|Fast Break: Celtics drop the Nuggets||12.08.10 at 9:41 pm ET|
Kevin Garnett added 17 points and nine rebounds, Paul Pierce also poured in 17 and Glen Davis contributed 16 points off the bench, as the Celtics won their eight straight and improved to 17-4 (10 of 11 at home).
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Hot start: The Celtics went 7-for-7 in the first 3:20, jumping out to a 16-4 lead and forcing the Nuggets to call timeout in hopes of cooling them off. It never happened. While Denver cut the lead to one late in the second quarter, the C’s never relinquished that lead and shot 55.9 percent for the game.
For the first quarter, the Celtics shot 68.4 percent as a team to take a 35-21 lead (their second-highest first-quarter output of the season). And the Big Three of Garnett, Pierce and Allen led the way, shooting a combined 12-of-16 from the floor in the opening 12 minutes.
Sharing the wealth: The Celtics assisted on 17 of their 21 first-half field goals. That pace cooled off a bit as the lead got comfortable, and the C’s finished with 26 assists on 38 field goals.
Rajon Rondo, of course, led the way with 13 dimes in 30 minutes, while Allen and Pierce chipped in with four apiece. The C’s entered the game averaging more assists than any other team in the league. Rondo’s sensational season, along with the team’s knack for making the extra pass, is the reason the Celtics are also best shooting team in the NBA.
Interior offense: Taking advantage of the Nuggets’ lack of a 7-footer underneath, the Celtics pounded the ball into the post. That led to two positives: a ton of points in the paint, and a ton of free-throw attempts. The C’s outscored the Nuggets 38-28 in the paint, while Allen, Pierce, Davis and Shaquille O’Neal each got to the line at least five times.
In all, the Celtics shot 36 free throws, making 25 of them. They entered the game averaging 23.2 free-throw attempts, while their opponents averaged 25.2 foul shots per game.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Stopping Lawson: As good as Rondo looked in the passing game, he appeared equally as poor defensively. Whether it was his hamstring or feet bothering him, Rondo appeared a step slower than usual. As a result, Nuggets backup point guard Ty Lawson took advantage — totaling 24 points and seven assists. On multiple occasions, he took it right at Rondo, and the C’s point guard put up little defense.
Sloppy second quarter: In a span of 6:52 in the second quarter, Nate Robinson, Marquis Daniels, Pierce, O’Neal and Rondo all committed turnovers. During that same span, the Nuggets cut what was an 18-point Celtics lead to a 52-51 C’s advantage with three minutes to play in the first half.
Star watch: In the first 11 home games of the season, Celtics fans have already missed out on three of the league’s biggest draws, as Kevin Durant, John Wall and — on Wednesday night — Anthony didn’t play due to injury when their teams visited the Garden.
The Thunder and Nuggets visit Boston just once all season, so the C’s faithful will have to wait until the 2011-12 season to catch two of the NBA’s biggest established stars in person. Fortunately, the Wizards play in Boston again on April 8, so Rookie of the Year candidate Wall has another shot at a Boston debut.
|Is Shaquille O’Neal Turkey-bound?||at 12:54 pm ET|
“Besiktas Cola Turka management has rolled up their sleeves to bring another NBA superstar to Istanbul. Besiktas fans and management, who are very pleased with the arrival of Allen Iverson, have now set their sights on luring Boston Celtics center Shaquille O’Neal overseas.”
According to the story, Iverson’s manager Gary Moore, who is also in “constant contact” with Shaq, “could be an intermediary in securing an agreement” for next season.
I, for one, am not buying it. Sure, this Turkish team might want Shaq on its team. Why wouldn’t they? It would mean millions of dollars in business for them. They probably want LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant to play for them, too.
But Shaq will be under contract for the Celtics next season, and his entire mantra since he arrived in Boston has revolved around getting a fifth — or even sixth — championship ring to cement his legacy. He can’t do that as a member of Besiktas Cola Turka.
UPDATE: Besiktas general manager Seref Yalcin is claiming that Shaq told him, “I want to be champion this season with Boston. But I’m coming to Turkey next year,” according to a website called Hoopsnotes.
Still not buying it. Shaq says al lot of things with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek, and I’m guessing something got lost in translation here.
|Irish Coffee: Celtics Quarterly Report Card||at 12:02 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Entering Wednesday night’s game against the Nuggets, the Celtics have played 20 games and are a quarter of the way through the NBA regular season. It’s time for a report card …
- Grade: A
- Comments: He’s been on a season-long rampage to prove each and every doubter wrong. A season removed from being considered done, cooked, finito, Garnett’s field goal and free throw percentages, points, rebounds and steals are all up. Even more importantly, he’s back to his 2007-08 Defensive Player of the Year form.
- Grade: A
- Comments: Since entering camp in impressive shape, he’s been remarkably efficient so far. Pierce’s true shooting percentage (62.1 percent) ranks third in the league at his position, and his rebounding numbers are up. Not to mention the fact that — according to Doc Rivers — he’s assumed a larger vocal leadership role.
- Grade: A
- Comments: Emerging as a legitimate Sixth Man of the Year candidate, his numbers have increased in every single category. His knockdown jump shot has forced opponents to spread the floor, opening things up for his teammates. And his propensity for drawing charges has been both invaluable and highly entertaining.
- Grade: A-minus
- Comments: Two reasons he’s not an A: 1) He’s already missed more games this season (four) than he did in the previous two seasons combined; and 2) he’s shooting 44.4 percent from the free-throw line. Otherwise, he’s been phenomenal — threatening John Stockton’s single-season NBA assist record.
- Grade: A-minus
- Comments: His scoring average may have dipped from last season, but he’s back to doing what he does best: Burying 3-pointers at a 40 percent clip. He’s also dishing out assists at his highest rate since arriving in Boston. My one gripe? I’ve seen him play better defensively (Exhibit A: Wesley Matthews‘ 23 points).
|Happy 54th birthday, Larry Bird!||12.07.10 at 5:30 pm ET|
Happy 54th birthday to one of the greatest basketball players — and worst actors — of all-time: Larry Bird! The Celtics legend and current Pacers president only eclipsed 54 points once in his career, scoring 60 against the Hawks on March 12, 1985.
|Irish Coffee: Bill Russell on the NBA, Celtics & more||at 10:35 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
It’s not every day you get the sage advice of Bill Russell, so when it happens, don’t miss it. The Celtics legend needs no introduction, so let’s get to his latest interview, with SLAM Magazine …
RUSSELL on winning: “I think I know a lot about the subject. My college team has the second-longest winning streak in history. My Olympic team still holds the record for greatest margin of victory. And the Celtics were perhaps the best team in the history of American sports. We won eight straight titles and nine of 10 in the decade of the ’60s. To do that against the best basketball players on the planet is remarkable.”
RUSSELL on offense: “To me, I was a better offensive player than a defensive player. By the end of my first year, I always put the offense in motion, and after a year or two almost all the plays went through me. In fact, [John] Havlicek said after I left, he missed me more on offense than on defense.”
RUSSELL on Wilt Chamberlain: “Wilt was an enormously talented man and I wasn’t going to do things that would inspire him to play harder, even if that meant giving him an easy basket here and there. You have to understand, this was a great, great player. And you had to keep things in perspective. He was a guy you couldn’t dominate physically or mentally. You can’t play somebody else’s game and have a chance to win. We had a style when he arrived, and the idea was to maintain that style, because it was successful.
“Wilt’s numbers speak for themselves: 100 points in a game, 27 rebounds averaged in a season! But after he did all these things, Wilt kept on not winning, and people never understood that, so they started criticizing him. But I never did. I thought he was great. Basically, I saw it as he had an agenda and I had an agenda. And we both fulfilled our agendas.”
RUSSELL on racism: “Fans all over the country were racist and obnoxious, some places more and some less, but I never permitted that to have an adverse effect on my playing, and within the Celtics that did not exist.”
RUSSELL on player/coaching: “Red [Auerbach] offered me the job first and I said I wasn’t interested. So he asked if I had any recommendations and said that he would not hire anyone who I didn’t approve of 100 percent, because I had meant too much to the franchise. I had some ideas, but we couldn’t work out a deal. Frank Ramsey, who was my first choice, couldn’t leave home. Bob Cousy couldn’t get out of his contract at Boston College and so on. Red came up with one last name, and I just wasn’t going to play for that person, so I decided that I would, in fact, do it.”
RUSSELL on the dynasty: “Last year’s championship is only important in how other teams fear you; you still have to go out and beat everyone again. People say there were better teams than the Celtics, but we set the standard. A given team might come up for a year, but only we could sustain it.”
RUSSELL on mentoring: “When a new big man came into the league, I wanted to make sure they knew I was around, and to establish that there were boundaries that should not be crossed. But I also wanted every player in the league playing as well as possible, because I wanted the league to be totally elite. It always made me feel good to hear people say, “The greatest athletes in the world play in the NBA.'”
RUSSELL on Bob Cousy: “Not only was he a great player, but the things he did were completely in sync with what I did. He would transition from defense to offense as his guy went to the basket, because he knew I’d take care of him. I knew which way he’d force him, and I’d be there waiting while also cutting off his passing lanes. Meanwhile, Bob was heading downcourt, so we’d take control of the offense while the other team still had the ball. Nobody had done that before, because they didn’t have the ingredients, namely a great rebounder and defender to grab the ball and turn it around, and a fast, in-control guard to throw to.”
RUSSELL on his legacy: “Maybe it’s egotism, but I have never seen another player who even approached the way I played the game in terms of depth. I’ve never seen anyone do the number of things I do well.”
So, yeah, I could pretty much sit and listen to Bill Russell talk about how he folds laundry and be completely enthralled. In fact, I might go buy his “Russell Rules” and “Red and Me” audio books on iTunes right now. Paul Flannery was absolutely right: Give Bill Russell a damn statue!
SQUASHING THE INJURY BUG
The Celtics aren’t setting any timetables for the returns of Rajon Rondo, Jermaine O’Neal, Delonte West and Kendrick Perkins from injuries that range from minor to major. Here’s a quick rundown of the latest updates on all four guys …
“We get a two-day break after [Sunday’s Nets game], and that’s one of the things that went into this [thinking]. We’re just going to try to get through it.”
Jermaine O’Neal (pre-Christmas return via NECN.com): Considering he hasn’t played in a game since Nov. 8, being off his game [during Monday’s practice] was a given. But just being able to run up the floor, and feel little to no pain afterwards, was yet another indication that he is moving past the left knee injury that has sidelined him for the last 12 games.
“Hopefully in the next week-in-a-half to two weeks, I’ll be playing no problem,” he said.
West (1-2 months away via CSNNE.com): Following surgery on Nov. 30, the outlook for his return has picked up considerably. West said the wrist is healing up so well, there won’t be any need for it to be placed in a hard cast.
“Just stimulate it with treatments, and I’ll be back to working out within the next two weeks,” said West, who added that he’ll have it in a soft cast when he resumes working out.
Perkins (eyeing late February via the Boston Herald): “It can be real,” Perk said of playing sometime late next month, “but I think if I play it smart I’ll wait to come back until after All-Star break. That’ll give me more time. I think, what’s one more month, right?”
SHAQ-A-CLAUS BRINGS HIS ELVES
According to the Inside Track, all of the Celtics showed up at Children’s Hospital Boston and Boston Medical Center on Monday to deliver some Christmas cheer.
Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett took another group with Santa to the Top of the Hub, where they spent some time with the Boston Medical Center’s pediatric hematology program.
Santa hats off to those guys. They’re not just winning on the court.
DOC RIVERS LOSES A MENTOR
Doc Rivers‘ college basketball coach, Hank Raymonds, 86, died of cancer on Monday morning. Raymonds coached Marquette from 1977-83, mentoring Rivers throughout his life — starting from his time as a player at Marquette from ’80-83 and continuing through last year’s Celtics run.
Rivers expressed his grief with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Here are some nuggets:
“I use Hank’s lines all the time. The line I always use that he used on me a lot is, ‘I’m never going to coach you for who you are today. I’m going to coach you for who you should be someday, and what you should be someday.’ I use that on my players, I use that on my kids, and I think it’s a great thing. To me, that sums Hank up as much as anything.”
“Hank called me every time we would have a bad turnover game or a bad rebounding game. Then when I went to see him [over the summer] the first thing he said was, ‘Oh my gosh, the rebounding — the Lakers killed you guys on the glass.’ I loved to hear it. It’s funny. It’s not what you want to hear, but the one guy who can tell you that is Hank.”
“Hank has had a profound impact. And the thing about Hank is he never let go. It’s not like when I left he stopped. … I look at him, he’s a basketball treasure that really not enough people know about. I’m glad I do. I always laugh and say, ‘He’s my little secret.’ And I’m fine by that.”
(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)
|Irish Coffee: 10 ‘The Association’ observations||12.06.10 at 12:16 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
In case you missed “The Association” — NBA Entertainment’s behind-the-scenes documentary of the Celtics — on Friday night, here are 10 observations from the first episode:
1. When do the Celtics play the Lakers?
Because the vengeance factor on a scale of 1-10 is going to be an 11. Obviously, that Game 7 loss in Los Angeles hurt the C’s, but watching them talk about it gives you an idea of how deep it struck them and how hard it drives them.
“Once you went back to the locker room without that trophy in your hand, it settled in,” Paul Pierce said. “It’s like you lost your best friend or something.”
2. Mark my words: Rivers will coach the Celtics in 2011-12.
Ever since the start of the season, there’s been discussion about whether or not Rivers will return to the Celtics bench again next season. Heck, he even discussed his hesitations about returning this season.
“It was a difficult process,” Rivers said. “My first thing was my family, and the bottom line is that if I thought that me coaching would affect my family in the wrong way, I was out. My family, on the other hand, pushed me to coaching. They really wanted me to coach, especially the kids. They all to a man wanted me to come back, see if we could get this together and go for it one more time.”
My question is this: If his family wanted him to return this season — when two of his sons would be playing together for their high school basketball team — why would they urge him otherwise next season, when three of his four children will have already graduated high school and left home?
3. Ahh, to be a fly on the wall when the veterans talk sports.
“I’m not an athlete,” Shaq said. “I ain’t never had athletic skills. It’s hard work. My definition of athletic is somebody that starts off like that. I’m not an athlete. I’m just a good dancer.”
Hearing these guys talk about sports is like what it would’ve been to hear Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro and Robert Duvall discuss the art of acting while they filmed Parts 1 and 2 of “The Godfather.”
4. The Celtics are embracing a unique experience.
Whether or not we get to be a fly on the wall with the Celtics, the important thing is they’re embracing the fact that it’s unique for them to be part of a team that features six former All-Stars and five potential Hall of Famers.
“Moments like this I cherish, because I’ve been on teams where you don’t have this opportunity,” Pierce said. “When you continue to play with All-Stars like — at one point, we had Kevin [Garnett] and Shaq on one team with Jermaine and me and Ray coming in. It was just like, man, you felt that in the gym.”
On a young team, like the Heat, players might look at the big picture: We could win some championships over the next eight years. On this veteran Celtics team, however, there is no big picture. It’s now or never, and they seem to get that.
5. The home opener against the Heat really didn’t mean anything.
In the wake of the league’s most hyped opening night game in its history, when the veteran Celtics disposed of the newlook Heat, all Rivers had to say to his team in the locker room was this: “Great win. Let’s get out of here.”
“People not acknowledging a giant that’s already been there and done it, that tested us in the wrong spot,” Glen Davis said. “Us as players demand respect.”
Even from behind the scenes, all that game appeared to be for the Celtics was one game in a season-long voyage to recapture the league’s respect.
6. Rajon Rondo dives for loose balls in practices.
It was one clip in a brief montage of a team practice, but it told you everything you need to know about the Celtics point guard. His leadership was born in hard work, and it’s grown on the court more than off of it.
“There was a time when I sat down with Rajon, and I said, ‘Here’s 10 characteristics of a leader, and you don’t fit any of these characteristics right now,'” said Celtics president Danny Ainge. “It was a challenge early on, because I think he wanted to be a leader, but he was trying to carve out his own niche amongst the Hall of Famers he was playing with.”
Whether or not Rondo is the best point guard in the NBA, the important thing is that he believes he is, and he’s stubborn enough to prove it. I enjoyed how Rivers summed up his protege with one word: “Rondo is a fire.”
7. How can you not root for Delonte West?
West stood alone, firing shot after shot from the corner of the Celtics’ practice facility. He was in his element. Then, speaking to the camera, holding back tears, he was once again out of it.
“I’m overcome with emotions that I’ve never had before,” West said. “It’s like I’ve been given another shot at life. All of this was almost taken from me. Basketball is my life.”
And that was filmed before he broke his wrist. His journey back to the Celtics has been a long one, and now it’s only going to be longer.
8. Old dogs can learn new tricks.
Rivers had told John Havlicek if he ever draws up a play not to hesitate to bring it by a practice. Well, Havlicek did. With guys like Hondo and Tommy Heinsohn around, you sometimes forget how much knowledge the C’s have to draw from.
“Celtic pride and Celtic mystique, there is something real to it,” Havlicek said. “There’s just something that comes out of you, knowing that you have that Green jersey on, and I knew that players coming from other teams to our team all of the sudden were transformed into another way of thinking.”
It’s pretty amazing that the Celtics organization allows for guys like Doc and Shaq to continue learning about the sport, even after being around it for so long.
9. Even on the Celtics, office dynamics can be a funny thing.
There were two internal relationships you got a real sense of from watching “The Association”: 1) Garnett and Rondo, and 2) Shaq and Kendrick Perkins.
“Seriously, out of the eight years I’ve been in the NBA, this might be the craziest team I’ve ever been on — just as far as personality,” Perkins said. “You got Paul. You got KG and Rondo. KG and Rondo are like those two brothers who grew up in the same house, but their momma always had to get on them about fighting. They really love each other at the end of the day. That’s those two. Me and Doc call them the two divas of the team.”
First, the transformation of Shaq’s relationship with Perkins — from foes to friends — is real. You don’t kiss somebody on the cheek you don’t like. It’s that simple. And second, especially with the “that ain’t no foul” back-and-forth between KG and Rondo, it’s nice to see some insight into two Celtics whose personalities you don’t often get to witness.
10. At this point, the 2008 NBA title means nothing.
Sure, the banner hangs overhead every time they take to the parquet, but it really means nothing to the leadership of this team. They know, above all, if they want to be remembered as true Celtics, they need ring No. 2.
“You win a title, no one can take it away from you,” Rivers said. “But if you want to be mentioned as part of one of the great teams here, you have to win two.”
Not many teams can draw from that extra motivation once they’ve proven themselves by winning an NBA championship. Well, besides the Lakers.
Stay tuned. The next episode of “The Association airs on Jan. 21.
SHAQ ‘DANCING WITH THE STARS’?
After the Celtics’ victory against the Bulls on Friday night, NBA TV interviewed Shaq. Rick Fox said that he opened the door for big men to compete on “Dancing with the Stars,” and then asked Shaq if he’d be open to the idea.
Shaq didn’t deny his interest. He is, however, going to challenge 75 kids to a dance-off with the “Michael Jackson: The Experience” video game, as part of a holiday charity event at the Boys & Girls Club of Roxbury, according to the Boston Herald’s Inside Track.
As far as the rest of the interview goes, the most interesting portion came when Shaq said he was feeling more like a 16-year veteran than an 18-year veteran, as a result of missing at least 20 games in five of his past six seasons.
“I just want to be remembered as either the most dominant big man to ever play the game or one of the most dominant big men, and I would like to have four or five or six rings. I’m just playing. I’ve still got about two years left. I missed two years because of injury, so my legs are feeling good. Hopefully, I can get No. 5 and No. 6. That’s my goal.”
NATE ROBINSON NOT LACKING CONFIDENCE
Following what was probably his most complete performance of the season — 21 points, six assists and six steals in 31 minutes as the starting point guard in place of Rondo — Nate Robinson told the New York Post he’s not lacking self esteem.
“When I shoot, I feel I can make every shot,” he said. “I feel like I can’t be stopped.”
I guess Rondo isn’t the only Celtics point guard with a healthy dose of arrogance.
CELTICS NEVER LACK STORYLINES
Even after a lazy Sunday afternoon game against the Nets, when the Celtics lit them up in a 25-point blowout, there was plenty talk about. Just take a look at Steve Bulpett’s notebook from the Herald …
Is there anybody who takes more lumps than Big Baby? Apparently, he was beaned in the head by a medicine ball mishandled by Marquis Daniels.
‘That hurt,’ Davis said. ‘I’m doing my routine, doing my little Dougie dance, and he hit me in the head. But he woke me up though. It was an early game. I needed something like that.’
Jermaine O’Neal could return to practice next week, which would give the Celtics a nice boost considering Garnett’s been playing 40,000 minutes a night.
‘Basically the plan is to go every day this week,’ he said. ‘I won’t travel with the team. I’ll come in and get some extra cardio. If I do well throughout the week, then I’m cleared to practice next week.’
After missing a Monday practice following the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Shaq had to sit out the second half against the Nets because he forgot to bring his anti-inflammatory medicine the night before the game.
‘I just forgot to take my drugs,’ Shaq said. ‘Without them, I can’t really play right now. But I’ll be fine Wednesday [against the Nuggets].’
Should we should be concerned about Shaq getting on in years?
(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)
|Kevin Garnett tunes into his ‘unplugged’ side||12.04.10 at 2:27 am ET|
Kevin Garnett wasn’t just on his game on the court against nemesis Joakim Noah but he was just as sharp off of it, talking about everything from his battle with Noah “The Nobody” to a potential labor stoppage next season, his future and his respect for “ring brother” Brian Scalabrine.
Sounding a very philosophical tone, Garnett said he is not looking for any sympathy for the nagging injuries he’s played through but rather just trying to enjoy himself as long as he can and as long as the NBA is still in business.
On Friday against the Bulls, Garnett showed the dominant form from the 2008 championship season, scoring 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting while grabbing 17 rebounds in Boston’s 104-92 win at TD Garden.
Garnett’s loudest statement wasn’t about silencing Noah but rather enjoying the moment.
“Especially with the lockout coming up, who knows if this is my last year or if we don’t play next year what it’s going to be,” Garnett said. “So I’m trying to enjoy the guys now, you know.”
He also addressed questions about his rivalry with Noah, the only player he refused to greet on the court just before tip-off Friday.
‘I’m going to tell you something about people, man,” Garnett began. “Everybody has an opinion, and obviously, he had one. I’m not entertaining nor addressing nobodies. I’m not even entertaining them. I’m focused on basketball and these wins and trying to make this team better. Other than that, I’m not on anything’
Asked specifically if he considered Noah a “nobody”, Garnett smiled, winked and said more with less.
like he did with Detroit’s Charlie Villanueva and Milwaukee’s Andrew Bogut exactly a month earlier at the Garden.
‘Next question,” he responded.
“I’m not dealing with nobodies anymore,” Garnett said back in November of his on-court run-ins with Villanueva and Bogut and the criticism that he is a “mean” player.
But most of all, he sounded like a veteran who was just enjoying getting his health back so he could show off his considerable talents, talents that will take him to Springfield someday and the Hall of Fame.
‘Anytime you win, it’s enjoyable, to be honest with you,” Garnett said. “Playing with Shaq, some of the new guys, JO’¦I’ll be glad when he gets back. I’ll be glad when Perk gets back’¦.Delonte. We have a real vibrant team and I love our team. I don’t like it, I love our team. I love our guys and this is the first time in a long time I’ve allowed myself to actually enjoy them. But I do have a certain way and a certain style that I like to be when I hit the court. Shaq gets a smile out of me very now and then, but for the most part I’m still me.”
But perhaps the funniest and most telling quote of the night came when he was asked about seeing Brian Scalabrine for the last time this year at TD Garden. Scalabrine got into the game in the final minute during “Gino Time” to chants that even KG had to respect.
“I love Scal to death,” KG said. “Right after the game, always go and show him respect. That’s my [championship] ring brother. But Gino’s my dude.”
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