|Rajon Rondo: ‘I’m at my best when I’m in transition’||03.01.12 at 1:36 am ET|
For whatever reason, 26-year-old Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo and the aging Big Three haven’t been on the same page all season. Hence the team’s 17-17 record. Whether that’s the result of the All-Star point guard’s stubbornness or the unwillingness of three Hall of Famers to follow a younger, better leader or any number of other reasons is free to debate.
But one thing is certain: When Rondo plays the way he did in a 102-96 win over the Bucks Wednesday, recording his third double-double of the season while orchestrating the offense to near perfection, these Celtics might actually have a chance to salvage this season.
“We did a better job executing offensively tonight,” said Rondo (15 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists), as usual simplifying the game to its most basic elements. “We got into our sets, and we executed — and we scored.”
“He got us organized earlier,” said Rivers. “The second half, he called 12 different sets, and we got to the first option, second option, and it just looked organized and good. And that’s who we were, and that’s who we have to be. And I thought it was Rondo’s doing.”
|Irish Coffee: When will Celtics develop a scorer?||02.29.12 at 12:17 pm ET|
Whether it’s Gerald Green‘s glorious return to the NBA, the sight of Semih Erden facing them as a starting center or the team’s woeful offensive production, a number of factors led me to this question: When is the last time Celtics president Danny Ainge or coach Doc Rivers has either drafted or developed a scorer?
Clearly, Rajon Rondo is the best player cultivated under the Ainge-Rivers regime, but I don’t think anybody would argue Rondo has markedly improved in the scoring department. His scoring averages per 36 minutes in his rookie season (9.9 points) and last season (10.3) are nearly identical, and we all know about that jump shot.
The best scorer drafted by Ainge has to be Al Jefferson, but even his 36-minute averages didn’t improve much under Rivers, crawling from 16.3 as a rookie to 17.2 in his final Celtics season. Not until he was traded to the Timberwolves did those averages climb into the 20s. Of course Ainge and Rivers deserve credit for molding Big Al into bait to land Kevin Garnett, but the fact remains Jefferson made a leap offensively once he left the Celtics.
The same goes for Tony Allen, Ryan Gomes, Leon Powe and Bill Walker, all of whose 36-minute scoring averages barely budged in either direction on the Celtics, and then saw those numbers rise once they left Boston.
|Irish Coffee: Celtics midseason report card||02.24.12 at 1:58 pm ET|
If Danny Ainge shook a Magic 8-Ball right now, the odds of “outlook not so good” coming up are probably even. After losing seven of their past eight games for the first time since he acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen prior to the 2007-08 NBA season, Ainge’s aging Celtics are 15-17 entering the All-Star break.
It’s an uphill battle the rest of the season, but it might be all downhill from here for Doc Rivers & Co. Needless to say, based on the expectations they’ve set the past four years, this Celtics group isn’t making the grade. Let’s take a look at how the C’s have stacked up individually this year.
MICKAEL PIETRUS: A-
Last Grade: A
When the news broke that Jeff Green would undergo heart surgery for an aortic aneurysm, the Celtics once again had a hole to fill behind Paul Pierce at the small forward position. Pietrus has bridged that gap, and then some. Charged with 3-point shooting and bringing energy defensively, he has shot 36.4 percent from beyond the arc and defended vigorously (at the end of the blowout loss to the Thunder, Pietrus was one of few C’s who played to the buzzer). In an attempt to improve the team’s terrible rebounding, Pietrus has also begun to assert himself on the glass, grabbing 19 rebounds in his last two games.
KEVIN GARNETT: A-
Last Grade: B+
Of the aging Big Three, the one with the most mileage and the worst knees has enjoyed the best season. Garnett entered the NBA All-Star break by recording 23 points and 13 rebounds for the first time since December 2008. That marked his ninth double-double of the season, bringing his averages to 14.4 points and 7.9 rebounds in only 30.8 minutes. Paired with his usual defensive prowess, he’s played all but three games — missing only one due to a tweaked hip and two for personal reasons — and it’s no surprise the Celtics are 0-3 in those contests.
|Greg Stiemsma: ‘I’d love to pick Bill Russell’s brain’||02.16.12 at 1:50 pm ET|
BOSTON — Celtics rookie Greg Stiemsma won three Wisconsin high school Division 4 state championships in four seasons. Celtics legend Bill Russell won 11 NBA titles in 13 seasons. Needless to say, they’re worlds apart.
However, for one night at least, those worlds collided, as the two sat courtside to start Wednesday night’s Celtics loss to the Pistons — Stiemsma on the C’s bench and Russell next to team owner Stephen Pagliuca.
Of course, the the Development League project and the greatest winner in sports are forever linked after Celtics announcer and former Russell teammate Tommy Heinsohn compared Stiemsma to Russell earlier this season.
‘His timing and how he goes about blocking shots does remind me of Russell,’’ said Heinsohn. ‘He makes guys commit, he’s quick to his leap, and he gets his hand up there right when the ball is leaving the shooter’s hand.’’
While Stiemsma has 22 blocks in 176 minutes this season for an average of 4.5 blocks per 36 minutes, Russell is considered the game’s greatest shot blocker, so even the Celtics rookie laughed off the comparison.
“I mean, I heard it. Like I said before, that’s pretty far out of my realm. I would never imagine that,” he said, adding, “It was an honor to get that reference. And then, for it to come full circle, for him to be in the arena, it’s all part of the experience, all part of this journey that’s brought me here, so I’m trying to enjoy it as much as I can.”
|Kevin Garnett on Rajon Rondo: ‘He had a bit of rough day’ (before his triple-double)||02.12.12 at 8:43 pm ET|
And the Celtics needed every bit of his 32 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds to hold on for dear life in a 95-91 win over the Bulls, providing Boston with arguably its biggest win of the season.
After approximately an hour wait in the dressing room, Kevin Garnett finally came out and gave a clue as to why Rondo was radio silent.
“He had a bit of a rough day but he played through it,” Garnett said. “He was professional. I thought he… played with that edge.”
Asked to clarify what the rough day meant afterward, Garnett would only smile and joke, spinning the following answer: “I’d love to have that kind of rough day.”
Garnett also spoke at length about a tough film session coach Doc Rivers gave to the team before the game, less than 48 hours after Rondo put up a very mediocre performance in an 86-74 loss in Toronto Friday night.
Rondo was 2-of-10 from the field, finishing with five points, seven assists and five rebounds and five turnovers in 41 minutes.
Sunday, he posted his ninth career triple-double. Quite the turnaround.
Was Rondo extra motivated?
‘Oh, I don’t know. I’m going to let you guys be that deep,” Rivers said. “I wish I could get in someone’s head that deep. I just think he wanted to win. And I thought we played at a better pace today. You could see it: we were trying to run today. And that’s how we have to play. [If] we didn’t turn the ball over we would’ve had far more points. But I just liked our pace and that’s all we talked about after the game in Toronto and today in our morning walk-through ‘ was enough of the walking. And it was not Rondo, it’s the team. The bigs have to run the floor. [Paul Pierce] and [Ray Allen] have to run the floor.”
Then came another clue as to what might have transpired to contribute to Rondo’s “rough day.”
“It does a lot of things,” Rivers said of Rondo running the fast break. “We get early posts from our bigs, we get jump shots from the break, and we get Rondo in the open court. And when you walk, it’s easy to guard.’
Hmmm. The Celtics finished the game with a 33-7 advantage in fast break points, converting all 13 chances.
|Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum ‘can be a dominating couple’||02.10.12 at 3:51 pm ET|
BOSTON — He might look like a llama, but he sure doesn’t play like one.
Lakers forward Pau Gasol recorded 25 points and 14 rebounds against the Celtics on Thursday night, but his biggest play of the 88-87 Los Angeles victory came when he blocked Ray Allen‘s put-back attempt off a Paul Pierce miss as the overtime buzzer sounded.
“Probably, for sure,” Gasol said when asked if he thought Allen’s attempt would have sunk the Lakers had he not blocked the shot. “I think he had momentum, he was going to the rim, he’s obviously got amazing touch and I continued to play. I made a big play down the stretch, which could have cost the game.”
The Lakers wouldn’t have been in position to win the game had it not been for Gasol and center Andrew Bynum‘s combined 41 points and 31 rebounds — 20 of which came on the offensive end.
“We try to play hard and dominate every game and be a dominating couple every game,” added Gasol. “I think with our size and our level of skills, we can be. Sometimes we get to do it. Sometimes it doesn’t work both ways, but I think tonight obviously we got a great effort from Andrew. … I was able to be effective, too.”
|Doc Rivers is prepared for all the ‘Jurassic Park’ jokes||at 8:29 am ET|
Usually, even after a gut-punching loss like Thursday night to the Lakers, Doc Rivers can put a positive spin on things.
Such was definitely not the case after his team looked old and slow to loose balls and rebounds in an 88-87 overtime loss at the Garden.
Part of the problem was in the stat sheet where both teams shot 39 percent in a game that had just 11 combined points in the five-minute overtime.
“Listen, both teams shot 39 percent,” Rivers said. “Someone had to win. That’s how it looked. Game looked in slow motion at times. So, I’m sure all the jokes [are out there about] two old teams and Jurassic Park.”
Another issue was the Celtics‘ inability to deal with the Lakers’ size in the front court, as the visitors outrebounded the Green, 55-45.
One bright spot, however, was the defense of Mickael Pietrus on Kobe Bryant for most of the night. Bryant finished with a game-high 27 points but was 11-of-24 from the field and didn’t get a shot off until 2:54 left in the first quarter.
“They’re tough,” Rivers said. “They’re really long. They’re good. I thought we did a pretty good job on Kobe, overall. We mixed up our coverages. I thought every time we did trap, they got an offensive rebound because we’re scrambling as far as our rotations. I thought Pietrus did a phenomenal job on him.”
But oh, those rebounds, loose balls and intangibles when you play a team like the Lakers, even if they’re getting old, too. The Celtics were beaten in the paint, 46-38, and on second-chance points, 24-13.
‘We talked about it before the game: longer teams, you’ve got to go hit them,” Rivers said. “You’ve got to put a body on them. If you think you can just turn and rebound when a guy’s five inches taller than you, it’s not going to happen. I bet they got four or five rebounds where we were actually in the inside position; they just reached over us. But you know, if you drive them back, they can’t get those. Then it’s over your back.’
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