|Fast Break: Bradley, Bass help Celtics cut down Nets||01.04.12 at 9:49 pm ET|
Thanks to 24 points from Paul Pierce and double-doubles from both Kevin Garnett (14 points, 12 rebounds) and Brandon Bass (15 points, 13 rebounds), the Celtics outscored the Nets 29-12 in the third quarter and dominated the shorthanded visitors 89-70 on Wednesday night.
It wasn’t all pretty for the C’s, as Providence College product Marshon Brooks‘s 15 first-half points gave the Nets a 35-34 lead after 24 sloppy minutes on both sides.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
The Truth will set you free: Celtics captain Paul Pierce submitted another remarkably efficient effort, totaling 24 points on 14 shots, six rebounds and five assists in under 30 minutes. His production helped the Celtics turn a one-point halftime deficit into a 16-point C’s advantage after three quarters.
Bass is a beast: The Cs Sixth Man once again came up big for the shorthanded Celtics, recording his second double-double of the season and his first since totaling 20 points and 11 rebounds against the Knicks on Christmas Day. Likewise, Avery Bradley turned in his best performance of the season, exerting his usual energy on defense (2 steals) and even contribution offensively (11 points).
The Nets came to town: Playing against a team that isn’t expected to compete for a playoff spot, even with its best players, the Celtics faced a New Jersey squad missing its starting point guard (Deron Williams), center (Brook Lopez) and power forward (Kris Humphries). That alone allowed Celtics coach Doc Rivers to test his bench and survive without Ray Allen and the always enjoyable flu-like symptoms.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Letting the Nets hang around: Just as they did time and time again last season, the Celtics let an inferior team hang around far too long. Sure, they put New Jersey away in the second half, but failure to execute combined with not taking opponents seriously for long stretches of games is never a good thing.
Rondo’s carelessness: Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo may have entered the game with the NBA’s second-best assist average (10.5 per game), but he also came in leading the league in turnovers per game with 4.7 a night. Wednesday night saw a few more unforced errors in his passing game, as he turned the ball over three times in the first half.
Hitting the Brooks: Rookie MarShon Brooks — who was traded by the Celtics for JaJuan Johnson on draft day — started for the Nets and finished with 15 first-half points. New Jersey often ran its offense through the Providence College product. Meanwhile, Johnson did not see the floor for the Celtics in the first half.
|Paul Pierce: ‘I was expecting to be me’||12.31.11 at 2:00 am ET|
The box score may have read just 12 points in 23 minutes for Paul Pierce in the first game of his 14th NBA season Friday night, helping the Celtics beat the Pistons, 96-85, at TD Garden for their first win of the season.
But more than that, the Celtics captain felt good about his ailing right heel. After bruising the heel just before the opening of camp on Dec. 9, he took part in just one practice with the team before being reduced to watching practice from the sidelines.
He had to watch in a suit on the sidelines as the Celtics dropped their first three games for the first time since the 2006-07 season.
“It felt good to finally get back out there with my teammates,” Pierce said. “Didn’t have much practice time, just have to get in shape in these games and just feels good to be out there.”
What were his expectations after just one practice and no games to get him in basketball shape?
“I was expecting to be me,” Pierce said. “I don’t settle for anything less. I work tremendously hard. I did a lot of things and did what I could do, other than practice. I just stayed focused, got my shots every day, I was on the [exercise] bike, and Doc [Doc Rivers] wanted me to be aggressive and just play the way I play, and that’s what I tried to do.
“It felt good. I think the rest of my body is a little bit more sore than anything, since I haven’t had any physical contact or up-and-down basketball in quite a while.”
After six points in 15 minutes in the first half, Kevin Garnett found Pierce open for a pair of threes early in the third quarter, as the Celtics put the game away with a 36-21 spurt.
“We moved the ball, with Kevin making the two passes, wide open for the threes and I just wanted to try to be aggressive,” Pierce said. “Everything is going to come if I just continue to play hard. The timing, the chemistry, it will all come. I’m not going to hold anything back. So, I’m just going to go out there and continue to play the way I play.”
As impressive as his six points in four minutes of the third quarter were, his presence bolstered a smothering Celtics defense, something that had been missing in three losses. Read the rest of this entry »
|Ian Thomsen on M&M: Expect more Rajon Rondo trade rumors||12.22.11 at 2:04 pm ET|
Sports Illustrated NBA writer Ian Thomsen joined Mut & Merloni Thursday to talk about the Celtics, who open the season in New York on Christmas Day.
Thomsen said the early part of the NBA season likely will be tough to watch, following a shortened preseason.
“It will be a lot like April baseball when it’s freezing cold and no one really wants to be out there, including the fans,” Thomsen said. “And then, how many empty seats are we going to see? All the fans that didn’t renew their season tickets, not knowing what the NBA was going to be, if they were going to have a season, not knowing if they wanted to support the team even if they did come back.
“It’s going to be a lot of interesting things to watch for, and almost none of them are positive over the first month, I would say. By the end of the year, I would think the NBA’s hoping everybody forgets all about all of this. Right now, it’s just really interesting to see how it plays out.”
However, Thomsen said he can’t fault the owners for pushing to start the season on Christmas.
“I think this was the right thing to do,” he said. “People are complaining about it, for sure. ‘¦ This was all part of trying to save as much of the season as they could. To me, the greater good was served by that.”
Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
On the Celtics’ near acquisition of David West and why West chose instead to go the Pacers: “They thought they were going to get him. And it would have been a huge get. Now, would he have been lost a little bit here? What was his role going to be alongside Garnett? The talk was Kevin Garnett would shift over to center and then David West would be the power forward. But everyone knows that Kevin doesn’t like to play around the basket. And even now, when Doc [Rivers] says he wants Kevin to be more of a scorer, he’s not saying he has to go inside.
“Maybe from David West’s point of view, where was he going to play? Because this was Kevin Garnett’s team. David West isn’t going to come in and take over for Kevin Garnett this year. So, what were their roles going to be? They sort of play on the same areas on the floor. Maybe that was a big part of it. Whereas if he goes to Indiana, he can take a team that’s on the rise, make them better. They barely made the playoffs last year. They should be much better this year. They have a great coaching staff. It’s not the Celtics. It’s not nearly as close as that. But maybe he can establish himself again coming off knee surgery. After his two-year deal’s up, he can go get another big contract. But they thought they had him, for sure.”
On Rajon Rondo trade rumors: “At times there may be complaints from Danny Ainge that he’s not generating it. But I think he wouldn’t be doing his job if he wasn’t generating it. He should be generating it. He should be trying to figure out what can be done to make the team better. And really, the only thing he has going for him right now is cap space, the chance to play with Paul Pierce, who isn’t going to be traded, and then the ability to trade Rondo. What else does he have? What other assets does he have? So, I think we’re going to be hearing more of it. There’s just no way around it.”
On the C’s improved depth: “It’s really not a bad bench. It compares pretty well to the other second units they’ve had. And if Jeff Green was there, it would be even better. It’s not a bunch of old guys. Keyon Dooling, Chris Wilcox, Marquis [Daniels], Brandon Bass, Avery Bradley, E’Twaun Moore, who looks like he’s going to be able to play a little bit — all these guys, they can come in and do some things to help them.
“What they don’t have is size. It’s the weakest group of big men they’ve had since they brought in Garnett and Ray Allen to go with Pierce. Jermaine O’Neal has a long history of not being able to stay healthy. And Chris Wilcox is an athletic big man but doesn’t have the low-post skills you’d like to have coming off the bench. That might be an issue. Brandon Bass is height deficient like Big Baby [Glen Davis] was. That’s really going to be a problem for them. Really, the bench is OK. The problem is the age of the players that are going to define the team.”
While Jermaine O’Neal was off getting his in-game massage, Doc Rivers was making the following observation about Rajon Rondo: the Celtics need him to shoot and score if they are going anywhere this season.
Rondo certainly didn’t disappoint in his preseason finale, making the first two jumpers he attempted on his way to 6-of-10 shooting and a team-high 17 points as the Celtics beat the Raptors, 81-73, Wednesday night.
Rondo started off strong from the floor, something Rivers is looking for this season.
‘Yeah, yeah, we want him to just shoot it; I don’t care how many times he shoots,” Rivers said. “What I did like more than his jump shot was that he got to the foul line, I think six times in the first half. That’s ‘ we need that.’
Speaking of scoring, something the Celtics are going to need lots of if Paul Pierce is sidelined with a heel problem, Kevin Garnett posted up several times in the first quarter as well as spotting up high in the Celtics offense and passing to an open teammate down in the paint.
‘Well he looks good,” Rivers said. “He looked ‘ the first couple of days he was out of synch a little bit, but now he looks great. His jumper looks good again, he’s aggressive. I like the fact that he looks more aggressive offensively, which we need him to be. He needs to be ‘ he needs to score more this year for us. And I don’t care where it’s from. The purists are saying on the post. I don’t care if the ball goes in, it still counts as the same. Where he gets it from ‘ he just has to be more aggressive offensively for us.’
As for the Celtics bench, it looked strong at times, led by the new Big Baby, Brandon Bass.
‘You pretty much ‘ I got a good feel,” Rivers said. “The good news is we’ve had a lot of practices. You would’ve hoped a couple of guys, honestly, separated themselves, and they didn’t. But hey, listen, we’re going to just throw them out there and hopefully someone separates themselves when the game ‘ season starts. We may have to do a couple of positions by committee.’
|Camp notes: Paul Pierce may not be ready for opening day||12.20.11 at 4:13 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Paul Pierce has participated in just one practice during training camp because of a right heel bruise and with opening day quickly approaching, Celtics coach Doc Rivers acknowledged that Pierce may not be ready to play when the regular season opens on Christmas Day against the Knicks.
“I’m concerned not long-term, but I’m concerned short-term,” Rivers said. “We have those two games right off the bat and he’s gone one practice and that’s basically it. So, yeah I’m concerned about it.”
Pierce worked out on Monday while the rest of the team had the day off. Rivers said that his heel was “extremely sore” on Tuesday.
“We just want him to rest,” Rivers said. “The problem with that is, it will be a lot of rest and then he may be ready but with no [practice time], that’s scary and if he’s not, he’s not.”
Pierce won’t play in Wednesday’s final exhibition game against the Raptors and the plan right now is for him to try and test it again on Friday.
JAJUAN JOHNSON PASSES THE TEST
Kevin Garnett has a well-deserved reputation for being hard on young players, but the flip side of that is if the player responds positively to Garnett then there’s nothing he won’t do for him. Rookie big man JaJuan Johnson has apparently received that message.
“Kevin has clearly taken JaJuan under his wing,” Rivers said. “You guys have been around here with Kevin, he gives you the one shot and if he feels you’re paying attention he spends the year with him. JaJuan has obviously passed the test, which is good for everyone because it makes it a bad year for that guy.”
Johnson played just seven minutes on Sunday against Toronto, an indication that he has a long way to go to crack the big man rotation that features Garnett, Jermaine O’Neal, Chris Wilcox and Brandon Bass. But Johnson has still impressed with his shooting ability and maturity.
|Irish Coffee: Celtics sour grapes over David West||at 11:06 am ET|
Ainge reportedly offered a sign-and-trade package of Jermaine O’Neal and a younger player to the Hornets for West, who would then be signed to a three-year, $29 million deal, according to ESPN.com’s Jackie MacMullan.
Instead, Bird signed the free agent to a two-year, $20 million contract, offering a higher annual value and a shorter window until West’s next free agency period, when he likely wouldn’t be coming off reconstructive knee surgery.
“Once it got down to the end, I think his ego kicked back in,” Allen told MacMullan. “He wanted the dollars. I guess it comes down to ‘What is a championship worth to you?’ Think of all the guys who have made $20 million and could be considered one of the best ever, but they get chided because they never won. We [the Big Three] all had to do less when we won. We’re still taking less to make it work. But it’s worth it. No one can ever say to KG [Kevin Garnett], Paul [Pierce] or me, ‘You guys never got your ring.’”
“I’m very disappointed,” Rivers told Jackie Mac, “but we’re moving on with the guys we have.”
|How and why Marquis Daniels returned to Celtics||12.19.11 at 2:22 pm ET|
Throughout his career, Marquis Daniels has been no stranger to pain. When he was 11 years old, the Celtics forward’s older cousins branded his No. 4 on his arm. It hurt. A lot. And that was just the beginning.
From birth, whenever he did so much as put his head down and raise it back up, a stinger shot down his arm. The 30-year-old Daniels didn’t realize his narrowed spinal canal caused the issue until reaching the NBA eight years ago. And he didn’t know the severity of his medical condition until this past February, when he bumped into Magic guard Gilbert Arenas, dropped to the parquet floor and lay motionless for what seemed like an eternity.
“To be honest, I barely touched him,” said Daniels. “The scariest part was just lying there and not being able to move for that time I was down on the floor. That was pretty scary. I could talk. I just couldn’t move. I was like, ‘This isn’t happening. I gotta get up. I can’t raise my kids like this.’ Just to be here standing and walking and talking to you guys now just lets you know that it’s more than just basketball, I don’t take anything for granted now.”
That’s why this time around in Boston is different for Daniels. Not just because he’s donning his third Celtics jersey number in as many seasons. For the first time in a long time, he can just play basketball — pain (and worry) free — like that 11-year-old kid who got the same number branded on his arm.
“It’s a second chance at more than just basketball. I can say at life,” said Daniels, who scored 11 points in both Friday’s scrimmage and Sunday’s preseason game. “It could have went either way. I could have been rolling in here instead of walking and talking to you guys, so I’m blessed to be where I’m at right now.”