|NBA Power Rankings, 2012-13||10.29.12 at 7:19 pm ET|
It’s almost Halloween, another NBA season is upon us and the league’s landscape changed once again, but the Celtics are title contenders and so too are their most heated rivals. Let’s get right to the 2012-13 debut of our semi-regular NBA power rankings. Here’s the wrinkle: What’s the scariest aspect about each team this year?
1. Miami: LeBron James set the Celtics, Thunder and entire world on fire during his run to a first NBA championship and second gold medal, proving doubters wrong in every corner of the globe (including this cubicle). And he and the Heat only seemed to figure it out midway through the Eastern Conference finals, which means they could be even better, especially with Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis in tow.
2. L.A. Lakers: A starting five of Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard is terrifying, but so is their bench. The Lakers won’t get 82 games from any of those starters, so how close each comes to that number will determine if they can unseat the Thunder beyond arbitrary power rankings.
3. Oklahoma City: After reaching the NBA finals last season, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook got their first taste of what it will take to earn the Larry O’Brien trophy, so they’ll be hungrier than ever. They’ll just have to set the table for Kevin Martin coming off the bench instead of returning Sixth Man of the Year James Harden.
4. Boston: If the Celtics can reach Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals on grit and balls alone, imagine what they can do with a rotation deeper than six. Once Avery Bradley returns, coach Doc Rivers can go 12 deep and weather most injury storms, which have been downright Hurricane Sandy-esque in recent years.
5. San Antonio: Before losing four straight to OKC in the Western Conference finals, the Spurs won 20 straight and 31-of-33. That’s the value of a deep roster. But I’m still buying more stock in Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo & Co. than Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili & Tony Parker Inc.
|Irish Coffee: Do Celtics really have NBA’s best bench?||10.26.12 at 1:45 pm ET|
“We haven’t made [me coming off the bench] official yet, but if that is the case we have the deepest bench in basketball,” Terry said after Thursday’s practice. “The Clippers may have something to say about that, but for us in this locker room, our mission every night is to go out and outwork and outscore everyone’s bench.”
Similarly, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said, “If you could play 10-on-10, we would beat everybody.”
The mission here is simple: Determine the accuracy of their claim, breaking down the C’s division, conference and eventually the entire NBA. But first let’s look at Boston’s depth behind a not-so-bad starting five: Rajon Rondo, Courtney Lee, Paul Pierce, Jared Sullinger and Kevin Garnett. (For the purposes of this exercise, we’re inserting Terry and Sullinger into the starting lineup, since both took the floor first for 5-of-8 preseason games.)
|Brian Scalabrine: Black Mamba vs. White Mamba||10.11.12 at 4:52 pm ET|
“The black mamba is the world’s most deadliest snake: One bite and you’re dead. The white mamba is the world’s most dormant snake: He just chills; he just watches and chills.” Clearly, Brian Scalabrine is the Kobe Bryant of broadcasting. It’s about time someone starts breaking down real NBA issues like this. (h/t Beyond the Buzzer)
|Doc Rivers: ‘Riley is inside [Spoelstra]’ and other Celtics-Heat Game 7 shootaround notes||06.09.12 at 1:08 pm ET|
But before Miami, and after winning four titles with the Showtime Lakers, Riley coached the New York Knicks to the 1994 NBA finals. He had a point guard on that team by the name of Glenn “Doc” Rivers.
Doc Rivers speaks often about how much influence Riley had on his coaching career. In the hours before Game 7 with the Heat, the subject came up again.
“If you play for Riley or work around Riley, he’s going to be a part of you for the rest of your life,” Rivers said. “That’s just how it is, even if you have no contact with him, or you do. Riley was Riley for a reason. He gets inside of you, and you can see that with Erik. Riley is inside of him.”
Erik is Erik Spoelstra, the current coach of the Heat, a coach who has – at times in this series – come under intense pressure and criticism for possibly losing to a Celtics team much older that was considered heavy underdogs against LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Rivers said he can see a lot of Riley in Spoelstra’s approach.
“I don’t know about the game part of it,” Rivers said. “I think Spo does his own thing there. But definitely, the mental part of it, just listening to how he talks and prepares the team, that’s a Riley [characteristic]. Fingerprints are all over that part.”
Rivers is getting his team ready for the seventh Game 7 in the “Big Three” era but just the second on the road as the Celtics take on the Heat at American Airlines Arena, with the winner capturing the Eastern Conference title and advancing to play the Thunder in Oklahoma City next Tuesday night in Game 1 of the NBA finals.
“We’ll find that out later,” Rivers said when asked what he expects of his team in Game 7, after missing a chance to clinch Thursday night at home. “I’ve been to a lot of shootarounds where I’ve left as a coach [and said] we’re in trouble or we look great and the game comes, and it’s different. So, I don’t think you really get a sense for your team. I know they’ll be ready. How they perform and all that stuff, we’ll have a lot to do with that and the other team will have a lot to do with that as well.”
The Celtics are 4-2 in Game 7s since 2008, losing their only previous Game 7 on the road in 2010 when they lost the NBA finals to the Lakers. Most recently, they beat the Sixers two weeks ago, 95-85, in another Saturday night Game 7, in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
“There’s always something to say,” Rivers said. “But really they’ve been in this situation but they’ve never been in this situation against this team. So, every Game 7 is different, every game is different, honestly. You just have to prepare your best. You have to try and figure how much information to give them and how much is too much, and walk the right line.
“It’s always nicer to have it at home, clearly. But let’s be honest, if you had told me before the playoffs started you could have a Game 7 to decide to go to the finals, we’d have taken it and wouldn’t have cared where you played it. In a lot of ways, we love being here.”
All players were accounted for at the open portion of Saturday morning’s shootaround except for Paul Pierce. But Rivers said that Pierce – playing with a sprained MCL in his left knee – and the entire team is ready and will play in Game 7 against the Heat. Pierce eventually showed up at shootaround and participated, before leaving with the team on the bus back to the hotel just after noontime.
“Everybody’s good, everybody’s healthy,” Rivers said.
|Irish Coffee: An All-NBA case for Rajon Rondo||04.17.12 at 2:16 pm ET|
By now, you know Rajon Rondo‘s streak of 22 straight games with at least 10 assists trails John Stockton‘s record of 29 by seven. With only five games left, that record will stand at least until the 2012-13 NBA season begins.
But just how good has Rondo been during this streak, and this entire season for that matter?
In his last 22 games, Rondo has averaged 10.1 points, 13.8 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.8 steals, leading the Celtics to a 15-7 record. He has totaled 223 points and 303 assists — 57 of which led to 3-pointers — putting his hand in 886 of the C’s 2,050 points (43.2%) in that span.
To put that in perspective, NBA MVP favorite LeBron James has averaged 26.1 points and 5.5 assists in his last 22 games, leading the Heat to a 14-8 record. He has totaled 574 points and 121 assists (25 on 3P) in that span, generating 841 of Miami’s 2,081 points (40.4%).
And those numbers aren’t too far off Rondo’s season averages of 12.1 points, 11.6 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 1.8 steals. Out of all the players in NBA backcourts, Rondo may fall outside the top 50 in scoring, but he ranks first among guards in assists, fourth in rebounds (behind two guards Paul George, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade) and fourth in steals (behind only Chris Paul, Mike Conley and Ricky Rubio).
All of which begs the question: Should Rondo make First Team All-NBA?
|Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum ‘can be a dominating couple’||02.10.12 at 3:51 pm ET|
BOSTON — He might look like a llama, but he sure doesn’t play like one.
Lakers forward Pau Gasol recorded 25 points and 14 rebounds against the Celtics on Thursday night, but his biggest play of the 88-87 Los Angeles victory came when he blocked Ray Allen‘s put-back attempt off a Paul Pierce miss as the overtime buzzer sounded.
“Probably, for sure,” Gasol said when asked if he thought Allen’s attempt would have sunk the Lakers had he not blocked the shot. “I think he had momentum, he was going to the rim, he’s obviously got amazing touch and I continued to play. I made a big play down the stretch, which could have cost the game.”
The Lakers wouldn’t have been in position to win the game had it not been for Gasol and center Andrew Bynum‘s combined 41 points and 31 rebounds — 20 of which came on the offensive end.
“We try to play hard and dominate every game and be a dominating couple every game,” added Gasol. “I think with our size and our level of skills, we can be. Sometimes we get to do it. Sometimes it doesn’t work both ways, but I think tonight obviously we got a great effort from Andrew. … I was able to be effective, too.”
|Irish Coffee: Kobe Bryant on his admiration of Austin Rivers, love of Rob Gronkowsi and ignorance of Jeremy Lin||at 8:52 am ET|
Despite his team emerging victors by an ugly 88-87 margin in an overtime game, Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant sounded more impressed by the Celtics than his own squad when asked if the two once great and now aging championship clubs mirrored one another.
“I don’t know,” said Bryant, who finished with 25 points on 24 shots. “They’ve got three Hall of Famers and a fourth one coming. That don’t look too familiar to me over here.”
Not only did Bryant sound off about his own teammates, but he pulled no punches on the topics of Rob Gronkowski, Austin Rivers and Jeremy Lin (particularly priceless stuff), among other subjects thrown his way. The following are highlights from the Black Mamba’s postgame interview.
ON THE CELTICS
“We know each other so well. The unit we had on the floor, and their unit — we’ve played against each other so many darn times. We know what’s coming before it happens.”
[Asked again about the rivalry:] “It’s always a brawl in every fight. It’s ugly. It’s physical. I’ve enjoyed competing against them. I like all of them personally. On the court, that personal stuff goes out the window. It’s been fun.”
[And again:] “It’s a throwback in the sense that we’re old school. Ray [Allen] is old school. Paul [Pierce] is old school. Kevin [Garnett] is old school. And so is Rajon [Rondo]. How we prepare for the game, how much the game means to us, you can see the emotion that they pour into it, how much they put into the game, you don’t really see that too much from the young guys nowadays.”
[And again:] “It’s been great. It’s been a dream come true growing up and watching it. Here I am part of it. It’s great. The only difference between us and the ‘80s is that guys over there in the other locker room I actually know and like. That’s the big difference between this time around and the ‘80s.”
[And again:] “They’ve been playing extremely well. They’ve won nine out of their last 10 games coming into tonight, so they’re figuring things out obviously. Us, we’re still searching. It’s a whole new system. We’re trying to figure things out still. You kind of see it on the court. You kind of see things that are kind of botched plays every now and then, miscommunication now and then, because we’re kind of practicing things on the fly. But all in all, we’ll be Ok. Both of us will.”
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