|Al Jefferson: ‘I would’ve traded me for Kevin Garnett, too’ and other memories of Rajon Rondo and the 2006-07 Celtics||11.15.12 at 1:40 pm ET|
During the 2006-07 NBA season, when the Celtics finished last in the Atlantic Division and earned the No. 5 overall pick (Jeff Green) that became Ray Allen trade bait and eventually altered the franchise’s future, I bought a ticket to the Garden for $8. Eight dollars. Even on a measly sportswriter’s salary, that was a bargain.
As Tommy Heinsohn said, the young core of Al Jefferson, Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, Tony Allen and Delonte West consisted of players who were “like puppies: Every time you saw them, you wanted to pet them.”
“We used to have a lot of laughs together, because when I was here, things weren’t going too well as far as winning,” Jefferson said. “But we always had the locker room live with me, [Rondo], Tony Allen, Kendrick Perkins and Delonte West. We all kept it live, and we were fun guys to be around. In the time we were here, when we were losing, we hardly ever got blown out. It was always close games, but we were just such a young team, we didn’t know how to finish those games. I knew if we could’ve stayed together, things could’ve got better for us.”
Considering how those players evolved — a double-double machine (Jefferson), a three-time NBA All-Star point guard (Rondo), a first-team All-Defensive wing (Allen), a starting center on a title team (Perkins) and one tough motherbleeper (West) — that team would’ve gotten better. Those Celtics wouldn’t have won a title in 2008, but you can see why some folks (wrongfully) thought twice about trading Jefferson as the centerpiece of a fairly famous 2007 trade.
“If I were Danny Ainge,” said Jefferson, “I would’ve traded me for Kevin Garnett, too.”
The marriage of Leandro Barbosa and the Celtics seems to be a perfect one.
Once again Wednesday night, Barbosa was just what Boston needed to overcome the loss of Rajon Rondo to a sprained right ankle.
“Just play the game, go with the flow,” Barbosa said of his mission after scoring 16 points in 23 minutes of a 98-93 win over the Jazz. “Bring a lot of energy. Make sure that I give [guys rest], especially Paul [Pierce] and [Kevin Garnett]. We are in the flow, now three games, and I just want to keep it going.”
Barbosa was signed on Oct. 18, not exactly sure how much time he would get on the floor. But the 29-year-old said he was a very happy to get another chance in the NBA after stints with the Suns, Raptors and Pacers.
“First of all, I’m happy to be here. Boston Celtics is a great team,” he said. “Great guys, great organization. I’m very happy to be here. When I got the call, it was a great surprise for me. Now that I’m here, I want to make sure I can help the guys out.”
One thing you won’t hear Barbosa do is whine about playing time. His 23 minutes on Wednesday were a season high after he averaged just over 12 in the first seven games.
“Some days I won’t have a lot of minutes, and I knew that when they called me, but just being here and being here and try to help them get better on the court is all that matters to me,” he said.
‘He’s earned it,” Doc Rivers said of Barbosa’s increased role, with or without a healthy Rondo. “I tell everybody, ‘Listen, we sign you, and you come, and there’s no guarantees that you’re going to play. But if you earn it, you get to play.’ And he’s earned it. He deserves to play.’
Rivers has simplified things for Barbosa, asking him not to run complex sets simply because he doesn’t have the experience yet in the system. He is running more transition offense and pick-and-rolls, fairly standard stuff in the NBA.
“Obviously, Rondo goes out in the second half and just putting LB in and we didn’t run much because he doesn’t know much,” Rivers said. “But everything was basically pick-and-rolls. We told him to just keep attacking to the basket and we’ll figure it out from there.’
Admitted Barbosa: “For me, it’s much easier. I feel a lot more comfortable playing that way. But I feel comfortable, too, with the plays. The coaches have been very [helpful] coaching me on the side. I’m almost there.”
The reason Rivers is relying more on Barbosa is his veteran savvy on the court — like when two Jazz players doubled Garnett in the third quarter. Barbosa saw his man leave for KG and immediately went to the basket for an easy layup.
“I just saw that he was doubled,” Barbosa said. “My man went to double him so I just decided to come back and give some help, and it worked out.”
Just before Rajon Rondo “slightly” sprained his ankle against the Jazz, the Celtics point guard stretched his string of double-digit assists to 32 games. Only John Stockton (37) and Magic Johnson (46) own longer streaks.
Utah coach Tyrone Corbin played his entire 16-year NBA career either with or against Stockton, including three seasons as his Jazz teammate from 1991-94. In 1992, Stockton recorded another stretch of 29 straight games with 10-plus assists, which Rondo recently eclipsed, so Corbin knows first-hand what that does for a team.
“[Rondo]’s a great player, a great competitive player,” Corbin said. “He’s doing a great job. He’s a big asset for this team. He reads his team well; he makes the right plays for them. Any time you get a guy that makes double-figure assists every night for you, that’s a great honor and you’ve got a chance to win games as a result, because you know he’s going to be able to get the ball to the right guys and spread it out well, so he’s a tremendous player.”
Asked if he sees similarities between Rondo and Stockton, Corbin made it clear: “They’re two different players.” But how different are Rondo and Stockton? Here are their numbers through their first six NBA seasons.
Read the rest of this entry »
|Doc Rivers: Leandro Barbosa ‘bailed us out’||11.14.12 at 11:46 pm ET|
Outside of trainer Ed Lacerte, Leandro Barbosa was the most important member of the Celtics bench Wednesday night as he scored 16 points and steadied the ship when its leader Rajon Rondo went down with a sprained right ankle midway through the third quarter. The Celtics were able to hold off the Jazz, 98-93, Wednesday night at TD Garden.
But as coach Doc Rivers points out, it wasn’t just his time replacing Rondo and running the point in the second half that turned out to be so important.
‘Barbosa was terrific,” Rivers said. “I mean, he bailed us out. Not only just replacing Rondo; I thought in the first half ‘ I thought our starters started the game out pretty flat and I thought our second unit with Courtney Lee and Barbosa, Jared [Sullinger], that group gave us a spurt, Jeff Green. And then obviously Rondo goes out in the second half and just putting LB in and we didn’t run much because he doesn’t know much. But everything was basically pick-and-rolls. We told him to just keep attacking to the basket and we’ll figure it out from there.’
Barbosa was so good, in fact, it kept Rivers from considering his worst nightmare, life without Rondo.
‘It’s going to happen,” Rivers acknowledged. “He’s not going to play all 82 [games], I doubt. It’d be nice. You know how I think, guys, the next guy, just somebody has to step up and we have to figure it out. And tonight was a great example that we did that. We had other options; you could put JET [Jason Terry] in at the point. I mean, it was just one of those games. I thought the big lineup, or our semi-big lineup with Paul [Pierce] and Jeff changed the game for us as well. We had a post presence with those guys. So, it was an interesting game. When we get outrebounded by what we did, 18-4 [offensive rebounds], it’s hard to win a basketball game. And yet we still won it.’
|Fast Break: Leandro Barbosa, Celtics tune out Jazz||at 10:02 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo logged his 32nd consecutive game with 10 or more assists, but it was his replacement, Leandro Barbosa, and the rest of the Celtics bench that stole the show in their fifth win in six games, 98-93 over the Jazz.
Rondo played just 25 minutes — none after rolling his right ankle in the third quarter — but Barbosa and Jeff Green each scored 16 points, leading a reserve unit that outscored Utah’s bench, 47-25.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Brazilian blur: In 5:47 off the bench for Rondo in the first half, Barbosa scored seven points, including a string of five on consecutive trips to start the second quarter that tied the game, 25-25. It would’ve been seven straight had he hit his free throws on the next trip, but the effort alone gave the C’s the boost they needed. And then again, when Rondo turned his right ankle in the third quarter, Barbosa contributed quality minutes running the show.
Truth of the quarter: After shooting 2-of-7 and looking sluggish in the first half, Pierce made 5-of-9 attempts in the third quarter, scoring 15 points in the frame. His string of three consecutive 3-pointers midway through the quarter helped stave off a Jazz run and kept the C’s heads above water.
KG impression: What Barbosa did for Rondo, Chris Wilcox did for Garnett. The C’s backup center contributed 18 minutes off the bench, totaling seven points and five rebounds while holding down the fort in Garnett’s absence (and we all know how the Celtics have been struggling in that department). More importantly, his effort kept Garnett fresh for the fourth quarter, when KG wreaked his usual havoc.
Green with envy: This Jeff Green dunk on Al Jefferson. No words necessary.
|Jeff Green posterizes, taunts Al Jefferson||at 9:46 pm ET|
|Al Jefferson on Celtics: ‘If that situation were to happen, I’d love to do that again’||at 7:27 pm ET|
Talk about full circle.
If you’re a Celtics fan wouldn’t it be something if the Celtics were somehow able to land Al Jefferson in free agency next season? The man most famous for being the biggest chip that brought Kevin Garnett to Boston in the summer of 2007 spoke before taking on his former team Wednesday at the Garden. He forced the first overtime of Utah’s 140-133 triple-overtime win over Toronto Monday night with a rebound and a 3-pointer.
A lot of things would have to fall into place. First, Jefferson would have to turn down what he considers to be a situation in Salt Lake City that he says compares very favorably to Boston.
“We haven’t had any conversations,” Jefferson said before his match up with the Celtics Wednesday night. “This is all about going out and taking care of business. If I go out and take care of my business, everything else will work itself out. I’m not really concerned about it.”
Jefferson is making $15 million in the final year of his deal in Utah.
“I want to be in the NBA,” Jefferson said. “When both teams want me, that’s when I need to start worrying. Right now, I just want to be in the NBA, I want to be with the Utah Jazz to be honest with you. I’d love to stay in Utah. They do things the right way, kind of remind me of Boston, first class. They do everything the right way. They have to do what’s best for their team and I have to do what’s best for my family. Right now, it’s all about winning and getting back to the playoffs.
“I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. You really don’t want to think too far ahead. You have to take care of business day-by-day. If I do my part, everything will work out.”
As for Boston?
“This is my first home,” he said with a big smile. “This will always be my home away from home. Danny Ainge gave me a chance when nobody else did. If that situation were to happen, I’d love to do that again. But right now, like I said, it’s all about taking care of business and finishing out the season right.”
Last year, Doc Rivers took his former big man to dinner. This year?
“Nah, screw Al,” Rivers laughed. “I don’t have time for him. He’s too good now. I didn’t. It’s just a tough trip.”
Jefferson is averaging 15.8 points and 11 rebounds and has started all eight games for the Jazz this year. So much has changed for Jefferson, who has had his share of terrible injury luck, including blowing out his knee in Minnesota in three non-playoff seasons there before finally getting a taste of the playoffs last season with the Jazz.
“It was always a rebuilding year in Minnesota,” Jefferson said. “It’s just been great to get to the Jazz, where it’s just like Boston – all about winning. They always have winning in mind. Danny’s probably thinking right now of a way to win five years from now. That’s just the way it is [in Boston] and that’s the way it is in Utah.”
“He just keeps getting better and better,” Rivers said. “The thing I thought I’d never say about Al is he’s becoming a better passer, and I’m very happy about that for him. He just keeps working on his game.
“I think he hit that one little stretch, where he lost a lot and you can see he’s fought through that now. I think making that playoff run, he was a big part of it last year, has kind of restoked him, and it’s good. He’s a heck of a guy.”
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