Posts Tagged ‘Courtney Lee’

Like Doc Said, ‘Don’t Bury The Celtics Yet’



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The next time Celtics coach Doc Rivers has something to say about his team and the resolve that championship outfits always show when things look bleak, I’ll just shut up and listen. We’d all be wise to do as much.

He warned us when Rajon Rondo went down with that torn ACL that the season would not end for the Boston Celtics just because they lost their All-Star point guard on Jan. 27.

His exact words:  “You can write the obituary; I’m not. You can go ahead, but I’m not. We won tonight and so, the way I look at it is, we’re going to stay in there. In my opinion, we’re going nowhere.”

We jumped to foolish conclusions around here and assumed that the Big 3 + Rondo era was officially done. But the Celtics have done exactly what Rivers said they would. Seven straight wins, including triumphs over the Miami Heat, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers and most recently Sunday’s triple overtime thriller to snap the Denver Nuggets’ nine-game win streak.

The remaining members of the Big 3 — Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett — have played like the wicked warriors they’ve always been, but they’ve cranked it back up to 2008 levels over the course of the past seven games.

Pierce was magnificent yesterday, slaying the Nuggets with big shots, clutch rebounds and timely assists. Pierce’s 27, 14 and 14 was a throwback to the days of Larry Legend in Boston, as hallowed a ground as there is in Celtics lore. Garnett was just as devastating, finishing with 20 points and 18 rebounds.

But how about the rest of the supporting cast? Jason Terry came to life, finishing with a season-high 26 points off the bench, reminding us all of the crucial role he played in the Dallas Mavericks’ championship run two seasons ago. And Jeff Green, doing his own Mr. Big Shot routine against the Nuggets, chipped in with 17 points and three big blocks.

Rivers, of course, refused to take any credit for what’s gone on the past seven games, including yesterday heroics from Pierce and the rest of the crew.

“I mean that’s what great players do. I would love to tell you I had something to do with it,” Rivers said. “I was sitting just like the fans saying, ‘Please, Lord, Paul make a shot.’ “

But he’s short-changing the power of his words and presence in that Celtics locker room. As great as Garnett and Pierce have been as locker room leaders since they came together, this team has always marched to the beat Rivers plays for them. He’s the one who showed  the ultimate confidence in Rondo when he was still trying to become the elite point guard he has become. He’s also the one who knew when it was time to elevate Avery Bradley to a more prominent role on a veteran-laden team. He’s the one who made clear to Courtney Lee that he had confidence in Lee assuming some facilitating responsibilities in Rondo’s absence.

Rivers is doing what only the greats have done and can do: he’s making a mockery of conventional wisdom and showing that age is truly just a number where the Celtics’ aging warriors and young upstarts are concerned. His belief in his team, in every man on his roster, has paved the way for the Celtics to not only keep their season alive in the midst of what should have been devastating injury news, but also helps them remain as one of a couple of teams (along with Indiana and perhaps Chicago, depending on what Derrick Rose looks like in his return from ACL surgery) capable of complicating the Heat’s march through the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets need to be concerned as well, what with the Celtics having all the ingredients to mount a furious post-All-Star Weekend assault on the Atlantic Division standings.

Everything is still on the table for these Celtics with the momentum they’ve built over the past seven games, and counting.

As usual, Rivers was right.

We shouldn’t have written that obit when Rondo went down.

He didn’t.

And the Celtics are thriving because of it!

Is Sullinger The Offensive Key For Rondo-less Celtics?

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Will the Boston Celtics blow it up with Rajon Rondo out for the season?

That will be determined by what kind of offers Danny Ainge gets for Kevin Garnett and/or Paul Pierce between now and Feb. 21 trade deadline.

For now, the Celtics are moving on with what they’ve got. And they’ve got to figure out how to play without Rondo if they’re going to hold onto a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Philadelphia 76ers are just three games behind the Celtics, have a soft stretch of schedule coming up, and hope to get Andrew Bynum back at some point down the line.

The Celtics without Rondo are the Celtics without a point guard. None of the other guards on the roster — Leandro Barbosa, Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee and Jason Terry — are real floor generals. Of the group, only Barbosa has an assist percentage above that of either Garnett or Pierce.

But the Celtics have been OK without Rondo so far this season. In fact, they’ve been incrementally better, both offensively and defensively, with him off the floor than with him on the floor.

Celtics efficiency with Rondo on and off the floor

Rondo on/off MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
On floor 1,423 94.9 99.2 100.5 -1.3 -57
Off floor 744 90.6 100.4 100.0 +0.4 -2

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Defense really shouldn’t be an issue. Even though Rondo has been named to the All-Defensive first or second team each of the last four seasons, he’s not much of an impact player on that end of the floor.

Bradley and Garnett, meanwhile, are just that. And though the Celtics’ defense had fallen off dramatically when Garnett stepped off the floor in the first two months of the season, it’s been fine (92.8 points allowed per 100 possessions) with Garnett off the floor and Bradley on. It’s a small sample size (83 minutes), but it’s certainly encouraging.

Offensively, though Rondo leads the league with 11.1 assists per game, the Celtics still have an above average assist rate with him off the floor.

Celtics offense with Rondo on and off the floor

Rondo on/off 2PT% 3PT% OREB% TmTOV% FTA Rate AST/FG
On floor 48.7% 34.7% 19.8% 15.0% .248 64.5%
Off floor 48.9% 30.6% 24.2% 15.8% .286 59.7%

OREB% = Percentage of available offensive rebounds obtained
TmTOV% = Turnovers per 100 possessions
FTA Rate = FTA / FGA

The Celtics have shot better and turned the ball over less with Rondo on the floor. But with him on the bench, they’ve gone to the line more often and given themselves more second-chance opportunities.

The key to the rebounding is that Jared Sullinger — the Celtics’ best (and only) offensive rebounder — has played just 33 percent of Rondo’s minutes on the floor, but has played 55 percent of Rondo’s minutes on the bench.

Overall, the Celtics have been much better with Sullinger on the floor (102.1 points scored per 100 possessions) than with him on the bench (97.9). Not only is he their best offensive rebounder, but he’s the one Boston big man who actually takes most of his shots from the paint.

The Celtics’ two most-used lineups without Rondo both include Sullinger, and both have been excellent offensively.

Celtics most-used lineups without Rondo

Lineup GP MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Terry, Lee, Green, Sullinger, Garnett 17 95 85.2 115.8 90.9 +24.8 +39
Barbosa, Lee, Green, Sullinger, Garnett 13 73 87.4 107.6 100.1 +7.5 +4
Terry, Lee, Pierce, Bass, Garnett 8 42 96.1 96.6 77.2 +19.3 +11
Barbosa, Terry, Pierce, Green, Garnett 5 27 90.4 88.3 83.8 +4.5 -2
Terry, Lee, Green, Bass, Sullinger 8 25 93.0 103.1 84.1 +18.9 +8

So Sullinger’s minutes could be the key to Boston maintaining some sort of offensive success without Rondo. The problem is that he has a difficult time staying on the floor. Of 266 players around the league who have logged at least 500 minutes this season, he has committed, by far, the most fouls per minute (6.3 per 36). He has fouled out eight times already this season.

The Celtics are not going to be a very good offensive team no matter what. But they can stay competitive if they match their top-five defense with an offense that doesn’t regress without their point guard.

So Doc Rivers has got to roll with the rookie. Sullinger started his first game in 2 1/2 months against the Heat on Sunday and managed to commit just one foul in 22 minutes. That was a defensive win against the second-best offensive team in the league, but more offense will obviously be needed over the long haul.

Green Could Be A Problem This Season

 

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Jeff Green never makes it into the frame for the photo-op with the Celtics’ revamped Big 3 of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo.

Spending a season in street clothes away from the court and the public consciousness has a way of forcing a player, even one as talented and accomplished as Green, into the background.

Green spent all of last season recovering from heart surgery, missing out on the Celtics’ run to the Eastern Conference finals and the Celtics’ missed out on all that the dynamic hybrid forward brings to the party.

He’s back now, in a major way. Anyone who has seen the Celtics during the preseason has seen it. He’s flying around on both ends of the floor and making plays at the rim (check out that block above) and in transition in ways that no other player on the Celtics’ current roster can.

A 6-foot-9, 235-pound forward with the length and athleticism to match up against power forwards and the range and ballhandling skills to work on the perimeter as well, Green brings another dose of firepower to the Celtics’ attack (along with newcomers Courtney Lee and Jason Terry) that was lacking last season.

We’re not saying that a healthy Green pushes the Celtics past the Heat in that conference finals clash last season, but you never know …

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Rivers Plans To Mix And Match

 

BROOKLYN – In the first three seasons of the KG era, the Boston Celtics’ starting lineup was constant.

Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins. That’s what you expected to see when you arrived at the arena or turned on your TV to watch the Celtics, and that’s what you got. Over those three seasons, that group started 214 of a possible 304 games and played 4,172 minutes together, which was 1,709 more than any other lineup around the league over that time. And they were very, very good.

Most used lineups, 2007-08 through 2009-10, including postseason

Team Lineup GP MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
BOS Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Garnett, Perkins 214 4,172 109.2 95.5 +13.7 +1,063
ATL Bibby, Johnson, Williams, Smith, Horford 161 2,463 105.1 104.7 +0.4 +5
OKC Westbrook, Sefolosha, Durant, Green, Krstic 99 1,674 102.5 105.8 -3.3 -86
UTA Williams, Brewer, Kirilenko, Boozer, Okur 109 1,615 109.9 106.7 +3.2 +100
NOH Paul, Peterson, Stojakovic, West, Chandler 83 1,548 112.9 102.5 +10.4 +325

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Then Perkins blew out his knee and was eventually traded. Over the last two seasons, the Celtics’ starting lineup wasn’t nearly as consistent, with Glen Davis, Nenad Krstic, Shaquille O’Neal, Jermaine O’Neal and Brandon Bass taking turns as the other big man next to Garnett. And after Bass finally became the starting power forward in the second half of last season, Avery Bradley replaced Allen at the two.

This season, there could be even more flux in the Celtics’ lineup. First of all, Bradley is out to start the season, still recovering from shoulder surgery. But beyond that, it may just be that Doc Rivers decides to mix and match. (more…)

All Eyes On Los Angeles … The Lakers … As Training Camps Open Around The NBA

 

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We can stop speculating about it now.

We can stop wondering what they’ll look like, together, all four of the Los Angeles Lakers’ major pieces (with apologies to Metta World Peace, whose importance we don’t want to minimize … after all, someone has to crank up the already ridiculous expectations for this team). Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol together is a fantasy basketball lover’s paradise. Four guys who all have Hall of Fame credentials wearing the same uniform, and all four playing vastly different positions, teaming up to try to unseat the Miami Heat as kings of the league.

You can’t pay enough for these sorts of storylines at the start of the NBA season, though Dr. Jerry Buss might say otherwise when that luxury tax bill arrives.

That multi-million dollar chemistry experiment we’ve all been waiting to witness gets under way today as the Lakers and the rest of the league’s teams that didn’t start last Friday open training camp. And with the official start of the 2012-13 season comes the renewed scrutiny of the one franchise that always makes a habit of creating a stir this time of year.

Lakers fans are no doubt confident that their team is poised for something seismic with the star-studded additions of both Howard (who is coming back from back surgery and not expected to go 100 percent at the start of camp) and Nash. There remains some reasonable skepticism in Los Angeles about Howard, at least from the likes of former Lakers great James Worthy. But there is no denying that the Lakers have, at least on paper, every bit of firepower needed to challenge for the throne this season.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t legitimate concerns about this team. The Heat made it to The Finals in their first year together but were ultimately overwhelmed by a Dallas Mavericks team that proved to have much better chemistry and in the end was simply a better team than the LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh-led Heat.

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Doc, Celtics Focused On Heat


HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS –
No one can accuse Doc Rivers of being anything other than a pragmatist.

It makes no sense for the coach of the Boston Celtics to worry himself with the Los Angeles Lakers and what goes on in the Western Conference when Rivers and his crew have to contend with the reigning NBA champion Miami Heat in their own conference.

Rivers said it himself when he uttered this line: “I have my eye squarely on Miami,” to Bob Ryan during an interview at the Action For Boston Community Development’s Hoop Dreams event (check video, above):

“Honestly, I don’t care about the Lakers … I have my eye squarely on Miami. I come up to my players during the year — they’re in the facility now — I bring up Miami every single day to them. I want them to hate them. I want them to beat them. That’s gotta be our focus.”

Rivers is right to keep his focus on the Heat and right to make sure his team does the same. The Celtics pushed the Heat in the 2012 Eastern Conference finals, showing a bit more fight than many of us expected while sending a clear message to the crew in Miami — that they were not going to ride roughshod over Boston on their way to what could be several appearances in The Finals with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh at the controls.

(That has to be painful for Celtics, Bulls and Pacers fans to hear, but it’s the truth … we could be in the midst of a Heat championship era unless someone in the East rises up and stops them.)

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Celtics’ Bradley To Allen: Thanks, Ray!

Some of the more impassioned, green-blindered NBA fans in Boston are cranky about veteran shooting guard Ray Allen’s decision to leave and crankier still toward Allen for opting to sign as a free agent with the rival Miami Heat, who have put the Celtics down the past two springs.

Avery Bradley, though, approaches it from a different direction. He might have mixed feelings about Allen no longer being with the Celtics – it does, after all, further clear the way for Bradley’s rising role — but he has only warm fuzzies toward the man himself, regardless of his new address.

Without Allen’s generosity to a young, unproven backcourt player, this whole storyline might be playing out different. And Bradley appreciates that, as related by ESPNBoston.com’s Chris Forsberg.

“Ray was a great tutor,” said Bradley, who struggled with his ability to generate offense early in his NBA career but blossomed last season as he became more confident in his jump shot.

“I’m sad that he’s gone, but we all wish the best for him. But he definitely meant a lot. He helped me out every single day. Sometimes I’d just be working out and he’d be watching on the side. He’d get up and tell me what I needed to work on, or tell me how I can be more consistent. I really thank him for that.”

Bradley shot a mere 34.3 percent from the floor during his rookie season, and those struggles trickled into his second season, particularly as the Celtics worked to develop him as a backup point guard.

Once the team put the focus on Bradley as a shooting guard, he flourished. His confidence grew as he utilized his cutting ability to generate easy hoops, and his jump shot — something coach Doc Rivers swore he showcased during the team’s practices — soon followed.

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The Best Of The Rest

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The moratorium period is over. Deron Williams has re-signed with the Nets, Steve Nash is now a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, and the Miami Heat have welcomed Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis as their newest role players on Wednesday morning.

Other moves that have been unofficially reported over the last 10 days will officially announced in the coming hours and days. We might also find out where Dwight Howard is going to play next season!

Almost all of the top talent is off the board, but there are still some good players available. Here’s a list of the top 10 free agents who have yet to reach an agreement on a new contract…

1. Brook Lopez, C (Signed extension with Nets)
Lopez is at the center of the Howard trade talks. And if the Orlando Magic aren’t buying what the Nets are selling, Lopez is almost certainly heading to Brooklyn with Williams, Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace. But according to a Yahoo! report late Tuesday, the details on Lopez’s contract haven’t been finalized, and another team (Charlotte, perhaps?) could step in and give him an offer sheet. So technically, he’s still on the board.

2. Elton Brand, PF (Signed with Mavericks)
Brand is still on the Sixers roster, but reports say that Philly will waive him via the amnesty clause in order to sign Nick Young and trade for Dorell Wright. Even then, he probably won’t be a free agent, because teams with cap space will bid on the final year of his contract. But he’s a better get than everyone below, and he will have a new team in the next week or so.

3. JaVale McGee, C (Re-signed with Nuggets)
McGee still hasn’t harnessed his freakish athleticism to become the elite defender that he really should be. If it ever clicks for McGee, it will probably happen in Denver. SI.com’s Sam Amick reported late Tuesday that the Nuggets and McGee were progressing on a new contract. (more…)

Deconstructing Rockets’ Camby Trade





It looks like the Rockets have grown tired of having the best record in the draft lottery every year, being annually the last team not to qualify for the playoffs.

So they’re diving.

They might as well be leaping from an airplane door without a parachute or plummeting to depths that normally require a scuba tank and flippers.

They’ll call it simply modifying the course, staying flexible with contracts and keeping themselves attractive to potential trade partners.

That’s why they let Goran Dragic walk out the door as a free agent. That’s why they traded Kyle Lowry to Toronto for a lottery pick. That’s why they withdrew their qualifying offer to Courtney Lee. Now, they’ve swapped Marcus Camby to the Knicks for a handful of magic beans.

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Thunder Need To Be Careful, Patient





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We’ll keep this warning for the Oklahoma City Thunder brief, since everyone has plenty of other stuff on their plate on Draft day.

Be careful. And be patient.

Don’t be hasty in whatever decisions you make tonight and in the immediate future.

We’re sending this warning to Thunder fans really, because the sting of defeat in The Finals lingers. It’s an impossible taste to get out of your mouth. We know because we’ve seen it before. We’ve watched teams overreact and make rash decisions and pay for them later, as Thunder general manager Sam Presti and his staff are surely aware of.

We’ve seen all of these reports about the Thunder’s infatuation with Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal, some generated anonymously but most of them fueled by Beal’s own words:

This year, on the eve of what was shaping up to be the least suspenseful first round in the franchise’s Oklahoma City era, a report surfaced that said the Thunder has sought to trade into the top three.

The supposed target: Florida guard Bradley Beal.

It’s the second report in the past two weeks that has connected the Thunder with trying to move into the top three. Typically, where there is smoke around this time of the year there is, well, more smoke. But the Thunder can’t seem to shake this cloud of speculation.

And this time, the player provided a firsthand account of Presti’s plans.

“He told me he was going to decide what they’re going to do and considered getting up there,” Beal told ESPN.com on Wednesday, relaying a conversation he had with Presti during an interview at the draft combine in Chicago.

In response to these reports (which are cute but have no legs, according to the folks we’ve spoken to regarding the Thunder), we’ll take this time to remind everyone of the Orlando Magic’s actions in the wake of their unsuccessful trip to The Finals in 2009.

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