|Blake Griffin treats Kendrick Perkins like a Kia Optima||01.31.12 at 9:36 am ET|
I bet Jeff Green couldn’t get dunked on like that. I kid. I kid. Somewhere, Danny Ainge is smiling.
|NBA Power Rankings, 1/25||01.25.12 at 2:28 pm ET|
We’re exactly one month into the season and the NBA Power Rankings picture isn’t exactly crystal clear. Are the Sixers and Nuggets legit title contenders? What about the Nuggets? Are the Celtics and Lakers really borderline playoff teams? Will the Wizards and Hornets win 10 games? Is Shaquille O’Neal the worst analyst in history? When will The Legend of Mutombo’s Gold be optioned for the film rights? Even at the quarter-mark, so many questions still remain in this shortened NBA season. Let’s attempt to answer a few of them.
1. Oklahoma City (14-3): How the Thunder lost to the Wizards is a mystery on par with Area 51. Outside of that hiccup, Kevin Durant (MVP anyone?) & Co. continue to roll — through the Grizzlies, Knicks, Celtics and just about everybody else. Not only are they good, they’re healthy. Even Kendrick Perkins has started all 17 games. The next two weeks will tell us a lot about OKC — with games at the Clippers, Mavericks, Spurs and Blazers — but something tells me they’ll be Ok, see.
2. Chicago (16-3): No Derrick Rose, no problem. The Bulls are 4-1 in his absence, albeit against the dregs of the league. Meanwhile, Joakim Noah (16 and 10 on Monday) and Richard Hamilton (consecutive 20-point nights) are returning to form. But Rose remains the biggest question mark of the season, as his toe injury is expected to linger through the spring — and @derrickrosestoe is sure to pick up more than seven followers.
3. Miami (12-5): The Heat are 4-4 in their last eight games, but during that stretch they defeated the Spurs, Lakers and 76ers in five nights — without Dwyane Wade (ankle), another massive question mark looming over this NBA season. Remarkably, Erik Spoelstra‘s crew is 0-4 in Wade’s last four appearances. Without him, LeBron James is reverting to MVP form, as much as it pains me to say it, especially after he tweeted: “R.I.P Joe Pa! Met him before while I was out at Nike campus. He was great man!!” Read the rest of this entry »
|Irish Coffee: Celtics’ Jermaine O’Neal gets defensive||01.17.12 at 12:37 pm ET|
In the aftermath of his first double-double of the season, coming in his team’s fifth straight loss, Celtics center Jermaine O’Neal took his time inserting his jumbo diamond earrings and slipping into his brown leather jacket — back turned to the media gathered around his locker.
When O’Neal finally turned, he fielded the first question and took a long sip of water before addressing “so-called analysts” critical of his offensive production: “The people out there that’s wondering about production with me scoring, that’s not my role. My role has been given to me, and my role has been said to be a defender.”
Judging by the tone of his voice, the criticism has clearly irked O’Neal in recent days. The 15-year veteran no longer wants to be judged on his 13 previous seasons as a double-digit scorer, but rather on the new role Celtics coach Doc Rivers has carved out for him: Namely, rebounding and defense. Coincidentally or not, JO picked one of his best offensive nights of the season (12 PTS, 5-11 FG) to voice his opinion.
His plea was more of a decree, and here’s the rest of O’Neal’s I-Got-A-Role Address. Read the rest of this entry »
|Celtics encouraged despite losing five straight||at 10:13 am ET|
Monday night’s loss to the upstart Thunder marked the first time in the Big Three era that the team has lost five straight games, and it’s also the second time in the young season that Boston has lost three games in the span of four days. Even though the natural inclination is to panic, collectively the Celtics feel the team is improving.
“I really like the effort we had tonight,” said Paul Pierce. “I was the telling the guys if we compete like that night in and night out — we’ll get closer to where we want to be.”
Certainly it’s easy to point to Boston’s 4-8 record and feel underwhelmed at any notion of optimism, but the Celtics are starting to click individually. Now, the team needs to find some semblance of consistency.
“We’re still chasing putting four quarters of good basketball together,” said Kevin Garnett, who finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds against the Thunder. “I know y’all are probably tired of hearing this, and I’m sure if y’all rewind your tapes, I’m in a different outfit saying the same thing, but we’re going to continue to work and we’re going to continue to get this thing better. I really believe that, and you’ve got to believe that.”
Ray Allen and Brandon Bass helped carry Boston earlier this season. Bass, in particular, was a pleasant surprise. Through the first seven games of the season he averaged 14 points off the bench. However, during this five-game losing streak, Bass has seen his production cut in half, only averaging 7.4 points per game.
When he was in Boston, Kendrick Perkins was known as the lumbering shot blocking man in the middle with a scowl.
When his former coach Doc Rivers looked out on the court Monday night, he saw a much different Perk.
“He’s half Perk but he’s quicker,” Rivers said of Perkins, who lost 30 pounds in the offseason. “He had a move today — even though he traveled — where he caught it, took two dribbles, went quick and gathered himself.”
Perkins has matured — and that was clear for Rivers to see on Monday. Yes, he still got in foul trouble, limiting him to seven points and five rebounds in 28 minutes. But what was very clear — and audible — to Rivers from the Celtics sideline is what he’s done in terms of making the Thunder a tough team, a team battle-tested and ready to make a run at a title.
“You can see, he’s put work in his game,” Rivers said. “He has every year I’ve known him. His influence on that team is dramatic to me. You can see it, you can feel it. You can see it with the bigs, with [Serge Ibaka], they’re all defensive players now. Perk has completely changed the culture of that team, you can just see it on the floor. That’s terrific for him.”
Where did he get this from? Read the rest of this entry »
|Kendrick Perkins: ‘I’m just really glad it’s over’||at 1:50 am ET|
After playing his first game against his former teammates since being traded for Jeff Green last February, Thunder big man Kendrick Perkins didn’t hesitate when asked if part of him still felt like a Celtic.
“Yeah,” said Perkins, the C’s starting center during the 2008 NBA title and 2010 NBA Finals runs. “I mean, I have much love and I’m greatly appreciative about being in Oklahoma and stuff like that — I love Oklahoma — but being here for eight years and winning a championship, it’s hard to replace it. Just from what I learned, it’s still got a special place in my heart here. That’s all it is.’
A night that included a Jumbotron montage in his honor and a rousing standing ovation from the Garden crowd clearly affected Perkins, who finished with seven points and five rebounds in a 97-88 Oklahoma City victory. Here’s what he had to say in his postgame press conference. Read the rest of this entry »
|Fast Break: Celtics can’t catch up to Thunder||01.16.12 at 10:32 pm ET|
In a reminder of just how different this team is from the one that won the NBA title in 2008, the Celtics welcomed former center Kendrick Perkins to town, and his new team handed his (really) old team their fifth straight defeat, 97-88.
As Kevin Durant (28 points) and Russell Westbrook (26 points) combined for 54 points, the Thunder improved to 12-2 with their sixth road win in seven tries, leaving the Celtics (4-8) still searching for their first victory against a .500-plus team.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Slow me the way: The Celtics shot 34.1 percent in the first half and failed to scored 40 points before the break for the fourth time in six games, trailing the Thunder 46-39 after the opening 24 minutes. Once again, the C’s dug themselves into an early hole and spent the rest of the night tiring themselves out trying to dig out of it. Twice in the second half — once in the third and again late in the fourth quarter — they made runs to get back into the game, only to watch OKC widen the gap again.
Can they get a lift? The Celtics made a concerted effort to get to the rim, and they succeeded in getting to the basket, but their old legs just didn’t have the lift to finish the job. Thunder forward Serge Ibaka totaled four blocks in the first half alone, leaving the C’s with little to show for their effort.
Russell Westbrook > Rajon Rondo: At least for one night, in a battle of two point guards who have been mentioned in possible trade scenarios for each other, Westbrook got the best of his counterpart Rondo. Sure, Rondo nearly had a triple-double (12 points, 9 assists, 9 rebounds, 4 turnovers), but Westbrook buried impossibly big shot after impossibly big shot down the stretch, totaling 26 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
WHAT WENT RIGHT Read the rest of this entry »
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