|Five best Celtics draft day moves of Danny Ainge era||06.27.12 at 7:05 pm ET|
When he was hired as Celtics president of basketball operations in 2003, Danny Ainge was asked to bring the team back to its glory days from when he was a player on the team in the 1980s.
It may have taken a few years to fit the right pieces together, but it’s hard to argue Ainge’s success in his nine-year tenure as president. He’s made some questionable decisions, but he’s also responsible for bringing the Celtics their first championship in over two decades. With the NBA draft taking place Thursday night, here’s a look at five of Ainge’s best draft day moves.
5. Kendrick Perkins, 27th pick, 2003 ‘ In the same deal that brought Boston one of its most disappointing acquisitions of the Ainge era in Marcus Banks, the Celtics also acquired Perkins, who proved to be one of the Celtics’ most valuable additions of the Ainge era. After barely getting playing time during his rookie season, he slowly moved into the rotation and developed into a dominant defensive center who repeatedly shut down the league’s best big men.
After Mark Blount was traded in 2006, Perkins became the regular starting center for the Celtics. He went on to start 78 games in 2007-08 and was a big contributor to the championship team that season. He was such a key contributor that in 2010, when the Celtics reached the NBA finals again, his inactivity in Game 7 after tearing his MCL and PCL in Game 6 has been argued to be the reason why the Celtics didn’t win their second championship in three seasons.
Where is he now?: Perkins was traded to the Thunder in 2011 in what is considered to be a questionable move by Ainge. Perkins signed a multi-year extension with Oklahoma City and this month made an NBA finals appearance against the Heat.
|Rajon Rondo being Rajon Rondo on Jimmy Kimmel Live||06.20.12 at 9:29 am ET|
Well, it turns out the Knicks can’t even beat the Celtics at a scavenger hunt. Appearing on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” via Skype, Tyson Chandler and Rajon Rondo ran around their homes in search of three items: 1) The last book they each read, 2) an embarrassing item their teammates would make fun of them for owning, and 3) a wig.
Rondo being Rondo, he instantly located, “The Other Wes Moore,” a book by one Wes Moore (an Oxford alum, U.S. Army Captain and host of the Oprah Winfrey Network’s “Beyond Belief”) about another Wes Moore (a convicted cop killer). Naturally, Chandler found a basketball-themed book by Jerry West. Advantage Rondo.
Chandler’s decorative flying pig won Round 2, although Rondo’s old school red telephone is pretty amazing.
Finally, both searched for wigs. Neither found one. Chandler put a towel on his head. Rondo returned to his King Louis XIV-style chair in a shower cap. Game, set, match Rondo, regardless of whether Kimmel called it a tie.
Thought you would catch a glimpse of the enigmatic man behind the Rondo mask during his appearance on a talk show? Think again. For all we know, Rondo receives all calls from Danny Ainge on his red rotary dial phone while wearing a shower cap and reading upon his throne. Classic Rondoism.
|Michael Wilbon on D&C: ‘Superstar treatment was surely in effect’ for LeBron James||06.18.12 at 12:24 pm ET|
ESPN’s Michael Wilbon joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday to talk about Game 3 of the NBA finals, the officiating, whether the Thunder would be better off with Rajon Rondo or Russell Westbrook, and more. To hear the interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Asked whether LeBron James was getting superstar treatment after playing such aggressive defense and being called for zero fouls Sunday night, Wilbon said, ‘I’d have to go back and look at the game and just pay attention to what LeBron did. It could’ve been a bad night for the way LeBron was called, and also, we know that LeBron is physically superior. He can control his body in ways that even the other great players cannot in terms of avoiding contact and that sort of thing. And also, superstar treatment was surely in effect.’
As for whether Kevin Durant ought to be afforded the same treatment, Wilbon said Durant would, in time.
‘People have to earn it,’ Wilbon said. ‘And earning it in the NBA means, in the culture of this league for 60 years, so longer than any of these officials have been around, is seniority. And you get it when you’ve been a great player over time. And Durant had a couple of fouls called on him last night that in my opinion should not have been called.’
While he felt it was too early to say definitely, Wilbon said the Thunder look like a team that will win championships, just not this year.
‘Every great player, except Magic Johnson, in the last, I don’t know, 35 years, has been crushed, usually in the finals, but certainly conference finals, multiple times even,’ Wilbon said, pointing to Hall of Fame players such as Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwan and David Robinson. “They were crushed before they broke through. I don’t feel like Oklahoma City has gone through that right of passage yet. We know Miami has been through that. LeBron James personally has been through that, twice, already. And I feel like Miami has this sense that, ‘Oh no, no, no, we’re not going to have that happen again.’ It’s awful to go through that for an entire offseason and I don’t know that Oklahoma City is playing with that ‘hate to lose’ sort of mentality.’
|Rajon Rondo: ‘We let this one slip away’||06.10.12 at 4:03 am ET|
How rare is Rondo? He became the first player in NBA history with two Game 7 triple doubles, scoring 22 points, dishing 14 assists and grabbing 10 rebounds in Boston’s 101-88 Game 7 loss to the Heat at American Airlines Arena Saturday night. This comes just two weeks to the night he had 18 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in Boston’s 95-85 win over the Sixers in Game 7 of the Eastern semis.
But that was hardly on Rondo’s mind after just missing out on his third NBA finals appearance in five seasons.
“Great season,” Rondo began before clarifying, “we let this one slip away. We had a lot of opportunities, and they made the 50’50 plays, and they got to the loose balls, got the offensive rebounds and made plays.”
Rondo led the Celtics with six points in the fourth quarter but the problem was Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass and Ray Allen combined for nine, as the C’s were outscored 28-15 in the decisive 12 minutes of the game – and the series.
“We had some great looks, Paul, Ray, myself, Kevin, we just didn’t knock them down,” Rondo said. ” What I told them earlier, they got to the loose balls, offensive rebounds and made plays and executed offensively and made great plays.”
Did the Celtics and Rondo just run out of gas?
“Nope,” he said succinctly. “We missed shots.
“We could have done a couple of things better defensively. Our rotations weren’t crisp in the pick’and’roll. We made bad decisions, overpenetration, gave up a lot of threes, two to Bosh, a couple to Battier. Give them credit. They spread the points out as a team tonight. And about five or six players scored in double digits. Give them credit. They played great tonight as a team. We just came up short.”
|Nation sees Game 7 outcome unpredictable, dependent on LeBron James||06.09.12 at 2:44 pm ET|
The Celtics squandered a shot at closing out their series against Miami in Game 6, and now most feel the outcome of Game 7 is unpredictable. There are many factors rendering the game questionable, like LeBron James and Boston’s energy.
Frank Isola of the New York Daily News pointed to just that, emphasizing Boston’s need for a bigger impact from leader Paul Pierce and to neutralize James — something Isola doesn’t think Boston can do.
“There is no questioning the heart and determination of these Celtics,” Isola wrote. “They will need a bigger game from Paul Pierce, who was invisible on Thursday. Meanwhile, Rajon Rondo will have to produce big numbers for the offensively challenged Celtics. But they’ll also have to stop James, and right now that doesn’t seem very likely.”
It’s not just a win on the line for Pierce, but also his legacy, wrote NBC Sports’ Matt Moore. He said Pierce needs to play well — not 45-point-performance well, but well — for Boston to advance to their third NBA Finals in five years.
“But here they are,” Moore wrote. “If [Kevin] Garnett is the angry ferocity of the Celtics, and Rondo the driven determination, Pierce is the source of their swagger. It’s Pierce who has the most confidence in his game regardless of percentages or circumstances. Much like this Celtics team, no matter how many things suggest he’s in the midst of failure, he finds a way to come out on top. The Celtics need that attitude, that swagger, that player tonight in Game 7.”
In Yahoo! Sports’ Game 7 preview, basketball fans took to comments to dispute who would win the series-deciding game. Most said the Heat need another great performance from James to win, but some mentioned Chris Bosh‘s importance to Miami.
“I hear all the points that are being made heading onto the game tonight but one thing nobody is talking about other than LeBron’s great performance is that with Bosh back it is a different scenario now,” One fan wrote. “Before you had a guy like [Udonis] Haslem who is like 6-foot-9 guarding a 7 footer, now they can put Bosh on Garnett and he won’t be able to just shoot over him. Another thing the Heat did was put [Dywane] Wade on [Rajon] Rondo a little bit more and not [Mario] Chalmers and everybody agrees that Chalmers is just a terrible defender. …Well to be fair, Chalmers just can’t guard Rondo.”
ESPN’s Skip Bayless stayed behind his Heat prediction, saying James will still play a good “3 1/2 quarters” and Chris Bosh will play well for Miami.
I’m sticking with “Heat in 7″ prediction. Won’t be easy. Celts the mentally tougher TEAM. DWade will be the mentally toughest PLAYER, Bayless tweeted.
NBA’s Shaun Powell took a slightly different twist, saying basketball fans should cheer for Miami because a Heat-Thunder NBA Finals is more appealing than a Celtics-Thunder series.
“The Celtics are a neat little story of persistence, if nothing else,” Powell wrote. “Kevin Garnett at 36 can still bring it, along with Paul Pierce. Until James went ballistic in Game 6, Rajon Rondo was the best player in this series. Meanwhile, Doc Rivers is confirming what we all knew about him, a terrific in-game coach who knows how to make adjustments and draw up plays. Ray Allen, give the man the hoops version of the purple heart for running around and jumping off one ankle.
“They’re exactly the team you’d want in a Game 7 of the East finals, and also the team you want to lose, or should, anyway. And we say this with all due respect to Boston.”
|Irish Coffee: ‘Let’s go Celtics,’ one final curtain call||06.08.12 at 4:32 pm ET|
Ask Heat coach Erik Spoelstra about Game 7, and like Good Will Hunting he’d probably throw Shakespeare at you, right? “Once more unto the breach, dear friends.” But he’s never been near one.
Neither have most Miamians, at least not since 2005, although they surely have many more to come in their playoff future. Meanwhile, these Celtics and their fans have experienced six Game 7’s in this five-year run of the Kevin Garnett era, including their previous series, but the “Let’s go Celtics” chants echoing to the banners above in the final minutes of Game 6 seemed to suggest: This could be it for awhile, so give us one more. Please.
‘I want to say to all the fans, ‘Thank you guys,'” said Garnett in the wake of the 97-78 loss. “I’ve never in my life experienced anything like this, in any sport. I’m just truly blessed to be a Celtic and be a part of the city of Boston. That’s what’s up to all the New Englanders around here. It’s crazy. It’s [fudge]ing crazy.’
After three straight Celtics victories in the Eastern Conference finals, Thursday night was supposed to be a Garden celebration — the undressing of the fraudulent Heat in The Emperor’s New Clothes — but instead King James ascended to his NBA MVP throne. When it was over, LeBron James had 45 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and one elusive victory in an elimination game that saw his Heat lead by as many as 25 points.
|Fast Break: Heat, James LeBlow out Celtics in Game 6||06.07.12 at 11:10 pm ET|
LeBron James submitted perhaps his greatest game as a professional — his most clutch, anyway — amassing 45 points (19-26 FG) to go along with 15 rebounds and five assists, breaking even a raucous Garden crowd’s spirit and sending the Eastern Conference finals back to Miami for a Game 7.
Six minutes before the 98-79 defeat in Game 6 was over, Celtics fans already headed for the exits. Doc Rivers rested Paul Pierce (9 points, 4-18 FG), Kevin Garnett (12 points, 6-14 FG) and Rajon Rondo (21 points, 10 assists, 7 turnovers) for the last half of the fourth quarter, letting them stew on what just happened.
The C’s fans who stayed, though, deserve respect, closing out the final two minutes with a prolonged “Let’s go Celtics” chant that lasted until the final answer, sending a message to the “good job, good effort” Heat fans and Boston’s Big Four for Game 7.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Worst first: Through the first 11:42 of Game 6, James played the Celtics dead even by himself. He scored 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting; the Celtics netted 14 on 7-of-16 from the field. While the C’s offense seemed stagnant for long stretches, James attacked from the opening tip. His effort effectively quieted a deafening Garden crowd and forced the Celtics to play from behind. If not for James, the Heat don’t take a 26-16 lead into the second quarter, as Dwyane Wade started 0-for-4 and finished the first frame scoreless.
Long play the king: Since James started a ridiculous 12-of-14 from the floor, it’s worth discussing further. His emotionless face said it all. If the Heat were going down this time, it wouldn’t be on his shoulders. Playing all 24 minutes of the first half, he scored 30 points, and it would have been more, if not for his 5-of-9 free throw shooting. As the Heat took a 55-42 into the break (on a ridiculous four-point swing of a no-call when Shane Battier mugged Rondo), James owned an 85.7 field goal percentage. The rest of the Heat? Thirty six percent.
Foul mood: With 5:39 remaining in the second quarter, Pierce picked up his third foul, continuing his foul prone ways over the past seven games. Rivers had no choice but to sit his captain until halftime. Pierce had as many turnovers (2) as he had first-half points, and considering James’ performance, it wasn’t his finest effort on either end. Sitting for a long stretch certainly didn’t help his flow. Pierce missed his first three shots out of the break, too. Not to mention a wide-open 3 that would have cut the lead to eight and could have changed the game’s complexion late in the third quarter.
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