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Brandon Bass and Jermaine O’Neal will split starting role 01.14.12 at 1:22 am ET
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The Celtics made a late-minute switch before their game against the Bulls on Friday with Brandon Bass inserted into the starting lineup ahead of Jermaine O’Neal. Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he’s been thinking about the switch since training camp and he’ll probably use that starting lineup 70 percent of the time.

“It was a lineup that I wanted to get to because I thought it gave us more versatility and I thought our rotations were easier when you bring in Jermaine in for Kevin [Garnett], you stay big,” Rivers said. “What I’m trying to do is always have Jermaine or Kevin, just size on the floor.”

It’s not a change in minutes. Bass will still play 25-30 and O’Neal will work about 20-25 minutes. The starting assignment will be based on matchups and against the Bulls who start two big forwards in Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah it made sense to counter with the Celtics’ top big forwards. O’Neal may start on Saturday against the Pacers who have a traditional center in Roy Hibbert.

Rivers also said that he was working though his rotations for Garnett. His five minutes on, five minutes off plan sounds good in theory, but Garnett is a rhythm player and the coach admitted it was tough to take him off the floor when he starts to find it.

“I still like it,” Rivers said. “I don’t love it but I think it’s something that we have to do.”

Read More: Brandon Bass, Jermaine O'Neal, Kevin Garnett,
Doc Rivers: Pacers stole C’s ‘airspace’ and ‘all we did was whine and retaliate’ 01.07.12 at 11:40 am ET
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The Celtics – coaches and players – were visibly upset many times during Friday’s hideous loss to the Pacers at TD Garden. Rajon Rondo picked up a technical after he was called for a cheap foul on one end and then didn’t get the call when he was hammered under the basket on a reverse layup.

Jermaine O’Neal picked up a couple of fouls on plays that appeared to be clean blocks on replay.

So, when Doc Rivers stepped to the microphone in postgame, many assumed he’d go off. He did. But not on the refs.

“I think he was trying to draw fouls, honestly, and I thought he did or didn’t,” Rivers said of Rondo’s drives to the basket. “I actually liked, in that way, they were letting you play. That usually benefits us. Tonight it didn’t.”

But that was just the beginning. What really bothered Rivers the most was the fact the Pacers went on the road to Boston and beat the Celtics at their own game.

“I just thought offensively, we were horrible,” Rivers began. “The ball stuck the entire night. I used a timeout early, I used a timeout in the third quarter. But I give Indiana a lot of the credit. I thought they were up into our airspace, they fought us all night, they knocked us off the block. I thought they were the instigators the entire night and all we did was whine and retaliated, for the most part.

“I think it was their effort. I thought their intensity – I just thought they were into us. They were in our airspace, you know? We always talk about owning the airspace of ours, and then owning the opponents’ airspace. That’s who we are. And they were us, for the entire game. Even in the stretch we were playing well I thought it was late shot clock baskets by us. So I just thought they did it better than us. And that falls on me first. I told our guys that. But then it falls on them as well.”

By the end of the third quarter, the Celtics were utterly lost, symbolized by their botched play that ended in a desperate Kevin Garnett 3-point attempt from the right wing at the buzzer, a shot partially blocked by Tyler Hansbrough.

“Early pick-and-roll,” Rivers said of planned play call gone awry. “That was just frustration at the summit. I thought they were responsible for a lot of it. I thought they were the tougher team, physically, and the tougher team, mentally.”

KG and Hansbrough went face-to-face in the fourth quarter but the man they called “Psycho-T” at North Carolina wouldn’t back down. And neither would the Pacers, leading Rivers to point out the following:

“I mean, listen, we’re a 4-4 basketball team,” Rivers began. “That’s what we are. You are what your record is. Make no mistake about that. One of the guys said, ‘Hey, that’s alright; we’re better than that.’ And I said, ‘No we’re not. You’re what your record says you are. And you always have the ability to do something about that. But right now, Indiana’s a 5-2 team – I think that’s their record – and we’re a 4-4 team. And make no mistake: that’s who we are. That’s not who we want to be, and that’s not who we’re going to be hopefully, but right now that’s who we are.”

The Celtics are 4-0 against the Pistons, Wizards (twice) and Nets, teams that are a combined 4-18. They are 0-4 against the Knicks, Heat, Hornets and Pacers, teams that are a combined 17-12.

“Well, we’re 0-fer against quality opponents,” Rivers said. “But again, it’s eight games into the year, so I’m not going to overdo that.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Indiana Pacers, Jermaine O'Neal
The legend – and significance – of Greg Stiemsma just continues to grow 01.03.12 at 10:33 am ET
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Doc Rivers wanted to make sure Greg Stiemsma had the confidence to assume the role of playing and starting for the Celtics. He wanted to hear it from the man himself and then the Celtics coach wanted the rookie – who’s been around the world playing basketball – to let his teammates know he was ready.

“We had the silly – he’ll recall it, but we had the silly day where he wouldn’t shoot and I made him stand in front of the whole team and say, ‘My name is Greg Stiemsma; I’m a shooter.’ And we kept making him repeat it. Everybody started. About two weeks ago, everybody was laughing. He said, ‘I can shoot. I’m a shooter.’ And he is. And it was good,” Rivers said after Monday’s 100-92 win over the Wizards.

It worked. Stiemsma, filling in as starting center for Jermaine O’Neal, scored 13 points and hauled down seven rebounds in 21 minutes. He added two blocks – including one that got Wizards coach Flip Saunders ejected just over a minute into the game – two assists, three fouls on 5-of-7 shooting. Not bad for a guy who had to be convinced by his coach that he was good enough to be taking shots in the NBA.

“Stiemsma was terrific,” Rivers said. “He was absolutely wonderful. And I was so happy when he just took the shot. My favorite play of the whole game was he missed a shot and they threw it right back to him and he shot it again. I mean, that’s terrific. That was – I thought the whole bench was excited over that because it’s what we’ve been saying.”

After playing at the University of Wisconsin, Stiemsma went overseas to play in South Korea and Turkey. He came home to play in the D-League. He got a look from the Timberwolves and Cavaliers but couldn’t stick on an NBA roster. Monday night, he finally got his first NBA start.

And after hearing the crowd cheer for him every time he touched the ball in preseason and on Friday night, he was ready to take the big stage Monday.

“I’m trying to bring some energy every time,” he said. “I take my shot when it’s there and not force anything. I just want to take care of the ball.”

Kevin Garnett has been huge in helping Stiemsma, as our Paul Flannery points out. Stiemsma has been doing everything he can to contribute, since he figures to become more and more important as the Celtics manage the hamstring of Jermaine O’Neal through the course of an accelerated schedule.

“I’ve just try to be his sponge and just learn as much as I can from him,” Steimsma said. “He doesn’t make mistakes too often so he’s in the right spot every time. So if I can just mimic him, it’s going to help my game.

“With every opportunity I’ve had I feel like I’ve tried to step up to the plate and come out and perform well and tonight was another opportunity. I was happy to get the opportunity and to play well on top of that.”

And now, thanks to Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett, he will do so with a lot more confidence.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Greg Stiemsma, Jermaine O'Neal, Kevin Garnett
Starting five: Thoughts on the Celtics’ struggles through season’s first five days 12.29.11 at 10:13 pm ET
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Doc Rivers called Jermaine O'Neal the MVP of camp, but he's contributed almost nothing through three games. (AP)

Last Friday, before leaving for their Christmas day showdown against the Knicks, Celtics coach Doc Rivers joked that the media would have to calm fans down if his team started the season slowly. Unfortunately for Rivers, Boston’s first three games have left the team winless, with the very panic that Rivers seemed to anticipate ensuing.

Perhaps the most glaring issue through three games is Boston’s proclivity to fall behind early in contests. The Celtics have trailed by sizable margins at the half in each of their three games, the smallest deficit being nine.

Although Boston displayed strong fortitude against both Miami and New York — finding itself within striking distance in the last two minutes of each game after falling behind by double-digits — they know playing catchup is not a winning recipe.

“All the teams were the aggressors initially,” back-up guard Keyon Dooling told reporters Wednesday night, following the team’s loss to New Orleans. “We were on our heels trying to bounce back. We can’t be that type of team. We have to be a hit-first team if we want to be successful.”

Boston showed some of Dooling’s “hit-first” mentality against the Hornets, jumping out to a 9-2 advantage. However, playing in the second game of a back-to-back caught up to the Celtics, as New Orleans finished the first quarter on a 22-9 run. “We played tired,” Rivers told reporters. “We looked tired. It happens.”

Another alarming trend is overall team defense. In the previous four years of the new “Big Three” era, Boston has allowed an average of 92.6 points per game. Meanwhile, this season the Celtics are allowing 106 points per game. Looking even closer, the Celtics gave up 60 or more points in the first half only four times last season. This season Boston allowed 62 points in the first half against New York, and followed that performance by giving up 69 points through 24 minutes two days later in Miami. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Brandon Bass, Glen Davis, Greg Stiemsma, Jermaine O'Neal
Jermaine O’Neal: Now, ‘I feel like I know what I’m doing’ 12.24.11 at 12:30 am ET
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No one was more disappointed about the way last season ended in Miami than Jermaine O’Neal. He had just begun to find his legs in the playoffs, playing significant minutes and becoming a force after injuries to his left knee and left wrist caused him to miss 58 regular season games.

But now he’s healthy and ready to go. He says he hasn’t felt this good since finishing the 2009-10 season in Miami, when he played and started 70 games.

“I felt strong, I felt knowledgable about the system,” O’Neal said. “Now I feel comfortable with the guys and the guys felt comfortable with me. I think the coaching staff feel comfortable with me. Last year, no one knew what to expect since I wasn’t out there.”

Doc Rivers called him the “MVP of training camp” and believes the C’s will be getting the real O’Neal this season. O’Neal doesn’t want to disappoint.

“I think all of us want to do the job Doc expects us to do,” O’Neal said Friday. “I feel like we have enough size, enough mobility to play the style of game we want to play.”

O’Neal, if healthy, could be a huge difference-maker this season for the Celtics. He has average 14 points and just over seven rebounds a game and is considered one of the best defensive centers in the league when healthy.

“You talk about our size, there’s not many teams that have legitimately three or four seven-footers,” O’Neal said. “We have 6-10, 6-11, three or four of those guys who can really do a lot of different things. I think a lot of guys are just mentally focused on doing their jobs. If we do our jobs, we’ll be fine.”

O’Neal could never get on track last season, battling injuries and splitting practice time with Shaquille O’Neal and Glen Davis as the Celtics desperately searched for an answer in the low post. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Jermaine O'Neal, Miami Heat
Fast Break: Celtics hold on to beat Raptors 12.18.11 at 3:32 pm ET
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With only two preseason games and the start of the season just week away, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he would give his starters and his top rotation players significant time in their exhibition game against the Raptors and the coach was as good as his word.

Even without Paul Pierce (right heel) and Sasha Pavlovic (left wrist), Rivers used just 10 players in the first half and the Celtics coach didn’t go deep into his bench until the fourth quarter. It wasn’t a coincidence that the Celtics blew a 10-point lead in the final quarter, but held on for a 76-75 victory in Toronto.

Here’s the good and the bad:

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Marquis Daniels started for Pierce and played well. He’s one of the team’s better post-up options and he remains a good cutter who helps facilitate the team’s offense with his movement off the ball. With Jeff Green out for the season, Daniels has become an important reserve. He’ll get most of the time behind Pierce and also play some off-guard for the Celtics as well. He came into camp in terrific shape and said that he’s stronger than he was before undergoing surgery for a spinal condition.

– Rivers called center Jermaine O’Neal the MVP of the first week of camp and at times he was the best player on the floor for the Celtics. O’Neal said that he feels more comfortable offensively and understands where he needs to be to contribute. Defensively, his shot-blocking presence is invaluable for a team with a shortage of big men.

Brandon Bass continues to impress with a diverse offensive game. He hit jumpers coming off down screens and in isolation and ran the floor with Rajon Rondo for a sweet dunk in transition. Bass is the best offensive weapon the Celtics have had coming off the bench in years.

– The Celtics were the worst offensive rebounding team in the league by a wide margin last season. That should change with Bass and Chris Wilcox on board. Both are energy players with athleticism and timing and they weren’t afraid to crash the boards.

E’Twuan Moore drained a couple of late jumpers, showing again why the team is so high on their second-round pick.

WHAT WENT WRONG

– The hope is that Pierce can return to practice this week, but until he returns the Celtics are dangerously thin at the small forward spot. The Celtics insist that there’s noting to worry about with Pierce, but any time one of their core players misses this much time it’s a concern.

– Without much depth at small forward, Rivers used a number of three-guard lineups with Keyon Dooling, Avery Bradley, Moore, Ray Allen and Rondo. They were successful in speeding up the tempo of the game, something that has been an emphasis throughout camp, but struggled to score without Allen or Rondo in the game.

Shot creation will be something to watch all season from the reserves. The Celtics struggled mightily in that regard last season and while Dooling, Bass and Wilcox are an offensive upgrade, none of them excels at creating his own offense.

– Rookie JaJuan Johnson did not see the court until the fourth quarter, an indication that he has work to do to see some playing time. Rivers has said that Johnson has been up and down throughout camp, which is to be expected for a rookie. The team loves his outside shot and athleticism. He’ll get his chances during the season.

Read More: Brandon Bass, e'twuan moore, JaJuan Johnson, Jermaine O'Neal
Irish Coffee: Ray Allen’s microcosm of life 10.20.11 at 1:46 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

Celtics guard Ray Allen and coach Doc Rivers are in Orlando, Fla. for the PGA Tour’s Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic pro-am on Thursday and Friday. ESPN.com golf writer Michael Collins interviewed Allen prior to a round with 2008 Masters champion Trevor Immelman. Here are 10 things we learned from the exchange:

  • Allen couldn’t have looked less interested to start the interview.
  • Though a scratch golfer, he’s not thinking about a professional golf career.
  • Tee shots in front of a gallery scare him more than an NBA Finals tip-off.
  • His lowest round ever: A 67 at Newton’s Charles River Country Club.
  • He sees golf as a microcosm of life.
  • He doesn’t have a favorite part of his game.
  • Sand shots are the worst part of his game.
  • Ball-striking is the best part of his game.
  • He’d like to see more trash talking in golf.
  • He’d like to see a fight between John Daly and Woody Austin.

“The next shot is the best shot — the most important shot.” Sounds like he takes the same approach to golf as he does in basketball. Speaking of which, three people who donated $4,500 to The Home For Little Wanderers earned the chance to play (read: “lose”) a game of H.O.R.S.E. with Allen in his driveway before his wife Shannon Allen prepares them a home-cooked meal. Good times.

Allen is the lone member of the Celtics’ Big Four not rumored among NBA players expected to participate in a two-week exhibition tour in Puerto Rico, London, Macau and Australia, according to ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard. Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo are expected to participate — and Kevin Garnett is reportedly mulling an offer to play — during the canceled first two weeks of the NBA season.

I don’t know about you, but I kind of respect the fact that Allen isn’t bothering with any of these exhibition games or sticking his nose in labor negotiations. He’s ready to play whenever the lockout lifts. Otherwise, he’ll be playing golf. “I can work out for basketball, but there are so many hours left in the day.” So Shuttlesworth.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Jermaine O'Neal, Kevin Garnett, NBA
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