Posts Tagged ‘Jeff Green’

Blogtable: Being Relevant In Boston

Boston's Kevin Garnett (by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE)

Boston’s Kevin Garnett (by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE)

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


Week 27: Thunder’s chances | Will Lakers contend next season? | Boston relevancy


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 page and 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)

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.

Melo’s Regression Helps Celts Stay Alive

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BOSTON –
In a season of improvement, this was a day of regression.

This was Carmelo Anthony‘s year. Though the numbers don’t really show it, he matured this season, learned to trust his teammates, and learned how to be a great scorer without stopping the ball so much. He made quicker, smarter decisions.

On Sunday though, with his New York Knicks trying to close out the Boston Celtics, Anthony seemingly turned back the clock and played like it was 2011 again. He tried to beat the Celtics by himself, and his regression helped Boston stave off elimination with a 97-90, overtime victory. The series now heads back to New York for Game 5 on Wednesday.

Anthony’s regression basically trumped Raymond Felton‘s podium game. The Knicks’ point guard continued to tear up Boston’s pick-and-roll defense, tying his season high with 27 points, 16 of them as the Knicks came back from a 20-point deficit in the third quarter. As great an on-ball defender as Avery Bradley is, he couldn’t stay in front of Felton, who gave the Knicks their only lead of the game with a pick-and-roll, pull-up jumper with just over a minute to go in regulation.

The Knicks even had success when Anthony ran the pick-and-roll. Their 5-0 run to tie the game in the final minutes of the fourth quarter came off two Anthony/Tyson Chandler pick-and-rolls, one that produced an open Iman Shumpert 3-pointer, and another that got Anthony an easy drive to the basket.

But too many times, Anthony preferred to play isolation basketball. And too many times, he forced bad shots. In fact, on the two Knicks possessions that sandwiched Felton’s go-ahead jumper, Anthony ran five different isolations (thanks to three offensive rebounds from his teammates). Those five isolations produced four missed shots, two missed free throws, and zero points.

This wasn’t the worst game of Anthony’s career. On an afternoon when his team was struggling to score, he was able to get to the free throw line 20 times. Eleven of those trips helped keep the Knicks within striking distance in the first half.

But Anthony finished the game 10-for-35 from the field and 0-for-7 from 3-point range, adding seven turnovers. Of his 35 shots, 19 came from mid-range, the least efficient area of the floor.

“He missed some shots,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said, “but as a team, we couldn’t make shots.”

But Anthony missed more shots than any three of his teammates combined. He had just two assists, and the Knicks had just 10 as a team.

It was a bad game, nothing more than that. The Knicks’ 3-0 series lead afforded him such, and he’ll have plenty of opportunities to redeem himself going forward. He’ll also have J.R. Smith back from his one-game suspension, though Anthony wouldn’t admit that Smith’s absence played a roll in his own tunnel-vision.

“I missed him out there,” Anthony said of Smith. “But J.R. being out there doesn’t change the way I shoot the basketball. Those are the shots I’ve been taking the whole series. They weren’t falling tonight. My mother always said, ‘There’ll be days like this.’ We’ll take it for what it’s worth, put this one behind us, and get ready for Wednesday.”

If Smith’s absence wasn’t a fact, the Celtics’ defense was. Boston had no intention of rolling over and seeing their season end any earlier than it had to. They dug in and made the Knicks work for their baskets.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers went back to his original starting lineup, believing it would be better defensively, and Brandon Bass proved him right. Before eventually fouling out, Bass took on the Anthony assignment and defended the league’s leading scorer about as well as you can.

“He was the star of the game, as far as I’m concerned,” Rivers said of Bass. “He just defended, and did it over and over and over again.”

“The more he does it, the fresher Paul [Pierce], the fresher Jeff [Green] can be offensively for us.”

Pierce and Green were indeed fresh offensively, combining for 55 of the Celtics’ 97 points. Kevin Garnett hit two big jumpers down the stretch and Jason Terry scored Boston’s final nine points in overtime. It was the definition of a team win for the prideful Celtics.

But none of that would have mattered if Anthony didn’t try to beat them all by himself.

“I was trying to win the basketball game,” he said. “It would have been a great feeling to close it out here in Boston, so I was trying to do whatever I could to win the basketball game. I was just trying to be aggressive. I missed a lot – a ton – of shots today.”

On Brink Of Elimination, Celtics Face Questions About Their Future

BOSTON – Down 0-3 to the New York Knicks in their first round series, the Boston Celtics can do nothing but focus on Sunday’s Game 4 (1 p.m. ET, ABC). One game at a time and all that.

“You can’t win four without winning one,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Saturday.

“They haven’t won anything yet,” a somewhat defiant Jeff Green added. “They’ve just won three games. The objective is to win four. So, we still have a chance to do that.”

But, while Rivers and company have to figure out a way to score points in Game 4, we are free to wonder what becomes of the Celtics after this series. No team in NBA history has ever come back from an 0-3 deficit, and with how awful their offense has been, the Celtics aren’t going to be the first.

They may win a game, because they do have the ability to beat the Knicks on any given afternoon and they should be plenty motivated on Sunday to avoid getting swept. But the Celtics will eventually be knocked out in the first round for the first time since they acquired Kevin Garnett in 2007.

Questions surrounding the Celtics’ future begin with Garnett. The 36-year-old has two years remaining on his contract (though 2014-15 is only partially guaranteed), but has been surrounded by retirement talk for a while now. Paul Pierce has just one partially-guaranteed year left on his deal, and has been surrounded by trade talk for a while now. Both veterans still have something left in the tank, but clearly can’t carry a team like they could in the past.

As this series has clearly shown, the Celtics’ aging stars don’t have the supporting cast needed to beat the best teams in the league. And we really don’t know when they’ll have Rajon Rondo, who tore his ACL in late January, back at 100 percent. If Garnett and Pierce come back back for another year, the Celtics will be competitive, but probably not much better than they were this season. Given Rondo’s status and how much they’ve regressed in the last two years, it’s fair to assume they’ll be worse.

So, Celtics president Danny Ainge faces another crossroads this summer. He has to decide where the Celtics go from here, and the decision won’t be easy. Ainge has long made it clear that he holds no loyalty toward his players and that he’ll do what’s best for the Celtics. That could mean that it’s time to sever ties with Garnett and Pierce, because the longer Ainge keeps his two stars on the roster, the longer it will take to rebuild.

Finding another team (or teams) to trade for Garnett and or Pierce is another question. And Garnett has indicated that he doesn’t want to play for any other team. But in terms of their long-term future, the Celtics need to take a step back before they move forward. And now may be the time for Ainge to pull the trigger.

Celtics record and efficiency, last six seasons

Season W L Win% OffRtg Rank DefRtg Rank NetRtg Rank Playoffs
2007-08 66 16 .805 107.6 10 96.2 1 +11.5 1 Won Finals
2008-09 62 20 .756 108.1 6 99.4 2 +8.7 2 Lost in conf. semis
2009-10 50 32 .610 105.4 13 101.1 5 +4.3 8 Lost in Finals
2010-11 56 26 .683 104.0 18 97.8 2 +6.2 6 Lost in conf. semis
2011-12 39 27 .591 98.9 24 95.5 2 +3.4 7 Lost in conf. finals
2012-13 41 40 .506 101.1 20 100.4 6 +0.7 14 Down 0-3 in first round

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

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John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.

For Celtics, Return Home Doesn’t Necessarily Bring More Offense

 

BOSTON – Down 0-2 to the New York Knicks, the Boston Celtics are in a desperate situation. If they don’t win Game 3 on Friday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN), they can start packing for their summer vacations.

The good news is that the Celtics were a much better team at home than they were on the road this season. In terms of winning percentage, only three teams had a bigger home-road discrepancy. And in terms of point differential, only five teams had a bigger discrepancy. One of those five was the Knicks, so that’s more good news.

Biggest home-road discrepancy, NetRtg (point differential per 100 possessions)

Team Home Rank Road Rank Diff. Win% Diff.
Denver +11.7 3 -0.5 10 +12.2 0.463
Charlotte -4.8 29 -16.5 30 +11.7 0.220
Utah +5.1 12 -6.4 20 +11.5 0.415
Washington +3.0 14 -8.5 26 +11.5 0.366
New York +10.5 6 -0.3 9 +10.8 0.195
Boston +5.9 11 -4.6 17 +10.5 0.334

Here’s the bad news: The difference between the home Celtics and the road Celtics has been mostly on the defensive end of the floor, where they were 9.0 points per 100 possessions better at TD Garden than they were elsewhere.

Celtics efficiency, home vs. road

Location OffRtg Rank DefRtg Rank NetRtg Rank
Home 101.9 22 95.9 3 +5.9 11
Road 100.3 18 104.9 14 -4.6 17
Difference +1.5 22 -9.0 2 +10.5 6

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions

Over the course of the season, Boston was an elite defensive team in Boston and a mediocre defensive team outside The Hub.

Why is that bad news? Because the Celtics were pretty darn good defensively in New York, holding a team that scored almost 115 points per 100 possessions over its last 18 regular season games to just 100 per 100 in the first two games of this series. It’s hard to believe they can defend much better than that going forward. The Knicks scored 32 points in the third quarter of Game 2, but the Knicks are going to have their 32-point quarters, no matter who’s defending them.

If the Celtics are going to win at least one of these next two games, they need something close to a 32-point quarter for themselves … or at least something close to a 40-point second half. But playing at home hasn’t given them much of a boost on that end of the floor. They’re really a bad offensive team no matter where they play.

Back to some good news: 82 games of regular season data says that the Knicks aren’t nearly as good defensively as they were in the first two games. They regressed and ranked 16th on that end of the floor this year. And New York’s defense was 4.2 points per 100 possessions worse on the road. In particular, they didn’t force turnovers or defend the 3-point line as well as they did at Madison Square Garden. And those are two areas where the Celtics really struggled in Games 1 and 2.

The Celtics also have some guys who shot better at home. Jason Terry, in particular, seems to like the gym on Causeway St.

Celtics effective field goal percentage, home vs. road

Player Home Road Diff.
Jason Terry 59.4% 45.6% +13.8%
Jeff Green 54.4% 47.7% +6.7%
Brandon Bass 50.3% 46.7% +3.6%
Paul Pierce 51.7% 48.8% +2.8%
Chris Wilcox 71.6% 72.2% -0.6%
Kevin Garnett 48.6% 51.0% -2.4%
Courtney Lee 50.0% 53.4% -3.4%
Jordan Crawford 44.0% 48.9% -4.9%
Avery Bradley 40.0% 48.2% -8.3%

Effective field goal percentage = (FGM + (0.5*3PM)) / FGA

So there is some hope for the Celtics to break through offensively, take care of the ball, make some shots, and score more than 25 points in the second half on Friday.

If they don’t, you can break out the brooms.

Game 2: Knicks-Celtics’ Changes Afoot

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NEW YORK – They say that every game in a playoff series has its own personality. And a couple of rotation changes should give Game 2 of the Knicks-Celtics’ series (Tuesday, 8 p.m. ET, TNT) a new look.

The Knicks hope to have Pablo Prigioni back from a sprained ankle for Game 2. And if they do, he will start and join Raymond Felton in the backcourt. The Knicks went 15-1 with the two point guards starting together in the final month of the regular season.

The Knicks have been incredibly efficient offensively, scoring almost 120 points per 100 possessions in 298 minutes, with Felton and Prigioni on the floor together. And after a game in which they scored 85 points on 88 possessions, they could certainly use an offensive boost. After assisting on just 13 of their 32 buckets in Game 1, the team hopes that Prigioni will bring better ball movement.

But the lineup change could have an adverse effect on the other end of the floor. Woodson said Sunday that if Prigioni is back, Felton will guard Paul Pierce to start the game (the original plan had Prigioni been healthy in Game 1), with Iman Shumpert defending Jeff Green.

Shumpert was guarding Pierce to start Game 1, and the Celtics posted Pierce on three of the first four possessions. When the Knicks doubled the post, the Celtics got a jumper for Kevin Garnett and a layup for Avery Bradley.

Mismatches on Pierce were a big part of the Celtics’ offense all day Saturday. Later in the first quarter, they ran the same play several times to get J.R. Smith switched onto Pierce at the foul line. And they had some more success with Pierce posting Jason Kidd on a few possessions midway through the second.

With their lineup change, the Knicks will be handing the Celtics a mismatch from the start. And Boston will obviously go to Pierce in the post early and often. New York will send double-teams, and it will be up to Pierce’s teammates to make them pay.

Green was a pretty good corner 3-point shooter (45.7 percent) in the regular season, but didn’t attempt any shots from the corners on Saturday. As a team, Boston was just 1-for-5 from the corners, an obvious area for improvement in Game 2.

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Doc Rivers plans on making some rotation changes of his own. He went only eight deep in Game 1, using just three guards — Jordan Crawford, Courtney Lee and Jason Terry — off the bench. The trio combined to shoot 0-for-7.

Rivers said Sunday that we could see a big man off the bench — presumably Chris Wilcox or Shavlik Randolph — on Tuesday. If it’s Wilcox, it will be the first playoff appearance of his 11-year career.

We’ll have to see if that results in less minutes for Brandon Bass or if Rivers plans on playing with two bigs more than he did in Game 1. The Celtics were a plus-1 (and particularly strong on the defensive glass) in 21 minutes with both Bass and Garnett on the floor on Saturday, and a minus-8 in 27 minutes with one of the two on the bench.

The Celtics weren’t very good defensively, allowing 104.7 points per 100 possessions, in 396 regular season minutes with Bass and Wilcox on the floor together. And the Garnett-Wilcox pair played just 73 minutes.

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Rivers also wants to see a bigger role for Crawford. Amazingly, Crawford didn’t take a single shot in his 10:46 on Saturday. And it surely goes without saying that it was the first time in the gunner’s career that he’s played at least 10 minutes without taking a shot.

The Celtics probably don’t want to get to the point where Crawford’s shooting determines the outcome of any particular game, but he can help make the Knicks pay for double-teams on Pierce if he’s aggressive and looking to make plays for his teammates as well as himself. He can also take some of the ball-handling duties from Bradley.

Game 1: Kidd, Martin Prove Woodson Right

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NEW YORK – The collective age of the New York Knicks has been a running joke all season. And all season, head coach Mike Woodson has continued to preach the value of experience.

With age you often get injuries. And the Knicks have certainly paid a price for going the old-man route. A 40-year-old Kurt Thomas couldn’t hold up. A 38-year-old Rasheed Wallace has retired. A 39-year-old Marcus Camby has played just 10 games over the last three months. And 35-year-old rookie Pablo Prigioni went down with a sprained ankle in the last game of the regular season.

But there are still a couple of old heads still standing in New York. Their names are Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin. They terrorized the Knicks in a playoff series nine years ago, and they each played a big role in New York’s Game 1 victory over the Boston Celtics on Saturday.

Kidd played 35 minutes off the bench, filling the boxscore with eight points, five rebounds, three assists, and three steals. Martin was the only reserve big man Woodson used, coming through with 10 points, nine boards, a steal and two blocks.

Those contributions were desperately needed. With Prigioni out, 29-year-old rookie Chris Copeland (yes, the Knicks are so old, their two rookies are 29 and 35 years old) got his 14th start of the season and wasn’t up to the task. And with Steve Novak unable to get a shot and getting picked on defensively, the Knicks needed Kidd to fill in at one of the wings for 30 minutes, in addition to his back-up point guard duty.

Meanwhile, Tyson Chandler tried playing his first game in the last two weeks and couldn’t make much of an impact on either end of the floor. So Martin was asked to play big minutes at center.

It’s not a coincidence that the Knicks’ defense was much better in the second half, when Kidd played 21 of his 35 minutes and Martin played 18 of his 28. Martin anchored the paint, while Kidd seemingly got his hands on the ball whenever the Knicks came near him. All three of his steals came with the game on the line in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter.

With 4:52 left, Kidd deflected a Jeff Green pass, dove on the floor and started a New York fast break. With 2:21 left and the Celtics still within five, he sniffed out a back-screen play Boston had run for a game-winner in early March, helped from the weak side, and stripped Green under the basket. And with 34 seconds left, he stripped Kevin Garnett on a mismatch in the post.

His feet may not move like they used to, but Kidd’s hands are still quick and strong, and his mind is sharper than ever.

“He beats everyone with his brain,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said afterward. “If you think quicker than a guy can move, you’re still quicker. That’s why he’s there first, because he thought what the guy was going to do before he did it. He’s just a valuable player to have on a basketball team.”

Kidd and Martin have each had their moments over the last six months. And from Day 1, it’s been easy to see Kidd’s influence on Carmelo Anthony‘s game this season. But this is the playoffs. This is why these guys are here and why Woodson has remained adamant that the veterans are critical to his team’s success.

“To me, it’s a plus to have veteran guys,” Woodson said. “That is no knock on the young kids. To have these veteran guys step up and still make a contribution to your team is major.”

After one playoff game, Woodson is looking pretty smart.

 

The Starting Five: Playoff Wild Cards



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The start of the NBA playoffs is just days away and that’s always a signal for superstars to ready themselves to step into the spotlight on the game’s biggest stage.

It’s also the time for those unsuspecting guys, the unsung contributors on playoff teams from throughout the league, to raise their level of play with their respective seasons on the line. We like to call them Hang Time’s Playoff Wild Cards, guys who will impact their teams and potentially the outcomes of their respective team’s first round series.

The Starting Five of HT’s Playoff Wild Cards Team (and just like Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, we don’t get caught up in positions. We’re going with the best five Wild Cards):

JEREMY LIN, PG, HOUSTON ROCKETS

By now Rockets fans know that the star point guard they snatched away from New York last summer is not the same guy who inspired Linsanity. What they’ve got is a guy who is much steadier and just as productive, statistically, through 82 games with the Rockets (13.4 ppg, 6.0 apg and 3.0 rpg) as he was in 25 games with the Knicks (14.6, 6.2 and 3.1). What makes Lin a Wild Card is knowing that he’s capable of getting on the kind of roll that created the Linsanity phenomenon. The right matchup in the playoffs could be all he needs to morph back into the player we saw during his magical ride in New York.

DANNY GREEN, SG, SAN ANTONIO SPURS

Green is easily overlooked on a team with superstars like Tony Parker and even Tim Duncan who are often foolishly overlooked by the masses when the conversation turns to the true superstars in the league. What cannot (and should not) be overlooked is Green’s season-long penchant for taking and making big shots, not to mention his 43 percent shooting (for the second straight season, mind you) from beyond the 3-point line. Green is the beneficiary of defensive attention being paid to Parker and Duncan, and he takes full advantage of defender’s inattention to detail all the time.

JEFF GREEN, SF, BOSTON CELTICS

If the Jeff Green that showed up after All-Star weekend is the same Jeff Green that shows up for the playoffs, the Celtics will be one of the postseason’s most dangerous lower seeds. Green has averaged 17.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg and 2.7 apg in 34.1 minutes a night since the break (compared to the 10.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg and 1.0 apg he posted in 24.6 minutes before the break). Green has the size, athleticism and skill on both ends of the floor to battle elite small forwards. The Celtics need him to do it every night in the postseason.

JIMMY BUTLER, SF,  CHICAGO BULLS

In a season when Derrick Rose‘s supporting cast has been under scrutiny every single night, Butler has shined in his opportunities to contribute, particularly on the defensive side of things. He’s the battled the likes of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony and more than held his own in those matchups. Some young players struggle with a sudden increase in minutes, many of them spent in different roles. But not Butler. The more he’s played the better he’s played, giving Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau yet another rugged contributor on a team filled with them. If Butler continues to score the way he has recently (15.6 ppg on 53 percent shooting in his last five games), he’ll have an even greater impact than expected in the playoffs.

COREY BREWER, SF, DENVER NUGGETS

This Wild Card thing is easy for Brewer. He does it daily for a talented and deep Nuggets team that has thrived all season by unleashing that depth on the opposition. What makes Brewer so effective in this role is his non-stop motor, his activity on both ends of the floor, his ability to shoot it from distance and the fact that he finishes at the rim and in transition. It’s pretty remarkable considering he doesn’t appear to have gained a single pound since middle school (we’re joking here). Brewer averages 12.2 ppg without any plays being called for him … ever. He should have “Wild Card” stitched across the back of his jersey instead of “Brewer.”

We’ve got our Starting Five Playoff Wild Cards.

Who are yours?


Blogtable: Lessons From Miami-Boston

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


Week 21: Miami at Boston lessons | Who wants Bynum? | Player, coach, team that’s let you down?




What did you learn from the Miami-Boston game the other night?

Steve Aschburner: I learned, finally, what Danny Ainge saw in Jeff Green when he drafted him and then traded to get him back. I learned that, despite his advancing years, the aches and pains that come with them and whatever the analytics might argue over some stretch of games, the Celtics need Kevin Garnett. I learned that people still go nuts seeing bad, ol’ big guys devastatingly dunking over overmatched small guys (LeBron James-Jason Terry, a la DeAndre Jordan-Brandon Knight). And obviously I learned that it won’t be the old rival franchise in Boston doing the 1971-72 L.A. Lakers any favors of streak-protecting.

Fran Blinebury: That Jeff Green could drop 43 on you. Does that count? The rest I wouldn’t call it learning so much as reinforcing. Everything that Miami did in the fourth quarter hammered home that they are all quite comfortable in their skin. They know their roles perfectly. From Bosh draining long jumpers to Battier making the defensive stop on Green’s drive and then bouncing the ball off Pierce’s back to run out the clock to LeBron being LeBron. They simply don’t panic and that’s how you win not one, not two, not three, not four …

Jeff Caplan: Learned? Nothing. Learning something would suggest that I didn’t already know that the Celtics are an intensely stubborn club with great leadership and a tremendous coach. Or that I didn’t already believe that as long as Boston stays out of the 8-hole, it has a great chance to advance a round — or two. Or from the Miami side, that I didn’t already burn it in my mind over and over again that LeBron James is as clutch as he wants to be. Or that Miami’s defense — see 44 second-half Boston points and lock-down crunch-time defense — is smothering. Or that the Heat will return to The Finals.

Scott Howard-Cooper: I learned that the favorite for the championship has the mindset of a team digging for eighth place in the conference. Every game means something to the Heat. That’s a great thing to see at a time they could be downshifting and getting into playoff mode. They may be chasing history and the best record in the league for home-court purposes in The Finals. But the ring is what really matters — which is why they’re still bringing energy.

John Schuhmann: I learned that the Heat, and LeBron James in particular, really care about this streak. From the intensity of their early fourth-quarter huddle to the hooting and hollering heard outside their locker room after the game, it was clear that they wanted that game badly. Coming back from 13 points down in the fourth quarter in that building isn’t easy, but Miami found it within themselves to get the stops and the big baskets they needed, as if it was a Game 5 of the conference semifinals. LeBron got his title, and now he sees an opportunity to make his mark in a different way.

Sekou Smith: We didn’t learn anything that we didn’t already know about either team. The Heat are damn good wherever they play these days. And the Boston Celtics remain one of the few teams in the league, and perhaps the only team in the Eastern Conference, with the intestinal fortitude to go after the Heat full throttle (doesn’t matter if it’s regular season or playoffs). Jeff Green reminded me that he was a top five draft pick for a reason. All that said, even with the Celtics at full strength, I don’t think they can beat the Heat in a playoff series. With LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all having careers years in so many different categories, it’s hard to see anyone in the Eastern Conference mounting a serious challenge to the Heat.

Another Close Game, Another Heat Win … And Some History Along With It

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BOSTON –
Sometimes that whole “experienced teams know how to win” storyline is a bunch of garbage.

But it’s hard to argue that it doesn’t apply to the 2012-13 Miami Heat.

For the 13th time in their last 23 games, the Heat were within five points (either way) of their opponent in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter, a situation we call “clutch time.”

Heat upcoming schedule
Day Date Loc. Opponent Time (ET) TV
Wed. 3/20 @ Cleveland 7 p.m. League Pass
Fri. 3/22 vs. Detroit 7:30 p.m. League Pass
Sun. 3/24 vs. Charlotte 6 p.m. League Pass
Mon. 3/25 @ Orlando 7 p.m. League Pass
Wed. 3/27 @ Chicago 8 p.m. ESPN

And once again, the Heat emerged victorious, taking a historic step with their 23rd straight victory that puts them all alone in second place among the longest winning streaks in NBA history. Only the 1971-72 Lakers’ streak of 33 straight tops this one. And the Heat can rightfully say that they earned their place in history, coming back from 13 points down in the fourth quarter in one of the most hostile environments in the league.

It was another edition of Celtics-Heat, and it more than lived up to the hype.

Despite the absence of Kevin Garnett, the Celtics gave the champs their biggest fight of the last month and a half, coming just a missed 3-pointer away from stopping the streak on the five-year anniversary of the night they ended the Rockets’ 22-game streak in Houston.

KG or no KG, you knew the Celtics would do everything in their power to end the streak in their building. With their talent deficiency, the Celtics needed a special performance from somewhere, and it was Jeff Green who stepped up. He scored a career-high 43 points by relentlessly attacking the basket, draining a handful of corner threes and producing a very James Harden-esque shot chart.

With 8:27 left in the fourth quarter, Jordan Crawford hit a ridiculously long 3-pointer from the right wing that put the Celtics up 96-83. At that point, you had to think that it was just one of those nights and Miami’s streak was over.

But the Heat would not let it end, now clearly invested in this streak and caring about their place in history. After allowing Boston to score on its first six possessions of the final period, their comeback had to start with defense, and the champs held the Celtics to just three scores (seven points) on their final 16 possessions of the game, highlighted by Shane Battier‘s block on Green’s final drive.

Big baskets were also needed, and the Heat got them from Mario Chalmers and James, who drained the game-winner over Green with 10.5 seconds to go.

The win takes the Heat to 28-6 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes, a vast improvement over their 40-31 record in such games over the previous two seasons.

The record is proof of a more experienced, more mature and more cohesive group.

“Sometimes you have to fail,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Two years ago, it seemed like every late-game situation we lost. Even when we were playing well and executing well, we just couldn’t get over the hump. That started to change last year. And we’ve been in so many situations now, the guys feel very confident, very poised. It was a matter of going through the experiences together.”

“No matter what with this team,” Dwyane Wade added, “no matter if we’re up 17 or down 17, we’re confident that we can come back in the ball game. That’s the big difference when you’re out there playing, when you know ‘all we’ve got to do is this, all we’ve got to do is that,’ we can get back in the game. It’s just a team that’s familiar with each other, that’s comfortable playing together, comfortable talking to each other and making each other better throughout the game.”

The better record in close games is also a residue of James’ improved post game, which allows the Heat to attack defenses from the inside instead of from the perimeter. Miami went to the MVP in the post on five straight possessions down the stretch, producing a Wade dunk that got them within two and a Chalmers 3-pointer that gave them their first lead since the middle of the third quarter.

To get No. 23 in Boston in this manner was special. And it’s another experience the Heat can call on as they pursue their second straight championship.

“It means a lot to what we’re trying to build,” James said afterward. “We grew again tonight. That’s big for our team.
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Morning Shootaround — March 8

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: Two games on the schedule, but only one of ‘em was a real must-see, making Thunder vs. Knicks our pick this morning. Kevin Durant put in work on basketball’s biggest stage, rolling up 34 points, eight rebounds and six assists and Russell Westbrook had 21 points, six rebounds and five assists as OKC took a thriller at MSG. Great work put in, too, by the Knicks’ J.R. Smith as he scored a career-best 36 in the losing effort.

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News of the morning

Green finding way in Boston | Lin returns to Oakland | Knee still irking Cavs’ Irving | Report: Rockets, Morey agree to extension | Richmond seeks front-office job with Kings

Green taking command of bench unitThe transition Jeff Green has faced since coming to Boston in a 2011 deal hasn’t been easy on him or the team. Green had to acclimate himself to a new system in the span of a few months. Then, in the 2011 offseason, Green was diagnosed with an aortic aneurism that wiped out the 2011-12 season. Green then re-signed with the Celtics last summer for four-years and $36 million contract, but he struggled to find a groove in Boston. At last, though, Green is thriving as the leader of Boston’s reserve corps and is loving his role to boot, writes Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald:

“The past couple of weeks I just think I was more consistent,” he said. “That’s what (Rivers) sees. But he’s grown to trust my abilities, and allowed me to make mistakes. That being said, we can both see now how I can help this team out. He’s found where he can put me on the floor. He’s feeling more comfortable about it.“I’m just playing basketball,” said Green. “I have a training camp under my belt. I came here first in a trade and I wasn’t familiar with the schemes, nothing. It affected how I guarded at first, but it helped when I was able to have a training camp. It’s a long season, and things are just coming around.”

Green has taken over leadership of the second unit, and is usually on the floor at the end of games. That perpetual pressure Green imposes on himself is paying its highest dividend yet.

“I don’t see it any more than anyone else,” Ainge said of Green’s inner wrangles. “Jeff has opened up. He’s a communicative guy. The Jeff we’re seeing now is a Jeff who is more confident. He knows where he fits in, and as a result of confidence and rhythm you get more aggressive. Doc has been real good for Jeff in that way. He pushes him. His teammates also push him that way.”

Garnett has told him not to be so nice, in language that typically can’t be used here. They’ve all told him to be more selfish. But Green has the critiques covered.

That never-ending gravity was apparent the night of Feb. 20 in a tweet by @unclejeffgreen: “Damn altitude killed me today, tough (loss) but got another one tomorrow.”

Green came off the bench with 15 points that night during a loss to the Lakers in the Staples Center. He also had seven rebounds, four assists and a block. He may have been minus-11, but rare was the Celtic with something to crow about that night.

So Green sent out a modern mea culpa. He tweeted.

Lin returns to where it all really beganWhen ‘Linsanity’ burst onto the scene last season, most casual fans thought of Jeremy Lin as a solely New York Knicks kind of story. But a deeper look into Lin’s career reveals that his NBA journey actually began in Golden State. It was there that Lin, as an undrafted rookie, played 29 games in the 2010-11 season before being cut by the Warriors. After an appearance in the Houston Rockets’ training camp (where he was cut again), Lin landed in New York , went on his miracle run and parlayed that into a big payday with the Rockets last summer. As Houston plays Golden State tonight, though, Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury-News looks back on Lin’s NBA beginning:

A little more than a year after the birth of “Linsanity,” point guard Jeremy Lin returns to where it almost didn’t begin.

He was buried on the Warriors’ bench for 29 forgettable games two seasons ago. It was during that stretch when an elderly man with a special place in basketball history sat down and wrote him a fan letter.

“I figured he could use a little bit of encouragement,” recalled Wat Misaka, now 89 and living in Salt Lake City. “So I sent him a note that said: ‘Hang in there. It’s sure to get better.’ “

Things got better all right. Lin, now with the Houston Rockets, returns to Oracle Arena on Friday as an internationally known sensation playing on a three-year, $25 million contract.

A documentary that traces his unlikely rise to fame with the New York Knicks opened to rave reviews at the Sundance Film Festival in January. The 88-minute film, “Linsanity,” makes its San Francisco debut next Thursday at the Center for Asian American Media Festival.

Lin’s global fame means the world to Misaka, who in 1947 became the first non-Caucasian to play professional basketball in the U.S. The Japanese-American was a 5-foot-7, 150-pound point guard for the Knicks, even if his career only lasted three games.

The two finally met face to face in January, one night after the documentary about Lin’s journey from Palo Alto High to Harvard University and from D-League scrub to Knicks phenomenon was greeted by a standing ovation at Sundance. The Los Angeles Times called the documentary an “uber-inspirational tale.”

Misaka was scheduled to attend the Sundance screening but a blizzard disrupted the plan. Instead, he attended the Rockets’ game against the Utah Jazz a night later.

His reaction to finally meeting Lin?

“He was big,” Misaka said of the 6-3, 200 pound guard. “Especially since I’ve shrunk four inches since my playing days.”

The tone of modern media coverage for “Linsanity” could be similarly jarring, as San Francisco-born director Evan Jackson Leong discovered in making his well-received documentary.

Fortunately for him, he had access to Lin long before the cameras began to swarm. Leong began pestering Lin for permission to make a film while the point guard was still at Harvard.

Lin finally consented while with the Warriors, figuring the worst-case scenario would be having some cool footage of his basketball career to look back on later.

“We started it before I had ever gone to New York. That was the coolest part of it. We have the whole journey,” Lin told ESPN.com at the Sundance screening. “We have me being cut, me getting waived, me going to the D-League — the moments when I basically had to be dragged in front of the camera to be filmed, even though I didn’t really want to. Looking back, it was one of the best things ever.”

Leong laughs now when he recalls that he and his producers considered wrapping the project after Lin’s stay with the Warriors.

“We knew we had this great story of this kid who made the NBA, but was kind of a bittersweet for a ‘success story’ because his career wasn’t that great,” Leong said by phone from the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas. “It was kind of a sad ending.

“So we were looking for an ending, right? In February, he gave it to us … and then he gave us another. And then it just got really crazy.”

Knee still bothering Cavs’ IrvingKyrie Irving showed off his All-Star credentials in leading the Cavs to a comeback win over the Jazz on Tuesday night. But he apparently is still struggling with a knee injury that caused him to miss two games in late February. Bob Finnan of The News-Herald has more on Irving’s injury and how the Cavs plan to handle it:

After Wednesday’s game at Quicken Loans Arena, Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving admitted his right knee is not 100 percent.

“I’m trying not to let it bother me,” Irving said. “It’s still bruised. The only way it’ll get better is to the sit out the rest of the season, and I’m not doing that.”

Irving played 38 minutes in the 104-101 victory over the Utah Jazz. It was a rough-and-tumble game, and the point guard took several hard falls.

The news caused a furor on Twitter.

A Cavs spokesman clarified the team has no plans to rest Irving.

“If he said it was bothering him again to the point that he can’t perform like I know he’s capable of, yeah (I’d considering shutting him down),” coach Byron Scott said.

Irving missed three games recently with a hyperextended right knee. He said he landed awkwardly in practice on Feb. 7. He played two games on the Florida trip, but things didn’t feel right. He had an MRI when the team got to Chicago. He missed the Bulls game on Feb. 26, Toronto on Feb. 27 and the Los Angeles Clippers on March 1. The 6-foot-3, 191-pound Irving had 20 points, seven rebounds, 10 assists and two steals against Utah.

Scott said he couldn’t tell if Irving’s knee bothered him against the Jazz.

“In the first half he looked like everyone else — disinterested in the game until the second half,” Scott said.

Scott added he planned on discussing the matter with Cavs athletic trainer Max Benton on Thursday.

“If Kyrie is hurt, I have no problem with sitting him down,” he said. “I want him to go out there and be effective. When I read it (in the clips), I hadn’t heard that. It definitely caught my attention.”

Report: Rockets, Morey agree to extensionThe Rockets have a tenuous grasp on the No. 7 seed in the West, thanks in part to a roster that has been built from the mind of their advanced metrics-following GM, Daryl Morey. Although Morey has been on the job in Houston since 2007, Houston has missed the playoffs the last three seasons. The Rockets seem much closer to the postseason than ever before and that progress has led to a contract extension for Morey, reports Mark Berman of MyFoxHouston.com:

Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander told FOX 26 Sports on Thursday that he and general manager Daryl Morey have reached a verbal agreement on the key components of a 4-year extension.

Morey has one-year left on his contract, so the four-year extension ties him to the Rockets through the 2017-18 season.

“The reason I extended Daryl, I thought he’s done a terrific job in his tenure with the Rockets,” Alexander said.

“I think he’s somebody we want to keep around for a long time to help construct the team.”

Morey joined the Rockets as assistant general manager in 2006, and succeeded Carroll Dawson as general manager the following year.

Prior to this season Morey traded for guard James Harden and signed guard Jeremy Lin and center Omer Asik as free agents, moves that have propelled the Rockets into the playoff hunt.

Richmond seeking front-office gig with KingsIf you missed it earlier this week, our man David Aldridge had a great recap/update on the goings on with the Sacramento Kings sale. We’ll let you parse through that, but one of the key points of the story is that there are several folks who have contributed $1 million to keeping the Kings in town. One of those contributors is none other than Kings legend Mitch Richmond. Richmond is not only buying in to the Kings’ future to stay in town, but is also seeking a front-office job with the team, too, writes Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee:

The first legitimate star of the Sacramento era is among the investors who each have committed $1 million and are bidding on the seven percent share being auctioned in bankruptcy proceedings.

But that’s not the bottom line. Richmond wants back into basketball, too.

Because uncertainty intrudes into virtually every conversation about the Kings and their future, Richmond declined to elaborate. There is an exhausting list of issues to be addressed and resolved before one city celebrates and the other city slumps.

But if things shake out Sacramento’s way? If the Mastrov/Burkle offer is presented and approved by the board of governors during the April 18-19 meetings? If the incoming owners clean out the basketball operations department headed by longtime president Geoff Petrie – who, coincidentally, traded an aging, discouraged Richmond in a masterful maneuver for Chris Webber in 1998? If Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson retains his influence and provides the necessary job references?

Richmond will contact a moving company and pack his bags. Though he has a home in Southern California, where he oversees a foundation (Rock Life) that addresses bullying and other social issues affecting children, he says he has not lost affection for Sacramento or forgotten the best of times with the Kings.

“This is a city that really gave me a lot,” Richmond said. “There was a time when I wasn’t happy about the trade, but this city, this team, the fans stood behind me from Day One. They came out and sold out every night. The (investment) was a good way to try to give back to the city, get involved. The Kings mean a lot to this community. It would just be a sad day if the Kings leave this community.”

ICYMI of the night: Injuries have prevented us from seeing one of the better jack-of-all-trades reserves this season, but now that Wilson Chandler is healthy and doing work for the Nuggets, we get plays like this: