|Irish Coffee: Celtics rotating rotations||04.04.11 at 11:48 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …
Unlike the last three years, when Celtics head coach Doc Rivers has had his rotation locked into place heading into the playoffs — whether Kevin Garnett was healthy (2008, 2010) or not (2009) — this postseasonseason will be a guessing game, at least for the first round.
As he said postgame — and Paul Flannery detailed when he nailed his Three-Pointer column — Rivers knows exactly what he wants it to be, and what he’s always wanted it to be this season.
“We’re not getting that set. That’s going to be just tough. What we have to do is get everyone on the same page, rhythm-wise. As far as rotations, I know it. It’s set. But we just got to get it together. We’ll be ready. If everyone’s healthy, I can tell you, I know it. I just haven’t seen it.”
On paper, it’s written. On the court? Rivers doesn’t know what it’s actually going to be. Therein lies the problem. The Celtics will be relying on the unkown — on chemistry, rhythm, whatever you want to call it — more during this playoff run than any other over the past three seasons.
It’s not the first half of the rotation that’s a problem. The Big Four were always going to be relied on for 30-40 minutes a game in the playoffs, and that hasn’t changed. It’s the uncertainty at center, Jeff Green‘s role and the expectations for Delonte West that cause problems.
The fact remains that Rivers is relying on a rotation that’s never actually been put into action on the court. Here’s what the Celtics coach told the Chicago Sun-Times:
|Irish Coffee: Celtics sign Saleh, add frontcourt depth||04.01.11 at 12:07 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …
With the concerns about the health of all three of their potential starting centers — Nenad Krstic, Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal — the Celtics have added depth at the position by signing former Winabi Parish School standout power forward Saleh, according to Kenyan newspaper The Daily Nation.
“Do the names [Hakeem] Olajuwon, Manute Bol or Dikembe Mutombo mean anything to you?” said Jimmy Dolan, a former assistant coach at Saint Joe’s College who represents Saleh.
Dolan discovered Saleh at a 1994 faculty dinner while watching a film about Saint Joe’s missionary efforts in Africa. Also a member of Saint Joe’s 1981 NCAA title team, Dolan represented the 35-year-old Saleh in the C’s negotiations of a $40,000 deal — or the equivalent of 40 cows — with the 6-foot-9 post who possesses a “vertical leap that’s off the charts.”
“I would like to play for the Celtics very, very much,” said Saleh, who learned about the NBA in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition. “My father is a stubborn man. He says I have a lot to learn before I’m a leader.”Asked if he’s ready for the NBA, Saleh added, “Does a zebra have stripes?”
Saleh agreed to sign with the Celtics after leading his Winabi squad to a comeback victory against rival Mingori, 57-56. Without their starting point guard, his team trailed by 10 with a little more than two minutes to play, but Saleh sparked an 11-0 run, capped by his game-winning windmill dunk as time expired — a move he dubbed “The Jimmy Dolan Shake and Bake.”
|Three-Pointer: Rajon Rondo and ‘coach’s porn’||at 12:34 am ET|
What a difference a game makes.
The Celtics had been reeling, losing seven of their last 12 games and nearly falling to third place behind the Bulls and Heat in the Eastern Conference — inspiring concerns about everything from the physical health of both O’Neals to the mental health of their start point guard.
But the Celtics also hadn’t played a contender in the last 12 games, or since Feb. 13 for that matter. The Celtics have proven themselves plenty over the last four seasons — as NBA champions in 2008 and as underdog runners-up in 2010 – but entering Thursday night’s game in San Antonio they found themselves needing to prove themselves once again.
After the trade of Kendrick Perkins and following a 5-7 record with the East’s No. 1 seed on the line, can the Celtics still compete with the NBA’s best? After a 107-97 victory against the league-leading Spurs (57-18) on the road without a healthy center, the answer was clear. (The complete game recap can be found here.)
Among the Spurs, Lakers, Mavericks, Bulls and Heat, only Chicago can match the Celtics’ performance against the NBA elite. Here are their records in games against each other:
- Celtics: 8-4
- Bulls: 8-4
- Spurs: 7-6
- Mavericks: 6-6
- Lakers: 4-7
- Heat: 3-9
The Celtics now boast a .667 winning percentage against the league’s five other major NBA title contenders, and two of their four losses to those teams came against a Mavericks team that the C’s likely won’t face again, even if they were to return to the NBA Finals.
There’s plenty of points to take from Thursday night’s Celtics victory. Here are three of them:
|Fast Break: Rajon Rondo, Celtics kick Spurs||03.31.11 at 10:38 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo recorded 22 points and 14 assists (to go along with zero turnovers), leading the Celtics in an inspired 107-97 victory over the Spurs in San Antonio on Thursday night.
Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett also eclipsed 20 points and Glen Davis netted 16 points off the bench for the Celtics (52-22). While Jermaine O’Neal returned after nearly three months to score five points in 11 minutes, Celtics starting center Nenad Krstic left the game with a “right knee injury” and did not return.
Tony Parker and Tim Duncan reached the 20-point mark as the Spurs (57-18) dropped their fifth straight.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Pierce and Rondo asserting themselves: Pierce scored 12 first-quarter points to keep the Celtics competitive despite allowing 33 first-quarter points, and Rondo sparked a 14-3 run to close the third quarter as the C’s established a 77-70 lead entering the fourth quarter. In all, Pierce and Rondo took 36 shots, making 19 of them. Rondo was so good, even his jump shots were falling, causing the Spurs coaching staff to toss their hands up in disgust.
Buckling down on defense: After the Spurs made 12-of-24 shots and scored 33 points in the first quarter, the Celtics held them to 15-of-44 shooting and 37 points over the next two quarters. Entering the game as the league’s sixth-leading scoring team, the Spurs controlled the (quick) pace in the early going, but the Celtics put a stop to that in the second quarter.
The return of Jermaine O’Neal: In limited action, O’Neal played with surprising energy and range of movement, considering he hadn’t seen the court since Jan. 10. He knocked down his only two shots, including an impressive turnaround over Matt Bonner in the first quarter. Should Krstic’s injury be severe, the Celtics will be relying more heavily on O’Neal than they ever expected, and Thursday night’s performance was a positive sign.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Celtics’ bigs problem gets bigger: Just as Jermaine O’Neal got back into the fold, and as Shaquille O’Neal gets closer and closer to his return, Krstic’s leg bent the wrong way in the second quarter. He left the game clutching his right knee. Krstic did not return, and Celtics coach Doc Rivers told TNT sideline reporter David Aldridge, “We don’t know for sure, but it does not look good.” In 2006, Krstic tore his left ACL.
Defending the paint: The Celtics gave up 26 points in the paint in the first half and 50 total. Spurs point guard Tony Parker got to the rim at will early, leading all scorers with 14 points in the opening 24 minutes. His ability to penetrate opened things up for the Spurs inside. Of course, Garnett’s two quick first-quarter fouls left the Celtics without their best interior defender in that span for more minutes than they would have liked.
Second-chance opportunities: The Celtics shot 48 percent in the first half, and the Spurs made just 40 percent of their attempts, yet the two teams were tied at the half. The C’s allowed eight offensive rebounds and 15 second-chance points in the first half alone.
|What it means to have Nutty Professor Glen Davis back||03.14.11 at 9:12 am ET|
Glen Davis looked the part of a teacher at an institute of higher learning following his return to the Celtics Sunday night after a four-game absence.
And while it was only a four-games, the Celtics could feel the loss of their nutty professor in their lineup. They beat Golden State and Milwaukee but fell very flat against the Clippers and Sixers. As a matter of fact, one could easily make the argument that he is the single-most important bench player of any of the favored teams to win the NBA title.
The Lakers, Spurs, Mavericks, Bulls and Heat all have star-studded players among their starting five but none of them have Big Baby. He can come off the bench and provide an instant jolt of energy to the reserves and this is precisely why Doc Rivers wants to keep him coming off the bench come April, May and hopefully, June.
But Sunday, it was all about getting acquainted with some players he’d never played with or had just seen in practice. There was no more ‘Shrek-ing’ with Nate Robinson. He has been replaced with Carlos Arroyo. Davis has played just three games with the troika of Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic and Troy Murphy.
“First half, I felt a little weird a little bit,” Davis said. “I didn’t remember anybody on the team. Nate? Carlos?”
And what about that No. 77, Sasha Pavlovic? Davis was wondering how to pronounce his name, let alone learn his game.
“I knew his name but I couldn’t pronounce it so I didn’t call him anything,” Davis said. “Just, ‘What’s up?’ and ‘hey.’”
Sunday night was clearly an example of shaking off the rust as he played just 18 minutes, going 3-for-6 from the floor with seven rebounds and nine points, with all nine coming in the fourth quarter.
“I saw a guy that needs to run more,” Rivers said. “He did well. He played with a lot of patience offensively and he let the ball come to him instead of hunting it down and that’s how we should play all the time. He just needs the minutes. He was starting to get his legs. I asked him how he felt and he said he felt great, except he can’t feel his lungs anymore.”
He missed a lay-up 90 seconds into the fourth as he had flashbacks to the Heat game on Feb. 13 when he went up on the wrong foot and missed a dunk. This time he missed the layup but 90 seconds later he was pounded by Jon Brockman and finally felt like he was back. More importantly, his knee felt OK with the contact.
“I was kind of trying to feeling it out,” Davis said. “I felt it a little bit more when I missed my first layup I was like, ‘Oh!’ I was trying to jump. I felt it but I didn’t feel it. But then when Brockman hit me, I felt like, ‘OK, you’re back.’”
No one means more to their bench than Glen Davis to the Celtics and here’s why:
First, after Krstic, the Celtics – as Rivers was all too willing to point out – had really no one to play the center position. Read the rest of this entry »
|Shaquille O’Neal feeling 84.22711556644222 percent||03.10.11 at 3:48 pm ET|
Celtics center Shaquille O’Neal joined WEEI’s Mut & Merloni show this morning. He touched on everything from his health to eating pizza with the elderly — and everything in between.
You can hear the entire interview on WEEI.com right here. And here is the transcription:
How’s O’Neal’s Achilles (he hasn’t played since Feb. 1)?
“It’s getting better. I can remember a time when I was 19, I’d get hit by a car and five minutes later I’d be Ok. The older you get, it takes time to heal. I’ve been getting better, a little stronger, but there’s still a little pain. I’ve been instructed by Doc [Rivers] and the Big Three to come back when there’s no pain. It’s their call. Doc and I are from the same era. If it’s not getting better, shoot it up and let’s go out and play. But we’re looking at the 1825 thing (see below) here, so we want to do things right. The team’s playing well. [Nenad] Krstic is doing a fabulous job. They want me 1,000 percent, especially for the postseason, because that’s when it really counts.”
How did O’Neal feel about the Kendrick Perkins trade?
“I was training, and I heard about the trade. It was kind of a sad ordeal. I got to know a lot about him and got to see his work ethic. I didn’t realize he was from Texas. I’m from Texas. We hung out on the road and got to talk strategies, talk shop and then business kicks in. He’s a very physical player — long arms, plays hard, not afraid of anybody, takes the elbow, gives them out, hard-nosed guy. We’re going to miss him. Boston’s going to miss him. He’s done a lot for the Boston community. He helped them get No. 17, and it’s been an honor to play with him.”
How difficult will it be to integrate the newest Celtics?
“It’s difficult, but it’s not difficult. You brought in five consistent role players — guys who are used to being role players. Everybody’s gonna be playing off the Big Three. We know that. We just have to create a rhythm and keep it going. We’re looking very good right now. We’re going to be full strength very soon, and then we know what’s at hand. A lot of people play for championships, but for us — for the city of Boston — it’s something different. Something I call 1825: 18 for the beautiful people of Boston, two for Ray [Allen] and Doc and Kevin [Garnett] and those guys, and five for me. It was also the year John Quincy Adams was inaugurated, and he was a Boston guy. So, for us, it’s bigger than winning.”
What has it been like for O’Neal to work with Jackie MacMullan on a book?
“She knew things that I’d forgotten about. We were sitting at the house talking — we meet twice a week for three hours. She asks me questions, and I ‘ve got to dig in my old Shaqodex. I’m like, ‘That’s 13 years ago.’ It should be a very exciting book — no holds barred. ‘Tell-all’ wouldn’t be the correct term. ‘Truthful’ would be the better term.”
Nenad Krstic had a season-high 20 points in 38 minutes but he admitted afterward he wasn’t satisfied with his defense in a 108-103 loss to the Clippers at TD Garden.
Krstic and the Celtics had tremendous difficulty early on stopping DeAndre Jordan and the rest of the Clippers front court, which scored early and often en route to shooting 68 percent in the first half and building a 60-42 halftime lead.
Krstic came to Boston on deadline day, Feb. 24 with Jeff Green in exchange for the defensive-minded Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson. Krstic is still trying to get accustomed to thinking the Celtics’ way – which begins and ends with defense.
“I just need to get better, need to be more focused,” Krstic said. “Sometimes, I’m a lost a little bit because of a different style of playing. Oklahoma is still in my head. I’m just really trying to get adjusted. It just takes time, especially when you play games. It’s different in practice but in games you just have to react.
“It’s going to come. I just need to get used to more of the guys. Sometimes, I’m trying to do too much, over help and have a couple of stupid fouls, too. I know I scored 20 points but I need to focus on my defense and help the team.”
Doc Rivers still has confidence in his new starting center.
“Krstic overall is playing pretty well,” Rivers said. “He’s got to hold his ground a little bit. The problem we had going into the game, and I’m kind of kicking myself, is I told our bigs — the two bigs that we have right now due to all the injuries — you can’t get in foul trouble. “So if it comes down to you getting out of the way, you almost had to. Because we couldn’t afford Kevin [Garnett] or Nenad in foul trouble.
“And it actually happened anyway.”
Krstic said he’s confident the defensive part of his game will come but it will take time.
“Just not having been on the court at the same time together is the problem,” Krstic said of the chemistry with his new teammates. “Sometimes, especially in the first half, our second unit is almost all new guys, and we’re not used to each other. I think that was a problem tonight, we just haven’t spent too much time together playing. It’s going to take some time, but obviously with this team, we pick it up really quickly.”