|On the Celtics and clutch plays||01.28.11 at 3:02 pm ET|
Over on True Hoop, Henry Abbott wrote a post about one of his favorite topics: The perception of Kobe Bryant as a clutch player versus the reality of his numbers in ‘clutch’ situations. Abbott’s main point is that Bryant makes about one-third of his shots in the clutch, which is about average for every other player in the league.
This is one those third-rail arguments that generate lots of heat and discussions since Bryant fans will never concede on the clutch argument. They have watched him make too many big shots. On the other side, this is manna for Bryant opponents since they have likewise watched him miss contested shots with the game on the line.
The thing that truly stands about Bryant is this regard is that if the game’s on the line he’s going to take the shot. Abbott points to a five-year study done by Roland Beech at 82games.com that shows that Bryant took 56 shots in clutch situations and had just one assist. The other thing that stood about the study? Paul Pierce had the most assists in those situations with nine.
There are a number of different conclusions one can jump based just on those numbers, but let’s start with the idea that Bryant, and therefore the Lakers, are relatively easy to defend in late-game situations because everyone knows that Bryant is going to take the shot. Maybe easy isn’t the right word, since defending Bryant is no one’s idea of a good time. Let’s say instead that they are predictable.
The Celtics have their own version of Kobe in the clutch: Pierce at the elbow. Time and again the Celtics return to sets that puts the ball in Pierce’s hands near the top of the key where he attempts to work into his sweet spot at the elbow for a 15-foot jump shot. There are good reasons for this, most prominently is that Pierce is the Celtics’ best one-on-one player and the one who is best able to create his own shot.
When it works, Pierce is a cold-blooded assassin. And when it doesn’t, fans scream that it’s a predictable, low-percentage play.
Despite this tendency, the Celtics and coach Doc Rivers also have a well-deserved reputation for coming up with interesting plays out of timeouts. Just this year alone there was the gorgeous Rajon Rondo lob to Kevin Garnett that beat the 76ers and this motion set that gave Ray Allen a 3 that put the Celtics ahead of Detroit.
The point is that in late-game situations opponents can never be too sure where the Celtics are going. Sometimes they aren’t either. Most of Rivers’ plays have multiple options that rely on his players reacting to the different looks the defenses give them.
Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra noted in a radio interview that he had “great respect” for the plays Rivers draws up out of timeouts. Spoelstra said, “They always seem to come out with something. You don’t know which guy they’re going to, and they execute well.”
Take for example that Pierce game-winner against the Heat in Game 3 of last year’s playoffs. On the surface it seemed like an ordinary ISO play for Pierce, but there were other factors.
“We had two plays called just in case they fouled,” Rivers said after the game. “What we tried to get is Paul facing the basket because it’s very difficult to commit a foul when you’re facing. If you reach and grab he’ll throw the ball up. The whole play was for Paul, but we wanted activity.”
This, ultimately, is what you want out of late-game situations. A play with movement and options that leads to the best shot available by the player who is most willing to take it. Give Bryant this: He doesn’t shy away from the moment. That may not make him a clutch shooter, but he is completely unafraid of the situation. Perhaps, as Abbott suggests, to his detriment.
|Irish Coffee: Celtics passing the test||12.13.10 at 12:43 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Yes, the Celtics allow the fewest points in the NBA. That’s obviously one reason for their success this season. But they’re also the best passing team — and, as a result — the best shooting team in the league.
And that’s why this Celtics team is riding a 10-game winning streak and ranked No. 1 in most power rankings. During the win streak, the C’s have knocked down 51.7 percent of their field goals, shooting at least 50 percent eight times.
For the season, the Celtics are shooting better than any other team in the last 10 years, making 50.9 percent of their shots. The next-best team (Phoenix) is shooting 47.8 percent.
So, why are the Celtics shooting so well? They’re passing the ball better than everybody. In essence, they give up good shots to get better shots.
The C’s average 25.9 assists per game; only one other team (Utah) averages 24. What’s even more remarkable is that they’re doing that while shooting fewer shots than any other team in the league. The Celtics have averaged just 76.7 field goal attempts per game; no other team shoots fewer than 77.
The Celtics are shooting fewer shots but taking better shots than everybody else in the league. How do you get better shots? By making the extra pass.
The Celtics have recorded an assist on 66.6 percent of their field goals this year. That mark is better than any Celtics team of the last 20 years. In fact, the NBA’s best all-time passing team — the 1984-85 Los Angeles Lakers — averaged 31.4 assists a game but assisted on just 65.2 percent of their field goals.
Obviously, Rajon Rondo is the main reason. He’s averaging 13.7 assists per game — a 40 percent improvement from last year — and threatening to break John Stockton‘s 1989-90 NBA single-season record (14.5 per game).
But just how big a role has Rondo played in the C’s passing success? The team is averaging 10 percent more assists per game this season than last — all while Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal, Nate Robinson and Marquis Daniels are averaging fewer assists than they did last season. In fact, only Ray Allen and Glen Davis are averaging more assists than they did in 2009-10.
During their current 10-game winning streak, the Celtics have committed more turnovers than their opponents four times and have been out-rebounded three times, but they owned the assist advantage in all 10 games.
In fact, the Celtics have not been out-assisted once this season. Through 23 games, they’ve recorded 168 (39.2 percent) more assists despite shooting 11 (1 percent) fewer shots than their opponents.
So, what do all these numbers mean? Essentially, game in and game out, the Celtics’ superb passing ability can make up for deficiencies in other areas.
KOBE BRYANT VS. JOHN HAVLICEK
As Kobe Bryant approaced John Havlicek‘s career scoring mark (he surpassed it Friday), NBA.com caught up with Hondo to talk Lakers and Celtics.
Here are a few of the highlights from the interview:
NBA.com: What are your thoughts on Kobe being on the cusp of passing you for the 11th spot on the all-time scoring list?
Havlicek: Actually, I thought he already surpassed me and that is was a foregone conclusion that he would eclipse me because he’s been playing a number of years.
He came right out of high school and with the career that he’s had and the teams that he’s played with — he’s been surrounded by good players and championship-caliber coaches — it’s not surprising.
Who knows how far he’s going to go? How long he’s going to play? He could end up second or third. I don’t know if he can reach Kareem. He’s been a fantastic player.
Kobe came in with a little bit of an attitude early on and a lot of people thought that it was a little bit too much for a high school player to have that type of attitude. But he certainly made people realize that he wanted to be one of the best and comparing him to Michael is something that people have done, so it puts him in a class above most people.
NBA.com: When he retires, where will Kobe rank among the all-time great Lakers?
Havlicek: Well, Jerry West said Kobe is the all-time Laker as he sees it, but I never played against Kobe, so Jerry West is my all-time Laker.
If Jerry West says Kobe is the all-time great Laker, I’ll go along with him, but Jerry’s my favorite all-time Laker.
NBA.com: Do you wish you played with the 3-point line?
Havlicek: I’m just as happy to get an old fashioned three I guess. It would have added a few more points to my career and it would have probably changed the way I played but I can’t really say how much it would have changed my game because I never played under that ruling.
NBA.com: One record that appears to be safe is your Celtics all-time scoring mark. At 33 years old, Pierce would need to score 6,000 points just to tie you.
Havlicek: Well, I don’t know how long Paul is going to play but I think he’s probably the best 1-on-1 Celtic player of all time because the game that he has is much different than the game other people play. His ability to score and create shots is something that he’s done better than any other Celtic. If he plays long enough, he’ll break the record. I don’t know if that’s something he has on his mind or not.
NBA.com: Talk about Rajon Rondo’s emergence into an elite point guard.
Havlicek: He’s unlike any point that I’ve ever seen. He rebounds. He doesn’t shoot the ball that well. He’s not a great free-throw shooter. But his ability to create situations on the floor is uncanny. He’s not like a Chris Paul who breaks down defenses and that type of thing. He’s totally a different kind of point guard.
I don’t know how you can compare him to anyone. He can play defense. He’s one of the great steals leaders of the league. His quickness is probably the thing that separates him from most players. He doesn’t appear to be that quick but he sort of leaves people in the dust.
He’s a surprising type of point guard that’s unlike any I’ve ever seen. He gets the job done.
Speaking of Celtics vs. Lakers, Shaquille O’Neal knows the rivalry fairly well at this point. So, the Boston Herald asked him to compare C’s head coach Doc Rivers and Lakers head coach Phil Jackson. Here’s what he said:
“I’m going to call Doc an ebonic Phil Jackson. And what I mean by that is Phil Jackson has his Buddha ways, but Doc got his homeboy ways because he was once one of us and he really relates to us very well. I think the guys respect him for that. You know, he treats us like men. He only expects one thing from us: Do what he says and play hard. If you could substitute a better word than ‘ebonic Phil Jackson,’ I’d like you guys to put your degrees to work. But it’s sort of like that, on that level.”
As a player, Rivers averaged 10.9 points and 5.7 assists, making one All-Star Game and never winning a title in 13 seasons. Jackson averaged 6.7 points and 4.3 rebounds, never making an All-Star team and winning the 1973 NBA title.
As a coach, Rivers has won 55.0 percent of his games, one Coach of the Year honor and the 2008 NBA championship in 12 seasons. Jackson has won 70.5 percent of his games, one Coach of the Year award and 11 NBA titles in 20 years.
WHO IS THE BEST RIVERS?
Gatorsports.com caught up with University of Florida volleyball standout Callie Rivers — Doc’s daughter — who broke down the family basketball dynamics:
Q: If there was a Rivers family 1-on-1 basketball tournament, who would win?
A: (Younger brother and the nation’s top high school recruit) Austin. Maybe (Indiana University senior) Jeremiah. Maybe my dad, actually.
Q: You think your brothers can beat your dad?
A: I don’t know. My dad doesn’t take to losing very well. He’s got some weight on all of my brothers, so he’d probably find some way to pull it out. He’s a better shooter now than what he was when he was playing, which is weird. Maybe there’s no pressure now.
(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)
|Irish Coffee: Is Kobe Bryant a winner or whiner?||11.24.10 at 11:19 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
All Kobe Bryant has ever cared about is team-building, winning and championships.
In an interview with Yahoo! Sports columnist Adrian Wojarowski, Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant waxes poetically about his drive for success and what he learned from two of the greatest basketball minds ever: Bill Russell and … Michael Jackson?
After reading the story, dry heaving several times and doing a little research, I want to make one thing clear: When he has good teammates and is winning, all Kobe Bryant has ever cared about is team-building, winning and championships.
Let’s take a look at a few of Bryant’s quotes from Wojnarowski’s piece …
“It sounds weird, I guess, but it’s true: I was really mentored by the preparation of Michael Jackson. … That’s the mentality that I have — it’s not an athletic one. It’s not from Michael Jordan. It’s not from other athletes. It’s from Michael Jackson.”
One question from that nugget: Is Kobe the first young mind ever to be proud of being “mentored” by Michael Jackson? Too soon?
“Guys have voices now, want to build brands,” Bryant said. “I don’t identify with it, but I understand where it’s going, why it’s going there. That’s not for me.”
On the same day the interview was published, a story that Nike-sponsored Kobe is going to wear special “Grinch” style green shoes against the Miami Heat on Christmas day. But, you know, Bryant would never want to build a brand or anything.
“I focus on one thing and one thing only — that’s trying to win as many championships as I can.”
Let’s not forget Bryant’s thirst for winning from 2004-07, during which time he wanted to be traded, shot roughly 15,000 shots per game and won 34, 45 and 42 games. Kobe has never won more than 45 games without Shaquille O’Neal or Pau Gasol, who have been the most dominant centers in the league during their respective tenures alongside Bryant.
Meanwhile, Paul Pierce‘s 2001-02 Boston Celtics won 49 games with Tony Battie at center, Kevin Garnett‘s 2003-04 Minnesota Timberwolves won 58 games with a Ervin Johnson/Michael Olowakandi combination at center, and Ray Allen’s 2004-05 Seattle SuperSonics won 52 games with Jerome James at center.
Now, I’m in no way arguing that any of those three guys are better than Kobe. Bryant is one of the top five guards ever to play the game. But this notion that he has always been “all about winning” is absurd. He’s only all about winning when he’s winning.
Speaking of the C’s, here’s what Bryant had to say about the Celtics-Lakers rivalry …
“Now that’s a war. Boston is a great city to go to, all the history. If you’re an opponent, they hate your [expletive] guts — like New York, like Chicago, all those Eastern cities. That’s the one that gets me excited. If you’re a basketball purist, that’s the [expletive] you want to see.”
Well, at least Kobe’s right about one thing.
A CELTICS THANKSGIVING FEAST
Well, Thanksgiving is almost upon us, so the obligatory Turkey Day sports stories are popping up all over the place. ESPN.com caught up with a bunch of Boston athletes to ask them what they like most about Thanksgiving? Here are the answers from Celtics players …
- Shaquille O’Neal: “Lucille’s [his mom’s] fried chicken and macaroni and cheese. My favorite part of Thanksgiving is eating!”
- Glen Davis: “Macaroni and cheese, but I most look forward to cutting the turkey. I’m the one who carves the turkey, and I think I do a good job.”
- Nate Robinson: “My favorite Thanksgiving food is turkey, ham ‘¦ you’ve got to do both. Turkey, ham, dressing with maple corn bread is real good, what else? Yams and macaroni and cheese. I like having all my family being together and having a good time, and then there is always football on that day. We all watch football.”
- Kendrick Perkins: “I love, love, love turkey, baked turkey actually. I love the football games that are on, being able to play cards and games and stuff like that with the family at the house. I think Thanksgiving to me is one of the most underrated holidays. Everybody looks forward to Christmas, but I think Thanksgiving is more like where you wake up to the food, just the smell of the house and stuff like that is all just warming and stuff, so that’s what I look forward to.”
Honestly, my family has never had mac and cheese for Thanksgiving, but it sounds amazing. Then again, maybe I’d just end up weighing as much as Shaq and Big Baby. In my 6-foot-1 frame, that wouldn’t be pretty.
IS JERMAINE O’NEAL OVERPAID?
On average, NBA teams pay roughly $1.7 million per victory. Based on who got paid the most to produce the least amount of wins, Forbes Magazine determined the most overpaid players of the 2009-10 season. No. 2 on the list? Jermaine O’Neal.
That shouldn’t worry Celtics fans too much, as he was making $23 million when he statistically produced a whopping 3.1 wins last season. His true value, according to Forbest, was $5.3 million, and the C’s signed him to a $5.7 million deal in the offseason.
Still, it’s looking as though he could actually be worse than 2009-10, when he averaged 13.5 points and seven rebounds in 28 minutes per game.
By the way, the Orlando Magic’s Rashard Lewis was the most overpaid player in the league last year, collecting $18.9 million for 14.1 points and 1.5 assists in 32.9 minutes per game. This year, Lewis is worse, averaging just 11.6 points and 1.2 assists in 31.8 minutes per.
CELTICS PLAYING THE SIMS GAME?
According to NBA Fan House, The Celtics’ NBA Development League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws, signed former University of Michigan forward DeShawn Sims to replace the injured Stephane Lasme.
Sims played for the C’s in the Orlando Pro Summer League over the summer and will join Celtics training camp invitees Jamar Smith, Mario West and Tiny Gallon on the Red Claws’ roster. The 6-foot-8, 235-pound Sims averaged 16.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per game for the Wolverines as a senior, earning Second Team All-Big Ten honors. …
Well, that’s it for today, folks. Have a Happy Thanksgiving and try to catch a high school football game. Go Barnstable Red Raiders. Beat Falmouth.
(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)
|NBA Power Rankings, 10/14||10.14.10 at 12:12 pm ET|
1. LA Lakers: Lamar Odom hired his mother-in-law, Kris Jenner, as his new manager. If the knee injuries to Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum don’t spell doom for the Lakers, this could, as anybody who has seen “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” can attest. We’ll leave them in the top spot — until Kris makes Odom pose nude or something.
2. Boston: After his jumper to beat the Knicks, Paul Pierce appears to be up to his old game-winning ways. And the Celtics bench seems to keep getting deeper and deeper. The play of Semih Erden, Stephane Lasme and Luke Harangody has been an encouraging sign. So far, the injury bug has only claimed Delonte West, and he’s suspended for 10 games anyway.
3. Miami: First it was Dwyane Wade’s hamstring, and now it’s LeBron James‘ leg cramps. I heard somewhere that if Wade really does miss the remainder of the preseason, the Heat’s Big 3 (do they have a nickname yet?) will have only played a few minutes together before taking on the Celtics on opening night. I think it’s just a marketing ploy.
4. Oklahoma City: Larry Brown recently called the Thunder everything that’s right with the NBA: young, talented and well-behaved. I couldn’t agree more. This team should be fun to watch all season long, especially if Longar Longar makes the roster.
5. Dallas: With this new technical foul rule, how much in fines do you think Mark Cuban will spend this year? I’m putting the over/under at $1 million. In other news, I love the nickname for Mavericks rookie Dominique Jones: DoJo.
|Mock NBA Fantasy Basketball Draft||10.05.10 at 4:58 pm ET|
A breakdown of the first five rounds of a mock 10-team fantasy basketball draft, in addition to the top-10 late-round sleepers and the top-10 players to avoid. Full disclosure: I am unstoppable at fantasy basketball. I also consulted commissioner James Hough of our annual league, Mondo Rondo.
(NOTE: Your season depends solely on the health of this pick.)
1. Kevin Durant: Team USA’s best player; absolute monster; fills every stat category.
2. LeBron James: Has a legit chance to average a triple-double.
3. Kobe Bryant: Even if not 100 percent, the game’s best player can’t slip past No. 3.
4. Chris Paul: Might be the No. 2 pick if not for the whole knee surgery thing.
5. Deron Williams: Averaged at least 18 points & 10 assists per game last 3 seasons.
6. Danny Granger: Most underrated player in the NBA on a bad team translates into numbers.
7. Dwight Howard: You’re giving up FT% with this pick … but likely winning FG%, blocks & boards.
8. Dwyane Wade: Stats will suffer beside LeBron, but still warrants first-round pick.
9. Dirk Nowitzki: The first-round guy I’d least like to have on my team still fills the statsheet.
10. Pau Gasol: He may look like a llama, but he’s the best offensive center in the game.
ROUND 2(NOTE: Either diversify your roster or lock categories down in your favor.)
11. Chris Bosh: He’ll still score, grab rebounds, block shots and make free throws.
12. Steve Nash: It’s a good thing defense isn’t really a category in fantasy hoops.
13. Amar’e Stoudemire: Last season under D’Antoni: 25.2 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 2.1 bpg, 59.0 FG%, 80.5 FT%.
14. Josh Smith: Draft him with Howard, and you win blocks & boards every week.
15. Stephen Curry: A first-round pick on most boards, I wouldn’t take him until now.
16. Brook Lopez: Never would’ve predicted he’d be a top-20 pick.
17. Carmelo Anthony: A top-10 player, but on a team he doesn’t want to play for.
18. Rajon Rondo: Points, assists, steals and FG% have gone up every year.
19. Derrick Rose: Is anybody else thinking he’s going to have a huge season?
20. David Lee: You can count the number of centers who have average 20 and 12 on one hand.
|Celtics: Irish Coffee||10.04.10 at 10:23 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
“I’d win, I’d win” Bryant said. “That’s what I do. One on one is … that’s easy for me, you know. Playing one on one is how I grew up playing, it’s like my thing. LeBron is more like a Magic Johnson, he’s a great passer and plays an all-around game. At the core of me, I’m a one-on-one player. I’d do that in my sleep.”
That’s a bold statement, but I tend to agree. He’s arrogant, but his breakdown is pretty much spot on. So, what do you think? Could any current Celtics beat Kobe 1-on-1? I think Ray Allen could beat him in HORSE.
Why Boston hates L.A.
This is the most ridiculous story I’ve ever heard. So, the L.A. Times is doing a weekly series on its Lakers Blog community. Each writer explains a little about himself, including how he became a Lakers fan. Well, this guy claims he was a longtime Celtics fan who became a loyal Lakers fan. I say that’s impossible.
“I liked winners, and they won every year–like the Yankees,” wrote Paul Hefti. “Following the Celtics, Yankees and Bruins seemed a natural thing to do. … I had moved to L.A. and the Lakers really got a hold of me. They were so clean, pretty, sunshiny–all things L.A.–and I was hooked. Getting beaten by the Celtics really started to kill me–my Boston family never forgave me.”
Is that the most ridiculous paragraph ever written in sports journalism history? No wonder Boston fans hate L.A. No true Celtics fan would ever become a Lakers fan. EVER. Anyone who roots for the Lakers and Yankees is called a fair-weather fan. Not a fan. And that’s the end of that.
Interested in singing the national anthem at a Celtics home game this season? Show up at the Hard Rock CafÃ© between noon and 5 p.m. today to audition in front of former New Edition member Michael Bivins, one-time American Idol contestant Ayla Brown and JAMN 94.5 personality Melissa. More info here. Try not to pull a Roseanne Barr or a Carl Lewis while attempting “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Celtics SCVNGR hunt
Foursquare competitor SCVNGR teamed with the Celtics to allow users to compete for a pair of season tickets. C’s fans with Android or iPhones can use SCVNGR to hunt around Boston, completing tasks at locations tied to the team. The fan with the most points by Oct. 22 wins a pair of season tix.
|Shaq on D&C: ‘I would have played for free’ in Boston||09.28.10 at 8:49 am ET|
In an appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show, new Celtics center Shaquille O’Neal, who has made no less than $10 million in his last 14 NBA seasons and at least $20 million in his last nine campaigns, said that he had no problem taking a pay cut in excess of 90 percent in order to come to the Celtics. O’Neal signed a two-year deal for approximately $3 million this summer, and he suggested that money was virtually irrelevant in making his decision to join Boston.
“I had other options where the money would have been greater. But this franchise, this team, has a tradition of winning,” O’Neal said. “I’ve been one of the luckiest guys in the history of the game. I’ve had four max deals and one lifetime of play. So money wasn’t an issue. Money will never be an issue. But Danny Ainge had $1 million left, which was the minimum. If I had to, to come here and play, I would have played for free. Doesn’t matter to me.”
O’Neal ‘ who said that he wanted to be called The Big Shamrock while with the Celtics — also discussed whether he will be able to “blend in” in Boston both on and off the court, his bucket list, his experience of last year’s Celtics-Cavaliers playoff series from Cleveland’s perspective and his feelings on Dwight Howard and LeBron James, among several other topics.
A transcript is below. To listen to the complete interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
This is Shaquille O’Neal. Don’t mess with Dennis & Callahan, weekdays from 6-10 on the WEEI Sports Radio Network.
Skip the boring basketball questions. Is Boston big enough for your personality?
I always tell people that I was raised Karate Kid style. My father took me many places as a youngster. I started off in Northern New Jersey, born and raised. Went down south to Hinesville, Ga., then to West Germany, then to San Antonio, Tex. I say that to say that I can blend in anywhere.
You probably can’t blend in.
I can blend in. If people are looking for me in Boston, I’ll be in Sudbury. If you’re looking for the Big Shamrock, he’ll be in Sudbury, in the fields of Sudbury.
You’ve settled on the Big Shamrock?
Yes. The Big Shamrock. Yes.
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