|Irish Coffee: C’s chemistry at a 9 or 10 but not ’08 level||10.23.12 at 6:57 pm ET|
After the Celtics started an unofficial training camp almost a month early, Rajon Rondo organized a players-only trip to Los Angeles and everyone drew parallels between the C’s Euro trip prior to the 2008 NBA championship run and their exhibition expedition to Turkey and Milan this preseason, we’re quick to assume this unit can form a bond on the court as quickly as that one did. After all, both groups returned only six players from the previous year.
On a scale from 1 to 10, Jeff Green called this team’s current chemistry a nine. In typical Rondo fashion, he placed it at a 10. And Kevin Garnett said, “Chemistry is very, very high, man.” But Paul Pierce disagrees.
“We’re still building chemistry,” he said. “Chemistry sometimes doesn’t happen overnight like in ’08, so we’re still trying to build that. When you look at the number of new players we’ve got, we’re still trying to implement them.”
Let’s get one thing straight: This group isn’t anything like the one five years ago. That 2007-08 team started 29-3. Twenty nine and freaking three. For a variety of reasons, don’t expect this team to replicate that feat.
“As far as being ready, we’re going to continue to get better as the year goes on,” added Pierce. “We’re not where we want to be, but that’s going to come as we play more games, as the year goes along, until we reach our peak.”
|Kevin Garnett: ‘Jeff [Green]‘s a lot more aggressive’||10.22.12 at 12:06 am ET|
Following the final Celtics preseason game, C’s coach Doc Rivers called Jeff Green the most impressive player in their eight games against European and NBA competition, and Kevin Garnett offered some insight into why.
Green sat at his locker across the room, unbeknownst to Garnett as he explained the difference between this Green and the one who came to Boston for the final 26 games of the 2010-11 season.
“Jeff’s a lot more aggressive than I can remember, man,” said Garnett. “I can remember when he first got here. Maybe he was just understanding his role or whatever — at times he was tentative.”
A laugh came from across the room. Garnett looked up, saw Green and yelled: “What’s up J?”
“But now I think he has a different appreciation,” Garnett continued. “He’s playing like it, man. He’s playing like he knows he’s going to be here. He understands his role, he’s aggressive and we’re going to need that from him. I told him he’s got an old school game like James Worthy. To see him back, to see him refreshed, doing the things he loves to do, it’s good to see him back, so I’m happy for him.”
And Green shouted back: “Appreciate it.”
It wasn’t the first time Green heard the Worthy comparison. Throughout the preseason, Celtics broadcasters Mike Gorman and Brian Scalabrine made the same analogy — one Green wasn’t comfortable making himself, offering his respect to the Lakers Hall of Famer via Twitter.
He’s not Worthy, but Green earned Garnett’s praise. His knees wrapped in ice and his post-surgery heart healthy after playing more minutes than any other member of the C’s this preseason, Green averaged 13.9 points (49.4 FG%, 40.0 3P%, 67.7 FT%), 4.9 rebounds and almost four free throws in 30 minutes a night through eight games.
|Irish Coffee: Limiting Doc Rivers’ Celtics lineup options||10.19.12 at 5:21 pm ET|
Celtics coach Doc Rivers has options. Kind of like Leonardo DiCaprio has options. It’s hard to choose from the depth and versatility of talent at his disposal, so he tries every combination at his disposal. Eventually, the cream rises to the top, and that appears to be what has happened over the C’s past two preseason games against the Nets. In other words, Rivers may have found his Gisele Bundchen, Bar Rafaeli and Blake Lively of lineups.
In the first three-plus quarters of the two games against Brooklyn — before Micah Downs, Kris Joseph, Robert Kurz or Fab Melo made obligatory fourth-quarter appearances — Rivers used 23 different lineups. Other than starters Rajon Rondo, Courtney Lee, Paul Pierce, Jared Sullinger and Kevin Garnett, no unit played longer than 8:36 together. Before making any observations, here are the combinations, playing time and plus/minus statistics.
|Irish Coffee: Jason Terry, Courtney Lee still searching for magic potion in Celtics’ backcourt chemistry experiment||10.17.12 at 12:08 pm ET|
If you look at their production during the preseason, newest Celtics guards Courtney Lee and Jason Terry appear headed in different directions in terms of adjusting to their new team, but both are confident they’ll end up in the same place when the NBA season starts on Oct. 30 — meshing their strengths into an established system.
“We’re not worried about that,” said Terry. “Right now, we’re just trying to execute what [Celtics coach] Doc [Rivers] lays out there for us, and we know that part of our game will come here shortly. We’ve got three games in a short amount of time to get right and get ready and prepare.”
After struggling in the C’s 97-91 loss to Istanbul’s Fenerbahce Ulker to start the preseason, Lee’s comfort level has steadily progressed, culminating in his most extended minutes (33) and most complete performance (13 points, 4 assists, 2 rebounds, 1 block) during a 97-96 loss to the Nets on Tuesday night. It marked his third start in five preseason games and his third double-digit scoring output in the four games since the opener.
“I was trying too hard to fit in,” Lee said of his early struggles. Obviously, a collision with Fab Melo‘s shoulder that left him with a deep right thigh contusion and kept him out of the C’s unofficial practices from Sept. 6 to the start of training camp didn’t help. “I wasn’t myself. I wasn’t being aggressive at all.
“Doc came to me and said that hurts the team. He needs me to play my game, be aggressive and make the right plays. The more practice we get and the more games we play, I’m getting more and more comfortable with that.”
When the second half began Tuesday night, Doc Rivers was no where to be found on the Celtics bench. As it turned out, there was no medical emergency. It was all pre-planned. Rivers told his longtime assistant Armond Hill he would be taking the reins in the second half. Why?
“He just came to me and said, ‘Armond, you’re coaching the second half.’ He’s always said that as much as players are in training camp, so are the coaches. And so what would happen if he gets thrown out, something like that?”
Rivers actually joked with reporters before the 97-96 preseason loss to the Nets at TD Garden that everyone should go home by nine o’clock in order to watch the debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. As it turned out, Rivers was in the locker room right about the same time as the debate began. But Hill insisted Rivers was actually watching the Celtics game since he knew every detail of what was going on in the game, including the Celtics losing a nine-point lead with 3:16 left in the fourth quarter.
“I can only thank Doc for giving me the opportunity to coach,” Hill said. “That’s what we’re all here for. He’s taught me and I’ve been with him and he continues to teach me and he’s given me another opportunity.
“As far as at the end, I put all the guys in and I didn’t have any point guards in. But, once I explained that Courtney [Courtney Lee] was cramping up a little bit, he understood. So we just played them. But we still had chances and I thought we shot quick, too quick, when we had a seven-and eight-point lead. But it’s all a learning experience.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Fast Break: Paul Pierce ends this Celtics-Nets debate||10.16.12 at 10:00 pm ET|
Even Celtics coach Doc Rivers couldn’t watch a full preseason game against a Nets team that didn’t send any of its starting five out for the opening tip. Conveniently, the second half of the C’s 97-96 loss coincided with the start of the presidential debate, and that’s when Rivers — an ardent support of President Barack Obama, a fellow former Chicagoan — excused himself, “allowing his assistant coaches to handle the bench duties.”
At least Paul Pierce stayed for the second half, capping a 29-point night on 10-of-17 shooting (6-8 3P) in 27 efficient minutes. Jeff Green (14 points) and Courtney Lee (13 points) also stuck around until the end of the C’s bench eventually coughed up a double-digit lead in the final minutes. Here’s what else Rivers missed.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Sharp Pierce: After entering training camp out of shape and suffering a foot injury that lingered long past the three games he missed to start the 2011-12 NBA season, Pierce seems prepared to begin this season in much better shape, showing no ill effects of the knee injury that hobbled during the playoffs. The Celtics captain connected on four of his first seven shots against the Nets, scoring 10 of the C’s 14 points in the opening seven minutes.
Green party: After struggling for the first time all preseason against the 76ers, Green turned in another aggressive performance, recapturing his leadership role on the second unit. After falling hard to the floor early in the second quarter, he shook off the trainer and even drew a charge on the other end. If there were any lingering questions about Green’s hesitance after returning from heart surgery, he answered them in that stretch.
On guard: Lee’s outside shot wasn’t dropping (1-4 3P), but the C’s starting shooting guard once again demonstrated the athleticism and defensive ability that made him so coveted. Also, his chemistry with backcourt mate Rajon Rondo is clearly developing, as Lee found open spots on the perimeter and Rondo naturally found him with a few nice crosscourt passes. Eventually, the career 39 percent 3-point shooter’s stroke will connect.
|Fast Break: Spencer Hawes, 76ers slap Celtics silly||10.15.12 at 9:30 pm ET|
The Celtics started Rajon Rondo, Courtney Lee, Paul Pierce, Jared Sullinger and Darko Milicic, marking the fourth different Doc Rivers starting lineup in as many preseason games. In Philadelphia, few showed up — namely Sixers fans, centers Kevin Garnett and Andrew Bynum, and the C’s cohesiveness.
When all was said and done after an atrocious 107-75 C’s loss, only Pierce (16 points) and Brandon Bass (11 points) reached double figures, six different Celtics committed at least two of the team’s 20 turnovers and Milicic left in the second half with a sore wrist. All that said, let’s sort through the ugliness.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Turnovers and turnover: As analyst Tommy Heinsohn said at halftime, when the C’s had already coughed the ball up 14 times (Pierce 4, Milicic 3, Rondo 3, Sullinger 2) and experimented with roughly 9,736 different lineups, “There was no chemistry. It was boiling over into turnovers.” Few if any lineups appeared to have any continuity. Given the Celtics are only midway through the preseason, it’s probably too early to be concerned about excessive experimentation, but the earlier Rivers can discover which units work best together, the better.
Off center: Without Kevin Garnett, who would normally treat Spencer Hawes like Hulk treated Loki in “The Avengers,” Rivers turned to Sullinger and Milicic to guard the Sixers center. Often, the former proved too small and the latter too slow to challenge the rangy 7-footer. Understandably, the Celtics didn’t want to play Garnett in back-to-back nights, and Rivers likely wanted to experiment with his big Garnett/Milicic lineup against Brook Lopez and the Nets on Tuesday night. Still, Monday was further evidence how important KG is to the C’s chemistry.
Project Green light: Green may have guarded everywhere from the 2-4, but that didn’t mean he did it successfully. While NBA plus/minus statistics aren’t always the best indicator, he was a team-worst minus-28 against the 76ers. After reaching double digits and shooting better than 50 percent in his first three preseason games, Green made just 3-of-9 attempts, missed all three of his long-distance attempts and committed two turnovers. Outside of an unchallenged slam dunk, he failed to take advantage of a matchup against offensive-minded Nick Young.