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…


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