|Irish Coffee: A Preview of Celtics Previews||10.18.10 at 10:49 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Every publication from here to Los Angeles is rolling out its NBA preview, and the predictions for the Celtics are, well, pretty predictable: They’re old, but they’re deep. They coasted through the 2009-10 regular season, and they’ll do it again. If they can stay healthy, they’ll compete for a championship. See for yourself …
SLAM Magazine: “Get your jokes in about the Celtics while you can. Sure, the Big Three and Shaq Daddy may alternate using the wheelchair Paul Pierce used in Game 1 of the 2008 NBA Finals. They probably will take some games off in the regular season, as head coach Doc Rivers did last year to keep the team healthy for the playoff run. And Rajon Rondo‘s jumper, though improving, is still broken like the NBA single-game scoring record Michael Jordan would be if he had played in his prime today. That said, this is a team that finished second in team assists and fifth in points allowed last season, and they have seemingly improved as a team overall. No squad in the NBA overcomes their deficiencies like the Boston Celtics, and they are serious title contenders in the 2010-11 season. Don’t say we didn’t tell you so if the Miami Heat cool off, the Orlando Magic disappear and Irish eyes are smiling after another magnificent seventh game between the Lakers and Celtics.”
That points allowed indicator — and, more specifically, point differential — has been a fairly good reflection of the C’s success the last three years. In the 2007-08 season, they ranked second in points allowed (90.3) and first in point differential (+10.2), resulting in a 66-16 record, homecourt throughout the playoffs and an NBA title.
In the last two seasons, during the 2008-09 campagin (62-20) and last year’s regular-season walkthrough (50-32), those numbers slipped.
To put the importance of those stats in perspective, when the C’s finished 24-58 in 2006-07 BB3 (Before Big 3), they ranked 18th in points allowed and 23rd in point differential. Keep an eye on those numbers in the first month of the season, especially considering the C’s brutal schedule through the first few weeks.
Ball Don’t Lie: “The team looks great. Kevin Garnett appears to be the picture of health, a chubbed-out Paul Pierce is as feisty as ever, Ray Allen looks about the same, and the team just oozes competitive spirit. But this is a team built to turn over a new leaf when there aren’t any leaves on the trees next spring, not when the foliage is blowing around and the days are getting shorter. It’s a long season, people get injured and things tend to even out. And, as was the case last year, those 50 wins would have little bearing on what happens in the postseason. This is a championship contender. Perhaps more than ever.”
I’m not exactly sure what they’re getting at when they call Pierce “chubbed-out,” considering he’s shown up slimmed down in each of the last two seasons. Still, they touch on an interesting point: The C’s competitive spirit. With the play of the second unit, a renewed focus on that two-year window and a vengeance factor for that Game 7 loss, this year’s team appears to have a competitive edge we haven’t seen since 2007-08.
Hoops Daily: “The Celtics’ Achilles heel remains health. A lot of guys have played a lot of games, and a major injury to anybody inside the Allen-Garnett-Pierce trio would be catastrophic. Rebounding, the Celtics’ ugly nemesis last year, could prove to be even more problematic with Perkins in street clothes for a while. And then there’s the departure of Tom Thibodeau, the guy who masterminded the Celtics’ dominant lockdown defense for the last three years, to consider as well. The team has the personnel and the experience to continue their defensive dominance, but it wouldn’t be a shock if they took a slight step back in that department. The Big Three are rickety and parts of their bench are downright old, but if you’re an Eastern Conference team dreaming of a Finals matchup with the Lakers, you’d do well not to run into the Green come May. Expecting 50-55 wins is probably best for a group that will likely go through the motions in the regular season before showing up gangbusters in the playoffs.”
Obviously, a major injury to any of the Big 4 (with Rondo) would be catastrophic. Then again, that can be said for the Heat, Lakers and Magic as well. I’m not sure if I’m buying the rebounding issue, either, considering that was the Celtics main focus in the offseason. I’m not sure if you know, but the C’s picked up Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal in the offseason, not to mention the addition of Semih Erden.
However, the loss of Thibodeau needed to be mentioned. That point differential statistic is largely a result of a defensive scheme he implemented, and the C’s will be integrating the O’Neal Brothers and Co. into that scheme without Thibodeau. How Rivers and new assistant Lawrence Frank incorporate the new bodies into the “if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it” defensive system will go a long way in determining this team’s success. In his first two full seasons as head coach of the Nets (2004-05 and 2005-06), Frank’s teams ranked sixth in points allowed.
|Stephane Lasme’s added motivation||10.12.10 at 3:10 pm ET|
Training in Italy this summer for Russia’s Spartak Saint Petersburg squad, Lasme — a citizen of Gabon — was informed that if he didn’t return to the United States and land a year-long job, he could lose his residency.
“My wife and my baby are American,” the 27-year-old Lasme said after Sunday’s 91-87 win over the Raptors. “To get a chance to see them, I basically have to get a job here.”
Playing for teams in Serbia and Tel Aviv ever since he failed to make the Golden State Warriors and Miami Heat in 2007-08, Lasme decided to return to the U.S., even if that meant a “big, big, big” pay cut.
“I had to make a choice between seeing my family or not seeing my family and taking that much money,” said the 6-foot-8, 220-pound former UMass forward. “For me, the choice is obvious. I’m gonna see my family.”
Even if Lasme fails to make the Celtics roster, he could stay relatively close to his wife Anastasia and 17-month-old Lily in Marlborough, Mass. A new NBA rule would allow the C’s to sign him — along with two other players — to their Developmental League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws.
“Even if I don’t make the team, I’m going to stay around,” said Lasme. “(Signing with the Red Claws) is an option that I’ve thought about with the new rule. Maine is not that far away from home.”
It’s appearing more and more likely that Lasme won’t have to worry about that. Wafer’s minutes have declined in each preseason game, and West has contributed little in two brief stints. Meanwhile, Lasme has made his presence felt, significantly.
After totaling 12 points and four boards in just seven minutes in the opener, he threw down a highlight-reel dunk over Andrea Bargnani in a key moment of Sunday night’s victory over the Raptors. He’s looked downright Leon Powe-esque, and that’s a good thing (remember 2008?).
“I like him a lot,” C’s head coach Doc Rivers said after the game. “I do. He just does everything. He has energy. He has a high basketball IQ. He’s athletic. He’s probably our most athletic player. … He has a great shot at making our team. He’s terrific.”
Capturing Atlantic 10 Player of the Year honors after averaging 13.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 5.1 blocks as a senior, Lasme concluded his college career as UMass’ all-time shot-blocking leader, over Marcus Camby. Since then, he’s added to his game, and if the Celtics keep him around, he’ll get to show off the skills he learned in Europe over the last two years.
“I’ve had a couple of good coaches who have tried to develop my game in the summer, and I think it’s worked out pretty good,” said Lasme. “I’ve worked a lot on my ball-handling and shooting. I know I haven’t shot the ball (from the outside) yet, but I’ve worked a lot on those two aspects. The more I play, the more I’m going to get a chance to show that.”
In all likelihood, he’ll get that chance.
|Doc on Miami rumor: ‘I’m not going there’||10.09.10 at 3:42 pm ET|
Doc Rivers downplayed speculation that he would one day go to Miami to coach Pat Riley’s South Beach juggernaut. “I’m not getting into that.,” Rivers said Saturday after the Celtics concluded practice. “The only guy on [Riley’s] list is Erik [Spoelstra] and that’s the only guy that should be there. I’m not going there.”
Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski wrote that Rivers would be at the top of Riley’s list if he were to make a change. In the same piece, Rivers told Woj that he’s given thought to being a career Celtics coach.
“I’m year to year,” Rivers reiterated Saturday. “That’s how I am. The question asked is, where else would you rather go? And I don’t think there’s a better place than here. It’s a great set-up and it is phenomenal.”
Much of the basis for Rivers’ decision to return for the final season of his contract is his relationship with Celtics boss Danny Ainge. The coach has said often that he has a unique friendship with Ainge, and that’s not something coaches can find in every city.
“It’s the organization,” Rivers said. “You look at the Red Sox and see Theo [Epstein] and Terry [Francona] and they have a great relationship. It works. When you can get along it’s nice. You look around and there’s so many groups that’s them and us. Here it’s just us.
“Maybe because we went through hard times at the start. Not our relationship, but we weren’t winning a lot of games. When you endure that as a group, I think you clearly grow together. It’s amazing through that whole time I thought as a group, we got closer and that’s rare.”
“He’s been able to coach a young team and he’s shown he can build a veteran team with a lot of personalities,” Pierce said. “That’s a difficult combination for a coach. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Doc here for another 20 years, and you might see me here too.”
|Austin Rivers commits to Duke||09.30.10 at 12:16 pm ET|
“He picked Duke because of [Mike Krzyzewski] and his staff,” his high school coach, David Bailey, told the website. “There is a ton of tradition at Duke, and it was the best place for him from a basketball and academic standpoint.”
The 6-foot-4, 189-pound Rivers averaged 24.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game for Winter Park (Fla.) High last season, capturing ESPN RISE National Junior Player of the Year honors.
|Rivers on D&C: ‘Let’s do it year to year’||at 9:48 am ET|
Celtics coach Doc Rivers joined the Dennis & Callahan show to talk about the upcoming season. Rivers discussed a number of topics, including the early odds that he wouldn’t be back in Boston after last season, and how the new additions will help the team.
“The last three years have been a joy,” Rivers said. “I’ve been allowed to coach. I’ve been allowed to tell them to do things. They’ve done them, and so when you get a group like that you want to extend that group. Now we’ve added some more guys; Shaq, Jermaine, and I’m hoping they’re the same way, and I think they will be.”
Odds were that you wouldn’t be back as coach after last season. What changed in the offseason that made you want to come back?
Well, I just delayed it for a year. Honestly guys, I had shipped my car home, most of my clothes home, so at that point, you were right. The reason I kept saying I can’t a decision doing this in the year, is because it’s too emotional, number one, you’re too close to it. Getting away was good for me, it was good for my family.
We’re sitting around, and the two kids are in high school, and the first thing they said was, ‘Listen, this is not on us, number one. And you’re a coach, that’s what you do.’ My young one was the best, he actually said it. He said, ‘I can’t imagine you leaving the group that you have.’ He said I would feel awful about that if you left Kevin Garnett and that group.
And my wife thought the same thing, so that part of it was easy. And then the second part for me, was do you want to come back and do it? I love what I do, I love the guys that I coach, and you guys have been around this longer than me I’m going to say. You don’t get special groups a lot when you’re a coach, and you should try to extend it as long as you can.
The way Danny [Ainge] has lined things up, it seems players have been signed for two years for the most part. You’re just talking about one year.
Yeah, you know, I told Danny and them, I didn’t want to go through the extension and walk away. I said let’s just do it year to year. That’s what it’s going to be anyway. The risk is on me, really. It’s not them. You know, Wyc [Grousbeck] and the owners, they offered a long deal, and it wasn’t anything that I didn’t like, it was great. I just thought it would be right by them to not walk out of a deal. I thought it would be better to just do a year-to-year deal. Read the rest of this entry »
|Celtics practice report: O’Neals pass first test||09.28.10 at 5:51 pm ET|
NEWPORT, R.I. — It was hot inside Rodgers Recreation Center at Salve Regina University Tuesday, where the Celtics held their first practice of the 2010-11 season.
“Way too warm, felt like the [Boston] Garden in the ’80s,” said Doc Rivers, who played in his share of summer playoff games vs. the Celtics during his years with the Hawks.
“It a little humid in here, a little warm,” said Jermaine O’Neal, who felt the players did a “pretty good” job dealing with the heat.
Rivers felt that the temperature inside the gym — best guess was somewhere in the low 90s — “didn’t help” the players during a three-plus hour session, but he wasn’t going to make excuses.
“I think that we’re not in great shape, personally,” said Rivers. “I don’t think that we’ve come back in the condition that we want. So we’re going to have to come back in better shape.”
— It was the first day as a member of the Celtics for both Shaquille and Jermaine O’Neal. Rivers was pleased with the efforts of both.
“Shaq was great, actually. He looked fine,” said Rivers, who when asked about Jermaine O’Neal noted, “What did I see [from him]? He’s going to help us.
Both O’Neals were seen practicing with the first team [the media was allowed to watch the last 20 minutes or so of the session] but it was Shaquille O’Neal who spent some time with the second unit ‘ “The White Team” ‘ that also included Delonte West, Nate Robinson and Marquis Daniels.
“My game is real limited,” Shaq said when asked if he preferred to start or come off the bench. “I know to look for [Kevin] Garnett and to look for my shooters. I’ve always played with great big men and great shooters, so it’s no different.
“I’m not going to be playing 30-40 minutes a game, just 20-30.”
Jermaine O’Neal didn’t seem concerned about the starter/reserve situation, either.
|Doc Rivers Q&A: ‘Kevin was phenomenal’||at 3:31 pm ET|
NEWPORT, R.I. – With a three-plus hour opening practice in the books. Doc Rivers spoke to the media at Salve Regina University, host of the Celtics training camp until the end of week. Here are a few highlights:
How was the level of conditioning?
“They didn’t hold up very well, honestly. It was a long practice, a lot of talking as you can tell (Rivers was nursing a hoarse voice). We won’t go three hours every day but we needed it. I think we’re not in great shape, personally. I think we’ve come back in the condition we want.”
How was Shaquille O’Neal’s first practice?
“Shaq was great, actually. He looked fine.”
A year ago Kevin Garnett was limping through the first day of camp. A big difference a year later?
“Kevin was phenomenal, really, yeah. Explosive.”
Warm in the gym today (and it was — must’ve been close to 90 degrees). Was that done on purpose?
“No, it’s too warm. That didn’t help practice, honestly. Way to warm — feels like the Garden in the 1980s.”
What did you see out of Jermaine O’ Neal?
“Just one practice, you know? What did I see? He’s gonna help us.”
How hard was it for Kendrick Perkins to watch practice?
“I’m sure it was hard, it was hard for me to watch practice at times. That’s going to be tough for Perk. I’ve been there. That’s going to be really tough, a tough thing to do. He’s a great kid, he’ll get through it, but it’s not going to be easy.”
What will Von Wafer’s role be?
“He’s got to make his role. He’s young, he’s got a lot of guys in front of him right now. He’s a guy coming off the bench and being a good practice player until he can get in front of somebody.”
Comments made by Big Baby at Media Day (doesn’t know his role)?
“I think he’s living up to [The Big Baby moniker] again … if Baby doesn’t know what his role is by now, I guess he’ll be sitting down a lot. It’s just that simple.”
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