Friday, November 30, 2007

That's How To Withstand The Heat

Wow. On the heels of utter Knick domination it almost seemed like the same thing was gonna happen to the Heat. That would've been awesome. But even though the Heat fought back, it was a hell of a victory, Pierce and House both played great tonight. Good win. Very good win...

Baby You're Out Of Time

I was just writing last week that Scalabrine has done an admirable job on the court, being a good chemistry guy and playing with his head. With that said, Scal's rightful place is on the bench. Big Baby's (inevitable) ascension has made it clear that he deserves regular minutes, and there is no one better to take them from than Scal. Let's put a few things in perspective - even though Scal has appeared to be doing good on the court, his PER is all of a whopping 5.95. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Hollinger's ratings, 5.95 sucks - basically you don't deserve court time if your PER is below 10, no matter how good a defensive or "chemistry" guy you are. No one else on the Celtics who plays regularly has a PER below 10, except Tony Allen, who is still obviously recuperating his legs. Baby, on the other hand, has in limited minutes recorded a PER of 20.51 - which is an All-Star type number. Now I don't mean to say Baby can keep putting up such a high PER, but I know he certainly can provide considerable offensive firepower. One can argue that after the Triumvirate, Rondo, and House it is Baby who is the most dynamic offensive option on the Celtics. This means he deserves a prominent role off the bench every game. Put Posey at 3 more, and let Baby shine. Also, I don't know how many of you saw this when Shoals originally wrote it, but I think it describes the Triumvirate's on-court dynamic pretty well. Should be a tough game tonight, let's hope they can pull it out...

This Ship Be Sinkin'

The Celtics played the Knicks last night and beat every expletive out of them that you could possibly imagine. I watched the beginning of this one, then shut it off once it was safely out of reach and it was clear KG, Pierce and Allen were done for the night, then turned it back on toward the end to see if either a) the C's could win by 50, b) the C's could perform the hyper-rare double-up, or c) the C's could hold the Knicks to the lowest offensive output in team history. None off these things ended up happening (goddamn Nate Robinson), but still, the fact that they were seriously in the conversation with less than 2 minutes left in this one shows you the extent of this utter annihilation.

The C's definitely played well, but the Knicks just looked terrible. The New York tabloids are obviously having a field day with this one. I give you the journalistically impartial stylings of the Daily News:
"A new prime-time comedy debuted on TNT last night. It's called the 'Isiah Follies' and it is about a basketball team that can't shoot straight, play defense or even pretend it cares."

Fabulous! I think most of us figured Isiah to be gone sooner rather than later, but a catastrophe like this just forces the issue. I mean, even James Dolan can't sit still on this one, can he?

Anyways, as for the actual game, it was good times all around for C's fans. Pierce and (Ray) Allen led the way with 21 each, and neither Pierce, Allen nor KG played even 30 minutes. KG ended up with only 8 points but grabbed 11 boards. Eddie House played great, and Big Baby got an unprecedented 31 minutes of run, the surest sign yet that Danny & Co. are quite serious about this kid. Gabe Pruitt even got in towards the end. Anyways, the C's play at Miami tonight, which should be interesting, since a few weeks ago the Heat gave them one of their biggest challenges of the season. Oh, and the final score to last night's game was 104-59, in case anyone's wondering.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Where Yahoo-ism Happens

A major topic on our radio show for the past couple of years (you’d think I could resist the shameless advertisement) has been our dissatisfaction with the scores of bandwagon Red Sox fans that descend upon Fenway Park on summer nights. “Red Sox Nation” has become a monster, and the team churns out heaps of merchandise and signs the biggest free agents to feed the ravenous “pink hats.” Luckily, the Sox win, and win regularly, keeping any possibility of a fan revolt at bay.

In a related story, the Celtics nabbed Shuttlesworth and Garnett in the offseason and started beating the crap out of the opposition en route to “flavor of the week” status here in Boston, even in the midst of another Red Sox World Series victory, an incredible Patriots season, BC making a run to the ACC Championship Game - hell - even another successful campaign for the Revs. In many respects, it’s great. The Garden is packed; the atmosphere around Causeway Street has shown marked improvement, and friends no longer introduce me to others as “the last miserable Celtics fan I know.”

On the other hand, the bandwagon carries just as many pitfalls. Winning breeds outlandish expectations, and after this 11-2 start, people are going off the deep end about this team, grumbling when they’re not on top of the Power Rankings of every major sporting publication and buying cigars and champagne for next summer.

But I’m not going to chastise Joe Fan here. It’s okay if you want to pee yourself about the Celtics. You deserve to have a good time, like a drunk BC chick at Fenway singing Neil Diamond and doing the wave. Go ahead.

All the while, we’ve got the overmatched Boston sports media, who just figured out we have a professional hoops team in this city, goading the public into a frenzy.

“But Fox,” Cindy Lou Yahoo says, “you fell for it, too. You predicted the Celtics would make the Finals against the Suns this year.”

What the heck else was I supposed to do? For the first time in my adult life, both my head and my heart agreed that the Celtics could more than potentially win their conference. So I went with it. The East, even now with this Orlando team, is still anybody’s game. But I stand by the fact that Phoenix, San Antonio, Dallas, and Utah have better rosters, for one, than Boston and the benefit of having playoff experience as a unit to boot. The Celtics haven’t done anything yet. A 60 win team? Show me. A squad that can create “matchup problems” in the playoffs? I certainly don’t know how the C's can handle Deron Williams feeding Carlos Boozer from the high post. We haven’t seen the teams play. We haven’t even seen the Celts go against the supposed cream of the Eastern Conference, the Pistons, yet (I’ll be there December 19th).

The Celtics have beaten Toronto (8-7), Denver (9-6), and the Lakers (8-6). All the other teams they’ve defeated have been under .500. And the Celtics have been doing it in their own backyard, posting a 7-0 mark at home. If you look past Christmas, they actually face a pretty unfavorable schedule, peppered with worthy adversaries amidst tough road stretches, topped off by hellish Western swings in February and March before the kittens they’ve already neutered come back to the yard in April.

So no, I haven’t fallen for it hook, line, and sinker. Sometimes we need a dose of reality in this town. Some people decide to do it by criticizing Doc Rivers - me, I’m serving a non-alcoholic blend of Celtics Cuckoo Juice until at least after the New Year.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Mistake By The Lake

The C's were hit with a tough overtime loss last night in Cleveland, losing 109-104 and running their record to a still-awfully-impressive 11-2. Not a huge amount to say about this one; LeBron went for 38 with 13 assists, and Drew Gooden put up an uncharacteristically productive 24 and 13. Zydrunas Ilgauskas also finished with 14 boards, which is never a good sign. Basically the Cavs played quite well and the C's didn't play that well, or at least not as well as we've come to expect from them. They were outrebounded 47-40 and out-shot 48% to 43%, and you can probably figure things out from there. Ray Allen poured in 29 in a losing effort, though it took him 25 shots to do it and he bizarrely missed two huge, potentially game-winning free throws down the stretch. Still, we love Ray around here, so he gets a pass on this one. The fact that he played 50 minutes last night makes me start to twitch, I should add. KG was strangely pedestrian (19 pts, only 5 boards) and Paul Pierce had one of those PP games you'd kind of rather forget, shooting 5-15 and badly missing a wide-open shot off a perfect pass from Garnett at crunch time. Also, last night featured the return of Bad Rondo, as the young 'un shot 1-9 chucked up a couple bricks towards the end that were flat-out embarrassing. Something tells me he's in the gym as I write this, though.

Honestly, it was a tough loss, since we were so close to winning at points, but it's not gonna keep me up at night. We had a less-than-perfect game and were still very much in it against last year's Eastern Conference Champ (it makes me sick to even write that), who were on their home court and almost certainly played better than us wire-to-wire. If the C's had won last night we'd have been talking about how they stole one, and let's face it, they stole that miracle in Charlotte and how many of those can we expect in a five-day period. They've got a few days off before Miami on Friday (in South Beach), and the Heat gave them a hell of a game the last time out. You could make the case that the C's are still head boy in the East right now (although that sound you hear is the Orlando Magic loudly clearing its collective throat), but this loss should certainly quiet all the foolish talk about them being the cream of the league, not when San Antonio's gotten off to the best start in franchise history.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


When I got home today, I listened to The BS Report. I don’t usually listen to Simmons’ adventures in audio, but he has great guests and today it was Bill Walton. I feel like I’ve heard Bill’s story a million times before - the ankle fusion, John Wooden, Larry Bird, lots of adjectives - but today his extensive musings on life and the game had a profound effect on me (to be examined in a future post). And little did I know that several of them would be proven accurate before the end of tonight’s Celtics game…

Lebron James was the most talented player tonight on a floor full of All-Stars. It’s utterly amazing to watch him rise up over defenders and rattle home ridiculous jump shots. He’s not the most efficient player, but then again, neither is his supporting cast from the Island of Misfit Toys. In tonight’s game, those Misfit Cavs actually didn’t look all that bad – Ilgauskas is leaner and quicker, and Drew Gooden shot well from the field for a guy who looks and plays like he just rolled out of bed.

I’ve got to admit – I took a :20 to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas on Channel 5, but I was back in time for the all-important stretch run. And it was here, in the game’s most important segment, where Bill Walton was proven right.

For instance, what’s with a “point guard” dribbling to half court and calling a timeout to draw up a “play” that ultimately becomes isolation for the team’s best scorer at the top of the key? It’s a perfect post-Jordan NBA “Glory Hog” possession. That’s what I thought was going to happen for the Cavs with 1:10 left in regulation. Surprisingly, they swung the ball around the arc and found Pavlovic for a tying three.

But leave it to the Celtics to turn around and go for the status quo, burning a full timeout so Pierce can carry three defenders on a wild drive to the basket and huck the ball to nobody, forcing Shuttlesworth to make a wild drive himself, get hacked and brick two free throws.

Then, the Cavs call ANOTHER timeout so Lebron can play with himself at midcourt for 16 seconds, then make a weak move to his right and heave a 20-foot clunker. So we go to overtime and the flow of play is restored for a few precious minutes...

With 1:05 left in OT, the Celtics take another timeout to prepare for an important possession with ANOTHER FREAKIN’ ISOLATION PLAY. The plan was apparently for Pierce to drive wildly again, flail, grimace, fall down, and lose the ball. A sweet Lebron block on Shuttlesworth, a few long bombs, and the Celtics are toast.

Am I the only Celtics fan who gets uncomfortable when Pierce has the ball in an important situation? I know he’s the team leader. But we’ve seen the act before, and it’s about as successful as Charlie Brown trying to direct the Christmas play: Pierce doesn’t have the handle or the quickness to beat the defense off the dribble with the game on the line. A competent guard will stand him up and force him to launch a brick or lose the ball - God forbid he faces a swarm of guys. Please, Paul - take a lesson from Bill Walton's Blazers. Either create or facilitate; quit trying to be so damn great. The Celtics lost their second game and I’m bleary eyed after all the timeouts and dumb offensive sets. Good grief!

Solid As An Oak

Both the Herald and the Globe are praising Pollard today, because that's who Glenn was praising yesterday. That says a lot about Bulpett and May, and the problem with their respective reporting in general. But what the hell, let me praise Pollard as well. What I like about Scot on the court is that he's a big oak out there. He and Perk are real centers, and like we have said many a time - those come in handy. When you have Perk or Scot in the game it allows Garnett to play power forward, which in turn might allow KG to roam around more defensively. Heinsohn was touching upon this the other day, and I am going to watch for it more - that when Garnett is liberated from covering the biggest guy out there, he is able to rove around madly, and cause more defensive havoc. I am no longer worried about KG getting beaten up down low, although it doesn't always seem like he should have to. But if not having to play center allows KG to become that much greater a menace, then I'm all for it. With Pollard you have someone who is a legit 6-11, and he uses that size, which is a credible skill to have in the league. As much as I like Big Baby, and as big as he is, he will never be 6-11 and have that type of length. So hopefully Scot can stay healthy and continue to be productive.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thankfully Jesus Chose Boston Over Big State

Ray Allen has always been one of my favorite NBA players – silky smooth shooter, polished athlete, played in the Big East - seems like a real nice guy. It’s no wonder he was picked for the lead in He Got Game – Allen just has the look. Had he played in larger markets throughout his career, he would’ve been much more visible. Instead, Ray’s gotten about as much publicity as a guy like Latrell Sprewell: who parlayed his 40% shooting on some depressing Knicks teams into a 2001 All-Star berth and a few years of cult popularity.

Ray’s shooting has been pretty bad (35% over his last eight games) lately – and I do think he’s relying way too much on threes - but as with all great marksmen, it only takes one big shot to get it going again. Nowhere has that been more evident than in the Toronto and Charlotte games, two clunkers where the Celtics’ edge in talent was challenged by teams with a decent game plan. Well, in both cases, Ray got the ball in the closing seconds, and he was just too good to miss. Lucky us.

Note: this is totally different from Paul Pierce getting the ball at the end of a game. Pierce does not have the speed, separation, or the touch to consistently hit big shots off a one-on-one isolation. He should be looking to get open looks for his teammates or rolling off a screen somewhere – not hoisting 27-footers because he can’t take a guy off the dribble.

Moving along, OF COURSE Doc Rivers is displaying competency so far with his rotations. The problem with the teams of the last two seasons is that they were packed with a homogenous mix of interchangeable young guys. Rivers didn’t have enough star power to win games outright so he constantly had to juggle players in and out in the hope that they would show him something. Unfortunately for him, these young guys were woefully inconsistent. Marcus Banks and Orien Greene would have a huge game one night and be useless the next. And what do you do when Ainge starts making commercials for a “biiiig Sebastian Telfair Night at the Gah-enn?” You’ve gotta play that guy, even if he is a no-talent ass clown.

This year, as Tim has noted, Doc has three pillars around which he can rotate players based on the situation at hand. The reemergence of Posey and Scalabrine can be credited to the fact that Rivers is playing their strengths against other teams’ weaknesses. These guys are on the floor to wreak havoc and hit the occasional open J – as opposed to the past where Scal saw stretches as a starting power forward and picked up three fouls within the first ten minutes.

I was watching the Utah/Detroit game on NBA TV yesterday and the “Question of the Day” asked one of the announcers if he was surprised by Boston’s early success. The announcer replied that he had envisioned chemistry problems for the club early on because of the number of new players, but so far it hadn’t seemed to be a problem.

Well, yes and no. I know that winning is the only thing that matters – but I do see some inconsistency with this team’s offense that may lead to problems down the line – teams so far have been able to exploit this now and again. The Celtics offense is mostly piloted by individual brilliance and the ability of four guys (save Perkins) to create their own shot or find someone else’s. When the creativity is stifled, you see a lot of low-percentage field goal attempts and ramshackle ball-handling. When games have been close, this has usually been the problem. I’d rather get my eyebrows singed off by my kitchen stove than watch Cleveland’s offensive “attack,” but they are a pretty good defensive club, and I wonder what they have in store for the Celtics Tuesday night.

Parting Shots: Gilbert Arenas’ cousin, Javier, is a standout football player for the Alabama Crimson Tide (wearing the number 28). A good friend of mine (and Alabama alum) has taken to calling him “Agent 28,” and apparently it’s catching on down there. Now if only Agent Zero could come back to my fantasy team…


LeBron James is horrifying. I mean that really as the ultimate compliment, because there is a chance he is gonna fuck up our minds over the next fifteen years so we will totally have forgotten this point that we presently embark from. When I called a healthy Dwyane Wade the better player this summer, I did it solely because Wade was 25 and in more of his prime. But there is a chance that LeBron is ready to surpass a healthy Wade in my book. That is because, at the age of 22, LeBron is beginning to do the insane with absolutely frightening normality. Here are his lines for the last six games:

39 points - 13 rebounds - 14 assists

If anyone else had a statline like that for one game it would be a big deal, and here LeBron is doing it with seeming ease for the past six. I am not a believer of stats above everything else, they are only a helpful tool, but sometimes they scream out at you so much that you can't help but revel in them. That's what LeBron's doing right now, and I think we are already numb to it.

Everything and nothing has already been written about King James, because he is rightly the most publicized NBA youth ever, and yet his story has just begun. As amazing as LeBron's exploits have been, in reality we must know that we have seen basically nothing yet. Yes, he can average 30 a game before he can legally drink, he can score 25 straight points in the playoffs - but that is just the appetizer. When LeBron was apparently cruising through the regular season last year many of us had some doubt - even he was fallible, and the growth curve was going to stop...but we knew by the playoffs that LeBron's momentary passiveness was just a fluke. This man is going to be a singular revolution in the NBA, the way Jordan was before him, and all after have failed. He is going to make us think about basketball differently. The fact that he is still 22, still takes numerous bad shots every game, still is defensively undisciplined - all these things do not stop him from being the best player in the league right now.

LeBron's promise from when he entered the league is there has never been a wing player as athletically gifted as him. There's no way of stopping him, and only a catastrophic injury would ever change that. He is the athletic freak of athletic freaks, and as his flaws gradually diminish, we are going to get to see things on the basketball court that we have never witnessed before. Behold these rash of triple doubles. They are testaments of complete offensive domination, yet it is almost hard to appreciate their uniqueness because LeBron does it with such mundane ease. When he understands things a little more we should not be surprised if we see a 50-15-15 line. The sky is basically the limit.

LeBron should dominate the league for the next decade and a half. How many titles will it take for us not to be disappointed - five? Ten? Make no mistake, this man is intended to be better than Jordan, and the absurdity of the numbers he may supply are going to be daily saturated in our viewing minds till at least 2020. We may tire of it honestly, it's hard to say. Or we might rejoice in King James' superiority. Whatever the case, the time is about to arrive. And he plays the Celtics on Tuesday.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Where Amazing Happens

I'll tell you, the slogan fits no team better than the Celtics thus far. The C's are 11-1, and how they are 11-1 is...amazing. There are multiple things that have occurred that are hard to fathom. All of them have affected the Green favorably. Ray's shot last night might have been the kind of "luck" only good teams get, but it is rather slight when you compare it to the larger good fortune that has suddenly surrounded the Green. I mean, how can this be?

First and foremost in my mind, obviously, is Glenn's ascent to being a competent coach. I don't know how long it will last, and The Fox and I will probably argue about it all season, but the fact that Glenn's substitutions and rotations make some semblance of sense is blowing my mind; I'm not used to it. If there is something more amazing for a Celtic fan, I hardly know what it could be. That said, it is also absolutely stunning to see the Celtics play such voracious defense. The way Garnett is roving around is awe-inspiring, his presence out there is just fantastic defensively. To see it rub off on everybody has been slightly otherworldly. A change in demeanor and chemistry sounds possible on paper, but when it actually plays itself out and happens it's a joy to watch. Especially when that chemistry is better than what you could hope for.

Individually the most astonishing happening is Ray Allen's defense. Ray shut down Kobe for much of the first half on Friday; and he's been doing stuff like that for most of the season. WTF? Ray Allen - defensive stopper? It's one thing to buy into the team concept and try and play better defense, but when you're Ray Allen, offensive assassin and defensively shaky - how do you suddenly become a defensive stopper? That is a shocking turn of events. Again, I don't know how long it can continue, but it seems Ray is totally committed to team defense, which is more than you ever could hope for.

We also have the not as stunning, but nonetheless surprising, reemergence of James Posey and Scal. Posey seemed washed up on Miami last year, and it is safe to say that he was never utilized as well for that team as he is now with the Celtics. He's been an excellent chemistry guy, and his cumbersome game has shown a new sparkle with a team that is all about toughness and going all out. I certainly did not think Posey would fit in this well. Scal, on the other hand, I saw as ideally not fitting in at all, and hopefully just riding the pine most of the season. But with his "hustle and moxie", or whatever the hell you want to call it, he actually has been a nice part of the team so far. Similarly Scott Pollard, perpetually hurt the last few years, has played a solid role in the minutes he's been out there.

What I'm saying is that there have been a lot of ridiculous surprises. Last night's ending was just par for course. Jack and I were talking earlier in the day about how we thought people had too high expectations for the team coming into the season - and it turns out the expectations weren't high enough. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

On A Roll

Wowzi. That was a win last night, folks. These Celtics are something else right now. I haven't been watching much of the West's best, but I can't imagine any of them presently playing better than the C's. Certainly the competition has not been that great, but their point differential is +13, which is nothing short of phenomenal. If Glenn continues to not get in the way of the train, and if serious injuries do not beset any of the Triumvirate, watch out. This is a dynamic team, that's obvious enough, and their efficiency is such that they should be able to mask most of the flaws they have. For instance, this Posey at PF idea, which horrified me, has actually worked well - because Garnett is so big a defensive presence, or the second unit bigs cannot take advantage of Posey's smaller stature. Everything is running as smooth as a clock, it's pretty unbelievable, it's been a pleasure to watch. Let's hope it keeps up.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving Promise

Greetings from beautiful Dennis, Massachusetts - where I used to spend many Thanksgiving mornings as a little guy shooting baskets amongst the mud puddles in my driveway. Back in those days I always had on one of those great, very 80's caricature t-shirts where the basketball player had a small body and huge head. I had Bird, Magic, the Chief, 'Nique Wilkins, the Glide - all the great players (all hand-me-downs from my cousins). I wish I had one of those shirts now. I think I even had Tom Chambers. Props to The Sports Hernia for writing several articles on the awesomeness of these t-shirts. I stole your pictures.

As the only SH writer who can claim both Irish and Native American lineage (unless Chuck Norris also posts here), I'd also like to wish all you readers a Happy Thanksgiving . . . I hope at least some of you were watching NBA TV today, where the special holiday broadcast of "That Championship Feeling," the story of the 1982-83 Philadelphia 76ers title run, sent shivers down my spine - from the narration of Dick Stockton to seeing Moses, Dr. J, Andrew Toney, Bobby Jones, and Mo' Cheeks running the Lakers off the floor to the tune of Irene Cara's "Flashdance (What A Feeling)." Awesome stuff. As we remember, the Lanier/Moncrief Bucks swept the Celtics that year in the East Semis - don't get me started on the merits of former Buck Terry Cummings or why Mo' Cheeks should be in the Hall of Fame - I'll save it for another day.

To quote Cam'ron on Funkmaster Flex's Mix Tape Volume 3, "Yeah, we went to OT, but now we need a TO." That timeout is for the returning Tim. I won't discredit your basketball acumen. You've displayed that knowledge in your posts and in the conversation we had on my show just a few weeks back. But you clearly have some kind of inner fear of Doc Rivers. I don't know when it started, exactly - perhaps when he was hired. But you seem to forget that the last time he was given a capable veteran team (2004-05), they won the Atlantic Division. Now, things did indeed go south for that club, including Antoine aging 15 years in a single 7 game playoff series, Mark Blount, Gary Payton becoming a shell of his former self, and the Pierce neck brace/head wrap/whatever it was incident. But Doc did very well with that team.

The next two years, the Celtics underachieved with a pile of young guys, some bad contracts, and Paul Pierce. Now, Ainge gives Doc some talented veterans, and they're winning again! It's not hard to understand. Doc Rivers isn't a good enough coach to turn Taco Bell into a Thanksgiving feast. But given the proper ingredients, his teams can win and even thrive. Of course there will be questions, and there will be screw-ups. But not 10 games worth! When you told me Doc would cost this team 10 games, I had no response. It was as if you'd jumped through the radio and knocked me unconscious with a chair shot. How could I respond when it was obvious Tim hated Doc Rivers even more than I hate Vince Carter? Or Reggie Miller? Or white guys who have no intrinsic value other than standing out by the three-point line? There's certain views you can't change in a sports fan. And there's no changing Tim's mind on "Glenn."

With this said, I'd like to make this my official challenge to Tim. I am going to stand up for Doc Rivers. I know the Celtics haven't played any real tough teams yet. I know they haven't gone on the road. More than anyone, I fret like a little old lady over the "role players" on this team and how I think they're basically a bunch of stiffs. But I won't let another head coach get his ass kicked in Boston, particularly when he's winning. Grady Little, this is for you pal.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Indians Didn't Know What Was Coming Either...

I'm surprised the Celtics are 9-1 simply because Glenn Rivers is their coach. Ever since the KG trade I anxiously anticipated the errors that Glenn was inevitably going to make that would destroy the season. I was so certain of Glenn's deficiencies as a coach, having watched him utterly fuck up the prior three seasons, that I saw little hope in the C's coming close to reaching their potential as a team. I predicted 47 wins, even though they might have 60 win talent, because I could always conceive of Glenn costing the team at least 10 victories. I was not thinking this way because I was cynical, it was just that I was a realist and I felt I knew how Glenn operated, meaning I lacked a certain youthful optimism.

And so here we are three weeks later and the Celtics have the best record in the NBA. Even though the season is but ten games young, there is reason to have tremendous confidence. The C's have not just been winning, they've been decimating most opponents in a manner that exudes superiority and professionalism. Did I think this was possible with Glenn in charge? No. So far Glenn has done a good job coaching the team. Many, including The Fox, think Rivers is actually an excellent fit given the circumstances. Glenn is personable, professional, as well-spoken as any coach in the league, and will not let his ego take charge to the detriment of his players. He has never had a good veteran team, and this is exactly what this squad is, so Glenn has perhaps been able to turn over a new leaf. There is little fault you can find in a coach whose team has only lost once.

But I cannot agree with those who think Glenn will not hurt this team. As a fan, there are many things you have hunches about, instances where you feel you might be right but would not really be surprised if you were wrong. For instance my friend said before the season that Chris Kaman was gonna have a big year, and I kind of laughed and said, no he isn't. Well, Kaman is averaging 19 and 14, I was completely wrong, and I am fully able to accept that. My hunch that Kaman wasn't gonna be good was incorrect, and that was it. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that my feeling about Glenn as a coach is not a hunch. It is a conviction. I truly believe he is a terrible coach, quite possibly the worst in the league. This is a core belief, just like how I firmly believe Duncan is better than Kobe, and how Wade is better than Melo. When you are wrong about a hunch it doesn't mean much, but when you are wrong about a conviction it totally alters your vision, and changes how you look at things forever. If Glenn Rivers is actually a good coach, my mind will be shot, it will be a cataclysm for me. So I am not even remotely ready to make such a leap, and instead want to try and rationalize how the Celtics could look so good under Glenn.

First off, and why many fans felt so good coming into this year, is that it always helps to have three certified All-Stars in your lineup. When the Triumvirate are all playing 35-40 minutes a night, it severely limits the amount of mistakes a coach can make. Those are guys you can always pencil in for big minutes, and the way the point guard situation is set up presently Rondo is basically guaranteed to have big minutes as well. Glenn not having to substitute much is certainly a positive, because that has been one of his cardinal flaws the past few years. Because Danny has basically handed him less options of who to put in there, and when to put them in, it has helped Glenn as a coach. But probably even more importantly, you have three hungry veteran All-Stars on your team. I mean you have no choice but to be professional and develop good chemistry, right?

Make no mistake, the key for the C's success so far has been terrific chemistry and passion, particularly on the defensive end. This in all likelihood has more than a little to do with Tom Thibodeau; and KG has been the best defensive player in the league, as he is seemingly more focused on defense than his offense. KG's defensive brilliance has positively affected everybody, and if the Celtics are going to be a legit title contender, this is going to be the reason why. The sometimes offensive paucity of the bench has been compensated by the second unit's willingness to work very hard on the defensive end. The defensive chemistry has been great everywhere, and the fact that your best player is willfully leading the charge in this front certainly helps Glenn look a little smarter than usual. With KG, and in extension Pierce and Allen, you have guys who are doing some pretty good coaching for you right on the floor. Good veterans cover for your mistakes, while good young players often expose them.

Further helping Glenn look better than he actually is as a coach is the fact that most of the games have not been close. Blowouts are obviously impressive, but in Glenn's case they are doubly important because he has been so clueless in close games throughout his coaching career. I still am certain that we will see Glenn blow more than a few close games this year by doing rather inane things. He is hardly the only coach in the league that does these things, it is just that he has a habit of being awfully conspicuous about it. Also, one reason there have been so many blowouts is that the C's thus far have played poor competition. The best team they played they lost to, and you can't say the C's have played a juggernaut yet. Like Jack recently mentioned, the schedule continues to be easy for most of the next month, meaning that the C's record could maybe get even more gaudy before potential problems surface.

Finally, it is worth repeating that we are all of ten games into the season. There's a couple of recent examples I want to bring up. Last year's Jazz started 12-1, and while they made it to the Western Conference Finals, they never seemed to be a serious title contender. A great opening does not necessarily mean you are a deadly team. These current Celtics remind more, however, of the '05-'06 Pistons, who started off 39-6 and finished with a record of 64-18. They were a veteran team, extremely self-motivated, and wanted to show the world they could be even better without Larry Brown coaching them. They were by far the best regular season team in the league, particularly in the first half of the year, when they played with tremendous intensity and were spoken of in hallowed tones. But come the playoffs they were burnt out, and had a lousy coach in Flip Saunders to guide them. The Heat vanquished them in the Conference Finals. I see many parallels with them and this C's squad. The Celtics have bigger stars, but the Pistons had the benefit of already having Championship experience. And as bad a coach as Saunders is, I still have him a notch above Rivers. Which means, yes, I still fully expect Glenn to blow it for us this year, perhaps when it matters most. I hope I'm wrong.


"I can't judge them on how we played," Warriors coach Don Nelson said. "We couldn't have beaten the Pismo Beach Panthers tonight."

Yeah, but it still felt good. Freshly back from vacation, I saw my first game in the flesh tonight, and the results couldn't help but excite me a bit even if it was a rather boring game. The vibe of the crowd was nice, all pre-Thanksgiving cheeriness, and the cohesive demolition of the Warriors (perfectly playing the part of "second night of back to back on the road layabouts") was a fine treat. As was getting to see the incomparable Stephen Jackson in person. I know some of you are wondering what I think about this auspicious 9-1 beginning, especially considering the gloom and despair that I had cast on the C's prior to the season; and I know that people want to know where all the Glenn haters are now that we have the best record in basketball. Well, I was in Trinidad and Tobago. But I'm back now, and I'll have plenty to say about Glenn and the boys later in the day. Till then, let's enjoy 9-1. It's a hell of a record.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Shades of Grey

Cripes. If Wednesday’s game against the Nets was a bar fight, and Friday night’s game against the Heat was a pressure cooker, I don’t know what to call the Orlando game. The Celtics gamely battled back against one of the best looking teams in the league, but in the end it wasn’t enough. Kudos to Orlando. It was a fun game to watch.

Talking heads around the city are asking whether the Celtics can win 70 games. Bill Simmons recently revised his Eastern Conference predictions and bumped the C’s up from 49 wins to an incredible 62. Seems easy to get to 62 when you start 8-0, right? Only 54 more! Listen, people, I understand how special the PGA Tour / GAP Band / Boston Three Party / I Had a Threesome Last Weekend is, but it’s easy to drink too much of the Cuckoo Juice and stumble around trumpeting the arrival of the ’07-’08 edition as the heir to the ’85-’86 team’s throne.

Let’s be real. What happens when one of your stars (right now, Ray Allen) goes into a prolonged shooting slump? You’re going to lose a few games. What happens when guys get in foul trouble and we realize why Big Baby was the 35th pick, and why James Posey and Eddie House are journeymen?” You lose. What happens when Tony Allen blows an easy layup in a close game? That’s an L.

A lot of people are going to point the finger at Allen for the blown layup. In particular, I scratched my head when 2K1 Paul Pierce magically appeared on the last possession to hoist a stupid 25-footer. But the Magic won this game more than the Celtics lost it. Dwight Howard showed why he is the new Zo Mourning, posting 24 points and forcing KG to turn in a fairly pedestrian outing. Hedo Turkoglu has no conscience, and on some nights, that works.

So the Celtics are 8-1. Perfect time for a reality check, fans. As much as we salivate over Garnett, Pierce, and Allen, this is a TEAM that will need contributions from everyone to play their best basketball. And that didn’t happen tonight.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Winning Ugly

Sometimes, and it happens in all sports, a very good team is forced to "play down to their competition." Watching the first half of tonight's Celtics-Nets game, I sat there saying "man, this is ugly." The Nets were doing their thing - dragging a weary Celtics team down.

I made my opinions known about the Nets in my NBA Rundown. I enjoy watching Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson play the game of basketball. Kidd's still amazingly a top 3 point man and Jefferson is one of the most steady, determined wing players in the game. Other than these two guys, and good old Darrell Armstrong, the Nets are the biggest heap of garbage I have ever seen. I can't stand Vince Carter and watching him writhe in pain after rolling his ankle last week was a microcosm for his career as nothing but a huge act. Vince loves to embellish, loves to whine, loves to self-promote, loves to dog it. I actually can't wait until he retires and goes away so I don't have to watch him waste his God-given talent anymore. I guess for now I'll have to settle with him being out indefinitely.

The rest of the roster is such a pool of no-talent ass-clowns that the Nets, despite having a point guard who can push, wind up playing some of the ugliest games night-in, night-out of any team in the NBA. And what else do you expect with such luminaries as can't-shoot Antoine Wright, Josh Boone (might be the ugliest looking dude in the league, never mind his game), a Collins twin, Jamaal "have you seen my career?" Magloire - I'll stop it right there. It's a miracle the Celtics won tonight, because they let the Nets roofie their drinks at the outset and subjected us to some horrible stuff. And the constant whistles from the refs didn't help.

The whistles affected the game in several ways: first, Rondo got sent to the bench early and second, Big Baby couldn't stay out there (9 minutes total). The Rondo thing was a shame - he was showing confidence matched up against Kidd, stepping into jump shots, slashing to the bucket, and finding excellent passing angles. When he left the floor, we had to watch Tony Allen play out of control again. Cooz described it as "careless;" I'm not sure if I'd even say that - Allen's just a guy that only plays at one speed - overdrive. That's great for a defensive stopper and energy guy off the bench, but not for the point guard position! Doc could've put Pruitt in - he can at least handle the rock, and it would've been good for him. But we didn't see it. Whatever.

In the end, the Celtics were able to assert their will in the second half and show they were the better team - FAR better team. The Garden was packed tonight and it was awesome to hear it come alive. PERK WAS A BEAST. 10 points, 8 rebounds, 4 swats, a couple dimes and a steal even. Rondo was very deserving for the Tommy Award but I'm giving the ceremonial Fox Pelt to the big man - I've been waiting for him to have a game like this.

Parting shots: I heard Pierce did those pushups at the line to "channel his anger." I suppose it's better than going into the front row and nailing that dirty bastard Tinsley with a steel chair, but come on Paul, stop drawing attention to yourself. Just drop 31 and let that do the talking . . . how about the Cornbread - Bird catfight? I've always wondered why Max keeps giving players props over Larry - after some digging, I found that Larry thought Max dogged it in '85 and told Red to trade him for Walton. Wow. I suppose that might've caused a few hard feelings, but did anyone notice that was 22 years ago? They won two titles together. Their numbers are retired. Go do a Miller Lite commercial like this and enjoy the afterglow.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

This Could Be For Real

That's NBA Hall of Famer Dave Cowens to your left. In 1972-73 he averaged 20.5 ppg, led the Celtics to a league-best 68-14 record and won NBA MVP. Why do we bring this up? Because the C's are officially off to their best start since '72-'73, and their latest win, a methodical 91-69 dismantling of the New Jersey Nets, has to stand as one of their most impressive to date. Impressive in the sense that a team that many had pegged as defensively suspect and dismally shallow had six players score in double figures and put on a defensive clinic against one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference. Impressive in the sense that a team widely regarded as a trio of superstars and nothing more showed that every once in a while, they can win with all three superstars having sub-par nights, and with a trio this good "every once in a while" might be all it'll take. You can talk about how the Nets missed Vince Carter (they surely did), and you can talk about the fact that the 22-point margin was largely accumulated in the fourth quarter, but the Celtics looked like a top-flight team tonight in every way. The Denver blowout was a sight to behold; Simmons likened it to a blowout of the Suns back in '91 which, I admit, he has a much clearer recollection of than I do. Still, the Denver game was a laugher; everyone's gonna get one of those every now and again. This was different: it was a two-point game at halftime, and then the C's just pulled away with ruthless precision and confidence. They looked great, which isn't to say they haven't looked great all year, but this was a different sort of great, the sort that makes you sleep a little easier and with a smile on your face.

By the way, in case you were wondering, the 1972-73 C's didn't actually win the title: the Knicks did, their last Finals win to date, which again brings things back to the Knicks around here. The C's won the next year, though, and then two years after that as well. I'm not so confident of that window this time around, personally, but wow, do we ever have ourselves a team.

C's Invincibility Continues; Knicks, Not So Much

The Celtics continued the best start in the NBA last night, beating the Pacers in Indy, 101-86. I actually missed this game because I was at the movies seeing American Gangster (good, not great), but apparently Paul Pierce went a bit off the deep end (in a good way, I guess) after a hard foul from Jamal Tinsley. Pierce finished the night with 31 and 11. Pierce, Ray Allen and KG were the only C's to score in double-figure and played 41, 40 and 39 minutes, respectively. The return of Scot Pollard might result in some more breathing time for the hard-working troika, though I feel sort of queasy just typing that. The C's have the Nets at home tonight, then the Heat and the Magic this weekend. It's been said before, but we can't stress enough how remarkably easy their opening schedule is: the first time they play an honest-to-goodness marquee team is Detroit on December 19. I'm not exactly sure how I feel about this... with our lack of depth it'd be nice if more "gimmes" came down the stretch in the likely event of some injuries. But hey, 6-0 is 6-0; no complaints here.

As many of you know, here in these parts we've got an ongoing fascination with the magnificent clusterfuck that is the New York Knicks, and I'd be remiss if I didn't comment on the latest insanity coming out of MSG. Stephon Marbury has, at least for the moment, left the team. Last night the Knicks played in Phoenix without their confounding point guard, a situation which has reportedly left Marbury $180K poorer today. Isiah has this to say on the incident:

"It seems like he and I go through this every November, then a couple of weeks go by and we kind of kiss and make up, then we go back to the business of trying to win basketball games."

Hmm. Key word there is "trying." Honestly, that's just a weird thing to say on a number of levels, but this is the Knicks, and things couldn't get much crazier than this, right? Wrong! The latest out of NYC is a report from the Daily News that cites a source close to Marbury claiming that Marbury has threatened blackmail:

"Isiah has to start me," Marbury fumed, according to the source. "I've got so much (stuff) on Isiah and he knows it. He thinks he can (get) me. But I'll (get) him first. You have no idea what I know."

I'm guessing "(stuff)" = "shit," and "(get)" = "fuck," but others can take guesses as well. I'm not sure if anything will come of this latest twist in the Knickerbocker Chronicles, but this situation has officially moved way past "embarrassment." I couldn't be more intrigued.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

How Was Your Weekend?

Last night the C's beat the Nets on the road, 112-101, with Pierce scoring 28, Ray 27 and KG pumping in another double-double. Big ups to Big Baby, too, who grabbed 8 boards in 17 minutes and provided monstrous energy boost in the second quarter. The Lean Green Winning Machine is 5-0 and the only undefeated team in the NBA. Even for those of us who envisioned big things for this year, this start is astonishing. Aside from the OT win in Toronto, these games haven't even been particularly close. The most surprising thing, by far, has been the productivity of the bench, which Peter May addresses in this week's "Notes" column. And by "addresses" I mean lazily strings a bunch of lame quotes, including this gem from Scalabrine:

"We have a playoff bench," Scalabrine said. "By that, I mean you take one of our studs and put the bench around him and I think that's a playoff team."

Yeah... that's some serious bullshit. Anyone like the chances of a starting five that consists of Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, James Posey, Brian Scalabrine and Kendrick Perkins? I didn't think so. However, we don't have to worry about that since we've got Pierce and KG, and at this point that's enough to put us in the conversation for best team in the NBA. Stunning. It seems like the primary concern is going to be keeping guys healthy, but Glenn's been doing a surprisingly competent job of keeping guys rested. 39-point halftime leads allow for that, i suppose.

Pacers on Tuesday. Who's excited? Me.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Armchair Thoughts...

Another enjoyable evening parked in front of the TV watching the Celtics dismantle another unworthy opponent. I don't see how some can pick the Hawks as a playoff team this year. It's clear that Johnson and Smith are stars on the rise, and they have their moments, but neither player consistently shows a desire to fill the leadership role on this team. After those two, you've got a pile of players I can't distinguish from one another - Horford, Shelden and Marvin Williams, Childress - sure, they've all got potential, but again - no consistency. I hear Mike Woodson's a good guy (with a career .280 winning percentage), but the Hawks really need a coach who can get the best out of these players every night and encourage growth from the young guys. Last night was not an example of that.

Enough on the Hawks. The Celtics again looked good, but not as smooth as Wednesday night. Let's go with the highlights: excellent shooting percentage, an all-around beast game from Garnett, and Eddie House having another Kevin Gamble-esque night off the pine.

Concerns? Yeah, I have a few. It all goes back to my preseason complaints on size and depth. When Garnett, Shuttlesworth, and Perk were plopped on the bench in the 2nd quarter with early foul trouble, what did I see? Last year's Celtics. Pierce getting smothered, Tony Allen dribbling the ball off his feet - all the elements were there. The Hawks got back in the game and even had the lead for a little while. It makes me wonder what will happen to the C's when they face a real team and their big guns get in foul trouble...I'm guessing it won't lead to the greatest results. Note that House got his shots when he was out there with the starting unit playing beside Rondo, not while leading the 2nd unit.

Also suspect is the depth at the big positions. Perkins is getting his 5.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks (including a monster stuff last night) a game. He's adequate and I love the guy, but he hasn't revealed much in terms of improvement from last season. In fact, he's lucky that Garnett is out there to help collect all the passes that he bobbles. As Miracle Johan would say, "please pass it lightly." At least Perk's not the Funky Mark Blount.

But with Scalabrine concussed and Posey (who Tim hates as a 4) laid up - who's going to get minutes off the bench? Powe and Baby. We needed them last night - if only to give poor KG a rest after logging 37 minutes in a 23-point blowout. Strange phenomenon - both these guys seem magnetically attracted to the rim, and similarly, they find a way to get their shots blocked just about every time. Is anybody working with these guys on their post moves? Or is it just because they're both undersized as hell?

Anyway, the Nets are up tonight. They're better than the Hawks, but by no means elite. The early reviews for the superstar trio in Boston have been five mics, four stars, and two thumbs up - so let's be happy with that.

Parting shot: how did Shelden Williams wind up with Candace Parker? Honestly Candace, you're 6'4" - I'm 6'4". You can dunk, I can dunk. I think you're gorgeous. If you like a 6'4", 200 lb. half-Irish, half-Indian dude with an unstoppable baby hook and a million dollar smile - you'd probably think I'm gorgeous too. We should talk. Damn you Shelden Williams.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Tonight was "Red On Roundball" says my buddy.

Red would've been proud of the Celtics tonight. Maybe not the generic canned music being pumped into the Garden during breaks in the action, maybe not the dancers - and who knows if he had an opinion on Gino - but the game of basketball was played tonight at a level unseen in the Garden since at least the early 90's. Even Jim O'Brien smoochers have to admit that the Obie Celtics were clinically dependent on the 3-point bomb to the point that it made games predictable and aggravating. Finally, Boston fans can watch BASKETBALL. This is unselfishness, ball movement, sharp shooting, and team defense. This is how Red would've done it - the emphasis resting not on the circus-like atmosphere of the arena, but the well-polished product on the floor. Thank God.

Granted, the Nuggets were in the second game of a back-to-back, but the C's ran what some people are prognosticating as a championship-caliber squad right off the parquet and home to the mountains. Only the great Allen Iverson really decided to show up tonight for Denver, and he only got 22 and 4 dimes. 'Melo? Garbage night. I suppose Camby and K-Mart were serviceable. It has been thrilling to me to see how many great looks at the hoop the Celtics are getting because of the threat of multiple offensive weapons being on the floor at once. It just shows how clueless many NBA squads are at the concept of team defense - some teams have one or two solid defenders and expect that to compensate for the other guys on the floor lollygagging around. The Celtics will burn any opposition that shows up with such a concept. There are indeed some teams in the East that actually play defense as a unit, and it'll be a great test to see if the Celtics can be equally successful in those upcoming games. But let's focus on tonight, and basking in the glow of November success...

The starting unit shot 70% tonight. 70! Even Rondo was making shots. And let me throw a holla out there to Eddie House, whose "bench gunner" pedigree may fit in perfectly with this team. He won't be expected to carry the offensive load while he's on the floor as long as either Pierce, Garnett, or Shuttlesworth is out there with him, so he's free to fire away. And he really doesn't have a conscience - the man can flat-out shoot, and the confidence he brings will result in a lot of double-figure nights, like tonight, off the pine.

Enjoy this, folks. Get out and see this team as often as you can. This is good, clean, efficient basketball with a little bit of an edge because the main guys on this team are ticked they had to waste 10+ years of their careers waiting for this. How can you not like it? Sure, Doc played KG 36 minutes tonight in a blowout - who cares? The feel-good start of the Celtics season has taken over.

Gotta plug the radio show, too - Tim was on last week talking hoops and drawing the ire of some listeners by bashing Glenn "Doc" Rivers from pillar to post. The website on that show is - you'll find all the information you need right there.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

R.I.P. Grady Rivers

We've been known to say some less than nice things about the coach of the Boston Celtics around these parts, but on a more somber note, our heartfelt sympathies go out to Doc Rivers for the loss of his father, Grady Alexander Rivers, Sr. The specifics of Mr. Rivers' passing aren't known, but he was 76 and died in Chicago, Coach Rivers' hometown. In any event, while we'll be back to referring to him as Glenn soon enough, our condolences are with him and his family.

Someone might be planning to post more on this later, but the C's beat the Raptors in OT today, 98-95. Ray Allen was the hero of the day, hitting the game-winning 3 and scoring 33 points altogether. Pierce had a rough day, shooting 4-17 and ending up with just 13 points, but KG went for 23 and 13 and James Posey chipped in 11 off the bench. Rondo had a rough game, failing to make a field goal and picking up 5 fouls in 27 minutes. But hey, 2-0 is 2-0. We've got the Nuggets on Wednesday and the big bad Atlanta Hawks on Friday.

Saturday, November 3, 2007


Yeah, baby. If you want serious commentary from this site, I suggest you read my Belichick/NBA piece from yesterday. I got nothing much to say about the first game except that blasting off fireworks in an indoor arena is always a good idea, and Brendan Haywood definitely is going to need to find a new sparring partner to make the Wizards fun again. First games of the season are notoriously misleading; most of us probably remember when Pitino's Celtics handed it to Michael Jordan's Bulls the first game of the year many moons ago. The Bulls somehow managed to recover. Last night's game was freaky in that Arenas and Jamison both shot extremely poorly, and it had little to do with the Celtics defense. That makes the game kind of a wishwash. Garnett did not look that fantastic and he had 22-20-5, which shows you just how great a player he is. Pierce did look great, he won't always shoot like that, and I commend Glenn for sticking him in with the second unit, it well might have been the key to the game. I thought Pollard looked okay out there, even though he didn't really do much. He is a tall guy with size, and that counts for something on this squad. Scal played way too much, hardly a surprise; Powe and Baby deserve some of his minutes. Expect Posey to slide into the four position against Toronto, a bad idea waiting to happen. I'm going on vacation for a few weeks, if I don't write again before I leave I wish you all happy trails, and be sure to read Jack and The Fox's commentary on how these next few weeks play out. Cheers.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Belichick And The NBA

Here at Headband I think we do a pretty good job of steering away from the Red Sox and Patriots. But I have to make an exception today. That is because what Bill Belichick's Patriots are doing is something that could be talked about for a long, long time. And as I begin to glean the absolute brilliance of the Patriots this year, I cannot help but compare them to other things in sports, for comparing them to current fellow football teams seems fatuous and uninspired. I admit I might be wrong about how good the Patriot's are; I realize they could very well lose on Sunday to the Colts - but what this Pats team implies to me is a kind of sports perfection that is rarely seen, and a systematic approach that is unadulterated by the usual shortcomings of professional team sport in American society. In short, I feel I have to write about this, and at least make some kind of feeble attempt at linking it with the NBA. I hope others can follow my lead with more articulation.

Belichick has created an atmosphere of complete professionalism around the Patriots. There is no question ego has to be put aside for the sake of the greater good, because it is the only acceptable way for a Belichick team to operate. That is hardly to say that individual players are forced to give up their identity to succeed in his system - it is just that an individual player is never allowed to make himself seem more important than anyone else. Such beliefs seem inherently logical - we are taught to treat teams and teammates this way when we are in elementary school, and almost all of us have team values in mind when we watch sports. But the truth is that the team concept hardly ever translates well in professional sports - the gigantic commercial, capitalistic contraption that holds pro sports in its clutches would hardly seem to allow it. That is what makes these Patriots all the more astounding. It is not that suddenly Belichick has perfected his module - he certainly had it down by 2001 - it is just that never has a Belichick team been so loaded with so many stars. The fact that this team is so laden with talent and yet behaves in exactly the same way as all past Belichick Patriot teams has opened up a new dimension in my mind concerning how brilliant the Belichick method is.

In the past it was often assumed that the only way the Patriots could achieve greatness was by playing in Belichick's selfless system - the players they had were no better than anyone else's, and it was only Belichick's genius that was able to make them far superior. But it is safe to say that the current Patriots have such a talented roster that they could attain a high level of success without such a selfless ideology in place. Yet tossing out the Belichick system was clearly never considered, and the reason is abundantly clear: because the system works so well, and in many ways can be even better appreciated when it is utterly loaded with wealth. Greatness can resonate strongly because it reveals what is obvious but is normally concealed. In this particular instance a truth about professional sports is thrust forward : that the best teams always behave as one unified whole and become much greater because of this unity.

It is almost impossible, and to the laymen uninteresting, to talk about what the Patriots could achieve this year from a football standpoint. The brilliance of the Pats thus far encapsulates a much wider frame; the same way that Federer and Woods make us think about other things besides tennis and golf. The difference with the two aforementioned athletes is that they are only individuals, and the Patriots are a team. That is why we are watching maybe a monumental moment in modern American sport. If coaches in the NFL, NBA and MLB were smart they would be paying attention to everything the Patriots are doing. Like I said, to see it in pure football terms in disingenuous. For instance, the constant quibbling about the Patriots running up the score is almost completely irrelevant to me as a fan. The Patriots are better that that - not morally, but categorically. They are not thinking about rubbing it in, they are only thinking of execution, rubbing it in is far too petty a thought for this squad to pay attention to. The Patriots, like all great teams, are often playing against themselves. An eminent example of this was last Sunday when Brady went ballistic after Dan Koppen went offside inside the red zone. It was 38-0 in the fourth quarter. That is the kind of plane the Patriots are on. It is not that Kevin Faulk is as important as Randy Moss, it is just that it doesn't matter. Because you're better doesn't mean anything. It is only about winning; Belichick (and increasingly Brady) have declared this irrefutably.

And all this naturally has great relevance within the NBA - the ultimate league of stars. I don't want to knock the NBA - it is my favorite professional league in the world, and it is hardly alone in marketing its individuals over teams. It just interests me that the way the NBA system works is so glaringly against the team idea. By that I mean that stars are treated differently than role players by almost everyone around them, and in turn star players usually see themselves differently than role players. This is a problem that seems fixable. Without doubt you need stars to win in the NBA - and without doubt your stars need to be confident when they are on the court that they are the best at what they do. But the subjugation of individual ego for team ego is a trait that is too often lacking, and one which is rarely seriously talked about. Kobe, needless to say, is the most current and egregious example of this, but the obvious is not necessarily what is most interesting about such a dilemma. In the NFL there are so many players, and things are so strictly based upon a formulated set of plays, that it can be very easy to harness a player when he does not play well for the team. If your second receiver is not blocking downfield you simply pull him. The results probably will not be earth-shattering. In the NBA if you bench your second leading scorer for lazing on help defense, the results (supposedly) will be much more catastrophic. All of a sudden your offensive system very well might get out of whack. This has to do with the limited number of players on the court, the more free flowing nature of the game, and the somewhat unique idiosyncratic talents of each individual player. It seemingly makes it more difficult for NBA coaches to bench players for not being team-oriented, which is not the case in football.

Further complicating matters is the salary situation - in the NFL contracts are essentially year to year, in the NBA all the money is guaranteed. To punish a player for being too selfish risks his wrath, and with four more years left on his contract that could be a bigger risk than a NBA team wants to take. Plus many NBA players are often labeled as being "special" since they were young, something that certainly might hinder their selflessness on the court. All that said - the uniqueness of each NBA player and their huge guaranteed salaries - it is stupid to regularly capitulate to NBA players' egos. They are paid professionals, if they don't buy the team concept, they can take a seat. Do you really think there would be a public outcry if a respected coach benched a reckless player? I think that coach might actually be commended. And his team might start playing better. Back when Belichick started his reign as Patriots coach he was vociferated for standing up to Terry Glenn and then Drew Bledsoe. Both had large contracts and were big stars. Belichick sat them. We all know how that turned out. Few of today's NBA coaches, GM's and owners would dare pull such a stunt. Yet they should not be terrified of doing so.

Teams where players do not sacrifice for the larger goal do not win championships. The Spurs are rightly called the Patriots of the NBA, and a big reason is they appear smarter than anybody else. They understand team concept; Popovich and Duncan exude it. It is no coincidence that the best teams in today's NBA are also some of the most selfless. But frankly besides San Antonio I don't see any team that you can even begin to compare to the Patriots in terms of organizationally understanding what "team" really means. This is a shame. The greatest basketball was played by teams that overtly played together. To watch a great player is awesome, but to watch a great team is divine.

My point is not to just wax poetic about fantastic teams, something I'm afraid I'm doing. What I mean to argue is that there is a completely practical usage for the Belichick module in today's NBA. I'm fond of talking about how any NBA team can be half decent if they play within a good coach's system. This has as much gravity in this discussion as any pontification about eliteness. NBA professionalism means being smart about playing the game and disciplining yourself around the team framework. How many NBA teams actually do this well? It's fewer than we care to admit. The same can be said for all pro sports, but Belichick is revealing a secret in front of us, just like Billy Beane did at the beginning of the decade. People in the NBA should take notice.

It's Time

Guess what today is.

I'm tempted to write a flowery, gushing lead-up about how it's been 20 years since Bostonians were this excited about basketball, about how there's an entire generation of young kids who will be able to watch a truly remarkable Celtics team for the first time in their lives, how somewhere Red Auerbach is even more psyched than we are. But hey, we've gotta save something for the season, right? Let's savor tonight. This feeling we have right now doesn't come along that often.

I feel I should say a few words about what's transpired around the league the first few nights. A lot of the time early-season activity isn't indicative of a whole lot. Remember a few years ago, when Flip Murray looked like the second coming of Iverson for a month or two? How'd that work out? Still, there are a few noteworthy developments which you might want to keep your eye on.
  • Kevin Durant has quite the green light. We sort of predicted this, but in his first two games the youngster's hoisted 22 and 23 shots, respectively. In his first game he only hit seven, but in his second he hit eleven and scored 27 points. He also shot a total of eight free throws in the two games... once he figures out how to get to the line it'll be insane. In the meantime, 27 points in your second NBA game ain't bad, even if he was less than efficient about it.
  • The Rockets look very good. In their first two games Houston has beaten the Lakers and the Jazz. Last night McGrady dropped 47, and after two games he's averaging 38.5ppg. Not saying he'll keep that up, but if they can finally figure out a way to keep T-Mac and Yao healthy, well, my goodness.
  • What's up with the Spurs? Granted, they're 2-0, but their two wins were over Portland and Memphis, and the two Western Conference cellar-dwellers kept the games remarkably close (Portland lost by nine, but I watched a handful of that game and it was often closer much tighter). Something tells me the Spurs will figure out a way to pull it together, but most people would have expected one or both of these games to be blowouts.
  • No, I have nothing to say about the Eastern Conference. Nobody has played more than one game and there haven't been any real surprises. Orlando looks good but I've been harping on that for months.
Well, that's that. Since it's opening night I guess I'll end this with a prediction, though rest assured this won't become a habit. Celtics win, 107-95, and I'm not even sure it'll be as close as the score. Truthfully, I was awfully tempted to leave the Wizards off my playoff predictions, but then I looked at the rest of the Eastern Conference and almost vomited. Still, I'm thinking I might have had the right idea originally. The Wizards lost to Indiana in their opener, with Mike Dunleavy going for 25-12. If Dunleavy's putting up Garnett numbers on the Wiz, it's enticing to imagine what sorts of numbers Garnett himself will put up. Prove me wrong, Agent Zero; prove me wrong. Anyways, enjoy the game everyone.