Posts Tagged ‘Jeff Green’

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


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.

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.


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 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

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:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As usual, Rivers was right.

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

He didn’t.

And the Celtics are thriving because of it!

Blogtable: A Struggling Star

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 14: Has it clicked for the Lakers? | A healthy star who’s struggling | Clips without CP3

Give me a healthy player who has not met your high standards so far?

Steve Aschburner: Rudy Gay has heard his name bandied about enough already via the trade rumors, so I’m going with Indiana’s Roy Hibbert. The big fella remains vital to the Pacers’ defense, but this is his fifth season and he was supposed to continue his onward-and-upward trajectory offensively and overall. His shooting is down (41.4 percent vs. 48.1 through last season) and 9.8 ppg and 8.2 rebounds just doesn’t cut it. Each summer, Hibbert gets a lot of attention for his intense workouts — one year tutored by Bill Walton, the next embracing an MMA regimen. It all needs to translate better to what really counts.

Fran BlineburyErsan Ilyasova has not lived up to his payday. Kawhi Leonard has not stepped up to the next level. But it’s still Deron Williams who has yet to fulfill the expectations the Nets want and need. Though he has kicked his game up in recent weeks under P.J. Carlesimo, his horrid shooting and an assist average that is his lowest since his rookie season were major factors in getting Avery Johnson fired. After complaining his way out of Utah, Williams has not shown the the maturity to be handed the keys to a playoff-contending offense and, for all intents and purposes, the Nets franchise. That’s evidenced by his being left off the Eastern Conference All-Star team when a spot on the roster practically had his named engraved on it in October.

Jeff CaplanPau Gasol‘s the easy answer here or even the continuing underachieving ways of Michael Beasley. But, I’m going to go with a guy that I thought would have a pretty good year in Dallas and that’s center Chris Kaman. He signed a one-year, $8 million deal to play next to Dirk Nowitzki — they were teammates on the German National team in the 2008 Olympics — and although his stats aren’t terrible (12.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg), he’s averaging just 23.7 mpg (fewer than only his rookie season) and has been in and out of coach Rick Carlisle‘s doghouse. Most recently Kaman was removed from the starting lineup in favor of little-used rookie center Bernard James. In a season in which Kaman, seemingly perpetually injured, missed just his third game of the season on Tuesday after sustaining a concussion during Monday’s practice, he’s finding it hard to stay on the floor due to production. Defense has been at the root of the issue for Carlisle. Kaman’s been a sieve and next to Nowitzki it doesn’t make for a sturdy combination.

Jeff Green, by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

Jeff Green, by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

Scott Howard-CooperDeron Williams. He has been much better the last few weeks, but after two underachieving months. D-Will has not shot the ball well most of the season, an obvious problem. His assists were way down for a while as well. But the biggest problem is that he hasn’t looked like a star point guard who wants the responsibility of being a franchise player. Williams has too often played like someone who didn’t want the burden of expectations.

John Schuhmann: When Jeff Green defends LeBron James as well as he did on Sunday, it just makes me wonder why he can’t make an impact like that every night. Green has all the tools — length, athleticism, a decent shooting stroke — to be a very good player on both ends of the floor. He’s shown flashes of being the player the Celtics need him to be, both offensively and defensively. And the opportunity is certainly there for him to be one of the most important bench players in the league. But there hasn’t been any consistency from game to game, quarter to quarter, or possession to possession, whether he’s playing in OKC or Boston. Maybe I’m overestimating his potential or maybe he just doesn’t have the drive to maximize it.

Sekou SmithAndre Iguodala in Denver. And he might just be a victim of my own overblown expectation of what he would do with the Nuggets. After an All-Star season and a gold medal-winning summer at the Olympics, the news of Iguodala going to the Denver in that Dwight Howard mega-deal had me thinking he’d show up there and continue his All-Star-caliber play. But he joined a team with catalysts (Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari) already in place. Iguodala isn’t playing poorly by any stretch. The Nuggets are rolling, too, with him playing his role. Still, he hasn’t had nearly the impact I (and plenty of other people who picked the Nuggets in the preseason as the No. 2 team in the Western Conference) expected him to have on this team.

Blogtable: Big-Money Busts (So Far)

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 10: The best team in the NBA | Show us you’re worth it | Best, worst: ‘Cats, Cavs or Wizards

Deron Williams isn’t living up to his big contract yet? Who else has to show you some more for the money in 2013?

Steve Aschburner: Let’s assume Carlos Boozer is too old an answer here, that JaVale McGee is too early an answer here and that Andrew Bynum is too obvious an answer here. Ersan Ilyasova is too below-the-radar for most folks, and I’m assuming that Rudy Gay soon demonstrates his true value either on the court for Memphis or in a trade package when the Grizzlies face some hard economic reality. So I’m going with New Orleans guard Eric Gordon, a player who has missed 112 of a possible 179 regular-season games over the past two-plus seasons. Gordon was handed a $58 million contract last summer despite his knee problems and has been accorded “franchise guy” treatment by two organizations and a suitor or two. He remains a potential star and, remember, in the NBA staying healthy isn’t just luck, it’s a skill.

Fran BlineburyRoy Hibbert. After getting his big money, he’s down across the board in points, rebounds, field-goal percentage and even free-throw shooting.  He gets a run for his money from Dwight Howard, who for all the noise, the drama and the diva tendencies, has just not played like a guy who will be offered the keys to the Lakers’ franchise.  But he’ll get them anyway.

Jeff CaplanMichael Beasley is tremendously under-performing his contract, but the Suns should have known better. So, hellooooo, Roy Hibbert. With Danny Granger down, Hibbert’s numbers are have taken a hit across the board. He’s not even shooting 40 percent from the field — inexcusable for a traditional big man, after being near 50 percent last season. Maybe expectations were too high simply from Hibbert being offered the max by other teams. The Pacers had to match, but they need more than Hibbert’s bringing.

Scott Howard-Cooper: If you are going strictly on contract, and rightly take Dirk Nowitzki and Andrew Bynum out of the mix because of injury, it’s Pau Gasol. But if this is about regressing in urgent ways, say hello to DeMarcus Cousins. His behavior is worse than before, his play is backsliding, and the Kings are going down with him. Cousins is the most important player on the team. That’s a measure of value beyond salary.

John Schuhmann: Amar’e Stoudemire is too obvious an answer, right? Jeff Green is probably an obvious answer too, but he’s my answer. Green deserves a ton of credit for coming back from heart surgery, but that doesn’t mean he deserved $36 million guaranteed. The Celtics need Green to keep their vets fresh and to keep things from falling apart when they go to the bench, but that hasn’t happened. He’s shooting 41 percent and he’s got the worst per-possession plus-minus in Boston’s rotation. Green has the physical tools to be a great player, but he’s never really been able to put it together. Now would be a good time.

Sekou Smith: If we go around identifying guys who aren’t “living up to their contracts,” the line around headquarters here could get pretty long. Williams isn’t even the highest paid player on the Nets’ roster — that distinguished honor belongs to shooting guard Joe Johnson. But neither member of the Nets’ starting backcourt, easy targets in light of what’s gone on in Brooklyn the past 10 days, can touch Philadelphia’s Andrew Bynum in this category. The former Los Angeles Lakers big man has yet to grace us with his presence this season, due to injury, of course. At least Williams, and Johnson for that matter, are in uniform most every night.

Collins Got Harden’s Motor Running

HOUSTON — You see him now: rolling down the court like a tractor-trailer with no brakes, shimmying from side to side, yet barreling straight ahead. It’s difficult to imagine James Harden not constantly attacking the basket.

But that only means you were never inside the practice gym during those two years at Arizona State. Doug Collins was.

“I wish he had the energy he played with at Arizona State,” the Sixers’ coach said a few minutes before Harden went out and torched his team for 33 points on just 12 field goal attempts.

“If you ask James Harden to tell you one thing he heard from Doug Collins for two years, he’ll tell you: ‘Play with a motor. Play with a motor.’ He had no motor in college. None.”

Collins was out of coaching back in those days, working as a TNT commentator, when he became a frequent visitor to the Sun Devils’ workouts and the burr under the saddle of a certain guard who had all the flashy trim of a fancy sports car, but might as well have been sitting it up on milk crates.

“[Collins] taught me a lot,” Harden said. “He would mentor me. He would tell me that I had to have a motor. I had to build a motor up to be successful and have a chance to play in the NBA. My sophomore year, the reason I came back [to college] was to learn and build my motor up. He was the reason for that.

“I was nonchalant, just chill. That’s how I still am, but I have a little motor in me now. That’s the difference. He saw me in my building stage, when I was preparing for the NBA. So for him to have great compliments about me, it means a lot to me.”

Collins says the next critical step in Harden’s development was going to Oklahoma City and falling in with just the right trio of gym rats in Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green, who never tired of getting to practice early and staying late, who wouldn’t accept anyone into their circle that wouldn’t play with the same fervor. Harden worked tirelessly to improve his conditioning and he built up his strength to the point where he might be as unstoppable an offensive force as any player in the league.

“I don’t [usually] compare players by any stretch of the imagination,” Collins said. “But when he’s coming down the floor with the ball, he is very similar to LeBron James. When you combine size, strength, speed — and he loves contact. He seeks contact on every play.”

Every time the undermanned Sixers made a run at the Rockets on Wednesday night, Harden was there to block it like a boulder in the road — with a 3 or by getting to the line to hit 17 of his 18 free throws. And he’s made the adjustment from coming off the bench in OKC to starting in Houston; from being a role player to being the point of the spear in the offense so seamlessly that it’s easy to forget that he arrived in Houston just three days before the season opener.

“I didn’t set any expectations coming in,” Harden said. “It was a new role for me: starting, playing a lot more minutes with the ball in my hands. So my expectation was just get the guys together and try to win games as soon as possible. We’re on the right track.”

There is still a lot to figure out with the Rockets, still plenty of holes to fill on a roster with glaring inconsistency. It’s maybe hard to see them hanging around their current spot at the bottom of the playoff race unless a lot comes together quickly. But, then, it did for Harden.

“He can shoot the 3,” Collins said. “He’s got a great feel for the game. He has shot 11 less free throws than my three leading scorers. He puts the pressure on you all the time … I love what he’s about — his development, his improvement.

“It’s funny, when he sees me, he’ll say, ‘I’ve got a motor now, coach.’ ”

Blogtable: The Celtics’ Last Stand?

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 8: Hyperventilating about Ricky | Celtics’ Last Gasp? | Missing Pieces

Have we seen the last of these Celtics as a title contender?

Steve Aschburner: Much will depend on your definition of contender, but let’s not get bogged down in details. Yes, we have seen the last of these Celtics as a serious title threat. The East isn’t any tougher but the Celtics still look stuck. They’re aging and not sufficiently backfilling with the guys (Jeff Green, Courtney Lee) who were supposed to assume bigger roles. Avery Bradley‘s return will help in a couple of ways — defensively, Kevin Garnett will have a soulmate out there and Lee should relax with a bit less pressure. But c’mon, his name’s Bradley, not Bird. It won’t be enough.

Fran Blinebury: I’m not ready yet to sweep the Celtics over the cliff just yet, though I’ll admit they’re hanging on by their finger tips. I still believe in K.G., Pierce and Rondo, but Doc Rivers has just been throwing everything against the wall with the rest of them, trying to get some consistency.

Jeff Caplan: Sorry folks, this is the end. I said it weeks ago in this space that Boston is no longer a threat. The loss of Ray Allen was a blow in more ways than one and although I’m a Jason Terry fan, I don’t think he can just step in and make everyone forget about Allen. Jeff Green has been disappointing and, well, it’s just not working.

Scott Howard-Cooper: Unfortunately, yes. I say unfortunately because the foundation of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo will always have a special place in NBA history as an ultra-competitive roster that led with a ferocious will. But while the Celtics, with Allen off the current team but forever part of the title memories, can still be good, I don’t see them still being championship good.

John Schuhmann: That 3-2 lead that they held in the Eastern Conference finals just six months ago still occupies a small piece of real estate in the back of my mind, but I’m believing in the Celtics less and less as the weeks go by. They haven’t won more than two straight games in over a month and they’re 3-8 on the road. Their defense has shown some improvement, and the return of Avery Bradley should eventually get them back to being top-five team on that end. But their offense might be worse than it was last season, which says a lot. Only the Wizards have been worse offensively over the last three weeks. I still think they could get things together and get back to the conference finals, but I don’t see any way they can win another championship.

Sekou Smith: I hate to say it, but I believe so. They just don’t look like they have the energy for one last run. I take Doc Rivers at his word when he says he’s coaching a “.500 team and we play like that.” I expected more. I thought with the way they finished last season that the Celtics, and not the Spurs, would be the seasoned bunch that showed up this season looking like they spent the offseason bathing in the Fountain of Youth. They’ve only shown flashes of that ability. I saw them live on opening night in Miami and walked away feeling good about my preseason prediction that they would remain the biggest threat to the Heat this season. Not anymore.

Green Could Be A Problem This Season


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

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

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

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

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

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


Welcome To Camp: Boston Celtics

The Big Three is dead! Long live the Big Three!

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…)

Rondo Leads Celtics’ L.A. Retreat


The player who allegedly was the source of the Boston Celtics’ deepest friction last season now seems determined to be the spark of deeper togetherness.

Point guard Rajon Rondo, cited as one reason teammate Ray Allen bolted the Celtics for Miami over the summer, was the ringleader of a Boston-in-Los Angeles week, as reported by Yahoo! Sports NBA writer Marc Spears. The feisty playmaker who has been such a love/hate/trade object for basketball boss Danny Ainge took it upon himself to plan what Spears called “a week of bonding.”

One of the first steps was welcoming a couple of new teammates — Jason Terry and Courtney Lee — to Boston’s L.A. retreat.

“I wanted J.T. to play with Kevin [Garnett]. I wanted Courtney to see how Paul [Pierce] likes to play. I wanted Paul and Jeff Green to go at each other,” Rondo told Yahoo! Sports. “I wanted to play with those guys. It was getting guys away from our actual training facility to get a new view.

“I wanted the guys to have fun. When you’re with me I want you to say, ‘Man, I had a good time with Rondo.’ And I think that’s what they did.”

So the Celtics worked out together at UCLA, broke bread and spent free time together (Pierce and Garnett own homes in the area). For five days they hung out, newcomers, rookies and veterans alike – only the most recent signee, Darko Milicic, wasn’t there.

They even crosstrained, Spears wrote.

To add some fun, Rondo also put together a flag football game at UCLA that included referees. Rondo said the only Celtics that didn’t play were Pierce and 7-foot, 255-pound rookie Fab Melo “because he might hurt somebody.” Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith, a close friend of Rondo’s, also played.

“My team won,” Rondo said. “We dominated. I had seven touchdowns and zero interceptions. I had a nice kickoff return back. We had fun. K.G. was the quarterback of the other team, but they had to sub him out because he wasn’t getting any touchdowns.”

For all the good fellowship, a lot of focus remains on a player who wasn’t there — Allen, so vital to the Big-Three-Plus-One success for five seasons. A personality clash between the shooting guard and the point guard, both on and off the floor, was said to contribute to Allen’s snub of a fatter free-agent contract offer from Boston. And earlier this month, when Rondo made an appearance on BET’s “106th & Park” show, he blew off a question about Allen by saying, “Oh, that guy.” (more…)