|Irish Coffee: Celtics weekly report card||01.06.12 at 12:12 pm ET|
Given that NBA teams cram 66 games into just over four months, each of this season’s 17 weeks becomes like an NFL week. As NFL writers are wont to do, we’ll start a new series of Celtics report cards each Friday. After an 0-3 start capped by a loss to a woeful Hornets team, the C’s have won four straight — albeit against three D-League NBA clubs with a combined 3-16 record. That being said, let’s get to the grades.
BRANDON BASS: A+
If you thought Glen Davis was a Sixth Man of the Year candidate last season, get a load of Bass so far this year. In 28 minutes a night, he’s averaging 14.0 points and 6.6 boards, shooting 61.5 percent from 10-15 feet and 66.0 percent from 16-23 feet. His consistency in a new system has been remarkable. In just a few short weeks, Bass has helped create that valuable spacing for which Doc Rivers strives and already assumed the second crunch-time big role alongside Kevin Garnett.
RAY ALLEN: A
You can’t blame the man for missing a game because of the flu. In six games, he’s averaging a team-leading 20.0 points on sizzling 61.1 percent 3-point shooting. His 51.5 percent shooting from inside the arc isn’t too shabby, either, but three missed free throws is very un-Shuttlesworth-like (picking nits). Could this be the season Allen finally achieves his Holy Trinity of Shooting (50 FG%-40 3P%-90 FT%)? Allen gets paid to shoot the rock and run opposing two guards ragged. Mission accomplished.
|Brandon Bass: ‘I’m playing with three hall of famers’ and Rajon Rondo, too||01.05.12 at 8:56 am ET|
Brandon Bass continues to show the world why the Celtics traded Glen Davis for him.
Sixth man for sixth man but this sixth man can score with the best of them. He did so again Wednesday night when the Celtics desperately needed someone other than Paul Pierce to score with Ray Allen at home with the flu.
Bass came off the bench and scored 15 points and hauled down 13 rebounds, leading a second-half surge that saw the Celtics pull away from the Nets, 89-70.
“Energy, play good defense, rebound, score when I get good opportunities,” Bass said. “That’s what I think my role is and that’s what I’m going to try to bring every night.”
The only question: Can he keep it up? He is averaging 14 points and 6.6 rebounds in 27.7 minutes over the first seven games. He has averaged 7.8 points and 4.1 rebounds in 18.6 minutes per game over his previous six NBA seasons.
“Rondo, Paul and KG all put me in a position to shoot, swing and go into pick and roll so I don’t think it’s my job to be a play maker, but I will make a play if I get the opportunity to,” Bass said.
Bass’ reference to not being a playmaker is why he has affectionately earned the reputation as Brandon “No-Pass” Bass, as Paul Flannery wrote on Tuesday. Bass realizes this. So, when he was told he got an assist on Wednesday, he replied, “Oh, did I?”
But Bass’ job is to get open underneath the basket and be ready when Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce or Kevin Garnett all look to him and fire him the ball.
“There are opportunities to do lots of different things,” Bass said. “I’m on the floor with three hall of famers and there’s an All-Star in Rondo so you got a lot of opportunities to do a lot of different things.”
“It’s nice,” added coach Doc Rivers. “I haven’t been able to do this. I did it last year at the end with Jeff [Jeff Green] when we went small and they stayed big. But it’s rare you can come out of a time-out and run a pick and roll for a pop for the big. It’s actually an iso for him to take someone off the dribble. That’s just nice to have. I’ve not – I don’t think I’ve ever had that.”
The other big benefit Bass provides are minutes, minutes that can be used to rest Garnett. Wednesday, the official box score showed Bass with 25 minutes, 45 seconds, just 11 seconds fewer than Garnett, the perfect situation for Rivers.
“Brandon’s so important for us because we take Kevin out of the first quarter at seven; you don’t lose offensively when Kevin comes out, you lose some defense for sure,” Rivers said. “Brandon rebounds well, too.”
|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.”
Keyon Dooling has been around long enough to let his eyes tell him what he sees while blocking out all the noise.
He’s heard all of the chatter about the limitations with Rajon Rondo (whom he calls Ray) and his jump shot. But from what he’s seen so far, up close and personal, he’s been impressed.
“I think it’s just a matter of confidence with Ray,” Dooling said of Rondo, not Ray Allen. “I think because he’s got good mechanics and he knows when to shoot. It’s just all about his confidence. He’s fun to watch.”
As a matter of fact, he’s been so enamored with Rondo that he wants his two-year-old son to model his play not after daddy but daddy’s teammate.
“I was telling him earlier that I’ve got a two-year-old son and I want him to play ball like Rondo,” Dooling said. “So, I think Ray’s going to be very important to our championship run this year.”
As for his own play, he was scoreless in 15 minutes while handing out four assists. He considers himself a “Rondo-like” leader of the second unit, and he was disappointed that the second unit let a double-digit lead slip in the second half Wednesday in the preseason finale.
“I think if you look at us, I think the thing that is apparent or obvious is that our defense is ahead of our offense,” Dooling said. “We had a spurt with our second unit that was very disappointing. So, we’ll go back to the drawing board. We’ll be in practice a little bit earlier than the rest of the guys and we’ll try and continue to build our continuity with the second unit.”
Helping along the way is, of course, head coach Doc Rivers, who pulled Dooling aside several times during a break in the action to talk over things.
“It’s been fantastic,” Dooling said after Wednesday’s scrimmage. “Doc has been great so far. I’m a guy who sits back and I just watch him, watch him work, I watch him when he’s thinking of a play, staring into space, when he’s writing down on the board what he’s saying, how’s he motivating all the guys. Doc’s a guy I just want to sponge off and learn as much as I can.”
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.”
|Fast Break: Celtics steamroll Raptors in preseason||12.21.11 at 10:03 pm ET|
Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo (17 points, 6 assists) got the preseason Garden party started, Greg Stiemsma (7 points, 5 rebounds) kept it going and E’Twaun Moore (11 points) closed it out in a 81-73 victory against the lowly Raptors finale on Wednesday night.
Heck, C’s fans were even treated to a Michael Sweetney sighting, whose bucket in the waning moments of the fourth quarter brought the house down and signaled closing time on the preseason.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
The Steamroller: Playing for a roster spot, 6-foot-11, 260-pound Greg Stiemsma turned in what might have been his best performance since leading the Randolph High Rockets to three straight Division 4 Wisconsin state titles. In between, he’s played in renowned basketball hotbeds like South Korea and Sioux Falls, S.D. Wednesday night, Stiemsma totaled all seven of his points in the first half, garnering more applause from the Garden crowd with each bucket. Then again, the Celtics were playing the Raptors … in the preseason.
JO’s D: In limited action, the 33-year-old Jermaine O’Neal let his presence be known. Showing what Celtics coach Doc Rivers has been saying throughout training camp — that his starting center has looked better than ever in green — O’Neal owned the paint on the defensive end, blocking four shots in 11 minutes. Although, O’Neal did leave the game to return to the locker room in the third quarter never to return (with no visible injury).
Rondo’s jumper: Perhaps the most encouraging sign — and the one that could benefit the Celtics the most throughout the season — was not only Rajon Rondo‘s willingness to shoot from the perimeter, drive through the lane looking for his shot and get to the free throw line, but his ability to score in all three aspects of the game. Rondo established himself early and often as the best player on the floor, draining a couple 18-footers, getting to the line six times and totaling 17 points in 22 minutes.
Celtics owners Steve Pagliuca and Wyc Grousbeck stopped by to chat with D&C guest hosts Dale Arnold and Bob Ryan Wednesday morning and discussed the upcoming season, Rajon Rondo‘s mindset, and why this could be the best Celtics team Danny Ainge has put together.
After the Celtics’ disappointing loss at the hands of LeBron James and the Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the owners expressed optimism about the C’s fortunes for the shortened 2011-12 season.
“It’s going to be a frenetic season, obviously packed in, a lot of games,” Pagliuca said. “The good news for us is that we have a veteran core, but we’ve got a lot of young legs on the team. Danny’s done another great job of building this squad. It’s a very deep team, and that deep team will pay service. Also, with a short training camp, we have four veterans coming back. They know the offense; we have veterans coming in. Doc [Rivers] will have them in very good shape to play.”
Added Pagliuca: “The positive side early is that the team has a lot of depth. One through 15 we’re about as good as we’ve been. If you look at the players Danny’s added here, they can all play basketball. We’re going to get some offensive rebounding this year with [Chris] Wilcox and [Brandon] Bass on the boards, so we’re optimistic. It’s really early in the season, but so far they’ve looked really good.”
Grousbeck said the decision was made to stick with the Big Three and build around them for another shot at the title, holding off any rebuilding plans.
“We do think about the future every day. We really, really do,” Grousbeck said. “But this does look like another year when this core has a chance. And if we supplement them to the max, everything we can possibly do under the new rules, it looks like to us, and more importantly to the basketball staff, that these guys have one more chance at least. So, you make that decision and you put the throttle fully that way. We’re not halfway. … It wasn’t a bad team last year. This year it looks like we can have a chance. Shortened season, almost anything can happen. So, we’re going for it.”
Added Grousbeck: “It has been a shortened preseason. There hasn’t been a lot of chance to really settle in with this team yet, this roster, and see it, and get a sense of other rosters as well. Having said that, every time I see [Kevin] Garnett, [Paul] Pierce, [Ray] Allen, and Rondo walk out on the court and Rivers coaching them, I get goose bumps, actually. So, I’m hopeful, and we’ll see.”
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