|The NBA 30 on 30: Blogosphere Forecast (1 of 7)||10.24.10 at 10:18 pm ET|
NBA fans live a team’s ups and downs. They react to every draft pick, trade and free-agent signing. They debate the merits of the 15th man. They find significance in the most insignificant stats. They simply KNOW their team. So, too, do bloggers. That’s why we sought the opinion of the league’s best blogs — one for each of the 30 teams — to break down the team they cover and, of course, the Celtics.
We’ll begin in the Western Conference’s Pacifiic Division with the first of a seven-part, two-day series …
ON THE WARRIORS: The shackles on the Warriors have finally been removed, as dysfunctional owner Chris Cohan sold the team to a group headed by former Celtics minority owner Joe Lacob. Sheer jubilation and excitement has captivated Warriors fans, as they’ve begged Cohan to sell the team for years, and he finally obliged.
Gone are Don Nelson and Corey Maggette, both of whom were jettisoned this offseason — much to the approval of everyone in and around the team. Keith Smart takes over for Nelson and gets an All-Star power forward in David Lee to add to his core of Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis. Andris Biedrins looks to be healthy for the first time in two years, and the addition of Dorell Wright gives the Warriors a legit NBA frontcourt.
If healthy, the team has an outside shot at making the playoffs as long as they show and execute an actual desire to play defense.
ON THE CELTICS: It seems a foregone conclusion to many that the Miami Heat are going to stroll into the NBA Finals, and the rest of the Eastern Conference has no say in the matter. This is where I disagree. The Celtics quietly had a great offseason, as they accumulated additional front-court depth in Shaq and Jermaine O’Neal, brought back Nate Robinson and added Delonte West to replace Tony Allen.
Add a fully healthy Kevin Garnett, a slimmer Paul Pierce and quite possibly the best point guard in the NBA in Rajon Rondo, and the Celtics are poised to make another Finals run. Kendrick Perkins should return around the All-Star break to provide depth up front, which will keep the front line fresh and ready to go during the playoffs.
I see the Celtics making a return trip to the Finals, as their chemistry, experience and toughness will prove to be too much for Miami and the rest of the Eastern Conference.
ON THE CLIPPERS: The Clippers have long been one of the most unpredictable teams in the NBA (unless you just take the easy route and predict bad things). Every year, they look pretty good on paper, yet every year they seem to underachieve. I call them the anti-synergy team — the whole is always less than the sum of the parts.
Was the recent lack of synergy a function of the seven-year regime of coach Mike Dunleavy, and might new coach Vinny Del Negro be the answer? Unclear. What is clear is that, perhaps more than ever (and forgive me if you’ve heard this before), the Clippers are loaded (on paper). At four positions, the Clippers start a player with an impressive prefix for his name: two-time All-Star Baron Davis, Team USA gold medalist Eric Gordon, 2010 All-Star Chris Kaman and 2009 first overall pick Blake Griffin. Of course, three of those guys were there last season when the Clippers won only 29 games.
Griffin is the key, only partly for his basketball ability (which is almost unlimited). Just as important is the attitude he brings, and the Clippers are hoping it will infect the entire team. While the Clippers have visibly given up on their last three seasons, Griffin has never in his life given up on a single possession. If his presence serves to keep the Clippers playing hard all season, then perhaps the prospect and the reality will finally align for the Clippers.
I expect them to finish near the .500 mark this season, a definite step forward but probably not enough to qualify for the playoffs.
ON THE CELTICS: Five players on the Celtics have combined for a staggering 51 All-Star Game selections in their careers. When the Celtics decided to corner the market on former All-Pros named O’Neal who were willing to take $18M pay cuts, Jermaine (6 All-Star selections) and Shaq (15) joined Pierce (8), Ray Allen (9) and Garnett (13) on what must surely be the most decorated team of all-time.
Yet it may be two other Celtics with just a single All-Star selection between them who hold the key to Boston’s season. For all the accolades of the ‘drafted in the 90s’ crew, Rondo is the engine that makes Boston go, while Perkins is a lynchpin in their stifling defense. How well Rondo plays and how quickly (and how well) Perkins returns from ACL surgery will be major factors in Boston’s fortunes. Rondo is the one guy on the team who is entering elite status as opposed to exiting it, and elite teams always have elite players.
Meanwhile, it’s far from clear that either of the O’Neals has anywhere near enough gas in the tank to do what Perkins does in Boston’s vaunted defense. With so many 30-somethings, health will of course be a factor as well, but if Rondo takes the next step and the team enters the playoffs healthy (including a full-strength Perkins), then I expect the Celtics to give Orlando and Miami a run for the Eastern Conference championship and possibly even bring another banner back to Boston.
ON THE LAKERS: The Champs had a surprisingly busy offseason — picking up a veteran point guard (Steve Blake), another solid, defensive-minded role player (Matt Barnes) and an insurance policy for Andrew Bynum (Theo Ratliff). The Lakers have two simple goals during the regular season:
- Get healthy for the playoffs.
- Win the West.
If I know Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant, they’ll take a clean bill of health in April over the No. 1 seed every single time. The regular season will be a grind, but I expect L.A. to find a way to emerge as the top seed in the West. If Kobe is healthy and Bynum can find a way to stay off the operating table, I like the Lakers’ chances to have another ring ceremony this time next year.
ON THE CELTICS: If the NBA were a horror franchise, the C’s would undoubtedly be Jason Voorhes — the aging, veteran killer who isn’t exactly chasing people down anymore, but continues to get the job done, sequel after sequel. With the offseason additions of the Big Minimum (Shaq), Delonte and the cadaver formerly known as Jermaine O’Neal, the C’s are actually more talented (and deeper) than they were last season. If everyone stays healthy (their biggest concern), I expect Boston to give Miami all they can handle in the Eastern Conference Finals.
ON THE SUNS: The range of goals for the Suns this season goes anywhere from not losing 40 games to a return trip to the Western Conference Finals. It’s almost impossible to predict what the Suns will do this year, given the question marks and variables.
If all goes well (really well), and the team catches breaks along the way, they could certainly be right back at the top of the non-Laker heap. That would require other teams suffering big-time injuries — which played a huge factor last season — along with everything going right in Phoenix.
On the flip side, it’s not inconceivable that the Suns are back in the lottery if a couple of teams improve (and stay healthy). There are just too many unanswered questions going into the season to predict with any degree of confidence that the Suns will win 45 games. At the same time, I can easily make the case that they’ll win 55. That puts the goal somewhere between 40 and 55 wins. That’s the best I can do with this team right now.
ON THE CELTICS: The Celtics are old. Really, really old. And got older by adding Shaq. But we saw last season that Doc Rivers understands how to limp through the regular season and position his guys to be fresh for the playoffs. It’s a risky plan that worked once and may work again.
Or maybe it won’t. It’s so hard to predict when you’re talking about the health of older players. Of course, it’s one of the younger guys, Perkins, who’s the biggest question mark. Even if he returns midseason, it’s going to take months to get him back to where he was.
Fortunately for Celtics fans, the East isn’t that deep past the top three (I’m including the Bulls). Overall, it’s hard to see Boston finishing lower than a sixth seed, and then all bets are off. We know Boston can beat Orlando, and I’m not convinced the Heat will be a great playoff team. This all assumes, of course, that KG doesn’t get fined into the poor house with the new “Respect for the Game” rules.
ON THE KINGS: They’re certainly improved but already dealing with some concerning injuries. Newly acquired center Samuel Dalembert is going to miss a few weeks to start the season, and while I love the potential of DeMarcus Cousins, defensively he’s not there yet. That’s not to say he can’t get there quickly, but as of right now he’s struggling (as to be expected) on that side of the ball.
Assuming Dalembert returns healthy, the Kings’ defense will be far better than it was last season (how could it not be?). They’ve added a great deal of size with rookies Cousins and Hassan Whiteside, along with other big men Dalembert, Jason Thompson and Carl Landry. They’ll be able to pack the lane much more effectively, and their size should be a unique advantage, especially with 6-foot-11 Donte Greene being named the starting small forward.
Tyreke Evans has spent the entire offseason working on his jumper (when he wasn’t speeding down the freeway), and the hard work has clearly paid off. Make no mistake, you won’t ever confuse him with Ray Allen, but Evans adding a reliable jumper and 3-point shot to his arsenal is a scary sight for other Western Conference teams.
The Kings still aren’t there, yet. The West has a lot of really good (but not elite) teams that will clog the bottom rung of the playoff seedings, but a season with 32-35 wins would be a fantastic growing point for the Kings.
ON THE CELTICS: The Celtics are going to continue to face the “age” question throughout the season. When are they going to show how old they are? A lot of people thought you’d begin to see the cracks last year, and it was completely the opposite, as they ran through the Eastern Conference. And I’d be hard-pressed to say they can’t do it again.
I love the additions of both O’Neal’s, and I don’t think we’ve seen the impact Nate Robinson can have yet. I do think the loss of Perkins is a big blow, but one they can manage through. Perk certainly doesn’t get the recognition he deserves around the league, as he’s one of the best defensive big men in the NBA and a cog in what the Celtics do. With that said, the Celtics clearly have the talent to maintain until he’s able to return later in the season.
The East did steal some power from the West with the additions of Carlos Boozer in Chicago and Amar’e Stoudemire in New York, but with the Knicks limited in other areas and Boozer’s injury the Celtics shouldn’t have much issue hanging onto the second seed (not that the Knicks are or were a threat).
They’ll give the Heat a run for their money if they meet in the playoffs. Can they beat them in a seven-game series? That’s a tough call. Injuries will always play a huge factor, but I’m not one of the many ready to just hand over the trophy to South Beach yet. Assuming the Celtics hang on to the No. 2 seed, they wouldn’t meet until the Heat ran through a gauntlet of tough lower seeds. As Garnett so famously said, “Anything is possible,” and I’d be far from shocked to see the Celtics come out of the season hanging yet another Eastern Conference championship banner.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this seven-part series: the Western Conference’s Northwest Division.
|Sunday is no day of rest for Celtics||at 4:51 pm ET|
WALTHAM — You could tell immediately after practice on Sunday that this was no ordinary weekend practice. It’s not often the Celtics practice both days on the weekend but Doc Rivers is giving his team every chance to get prepared for the Miami Heat on Tuesday night.
“We didn’t do much today,” Rivers said. “I really went back and forth with giving them the day off or getting them to run through some stuff. A lot of skeleton today and very little contact and going over our defensive schemes.”
Then, on their own, new players like Von Wafer, Luke Harangody and Semih Erden worked on the offensive sets. The intensity was certainly there.
Tempers flared between Delonte West and Wafer during a post-practice drill, the Celtics continued preparations for the Miami Heat on Sunday at their practice facility.
Wafer, who won the last 15th and final roster spot after the final preseason game last Wednesday, played with Harangody against West and Erden in a 2-on-2 drill as extra time is being spent at the end of practice for new players trying to learn the Celtics offensive sets before they open the season Tuesday night at home. Wafer and West exchanged words after West drove to the basket and beat Wafer for a couple of buckets.
“Listen it’s game one, even if it wasn’t Miami, everybody is going to be excited,” Rivers said. “This is a special situation. Let’s just be honest. Everybody is excited about it. Our guys try to downplay it until you walk through the locker room and hear them talking about it. The film is on all day, watching Miami. Let’s just go out and have fun and see what we have the next night. We’d like to win them both.
The Celtics play in Cleveland on Wednesday, the night after their season opener against the Heat at TD Garden.
|Rajon Rondo finds comic relief in Stern warning||10.22.10 at 4:22 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Rajon Rondo can be one difficult person to read.
Take Friday for example. Following practice, he was asked about David Stern‘s comments a day earlier in which the NBA commissioner said he wants player salaries cut by a third or up to four teams may have to be contracted. Stern is looking to save NBA owners – his bosses – between $750 and $800 million.
It was bargaining posture that sports fans have become accustomed to in the collective bargaining era. But still, the threat had a very serious undertone.
Are NBA players worried about Stern’s latest shot in the bargaining battle?
“Who? David Stern? It doesn’t worry me at all,” said Rondo, who is in line to make $9 million this season.
“I’m preparing for like there is one,” Rondo added. “I’m saving a lot of money this year. I’m saving a lot on my car insurance, too. Geico.”
While that might seem like the off-hand comedic comment it is, he followed up with something a little more telling.
“We’re focused on the season. It’d be great if we could get a ring heading into a lockout but other than that, I’m focused on the season.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Irish Coffee: NBA’s (David) Stern warning||at 10:36 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
What if your boss came up to you and said, “Um, yeah, I’m gonna need you guys to go ahead and cut your salaries by $800 million”? I know I wouldn’t like if WEEI slashed my salary by $800 million, and NBA players aren’t going to like it, either.
But that’s exactly what NBA commissioner David Stern is proposing on his side of the collective bargaining agreement to make his league profitable again. Owners claimed $380 million in losses last season and project $350 million in losses this season.
“Even though we reported we have record season ticket sales over the summer and otherwise very robust revenue generation because of the built-in cost of the system,” deputy commissioner Adam Silver told reporters, “it’s virtually impossible for us to move the needle in terms of our losses.”
The NBA player’s association contested those numbers, and I am, too. You’re telling me that the league is losing that much money when season-ticket sales are at an all-time high and they’re just four months removed from a seven-game finals series between the league’s two biggest rivals? Didn’t 8.4 million people tune in just to watch the league’s biggest star announce where he was going to take his talents?
Slashing salaries by 36 percent is going to be a hard sell to the players, especially in a year that the league itself projected attendance to rank in the top five seasons ever.
“They’re saying lockout,” Clippers center Chris Kaman told the Los Angeles Times. “You just never know. You’ve just got to be ready and prepare yourself for that, moneywise. I’ve been saving a lot – looking out.”
If this is truly how the NBA owners are expecting to negotiate the collective bargaining agreement, don’t expect the season to start on time next year. The Celtics‘ starting five would have to give up $40 million next year alone to meet Stern’s demands. I’m not naive enough to believe that’s possible.
CELTICS WILL LOSE: SCOUTS’ HONOR
Sports Illustrated’s Ian Thomsen released his annual survey of NBA advance and personnel scouts, and they don’t expect the Celtics to reach the finals. The highlights:
- The Miami Heat and Orlando Magic are expected to finish with higher seeds than the Celtics in the East.
- Three of the six scouts believe the Heat will take down the Celtics in the conference finals. Two scouts predict the C’s won’t even make it that far, and only one has Boston returning to the NBA finals.
- That lone scout has the Celtics beating the Lakers in the finals. Three of them have the Lakers beating Miami, one has those two finishing vice versa and the sixth scout has the San Antonio Spurs as champs.
“When we were at the Hall of Fame, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and myself said we would not have went to Miami. That’s just a basketball situation. That has nothing to do with anything. We just said we wanted to beat the other guy. That’s not a criticism; that was just giving our opinion. My criticism, and the only criticism I’ve really heard about LeBron, is how he handled the situation.”
While many people are arguing MJ ripped Kobe and Barkley dissed LeBron, that’s not really the case. Jordan called Kobe one of the top-10 guards of all-time, and Barkley called LeBron the best player in the NBA. Those hardly sound like fighting words.
Now, the real controversy should be over this statement from Oscar Robertson to ESPN: “LeBron James is in a class by himself,” even compared to Jordan. Really? I think Jordan’s six NBA titles and LeBron’s zero beg to differ.
A LAYUP DRILL
In the bad news department, former Celtic Charles Smith was shot twice in the chest in a Washington D.C. home yesterday afternoon, according to the local NBC affiliate. Smith reportedly remains in critical-but-stable condition following surgery.
After capturing 1998-89 Big East Player of the Year honors, Smith played 60 games for the 1989-90 Celtics that reached the playoffs. Continue to cheer for him. …
According to The Washington Post, the Wizards waived Adam Morrison yesterday. Back in July, the Celtics were one of four teams scouting Morrison’s Las Vegas workout. Any chance the C’s could bring him in for a look? …
Former Celtic Dominique Wilkins met with 30 kids from Maine who suffer from Type I diabetes to share his own experiences with the disease, The Portland Press Herald reported. Add that to his highlight film. …
(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)
|NBA Power Rankings, 10/21||10.21.10 at 4:50 pm ET|
1. LA Lakers: So, Ron Artest was on Jimmy Kimmel Live last night. I knew he was crazy, but I guess I didn’t know he was that crazy. How long can he go without creating a distraction? It worked last year, but there’s a shelf life for these things. Still, they’re the two-time defending NBA champions, and they have “length,” which doesn’t sound right, but size matters in this league.
2. Boston: The Celtics finished the preseason with a 7-1 record, proving they can turn on the “all systems go” button, even when the games don’t matter. That’s a scary thought when wins and losses start to mean something. I’m a little skeptical about how the C’s will integrate Shaquille O’Neal on both ends of the court, but the depth on this team is the league’s best.
3. Miami: Injuries continue to pile up for the Heat: Dwyane Wade (hamstring), LeBron James (hamstring), Mike Miller (thumb), Mario Chalmers (ankle) and Eddie House (shoulder). The 2007-08 Celtics used the preseason to jell; this team will have to do it in the regular season. I’m being careful not to be a “hater” here, so Eddie House doesn’t flip me the bird.
4. Oklahoma City: There are some interesting stories coming out about Jeff Green. He has a “special relationship” with his head coach, whatever that means. According to Etan Thomas, he’s an underappreciated player in the league. Just another one of the Thunder’s young guns.
5. Orlando: Wait a second, it’s a contract year for Vince Carter? So, that’s why he’s trying again — and knocking down 61 percent of his shots (59 percent from 3-point range) this preseason. Combine a motivated Vince, a healthy Jameer Nelson and a Hakeem Olajuwon-inspired Dwight Howard, and you’ve got a recipe for success.
|Irish Coffee: Big Baby’s all grown up||at 11:03 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
BOSTON — At this time last preseason, Glen Davis watched in street clothes from the bench with a broken hand he suffered when he took a swing at a friend around 4 a.m. one night.
Big Baby’s done a lot of growing up since then.
“You make a mistake, and it helps you grow,” Davis said after last night’s Celtics win over the Nets in the preseason finale. “Situations happen. … I look at it, and I just look back on how young I was at that time. I’ve had a lot of things happen in my life so far.”
At the start of the preseason, Davis questioned his role, and coach Doc Rivers fired back: “I think Big Baby’s living up to his nickname again.” There was a here-we-go-again feel to it.
But in just three short weeks, Davis has grown into the leader of the NBA‘s best second unit, thanks in large part to Danny Ainge defining his role as,well, an indefinable one.
“It’s how you look at it,” said Davis. “I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t have a role,’ but I knew my role. It was just confusing. I know I’m a versatile player. I can do multiple things. I can play the 5, and I can play the 4.”
Rivers has also let Davis define his own role on the court.
“One thing Doc’s letting me do this year is allowing me to be more creative on my own. So far, in the preseason, I’m being a post threat, and I’m shooting an outside jumper. I’m just glad and fortunate that I know my role now. I know exactly what I can do for this team, and I’m going to do it the best I can.”
BIG BABY: SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR?
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better second unit in the NBA than Nate Robinson, Delonte West, Marquis Daniels, Big Baby and Jermaine O’Neal. So, why shouldn’t that unit produce the league’s Sixth Man of the Year?
|Pierce: No window watching needed||10.20.10 at 11:51 pm ET|
Boston got off to a sluggish start, and while New Jersey figures to be much-improved this year with new head coach Avery Johnson, the Celtics had no business being down 14 points early in the second quarter, on their home court, in their final tuneup before the most important (or, at least, most hyped?) regular season game in NBA history on Tuesday night at TD Garden.
And their captain knew it. Paul Pierce, who finished with a game-high 17 points in a 107-92 win over the Nets, said the Celtics wanted a good feeling heading into the season.
‘We knew that was not our brand of basketball how we came out to start the game,” Pierce said of allowing the Nets to shoot 50 percent and score 55 points in the first half. “We wanted to try to establish the tone in the third quarter and we just have to do a better job on starting games off and understanding on what we need to do. But I think for the most part we are ready.
‘You want to sort of build something going into the season individually and as a team. It’s about getting the confidence going. You want to be playing well not just as a team. Trying to figure out some things I am trying to do offensively just to get some confidence to know I can get the job done during the regular season.’
But that wasn’t the only message Pierce sent after the game. He was asked if he views this season, starting with Tuesday’s showdown with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, as a final shot at an NBA title with the current group of Celtics.
“I don’t look at it that way,” Pierce said. “I’ve got four years left, shoot. The window’s open as long as I’m here. Definitely, the sense of urgency is there every year we have our team [together]. We don’t look ahead at a window. The object is to have a sense of urgency now and then next year, worry about that.”