|Irish Coffee: The transformation of Von Wafer||01.11.11 at 11:17 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Optimus Prime. Wheeljack. Von Wafer. The name even sounds like a “Transformers” character.
For Doc Rivers and the Celtics, that’s exactly what he is. Wafer left Houston as an established offensive player and came to Boston as a defensive project.
‘He played very well for us,” Rockets head coach Rick Adelman said prior to Monday night’s 108-102 defeat of the Celtics. “He was a real spark off the bench. He won a lot of games for us. He’s a guy who once he gets comfortable he’s a real threat. I think eventually he’s going to help them.’
In 2008-09, as a member of the Rockets, Wafer played 20 minutes a night, averaging 9.7 points in 63 games — including 11 starts. He even hit a clutch 3-pointer that sunk the Celtics almost two years ago to the day. This season, with this Celtics team, he might not get more than five minutes on a given night.
“Whether you play five minutes or 15, you’ve got to play hard,” added Adelman. “You’ve got to make a contribution to the team. Some guys don’t feel like that. They feel like they have to get minutes to help the team. You can’t do that.”
When Wafer first arrived in Boston, he fell into the camp of guys who felt like they needed minutes to contribute — and by contribute, he meant score. After all, that’s what Adelman wanted from him in Houston.
“He’s unbelievable,” Wafer said of his former coach. “He just let me do whatever, let me be who I was. It didn’t matter how many shots I missed. He just let me play.” Even at the expense of his defense.
With or without Kevin Garnett and with or without the high-scoring Kevin Martin in the game for the Rockets, Rivers felt his team was capable of a whole lot better than they showed in a 108-102 loss at TD Garden.
But the trademark defense that has been a staple of these championship-driven Celtics has not been there in the last week, and Rivers fears that if they start falling in love with scoring instead of doing the dirty work, they’ll lose something a lot more important – home court advantage in the NBA playoffs.
Don’t look now but not only are the Spurs putting some distance between themselves and the Celtics – who fell to 28-9 – but the Miami Heat have, in the space of about three weeks, caught up to them with a torrid winning streak.
If the Celtics aren’t careful, they not only might have to win an NBA Finals Game 7 on the road like last year in LA but they may have to do the same thing against Miami just to get there.
“To me, you can see them thinking about the individual game and not the ramifications of the entire season,” Rivers said of his team. “And playing Game 7 on the road. And hell, not just in the Finals if you make it there, but in the playoffs. In the East, which is going to be difficult. This year’s not like last year where you can coast. You don’t have home court this year, you could go home.
‘You know especially at home, I think we need to really take advantage of games where their best player isn’t playing, guys coming off injury,” captain Paul Pierce added. “These games mean a lot down the road, and but at the same time, they’re going to suit up and play, and we got to understand that nothing is given to us cause their down a man, or they’ve been struggling for most of the year. We got to put our work boots on and come with our A game, we’re not taking advantage of this, there are a lot of games that we’re letting slip away that we’re supposed to win’ Read the rest of this entry »
|The Three-Pointer: Celtics aching for Kevin Garnett||at 12:34 am ET|
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.
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.’
|Ray Allen dealing with a ‘sore’ left shoulder||01.10.11 at 11:58 pm ET|
Everyone who saw Ray Allen sprawled on the court with 10:56 left in the fourth quarter Monday night had the same thought – Oh no, not again. The Celtics have already had two starters miss significant time with significant injuries as Kevin Garnett hopes to come back Wednesday night from a strained right calf and Rajon Rondo continues to play through sore feet.
As for Allen, he said he will need a night of sleep and then see how he feels after taking a vicious hit on a pick early in the fourth quarter of Monday’s loss to Houston.
“I just took a hard hit, and kind of collapsed on the side,” Allen said of the screen set with 10:56 left in the fourth. “I’m sore, I’ll feel it [Tuesday]. My shoulder but kind of my side, you got so much adrenaline running that you don’t really feel it, once I got in the back I felt it.”
Allen added that he didn’t think it was a legal screen since – as he said, ‘The rule states that, if there’s a screen set, you have to give the person a chance to see the screen and then move out the way. I didn’t even know the screen was there and when I went to step I just hit the screen, and it caught me like on the side of my hip.”
Allen, who matched Marquis Daniels with a team-high 19 points, did return with 5:40 left in the game and hit a big three-pointer with 2:04 left to pull the Celtics to within seven, 106-99.
|Fast Break: Rockets shoot past Celtics||at 10:06 pm ET|
The Rockets came to Boston without the services of their leading scorer, as Kevin Martin was out with a sore right wrist. They had lost their last five and six of seven.
But the Celtics fell behind at halftime and couldn’t overcome the energy of Kyle Lowry, Luis Scola and the rest of the Rockets in a 108-102 loss to Houston Monday night at TD Garden. (Recap.) It’s the third straight win for Houston in Boston.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Defense: Quite simply, on a night when Kevin Garnett remained in street clothes, it wasn’t there in this one. Forget the fact that Houston shot 53 percent for the game — they made 11 of 19 shots in the third quarter alone to build a six-point lead heading into the fourth. Worse yet, every time the Celtics got a big lay-up from Paul Pierce or an offensive rebound or jumper from Glen Davis, the Rockets not only scored on the next possession, but got very open looks, including Aaron Brooks on a killer 3-ball with 4:26 left that put Rockets up, 101-90. Another three by Brooks with 3:10 left put Houston up by 12.
Glen Davis’ stamina: He worked hard but looked very, very tired in the third quarter. He had huge problems keeping up with Scola in the third quarter as the Rockets improbably built upon their lead by going inside and the Celtics didn’t play very good defense, allowing Houston to score 30 in the quarter on 58 percent shooting. Rivers was also on Davis early about the number of passes he was dishing out and the Celtics were guilty of shot clock violations on back-to-back possessions in the first quarter.
Not taking Kyle Lowry seriously: Yes, the Rockets didn’t have their leading scorer, Martin – out with a sore right wrist. But the Celtics apparently forgot that Lowry is very quick and developing as a legitimate two-way guard in his fourth year. Lowry played 18 minutes in the first half and had 11 points. But more than that, the former Villanova Wildcat brought the energy on both sides of the court. It continued into the third quarter as he took it to the basket just like he did when he played with Randy Foye and Allan Ray on the Main Line. Tough kid.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Marquis Daniels and the bench: After a rough showing on Saturday night in Chicago, the Celtics’ bench woke up Wednesday out of necessity as Daniels led the way, making 7-of-8 shots from the field and finishing with 19 points, tied with Allen for the team lead. He also chipped in with seven rebounds. He played practically the entire fourth quarter as Rivers held Nate Robinson and Jermaine O’Neal on the bench.
Domination in the paint: When they made the commitment to get there, the Celtics owned the paint, with mid-range jumpers, cuts and lay-ups. They finished with a 48-22 advantage over the Rockets.
Ray Allen takes a licking and keeps on ticking: The last thing – obviously – the Celtics need is another star to go down with an injury, and so the sight of Allen taking a vicious hit on a blindside pick early in the fourth quarter was troubling for Boston. But after Allen had his left shoulder examined briefly by trainer Ed Lacerte, he returned with five minutes to go. He drilled a 3-pointer with 2:10 left to bring the Celtics to within seven, 106-99.
|The NBA 30 on 30: Blogosphere Forecast (3 of 7)||10.25.10 at 2:31 pm ET|
NBA fans live a team’s ups and downs. They react to every draft pick, trade and free-agent signing. They debate the merits of the 15th man. They find significance in the most insignificant stats. They simply KNOW their team. So, too, do bloggers. That’s why we sought the opinion of the league’s best blogs — one for each of the 30 teams — to break down the team they cover and, of course, the Celtics.
ON THE MAVERICKS: Dallas is still a relevant feature in the Western Conference landscape (they’ll likely be on par with the rest of the conference’s quasi-elite), but their ability to contend leans on a rather substantial “if.” The only way that the Mavericks have access to the same exclusive contender’s club that the Celtics call home is if a certain team on the West Coast experiences some kind of monumental collapse.
The Lakers aren’t just the defending champs. They’re also the most complete team in the league. They won the title last year for a reason, and that reason depends less and less on Kobe Bryant‘s individual brilliance. Naturally, Kobe still matters a great deal to the Lakers’ success, but Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom and Ron Artest have never been more relevant.
It’s those players that make L.A. a transcendent team, and it’s those players that make the Lakers into the Western Conference’s seemingly unconquerable threshold. All teams in the West must go through the Lakers, and while the Mavs may have plenty of excellent pieces and a few beneficial matchups, they pale in comparison to L.A.’s grandeur.
It looks to be another successful season for Dallas. They’re shooting for their 11th straight year of 50-plus wins and seem poised to make a deep run into the playoffs. Dirk Nowitzki is still highly productive and efficient; Jason Kidd continues to defy time itself with every jump into the passing lanes and perfectly threaded pass; and the team has some fantastic young pieces in Rodrigue Beaubois, Dominique Jones and Ian Mahinmi to complement a deep and impressive cast of veterans (Caron Butler, Shawn Marion, Brendan Haywood, Jason Terry, Tyson Chandler).
Put it all together, and Dallas is an awfully impressive team. Just not impressive enough to join the Lakers on their pedestal.
ON THE CELTICS: It’s tough to determine who will sit where at the top of the Eastern Conference seating chart, but the Celtics are undoubtedly among the conference’s elite teams and among the league’s true contenders. Walking into this season with last year’s roster alone would have put them near that distinction, but it’s Boston’s heavily active offseason that makes them an even more intriguing team.
The C’s are stacked at virtually every position, and that depth will certainly come into play as Boston looks to stay competitive throughout the year while still resting their veterans as much as possible. As I mentioned before, it’s still tough to pin Boston to a particular seed in the Eastern Conference race, not only due to the variance of the East’s other contenders but also because Boston’s lackadaisical run through the 2009-10 regular season provides us more reason to question their in-season motivations than ever.
Will the Celtics do more of the same, taking their time while working into a rhythm? Will they now approach the regular season with the same urgency that marked their 2007-08 campaign? No one can say for sure, and I’m not sure there’s necessarily a wrong way for them to go about it. Last year’s method turned out pretty well for Boston, as did the breakneck pace of the 2008 season, and this year should yield more of the same: A successful playoff run after a good regular season, sprint or not.
They’re probably not the best team in the East, but that doesn’t mean they can’t force their way to the Finals through the conference’s equivalent of rock-paper-scissors (Miami-Orlando-Boston). With the right matchup, Boston can be right there in June, and no one should be surprised.
ON THE ROCKETS: The Rockets, as usual, are relying on good health to prevail throughout the season, especially once May rolls around. They’ve got plenty of talent, if healthy, to make a run for a Western Conference title. They’re deep, they’re experienced and they’re capable of beating anyone.
It remains to be seen how a balanced team can proceed through the playoffs, but if there’s any team that can make it happen, it’s this squad. Yao Ming will need to be healthy, the defense will need to actually exist (and be top-notch, at that), but it’s possible. Keep an eye on Courtney Lee: He could make a big difference. Predicted record: 51-31.
ON THE CELTICS: Last season, Boston showed everyone why winning in the playoffs is a different art than grueling it out for 82 games. With added veteran presences in Jermaine and Shaquille O’Neal, along with a presumably healthy Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Garnett, the Celtics should be ready and able to make, perhaps, one more title run before age gets the best of everyone. I’ve got Boston in the Finals once again. They’re that dangerous. Predicted record: 52-30.
ON THE GRIZZLIES: The Grizzlies are the mirror image of the Celtics. They are young and talented with nearly no experience. Built via the draft and a few opportunistic acquisitions by former Celtic GM Chris Wallace, not one player on the team is expected to be over 28 to start the season.
Former Celtic Tony Allen was signed in the offseason to bring experience and defensive intensity to the team. The starting five for Memphis is very strong with all-star Zach Randolph, Rudy Gay, O.J. Mayo, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, but the bench is full of question marks.
If Hasheem Thabeet, Darrell Arthur, Allen, Sam Young, Xavier Henry and Acie Law IV can form a cohesive enough unit to give the starters some rest during games, the Grizzlies should be a strong candidate to return to the playoffs.
If any of the starters gets hurt for an extended period or the bench fails to be able to hold onto leads for the limited minutes they play, then it will be another lottery experience for the fans of the Grizzlies.
ON THE CELTICS: The Celtics remind me of the expression: “Old age and treachery will beat youth and talent every time.”
The Celtics used this strategy to rest their stars leading up to last season’s playoffs, then unleashed the rested veterans on an unsuspecting conference before finally falling to their archrivals in the finals. The C’s are having to reload this season with some formidable challenges ahead of them.
Perkins’ injury probably cost the Celtics another NBA title last season and could cost them homecourt advantage in the second round this season. The O’Neals, Shaq and Jermaine, were dominant players in their day, but that day has long past. How this will affect the interior defense is unknown at this time.
The loss of Tony Allen as a defensive stopper on the perimeter doesn’t help, either, but the biggest loss could be Tom Thibodeau. The Celtics also added Delonte West, whose off-court issues have overshadowed his on-court play.
The roster is aging but not dead and will likely be a force in the playoffs as the game slows down to a crawl and experience takes precedence over talent.
ON THE HORNETS: The Hornets experienced one of the busiest offseasons in franchise history, no question. There was the hiring of a rookie coach, the draft-day trade, the hiring of a rookie general manager, the blockbuster four-team trade, the flirtations with the unveiling of a rookie owner, all overlaid on top of never-ending Chris Paul drama.
And there’s reason to believe they’ve navigated it successfully. The team essentially turned Darren Collison and James Posey‘s terrible contract into Jerryd Bayless and Trevor Ariza (while Collison’s stock is far higher than Bayless’ at this point, the disparity between the two isn’t really that huge).
They brought in competent rebounders — Aaron Gray, Pops Mensah-Bonsu — for Darius Songaila, who, believe it or not, played the second-most minutes at both power forward and center for the 2010 Hornets.
This is by no means an elite team, but via addition by subtraction (Songaila, Posey) and addition by addition (a healthy Chris Paul), it should be a middle-of-the-pack Western team at 45 to 50 wins.
ON THE CELTICS: One of the biggest keys to Boston’s success will be the team’s ability to work the O’Neals (and, to an extent, Delonte West) into the team’s defensive system, without Tom Thibodeau.
Given the ages of the team’s key contributors, the Celtics are going to need a comprehensive 1-12 effort throughout the season. I do like the team’s summer pickups (and it’s important not to overlook the re-signings, either), but whether the various new pieces will fit is another question entirely.
In the end, I think this is a middle-of-the-pack Eastern Conference team. Let’s say 45 to 50 wins — with a chance to turn it on in the playoffs, a la 2010. But at the end of the day, they’ll be a step below both Orlando and Miami.
ON THE SPURS: Hampered by the new rules surrounding technical fouls, Tim Duncan is ejected from the first 10 games of the season. Eventually, he’s able to stay in games by training himself to replace his incredulous expression with his other one.
Manu Ginobili signs a contract with Rogaine, and with his bald spot now completely gone, he grows out his hair again and averages 15 free throws a game as a result.
Richard Jefferson gets engaged and considers joining the cult his fiancÃ©e belongs to. After returning from a retreat in Death Valley during the All-Star Break, he says he feels reborn and averages 18 points and nine rebounds for two months, until breaking off the engagement on the eve of the wedding and going into a slump.
Regular season record: 55-27. Third seed in the West.
ON THE CELTICS: In November, Shaq re-changes his nickname from The Big Shamrock to The Big Limerick and is fined $50,000 by the NBA when his first poetical recitation includes an off-color rhyme in the final line. O’Neal responds by mumbling something about artistic license.
December finds Justin Bieber singing the national anthem in the TD Garden on Von Wafer bobblehead giveaway night. The singer dies in the figurine avalanche that ensues.
After a January in which Ray Allen fails to make a single 3-pointer, he proceeds to average .850 behind the arc in February.
In the push to the playoffs, KG and Shaq convince the rest of the team to shave their heads for solidarity, but Delonte West (after spending the entire year growing out his afro) refuses, sending the team into a tailspin that lands them the second seed behind Miami.
Regular season record: 59-23.
Check back tomorrow for Parts 4-7 of this seven-part series: the Eastern Conference’s Central Division.
|Halftime: Celtics – Rockets||04.02.10 at 8:41 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo made Celtics history less than five minutes into the game when he broke Bob Cousy’s 50-year-old single season assist record. Rondo dished his 716th dime of the season, an alley-oop to Kevin Garnett, to set the mark. (Earlier in the season, Rondo passed Rick Fox for the franchise mark in single-season steals.)
But back to the game. The Celtics gave up an early 11-point lead to trail the Rockets 32-30 after the first quarter. The Rockets closed the quarter on a 19-6 run, led by eight points in less than six minutes from Kyle Lowry. Paul Pierce, Kendrick Perkins, and Aaron Brooks also scored eight in the quarter. The Celtics outshot the Rockets, 59 percent to 50 percent, but were outrebounded, 12-7.
The C’s trailed in the second quarter before Rondo sparked a comeback. Rondo leapt for a defensive rebound and threw an outlet pass as he lost his balance, which Pierce connected for a lay-in. On the next possession, he set Perkins up for a bucket. The C’s took the lead back on a dunk by Tony Allen. The Rockets fought back, though, and are up 57-53 at halftime.
Brooks leads all players with 17 points. Pierce has 14 for the Celtics. Rondo has a game-high seven assists.