|Rondo makes Suns pay||01.19.09 at 11:52 pm ET|
On Draft Night 2006, the Phoenix Suns selected Rajon Rondo with the 21st pick and traded him to the Boston Celtics. It was a move to stay under the salary cap, avoid the luxury tax, and free up money for future acquisitions. Three years later, nearly $75 million in payroll could not stop him.
“The challenge is what everybody’s challenge is with him – keeping him in front,” said Suns head coach Terry Porter following the Celtics 104-87 victory. “He does a great job of penetrating, getting to the paint, and causing havoc that way.”
This season Rondo is set to earn $1.3 million, a bargain by NBA standards and nearly one-tenth of Steve Nash’s salary. On Monday night he proved he was worth every penny the Suns did not pay for him. Rondo posted 23 points, seven assists, and five rebounds, six more than Amar’e Stoudemire (RECAP HERE).
“There were a lot of fast break opportunities for me,” he said after the game. “They missed shots, that was key for us all night long. We got stops on defense and that allowed me to push it up on the break and get easy looks at the basket.”
Rondo scored more than half of his points in the paint against the Suns $35 million front court of Shaquille O’Neal and Stoudemire. Whereas other teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks have collapsed on Rondo, the Suns let him have his way at the hoop.
“He’s improving all the time. He’s emerging as one of the elite guards in the league,” Nash said. “I think regardless of whether he’s shooting the ball well and he needs to improve there, his game has improved. I think it’s made the shooting not as big a question. He’s become a better and better passer. He’s a great athlete who does a lot of things for his team on the floor. He’s emerging as one of the elite guards in the league.”
Even though Rondo says he does not think about being traded, his performance only accentuated the Suns’ Draft Night loss. Over the years they have also drafted and dealt point guards Nate Robinson and Sergio Rodriguez, as well as forward Luol Deng. After missing out on Brandon Rush in the 2008 Draft, the Suns are left with little depth at the one-spot and a point guard who turns 35 next month.
“Well, we’ve had a few draft night trades to stay under the salary cap that were difficult in the big picture,” said Nash. “Our franchise is built on a business model that tries to stay under the cap as much as we can. It’s just how it’s been.”
It’s games like this that could have the Suns wondering what might have been. But for Rondo, it’s just another game.
“I just try to get better every game,” he said. “No one particular night I can try to say my confidence has been boosted, but I just try to stay consistent as possible because there’s a lot of ups and downs in the NBA. I had a good night tonight, shooting the ball but it’s all about the win.”
Three years ago it was all about the money for the Suns. On Monday night it was all about the win for Rondo.
|Suns expecting big game from Shaq||at 7:38 pm ET|
The Phoenix Suns have the size advantage almost every game with Shaquille O’Neal. Take the Boston Celtics biggest player off the court and the Suns are feeling good about the mismatch.
“Any time we get an opportunity to have a size difference with Shaq in the paint, we always try to go to him,” Amare Stoudemire said prior to Monday’s game. “We try to feed it to him, see if he can take advantage of that. And if not, we go to our other options. So tonight will be a pretty good night for Big Fella if he can dominate out there and stay out of foul trouble.”
The Celtics have to alter their plan of attack without Kendrick Perkins (shoulder). Doc Rivers is looking for Kevin Garnett to use his quickness to outplay Shaq, while the biggest mission for back ups Leon Powe, Glen Davis, and Brian Scalabrine is keeping a body between O’Neal and the basket. The Suns, though, aren’t changing their gameplan.
“I think it changes the fact that having Scalabrine starting as opposed to Kendrick Perkins, that’s a bit of a difference. But as opponents we can’t look at it that way,” said Stoudemire. “We’ve got to attack it as if he were playing, so we should go inside to the big fella. Shaq should have a pretty good game tonight.”
The Suns are one of the few teams who figured out the key to beating the Celtics last season. Stoudemire scored 28 points off of 10-for-23 shooting and Steve Nash added 18 in the Suns’ 85-77 victory. Combine that with former Charlotte Bobcat Jason Richardson’s success against the Cs and the Suns think they know how to get it done tonight.
“I’m pretty sure he knows how to defend the guards out there,” Stoudemir said of Richardson. “As a team, we’ve just got to pull together. We beat them last year, Bobcats beat them. What we’ve got to do is just keep playing how we’ve been playing.”
|Rhythm key for Perkins||01.14.09 at 7:27 pm ET|
Before Wednesday night’s game against the New Jersey Nets, Kendrick Perkins broke a sweat working on his post moves. He banked shots over Patrick O’Bryant and then sprinted down the court at the orders of Sam Cassell. This would seem like just another night, except Perkins is injured. That isn’t stopping the big man, though, from keeping his rhythm.
“I’m just trying to stay on top of my conditioning,” Perkins said prior to the game. “I don’t want to lose my rhythm so I’m working on my post moves, doing a lot of shots, I did some jump roping, and a lot of court running, and stuff like that. I don’t want to be too far off.”
Perkins will miss at least a week with a reoccurring shoulder injury. It has plagued him since a Christmas Day game against the Los Angeles Lakers, according to Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, and is the explanation behind his recent inconsistency on the glass. As a precaution, Perkins is avoiding physical contact. Other than that, he’s following the same routine.
“I just [can't] play basketball, contact, that’s it,” he said. “I hit the weights earlier today so it’s getting better by the day … You’ve got to scale back but it never really fell off. I’m pretty much on the same page, I’m just doing different type of exercises now to work different parts of the muscle, so that’s really what I’m concentrating on.”
Perkins hopes to play next Monday against the Phoenix Suns, but said he is not going to rush his return. As for Brian Scalabrine, who has been filling in for Perkins, his return against Shaquille O’Neal would be perfect timing.
“Wow,” said a wide-eyed Scalabrine, unaware of the upcoming match up. “I’d like the opportunity to start but Perk is the guy who should be on the Diesel.”
|Pregame: Scal to Start against Knicks||11.18.08 at 5:12 pm ET|
Brian Scalabrine will get the start on Tuesday night against the New York Knicks in place of the suspended Kevin Garnett. Doc Rivers went with Scal to keep in second unit in tact. This will be just the 51st start of Scal’s eight-year career and 28th with the Celtics.
Garnett’s suspension was the hot topic before the game for both teams. Rivers cited Shaquille O’Neal’s recent fine in comparison to Garnett’s punishment. “I was just surprised. I’m not going to get into this long because I thought it was a ridiculous suspension. I really did,” he said. Rivers also pointed out that KG isn’t even allowed in the building tonight.
Inside the Celtics locker room Garnett’s teammates were cautious when giving their opinion of the ruling.
“Ya’ll want me to say something bad, huh?” Kendrick Perkins said with a smile before adding, “I don’t know, it’s kind of crazy. But you know it’s something we’ve got to deal with. I think he’s handling it well but what can we do about it?”
Said Leon Powe, “Well I can’t really say but, you know, I wouldn’t have suspended him for that. But it’s the league and there are rules so whatever they decide, we’ve got to roll with. So now we’ve got to go out there with KG but we’ve got to still be a team and we’ve still got to go out there and fight and play together.”
As for the Knicks, they are looking to take advantage of the defensive void on the Celtics. “KG is pretty much the anchor defensively,” said Jamal Crawford. “He really gets after it defensively but they’re still a good defensive team without KG. But with him, he just takes them to a different level. It’ll be a lot of similar things that we were going to do before but you make minor adjustments.”
Paul and I will be bringing out the latest live from the TD BankNorth Garden, so tune in during the game for all the most up-to-date information.