Friday, February 29, 2008

Yes We Can

Sam ain't here yet, but it's looking good. If it happens, we should rejoice. I know the Cassell-to-Boston thing is pretty played, but it needs to be written about even more. That's because Sam could be so important to this team, the definition of a waiver wire steal. Let me just say that I don't like Sam, I love him. In my mind he is one of the most underappreciated players of the last twenty years, and belongs in the Hall of Fame (look at his numbers, plus how he improves teams.) And the thing is - he's still good. Actually, you could argue he is presently better than Rondo and not seem silly. Rumors of Cassell's defense being porous are not backed up statistically. I don't think it is fair to call him horrible on that side of the ball. And offensively he is still a dynamo. Few point guards have aged as gracefully.

Yes, there are potential drawbacks to this deal, but there were likewise issues with the KG deal. That one worked out alright. One shouldn't expect less of this. Like Simmons and most have said, the positives well outweigh the negatives. And, yes, there is a chance that Glenn will manage to fuck it up - but you have to sign Sam if you can.

Cassell's arrival will in all likelihood curtail Eddie House's playing time, and there could be other ripple effects. Bulpett writes today about the surprising success of Baby and Powe on the court together. They deserve playing time, particularly Powe. I think it has reached the point where Glenn should consider playing Posey more at small forward, thereby opening up more minutes for the young duo. Powe has earned the right to get all of the back up minutes at power forward, plus some more time when KG slides to center. Posey is just (if not more) capable of playing the 3 as he is the 4. This a logical decision that ought to happen. If Cassell comes on board your bench looks rather awesome: Sam, Posey, Powe, Baby, TA, House...all those guys can legitimately play ball. So let's hope for Sam's arrival, he could be a key to paradise.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Brown Out And In

I had a pretty laissez-faire take on the victory over the Cavs last night - the C's whooped them good, and that's that. I know there are those who would argue that yesterday's contest signifies something dramatic, Mike Brown's ejection backing that claim. Those same people believe the Pistons game next week is nothing short of huge. And I am not one of those people. So let's look at what is happening in the corners of the room. And, hey, there's P.J. Brown. I'm happy we got him. He's another big body, and I have been asking for one of those since December.

That said, I'm not sure Brown should play much. The way Powe and Baby have been performing almost negates P.J.'s usage except as an insurance policy. Which is exactly as we should have hoped. Because Baby and (particularly) Powe have far exceeded our expectations, the necessity for another big was simply to be on the safe side. For those of you who think that Brown can play as well as Baby or Powe have - you're probably delusional. P.J. is 38, and has been on the way down for a while. Meanwhile Powe has arguably been the Celtics third best player the last month, and Baby has consistently done something positive with the minutes given to him.

Brown is yet another big more suited to play power forward than center, but given the surplus of PF's and the shortage of true centers, expect to see P.J. at the 5. I wholly endorse this signing, but if he is stealing Leon's minutes in May it is likely a sin.

Now we await to see how the Cassell saga plays out, needless to say this is a much bigger deal than P.J., and could greatly effect the season...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


In one final late late show to close out the West Coast swing, the Celtics pounded the old-look Clippers last night, 104-76. This one was never really a contest and probably never should have been, considering that the Clippers are 19-35 this year and were missing both Chris Kaman and Sam Cassell. For the C's, James Posey managed to tap his inner Alex English, pouring in 17 points in only 21 minutes. Pierce added 17 as well. Ray Allen was the only Celtic to play more than 30 minutes. Generally this felt like an exhibition game, and I fear my apathy over trying to immortalize it in print it is practically visceral.

In markedly more exciting--though still Clipper-related--news, is reporting that the aforementioned Sam Cassell is currently in buyout talks with the lesser Los Angeles franchise, which should increase the already healthy levels of speculation regarding his donning of the Green. This would have to happen soon, as apparently after Saturday (3/1) if the buyout hasn't been reached, Sam I Am wouldn't be eligible for the playoffs, which I think we can all agree is the primary motivation here, not simply his desire to watch "Sox Appeal" on NESN come Spring (is that bullshit coming back? If so, shoot me in the face). I've gone on record as declaring my desire for Cassell to come play here, and wholeheartedly repeat that assertion here. Honestly, the worst this team has looked this season were probably the games that Rondo missed, which is a somewhat frightening thought come April.

I don't know about you, but I'm ready for some home games.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Celtics, Coen Bros. Finally Win One

The Celtics finally put a stop to their living nightmare of a three-game losing streak last night, beating the Blazers 112-102 in Portland. This one had one of those odd 6pm start times, which I'd like to think was specifically scheduled so that Kevin Garnett wouldn't have to miss any of the musical numbers from Enchanted. Anyways, after Friday's rather demoralizing performance against Phoenix (who got absolutely slaughtered by the Pistons in yesterday's A-game, by the way), it was nice to see the C's get back to playing defense (for the last three quarters, at least) and reminding us all that there was once a time when they were impervious to the Western Conference's aura of superiority.

Paul Pierce had a nice bounce-back from his terrible performance on Friday, scoring 30 to go with 7 boards. Ray Allen added 19, and Rondo 15; KG only scored 10 on 5-15 shooting and found his way into foul trouble. The Blazers lost the exquisite almost-Celtic Brandon Roy to an ankle injury in the third quarter, which can't be good news for their already-precarious playoff hopes.
Clippers tonight at 10:30, then back home for a showdown with the new-look Cavs on Wednesday.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Merde. I miss the days when we didn't lose to the Western Conference. The Green just suffered their third straight L, and unlike the previous two, there was plenty not to like about tonight's game against Phoenix. While the Denver loss was too ridiculous to get upset about, and the GS defeat too jubilant a game to be downtrodden over, tonight's contest was ugly and seemingly without merit. It is never a shame to lose to the Suns, still maybe the best team in the league, but the Celtics made a poor show of it tonight. The offense was abject, laden with Ray and PP's anemically combined 19 points. No one on the C's had a particularly good game. KG looked alright but was outplayed by Amare (who was in no mood to take KG's meddlesome barbing.) The defense was fine. Powe inexplicably played only four and a half minutes. And we have a honest to goodness losing streak. I would like to write more, but am too tired to do so. Plus Donny Marshall's voice is ringing in my head annoyingly. If the C's are gonna lose three in a row, there is no shame in how it has gone down. But if they lose to Portland on Sunday, perhaps the mice will begin to play. We'll see.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Logical Conclusion

We can now safely say that we just witnessed the three craziest weeks of the modern NBA trading era. Today's big deal was the insane icing on the cake. But there were plenty of other tidbits thrown in that involved favorites like Bonzi, Gerald, and Primo. And if you're not beside yourself with befuddlement there's probably something wrong with you. Every contender outside the Celtics and Pistons made a significant move. And if you consider Juan Dixon significant that means the Celtics were the only team to stand pat. That's not a judgement, just a fact. And it's stunning.

Moves like the Kurt Thomas deal yesterday and the Mike James deal today are somewhat typical deadline deals. But Cleveland, Dallas, Phoenix and L.A. all decided to majorly shake up their teams fifty games into the season - and all four are hoping their gambles will push them to the Finals. In the recent past things like chemistry have often been cited as being huge impediments for in-season blockbusters. But February 2008 has been the ultimate refutation of this conservatism. Never mind that many of those conservatives might be right...

The result of these three wild weeks leaves us with a league I suddenly don't know. How can you seriously gauge contenders when everything is so new and no adjustments have been made yet? I mean the Lakers look great - but can I trust that greatness? Cleveland might have just punched a darkhorse ticket to the Finals - or dug themselves a grave. How are you supposed to know??? You need to be more than just Kreskin or John Hollinger to come up with these kind of answers. There is zero sample size to work with. For most whiny NBA fans like me, who bemoan the lack of trades, we have just received our comeuppance. I have to be careful with what I ask for.

Sleepless Nights

There are a few tired eyes in Boston this morning. Late last night, the Warriors dropped the Celtics 119-117 in what was possibly the most exciting game the C's have played this year (particularly if you're a Warriors fan). This one went past 1am ET, and ended on a mind-boggling, heartbreaking Baron Davis jumper as time expired. Paul Pierce had hit two free throws with 6.5 seconds left, and Tony Allen's lockdown D seemed destined to send this one into OT until Baron did that thing he tends to do.

KG was much better tonight, if still a bit tentative, going for 17 and 15 in 31 minutes of work. Ray Allen poured in 32, and Pierce added a nice 23-5-5. Tony Allen played big as well, chipping in 18. Not much you can say about this one; it was wild throughout and, predictably, ended wildly as well. It also struck me as rather terribly officiated. This is only the second time the C's have suffered back-to-back losses this season, and given the nature of the defeats it's been tough. I don't know, there's probably other stuff worth commenting on but I'm seriously sleep-deprived. Things don't get much easier with Phoenix on Friday, either, nor any earlier.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Rocky Mountain Oysters

To your left is a photograph of the Denver Nuggets' mascot, Rocky, hurtling through the air over a mass of frightened young people. There are six people visible in the photo, but I'm thinking in real life it was probably like sixty or seventy: Rocky's like that. I'm not entirely sure why the Nuggets' mascot is a mountain lion--last I checked, mountain lions have little to no interest in the gold market--but I suppose a salty old syphilis-ridden prospector wouldn't have quite the same cuteness quotient.

But my mind wanders. Last night the Celtics lost to the Nuggets in Denver by a score of 124-118. It was quite an exciting contest, replete with the return of Kevin Garnett, excruciatingly terrible officiating and little to no defense to speak of. The Celts were in this one until the end, and considering that a) KG only played 21 minutes, b) Denver was probably still sore over the blowout they suffered at the Garden back in November, and c) there was simply no way in hell the Celtics were going to run the table against the Western Conference this year, well, they should probably just shrug this one off.

Paul Pierce played yet another great game for the C's, finishing with 24 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists. Rajon Rondo came up big as well (22 points) and probably would have been bigger if he hadn't gotten in foul trouble. KG had 4 points, 8 rebounds and an uncharacteristic 4 turnovers in limited action: he looked rusty and at times awfully tentative, but it was still nice to see him out there. The Nuggets put together a well-balanced attack, with all five starters in double-figures and Carmelo Anthony leading the way with 29 (Iverson added 28 for good measure). The officiating, as mentioned before, was roundly execrable, although in the end the incompetence seemed to favor the Nuggets, who shot 49 free throws to Boston's 28.

Tonight the C's play the Warriors, who are 32-21 and would miss the playoffs if the season started today. In my last post I made casual reference to the stunning greatness of the Western Conference this season, but it bears more thorough celebration. This season we may well see a 50-win team forced to stay home from the NBA playoffs, and if that happens, it may end up being the straw that breaks the camel's back in the ongoing quest for playoff reform. As it stands now, the Eastern Conference would have three representatives with records under .500 invited to the postseason: the Warriors are over .600. This problem has existed for years now, and while we keep hoping it'll right itself, with top-flight organizations like Phoenix, Dallas, San Antonio and (gasp) the Lakers in West, there's little reason to think the balance of power is shifting anytime soon (by the looks of things, Portland will be in this conversation soon enough as well). I realize there are fears about television markets and start times, but for Christ's sake, inviting depressing mediocrities like the Nets and the Sixers to the postseason tournament while exciting teams like the Warriors and Blazers potentially stay home simply cannot be good for David Stern's league.

But hey, first things first. Warriors tonight at 10:30... bring your motherf@!king PJs.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Midseason Meanderings

Alright, so it's not technically mid-season, but the All-Star Break always feels like the end of something and the beginning of something else, so it's hard to resist the temptation to break out some sort of "shape of things to come" post that will certainly be rife with inaccuracies, from both a factual and a speculative standpoint. I'm not one for predictions, but it's worth dwelling on the fact that this is shaping up to be one of the closest MVP races in recent memory. I can think of at least five guys right now who are in prime position to make a late-season run towards the award: those names would be, in no particular order: Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James, Steve Nash, Chris Paul. Alright, I guess I put them in alphabetical order.

Nash is admittedly the least likely of these candidates, partly because he's already won the award twice and partly because he's not as deserving as the other four, but he's having one of his best seasons from a statistical standpoint and if the Shaq trade ends up paying big dividends for the Suns, you'll surely see a lot of praise hurled Nash's way between now and the end of April. Paul is an interesting one: when you look at the year he's had and the stunning success of the Hornets (best record in the vaunted Western Conference), he surely belongs in the conversation. Still, the voters' maddening aversion to rewarding youth (see James, LeBron) will probably stand in the way of Paul taking home the hardware.

That leaves Kobe, KG and LeBron as the remaining triumvirate, and I'm pretty certain it'll come down to one of the three. Kobe might honestly be the front-runner at this point, particularly if the Lakers continue to shred things up in the wake of the Gasol trade. LeBron is so mindblowingly good it's almost shameful that he might have to wait another year for one of these awards, but I almost feel like he's destined for a Scorsese/Academy Awards situation, where his greatness is so taken for granted that people keep forgetting to formally recognize it. Cleveland's general mediocrity--they've been better recently, but it won't last--will probably also manage to detract from the mindblowing 30-8-7 he'll average for the year. KG is the sentimental favorite: a few weeks ago this award was all but his, and given how much the media loves him coupled with the stunning turnaround he's orchestrated in Boston (to considerable fanfare, which is also important), if he bounces back from the injury sooner rather than later he's right back in this thing. Still, with the Celtics' consistent dominance no longer news, and with Kobe's new supporting cast and LeBron's knack for otherworldly performance, it feels like it's between employees #23 and #24 this year, which is probably sort of fitting.

As for the actual teams (which, I suppose, is why they play the games), well, things are interesting. Barring some catastrophic injury, I feel like we should just pencil in the C's and Pistons for the Eastern Conference Finals now; I just don't really see anyone else hanging with those two teams in a seven-game series. As mentioned above, Cleveland's played better recently, and as last year showed, never underestimate LeBron, but I think that lesson has been sufficiently learned and I don't think Cleveland's got the talent to hang with these Celtics or a Detroit team that's still humiliated from last year. Orlando's good but not yet good enough. I see an epic Celtics-Pistons series, and, dare I say it, I see the C's winning in 7.

The West is way crazier; the way I see it, there's at least six or seven teams that could conceivably make it out of the Western Conference come playoff time. Make no mistake, the Western Conference playoffs will be the most exciting thing on television this May; I'm already excited. I honestly have no idea who will make it out, and don't even want to predict; there's been so much shakeup over the past few weeks, and it's impossible to know what teams will look like two months from now. An Eastern Conference optimist might be tempted to point out that the prospect of WC teams beating up on each other for weeks leading up to the Finals might give the EC champ a chance to steal away the last series, but that's the argument we hear every single year before said WC champ strolls in and calmly eviscerates their callow Eastern opponent in all its alleged spryness. That said, as it stands right now, both Boston and Detroit are playing better basketball than any Eastern Conference team in years, so anything can happen.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my final earthshaking insight, arrived at through five paragraphs of deep reflection and introspection: Anything. Can. Happen.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Potential For Positions

Powe. Powe. Powe. We can't get enough of him. While every other big man has gone down for the C's, Leon has stood tall and defended guys larger than him night after night. His PER is 19.73. He once levitated over the Ganges. He can speak in tongues and only needs one hour of sleep a night. Seriously, Leon has been great. Obviously he still deserves considerable minutes when everybody gets healthy. If he can keep up a pace remotely close to this he will be very important to the C's come spring.

I found it interesting today to examine some statistics over at regarding what Leon has been doing, and how playing center has affected him. It is pretty fascinating, take a look. A couple of things stand out (and yes, I know all these statistics are from a small sample size.) The main one is that Leon is a much better power forward than center. This isn't surprising, but what is kind of staggering is the differences between the two positions for Leon. At PF Leon has an awe-inspiring +15.9 PER advantage over his opponent counterpart. When you put him at center Leon still gets his personal numbers - but his opponent puts up even better stats. Leon is allowing a 29.3 PER to his counterpart at center - an MVP-esque PER mark. Whoa babe...

So while we can't fault Powe's play at center, or Glenn for putting him there in desperation, hopefully Leon will defend more power forwards than centers as the season progresses. Injuries could dictate otherwise. I have no idea when Big Baby will be back, his injury looked gruesome in person, and I am just relieved he will be coming back at all this year. Baby has had moderate success defending centers, better than Powe. Or you could always just have KG defend the center, he's still dominant, just not otherworldly like when he plays power forwards. Regardless, the only "real" center remains Perk, with Pollard still MIA and everyone else undersized. What to make of this? Who knows, except Powe should be defending the 4 man when possible...

>I have a couple random thoughts to toss out. I doubt many of you saw Ginobili douse the Cavs with 46 the other night, but it was arguably the best game a player has had this year; a shooting spectacle nonpareil. If you have league pass, watch the archive online. Manu being snubbed for the All-Star game is egregious. Baron Davis' exclusion is not as bad, but is rotten nonetheless.

>All these trades are making it very hard to know what the hell is going on. The latest rumor has Z-Bo going to the Rockies to join Iverson, Melo and Camby. I believe it, and it could be the crazy injection the Nuggets need to become yet another legitimate contender. One thing that hasn't been said all that much is how little time these traded players are going to have in getting acclimated to their new teams. 30 games (or less, especially in the Lakers' case) is such a short span. The inevitable lack of deep chemistry could have a huge impact on the WC playoffs.

>Jerryd Bayless right now is my #2 prospect in the draft after Beasley. He dropped 33 on California last night after having 39 the game before against ASU. He's a fucking beast at creating his shot and getting to the hole. He's considered a combo guard at this juncture, but don't let that distress you, Bayless can flat out ball. I expect him to be a better pro than Rose, Gordon or Mayo. He's on TV tomorrow against Stanford, to get you warmed up for the 2008 Haier Shooting Stars Challenge. God have mercy on us.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Star-Crossed Victory

The Knickerbocker Circus was in town this evening and left with a hard-earned 111-103 loss to your Boston Celtics. This is the C's fifth straight win, and sends them into the All-Star break with a tidy 41-9 record. And speaking of All-Stars, Ray Allen was added to the Eastern Conference squad before tonight's game to replace the sublime-yet-injured Caron Butler. Congratulations, Ray! Ray hasn't had his biggest or best season thus far but he's played his role to near-perfection and clearly deserves a considerable share of the accolades for the team's almost otherwordly success.

Anyways, back to the game. I was actually on hand for this one and it was a pretty bizarre affair, one of those games where you have no idea what the score is and then look up and see that the C's are up by 23, even though you don't really remember them ever scoring consecutive baskets. This is the black hole you enter when you play the Knicks, apparently. The night's biggest event was probably Big Baby Davis hitting the floor hard and staying down for a frighteningly long time before being helped off the court. Those of us in the stands were sure it was a torn ACL or something comparably awful but apparently it's just a strained quad or something. Brian Scalabrine also suffered a groin pull but was not missed because he sucks at basketball. The C's played a well-balanced, hopelessly sloppy game to send the Knicks to their 37th loss in 52 tries. Oh, and Isiah got ejected. Paul Pierce led the charge with 24 points and Leon Powe came up huge again with 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting and 8 boards. This kid's the real thing, I tell ya.

The All-Star break will be good for this team: guys like KG and Baby will get some added rest, and all in all the team has a lot to feel good about over the next six days or so. Next week kicks off an intense 5-game Western swing, so get ready to stay up late (Wednesday at Golden State is a 10:30 start). Also, we'd be remiss if we didn't point out that it seems our previous post was in haste... Devean George has decided to void the vaunted Kidd-to-Mavs trade in a rather stunning fuck-you to pretty much everyone and anyone who isn't Devean George. I say good for him. In any event, we'll see what happens. Enjoy the All-Star Game.

JJ and Monster Mash Are Reportedly Still Available

As Tim alluded to in his last post, the long-rumored Jason Kidd-to-the-Mavs trade appears close to fruition, a few short days after Mark Cuban rather unconvincingly insisted that the trade was essentially an impossibility. NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE, particularly when you're willing to give up Devin Harris, Jerry Stackhouse, Desagana Diop and Devean George to make something happen.

Now, I absolutely love watching Jason Kidd on the basketball court and firmly believe him to be one of the greatest players of my lifetime. That said... I'm not sure about this one for the Mavs. Granted, they've never been able to win a title and there's no reason to believe they're going to start without shaking things up a bit, but still, this is an awful lot to give up. Harris is only 24 years old--10 years younger than Kidd--and an awfully good young player (albeit an injured one at the moment). Losing Diop means that the Mavs are one-deep at center in a Western Conference that keeps getting bigger, and that "one" is Erick Dampier, whom the piece charitably describes as "inconsistent." Are you looking forward to watching Dampier and Nowitzki try to guard Shaq and Stoudemire or Bynum and Gasol come playoff time? Neither are Mavs fans. Diop isn't a great player--he's not even a good player, although he's turned out better than the historic bust he looked to be a few years ago--but he's at least a 7-footer who's allotted six fouls every game.

Kidd has historically been one of those rare players in the NBA with the genuine ability to transform a team, as he proved with his arrival in Jersey in 2001. But that was seven years ago, and for a team that's a highly-respectable 34-17, the Mavs just gave up an awful lot for a potentially risky makeover. I don't know, we'll see how it plays out; it could end up being brilliant, and we all should know by now to think long and hard before doubting Kidd's impact. In any event, this is certainly one of the more memorable trading seasons we've seen in a while. Not to be outdone, I hear Isiah is trying to ship Eddy Curry back to the Bulls for a bag of basketballs... developing....

Sophomore Slumber

I managed to look at the roster today for the 2008 T-Mobile Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam (real catchy name, guys) to see if it was excusable to watch the event. I haven't yet come up with a verdict, and honestly I'm more interested in pondering Kidd in Dallas, but it did make me think about two of the sophomores who will be missing from the game. Tyrus Thomas and Shelden Williams were the fourth and fifth picks in the 2006 draft. They were the two highest rated players on Hollinger's board, respectively. And both have found themselves glued to the bench for most of the season.

I don't know why this stands out so much to me, but it does. Both Thomas and Williams play on highly adequate teams that are fighting to get into the (L)eastern Playoffs - where they will promptly be dispatched by Boston or Detroit. But despite turmoil on both teams, neither Ty or Shelden have ever been consistently in the rotation. I know there are reasons for this, and perhaps other reasons I will never know, but nonetheless both situations are vexing.

Particularly in Thomas' case. Chicago has been searching for something the whole year, but Thomas has never gotten consistent minutes, although he very well could help the Bulls' cause. Last Thursday Thomas was the spark plug that triggered a rousing win against the Warriors. He once again showed the tantalizing athleticism that could make him a star in the league. Yet he played a combined 19 minutes the next two games. The Bulls lost both. Chicago's handling of Thomas and Joakim Noah this season has been at best perplexing, and it is easy to draw much worse conclusions about it.

Shelden Williams' situation is on the surface more understandable - or maybe it is not. He had a perfectly acceptable rookie season, even winning Rookie of the Month honors in April. Supposedly he looked good in Summer League. And all of that has led to...393 minutes played for the entire season. It would be one thing if Al Horford and Zaza were absolutely ripping it up for the Hawks, but they are not. Zaza has had a disappointing and injury-ridden year. Horford has been nice so far, but that's it - he's played like the good rookie that he is. And Williams has sat. And he has no idea why - Williams has not been injured, and he has not been given the minutes necessary to prove himself.

So why was Williams ever taken fifth overall if DNP-CD would so quickly be his fate? Talk about a disconnect between Billy Knight and Mike Woodson. Knight is going to look like a fool if things don't quickly change. And as much as I hate to defend Billy, I have to say that you have to at least give Williams a chance at succeeding. The same goes for Thomas in Chicago, who so blatantly is talented that it is a shame we don't see him play with regularity. Anyway, T-Mobile Youth Jam doesn't know what it is missing...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Pass The 40 'Cause My Mother's Not Looking

Any Native Tongues fans out there? Regardless, tonight the Celtics won their 40th game of the season, snatching a deceptively close one from the Pacers, 104-97. I realize it's getting played out to do the whole, "last season, could you imagine..." thing, but seriously, last season, if someone had told me that the C's would win 40 before their 10th loss I wouldn't have known whether to kiss them or slap them. Anyways, tonight's game was fun in a ramshackle sort of way. Paul Pierce played great once again, putting together a 28-12-5 line while seemingly coming up with big plays whenever they were necessary. Ray Allen poured in a quietly effective 23, and then it was left to the youngsters, who once again came up strong: Rondo had a sweet 12-7-7, and the increasingly indispensable Leon Powe added 16 points and 9 boards. For the Pacers, well, no one cracked 20, but seriously who gives a shit. The C's play the Knicks tomorrow night back at the Gahden (TD Banknorth, not Madison Square), which should be good one. For those with regrettably short memories, the last time the Knicks showed their faces in Boston they lost by a nail-biting 45-point margin. Since then, their coach has been fired and they've undergone a transformative personnel overhaul. Oh wait. For those following at home, the latest serial of this poorly-penned melodrama has the Knicks shopping both Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph before the trading deadline, which will undoubtedly do wonders for their chemistry over the next few weeks. Anyways, tomorrow night, Knicks vs. C's, 7:30pm: let's make it like it was.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Afternoon Delight

This afternoon the Celtics might have finally proven to the doubters that they are championship contenders. Being thirty games above .500 and 16-0 against the Western Conference will do that for you. The C's beat the Spurs 98-90 today in a game that was exceptionally played despite the absence of a star for each team. Pierce led the charge with 35 points; but really it was the total team effort on the defensive end that propelled the Celtics to victory.

Missing both KG and Perk, the assignment to defend Duncan fell on the shoulders of Powe and Big Baby. While Timmy had an excellent game (22 points, 14 boards, 6 dimes)he was relatively contained throughout, and that was enough to give the Celtics the upper hand. Baby was constantly able to move his feet and use his girth to subdue Duncan from getting in too deep in the box. And the C's team defense was tenacious; they successfully disrupted one of the more efficient offensive teams in the NBA, even without Tony Parker.

The game began with Pierce and Ginobili both scorching, and carrying the action for much of the first frame. But as the second quarter moved along, San Antonio's plan of using Duncan as a facilitator was beginning to be actualized smoothly - which had to worry the Celtics. Luckily Ray Allen stepped up and managed to do an equally good job of playmaking for the C's offense. This led to the first half being played to essentially a draw, with Boston up by two.

But in the third quarter a subtle shift occurred; Boston seemed to gain confidence in the belief that they could actually contain Duncan even though they had no one over 6-8 on the court. This swagger led to Rondo taking charge on the glass (11 boards to go along with 12 assists) and Big Baby amping up everyone else with his continual acceptable D on Duncan. It appeared that the Spurs were not going to be able to blow the Celtics out of the water. And indeed they didn't.

Meanwhile Pierce continued to exert his will on the offensive end, from hitting threes to driving through the lane for layups. Early in the fourth quarter Tony Allen had one of his unpredictable minor explosions (six points in a minute) and the Celtics were up by nine. The question was whether the Spurs could come back. Duncan and Ginobili were having their regular strong games, and Michael Finley wasn't missing much (he finished with 19). With seeming inevitability, the Spurs lowered the margin. Duncan got a few buckets inside, and before you knew it Manu had canned a three to make it a two point game with 1:23 to go.

But the Celtics did not panic. If there is a beauty to this team, it is the salty doggedness that all the players seem to possess - if they lose it certainly will not be for lack of confidence. This steeliness was in full display in the last minute. The Celtics forced Ginobili into a bad shot with 48 seconds to play, and held onto a three point lead with the ball. Pierce then worked the clock down, and missed a short jumper. But Rondo aggressively swooped in for the offensive board - to seal the game, as the Celtics hit their free throws.

And so the Celtics' grittiness again won out, clearly Garnett is not the only place that this cold resolve comes from. Everybody on the team seems dogged; today it was Rondo and Big Baby who came through when it mattered most - hardly weathered veterans. It is this passion that has given us such optimism regarding the team. In the modern NBA perhaps Powe and Big Baby are capable of playing center. On a bad team that would be a lousy idea, but on a squad with such good chemistry, it might just work.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Potential Realized

The games against the Timberwolves may not be the best of games - but they sure don't lack drama. In a contest that should have been forgettable, there were plenty of things to remember tonight - most notably the ending, which exceeded the more anticipated beginning. Leon Powe put back Ray Allen's miss at the the buzzer as the C's walked away with an 88-86 victory. The final play started when Marko Jaric missed a three, and Craig Smith ill-advisedly decided to save the ball from going out of bounds. He threw the ball back in play, where Ray caught it. Recognizing he had numbers he raced down the court to beat the buzzer, was valiantly blocked (and maybe fouled) by Jaric, whereupon Leon grabbed the ball out of limbo and scooted it into the hoop as the horn sounded. In short, crazy.

Besides the ending, and perhaps a serious injury to Perk, the game will be remembered as KG's return to 'Sota, where he was classily introduced before the game. I was fearing an overwrought extravaganza honouring KG's memory, but the T-Wolves handled it as tactfully as possible; it seemed genuinely nice. Saying how badly we miss his presence after just six games I am not exactly sure in what state T-Wolves fans must be in.

And then, unfortunately, the game began. It was a slopfest from the outset, as we had one of those prodigious 18-16 first quarters which you immediately want to forget. Once again, I urge Glenn to oust Scal from the starting lineup, his complete offensive paucity (0 points, 3 rebounds, 0 assists in 19 minutes) can't help in situations like the first quarter. It's like four on five on the offensive end. While Scal can have a role on this team for his defense (which was excellent in the third quarter) his offensive game is more than just a drag.

But honestly there's no need to pick on Scal tonight because the whole starting unit struggled offensively. Minnesota wasn't much better - Garnett's appearance didn't seem to effect either team positively. The T-Wolves are young and loose in the worst sense. They flounder all over the place, and it allows veteran teams to stick around when they have no right to. That was the case tonight. Ray and Pierce both had off games, but were bailed out by the stellar bench play. Eddie House came into the game firing, and stayed hot the whole night, going for 14 in 16 minutes. Posey was Posey, including an on-the-floor scoop and bounce pass to House that was nothing short of divine. And Powe...was Powe. I think we can say that now. Because ultimately it was Leon's night.

Leon was everywhere, as he has been since he started getting playing time on January 18. This evening he had 16 points including the last two, to go along with eight boards. Despite being only 6-8, Leon's complete knowledge of how to use his physicality has made him a staple for this team. He knows his body well enough, and is tough enough, to hold his own against players several inches taller than him. Offensively this is nice, but we all know that his true importance is on the defensive end, where he has done an admirable job from the outset. Factor that in with his 20ish PER (!) and you have a stunning example of a role player clicking at exactly the right time.

And Leon might become even more invaluable. Perk hurt his left shoulder in the third quarter - and that is not good. Perk dislocated the same shoulder last year, and never really seemed to get right afterwards. If this is serious, another center has to be brought in. As well as Leon has played, and as fine a short term solution as he is, the need for another big should be obvious. Hopefully Perk only has a strain, but it is very worrisome.

So for a crappy basketball game a hell of a lot happened tonight. Praise again be to Leon, who has exceeded everyone's expectations, and hopefully can continue to do so. It was a weird win, but we'll take it.


In a bizarre happening in Minnesota tonight that occasionally mildly resembled a professional basketball game, the Celtics gutted out/lucked into an 88-86 victory over the up-and-coming Timberwolves. Yeah... this was a wild one. The game ended on a cool-as-ice-water Leon Powe putback after Ray Allen got positively mauled going for a last-second breakaway layup, briefly resulting in one of the worst no-calls you'll ever see. Even right after the win Ray seemed positively incredulous over not being at the line, which was actually kind of amusing to watch. Anyways, Leon came up huge tonight: 16 points on 8-10 shooting to go with 8 rebounds in 27 minutes of work. This kid seems to be seriously putting it together and it's nice to watch. As for the rest of the game... Jesus. Rondo had 12 points and 7 assists and hit a big basket down the stretch, and Pierce and Ray combined for 32 points while shooting a fug 11 for 32. I don't really have much else. Local-kid-made-good Al Jefferson scored 16 for the Wolves. Can I stop talking about this game now? Honestly, aside from the final two minutes--which were genuinely enthralling in a backyard-wrestling sort of way--the highlight was probably KG's pregame introduction, which definitely seemed a little dusty for all involved. The ovation the Minnesota fans gave him was truly phenomenal, as was Garnett's gracious response, replete with a gentlemanly bow... probably one of the classier moments you'll see in sports this year. Get well soon, KG.

Thursday, February 7, 2008


Nice win against the Clips last night, Rondo was the standout performer as we got to see how much havoc he can create when an opposing team's defense is negligent. An uplifting aspect of Garnett's injury has been getting to see Rajon control the game more. Against Cleveland he perhaps was too brazen at the end of the game, but against the Clips his doggedness at getting to the rim was inspiring. Now all we have to worry about is him getting the shit banged out of him. Cassell whacked him wickedly in the second quarter last night, and unfortunately it was nothing new to see Rondo hit the deck hard. He's a slight guy, and we have to just hope that he is able to sustain.

The strangest aspect of last night's game was that in the fourth quarter Dunleavy and Glenn both left their bench players in for far too long. Dan Dickau played all twelve minutes of the fourth quarter after not playing at all in the previous three quarters. Meanwhile Pierce, Ray and Rondo were on the bench until the final minute. Needless to say I would be going absolutely apeshit if the Celtics had lost this game, because the final six minutes were handled like garbage time - even though the Clippers were always within striking distance. It gave me an eeky feeling. Anyway, onto the great north woods of Minnesota.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

WTF: Phoenix Suns Edition

We occasionally like to think of ourselves as not simply a Boston Celtics blog but in fact a warmer, more generally inclusive basketball blog. This is apparently one of those occasions, as I'm finding it difficult to make it through the day without posting some sort of comment on one of the more bizarre sports maneuvers in recent memory: namely, the Phoenix Suns' now-official acquisition of soon-to-be-36-year-old Shaquille O'Neal. The Suns gave up Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks to acquire The Big Fella/The Diesel/Shaq-Fu/Kazaam!, and the general feeling around the League is that Steve Kerr is crazy... crazy like a FOX!!!! No, actually, just crazy. John Hollinger--himself a proud iconoclast--has practically blown a gasket;'s Marty Burns opens his observations with a quote from Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" (he's got his finger on the pulse of young America); and, as usual, FreeDarko provides the most cogent summation, noting that Steve Kerr has cynically turned his back on the dream.

I'm not sure what to make of it. The Suns are a great team with a great coach and a jury-is-still-out GM in Kerr, who's certainly figured out a way to get his name out there if nothing else. Jack McCallum, who probably knows the Suns better than anyone not on their payroll--and apparently better than Steve Kerr--writes that the mood around the Suns' locker room this season has been less than sunny, and let's face it, by all accounts Shawn Marion's a bit of a pouty dick. His numbers are certainly down this year, and maybe the Suns were trying to send a message about chemistry, but that's a pretty unrealistic justification and it's honestly the best I can come up with. It sure as hell isn't a salary dump--Shaq makes $40m over the next two years--and given Shaq's age and rather startling decline in production it's difficult to see how the Suns got "better" through this trade in any conventional sense of that word. Optimistic minds have argued that this move will allow Amare Stoudemire to play more at the 4, his "natural" position, but a good part of me honestly wonders if Stoudemire is better as an undersized center in the Suns' balls-out offense than a conventional power forward in a traditional half-court one, which is clearly what Phoenix is moving towards by acquiring such a resolutely half-court player as O'Neal. Stoudemire's mid-range jumper sucks, and the vast majority of his effectiveness comes from his creating chaos around the basket, which is the sort of thing that a lumbering Shaquille O'Neal will make difficult if not impossible. Much is being made of the "I won't let you down" phone call that Shaq allegedly placed to Steve Nash, but that would have been a hell of a lot more meaningful five years ago, when Shaq's only problem was motivation. The reason Shaquille O'Neal is no longer a dominant player isn't because he doesn't give a shit--although this season he probably doesn't--but rather because he's 35 years old and hasn't exactly spent his career on the Kevin Garnett workout regimen.

I don't know, I for one consider this a sad day. The Phoenix Suns were everything good about basketball for the past few years; last year they should have won it all and instead got jobbed by the refs and the League. There should have been a revolution, and now all we've got is a big middle finger from Steve Kerr, a former Spur, I might add. They've destroyed something beautiful; in the words of Johnny Rotten, ever get the feeling you've been cheated?

I'm Beginning To Miss That KG Guy

We are at the time of season where funky things happen night in and night out, and it is hard to determine if any of it matters in the long run. Or so we expect. Cleveland shot the lights out last night, and for the first time in a while the Celtics decided to let their defense rest. So if anything the only surprise was that the C's were able to hang in there. I attribute much of this to Pierce, who seemed likely to vomit on the court, and still gave a gallant effort in defeat. People hardly give Pierce credit for being incredibly tough. This guy fights back time and time again, which is why I can't agree with The Fox when he criticizes Pierce for being too full of bravado. What makes PP different than contemporary wings like Kobe, Carter and McGrady is his complete workmanlike determination. He might bring you back, but it will not be in the balletic fashion of the aforementioned. Rather it will be through the silt and scrum of tearing through opponents at wild angles and hitting off-kilter shots that seem impossible to drop in. This doesn't make Pierce superior (it might actually imply inferiority), but it truly is what he is. Pierce would not be a king, he would be a knight.

And we already know what LeBron would be. I don't like matching up with the Cavs. I know Mike Brown is often in over his head, and that their offense is adequate at best. But Cleveland is a matchup problem for us, and it goes beyond just James. Without Garnett this is magnified. If you asked me a week ago I would have thought KG would be back by now, but surprisingly he is not. That hardly is an ominous sign, but of course everything changes without him on the floor. The Celtics will be unstable until he returns, but given the time of year I am fully accepting of that...

As for the Marion-Shaq deal I hardly know what what to say yet. My first reaction was utter shock, I see it as being a terrific deal for Miami, and had a vision of Steve Kerr pulling off a mask and Isiah being underneath. But we shall see, nothing is official as of yet.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Pau Continued

A little more on Gasol, because I will just get angry if I think about how much Glenn values Scal. I'm still surprised there was low interest from other teams regarding Gasol. I can understand the hesitation, but sometimes it's worthwhile to pull the trigger. Gasol has had a PER over 20 every year since 2002. He's a big guy, fully capable of playing center when you're in a pinch. There are few like him; he's a poor man's Tim Duncan in the best sense. And he's only 27. So, yes, definitely a team like the Lakers would aggressively grab him. But why weren't more teams at the Grizzlies' auction?

The overriding reason has to be wariness of Pau's salary; including all of this year Gasol is due about $63 million till 2011. That's a serious sum. But he may well be worth it - year after year he has played at an All-Star type level. Now obviously if his current back troubles are more than just a splash in the pond, we should be hesitant. But if Gasol is healthy, I feel as if more teams were foolish in not going after him. Take Minnesota for instance. Yes, they suck. But if they traded Theo's expiring contract, Gomes (or Craig Smith), this year's second rounder, and next year's first rounder that probably could have had Pau. All of a sudden you have a combo of Jefferson and Gasol, which would be offensively devastating. Add to that the top five pick from the upcoming draft and you're seriously onto something. Or take a team like the Wizards. Many of us think that Gilbert does not maximize the potential of that team; which is one reason that the Wizards are performing rather well without him. So why not trade him to Memphis for Gasol? It's not as crazy as it sounds (especially if picks are tossed in to allay the deal.) The Wizards would have a scary front line, and Memphis would have a dynamic star they could resign in the summer. Or turning the circle again, let's looks at the Suns. They could have traded Marion and Atlanta's first rounder for Gasol. Phoenix gets bigger and locks up an All-Star talent for a few more years. Meanwhile Memphis gets a player adept at Iavaroni's system, his cap-friendly contract, and a decent pick.

I'm not saying any of the above suggested trades were necessarily the right trade to make, just implying that there should have been more options for the Grizzlie to sift through. Yes, the Lakers needed to make this trade - but getting Gasol could have significantly helped several other teams in the NBA, and been beneficial to the Grizzlies as well. Clearly trade ideas are a dime a dozen, but it is helpful to do this exercise to realize how common it is for teams to fail in taking calculated risks.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Getting Over Gasol

I don't think I really comprehend the Gasol trade yet. It's huge, with ramifications that send tremors through the league, just like the KG deal. I mean there is so much that can be talked about in terms of this trade. It is amazing that hardly anybody was even discussing Gasol being traded, and then wham! all of sudden there he is in LA. In retrospect it is hard to believe that there was not more speculation surrounding Pau. It now seems obvious that he was the best big-name player available (yes, better than Kidd.) And yeah, the Lakers are scary. Talk about a dynamic team, particularly offensively. Kobe has no excuses now; the next few years will show us if he truly is the best player in the league, as so many (foolishly?) still claim. And the scary thing about this trade is that the Lakers should just get better as time elapses - Kobe and Gasol will still be in their primes as Bynum improves.

Once again we have seen the stunning value of expiring contracts. Apparently there is always a team that is in such desperate straits that they have no choice but to dump its star with getting only questionable value in return (Philly, Minnesota and Memphis all within the course of 13 months.) Who cares about free agency when you can just poach from these desperate teams and get such quality? The NBA is a wild place. And just like in Philadelphia and Minnesota, it is far too early to say that Memphis got swindled - we may not know that for five years. But when you look at the immediacy of the last two blockbusters you cannot help but feel as if the Celtics and Lakers were both amazingly fortuitous. Desperation is an interesting thing in NBA circles, especially in front offices. And last year's villains (Ainge, Kupchak) can all of a sudden be hailed as the most innovative of architects. But we should not be so remiss - sometimes luck plays a larger role than any of us would like to acknowledge.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Western Fore

Last night's game said alot as to who the Celtics are, but I don't think I'm going to write about it right now, saying much of it has already been written. But let me say that was a very good game last night, a nice victory for sure. The most positive acknowledgement I can make from the last week is that the C's are good even without Garnett. Their defense was excellent last night, as it had been for the previous two games minus KG. We have to give massive props to Tommy Thibodeau. Like Jim O'Brien before him, he has this team believing in defense. We have completely missed that in all the previous Glenn years, and as much as we want to give Garnett tremendous credit, I am ready to give huge props to Thibodeau. This guy is not just a good defensive coach, he is a great one.

The undeniable value of Posey was on full display against the Mavs, in my mind he is a darkhorse candidate for sixth man of the year. He has an option to get out of his deal after the season, as does Thibodeau. Yikes. Despite the fact that Posey was clearly the best matchup on Nowitzki, Scal started and played 17 mirthless minutes (0 points, 0 rebounds, 2 assists.) Glenn's cruel joke continues. Meanwhile a 4-5 combo of Posey and Powe is as gutsy as it comes - and also as small. It will be interesting to see if they pair together more, I have been wrong when I doubted those two in the past. Big Baby did not play again.

After watching a well played contest between the Mavs and the C's, the Spurs-Suns game took me slightly aback. In my mind TNT had the four best teams in the NBA on TV last night. While Boston and Dallas looked inspired, the same could not be said for either San Antonio or Phoenix. They just looked grizzled. And there is something to take from this - the season is long, especially for hardened veteran teams. Sometimes you have to just gut it out, that's all you can do. TNT's night cap was all about that, and yes, I still think either the Suns or Spurs will win the Championship in 2008. So praise be to these spunky Celtics, they have done nothing wrong, but they must do more prolonged good to get into the hallows.