Saturday, December 19, 2009
That smile answered a couple of questions for me: 1) Does Perk know how to smile? (Answer: Against all odds, yes.) and 2) Does Perk even have teeth? (Answer: He actually does.)
But if it weren't for that smile, another Perk moment would have been my favorite moment of the game: In the third quarter, Comcast Sports New England played a feature in which Perk talked about... being an altar boy?
Perk was an altar boy (yes, THAT kind of altar boy) all the way through his senior year of high school.
Can you imagine Perk walking down your church aisle, wearing his formal robes, or sheets, or whatever that get-up is that altar boys wear? Just picture him scowling as he carries the cross through church, or throwing elbows as he prepares the wine for communion. Or maybe setting a moving screen for the priest on their way out of the church.
If Perk hadn't smiled last night, his revelation that he was an altar boy in high school would have been the most shocking moment of my young life. As it is, it'll have to settle for second-most surprising Perk story of the night...
It isn't often that he smiles.
Paul Pierce isolates near the top of the key with time winding down. He takes one step, one dribble, towards the basket. He makes contact with a defender, and then his next step is away from the hoop, away from the defender, as he makes space to launch a shot that inevitably finds the bottom of the hoop.
Only this time, it didn't fall, and as Pierce's jumper missed its mark the Celtics' 11-game winning streak crumbled. But Philadelphia knows Pierce doesn't always miss that shot, especially with the game clock winding down.
Via the Philadelphia Inquirer:
"Truthfully?" said Sixers guard Willie Green of Pierce's last shot. "My heart sank a little bit. And I just froze. I don't know if there was, what, a couple of seconds left? But it felt like a minute. Thank God he missed it."Whether or not Pierce's miss was a break for Philly, they deserved to win the game. On a night when it first looked like the Celtics would open up a huge lead and never turn back, Philly scrapped, clawed and fought its way back into the lead, outworking the Celtics every step of the way.
"Pierce?" said Sixers coach Eddie Jordan was asked about that last shot. "I even thought Ray Allen's shot was going to go: fallaway, probably bank shot. . . . That's [Pierce's] pet move, and that's his comfortable spot on the floor, right off the elbow. So he got where he wanted to go. But we had a break."
So while the last miss might have been a break for the 76ers, they earned it. For the most part, for last night at least, Philadelphia made their own breaks.
Julian Benbow, Boston Globe - "The Celtics went up as many as 15 in the first half. Kendrick Perkins nearly had a double-double in the first quarter. Tony Allen seemed like he was everywhere at once. But once the lead got comfortable, so did the Celtics. 'You almost hate to go up [big],' said Ray Allen, “because your human nature has you settling and getting comfortable.' There’s a swagger that comes with a winning streak. And having done so and then come out and run up a large lead, Celtics coach Doc Rivers, said his team had a false sense of it. 'We played with this swagger - the losing swagger,' Rivers said. 'It’s one thing to have the winning swagger and you go out and you feel great about your team, and you go out and play. And then there’s another thing when you just show up and you think the other team’s going to lay over and fall because you’re the Celtics.'"
Ron Borges, Boston Herald - "To lose to the Sixers took maximum disinterest by the Celtics and a bit of a hostile whistle by the referees, although the latter were far from co-conspirators in the Celtics demise. When you blow a 15-point lead to a team that is 6-19, well, you’re doing it to yourself. Last night, the Celtics got what they deserved, which was coal in their Nikes a week before Christmas. 'We’re our own worst enemy,' growled a disgusted Paul Pierce before returning to the locker room and pasting up a 'No Media Loitering Here' sign around his locker. Too bad he didn’t have a 'No Sixers Loitering In the Paint' sign up when Elton Brand put back a miss by Marreese Speights a foot from the basket with 7.7 seconds to play for the game-winner, because no one in green and white did anything to prevent it."
Chris Forsberg, ESPNBoston - "Elton Brand's putback with 7.7 seconds remaining lifted the 76ers to a stunning 98-97 triumph over the Celtics, ending Boston's 11-game winning streak Friday at the TD Garden. 'We were like, 'Aww, here we go again,'' said Brand, who came off the bench to score a game-high 23 points. 'We’ve been here in the Cleveland game, the Detroit game... Charlotte with two minutes left. You know we’re much better than our record indicates. We should have closed out some of these games. We closed out a game with a team winning 11 in a row, the best in the league, it bodes well for our confidence.' Echoed 76ers coach Eddie Jordan: 'We made some great plays down the end, big plays. And for a long time, we’ve lost these types of games. We just kept saying we couldn’t get a break and we came to the conclusion that we have to make our breaks. We said that before and we made some breaks tonight.'"
Mark Murphy, Boston Herald - "The Celtics might as well be spending their Friday night home games in their actual homes - out in the suburbs, next to a warm, drowsy fire. It’s a nice prescription for sleep, if not winning basketball. The Celtics, caught in this increasingly bizarre spell all season, fell to 2-4 in Friday home games with last night’s 98-97 loss to Philadelphia."
Frank Dell'Apa, Boston Globe - "Asked if he was disappointed in the ejection, Rivers replied: 'Yeah, I am. I’m disappointed when anybody gets thrown out of a game. You know, whether he’s right or wrong doesn’t matter - you’ve got to control yourself to stay in the game. But he didn’t. And I didn’t - I wasn’t going to try to stand there and talk him out of it. He’s a grown man. And, you know, at some point, it’s him - he understands his value to this team, and his teammates understand his value to the team, and I think, at some point, that’ll get to him. Listen, I can [talk to Wallace]. And I will a little bit. But, I’m not going to have a summit, I can tell you that. It’s too early. He’s been doing it a long time. He’s an expert at it. But we knew that when we got him, and I still love him. I think he’s great, he’s been great for our team, but he’s going to have some of these days.'"
Chris Forsberg, ESPNBoston - "'I sliced it at the top, got the hand off and I was just trying to get some space to get a shot,' said Pierce. 'I thought I got a good look at the rim, it felt good coming off my hands, but sometimes the ball bounces off that way, you know? Tough one to swallow.' The Celtics, who led by 15 in the third quarter, know it shouldn't have come down to a final possession. 'I think our energy sucked all night,' said Celtics forward Kevin Garnett. 'I think we could have done a better job of having energy out there. Philly's a team that's going to scrap for 48 minutes and we didn't put them away when we were supposed to.'"
Friday, December 18, 2009
Here are three things to look out for during tonight's game:
- Allen Iverson's reaction to not starting - I know he's hurt and all, and not even cleared to play but, well, it's Allen Iverson we're talking about. We're not talking about practice, we're talking about a game... and Allen Iverson likes to start games on the floor, not on the bench. Can't you just see a postgame explosion from Iverson, ripping into a bewildered Eddie Jordan for not starting him while Jordan thinks to himself, But you weren't even healthy enough to play...?
- Celtics big men - Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins and Rasheed Wallace will be going against a thin, injury-riddled front line lacking much punch. The Celtics should look inside early and often tonight.
- Philly's athleticism - Philly doesn't have much going for them so far this season, but one thing they do have is athleticism. With wings like Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young, Philly can get up and down the court in a hurry, and could cause problems for Boston... that is, if Boston plays like they're in a coma. If Boston exerts even minimal effort in this one, they'll win. They're just far more talented than Philly. Period.
- Zach Lowe of CelticsHub does a fantastic job breaking down a couple Boston Celtics plays. Whenever Zach does his breakdowns, be sure to check them out; they're insightful, thorough, and at the end of the post you'll be more knowledgeable about basketball than you were before it.
- Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston writes that, despite an 11-game winning streak, the Celtics are still flawed:
While Boston's 2009-10 campaign isn't quite as glossy as last season's 27-2 start, which featured a 19-game winning streak, there are still plenty of similarities between the campaigns.
Chief among the differences, however, is the fact that Celtics coach Doc Rivers likes the brand of basketball his team is playing, which suggests it can avoid the sort of 2-9 tailspin the 2008-09 squad endured starting with a holiday loss to the Lakers.
But despite all the good vibes around this season's team, given its current 11-game winning streak (one that's almost certain to grow with three games at TD Garden against teams with a combined 19 wins over the next five days), there's reason for Boston to tread carefully as it approaches a Christmas visit to Orlando.
Earlier this week we provided a list of 10 reasons the Celtics haven't lost since falling to the Magic on Nov. 20. It's time to examine what needs to be tightened up to ensure they remain at the front of the pack.
- CelticsBlog wonders: Does KG now stand for Klutch Guy?
Fast forward to this season and, in particular, the Knicks games at MSG on November 22nd. With the game in the balance in the fourth quarter, exactly the time where Garnett's reputation would have us believe that he would be a shrinking violet, Garnett was 1-for-10 and, at that stage, was shooting 47.6% on the season. Suddenly, with the pressure on and the Celtics trailing by six, he knocked down a jumper to cut the lead to four. A couple of minutes later, he knocked down a pair of free throws to put Boston up by one. With the scores tied and 1:07 to go, he made another jumper to give Boston the lead. Finally, in overtime, his buzzer beater from the top of the key gave the Celtics a 107-105 win.
But that's just one game, right? Not necessarily. Since that game a pattern is starting to form:
- Scott Souza writes at Celtics Stuff Live about Kendrick Perkins' old tendency to put the ball on the floor before finishing his layups:
“I think I used to try to gather myself to dunk all the time,” said Perkins in what could have been a testimonial from One Pounding Dribblers Anonymous. “I used to take that power dribble to dunk. Now I’m taking the easy layup, the quick two, and that’s been helping me a lot.”
Perkins said the change in habits wasn’t as much difficult as it was a case of focus. A lot of prodding from coaches, fans and media eventually hammered the point home.
“Also, a lot of reps with the medicine ball,” he said. “But it was (C’s assistant coach) Cliff (Ray), pretty much everybody. It’s a big difference. (The extra dribble) gives a guy a chance to strip the ball and even foul me a lot more. I’ll take the quick two any day.”
Lately, it’s helped him to essentially not miss.
This time, he writes about three things he would change about the NBA, two things he'd change about the world, and one thing he'd change about himself.
Since the world pales in comparison to the NBA, I'll show you one thing he wrote he would change about the NBA:
Raise the rim 3 inches: The athletes today are crazy. You see the way guys are jumping these days. I would raise the rim 3 inches. Then, you have to learn the art of the jump shot. You'll have to know how to play this game a little bit better then. Raising the rim, you'll see increasing play. You'll see increasing fundamentals. I'm telling you.It makes sense Pierce would want to raise the rim three inches; he plays mostly underneath the rim anyways. One word of caution though, Paul: If it ever is raised three inches, you probably shouldn't try dunking too much. You might end up looking like this guy:
So watch out, Roger Federer. Move over, Rafael Nadal. Glen Davis is on his way to take the ATP's number one spot...
Once he finishes mastering the Wii junior circuit, that is.
(h/t Chris Forsberg's Twitter account)
No, it isn’t some new delicacy. I’m talking about the Maine Red Claws, who – like your Celtics – are on a seven game winning streak despite some sloppy play and now have the best record in the league. This is helped, of course, by having the most players with NBA experience in the D-League, including Bill Walker and Lester Hudson as well as Alexis Ajinca of the Charlotte Bobcats.
The Red Claws were already a good team before Hudson joined them and they embarked on their two-day road trip to Erie, Pennsylvania to face the 2-3 Erie BayHawks. Despite being associated with the powerhouse Cleveland Cavaliers, the BayHawks seem thoroughly mediocre. Although the Cavs have five players eligible for assignment, none have been sent down yet, and it looks like Erie could use the help.
The Wednesday game was a classic example of a good team winning despite a less-than-stellar performance. This formula should be familiar by now to Celtics fans. With the Red Claws, as with the Celts, this shouldn’t inspire panic but confidence. Truly good teams – especially in basketball – win even on off nights. This is, in many ways, what separates mediocre playoff teams from real contenders, and it was evident in the Claws’ 81-77 win over Erie.
Recently-assigned Celtic Lester Hudson led the way, getting 25 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists in 38 minutes. Walker did well too, notching 16 points in about 27 minutes. Alexis Ajinca’s main contribution was in rebounds – eight – but he also played less in this game than recently. Hudson’s second-half sparks pushed the team to a win despite trailing in the first three quarters. While not as large a comeback as this past Sunday at home, it was impressive nonetheless.
The next night the Claws shook off the cobwebs and rolled to a 96-77 win over Erie. While Hudson (17 points, 9 rebounds) and Ajinca (14 points, 7 rebounds) were impressive, it was Trey Gilder – who was briefly with the Memphis Grizzlies – leading the team with 23 points and 10 rebounds.
Both wins showed off the Red Claws depth. No Maine player had more than 40 minutes in either game, unlike the BayHawks, and the NBA assignees didn’t automatically lead the team in points or minutes. Unlike some D-League teams, it’s clear the Claws won’t be depending on their NBA assignees to win games. While Hudson and Walker were certainly helpful Wednesday night, Walker scored vastly less in the second game and they still rolled to a win. On Wednesday, Ajinca scored less, then stepped it up the following night. With this team, it seems like on any given night almost anyone could be the Player of the Game.
Jon Jennings has – from scratch – assembled what is now the best team in the D-League. They have the most NBA talent, the best record, and one of the most experienced coaching staffs around. He’s not only brought pro basketball to the Pine Tree State, he’s brought a very watchable on-the-court product that will serve both Maine basketball fans and the Boston Celtics well.
Wednesday Player of the Game: Lester Hudson; honorable mention to Bill Walker.
Thursday Player of the Game: Trey Gilder and his double-double; honorable mention to Alexis Ajinka.
Mark Murphy, Boston Herald - "There are many quality guards in the Eastern Conference, and now that sentimental favorite Shaquille O’Neal is with Cleveland, the competition for an All-Star spot at center is thick as well. But in the biased view of their teammates and coaches, Rajon Rondo [stats] and Kendrick Perkins [stats] are as worthy of a trip to Arlington, Texas, for the Feb. 14 game as Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce [stats] and Ray Allen. 'Our starting five should go,' coach Doc Rivers said after yesterday’s practice. Funny how that sentiment has spread. 'He means so much to this club,' Pierce said of Rondo. 'But our starting five should be in the All-Star Game.'"
Chris Forsberg, ESPNBoston - "'Mentally, you have to be confident in that ligament, that thumb,' said Davis. 'What I have to do right now is get strong, mentally, using it. To shoot, or when somebody hits you and you have to stay focused, and make sure you don't hurt it again. When I get over that, that's when I'll probably be 100 percent.' Davis pegged his birthday -- Jan. 1 -- as a potential return date (the Celtics host the Raptors on Jan. 2), but admitted he's taking everything slow at his teammates' urging. 'It's a good sign when Baby got the cast off,' said Celtics captain Paul Pierce. 'For him to come out here and do some stretches with us, he hasn't been able to do that in a while; a couple dummy offensive plays. Slowly, but surely. It's still a long season. We want these guys to be healthy at the right time, and completely healthy.'"
Scott Souza, Courtside View - "Marquis Daniels also watched practice and lent a few thoughts on some things he saw from the sideline. He is expected to miss the next five to seven weeks after surgery to repair a ligament in his left thumb. Daniels said he would have kept trying to play through the injury if not for Rivers pulling him off the floor. 'As a basketball player with a competitive nature you want to be out there with these guys competing,' he said. 'But everyone is keeping me up and involved. I was trying to keep going, but (Rivers) pulled me out of practice, telling me he was noticing it a lot more. It was something we decided that needed to be done. … I wasn’t going to (pull myself out). I just want to play and be on the floor. We have a great team right now, so you don’t want to take yourself out of it if you don’t have to. Unfortunately, I had to get this taken care of.'"
Steve Weinman, D-League Digest - "'All of this brings us back to Hudson. His job is to show that he can run a team because that’s what the Celtics may need him to be able to do. Forget for a moment that there is a jump from playing at UT-Martin to playing in the D-League and an even larger jump from UT-Martin to the Association, so how much of his scoring ability will transfer to the next level of basketball remains in question. It doesn’t matter. Not right now, anyway. Hudson, whom at least one scouting report pegged early in his senior year as possessing mediocre ball-handling skills and speed, needs to show that he can help create opportunities for those around him without turning the ball over with abundance. He needs to make smart decisions with the ball in his hands. He needs to use his length (listed at 6-3 and possessing a sizable wingspan) to cause defenses problems offensively and to make his man tentative with the ball at the other end. Given the lack of playing time he is receiving with the Celtics, any chance to get some run is significant for Lester Hudson. But this one is especially important because it will give Hudson further opportunity to focus on turning himself into an NBA-level point guard.'"
Chris Forsberg, ESPNBoston - "The Celtics enjoyed a couple of days of downtime after polishing off a perfect three-game road trip Monday in Memphis and coach Doc Rivers noted there was some expected rust to shake Thursday. 'Practice was OK, it was typical of taking a couple of days off," said Rivers. 'We were flat early, but I thought we got it going... We had one more drill left, but I blew the whistle and said, 'That's it.' We were going so hard at the end, let's save something for [Friday].' Said captain Paul Pierce: 'It's good to get back out there. It was nice to get some rest after playing so many road games, get the body adjusted back to the time. We came in today, freshened up -- it's not as crisp as we want to be, but as practice went on it got better.'"
Greg Payne, CelticsBlog - "As that season went on, the notion of a championship became more and more realistic and we quickly adjusted to the fact that that squad was really, really good. It was almost as if the 22 years prior to that had never happened. But when we locked ourselves into that mindset that told us a championship was possible, we began to expect certain things, and when they happened, we took them as they came, rather than appreciating them for all they were worth. Even simple things like a Pierce step back jump shot, or an Allen three-pointer in transition were taken for granted because they happened so routinely. But the uniqueness of these players makes every play they make that much more memorable, and we need to recognize that."
Henry Abbott, TrueHoop - "Every which way people slice and dice crunch time numbers -- field goal percentage, plus/minus, you name it -- Bryant is not the NBA's best in crunch time. A glance at last year's crunch time numbers on 82games.com makes clear Bryant shoots more than anyone else in the NBA in crunch time, but is he more skilled at making those shots? That's what we're trying to judge, right? In crunch time field goal percentage, last season Bryant finished 92nd in the League, right behind Michael Beasley. Others ahead of him include Kevin Garnett, both Gasols, Zach Randolph, Carmelo Anthony, Jason Terry, Jameer Nelson, Tim Duncan, Amare Stoudemire, Eric Gordon, Brandon Roy, Andre Iguodala, Jason Kidd, Ben Gordon, and Chris Bosh."
Tom Halzack, CelticsBlog - "Thought [the Celtics] were going gently into their assisted living facilities, eh? Tut tut, my skeptical friends. The ‘assisted living’ comes courtesy of one Rajon Rondo, point guard extraordinaire. Rondo plays one gear higher than the rest of his starting unit. 11 game win streak says they are rounding into shape after starting strong, stumbling, then slowly righting the ship. The only major surprise was/is the lack of 48 minute intensity, and rebounding woes. They still look like one of the best teams in the NBA to challenge the Lakers. Back with a vengeance? They are back. Vengeance comes later."
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Thursday, December 17, 2009
You see, once Iverson steps onto a basketball court, it no longer matters what he did in Memphis. It doesn't matter that he sat on the back of the team bus and screamed for coach Lionel Hollins to hear that he'd played for a dumbass last year (Michael Curry) and was doing it again this year. It doesn't matter that he quit on the Grizzlies after only three games, or that he did the same last season in Detroit. It doesn't matter that he hasn't been able to handle taking a backseat to his teammates, or to take the instructions of his coaches. Once he's on that court, Allen Iverson is simply one of the most breathtaking playmakers to ever grace the hardwood.
Don't get me wrong; Iverson has disgraced the game of basketball. He's taken a sport that is supposed to be based in team play and he's made it all about himself. He's shown disrespect to his coaches, to his teammates, and to the game he loves, the game he's played so well for so long. He's made people re-think his spot in history, to wonder whether he deserves to be mentioned in the same breath with all the game's other legends.
But I'll tell you one thing: He does deserve to be a part of those legends. In his prime, Iverson was the single biggest attraction in all of basketball. When AI was playing, you had to tune in… you just had to. He was as explosive a scorer as there was. He was as gritty a player, as exciting a player, as any in the Association. He was capable of carrying a team on his back, of leading them farther than they should have gone, and it seemed as if he was always on the verge of a scoring outburst… even when he wasn’t playing well.
And, more than anything else, that’s why Allen Iverson is still must-see T.V. You never know when he’s going to bring back vintage Allen Iverson, when he’ll start scoring in bunches, attacking the basket, and making you admire his heart with every dart into the lane, every collision with an opponent almost double his weight. No matter what you thought about Iverson – his aversion to practice, disregard for public image, ball-hogging style of play – you couldn’t help but admire the way he played with his emotions on his sleeve, the way he always bounced right back up ready to attack his opponent one more time. You had to admire the way he fought, battled, and never backed down from anybody.
As legends grow older, you keep watching them for that one game they remind you of the player they used to be, that one spurt where you can look at that aging legend and say, “Remember when he used to do that all the time? Man, he was unbelievable in his prime.” You keep watching, even through all the struggles, because you want one last glimpse into the player he used to be.
That’s why I was looking forward to seeing Iverson play. Not because he’s great now; he’s not. Not because he’s a role model or perfect teammate; he’s not.
No, I wanted to see Iverson play to be taken back to a time when he was carrying a team full of Eric Snow’s and Aaron McKie’s to the NBA Finals, a time when Iverson was the most exciting player in the NBA, possibly the most exhilarating athlete in all of sports. I wanted to see him take over a game one more time and make me remember his 50-point scoring binges, his emphatic step over Tyronn Lue, and his killer crossover.
As stars grow older, all you get are glimpses of the players they once were. But when those glimpses come, as unexpected as they may be, they take you back to a time when that star ruled the NBA, when you would be afraid to miss that star’s game because you never knew when he’d do something truly special.
That’s why I wanted to watch Allen Iverson scrap and claw against my Boston Celtics tonight. I know he’s not what he once was, but all I wanted was a reminder – one scoring spurt, one crossover, one scamper into the paint and devastating finish. Even at just six feet tall, Iverson used to be the most-feared player in the NBA, and I wanted him to force me to remember that time.
Alas, he won’t play tonight; arthritis in his left knee won’t allow it. In his place will be Jrue Holiday and Willie Green. They may be better role models than Iverson, they may be better teammates, but neither of those players will ever be legends.
They’ll never remind me of a time when a six-feet tall scorer ruled the NBA.
So what's the difference this year? Why aren't the C's sifting through that garbage heap one more time? Once again, the Celtics are utilizing Eddie House as their primary point guard. If he was playing in an old man's rec league, House would be fine handling the ball. But in the NBA? Not exactly. So why aren't the C's looking to add another point guard? Why aren't they once again desperately searching for a ball-handler to back up Rajon Rondo?
Here are a few reasons:
Rondo's emergence as a stud
More than anything else, the Celtics aren't so desperate (yet) to find a reliable backup because Rajon Rondo has played so well. He's emerged as perhaps the Celtics most valuable player (yeah, I said it – and it's true) while providing Boston with a nightly, consistent effort. Now that Rondo has proved his value, an elite backup just isn't as pressing an issue.
People forget, but when Marbury was originally signed there was actually some talk he might take Rondo's starting spot. It seems ludicrous now that Rondo is one of the East's top point guards, but at the time Marbury was still seen as a super talent, and Rondo was still finding his way.
Marquis can do it
From day one of the Marquis Daniels signing, both Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers have been convinced that Marquis Daniels can run the PG spot.
Me? I'm still not convinced. Daniels' game seems to be more fit to slashing from the wing and finishing at the hoop. Yes, he's a good passer and yes, he's unselfish, but I prefer Daniels on the wing. Even when Daniels was playing, Eddie House was getting a lot of the reps handling the ball; I know Doc has blamed Daniels' injury with not allowing him to handle the ball, but if he was that hurt all along, what the hell was he doing playing?
The C's seem to like Lester Hudson
Any time a 58th draft pick gets signed to a contract, the team likes him. It's not normal for a draft pick that low to get signed, but then again, Hudson isn't a normal guy.
Everyone seems to rave about Hudson. Rondo credits him with helping him to prepare for games, Doc always has glowing words, and Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen have sung his praises too. So why has he played zero meaningful minutes, when the team is badly in need of a point guard, and why was he just sent down to the D-League? Either Hudson has some rough edges to his game the C's want him to iron out, or they aren't as high on him as they show publicly. He DID, though, score 25 points with 7 rebounds and 6 dimes in his D-League debut.
Boston's handy-dandy assistant coach
The ace up the Celtics' sleeve could come from someone who doesn't even suit up for practice, isn't on either the active or inactive roster, and still gets paid by the team. How? He's their assistant coach, Tyronn Lue. Most of you will remember Lue for being disrespectfully stepped over by Allen Iverson, but I personally remember him for a lesser-known event: When he was in college at Nebraska, Lue was in a tight game (I forget against who) with less than a minute to go, and took so much time dribbling the ball up the court he was slapped with a ten-second violation and his team ended up losing. That one hurts even more than getting stepped over, even though being stepped over is probably going to haunt him for longer; how many times in his life do you think he'll have to see the replay of that play? A million? Two million? More?
Anyways, despite the two humiliating skeletons in his closet, ESPNBoston's Chris Forsberg is convinced Lue will be signed as a player later in the season, and says Lue has stayed in tip-top shape and looks good scrimmaging against the guys. Lue wouldn't be a bad option; he's been solid throughout his career, and if he's still in good shape would be able to handle the ball and hit open shots.
It seems like decades ago that Stephon Marbury was last relevant. Strangely, it was only last season... at least to Celtics fans. (And no, I don't count being all over the news this summer as "relevant." Not when the newsworthy things he did were eating vaseline, smoking pot on camera, and getting in a televised car accident.)
You see, Starbury didn't live up to my expectations last season, but he still did a few things to help the Celtics win basketball games. (Note: Can you still call him Starbury if he's not even close to being a star anymore? I say yes... but only because it's merely a combination of his first and last names. In no way does the "Star" part fit him anymore.)
It's strange to say, for a guy who averaged a measly 3.8 points and 3.3 assists, but Marbury was a difference-maker. Sure, he shot only 34.2%, and 24.0% from behind the arc. Yeah, he looked every bit the rusty player who'd missed a full year of basketball before being signed to the Celtics. But Steph's own stats weren't where he helped the Celts. He helped by being a pure point guard off the bench, someone who could penetrate and make plays for his teammates. He helped by drawing defenders, using his speed and quickness to be a threat, and handling the ball against full-court pressure.
Eddie House, the one player most affected by the C's lack of a point guard, played unbelievable basketball when Marbury was around. With Steph in tow, House was able to do what he does best: float around off the ball, find open spots, and release that blindingly-quick jumper that often goes "splash." This season, forced into the unnatural role of being a ballhandler, House has failed to score with the proficiency he did last year.
It's weird, but the Celtics have nobody to step into Marbury's (cheap, poorly-made) shoes as a backup point guard. So far, they've had Daniels and House masquerading as PGs, despite both being better-suited to play other positions.
Will they make a play at bringing in a reliable backup point guard? It's possible, but I'm not going to hold my breath for it. So far, they seem content to hope Daniels can do the job, as Lue possibly lies in waiting if Daniels doesn't work out. I'd rather see them pick up a new PG, but with an 11-game winning streak I don't quite think it's time to complain.
Maybe Marbury would want to come out of retirement?...
(h/t goes out to ESPNBoston's Chris Forsberg)
Now, we'll be able to get even more insight into Pierce's thoughts and feelings than ever before: He's the NBA's newest blogger, and will be writing a blog exclusively for the Boston Globe.
In Pierce's first post, he writes about how Boston went from being a town he despised to a town he calls his own:
I've been in an amazing position to say that I'm going to be linked 100 percent to the Boston Celtics.I feel like I'm really going to enjoy Pierce's blogging era. I just hope he doesn't start screaming Hibatchi! after every shot, or calling himself "Agent 34."
To say that I've played with only one franchise, and accomplished what we have, it's almost like a miracle. You don't see that any more. You don't see the same players staying with the same team like that. I'm a true follower of the game and only five guys have played for one team for 10-plus years, especially in the last 10. There's Tim, Kobe, Ilgauskas, Nowitzki, and me.
You're always going to associate Kobe with the Lakers. You're always going to associate Timmy with San Antonio. Those guys won championships for their teams and they've been there their whole career.
You look around the league and see a lot of great players. You have some Hall of Famers that have been on multiple teams and you think at the end of the day, which team do they represent? And I can definitely say I am a Boston Celtic through and through. When people look back at my career they're going to identify me with one team.
Boston is definitely home.
- NESN's Liam Martin takes a look at who would win a Celtics-Lakers finals:
And yes, finally, it’s far too early in the season to judge two clubs from different conferences. Injuries, for one, can change a team’s trajectory in mere seconds. Ask Kevin Garnett.
But if the C’s (and by “C’s,” I mean KG) stay healthy; and if Sasha Vujacic continues to ride the bench in Los Angeles; and if Ron Artest keeps himself out of trouble; and if Rasheed Wallace doesn’t get booted from the league; and if Andrew Bynum’s knee stays intact for an entire season ... then luck might just fall again in favor of the greatest rivalry in the NBA.
- Red's Army is trying to give away some free Celtics tickets. I suggest you head on over and try to get some.
- ESPNBoston's Chris Forsberg throws his own dime to ESPN's NBA Award Watch, where Rondo is fourth in the running for Defensive Player of the Year and Pierce is eighth in the running for MVP:
In the latest update of ESPN's NBA Awards Watch, Rajon Rondo climbs to No. 4 on the list of potential Defensive Player of the Year candidates.
Writes Maurice Brooks: "It is easy to peg Rondo as a defender who simply jumps passing lanes, but he shuts down opposing point guards as well as anyone."
Rondo climbed one spot this week, while Paul Pierce sits tight at eighth on the MVP watch. Brook's blurb on Pierce; "He recently went over 19,000 points for his career. You could make a case that Rajon Rondo is Boston's most important player, but PP is the team's most consistent player."
- Just go check out this picture. Please.
Steve Bulpett, Boston Herald - Good fortune and good health seemingly are required for a run at 72. 'Pretty much everything has to go right,' Kerr said. 'You can’t have injuries. You have to fight through the doldrums, the dog days. You have to get lucky in a few games. You have to have somebody take over games. We probably had seven or eight games that year where Michael just said, ‘We’re not going to lose.’ 'If the Celtics are going to do it, it’s got to be Pierce or Allen or whoever, but somebody just has to lift them up on their shoulders now and then.'"
Frank Dell'Apa, Boston Globe - "This season has marked the emergence of the two youngest Celtics starters, Kendrick Perkins and Rajon Rondo, according to president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. 'The young guys are kind of catching up to the stars on our team,’ Ainge said yesterday. 'They are contributing on a lot more equal basis.' Heading into last night’s games, Perkins (.649) was leading the league and Rondo (.535) was 16th in field goal percentage as the Celtics (20-4) became the first team to reach 20 wins."
Zach Lowe, Celtics Hub - "For a while I was beginning to get worried. Last season, the Celtics offense played remarkably well in the 22 games KG missed due to his knee injury. The C’s scored more than 114 points per 100 possessions in those games, up from about 110 points/100 possessions with KG in the line-up. That is the difference between a once-in-a-decade offense and a top-three or top-five offense in any given season. It’s a big difference. I theorized last June that the trend had to be a weird statistical blip; there’s no way the C’s offense could perform better without Kevin freaking Garnett, right? The C’s scored morein those 22 games primarily because they hit 43.2 percent of their threes without KG, an unsustainable number and significantly better than the (already awesome) 39 percent they hit the rest of the season."
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com - "While the team's Big Three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen have gotten, and will continue to get, most of the attention, Rondo has asserted himself into opponents' game-planning more than ever. If the Celtics aren't thought of yet as the Big Four, they at least know that Rondo is right there, next in line. He's way more Ringo Starr than Billy Preston. 'Me? That's really kind of irrelevant right now," Rondo said. "It is what it is. I'm happy with my situation. They can get all the accolades and awards. I just want a ring. Bottom line. That's going to make my summer go a lot easier.'"
Brian Robb, Celtics Hub - "You hear all the time about Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins getting all kinds of defensive accolades. Deservedly so, I might add. However, by one statistical measurement (Defensive Rating) the best defender on the Celtics is none other than……Rasheed Wallace? Sheed actually ranks 2nd in the NBA with 95.9 defensive rating just behind Gerald Wallace of the Bobcats who is rebounding at an astronomical rate. Now, it’s clear that this best defender label does not pass the eye test with Wallace, but it does bring to the forefront how Wallace’s defensive contributions have been going under the radar."
Loscy - "At the very least, anyone could have made the argument that Perk is a co-anchor of our defense: Perk holds down the paint so that KG can make those quicker switches. But the surprise to many of us this season is that Perk has all of the sudden turned into an offensive threat with the addition of so many of his post moves and ability to front defenders with the ball. Now, Perk is not only our defensive stalwart, but turning into a light (dieted version of an) offensive weapon as well. It only makes sense for Perk to be on the floor when it matters. We hired Sheed to be a bench guy that could fill in the front court in case of an injury; we did not bring Sheed on to close out our games. This is Perk’s job… to perform with Rondo, Ray Ray, Pierce, and KG."
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
So why am I telling you this? (Other than the fact that if I weren't writing this article I, too, would be passed out on a bed for oh, about 20 straight hours?) Because Kevin Garnett has been cramming for finals for each of the past 14 years, and now going on 15. While most players bring their 'A' game on certain nights and are sure to bring a full effort for big games, Garnett has been bringing maniacal effort every game, every practice for 15 years. Some players treat the playoffs like college finals, but Garnett acts like he's got a final every time he laces up his shoes. He's like that one overachieving girl (I don't know why, but it's always a girl) who is really smart, but still gets straight A's mostly because of her work ethic. She puts more work in during her homework than a normal person ever would even for a test, writes pages and pages of notes during lectures, and pisses everyone off because she's so over-the-top about her desire to be the best student.
Sound familiar? Maybe like a 6'11" power forward who headbutts the basket support before every single game, even exhibition games? Who, at one of his very first practices with the Celtics, screamed at captain and long-time Celtics leader Paul Pierce for dogging it during suicides? Garnett is so intense that he swears he gets so caught up into games (even meaningless regular-season games) that he doesn't remember his in-game behavior. He becomes so wrapped up in the moment, so engaged in battle, that he can crawl on all fours, bark in an opponent's face and not even realize what he's doing. He'll pound his chest, spew four-letter words so incessantly it would make Mike Tyson blush, and block every shot an opponent launches after the whistle.
Just like the overachieving girl everyone loves to hate, though, Kevin Garnett wasn't simply outworking people; he was smart, too. (Or, in Garnett's case, 6'11" with smooth ball-handling skills, unbelievable footwork, a deadly midrange jumper, boundless selflessness and athleticism unfit for a man that tall.) For a few years in Minnesota, Garnett was absolutely dominant, all but unstoppable. My favorite Garnett move is one he used to do all the time: He would go to the post and catch the ball with both feet planted, keeping the option open to move either way. After a head fake one way and a shoulder fake the other, Garnett would finally pivot away from his defender for an unblockable turnaround jumper that seemed to go in far more often than not. In his prime, Garnett was a go-to-guy who was the unquestioned center of his teams' offenses. Even when Garnett wasn't the one taking the shots, the ball ran through him. Dump it into the post to the Big Fella, and good things were bound to happen.
Notice how I said "in his prime." Garnett has been able to fool people into thinking he might still be in his prime; I guess that's what happens when you start shooting 70% from the field every night, seemingly draining every single shot you take. But, as efficient as he has been, Garnett is not the same player as he once was. He just isn't. Just take a look at the stats: Garnett is averaging less rebounds per game than any season but his rookie year. Less assists per game than any season but his rookie year. He's averaging the least amount of steals he ever has, and the least amount of blocks. He's shooting what would be a career-high field goal percentage, but everything about Kevin Garnett's stats, everything about watching him play, screams, "Role player."
It's weird to say, but the Big Ticket really has become a glorified role player. Most of his shots are kick-outs for open jumpers, most of his rebounds boards that happen to bounce somewhere very near to him. Even his defense has suffered; has Garnett ever been beaten off the dribble more times than he has this season?
Whereas Garnett used to be the focal point of an offense, used to carry Minnesota to victories with his talent as much as his sheer will, he simply can't do that anymore. He's still a great player to have on a team, still capable of putting up very good numbers and changing games, still a great leader who can rally the troops and inspire his teammates to play better, but KG is on the decline and I'm sad to say he's reached the end of his time of dominance.
You can fool yourself and think that he's "back" just because he's shooting so well, or he's finished a lot of alley-oops lately, or you think he's just sacrificing his game since he's finally surrounded by All-Stars. Yeah, his stellar supporting cast is part of the reason his stats are down, but there's another reason, a sadder reason, for his decline in production....
One can only take so many finals before he'll inevitably crash.
But Kevin Garnett doesn't think they're anything close to a finished product.
Via Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald:
“Now we’ve got great additions to this team - not good additions, great additions. Rasheed (Wallace), Quis (Marquis Daniels) and our young guys are getting better. We’re just starting to improve. It’s still December.I hope he's right. One thing to improve is first-quarter defense. Lately, it seems like the Celtics have gotten scorched in every first quarter before settling down and getting back to their defensive principles. Fortunately for the Celts, they've also had some monster first quarters themselves and have been playing well enough to win every game they've played for a long time.
“We just had to figure it out, and we still do. We can still get a lot better. If you’ve got problems, man, that means you made them. The only people that can fix them are the ones that made them.”
But there are certainly things to work on. (*cough* *cough* REBOUNDING! *cough* *cough*)
Since I already figured 'Sheed was fitting in just swell, another part of the piece stood out to me; Kendrick Perkins talks about what 'Sheed thought his role would be:
“The first day I realized it, how he socialized with everybody, his approach,” Perkins said. “He was loud and joking around. He was saying what his role is, ‘My role is to come in, give a few hard fouls, and shoot some 3's.’ That’s what he was saying, so I think he’s the perfect fit for our team.”Notice how Rasheed didn't say his role was to rebound the basketball, or to provide low-post offense. Nope, he considered his role -- even as a 6'11" center -- to stand on the perimeter and launch threes. (Note: And he didn't even say make them -- how did he know?)
For the first dozen or so games, Rasheed played just like he said he would; he camped out at the three-point line and shot enough times to make Tony Montana jealous. Then, all of a sudden, you could see the lightbulb go off inside his head: Either Rasheed thought to himself, "Man, I'm missing all my threes, I'd better take my ass down low," or Doc Rivers prodded him, "'Sheed you're missing all your threes, you'd better take your ass down low."
Whatever it was, I can remember the first time I saw 'Sheed's full post repertoire on display for the Celtics. Here's what I said, all the way back on November 28, when the Celtics played the Toronto Raptors:
Why, oh why, does Rasheed Wallace not go into the post more often? Especially when he's mired in a seemingly oh-fer-the-season slump, wouldn't you think he would at least try his post game out a little? Well, he did in this game. First post touch: Drop step towards the baseline around Bargnani for an easy bucket. Second post touch (on the very next play), an unblockable fadeaway turning towards his left shoulder for another bucket. Please, Rasheed, don't be allergic to the paint. You are far too talented on the blocks.Even after that game, I wondered if he only went down low because he was playing the softer-than-marshmallow tandem of Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani. I thought he might immediately migrate back to the land of trifectas once he played a big man who had -- to be appropriate -- heart.
And he has... but only occasionally. Rasheed still likes to chuck jumpers, and I assume he always will, but he's started to sprinkle in his very polished post game with his affinity for the outside shot. He's added another dimension to his game, a dimension he's always had in his back pocket but didn't always display.
Rasheed's role is a-changing. And it's for the better.
- Gary Washburn of the Globe had a very interesting chat yesterday where he answered questions from Celtics fans, throwing out a bunch of interesting tidbits. Here are a few:
It's pretty out of the blue to hear about Rondo being an intellectual. When I heard all types of stories this summer about Rondo being harder to deal with than Elin Nordegren with a golf club in her hand, I never figured he was the next Good Will Hunting.
[Comment From Chuck: ]We read subtle references to Rondo's off the court persona. Is he a difficult personality? just quiet? are we gonna start saying "It's Rondo being Rondo" soon?
Gary Washburn:Rajon Rondo is an interesting dude because he is not your typical jock or player who went to college just to play ball but wouldn't know about the world around him. He is very intelligent, rather moody and quite comical. He is not the "young guy who keeps quite around the old dudes" type of guy. If he has something to say, he will say it. Now perhaps a few years ago, that didn't go over well. But he is picking and choosing his moments better when to say certain things.
Washburn makes a lot of great points, but also proves he's new in town:
In time, I think Washburn will see the truth about Tony Allen: As good as he looks on certain trips down the court, the only thing he can be trusted for is being as trustworthy on a basketball court as Tiger Woods is away from home. (That makes two zings at the Woods family in one post. A new career high... for now.)
[Comment From PennStateDad: ]The C's appear to be rounding into shape, but Tony Allen is still maddeningly inconsistent. He'll make a great hustle play, then make a real dumb one. It's not just his coming back from injury; he's always done this. Is there any hope he'll improve?
Gary Washburn:I know I will hear it from C's fans on this one, but I really like Tony Allen. He is athletic, chases loose balls, is tough and can score. He hit a big shot last night in Memphis and I think with more games, he will really help this team. He is already getting better, but I know he has made some questionable plays in his time here. I am fresh eyes, so I am seeing more positive than negative.
Be sure to read the rest of the chat. It's insightful and offers a lot of insider knowledge you probably wouldn't get elsewhere.
Via the Globe:
Asked about the team’s championship prospects, he [Wallace] said, “Our chances are great. We know we’re a good team and we know we’re one of the teams going to be playing in June, that’s how confident we are. It’s not being cocky. There’s a difference between being confident and cocky. We’re just confident, we know what we can do, we know our skills, and we know that our skills can take us to June. I’m real hungry, I’m out the door, my old [rear], and it’s always good to go out on top instead of saying coulda, shoulda, woulda.’’I love Wallace's confidence, but I'd rather he wait until after (if?) the Celtics beat the Magic on Christmas day before making such a proclamation.
Maybe it's just me, but close road wins against the Grizzlies just don't make me think of June. (Yeah, yeah, okay. You got me. 11-game winning streaks and 8-game road winning streaks might make me think of June just a little.)
Jack Jemsek, Celtics Stuff Live - "It is true - the Celtics are shooting so damn well that the Field Goal % differential is a whopping 5.3% and leading the NBA no less. Consider this – the Celtics could shoot 220 shots and miss them all, while maintaining their defensive rating, and still be leading the league in field goal % differential."
Frank Dell'Apa, Boston Globe -"'When we try to outjump teams, if they’re pushing us under the basket, they’ve got a great chance of getting the ball,' said Ray Allen, whose late 3-pointer clinched the victory. 'We just started carving our space. And the guards, we’ve got to do a better job of getting rebounds.'
Jeff Clark, CelticsBlog - "And all this coming after the offseason that Rondo had is all the more impressive. Between trade rumors, questions about his character, and uncertainty about his contract, he must have been pretty distracted. Yet he remained focused. Maybe all that even sharpened his focus. He seems to have a "I'll show you" mentality that fuels him better than Red Bull ever will. So by all means, let the critics keep the criticisms coming. Harp on his outside shot. Question his attitude. Do your best to tear him down. As for me, I'll sit back and watch him tear you apart. Little by little. Game by game. Assist by assist. Steal by steal. Win by win. Rondo will be an All Star this year and a star for years to come because he's learned how to be consistent."
Greg Payne, CelticsBlog - "Throughout this revitalizing 11-game win streak, the C's have secured some steep performances from a variety of players not belonging to the very exclusive "Big Three" club. Sure, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen have been tremendous over this stretch, but so has Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins, and now, joining that list over the past two games, is Rasheed Wallace, whose play in the paint has opened my eyes and introduced a whole new weapon for this Celtics team to utilize."
Zach Lowe, Celtics Hub - "For now, TA is going to play double-figure minutes for this team while Marquis Daniels is hurt. His success would help the second unit, reduce the burden on Ray Allen and Paul Pierce and give the C’s a player who could diversify their offensive arsenal by getting to the foul line. It would also be a nice coda to a career until now defined by bizarre injuries, shady off the court connections, sloppy dribbling and maddening brain cramps. It was in this spirit that I introduced the Official Tony Allen Dos and Donts List after Monday night’s game. Right now, it only has six items."
Me, Celtics Town - "While most players bring their 'A' game on certain nights and are sure to bring a full effort for big games, Garnett has been bringing maniacal effort every game, every practice for 15 years. Some players treat the playoffs like college finals, but Garnett acts like he's got a final every time he laces up his shoes. He's like that one overachieving girl (I don't know why, but it's always a girl) who is really smart, but still gets straight A's mostly because of her work ethic. She puts more work in during her homework than a normal person ever would even for a test, writes pages and pages of notes during lectures, and pisses everyone off because she's so over-the-top about her desire to be the best student. Sound familiar? Maybe like a 6'11" power forward who headbutts the basket support before every single game, even exhibition games? Who, at one of his very first practices with the Celtics, screamed at captain and long-time Celtics leader Paul Pierce for dogging it during suicides?"
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Earlier today, it was SI. Yesterday (I know, I am late), it was from HoopsHype, which has Garnett listed as the 5th-best player of the decade and Pierce as the 10th-best.
Their blurb about Pierce:
Pierce might have been overlooked on this list if his stupendous performance in the 2008 league championship series hadn’t revealed his remarkable abilities. He literally ran the Lakers’ defense into the ground and exposed Los Angeles during that series. It was the kind of performance that made observers stop and think about Pierce’s great effort on undermanned Boston teams throughout the decade. He had been forced to carry undermanned teams on his back, and when his chance came in the NBA Finals, Pierce took his place among the best. And the Lakers nor any other team in the league could do anything to stop him.And about Garnett:
Garnett labored for years in frustration with the Minnesota Timberwolves (where he was named league Most Valuable Player) before his 2007 trade to the Boston Celtics. But it was in Boston where Garnett realized his championship possibilities. His size and strength and durability helped define him as a power forward, but nothing framed his persona more than his legendary intensity. His competitiveness drove the teams he played on and established his place as one of the game’s all-time greats. His characteristic weapon was the face-up jumper from the top of the key, but really Garnett could score from any spot of his choosing. And his defense intimidated even the best opponents.It's nice to see these two guys get so much recognition, but can't Mark Blount at least get an honorable mention vote?
Well, Bill Walton came pretty close to answering that question with this "music video" he filmed years ago. Throw it down, big man:
The spectacle of Bill Walton rapping, sadly, isn't even the funniest part of this whole video. It's those damn shorts. Those things would be short on my four-year old little cousin, never mind the "best broadcaster in Western Civilization."
Though Garnett was the 2004 league MVP with Minnesota, he was criticized for failing to lead the undermanned Wolves to an NBA Finals. Those complaints turned into cheers with his trade to the Celtics in 2007, when Garnett joined with Pierce and Ray Allen to lead Boston to its first championship in 22 years. Garnett will go down as one of the great defenders of his era.And about Pierce:
After reaching the 2002 conference finals as a 24-year-old go-to scorer, Pierce matured -- with the help of coach Doc Rivers -- to become an all-around playmaker while the Celtics were attempting to rebuild with youth. When those youngsters were traded for Garnett and Allen, Pierce was ready to do everything from scoring to creating to defending LeBron on his way to becoming Finals MVP in 2008.The complete list of the All-Decade team:
PG - Steve Nash
SG - Kobe Bryant
SF - Lebron James
PF - Tim Duncan
C - Shaquille O'Neal
PG - Jason Kidd
SG - Dwyane Wade
SG - Allen Iverson
SF - Carmelo Anthony
PF - Kevin Garnett
PF - Dirk Nowitzki
SF - Paul Pierce
What, you mean no Antoine Walker?
Doc Rivers still likes the point guard very much, but he’s played just 49 minutes after a DNP last night in the 110-105 win against the Grizzlies.I, for one, think Lester could benefit from a prolonged stay in the D-League. If he's not going to play a single meaningful minute in Boston, what's the point of having him toil on the bench when he could be earning valuable experience in the D-League?
"He’s on a very good team where it’s very difficult to get minutes, but that hasn’t sidetracked his work,” Rivers said. “We’re going to send him down pretty soon to the NBDL for a week or so to get him some games, because I don’t like our young guys going these long stretches without playing games. And then we’re going to bring him back. I think that will help him.”
Remember, this is a guy who played college at the University of Tennessee-Martin, where he played against some poor competition. So playing against some D-League competition could really be beneficial to him.
Plus, I'd rather see Bill Walker get his chance with the C's. Now there's a player who could really make a role for himself on this team, especially with the Marquis Daniels injury. For some reason, though, the Celtics are happier to give Tony Allen Daniels' leftover minutes.
Frank Dell'Apa, Boston Globe - "Then, Pierce drove again as Garnett screened Gay. As the Grizzlies committed to Pierce, he attempted to pass back to Garnett. Instead, the ball ended up with Allen. 'We improvised a little bit,' Allen said. 'Kevin was wide open. Paul was trying to probe and see how much they wanted to help. Rudy’s long and tall, and he got his hands on the ball. I was just trying to keep my feet active. I ended up just following the ball and the ball fell in my hands. I looked down at the other end and I saw it was like four seconds and I looked up and it was like ‘3.’ And I said this has got to go up.'"
Chris Forsberg, ESPNBoston - "Rondo's jumper with 2:47 remaining put Boston out front 103-95, but Memphis quickly made it a one-possession game, striking for three buckets in little more than a minute.
That's when the Big Three took over. Pierce and Garnett ran a familiar pick-and-pop, leading to a 21-foot jumper by Garnett with 1:20 to play. Marc Gasol answered with a pair of free throws when Perkins fouled out, but Pierce made a driving layup on the Celtics' next possession to push the lead back to four. O.J. Mayo hit a long jumper to make it 107-105 with 42 ticks left, setting up Allen's heroics. Pierce and Garnett tried to run the same play at the top of the key, but Rudy Gay deflected the pass. Allen scrambled to get the loose ball, then pulled up from well beyond the 3-point arc and drilled a straightaway bomb for the final spread."
Ronald Tillery, Memphis Commercial Appeal - "Allen’s basket — one of 10 for the Celtics from beyond the arc — came as the shot clock expired and accounted for the final score. The basket also fell good after it appeared the Griz would earn a much-needed stop. Griz leading scorer Rudy Gay disrupted the Celtics’ pick-and-roll when he tapped away Paul Pierce’s pass intended for Kevin Garnett. Instead of the Griz coming away with a stop, the basketball fell to Allen for the dagger. 'We played outstanding basketball, and they just beat us,' Hollins said. 'Sometimes that happens. When you play well, you can live with getting beat.'"
Me, Celtics Town - "Early in the second quarter, Tommy Heinsohn said, 'They... their defense is porous, man.' He was talking about the Grizzlies of course, but he could have been talking about either team on this night. The C's couldn't get stops, and it wasn't that Memphis was playing good team basketball. They were simply making one-on-one forays to the hoop. I can't really describe how Memphis played, besides saying it was 'selfishly unselfish.' It wasn't like any member of the Grizzlies took a ton of shots. Their four top scorers (Rudy Gay, Mayo, Mike Conley, and Marc Gasol) all took between 12 and 17 shots. If you were to look at the boxscore, you'd probably think they played great team basketball, and shared it nicely. But it wasn't that; It was more like the Grizzlies took turns being selfish. One play, they'd clear it out and let Mayo go to work. The next, it was Gay's turn. Then Randolph's, and on and on. There wasn't a lot of ball movement, and the Grizz only had 5 assists in the final three quarters, but their offense was nonetheless effective."
Zach Lowe, Celtics Hub - "But Rudy Gay got a hand on the ball, knocking it into no-man’s land behind the three-point line. And there was Ray, fresh off sitting nearly 7:00 on the bench in the 4th, in the right position to retrieve the ball, take two dribbles and launch a three from the top of the key—while falling to his left as the shot clock expired. Swish. Game over. Big plays. All night. On both ends, whenever the Grizzlies threatened. That was the theme of the night. (That and the continued development of Rajon Rondo, which makes me giddier than anything has as a sports fan since maybe sometime in the fall of 2004). The Grizzlies were good and the C’s were a step behind their usual brilliance on D, but they still found a way to win—without overplaying the starters."
Matthew Noe, 3 Shades of Blue - "In the grand scheme of things, one shouldn't be all that surprised by the outcome of this game-the Celtics are, after all, infinitely more experienced with games going down to the wire than are the young Grizzlies. But as the esteemed Eric Hasseltine said immediately after the game on the radio broadcast, if you're a Grizzlies fan and you're not proud of the way the team played tonight, you need to check your pulse and look in the mirror. Well said, Eric, well said. I can dig that. There were a zillion reasons why everyone in the FedEx Forum got their money's worth tonight....but I would have gotten just a bit more value out of the deal if the Griz could have pulled this one out..."
Straight Outta Vancouver - "And while they might not be rising quite as fast as a couple weeks ago, the Memphis Grizzlies are showing a hell of a lot more resilience than anyone expected from this team. This recent run has seen the Grizzlies playing the Mavericks, Cavaliers, Thunder, Heat, and Celtics. That's quite the spread right there. I don't want to take anything away from the Celtics, because that's not my point. It takes an enormous change in team culture for the Memphis Grizzlies that most people remember as the Memphis Grizzlies to come out on the second night of a traveling back-to-back and play a full-strength, reloaded championship squad down to the wire."
Monday, December 14, 2009
But besides realizing Rudy Gay can dunk a basketball, watching the Grizzlies this season has let me in on another secret: The Memphis Grizzlies are a very talented ballclub.
Memphis has talent at every position. Players all over the court who can make plays. Big guys inside who can rebound the basketball and finish buckets, and shooters outside who can make it rain. But with such a talented team, why is Memphis three games under .500?
Defense, defense, defense.
You know the old adage, defense wins championships? Well, defense wins games too. The Grizz are the second-worst defensive team in the league, with a defensive efficiency of 111.5 points/ 100 possessions (According to KnickerBlogger). They have two big men, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, who might as well be big pieces of Swiss cheese. Or, at least, walking targets for opposing big men looking for a bucket. They have guards who focus on scoring and, well, not much else. The person on their team who has been the best NBA defender over his career wears a suit and tie to games; he’s their coach, Lionel Hollins.
They have Jamaal Tinsley, who has only been listed in the same sentence with “defense” while in court “defending” himself against criminal charges. There’s Zach Ranolph, and no, that wasn’t a typo… he just doesn’t have any “D”. Marc Gasol doesn’t seem to have a defensive-minded bone in his body, and Rudy Gay sure doesn’t seem to focus on anything but scoring.
O.J. Mayo is the only Grizzly with any defensive inclination whatsoever, and even his is fleeting and certainly not omnipresent. Actually, I was wrong about him being the only Grizzly with defensive focus: They have Hasheem Thabeet, too. You know, the 7’3” shot-blocking specialist who was drafted second in the draft, yet still manages to play only 10 minutes per game. He’s so fundamental Lionel Hollins said about him, “We’re teaching him how to play the game of basketball, like you would a seventh or eighth grader.”
So their one truly defensive-minded player reads basketball at a seventh- or eighth-grade level. Their guards don’t keep the other team from penetrating, and really don’t seem to care to, and their big men couldn’t guard my 12-year old brother in the post.
Still, the Memphis Grizzlies have the offensive firepower and the skill to be a major threat on any given night. They have inside scoring, outside scoring, and slashers who can fill it up. They’re athletic, talented, and balanced.
It’s just too bad they only give a damn on one end of the court.