|NBA Offseason Review: Pacific Division||12.19.11 at 9:02 pm ET|
Given the drama (and comedy) that was the NBA lockout, the ensuing free agency frenzy and the vetoed trade by a commissioner of a group of owners who was acting as the general manager of an individual team that is owned by that same group of owners, it’s easy to get confused about who landed where. This is the first of six daily division-by-division reviews leading up to opening day.
2010-11 record: 32-50
2010-11 standing: 4th in Pacific Division
NBA draft picks: 37. Trey Thompkins; 47. Travis Leslie
Key additions: Chris Paul (trade); Caron Butler (free agent); Chauncey Billups (amnesty)
Key substractions: Eric Gordon (trade); Al-Farouq Aminu (trade); Chris Kaman (trade); Baron Davis (amnesty)
2011-12 starters: PG Chris Paul; SG Chauncey Billups; SF Caron Butler; PF Blake Griffin; C DeAndre Jordan
2011-12 wins over/under (sportsbook.com): 31.5 (Dec. 9)
2011-12 prediction: 44-22
2010-11 record: 36-46
2010-11 standing: 3rd in Pacific Division
NBA draft picks: 11. Klay Thompson; 39. Jeremy Tyler; 44. Charles Jenkins
Key additions: Kwame Brown (free agent); Brandon Rush (trade); Dominic McGuire (waiver)
Key substractions: Reggie Williams (free agent); Al Thornton (free agent); Vladimir Radmanovic (free agent)
2011-12 starters: PG Stephen Curry; SG Monta Ellis; SF Dorell Wright; PF David Lee; C Andris Birdies
2011-12 wins over/under (sportsbook.com): 29.5
2011-12 prediction: 33-33
|Energy savings pay off for Nate Robinson and the Celtics||01.13.11 at 2:43 am ET|
Doc Rivers may have liked the way his team was playing in the first half than Monday night. He went as far as to say if the Celtics somehow managed to lose Wednesday to the 8-27 Kings at TD Garden, he could sleep well knowing his team played good, solid basketball.
But the truth of the matter is that Celtics fans were downright concerned when they saw the Kings – without their top scorer Tyreke Evans – wipe out an 8-0 lead and actually grab a lead, albeit very brief, in the first quarter. The Celtics kept spinning their wheels in the first half, even with Paul Pierce scoring 15 of his 25 points in the first quarter.
The Celtics – without big men Kevin Garnett and Jermaine O’Neal– looked fatigued and out of rhythm. They needed a spark and Nate Robinson was only too happy to provide it. Robinson came in and made 6-of-9 shots, including 4-of-5 from long distance.
Robinson was just 11-for-32 in his six games this month entering Wednesday. His 16 points off the bench provided instant energy and eventually allowed Doc Rivers to give his starters the fourth quarter off.
‘That’s how you have to play every night,” Robinson said. “Play with a lot of energy and be yourself. Everything else will fall into place.’
After allowing the Rockets to make 21-of-34 shots in the second half on Monday, the Celtics – with a 57-49 halftime lead – were determined not to let it happen 48 hours later.
‘Just continue to pick it up on defense,” Robinson said. “We have been lacking the last couple of games. Rebounding was a talking point as well. As a team today we dug down deep. We were like ‘we have to rebound and get stops and run’. We did that and got a lot of easy buckets tonight.
‘Just do things harder. There is always another notch that you can go too. Just pick it up. We have to pick each other up regardless if it’s the starters or second team, everybody has to be tuned in together and play a full 48 minutes.’
Robinson had 16 to lead four bench players in double figures. Another player in double figures, Marquis Daniels with 12, could see what Robinson meant to the Celtics on Wednesday – instant energy and a very important player to help take minutes from Rondo and preserve him for the second half of the season.
‘Little Nate played good tonight,” Daniels said. “He’s shooting the ball real well. He got his bird wings going. He’s playing real good right now. We just have to stay focused and stay hungry.’
In total, Semih Erden, Daniels, Robinson and Von Wafer all scored at least 10 points, outscoring Sacramento’s bench, 56-47. Daniels said it was very refreshing to see not only Robinson but the rest of the bench contribute offensively so the starters could enjoy the rest of the game from their courtside seats.
‘Definitely, I saw Paul icing early, Ray is icing early, Rondo. It’s always a good thing to see those guys icing early,” Daniels said. “We are going to need those guys later down the line.’
|Preview: Kings at Celtics, Game 38||01.12.11 at 11:13 am ET|
Doc Rivers wasn’t happy with his starters Monday night in a loss to the Rockets, so he beat them up in practice on Tuesday. Rivers wanted a live, physical full-court practice with lots of rebounding work, which is part of the reason he elected to hold Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins out of the session.
Rivers is worried that his team is getting too complacent. “We’ve won games where I didn’t think we were mentally ready to play the game, but we were mentally tough enough to fight through it and win the game,” Rivers said. “But we’ve also lost some games where we haven’t had that mental toughness.”
What concerned him most against Houston was that his team took too many shortcuts. They switched screens when they didn’t have to. They looked for the home run play when an easier one would have sufficed.
“We just got to stay on it,” Rivers said. “We are a veteran team that knows there’s another level that we can play at and we play at it at times. So we just got to stay on top of it.” The blame, he said, rested mainly with the starters.
Rivers is taking a calculated gamble that he can get his team back on track by whipping them into shape and refocusing their attention. You may recall that similar motivational tactics had no effect on last season’s Celtics. That, along with the injuries, made them an incredibly frustrating team throughout January, February and March.
This year, Rivers has said, is different. It has to be. On the same night they lost to the Rockets, the Miami Heat slipped passed the Celtics for the best record in the Eastern Conference. “I know they’re playing well, honest to gosh, I could care less,” Rivers said. “I am only concerned with our team.”
And he is concerned. Transition defense, pick and roll coverage, offensive execution, all these things must be corrected sooner rather than later and it needs to start tonight against the Kings.
Offensive Rating: 102.7 (Points per 100 possessions, 24th)
Defensive Rating: 108.9 (Points allowed per 100 possessions, 23rd)
Pace: 93.8 (Possessions per game, 9th)
Likely Starters: Beno Udrih, Luther Head, Francisco Garcia, Jason Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins
Injuries: Tyreke Evans (Ankle, questionable)
Offensive Rating: 108.3 (10th)
Defensive Rating: 100.4 (2nd)
Pace: 90.7 (23rd)
|The NBA 30 on 30: Blogosphere Forecast (1 of 7)||10.24.10 at 10:18 pm ET|
NBA fans live a team’s ups and downs. They react to every draft pick, trade and free-agent signing. They debate the merits of the 15th man. They find significance in the most insignificant stats. They simply KNOW their team. So, too, do bloggers. That’s why we sought the opinion of the league’s best blogs — one for each of the 30 teams — to break down the team they cover and, of course, the Celtics.
We’ll begin in the Western Conference’s Pacifiic Division with the first of a seven-part, two-day series …
ON THE WARRIORS: The shackles on the Warriors have finally been removed, as dysfunctional owner Chris Cohan sold the team to a group headed by former Celtics minority owner Joe Lacob. Sheer jubilation and excitement has captivated Warriors fans, as they’ve begged Cohan to sell the team for years, and he finally obliged.
Gone are Don Nelson and Corey Maggette, both of whom were jettisoned this offseason — much to the approval of everyone in and around the team. Keith Smart takes over for Nelson and gets an All-Star power forward in David Lee to add to his core of Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis. Andris Biedrins looks to be healthy for the first time in two years, and the addition of Dorell Wright gives the Warriors a legit NBA frontcourt.
If healthy, the team has an outside shot at making the playoffs as long as they show and execute an actual desire to play defense.
ON THE CELTICS: It seems a foregone conclusion to many that the Miami Heat are going to stroll into the NBA Finals, and the rest of the Eastern Conference has no say in the matter. This is where I disagree. The Celtics quietly had a great offseason, as they accumulated additional front-court depth in Shaq and Jermaine O’Neal, brought back Nate Robinson and added Delonte West to replace Tony Allen.
Add a fully healthy Kevin Garnett, a slimmer Paul Pierce and quite possibly the best point guard in the NBA in Rajon Rondo, and the Celtics are poised to make another Finals run. Kendrick Perkins should return around the All-Star break to provide depth up front, which will keep the front line fresh and ready to go during the playoffs.
I see the Celtics making a return trip to the Finals, as their chemistry, experience and toughness will prove to be too much for Miami and the rest of the Eastern Conference.
ON THE CLIPPERS: The Clippers have long been one of the most unpredictable teams in the NBA (unless you just take the easy route and predict bad things). Every year, they look pretty good on paper, yet every year they seem to underachieve. I call them the anti-synergy team — the whole is always less than the sum of the parts.
Was the recent lack of synergy a function of the seven-year regime of coach Mike Dunleavy, and might new coach Vinny Del Negro be the answer? Unclear. What is clear is that, perhaps more than ever (and forgive me if you’ve heard this before), the Clippers are loaded (on paper). At four positions, the Clippers start a player with an impressive prefix for his name: two-time All-Star Baron Davis, Team USA gold medalist Eric Gordon, 2010 All-Star Chris Kaman and 2009 first overall pick Blake Griffin. Of course, three of those guys were there last season when the Clippers won only 29 games.
Griffin is the key, only partly for his basketball ability (which is almost unlimited). Just as important is the attitude he brings, and the Clippers are hoping it will infect the entire team. While the Clippers have visibly given up on their last three seasons, Griffin has never in his life given up on a single possession. If his presence serves to keep the Clippers playing hard all season, then perhaps the prospect and the reality will finally align for the Clippers.
I expect them to finish near the .500 mark this season, a definite step forward but probably not enough to qualify for the playoffs.
ON THE CELTICS: Five players on the Celtics have combined for a staggering 51 All-Star Game selections in their careers. When the Celtics decided to corner the market on former All-Pros named O’Neal who were willing to take $18M pay cuts, Jermaine (6 All-Star selections) and Shaq (15) joined Pierce (8), Ray Allen (9) and Garnett (13) on what must surely be the most decorated team of all-time.
Yet it may be two other Celtics with just a single All-Star selection between them who hold the key to Boston’s season. For all the accolades of the ‘drafted in the 90s’ crew, Rondo is the engine that makes Boston go, while Perkins is a lynchpin in their stifling defense. How well Rondo plays and how quickly (and how well) Perkins returns from ACL surgery will be major factors in Boston’s fortunes. Rondo is the one guy on the team who is entering elite status as opposed to exiting it, and elite teams always have elite players.
Meanwhile, it’s far from clear that either of the O’Neals has anywhere near enough gas in the tank to do what Perkins does in Boston’s vaunted defense. With so many 30-somethings, health will of course be a factor as well, but if Rondo takes the next step and the team enters the playoffs healthy (including a full-strength Perkins), then I expect the Celtics to give Orlando and Miami a run for the Eastern Conference championship and possibly even bring another banner back to Boston.
ON THE LAKERS: The Champs had a surprisingly busy offseason — picking up a veteran point guard (Steve Blake), another solid, defensive-minded role player (Matt Barnes) and an insurance policy for Andrew Bynum (Theo Ratliff). The Lakers have two simple goals during the regular season:
- Get healthy for the playoffs.
- Win the West.
If I know Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant, they’ll take a clean bill of health in April over the No. 1 seed every single time. The regular season will be a grind, but I expect L.A. to find a way to emerge as the top seed in the West. If Kobe is healthy and Bynum can find a way to stay off the operating table, I like the Lakers’ chances to have another ring ceremony this time next year.
ON THE CELTICS: If the NBA were a horror franchise, the C’s would undoubtedly be Jason Voorhes — the aging, veteran killer who isn’t exactly chasing people down anymore, but continues to get the job done, sequel after sequel. With the offseason additions of the Big Minimum (Shaq), Delonte and the cadaver formerly known as Jermaine O’Neal, the C’s are actually more talented (and deeper) than they were last season. If everyone stays healthy (their biggest concern), I expect Boston to give Miami all they can handle in the Eastern Conference Finals.
ON THE SUNS: The range of goals for the Suns this season goes anywhere from not losing 40 games to a return trip to the Western Conference Finals. It’s almost impossible to predict what the Suns will do this year, given the question marks and variables.
If all goes well (really well), and the team catches breaks along the way, they could certainly be right back at the top of the non-Laker heap. That would require other teams suffering big-time injuries — which played a huge factor last season — along with everything going right in Phoenix.
On the flip side, it’s not inconceivable that the Suns are back in the lottery if a couple of teams improve (and stay healthy). There are just too many unanswered questions going into the season to predict with any degree of confidence that the Suns will win 45 games. At the same time, I can easily make the case that they’ll win 55. That puts the goal somewhere between 40 and 55 wins. That’s the best I can do with this team right now.
ON THE CELTICS: The Celtics are old. Really, really old. And got older by adding Shaq. But we saw last season that Doc Rivers understands how to limp through the regular season and position his guys to be fresh for the playoffs. It’s a risky plan that worked once and may work again.
Or maybe it won’t. It’s so hard to predict when you’re talking about the health of older players. Of course, it’s one of the younger guys, Perkins, who’s the biggest question mark. Even if he returns midseason, it’s going to take months to get him back to where he was.
Fortunately for Celtics fans, the East isn’t that deep past the top three (I’m including the Bulls). Overall, it’s hard to see Boston finishing lower than a sixth seed, and then all bets are off. We know Boston can beat Orlando, and I’m not convinced the Heat will be a great playoff team. This all assumes, of course, that KG doesn’t get fined into the poor house with the new “Respect for the Game” rules.
ON THE KINGS: They’re certainly improved but already dealing with some concerning injuries. Newly acquired center Samuel Dalembert is going to miss a few weeks to start the season, and while I love the potential of DeMarcus Cousins, defensively he’s not there yet. That’s not to say he can’t get there quickly, but as of right now he’s struggling (as to be expected) on that side of the ball.
Assuming Dalembert returns healthy, the Kings’ defense will be far better than it was last season (how could it not be?). They’ve added a great deal of size with rookies Cousins and Hassan Whiteside, along with other big men Dalembert, Jason Thompson and Carl Landry. They’ll be able to pack the lane much more effectively, and their size should be a unique advantage, especially with 6-foot-11 Donte Greene being named the starting small forward.
Tyreke Evans has spent the entire offseason working on his jumper (when he wasn’t speeding down the freeway), and the hard work has clearly paid off. Make no mistake, you won’t ever confuse him with Ray Allen, but Evans adding a reliable jumper and 3-point shot to his arsenal is a scary sight for other Western Conference teams.
The Kings still aren’t there, yet. The West has a lot of really good (but not elite) teams that will clog the bottom rung of the playoff seedings, but a season with 32-35 wins would be a fantastic growing point for the Kings.
ON THE CELTICS: The Celtics are going to continue to face the “age” question throughout the season. When are they going to show how old they are? A lot of people thought you’d begin to see the cracks last year, and it was completely the opposite, as they ran through the Eastern Conference. And I’d be hard-pressed to say they can’t do it again.
I love the additions of both O’Neal’s, and I don’t think we’ve seen the impact Nate Robinson can have yet. I do think the loss of Perkins is a big blow, but one they can manage through. Perk certainly doesn’t get the recognition he deserves around the league, as he’s one of the best defensive big men in the NBA and a cog in what the Celtics do. With that said, the Celtics clearly have the talent to maintain until he’s able to return later in the season.
The East did steal some power from the West with the additions of Carlos Boozer in Chicago and Amar’e Stoudemire in New York, but with the Knicks limited in other areas and Boozer’s injury the Celtics shouldn’t have much issue hanging onto the second seed (not that the Knicks are or were a threat).
They’ll give the Heat a run for their money if they meet in the playoffs. Can they beat them in a seven-game series? That’s a tough call. Injuries will always play a huge factor, but I’m not one of the many ready to just hand over the trophy to South Beach yet. Assuming the Celtics hang on to the No. 2 seed, they wouldn’t meet until the Heat ran through a gauntlet of tough lower seeds. As Garnett so famously said, “Anything is possible,” and I’d be far from shocked to see the Celtics come out of the season hanging yet another Eastern Conference championship banner.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this seven-part series: the Western Conference’s Northwest Division.
|R-O-N-D-O to play H-O-R-S-E in D-A-L-L-A-S||02.08.10 at 4:44 pm ET|
The guard said he will come up with some trick shots that only he can make in an effort to beat Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, the defending champion, and Sacramento’s Omri Casspi.
Last year, Durant beat Atlanta’s Joe Johnson and O.J. Mayo of Memphis for the title.
|Report: Thibodeau withdraws from Kings coaching search||06.09.09 at 11:31 pm ET|
Boston Celtics assistant coach Tom Thibodeau withdrew his name from the Sacramento Kings head coaching search, Cs head coach Doc Rivers told the Boston Globe. Thibodeau had been in the running for the position with Paul Westphal and Kurt Rambis, but was not considered to be a front runner. According to the Globe, Thibodeau is expected to work with the Celtics again next season.
Update: The Sacramento Bee has reported the Kings will hire former Boston Celtic Paul Westphal as their new head coach.
|Report: Kings to make head coach decision ‘pretty quickly’||06.02.09 at 11:42 am ET|
The Sacramento Kings are looking to make a decision on their head coaching vacancy ‘pretty quickly,’ according to Sam Amick of the Sacramento Bee. The organization interviewed Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach Kurt Rambis on Monday, days after interviewing Celtics assistant coach Tom Thibodeau for the position. They are reportedly interested in former Celtic Paul Westphal.
“They’re great candidates, all three of them,” Kings co-owner Joe Maloof told the Bee. “They’re all really good, so we’ll have to circle back with (President) Geoff (Petrie) a little later and see what he thinks. ‘¦ We’ll have a decision pretty quickly.”
Earlier this week, the Bee reported Westphal is the leading candidate. Even though Thibodeau has proven postseason experience as an assistant, Amick points out Petrie had specific criteria in mind at the beginning of the job search:
‘The mere presence of Thibodeau goes against Petrie’s initial outline of the parameters, as he had called for coaches with ‘some level of success’ as an NBA head coach. Rambis’ 24-13 record as a head coach qualifies, but comes nowhere close to Westphal’s 267-159 record.’
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