Maine vs. Iowa Preview

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Maine Red Claws (8-3) vs. Iowa Energy (11-1)
1:00PM Thursday December 31, Portland Expo, Portland, Maine

Later today your Maine Red Claws face off against the Iowa Energy, who are associated with the Chicago Bulls and the Phoenix Suns. Maine will be looking to hand the best team in the league their second loss of the season just three days after handing the worst team in the league their second victory of the season.

Unlike the Red Claws, the Energy are not packed with NBA talent. The Suns have assigned Taylor Griffin to the D-League, but he is not a points leader on the team. Instead, Curtis Stinson of Iowa State, with no NBA experience, is leading the team to the top. Apart from Griffin, the Energy have three players with NBA time, including Earl Barron, who earned a ring with the Miami Heat in 2006. New Englanders will also recognize Rashad Anderson, a UConn product who was part of the 2003-04 championship team.

This is an important game for Austin Ainge and the Maine Red Claws. It’s always been an important game, but it became doubly so after the Sunday loss to Bakersfield. A home win over Iowa would re-establish Maine as one of the top teams in the league and give their season momentum again. Another loss – especially if it’s a thumping – could lead to roster changes.

This game will be a challenge, to be sure. Thanks to the Celtics’ injuries, the Claws are without the C's assignees, though Bobcat Alexis Ajinca remains. The rest of the team will have to step it up in a way they didn’t on Sunday. These two teams match up well, and Maine can’t let the Energy establish an early lead. They have to return to their usual aggressive defense and prevent the Energy from getting into an offensive rhythm.

NEXT THREE: Friday, January 1, vs. Eerie BayHawks, 5PM, Portland Expo; Monday, January 4, vs. LA D-Fenders, Qwest Arena, Boise, ID 3:45PM; Tuesday, January 5, @ Sioux Falls SkyForce, Qwest Arena, Boise ID, 1PM.

The Morning Walkthrough: Doc expected to win, but not affected by loss

The Celtics have gotten rid of their morning walkthrough, but that doesn't mean we have to. Here are a few Celtics links, and maybe even an NBA link or two, to help wake you up and get you focused for the day.

Chris Forsberg, ESPNBoston - "Celtics coach Doc Rivers wasn't happy that his team dropped its third game in four nights, wrapping up a four-game road trip 1-3 after a Christmas Day win in Orlando. But he admitted the odds were stacked against his shorthanded team Wednesday night at Phoenix as it battles mounting injuries, and he said he hoped his troops learned how important it is to capture winnable games. 'The lesson we should learn on this trip is that when you give away games with the Clippers when you're healthy, then do it again [against the Warriors], and then when you're injured, you need those games back -- but you can't get them back,' said Rivers. 'This game would have been very difficult to win. They're a very good team. When you take your two best scorers away against a scoring team ... you might not win that game. This game doesn't affect me at all.'"

A. Sherrod Blakely, CSNNE - "Despite being without about half of their usual playing rotation, Rivers came into the game with no thoughts of conceding defeat. 'I expected to win,' he said. 'I think we pay every guy. As long as you do, you have to come in the game with the expectations to win.' But it seemed in the game's early stages, the Celtics didn't have the kind of fight you normally see from them. It was as if they bought into the notion that because they were so short-handed - Marquis Daniels (left thumb) and Glen Davis (sprained right ankle) were also out - a loss to the Suns was something they had no control over. 'Somebody has to be the spark. We didn't have that tonight,' said Kendrick Perkins, who had 13 points and seven rebounds. 'We came out like Doc said, we kind of (played like) we knew we were going to lose the game or something like that. Doc tried to give us some energy, but it just wasn't there for us mentally and physically.'"

Chris Forsberg, ESPNBoston - "'They were more aggressive than us today,' said Eddie House, who provided the only spark for Boston, hitting five of the seven 3-pointers he attempted off the bench for a team-high 19 points. 'We came out and we were kind of lollygagging after that point, you know, going through the motions. They came out playing hard and they got us. So tip your cap to them. We’ll try to regroup next game. We’ll get it together, it’s a long season.'"

Bright Side of the Sun - "Channing set his season high with 26 points on 9 of 15 shooting including 6 three's. Many of those three's came at key points when the Celtics were making a push to get back in the game. His shooting tonight wasn't just on fire, it was clutch. More impressive though was his 10 rebounds. He understands that his rebounding is as important if not more so to this team and he's certainly focused on that. He's also working hard on adding some dribble drive moves to his game. 'They're closing out so hard on him and that's something he's worked on in practice. He has to be able to put it down for one or two dribbles and shoot it or if there's an ally he's got to be able to take it to the basket. He's gotten pretty good at that,' said Gentry."

Paul Coro, Arizona Republic - "Two nights after routing the Lakers, the Suns lit up the Celtics' NBA-best scoring defense for a 116-98 victory Wednesday night. Boston was finishing a four-game road trip that began in Orlando and finished in the West, and Paul Pierce (knee), Kevin Garnett (knee), Glen Davis (ankle) and Marquis Daniels (thumb) sat out. But the Suns still became the only team besides the Lakers to sweep Celtics since 2007-08, re-establishing home-court success and its offense. 'I say to our guys all the time, 'When we play at home, we expect to win every game,'' said Suns coach Alvin Gentry, whose home record is 26-5 since taking over. 'It doesn't matter who we play.'"

Steve Bulpett, Boston Herald - "Kevin Garnett joined Paul Pierce on the shelf. And there was no Glen Davis or Marquis Daniels. Ergo no real prayer. Rajon Rondo did play in the 116-98 loss to the Suns, but with a tightly wrapped left hamstring, acquiring 13 points and eight assists. He said after his only problem was Phoenix, but he was clearly not his freewheeling self. 'I was proud of him because he’s at the level now where he can play on one leg and dominate the game, and I thought he did that at times,' said Celts coach Doc Rivers. 'He’s really assuming a role of leadership on this team, and I’m probably as proud of him as any player in a long time because he’s come a long way. I’m very happy for him.'"

Have a link I might want to look at? Send it my way by email ( or Twitter.

Running Diary: Undermanned Celtics again can't rise in the West

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tic-tac-toe, three in a row.  Unfortunately for the Celtics, it's now three losses in a row.

From the very beginning, the Celtics were thoroughly outplayed, and the loss of KG and Paul Pierce were simply too much to overcome against a good Suns team.

As shorthanded as they were, the Celtics simply exhibited very little effort.  They gave up offensive rebounds and wide open jumpers all night long.  I never wanted to ram my head into a wall harder than I did seeing Channing Frye wide open on the arc play after play.  Sure, he was hotter than Mila Kunis (right), but I'm pretty sure things might have been different if he'd had a hand in his face all night.

At the end of the day, though, the Celtics were without two of their stars and another -- Rajon Rondo -- might as well have sat out the first half, too.  Beyond that, they were missing two key subs, Glen Davis and Marquis Daniels.  With so many players out, it's a testament to the C's track record with injuries that anybody is even upset by the loss.  Really, they should have been expected to lose this one, in Phoenix against a good Suns team.

But they just shouldn't have lost like that, with little effort and even less resistance.

If you want to read some more of my thoughts, here's my running diary of thoughts during the game.  Hopefully, they will probably bring you a smile, even if your head -- like mine -- is still hurting from ramming it into the wall after all those Frye jumpers.

First Quarter
  • KG's out for tonight, and I'm going to say it now...  To say KG's injury is unrelated to last year's surgery is like saying Tiger Woods' car crash was completely unrelated to his "transgressions."  Highly unlikely.  The Celtics expect us to believe he got kicked in the knee and that's what's causing all the discomfort?  Please don't insult our intelligence.
  • Tony Allen with a sick behind-the-back in the open court, then right after that leads the break and finds Rasheed Wallace for a breakaway dunk.  Allen's resurgence has been more shocking than it would be if Steve Nash went up for a tomahawk dunk.
  • Not shocking, though, is that Amare Stoudemire is destroying a KG-less Boston front line.  Almost before I could sit down in my couch, he already has 8 points. 12-10, Celtics.
  • After a couple Phoenix threes, Boston's defense looks very porous early on.  They're flat, and seem to be in a funk just like they were when KG missed a game earlier in the season.  It took them an entire half to recover that night, but that was against the Pacers.  If the C's play a bad half tonight, without KG and Pierce, they'll get blown out... no matter how well they play in the second half.
  • 20-12, Suns.  Suns are running and gunning, and on a quick 12-0 run.  Nash is firing bullet passes ahead to his teammates, and Amare is killing the Celtics whenever Nash or a three-pointer doesn't.
  • My brother: "This could be a loonnggg night."  Reason number one I know it's going to be a long night?  Amare Stoudemire just took a charge.  Since when does Amare Stoudemire exert any energy at all on the defensive side of the floor?
  • Reason number two I know it's going to be a long night?  Brian Scalabrine was the first man off the bench.  Never a good sign.
  • Less than ten minutes in, Amare looks like the second coming of... searching for a good basketball comparison... not finding one worthy... screw it, fine, Jesus Christ, with 16 points and 6 rebounds.  And no help seems on the horizon; he's now being defended by Scal.  (Note: I vaguely remember Scal doing a great job on Amare once upon a time. Sadly, I don't believe a repeat is likely.)
  • The first quarter mercilessly comes to a close, but not after Jesus Christ erupted for 18 points and 6 rebounds.  Let's just say the Celtics miss Pierce and Garnett.
Second Quarter
  • I'm surprised Rondo didn't play a better first quarter.  He usually kills Steve Nash, but had a non-existent 2 points and 1 dime in the first.  Maybe his hammy is a little stiff?
  • Stat that makes literally no sense: Celtics had 10 fast break points in the first, Suns only had 4.  Huh?  Did my eyes deceive me?  Weren't the Suns running all over the C's in the first?
  • The second quarter starts off even worse than the first.  Instead of Amare Stoudemire looking like Jesus Christ, it's now Channing Frye and Louis Amundson getting easy dunks and easy layups.  None of which looks good for the guys in Green. 36-21, Suns.
  • Louis Amundson gets fouled on an easy layup look, and Donny Marshall is ecstatic because -- for once tonight -- the Celtics defense rotated.  When the announcer is that hyped after a single defensive rotation and a foul that results in two shots for the opposing team, it is never, never a good sign.
  • Tony Allen strips the ball from Grant Hill (aka pokes him in the eye) and heads off the other way, where he gets fouled by Barbosa.  Allen is the lone bright spot tonight.  If you think that bodes well for winning this game, think again.
  • With the Celtics down 44-32 and not showing any energy whatsoever, is there a better time to throw Bill Walker and J.R. Giddens into the fire?  And maybe Lester Hudson?  If nothing else, they'll bring some energy into the game.
  • Tony Allen flushes home a nice dunk off a Perkins feed. He continues to be the One Shining Player for the Celts.  I thought Rondo would play well, but I'm not really sure if he has even stepped foot out of the locker room yet.
  • Finally.  Another reason to smile, and maybe even a little hope: Eddie House nails two consecutive jumpers, and the Celtics are now down only 9 points.
  • Ray Allen spends an entire shot clock dribbling, only to end the possession with an awkward, off-balance, running layup that clanks heavily off the backboard then rim.  Not so coincidentally, methinks, Doc calls Rondo to sub in on the next play.
  • Tony Allen picks up his fourth steal, then gets called for a bogus charging foul while finishing the layup at the other end.  Granted, he should have given the ball up to a wide open Rajon Rondo, but he didn't commit a charge, damn it!
  • The bad news: Grant Hill blocks Rondo's half-court heave at the end of the half, and the Suns take a 61-49 lead into half-time.  The good news: I finally noticed Rondo was in the game.  
  • More good news: If the Celtics pick up their defense in the second half, and rebound the basketball, they are in position to come back.  The bad news?  They haven't shown a single sign of doing that yet.
Third Quarter
  • I just got a glass of water, except I didn't put any ice in it.  Is anyone else in the world so lazy that they'll drink lukewarm water rather than get some ice cubes out of the freezer?  (Thinking about Rasheed Wallace sauntering around the court... Thinking about Rasheed Wallace's gut... Thinking about Rasheed Wallace's tendency to settle for three-pointers... Maybe there is someone as lazy as I am, after all.)
  • Reason not to trust Gary Tanguay, under any circumstances: He just said the Celtics are doing a good job without KG and Pierce tonight.  Huh?  Really, Gary?  Did you even watch the Celtics get smoked in the first half?
  • An early fourth foul for Stoudemire.  Donny Marshall says it might be a blessing in disguise for the Celtics.  I ask you, what's the disguise?  It couldn't be more clear that fourth foul was a blessing if it came stamped "Blessing".
  • Perk is starting to take advantage of Stoudemire, who the Suns left in the game despite his fourth foul.  Earlier I said Stoudemire wasn't likely to exert any effort defensively, so you can imagine what he's like with four fouls.  Straight matador.  The C's should go to Perk a whole lot as long as Stoudemire stays in the game.
  • When Amare dunks, it's like the rim did something wrong to him.  Like it made him very angry and he just wants to hurt it.  He does not go to the hoop weakly.
  • Perkins gets called for a moving screen.  I think it's the millionth moving screen of his career.
  • The Celtics temporarily had the deficit back down to nine, but it quickly ballooned to 16.  That's what happens when you play negative defense and leave shooters and big men wide open.  Channing Frye has now hit three wide open threes; something tells me it might have been in the scouting report that he likes to fire from long range.  Just a guess.
  • Rasheed shoots an airball from three-point range, an exclamation point in what so far has been an 0-4 night from downtown.  If my eyes weren't mistaken, his lower body was still twisting while he pulled the trigger; 'Sheed had no balanace on that one.  I don't know if that's been his problem, but I'll keep a closer eye on it.
  • The lead is now twenty.  I'm contemplating turning the channel and stopping the torture, but I can't;  I keep hoping the Celtics will mount a comeback.  Me not turning it off is like somebody going through the Chinese Water torture by choice:  The water keeps dripping and dripping onto my face, and all I have to do is role over and stop it, but I don't.  Somehow, after all this crappiness tonight, I still have a little faith in my Celtics.
  • Channing Frye right now is a combination of college J.J. Redick, Hoosiers Jimmy Chitwood, and Bulls Steve Kerr.  Of course, it helps he's been wide open all game long, but still.
  • 90-73, Phoenix after three.  Even the biggest die-hards like myself are close to throwing the white flag.
Fourth Quarter
  • Shelden Williams starts the fourth off with an emphatic missed dunk.   He sure does seem to miss a whole lot of dunks.
  • Shocking stat of the night #2: Jared Dudley is leading the NBA in three-point field goal percentage.  Watching him in college, I would have thought I had a better chance of leading the NBA in three-point shooting than Dudley.
  • As bad as it's been, the Suns lead is only 15 with ten minutes left. As bad as it's been, I still have hope.  Somebody hit me in my head and tell me how stupid I am.
  • Oh, well, there goes my hope.  A quick Channing Frye jumper makes the lead 17, and then Barbosa goes right by Scalabrine and hits a bucket.  Two plays later, Frye hits another three.  He's as hot as a conventional oven right now.
  • The lead is twenty, and it's just about time for the youngsters to (finally) get their chance.  As for me?  My hope has been strangled away by a flurry of jumpers from a guy who looks like an over-sized version of Sean Elliott.

  • Tell me they don't look alike.  Tell me.  That's what I thought.
  • The rest of the game was pretty normal for two teams just trying to run out the clock. Shelden Williams getting a technical was the only thing out of the ordinary but, really, who cares if Williams gets a technical?  Not me.
  • The youngsters finally got their chance, but it was only in garbage time.  Actually, the whole game might as well have been garbage time.
  • Oh yeah, and Shelden Williams missed another dunk.

Garnett out for tonight's game: Is his injury really no big deal?

Our worst fears have happened; Kevin Garnett is hurt, and the reasons for him sitting are both varied and vague.

According to the Herald and ESPNBoston, he got kicked in the knee. But the Globe's Gary Washburn says he hyperextended his knee, and does that happen just from getting kicked?

The team says Garnett is okay, that sitting Garnett is only for "strategic rest", but pardon me if strategic rest doesn't sound a lot like "Garnett's old injury is acting up again."

It's tough to trust the Celtics when it comes to KG's injuries, mostly because they've lied about them for a year straight. If you're scoring at home, the team says Garnett is okay, but the injury has been described as anything from a thigh bruise to a hyperextended knee. Sounds a lot like lost season, doesn't it?

Uh-oh. At the very least, I wish the Celtics could do me one favor: If KG goes down for an extended period of time, please don't try to replace him with Mikki Moore.

If you still have any faith in what the organization says, here's what the team had to say about the whole incident, via ESPNBoston:
"The good news is we don't have serious injuries that are long-term things that are going to prevent us from accomplishing our goals," Celtics executive director of basketball operations Danny Ainge said in an interview Wednesday afternoon on Boston sports radio station WEEI. "They are just short-term issues that we have to get through."

The Celtics ruled out Davis earlier Wednesday and deemed Garnett a game-time decision.

"If I do decide to sit [Garnett], I'm not sitting him for one game. I can tell you that," Celtics coach Doc Rivers told Comcast Sportsnet. "I told Kevin that."

Rivers told Comcast that if he decided to sit Garnett, he would probably keep him out two games until about Jan. 6, when the Celtics face the Heat, or longer. He said he wasn't sure if that was the direction he was going to take with Garnett but that he was "leaning that way heavily."

"It's early in the season," Rivers told Comcast. "We got tonight and we got two days, and then we got three days after that. To me, if you're going to rest guys, this is the perfect time to do it."
And here's me, hoping it's as small a deal as the Celtics say (Okay, so it's not really me. You get the idea.)...

My favorite Celtics of the decade

So it's just about the New Year, which means it's just about the end of the decade, which means it's time for everyone and their mother to come up with All-Decade lists. I was thinking about what to write my own All-Decade lists, and couldn't decide what in the hell to do. I thought about writing the Boston Celtics All-Decade team... until I realized I might as well state their starting lineup for this season. I thought about writing about the ten best Celtics plays of the decade... but I'm far too indecisive to choose ten plays. I thought about ranking the top ten players... but that's kind of boring.

So instead of picking the best players, or the best plays, or an All-Decade team (because ANYONE can do that), I chose to write a list of my ten favorite players, mostly because, well, my favorites are probably far different than yours.

And here they are:

10. Walter McCarty - Why Walter McCarty? He was, at best, mediocre. He was a link to one of the worst times in Celtics history. He was Walter McCarty.

To be honest, I love Walter mostly for Tommy Heinsohn's famous call... IIII LOOOVVVEEEE WWWALLLLLLTTTAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!! But it wasn't just that. McCarty gave his all on the court, and he did it during a time when not every Celtic gave a damn. And for that, I love Waltah.

9. Delonte West - You're going to start seeing a theme on this list: My favorite players are normally tough, tough bastards. When Delonte was on the Celtics (and now, too), he was a gritty defender, a hard-nosed rebounder, and he didn't yet carry shotgun-filled guitar cases over his shoulder. (At least so far as we know.)

Plus, he was always good for a goofy interview like this one:

8. Ray Allen - Ray's game is as smooth as silk. From his picture-perfect jumper to his finger-roll finishes at the rim, Ray is the epitome of smooth. On top of the aesthetic pleasure I get while watching Ray, he's been willing to sacrifice his game in order to help the C's win ballgames.

More than any other Celtic, Ray has cut back his own game in order to fill the role Doc asks of him. And that, above anything else, is why Ray Allen has quickly become one of my favorites.

7. Eddie House - You take a more accomplished player, a starter, a point guard who can actually handle the rock.  I'll take Eddie House, shooter extraordinaire, a player who plays every second like it might be his last in the league. (Okay, damn it.  You got me.  I'd still like a point guard who can actually handle the rock.)

Just in case you forgot, Eddie was huge for the Celtics in their run to the '08 championship, then even bigger the following season while establishing a new Celtics single-season three-point percentage record.  Along the way, he's far surpassed what should have been the ceiling for a 6 foot nothing point guard who can barely dribble the ball upcourt.  You've got to appreciate the overacheiver.

6. Al Jefferson - While I love most of the guys on this list for their heart and grit, I admire Al mostly for the way he plays basketball.  Watching him whip out post move after post move, I can't help but lust after his great footwork and soft touch.  If I had a son who played in the post, I would give him tapes of Al Jefferson to help him become a better player; before long, my son would be doing drop-steps, up-and-unders and jump hooks, all with the soft touch of a goddess.  Is there a better compliment you can give a player than saying you wish your son played like him?

5. Rajon Rondo - Selfless on the court, with a mean streak that belies his meek exterior, Rajon Rondo is, quite simply, the best Celtics point guard of my lifetime.  (A short lifetime, indeed.)  He can do it all on the court, fill up box scores with the best of them, and he does it all with a certain flair that he makes seem so effortless.  I love Rondo because he never backs down from any challenge, because he fails to ever believe he might be outmatched.  With an attitude like that and all the athletic ability in the world, the sky is the limit for Mr. Rondo.

4. Antoine Walker - Good ol' Employee Number 8 (or is it Broke ol' Employee Number 8?)  has always been one of the most polarizing Celtics in recent history.  Some people felt his antics, like the Walker wiggle, were played out and unnecessary; others loved to see such joy emanating from a professional basketball player.  Some saw 'Toine as merely an underacheiver, capable of far more than he accomplished; others saw him as one of the more talented all-around players in the league, a player who could handle the basketball, pop out for three, or post up. 

In the end, he was all of those things, and that's part of what made me love him.  He was as accessible as any Celtic I've seen, and he behaved as I might if I got to play one game in the NBA... with unbridled enthusiasm and a passion for the game that most NBA players lose sometime down the road.

3. James Posey - If you need a guy to dive on the floor after a loose ball, Posey's your guy. If you need a clutch three, Posey's your guy. If you need a player who can guard three different positions, Posey's your guy. If you need a homo-erotic hug that makes every fan sitting in the first ten rows (at least) slightly uncomfortable, Posey's definitely your guy.

More than anything, Posey's on this list because he did whatever it took to get the C's wins. He fought for every inch, he never stepped outside his role, and I believe 100% that the Celtics wouldn't have won the 2008 championship without James Posey. Posey was only in Celtics green for one year, but he left an indelible mark as a tough competitor and, above all else, a winner.

2. Kevin Garnett - Even before Garnett became a Celtic, he was one of my favorite players.  I loved that he wore his heart on his sleeve, that he couldn't accept losing, and that he played as hard as any human ever has.  I loved him most of all for his interview with John Thompson, when a frustrated Garnett didn't demand a trade or sulk... no, he cried because he hates to lose, he blamed himself for the losses, and he stood by his teammates even as the wheels fell off in Minnesota.

I once wrote I love KG not only because he not only plays the game with unrivaled intensity and plays every play like it might be his last, but also because he demands that same kind of effort from every one of his teammates.  He's the rare leader who inspires his teammates to bigger and better things simply by being himself.

1. Paul Pierce - Who else could it be?  Pierce has been the Celtics' rock, their heart, and their soul since being drafted in the 1998 Draft.  Just like me, Pierce has experienced the Celtics during mediocrity, poverty and prosperity.  Pierce has been through the ups and downs in Boston, and seeing his career validated by winning an NBA championship was made all the sweeter by knowing that, just like me, Pierce has stayed with the C's during tough times and overcome those hardships. 

Knowing what it felt like to root for a team that won only 24 games, I can only imagine what it must have felt like for Pierce to actually play for that team.  He deserves the success as much as anyone in Boston, and will always be the player I remember as my absolute favorite.

Lester Hudson back with Celtics

Gary Washburn tweets that Lester Hudson has been recalled to the Celtics, perhaps in reaction to Rondo potentially missing time with his sore left hamstring.

Garnett, Rondo could miss tonight's game

And it looks more and more like Garnett's injury is worse than they're letting on...

Boston might be without two additional starters - Paul Pierce (right knee) has missed the last three games - with the most serious injury being to the surgically repaired right knee of Kevin Garnett.

Rivers said he hasn't made up his mind as to whether he will sit Garnett or Rajon Rondo whose left hamstring didn't appear to bother him too much during the team's morning shoot-around.

Garnett's injury is clearly the more serious of the two.

"If I do decide to sit him (Garnett), I'm not sitting him for one game. I can tell you that," Rivers said. "I told Kevin that."
If Rondo and KG sit, that will make five rotation players who won't be suiting up tonight, including arguably the Celtics three best players.