|Irish Coffee: What if this Celtics chemistry experiment doesn’t work?||11.07.12 at 11:24 am ET|
As a member of Mark Cuban‘s ever-changing Mavericks, Jason Terry saw his share of rookies, castaways and veterans enter the turnstiles attempting to adjust to the Dallas system. Even last season, a year out from winning the NBA championship, the Mavs lost five of their top 12 rotation players. Now, Terry’s the one adjusting.
“We had a lot of turnover in Dallas where we’d bring in new guys every year, it seemed like, so this is nothing new, but for me it’s definitely an adjustment,” said Terry, who averaged 15.1 points, 3.6 assists and 1.2 steals last season. “And I know for the guys that have been here, it’s an adjustment for them, because they’re used to playing one way and now you’re implementing guys who are used to playing another, so it’s difficult.”
Even if last year’s Mavericks lost Tyson Chandler, Juan Barea, Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson and Peja Stojakovic, they returned nine players from the title team while adding Vince Carter and Lamar Odom. Yet, Dallas dropped from a No. 3 to a 7 seed during the lockout season and got swept by the Thunder in the first round.
“For us, it never jelled,” said Terry, who made his desire to keep the championship core together clear at the time. “It never happened. That’s why we were out in the first round. It can happen, or it won’t.”
This season, the Celtics returned only four players from the roster that lost Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals to the Heat. Even when you include Avery Bradley, Chris Wilcox and Jeff Green, coach Doc Rivers still has eight fresh faces in his locker room. What’s to say this team never jells?
|Doc Rivers: ‘We’re going to be hard’ on Jeff Green||at 10:48 am ET|
The pass from Brandon Bass went out of bounds, hitting Rivers in the leg.
“Come on, Jeff!” Rivers shouted.
On the next possession down the court, Rivers stopped Green, who was playing defense and had a chat with him.
Rivers explained to him that Bass passed the ball to Green because Green was late cutting to the basket. Bass thought that’s where Green was supposed to be, messing up the whole set.
“We need you to be better,” Rivers told him.
After practice, Rivers reiterated that Green, who is 8.3 points in his first three games, can be great – but only if he expects to be great.
“Jeff is important to us, not [just] for this year but for long term. I’m hard on Jeff,” Rivers said, clearly referring to the $36 million investment through the 2015-16 season.
Then Rivers thought pattern changed on the fly, almost as if he was catching himself lowering expectations of the swingman who was just given a four-year commitment from the team after proving himself healthy after heart surgery last January.
“I don’t actually think I’m hard on him. I think I’m fair on him,” Rivers said. “I think he’s hard on me. So, we’re going to demand out of him this year to be great because I think he has the ability to be great.”
|Doc Rivers: I want Mike Longabardi ‘to take it personally when teams score’||11.06.12 at 6:12 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Doc Rivers has kept a close eye on Mike Longabardi for a long time.
When Thibodeau left after 2010, that left a void, one Rivers felt perfectly suited Longabardi. On Tuesday, during an open practice at the team’s training facility, Longabardi put on a show on just how to defensively coach up an NBA team consisting of stars who put defense first.
“Remember, every trap has to have a purpose,” the 39-year-old coach told his team at the beginning of a two-hour practice.
It’s just the kind of thing Rivers, who would occasionally chime in, wants to hear from his No. 1 defensive assistant.
“He’s been around it,” Rivers said after practice Tuesday. “He’s been in the office next to mine. He communicates it well. I just want him to be focused on that. Whoever is my defensive guy, that’s their only job. All the other coaches do everything, they help with the defense, they help with offense but whoever I make my defensive [assistant], that’s his job.”
Rivers said no one on the team took it harder when the Heat dropped 120 points on the Celtics in the opening night loss.
“I want him to take it personally when teams score,” Rivers said. “And he does. Trust me, the first two games, he wanted to jump off a bridge somewhere. And that’s what I want him to be. I want him to be mad at people and hold them accountable.
Before joining the Celtics for the 2007-08 season, Longabardi was with the Rockets for four seasons as an assistant coach/video coordinator for two seasons, the video coordinator for a season and the assistant video coordinator for a year.
Longabardi spent seven years as an assistant coach for the men’s basketball teams at Pfeiffer University, Adelphi University, Lafayette College, as well as Towson University. He was on the coaching staff that led the Lafayette Leopards to a Patriot League title and an NCAA Tournament berth. Longabardi also was a member of the coaching staff for the Celtics 2008 Championship team.
It could be coincidence that Kevin Garnett compared Jared Sullinger to Kendrick Perkins three days after the rookie earned his first career NBA start for a coach who rarely even plays first-year guys, but it’s probably not.
“Jared understands what we’re doing,” said Garnett. “He’s a no-nonsense guy — not that I’m shooting anything at the other guys — but the young fella comes in, does his job and does what you tell him. He’s a great rebounder, his IQ is unbelievable, he can pass the ball and he reminds me a lot of Perk. Obviously, he’s not the defensive player that Perk was, but as far as IQ, moving the ball and being unselfish, he’s a great teammate.”
Don’t forget the Doc Rivers-ism that the Celtics never lost a playoff series with his starting five of Perkins, Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen. Whether you consider Perkins overrated or not, he played a role for the Celtics: rebound, defend and finish around the basket. Sullinger fills that role.
“It means a lot, especially coming from Kevin,” said Sullinger of the comparison to Perkins. “When Kevin gives anybody praise, he really likes you, I guess, so it’s a blessing. But at the same time I’ve got to keep working. That’s pretty much my motto: Just to keep working.”
|Celtics notes: Doc Rivers announces, ‘If we can’t win with [KG] off the floor, we just won’t win’||at 2:32 pm ET|
WALTHAM — It’s been a recurring theme of the first week of the season. The Celtics need more out of their bench — much more.
Doc Rivers underscored that after open practice for special guests and clients on Tuesday. Rivers has told his team he’s not going to lean on Kevin Garnett for more minutes when he’s already trying to conserve the big man for an 82-game season. Rivers hinted the same could be said for Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo, though he feels he has some more wiggle room with them.
“No, no, I’m not going to let him do more. I’m going to play Kevin the same amount of minutes,” Rivers said. “With Paul, Rondo you can go anywhere but if we can’t win with him off the floor, we just won’t win. And I told our bench that. We’re going to play the minutes that I’m giving them. The bench will play the minutes they should get and if they’ve got to do something or we just won’t win. It’s that simple.”
Garnett is averaging a reasonable 29 minutes a game in the first three games. Pierce is at 35 minutes and Rondo is playing 41 minutes per contest. Rivers has not yet seen the consistent production he would like from Chris Wilcox, Brandon Bass and Jeff Green but he feels it will come.
“Not yet but when you take Kevin out, you’re not going to get Kevin,” Rivers added. “That’s why he’s on the bench. But I don’t think that’s been an issue. When he’s been off the floor, like last year, when he was off the floor, it had a dramatic [effect]. I don’t think that’s been the case so far this year at all. I think the guys that have come in have tried to do what they should do. I think the other guys with him have to do more.”
Tuesday’s practice featured detailed instruction from defensive guru Mike Longabardi, who was teaching trapping principles and defensive rules within the system, especially important to the newer players, like the three rookies and Jason Terry and Leandro Barbosa.
“Today was just a practice,” Rivers said. “It’s easier here because it’s in your natural surroundings. It was a good practice.”
Rivers again preached patience when talking about the newer players picking up the defensive scheme.
“We’re getting it,” Rivers said. “It’s just going to take time. I thought we were a lot better today. We’re working a lot of principles and tendencies. Offensively, it’s just moving the ball. Defensively, just running the coverages and talking. It just takes time.
“There’s no date,” Rivers added when asked if there’s an expected time by which everyone should be on board. “Every group is different because if one guy doesn’t get it, it brings the whole team down. Every year, it’s a different group. There’s no expiration date on anybody. It’s just takes time.”
WALTHAM — It wasn’t so much a complaint as it was a statement of fact.
Brandon Bass was asked after Monday’s practice how much of a challenge it will be for him to go from starting role to the bench and back.
“That’s life, man,” said Bass. “You wake up, you don’t know what to expect. Sometimes it’ll be like that. You’ve just got to make the best of it.”
He started the first two games this season before being swapped out to the bench for rookie Jared Sullinger Saturday night in Washington.
It’s not like Bass didn’t see this coming as Rivers informed him that the Celtics would use at least three different starting lineups this season, based on matchups.
“You know what? We have so much going on,” Bass said. “If it’s going to be my role to come off the bench, then once when get the bench chemistry down, and put the ball in the right player’s hands, then I think it will benefit us as a unit and as a team.”
“It’s expected when you have a new group with a bunch of new guys.”
Bass also gave an indication of what Doc Rivers expects from him this season.
“For me to grow here, I have to be more active. We have a bunch of options. Doc said to me, it’s Rondo, Paul and Kevin and Jeff they’re going to go through so I have to be more active in everything on both ends of the ball.”
|Doc Rivers: Celtics are ‘probably behind’ where they need to be||11.05.12 at 5:43 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Doc Rivers can see what every Celtics fan sees. The team is 1-2 to start the season and not playing the basketball everyone envisioned when they brought back Kevin Garnett and added Jason Terry, Jeff Green, Leandro Barbosa and Jared Sullinger to a cast that lost to Miami in Game 7 of the Eastern finals last June.
“Probably behind,” Rivers said after Monday’s practice. “We have a great first half in Washington, that is what we needed to see. But I didn’t think we sustained it. I just think everyone is starting to figure out that, to be a good team, you have to actually work at it. And it’s hard work. You just don’t show up because you have good names on a piece of paper and become good. You have to work at it, and you have to work hard at it. And it’s exhausting.”
Is conditioning all that’s missing from the team’s trademark D?
“Yeah, but I think we’re in good enough condition to be a good defensive team. I think that’s more of the buy-in and the trust and the communication.”
The Celtics finished Monday’s two-hour practice with conditioning drills in 5-on-5 sets. Rivers is clearly concerned with his team’s ability to finish games defensively, after the Wizards erased two double-digit deficits in the fourth quarter only to have Paul Pierce save the game with a 3-point shot with under three minutes left.
The first half, when the Celtics raced to leads of 17-2 and 26-10, was a different story – one that after watching on film – made Rivers think the team is close.
“I thought we played defense, we got into the ball, there was ball pressure, there was talking,” Rivers said. “The first seven or eight minutes, [Washington] struggled to get a shot off, let alone score a basket. Then as the game went on, you can see us slowly moving away from it. I don’t know if that’s breaking old habits from other places, or if that’s conditioning. When you watch it on film, you think it’s a little bit of both.”