|Irish Coffee: Celtics weekly report card||01.06.12 at 12:12 pm ET|
Given that NBA teams cram 66 games into just over four months, each of this season’s 17 weeks becomes like an NFL week. As NFL writers are wont to do, we’ll start a new series of Celtics report cards each Friday. After an 0-3 start capped by a loss to a woeful Hornets team, the C’s have won four straight — albeit against three D-League NBA clubs with a combined 3-16 record. That being said, let’s get to the grades.
BRANDON BASS: A+
If you thought Glen Davis was a Sixth Man of the Year candidate last season, get a load of Bass so far this year. In 28 minutes a night, he’s averaging 14.0 points and 6.6 boards, shooting 61.5 percent from 10-15 feet and 66.0 percent from 16-23 feet. His consistency in a new system has been remarkable. In just a few short weeks, Bass has helped create that valuable spacing for which Doc Rivers strives and already assumed the second crunch-time big role alongside Kevin Garnett.
RAY ALLEN: A
You can’t blame the man for missing a game because of the flu. In six games, he’s averaging a team-leading 20.0 points on sizzling 61.1 percent 3-point shooting. His 51.5 percent shooting from inside the arc isn’t too shabby, either, but three missed free throws is very un-Shuttlesworth-like (picking nits). Could this be the season Allen finally achieves his Holy Trinity of Shooting (50 FG%-40 3P%-90 FT%)? Allen gets paid to shoot the rock and run opposing two guards ragged. Mission accomplished.
|Irish Coffee: Kevin Garnett’s guide to being a Celtic||01.05.12 at 11:30 am ET|
I don’t know much about Kevin Garnett, but I do know this: If you haven’t earned his respect, your name won’t cross his lips. “You’re a nobody.” As Celtics rookie JaJuan Johnson said during the first week of training camp, he wasn’t sure if KG even knew his name. The future Hall of Famer only referred to him as “New” or “Rook.”
Conversely, if Garnett mentions you by name, you’re doing something right. In recent days, young Celtics Greg Stiemsma and Avery Bradley in particular have earned postgame praise from the 16-year veteran.
“I think what you’re seeing is opportunity for the young guys, starting with Greg, and now Avery’s getting a chance to play and taking advantage of it,” Garnett said after totaling 14 points and 12 boards in the C’s 89-70 trimming of the Nets. “I don’t root for young guys a lot, especially when they’re hard-headed and don’t like to listen. We’ve got a good group of guys here, and that includes our young guys. They’re a young group, full of enthusiasm, full of hope and promise and a lot of potential, but they’re good guys, and they work really, really hard.”
It’s no secret hard work goes a long way in Garnett’s book, and we all know KG is going to talk. All they have to do is listen to that team pitch he, his fellow Celtics veterans and coach Doc Rivers are selling, buy in and apply it.
“There are no I’s. There are no You’s. It’s a We. It’s an Our. It’s a They. It’s an Us,” said Garnett. “The first thing you have to have in here is that you have to understand what you’re coming into, understand that being a Celtic is bigger than anybody in this locker room. You’re carrying on tradition. You have to have a work ethic. You have to care about the next guy beside you. If you can’t and if you don’t, then you’re not here. It’s the culture here.’
It’s that simple? Read the rest of this entry »
Sixth man for sixth man but this sixth man can score with the best of them. He did so again Wednesday night when the Celtics desperately needed someone other than Paul Pierce to score with Ray Allen at home with the flu.
Bass came off the bench and scored 15 points and hauled down 13 rebounds, leading a second-half surge that saw the Celtics pull away from the Nets, 89-70.
‘Energy, play good defense, rebound, score when I get good opportunities,” Bass said. “That’s what I think my role is and that’s what I’m going to try to bring every night.”
The only question: Can he keep it up? He is averaging 14 points and 6.6 rebounds in 27.7 minutes over the first seven games. He has averaged 7.8 points and 4.1 rebounds in 18.6 minutes per game over his previous six NBA seasons.
‘Rondo, Paul and KG all put me in a position to shoot, swing and go into pick and roll so I don’t think it’s my job to be a play maker, but I will make a play if I get the opportunity to,” Bass said.
Bass’ reference to not being a playmaker is why he has affectionately earned the reputation as Brandon “No-Pass” Bass, as Paul Flannery wrote on Tuesday. Bass realizes this. So, when he was told he got an assist on Wednesday, he replied, “Oh, did I?”
‘There are opportunities to do lots of different things,” Bass said. “I’m on the floor with three hall of famers and there’s an All-Star in Rondo so you got a lot of opportunities to do a lot of different things.’
‘It’s nice,” added coach Doc Rivers. “I haven’t been able to do this. I did it last year at the end with Jeff [Jeff Green] when we went small and they stayed big. But it’s rare you can come out of a time-out and run a pick and roll for a pop for the big. It’s actually an iso for him to take someone off the dribble. That’s just nice to have. I’ve not ‘ I don’t think I’ve ever had that.’
The other big benefit Bass provides are minutes, minutes that can be used to rest Garnett. Wednesday, the official box score showed Bass with 25 minutes, 45 seconds, just 11 seconds fewer than Garnett, the perfect situation for Rivers.
“Brandon’s so important for us because we take Kevin out of the first quarter at seven; you don’t lose offensively when Kevin comes out, you lose some defense for sure,” Rivers said. “Brandon rebounds well, too.”
|The legend – and significance – of Greg Stiemsma just continues to grow||01.03.12 at 10:33 am ET|
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.
|Ian Thomsen on M&M: Expect more Rajon Rondo trade rumors||12.22.11 at 2:04 pm ET|
Sports Illustrated NBA writer Ian Thomsen joined Mut & Merloni Thursday to talk about the Celtics, who open the season in New York on Christmas Day.
Thomsen said the early part of the NBA season likely will be tough to watch, following a shortened preseason.
“It will be a lot like April baseball when it’s freezing cold and no one really wants to be out there, including the fans,” Thomsen said. “And then, how many empty seats are we going to see? All the fans that didn’t renew their season tickets, not knowing what the NBA was going to be, if they were going to have a season, not knowing if they wanted to support the team even if they did come back.
“It’s going to be a lot of interesting things to watch for, and almost none of them are positive over the first month, I would say. By the end of the year, I would think the NBA’s hoping everybody forgets all about all of this. Right now, it’s just really interesting to see how it plays out.”
However, Thomsen said he can’t fault the owners for pushing to start the season on Christmas.
“I think this was the right thing to do,” he said. “People are complaining about it, for sure. ‘¦ This was all part of trying to save as much of the season as they could. To me, the greater good was served by that.”
Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
On the Celtics’ near acquisition of David West and why West chose instead to go the Pacers: “They thought they were going to get him. And it would have been a huge get. Now, would he have been lost a little bit here? What was his role going to be alongside Garnett? The talk was Kevin Garnett would shift over to center and then David West would be the power forward. But everyone knows that Kevin doesn’t like to play around the basket. And even now, when Doc [Rivers] says he wants Kevin to be more of a scorer, he’s not saying he has to go inside.
“Maybe from David West’s point of view, where was he going to play? Because this was Kevin Garnett’s team. David West isn’t going to come in and take over for Kevin Garnett this year. So, what were their roles going to be? They sort of play on the same areas on the floor. Maybe that was a big part of it. Whereas if he goes to Indiana, he can take a team that’s on the rise, make them better. They barely made the playoffs last year. They should be much better this year. They have a great coaching staff. It’s not the Celtics. It’s not nearly as close as that. But maybe he can establish himself again coming off knee surgery. After his two-year deal’s up, he can go get another big contract. But they thought they had him, for sure.”
On Rajon Rondo trade rumors: “At times there may be complaints from Danny Ainge that he’s not generating it. But I think he wouldn’t be doing his job if he wasn’t generating it. He should be generating it. He should be trying to figure out what can be done to make the team better. And really, the only thing he has going for him right now is cap space, the chance to play with Paul Pierce, who isn’t going to be traded, and then the ability to trade Rondo. What else does he have? What other assets does he have? So, I think we’re going to be hearing more of it. There’s just no way around it.”
On the C’s improved depth: “It’s really not a bad bench. It compares pretty well to the other second units they’ve had. And if Jeff Green was there, it would be even better. It’s not a bunch of old guys. Keyon Dooling, Chris Wilcox, Marquis [Daniels], Brandon Bass, Avery Bradley, E’Twaun Moore, who looks like he’s going to be able to play a little bit — all these guys, they can come in and do some things to help them.
“What they don’t have is size. It’s the weakest group of big men they’ve had since they brought in Garnett and Ray Allen to go with Pierce. Jermaine O’Neal has a long history of not being able to stay healthy. And Chris Wilcox is an athletic big man but doesn’t have the low-post skills you’d like to have coming off the bench. That might be an issue. Brandon Bass is height deficient like Big Baby [Glen Davis] was. That’s really going to be a problem for them. Really, the bench is OK. The problem is the age of the players that are going to define the team.”
While Jermaine O’Neal was off getting his in-game massage, Doc Rivers was making the following observation about Rajon Rondo: the Celtics need him to shoot and score if they are going anywhere this season.
Rondo certainly didn’t disappoint in his preseason finale, making the first two jumpers he attempted on his way to 6-of-10 shooting and a team-high 17 points as the Celtics beat the Raptors, 81-73, Wednesday night.
Rondo started off strong from the floor, something Rivers is looking for this season.
‘Yeah, yeah, we want him to just shoot it; I don’t care how many times he shoots,” Rivers said. “What I did like more than his jump shot was that he got to the foul line, I think six times in the first half. That’s ‘ we need that.’
Speaking of scoring, something the Celtics are going to need lots of if Paul Pierce is sidelined with a heel problem, Kevin Garnett posted up several times in the first quarter as well as spotting up high in the Celtics offense and passing to an open teammate down in the paint.
‘Well he looks good,” Rivers said. “He looked ‘ the first couple of days he was out of synch a little bit, but now he looks great. His jumper looks good again, he’s aggressive. I like the fact that he looks more aggressive offensively, which we need him to be. He needs to be ‘ he needs to score more this year for us. And I don’t care where it’s from. The purists are saying on the post. I don’t care if the ball goes in, it still counts as the same. Where he gets it from ‘ he just has to be more aggressive offensively for us.’
As for the Celtics bench, it looked strong at times, led by the new Big Baby, Brandon Bass.
‘You pretty much ‘ I got a good feel,” Rivers said. “The good news is we’ve had a lot of practices. You would’ve hoped a couple of guys, honestly, separated themselves, and they didn’t. But hey, listen, we’re going to just throw them out there and hopefully someone separates themselves when the game ‘ season starts. We may have to do a couple of positions by committee.’
|Camp notes: Paul Pierce may not be ready for opening day||12.20.11 at 4:13 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Paul Pierce has participated in just one practice during training camp because of a right heel bruise and with opening day quickly approaching, Celtics coach Doc Rivers acknowledged that Pierce may not be ready to play when the regular season opens on Christmas Day against the Knicks.
“I’m concerned not long-term, but I’m concerned short-term,” Rivers said. “We have those two games right off the bat and he’s gone one practice and that’s basically it. So, yeah I’m concerned about it.”
Pierce worked out on Monday while the rest of the team had the day off. Rivers said that his heel was “extremely sore” on Tuesday.
“We just want him to rest,” Rivers said. “The problem with that is, it will be a lot of rest and then he may be ready but with no [practice time], that’s scary and if he’s not, he’s not.”
Pierce won’t play in Wednesday’s final exhibition game against the Raptors and the plan right now is for him to try and test it again on Friday.
JAJUAN JOHNSON PASSES THE TEST
Kevin Garnett has a well-deserved reputation for being hard on young players, but the flip side of that is if the player responds positively to Garnett then there’s nothing he won’t do for him. Rookie big man JaJuan Johnson has apparently received that message.
“Kevin has clearly taken JaJuan under his wing,” Rivers said. “You guys have been around here with Kevin, he gives you the one shot and if he feels you’re paying attention he spends the year with him. JaJuan has obviously passed the test, which is good for everyone because it makes it a bad year for that guy.”
Johnson played just seven minutes on Sunday against Toronto, an indication that he has a long way to go to crack the big man rotation that features Garnett, Jermaine O’Neal, Chris Wilcox and Brandon Bass. But Johnson has still impressed with his shooting ability and maturity.
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