You’re Danny Ainge: How do you make the Celtics relevant again with that aging roster?
Steve Aschburner: Job No. 1 for Ainge is to implore Kevin Garnett not to make any hasty decisions on his playing future. Because if he did, he’d probably opt to shut ‘er down for good. It’s hard enough on him to be getting old, with diminishing powers and durability, but to be fresh off an elimination? No, Ainge needs Garnett to get away for weeks or even months, to decompress and realize how much he still craves the competition and needs the game. Then with Garnett, Paul Pierce and a repaired Rajon Rondo, plus pieces such as Jeff Green, Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger, the Celtics would be relevant — OK, at least until the next 82 games picked them off one-by-one again.
Fran Blinebury: You don’t. Not with that aging roster. It’s time to turn the pageand move forward with a recuperated Rajon Rondo as main cog while accumulating as much young talent as possible.
Jeff Caplan: Tough question. The first part of the answer is getting Rajon Rando back. And considering the recovery paths of Ricky Rubio and Derrick Rose, well, it will be interesting to watch Rondo’s progress. I don’t think trading Paul Pierce or Kevin Garnett in the offseason is the answer. GM Danny Ainge has little wiggle room financially. He’s committed to Jeff Green, Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and Brandon Bass at pretty good salaries and multiple years. Jared Sullinger’s return will help the front line. Backcourt reinforcement is necessary. Best plan might be to bring the boys back, make periphery changes and hope Rondo can get the job done. See what happens and if it’s ugly, then a wholesale change in direction can begin at the trade deadline.
Danny Ainge (by Rich Obrey/NBAE)
Scott Howard-Cooper: By not having that aging roster. The time has come to get to the future, and that means getting something for Kevin Garnett while you still can. That means a series of moves.
John Schuhmann: Well, you can’t make the Celtics relevant again with that aging roster. You get back to relevancy by severing ties with the aging part and rebuilding. You have to take one step back to take two steps forward, and the longer you wait to take that step back, the longer it will take before you can get younger stars on the roster. With Rajon Rondo not likely to be back at 100 percent next season, and with how good the 2014 Draft is supposed to be, this summer is the right time to pull the trigger and say goodbye to Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. That’s a lot easier said than done (and I’m glad I’m not Danny Ainge in this case), but next season would be a good time to be bad.
Sekou Smith: I don’t, if I’m Danny Ainge, not with this aging roster of true warriors who are simply out of time. The only way the Celtics are made relevant again is by breaking this team up and replacing some of their older veteran stars with younger stars. Ainge has already engineered one championship team during his tenure and is certainly capable of doing it again. But the goal right now is just to make them relevant again, which is something completely different than making them a championship team again. The first step is getting Rajon Rondo back and healthy from the torn ACL that ended his season. Next up is perhaps the toughest call Ainge will have to make, and that’s what to do with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. It’s time to get something for one or both of them. Bottom line, the Celtics don’t remain relevant with this aging roster. They have to revamp the roster to make that happen.
Lang Whitaker: At some point the Celtics have to get younger, obviously, but if I’m Danny Ainge, I stand pat with this team at least until Rondo is healthy. This team has plenty of talented players and pieces, and I’d like to see them make one more postseason run with this crew. But the leash has to be pretty short: Pierce will be an expiring contract in 2014, while Rondo and Garnett expire in 2015. So if things aren’t working, as soon as it’s apparent I’d start shipping guys out and collecting draft picks and good contracts.
HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Oklahoma City, Memphis and Miami, feel fortunate, very fortunate, and proceed with caution.
As the regular season churns down to a handful of games over these final 16 days, the three teams above are the only ones of the 16 current playoff teams, plus the desperately-trying-to-get-in Los Angeles Lakers, currently unaffected by injury — or injuries.
Playoff seeding, and ultimately playoff series, could tilt on an injury report that seems to grow with each passing game.
The Grizzlies caught a break with the quick return of center Marc Gasol from an abdomen injury. Initially the team listed him as out “indefinitely.” Later, Gasol said he’d be back for the playoffs. Next thing you know he’s back after missing just two games and right back on his game.
The Heat missed Dwyane Wade for a couple games during their win streak and, of course, he, LeBron James and Mario Chalmers came down with those, ahem, previously unreported injuries prior to Sunday’s game at San Antonio. Speaking of the Spurs, Manu Ginobili‘s most recent ill-timed injury (hamstring) has put the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed firmly in play Thursday night when San Antonio visits a Thunder team as healthy as any can be 70-something games in.
Few are so fortunate, and let’s start with the carousel of injuries that have beset the Lakers. Kobe Bryant continues to play through a sprained ankle and whatever else, Dwight Howard still deals with the sporadic shooting pain from the torn labrum in his shoulder and Pau Gasol is finally back. But Metta World Peace (knee) won’t be back and Steve Nash (hip) is “doubtful” for tonight’s big showdown against the never-say-die Dallas Mavericks (10:30 p.m. ET, TNT).
The Lakers won’t receive sympathy cards from Denver, which could be without spark plug point guard Ty Lawson (heel) until the playoffs. As soon as Chauncey Billups (groin) finally returned he was gone again, and couldn’t the sinking Clippers use him right about now?
Houston’s All-Star James Harden can’t seem to shake a sprained right ankle. Jazz reserve big man Enes Kanter (shoulder), whose March was his biggest month of the season, is out indefinitely. Golden State is essentially healthy, having lost Brandon Rush way back in the opening days of the season.
Over in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics, New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls shake their heads at any team ruffled by a single injury, or two. The Celtics, having adjusted to life without Rajon Rondo, plus rookie Jared Sullinger are without Kevin Garnett (ankle) and Paul Pierce missed Monday’s loss at Minnesota for “personal reasons,” according to coach Doc Rivers. Meanwhile, Boston is dangerously close to slipping into eighth place and a first-round matchup against the Heat.
In the Big Apple, the injury list goes on and on: Tyson Chandler (neck) remains wait-and-see, Amar’e Stoudemire (knee) and Kurt Thomas (foot), very likely could join Rasheed Wallace (foot) as being shut down for the season. The Knicks, busting through it all with an eight-game win streak, continue to battle for the No. 2 seed with the Indiana Pacers, who have five straight and learned last week that Danny Granger (knee) won’t be making the late-season comeback they had expected just days earlier.
And those scrappy, scrappy Bulls by now must be resigned to a full season without Derrick Rose (knee), and they may have lost Rip Hamilton (back) for the season. They hope to soon get center Joakim Noah (foot) back in uniform, as well as Marco Belinelli (abdomen).
Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Nets, finally with Deron Williams healthy and playing like an All-Star again, would love to say the same about Joe Johnson (heel).
As the playoffs quickly approach, time is running short for players and teams to get healthy.
Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.
The one recap to watch: That big, annual pro football championship game (I think it’s called the Super Bowl, right?) last night ensured no other games of note took place before the 6:30 ET kickoff. That said, there were only three games on Sunday (all matinees), so our pick of the day goes to Clippers-Celtics. Boston isn’t exactly crying itself to sleep after losing Rajon Rondo for the season as it has gone 4-0 in the Rondo-less stage of the season. Paul Pierce showed of his “Truth-iness” to the Clips — Matt Barnes got a good look in particular — by nailing the game-sealing step-back 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds left over Barnes to halt L.A.’s hopes of a last-minute comeback win.
Howard won’t rush back — Dwight Howard sat out Sunday afternoon’s game in Detroit because of lingering pain in his right shoulder due to his torn labrum. He continues to take a day-by-day approach to his availability for the Lakers, but told the Orange County Register’s Kevin Ding he’s not going to hurry back just to get hurt again:
“It feels a little bit better, but still sore,” Howard said Sunday. “Certain movements hurt, and I don’t want to go there in any pain or go out there thinking about it too much.”
Howard aggravated the torn labrum Wednesday in Phoenix. It wasn’t the first time, and the pain fades after each aggravation, but Howard remains leery of another incident.
“It’s still not there yet,” he said. “I’m not going to try to rush myself back and have the possibility of hurting it again. There’s no need for that.”
Howard had a platelet-rich plasma injection into the shoulder Saturday. That treatment isn’t expected to provide immediate relief, but Howard’s shoulder has naturally felt better in days after each aggravation. The tear isn’t going to go away whether he takes a game, a week or the rest of the season off.
“Me and Kobe play two different positions,” Howard said. “The position I play, I use a lot of force coming up — whether that’s going up for a dunk or a shot. Hook shots, all that stuff, is this motion right here. It’s a lot of that. Playing in the post is doing this a lot.
“All that stuff, you need your shoulder stable for it. It’s a little bit different than, I would say, a guard position. You’ve got guys 260-270 you’re holding off. You’ve got to be really strong in your shoulder and all that stuff.”
Howard said it hurts him raising his arm up and especially backwards: “A lot of movements I’d be doing in games, trying to block shots, stuff like that.” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni acknowledged that Howard should try to work on not bringing the ball down so low under the basket, which is how opponents have hurt the shoulder repeatedly. Howard said he needs to be in a “stable” position to decrease the chance for aggravation.
D’Antoni said previously this seven-game trip will be the “telling tale” of the Lakers’ season. About Howard not playing Sunday, the third game of a previously 1-1 trip, D’Antoni said it was “his call.” About the labrum tear, D’Antoni said: “It’s not going to go away.”
Where have all the Pistons fans gone? — In the annals of NBA history, one of the more underrated Finals matchups — in terms of on-court play, dislike of each other’s city and so forth — has to be Pistons vs. Lakers. Three Finals matchups (with the Pistons taking two of those) will create some animosity toward each other, but that’s not the case now. As Terry Foster of The Detroit News points out, there were more Kobe Bryant and Lakers fans in yesterday’s Lakers-Pistons matinee at The Palace at Auburn Hills than there were Pistons fans:
We saw another shameful performance at The Palace on Sunday. This time, it didn’t come from the Pistons, who actually played with spirit and nearly stole a game from the resurgent Los Angeles Lakers.We witnessed the annual migration of Kobe Bryant lovers who wore his jersey and cheered his every move. Thanks to Pistons guard Will Bynum it was not a total sham. He ignited the Pistons and even turned Lakers fans into Pistons blue.
Let’s talk about the real losers. They are Pistons fans who turned The Palace into Staples Center East, the Lakers’ home away from home. Many came dressed in Lakers gold and purple and they cheered as loudly for Bryant as anything the Pistons did for much of the game. There were banners and signs for Bryant but few for the Pistons.
I don’t know what ignited the crowd more. Was it the Earl Clark dunk off a Bryant inbounds pass to end the first half? Or was it when Bryant dunked over Brandon Knight and stared at the crowd?
This was a repeat of a few weeks ago when LeBron James came to town for loud cheers. People wore James jerseys and cheered a man this town once said it hated. It wasn’t always this way but the passion for the Pistons changed over the years.
Michael Jordan used to get booed in this building. People hated him and his Picasso-looking sidekick Scottie Pippen. But later in his career, even after Jordan destroyed the two-time champion Bad Boys and said they were bad for basketball, Jordan was forgiven and lauded.
James swept the Pistons in the 2009 playoffs and Piston fans sent him off to “MVP” chants after he scored 36 points against the home team. Even when the Pistons beat Bryant and the Lakers in the 2004 NBA Finals he refused to credit the Pistons for his subpar series.
So why do you cheer a guy like this?
Celtics meet with Oden — It’s been a rough week or so in Boston, what with Rajon Rondo lost for the season and, then, rookie big man Jared Sullinger (back) out now, too. Sullinger’s agent, David Falk, says his client having surgery now is the best thing for the Celtics’ long-term plans … but that doesn’t make Boston fans feel better today. What might, though, is the notion of former No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden in Celtic green. Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe has the details on both Sullinger’s future and the prospect of Oden:
Sullinger was flagged with back issues during an NBA pre-draft examination, causing him to drop to the Celtics with the 21st overall pick. Falk said Sullinger’s condition was corrected with Friday’s surgery, and he is expected to return to basketball activities in six months.
Sullinger was examined twice by a back specialist in Philadelphia prior to the draft.
“The Celtics knew when they drafted him there was a certain level of risk that required surgery, as did several other teams,” said Falk. “Some teams treated it like he was going to have a heart attack or something. [The Celtics’] Brian McKeon is one of the most confident team doctors I’ve ever dealt with. There were so secrets, nobody was trying to hide any facts. There was a possibility that he could require surgery, but the recovery time is less than an ACL.”
Falk said the Celtics could have delayed the surgery by giving Sullinger anti-inflammatories and treatment, but wanted to take the safer approach.
“Jared’s 20 years old, to try to take a short-term risk could jeopardize his career long term. Having surgery was the most appropriate response,” Falk said. “Had he tried to continue to play and aggravate it six or eight weeks down the road, he would have missed the playoffs and the start of the season. It was a calculated decision.”
The Celtics met Saturday with free agent center Greg Oden at their training facility in Waltham. Oden, who has not played since December 2009 because of recurring knee problems, is expected to return to the NBA next season. He met with coach Doc Rivers, who said the two talked about Oden’s AAU days with the Indy Heat, a team that also featured Josh McRoberts, Mike Conley, and Daequan Cook.
“I said hi to him,” said Rivers. “We reminisced about high school days when I watched him on AAU.”
The Celtics have no expiring contracts, so they would likely need to create a salary slot for Oden, who is expected to sign for more than the veteran’s minimum.
Raptors fans never forget — Like Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady before him, Chris Bosh is learning just how good Raptors fans are at holding a grudge. Bosh left Toronto as a free agent in the summer of 2010 to join forces with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in Miami and Raptors fans haven’t let Bosh forget it. The same greeting was routinely cast upon Carter and McGrady, both ex-Raptors, on their returns to Toronto for many years after their respective departures. Shandel Richardson of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel has more:
It’s been nearly three years since Bosh decided to leave Toronto, yet the sting remains for the fans. They booed him every time he touched the ball despite this being Bosh’s fourth return to face his former team.
“Yeah, I’m a little surprised,” Bosh said. “They (fans) pay their money. They can do what they want. I hope they just remember the good times.”
Bosh said the jeers served as his motivation, especially in the second half when he scored 22 of his 28 points.
“I was hearing a lot from the fans,” Bosh said. “I thank them for continuing to stay on me and calling me names. That helped my focus a lot. I was like, `I need to get in this game to shut them up.”‘
Roy pondering his future — The injury bug has been frequent visitor to the Timberwolves, who have seen Brandon Roy, Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic and Alexey Shved (among others) miss valuable time this season. In the case of Roy, who hasn’t played since a 14-minute stint on Nov. 9, the prospects of a return are unclear. He’s still rehabbing after having knee surgery and the process of getting better has left Roy wondering what to do next if his comeback attempt fails. Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com has the details:
The plan for the Minnesota Timberwolves guard was to make his return to action Feb. 1 against the Los Angles Lakers at Target Center, after having two successful workout days. After that, he would join the team for practices leading up to the game.
Friday’s session went as planned. Saturday’s didn’t.
While performing a move in the first 20 minutes of the workout, he felt something in his right knee that he has felt far too often. He tweaked it, eliminating any possibility of him returning to action before the All-Star break.
“As soon as it happened, in my head, I said ‘I quit. I just quit,” an emotional Roy told CSNNW.com. “That was my first thought, that I couldn’t do this anymore.
“I’m at a crossroad in my career.”
He’s certain that if he can’t get right this season, it will be the end of his career. And he’s fine with that.
“I look at it like this has got to be the last season,” he said. “I don’t have any regrets because I know I tried to give it another season. So me saying this has to be the last season, it’s not as difficult as it was last year. I tried. I gave it that last effort and it’s time to move on. I’m at that range to where I’m at peace with things.”
After attempting this comeback and giving it his all, he realized that he has more to offer than just his physical talents. Roy’s game wasn’t predicated on beating defenders off the dribble or blowing by them with his speed. He was a thinker on the court who knew how to make plays without being the most athletic player in the world.
It took some time for Roy to find himself beyond playing basketball, but he says that thanks to prayer, family and friends, he has received a new calling.
Post-playing career, I now introduce you to Coach Roy.
“Now, I think there’s something in me that I can offer to basketball. There’s a message that I can bring to basketball. I wasn’t the fastest, the highest jumper, but my knowledge of the game helped me be an effective player at a high level,” Roy said. “Coaching at the NBA level is where I see myself. If this season is it for me, I’m not staying away from basketball. I would want to get in as soon as possible.”
On the Trail Blazers’ bench?
“Maybe one day,” he said. “My knowledge of the game and understanding of chemistry, I think that stuff, I can offer. These young kids today are good, but they lack those things.”
A very bad week for the Celtics got worse Friday with news that power forward Jared Sullinger will miss the rest of the season with a back injury, ending his rookie campaign after 45 games and the very encouraging showing of 5.9 rebounds in just 19.8 minutes.
That development would be enough of a gut punch five days after Boston learned it would have to finish 2012-13 without All-Star Rajon Rondo because of a torn ligament in his right knee. But losing Sullinger comes with the added implication of the worst fears over his health coming true, creating the big-picture concern that Celtics are only beginning to deal with his back problems.
When the pre-existing condition was red-flagged by teams prior to the draft, the former Ohio State star dropped all the way from being projected for the top 10 early in 2011-12, and possibly the top five, to No. 21 on June 28, 2012. It wasn’t the health scare alone – Sullinger was backsliding for basketball reasons before the injury became known – but it was an obvious concern around the league.
News that he underwent lumbar disc surgery will unfortunately not be a big surprise around front offices. In an interview with Boston radio station WEEI, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge confirmed Sullinger’s current problem is related to the one detected before the draft, saying: “Well, yeah. I think that when he was drafted with the medical reports that we had on his back, I think it would be crazy to think that there would not be some days missed… (head trainer) Eddie Lacerte and (team doctor) Dr. (Brian) McKeon and (strength and conditioning coach) Bryan Doo, they spend a lot of time with Jared each day, stretching and formulating plans to strengthen his core and to strengthen the muscles around his back, because he does have management issues back there. And so I think that this is not a surprise. I guess I would say I’m a little surprised that it’s taken this long. He’s been with us since July 1 and he’s been pain-free and hasn’t missed a day of practice until the game (Wednesday) night when it was just sort of a freak thing. He got a rebound and his back spasmed up.”
That was on Thursday, when the Celtics were dismissing the problem as minor. A day later, they were having to contemplate losing one of the keys to the Rondo-less season and dealing with another major setback while trying to stay in the Eastern Conference playoff pack with a three-game lead over the 76ers for the eighth and final spot heading into Friday’s games. With what free time they had left, the front office, coaching staff, entire roster and hot-dog vendors likely fanned out to determine who suddenly got a Celtics voodoo doll and a large box of pins.
The team called the surgery “successful” and said Sullinger “is expected to be ready” for training camp. Rondo is on a similar schedule in the return from his knee injury.
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
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
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
Terry, Lee, Green, Sullinger, Garnett
Barbosa, Lee, Green, Sullinger, Garnett
Terry, Lee, Pierce, Bass, Garnett
Barbosa, Terry, Pierce, Green, Garnett
Terry, Lee, Green, Bass, Sullinger
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.
HANG TIME, Texas – Sometimes the decisions are made for you.
Danny Ainge can stop wondering about what to do, which direction to take with his Celtics as the NBA trade deadline of Feb. 21 draws near.
The future arrived in Boston like a punch in the gut with the sickening news that Rajon Rondo has a torn ACL in his right knee and is lost for the season.
Now it’s time to start over.
If Ray Allen having swapped jerseys for Sunday’s homecoming to the TD Garden with the Heat was first crack in the Celtics 21st century golden run that began in 2007, then Rondo’s injury sent the remnants crashing to the parquet floor.
Rondo was averaging 13.7 points, 11.1 assists and had just been named an All-Star starter for the first time. He was coming off back-to-back triple-doubles, including the double-overtime loss in Atlanta, where the injury evidently occurred.
After complaining of pain while trying to warm up prior to Sunday’s game, the point guard was taken to New England Baptist Hospital where an MRI revealed the tear.
The rest of the Celtics were given the bad news during the game and word circulated like whispers of a death in the family through the arena and the rest of the NBA world.
“We just got to rally round each other,” teammate Paul Pierce told ABC’s Doris Burke. “I feel for him. He was having such a great season … It’s disappointing news. Guys just got to step up.”
But it is one thing for Pierce to come through with a gutty triple-double performance of his own and for the Celtics to persevere through a double-overtime against Miami. It is quite another to believe that a Boston team without Rondo could take down the defending champion Heat in a seven-game playoff series. That is, assuming the Celtics even limp into the playoffs.
The win over Miami ended a six-game Celtics losing streak that already had coach Doc Rivers threatening to get one-way tickets out of town for anybody that couldn’t step up. He changed his lineup, putting rookie Jared Sullinger in to start at center in place of Brandon Bass. The Celtics are still two games below .500.
The harsh truth is that the blow is not just the end of a season for Rondo, but the end of the road for this core group of Celtics that won a championship in 2008 and lost in The Finals to the Lakers in 2010.
Ainge and Rivers might have been tempted to shake things up last summer, but wishful thinking and, perhaps, sentiment told them to try making one last run with their aging warriors. But Garnett at 36 is already playing greatly reduced minutes and Pierce at 35 had been mired in a slump of his own before Sunday and is no longer the workhorse.
Rondo, for all of his personality quirks and clashes with Rivers, was the on-court leader of these Celtics and had been for the past several seasons. He had developed a knack for rising up on nationally-televised games and in the playoffs and his efforts that often came with the gale force of a hurricane were what gave the Celtics any so-called puncher’s chance that existed.
The time now is to find out if there is a market to move Pierce as a “designated hitter” on a contending team. He’s got just one more year on his contract at $15.3 million. The two years and $23.5 million owed to Garnett could be problematic.
The bottom line is the Celtics can take a day to celebrate an emotional win in honor of their fallen star. But whenever Rondo does return, it has to be as the centerpiece to a new era in Boston.
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
Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Garnett, Perkins
Bibby, Johnson, Williams, Smith, Horford
Westbrook, Sefolosha, Durant, Green, Krstic
Williams, Brewer, Kirilenko, Boozer, Okur
Paul, Peterson, Stojakovic, West, Chandler
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…)
HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – If the Boston Celtics are going to compete with the Miami Heat at the top of the Eastern Conference this season, they’re going to need a lift from their bench.
Over the last couple of years, the Celtics’ starting lineup has been just fine. In fact, the lineup that Doc Rivers employed at the end of last season — Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, Paul Pierce, Brandon Bass and Kevin Garnett — outscored its opponents by an amazing 21.1 points per 100 possessions in 342 minutes (including postseason). That was easily the best mark of any lineup that played at least 200 minutes together.
But the Celtics struggled whenever Garnett rested. In the regular season, Boston was outscored by 2.6 points per 100 possessions when KG was on the bench, and in the playoffs that number rose to an amazing 27.6 points per 100 possessions. Overall, the Celtics actually fell off more offensively than defensively in Garnett’s absence.
So while Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, Bradley (once he’s healthy) and Jeff Green help Boston stay afloat when their starters sit, the key to their season just might be rookie Jared Sullinger. (more…)
If that sounds wrong – as in, “Shouldn’t it be ‘are dead?’ ” – the fact is, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen were a unit, an entity, even a state of mind and swagger for the Boston Celtics for five seasons. In other words, singularly exemplary.
But with Allen’s abrupt exit to Miami, there no longer is a need, when it comes to billing, to treat Rajon Rondo like Ernie from “My Three Sons.” The kid who started out as a neighbor and fourth wheel has fully been adopted; frankly, Rondo is the most valuable Celtics player, with the added motivation of being blamed to a large degree for Allen’s departure. By season’s end, the mercurial point guard might extend that MVP talk to the league at large. (more…)
ORLANDO — A couple of weeks ago on draft night, Jared Sullinger was at home in Columbus, Ohio watching on TV instead of hanging out with the other expected high picks at the big show in New Jersey.
There had been doctors exams, talk of a potential back problem and that’s how he slipped all the way to the No. 21 spot where he was scooped up by the Celtics.
On Monday afternoon Sullinger was right at home in the second half of Boston’s 73-65 win over the Thunder in the AirTran Orlando Pro Summer League.
The 6-foot-9 forward scored 14 of his game-high 20 points in the second half as he steadily grew more comfortable with the pace and the style of play.
“I didn’t want to come into the game thinking like its all about me, all about me playing the way I’ve played all my life, where everything goes through you. I didn’t want to play like that today, because I got some teammates that can really play.
“I was just trying to feel it out in the first half. Then in the second half I saw we were falling behind, so I tried to step and score the basketball.”
What the Celtics got from Sullinger in that second half was an assortment of nifty offensive moves, a 3-point bucket and most predictably a guy with a 270-pound frame that enjoys and even thrives on the contact inside.