|The All-Star cases for Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo||02.09.12 at 12:33 am ET|
Through his first 11 games of the season, Paul Pierce averaged less than 15 points a game and shot 37 percent from the floor. He also averaged fewer than five rebounds and a little more than four assists.
The Celtics lost six of those 11 games, including the first-ever five-game losing streak in the new Big Three era, and when that was combined with an 0-3 start without Pierce while he was recovering from a bone bruise in his heel, there were naturally questions about whether it was all over for this group of Celtics.
Then Pierce scored 34 points against the Wizards to go with eight rebounds and 10 assists, and that kickstarted a remarkable renaissance. Over the next 10 games, Pierce averaged 22.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 7.4 assists and the Celtics went 9-1 with Pierce leading the way.
Are those 10 games enough to make Pierce an All-Star?
Through the first 13 games of the Celtics season, Rajon Rondo essentially carried the offense. With Pierce injured and then working his way back into game condition and Kevin Garnett off to a slow start, the Celtics asked Rondo to take on more of an aggressive role and he attempted almost 200 shots (making 52 percent of them) while handing out 122 assists.
The Celtics weren’t good, but Rondo was, rebuilding his reputation after a late-season swoon in 2011 and an offseason of trade rumors. Then Rondo fell awkwardly on his right wrist and missed eight games. The Celtics went 6-2 and when he came back he was able to return to his preferred playmaking role, racking up 28 assists in his last two games.
Are 16 games enough to make the All-Star team?
After the starters are chosen by the fans, the reserves are selected by the coaches who vote for two guards, two forwards, a center and two wild-card choices. They will be announced before the Celtics play the Lakers on TNT on Thursday night. There are roughly 20 players in the East who could be considered for the honor, but only a few truly stand out. Compare that to the West where the competition is tighter, but also much tougher.
It says more about the Eastern Conference than it does the seasons that Pierce and Rondo are having that the answer is yes — although there is more of a debate in Rondo’s case.
With the obvious exception of LeBron James — who is the clear front-runner for MVP — Pierce has been the most productive small forward in the East. Among players at his position in the Eastern Conference, Pierce ranks second in true shooting and assist percentage behind LeBron and he grabs rebounds at roughly the same rate as Andre Iguodala and Luol Deng.
That’s including the first 11 games when even considering Pierce for an All-Star berth would have been laughable. His last 10 make his selection an obvious choice.
Rondo’s competition among point guards comes from the trio of Brandon Jennings, Deron Williams and rookie Kyrie Irving. In Rondo’s favor he has the highest True Shooting, assist percentage and rebound rate among the four guards. Working against him is the simple fact that he’s missed a third of the team’s games in this condensed schedule.
It should also be noted that picking an All-Star team after 24 games of a season like this essentially comes down to subjective arguments. Does Rondo get credit for picking up his game when his team needed him, or penalized for not winning more games? Without Williams, are the Nets the Bobcats? The argument here is that Rondo has been statistically the second-best point guard in the East after Derrick Rose, but the margin is thin.
Here are my selections for both the East and Western Conference All-Stars.
Guards: Rajon Rondo, Joe Johnson
Forwards: Paul Pierce, Chris Bosh
Center: Tyson Chandler (narrowly over Anderson Varejao)
Wild cards: Andre Iguodala, Josh Smith
Toughest omissions: Deron Williams, Greg Monroe, Tyson Chandler, Kevin Garnett, somebody from the Pacers
Forwards: Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge
Center: Marc Gasol
Wild cards: Tony Parker, Paul Millsap
Toughest omission by far: James Harden
|VIDEO: The night Paul Pierce passed Larry Bird for No. 2 on the Celtics all-time scoring list||02.08.12 at 1:11 pm ET|
|Paul Pierce vs. John Havlicek according to Paul Silas||at 12:45 am ET|
BOSTON — On the night Celtics captain Paul Pierce surpassed Larry Bird for No. 2 on the team’s all-time scoring list behind John Havlicek, one of Hondo’s former teammates happened to be on the opposing bench.
While Pierce and Havlicek now rank 1-2 among C’s career points leaders, Bobcats head coach Paul Silas — who won two NBA titles in four seasons on the Celtics from 1972-76 — knows they took different paths to get there.
“Theyr’e kind of different players,” said Silas. “Havlicek was just very aggressive, running all the time. He’d get up and down the floor, ran and banked shots off the board. Pierce is more of a guy going 1-on-1. Havlicek didn’t do that. And Pierce is more of a long-range shooter. Havlicek could shoot long-range, but that wasn’t really his game.”
|Fast Break: Pierce, Celtics take down Bird, Bobcats||02.07.12 at 9:47 pm ET|
BOSTON — All went according to plan for the Celtics in a 94-84 defeat of the Bobcats. Captain Paul Pierce climbed another rung on the team’s all-time scoring list, passing Larry Bird for No. 2 behind John Havlicek, and the C’s picked up their season-best fifth straight victory and ninth win in their last 10 in the process.
PIerce amassed 15 points, nine assists and eight rebounds as the Celtics (14-10) reached four games over .500 for the first time this season. The remaining Big Four and Brandon Bass (13 points) all reached double figures as well (Kevin Garnett 22, Ray Allen 17 and Rajon Rondo 10).
UConn’s Kemba Walker totaled 16 points and seven rebounds in defeat for the lowly Bobcats (3-22).
WHAT WENT RIGHT
A Bird in hand: With 10:22 remaining in the third quarter of Tuesday night’s game against the Bobcats, Pierce passed Larry Bird for No. 2 on the team’s all-time scoring list. After 13-plus seasons in a Celtics uniform, the 34-year-old Pierce entered the game needing just nine points to tie (and 10 to pass) Bird, who finished his 13-year career with 21,791 points. After scoring seven first-half points to close within two of Larry Legend, The Truth made his fourth 3-point attempt to clip Bird’s wings.
KG’s hot start: Garnett made four of his first five field goal attempts and reached double figures by halftime. He even attempted another 3-pointer, which he missed (But he can shoot 3s, Ok!). Rivers has been on KG all season to assert himself into the offense more regularly, and Garnett did just that — leading all Celtics scorers with 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting to go along with seven boards.
Rounding into form: For much of the season, somebody in the Celtics nine-man rotation (the starters plus Bass, Mickael Pietrus, Chris Wilcox and Avery Bradley) has either been sidelined or still recovering from injury. Not so against the Bobcats. All played, and all — with the possible exception of Wilcox — played admirably. Five of the nine reached double figures, Rondo recorded double-digit assists for the third consecutive night, O’Neal grabbed eight rebounds and Bradley made both of his field goals while playing his usual pesky defense and spelling Rondo for the entire fourth quarter. The C’s are hitting their stride.
|Where does Paul Pierce rank among Celtics greats?||02.06.12 at 9:06 am ET|
On the verge of surpassing Larry Bird for second on the Celtics career scoring list, Paul Pierce only further cements his status as one of the storied franchise’s all-time greats — his No. 34 already reserved in the rafters.
How far Pierce climbs that ladder remains to be seen. Even when he surpasses Larry Legend’s 21,791 career total with 10 more points, it’s hard to argue Pierce soars past Bird, but where does he rank if he retired today?
‘It’s nothing I ever really think about,’ said Pierce. ‘I never go into the season trying to break records. They’re going to happen if they happen. Just to be mentioned among the great Celtics of the past is just an honor.’
As soon as seven years ago — in the aftermath of Pierce’s infamous jersey-swinging, head-wrapping ejection from Game 6 of a playoff series — this thought seemed utterly insane: The Truth is one of the top five C’s in history.
Still don’t believe it? Just examine the resumes of the best quintet ever to call the Garden home.
|Irish Coffee: Ray Allen’s guide to being a Celtic||02.02.12 at 6:55 pm ET|
BOSTON — The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Ever since he first arrived in New England as a University of Connecticut freshman in 1993 (the same year he became a Patriots fan, by the way), Celtics guard Ray Allen‘s work ethic has remained as steadfast as Fort Independence. Even now, after three years of college, 15 NBA seasons and about 3.5 million shots, his role continues to mutate annually — but his approach never will.
“Every year, no matter what team I played on, my role changes,” said the 36-year-old Allen. “You come to training camp, even when I was in Milwaukee, you change things and the league changes a little bit, so you have to figure out how different you’re going to play and you’re going to be played and guarded defensively. I always just said, well, let’s see how everything works and how it goes.”
So far, so good. Before being traded to Boston, Allen had built a Hall of Fame career during 11 seasons on the Bucks and SuperSonics, averaging at least 20 points, four rebounds and three assists for 10 straight years before being dealt for Delonte West, Wally Szczerbiak and Jeff Green during the 2007 NBA draft.
Joining forces with fellow superstars Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett under head coach Doc Rivers, Allen like the others had to sacrifice numbers for the greater good of the team. In his first season on the Celtics, his attempts dipped by 7.5 field goals per game while his shooting percentages rose across the board.
“When I got here, that was extremely hard, because I wanted to do more,” he said. “I still want to do more, but then I was going off what I’d done my whole career, so I wanted to come here and do the same thing. But in order for this team to be successful I had to take a couple step backwards to fit in a system where it’s going to work, because it wasn’t built around me. That’s just being part of a team and trying to win on your team’s terms and not yours.”
|Fast Break: Celtics team effort scratches Raptors||02.01.12 at 9:47 pm ET|
Without starting point guard Rajon Rondo for the eighth consecutive game, the Celtics shared the wealth anyway — assisting on 28 of their 37 field goals — to dominate the Raptors from start to finish, 100-64.
Captain Paul Pierce led the way with just 17 points for the Celtics (11-10), who eclipsed .500 for the first time since Jan. 4 and improved to 4-2 on the second night of the deadly back-to-backs. Ray Allen (12 points), Brandon Bass (12 points), Avery Bradley (11 points) and JaJuan Johnson (11 garbage points on 5-5 FGs) all reached double figures as 10 different Celtics scored at least six points.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Start C’s up: Considering both teams were on the second night of a back-to-back, it wasn’t pretty basketball early, but the Celtics went on a 12-0 run midway through the first quarter — thanks to six straight Bass points sandwiched by four from Pierce– that gave the C’s an early 25-9 advantage they never relinquished. Even against the likes of the Raptors, the Celtics have had trouble getting off to good starts, so Doc Rivers had to like what he saw against Toronto.
Moore Bradley: Without Rondo for an eighth straight game and Keyon Dooling for his 11th game in 12 outings, the point guard duo of Bradley and E’Twaun Moore (8 points) continued to hold court — this time both in the same game. Bradley’s getting a knack for getting free under the basket, and his fellow starters are rewarding him for easy buckets. And Moore is proving himself as simply a good NBA offensive player, especially evident on one particular shot clock-beating pull-up jump shot.
Downtown Kedrick Brown: The Celtics connected on 12-of-24 3-pointers, actually shooting almost as well from beyond the arc than they did overall (52%). The dozen treys tied a season high for the C’s. Pierce led the way, burying 4-of-6 from long distance, while Allen, Pietrus and Sasha Pavlovic each added a pair.