|Opinion: Appreciate Rajon Rondo while you can||11.30.12 at 7:37 am ET|
No Celtics player has been the topic of more discussion this season. The man with the assist streak has been a lightning rod for Boston sports fans. Reading the blogs and listening to talk radio before the game, one heard that Rondo either was the best point guard in the NBA or a mercurial, self-serving diva who never could be the centerpiece of a championship team.
Then the game started. These days, at the Garden, a fan’s attention is locked in two places. The first is the video scoreboard, where the fan cam runs on an endless loop. The second is Rajon Rondo.
Like any special player in the NBA, Rondo captivates an audience. He sees the court differently, and plays with a style completely unique to the NBA. For each of Rondo’s strengths — his handle, his ability to get to wherever he wants on the floor, his vision, and his passing — he has a weakness. Both the strengths and weaknesses are discussed with equal enthusiasm.
In the first half, the best and worst of Rondo was on full display. He had no trouble getting deep into the lane on a Brooklyn team that had Brook Lopez at center and Kris Humphries at power forward. On one fast-break sequence, Rondo went coast-to-coast before leaving his feet for a layup under the basket, only to wrap the ball around a defender to an unsuspecting Brandon Bass. A potential dunk ended up as a turnover, and talk of Rondo’s predisposition to pass rather than shoot could be heard throughout the arena. On another possession, Rondo attempted to beat the shot clock by driving the lane, only to get his shot blocked by Humphries. On a later defensive possession, Rondo played his typical turnstile man-to-man defense as Deron Williams drove the lane. Rondo slapped at the opposing point guard’s hands after he was beat, putting Williams on the line.
The tough part for Rondo was the entire first half played out that way. He set up teammates for shots, and they missed. He struggled on the defensive end. With about four minutes left in the half, Rondo had three assists. He was off pace in his quest for his 38th consecutive game with 10 or more assists.
Then Humphries fouled Kevin Garnett under the basket. Then Rondo snapped.
There is no bigger disparity in the opinions of Rondo than in the people who attend Celtics games and those who watch on TV — or perhaps don’t watch at all.
When Rondo pushed Humphries under the basket and the confrontation spilled into the seats, the arena erupted. It wasn’t much of a fight, but it was the first time a Celtic had pushed back all night. As tough as Garnett has been throughout his career, he now is a veteran who gets calls by absorbing contact and jerking away suddenly. For much of the first half, the Nets initiated contact, and the Celtics got the calls. Often, Nets players shook their heads, almost surprised that this is how the Celtics want to play now.
But Rondo woke up the crowd. At the conclusion of the scuffle, fans rose to their feet and started a “Let’s go Celtics” chant. They cheered when Humphries and Gerald Wallace were ejected. They booed when Rondo was ejected. There wasn’t a whole lot of discussion about Rondo’s maturity. Until the next day.
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|Doc Rivers: ‘We’re in no rush’ to change the roster||11.29.12 at 10:24 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Yes, things are not great right now. Yes, there are big questions about the Celtics‘ ability to rebound and handle themselves in the paint. And yes, they just got manhandled by the Nets on the parquet.
But Doc RIvers said Thursday that he and Celtics basketball operations chief Danny Ainge aren’t about to give up on this group quite yet, though if a player or two is out there that can help they’d consider everything and anything.
“If there somebody out there, we’re obviously going to bring them in,” Rivers said. “But we’re in no rush. We’re not going to overreact to the way we’re playing. We’re not playing well. Let’s not overreact to it by trading the team, or trading guys. Let’s see if we can get it right first.”
The name that comes to mind is 34-year-old free agent Kenyon Martin, the 6-foot-9 power forward who played most recently for the Clippers last spring, helping them make a run in the playoffs.
Still, Rivers believes what he has right now can work.
“I’ve seen it,” Rivers said. “I saw it in the Oklahoma game. It’s in us but what I don’t know about our team are we one of those teams that we can’t be consistent. If we are one of those teams, then we do have to make changes because we have to be consistent.”
On Thursday, after practice, he expanded upon those thoughts and clarified himself.
“We don’t work on toughness, we work on smartness,” Rivers said. “We work on being prepared and playing with a force. Listen, the toughness stuff is so overblown. You can’t be tough anyway. I don’t know who is tough anymore. Having said that, we have to be better. I have to prepare them better. They have to come ready. They have to come with the right intentions, the right focus. So, there’s a lot of things we can improve to improve our team.
“It’s a long season to do it. But you can’t wait to do it. You have to do it now.”
“We’re getting mauled on the rebounds every night. So, if I’m another coach, I have to tell my team, ‘Guys, they’re not very physical. they’re not blocking out, they’re not putting bodies on anybody. You can attack this team.’ Until we stop the attack, they’re going to keep doing it.”
Rivers, who played for the Hawks, Knicks and Spurs, made it clear he doesn’t need or want Rajon Rondo to be an enforcer to show the Celtics are the right kind of tough.
“I don’t know if I want to rally around my 6-foot guard being the enforcer. That’s nice but at the end of the day, if that’s the threat you’re sending, the other team has to feel [good]. Listen, the message should’ve been sent by the scoreboard and the offensive rebounds and all the talking the other team was doing. That should’ve been the message. If that’s got to be the message, then we’ve got real problems.
“I was a leader on some teams, I wasn’t on other teams. I didn’t need anybody to tell me to do things right. At some point, you have to do it yourself.”
In the aftermath of the brawl between Rajon Rondo and Kris Humphries, Celtics guard Courtney Lee claimed the Nets “threw the first punch” during the C’s fourth home loss in eight tries this season. He was speaking figuratively, of course, but the Celtics suffered — literally.
Lee (elbow) and Jeff Green (knee) both left the game with injuries, and each returned in the fourth quarter.
“I’m fine,” said Lee, who had no ice on his left elbow as he talked to reporters after the loss. “I’m fine. It was my elbow. My whole arm was stinging, so I didn’t know what was hurt, but after awhile, it wore off and I was fine.”
Meanwhile, Green limped through the locker room — his sprained right knee wrapped in a protective bandage. Celtics coach Doc Rivers told The Dennis & Callahan Morning Show he “didn’t think” Green was hurt, and team personnel confirmed Green’s return to action indicated nothing serious, but he’ll be re-evaluated Thursday.
|Doc Rivers tells Kevin Garnett to remind the team: ‘Hey, I’m here’ on offense||11.28.12 at 9:37 am ET|
WALTHAM — Sometimes on a team with so many options, it helps to remind your teammates what you can do for them.
Recently, the Celtics head coach told his superstar big man that he needs to remind his teammates that he can still score in the post. As a matter of fact, the numbers would indicate he’s the number one offensive option, even ahead of Paul Pierce.
The 36-year-old Garnett had 24 points on 10-of-17 shooting from the floor in a season-high 36 minutes in Sunday’s overtime win in Orlando. He also had 10 rebounds. Garnett is shooting 51.5 percent from the floor, second only to Rajon Rondo (51.7). He is the leading rebounder by far at 7.4 per game.
Rivers will usually talk to the team about making sure they look at Garnett in the low post because he can create his offense from so many places and he’s still one of the best passers among bigs in the NBA. But Rivers told Garnett that the coach can’t always be the one to do the talking.
“He has to remind them, too. I tell him that. I tell him that in front of the team. It’s both of us. I’ll tell him that you have to say, ‘Hey, I’m here.’ It goes both ways.”
Brandon Bass knows that when Garnett gets it going, it helps out others in the post, like him.
“I just think it’s important for us every night to get Kevin going early and when do that, we actually play better and [usually] win,” Bass said. “We have so many guys and so many options that sometimes we might lose sight but we can’t because he’s so important to the team.”
|Jeff Green: ‘Being aggressive’ turns out to be his niche||11.24.12 at 9:47 am ET|
Green went out and make Rivers look very smart as he scored 17 points and showed a driving and cutting game not seen in his game this year as the Celtics beat the Thunder, 108-100, Friday night at TD Garden.
‘I was aggressive, attacking the rim,” Green said. “Just trying to make plays, and you know got to the free throw line a couple times. Got an and one, just being aggressive that’s what I gotta do. I just gotta find my niche and I just gotta to work at it and continue to stay positive and continue to be aggressive.’
The reason Rivers wanted Green to play instinctively was because he knows how good he can be when plays break down.
“I thought Jeff Green was spectacular,” Rivers said. It’s funny, I think the two plays that I called for him. He didn’t score on those. He scored on all the plays that wasn’t his and that’s what we kept telling him he has to do. Stop waiting for us to call it, go get it, and I thought he did that. A lot of good efforts.”
‘You still gotta do what you gotta do and you do whatever it takes for your team to win,’ Green said.
Green even helped out on defending Kevin Durant, guarding him when the second unit was on the floor.
‘He still got 29 [points], Green said out of humility. “We just tried to make every shot for him tough. He’s [darn] near seven feet, but the handle that he’s got and the way he can shoot it’s tough. So you just gotta make every shot for him tough.’
Making him work defensively-‘You got to, you got to. You gotta make him play both ends. We got him in foul trouble. We gotta be aggressive, we can’t allow him to relax at all on the defensive end.’
What did Green learn about how good the Celtics can be?
‘We are one hell of a defensive team when we are in sync and that’s how we gotta be each game,’ Green said.
|Doc Rivers: ‘We played with great force’ in win over Thunder||11.23.12 at 11:42 pm ET|
Doc Rivers watched his team register its most significant win of the season Friday night, overcoming an early nine-point deficit and withstanding a late charge to beat the defending Western Conference champion Thunder, 108-100, at TD Garden.
‘The biggest difference is this time they scores 100 and we scored 108,” Rivers said, referencing the 112-100 loss to the Spurs on Wednesday at the Garden. “It’s the same game really. I told the guys at halftime and even after the game, that was the Celtics. That’s the team that we’ve been looking for, but can we continue to do it. We’ve got to do it over and over again. I thought there were some mistakes made, we kept playing. There were some runs, we kept playing. They made a run, we kept playing. No hanging heads, yelling at each other. We played through all clutter, it was like a clutter free game, for us. That’s who we have to be.”
“I thought Jeff Green was spectacular tonight,” Rivers said. “It’s funny, I think the two plays that I called for him. He didn’t score. He scored on all the plays that wasn’t his and that’s what we kept telling him he has to do. Stop waiting for us to call it, go get it, and I thought he did that tonight. A lot of good efforts. I thought our bench was huge. I thought [Leandro] Barbosa, it’s funny he didn’t score a point, and I thought his defensive pressure was extremely effective tonight. He has that reputation of being an offensive player. What we have found since getting him, he’s a heck of a defensive player. He has the ability to put pressure on the ball. That’s something we didn’t know. So again, we’re still discovering guys on our team, but that was a good effort.
‘We just need to play right. It’s great to beat Oklahoma, they were in the finals last year, and they’re the team to beat, I guess, in the West. But it was more how we played. We played with great force tonight. I thought that was the difference.”
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