|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.
|Celtics experiment with small ball||10.01.12 at 1:22 pm ET|
WALTHAM — The buzzword around the Celtics these days is “versatility.” In Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and especially Jeff Green, coach Doc Rivers has a number of different lineup combinations he can use, and he plans to test them all. Rivers pointed to Rajon Rondo, who was getting stretched out behind the media scrum. “He’ll be very happy.”
Their last practice before departing for Istanbul was devoted entirely to using small lineups, although small is a relative term. The C’s believe that the 6-foot-9 Green can force matchups whether he’s at the three or the four and there’s even a thought of playing him and Paul Pierce together with two traditional bigs.
“We put it in [Sunday] but we didn’t work on it,” Rivers said. “Today we’re going to have almost exclusively have small lineups on the floor so that will be fun. This is the first year we’ve ever really worked on it and we’re going to work on it so we can do it every game.”
Green is the key because of his length and athleticism. Last season, Rivers used Mickael Pietrus as a smaller small forward with Pierce playing the four. That lineup was almost born out of desperation as a counter to Miami using LeBron James as the second big around a lineup of perimeter shooters.Rivers doesn’t just want to matchup, he wants to attack and he sees Green as a force in the open court.
“He’s the main guy when you talk about small lineups,” Rondo said. “He played the four at Oklahoma City, he stretched the floor with his shooting. We can get a lot of bigs on the floor as well. He can go from the four to the three. Defensively, he can check one through four, I believe. We expect a lot out of Jeff but he’s fine with that pressure.”
A key to making the smaller lineups work is also coming up with an offense that won’t stall when Rondo is off the court — a frequent occurrence last season. With no traditional backup point guard on the roster and Avery Bradley out for a few months, that task may fall to Terry.
“He’s a better ballhandler,” Rivers said. “I knew he could score of the dribble but he’s really a natural at the point. That surprised me. We have no choice right now with Avery out. We’re trying to create an offense where it’s not a point guard dominated offense, unless Rondo’s on the floor.”
|Jeff Green: Heart surgery ‘made me realize life is short’||09.29.12 at 1:57 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Jeff Green knew he was ready to come back when he was playing a pickup basketball game at his alma mater.
He told those in the game, “When I get the ball, I’m going to drive to the lane and I want you to hit me.”
Sure enough, they tested Green, making contact with his chest in the area of his heart where he had surgery last January to fix a faulty aortic valve.
“I wasn’t worried at all,” Green said. “When I got hit, I got hit right in the area where I had the surgery and it didn’t affect me at all. I think that is what got me through the rest of the summer as far as confidence and being able to build on what I’ve been trying to do. It was mind-boggling to go through it. First time, I was very winded but it felt very good to be back out there.”
Now for Green, it’s onto the business of getting back into the Celtics system, something he thinks will come quickly.
“I don’t think it will take me long at all, with me being around the team last year,” Green said. “I’ve been here since beginning of September and I’ve had talks with Doc and assistant coaches just to figure out different schemes on the floor. Just to put it [to work] on the floor, maybe a day.”
As far as what the surgery experience taught him, Green said he has more perspective now.
“It made me appreciate the little things,” Green said. “When I had the surgery, I couldn’t move, couldn’t do a crunch, couldn’t turn left or right so it made me appreciate life itself and all the little things. Definitely helped me open my eyes and made me realize life is short and you have to enjoy every moment of it.”
Green and Chris Wilcox both had surgeries on their hearts last season. “I call him my scar buddy,” Green said with his trademark wide smile.
|Doc Rivers’ coaching challenge||09.26.12 at 5:16 pm ET|
While the NBA continues to undergo what the writer Bethlehem Shoals once termed “the positional revolution,” the Celtics largely have stayed true to traditional lineups. There was good reason for this.
In Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett they had four players who not only fit the archetypes of their positions, they could have served as the model for how we think about point guards, off guards, small forwards and power forwards.
All that was missing was a center, and over the years they have used Kendrick Perkins, Rasheed Wallace and the O’Neal brothers to varying degrees of effectiveness. Coach Doc Rivers also used Glen Davis as an undersized 5, but the one time he was truly able to display a unique look was during the championship season of 2007-08 when James Posey took the court with the other four starters.
That all began to change last season when Rivers moved Garnett to the 5 and inserted Brandon Bass into the starting lineup. The change was enormously successful, but the C’s ran into trouble during the postseason against teams like Philadelphia and Miami that could throw multiple combinations at them and create matchup advantages at various positions.
The Celtics lacked depth, which was a major problem, but they also lacked the personnel to counter some of these moves. That may have changed this offseason when they added Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and Jeff Green to the mix. All three players can play multiple positions. And in loading up on 7-footers (Jason Collins, Darko Milicic and Fab Melo) to go along with Chris Wilcox and Jared Sullinger, the Celtics should be deeper, bigger and more versatile.
At some point this winter they also will welcome back Avery Bradley, who found a home playing off the ball on offense while applying tenacious ball pressure on the defensive end of the court.
“When he comes back, I don’t know if anyone has a better guard core than us, but we’re going to have to wait for that,” Rivers said. “In the meantime we have three guys who can all play multiple positions. That’s the way I would always want to coach, and I have an opportunity to do that.”
|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?
|The wait is over: Jeff Green signs Celtics contract||08.22.12 at 7:59 pm ET|
On Wednesday afternoon, Jeff Green tweeted, “FINALLY!!!” And the Twittersphere erupted with the assumption that after a summer of intrigue the forward put his signature on a Celtics contract. Sure enough, five hours later, the C’s officially announced his re-signing.
“We are thrilled to be able to have Jeff back with the Celtics,” Celtics president Danny Ainge said in a press release. “Jeff’s versatility on offense and ability to guard players out on the perimeter is something that we are looking forward to having on the court this season.”
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but previous reports indicated Green would sign for four years and $36 million. The announcement puts an end for now to a nonstop string of questions, mainly about his health following season-ending heart surgery last season. It also ensures the centerpiece from the C’s perspective in the Kendrick Perkins trade of 2011 will remain in Boston.
“I cannot wait to get back out onto the court,” said Green in a prepared statement, “and help this team towards our goal of winning another championship for Boston.”
During the 2010-11 NBA season, Green averaged 9.8 points (48.5 FG%, 29.6 3P%, 79.4 FT%) and 3.3 rebounds in 26 games for the Celtics. He also averaged 7.3 points and 2.7 rebounds over nine playoff games.
Considering their financial commitment, the C’s are surely hoping those numbers will approach or exceed his career averages of 13.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 315 games, including three-plus seasons for the Thunder and Sonics franchise.
UPDATE: Just two additional items of note from Steve Bulpett’s story in the Boston Herald on why the contract took so long to finalize: a) Green’s agent, David Falk, said complications from the collective bargaining agreement and other “side issues were more complicated than expected once they agreed on the basic parameters”; and b) insurance complicated matters (what’s new?), according to his player source.
|Chris Wilcox: ‘I want to get better than where I was’||08.20.12 at 1:02 pm ET|
In somewhat of a lost interview, Celtics big Chris Wilcox joined “Go4it” sports radio talk show host Paul Gant recently to discuss his recovery from an enlarged aorta, his camaraderie with fellow heart surgery patient Jeff Green, returning to Boston and the team’s title hopes for this coming season. Here are some highlights.
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