|NBA Power Rankings, 1/25||01.25.12 at 2:28 pm ET|
We’re exactly one month into the season and the NBA Power Rankings picture isn’t exactly crystal clear. Are the Sixers and Nuggets legit title contenders? What about the Nuggets? Are the Celtics and Lakers really borderline playoff teams? Will the Wizards and Hornets win 10 games? Is Shaquille O’Neal the worst analyst in history? When will The Legend of Mutombo’s Gold be optioned for the film rights? Even at the quarter-mark, so many questions still remain in this shortened NBA season. Let’s attempt to answer a few of them.
1. Oklahoma City (14-3): How the Thunder lost to the Wizards is a mystery on par with Area 51. Outside of that hiccup, Kevin Durant (MVP anyone?) & Co. continue to roll — through the Grizzlies, Knicks, Celtics and just about everybody else. Not only are they good, they’re healthy. Even Kendrick Perkins has started all 17 games. The next two weeks will tell us a lot about OKC — with games at the Clippers, Mavericks, Spurs and Blazers — but something tells me they’ll be Ok, see.
2. Chicago (16-3): No Derrick Rose, no problem. The Bulls are 4-1 in his absence, albeit against the dregs of the league. Meanwhile, Joakim Noah (16 and 10 on Monday) and Richard Hamilton (consecutive 20-point nights) are returning to form. But Rose remains the biggest question mark of the season, as his toe injury is expected to linger through the spring — and @derrickrosestoe is sure to pick up more than seven followers.
3. Miami (12-5): The Heat are 4-4 in their last eight games, but during that stretch they defeated the Spurs, Lakers and 76ers in five nights — without Dwyane Wade (ankle), another massive question mark looming over this NBA season. Remarkably, Erik Spoelstra‘s crew is 0-4 in Wade’s last four appearances. Without him, LeBron James is reverting to MVP form, as much as it pains me to say it, especially after he tweeted: “R.I.P Joe Pa! Met him before while I was out at Nike campus. He was great man!!” Read the rest of this entry »
|NBA Power Rankings, 1/3||01.03.12 at 10:54 pm ET|
With the Celtics, Lakers, Mavericks and Spurs all hovering around .500 through the first two weeks of this shortened season, has the balance of NBA power officially shifted? The way I see it, a team can own any of three distinct advantages after an abbreviated training camp and during a season in which they’re playing every other night: 1) an experienced core; 2) young, athletic talent; and 3) depth. The Celtics own one of those advantages.
In the early going, the power picture remains blurry, so I’m taking a new approach to the rankings: Who would win a seven-game series if they played right now? For example, I’m of the opinion the C’s would lose a playoff series to any of the five teams ranked higher than them and defeat any of the 24 teams ranked lower. Got it? Good.
1. Miami (5-1): The Heat returned an experienced core, possess a ton of talented young athletes and got deeper with the additions of free agent Shane Battier and rookie Norris Cole. There’s a reason Dwyane Wade & Co. are better than 2-to-1 favorites to win the NBA title. This season is so short, LeBron James might not even have time to figure out a new way to choke.
2. Oklahoma City (5-1): The Thunder won five of their first six games, and Russell Westbrook (38.0 FG%, 10.0 3P%) hasn’t even hit his stride yet. They’re incredibly young, incredibly talented and incredibly deep. And they also have Kendrick Perkins. I kid. I kid.
3. Chicago (4-1): Good news: Derrick Rose is still pretty good. Bad news: Rip Hamilton is still pretty old.
4. Dallas (2-4): Without Tyson Chandler holding down the paint, the Mavericks rank 27th in the league in both rebounding and points allowed. Meanwhile, Lamar Odom‘s field goal percentage (19.5%) is almost as bad as his success rate in getting Khloe Kardashian pregnant (too soon?). Yet, the Larry O’Brien trophy remains in Dallas — probably on Mark Cuban‘s pillow, but still.
5. L.A. Lakers (3-3): Even after Andrew Bynum‘s four-game suspension combined with Kobe Bryant‘s wrist injury and a back-to-back-to-back to start the season, the Lakers emerged 3-3. It could be worse. Don’t forget: It’s never a good think when Black Mamba has a chip on his shoulder, and he might lose a cool $75 million for allegedly cheating on his wife Vanessa (who woulda thunk it?). Read the rest of this entry »
|Jermaine O’Neal: Now, ‘I feel like I know what I’m doing’||12.24.11 at 12:30 am ET|
No one was more disappointed about the way last season ended in Miami than Jermaine O’Neal. He had just begun to find his legs in the playoffs, playing significant minutes and becoming a force after injuries to his left knee and left wrist caused him to miss 58 regular season games.
But now he’s healthy and ready to go. He says he hasn’t felt this good since finishing the 2009-10 season in Miami, when he played and started 70 games.
“I felt strong, I felt knowledgable about the system,” O’Neal said. “Now I feel comfortable with the guys and the guys felt comfortable with me. I think the coaching staff feel comfortable with me. Last year, no one knew what to expect since I wasn’t out there.”
Doc Rivers called him the “MVP of training camp” and believes the C’s will be getting the real O’Neal this season. O’Neal doesn’t want to disappoint.
“I think all of us want to do the job Doc expects us to do,” O’Neal said Friday. “I feel like we have enough size, enough mobility to play the style of game we want to play.”
O’Neal, if healthy, could be a huge difference-maker this season for the Celtics. He has average 14 points and just over seven rebounds a game and is considered one of the best defensive centers in the league when healthy.
“You talk about our size, there’s not many teams that have legitimately three or four seven-footers,” O’Neal said. “We have 6-10, 6-11, three or four of those guys who can really do a lot of different things. I think a lot of guys are just mentally focused on doing their jobs. If we do our jobs, we’ll be fine.”
O’Neal could never get on track last season, battling injuries and splitting practice time with Shaquille O’Neal and Glen Davis as the Celtics desperately searched for an answer in the low post. Read the rest of this entry »
|NBA Offseason Review: Southeast Division||12.22.11 at 5:23 pm ET|
Given the drama (and comedy) that was the NBA lockout, the ensuing free agency frenzy and the vetoed trade by a commissioner of a group of owners who was acting as the general manager of an individual team that is owned by that same group of owners, it’s easy to get confused about who landed where. This is the fourth of six daily division-by-division reviews leading up to opening day.
2010-11 record: 58-24
2010-11 standing: Won Southeast Division; lost NBA Finals to Mavericks, 4-2
NBA draft picks: 28. Norris Cole
Key additions: Shane Battier (free agent); Eddy Curry (free agent)
Key substractions: Mike Bibby (free agent); Zydrunas Ilgauskas (retired)
2011-12 starters: PG Mario Chalmers; SG Dwyane Wade; SF LeBron James; PF Chris Bosh; C Joel Anthony
2011-12 wins over/under (sportsbook.com): 49.5
2011-12 prediction: 51-15
2010-11 record: 23-59
2010-11 standing: 5th in Southeast Division
NBA draft picks: 6. Jan Vesely; 18. Chris Singleton; 34. Shelvin Mack
Key additions: Ronny Turiaf (trade)
Key substractions:Josh Howard (free agent); Yi Jianlian (FA)
2011-12 starters: PG John Wall; SG Nick Young; SF Rashard Lewis; PF Andray Blatche; C JaVale McGee
2011-12 wins over/under (sportsbook.com): 19.5
2011-12 prediction: 21-45
|Irish Coffee: Celtics playoff picture just a memory||05.12.11 at 1:00 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
In the end, the hated Heat executed and defended better. Essentially, they did everything the Celtics always used to do, except with younger, better and healthier players. Now, with another year of mileage on Boston’s Big Three’s old legs, the Celtics hope to make one more run against a Miami team that’s only going to improve.
Something’s gotta change. They need help at the center position. They need the No. 25 pick in the NBA draft to give them something. And they need to make a splash with their mid-level exception. This all assumes, of course, that there is an NBA season in 2011-12. As for Game 5 and its aftermath, The Associated Press pictures tell the whole story, so let’s let them (NOTE: click on the pictures in the rest of this entry to follow the links) …
|Doc Rivers: ‘I love our guys’ and I’m ‘leaning heavily to coming back’||05.11.11 at 10:08 pm ET|
Just minutes after being eliminated in a stunning 16-0 game-ending run in Game 5 by the Miami Heat, Doc Rivers announced that he is leaning heavily toward returning as the Celtics head coach next season.
“I’m leaning heavily to coming back,” said Rivers, who is not signed for the 2011-12 season. “I haven’t made a decision but I can tell you I probably will [return]. I’ve kind of come to that [decision] over the last couple of weeks. I’m a Celtic and I love our guys. And I want to win again here, I do. I’m competitive as hell and I have a competitive group. So, we’ll see but I can tell you that’s where I’m at today. I may change my mind tomorrow but that’s where I’m at today.”
“I know we gave a lot in Game 3 and I never felt like we could ever get all that effort back from all our guys and the games did come quick,” Rivers said. “I will say this, I don’t believe this team is done, though. After listening to the Lakers being broken up after they lost, I’m sure, hell, we’re all done, our team. We have to add some people but other than that, I love the guys in that locker room.”
The first major personnel decision could be what to do with Glen Davis, who is unsigned next season. Jeff Green is also a restricted free agent this summer. Shaquille O’Neal told TNT’s Craig Sager before the Game 5 that he will decide this summer if he will play again or retire.
As for the game itself, Rivers had few words for the 16-0 run that ended his seventh season in Boston.
“It happens,” Rivers said. “I’ve just about seen all of it. It’s not the way you want to end the game or the season.”
Visibly fighting off emotions, Rivers concluded the post-game Game 5 press conference by answering how much of his desire to return is tied to the fact that Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett are all under contract for next season.
“Yeah, and I love them and I love the people I work for,” Rivers said. “It’s tough. So, we’ll see. That’s where I’m at today for sure.”
|Fast Break: LeBron James, Heat bury the Celtics||at 9:49 pm ET|
A pair of 3-pointers, a fast break dunk off a steal and a driving layup by LeBron James in the final 2:10 capped a 16-0 run that gave the Heat a 97-87 victory Wednesday night and ended the Celtics season after five games in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Nenad Krstic scored the C’s final points of the season, with 4:28 remaining, giving the Celtics an 87-81 lead. But James broke an 87-87 tie with 2:10 remaining, and then buried a go-ahead trey with 40 seconds left after Jeff Green mishandled a poor Paul Pierce pass. After a timeout, Delonte West turned the ball over and James put the game — and the C’s season — away with a dunk and a layup seconds later.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Paul Pierce’s early foul trouble: With the Celtics leading by three and James cruising for a breakaway dunk, Pierce committed a truly ill-advised foul just 5:40 into the game. Not only that, but it was Pierce’s second personal, forcing coach Doc Rivers to give him an early hook before bringing him back for the second quarter. Pierce then picked up his third foul late in the second quarter and missed the final 1:44 of the half. He never got into a rhythm and couldn’t provide any physicality on the defensive end.
Dwyane Wade’s monster first half: While the rest of his teammates made just 6-of-24 first-half shots (25 percent), Wade buried 9-of-12 from the field and 5-of-9 from the free-throw line for 23 points before the break. While the Celtics shot 52.9 percent for the opening 24 minutes, the Heat trailed by only two points (49-47) at the half — thanks to Wade and the Heat’s 23-14 advantage in free-throw attempts. Wade had 15 foul shots in all, and overall, the Heat totaled free throws 38 to the Celtics’ 20.
Rondo’s health: At one point in the fourth quarter, both Rondo and Jermaine O’Neal were receiving back treatment on the sidelines. And how could you forget Rondo was already dealing with a dislocated left elbow that left him at 50-50 prior to the game? He did not play in the fourth quarter, finishing with six points and three assists, despite a valiant effort. O’Neal also missed the final quarter, totaling just three points and two boards.
Careless turnovers: Garnett and Pierce combined for seven turnovers, and the Celtics committed 17 in all — the majority of them seemingly unforced. Down 3-1 and on the road, the C’s couldn’t afford to give the Heat that many extra opportunities.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Getting KG involved early: The Heat crowd may have arrived late, as usual, but Garnett showed up right from the opening tip. He attacked the paint and scored nine of the Celtics’ first 13 points, finishing the first quarter with 12 points, five rebounds and two steals to help the C’s grab a 24-16 before the Heat and their fans even knew what hit them. Considering Garnett’s Game 3 success (28 points, 18 rebounds) and Game 4 failure (7 points on 1-of-10 shooting), the Celtics needed Garnett to set the tone. Unfortunately, he scored three points the rest of the way.
Ray Allen gets open looks: After struggling to find space and making only 11-of-30 shots in Games 2-4, Allen got free from Wade and made 6-of-12 from the field in Game 5, including 5-of-10 shooting on some pretty wide open looks from beyond the arc (not to mention a huge four-point play). His 11 first-half points helped pick up some of the slack left by Pierce’s relative absence.
Nenad Krstic and the bench (yup, you read that right): At the end of the third quarter, Krstic buried a long baseline jumper that put the Celtics up 73-71 heading into the final 12 minutes of play. Krstic finished with eight points as the Celtics’ bench outscored the Heat’s 33-12. Krstic, Jeff Green (9 points), Delonte West (10 points) and even Glen Davis (6 points) each scored at least six points on the night.
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