|Irish Coffee: Celtics weekly report card||01.06.12 at 12:12 pm ET|
Given that NBA teams cram 66 games into just over four months, each of this season’s 17 weeks becomes like an NFL week. As NFL writers are wont to do, we’ll start a new series of Celtics report cards each Friday. After an 0-3 start capped by a loss to a woeful Hornets team, the C’s have won four straight — albeit against three D-League NBA clubs with a combined 3-16 record. That being said, let’s get to the grades.
BRANDON BASS: A+
If you thought Glen Davis was a Sixth Man of the Year candidate last season, get a load of Bass so far this year. In 28 minutes a night, he’s averaging 14.0 points and 6.6 boards, shooting 61.5 percent from 10-15 feet and 66.0 percent from 16-23 feet. His consistency in a new system has been remarkable. In just a few short weeks, Bass has helped create that valuable spacing for which Doc Rivers strives and already assumed the second crunch-time big role alongside Kevin Garnett.
RAY ALLEN: A
You can’t blame the man for missing a game because of the flu. In six games, he’s averaging a team-leading 20.0 points on sizzling 61.1 percent 3-point shooting. His 51.5 percent shooting from inside the arc isn’t too shabby, either, but three missed free throws is very un-Shuttlesworth-like (picking nits). Could this be the season Allen finally achieves his Holy Trinity of Shooting (50 FG%-40 3P%-90 FT%)? Allen gets paid to shoot the rock and run opposing two guards ragged. Mission accomplished.
|Irish Coffee: Kevin Garnett’s guide to being a Celtic||01.05.12 at 11:30 am ET|
I don’t know much about Kevin Garnett, but I do know this: If you haven’t earned his respect, your name won’t cross his lips. “You’re a nobody.” As Celtics rookie JaJuan Johnson said during the first week of training camp, he wasn’t sure if KG even knew his name. The future Hall of Famer only referred to him as “New” or “Rook.”
Conversely, if Garnett mentions you by name, you’re doing something right. In recent days, young Celtics Greg Stiemsma and Avery Bradley in particular have earned postgame praise from the 16-year veteran.
“I think what you’re seeing is opportunity for the young guys, starting with Greg, and now Avery’s getting a chance to play and taking advantage of it,” Garnett said after totaling 14 points and 12 boards in the C’s 89-70 trimming of the Nets. “I don’t root for young guys a lot, especially when they’re hard-headed and don’t like to listen. We’ve got a good group of guys here, and that includes our young guys. They’re a young group, full of enthusiasm, full of hope and promise and a lot of potential, but they’re good guys, and they work really, really hard.”
It’s no secret hard work goes a long way in Garnett’s book, and we all know KG is going to talk. All they have to do is listen to that team pitch he, his fellow Celtics veterans and coach Doc Rivers are selling, buy in and apply it.
“There are no I’s. There are no You’s. It’s a We. It’s an Our. It’s a They. It’s an Us,” said Garnett. “The first thing you have to have in here is that you have to understand what you’re coming into, understand that being a Celtic is bigger than anybody in this locker room. You’re carrying on tradition. You have to have a work ethic. You have to care about the next guy beside you. If you can’t and if you don’t, then you’re not here. It’s the culture here.”
It’s that simple? Read the rest of this entry »
Brandon Bass continues to show the world why the Celtics traded Glen Davis for him.
Sixth man for sixth man but this sixth man can score with the best of them. He did so again Wednesday night when the Celtics desperately needed someone other than Paul Pierce to score with Ray Allen at home with the flu.
Bass came off the bench and scored 15 points and hauled down 13 rebounds, leading a second-half surge that saw the Celtics pull away from the Nets, 89-70.
“Energy, play good defense, rebound, score when I get good opportunities,” Bass said. “That’s what I think my role is and that’s what I’m going to try to bring every night.”
The only question: Can he keep it up? He is averaging 14 points and 6.6 rebounds in 27.7 minutes over the first seven games. He has averaged 7.8 points and 4.1 rebounds in 18.6 minutes per game over his previous six NBA seasons.
“Rondo, Paul and KG all put me in a position to shoot, swing and go into pick and roll so I don’t think it’s my job to be a play maker, but I will make a play if I get the opportunity to,” Bass said.
Bass’ reference to not being a playmaker is why he has affectionately earned the reputation as Brandon “No-Pass” Bass, as Paul Flannery wrote on Tuesday. Bass realizes this. So, when he was told he got an assist on Wednesday, he replied, “Oh, did I?”
But Bass’ job is to get open underneath the basket and be ready when Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce or Kevin Garnett all look to him and fire him the ball.
“There are opportunities to do lots of different things,” Bass said. “I’m on the floor with three hall of famers and there’s an All-Star in Rondo so you got a lot of opportunities to do a lot of different things.”
“It’s nice,” added coach Doc Rivers. “I haven’t been able to do this. I did it last year at the end with Jeff [Jeff Green] when we went small and they stayed big. But it’s rare you can come out of a time-out and run a pick and roll for a pop for the big. It’s actually an iso for him to take someone off the dribble. That’s just nice to have. I’ve not – I don’t think I’ve ever had that.”
The other big benefit Bass provides are minutes, minutes that can be used to rest Garnett. Wednesday, the official box score showed Bass with 25 minutes, 45 seconds, just 11 seconds fewer than Garnett, the perfect situation for Rivers.
“Brandon’s so important for us because we take Kevin out of the first quarter at seven; you don’t lose offensively when Kevin comes out, you lose some defense for sure,” Rivers said. “Brandon rebounds well, too.”
|Fast Break: Bradley, Bass help Celtics cut down Nets||01.04.12 at 9:49 pm ET|
Thanks to 24 points from Paul Pierce and double-doubles from both Kevin Garnett (14 points, 12 rebounds) and Brandon Bass (15 points, 13 rebounds), the Celtics outscored the Nets 29-12 in the third quarter and dominated the shorthanded visitors 89-70 on Wednesday night.
It wasn’t all pretty for the C’s, as Providence College product Marshon Brooks‘s 15 first-half points gave the Nets a 35-34 lead after 24 sloppy minutes on both sides.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
The Truth will set you free: Celtics captain Paul Pierce submitted another remarkably efficient effort, totaling 24 points on 14 shots, six rebounds and five assists in under 30 minutes. His production helped the Celtics turn a one-point halftime deficit into a 16-point C’s advantage after three quarters.
Bass is a beast: The Cs Sixth Man once again came up big for the shorthanded Celtics, recording his second double-double of the season and his first since totaling 20 points and 11 rebounds against the Knicks on Christmas Day. Likewise, Avery Bradley turned in his best performance of the season, exerting his usual energy on defense (2 steals) and even contribution offensively (11 points).
The Nets came to town: Playing against a team that isn’t expected to compete for a playoff spot, even with its best players, the Celtics faced a New Jersey squad missing its starting point guard (Deron Williams), center (Brook Lopez) and power forward (Kris Humphries). That alone allowed Celtics coach Doc Rivers to test his bench and survive without Ray Allen and the always enjoyable flu-like symptoms.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Letting the Nets hang around: Just as they did time and time again last season, the Celtics let an inferior team hang around far too long. Sure, they put New Jersey away in the second half, but failure to execute combined with not taking opponents seriously for long stretches of games is never a good thing.
Rondo’s carelessness: Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo may have entered the game with the NBA’s second-best assist average (10.5 per game), but he also came in leading the league in turnovers per game with 4.7 a night. Wednesday night saw a few more unforced errors in his passing game, as he turned the ball over three times in the first half.
Hitting the Brooks: Rookie MarShon Brooks — who was traded by the Celtics for JaJuan Johnson on draft day — started for the Nets and finished with 15 first-half points. New Jersey often ran its offense through the Providence College product. Meanwhile, Johnson did not see the floor for the Celtics in the first half.
|The legend – and significance – of Greg Stiemsma just continues to grow||01.03.12 at 10:33 am ET|
Doc Rivers wanted to make sure Greg Stiemsma had the confidence to assume the role of playing and starting for the Celtics. He wanted to hear it from the man himself and then the Celtics coach wanted the rookie – who’s been around the world playing basketball – to let his teammates know he was ready.
“We had the silly – he’ll recall it, but we had the silly day where he wouldn’t shoot and I made him stand in front of the whole team and say, ‘My name is Greg Stiemsma; I’m a shooter.’ And we kept making him repeat it. Everybody started. About two weeks ago, everybody was laughing. He said, ‘I can shoot. I’m a shooter.’ And he is. And it was good,” Rivers said after Monday’s 100-92 win over the Wizards.
It worked. Stiemsma, filling in as starting center for Jermaine O’Neal, scored 13 points and hauled down seven rebounds in 21 minutes. He added two blocks – including one that got Wizards coach Flip Saunders ejected just over a minute into the game – two assists, three fouls on 5-of-7 shooting. Not bad for a guy who had to be convinced by his coach that he was good enough to be taking shots in the NBA.
“Stiemsma was terrific,” Rivers said. “He was absolutely wonderful. And I was so happy when he just took the shot. My favorite play of the whole game was he missed a shot and they threw it right back to him and he shot it again. I mean, that’s terrific. That was – I thought the whole bench was excited over that because it’s what we’ve been saying.”
After playing at the University of Wisconsin, Stiemsma went overseas to play in South Korea and Turkey. He came home to play in the D-League. He got a look from the Timberwolves and Cavaliers but couldn’t stick on an NBA roster. Monday night, he finally got his first NBA start.
And after hearing the crowd cheer for him every time he touched the ball in preseason and on Friday night, he was ready to take the big stage Monday.
“I’m trying to bring some energy every time,” he said. “I take my shot when it’s there and not force anything. I just want to take care of the ball.”
Kevin Garnett has been huge in helping Stiemsma, as our Paul Flannery points out. Stiemsma has been doing everything he can to contribute, since he figures to become more and more important as the Celtics manage the hamstring of Jermaine O’Neal through the course of an accelerated schedule.
“I’ve just try to be his sponge and just learn as much as I can from him,” Steimsma said. “He doesn’t make mistakes too often so he’s in the right spot every time. So if I can just mimic him, it’s going to help my game.
“With every opportunity I’ve had I feel like I’ve tried to step up to the plate and come out and perform well and tonight was another opportunity. I was happy to get the opportunity and to play well on top of that.”
And now, thanks to Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett, he will do so with a lot more confidence.
|Paul Pierce: ‘I was expecting to be me’||12.31.11 at 2:00 am ET|
The box score may have read just 12 points in 23 minutes for Paul Pierce in the first game of his 14th NBA season Friday night, helping the Celtics beat the Pistons, 96-85, at TD Garden for their first win of the season.
But more than that, the Celtics captain felt good about his ailing right heel. After bruising the heel just before the opening of camp on Dec. 9, he took part in just one practice with the team before being reduced to watching practice from the sidelines.
He had to watch in a suit on the sidelines as the Celtics dropped their first three games for the first time since the 2006-07 season.
“It felt good to finally get back out there with my teammates,” Pierce said. “Didn’t have much practice time, just have to get in shape in these games and just feels good to be out there.”
What were his expectations after just one practice and no games to get him in basketball shape?
“I was expecting to be me,” Pierce said. “I don’t settle for anything less. I work tremendously hard. I did a lot of things and did what I could do, other than practice. I just stayed focused, got my shots every day, I was on the [exercise] bike, and Doc [Doc Rivers] wanted me to be aggressive and just play the way I play, and that’s what I tried to do.
“It felt good. I think the rest of my body is a little bit more sore than anything, since I haven’t had any physical contact or up-and-down basketball in quite a while.”
After six points in 15 minutes in the first half, Kevin Garnett found Pierce open for a pair of threes early in the third quarter, as the Celtics put the game away with a 36-21 spurt.
“We moved the ball, with Kevin making the two passes, wide open for the threes and I just wanted to try to be aggressive,” Pierce said. “Everything is going to come if I just continue to play hard. The timing, the chemistry, it will all come. I’m not going to hold anything back. So, I’m just going to go out there and continue to play the way I play.”
As impressive as his six points in four minutes of the third quarter were, his presence bolstered a smothering Celtics defense, something that had been missing in three losses. Read the rest of this entry »
|Doc Rivers not pulling punches: We need to start fast||12.24.11 at 1:01 pm ET|
The Celtics tipoff their 66th season Sunday in New York, and never has it been more important to start fast.
Each team will have 66 games to get to the postseason. There is much less margin for error to find your rhythm, just ask Doc Rivers.
“I think you have to start fast and I think you have to stay fast,” Rivers said Friday, 48 hours before the season opener at Madison Square Garden. “Now, the calming down part, if we’re playing unbelievable, I’m going to calm them down. If we’re playing poorly, either way I’m going to leave that up to you guys.”
Rivers asked the media to keep everyone on a even keel, because he’ll be busy with other matters, like managing his team through a compressed schedule.
“If that does happen, I’m going to ask you guys, can you calm them down because I’m not going to notice,” Rivers said. “I really don’t notice when people are excited or not because I’m into the team, so you guys can watch that for me and report back.”