|A players’ coach…||03.09.09 at 5:47 pm ET|
Doc Rivers quipped after practice on Monday that he just worked up his best sweat since his playing days.
The former NBA point guard wasn’t joking. He just finished running Stephon Marbury through a five-man ghost drill in which Rivers called out various plays, leaving Marbury to run an offense that included the likes of Mikki Moore, Leon Powe, J.R. Giddens, Bill Walker and Gabe Pruitt.
With five players unavailable due to injury and with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen playing 45 minutes apiece the day before, the Celtics were running on a skelton practice with barely enough bodies to make it worthwhile.
Now, while he’ll have the benefit of Pierce and Allen on Wednesday when the team plays next in Miami, Marbury will have to pick up his mastery of the offense if the Celtics are to find their way on offense and not fall behind by 20 like they did on Sunday in the first half against Orlando.
“Steph ran the set, but he didn’t know what to look for or who to look for and then he’s playing at half-speed, because you could feel him thinking out there on the floor,” Rivers said. “That killed him and it killed the team as well. So, it’s just going to take time. What I’m trying to get him to do is not to press or worry about it. The first thing I told him (Sunday) night was don’t worry about, it’s going to come together.”
Even though he was clearly not playing up to the potential that Danny Ainge saw when he signed him two weeks ago, Marbury was hardly crestfallen about his chances to improve. Instead, he exhibited the kind of confidence required from a point guard of a NBA title contender.
“Yeah, I’m definitely, getting it,” Marbury said. “Today was definitely helpful. As coach said today, learning what we want out of the offense as opposed to just running the sets. As a point guard, you normally know all of the plays, you know where to go and you know what everyone is going to do.”
With Rivers saying on Monday that he foresees Rajon Rondo out for at least the next couple of games with his sprained right ankle, this will be Marbury’s team. Marbury will have a golden opportunity to show that he can pick up the offense in time to be a force for the playoffs.
“For me, asserting myself in the lineups, I need to make sure the guys get the shots who are supposed to get the shots,” Marbury said.
|Passing Chemistry 101||02.27.09 at 10:48 pm ET|
Stephon Marbury wasted no time making his intentions known.
‘I’m not looking to improve my game,’ he said at his introductory press conference. ‘I’m coming here to try to help the Celtics win another championship.’
Wearing a Boston Celtics shirt with a handwritten number eight on the shamrock, Marbury addressed the media prior to Friday’s game against the Indiana Pacers. (RECAP HERE) He shrugged off talks of selfishness and expressed his willingness to do whatever is asked of him on the court.
Marbury said all the right things as the newest member of an organization driven by chemistry and teamwork.
‘This is a very selfless team,’ said Ray Allen. ‘We don’t care about individual accolades.’
Even though Marbury received a standing ovation in his first game, the skepticism of his team-first attitude is not going to go away overnight. He comes to Boston with the baggage of a tarnished reputation, one that isn’t forgotten by wearing a new uniform. The front office explained to Marbury how the team operates, a discussion which is protocol for every new player.
‘We establish what the rules are, how we run things here, and how it’s about the team,’ Celtics president Danny Ainge told WEEI’s Big Show. ‘We’ve established those rules with Steph. (Head coach) Doc (Rivers) and I had a good conversation with him this morning and I’ve had a handful of conversations with Steph about those things even before now, as the Knicks gave us permission to talk.’
Marbury wants to look ahead. And so do the Celtics.
‘I’m not afraid of Steph, Doc’s not afraid of Steph, and it really comes down to Doc,’ Ainge said. ‘I think Doc understands Steph and can manage him and that Steph will respect Doc, first and foremost.’
Last season Rivers coached five veteran first-year Celtics to a championship. He knows firsthand that a new environment can turn a vet’s career around.
‘That was New York and wherever else. That has nothing to do with today and tomorrow,’ Rivers said of concerns about Marbury. ‘I’ve always had an open mind with everyone who’s come in, and you know, we’ve done pretty well. Our locker room is very strong and we just have good people. And so, no, I’m not that concerned about that at all.’
The players are on board with personnel. After winning a title with a reconstructed team, the Celtics know that a midseason acquistion (think P.J. Brown) can be the missing piece to success.
‘You’ve just got to welcome him in, make him feel like he’s at home. Other than that, just do things together off the court,’ said Kendrick Perkins. ‘I think [adding so many new players last season] helped us a lot. We’ve just got to keep getting better and help these guys just keep improving as a team. I think we’ll get better as they get to play more games.’
The key to Marbury’s success with his new team is just that, playing as a team.
‘You never know what’s in front of you as far as your basketball career,’ he said. ‘That’s why you just play as hard as you can and do the best that you can.’
|Powe making a comeback||02.12.09 at 12:03 am ET|
It’s not often that an NBA power forward can be compared to a Major League pitcher, but in this case, Celtics head coach Doc Rivers thought it was fitting. For two seasons, Leon Powe was a relative unknown in the league. A breakout performance in last year’s NBA Finals changed that. Since then, opponents have been paying more attention when scouting the low post player.
With that comes struggles, said Rivers, who has not been overly concerned by Powe’s inconsistency in his third NBA season. The better an opponent knows a player, the more effective they can be in slowing him down. After a cold streak during January in which he went scoreless in three consecutive games, Powe is finding his place again on the court.
‘I told myself to be aggressive,’ he said. ‘Sometimes in the past, I wasn’t that aggressive when I got it because I missed a couple shots. So then I stopped being aggressive and became a little passive. Then, the coaches told me the other day, ‘If you’re going to go out there on the floor, just go out there and play and be aggressive.”
Powe did just that on Wednesday night against the New Orleans Hornets. With Ray Allen sidelined in the first half by a hyperextended thumb, the Celtics needed the bench to step up. Powe offered a fourth quarter surge, scoring seven of his 11 points in just under eight minutes. His hustle at the basket (5-for-6 from the line) helped the Celtics defeat the Hornets, 89-77 (RECAP HERE).
In the first six games of February, Powe is averaging 19.3 minutes, 8.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, and shooting 62.1 percent from the field. It’s an improvement after averaging 14.6 minutes, 4.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 38.3 percent from the field in 15 games last month.
‘I just wasn’t making my hook shots,’ Powe said. ‘My hook’s been off a little bit from game to game. But I work on it every day and that’s one thing I had to get better. I think that’s why coach said they’ve probably been scouting me harder. But my hook’s been off.’
The Celtics, though, cannot afford for anyone’s shot to be off. In a tight race for homecourt advantage where every game counts, Powe has been watching from the bench while Glen Davis has been getting the minutes. But he doesn’t compare his playing time to Big Baby’s. His best motivation is his next opportunity.
‘I’ve just been doing the same exact thing, just trying to work on my game and get my game better,’ Powe said. ‘[I’m working on] stuff on the block, one-on-one on the post moves, and just trying to keep my game in tact while I’m sitting down. Sometimes I get the minutes, sometimes I don’t, and I’ve got to make sure my stuff is sharp.’
Just because he is scouted doesn’t mean he can be stopped.
|Twelve minutes to make it count||02.08.09 at 5:40 pm ET|
‘It comes down to a fourth-quarter battle,’ he said on Friday. ‘They’re not going to come in and make small mistakes. They’re going to operate their offense. Defensively they’re going to know what they’ve got to do.’
Allen was exactly right. On Sunday, the Celtics entered the fourth quarter with a two-point lead and were outscored 31-23 by the Spurs. They lost 105-99 (RECAP HERE). It was the second time in two games the defending champs fell in the final 12 minutes. Last week they started the fourth quarter up by four on the Los Angeles Lakers before losing 110-109 in overtime.
‘When you play the top teams in the league it comes down to the little things,’ said Paul Pierce. ‘And I just thought last couple of games at home it was one or two-point games. It’s the little things — defensive transition late in the game, covering for one another, one possession. It’s like the playoffs, one play can kill you. Every possession counts and we got to understand that when we play against the top tier teams like the San Antonio Spurs and the Lakers.’
The Celtics have hit cold streaks in their last two losses. Up six with eight minutes to go against the Lakers, the C’s failed to build on their lead. The Lakers went on an 11-5 run during a five minute stretch to tie it up, eventually winning in OT.
On Sunday the Celtics allowed an 11-4 Spurs run in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter. Later in the game they watched a 93-90 lead slip away to a 101-93 deficit.
‘You’ve got to get stops, everybody’s got to be on the same page,’ said Kendrick Perkins. ‘Besides getting stops, on the offense you’ve got to execute, you’ve got to throw the extra pass when guys are open. Usually a team like San Antonio, you can’t beat them with the dribble. You’ve got to beat them with the pass. You can’t turn the ball over at all against San Antonio. So I just thought in stretches we played together and stretches we didn’t move the ball and that was the key.’
The Celtics have allowed a total of 215 points in their last two games at home. It is an overwhelming difference for a team who has held their opponents to just 92 points per game over the season. Nonetheless, head coach Doc Rivers was able to see a silver lining in the losses.
‘Well it tells me that we’re really good, because we’ve not played with our A-game, as Tiger Woods would say, I guess,’ he said. ‘And we still had a chance to win both. Both games we had the lead and gave it up. Gave up points, which is not like us. In a sick way I guess I’d rather be down and not be able to score than up and give up baskets, because we’re a defensive team. But we clearly have to improve. Our bench has to be more consistent. They gave up an 8-1 run to start the fourth. You know, that hurts you. It’s tough to recover from that.’
The Celtics will have two days to regroup before facing the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday. They are aware of their mistakes; now it is a matter of fixing them.
‘In general, you can’t turn the ball over,’ Allen said. ‘You have to execute on both ends down the floor in the fourth quarter.’
The Celtics know what to expect down the stretch. Lucky for them, there’s another 12 minutes to prove they can take care of business.
|Sounds of the game… Lakers 110, Celtics 109 OT||02.06.09 at 6:49 am ET|
Forget the NBA Finals of last June. Thursday night’s regular season game between the Celtics and Lakers at TD Banknorth Garden went a long way to restoring one of the sport’s great all-time rivalries.
And just listening to Doc Rivers‘ verbal tirade to the referees in the hallway proves how much this one hurt for the Green.
Rivers COULD NOT believe a hand check was not called on the Lakers as they tried to throw Ray Allen’s timing off at the end of overtime with Allen having the ball and a chance to win the game just like he did 48 hours earlier in Philadelphia.
“That was a hand check!” Rivers exclaimed in the hallway as the Celtics filed to their locker room, past the officials’ room on the right.
Then there was the sparring between Kobe Bryant and Rajon Rondo, as Bryant, who was held to 26 points on 10-of-29 shooting, waved his finger in Rondo’s face in the third quarter. That was followed minutes later by Lamar Odom and Kevin Garnett going toe-to-toe before calmer heads prevailed. And lest we forget the rivalry between the two coaches.
Phil Jackson was peeved when Doc Rivers was given a sports-drink shower on the court in the closing minutes of Game 6 of The Finals last June. Jackson said after the game that he didn’t think Garnett looked like he was ready to return from the flu. Oh really Phil?
This game meant a lot to both teams.
It meant the end of Boston’s 12-game winning streak, meaning the Lakers have ended their 19-game AND 12-game runs this season. It meant that Los Angeles has swept the season series and holds the tie-breaker should the two teams end up deadlocked at the end of the season.
For the Lakers, it meant beating a team that seven months earlier humiliated them on the same court by 39 points in the most embarrassing loss in franchise history. They remembered the Gatorade shower that Rivers received from Pierce and Co. as Boston claimed its 17th title.
And it showed that these Lakers, even without big man Andrew Bynum, COULD play defense when it mattered and they won’t be pushed around anymore.
Here’s how both teams articulated it.
|Sobe Kobe…||02.05.09 at 1:43 pm ET|
That simple message was delivered at Thursday morning’s shoot-around here in Waltham, mere hours before they take on the reigning NBA MVP and his Lakers on the parquet of the TD Banknorth Garden.
That, and we’re not changing what we do just for Kobe.
“We just play him,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers announced. “We don’t have any Kobe rules or anything like that. We play our defense every night. We literally don’t change our style. Rarely, we may change them for a possession here or there, but you just try to keep him in front of you and wish for the best of luck because he’s tough. If it were easy to defend him, he wouldn’t be Kobe.”
“They’re a good basketball team,” Rivers said. “They’re no different. Obviously, they miss Bynum’s length but they’re going to get through the regular season and get him back for the playoffs and they’ll be fine. Kobe has clearly picked it up the last couple of games but so has Gasol. Gasol has had 31 points the last couple of games himself.”
Yes, Kobe has gone off for a combined 97 points against the 21-27 Knicks and the 19-32 Raptors this week.
“We didn’t play in any of those games that we know of,” Rivers keenly observed. “We can’t do anything about that. That’s the way we always look at that. Let’s hope he doesn’t score 97 tonight. That would be very important for us trying to win this game, I can tell you that.”
Ask Rajon Rondo and the Celtics point guard is quick (and right) to point out that the Knicks have just as much to do with the 61 Kobe scored on Monday at MSG as anything else.
“He’s a great player,” Rondo said. “Sixty-one doesn’t happen all the time in the league but a lot of great scorers go off at times. That was transistion game he played against the Knicks. LeBron had 52 last night. That’s just the style (the Knicks) play.”
And yes, the Los Angeles Lakers come to town tonight with a Western Conference-best 39-9 mark, winners of four straight, playing on the same court they suffered their most humiliating loss in franchise history, that 39-point quit job last June in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
“I’m sure they’ve seen it enough,” Rivers said. “I’m sure no one’s run that on TV at all. Well, they should be. Why wouldn’t they be? They’ll be up for the game. We’ll be up for the game.”
Therein lies the key difference between the Celtics and the Lakers. The Lakers are all about superstars, albeit great scoring superstars, but individuals nonetheless. The Celtics, during their second double-digit winning streak of the season, have built their dominance around defense.
Yes, the Celtics are weakened a little by the flu bug that has run through Kevin Garnett and the rest of the team.
“He felt strong,” Rivers said of Garnett at this morning’s shootaround in Waltham. “He’s fine. We’ll find out tonight. It’s easy to feel strong in a shoot-around but when you’re running up and down the floor when you haven’t done it, that’s a different story. I think there are six guys on Z-Paks, probably all due to Kevin, who knows.”
Z-Paks, for those who didn’t go to medical or pharmaceutical school, are antibiotics given to help those fighting off viruses.
The Celtics will want to be at full strength as they try to ward off Kobe and the Lakers.
|Sounds of the game… Celtics 109, Timberwolves 101||02.01.09 at 6:27 pm ET|
Who needs All-Star Kevin Garnett?
Not the Celtics on Super Sunday. When news of Garnett’s flu spread before the game, Paul Pierce knew it was time to step up his game, offensively. In his last three games against Dallas, Sacramento and Detroit, he has posted games of eight, eight and 20 points. Not exactly the stuff that All-Star reserves are made of.
But on Sunday, against old friends Al Jefferson (34 points), Ryan Gomes and a vastly improved Sebastian Telfair, he was THE guy, scoring a game-high 36 points from all different angles, including a clinching fadeaway with 2:24 remaining to put the pesky Timberwolves away and clinch Boston’s 11th straight win, improving the Green to 40-9.
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