NBA
The Celtics Report 11/22/14
Category: NBA
Tags: NBA BostonCeltics MemphisGrizzlies PhoenixSuns Philadelphia76ers JaredSullinger BrandonBass KellyOlynyk

 

 

 

The week began with the Celtics sending both Dwight Powell and James Young down to the Maine Red Claws to get them some game action while they sit at the end of the Celtics rotation. It appears this will be a regular plan with the two players as the season progresses.

As for the on court actions of the Celtics, it was a hit and miss kind of week.

Boston stands at 4-7 now after three games that were a mishmash collection of moments of happiness, frustration and questions of what the hell?

Things started off against the Phoenix Suns. The Celtics were down by double digits in the game but fired back with a rally that saw them tie the score at 114. But Suns player Eric Bledsoe got a steal and a dunk in the last minute of the game that ended up being the deciding points in a 118-114 loss for Boston.

Jeff Green had a 28 points to lead the team scoring. Tyler Zeller had a huge game with 19 points and 7 boards. Jared Sullinger added 18 points and 8 rebounds. Avery Bradley finished with 16 points and Rajon Rondo had 14 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists.

But this game raised the question about what the Celtics might be able to accomplish if they stopped finding themselves down so much in games. They have the ability to score, the comebacks prove that. But their defense, particularly in late game situations has not only been question, but absolutely pilloried. They've been TERRIBLE defensively.

The local sports reporter here in town sent out a tweet referencing a Jeff Green dunk that said "For the few remaining C's fans out there..." I had to respond back that my fandom for the Celtics never fades, despite my frustration with the team." He retweeted my response. But it is a true thing and my fandom is summed up by a T-shirt I saw earlier in the week.

Things improved a little bit midweek when the 76ers were on the schedule. As most anyone knows, Philadelphia is purposely trying to lose games this year. They are tanking the season and aren't even attempting to hide it even a little bit. They were 0-10 coming into the game and everyone is teeing off on them. (You can read more about that in my Sunday Musings blog tomorrow.)

Boston ended up taking the game 101-90 for their 4th win of the year. The funny thing for me was when I read the score, I thought, "they only won by 11 points over a team trying to lose?" The Sixers were so blatantly tanking this game that they were down just 10 points with 3 minutes left and one of the commentators on the news program following the game said that they made no aggressive attempt to try and get back into the game.

But one point or a hundred, the margin of victory isn't as important as the victory itself.

Brandon Bass, the forgotten man of the Celtics, was on fire during this game and scored 23 points. Jared Sullinger added 22 points and 9 boards. The Celtics got 13 points from Marcus Thornton and 11 points and 10 boards from Jeff Green.

On Friday night, the Celtics squared off against the Memphis Grizzlies. Memphis is the best team in the NBA (record-wise) right now and they showed it against Boston. They won the game 117-100 and it was likely not even that close. This despite the Grizzlies seeing 7 players affected by a stomach virus and the team obviously not quite up to snuff in terms of physical health.

The Grizzlies outrebounded the Celtics 50-38 and the lack of a physical post defense from Boston saw the Grizzlies outscore them in the paint 66-38. They led by as many as 21 points in the fourth quarter. Marc Gasol led Memphis with a career high tying 32 points. Zach Randolph had 16 points and 16 boards despite sitting the entire fourth quarter because Memphis was so far ahead.

As for Boston's offense, Kelly Olynyk scored 18 points to lead 6 players in double figures for the Celtics. And while that is a decent point total, coach Brad Stevens wasn't totally sold on his performance, or rather the seeming lack of consistent performance from the team as a whole. He said that there were times that Olynyk showed flashes, but added, "Maybe there are some learning experiences for these guys, but they have to expedite that curve because they're playing for us. We're not showing them film and learning after practice. They're playing in games."

I think the losing or rather the way the team is losing is starting to wear a bit thin on the coach and it is nice to see that he isn't just silently stewing. I think that the team does need a bit of a fire lit under them. They have found numerous ways to lose games this year so far and they really need to start fine-tuning things so that they can be a better team in the end.

I know that playoffs are a stretch, but I would like to see them at least be in the mix for a playoff spot for a while. The Celtics have talent, that is unquestioned. But they need to play more consistently on both offense and defense. If they do that, they can win more games and be harder to team to deal with for the top flight teams in the NBA.

GO CELTICS!

The Celtics Report 11/15/14
Category: NBA
Tags: NBA BostonCeltics RajonRondo EvanTurner KellyOlynyk LeBronJames

 

 

 

When I wrote about the Celtics last week, I didn't have time to include last Saturday's game against the Chicago Bulls. Before that game, the Celtics were 2-3. They didn't look great but they didn't look entirely bad either.

With both Rajon Rondo (out for surgery on his hand to remove screws) and Marcus Smart out of action (Smart's injury turned out to be a sprain and not a break!), Boston started Evan Turner at the point guard position. Prior to the Bulls game, Turner had been seen as almost uniformly awful thus far this season.

However, Chicago got to see a different side of Turner as he helped key a big offensive rout of the Bulls for three quarters and helped hold off Chicago's furious rally in the fourth quarter. Turner led 7 players in double figures for Boston with 19 points and he added 6 assists.

I also mentioned in my last Celtics piece that Tyler Zeller had been the odd man out of the rotation through the first five games. For the Bulls game, he saw his first extended action (21:10 minutes played) and he responded with 10 points and 7 boards. Marcus Thornton added 11 points.

The Celtics evened their record with this 106-101 victory. They had been cruising along until the fourth quarter however, when Aaron Brooks (26 points overall) exploded for 19 points as Chicago rallied to make this more of a nailbiter than the first three quarters of action would've had you believing it was going to end up being.

Unfortunately for Boston and its fan base, the team's next two games would prove both a little disappointing and disheartening.

On Wednesday night, the Celtics faced an Oklahoma City Thunder team that was without both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. While you don't ever simply believe a team is going to win a game when the opposing team's best players are out of action, you would've thought the Celtics would've been a good bet to win this game.

And as the 109-94 final score will attest, you would've been wrong.

Boston started out the game in fine fashion. They built a 15 point lead in the first quarter. But anyone who follows the NBA knows games aren't won in the first quarter. Thanks to 28 points apiece from both Reggie Jackson (the ex-Boston College star added 8 assists) and Anthony Morrow, the Thunder soon took control of the game and Boston couldn't keep up.

Rajon Rondo had a good night overall with 20 points, 12 assists and 9 rebounds. Avery Bradley added 17 points. Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk each finished with 14 points.

And if the loss to the Thunder wasn't enough to curdle your milk, watching Friday night's loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers should've turned it absolutely rancid.

But before we talk about the game itself, can I just say that people or organizations who write headlines for articles or even tweets need to do a better job of editing. Seriously, the CelticsLife.com blog actually tweeted out a headline for a preview article of the game that said this game was LeBron's first game in Boston as a Cav.

Ummm....say what? Yes, I know what they ACTUALLY meant...that it was his first game in Boston as a Cavalier...THIS TIME AROUND. But the headline was written carelessly as if to say that the website was completely discounting all those years he spent as a member of the Cavs at the start of his career. It is just sloppy writing, no?

But anyway, on to the game.

The Celtics should've won this game. I know they were playing LeBron, a player they haven't held to less than 23 points in something like 33 games, but come on people. Boston led by 6 points after the first quarter, were tied at halftime, blew out the Cavs in the third quarter to take a 17 point lead and then built it up to 19 points to start the fourth.

And then it was like a cartoon character stepping on a rake as the Celtics shot themselves in the foot at the same time as Cleveland's offense woke up.

All of a sudden, Boston's aggressiveness and ability to hit shots disappeared as the Cavs won the fourth quarter 38-20 and the game 122-121. You can argue calls and non-calls all you want (Jeff Green lies on the court holding his family jewels after LeBron hooks him and yet there is no foul called? No wonder Tommy Heinsohn exploded on the telecast), but the fact of the matter is that for whatever reason, the Celtics didn't play the fourth quarter well at all.

They played to not lose the game instead of playing to win.

For the Cavaliers, LeBron finished with a season high 41 points. Kyrie Irving had just 4 points in the first half but finished with 27 in all. Kevin Love added 12 points and 15 rebounds.

Despite all that, the Celtics still should've won this game. They got a team high 21 points from Kelly Olynyk. At halftime, Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix (working as a studio analyst for the broadcast) said that despite the share and share alike offense the Celtics are running, Olynyk should be seeing the ball more. He detailed that idea as not meaning more shots necessarily but also that Olynyk is a very good passer as well. Mannix wanted to see the ball in Olynyk's hands more so that he could facilitate offense for others as well.

Jeff Green had 19 points as did Jared Sullinger (he added 10 rebounds as well). Rondo dished out 16 assists in the game and had a chance to win the game. The Celtics had the ball with 7 seconds left but Rondo mishandled the ball and couldn't get a shot off before the buzzer sounded. A rather fitting conclusion to a depressing game.

So the Celtics now stand at 3-5 on the season. Still not great but not terrible either. However, after the way they lost their last two games a bit more pessimism has to naturally creep in to the overall outlook on the season. For the Celtics to be better than they were last season (25-57 record), these are the types of games they have to win.

You have to beat teams that are without their top players and you can't lose games when leading by nearly 20 points in the fourth quarter. According to the highlight reel I watched this morning, the loss to Cleveland was the first game the Celtics had lost after leading by 17 points or more after three quarters since 1988!

Those kinds of losses do seem to hang around a team's neck and bring down their fortunes.

Let's hope that isn't the case with this year's Celtics.

An Early Look at the Boston Celtics
Category: NBA
Tags: NBA BostonCeltics

 

 

 

After the Celtics opened up their season with a 16 point victory over the Brooklyn Nets last week, the team found themselves in a bit of a tailspin. They dropped their next three games before picking a victory last night. They are 2-3 on the season.

If you factor in how bad the Pacers (last night's opponent), the Lakers and the Cavaliers have started off, the Celtics aren't looking nearly as bad as observers might have thought. Of course, that's how their season started out last year and that ended up in a 25-57 record, so hopefully people don't get too excited just yet.

So far this season, Jeff Green has been a model of consistency. He's been in double figures for each game played. While he isn't quite yet lighting it up (save the game against Dallas), he's been a big source of offensive production. In the 104-90 loss to Houston last week, he led the team with 17 points. The game itself was the first of two in a row where the Celtics had to overcome a poor start on their part to try and win. The Rockets took control of the game with a 37-22 first quarter edge and never really looked back after that. James Harden led Houston with 26 points.

For Boston, Jared Sullinger scored 14 points and 9 rebounds while the walking trade rumor, Rajon Rondo, had 4 points, 8 assists and 10 rebounds.

The Celtics next faced off against the Dallas Mavericks and after another poor start saw the team down 67-41 at half-time, the Celtics woke up their offense. They staged a massive rally that invariably fell short 118-113. This was Jeff Green's big night as he led the comeback with 35 points and 7 boards. Avery Bradley scored 32 points and grabbed 8 rebounds. Rondo had 7 points, 15 assists and 9 rebounds and Jared Sullinger had 14 opints and 7 boards.

And while the rally was great entertainment, the players did acknowledge after the game that they are shooting themselves in the foot when they come out of the starting gate so poorly.

Much like a two year old child, the team is likely to experience these bad start/good start mood swings given the relative youth of the players who will see the bulk of the playing time this year.

An example of this was their 110-107 loss to the Toronto Raptors. This time the Celtics came out on fire and built a 16 point lead. But they were unable to hold it and saw that lead cut down to 3 points by half-time on their way to coughing up another game to their opponent.

Green led the team with 20 points while Sullinger scored 19 points and had 16 boards. Kelly Olynyk added 18 points and 13 boards while Avery Bradley finished with 16 points. Rondo had his first triple double of the season with 13 points, 10 rebounds and 15 assists. Rookie Marcus Smart scored 12 points.

It may have been the fifth loss in a row for the Indiana Pacers last night, but they sure made the Celtics work for the 101-98 victory. And it could very well be a costly victory as the team saw Smart go down with a left ankle injury. As I write this, there is no word on if it is a bad sprain or a broken ankle, but it didn't look very good as he was carted off the floor last night. The Celtics rallied themselves to clinch the victory, but given the high hopes the team has on the development of Smart, this is a body blow no one saw coming. Sullinger had 17 points to lead Boston with Green scoring 15 points. Olynyk had 12 points while Brandon Bass had 10 points.

So what are we seeing out of the team thus far? They are being competitive, but the sustained youth movement on the team finds the mix of veterans and rookies not quite there in terms of gelling as a team thus far. The up and down nature of how Boston starts games seems to determine what the final result will be.

Brad Stevens is still working on figuring out a rotation. While most of the new blood is seeing playing time, he hasn't yet been able to find much court time for Tyler Zeller. And Brandon Bass, who was a key figure in last year's team, has largely become a forgotten man. When I saw that he had 10 points in the box score from last night's game, it surprised me because I can't really recall hearing his name mentioned since the preseason. It is a shame considering how much of a presence he can give the team in the post as a rebounder.

Jared Sullinger has improved his three point shooting which gives him that extended offensive range. It takes him away from being a post presence when he shoots the three ball, but if the Celtics can get more production down low from other players, it won't present as much of a problem.

Rondo is Rondo, he's going to make great numbers while dishing out one assist after another. But the continued questions about his status with the team is going to become a distraction as the trading deadline draws near. Of course, depending on the severity of the injury to Smart, Rondo may end up staying in Boston (as both he and management have stated they want). I think this is a good thing if they can get a contract worked out. But if not, Rondo walks at the end of the year and the Celtics get nothing. You'd lose your best player and trade asset.

Marcus Smart doesn't quite have an NBA caliber shot just yet and if the Celtics are left with him and Bradley on the perimeter, opposing teams aren't going to worry about them hitting that big outside shot as much.

Kelly Olynyk has been a solid player so far this season. I like him and think he can be a valuable piece of the franchise. My buddy Brian has an opposing view and it will be interesting to see which of us is right in the end.

There hasn't been a whole of time to evaluate some of the players on the roster yet. Whether still rehabbing injuries or simply not having much playing time, I can't really say what Vitor Faverani, James Young, Gerald Wallace, Dwight Powell or Phil Pressey will bring to the Celtics this season. I know that Marcus Thornton is going to be looked at to provide some stability off the bench.

As for Evan Turner, just five games into the season and I'm already seeing stuff online saying he's absolutely horrible. His name hasn't really popped up that much in the game recaps either.

Oh, and in a bit of off the court news, the Celtics have unveiled their "Parquet Pride" alternate uniforms and memorabilia collection. These uniforms will be used 6 times this season and in those six games get ready to absolutely vomit at these gross abomination sleeved uniforms. You can read about these hideous things HERE.

The thing about the Celtics uniforms is that they didn't bow to modern trends. They were the classic basketball uniform. The Celtics or Boston on the front was all you needed. This new uniform being used 6 times this season is 6 times too many. They are ruining a uniform brand that has stood the test of time and remains better than anything that has been deemed a more "modern" uniform.

THIS IS AN EMBARRASSMENT:

But back to the team itself now...

I don't know rightly what to expect from the Celtics this year. After the failure to lure a big name free agent to Boston, I said that 25-57 might look good given the roster the team was going to have. But that same feeling I had when the Celtics started out decently (record wise) last year is mysteriously still present within me this year. If they can avoid long losing streaks and maintain their early season level of competitiveness, this Celtics team might actually end up surprising people.

The players are buying into what Brad Stevens is preaching/teaching and as they play more games, I can see the team growing up together. Will that mean more wins, I don't know. But I do like that for now, I have a sense of optimism.

GO CELTICS!

Are you Kidd-ing me?
Category: NBA
Tags: NBA BrooklynNets

If the situation in Brooklyn wasn't bad enough already, the news that "head coach" Jason Kidd has demoted assistant coach Lawrence Frank to book report writer should signal to all parties concerned that the disaster that is the Nets is only going to get worse.

And why is it? Because Jason Kidd is the head coach, that's why.

Let's review. Kidd retires and 10 days later, with absolutely no coaching experience whatsoever, gets hired as the MAN in Brooklyn.

He brings in a staff to help him as he adjusts to being a coach. Reports say that he lobbied hard for Frank in particular.

Then the trades and additions to make the team a supposed instant title contender happen.

But Kevin Garnett waited about a nanosecond before bristling at how he was being handled in terms of playing time. And the team came out of the gates about as flat as possible and are currently among the all but two teams (Indiana and Miami) in the Eastern Conference with a losing record.

Paul Pierce is out with a broken hand and the team is simply not very good.

Kidd pulls a bush league move to buy a timeout by spilling a soda (A-Rod now has company in the wuss division of pro sports), gets caught in seconds flat and yet still lies about it.

And now we have the essential firing of Lawrence Frank over philosophical differences in terms of defense and other game issues.

I read this article on Yahoo! Sports that was rather illuminating: http://sports.yahoo.com/news/jason-kidd-s-relationship-with-top-assistant-deterioriated-after-heated-staff-meeting-013231698.html

Among the interesting passages:

"Hours after a blowout loss to the Orlando Magic – Kidd's first game on the bench following a two-game suspension to start the season – the entire coaching staff witnessed Kidd lose his temper with Frank and escalate a strangely uneasy and brief coaching partnership together."

"With Jason," one league source told Yahoo Sports, "once he turns on you, he turns. That's how he was as a player, and that's what we're seeing again now."

"Around the Nets, officials and players insisted that Frank had returned to the organization as exactly who he had always been: prepared, organized, hardworking and strong in his convictions. Kidd had hired Frank to have a strong hand in the day-to-day coaching, game planning and practice preparation of the team, but quickly changed course in his desire for Frank to be such a force within the staff, league sources said.

Frank has always had strong opinions, but it is the head coach's job to sift through the advice and make the ultimate choices. "He was loyal," one league coaching source with knowledge of the dynamic told Yahoo Sports."

"Several scouts following the Nets had seen a noticeable change in Frank's on-court disposition in recent weeks, clearly seeing him far less engaged on the bench."

I also read or heard that Kidd was ticked off when players started going to Frank about defensive sets/etc.

Bob Ryan said in an interview that Kidd "was in way over his head."

Frank is the highest paid assistant coach in the league at $1 million dollars a year (with a six year deal).

The situation has to be completely embarrassing for the entire Nets organization. I can only hope the ownership is seeing their ridiculous decision to hire Kidd in the first place was preposterously stupid.

They will never win with such an inexperienced guy as the head coach. I know they like to say players are "a coach on the floor" and that is fine. But it is an entirely different animal when you are an actual coach instead of a fictional one.

Jason Kidd is utterly responsible for the mess that has been constructed. And selling out your assistant (and by all accounts the guy that he went all out to get in the first place) shows exactly how inexperienced and immature Kidd is as a coach.

The NBA is the top rung of the basketball ladder. You don't have time or space to dicker around with the person running the team on the floor. You've got to hire someone for whom coaching is a lifeblood thing not something to fool around with in retirement.

The New Celtics Coach
Category: NBA
Tags: NBA BostonCeltics

The Boston Celtics have hired Butler's Brad Stevens as their new head coach.

Damn! This is a big surprise hire. The team is going to suck for the next few years, but it will be interesting to see how Stevens gets on with Rajon Rondo.

 

Article Link: http://nba.si.com/2013/07/03/brad-stevens-celtics-coach-butler-university/

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