|Irish Coffee: What’s the bigs deal with the Celtics?||07.18.12 at 3:00 pm ET|
Thank God for Kevin Garnett. Again.
If not for his transition to center last season and the assumption that he’ll now man a position he admittedly hates for three more years, who would have earned minutes at the five other than Chris Wilcox? Fab Melo? JaJuan Johnson? Sean Williams? Might as well punch the Celtics faithful in the stomach thrice.
The bad news: As currently constituted, one among that trio will get minutes to begin the 2012-13 NBA season.
|Greg Stiemsma: Just ‘another opportunity’ but this time the Steamer shines||05.22.12 at 12:08 am ET|
Brandon Bass wasn’t the only one coming into Game 5 who might have wondered where all his playing time went.
Greg Stiemsma was lost on the Celtics bench, while Ryan Hollins was spelling Kevin Garnett off the bench. Stiemsma was a DNP-Coach’s Decision on Friday night. He has eight, 11 and four minutes respectively in the first three games before a goose egg in Game 4.
But on Monday, maybe it was just as simple as Doc Rivers wanting to change the atmosphere as Stiemsma – not Hollins – came in for Garnett in the first quarter and the Sixers leading, 12-11.
So often in the series, and in the playoffs, when Garnett has come off the floor, the Celtics have struggled. But this time, while not pouring in 27 points like Bass did, Stiemsma was crucial in stabilizing the struggling Celtics bench, which lost Ray Allen to the starting lineup. Stiemsma came in with 5:46 left in the first and immediately paid dividends.
He didn’t register a block until 1:23 left in the quarter. It was actually his motion off the ball and rolls to the basket that made a difference. Imagine that – Stiemsma making offensive moves and Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo looking for him on cuts to the basket. In his first two minutes, Stiemsma hit a lay-up off a screen-and-roll from Pierce. He dunked on a baseline cut to the basket on a pass from Rondo and he connected on a jumper from 14 feet on a feed from Rondo.
‘Tonight was another opportunity, its been like that the whole season,” Stiemsma said. “For the most part I think I’ve taken advantage of it and tonight was just another one of those nights where got some looks early, got myself going and I was just happy we won at the end.’
“I just kind of went with the flow of the game, how it was going, if I missed my defense couple times early when we got those buckets, a layup and a dunk, it really slows the game down, really makes you feel a lot more comfortable.’
Stiemsma didn’t do much in the second half. He didn’t need to as Bass took a spear to the heart of the 76ers and the Celtics carved out a 101-85 win in Game 5. But it was Stiemsma who gave the Celtics some life early on when the Sixers were looking and hoping to pull away for their second straight win in Boston.
How good was Stiemsma? He made all five shots he attempted and finished with 10 points, three blocks and two rebounds in 14 minutes.
‘Its playoff time so as long as we’re winning I’m happy,” Stiemsma said. “It’s tough to see us struggle, but at the same time I don’t feel like I was playing the same way I was at the end of the year, either. So it felt good to get out there and feel comfortable again.’
|Are Ryan Hollins and Celtics up to challenge of Al Horford in Game 6?||05.10.12 at 2:49 pm ET|
Then, a funny thing happened. He started hitting open jump shots.
He got his swagger, shook of the rust from Game 4 and three months of time on the bench rehabbing his torn left pectoral muscle and voila: Horford took over Game 5.
Horford finished the must-win game for the Hawks with 19 points and 11 rebounds in helping the Hawks to a 87-86 win over the Celtics.
“He’s a good player, he’s a good player,” Hollins said Thursday morning in the team’s shootaround. “He hits his open shots, passes well, plays really well with that team. We have to pay attention to him and make things tough for him. He’s a good player. He’s going to get his shots.
“He’s a good player. He thrives on contact, creating space for himself running the floor. He’s an All-Star in the league. That’s what All-Stars come out and do.”
What can Hollins provide?
“Energy, effort, teamwork, stuff that doesn’t show in the stat sheet,” said Hollins, who had five points, four rebounds, four fouls and one block in 19 minutes on Tuesday in Game 5.
Now, in the hours before Game 6, a game the Celtics need to win to avoid a trip back to Peachtree Street and Game 7 Saturday. It’s up to Garnett, Stiemsma and Hollins to step up and not give him the comfort zone he enjoyed in the final three quarters as Horford found his game.
“We all have to be ready, ready to play,” Hollins said. “It could be any of us called on. It could be Greg’s game, my game, Brandon’s game, whoever. We’ll all be ready tonight.
“The coaching staff keeps us always prepared. We’re ready for any situation, could be 20 minutes, five minutes, no minutes. We’re ready to go and ready to play.”
|Celtics notebook: The lure of passing||03.31.12 at 9:23 am ET|
“I appreciate the way you guys play,” Hollins said. “It’s unselfish, no one cares about the points and you guys play to win. You don’t see that in the NBA. If Kevin [Garnett] has five points and 13 rebounds and we win, he’s excited. If [Rajon] Rondo has zero points and 15 assists, he’s excited. You don’t see that. I really appreciate that about the team.”
Hollins has already benefited from the passing culture. He and Rondo have hooked up for three alley-oops in the last two games and his eyes lit up when asked about playing with the point guard.
“I love playing with Rondo,” Hollins said. “The type of player I am, I’m going to complement Rondo and he’s going to complement me. If I can be at the rim, it opens up all the other shooters. The coaching staff is on me to dive and run in transition. It opens everything up.”
Hollins has played just 28 minutes in five games with the Celtics, but his testimonial lies at the heart of what has helped make the Celtics successful again. Their offensive problems have been well documented but here are the gritty numbers:
They rank 26th in points per 100 possessions, just ahead of New Orleans and just behind Toronto, 28th in free throw attempts and dead last in offensive rebounding. They’re ninth in 3-point shooting percentage, but just 23rd in attempts. While they have been making an effort to push the pace since the All-Star break, they do the majority of their scoring in the halfcourt via jump shots.
While Paul Pierce is still capable as a shot-creator and Rondo can open up space, the Celtics rely on passing and ball movement for open shots. More than 67 percent of their made baskets come off assists — the highest rate in the league — and while Rondo racks up assists, the commitment is team-wide. Pierce averages five assists per game and Garnett’s passing from the high and low post remains a unique facet of his game.
It’s a trait that’s not only contagious, it’s passed along to the new players.
“Great passer,” Avery Bradley said of Garnett. “He teaches Brandon [Bass]. When we’re watching film, passes that he makes. That just shows what kind of teammate Kevin is, because somebody could be like, nah I don’t want to tell him to help him get better, but Kevin is constantly trying to help everybody get better.”
Wait, no-pass Bass? Yes, no-pass Bass too. The shoot-first forward has a higher assist rate than at any other time in his career. (The Celtics are more than happy with Bass’ play, by the way. They want him to take his shots and he turns it over far less than the other starters, which shows a player who understands his game and his role.)
One of the primary appeals for the Celtics in free agency is the culture they’ve developed over the last five seasons that celebrates winning over individual numbers. That may not be enough to lure the top free agents, but it will surely attract some players.
SPEAKING OF THE FUTURE Read the rest of this entry »
|Kevin Garnett: ‘I don’t make a lot of friends’||03.26.12 at 12:40 am ET|
What we knew: Ryan Hollins came highly recommended to Celtics president Danny Ainge from none other than Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce after the three of them played together in the Los Angeles area over the summer.
What we didn’t know: Hollins and Garnett became fast friends.
‘I don’t make a lot of friends, but I can say I made one in him,’ said KG. ‘I like the way the kid approaches the game. He wants to be more than good. You see it in his face. You see it in his work ethic. I’m a big fan of his, so I’m glad he’s here. Like any of the other guys, whatever he wants to know, I’m here for him. So, I’m happy he’s a C.’
It might take a while before Hollins becomes ‘more than good,’ considering the 7-footer has totaled three points and one rebound in his two appearances for the Celtics — understandably appearing lost in the team’s sets on both ends of the floor.
Hollins plays with an encouraging energy, attempting to mimic Garnett’s approach.
‘I told him to be careful about my intensity,’ said KG. ‘It’ll get him kicked out of the league.’
After all, Hollins earned a technical foul 20 seconds into his Celtics debut against the 76ers on Friday night (along with a fine, according to KG) and a personal foul 10 seconds into Sunday night’s 88-76 loss to the Wizards.
‘You might want to be careful with that, you know?’ added Garnett. ‘This intensity comes with a sense of meditation and a sense of under control, but I love his intensity. The kid plays really, really hard.’
|Options dwindling for the Celtics in their big man seach||03.21.12 at 11:35 pm ET|
The Celtics lost out on Ronny Turiaf when the veteran signed with the Heat. They lost out on J.J. Hickson when the Blazers were awarded the waiver claim. They even lost out on Chris Johnson, when the one-time Celtic was claimed off waivers by the Hornets.
Where does that leave the Celtics? The two names still in circulation are Ryan Hollins and journeyman Josh Powell. Here’s the take on Hollins: He’s 7-feet tall with a decent touch around the basket, but he’s a poor rebounder who lost his spot in the Cavs’ rotation to rookie Tristan Thompson.
Still, Hollins is better than Powell and would serve an immediate need considering the sore foot that Greg Stiemsma is currently playing through. If anything happens to Stiemsma, the Celtics are in major trouble and it could lead to Kevin Garnett playing more minutes than the team would like.
In order to add Hollins — or anyone else for the matter — the Celtics would have to make room on their roster by waiving one of their players. Chris Wilcox is out for the season and will undergo heart surgery later this month and Jermaine O’Neal decided to have wrist surgery and will also miss the rest of the season.
Under the new collective bargaining agreement, they wouldn’t be able to re-sign a player they waived for at least a year so if they have any interest in bringing Wilcox back, they’d keep him on the roster.
This Friday is the deadline for players to be bought out/waived and still be eligible for the postseason on another team. As a reminder, players can sign at any time up until the last day of the regular season and still be eligible for the postseason as long as they are not on someone else’s roster by the Friday deadline.
|Celtics’ big man search: Ryan Hollins||03.20.12 at 1:48 pm ET|
For the last three seasons, Ryan Hollins has been an NBA rotation player. First with Minnesota in 2009 and then with the Cavaliers, Hollins has averaged about five points and three rebounds per game as a 16-minute backup center. He’s 7 feet tall, but there’s really nothing that stands out about his game.
He doesn’t create his own shot and while he has a decent touch around the basket and can make a long-distance jumper on occasion, he’s a career 66 percent free throw shooter. He’s the worst defensive rebounding center among players with 20 or more games who play 10-plus minutes per Hoop Data, and he isn’t much of a shot blocker for a 7-footer.
But Hollins is now available after the Cavaliers waived him, and once he clears waivers he’ll undoubtedly be on the Celtics‘ list. Despite his overall mediocrity, Hollins has some value to a team like the Celtics. He is athletic and can run the floor, two areas that are in major need of an upgrade.
He’s a center, and with Greg Stiemsma laboring with a sore right foot, the C’s need some protection behind Kevin Garnett, who has played a lot of minutes –about 34 a night — on this road trip. Hollins isn’t a fun name like J.J. Hickson, or as proven as Ronny Turiaf, but he is healthy and had been regularly up until the trade deadline.
As with the other candidates, the Celtics will have to make room on their roster with 15 players under contract. An obvious choices to be waived is Jermaine O’Neal who elected to have season-ending wrist surgery.