|‘Rare’ lineup for Celtics on Sunday||10.17.09 at 4:25 pm ET|
Rivers will start Paul Pierce, along with Ray Allen and Marquis Daniels, with Daniels the most-likely choice to start at the point. Daniels, who has played big guard as well as small forward, has been getting time in practice as the point behind Rajon Rondo.
“We’re just going to do that [Sunday] to see what the other team does defensively,” Rivers said Saturday.
|Anatomy of a Rumor||10.16.09 at 10:58 am ET|
On Tuesday, Comcast aired a conversation between Paul Pierce and Greg Dickerson, who asked Pierce about his contract situation. For those who don’t know, the captain has a $21.5 million option sitting on the table for the 2010-11 season. Ordinarily, this would be a no-brainer. As a general rule NBA players (or anyone else, for that matter) don’t leave $21 million sitting on the table.
But the Celtics will have some interesting financial decisions to make after this season. Ray Allen’s contract will be up, and we’ll know by the end of the month if they have extended Rajon Rondo or whether he’ll be a restricted free agent. Add to that Wyc Grousbeck’s cryptic comment last summer that there was a scenario where the Celtics could be a player in the fabled free agency class of 2010, and suddenly the Pierce option is no longer such a no-brainer. (Worth noting that Grousbeck said that before the Celtics signed Rasheed Wallace to a three-year deal).
Before we get to all that, let’s go to the videotape.
Pierce said two things of note during the conversation.
“I definitely want to retire as a Celtic. As far as my option goes, I haven’t really given it any thought.”
“I want to do what’s best for the team. If that means doing whatever to keep guys here and make this team strong for the next three or four years, I’m willing to do it.”
That’s pretty consistent with what Pierce has said at other times during camp. But CSN’s Gary Tanguay wrote on his Twitter page: “Pierce told CSN he will re-work his contract to keep players in Boston,” which then made the rumors page on Hoops Hype, which brought it to the attention of True Hoop, which had an item by ESPN’s Marc Stein outlining the scenarios by which “doing whatever” became Pierce opting out and/or signing an extension, which could spread out the cash and free up some cap space, which got play on Celtics Blog and Celtics Hub Thursday night, to name two.
First things first. The Celtics already have about $33 million-plus committed to Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins, Glen Davis and Wallace for 2010-11. Add to that a “cap hold” of $6.3 million for Rondo if he doesn’t sign an extension, and we’re already looking at about $40 million for five players before Pierce even does anything, let alone before the team makes a decision on Allen. The salary cap for this season is set at $57.7 million and there has already been talk that will trend down in 2010-11. (Celtics Blog has a good look at the down and dirty).
Second, this sets up an unrealistic set of expectations for Pierce, who has already shown on the court that he is willing to “do whatever” to help the Celtics win games. That should be more than enough before anyone asks him to leave a pile of dough on the table.
The Celtics are positioned to win this season, if everyone stays healthy. There are way too many factors at play to go much beyond that.
|Rondo and Reserves Propel Celtics over Nets||10.13.09 at 10:57 pm ET|
On Tuesday night, the Celtics overcame a 14-point deficit to defeat the Nets, 91-88, in Newark, N.J., during preseason action (recap here). With Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen getting the night off, the Cs were propelled by Rajon Rondo and the reserves.
- Rondo led the Cs with 18 points, 13 assists, and nine rebounds in 40 minutes. This is in contrast to Sunday’s game against the Nets when he posted eight points, three assists and two rebounds in 26 minutes.
- Rasheed Wallace (20 points, 9 rebounds, 25 minutes) was the Celtics‘ driving force in the first half. However, he rolled his right ankle in the third quarter and eventually left the game. Doc Rivers told the media he considers the injury to be mild.
- Eddie House demonstrated his tenacious intensity by fighting for loose balls, forcing jump balls and hitting clutch shots, including a go-ahead jumper with 34 seconds left. He finished the night with 14 points.
- Glen Davis continued to knock down his mid-range jumper en route to 18 points. The Celtics were a game-high plus-12 with Davis on the court.
- J.R. Giddens, whose talent only had been showcased in the D-League, played his best NBA game. He grabbed 13 rebounds and scored seven points.
- Marquis Daniels started the game but left after 15 minutes with a stomach bug.
The Celtics will travel to Hartford to take on the Raptors on Wednesday night.
|Pierce Turning 32 Going on 20||10.12.09 at 11:08 pm ET|
‘I still feel in my early 20s,’ he told WEEI.com after a recent practice. ‘I feel like I’m back in Kansas.’
Pierce turns 32 on Tuesday, and a new lifestyle has him energized as he enters his 12th NBA season. Last month he was one of several Celtics who showed up to media day with a noticeably slimmer frame. While Kendrick Perkins and Glen Davis admitted to dropping up to 15 and 30 pounds respectively, Pierce (who is listed at 235 pounds) isn’t paying attention to the scale.
‘I maybe lost two pounds, I don’t know,’ he said. As for losing body fat, ‘Probably so, I haven’t measured it, but most likely I have.’
Pierce isn’t counting the pounds because it’s how his body feels, not what the scale reads, that matters more to him. And even though he feels young, he understands the reality of being a professional athlete in his 30s. Pierce made a commitment to improve his overall health and kick the habits that could eventually catch up to him.
‘I just think it’s more important because the body is aging, it’s getting older,’ he said. ‘You’re not as quick as you used to be and your body has to adjust with the times. I mean, what I used to do when I was younger are some of the things I can’t do now. I’m stressing more rest, I didn’t sleep as much when I was younger, so a lot of things change. It’s easier to gain weight the older you get so that’s why I decided to change a lot of my habits.’
The change in his physique has more to do with the changes he endorses through his healthy living initiatives rather than a regimented weight loss program.
‘I think it has more to do with my eating habits,’ he said. ‘Ever since I changed everything I’m doing as far as my foundation with The Truth on Health and FitClub34, I’ve got to practice what I preach. I’ve pretty much benefited from the things I’m doing of that nature.’
He added: ‘I’ve just changed up my eating habits as far as eating a lot of fish, chicken, vegetables, not as much red meat ‘ almost no red meat ‘ no sodas, not a lot of juice. I drink a lot of water and Gatorade and Powerade.’
Ray Allen, a stickler for healthy living, already has noticed the changes in Pierce. Allen was 32 when he was traded to the Celtics in 2008, a time when he says he began to get in his best shape by eating better and getting more sleep. He understands firsthand the importance of Pierce taking care of his body at this pivotal stage in his career.
‘Just yesterday in the weight room I told him he was starting to look skinny,’ Allen said. ‘You know, Paul has always had like a heavy look, a heavy body. Now you see in his legs he’s slimming down, his upper body is slimming down. I think it’s the natural evolution when you get into your 30s and your metabolism starts to slow down and you start thinking about eating better, getting more sleep, and then your body starts to show it. And then as for us, this schedule is so demanding you really have no choice, your body will tell you you need more rest.’
Pierce has learned to listen to his body, and because of this he can celebrate his 32nd birthday feeling like he’s in his 20s.
|Garnett: The wings are coming||at 5:17 pm ET|
WALTHAM — The dunk happened sometime today between 1 and 2:30 p.m. when the Celtics had their practice closed off to the media, but it did happen.
Doc Rivers worked the Celtics hard Monday, one day after a preseason game with the Nets, and one day before a back-to-back set with New Jersey and then Toronto in Hartford. During the session, Kevin Garnett went up for a lob and brought it home.
“Kevin was great,” Rivers said. “I don’t think he came out today. He’s getting stronger and stronger. The only thing left, today, he caught a lob and dunked it. It was an amazing dunk and everyone was like, ‘Whoa, we haven’t seen that.’ He’s not as explosive yet, but it will come. You can see it. When he did it he yelled out, ‘Oh I can do it.’ That was good to see.”
“I think Doc wants me to grow wings and fly,” Garnett said. “I tell him just to be patient. The wings are coming.”
The wings, and everything else, are coming into focus for the Celtics as they reach roughly the midway point of training camp. The starting five is back and healthy and the reserves have shown enough in the preseason games that the bench seems far more settled than it has in the past.
Still, there remains work to be done incorporating the new players ‘ Rasheed Wallace and Marquis Daniels particularly ‘ into the offensive and defensive systems as well as learning the little things about each other that only come with time and reps.
“Even though everyone has a high IQ when it comes to basketball, we still have chemistry [things to work on],” Garnett said. “Where ‘Sheed likes to have the ball, where Marquis likes isolation and everybody understanding everybody’s game. It’s not a big thing, but it’s something that you have to give a certain amount of attention to. The new guys have to learn our schemes and understand terminology.”
There’s no question the Celtics are feeling good about where they are with the season-opener at Cleveland looming in a little more than two weeks. A big part of that is fact that the players came into camp in basketball shape.
“Every guy on our team has come to camp in better shape than they were last year,” Rivers said. “Eddie [House] came to camp in phenomenal shape. Kevin, conditioning-wise, is probably not where he was last year because he spent half the summer not being able to work out. But everyone else: Paul [Pierce] is in great shape, [Glen Davis] is in great shape. A lot of that is that we lost and no one likes that feeling. You want to do something about it.”
NOTES: Part of the reason that Rivers worked the team so extensively Monday is that he plans to rest the veterans in at least one of the next two games. Look for the coach to use that time to begin working on some rotation patterns. Rivers said that he is set on the first four off the bench ‘ House, Daniels, Wallace and Davis ‘ and then the rest will sort itself out depending on matchups.
Pierce turns 32 Tuesday (look for a story by colleague Jess Camerato that day) and while the captain was not in a mood to reminisce, Garnett offered his thoughts on his teammate. “Paul makes things easier,” Garnett said. “I’m not going to lie about that. He not only makes things easier, but simpler. Offensively, things get simplified, plus a lot of things he and I don’t need to talk. We have a bond and a chemistry that’s unspoken.”
Pierce on rookie Lester Hudson, who is three months older than six-year veteran Kendrick Perkins: “He’s a 25-year-old rookie. How many of those do you have? He plays mature. He came in and he understands the game a little better than your average 19- or 20-year-old rookie. That’s good.”
|Progress as usual for Celtics||10.11.09 at 5:16 pm ET|
Ray Allen played 15 minutes in the first half and got up exactly one shot.
The Celtics first unit ran the same play, and only that play, during the entire first quarter when they were operating in the half court.
In other words, it’s dangerous to read too much into any preseason game, let alone one that featured 35 turnovers and 56 personal fouls, but for the purposes of discussion, there were several bright spots for the Celtics on Sunday. Of note:
Kevin Garnett’s comeback continues: Garnett logged 21 minutes and scored 12 points to go with six rebounds. He was also moving up and down the floor with a noticeably easier gait.
“Sprint,” Garnett said when asked what he was most encouraged by. “I thought today I got up and down. I tried to put pressure on their defense, get in the middle, call for the ball. As far as being aggressive this is probably the most aggressive I’ve been since I’ve come back and played. Reaction time was a lot better, a lot faster.”
Garnett was also back to old feisty self as he got mixed up with New Jersey’s Yi Jianlian during the first quarter.
“Wasn’t nothing,” Garnett said. “He don’t know me, I don’t know him.”
Good day for the captain: Garnett shot 6-of-8 from the floor but he wasn’t the Celtics’ most effective scorer. That was Paul Pierce, who scored an almost effortless 25 points on 8-for-12 shooting, operating mostly against New Jersey rookie Terrence Williams. But once again the most encouraging sign for the Celtics beyond their general health was the play of the second unit.
“To tell you the truth I thought our second unit was a lot more impressive than we were,” Pierce said. “They were the ones that pushed the lead out and they’re looking like they’re jelling well together. We are still coming along as a unit, but that’s the process of preseason.”
The rotation begins to take shape: Much has been made about the versatility of the C’s second unit thanks to veteran additions Rasheed Wallace and Marquis Daniels, but as good as they’ve been, the team will begin to integrate the starters with the reserves into forming a cohesive rotation.
From the beginning of the preseason Doc Rivers has brought Wallace in first off the bench to get him time with the starters, but beyond that look for a few more combinations to begin taking shape.
“The one group we haven’t had ‘ Rasheed, Kevin, Eddie [House], Paul and Ray ‘ that’s a group that you’d like to have on the floor,” Rivers said. “You have to be careful with the point guard. The three teams that we’ve played all pressure all the point. That’s dangerous for us.”
Rivers has a bunch of options at his disposal, and depending on matchups, foul trouble or injuries, he can mix and match as the season progresses. Finding ways to utilize House (who scored 13 points) always will be a top priority.
As the preseason games begin to pile up, Rivers said he’ll give veterans Pierce, Garnett, Wallace and Allen time to take some games off. The Celtics have two back-to-backs coming up, with the first set coming this week when they play at New York Tuesday and then the Raptors in Hartford Wednesday. They have another back-to-back set next week as well, which seems like a good time to work out some rotation kinks.
Health update: Everyone played, with the exception of Tony Allen, who is working his way back from an ankle injury. “There’s going to be good days and bad days [for Allen],” Rivers said before the game. “We’re not going to know until he gets on the floor.”
|Former Magic Notice Changes in Celtics||at 5:01 pm ET|
The last time Rafer Alston, Tony Battie, and Courtney Lee played against the Celtics, they sent the C’s packing for the summer. The trio were members of the Magic team that eliminated the Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. This year they are in a different uniform and noticed the Cs have a different look as well.
Alston, Battie and Lee were traded from the Magic to the Nets over the summer as part of the Vince Carter deal. On Sunday they got their first take at the Celtics with their new team during preseason action at the TD Garden (recap here).
‘They got a brand new season,’ Battie said. ‘I mean, you look and [Kevin Garnett] is back and Rasheed [Wallace] is part of it. They got a great steal in getting Marquis Daniels, and you have those three additions coming back in the team. So, I think they’re the team to beat, definitely.’
Last season a hobbled Celtics squad was outscored, outrebounded and burned from the 3-point line by the Magic. Without Garnett on the court and veterans Ray Allen and Paul Pierce overworked, the Celtics bench could not save the season. Now the additions of Wallace and Daniels give the team much-needed depth.
‘They get their big guy back and then they add Rasheed Wallace in there now,’ Alston said. ‘I think when you’re trying to take away a lot of their main guys, they have a lot of guys that can step up and stretch the defense or post up on the low block. They have a different dynamic to their team, especially from a defensive aspect for other teams.’
Both Alston and Lee agree the series would have been completely different if the Celtics had so many weapons last season.
‘They would’ve been a better team,’ Lee said. ‘They definitely would’ve been harder for a matchup because you can play Marquis at the 1 and you sub in Rasheed, so they keep a shooting big in at all times, so they definitely would have been better.’
Said Alston: ‘I don’t think we would have been able to roam a lot off of a lot of their guys ‘ [Rajon] Rondo, [Kendrick] Perkins, Big Baby [Glen Davis]. Those guys who really bring more scoring to the offense, especially from the bench standpoint.’
The combination of a healthy Garnett and a revamped second unit has Alston noticing a difference in the 2009-10 Celtics. Although he isn’t as willing as Battie to name them the best in the Eastern Conference, he can’t deny the changes on the court.
‘Whenever they have all their guys, they have a swagger,’ he said. ‘When someone goes down they don’t have swagger no more. That’s just how they are.’
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