|Ian Thomsen: After C’s moves, ‘not sure who they are now’||02.25.11 at 1:56 pm ET|
Sports Illustrated senior writer Ian Thomsen joined the midday show Friday with guest hosts John Rooke and Kirk Minihane to talk about the Celtics‘ moves this week, mainly the trade that sent Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to the Thunder for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic.
Thomsen said the Celtics forged an identity this season as a big physical team, following their NBA finals loss to the Lakers last June. Now, the identity has changed.
“First of all, I was just wondering who the Celtics are now?” Thomsen said of his initial reaction to the trade. “Before they signed [Shaquille O’Neal] last summer, I was wondering who they were. Because they were outrebounded in the finals, the Lakers front line looked too big for them, even when Perkins was playing. But then when they got Shaq, and you thought about Shaq and Perkins as the front line, now you thought that they were going to have an edge to them, they were going to be able to play down low, they’d always have a big man in there, for 48 minutes, potentially.
“And now again, I’m just not sure who they are now, what the edge is. There are things that they can no longer take for granted: that they can guard Dwight Howard one on one, that they’re going to throw a lot of size at the Lakers ‘ like a big offensive line that creates room for [Rajon] Rondo and all the other guys.
“So, it’s just now going to be interesting to see what’s going to be the new identity of the team. Because no matter what they do, if they get Troy Murphy or anybody else, it won’t be able to replicate what they had in Perkins. And Shaq just won’t be able to give them enough minutes, even if he’s healthy ‘ 25, 28, 30 minutes, maybe.”
Looking at matchups against the C’s main competition, such as LeBron James‘ Heat, Thomsen said you can evaluate it a couple of ways.
“It’s like a chicken-or-egg thing,” he said. “Do you respond to matchups of other teams or do you create matchups of your own that they can’t deal with? So now, against Miami, was one reason Boston had an edge over Miami this year because of guys like Kendrick Perkins and the physical edge that they clearly have over Miami? So, you can say, OK, you don’t need to worry about Miami’s big men, so you can afford to get rid of Kendrick Perkins. But in letting go of him, are you letting go of your inherent advantage over them. And now are you sort of playing their game as opposed to making them play your game. They’re less of an imposing team without Perkins. They’re playing more to Miami’s style.
“On the other hand, Jeff Green is huge against LeBron. Because the Celtics knew they couldn’t win without a real backup 3 to help [Paul] Pierce against LeBron, to help against Kobe [Bryant], some of these other big guys on the wings. And now they have that. Jeff Green is going to come off the bench, and LeBron is going to know that for the 43 or 44 minutes he’s playing every playoff game this spring, he’s going to have somebody decent guarding him.”
|Kevin Garnett: My boys ‘forgot to beat’ James Jones||02.22.11 at 2:30 pm ET|
He touched on everything from the 3-Point Shootout to Doc Rivers‘ pre-All-Star Game speech to the team’s focus going forward. Here are the highlights …
On the dunk contest: “The dunk contest was unreal. Those young fellas did some different things. Serge [Ibaka] with the dunk and grabbed the monkey with his teeth, [JaVale] McGee with the old “[Larry] Nance” rock the cradle, Blake [Griffin] with the 360 pump with power and [Demar] DeRozan with the reverse 360 flush. Cool stuff.”
On the 3-point contest: “My boys were worried about themselves and forgot to beat [James] Jones in the 3-point contest. Both Ray [Allen] and P2 [Paul Pierce] made it to the finals. Sitting with [Dwyane] Wade, [Rajon] Rondo, [Shaquille O’Neal]. Things were cool. I got my Anta swag on and feel like I was looking good.”
On All-Star Game appearances: “No. 14 for me, which says to me, gotta keep working. Not many men can say they laced them up for 14 All-Stars. Hard work, little luck and having the drive. I’m happy to be a part of this day and to be with my homies. P2, Ray and young fella (Rondo). The Coaches are here, [strength and conditioning coach Bryan] Doo, Lynchie [director of team security Phil Lynch] and [vice president of media services Jeff] Twiss. Feel like we doing something.”
On All-Star Game adversaries: “Not often do I see the other players in a situation like this, so giving them a dap or catching up. Cool stuff.”
On All-Star Game intensity: “The game prep wasn’t the same, but as Doc said, “Any time there is a score, then someone has to win and someone has to lose. Let’s make it them.”
On All-Star Game minutes: “Didn’t want to play that much so I could rest a little, but got up and down. We played with our four and [Chris] Bosh first. It’s funny when you run a play and it doesn’t go all the way through because of the fifth person. Played with Amare [Stoudemire] and some of the other cats. We didn’t get the win, but what you gonna do. NOW WE FOCUS on BANNER No. 18.”
|Irish Coffee: Celtics’ NBA All-Star Weekend in quotes||02.21.11 at 12:05 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Celtics Ray Allen and Paul Pierce may have lost to overlooked Heat forward James Jones in the final round of the 3-Point Contest, and more heralded Miami forward Lebron James (29 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists) might have singlehandedly played Allen, Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo (28 points, 12 rebounds, 14 assists) even at the NBA All-Star Game, but all was not lost.
After sorting through all 29,562, 317 interviews from the All-Star festivities, I present the weekend in quotes …
Kevin Garnett (via USA Today): “I’m far from dirty. Dirty is like hate. Don’t use that word. I’m competitive, and I play hard, but don’t call me dirty. Just like if you dislike me, dislike me. ‘Hate’ is a very strong word, just like ‘dirty’ is a very strong word.”
Garnett (via CBS Sports): “All-Star weekend is a chance for all players to sit down and relax. Get to know one another. I don’t like the word ‘fraternizing’ and I don’t like the word ‘fronting’. It’s the one time that we get to socialize and be friendly, I don’t think it’s fronting, I think everybody is sort of in a relaxed state.”
“If I’m playing against you, I’m not trying to be your friend. I’m out here to win. I’m just competitive. I go about this a certain way. Always have, always will. I don’t make any excuses about that or apologize for anything I’ve done. I carry myself in a well-fashioned manner. I respect the game first-off, respect the players that are in it. And I’m definitely not trying to hurt anybody — I don’t want to be hurt. I’m just out there playing hard and playing competitive. If that comes off as something else, then that’s your problem.”
|Irish Coffee: Kobe Bryant’s Ray Allen praise wasn’t easy||02.17.11 at 12:11 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
For the first half of this month, Boston was the hub of the NBA universe, as the Eastern Conference-leading Celtics welcomed four other championship contenders to the TD Garden — the Mavericks, Magic, Lakers and Heat — in a span of nine days. Sports Illustrated writer Ian Thomsen followed the C’s every step of the way for a cover story in the magazine’s issue that hits stores this week.
From each game, Thomsen uncovered some pretty juicy anecdotes. Here are the highlights …
Mavericks 101, Celtics 97
- Paul Pierce didn’t know Mavericks guard J.J. Barea spent his college days in Boston: “I’m an NBA player, I’m a Celtic! I came from Kansas! What would I be doing watching Northeastern play?”
- Mavericks center Tyson Chandler idolized Kevin Garnett: “What I try to do for my team is what he’s done his entire career. I respect what he’s accomplished, so I’m just trying to mirror that.”
- Like many players, Barea thinks Garnett isn’t always nice: “He likes to pick on little guys, I think.”
Celtics 91, Magic 80
- Magic swingman Quentin Richardson joined the anti-Garnett club: “Garnett is a great player, he’ll be a Hall of Famer, and his rÃ©sumÃ© speaks for itself. But at the same time you may not have a lot of respect for some of the things he’ll do. He picks fights with [the Raptors’ 6’3″ Jose] Calderon or with Barea. Come on, man, that’s not showing that you’re big or bad. You’re trying to fight point guards.”
- And Celtics coach Doc Rivers once again came to Garnett’s defense: “This guy should be the model. He is as pure a team player as I’ve ever been around. Does he say things the wrong way at times? Clearly Kevin has used the ‘F’ word as a noun, adjective and verb, and it’s mean-spirited if you’re not on his team. With his teammates he talks the same way, but it’s all about help, it’s all about team. The players who don’t like him are usually the players who aren’t winning, and maybe they should be more like him instead of talking about him.”
- Pierce didn’t enjoy 25-year-old Magic center Dwight Howard‘s imitation of Garnett’s chest-thumping pregame regimen: “I don’t know if they’ve won a game when he’s mocked anybody. I think he’s got to stop it. I saw LeBron [James] go for 51 [in a Feb. 3 win at Orlando] when he mocked him.”
- When Celtics 26-year-old center Kendrick Perkins baited Howard into a technical foul, that showed maturity on Perkins’ part, according to Rivers: “First time in his life — he fouled Dwight, holds him and holds him, Dwight hits him with an elbow, hits him with another one, and Perk just stands there. At halftime I said to the team, ‘That is toughness. Toughness is somebody hitting you in the freaking face, and you’re looking at him and laughing and walking away. That’s a tough mother.'”
- Magic coach Stan Van Gundy doesn’t believe his team can contend with the Celtics: “Not even in the same ballpark as these guys. We can be, but we’re not right now.”
|Sasha Vujacic: Celtics ‘trying to act up’||02.16.11 at 11:53 pm ET|
Nets forward Kris Humprhies got into a jawing match with Celtics forward Kevin Garnett in the first half, while New Jersey guard Sasha Vujacic and C’s center Kendrick Perkins exchanged words in the second half. On the court, the C’s got the last word in a 94-80 victory. Off the court? Vujacic explained the chippiness.
“I think we started a little bit too soft in the game,” said Vujacic. “They’re a team that plays very well, and they’re trying to act up most of the time, so that’s how they are and how they play. We just can’t back down from that. We’ve got to deliver the first punch and not let them get us on our heels.”
Asked about the Celtics’ trash talk, Nets point guard Devin Harris added, ‘Nothing surprises me.’
Surprisingly, Vujacic wasn’t overly critical of the Celtics’ style of play; in fact, he credited their experience and ability to play together as a team.
‘We played in their home, so everything’s going to be on their side,” added Vujacic. “But let’s face it, they’re one of the teams that are chasing the championship, and they are one of the favorites. They know each other. They know where everybody’s going to be.’
Vujacic and Nets teammate Jordan Farmar both played on another contender to finish last season, as the former was traded from the Lakers to New Jersey for Joe Smith in mid-December and the latter signed with the Nets in the offseason. Told that the Lakers (38-19) lost to the last-place Cavaliers (10-46) on Wednesday night, both guys did a double take.
‘Cleveland beat the Lakers?” asked Vujacic. “You’re kidding, right? I guess miracles do happen.’
Added Farmar, ‘They’re going to be pissed. That’s three straight.’
|Fast Break: Paul Pierce, Celtics take down Nets||at 10:10 pm ET|
In a game that was a lot closer than the final score indicated, the Celtics survived a scare from the Nets in their final game before the All-Star break Wednesday, capturing a 94-80 home victory. The win helped the C’s (40-14) keep first place in the Eastern Conference ahead of the Heat (41-15).
WHAT WENT RIGHT
At least they got the win: The Celtics didn’t play well against the Nets by any stretch of the imagination, but they earned home win No. 25 in just their 29th game at the Garden this season. The C’s were 24-17 all of last year at home, and games like they played on Wednesday night usually ended up in the loss column. If you’ll recall, the C’s lost to an even worse Nets team by eight on Feb. 27, 2010.
Paul Pierce started off on the right foot: Before most fans finished their first beer, the Celtics started on an 8-0 run and stretched that lead to 25-10. Through the first 9:50, Pierce played the Nets to a standstill at 10 points apiece — squashing any doubts about his lingering foot problem. He finished with 31 points on 10-of-18 shooting, attacking the basket with no signs of an injury.
Praise be to Gody: In desperate need of contributions from big bodies off the bench, Luke Harangody gave the Celtics just what Doc Rivers ordered. The rookie out of Notre Dame scored eight points in just eight minutes off the bench in the first half. While he didn’t score for the remainder of the night, the gave the C’s 15 productive minutes.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Falling asleep at the wheel: After the start the Celtics enjoyed, there’s just no way it should’ve been a tie game at halftime. But it was, 46-46, thanks to Rivers’ understandable reliance on the bench for 35 combined minutes. The offensive efficiency that the Celtics have demonstrated for much of this season just wasn’t there for a long stretch from late in the first quarter until the break. Rajon Rondo‘s presence almost assures the C’s of leading their opponents (especially the Nets) in assists, but New Jersey won that battle, 19-18. That’s what Rivers often refers to as “hero ball,” and it gets them in trouble against the better teams in the league.
No immediate halftime adjustment: As well as the Celtics played in the opening few minutes of the game, they played equally as bad to start the second half, allowing the Nets to go on an 8-0 run of their own and take a 54-46 lead before many fans had taken their seats again. That translated into more taxing minutes for the C’s as they played from behind well into the third quarter.
Nothing but three Nets: Really, only a few guys gave the Celtics problems on Wednesday night: Lopez as well as guards Devin Harris and Anthony Morrow. The three combined for 48 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists. And Lopez’s ability to score in the post forced Rivers and assistant coach Lawrence Frank to furiously figure out a way to stop him in the third quarter. As a result, New Jersey also won the battle in the paint, 34-28.
|Kevin Garnett on Bill Russell||02.15.11 at 2:46 pm ET|
Celtics legend Bill Russell was among 15 people awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama on Tuesday, the highest honor the president can bestow on a civilian. Kevin Garnett was asked about Russell and his impact.
“Not only did he transcend on the court, but off the court,” Garnett said. “Being righteous for what he believed in, and speaking up and standing up for that right. Different times back in the day, man. I respect a lot of the OG’s just because they went through in order for us to be here today. Bill Russell is everything and I just want to say congratulations.”
Garnett was then asked why players don’t speak as forcibly as Russell once did. He cited the media culture and also noted that players are more cautious.
“I don’t think people are as opinionated out loud just because of the uproar they can start,” Garnett said. “These days when you bring out issues that cause attention to not only yourself, but your team, it can be labeled a distraction.”
Garnett had one further thought on Russell and what today’s players can take from him, as well as the great players of the past.
“I don’t think we go to the extreme to prove a point or go to the extreme to really remember that this is our league,” Garnett said. “I think those days are over. I think the commissioner has a lot of say on how this league is run. The only way you can sustain a solid league is to carry things over. That’s all going to be up to the players.”
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