offered a sign-and-trade package of Jermaine O’Neal and a younger player to the Hornets for West, who would then be signed to a three-year, $29 million deal, according to ESPN.com’s Jackie MacMullan.
Instead, Bird signed the free agent to a two-year, $20 million contract, offering a higher annual value and a shorter window until West’s next free agency period, when he likely wouldn’t be coming off reconstructive knee surgery.
“Once it got down to the end, I think his ego kicked back in,” Allen told MacMullan. “He wanted the dollars. I guess it comes down to ‘What is a championship worth to you?’ Think of all the guys who have made $20 million and could be considered one of the best ever, but they get chided because they never won. We [the Big Three] all had to do less when we won. We’re still taking less to make it work. But it’s worth it. No one can ever say to KG [Kevin Garnett], Paul [Pierce] or me, ‘You guys never got your ring.'”
“I’m very disappointed,” Rivers told Jackie Mac, “but we’re moving on with the guys we have.”
|Larry Bird vs. Danny Ainge for David West||12.11.11 at 2:45 am ET|
It’s not true that it’s part of the new NBA bylaws that everything has to happen after midnight on weekends, but once again the league descended into chaos after the Lakers pulled out of the Chris Paul sweepstakes. While the Celtics could try to get themselves back in, it’s unclear how they could improve their offer to New Orleans after the Hornets resisted overtures throughout the process. The Clippers also reportedly emerged as the frontrunners for Paul.
Of more immediate concern is the Celtics other deal with New Orleans for free agent forward David West. Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported early Sunday morning that the Celtics competition for West is none other than Indiana, whose team president is Larry Bird.
According to Woj’s report, the Celtics have offered Jermaine O’Neal along with possibly JaJuan Johnson and/or E’Twaun Moore in a sign-and-trade for West. Neither rookie has practiced with the team yet or signed their contracts, making them eligible for a deal. O’Neal essentially confirmed the reports when he spoke candidly about not wanting to play for a team that isn’t a contender after Celtics practice on Saturday.
“If I go somewhere else it won’t be a losing team,” O’Neal said. “That wouldn’t make any sense. If it was a deal with New Orleans, I’m sure there would be a third team. My stop wouldn’t be to New Orleans. They’re not trying to get older.”
Celtics coach Doc Rivers talked gingerly about the possibility of a deal after practice on Saturday but wouldn’t comment on any specifics. “I hope there’s a possibility of that but I don’t know it,” Rivers said. “Some of the decisions are in the player’s hands.”
Here’s where it gets complicated. According to Wojnarowski, the Celtics offer is a 3-year deal in the $24-25 million range with the fourth year likely only partially guaranteed. The Pacers, meanwhile, have offered a 2-year deal for a higher annual salary. Resolution is expected as early as Sunday.
The 31-year-old West had surgery on a torn ACL suffered last March that cost him the final 12 games of the regular season and the playoffs. When healthy, West is a skilled offensive player who averaged 19 points last season and has made two All-Star appearances. He would provide an inside-out threat that includes an underrated post game.
The Celtics have been loading up on power forwards, acquiring Brandon Bass and Chris Wilcox and seemed content to move away using a traditional center. Rivers said on Saturday that he was would pair Kevin Garnett up with forwards more this season.
“Kevin will play some five this year, which honestly I don’t think is a problem at all,” Rivers said. “You can play him and Bass together. Either one can guard the five or the four so it makes us pretty versatile.”
Asked if the team needed a center, Rivers said, “If we don’t have one, I’m not upset by that. I’ll always take one so if you can find one for me please help out. If we have enough fours who can play both [positions] and we have enough fouls we can get away with it.”
A healthy West would help cement that strategy, which could be an effective counter against teams like Miami, who also don’t use a traditional center. Additionally, an ESPN.com report said that the Lakers have turned their attention to acquiring Dwight Howard, who earlier in the day told the Magic that he would like to be traded to New Jersey.
Short of acquiring both Paul and Howard themselves, which seems like an extreme longshot, if the Celtics add West and the two superstars wind up on different teams in the Western Conference, that ultimately might be the best-case scenario for the Celtics in this chaotic environment.