|Nate’s learning curve||03.01.10 at 2:48 pm ET|
The initial fanfare over Nate Robinson’s arrival in Boston has simmered down and now the newest Celtic is simply trying to dig in and digest everything, especially the team’s defensive scheme.
“It’s getting there,” Robinson said. “I’m trying to figure out this defensive playbook that’s pretty crazy. The offense is going to come easy. For me and Marcus [Landry] everything is coming at us fast. It’s like in baseball, they put you other and say, ‘Hit a 100 miles an hour fastball.’ It’s like, How do I do that? You just got to keep playing and keep working.”
While Robinson adjusts to Tom Thibodeau’s scheme, with its emphasis on fighting over screens, help defense and constant communication, Doc Rivers had tried to help Robinson feel more comfortable offensively by incorporating a handful of plays from Mike D’Antoni’s Knicks offense.
“It’s kind of cool, because I’ve got to be out there trying to coach it,” Robinson said. “They like the offense that we showed them and we’re trying to run with it. I know when I’m in I’m going to be calling that play 99.9 percent of the time. I’m going to be real comfortable with that.”
Rivers has also utilized Robinson in a backcourt tandem with Rajon Rondo at times. That is something of a league-wide trend to have teams play two quick point guards together to take advantage of the NBA’s rules changes outlawing hand-checks on the perimeter.
It’s an intriguing lineup, but Rivers isn’t quite sold on it yet because of the size aspect, but in limited bursts a Rondo-Robinson backcourt could be a game-changer once both players get comfortable. “It’s a good combination,” Rivers said. “It’s not one I love because it makes us really small, obviously.”
Robinson himself noted that he is treading lightly. “You can’t really rush things like this.”
Like everything else with the Celtics these days, it’s just going to take time for them to get things right.
|LeBron: Rondo has made ‘The Board’||02.26.10 at 2:39 pm ET|
Before every game, NBA coaches and their assistants place the names of players to contain on a board as part of the game plan.
LeBron James said there was a time – just two seasons ago when his Cavaliers came to Boston – that it was the big three and that was it.
But it’s obvious now that they need to add a fourth name: Rajon Rondo.
He showed why in the first quarter on Thursday night, with 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the floor and six assists as the Celtics raced out to a 31-21 lead. James stopped short of saying Rondo has become the most important Celtic but not by much.
“I don’t know if I can say that,” James began. “When you scout for Boston, there are certain guys that make that board before the game, these type of guys you have to stop and he’s one of those guys.
“First couple of years here in Boston, he wasn’t on that board. He was fast point guard, you have to get back but other than that you didn’t talk about him, you didn’t talk about Rondo.”
[Click here to hear LeBron talk about Rondo.]
Rondo earned his first All-Star berth this winter and players like King James have taken note.
“Last year, he made a name for himself and he makes that board when you’re talking about, ‘This is what we’re doing again Paul, this is what we’re doing against Ray and this is what we’re doing against KG and this is what we’re doing against Rondo.’ When you make that board, you’re definitely a very good player.”
As for whether Rondo can get the Celtics back in gear and challenge the 45-14 Cavaliers, that remains to be seen. But James isn’t taking the Celtics lightly, even after a 20-point win on Thursday at TD Garden.
“They’re a very good team,” James said. “No one doubts Boston. No one who ever comes into this building or plays Boston on the road doubts that team. They have too many weapons, they’re too experienced. They have a good coach, a good coaching staff. No one ever doubts them and you better play well or they can embarrass you.”
|Fast Break: Celtics regain luster against Blazers||02.20.10 at 1:12 am ET|
When the Celtics went out on their annual West Coast swing following the All-Star break, they were a team that was searching for itself. A narrow win over the Kings gave them some much-needed relief. A win over the Lakers gave them a much-needed victory over an elite team.
But it was Friday night against Portland, in the second game of a back-to-back, that the Celtics finally started to look like the Celtics of old in a 96-76 victory. (Recap.)
The Celtics put together a complete game that featured strong shooting (53.4 percent), low turnovers (11), solid rebounding and, most of all, defense. The Blazers shot just 34 percent for the game and scored just 15 points in the fourth quarter and 13 in the second.
The Celtics looked sharp early, making 14 of their first 18 shots. Kevin Garnett, in particular, was strong as he made his first six shots while Rajon Rondo had six assists in the first quarter. The Celtics then put the clamps down defensively, holding the Blazers to just three field goals in the quarter to take a 56-38 lead into halftime.
The Blazers closed to within nine early in the fourth quarter, but Ray Allen scored 11 of the next 14 points as part of a 14-2 run to put the game away. Allen led all scorers with 21 points and was 9-for-14 from the floor.
Turning Point: Portland scored just six points in the first six minutes of the second quarter as the Celtics built a 45-31 lead with their second unit. The starters picked it up from there as Garnett knocked down his first 3-pointer of the season on a desperation heave as the shot clock expired. Garnett followed that with a length-of-the-floor layup off a feed from Rondo.
Player of the Game: Rajon Rondo once again controlled the Celtics offense with 10 points and 11 assists in only 31 minutes.
* The Celtics’ physical defense got to the Blazers late in the first half as Kendrick Perkins and Andre Miller became entangled under the basket. Perkins and Juwan Howard were assessed double technical fouls.
* Rondo and Rasheed Wallace both picked up technical fouls in the third quarter. Wallace had his technical from Thursday night rescinded. Assuming he keeps this one, Wallace now has 13 technical fouls this season. His 16th would trigger an automatic suspension.
* The second unit played well with a combined 33 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. Glen Davis was a force around the basket in the fourth quarter while the Celtics were able to pull away.
* Thanks to the lopsided final, Garnett played just 21 minutes, but he still scored 16 points and had seven rebounds.
* Paul Pierce was a game-time decision, but was in the starting lineup as usual. He scored just nine points on 3-for-9 shooting in 26 minutes. Danny Ainge said on The Big Show that Pierce was still fighting through his foot injury. (Click here for a full transcript of Ainge’s appearance Friday.)
* Portland’s Brandon Roy, who is dealing with a hamstring injury, also started. The Blazers had new addition Marcus Camby in the starting lineup, as well.
* Nate Robinson did not play and will likely miss Sunday’s game with the Nuggets as well. Robinson has had the flu. The other new Celtic, Marcus Landry, is also not expected to join the team until Tuesday, when they both newcomers are scheduled to make their debuts against their old team when the Knicks come to town.
|Celtics vs. Lakers: Just Another Game?||02.18.10 at 12:18 am ET|
To Rajon Rondo, a trip to the Staples Center in the middle of February feels the same as a stop at any other arena.
He sees a basketball court, not the banners hanging above it. And regardless of the rivalry against the home team, he is simply focused on leaving with a win.
“It’s not like a championship game,” he explained. “It’s not a series. It’s one game. It helps our record or hurts our record, one way or the other. It’s another game.”
On Thursday, the Celtics will take on the Lakers in their final match up of the regular season. The last time the teams met on Jan. 31, the C’s blew an 11-point fourth quarter lead and watched Kobe Bryant sink a game-winner with 7.3 seconds left.
In spite of the desire to avenge their loss, Rondo’s right. This isn’t a championship game. In fact, at this point in the season it is more about the Celtics vs. themselves rather than the Celtics vs. the Lakers.
The C’s have been their own worst enemy lately, surrendering leads and making mistakes down the stretch. This game against Los Angeles, the second stop on a four-game West Coast road trip, will be a test for them to get back to Celtics basketball after a recent departure.
“It’s important,“ Paul Pierce said of the entire road trip. “We want to go out there and start playing better, start playing more consistent basketball. We know it’s a tough trip, and maybe this is a chance for us to get out on the road and get ourselves back together because we really struggled over the last month-and-a-half.”
The loss to the Lakers capped off a three-game losing streak and a month of January in which the Celtics went 6-8. They entered the All-Star Break on a two-game skid, still struggling to put together 48 minutes of basketball.
A win over the Lakers would give them momentum to jumpstart the second half of the season. They narrowly edged the 18-win Kings on Tuesday night and will face the playoff contending Trail Blazers, Nuggets, and Cavaliers over the course of the next week.
“Next is down to business,” said Kevin Garnett. “Obviously trying to play better, consistent basketball for the Celtics and being productive. So that’s what’s next for us.”
|Rondo’s improved shooting||02.16.10 at 2:27 pm ET|
One of the most important storylines of the 2009-10 Celtics season has been Rajon Rondo’s emergence into a full-fledged star. His assists are up, his steals are way up and he has the big contract and All-Star appearance to back him up.
But the true revelation with Rondo this season has been his improved mid-range game. His traditional field goal percentage is up slightly from just over 50 percent to 52.9 percent, but that only tells part of the story. For that we need to turn to Hoop Data, a website that tracks where a player shoots, and how often he makes it.
For stat geeks, Hoop Data is a treasure trove of interesting numbers. For example Glen Davis has his shot blocked a fairly amazing 21 percent of the time, which helps explain why he has had so much trouble finishing around the basket.
Back to Rondo. According to Hoop Data’s numbers, he has improved his shooting percentage at the rim and raised it significantly from 10-15 feet in to the basket. That would be the in-between game so many purists long for.
In 2009, Rondo took a little more than half his shots at the rim and made over 61 percent of them, which is very good for a point guard. This season he has increased his attempts slightly (from 5.1 to 5.4), and also improved his percentage to over 65 percent. That meshes with how most people see Rondo–as a player who can get to the basket and finish well despite his size.
To give you an idea on how that compares to other point guards, only San Antonio’s Tony Parker takes as many shots per game and finishes as well as the rim as Rondo.
Rondo’s real work has come slightly farther out. From 10 feet and in, Rondo’s accuracy goes from 40 percent in 2009 to 53 percent in 2010. From 10-15 feet away from the basket, Rondo’s percentage jumps from 35.2 to 52.5 percent. He has also upped his attempts from those distances over the previous season.
What all that shows is a player understanding how to utilize his ability to beat defenders off the dribble, and how to score once he does.
It’s not all good news for Rondo. His accuracy on longer shots and 3-pointers has dropped, as has his free throw shooting, which is a genuine cause for concern since it removes him from late-game situations. Rondo may never be a great long-range shooter, but if he can continue to master the in-between game–and get his free throw shooting up to a respectable level–he won’t have to be one to be effective.
|Perkins could provide all-world defense for Team USA||02.10.10 at 2:39 pm ET|
When Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski were forming the potential pool of players for Team USA, they were looking for a “true center” who could guard potential big men all around the world.
They may have found that man in Kendrick Perkins.
On Wednesday, Perkins was named to the 27-man roster that is eligible to compete in the 2010 FIBA World Championships in Turkey and, if the team qualifies, in the 2012 London Olympics. The 27 players will be invited to a July mini-camp in Las Vegas, where the roster will be trimmed down going forward.
Perkins’ selection was one which which Krzyzewski – who led the 2008 team to a gold medal – was comfortable because of the center’s ability to play with Hall of Fame talent and his most glaring strength…defense.
“He plays on a team that’s a championship level team and he knows how to play with great players,” Krzyzewski said during a teleconference on Wednesday. “I think he is one of the better defensive players in the league and that really appealed to us about Kendrick.”
Perkins will be competing with Dwight Howard, Brooke Lopez, Ama’re Stoudemire and former Celtic Al Jefferson for one of the center spots on the 2012 Olympic team. Colangelo said Perkins could fit in and be the perfect role player on a team that will highlight some of the best talent in the NBA.
“We are not talking about the top 27 or 28 best all-around basketball players necessarily. Perkins can guard the bigs,” said Colangelo. “He should be able to perform very well competitively very well in the international game.
“As we look at our roster there is also a need for how are you going to defend against the bigs that we see on a number of European teams, South American teams and he has the ability to do that. He has a significant opportunity.”
Perkins is averaging a career-high 11.4 points per game this season, while grabbing 8.1 rebounds a night. He is also averaging just under two blocks a game, and has been one of the most consistent and healthy players for a banged-up Celtics squad this season.
Perkins was the only Celtics player selected to the pool of 27, a list that didn’t include first year All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo.
“Rondo was not responsive to the inquiries regarding his interest,” said Colangelo, who said along with Andrew Bynum, three or four unnamed players declined the invite. “So we just assumed that was the case.”
The US team is loaded at the point guard position, with Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Chauncey Billups all being selected to the pool. Jason Kidd declined the invite, as he retired from international competition after the 2008 Beijing Games with a gold medal.
Nine players and the entire coaching staff return from the 2008 gold medal team, including Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. To see the entire list click here.
|Perkins on Team USA||at 11:19 am ET|
Kendrick Perkins is one of 27 players named to USA Basketball’s national roster who will compete in the FIBA World Championships in Turkey this summer and the 2012 London Olympics. Perkins joins eight holdovers from the 2008 gold-medal winning team. Conspicuously absent from the list, which is not yet final: Rajon Rondo.
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