|Rajon Rondo ‘moving a lot better’||12.22.10 at 7:16 pm ET|
The Celtics don’t expect Rajon Rondo to be active when they play Orlando on Christmas, and there is still no definitive timetable for his return from an ankle injury that had him in a boot and on crutches for a few days, but they are encouraged by his recovery.
Rondo was at the team’s practice on Tuesday, without the boot, and was dribbling a basketball on the side of the court. “I know he’s walking and running pretty well and moving a lot better,” Doc Rivers said. “So I know he’s getting pretty close.”
Rondo injured his ankle in the fourth quarter against the Knicks last Wednesday. He had to be helped back to the locker room, but he returned later in the quarter and finished the game. He has also battled foot problems related to plantar fasciitis and a hamstring injury that caused him to miss four games.
|Irish Coffee: Rajon Rondo’s recovery||at 12:26 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Rajon Rondo isn’t exactly Charles Barkley when it comes to talking to the media, but he’s quietly letting us in on his rehabilitation progress as he recovers from a sprained ankle — through his Twitter page …
Dec. 16: “Another great team effort tonight. A lot of treatment. Elevating my foot now, watching the game.”
Dec. 18: “Ankle is feeling better. Out of the boot. Still got a ways to go. Treatment twice a day.”
Dec. 21: “I love my new video game. Still keeping my foot elevated.” (see accompanying photo)
Now, I know what you’re all thinking: Where can I get a full-sized H2Overdrive arcade cabinet like the one Rondo uses to elevate his foot? It makes a great stocking stuffer for just $8,200.
It’s been exactly one week since Celtics president Danny Ainge threw out “a couple of weeks” as a timeframe for Rondo’s return. The first game after that two-week window is against the Pistons on Dec. 29, but do they really need Rondo to beat Detroit? Answer: No. They could probably start Avery Bradley and still win.
Two days later, however, the Celtics host Chris Paul and the Hornets. We all know how Rondo gears up to play the NBA’s best point guards, and some consider Paul the best in the game. You can bet Rondo will want to play in that game. The only question is whether Ainge, Doc Rivers and the training staff will let him.
CELTICS HAVE THE POWER
Ever-so-slowly, as their winning streak has stretched to an NBA-best 13 games — while the Mavericks, Heat and Knicks have snapped their streaks — the Celtics are gaining a monopoly on the national media’s NBA Power Rankings.
Here’s where the C’s rank, according to six major national media outlets:
|The education of Avery Bradley||12.17.10 at 3:25 pm ET|
Avery Bradley is a good listener. That may not seem that important, but to the veteran Celtics it is a very big deal. They have a tendency to notice things about the young players who join the team. Not so much on the court, although that is obviously an important part of the equation, but about how they conduct themselves.
Do they pay attention during the huddle, even though they have less of a chance of getting in the game than Lucky the mascot? Do they ask questions when they don’t understand something? Do they listen?
“I really like the kid, actually,” Pierce said after the Celtics beat the Hawks Thursday night. “I see how he works and soaks up so much in practice and you can see him wanting to get better. He’s always asking questions and he’s always in the huddle.”
For Bradley, this is a no-brainer. When the vets talk, he listens and tries to absorb whatever lesson he can.
“Seeing their success, I would feel dumb if I didn’t listen to those guys,” Bradley said. “They know what they’re talking about. When they tell me those things I want to listen so I can become a better player. They’re trying to help me all the time. When I do something wrong, they pull me aside and that just shows that they care about me and want the best for me.”
For the first time in his career, Rajon Rondo is the elder statesman at his position. In past years the Celtics brought in vets like Sam Cassell and Stephon Marbury to play behind him. It’s the endless circle of life in the NBA and now Rondo is the mentor. It’s a role he has taken an interest in with Bradley, often staying after practice to watch carefully as he plays in 2-on-2 games with fellow rookie Luke Harangody, Von Wafer and assistant coach Ty Lue.
Those games happen after every practice and it’s a way for them to stay active. Bradley, in particular, seems to use those runs as a way to test out in-game situations. Rondo will usually watch intently from the sidelines and then offer his wisdom in private.
“He’s a great listener,” Rondo said back in November. “That might not sound like much, but that’s big for a young guy to come in. He’s very humble. He works extremely hard. He’s going to be a great player in this league someday when he gets his opportunity. I always tell him to stay ready.”
With Rondo out for a few weeks, his opportunity is coming sooner than anyone imagined, and truthfully a little sooner than Doc Rivers had envisioned. But with only 10 healthy bodies, opportunity is here.
“You don’t try to put too much in his head,” Rondo said. “You just try to let him learn for himself, but he can always ask me or Nate [Robinson] or coach Rivers. So he has some good guys in front of him who are willing to teach him the game.”
Those lessons come the hard way in the NBA. Take Thursday night’s game when Hawks guard Jeff Teague went off on Bradley. Bradley had barely checked in when Teague stripped him and soared in for a dunk.
“You have to have a short memory,” Bradley said. “People make mistakes, you’re going to make mistakes, especially at this level. You got to go to the next play.”
Things didn’t get much better for Bradley as Teague continued to dominate him. But late in the first quarter, Bradley dove into a scrum and came up with a loose ball leading to points for the Celtics on the other end. It wasn’t much, but it was something positive for Bradley to take into the next game and validation that he wasn’t going to back down.
“You can talk all the trash to him in practice and when you look up he’s staring you right in the eyes and he’s going nowhere,” Rivers said a few weeks ago. “I think our veterans really appreciate that in him.”
Even with all the injuries, nothing is guaranteed for Bradley. The Celtics have options, not necessarily ideal options but options nonetheless. Marquis Daniels has done spot duty as a backup point guard and Pierce and Ray Allen are more than capable of bringing the ball up the court and initiating the offense. So, the onus is on Bradley to take advantage of this opportunity.
In the end, everyone agrees that he has a bright future. He is a tenacious on-the-ball defender who is not afraid to get up on his man and force the action. “He’s very physical,” Rondo said. “He gets through the picks, he gets up into you, he turns you, makes you dribble with your back to the basket.”
His offensive game is still developing and while his size — 6-foot-2, 180 pounds — says point guard, he may be better suited playing off the ball where he can work his mid-range game. The comparison has been made to a smaller version of Tony Allen, without the turnovers, and if he reaches that point this season the Celtics would be thrilled.
But all of that is in front of him. He missed valuable time this summer after undergoing ankle surgery, which kept him out of the Orlando summer league and the majority of training camp. Once the season began, he rolled over Pierce’s foot in practice, which caused him to miss another week.
The learning curve will be steep, but the best thing Avery Bradley has going for him is that he’s willing to learn.
|Irish Coffee: Top 5 Pop-A-Shot performances||at 8:00 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Five randomly selected people will get the chance to compete against Nate Robinson in Pop-A-Shot at Modell’s Sporting Goods in Saugus on Tuesday at 5:15 p.m. Now, I have a million legendary Pop-A-Shot stories, so I’ll spare you and give you just one:
While I was a student at Boston University, there was a guy at The Sports Depot challenging anybody and everybody to Pop-A-Shot. If he won, you had to buy him a shot. He beat a few people, and he took a few shots.
Once people caught onto the fact that he was a Pop-A-Shot Shark, he started betting everyone he could beat them left-handed. He beat a few more people, and he took a few more shots — but his game never wavered.
After a while, everybody pretty much gave up on trying to beat him, so he started giving everyone 20-point cushions. He got a few more takers, beat them and took more shots. Yet, he always put up 100 points a minute.
And he never lost.
Based on the shots consumed and point spread offered to his opponents, it was the greatest shooting display I’ve ever seen. Not to mention I saw the same guy doing the same thing a year later at the Beacon Hill Pub.
All I’m saying is, if this guy shows up in Saugus, Robinson has no chance. So, without further ado, I give you the top five Pop-A-Shot performances on YouTube …
1. THE WORLD RECORD: Jay Kletecka is right where I picture the Pop-A-Shot world record-holder to be: In his mother’s basement. I do enjoy how he calmly drains 166 straight and has no reaction when he finally misses.
|Doc Rivers to Nate Robinson: Don’t worry, you don’t suck||at 12:34 am ET|
Doc Rivers could tell early on that Nate Robinson was having trouble getting into the flow of the game as he struggled with his passes and running the Celtics offense in the first half Thursday night against Atlanta.
There was a bullet pass from Robinson to Semih Erden in the low post that didn’t quite make it there as Josh Smith stepped into the lane for the easy steal. There was a pass intended for Ray Allen that sailed out of bounds later in the first half.
How bad was it? Even when Nate was hustling his rear off to grab a loose ball headed toward the Hawks basket, he flipped to the lane – expecting Kevin Garnett to catch and slam. But instead, the pass was picked off by Mike Bibby, who fed Jordan Collins for an open three, which Collins hit to add salt to the wound.
All of that added up to seven points, only two assists and four turnovers in the first half for the man who will be filling in for Rajon Rondo over the next two weeks as Rondo heals a sprained left ankle. Rivers said he had to have a heart-to-heart with Robinson, telling him to keep his head up and remind him that he didn’t think Robinson “sucked” just because he was having trouble finding his game.
“You know what I told Nate at halftime?” Rivers began. “I said, ‘Nate, just a notice for you. You’re the starting point guard now, and I’m going to give you a lot of instruction. It’s not criticism.’ You know, and Nate tends to ‘ he gets coaching at times, he hangs his head, and it was at a point in the second quarter I couldn’t even give him a play because he thought I was going to tell him, ‘Nate, you suck’ or something.”
Robinson seemed to take Rivers’ words to heart.
“Just keep playing, play through adversity,” Robinson said. “Just turn the page. I was being a little timid in first half. Second half, he told me to just be me. I think I did that.”
Rivers knew full well that he might be dealing with a point guard that was getting overwhelmed.
“I don’t know what he thought I was going to say,” Rivers said. “And he was great. He even started laughing at halftime. I thought that relaxed him, and allowed him to play a little bit more. But with Rondo, you know, I’m so used to telling him what I need everybody ‘ ‘Rondo, tell Paul this.’ I was doing that with Nate and Nate was like, ‘Enough! No more. I don’t want’’ and he finally got what I was doing. I guess he just has to get used to that.’ Read the rest of this entry »
|Ainge: Rajon Rondo will miss a couple of weeks||12.16.10 at 4:30 pm ET|
Speaking to WEEI’s Big Show, Celtics president Danny Ainge said that he thinks Rajon Rondo will be out for “a couple of weeks” following a sprained ankle he suffered in the fourth quarter of the Celtics 118-116 win over the Knicks Wednesday night.
Rondo had to be helped back to the locker room, but he did return after the game.
“I think that the adrenaline was still flowing,” Ainge said. “I think that Rajon is young, and he feels fast and he loves to play, to his credit. I couldn’t believe he was back on the court last night. He wasn’t moving very well, even when he got back out on the court. You could tell he was still in a lot of pain, and certainly after the game it started puffing up. This morning there was a lot of swelling, and he definitely needs some time off.”
There is obviously no definitive timeline yet as to how long Rondo will be out, but he has been visibly bothered by a growing number of injuries, including plantar fasciitis and a hamstring injury that has caused him to miss four games.
Rondo has steadfastly maintained that he is fine, and his teammates have noted, and appreciated, his toughness. But Wednesday night, even Rondo seemed resigned. “It’s a little bit of everything,” he said with a sigh. “Something new every game. It’s just part of it.”
After the Knicks game, reporters were ushered into the team’s training room in the visiting locker room at Madison Square Garden, a place that is normally off-limits to the press, to talk with Rondo who was sitting on a bench with his left shoe off. “It hurts,” he said. “But all ankle sprains hurt.”
CSNNE’s Greg Dickerson reported that Rondo was on crutches as he made his way to the team bus.
While he expressed his desire to continue playing, few among the Celtics believed that would be possible. Without knowing the extent of the injury, Paul Pierce noted that it didn’t look good.
“He’s been banged up over the last month.,” Pierce said. “There’s probably a slim chance we’ll have him [Thursday]. So, we’ve played a few games without him. We’ve got to make adjustments, that happens. But hey, what’s new for us? We got a lot of guys going down right now, and we keep finding ways.”
In his absence, Nate Robinson has played some of his best games this season. He scored 22 points in a loss against Toronto (the last game the Celtics have lost) and followed that up with a 16-point, 10-assist performance against the Hawks. In a win over New Jersey on Dec. 5, Robinson scored 21 points to go with six assists and six rebounds.
All told, Robinson is shooting 25-for-40 and 11-for-19 from 3-point range in his four starts.
“Nate has been playing very well for us,” Ainge said, “And now he’s going to have to step it up and play more minutes.”
|Irish Coffee: The Celtics & Knicks aftermath||at 11:28 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Amid all the glory that was Wednesday night’s 118-116 Celtics last-second win over the Knicks was Nate Robinson‘s faceplant into the floor of Madison Square Garden as he attempted to climb atop the game’s hero — Paul Pierce.
It was the funniest of all the videos Robinson has produced this season, and only because he lived to talk about it (thank God his high-top fade broke his fall).
As Robinson tweeted after the game, Pierce “damn near killed me today, but we won, so hey.” Maybe Robinson could somehow work the faceplant into the dunk contest, since he’s the heavy favorite now that Dwight Howard retired from it.
THE NEW YORK MEDIA THINKS THE KNICKS WON
I watched Wednesday night’s Celtics game with a diehard Knicks fan friend of mine at The Four’s in Boston. The Celtics fans who braved the cold — including the bartender — kept telling him the same thing: “I had no idea the Knicks were this good; I had no idea Amar’e Stoudemire was this good.”
“They are this good,” he responded. “They’ve won eight in a row and 13-of-14. And they’re just getting warmed up.”
There was no “I’m just glad to be competitive!” discussion from his perspective. In his eyes, they should be competitive. They’re the New York freakin’ Knicks.