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Doc Rivers: Rajon Rondo, Big Baby and other things that made the Celtics super on Sunday 02.07.11 at 1:47 pm ET
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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.”

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Marquis Daniels sent to hospital with neck injury 02.06.11 at 3:29 pm ET
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Celtics guard Marquis Daniels was sent to New England Baptist Hospital with a neck injury after he fell to the ground on a drive to the basket in the second quarter of Sunday’s game against the Magic at TD Garden.

Just 59 seconds into the second quarter, Daniels drove to his right on Gilbert Arenas, lost his balance and fell awkwardly to the floor. Daniels remained on the court for several minutes as Celtics medical staff tended to him and the Garden crowd fell silent. Teammates Rajon Rondo, Glen Davis and Kevin Garnett dropped to one knee at Daniels’ side.

Eventually, a stretcher was brought onto the court and Daniels gave a brief “thumbs up” before being wheeled off the parquet. The official play-by-play listed the delay at four minutes, 30 seconds.

The injury to Daniels was the second serious injury of the day as Davis was also on the court for several minutes after taking a charge earlier in the first half. Davis was taken to the locker room and treated for a bruise to his head before returning to the bench for the start of the second quarter.

Ironically, both Daniels and Davis were injured and suffered concussions in Game 5 of last year’s 2010 Eastern Conference finals against the Magic.

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Kendrick Perkins may start soon, but will he finish? 02.03.11 at 5:21 pm ET
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Kendrick Perkins

Shaquille O’Neal didn’t practice Thursday because his Achilles is inflamed, according to coach Doc Rivers. That makes Shaq questionable for Friday’s game against the Mavericks. “We may play him [Friday], we may not,” Rivers said. “We’ll see.”

When Shaq hasn’t been able to go Rivers has turned to rookie Semih Erden in order to keep Glen Davis in his familiar sixth man role off the bench. But now that Kendrick Perkins has five games under his belt, don’t be surprised if he gets the call.

“We will [make the switch] eventually,” Rivers said. “It’s not a big deal to us. I’m more concerned about who finishes the game.”

The coach has a point. Without Perkins the Celtics have been using Davis at center in the fourth quarter. According to 82games.com, Rivers has used the lineup with the four starters and Davis as much as he has the starting five with Shaq. The Davis-at-center lineup has been productive, and it makes sense due to the minutes limitations on Shaq, as well as his well-documented foul difficulty this season.

But Perkins’ return gives the Celtics options and that’s never a bad thing.

Perkins said he was a little surprised by how quickly he’s been able to get back in the flow. He had 10 points and nine rebounds against the Blazers and eight and 10 against the Kings. He also logged about 93 minutes on the four-game west coast trip and lasted 27 minutes against the Lakers.

“I thought I’d be off by so much,” Perkins said after practice Thursday. “I thought I’d have to get into a rhythm or whatever it may be. I’m just going to keep putting in the hard work. I’m still not where I want to be, but I am happy where I’m at.”

Asked what he felt he needed to improve, Perkins said, “Just my timing. My jumping. That’s about it. Timing and jumping. I feel like I have to get off the floor a little bit better.”

It’s only a matter of time before he rejoins the starting five. The real question will be answered at the end of the games.

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Glen Davis acknowledges starting affected him mentally 01.20.11 at 4:56 pm ET
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Glen Davis

While Kevin Garnett was out with a calf injury, the Celtics went 6-3 with Glen Davis in the starting lineup. He had some terrific games in that role, notably a 23-point effort against the Spurs and 15-11-8 line against the Raptors.

But it wasn’t all good for Davis who struggled with his outside shot. He made only 21-of-66 shots from 16-23 feet during his nine starts and also struggled to replace Garnett as a rebounder, getting a little more than four boards a game. Davis acknowledged Thursday after the team’s practice that the shift in roles affected him mentally.

“It’s all mental,” he said. “I was kind too hard on myself when I was starting. I wanted to prove to Doc [Rivers] and prove to my teammates … The difference between that and the playoffs is I just went and played. That’s what I do when I come off the bench, I just go out and play. I put a lot of pressure on myself.  I got out of myself and tried to be something [else]. That’s now how it works. You have to be yourself. I had a couple of good games, but as far as all-around games, the way I know I can play, I didn’t bring it. Now being on the bench you get back to the same mentality.”

Davis has excelled in his role as sixth man. In a recent online poll of SI.com basketball writers, Davis was listed on everyone’s ballot for Sixth Man of the Year consideration after the first half of the season. As a sixth man, Davis is able to not only backup Garnett, but also play important fourth quarter minutes at center. He has also made significant improvements in a number of areas, notably finishing at the rim.

Last season Davis shot barely over 50 percent inside and had his shot blocked at a whopping rate of 18 percent — the highest rate in the league for players playing meaningful minutes.

“I had a stat that I really didn’t like: the most blocked shots in the NBA,” Davis said. “You don’t like those type of stats. You find a way to get it done. That’s my mentality. Just find a way to get it done.”

And he found a way to do it. This season Davis is shooting more inside, and finishing better, than he has in his career, and he has cut his shot-blocked rate by more than half, down to a more reasonable 7.5 percent.

“Just slow down,” Davis said when asked about the adjustments he’s made. “Most of the time when you get an offensive rebound you want to hurry up and go ahead and put it back up. If you look at the rim and find the rim, you go straight up because they’re waiting for you. They just don’t know when you’re going to go up.”

While Davis slides back into a more comfortable role — and the one that also suits him best — he is still driven by the same forces that have always motivated him. The slights and the doubts ring loud in his head.

“I always have to prove myself,” he said. “I’m an undersized power forward. Everybody knows me as the overweight guy. People think I’m too big. A lot of negative things about me. I always have the motivation when I play. In spite of what other people say.”

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Irish Coffee: Ray Allen’s ‘holy land’ 01.18.11 at 11:14 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

Ray Allen may be closing in on Reggie Miller‘s all-time 3-point record, but there’s another elusive goal the Celtics shooting guard has in mind: The NBA’s holy trinity of shooting.

It’s what all professional shooters strive for — 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and 90 percent from the free-throw line — but it’s eluded Allen throughout his previous 14 seasons in the league.

“I looked at my percentages, and the one thing I can’t control is how many points I score, but I can control how efficient I am,” said Allen after his two late 3-pointers helped bury the Magic on Monday night. “The holy land of shooting is 50, 40 and 90. That’s been something I’ve aimed for my whole career.”

Currently, Allen is shooting career highs of 51.7 percent from the field and 47.8 percent from 3-point land, but his free-throw shooting sits at 88.3 percent. Imagine that, the NBA’s No. 5 free-throw shooter of all-time actually needs to improve his free-throw shooting. It’s nowhere near out of the realm of possibility, as Allen has shot 90 percent from the charity stripe nine times in his career, including the previous five seasons.

To qualify for the 50-40-90 club, a player must make at least 300 field goals, 55 3-pointers and 125 free throws. Only five players in the history of the league have qualified: Steve Nash (four times), Larry Bird (twice), Mark Price, Dirk Nowitzki and Reggie Miller. Interestingly enough, both Allen and Paul Pierce (51.4 FG%, 40.6 3P% & 86.1 FT&) could join that club by the end of the season.

Of course, Allen is also chasing Miller’s all-time 3-point record. He’s just 28 away from surpassing the retired Pacer’s 2,560 career 3-pointers. Miller was part of the TNT crew that broadcasted Monday night’s Celtics game at TD Garden, and Allen admitted he may have given him a look after one of his three treys on the night. The two began a friendship when Allen tried to recruit Miller to come out of retirement and play for the Celtics in 2008.

“He always has great things to say,” said Allen of Miller. “He’s been such a great mentor. He’s never been envious or showed animosity towards me because I’m potentially going to break his record. It’s a great lesson for me to learn as a young guy compared to him, and me passing along the things I know to the young guys who come after me.”

Because of the “$3 for 3s” program that Allen’s mother, Flora, started on behalf of her son, Allen has been able to pay particular attention to his chase for the record. The initiative asks people to pledge $3 to the Joslin Diabetes Center’s High Hopes Fund for every 3-point shot he makes this season. His stepfather is always reminding him, too, because he’s counting down to the record every morning on his chalkboard at Cheshire High School.

It’s fun for Allen to discuss with his family and friends off the court, but not on the court with his teammates.

“Once we get in the locker room, it’s all business,” said Allen. “I don’t want to be that guy who’s running around the court trying to shoot a shoot a 3-pointer all day long. I don’t want to be thirsty from behind the 3-point line, so I just make sure I play the game that I’ve always played.”

Only slightly more efficiently.

KEVIN GARNETT: CELTICS CAN LEARN FROM PATRIOTS

On his blog for his Chinese shoe sponsor, Anta, Kevin Garnett explained that the entire Celtics team went to the Patriots loss to the Jets, and the C’s can learn a lot from the No. 1 seed getting bumped from the playoffs:

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What Kevin Garnett’s return does for the Celtics 01.16.11 at 3:28 pm ET
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Kevin Garnett

The Celtics went through a hard practice Sunday specifically to allow Kevin Garnett to test his strained right calf muscle. While he went through the whole practice without a problem, the team will wait to see how he feels Monday before making a decision on whether he will play against the Orlando Magic that night.

“I think Kevin will go tomorrow,” Doc Rivers said. “We went to practice to see if he could go tomorrow. Meaning we’ll know that by tomorrow. If he feels good, he’ll go. If there’s anything [wrong] he will not go. I would probably put it back to-50-50.”

If Garnett is ready to return it would obviously be a huge lift for the Celtics. Not only because he is their best defensive player and rebounder, but also because it would move Glen Davis out of the starting lineup and back into his role as the team’s sixth man where they can take advantage of his versatility.

“It puts Glen back on the bench, which helps him and helps our bench,” Rivers said. “It just makes us better. Any time we get a player back it makes the bench better. It makes us more versatile because now Baby can go from four-to-five with ease coming off the bench. It’s far more difficult when he’s already a starter at one of those two positions.”

The Celtics have gone 6-3 since Davis replaced Garnett in the starting lineup, but they have benefited from a softer schedule with most of their games played at TD Garden. As a starter Davis has had his moments, but he has also struggled to replace what Garnett gives the Celtics offensively. (It would be unfair to ask him to replace Garnett defensively, since arguably no player in the league can do that.)

Davis has drifted further out on the perimeter and the results have not been positive. In his last five games, Davis has shot 33 times from 16-23 feet and made only eight. Outside of a 5-for-11 night against the Spurs, Davis is shooting just 29 percent from 16-23 feet since entering the starting lineup. Davis has been very successful scoring inside — he’s shooting a career-best 65 percent at the rim — but his outside shot seems to have abandoned him.

Davis’ return to the bench would also help the Celtics out with a difficult situation at center. With Jermaine O’Neal contemplating surgery and Kendrick Perkins still working through his rehab from offseason knee surgery, the Celtics are down to Shaquille O’Neal and Semih Erden at center.

Shaq missed practice Sunday after slipping on some ice. The Celtics said that he has a strained adductor muscle in his right leg, making him questionable for Monday’s game Erden has been hit-or-miss with some great games balanced out by some non-existent ones. Before Garnett got hurt, Davis played about 18 minutes a night at the five-spot, which would be important minutes as the team works’ through its depth issues.

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The Three-Pointer: Celtics aching for Kevin Garnett 01.11.11 at 12:34 am ET
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And that’s why the Celtics need a healthy Kevin Garnett.

Garnett missed his seventh straight game as a result of the calf he strained during a game in Detroit on Dec. 29, and sooner or later his absence was bound to catch up to the Celtics. Coincidence or not, it happened on the night Garnett was rumored to return.

He didn’t, and the Celtics lost 108-102 to the Rockets, who had suffered five straight defeats entering the game and suited up without Yao Ming or Kevin Martin in uniform.

Houston did, however, have one very good power forward in the lineup (Luis Scola) and a pair of budding big men (Patrick Patterson and Jordan Hill), who combined for 34 points and 21 rebounds. You think that’s happening on Kevin Garnett’s watch?

“We just weren’t ready,” said Doc Rivers. “I told our guys I thought overall it was probably our worst defensive effort in three, four years as far as overall effort.”

For all that Glen Davis has done exceedingly well this season — and he has exceeded expectations — he’s no Kevin Garnett. That’s not breaking news or anything. But in Garnett’s absence, the Celtics have relied too much on Davis, and as a result he’s tried to do too much.

Starting in place of Garnett over the past seven games, Davis has shot just 41 percent (41-of-100) and grabbed more than five rebounds only once while averaging 35.7 minutes. In 30 games off the bench this season, he had been shooting 48 percent and averaging more than five rebounds in 28.5 minutes a game. Quite simply, he’s no longer doing the “garbage man” things that made him a contender for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year.

“He’s getting too many minutes, quite honestly,” added Rivers. “Thirty-eight minutes is too many for Baby. We don’t have a lot of options right now. Luke [Harangody]’s playing okay, but we may have to go small. That’s too many minutes, and that’s on me. Baby should play more in the 30-range, because I think the fatigue is bothering him.”

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