|Stephen A. Smith: Celtics ‘too close’ for Heat to win several consecutive titles||10.30.12 at 2:45 pm ET|
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith joined Mut & Merloni Tuesday to discuss the upcoming NBA season and the hot water he’s found himself in over his perceived use of a racial slur last week.
Smith denied saying the slur on ESPN’s “First Take,” though he said he understands that people heard it that way, and that he would have “shook their hands” and accepted it should ESPN have punished him. For Smith’s complete answer regarding the incident, click here.
In discussing the upcoming season, Smith touched on Tuesday night’s season-opener between the Heat and the Celtics, the first game in which Ray Allen will face his old team since rejecting a more lucrative deal from Boston to sign with the defending NBA champions.
Since Allen left, there has been a bit of a war of words between the two sides, as Allen has made numerous comments about the C’s while Kevin Garnett said he deleted Allen’s phone number.
“I think the animosity is real on Boston’s side. I don’t think Ray Allen has that level of animosity for anybody. He’s class personified,” Smith said. “It’s not to say the Boston Celtics are not classy because they very much are, but Ray Allen just isn’t one to get into all of that. That’s never been his MO in all the years that I’ve known him, but the reality of the situation is he doesn’t really have legitimate reasons to harbor animosity.
“When you look at the situation in Boston, yeah you didn’t like getting benched for Avery Bradley, yeah you didn’t like feeling that you were no longer the significant part of the game plan that you were in years past. There’s no way to get around the fact that if you look at the Ray Allen situation in Boston from that standpoint, you have to remember he left them. They offered him twice as much as he’s getting from Miami, even though it was an additional year compared to what Miami was offering him. They offered him more years, they offered him more money and he still decided to leave, but not only did he decide to leave, he decided to leave for somebody that is considered the enemy in that locker room and throughout that franchise in the Miami Heat, particularly since LeBron James arrived.
“That’s why you see Kevin Garnett reacting the way that he’s reacting. Paul Pierce sort of smiled it off, but he’s following KG’s lead because Paul Pierce obviously is a friend of Ray Allen. He loves him. It’s just that he’s a competitor now. Kevin Garnett takes it to another level. Right now he has no love whatsoever for Ray Allen. He looks at Ray Allen as somebody that betrayed him and this franchise. He has no love for him whatsoever. He wants to take him out just as badly as he wants to take the rest of them out and he considers him the enemy. It’s just that simple.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Take your pick, Celtics most unselfish team in NBA||10.27.12 at 9:43 am ET|
Set screens and picks, get your teammate open and the points will follow.
Kevin Garnett is the supreme example and symbol of this philosophy.
Watch Garnett away from the ball during a game and you’ll realize that one of his greatest skills is setting picks. But it’s not just Garnett now. New faces like Darko Milicic, Jared Sullinger and even Jason Terry have been brought in this season. And every single one of them understand the first principle of Celtics offense – do whatever necessary to get your teammate open.
‘This is maybe the best pick-setting team,’ Rivers said Friday, when asked where this team ranks in terms of setting screens and picks. ‘Darko loves to pick. Kevin is the best picker in the league. Jared is a good picker.
‘JET, surprisingly, if [he’s] not the best picker on the team, he’s right there with Kevin. He’s a small, but he loves setting picks. That’s what he did in Dallas with [Dirk Nowitzki], so we’re going to do it here for him.’
Someone who was around last season is big man Chris Wilcox and he sees the value in having Garnett set such a strong, physical example.
‘KG shows us every day what we need to do,’ said Wilcox. ‘So all we’ve got to do is just follow his lead and everything else will fall into place. We’ve got to set picks. It’s going to open up everybody. We’ve got guys who can score, so our job is to get them open.’
Sacrifice. It’s one of the cornerstones of the Doc Rivers era and one of the founding principles of Ubuntu. It appears this new group of Celtics team is ready to embrace the age-old concept heading into the season – a good sign for a team looking for a way to get past Miami in the East.
‘It’s about sacrifice,’ Terry insisted Friday after practice. ‘It’s about giving up your body when you’re talking about setting picks. A lot of times you’re not going to benefit from it directly, but you’re going to get your teammate open, and that’s what Celtic basketball is all about.
‘We’re the best pick-setting team in the league,’ Terry proclaimed. ‘That’s the goal, not only with the best in KG, but 1 through 5, whoever steps on the floor. We’ve made it an emphasis.”
|Brandon Bass: ‘When my name is called, I’ll be ready’||10.25.12 at 4:54 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Celtics coach Doc Rivers indicated he already knows whether Brandon Bass or Jared Sullinger will start against the defending NBA champion Heat on opening night, but he’s not showing his cards, and Bass doesn’t seem interested in discussing whether he’s in that five-card draw or not, either. If he even knows.
“I’m confident in my work ethic — that when my name is called, I’ll be ready,” said Bass. “You’ve got to take care of what you can take care of, and that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to continue to work hard and do what I do. That’s what got me here, and that’s how I’m going to continue to grow as a player.”
When the curtains came up on Thursday’s practice, Bass wore a green t-shirt along with the four known starters: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Courtney Lee and Rajon Rondo. (Jason Terry conceded what everyone already assumed: He’ll spare Rondo and Lee off the bench in Avery Bradley‘s absence.) Sullinger wore white.
“I think that’s all Doc,” added Bass. “Doc sees that we have a talented group and we have more pieces than we had last year, and he’s just trying to see which group works best with who and things of that nature. But, being a player, you just play, continue to work on your game and just be able to make a play when your name is called.”
|Should you still care about the center position?||at 3:49 pm ET|
WALTHAM — As was evidenced by the NBA taking the center position off the All-Star ballot this week, the idea of traditional positions might be a thing of the past.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers spoke about the evolution of the game in that regard on Wednesday, and on Thursday Kevin Garnett spoke about how the center position has become more of a place for finesse and less of a place for prototypical big and strong 7-footers.
A power forward when he came into the league in 1995 and throughout the vast majority of his career, Garnett made the move to the center position for the C’s midway through last season and saw results that further agreed with the notion that traditional centers as the world once knew it are becoming less and less important.
“I just think it’s a versatility thing,” Garnett said. “Before, you had players like Alonzo Mourning, Patrick Ewing, [Robert] Parish. Guys who had to play the 5 — methodical, traditional 5s, power game. I think you see the game going to a finesse game, so to speak. Since I’ve been in the league you’ve seen 3s turn into 4s, 4s turn into 5s, 2s turn into 3s. You have to be able to guard both and be able to do multiple things.
“I think 80s basketball and the early 90s, it was traditional basketball. When I say new basketball, new school, 2000, 2K — whatever you want to call it — is more of being agile, being able to guard multiple positions. I think Scottie Pippen, Robert Horry ‘¦ those versatile players, I think that’s where the game has been. Not just on one side of the basketball. Now you see 3s and 4s switching, being able to switch, 2s and 3s switching. I just think it’s non-traditional. I think it’s more of an agile and finesse game.”
Garnett’s been in the league for as long as the changes of traditional positions have been going on. Asked if he recognizes himself as a bit of a pioneer among bigger bodies who provide versatility in their skill sets, Garnett agreed but noted he wasn’t the first and won’t be the last.
“I do, but I also like to give credit where credit is due, too. Those guys that played before, that I took examples [from],” he said. “I see me every day, so I’m not a big fan of me. Those are guys that I learned from, took some things from and was able to apply to my own game.”
|Irish Coffee: C’s chemistry at a 9 or 10 but not ’08 level||10.23.12 at 6:57 pm ET|
After the Celtics started an unofficial training camp almost a month early, Rajon Rondo organized a players-only trip to Los Angeles and everyone drew parallels between the C’s Euro trip prior to the 2008 NBA championship run and their exhibition expedition to Turkey and Milan this preseason, we’re quick to assume this unit can form a bond on the court as quickly as that one did. After all, both groups returned only six players from the previous year.
On a scale from 1 to 10, Jeff Green called this team’s current chemistry a nine. In typical Rondo fashion, he placed it at a 10. And Kevin Garnett said, “Chemistry is very, very high, man.” But Paul Pierce disagrees.
“We’re still building chemistry,” he said. “Chemistry sometimes doesn’t happen overnight like in ‘08, so we’re still trying to build that. When you look at the number of new players we’ve got, we’re still trying to implement them.”
Let’s get one thing straight: This group isn’t anything like the one five years ago. That 2007-08 team started 29-3. Twenty nine and freaking three. For a variety of reasons, don’t expect this team to replicate that feat.
“As far as being ready, we’re going to continue to get better as the year goes on,” added Pierce. “We’re not where we want to be, but that’s going to come as we play more games, as the year goes along, until we reach our peak.”
|Kevin Garnett: ‘Jeff [Green]’s a lot more aggressive’||10.22.12 at 12:06 am ET|
Following the final Celtics preseason game, C’s coach Doc Rivers called Jeff Green the most impressive player in their eight games against European and NBA competition, and Kevin Garnett offered some insight into why.
Green sat at his locker across the room, unbeknownst to Garnett as he explained the difference between this Green and the one who came to Boston for the final 26 games of the 2010-11 season.
“Jeff’s a lot more aggressive than I can remember, man,” said Garnett. “I can remember when he first got here. Maybe he was just understanding his role or whatever — at times he was tentative.”
A laugh came from across the room. Garnett looked up, saw Green and yelled: “What’s up J?”
“But now I think he has a different appreciation,” Garnett continued. “He’s playing like it, man. He’s playing like he knows he’s going to be here. He understands his role, he’s aggressive and we’re going to need that from him. I told him he’s got an old school game like James Worthy. To see him back, to see him refreshed, doing the things he loves to do, it’s good to see him back, so I’m happy for him.”
And Green shouted back: “Appreciate it.”
It wasn’t the first time Green heard the Worthy comparison. Throughout the preseason, Celtics broadcasters Mike Gorman and Brian Scalabrine made the same analogy — one Green wasn’t comfortable making himself, offering his respect to the Lakers Hall of Famer via Twitter.
He’s not Worthy, but Green earned Garnett’s praise. His knees wrapped in ice and his post-surgery heart healthy after playing more minutes than any other member of the C’s this preseason, Green averaged 13.9 points (49.4 FG%, 40.0 3P%, 67.7 FT%), 4.9 rebounds and almost four free throws in 30 minutes a night through eight games.
|Irish Coffee: Limiting Doc Rivers’ Celtics lineup options||10.19.12 at 5:21 pm ET|
Celtics coach Doc Rivers has options. Kind of like Leonardo DiCaprio has options. It’s hard to choose from the depth and versatility of talent at his disposal, so he tries every combination at his disposal. Eventually, the cream rises to the top, and that appears to be what has happened over the C’s past two preseason games against the Nets. In other words, Rivers may have found his Gisele Bundchen, Bar Rafaeli and Blake Lively of lineups.
In the first three-plus quarters of the two games against Brooklyn — before Micah Downs, Kris Joseph, Robert Kurz or Fab Melo made obligatory fourth-quarter appearances — Rivers used 23 different lineups. Other than starters Rajon Rondo, Courtney Lee, Paul Pierce, Jared Sullinger and Kevin Garnett, no unit played longer than 8:36 together. Before making any observations, here are the combinations, playing time and plus/minus statistics.
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