Posts Tagged ‘Jeff Green’

Bad Is Good For The Celtics

 

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – There’s an article in the Saturday’s Boston Globe that says “Celtics might not be that bad next season.”

But being “not that bad” would be bad.

Let’s put the emotional aspect of the blockbuster trade sending Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn aside. Danny Ainge pulled the trigger on the deal for the sake of his team’s long-term success. And in order to maximize that long-term success, the Celtics must be as bad as possible in the 2013-14 season.

The trade (which can’t be finalized until July 10) gave the Celtics a few players that won’t make a huge impact and three draft picks from a team that they just helped make pretty good. Chances are that those picks will turn into one good role player down the line.

The most important pick for the Celtics now, the pick most likely to turn into a difference maker, is their own pick in next year’s draft. And that’s why it’s imperative that they’re as bad as can be next season. They have a shot at landing a star next year and they should absolutely go for it.

The New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans) got draft picks when they traded Chris Paul, but the No. 1 pick (Anthony Davis) in last year’s draft was their own. Similarly, the Orlando Magic got picks for Dwight Howard, but the No. 2 pick on Thursday (Victor Oladipo) was their own. For both teams, the most important asset that came from trading their stars was their own futility.

So as painful as the next 10 months could get, the Celtics and their fans should understand that pain – along with asset collection – is part of the process. Boston went 24-58 in 2006-07, turned their assets into Garnett and Ray Allen, and won a championship a year later.

That Globe article cites the presence of Rajon Rondo as a reason the Celtics could be decent next season and possibly make the playoffs. Well, Ainge might encourage Rondo to take his time coming back from ACL surgery, that Avery Bradley struggling to get the ball up the floor against pressure for another 40-50 games is for the best.

In fact, Ainge made it rather clear that he doesn’t want to be a borderline playoff team next season, as Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald writes

Consider Ainge’s take Thursday night on the 2014 draft.

“Next year’s draft we don’t see as loaded. We see it as top-heavy,” he said. “(But) there will be more impact players next year.”

In other words, Ainge believes they have to pick among the top 10 to make the trip worth their while. And they haven’t had a selection that high since the 10th pick of the 2001 draft — Joe Johnson. Pierce came to them on that same number in 1998.

One note there: The Celtics had the No. 5 pick in 2007, trading it to Seattle for Allen.

Ainge probably isn’t done making moves this summer, but he’s off to a great start. If he could find someone to take Courtney Lee off his hands, Boston will be in even better shape.

With Bradley, Gerald Wallace and Jeff Green, the Celtics could be decent defensively next season. But they’ll obviously take a step backward on that end without Garnett. And they promise to be absolutely dreadful offensively, where they ranked 22nd even before Rondo got hurt in late January.

That’s OK, though. Absolutely dreadful is a good plan.

Celtics Preparing For One Last Run?



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We always seem to find coach Doc Rivers and his Boston Celtics in this position at the end of a season.

Perhaps it has something to do with the exhausting effort the Celtics put in each and every season, or the grueling emotional fallout from coming up short of their ultimate goal (it’s always championship-or-bust in Boston, even when the rest of us understand that it’s not possible). Rivers always seems spent when the ball stops bouncing, like he’s not sure if he has another season in him, regardless of his contract situation.

The way he and Kevin Garnett acknowledged the end in that Game 6 loss to the New York Knicks last week, it certainly felt like the end of an era was near. But maybe not. Celtics boss Danny Ainge spoke publicly on a radio show in Boston about both Rivers and Garnett coming back for another go at it next season.

They’re both under contract and even with the inevitable changes that are sure to come in the offseason, Ainge is counting on those two franchise pillars to be in place. At least that’s what he said on the radio, as Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com details here:

“Doc is always unsure [about his future],” Ainge said. “Coaching is very, very draining. Every year with Doc, he’s had to go home and sort of recharge and ask himself that question, ‘Is this something that I’m passionate about and want to continue doing?’ I understand that. And we sorta give him time to unwind and relax, and after a couple of 92s on the golf course, he usually comes back.”

Pressed further on what he believes Rivers will do next season, Ainge added, “I think Doc will be coaching the Boston Celtics.”

Rivers signed a five-year, $35 million contract extension with the Celtics following the 2010-11 season. That hasn’t stopped his name from dancing in rumors about other vacant jobs, and a report by ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith suggested there were whispers around the league about a potential deal that could land Rivers, Garnett, and Paul Pierce with the Los Angeles Clippers as part of a blockbuster swap.

Said an amused Ainge: “Hey, listen, those things are silly. Those are a waste of time to even acknowledge.”

Pressed on Smith’s suggestion that there could be lingering friction between Ainge and Rivers, Ainge added, “Well, you’d have to ask Doc what he thinks, but what I think is that I have the best coach in the NBA and I’m not the least bit tired of hearing his voice. We have a great relationship from what I feel, and what I perceive, and so I have no idea where that’s coming from. But it’s certainly not coming from my side of the table.”

Ainge has every reason to support his coach. Rivers has held the Celtics together through some absolutely tumultuous times over the past couple of seasons, given the injuries to both Garnett, Rajon Rondo and others as well as the roster shuffling that has gone on since the Celtics played in The Finals in 2010.

There is a genuine love between Rivers and his veteran leaders. It’s a bond that will be extremely difficult for Ainge to break up. And make no mistake, there will come a time when the remaining nucleus of the Celtics’ championship crew of Garnett, Pierce and Rondo will no longer be a viable unit.

The Celtics’ vets aren’t getting any younger. And even with an influx of youth (Jeff Green and Avery Bradley) and fresh faces (Jason Terry and Jordan Crawford), the playoff load was just too much for Garnett and Pierce to handle without Rondo around to help direct the traffic.

“We need more,” Rivers said. “It’s like that little girl on the commercial said. ‘We need more, we need more because we need more.’ We need more, because we do. The key for us is do you want to take away to get more. And that will be a decision that make … later.”

Rivers is fiercely loyal to the players who have sacrificed for the greater good in Boston. So it won’t be easy for him to part ways with Pierce either, especially with Pierce’s history with the franchise.

“He’s one of the greatest Celtics ever to ever play. He’s done so much for this franchise,” Rivers said. “Listen, we live in a day and time when guys are changing teams like socks. And Paul has chosen to stay here throughout his career, when clearly he had all rights to leave. And he chose to stay here. I have so much respect for him for that. When I first got here we were really rebuilding. Its’s funny, we made the playoffs that first year and I remember telling him that ‘we’re going to change our team and things may not go very well for a year or two.’ And they didn’t. And Paul, he never wavered. I give him that and just an amazing amount of respect. He wanted to get it done here. He made that choice … [where] other guys are running around trying to find it.”

Ainge will ultimately have to make the decision on when the Celtics’ Big 3 era officially comes to an end. Ray Allen‘s departure last summer didn’t do it. Neither did Rondo’s season-ending knee injury nor the deflating end to this season.

If Rivers and Garnett do indeed return, whether Pierce stays on or not, the Celtics are poised to make at least one last run together before the inevitability of it all finally catches up to them.

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.