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Simmons on D&C: Officiating is the headline of finals 06.10.10 at 10:39 am ET
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ESPN columnist Bill Simmons joined the Dennis & Callahan show on Thursday morning and talked about the quick turnaround from Game 2 in Los Angeles to Game 3 in Boston, the inconsistencies of the officials, and the sloppiness of both teams in the series.

Following are some highlights. To hear the interview, click on the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

On Game 3:

I was worried about Game 3 because it was 48 hours after Game 2, cross country trip, and it just seemed like, ‘€œUh oh, this is going to be bad.’€ If you look at what happened in the game, Kobe [Bryant] had a bad game, [Paul] Pierce and [Ray] Allen both had bad games, the only old guy who had a good game was [Kevin Garnett] and KG didn’€™t play a lot in Game 2 because he was in foul trouble. My biggest fear about this whole series is that they just wasted an epic KG game and I’€™m not sure how many he has.

On the inconsistency of the officials:

I think for the most part in the finals, the right team is going to win each game. That’€™s what bothered me about Game 3 was basically both teams didn’€™t play well and it came down to officiating. If we’€™ve learned anything from the Celtics team this year, for whatever reason, the officiating determines how they’€™re going to do. ‘€¦ It just seems like so many things are predicated on how the officials decide beforehand, ‘€œThis is what we’€™re going to do tonight.’€

That’€™s my biggest problem with NBA officiating. Why can’€™t they just call it the same way every game? ‘€¦ Should we go to a system where there’€™s just three refs for the entire finals, the same three every game. There just has to be a better solution. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bill Simmons, Celtics, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett
Jackson: It’s going to be highly charged 06.06.10 at 7:42 pm ET
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LOS ANGELES — The Lakers took Game 1 of the NBA finals in such a decisive manner that it would be tempting for them to think that they have things figured out against the Celtics. However, they have no illusions that Game 2 is going to resemble Game 1.

“It may have been first-game jitters,” Ron Artest said Friday. “We’re not expecting another game like that at all. They had a tough road in the East and faced a lot of adversity. That team, the Celtics, is special. We all respect that.”

Phil Jackson reiterated that point Sunday before Game 2.

“The response is usually, not always but usually, the team that has taken a loss,” Jackson said. “The adjustments and the response and we anticipate that’s going to happen tonight. It’s going to be a much more tight game, I think, going down the stretch. We anticipate the game is going to be highly-charged, there’s no doubt about that.”

For their part, the atmosphere in the Celtics locker room was business-like. Assistant coach Tom Thibodeau was spotted poring over film, while players mostly brushed off media inquiries.

In terms of adjustments, the Celtics aren’t tipping their hand although it seems likely that Paul Pierce may see more time on Kobe Bryant, particularly if Ray Allen gets in foul trouble again. Marquis Daniels is also on the active list and if nothing else he’s another body to throw at Bryant.

“We do what we do,” Doc Rivers said. “We didn’t do it. You can’t start changing because that’s not who you are and that would affect your team more than anything.”

Read More: Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce, Ron Artest,
Celtics, Lakers look ahead to Game 2 06.05.10 at 8:11 pm ET
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EL SEGUNDO — The Celtics and Lakers held court with the media on Saturday as they looked ahead to Game 2.  There have been common themes discussed following the C’s Game 1 loss — energy, rebounding, stopping Kobe Bryant, among others.

Over the past few days the players have heard the same questions posed in different ways. Many view it as part of being in the finals. Others have found a type of motivation in the repetition.

“I think it helps us a lot because you kind of get tired about hearing about the same things,” said Kendrick Perkins. “So you want to go out there and correct it so after Game 2 you won’€™t have to hear about it anymore.”

Here are a few soundbites from Saturday’s practice:

Helping Rondo be Rondo: As the point guard, it’€™s Rajon Rondo‘€™s job to get his teammate the ball. At the same time, the Celtics have to do a better job of setting him up for success as well. The Celtics lack of defensive stops in Game 1 prevented Rondo from getting into transition often, something they look to improve in Game 2.

‘€œWhen you don’t get stops, that means he’s taking the ball out every time and it doesn’t allow Rondo to get out there and use his speed in transition for fastbreaks,’€ said Paul Pierce. ‘€œEvery time they got stops, rebounds was another big Achilles heel for us. So it’s important to do a better job on rebounds after each shot, getting the ball in his hands so his speed and play-making ability can become a factor in game number two. So we’ve got to make a concentrated effort at doing a better job at that.’€

Gasol reacts to Garnett comments: On Friday, Pau Gasol‘€™s comparison of Kevin Garnett from 2008 to 2010 became a media whirlwind when a small fraction of his comments were magnified. Gasol commented, ‘€œOn Kevin’€™s part, he’€™s also lost some explosiveness. He’€™s more of a jump shooter now,’€ before adding that he considers Garnett to be a ‘€œterrific player’€ who brings everything he has to the court.

Gasol reacted to the buzz following Lakers practice. When asked if he was surprised that his comment had been portrayed as derogatory, he responded, ‘€œTo an extent. To an extent. I understand media try to create situations for whatever reason, create attraction. But again, sometimes I extend my answers too long. Maybe I shouldn’t do that. I should be shorter with my answers and don’t give away just anything so it can’t be manipulated that way and used.’€

The Celtics didn’€™t get worked up over Gasol’€™s comments, though. Rondo said losing Game 1 was motivation enough for the C’€™s in itself.

Said Kendrick Perkins, ‘€œI say speak your mind. Sometimes it livens up the series a little bit. So I say speak your mind. You never know who you might make mad when you say something crazy, so you never know. Everybody’€™s watching.’€

Celtics know what they’€™re playing for: Kevin Garnett is no stranger to screaming, yelling, and getting in his teammates’€™ faces on the court to pump them up. But at this point in the season, Garnett says that isn’€™t necessary.

‘€œI think in this situation you don’t have to do any of that,’€ he said. ‘€œI think we’re all kind of distasteful at this time, knowing what’s at stake and it being the finals. No one here has to come out and say a heroic speech or get in anyone’s face. It’s all self-explanatory to this point. Everyone is motivated. Everyone knows we’re motivated. Guys on the team are looking at themselves in the mirror and I’m no different from that.”

Read More: Celtics, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant
What Ray Allen needs to ‘learn real quick’ 06.04.10 at 6:10 pm ET
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LOS ANGELES – Throughout the postseason, players have studied Ray Allen’s game to learn how to defend the veteran sharpshooter.

Now Allen has his own assignment – finding a way to stop Kobe Bryant without getting into foul trouble.

Allen was whistled for five fouls in the Celtics Game 1 loss. He was limited to just 27 minutes and knows he has to stay on the court in Game 2.

“That’s a good lesson that I need to learn real quick,” he said prior to practice on Friday. “Because even on a couple of calls … I try to read the referees and how they call the games and they establish control early, so trying to figure that out without being a sieve on defense. Right now I’ve got to make that adjustment going into Game 2.”

Bryant scored a game-high 30 points on Thursday night. He shot 10-for-22 from the field and 9-for-10 from the line, a result of his aggressiveness at the basket.

“He just attacks,” said Allen. “He’s going to attack our defense, but I think primarily if he’s attacking that means he sees gaps.”

Whatever game plan Allen and the Celtics devise, Bryant is preparing for it.

“It’s not really a match up with me and Ray,” he said. “It’s really me trying to find gaps and holes in their defensive scheme and the help they provide.”

Read More: Celtics, Kobe Bryant, Lakers, NBA
Lakers key to defending Rondo at 5:48 pm ET
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LOS ANGELES — With a new series upon us, we have yet another defensive gameplan geared to stopping Rajon Rondo.

The obvious opening gambit for the Lakers is assigning Kobe Bryant the task of guarding Rondo. Bryant is bigger than Rondo and will play off him to try to prevent him from getting to the paint. That is nothing new, of course. The Heat did it with Dwyane Wade. The Cavs did it with Anthony Parker and LeBron James.

But Rondo has said that he never concerns himself with the first defender. He always has his eye on the second wave and the Laker big men have a plan, as well.

“What happens is, he’€™s the kind of guy who waits for the bigs to cut and then he drops passes off to them,” Andrew Bynum said. “We’€™re trying to make him finish, and wait until he goes to shoot the ball instead of committing to him earlier. It gets their team going when KG gets dunks, when [Kendrick] Perkins gets dunks and screams and all that. We just want to eliminate all of that.”

The Lakers have faced a gauntlet of elite point guards in the playoffs, including Utah’s Deron Williams and Phoenix’s Steve Nash, but it was their first round opponent who provided the best test case.

Russell Westbrook really got us prepared because he’€™s going to take it right to you,” Bynum said. “He’€™s athletic enough that he’€™ll jump over you.”

Rondo may not have quite the straight-forward athleticism that Westbrook has, but he has mastered the art of angles and has proven adept at getting off shots and using the glass. He noted that Pau Gasol was able to block two of his shot attempts and that he’ll have to come up with a counter move, but he insisted that it’s really all on him to make the right decisions.

“I think I drew their bigs a couple of times and got Perk to the free throw line,” Rondo said. “But other than that, it’s my read really. It’s nothing that [an opposing] big can do or sense. It’s all on me, my judgment, knowing how to play the game.”

The other obvious adjustment for Rondo and the Celtics is getting out in transition. They had only five fast-break points in six chances and that has to do with defensive rebounding and coming up with loose-ball rebounds.

“We had a film clip with all the 50-50 plays, and I don’t think we got any of them,” Rondo said. “They got all the loose balls. They dove on the floor first. They were the more aggressive team.”

That has to change in Game 2 or Rondo will be once again stuck in low gear with an entire defense geared to stop him.

Read More: Andrew Bynum, Kobe Bryant, Rajon Rondo,
Three Things That Went Wrong And Right in Game 1 at 12:00 am ET
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The Lakers took a 1-0 lead in the 2010 NBA finals after a 102-89 win over the Celtics. Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 27 points, while Pau Gasol finished with 23. The Celtics were topped by Paul Pierce with 24 points. Game 2 — a must win for the Celtics? — is Sunday night.

Three Things That Went Wrong

Gasol dominates Garnett: Guess Gasol is tougher than he was in 2008. He attacked Kevin Garnett from the start on Thursday night, finishing Game 1 with 23 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks. Gasol did whatever he wanted in the post with Garnett defending (Rasheed Wallace was actually more effective on Gasol) and wasn’t afraid to get physical while guarding KG. Here’s all you need to know about Garnett’s performance in Game 1: 35 minutes, four rebounds and two FT attempts in a strangely passive performance. The defining moment of Game 1 will be Garnett unable to dunk at 91-78 with six minutes left. Again, Garnett doesn’t need to play Gasol to a push in this series but he can’t be embarrassed as he was in Game 1.

Destroyed on the Glass: Fear No. 1 for most Celtics fans heading into Game 1 was the size of the Lakers (maybe 1A, assuming that Kobe always tops the chart). And it was justified, as the Gasol/Andrew Bynum duo helped the Lakers control play underneath. At halftime LA had a 23-15 edge on the boards, a 28-18 lead in points in the paint and a 10-0 shutout in second-chance points. And the Celtics couldn’t adjust, grabbing just two rebounds in the the third quarter.

Foul Trouble Slows Down Ray: With Kobe Bryant guarding Rajon Rondo early on, it appeared that Ray Allen would be able to do some serious damage coming off screens with the soon-to-be-36-year-old Derek Fisher defending. But Allen could never get going, as he fell into early foul problems while trying to guard Bryant. A clearly frustrated Allen finished Game 1 with just 12 points on 3-of-8 shooting (and no 3-pointers).

Three Things That Went Right

Rasheed Came To Play: Wallace was terrific in the second quarter, scoring seven points while playing excellent defense vs. Gasol. You could make the case that no Celtics player matched the intensity brought by Wallace on Thursday. If Garnett struggles again in Game 2 early it’ll be interesting to see how quickly Doc Rivers goes to Wallace.

Rondo Looks Healthy: It wasn’t Rondo’s best game (13 points, six rebounds and eight assists) but he didn’t appear to be slowed down by the nagging injuries that hurt him at times vs. the Magic.

Tony Allen and Pierce Defending Kobe: Bryant was the game’s high scorer (30 points), but did most of his work against Ray Allen in Game 1. He didn’t make a shot with Pierce defending (0-for-6) and Tony Allen also had some nice moments guarding Kobe. Another Doc test for Game 2 is to see how much we’ll see Pierce on Bryant.

Read More: Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Lakers, NBA Finals
Going from Gold to Green 05.31.10 at 2:51 pm ET
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WALTHAM – Tony Gaffney began his rookie season in purple and gold. This week he is headed back to the Staples Center, this time wearing green and white.

Gaffney, a Boston native, was signed to the Lakers training camp roster last summer after going undrafted out of the University of Massachusetts. He was the was the last player cut from training camp and went overseas to play in Israel before being signed by the Celtics in April.

It has been months since he returned to Los Angeles, and he’€™s thrilled to be arriving as a member of the Celtics.

‘€œI wouldn’€™t want to be going back any other way. I’€™m looking forward to it,’€ he said before the team flew out to California on Monday. ‘€œIt’€™s definitely unique, and having the two teams [that I'€™ve played for] be the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers makes it that much more special. Obviously they’€™re two top of the line, class A organizations, it’€™s no surprise as to why they are in the finals. Having gotten the chance to witness that and see it firsthand, to me this all makes sense.’€

Even though Gaffney has been on the inactive list during the postseason, he still can help the Celtics without being on the court. He learned the Lakers offense ‘€œfairly well’€ and was even praised by the organization for picking up the triangle offense so quickly. Gaffney would be happy to pass along his insight.

‘€œI got to know some of the guys pretty well and I was in the gym early morning when Kobe (Bryant) was the first one in there working on his left-handed shots for an hour before practice,’€ he recalled. ‘€œBut if any of the guys ask me anything or need anything, I’€™ll be more than happy to help them out.’€œ

And while he has seen firsthand just how dangerous Bryant can be on the court, Gaffney believes it is another player who can do damage.

‘€œObviously I believe Pau (Gasol) and Kobe make that team go, but I think as Lamar goes, they go,’€ he said. ‘€œWhen he gets off and he’€™s doing what he’€™s capable of doing, they’€™re tough to beat. But we have a counter to that and we have probably the best defensive team in the league. And I think keeping Lamar Odom in check is going to be huge in this series and we’€™ll have to go from there.’€

Gaffney is confident the Celtics have the pieces to win it all. Even though he still has his Lakers jersey, it is a reminder of his journey that has led him back to the team he hopes will win it all.

‘€œI’€™m blessed to have been able to be part of both organizations,’€ he said, ‘€œAnd now have a chance to win it with the greatest organization in the NBA.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Los Angeles Lakers
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