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.
Thoughts of improvement start with the Celtics, and with the 21 turnovers they committed on Saturday. Smarter execution, like not trying to make post entry passes from 25 feet away, will at least get them more shots at the basket.
“They missed wide-open shots,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Monday, adding that he wouldn’t hesitate to go back to that three-guard unit again. “That group, when they’re on the floor, they have to produce offensively. They’re not going to ever be a great defensive group, and they didn’t do that. And it hurt us.”
Turnovers and missed shots were often a result of bad spacing. The same mismatches and double-teams that the Celtics took advantage of in the first half were there in the second, but poor spacing and execution made it more difficult to get good shots out of those situations.
The Celtics held their largest lead (seven points) late in the third quarter, but really set a bad precedent at the start of the half when Jeff Green – who was the star of the first half – took two contested mid-range shots early in the shot clock.
Though Game 1 was the lowest scoring game of the playoffs thus far, Carmelo Anthony‘s 36 points were the most any individual has scored this postseason. But Boston defended Anthony about as well as you can, making him take 29 shots to get those 36 points. In five games against the Celtics this season, Anthony has shot 37.1 percent and scored 137 points on 132 shots from the field.
Still, Doc Rivers believes there’s room for improvement in regard to Anthony’s scoring as well. And it’s more about his team limiting its own mistakes than defending Anthony differently.
The Celtics defended Anthony very well in the Knicks’ half-court offense, but got in trouble in transition and off loose balls…
Carmelo Anthony’s offense, Game 1
EFG% = (FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA
Anthony shot just 6-for-19 in half-court situations, and the Celtics even contested a few of those makes – including the 20-foot baseline dagger with 1:21 left in the fourth quarter. But Boston knows it can’t let Anthony loose when its defense isn’t set up.
Two of Anthony’s threes came when he brought the ball up on a secondary break, got an early high screen from Tyson Chandler, and walked into a open shot. A third came off a deflection that the Celtics couldn’t corral. And the fourth came as a trailer on a fast break. He had two other buckets (in the first quarter) when he brought the ball up himself and immediately looked for his shots.
The league’s leading scorer will probably shoot better in half-court situations on Tuesday, but the Celtics can prevent a major scoring barrage by just being more careful and aware.
“Every time we made a mistake, an offensive rebound, a turnover, he scored,” Rivers said. “And those were his easy baskets. We have to take those away.”
Like the Celtics, the Knicks know they can do better offensively. They ranked third in offensive efficiency this season and scored an incredible 115 points per 100 possessions over their final 18 games. But on Saturday, they were held to just 85 points on 88 possessions.
It’s easy to say that the ball needs to move better and that the Knicks should have more than 13 assists. Yes, there was too much iso-ball in Game 1, but most of it was a result of the Celtics’ defense taking away New York’s initial actions. And the Knicks are fortunate to have two players – Anthony and J.R. Smith – who can save a broken possession by getting a decent shot up in the final seconds of the shot clock.
Still, the Knicks can improve offensively by just getting up the floor quicker. The Celtics scored on just 35 of their 89 possessions on Saturday, but the Knicks had just seven fast break points. And as noted above, Anthony got his best looks in transition, not necessarily on fast breaks, but when he took advantage of a defense that wasn’t yet set.
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.
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.
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.
HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Not everyone can be J.J. Redick and get traded at the deadline to a playoff team that has 28 minutes of playing time carved out and instantly make a positive impact.
Just ask Anthony Morrow, who was virtually nonexistent in Atlanta only to become invisible in Dallas; or Ed Davis, who is only now, thanks to injuries to Zach Randolph, beginning to break into Memphis coach Lionel Hollins‘ rotation. Ronnie Brewer lost his rotation spot in New York and has yet to find one in Oklahoma City and Jordan Crawford, whose low minutes in Boston are at least better than no minutes in Washington.
“I landed in a place that is pretty much a great fit for me,” Morrow said a few days after being freed from the Hawks. “Coming out of my last situation I just wanted to get somewhere or anywhere where I could have an opportunity in terms of working hard and letting that pay off.”
Judging by comments from the Mavs’ brass, Morrow, a free-agent-to-be, figured to have gotten exactly what he wanted. President of basketball operations Donnie Nelson went so far as to call Morrow “one of the top stretch shooters maybe in the history of the league.” That might have been stretching things a bit, but owner Mark Cuban seemed happy to get the 3-point specialist for a playoff push in a straight-up deal for defensive-minded shooting guard Dahntay Jones.
“He’s one of those guys you just can’t leave,” Cuban said. “If you do he’s going to make you pay for it and that’s going to be really valuable for us.”
It might be if Morrow ever gets on the court. Coach Rick Carlisle has played Morrow a whopping six minutes. Six total minutes. He finally got up his first 3-pointer as a Mav on Sunday against Minnesota — he missed it — when he played 2:28, a shade under his Mavs high of 3:40 to go with stints of 16 seconds and four seconds.
The Thunder acquired the 6-foot-7 Brewer after trading backup guard Eric Maynor to Portland, a move that has worked well for Maynor on the Blazers’ thin bench. Brewer has played limited minutes, but his true value should come in the playoffs as a sturdy wing defender that coach Scott Brooks can utilize in specific situations. Brewer got a brief, late fourth-quarter assignment against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers last week.
“Those are minutes I have to somehow work in, but it’s hard to play 10, 11 guys,” Brooks said. “But Ronnie knows what he has to do and what he will do, he’s a professional, he understands what we do. He knows how to play, he’s a hard-nosed defender, he’s a team guy, so he just has to keep working until he gets his number called.”
Which is what the 6-foot-10 Davis is doing in Memphis. The three-team deal that sent Detroit big man Austin Daye and Tayshaun Prince to Memphis and Rudy Gay to Toronto (Raptors point guard Jose Calderon now starts for Detroit) happened about three weeks before the deadline.
Daye surprisingly was getting the bulk of the bench minutes while Davis sat. But in the last four games, Davis is starting to emerge as a key player for the hot Grizzlies, if only because of injuries to the starter, Randolph, and top reserve forward, Darrell Arthur. In his last four games, Davis is averaging 27.0 mpg, 9.2 ppg and 8.5 rpg. In the prior three games, he played a total of 21 minutes and had averaged less than 10 minutes since joining the Grizzlies.
Hollins offered up a pretty good indication of what he expects from Davis following Saturday’s win at New Orleans where Davis produced 12 points, nine rebounds and five blocks.
“When he is focused, he’s good. It’s a different focus; a different concentration level when you are on a good team,” Hollins said. “You can’t float, you can’t be in and out. You have to be focused for the whole time you’re on the court. Last [Friday] night, I thought he was great in the second half. He was not very good in the first half. [Saturday night], it was just the opposite. There were shots that he should have blocked. There were rebounds he should have had. It’s just something he has to grow into.”
As for Crawford, what seemed like a savvy deadline move for the Celtics to add some scoring pop off the bench with Rajon Rondo and Leandro Barbosa out for the season, hasn’t panned out. Crawford remains an inefficient scorer and a poor decision-maker and, not coincidentally, he has provided little impact.
In a trade season where Redick — whose Bucks are 6-2 since his arrival (he missed Sunday’s win at Sacramento with a sprained ankle) — was the biggest name moved, role players in new homes are finding that it can be difficult to fit in.
Who is the one player who alternately infuriates you with boneheaded plays and thrills you with the occasional good ones.
Steve Aschburner: Can I answer TimDuncan and call it good? Y’know, yo-yo … No? OK, my 2012-13 winner of the Nate Robinson Award would be … yeah, Nate Robinson. Let’s face it, they could name the trophy after him, awarded annually to the player who drives his coach the battiest. Robinson has been a necessary evil for Tom Thibodeau in Chicago, gobbling minutes that would normally go to rehabbing Derrick Rose and chronically dinged Kirk Hinrich. All his charms and all his flaws have been on display in large helpings — reeling off eight points in a row one moment, firing up his turnover machine the next. He’s always Ornette Coleman, stubborn free-jazz improviser miscast in whichever of the 30 Duke Ellington orchestras employs him. A careful study of November video will reveal that, yes, Thibodeau did have more hair back then.
Fran Blinebury: Josh Smith, Josh Smith and Josh Smith.
Jeff Caplan: Considering Nuggets coach George Karl can’t bring himself to play JaVale McGee enough so that the 7-footer can average more than 18.8 mpg, I’d have to say McGee owns this category. Despite being remarkably athletic with all kind of potential and flashes of brilliance at both ends, the fact is that Kosta Koufos has started all 57 games he’s played and averages four more minutes a game than McGee.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Josh Smith. Shot selection, defense. Shot selection, occasional rebounding. Quite the weighted scales back and forth. That’s a yo-yo guy.
John Schuhmann: This is a difficult question to answer, because, by principle, I don’t like guys who make “boneheaded plays.” Marcus Thornton certainly made a case for this distinction with his performance in Miami on Tuesday. And he’s more efficient than similar gunners like Jordan Crawford and Nick Young. But my answer is Andre Drummond. He can play out of control and has had some JaVale-esque moments this season, but, as a pretty raw rookie, he’s proven to be an impact player on both ends of the floor for Detroit. He could be a monster within the next couple of years and I think there are probably already a few teams that regret letting him slip to No. 9 in last year’s Draft.
Sekou Smith: You obviously haven’t watched Shaqtin’ A Fool lately. Nuggets center JaVale McGee is the runaway winner in this category. Few players in the league are capable of making as many jaw-dropping plays, both good and bad, as McGee. The Nuggets have gotten more of the good out of him, which bodes well for them come playoff time. A shot-blocker and shot-maker of his size in a postseason scenario, when games inevitably slow down and turn into half court battles, can be invaluable.
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: After a Feb. 10 win against Denver, Boston was in the midst of a seven-game win streak and feeling good about its place in the East pecking order. But the Celtics’ five-game road trip West hadn’t gone as planned and they found themselves 1-3 with a date against the Jazz entering Monday. The Celtics had every reason to fold up shop, especially after looking listless at times in the first half and unable to contain Gordon Hayward most of the night. Never count out Paul Pierce, though, as he came through big for Boston as Celtics-Jazz ended up being our one to watch. Pierce showed off his Truth-y goodness in the win, particularly in the extra frame, where he scored seven straight in OT to salt away the victory:
Nuggets run Lakers out of Denver — Once Mike D’Antoni supplanted Mike Brown as Lakers coach, the assumption among some fans was that D’Antoni would employ the high-octane system he used in Phoenix in Lakerland and all would be right in the world. Yet as D’Antoni and the Lakers have learned time and time again this season, playing up-tempo isn’t the fast track to success for L.A. In fact, it’s the complete opposite and was proven so again last night as the Nuggets simply ran the Lakers out of Denver with a fast-breaking offense. Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register and Ramona Shelburneof ESPNLosAngeles.com have more:
Big picture, the Lakers have still gone 11-5 since the day of their clear-the-air team meeting in Memphis. But the feel-good sentiments were contrasted Monday night by some ongoing cold – or should that be “old”? – realities for this Lakers team.
The Lakers were as slow as ever in letting the Denver Nuggets blow by them. Final score: Denver 119, Los Angeles 108.
Fast-break points? Denver 33, Los Angeles 3.
“Man,” Kobe Bryant said, “that’s a killer.”
The Lakers are last in the NBA in points allowed per game off turnovers, and that’s just how Denver took control of this game – also running off Bryant’s early missed shots. The Nuggets kept control with Dwight Howard shooting 3-for-14 on free throws and Bryant’s individual defensive effort lacking even as he rediscovered his shooting stroke.
Those who have been waiting to see what Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni’s high-octane offense looks like finally saw it Monday night.
Too bad it was the Denver Nuggets playing it.
All that great spacing and shooting and scoring D’Antoni’s teams have become known for over the years … yeah, that was George Karl‘s Nuggets running the Lakers off the court in a 119-108 win Monday night.
“They’re good,” D’Antoni said. “They spread you out and they shoot a high percentage.
“We just couldn’t catch ‘em.”
D’Antoni was glum after the loss, but not unusually so. That wistful, pining, ”If they could only see what I see?” quality he carried around with him during the first few months of his tenure on the Lakers bench is gone now. He’s either squashed it for good or put it in a place where it doesn’t bother him as much.
What’s become clear during the Lakers’ modest revival — they’ve still won 11 of their past 16 games despite Monday’s loss — is that they’re no longer trying to play like one of D’Antoni’s teams.
The coach — and his team — have adapted. Or at least accepted that the up-tempo style is not going to fit this team, this season. There are still elements of it that work, including the pick-and-roll game and the emphasis on spacing and rhythm. But the rest of it has kind of been shelved for now.
For the Lakers, it served as a reminder of the decisions they’ve been forced to make this year. The Nuggets’ run-and-gun style was the vision D’Antoni was hired to bring to Los Angeles. For now, though, with no training camp and injured, ill-fitting personnel, it’s just not to be.
The coach has taken a lot of criticism since he got to L.A. So have many of his players.
It’s way too soon to start praising him. The Lakers are still in great danger of missing the playoffs after Monday’s loss dropped them to three games behind Houston for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
But it’s not too soon to recognize that D’Antoni also has made some difficult sacrifices since taking the job — to his principles, his pride and his legacy.
“There’s no job in the NBA that’s easy,” D’Antoni said, refusing to make a sympathy play. “You don’t just fall out of bed and have things happen. It gets more complicated with injuries. I didn’t know Steve [Nash] was going to be out. I didn’t know Steve Blake was going to be out. I didn’t know Dwight wasn’t healthy 100 percent. So, yeah, there are some side issues. But everything is hard.”
Hawks’ Horford hitting his stride — When the Atlanta Hawks have been in the headlines on this site and others, the name heard most is Josh Smith and his future with the team as a pending free agent. While we were all focused on J-Smoove, his future and the trade deadline the last few weeks, Al Horford, the lone ex-All-Star selection on the Hawks, has been tearing it up. He’s averaging 24.6 ppg and 12.4 rpg over his last nine games and went wild last night against the Pistons, notching a 23-point, 22-rebound game in the Hawks’ win. Atlanta has won three in a row, sits at No. 4 in the East and much of that is due to Horford, writes Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Al Horford is completely over the hamstring strain that bothered him earlier this season. It shows.
The Hawks center is averaging 24.2 points and 10.0 rebounds with a .679 field goal percentage (55 of 81) over the past five games. He has scored over 20 points in each of those games, a career first.
“I think it just has to do with me being healthy and we are playing through me a lot more,” Horford said Monday before the Hawks played at the Pistons. That helps. I’m able to stay in the rhythm of the offensive.”
Horford said the hamstring is no longer limiting his running and jumping. He also dealt with a calf issue.
“When we have a lot of ball movement and high assists it gets everybody involved not just me,” Horford said. “When that happens I usually do pretty well. When we don’t and we stick, that is when my game gets affected and we tend to struggle as a team. It’s not hard to figure out that if we have a high assist total we are going to have a good chance.”
Report: Bulls may lose Gibson for 2 weeks — Bulls reserve forward Taj Gibson injured his knee in the second half of Chicago’s blowout loss to the Thunder on Sunday night. Now comes word, via K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, that the Bulls’ depth — which has been hampered all season by the loss of star Derrick Rose – may suffer another blow following the results of Gibson’s MRI on Monday:
Taj Gibson celebrated the birthdays of Jerry Reinsdorf and Joakim Noah on Monday by having an MRI performed on his sprained left knee.
Well, not really, but the confluence of such events seemed fitting for a star-crossed Bulls team these days. For every celebratory moment — a blowout win in Charlotte, Noah turning 28 — a somber one follows in the form of a convincing loss to an elite team or another injury.
At least Gibson’s MRI didn’t reveal a torn ACL, although it did confirm a sprained MCL that could sideline the defensive-minded forward up to two weeks.
Can Boston’s lockerroom change Crawford, Williams? — Depending on whom you ask, new Celtics Jordan Crawford (acquired via a trade with Washington) and Terrence Williams (signed as a free agent) are seen by some as one-dimensional players, talented-but-emotional players or young players in need of some veteran guidance … or a combination of the three. Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald brings up a great point in questioning whether the Celtics’ veteran core of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and the like can do anything to change the careers/league-wide outlook on players such as Crawford and Williams:
It is the common perception that the Celtics dressing room is a healing commune where those of questionable basketball reputation can be saved. A Lourdes of leaping, if you will.
So as the Celts return home today with Terrence Williams and Jordan Crawford — two players who would not have been available to them were it not for concerns about their approach to the game and the fact they did not entirely please previous employers — there is the expectation among some, and hope among others, that regularly observing Kevin Garnett and breathing the same air will improve their focus and make them better teammates.
The newest C’s have the opportunity to either prove the perceptions a lie or rip off the old tags and begin anew.
Pierce knows that altering the career course of another adult may be quite a bit to ask, but he also recognizes it’s part of his job as captain and accomplished veteran.
“I think you just try to feel things out with new guys,” he said. “I mean, at this point in the season you usually get a chance to talk to guys in practice, but there’s not a lot of practice time.
“But it seems like these guys, from what you’ve heard about them from other teams, it doesn’t look that way from what I’ve seen in the past few days.”
Doc Rivers is well aware of the upside of both Williams and Crawford, but he’s not banking on his regulars to make them fit into the Celtics’ system.
Beyond that, Rivers tries to avoid preconceived notions. He doesn’t want to read the labels on the players the Celtics acquire.“You know, one of the things I’ve learned is that I don’t listen to hearsay,” he said. “I really don’t. I never have.
“I’ve learned that lesson long ago. There’s been a lot of players who you hear are bad guys or are not great guys that I’ve had that have turned out to be great guys. And I’ve had some that people said were great guys and they’ve turned out not to be.
“So I just don’t ever listen to the hearsay. I give everybody a chance, and if they don’t become that, then they don’t become that. I leave it at that.”
He doesn’t listen even when the comments are coming from his close friend, Washington coach Randy Wittman, who pulled Crawford out of his rotation?
“No, I don’t,’ Rivers said. “I really don’t, because there’s always circumstances. He may be right in what they’re saying, but there could be other circumstances that we can’t see. So I just let it go, and if they turn out to be a bad guy, then they’re a bad guy. Some turn out to be good guys.”
Loss harms Colangelo, Raptors’ playoff hopes — Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo has done a decent job of attempting to salvage Toronto’s season given his trade to land Rudy Gay and his deadline-day deal to add point guard depth in the form of Sebastian Telfair. But last night’s loss to Washington not only dropped the Raptors 4 1/2 games behind Philadelphia for No. 8 in the East, but also dealt a bit of a blow to Colangelo and his future in Toronto, writes Eric Koreen of The National Post:
Monday’s game, a 90-84 loss to the Washington Wizards, did not help the Raptors’ chances. They are now 4½ games out of the final playoff spot.
It was a putrid game, particularly the first half, when the Raptors turned the ball over 12 times. Rudy Gay and Kyle Lowry both struggled badly from the floor.
While the loss was certainly disappointing, it does not do much to change the Raptors’ position: They are fighting for a playoff spot, even if they are unlikely to prevail.
“That was our goal going into this year,” Dwane Casey said. “We got started off on a rocky start and dug ourselves a huge hole to start the season. We didn’t go about it [the right] way. We kind of got to the point where we wanted to be as far as knocking on the door on the playoffs. I think those are the terms that I used as far as our goal in the building process. [Acquiring] Rudy accelerated that process. I’m happy with our team. I like the direction we’re going in. I like our core group that we have.”
The team’s reality will have untold reverberations on the future. At the nadir of the season, it looked like president and general manager Bryan Colangelo would have to take the fall. If the Raptors fail to make the playoffs this year, it will be the first time in franchise history they that have missed the post-season in five consecutive years.
However, minus the specific nature of some of the controversies and concerns that the team has dealt with in the season’s first two-thirds, where the team sits now is exactly where the Raptors figured they would be. In fact, the Raptors trading Jose Calderon and his expensive expiring contract for a dynamic wing player such as Gay would have been an ideal scenario heading into the year. It was, as Colangelo likes to say, part of the plan.
So, where does that leave Colangelo?
In lieu of a franchise superstar — and Gay is not at that level — the person in charge of moulding the roster is arguably the most integral man in any basketball organization. Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment will have three options: pick up the third-year option on Colangelo’s contract; offer Colangelo an extension beyond next year; or decline to pick up the option, effectively firing him.
ICYMI of the night: If you’re a Laker-hater (or just a Nuggets fan), two plays from last night had to get your attention: JaVale McGee coming over to swat Kobe Bryant and Kenneth Faried powering home an alley-oop over Dwight Howard …:
The Spurs are now 6-1 on their rodeo trip and 25-4 over the last two months. More important is that they’re an improved defensive team. After ranking 11th in defensive efficiency last season, the Spurs rank third this year, allowing just 98.4 points per 100 possessions.
Also ranking fourth in offensive efficiency, San Antonio is the only team in the top five on both ends of the floor. The Clippers (seventh and seventh), Heat (first and ninth) and Thunder (second and eighth) are the only other teams that rank in the top 10 both offensively and defensively.
Success on both ends of the floor is the the (obvious) key to title contention. Over the last 14 seasons, only two teams that didn’t rank in the top 10 both offensively and defensively won a championship. They were the 2010 Lakers, who ranked 11th offensively and sixth defensively, and the 2004 Pistons, who ranked 18th offensively and second defensively. L.A. was the defending champion and Detroit added Rasheed Wallace at the trade deadline.
But ranking in the top five on both ends isn’t a guarantee of postseason success. Of the last 10 teams to finish on both ends, only two — the 2007 Spurs and 2009 Lakers — won the championship. Two others — the 2007 Mavs and 2012 Bulls — didn’t make it out of the first round.
Last 10 teams, top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency
Lost in first round
Lost in Finals
Lost in conf. finals
Lost in conf. finals
Lost in first round
Lost in conf. finals
Lost in conf. finals
Lost in conf. finals
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
The same, but different
The Indiana Pacers and Memphis Grizzlies rank No. 1 and No. 2 in defensive efficiency. Offensively, they’re both pretty mediocre, with the Grizz ranking 19th and the Pacers ranking 21st. They’re both in the bottom six in pace, as well. From an overall numbers standpoint, they may be the two most similar teams in the league.
But from quarter to quarter, there’s a big difference between the two teams. The Pacers are the league’s most consistent team from period to period, while the Grizzlies are the most inconsistent.
But that had a lot to do with who Crawford played his minutes with, or rather who he didn’t play his minutes with. Just 113 of those 1,127 minutes (10 percent) were played with John Wall, and just 341 (30 percent) were played with Nene.
The Wizards’ most-used lineup with Crawford on it (the fifth lineup on this list) had him running the point with Bradley Beal and Martell Webster on the wings, along with Chris Singleton and Emeka Okafor up front. It scored an amazingly brutal 67.8 points per 100 possessions in 68 minutes of floor time. No lineup around the league has been nearly as bad offensively.
If Thursday’s NBA trade deadline was a movie, the audience would have walked out in the middle from boredom. This freeze came straight from the script that is the league’s new collective bargaining agreement — with its harsher luxury tax penalties and diminished roster flexibility for tax offenders — it put the clamps on a stunningly uneventful deadline day.
The big names were on the opening credits: Josh Smith, Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Eric Gordon, Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis.
Yet, when the curtain closed at 3 p.m. ET, Orlando Magic sharpshooter J.J. Redick stole the show as the lone player of significance to switch teams. The Milwaukee Bucks acquired the career 39.8 percent 3-point shooter in a six-player deal that involved five other relatively anonymous NBA names.
Only one potential blockbuster deal percolated, but ultimately died on the vine with the Atlanta Hawks going the distance in an attempt to strike a deal with the Bucks for Smith before pulling back. One reason so few big deals were discussed was simply because there wasn’t much talent realistically in play, a point that goes beyond any ramifications of the CBA.
The CBA that took effect in December 2011, and begins to smack tax-paying teams with stiffer fines next season, has clearly put franchises on the defensive. Teams that were once willing to add salary to consummate a deal no longer are. Teams that once didn’t think twice about sweetening a deal with a first-round pick, suddenly guard them with their lives.
“Cap room and draft picks, which are usually the currency of how these [big] deals get done, were at a huge premium and are something that everyone wants to have,” said Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who steered the most active club at the deadline with a couple of lower-tier deals.
There’s really no greater example of the effect of these changes than the Dallas Mavericks and their braintrust, owner Mark Cuban and president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson. Chronic and strategic over-spenders and tax payers under the old CBA, Cuban, who took on salary in deadline deals for Jason Kidd in 2008 and Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson in 2010, analyzed the new rules and reversed field last year.
He dismantled the 2011 championship team, choosing to covet cap space and the roster flexibility granted to teams that remain under the tax threshold, as well as newfound valuing of first-round draft picks as low-priced labor and trade assets.
It’s a strategy that no longer has the Mavs on speed dial of teams looking to make a deal and dump salary.
“It’s definitely a factor,” Nelson said of the CBA’s chilling effect Thursday after the deadline expired. “There’s no question that folks have their eye on the inevitable, and there’s no question that people are getting their collective houses in order.
“There’s some teams that see that on the horizon and act early, and other teams that will procrastinate and pay a dear price. But I think we’re right in the middle of that. It’s not brand-new news and so, yeah, I think you’re going to see a lot of teams try to correct themselves financially.”
The so-called “repeater” tax really has teams scared. Several clubs tried to deal away lost-cost players to avoid the repeater tax, which will whack franchises with an additional fine if they go over the tax line in three of four seasons. Golden State was successful in this venture. Chicago was not and will pay a luxury tax for the first time since its implementation.
This “repeater” penalty deterred teams from making deals that would have pushed payroll even slightly over the tax line, deals they might have normally green-lighted in the old days. So, is this the way of the future under the current rules?
“I can’t predict the future,” Morey said, “but I think the trend is more this way.”
Rockets: Morey’s stockpiling of assets the last couple years has been questioned, but he’s turned it into quite a haul starting with James Harden prior to the start of the season. The day before the deadline, Morey acquired the No. 5 overall pick, Thomas Robinson, from Sacramento. Morey’s dealing didn’t damage an abundance of cap space next summer that will be used to pursue a top free agent such as Dwight Howard and Josh Smith.
Bucks: GM John Hammond didn’t get his big fish in Smith, but he pulled off the deal for Redick, who should really help a club that’s been skidding down the East standings and needs a boost. Hammond held onto Jennings and Ellis and will have room to maneuver in the summer to add more pieces.
Thunder: GM Sam Presti continues to make shrewd moves. The acquisition of Ronnie Brewer from the New York Knicks for a second-round pick gives OKC another strong perimeter defender to help Thabo Sefolosha.
Celtics:Jordan Crawford might not be Jamal Crawford, but he can score in bunches and Boston was desperate to bolster its injury-ravaged guard backcourt. Boston fans are the winners here, too, with the team’s heart and soul, Garnett and Pierce, staying put.
Mavericks: Sure, on the surface, picking up 3-point specialist Anthony Morrow for defensive-minded guard Dahntay Jones doesn’t sound like much. But then SheridanHoops.com reminded us of this Dwight Howard interview in Russia when he named Morrow as one of a handful of players he’d like to have as a teammate.
Blazers: The team with the leanest bench in the NBA finally got some help in a minor deal that netted OKC guard Eric Maynor, who lost his job early on to Reggie Jackson. Maynor will help Rookie of the Year frontrunner Damian Lillard reduce his 38.5 mpg workload.
Hawks: They didn’t get the deal done to ship out Smith and now it seems they will lose him for nothing in free agency. On one level, however, it’s hard to say that this is a definitive loss. They’ll keep Smith (who might or might not come away from this experience deflated) for the rest of the season, and, with any luck, try to keep him while recruiting friend and fellow Atlantan Howard next summer. If GM Danny Ferry wasn’t pleased with the deals presented, it doesn’t always pay to take something, anything just because in the end you could be left with nothing. If Smith leaves, the Hawks will take the cap space and look to spin it in their favor.
Magic: They deal away a useful player and one they drafted in Redick and hand over his Bird Rights to the Bucks. There was no guarantee that Redick would re-sign with Orlando, but he at least had said the door was open to a return. The Magic’s Josh McRoberts to Charlotte deal for Hakim Warrick is a head-scratcher.
Knicks: They didn’t upgrade at any position and gave away a solid defender in Brewer, who was starting for the club during their hot start out of the gates, but had slipped out of the rotation. New York did use the roster vacancy to sign veteran power forward Kenyon Martin.
Nets: They failed to land another high-priced player in Smith and failed to unload one of their own, Kris Humphries.
HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The 2013 trade deadline will be remembered more for the lack of movement than for any deal that was made. We had a handful of transactions in the final hours before the deadline, but the best player dealt this week was a guy who has started a grand total of 52 games over seven seasons.
That would be J.J. Redick, who is heading to Milwaukee in a six-player trade. The Bucks are also getting Gustavo Ayon and Ish Smith from Orlando. The Magic will receive Beno Udrih, Doron Lamb and Tobias Harris in return.
Redick is a role player, but one who should help the Bucks, who have struggled on both ends of the floor as they’ve lost eight of their last 10 games, dropping below .500 for the first time since early December. Now in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, they’re just three games in the loss column ahead of ninth-place Philadelphia.
The Bucks were reportedly the leaders in the race for Josh Smith, who is surprisingly staying in Atlanta … for the next few months or so. The Hawks apparently did not have a deal they liked, and will have to hope for a sign-and-trade deal in July if they want something in return for Smith. Our own Sekou Smith says that the Hawks will have “no chance” to re-sign Smith.
Atlanta did make a minor move, sending Anthony Morrow to Dallas for Dahntay Jones.
As much as the lack of a Josh Smith move was a surprise, so was the fact that the Utah Jazz stood pat. With Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter waiting in the wings, the Jazz have both Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap on expiring deals. We don’t know if the Jazz had an opportunity to upgrade their backcourt this week, but maybe, like the Hawks, they’d prefer to let one (or both) of those guys walk in the summer.
The Boston Celtics made a minor deal, but held on to both Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett for the stretch run. They’ll be adding Jordan Crawford to their backcourt, sending Jason Collins and the contract of Leandro Barbosa to Washington in exchange for the volume scorer who has been out of the Wizards’ rotation for the last couple of weeks.
The Heat sent Dexter Pittman and a second-round pick to Memphis.
The Bobcats traded Hakim Warrick to the Magic for Josh McRoberts.
In order to get under the luxury tax line, the Warriors are sending Jeremy Tyler to Atlanta and Charles Jenkins to Philadelphia.
The Raptors traded Hamed Haddadi and a second-round pick to the Suns for Sebastian Telfair.
The Thunder sent Eric Maynor to Portland.
The Knicks sent Ronnie Brewer to OKC for a pick.
In addition to Smith, Richard Hamilton (Bulls), Andrea Bargnani (Raptors), Kris Humphries (Nets), Ben Gordon (Bobcats), DeJuan Blair (Spurs) and Evan Turner (Sixers) aren’t going anywhere. The Denver Nuggets didn’t get a shooter, the Brooklyn Nets didn’t get any of their targets (Smith, Millsap, etc.), and the Los Angeles Clippers will try to get past the Spurs and Thunder with what they have.
The new collective bargaining agreement certainly had a role in the inactivity. The new, steeper luxury takes goes into effect next season, so contracts that don’t expire this season are a heavy burden to bear. Two years from now, the repeater tax goes into effect, so there’s plenty of incentive for teams to get under the tax line this year as well.
And now that the deadline has passed, we can get on with the remainder of the season, knowing that the landscape hasn’t changed one bit.
Days, weeks and, in some cases, months worth of hype about the future of Josh Smith in Atlanta ended up being just idle talk. The Hawks’ star forward was the centerpiece topic on trade deadline day 2013, yet will play out the season in Atlanta — a move that surprised many observers around the league. Leading up to the trade deadline, Smith — an unrestricted free agent this summer — had been mentioned in possible deals with Brooklyn, Phoenix, Milwaukee and a host of other cities.
Our own Sekou Smith heard rumblings as of deadline day that Boston and Phoenix were making a push for Smith. But perhaps most valuable to the Hawks in a new NBA economic world is the cap space they’ve created for themselves with last summer’s trades of big earners like Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams. Atlanta has hopes of a spending spree of sorts this summer on a free-agent class that includes the Lakers’ Dwight Howard and the Clippers’ Chris Paul. And, as Smith himself told NBA.com: “Atlanta will be on my list in free agency.”
While the man known as “J-Smoove” is staying put in Atlanta, there were a few deadline-day deals. You can get a full recap on all of these and others on our Trade Tracker, but here’s a quick look: