|Kevin Garnett: ‘I would never be insensitive’||11.03.10 at 4:48 pm ET|
I am aware there was a major miscommunication regarding something I said on the court last night. My comment to Charlie Villanueva was in fact ‘You are cancerous to your team and our league.’ I would never be insensitive to the brave struggle that cancer patients endure. I have lost loved ones to this deadly disease and have a family member currently undergoing treatment. I would never say anything that distasteful. The game of life is far bigger than the game of basketball.
Garnett’s version of the story is far more tame than Villanueva’s claim on Twitter that KG called him “a cancer patient.”
Side note: If KG’s take is accurate, I’ve got to say … that’s some pretty good trash talk. And shame on Villanueva for not only taking to Twitter — but misconstruing Garnett’s message. It’ll be interesting to hear Villanueva’s reaction to KG’s reaction.
|The Three-Pointer: Backup Bigs Boost C’s||11.02.10 at 10:43 pm ET|
And they responded.
Getting his first start of the season, Jermaine O’Neal totaled 12 points in 21 minutes during last night’s 109-86 win over the Detroit Pistons, despite dealing with a few nagging injuries that kept him out of Friday night’s game against the New York Knicks.
From the start, J.O. set an early tone with aggressive defense — blocking two first-quarter shots while also picking up a pair of fouls that kept him from completely getting into a rhythm.
As a result, O’Neal started slow offensively, but kept finding open spots. Eventually, his knack to find the right place was rewarded by Rajon Rondo at the right times — leading to a 5-of-8 shooting night.
In O’Neal’s absence, Erden also blocked a pair of Pistons attempts, picked up three rebounds and ran the floor for a wide-open dunk. The latter was a shining example of the energy the Turk played with throughout his 15 minutes on the floor.
Most importantly, Erden looked as though he belonged on an NBA floor.
The first-half play of Erden could be the best sign for the Celtics future, as he showed that the potential to spell both O’Neals — who, as we know, will need their share of spelling. That leaves Glen Davis to continue giving Kevin Garnett his rest, limiting minutes for all three veteran big men over the course of the 82-game season.
Of course, any excitement over the play of J.O. and Semih last night can be tempered by the fact that they played the Pistons, who by the looks of things should be one of the worst five teams in the league.
It’s important to note, too, that both bigs faded as the game went on. Erden did all of his damage in the first half, and O’Neal grabbed only two rebounds in his time on the floor. It’s no coincidence that Shaq’s absence led to the Celtics getting out-rebounded for the first time all season.
But it was a start — literally, a start in place of Perkins and Shaq. And any time the C’s can win without those two, it’s a good sign. After all, that’s what they’re here for.
WHAT IS RONDO’S CEILING?
In the last 28 seasons, only nine players have led the NBA in assists: John Stockton (9 seasons), Jason Kidd (5 seasons), Steve Nash (4 seasons), Magic Johnson (4 seasons), Chris Paul (2 seasons) Isaiah Thomas (once), Mark Jackson (once), Rod Strickland (once) and Andre Miller (once).
Of those nine players, only Stockton managed to average 12 assists or more. Through the first four games, Rondo has totaled 67 assists, and nobody in the history of the league has done that. He totaled 17 assists last night, and his average only moved from 16.5 to 16.8 per game.
Currently, only one other player in the NBA is averaging more than 10 assists, and that’s Kidd at 11.7. There’s no doubt that Rondo’s departure from the USA team and all the talk about who’s the best point guard in the league –Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose – lit a fire under the Celtics point guard.
And did anybody else notice Rondo’s pull-up, knock-down, 17-foot jumper in the first half? If he ever gets that going, there’s no telling how good he’ll be this season. I’m talking MVP consideration. Even without the scoring — just 10.8 points per game — he’s already the story of this NBA season (unless you count the off-the-court hype of the Miami Heat).
WANTED: DELONTE WEST
The Celtics got little to nothing from their backup guards behind Rondo and Ray Allen. The starting duo combined for 25 points and 20 assists. Von Wafer and Nate Robinson? They combined for a whopping four points in 27 minutes between them.
Marquis Daniels has really been the lone bright spot at guard from the bench. He totaled nine points and four rebounds, but Doc has used him mainly at the 3 in smaller lineups this season.
Simply based on their play, we should’ve known better than to think Danny Ainge might cut Delonte West after his reported scuffle with Wafer late last week. I’m sure Doc is counting the games until West can return to the lineup. He’s now served four games of the 10-game suspension.
|Fast Break: Rondo, C’s pound Pistons||at 10:04 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo became the only player in NBA history to record 67 assists through four games, leading the Celtics to a 109-86, wire-to-wire victory over the winless Detroit Pistons. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce scored 22 and 21 points for the C’s (3-1), respectively, as five Boston players reached double figures.
THREE THINGS THAT WENT RIGHT
1. Taking care of the ball: After averaging 19 turnovers in their first three games, the Celtics committed just two turnovers in the first half and eight for the entire game.
Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett had been the C’s biggest culprits, averaging nine giveaways between them through three contests. Last night, though, neither committed a turnover in a total of 69 minutes on the floor.
2. Spread the wealth: The Celtics totaled 33 assists on 42 field goals in the victory. Rondo, of course, led the way with 17 dishes, while Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Nate Robinson each chipped in three dimes.
By contrast, the Pistons managed just 11 assists on 35 field goals for the game. Detroit’s starting point guard, Rodney Stuckey, had just two assists in 38 minutes on the floor.
3. They played the Pistons: Facing little to nothing in the way of defense, the Celtics shot 51 percent from the field, scoring 67 of their 109 points in the paint. KG and Pierce combined to shoot 17-of-25 from the floor (68 percent), getting open look after open look around the basket. Of course, it also helped that the Celtics made all 18 of their free throws on the night.
THREE THINGS THAT WENT WRONG
1. Technical difficulty: While Glen Davis played well – totaling 10 points and five rebounds in 23 minutes – he picked up a technical midway through the first quarter. Doc Rivers was noticeably upset, as the C’s are attempting to make a concerted effort not to pick up cheap techs as a result of the new rules.
2. Getting out-rebounded: Rivers has made rebounding a focus for the Celtics early in the season, and they had owned a plus-six margin entering last night’s game. However, the Pistons out-rebounded the Celtics, 38-36. No Celtics reached double digits in rebounds, as KG led the team with six.
3. Bench depth: Big contributions from Big Baby off the bench have become an expectation, and he delivered again. But other than a few bright spots from Semih Erden, the C’s got very little from the rest of their reserves – as Marquis Daniels, Nate Robinson, Von Wafer, Luke Harangody and Erden combined for 19 points in 61 total minutes.
The lack of contribution from the bench led to the Pistons nearly bringing a 20-point lead to single digits – forcing Rivers to bring the starters back in for the majority of the fourth quarter.
|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.
|One year later: The tweet that impacted the NBA||03.15.10 at 11:22 pm ET|
One year ago Monday, then-Milwaukee forward Charlie Villanueva entered the locker room during halftime of the Bucks-Celtics game. He logged into Twitter and posted the following tweet:
@CV31: In da locker room, snuck to post my twitt. We’re playing the Celtics, tie ball game at da half. Coach wants more toughness. I gotta step up.
Those hundred-something characters opened the virtual book on social networking in the NBA. His midgame tweet was frowned upon, and it created a ripple effect: Before the start of this season, a league-wide policy was enacted. Among its guidelines included the restriction of cell phones and other communication devices 45 minutes before the game and prohibited it during halftime.
A year later, Villanueva, now a member of the Pistons, is still surprised by the impact.
‘It’s funny, because Twitter wasn’t really that big of a deal, like nobody really knew too much about it,’ he told WEEI.com following Monday’s Pistons-Celtics game. ‘I didn’t know it was going to get that much attention. I just did it, fun for the fans and whatnot, and the next day it just blew up. The media just took it and ran with it.
“Obviously I didn’t mean for it to get that much attention, but hey, it put my name out there even more,’ he added with a laugh.
As of Monday night, Villanueva had 73,685 followers. It is a huge jump from his following a year ago. In an instant, he went from a Twitter novice to one of the early faces of social media in the NBA.
‘It was crazy because I had just started, too,’ he said. ‘I probably had like 2,000 followers at first. It was probably a couple of months old, two or three months old, my account. After that, it rose to like 13,000 in two or three days. It was ridiculous. Ever since, it’s just been picking up.’
Villanueva has turned a potential negative into a positive by taking advantage of the benefits of social networking. He has raised awareness for charitable organizations, held contests for his followers to win game tickets, and spread well wishes to friends and fans alike.
‘There are a lot of opportunities,’ he explained. ‘You get to meet a lot of people. It’s very important for networking, just opportunities come abound, appearances, they can just work directly with you instead of going through a third party.’
Twitter has become the norm for many NBA players. On the Celtics, Paul Pierce (@paulpierce34) has over 1.5 million followers, Ray Allen (@greenRAYn20) has nearly 25,000, and Shelden Williams (@SheldenWilliams) is a frequent tweeter with over 10,000 followers.
Now a seasoned vet, Villanueva has some advice for his fellow NBA athletes who are starting out in the world of social networking.
‘What the fans want to see is you being straight up and interacting with them as well,’ he suggested. ‘Showing pictures as well, they want to see what’s going on, what an NBA player does on a day-to-day basis.’
Tweeting has become something Villanueva does on a day-to-day basis. Except during halftime, of course.
|Fast Break: Celtics – Pistons||at 9:42 pm ET|
No one on the Celtics scored more than 15 points yet they beat the Pistons by 26, 119-93, on Monday in Boston.
The victory was a total team effort, the kind of win the Celtics needed after their leadership had been critiqued. Ray Allen said the team has “a bunch of leaders,” and showed up on Monday. Every player on the C’s scored.
Allen, Michael Finley, and Paul Pierce scored 15 points apiece; Kevin Garnett scored 14; Glen Davis contributed 13; and Kendrick Perkins and Marquis Daniels each added 11. (Rajon Rondo scored just three points and dished six assists.) The Celtics shot 62.2 percent from the field, 0.1 percent away from their season high.
Player of the Game: Finley was the spark plug off the bench the Celtics have needed. He started off shooting a perfect 3-for-3 and finished the game 6-for-7 from the field and 3-for-4 from behind the arc. Finley’s 15 was the most he has scored since October 20, 2009 when he posted 20 against the Thunder in preseason action.
Turning Point: After being tied 6-6 five minutes into the game, the Celtics went on a 14-3 run early in the first quarter. They got up by as many as 18 early on and never gave up their lead.
– Tayshaun Prince left the game with 4:53 remaining in the third after hitting his lower back against Jason Maxiell’s knee while fighting for a rebound. A timeout was called as Prince lay on the court and received medical attention. He was eventually helped off by the Pistons staff and did not return to the game.
– Before the game, Doc Rivers affirmed that he is not giving up on the Celtics. ‘I don’t care how frustrating it gets for me,’ he said. ‘I see it, and if you see it or not, I see it and I’m going to get it out of you. And that’s what I told them after the game [Sunday]. I don’t know how but I will get it out of you.’ Rivers also pointed out Rasheed Wallace and Marquis Daniels and said both players could be more productive. Wallace posted 8 points and 4 rebounds; Daniels contributed 11 points and 5 boards.
– Tony Allen set Nate Robinson up for an alley-oop dunk off the backboard with 43.5 seconds left. Despite drawing a standing O from the crowd, Robinson was called for a technical for hanging on the rim.
|Third Quarter: Celtics – Pistons||at 9:08 pm ET|
The Pistons outscored the Celtics, 33-25, in the third quarter, but the C’s are still holding on a commanding lead heading into the fourth. They are up 89-70 after three.
The Celtics are shooting an impressive 55.9 percent from the field. However, they let the Pistons shoot 12-for-17 in the quarter. Jonas Jerebko was on a mission to get his back in the game. He scored all of his 10 points in the third, many coming at the basket. Kevin Garnett scored eight for the Celtics.
Kendrick Perkins was called for a technical foul. It was his 14th of the season and second of the month.
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