|Passing Chemistry 101||02.27.09 at 10:48 pm ET|
Stephon Marbury wasted no time making his intentions known.
‘I’m not looking to improve my game,’ he said at his introductory press conference. ‘I’m coming here to try to help the Celtics win another championship.’
Wearing a Boston Celtics shirt with a handwritten number eight on the shamrock, Marbury addressed the media prior to Friday’s game against the Indiana Pacers. (RECAP HERE) He shrugged off talks of selfishness and expressed his willingness to do whatever is asked of him on the court.
Marbury said all the right things as the newest member of an organization driven by chemistry and teamwork.
‘This is a very selfless team,’ said Ray Allen. ‘We don’t care about individual accolades.’
Even though Marbury received a standing ovation in his first game, the skepticism of his team-first attitude is not going to go away overnight. He comes to Boston with the baggage of a tarnished reputation, one that isn’t forgotten by wearing a new uniform. The front office explained to Marbury how the team operates, a discussion which is protocol for every new player.
‘We establish what the rules are, how we run things here, and how it’s about the team,’ Celtics president Danny Ainge told WEEI’s Big Show. ‘We’ve established those rules with Steph. (Head coach) Doc (Rivers) and I had a good conversation with him this morning and I’ve had a handful of conversations with Steph about those things even before now, as the Knicks gave us permission to talk.’
Marbury wants to look ahead. And so do the Celtics.
‘I’m not afraid of Steph, Doc’s not afraid of Steph, and it really comes down to Doc,’ Ainge said. ‘I think Doc understands Steph and can manage him and that Steph will respect Doc, first and foremost.’
Last season Rivers coached five veteran first-year Celtics to a championship. He knows firsthand that a new environment can turn a vet’s career around.
‘That was New York and wherever else. That has nothing to do with today and tomorrow,’ Rivers said of concerns about Marbury. ‘I’ve always had an open mind with everyone who’s come in, and you know, we’ve done pretty well. Our locker room is very strong and we just have good people. And so, no, I’m not that concerned about that at all.’
The players are on board with personnel. After winning a title with a reconstructed team, the Celtics know that a midseason acquistion (think P.J. Brown) can be the missing piece to success.
‘You’ve just got to welcome him in, make him feel like he’s at home. Other than that, just do things together off the court,’ said Kendrick Perkins. ‘I think [adding so many new players last season] helped us a lot. We’ve just got to keep getting better and help these guys just keep improving as a team. I think we’ll get better as they get to play more games.’
The key to Marbury’s success with his new team is just that, playing as a team.
‘You never know what’s in front of you as far as your basketball career,’ he said. ‘That’s why you just play as hard as you can and do the best that you can.’
|O’Bryant wasn’t ready||02.20.09 at 3:12 pm ET|
‘I feel like I’m pretty ready,’ he said prior to the All-Star Break. ‘I never feel like I’m not ready, I don’t want to get down on myself. But I feel like I’m ready. In Doc’s eyes I might not be, so I’ve just got to take his advice and keep pushing forward.’
In spite of being a big man on a team in need of length, O’Bryant averaged just 4.2 minutes in 26 games this season (less playing time than everyone on the Celtics except for Sam Cassell and J.R. Giddens). Last summer an informed source questioned if O’Bryant would be able to shake his two-guard mentality in a seven-foot frame. His defensive abilities continued to be a cause for concern.
‘He’s been stressing Celtics D,’ O’Bryant said of Rivers. ‘It’s different than any other team’s expectations. They’re a championship team and you’ve got to be able to play at a championship level.’
O’Bryant was looking forward to growing as a shot blocker and rebounder in the second half of the season. He was eager to back up Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins off the bench. Now he can try to do the same for Chris Bosh.
|Twelve minutes to make it count||02.08.09 at 5:40 pm ET|
‘It comes down to a fourth-quarter battle,’ he said on Friday. ‘They’re not going to come in and make small mistakes. They’re going to operate their offense. Defensively they’re going to know what they’ve got to do.’
Allen was exactly right. On Sunday, the Celtics entered the fourth quarter with a two-point lead and were outscored 31-23 by the Spurs. They lost 105-99 (RECAP HERE). It was the second time in two games the defending champs fell in the final 12 minutes. Last week they started the fourth quarter up by four on the Los Angeles Lakers before losing 110-109 in overtime.
‘When you play the top teams in the league it comes down to the little things,’ said Paul Pierce. ‘And I just thought last couple of games at home it was one or two-point games. It’s the little things — defensive transition late in the game, covering for one another, one possession. It’s like the playoffs, one play can kill you. Every possession counts and we got to understand that when we play against the top tier teams like the San Antonio Spurs and the Lakers.’
The Celtics have hit cold streaks in their last two losses. Up six with eight minutes to go against the Lakers, the C’s failed to build on their lead. The Lakers went on an 11-5 run during a five minute stretch to tie it up, eventually winning in OT.
On Sunday the Celtics allowed an 11-4 Spurs run in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter. Later in the game they watched a 93-90 lead slip away to a 101-93 deficit.
‘You’ve got to get stops, everybody’s got to be on the same page,’ said Kendrick Perkins. ‘Besides getting stops, on the offense you’ve got to execute, you’ve got to throw the extra pass when guys are open. Usually a team like San Antonio, you can’t beat them with the dribble. You’ve got to beat them with the pass. You can’t turn the ball over at all against San Antonio. So I just thought in stretches we played together and stretches we didn’t move the ball and that was the key.’
The Celtics have allowed a total of 215 points in their last two games at home. It is an overwhelming difference for a team who has held their opponents to just 92 points per game over the season. Nonetheless, head coach Doc Rivers was able to see a silver lining in the losses.
‘Well it tells me that we’re really good, because we’ve not played with our A-game, as Tiger Woods would say, I guess,’ he said. ‘And we still had a chance to win both. Both games we had the lead and gave it up. Gave up points, which is not like us. In a sick way I guess I’d rather be down and not be able to score than up and give up baskets, because we’re a defensive team. But we clearly have to improve. Our bench has to be more consistent. They gave up an 8-1 run to start the fourth. You know, that hurts you. It’s tough to recover from that.’
The Celtics will have two days to regroup before facing the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday. They are aware of their mistakes; now it is a matter of fixing them.
‘In general, you can’t turn the ball over,’ Allen said. ‘You have to execute on both ends down the floor in the fourth quarter.’
The Celtics know what to expect down the stretch. Lucky for them, there’s another 12 minutes to prove they can take care of business.
|Perkins ‘cool’ with call||02.02.09 at 12:24 am ET|
It’s only the first half of the season and Kendrick Perkins has already been whistled for nine technical fouls and a Flagrant 2. His latest call against Jason Maxiell during Friday’s game against the Detroit Pistons earned him a $10,000 fine. But Perkins isn’t worried about developing a bad reputation around the league. If anything, he says, his early technicals helped the officials understand his game.
‘I think it’s mostly gaining the respect from the referees, having a better relationship,’ he said prior to the Boston Celtics game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. ‘So now when I get mad at a call they’re not just quick to jump on me. It’s more of a respect thing.’
Perkins has noticed the referees have eased up since he got called for his ninth T in early December.
‘They let me get physical on the block as far as defending people,’ he said. ‘So I think since I’ve calmed down ‘ I haven’t got a technical in about 25 games ‘ so I’ve been pretty cool.’
As for the Flagrant 2 against Maxiell, Perkins attests he was not aiming for his neck. He’ll accept the consequences, though, knowing it comes with the territory of going hard on the court.
‘I think I’ve just got to keep going out there playing my game, being physical and just being smart at the same time,’ he said. ‘There are a lot of hard fouls that I’ve given that aren’t flagrant, so it’s cool.’
|No big surprise: Jefferson and Perkins expected success||02.01.09 at 4:26 pm ET|
If someone had said during the Boston Celtics 18-game losing streak Kendrick Perkins would win an NBA Championship and Al Jefferson would become an All-Star caliber player in less than two years, they would have been laughed at. Yet the pair of big men have made a remarkable turnaround from the dismal 2007 season. And while their accomplishments may have seemed unlikely just a few seasons ago, neither are surprised by the others success.
‘It’s funny because his game has improved a lot, of course, because every year you have in this league you get better and better,’ Jefferson said of Perkins. ‘But the things he’s doing now, I’d even seen them when I was here.’
Jefferson and Perkins faced off on Sunday when the Celtics took on the Timberwolves in Boston. (RECAP HERE) Perkins was nonchalant about the match up — ‘Man, I just want to hoop’ — and seemed unfazed by the success of his close friend. The two had a strong chemistry on and off the court, and saw potential in one another early on. So when Jefferson was the centerpiece of the Kevin Garnett deal, Perkins wasn’t shocked.
‘He’s grown a lot, but he was doing the same thing when he was here,’ Perkins said. ‘It’s not like he just developed into this star player when he got to Minnesota. That’s why he got traded for Garnett, because he was that type of player before he left here.’
In Jefferson’s last season with the Celtics, he averaged 16 points and 11 rebounds. This season he is ranked first among all centers in scoring (23.2 ppg), fifth in rebounds (10.6), and has recorded 26 double-doubles.
‘I think Al is really learning how to be a leader,’ Perkins said. ‘You can tell he’s talking more, he’s communicating on the court, he’s telling guys where they need to be. I think Al’s stepping up, being more of a vocal leader. He’s taking pride in playing defense and it’s really just going from there.’
Even when the Celtics were losing, Jefferson was one of the bright spots on the team. Perkins, however, struggled to learn his role as a defensive presence. He forced baskets and was reluctant to scale down his offensive game.
‘The biggest thing when I was here was he was the type of guy who wanted to rush his offense, he wanted to take shots, he wanted to kind of like be a scorer,’ Jefferson said. ‘And Doc (Rivers) used to always tell him, ‘You’re not a scorer. You’re the type of guy who sets pick and rolls. That’s how you get your point.’ And I think that’s what he’s doing now. He finally accepted that and now he gets his points. He scores just as much now just doing his role by setting picks and rolling to the front of the basket, getting offensive rebounds. He’s getting his points that way and I think he’s finally accepted his role and that’s what’s making him a great player.’
It took losing the player he relied on the most for Perkins to improve his game. He is averaging 8.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, and shooting 59.5% from the field this season, compared to 4.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 49.1% FG in his last season before the trade. Perkins soaked up Garnett’s veteran knowledge and even began to implement a high-low pass that he learned from Jefferson.
‘That’s all he really needed was a guy like KG who was defensive-minded just to bring him up even more,’ Jefferson said. ‘So the things he’s doing now, I’d seen them when I was here. Perk was always one of the guys that was hard for me to score on even in practice. We used to go at each other so it’s fun watching him grow as a player.’
At just 24 years old, Jefferson and Perkins are only beginning to reach their potential. But regardless of how successful the other becomes, it’ll be no big surprise for these big men.
Perkins Cool With Call – By Jessica Camerato
The Captain and the Truth – By Paul Flannery
|A Big All-Star Push||01.23.09 at 9:47 am ET|
When is there a possibility that 22 points and nearly 11 rebounds per game not good enough for an All-Star selection? When you play on the 13-27 Minnesota Timberwolves.
“Big Al” Jefferson has been quietly running up the leaderboards since being traded from the Boston Celtics in July of 2007. His performance, which includes 22 double-doubles, went relatively unnoticed in fan voting. So the T’Wolves are doing everything they can to make sure Jefferson receives the recognition he deserves in spite of their losing record.
The organization has less than a week to win the votes of the Western Conference coaches who will vote on All-Star reserves. They have developed a marketing campaign ‘ ‘Big Al’s Road Trip: Navigating his way to Phoenix’ ‘ and mailed each coach a Sony GPS device. The devices have been named the ‘Double-Double Machine’ and play a highlight video set to Lupe Fiasco’s ‘Superstar.’
“It would mean a lot,” Jefferson told the media. “Just growing up, before I even knew I was going to be an NBA player, just watching the All-Star games on TV you always wanted to be there as a kid. Me having that chance to make it, it would mean a lot to me. It’s something I could talk about for the rest of my life.”
All-Star reserves will be revealed next Thursday, January 29. Celtics Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo, and Kendrick Perkins are also on the Eastern Conference ballot. Kevin Garnett was named as a starting forward for the East.
|Walker committed to Boston||01.22.09 at 12:10 am ET|
Bill Walker has close ties to his community. So close, in fact, that he tattooed the numbers of his childhood address on his neck. When the Boston Celtics rookie got recalled from the NBA Development League this month, he was eager to give back to the city he’s now calling home.
Last weekend Walker, along with Kendrick Perkins, Gabe Pruitt, and J.R. Giddens, served home-cooked meals to 150 men and women at the Boston Rescue Mission. The food was prepared by members of the Celtics staff as part of the Shamrock Foundation.
‘[The best part was] just them being so happy that we’re there,’ Walker said. ‘Just being somebody who actually could take enough time to come down there and just sit and talk with them, serve them food, things like that. Little things like that do mean a lot to people.’
Boston is one of the many places where Walker, 21, wants to make a difference. Even though he is just starting his NBA career, he already has made plans for years to come.
‘That’s just something I want to do when I’m done with basketball, just to try to help the communities that I’m in first and then expand,’ Walker said. ‘So that was just fun, going back and trying to cheer up a couple people.’
For more information on the Celtics community outreach, visit www.celtics.com.
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