|Irish Coffee: Rondo Hall of Fame-bound?||10.27.10 at 10:54 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
In the first NBA game since 1969 to feature 13 former All-Stars, it was the most recent player to join that list whose star shone brightest.
In his fourth year in the league, Rajon Rondo emerged as an Eastern Conference All-Star, so what’s in store for the Celtics point guard’s fifth season — and beyond?
High praise? Sure. But Jermaine isn’t the only O’Neal heaping praise upon Rondo after playing just one regular-season game alongside him.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Shaq said of playing with Rondo, who finished with 17 assists last night. “He’s the perfect point guard. He knows where all his guys are. He led us out there, and he didn’t let us panic on the floor. Great player.”
Since entering the league, Rondo’s point, assist and steal averages have risen each season, culminating in last year’s 13.7 points, 9.8 assists and 2.3 steals per game. His rebounding numbers had also risen each season until a slight dip in 2009-10 put him at 4.4 per.
Is it ridiculous to assume Rondo could average 15 points, 11 assists, five rebounds and two-and-a-half steals per contest in 2010-11?
Those statistical averages would compare favorably with the fifth-season numbers of the four most recent point guard greats (all either HOFers or HOF locks) — Steve Nash (15.6 points, 7.3 assists, 3.2 rebounds, 1.0 steals), Jason Kidd (11.6, 9.0, 4.8, 2.4), Gary Payton (20.6, 7.1, 3.4, 2.5) and John Stockton (17.1, 13.6, 3.0, 3.2).
And Shaq agrees, especially after Rondo found him with a couple floating assists around the rim last night. “The last six or seven years I really haven’t had a point guard like that,” said Shaq, “but I’m just getting back to what I’m used to. I’m by the basket, and when he comes by the basket I just gotta be ready.”
If you’ll recall, just two years ago, Shaq played one-and-a-half seasons with Nash himself.
Obviously, the most glaring weakness in Rondo’s game is his shooting. Defenders point to the .500 field goal percentage in each of his last two seasons, but it’s his 3-point (24.4 percent in his career) and free throw shooting (63.0) that need improvement.
During the preseason, Rondo demonstrated a new-found knack to knock down the mid-range jumper, but he didn’t have that touch in the opener, finishing 2-of-9 from the field last night.
Nobody’s asking Rondo to have Nash’s 3-point (40.0 percent in his 5th season) and free-throw shooting (89.5 percent in Year 5) ability, but how about Payton’s (30.2 3-point FG and 71.6 FT in Y5)?
Kidd also started his career as a sub-.300 3-point and sub-.700 free-throw shooter. Since then, he made himself into a .425 3-point and .808 free-throw shooter last year in Dallas. All I’m saying is, there’s hope.
And if indeed Rondo emerges as a Hall of Fame-type player as J.O. alluded, that would mean the C’s current starting five would feature a full lineup of HOFers.
Not bad for a guy that joked in the video accompanying this blog that he might not still be in the NBA in 2012.
SHAQ’S CELTICS DEBUT
The Celtics got exactly what they hope for out of Shaq last night: nine points, seven rebounds and a block in 18 minutes. So, how did The Big Shamrock feel about his first night as a Celtic?
“I just wanted to come out and just play,” said Shaq. “I had a couple early-game jitters. I missed a couple chippies, but Rondo … gave it back to me. We’re all gonna get better, and I’m gonna get better. It’s gonna be a great year.”
Shaq talked to the media for about five minutes after the game. Here are a few highlights:
- On the opening-night hype: “We just wanted to come out and win our first game, and that’s what we did. We let y’all worry about all the hoopla and all that. We knew that we wanted to come play a solid game, and we knew if we did what we wanted to do then we could get a win. This game is over. We’ve got a game tomorrow, and we just want to be 2-0.”
- On Ray Allen’s clutch 3-point shot in the final minute: “Ray is one of the greatest players ever to play the game — a great shooter. Doc (Rivers) drew up a play. It’s a play we practice all the time. We had many options, and that was one of our options. Ray Allen just did what he does — shoot the ball and make it.”
- On Paul Pierce: “He’s a great player. I don’t think you guys give him enough media attention that all the other guys get, but he’s up there with the other two players over there (LeBron James and Dwyane Wade). He’s a great player, a great scorer, and his name should be mentioned more.”
- On the Boston crowd: “Excellent. Electrifying. Magnetic. … It was great. It’s a great town. People here are anxious to get No. 18. It’s going to be like that all year, and we want to remain a dominant team at home.”
- On starting 2-for-2 from the free-throw line: “I was leading the league? A thousand percent? That record got messed up pretty quick.”
REACTION FROM MIAMI
The fallout from the Miami media appears unanimous: Last night’s loss was the exception, not the rule. In fact, the Heat hype consensus is that they’re still the team to beat …
Greg Cote, Miami Herald columnist:
The gleaming Maserati, so gorgeous in the showroom, so perfect to look at, hit the road for the first time Tuesday night, and the engine hiccupped a little, and the brakes squealed some.
The ride is going to be fine. Needs some tinkering and tuning, that’s all.
If anything, Miami’s 88-80 loss to the Boston Celtics verified the Heat’s awesome potential more than cast the least bit of doubt on it.
See, the Heat is good enough to come this close being that bad.
Israel Gutierrez, Miami Herald columnist:
It’s reasonable to call this the most difficult regular-season test the Heat will experience all season.
And, yet, with less than a minute left, after playing as miserable a duration of basketball as this team might ever play all season, the Heat trailed by just three points and oh-so-close to ripping out the hearts of Celtics fans on opening night.
With all that in mind, it might be time to translate Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez‘s quote from several weeks ago into the language of basketball: There’s nothing wrong with going 81-1.
Dave Hyde, Florida Sun Sentinel columnist:
In their first quarter together, the Heat’s Dream Team scored fewer points (nine) than in any Heat quarter last year. Where have you gone, Quentin Richardson?
That’s why the Heat’s loss to Boston 88-80 actually was worse news for the rest of the NBA. Go ahead and laugh a little more at that one, if you want.
But let me go further: This game was the very worst news the rest of the league could have received. There’s really no other way to assemble what happened in this Heat opener in another context.
Similarly, after the game, LeBron James tweeted, “Rome wasn’t built in a day! Work in progress. On to the next one.” The funny thing is — as Rondo points out in the video accompanying this blog — this Celtics team literally built itself in Rome, during a trip to Italy during the 2007 preseason.
No, one game won’t mean much in the standings come April, but last night’s game was about more than just the one day. It was about preparation, unity, familiarity — Ubuntu.
After all, “The Decision” happened more than four months ago. What have the Heat been doing since July? Perhaps spending one too many days checking out the talents on South Beach.
(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)
|Fast Break: Celtics cool Heat hype||10.26.10 at 10:21 pm ET|
The Celtics held the Heat to nine first-quarter points, and Ray Allen nailed a clutch 3-point shot to snap a late 10-0 Miami run and push the Celtics’ lead back to six in the final minute. Allen’s shot from the corner ended any Heat visions of a comeback from a 19-point deficit, and allowed Boston to claim an 88-80 opening-night win.
THREE THINGS THAT WENT RIGHT
1. Rondo to Shaq: Just four minutes into Tuesday night’s game, Rajon Rondo drove, drew three defenders and lobbed the ball to Shaquille O’Neal, who threw it down with ease. It was more than just two points.
Obviously, Shaq takes up a ton of space around the basket, which means Rondo has a larger area to which he can toss the ball without fearing interference. That’s could translate into a heckuva lot more assists for Rondo and a heckuva lot of easy buckets for Shaq this season.
In almost 12 first-half minutes, the Big Shamrock finished with six points but would have had 10 if not for a pair of missed bunnies.
The Rondo-to-Shaq combo also exposed the Heat’s biggest weaknesses: the point guard and center spots. The two Celtics simply owned Heat starters Carlos Arroyo and Joel Anthony. Many critics had serious concerns about “The Others” in Miami, and, for now, those apprehensions appear legit.
2. Interior Defense: The Celtics held the Heat to 12 first-half points in the paint on just 6-of-16 shooting. What’s more, the C’s grabbed 21 first-half defensive rebounds, allowing only two second-chance points en route to a 45-30 lead at the half.
Shaq and Rondo’s dominance of Arroyo and Anthony extended beyond the offensive end. Not worried about their defensive assignments (Arroyo/Anthony combined for two first-half shots), the Celtics duo could sag off and help out on Miami’s trio of stars.
3. Ray Allen: With all the talk about how Garnett looks as healthy as he’s been since arriving in Boston and how Pierce showed up in terrific shape, it was easy to forget to mention Allen.
Maybe it’s because Allen always looks as though he’s in top shape, but the C’s shooting guard looked like he was in midseason form on Tuesday, scoring 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting (including 5-of-8 from downtown). His final 3-pointer of the night came with 50 seconds remaining. It snapped a 10-point Heat run that had cut the lead to 83-80 in the waning minutes.
Allen also did a nice job keeping up with Wade on the defensive end, limiting the Heat guard to 13 points on 4-of-16 shooting.
THREE THINGS THAT WENT WRONG
1. Apparently, Standing in the Way of LeBron James: Twice — once in each half — Pierce appeared to draw a charge on LeBron, who was barreling down the lane, shoulder lowered, towards the basket. And twice referees called Pierce for the blocking foul.
On the second foul, Pierce came down hard on his lower back. He limped to the sideline as the Celtics called timeout, and then went to the locker room clutching his side behind trainer Ed Lacerte.
A report came down that Pierce was out of the game with back spasms — return unknown. But he did return, finishing the night with 19 points.
Celtics head coach Doc Rivers was none too happy with both blocking calls and let the refs know his frustration.
2. Lacking a Killers’ Mentality: The Celtics led, 63-50, with two minutes remaining in the third quarter. The C’s had their chances to end the game then and there, but instead saw their lead dwindle as they settled for jump shots. Meanwhile, the Heat closed the quarter on a 7-0 run (thanks to four points from LeBron), cutting the gap to a manageable 63-57 deficit heading into the fourth quarter.
Likewise, in the fourth quarter, the Celtics held an 83-70 advantage with four minutes remaining. A few ill-advised shots taken too early in the shot clock led to a 10-point Heat run over the next three minutes that would’ve been 13 if not for a missed wide-open 3-pointer by LeBron.
3. Perimeter Defense: While the Celtics’ inability to get out on the wings defensively didn’t hurt them in the first half, the Heat got plenty of wide-open looks. Eddie House and James Jones missed a string of 3-point attempts in the first quarter. But Celtics fans likely understood that House wasn’t going to keep missing those.
In the second half, House and Jones — along with LeBron — finished 5-of-11 from beyond the arc.
|Halftime observations: Celtics-Heat||at 8:42 pm ET|
After all the buildup and all the offcourt drama, there was finally a basketball game to be played between the Celtics and Heat. The start was ragged, which was either a by-product of all the hype, or simply two very good defenses playing all out and contesting every shot, rebound and pass.
Either way, the Celtics took a 45-30 lead into halftime thanks to spectacular defense that held Miami to 27 percent shooting (11-for-41) and forced nine turnovers.
The Celtics took a 16-9 lead after one quarter and the numbers were as ugly as the score suggested. The C’s shot 35 percent (7-for-20) with five turnovers. The Heat were much worse, making just 4-of-17 shots and registering six turnovers.
The Celtics settled down in the second quarter and led by as many as 18 points, but the Heat’s struggles on offense remained.
RAJON RONDO IS ALREADY MAKING USE OF SHAQ
After a rough start where he missed a couple of chippies at the basket, Shaquille O’Neal came over to the Celtics bench where Kendrick Perkins whacked him twice in the head. It must have helped because O’Neal soon converted two dunks off gorgeous feeds from Rajon Rondo.
Rondo racked up six assists in the first quarter and will get a ton of easy assists simply lobbing the ball up to O’Neal. Rondo was the best player on the court in the first half.
CELTICS BIG THREE MAKES ITS POINT
They’re not the original Big Three, but the Celtics version reminded people that they’re still pretty good. Ray Allen led all scorers with 11 points, while Paul Pierce filled the stat sheet with eight points, five rebounds and two assists. Kevin Garnett was active and had good spring in his step, but he also missed a dunk and had another shot blocked. Still, Garnett showed far better range on defense than he showed much of last season.
THE HEAT ARE A WORK IN PROGRESS
Any lingering notion that the Heat would storm the floor and become a juggernaut right off the bat were put to rest early in this game. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James shot a combined 2-for-11 in the first quarter and things didn’t improve much from there.
Carlos Arroyo started at point guard, but Heat coach Erik Spoelstra went with Wade or James at the point for most of the first half. Miami hasn’t had much time together during the preseason and it showed in the first half. The Heat offense looked disorganized and was obviously inefficient.
NINE MAN ROTATION WITHOUT DELONTE
When Delonte West returns, the Celtics will be two-deep at every position. Until he returns from his 10-game suspension, however, Doc Rivers looks like he will go with a nine-man rotation with Marquis Daniels getting time at both wing positions behind Ray Allen and Paul Pierce.
The Celtics bench was strong in the first half with 14 points and seven rebounds. Daniels led the way with six.
Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck appeared on WAAF’s Hill-Man Morning Show on Tuesday morning. His discussion of the upcoming season touched included some pointed remarks about the new Heat nucleus and about a new fashion twist with point guard Rajon Rondo. A transcript of highlights is below. To listen to the interview, click here.
On the excitement surrounding the opener against the Heat:
‘It’s caused our team to focus extra hard the whole month of training camp, I’m sure. It’s really great that we get to have the opener. I guess we deserve it,’ said Grousbeck. ‘We’re the Eastern Conference champs. It’s great that [Dwyane] Wade lost last spring on our court. It’s great that LeBron [James] has lost every playoff series he’s ever played against us. I hope they’re listening. It adds to the pot boiling a little bit more.’
A computer simulation gave the Heat a 70 percent chance of winning the title:
‘I wouldn’t guess 70 percent tonight. I’d give us 70 percent tonight. I love it. I love Jeff Van Gundy. He’s a very nice guy, but he can’t stand the Celtics because we keep knocking his brother out of the playoffs and he used to be a Knick. But he said they won’t lose two games in a row all year, and they will win 73 games. He’s made all these predictions about the Heat. I think that adds a lot of pressure. ‘¦ Let’s start them off 0-1 tonight and see how they like it.’
On the absence of Rondo’s headband:
‘He’s not going to have it on. He used to wear it upside-down, as a real connoisseur would know and I’m sure you noticed, he had an upside-down logo, turning the NBA upside-down. And they won’t let him do it anymore. They said they were going to fine him for that. So he said, ‘To heck with you, I’m not going to fine it at all.’ That’s the Rondo headband situation for you connoisseurs of men’s accessories.’
|Rajon Rondo finds comic relief in Stern warning||10.22.10 at 4:22 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Rajon Rondo can be one difficult person to read.
Take Friday for example. Following practice, he was asked about David Stern‘s comments a day earlier in which the NBA commissioner said he wants player salaries cut by a third or up to four teams may have to be contracted. Stern is looking to save NBA owners – his bosses – between $750 and $800 million.
It was bargaining posture that sports fans have become accustomed to in the collective bargaining era. But still, the threat had a very serious undertone.
Are NBA players worried about Stern’s latest shot in the bargaining battle?
“Who? David Stern? It doesn’t worry me at all,” said Rondo, who is in line to make $9 million this season.
“I’m preparing for like there is one,” Rondo added. “I’m saving a lot of money this year. I’m saving a lot on my car insurance, too. Geico.”
While that might seem like the off-hand comedic comment it is, he followed up with something a little more telling.
“We’re focused on the season. It’d be great if we could get a ring heading into a lockout but other than that, I’m focused on the season.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Fast Break: Sharp Shaq ignites C’s win||10.20.10 at 10:04 pm ET|
Five Celtics scored in double figures — led by Paul Pierce‘s 17 points — and Rajon Rondo finished with 12 assists to ignite a 107-92 victory over the New Jersey Nets in the final game of the preseason. Boston finished the preseason at 7-1.
THREE THINGS THAT WENT RIGHT
1. Shaq looking sharp: A nifty spin move and another juke move around Joe Smith showed flashes of the Shaquille O’Neal of old. Sure, it was Joe Smith, but still. Playing 15 of the first 24 minutes, he finished the half with 12 points and seven boards.
Shaq did the little things, too. He tossed a nice outlet pass to Rondo for an easy bucket that put the C’s up 75-67 in the third quarter. He cleaned up the defensive glass, a serious deficiency for the Celtics in the 2010 game that shall not be named. And, believe it or not, he made 4-of-5 free throws, which raised his percentage to 69.2.
All in all, not too shabby for a 38-year-old.
2. Coming out of halftime firing on all cylinders: The Celtics could’ve easily packed it in and called it a night, trailing 55-48 at the half. If trap games existed in the preseason, this would’ve been it. The C’s started 6-1 in the expedition season, and if you haven’t heard yet they open the season against the new-look Heat on Tuesday.
Yet, the starters came out of the locker room and turned a seven-point deficit into a 13-point lead by the end of the third quarter, outscoring the Nets, 36-16.
3. Getting to the free throw line: The Celtics got to the line 24 times last night and made 18 of them. Shaq, Pierce and Glen Davis each got to the line five times, and only Big Baby (2-of-5) failed to knock them down.
Entering last night’s game, the C’s averaged 28.6 foul shots per game, and they were shooting 76.6 percent as a team. Last season, the Celtics attempted 25.5 free throws per game, making 74.6 percent of them.
THREE THINGS THAT WENT WRONG
1. Starting the game in a last-game-of-the-preseason effort: Looking sloppy and lackadaisical, the Celtics gave up 11 fast break points and scored none in the first quarter. That left them coming from behind … until an epic third quarter. Making up a 14-point deficit might be easy against the Nets, but it won’t be a cakewalk against the NBA’s upper echelon.
2. Giving up high-percentage shots on defense: The Celtics still allowed New Jersey to shoot 48 percent from the floor through three quarters — and that’s with the Nets shooting just 1-of-8 from beyond the arc. The C’s have plenty of bigs this year, so there’s no reason their interior defense shouldn’t be among the league’s best.
3. Do I really have to come up with three things that went wrong in a 20-point blowout during the last game of the preseason? OK, I guess the Celtics didn’t bring Gino out. What gives?
|Irish Coffee: Ta-Ta Tony Allen||10.19.10 at 10:48 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …
Tony Allen left for greener pastures. Green as in the color of cash; definitely not Celtics green. How can you blame him? After all, his list of injuries reads like a children’s song: ankles, knees and thumbs, so his earning potential could go at any moment — like a post-whistle dunk attempt.
He signed a three-year, $9.7 million contract with the Memphis Grizzlies. He wasn’t going to get that from the Celtics. And he was never going to play more than 20 minutes — maybe not even 15 — for this year’s C’s squad. So, why not sign with the Grizzlies?
“I was definitely overshadowed,” Allen told The Tulsa World. “Anybody would have been overshadowed considering those Hall of Fame prolific-type scorers that they had.”
He played 18.3 minutes per game for the 2007-08 Celtics team that won the NBA title and 16.5 minutes for last year’s team that reached the finals. He’s gotta be able to play more than that for a franchise that’s never won a playoff game, right? Wrong.
“I don’t think it’s smart,” Memphis head coach Lionel Hollins also told The Tulsa World. “What would you rather do? Win and play 15 minutes a game? Or you may not win as much and play 15 minutes a game. My thing is I would rather play on a winning team and have a chance to win championships — and get a playoff share too.”
Ouch. Getting thrown under the bus by his own coach isn’t going to help Allen’s injury woes.
THE GREAT POINT GUARD DEBATE
There’s a recent theory going around the blogosphere: Should you build your team around a point guard? That’s a big question for Celtics fans, considering two years from now that’s exactly what Danny Ainge will be challenged to do. Other than what will be a 35-year-old Paul Pierce, the only current player guaranteed to play for the 2012-13 Celtics is Rajon Rondo.
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