|Keeping an eye on Dwight Howard||05.31.11 at 4:29 pm ET|
No one knows what free agency in the NBA will look like next summer, but if Magic center Dwight Howard terminates his contract after next season he will instantly become the next big prize. Unlike the summer of 2010 when LeBron James and friends were set to hit the open market, the uncertainty over a new labor agreement clouds everything at the moment.
Howard could be joined in free agency by players like Chris Paul and Deron Williams, but Howard is the main attraction for obvious reasons. He’s the most dominant center in the league by far, he’s never been seriously injured and he’ll be just 27 years old at 2012 and still in his prime.
As it stands the Celtics could be big players in free agency after next season (again, depending on the new salary cap rules) with under $30 million in salaries currently on the books to three players — Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Avery Bradley. That number will rise obviously but the Celtics are positioned to be active players in 2012.
Howard has the power to alter the dynamic if he chooses to sign an extension with the Magic that is reportedly on the table. He hosted a free barbecue in Orlando over the weekend and told the Orlando Sentinel that he wants to stay.
“I want to start my own path and I want people to follow my path and not just follow somebody else’s path,” he said. “I want to have my own path, and I want to start that here in Orlando.”
He also dropped Shaquille O’Neal’s name, which as SI.com’s Zach Lowe pointed out, is probably not an accident. Lowe writes:
“Howard must know that invoking Shaq’s name is a big, big thing in Orlando. It transforms what would otherwise be the latest in a series of benign pseudo-commitments to Orlando into a memorable, loaded quote in which Howard distances himself from the player who defined the franchise before him. Howard will never be able to avoid this quote if he leaves.”
An Orlando television station reported that Howard was close to signing a two-year extension with the team, but there has been no further corroboration on anyone’s part.
This has already begun to turn into a drama much like the ones that enveloped James in his last season in Cleveland or like the one that surrounded Carmelo Anthony in Denver. Howard’s case is somewhere in the middle. While James played coy with everyone last season, Anthony forced the Nuggets’ hand by refusing to sign an extension. As long as the possibility of signing an extension exists, the Magic will wait on Howard.
|Instant Irish Coffee: Big Baby blogs||at 10:27 am ET|
Following an atrocious performance for the Celtics in the conference semifinals against the Heat, free agent Glen Davis is refocusing on two things that made him so successful to start the 2010-11 season — working out and eating right — as well as one new hobby: blogging.
Here’s a bit from Big Baby, who took some time out from eating chicken burgers, pasta and kale with strength and conditioning coach Kevin Kearns to blog at iambigbaby.com:
I am very excited to start working out again, set some summer goals and really get ready for next season. It is all about a balanced lifestyle, putting time in at the gym and eating right. I have a great team around me and as you will see my main man, my trainer, is already trying to one up me in the first edition!
While Davis may have a great team of trainers around him, he doesn’t have a basketball team to play with quite yet. The Celtics have said they will offer Davis a contract but won’t match an offer from another team that exceeds his value to the Celtics.
Of course, as is always the case, the blog isn’t always entirely accurate (it is the Internet after all). In his second entry, two weeks ago, he was under the impression that the Celtics had gotten a No. 2 seed in the NBA Playoffs. Perhaps that’s why he seemed so confused in Miami.
IMPORTANT NBA COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENT DATES
If you’re at all interested in the possibility of an NBA lockout, Ken Berger‘s piece over the weekend is a must read. He highlights a few important dates in the negotiations and compares the NBA’s predicament to the current NFL fiasco. Here’s an important note:
|Ric Bucher on D&C: ‘Athleticism has taken over this league’||05.11.11 at 9:09 am ET|
ESPN NBA analyst Ric Bucher made an appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Wednesday morning to talk about the Celtics-Heat series. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Asked if the Celtics will claw and scrape and do whatever they can to avoid elimination in Wednesday night’s Game 5, Bucher said that might be the case, but it still likely won’t be enough.
“I would certainly expect that [effort], knowing the character and the temperament of this team. I just don’t know that it’s going to matter,” he said. “We’ve seen one thing in this postseason, it’s that the athletes and athleticism has taken over this league. It’s just a matter of sort of pushing that big boulder downhill; it begins to gain momentum.
“The Miami Heat, whatever confidence they had playing against the Celtics overall, beating them on their home floor, beating them in last-minute execution just has to do wonders for their confidence. And if there was an Achilles’ heel that the Celtics had to take advantage of with the Heat, it was the fact that the Heat seemed to have a fragile psyche. And if you could get them doubting themselves, you could get that boulder rolling in the other direction. I just don’t see that happening at this point.
“Going home, I just feel like the Heat are going to come out hard, they’re going to play fast. I just don’t know that the Celtics at this point have the requisite physical ability to slow down that freight train.”
Added Bucher: “It’s hard for me, when I look at the width and breadth of this series, to make case for why the Celtics are going to get it to a Game 6, much less get it to a Game 7 and make a great comeback.”
Bucher said the lack of production from the Celtics’ bench players is something the team could not afford. “The big disappointment — and maybe it shouldn’t be disappointment, maybe my expectations were too great — Big Baby Davis, Jeff Green, Nenad Kristic, who didn’t even play in the last game, Delonte West — when those guys gave them something, as they did in Game 3, this was a different team,” he said. “Expecting those role players to give them something, to give them transcendent performances on the road just flies against history and tradition. … At this point, I don’t see any reason for that to change.”
|Doc Rivers: Rajon Rondo, Big Baby and other things that made the Celtics super on Sunday||02.07.11 at 1:47 pm ET|
For many reasons, the first 12 minutes and 59 seconds didn’t start out very well for the Celtics on Sunday.
There was Orlando jumping out to a 12-2 lead as Dwight Howard dominated. There was Glen Davis leaving a mark in the parquet with the back of his head, suffering a bruised skull. But as he returned to the bench to start the second quarter, that paled in comparison to the bruise to the spinal cord of Marquis Daniels as he ran into the chest of Gilbert Arenas and fell suddenly to the floor.
Things were just completely out of whack. But then it was Rajon Rondo‘s time to take over the game. And did he ever. Immediately after kneeling to check on the well-being of Daniels, Rondo came out of the delay and drove to the basket for a lay-up exactly 20 seconds later that energized the crowd and – more importantly – his teammates. He was on his way to a season-high 26 points.
So, what was the difference in his point guard Sunday?
“Well, after – you mean after the first six minutes of horrendous basketball from our team?” Rivers replied rhetorically. It just looked like the first six minutes, we were there to play basketball but I thought they were really invested into the game. And you know, why that changed I don’t know, but it was good. We went to an open set which we rarely do. I just didn’t see us with any – we didn’t have anything going.
“And Jameer [Nelson] picked up that one foul and we just decided to go basically open spread. And we told Rondo to get to the rim, and, you know, use his instincts. He’ll find open guys.”
The Celtics went with a spread offense that allowed more lanes for Rondo to drive to the basket and create off the dribble.
“Well it really depends on the game,” Rivers said. “I want him to be aggressive every game. We’re not going to run spread every game because it doesn’t make a lot of sense every night. We’d like to match up with him, especially Jameer wanted to stay on the floor because of his fouls, but that is how we want him to take the ball to the basket.
“Whenever he does go, we want him to go with power and speed and be willing to get fouled. And I thought over everything that was it. Obviously he made great shots and all that. I just liked the fact that he had no problem if he got fouled.”
Then there were the 21 missed 3-pointers by the Magic, who missed 61-of-93 shots. After the Celtics allowed the Mavericks to beat them on 8-of-17 shooting from long range, Rivers realized early his team was committed to not allowing that again.
Rivers asked for prayers for Davis and Semih Erden, who drew the assignment of guarding Dwight Howard when Kendrick Perkins was forced to the bench to rest. Those prayers were essentially answered in the form of a 91-80 win. Yes, Howard ate up Big Baby, Perkins and Erden for 22 points in the first half. But he had just six points in the second half as the Celtics put on the defense clamps, led by Davis’ ball denial in the post.
“Phenomenal,” Rivers said of the effort. “Great defense. I think any time you lose a game where you think you broke your principals and defensively you were not right, then the next time you play if you’re a defensive team, you’re probably going to have a good defensive effort. And I thought we did that. I said this with Baby and Perk, it was a test for them.
“It was tough because we were going to leave them on an island and Dwight had it going early. And we just kept telling them, ‘We’re doing the right thing. Just keep doing it.’ And that was tough for them, and the fact that they stayed with it and stayed on it was good.”
|Inside the Kendrick Perkins-Dwight Howard matchup||02.05.11 at 5:19 pm ET|
Kendrick Perkins is renowned as one of the few men in the NBA who can go toe-to-toe with Dwight Howard. It’s a reputation that has grown over the years, ever since their meeting in the 2009 playoffs when Perkins stood tall with a shoulder injury so severe he couldn’t lift his arm over his head.
After missing the first two games against the Magic this season, Perkins is back in action — and the starting lineup — just in time for the rematch with Orlando on Sunday afternoon.
It’s been a fast climb for Perkins, who recorded his first double-double of the season with 13 points and 12 rebounds in 32 minutes against the Mavericks on Friday. He’s progressed so quickly that he’s obliterated the minutes restrictions that have been placed on him throughout his comeback.
After the Mavs game, thoughts naturally turned to the showdown with Howard. Perkins artfully streered clear of the questions.
“Don’t know,” he said when asked if he was ready. “We’ll have to wait and see.”
Perkins also called Howard “a great player,” and noted that the Celtics’ team defense is just as important as any one-on-one performance. Perkins is well aware that while his reputation has been enhanced by his individual battles with Howard, he’s also been on the receiving ends of some tough games and the respect is real.
After holding him to 13 points on 3-for-10 shooting in Game 1 of last year’s conference finals, Perkins was told that the local media was calling on Howard to do more in Game 2. His eyes grew wide as he said, “See, what happens is, y’all gas the man up. Then I have to deal with it.” Howard went out and promptly scored 30 points.
In the 2009 series, Howard averaged better than 17 points and 14 rebounds while shooting close to 60 percent. In 2010, Howard averaged 26.3 points and 16 rebounds over the final three games. It’s not that Perkins is a Howard-stopper; it’s more that Perkins is capable of slowing him down, and more importantly, he’s also willing to take him on without the help of double-teams. That, in turn, helps take away the Magic’s ability to get open looks on kickouts off double-teams.
But there’s more to it than that. One of the Celtics’ basic defensive principles is they don’t mind if a superstar player scores a ton of points. Their philosophy is that great players will be great. Their main concern is making it as difficult for them as possible, and if a guy hits a shot with a hand in his face, that’s life. Celtics coach Doc Rivers has also said in the past that he doesn’t care if Howard scores 30 points, because that just means that someone isn’t taking a 3-pointer.
None of that makes it any easier to handle the assignment, however. Perkins likely won’t have Shaquille O’Neal backing him up, as Shaq is dealing with an Achilles injury. That leaves Semih Erden as the nominal backup center, but look for the Celtics to use Kevin Garnett and Glen Davis in spots as well.
Make no mistake: Perkins loves the challenge. He’s faced down the Lakers frontline and the Mavericks’ Tyson Chandler, but this will be his biggest test to date, as it always is.
|Kevin Garnett: ‘These two weeks have been dark days for me’||01.18.11 at 1:09 am ET|
How happy and relieved was Kevin Garnett to be back Monday night?
“I was just called up from the D-League,” he joked.
Playing his first game back from a nine-game absence due to a strained right calf, Garnett scored 19 points in 30 minutes while Paul Pierce converted the go-ahead three-point play with 38.7 seconds remaining to lift the Celtics to a 109-106 win over the Magic Monday night at TD Garden.
Ray Allen had a team-high 26 points and Rajon Rondo had 10 points and 13 assists in a contest that provided a thrilling rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference finals. No one seemed more excited about the turn of events than the man who was playing his first game of 2011.
“You get out of it what it what you put into it,” Garnett said.”These two weeks have been dark days for me, trying to keep my morale up, be around the guys, travel. But being hurt is not one of my things I like to be a part of. I hate it. I don’t deal with it well.
“But as I get older, along with these knuckleheads here keeping it real light for me, keeping my spirits up, I just worked through it. Tonight, I just felt stronger and I’m going to continue to build on this and not have any mishaps.”
He certainly showed no ill-effects of the strained right calf sustained on Dec. 29 in Detroit. Garnett ran and moved without a limp while starting out very strong. He had six rebounds, two assists and four points in nine minutes of the first quarter. Garnett also stole the ball from Jameer Nelson late to help seal Boston’s 31st win, keeping them on top in the Eastern Conference.
After scoring just six points on Christmas Day, Dwight Howard had one of his strongest games yet against the Celtics, scoring 33 points while grabbing 13 rebounds. But still, the Celtics, thanks to the interior passing of Garnett and Pierce dominated scoring in the paint, 52-26.
|Dwight Howard: ‘We will win the war’ vs. Shaq, Celtics||at 12:47 am ET|
After all the hullabaloo over who’s the real Superman, there’s no wonder Dwight Howard rolls his eyes when he’s asked about Shaquille O’Neal. Thinking for a moment, the Magic center made a bold prediction.
“The matchup is awesome,” said Howard, tongue firmly planted in cheek. “He won the victory tonight, but we will win the war.”
Howard actually dominated the individual battle during Monday night’s Celtics victory against the Magic. He totaled 33 points and 13 rebounds, while Shaq finished with just 12 and 2. But the C’s walked away with a 109-106 win to even the season series between the two Eastern Conference rivals, 1-1.
Asked about the defense Glen Davis and Shaq played on Howard, Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy wasn’t too impressed.
“It was OK, I guess,” he said. ”They combined did a good job. They held him to 33, and you know — whatever.”
The Celtics lost to the Magic on Christmas Day in Orlando, 86-78. Shaq and Howard combined for eight points and 11 personal fouls in that matchup. Round 3 of the battle for Superman supremacy is Feb. 6, in Boston again.
- KG and Pierce look fine, C's fall to Nets 96 - 104
- 1st place Celtics take on Pierce, Garnett and the 4th place Nets
- Rondo: "I'm patient and I'm not going to rush"
- Boston Celtics Daily Links 12/10
- The Celtics and player development
- NBA trade market shifting as season progresses
- Boston Celtics Daily Links 12/9