|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.
|2012-13 Celtics free agent options at shooting guard||06.26.12 at 5:38 pm ET|
Two-thirds of the Celtics roster that came within a game of reaching a third NBA finals in five years joins NBA free agency on July 1. Anyone from Kevin Garnett to Keyon Dooling can leave Boston on July 11 once the league’s audit determines the salary cap, expected to approach the 2011-12 number of $58 million. We’re examining the C’s free agent options at each position. Now starting: Shooting guards (Also see: Centers).
The Celtics began last season with Ray Allen and a prayer at the two. Avery Bradley answered that prayer, making Allen expendable if the asking price is too high. Or if he takes his talents to South Beach for the taxpayer’s midlevel exception, accepting a $7 million paycut to sit behind Dwyane Wade and fill the 3-point specialist role already played by Mike Miller, Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers and James Jones, as one rumor suggests.
While Dooling, Mickael Pietrus, Sasha Pavlovic and Marquis Daniels all played somewhat out of position to eat shooting guard minutes as the result of injuries to both Allen and Bradley — and all four remain possibilities as free agents themselves — the C’s need one or two guys who can play the two alongside Bradley.
The Celtics have four players under guaranteed contracts in 2012-13 for a combined $34.5 million (Paul Pierce, $16.8M; Rajon Rondo, $11.0M; Bradley, $1.6M; JaJuan Johnson, $1.1M). Pending decisions on or by Garnett, Allen, Pietrus, Dooling, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, Chris Wilcox, Greg Stiemsma and Ryan Hollins, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge will have anywhere from $0-33 million to spend in free agency.
As a result, expect the C’s to be linked to just about any and every free agent on the market. Nobody is out of their league. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the options that should be available to the Celtics at shooting guard, separating the current free agent players into four categories.
|Setting the scene from Celtics-Heat Game 7, where Ray Allen has it over everyone||06.09.12 at 6:47 pm ET|
MIAMI — Welcome to Game 7.
It’s the seventh such Game 7 in the “Big Three plus Rondo” era. They are 4-2 in the previous six but of those six, only one came on the road. The 2010 Game 7 in the NBA finals in which, like this series, the Celtics were leading 3-2 but couldn’t close out in Game 6 when Kendrick Perkins went down.
In losing Game 6 to LeBron James and the Heat, the Celtics have put themselves in the position of fighting history.
There have been 110 Game 7s, and the home team is 88-22. The Celtics are 3-3, last winning on the road in 1974.
What’s even more improbable is a team winning both Game 5 and Game 7 on the road. The Celtics took a 3-2 series lead by winning in Miami last Tuesday. In the 110 seven-game series, only five times has the road team won both Games 5 and 7 – the 1968 and 1974 Celtics, the 1981 and 1995 Rockets and the 2005 Pacers all did the highly improbable.
On the Heat side, LeBron James is playing in his third Game 7 and everyone recalls the last one. He scored 45 points in a 98-91 loss to the Celtics at the Garden on May 18, 2008 in the Eastern semifinals. Before that, on May 21, 2006, James’ Cavaliers also lost to the Pistons in the Eastern semis.
Ray Allen will have more Game 7 experience than anyone on the floor Saturday night, playing in his ninth such contest. In addition to the six with the Celtics, he played in two with the Bucks in 2001, beating New Orleans in the Eastern semis before bowing out to Allen Iverson and the Sixers in the Eastern finals in Philadelphia.
|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.
|Celtics shootaround notes: Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo ready for Game 6||06.07.12 at 12:46 pm ET|
WALTHAM — The Celtics spent Thursday morning in typical gameday mode, preparing for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals at TD Garden against LeBron James and the Heat. All 14 active players were present and accounted for as the team went through half-court sets and shooting drills in anticipation of the game that – if they win – would propel them to the NBA finals for the third time in five seasons. The Celtics lead the best-of-seven series, 3-2.
Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo were among the Celtics in attendance. Both had minor injury issues in the Game 5 win in Miami. Allen had to leave the game for the locker room midway through the third quarter to get treatment for his sore ankles while Rondo suffered a cut on his left arm but both returned to the game and are expected to be fully ready for the potential series-clincher at the Garden. Rondo shot just 3-of-15 in Game 5 while suffering the injury to the same arm on which he dislocated his left elbow in 2011.
“I don’t know what happened there, I think he got slashed or cut,” said Rivers of the Rondo injury on Wednesday. “I pay zero attention to injuries and never ask about them. I don’t want to know about them.”
If the Celtics prevail in Game 6, they will have a day off and then prepare for the Thunder in Game 1 of the NBA finals next Tuesday in Oklahoma City. If the Celtics lose Thursday night’s game, they will have to head back on a plane Friday and travel to Miami for Game 7 on Saturday night at American Airlines Arena.
|Chris Broussard on M&M: Heat coach Erik Spoelstra ‘in over his head’||06.06.12 at 12:59 pm ET|
Appearing on Mut & Merloni Wednesday afternoon, ESPN’s Chris Broussard discussed the Eastern Conference finals series following Boston’s Game 5 win Tuesday night. Broussard said the Celtics will win Game 6 and the series, citing Boston’s championship mentality as a reason for eventual triumph over the Heat. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
“I have nothing but the utmost respect for the Celtics. … Even when they lose, you walk away saying those guys are winners,” Broussard said. “They’re champions, they play with so much heart and mental toughness. They play through injuries, through adversity, they’re well-coached, they execute, they can play in the clutch. They’re great.
“And I feel that lack of respect for the Heat, because they don’t play up to their potential. They don’t execute, I don’t think they’re well-coached. … This team needs somebody with the credibility to kick them in the butt and make them perform and make them play with intensity — a Pat Riley, a Phil Jackson, a Gregg Popovich, somebody of that ilk. Maybe it’s not to blame [Erik] Spoelstra; he’s just in over his head. He never should have been put in charge of this situation.”
Broussard said Spoelstra has been unable to come up with effective strategies late in the game, noting that the Heat usually fall back on an isolation play that hasn’t produced good results.
“How about running a play like the Celtics do?” Broussard said. “Doc Rivers goes out of every time out and they run a great play and usually score. At the end of the game, whether it’s something for [Paul] Pierce, something for Ray Allen — and even if it’s for one of those guys, there are other options. If Ray doesn’t have it, you have [Kevin Garnett] as an option somewhere. If Pierce doesn’t have it, Ray or KG is an option somewhere.”
Broussard said Boston’s late-game options are bolstered by the Celtics’ mindset to win.
“I don’t see the mental toughness to make me believe [the Heat are] going to win this game, and I see plenty of mental toughness for the Celtics,” Broussard said.
|Game 2: Rondo, Rondo, Rondo||05.29.12 at 7:45 pm ET|
MIAMI — Just about everyone would take the following stat line from their point guard: 16 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. But Rajon Rondo is not just anyone, and for the Celtics to hobble their way out of Miami with a series split, he has to play much better in Game 2.
Rondo had a horrid start to the opener, with all four of his turnovers coming in the first quarter. Then, he turned it on in the next 12 minutes, scoring eight points and handing out four assists while the Celtics tricked the game up with a number of smaller lineups featuring four wing players on the court at the same time. “Fools gold,” Doc Rivers called it.
That’s not sustainable, and the Heat got them out of that early in the second half, when coach Erik Spoelstra put Dwyane Wade on Rondo and kept him 10 feet off the ball. Rondo’s seen that defense before and while giving him room can allow him to pick defenses apart with his passing, it doesn’t work if, A) the defender is as big and talented as Wade, and B) no one on the Celtics can make a shot.
Wade was allowed to roam, which disrupted passing lanes, timing and whatever rhythm is left in the Celtics’ offense. Rivers said after the game that he thought Rondo let his analytical side take over instead of just relying on his speed and instincts.
“You can’t read [defenses] and play a speed at the same time,” Rivers said. “We got through it a lot: ‘Rondo, just trust your instincts. Your speed has to be part of it, your instincts will take over, you’ll make the right decisions.’ We have to give him more room and guys have to hit shots.”
Asked how many defensive looks they threw at him, Rondo deadpanned, “Fourteen.” But given a day and half to prepare, he should have a better plan of attack.
“You could say that, but teams make adjustments,” he said. “They may guard me the same Game 2, they may not. They may throw some different things at me. At the end of the day, you got to make changes throughout the game. You can’t just come into a gameplan and stick to it, because good teams in the conference finals will make adjustments.”
True enough, but Rondo has to be on it from the opening tip if the Celtics are going to have a chance, and Boston has to help him by getting defensive rebounds and getting the ball to him quickly in transition. The Heat have made stopping him their top priority and 16-9-7 isn’t going to cut it. Read the rest of this entry »
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