|What to watch for: Preseason Celtics in Turkey edition||10.05.12 at 12:43 am ET|
Preseason NBA games go something like this: Hey, basketball’s back! Then the second quarter starts and you’re reminded that it’s preseason. By the time the second half tips off, everyone’s trying to not get hurt, while rookies and free agents are looking for that one shot of glory.
The Celtics will play Fenerbache Ulker on Friday afternoon in Istanbul, and while there’s only so much that can be determined in the first exhibition, there are still a number of things worth keeping an eye on as they begin to take shape for the upcoming season.
Here are five areas to watch:
THE NEW-LOOK BACKCOURT: It will be jarring to see the Celtics lineup without Ray Allen in his customary spot, but more than appearances, the C’s guards will have an entirely different feel. Courtney Lee is likely to start with Jason Terry operating as a sixth man. Lee won’t get nearly as many touches as Allen did, and it will be interesting to see how Doc Rivers adjusts the offense without Allen running off so many picks.
One of the benefits of Avery Bradley‘s emergence last season was that it allowed Rivers to take Rajon Rondo off the ball defensively. That has tremendous value, not only because Bradley is such a good defender, but it also allowed Rondo the chance to conserve energy on the defensive end. Lee brings a tough defensive-mindset to the position, but can he handle the fullcourt pressure defense that Rivers prefers?
HOW WILL JEFF GREEN BE UTILIZED? This is the key question, maybe for the whole season. Green has not fared well defensively as a big forward, but if Kevin Garnett is lined up next to him that could alter the dynamic considerably. Another big question that Rivers hinted at already: Can Green and Paul Pierce function together as a forward tandem?
One of the biggest reasons that Green was not an overnight success in Boston is that he was never able to fill a consistent role. Part of that is on him for not being assertive enough and part of that is on Rivers to create one.
IS JARED SULLINGER READY? It’s been a tough camp for Chris Wilcox, who is dealing with back spasms in addition to trying to return from heart surgery. Wilcox is the only veteran backup 4 on the roster, and if he can’t go on Friday, that would seem to give the Ohio State rookie an early opportunity to make an impression.
SPEAKING OF ROOKIES: Dionte Christmas, Kris Joseph and Jamar Smith are part of a battle for what could be two open roster spots. Christmas received a higher guarantee than the others, so he would appear to have a leg up heading into the camp. That can all change quickly, however.
Need is a relative term for a squad with championship aspirations and veterans at nearly every position, but the two that stand out are backup point guard (Smith) and depth on the wing (Christmas and Joseph).
ALL THAT AND DARKO TOO: The over/under on how long it takes Tommy Heinsohn to compare Darko to Bill Russell has been set at eight minutes. Tommy’s not in Istanbul, but has there even been this much intrigue for a backup center?
Heinsohn aside, for one of the first times in his career the expectations for Darko are actually reasonable and manageable. If he can give the C’s 15-20 minutes a night as a backup center, they will be thrilled. Rebounding has been a major point of emphasis for Rivers during camp, and that’s where the Celtics really need Darko to make a difference.
|Irish Coffee: Where do walking wounded Celtics stand?||10.02.12 at 5:54 pm ET|
“Knock on wood,” as Paul Pierce said, because the Celtics haven’t been this healthy during training camp the past three seasons. In 2010, Kevin Garnett returned from his season-ending knee surgery the spring before. A year later, Kendrick Perkins sat with an ACL tear. Last season, a foot injury kept Pierce from playing opening night.
“The key for us if we’re going to win another championship is going to be our health,” said Pierce. “You have to be good; you have to be lucky. Sometimes those are things you can’t control. Since our first year we won it, we haven’t been lucky enough to be healthy, so hopefully we’re healthy this year and we can make another run at it.’
Role players like Tony Allen, Leon Powe, the O’Neal brothers, Delonte West, Mickael Pietrus or even Ray Allen last season have also kept the C’s doctors busy the past few years. Youth doesn’t guarantee health, but it certainly helps. At least they’re not keeping a trainer’s table warm for the Jermaine O’Neals of the league anymore.
Ironically, the youngest members of the Celtics — Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger — are two of the biggest question marks among a handful of health concerns, so let’s see where the C’s walking wounded stand.
|Irish Coffee: Top 10 Celtics Media Day moments||10.01.12 at 5:36 pm ET|
Considering the Celtics have been unofficially practicing together since early September, Friday’s Media Day at the team’s practice facility in Waltham seemed less like a welcome home party than years past and more like an interruption of a team’s quest for the franchise’s 18th NBA championship already in progress. That attitude is reflected in the top 10 moments from this year’s Celtics Media Day compared to the same post last season.
10. Chris Wilcox on missing the playoffs again: “I was fresh out of surgery when they made it to the playoffs. The whole time, I was just trying to see whatever I could do. I was like, ‘Doc, there’s no way I could come back?’ And he was like, ‘Don’t even think about it.’ So, it was just motivation, because I can’t watch basketball and not play it. … I’m out trying to walk on treadmills and doing all these different kind of things, just trying to get back, because I wanted to be around basketball. I’ve never been to the playoffs before. That was going to be my first experience, and then that had to happen, so it was tough.”
9. Jared Sullinger on dropping to the Celtics: “Everybody was knocking me for the back problems and all this crazy stuff, but I could care less. Like I told everybody, if I dropped to the Celtics at 21, and I could go back and redo everything — and me not getting hurt — I’ll get hurt again and slide all the way back down to 21, just so I could be with the Boston Celtics. I’d redo it, because it’s a great organization, great vets, great team.”
8. Courtney Lee on the Celtics’ championship tradition: “Every organization I’ve been with, winning has always been the key, but here you believe — you feel it, you see it. We’re not even starting training camp yet, and we had our whole team here Sept. 4, and everybody was dedicated to getting better. The motto of it was to win a championship. The first day I got here, on the fourth, all Rondo was talking about is a championship and getting back and winning. Once you hear that from your star players, you don’t want to let them down, so that motivates you to get on the same page, and that’s all it’s about: Winning.”
|Danny Darko: What do Celtics see in center’s future?||09.26.12 at 12:14 pm ET|
Just because Celtics owner Steve Pagliuca says the Celtics can roll out five or six 7-footers doesn’t make it true.
Sure, since the addition of Darko Milicic on a one-year, $1.2 million veteran minimum contract, the C’s feature three legit 7-footers (Milicic, Jason Collins, Fab Melo) and Kevin Garnett, who insists he’s 6-foot-11 but had a bird’s-eye view of Nenad Krstic‘s receding hairline. Throw in 6-foot-10 Chris Wilcox, and Pags isn’t far off. That group could give forwards Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger and Jeff Green a Napoleonic complex.
Still, the Celtics can roll out all the bigs they want. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be any good. We heard the same rhetoric when the C’s entered the 2010-11 NBA season with Shaquille O’Neal, Kendrick Perkins, Jermaine O’Neal and Semih Erden at the 5. So, what should the Celtics expect from these pillars of Boston?
|Irish Coffee: Did the Celtics solve rebounding woes?||09.05.12 at 11:50 am ET|
Last season, the Celtics ranked dead last in the NBA in total rebounds per game and third-to-last in both rebound differential and rebounding percentage. Not good. Not good at all. So, what did they do to improve those woes?
The short answer: Not much. The long answer? Well, that’s what we hope to explain here. First, the C’s issues.
- Rebounds per game: 38.8 (30th)
- Offensive rebounds per game: 7.7 (30th)
- Defensive rebounds per game: 31.1 (14th!)
- Rebounding percentage: 47.3 (28th)
- Offensive rebounding percentage: 19.7 (30th)
- Defensive rebounding percentage: 72.4 (20th)
- Opponents’ rebounds per game: 43.2 (21st)
- Rebound differential: -4.4 (28th)
The Celtics ranked in the top half of the NBA in just one category: Defensive rebounding, and even then they’re a middling bunch. The C’s had only two players among the league’s top 50 rebounders — Kevin Garnett (23rd) and Brandon Bass (48th) — while a team like the Lakers owned two of the NBA’s top 10 best window washers.
Things didn’t get much better in the playoffs. The C’s ranked 13th out of 16 teams in rebounds per game, 12th in opponents’ rebounds per game and 14th in rebound differential. And they ranked ninth in defensive rebounding rate, third-to-last in total rebounding rate and dead last in offensive rebounding rate. Bad, worse and terrible.
The good news: Both Garnett and Bass still anchor the C’s backcourt. The bad news: Both Garnett and Bass still anchor the C’s backcourt. While Garnett’s rebounding rate has been in fairly steady decline since he arrived in Boston, he averaged more than a rebound better once he moved to center (8.7 per game) than he did as the team’s starting power forward (7.5 per game). However, the rebounding numbers for Bass changed little during his move from the bench (6.1 in 27.9 minutes per game) to the starting lineup (6.2 in 33.6 minutes per game).
The Celtics feature the best rebounding point guard in the game (Rajon Rondo‘s average of 4.8 boards per game even surpassed 6-foot-6 Kings point Tyreke Evans), and Paul Pierce ranked among the 10 best rebounders at his position last season, but neither helped matters much last season. So, where can the C’s improve?
|Irish Coffee: Danny Ainge’s masterful Celtics summer||07.20.12 at 3:48 pm ET|
How do you think David West is feeling right about now? If you’ll recall, when he snubbed the Celtics for the Pacers in free agency last summer, he said, “In Boston, everybody is kinda realistic about the window that the Celtics have. Me looking at where I’m at, I think my window is a little bit wider.”
Since then, after watching the Celtics take the Heat to the brink in the Eastern Conference finals, West has seen his Pacers match Roy Hibbert‘s max contract (4 years, $58 million) — dedicating roughly $36 million annually to a “Big Three” of Hibbert, Danny Granger and George Hill — trade Darren Collison for Ian Mahinmi, and sign Gerald Green (3 years, $10 million) and D.J. Augustin (1 year, $3.5 million) as their biggest free agent splashes.
Meanwhile, Celtics president Danny Ainge painted his best masterpiece since acquiring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in 2007 for Al Jefferson, the No. 5 overall NBA draft pick and a bunch of garbage. Not willing to call Ainge’s offseason a masterpiece? Take a look at what he had to work with this summer.
|Rest for the weary and other Celtics summer league notes||07.18.12 at 3:11 pm ET|
LAS VEGAS — After playing seven games in nine days, the Celtics‘ summer league team is getting the day off. After knocking off the Bulls, 79-74, on Tuesday night, they have now won six of their seven games and both in Vegas. It’s a credit to coach Ty Lue, who has done a terrific job getting a dozen guys who just met to play hard and play as a team, while also finding time for a 10-man rotation each night.
On Tuesday, it was E’Twaun Moore‘s time to shine. The second-year guard has been their most consistent performer throughout summer league and the Bulls’ game was his best to day. Moore hit 10-of-19 shots and scored 25 points including five key points down the stretch when the Bulls cut into a double-digit lead.
The Celtics have until midnight on Sunday to guarantee the second-year of his contract and he’s made strong case for not only sticking with the team, but also getting a chance to earn a rotation spot. While he’s not a natural point guard, Moore has played with his trademark calmness and rarely gets rattled. He’s been solid with the ball outside of a four-turnover effort against the Pistons in Orlando in the C’s only loss.
Tuesday’s game played directly to his strengths as Jared Sullinger battled through a 3-for-15 shooting night and the C’s needed a scorer.
“E’Twaun is trying to be a point guard, but he’s a natural scorer,” Lue said. “It’s a fine line between the two, but we know he can score and attack. With Jared shooting 3-for-15 tonight, he had to step up and score. That’s what point guards do. If guys are rolling you’ve got to give him the ball. If they’re not, then you have to step up and score.”
Despite a tough night offensively, Sullinger drew praise for continuing to attack the glass. He pulled down 14 rebounds, including five on the offensive glass. Fellow forward JaJuan Johnson also hit the boards, pulling down 12 rebounds in his strongest rebounding effort of the summer session. Read the rest of this entry »
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