Monday, March 2, 2015

Brad Stevens says " I really like the guys in our locker room" after Boston's close loss

The players that Danny brought in fit Brad's style and system. The two best players heading into the season are no longer in green. That's all I'll say on that.

"I just told the guys in the locker room I have to look at it, really – I have to look at it objectively but I also subjectively. I think the biggest thing that I take away is that it’s a disappointing loss. But I really like the guys in our locker room, and I’m looking forward to working with them the next time we’re together to work. Because they’re trying to play the right way. We really got swallowed up by that small lineup that they put out on the floor, and at the same time – it’s like I told them in there – you forced the hand of the best team in the league to play it that way.

And so hopefully we can keep growing and getting better, but we’ve got to play better. You know, take advantage of more opportunities late in the game and throughout their comeback, and we just didn’t do that. You know, 20-whatever we were up in the first half felt like three to me, and 16 at halftime feels like two against those guys. They just come back so fast."

Stevens has shown that he's an NBA coach. I called him out and Ainge out this past year, but what do I know? This team is playing at a high level. This team is fun, and I love to watch them out there every night. I truly hope the Celtics and Rondo have happy endings, and I'm sorry for dwelling on the trade stuff. But I'm a Rondo guy.

"Well, since we’ve been together eight days, I would say that everything we do better lead to progress tomorrow. But I don’t know; I think obviously we’re all disappointed in the loss, but we did a lot of good things today."

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Celtics blow big lead against league leading Warriors, 106-101 loss in the Garden

The Celtics came out and throw the first punch against the Warriors. The first punch resulted in a 26 point lead for the Celtics, but a lead that big doesn't mean the game is over in the NBA. Especially against the best team in the NBA. The Celtics knocked down three 3-pointers in a minute to push their lead to a game-high 26 points at 56-30 with 6:53 to play in the first half.

The Warriors regrouped at halftime and came out in the second half looking like the best team in the NBA this season. Steph Curry finished with a game-high 37 points on 14-of 22-shooting while Klay Thompson added 20 points on less efficient 9-of-23 shooting. Curry showcased why he's likely going to win this years NBA award. He put the Warriors on his back when they needed him most, and they pulled off the comeback in a, 106-101 win in Boston.

All five of Boston's starters scored in double-figures, led by 17 points from Tyler Zeller. As for the superstar off the bench. Isaiah Thomas scored 20 points on the night, marking the fourth time in five appearances with Boston that he has notched at least 20 points. He cooled off in the second half, only scoring 5 points I believe. Crowder grabbed a career-high and game-high 17 rebounds, and he continues to show great growth and potential.

The Celtics committed only eight, and they did what they could to win this game. It came down to missing some shots, and honestly poor execution in the final minutes. Stevens expressed some disappointment after this loss, but he's ready to put this one past him, because the Cavs are around the corner.

"I just told the guys in the locker room I have to look at it, really – I have to look at it objectively but I also subjectively. I think the biggest thing that I take away is that it’s a disappointing loss. But I really like the guys in our locker room, and I’m looking forward to working with them the next time we’re together to work."

The Celtics continue to show that they can play with any team. It doesn't matter who's out there on any given night, they'll come to play basketball. The Celtics fall to 23-34, and of course it didn't put them too far back of the Pacers and Heat for the 7th and 8th playoff spot. The Celtics have a mixed schedule this week. Basically they'll need to beat the teams that they can, and they'll need to steal a game or two from some of the elite teams.

Can Rondo Stop His Decline?

Things have gone from bad to worse in Rondo's private Hell.   Of course he's getting most of the blame, but it's far from being all his fault. What is wrong with this guy, Carlisle's, supposedly genius head that he supposedly can't figure out that it's gonna kill a guy like Rondo not to be able to call his plays, at least some of the time?   It's almost like he's trying to mess with Rondo.   I'm reading and hearing that he's not a little bit 'headstrong' himself.   Even after the fight with Rondo he refuses to give Rondo a break on that.  Rondo's only the best playmaker in the game.

How much does this have to do with one Monta Ellis, I wonder?  I'll bet it has to do with Sir Ellis.  I'm guessing that he stipulated to Carlisle, when the Rondo trade came up as a possibility - he surely was asked to give some kind of blessing - that Rondo not be allowed to call plays.   I would guess that Ellis wanted to be sure that he wouldn't lose his ball control.  If that's the case, it puts Carlisle in a pretty difficult place, with two guards who want to control the ball, who want to essentially run the offense.  What an ugly mess.

I predicted this summer that, barring some unforseeable development of awesome chemistry between Rondo and Smart, this was going to be a hellish year for Rondo.  So far it's been as bad as I feared it would be.  It's incredible to me that so many pundits and fans act like they have no idea how Ainge's shenanigans this summer could be expected to affect Rondo.  Think about your own job.  How would you feel if your boss told you that you were in charge of the office, but then started changing all the personnel you were supposedly in charge of, doing planning for, etc., without consulting you.  He also brought in someone new to be over you, someone whose approach was obviously antithetical to yours.  Then he started interviewing people for your position, conspicuously avoiding consulting with you about it.  Then he actually hired someone for your position and asked you to help show them the ropes.  Meanwhile he kept changing the personnel under you without consulting you about it.   Then he kept interviewing candidates for your position even though he had already brought an heir apparent on board.  He told you that you and the new guy could share the job, but he's still interviewing more people for your position and pretty soon he's hired someone, someone known as somewhat of a hotshot in the field.  Meanwhile you keep hearing that you may on the way out,  that there is talk that you are going to be let go.  There is a lot of talk about how much better the office runs when you aren't there.

You'd be living in hell, wouldn't you?  You don't want to lose your job.  You've worked there for ten years and given your all and been very successful.   You can't quite believe all this is happening.  You finally got the promotion you hoped for, but you can tell that you are on the way out even so.  What is more, you can tell that you are being set up to fail, and if that happens, it will ruin the resume you have built up.   That is what Danny Ainge deliberately did to Rajon Rondo.  Even the ultimate ejection to Dallas - which at least seemed to be a kind gesture to Rondo in that it sent Rondo to a (fringe) contender - turned out to be a bad setup for Rondo.  By sending Rondo to Dallas, Ainge sent him to a team which already had a ball dominant guard and to a coach who was notorious for fighting with point guards.  Oh joy oh rapture.   What a lovely set up for Rondo, already struggling to keep his game together at that point.  As I've pointed out over and over, Rondo's horrific shooting this season is far out of character for  him and can be most easily understood as reflecting his destress at the rotten situation he had been put into.

Since going to the Mavs, Rondo has subordinated himself to his teammates - particularly Ellis - while substantially improving the team's defense.   He has made major changes to his game.  In return he has seen no real adjustments to him from the Mavs that I am aware of.  Rather, he has been skewered for hurting the team's historically brilliant offense by ruining the team's spacing.  Even after the other day's blowout between Carlisle and Rondo, there has been no real concession to Rondo.   Apparently the only change has been the introduction of some plays that hopefully will work well for Rondo.  When discussing the blowout between himself and Rondo, Carlisle conspicuously described Rondo's future with the Mavs as a "stint".  That was a clear indication that Rondo will not be with the Mavs for long, nor should he be, unless Carlisle is dumped.  These two guys clearly cannot work together.

So how can Rondo make his "stint" with the Mavs more bearable?  I think his best move right now is to go back to basics.  I think he needs to again focus his energy on defense, focusing as much of his energy as possible on being an elite defensive stopper.  I think that if he rebuilds his reputation there, he will be well on the way towards re-establishing his whole game and his enviable resume.  It  was his lackadaisical defense that really started him on the downwards fall (if one sets aside the wretched affect that Danny surely had on Rondo's career by constantly trying to trade him off for shooting pgs like Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, IT, etc.).  As much as I make excuses for Rondo, I also call him to task.  He has played a big role in his own downfall by playing bad defense, constantly slowing the tempo, never fixing his bad shooting, etc..   In some ways, he has really torpedoed his own career.  He can start to re-establish his success and his reputation with defense.

I think Rondo can rise again.  I hope he does.  His fall has been a tragedy.  Just three years ago he seemed to be on the verge of superstardom.  Now he seems to be on the verge of falling out of the league entirely.   Fans and pundits seem to enjoy declaring that he is now a dinosaur (he went from being The Kid to being The Dinosaur with no in-between - isn't that fun?!), that he doesn't fit the 'modern' NBA.   That is just such a load of poppycock.  If Rondo gets back to basics and rebuild his game, he can be great again and maybe better than before.  I hope he can do it.

It starts with defense.


As I mentioned, it's been the fashion lately to declare that Rondo does not fit the 'New NBA'.
Though the Mavs are still fifth in the West, since acquiring Rondo their offense has declined notably.... This is as an existential problem for Rondo as it is a tactical problem for the Mavs. NBA teams are increasingly emphasizing the “three and key” offense, triggered by advanced stats showing three-pointers—particularly corner threes—and close-range shots to be the most efficient. ... In January, Kirk Goldsberry wrote an article titled “The Future of Basketball is Here, and It Looks a Lot Like James Harden.” He wrote about how Houston’s general manager Daryl Morey (an NBA nerd apostle who also co-chairs the Sloan conference) wants Harden running an offense explicitly designed to get close shots, corner threes and free throws. ... if the Rockets represent the future, Rondo represents the past. He avoids the free throw line like it’s a disease, and for him it actually might be. He’s shooting 28 percent from the stripe with the Mavs. Twenty-eight percent. Only 15 percent of his points come from threes, while nearly a quarter came from mid-range jumpers. ... It should then be no surprise that Carlisle didn’t necessarily want to hand over play-calling duties to mid-range happy Rondo.... As McMahon wrote after the Brooklyn loss, “the Mavs’ biggest issue is figuring out how to make the square peg that is Rondo fit into the round hole that is the point guard’s role in Carlisle’s system.” However,in 2015, that round hole might not just be the Mavericks. For Rondo, the mismatch might be with the future of the NBA.
One point to make about these claims, dizzied as they are by the arrogant thrills of being in the all-conquering NOW, is that the inside-outside game has long long long been the essence of basketball.  The much vaunted 'new NBA' is just an iteration of that.

 In every area of life today, though, reduction of human existence to number crunching has become all the rage.  It's a religion with  people and a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If everyone is convinced that things can only be done one way, they can in fact only be done one way.   The sheer absurdity of reducing the offensive game in the NBA to two things - someone  attacks basket off screen and then either puts up a layup, lays off to a big or kicks out for three - doesn't bother anyone these days.  They are comfortable with the idea of reducing human beings to more or less efficient machines.  I'm not though.  I'm not comfortable with it.

It's typical of the times we live in that the highest praise anyone can bestow on anything is "efficiency".  It's amazing to me that even in basketball that it's now universal that  "efficiency" is the highest praise.  Here again the presumption is that everything is known and all that matters is execution.   No one wants a player with creative ideas.  They want a player who knows how to hit the damned three.

 What is really going on, in my view, is a sophisticated form of class warfare.  The basic thrust of the 'modern' attitude is to take control away from the reglar folks and to put it in the hands of the higherups - coaches, general managers, etc..  The player becomes - as they  so fondly say today - a 'piece', or an 'asset', to be 'flipped' if he or she is not 'efficient'.  One of the reasons I love Rondo is that he seems to have an almost instinctive impulse to rebel against the straight jacket of the 'Modern Game' - which in my view is little more than Group Think.  Of course, he loves numbers as much as anyone.  Number crunching has its place, but when it dictates the game, then it has taken over and driven human-ness out of sports, and then what is the point?!

I guess I think a little differently from most people these days.  I think a little inefficiency is a good thing.  I like to see some creativity.  I like to see some thinking outside the exigencies of the moment.

That said, one of my disappointments with Rondo is that I thought that once he had more control we would see some new ideas and some creative approaches.  Then again, he's never really had any control.  He needs a situation where he can mold a team and its approach to his liking, to a significant extent, and where he has a chance to get to know the players around him.  That was never going to happen  with Mr. Churn Baby Churn around.    And it may never happen now.  Then again, it's not too late for Rondo to rehabilitate his reputation and standing, starting with defense.

Isiah Thomas is pretty good, and Rondo hasn't shown that he is recently

Sometimes I feel like I'm talking to someone, and when I open the door there is no one there. There's a reason for some things in life. There are circumstances that come up that change everything. I'm coming to terms with the new look Celtics, and I feel horrible for it. I was, and I'm still behind Rondo as a player and talent. But, I'm looking at the trade in a different way now.

There's a reason to remember everything that has happened. There's a reason that I feel the need to understand all of what Ainge has done. The bitterness tastes real and unrealistic, but it's a fact. The trade of Rondo may make sense now. Not because of Rondo's public drama in Dallas, but just because Rondo is 29, and the Celtics would have wasted his final years. I also believe that Ainge could have crafted a team with players around Rondo, but would they have been the right fight. Now Rondo will get to decide that. Dallas isn't a fit in my book, but maybe it could be.

Rondo hasn't been the same without Doc. I think it's a coaching thing for Rondo more than having talent around him. Stevens was to green to handle a star such as Rondo. That's why Ainge made the move more than anything. Ainge didn't want to put Stevens in any possible situations like Carlise just had. I feel like Carlise is a good, if not great coach in the NBA. But, he's no Doc, and Rondo needs to find a coach that can understand him.

I love Rondo's game and that won't change, but let me give Thomas love now. He's more than fun to watch, he's a breathe of fresh air. Isiah Thomas is playing like an All-Star right now, and will it last? I believe it's possible. Sometimes a player and a coach gel, and a player ends up playing at a higher level. Thomas has a freedom to run this team, and it's just working and it's fun.

Isaiah Thomas scored 28 points off the bench in the Celtics' 106-98 win over the Hornets. It was another big game from a guy that's one of the shortest players in the NBA. Thomas' 4th quarter scoring average of 6.3 PPG ranks behind only LeBron James (7.0), Dwyane Wade (7.0), Carmelo Anthony (6.5) and Damian Lillard (6.4). So, can he reach that level? Thomas is averaging 22.3 points and 6.0 assists per game for Boston. He's pretty good, and he's made it easy for the Celtics.

This is just another move that's made Danny look like a damn genius. I still stand by Rondo. He's currently making all of his fans look bad right now, but I also know that Dallas is the wrong fit. Not even because of the coach, but more because of the talent and the chemistry. Carlise's schemes are set for Monta Ellis and Dirk. Rondo is in the background, as Thomas is the key player for Boston.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Celtics beat Charlotte, for third win in a row

Isiah Thomas, who has been more than brilliant during his first four games with the Celtics.

The Celtics faced a 16-point deficit in the third quarter, with a 12-2 run to close the third period. Then they scored six of the first nine points of the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to three points. Thomas put in a team-high 28 points on 9-of-22 shooting (8 of 10 at free-throw line) while adding seven assists. I really didn't see him playing this well, and let along right from the start. Thomas' play makes me question my recent Ainge beef. The entire run by this squad has me questing my Ainge stance. Don't get me wrong, I've liked Ainge, but it's just a love and hate type of thing for me.

As for the game, Boston faced a 16-point deficit late in the second half. The Celtics went on a 12-2 run to close the third period. Then they scored six of the first nine points of the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to three points. Isaiah Thomas and Jonas Jerebko, along with Bradley put Boston ahead late in the 4th with key baskets. The Celtics put the Hornets away, 106-98 Friday night.

Crowder has been my favorite player to watch. He hustles, and give 100% on every single play. He's got a nice little shot, and I see him being apart of the future. Avery Bradley helped with Boston's comeback with his shooting. He finished with 19 points on 8-of-18 shooting.

Key Stats

-Thomas (28 points), Jerebko (16 points) and Jae Crowder (14 points) totaled 58 points off of the bench.

-The Celtics made 14 3-pointers for the third consecutive game.

-Charlotte committed 16 turnovers, while Boston committed just eight.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Garnett's first game back in Minnesota

This was a solid reception and a good turnout in Minnesota. The fans have had zero to cheer for since his departure, and this was the best I've seen from T'Wolves since his era over 8 years ago.

KG HAD five points on 2-for-7 shooting with eight rebounds and two blocks in 19 minutes in his first game for the Timberwolves since 2007. He's not back to deliver a title, but it's full circle for KG.

Celtics win second game in a row, after returning home

It was a close game for three quarters, but Boston's bench put Boston ahead for good. A 20-0 run turned this game into a blowout. It all began with four consecutive free throws from new Celtic Isaiah Thomas. New York went nearly six minutes without scoring a point from the end of the third quarter through the start of the fourth quarter. The Celtics easily beat the New York Knicks, 115-94 after the big 4th quarter run.

Boston (22-33) has won two in a row and six of their last nine games following Wednesday’s win over New York. Best performances of the night came from Turner who finished with 10 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. Jerebko finished with a team-high 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting, while Isaiah Thomas had 19 points. Jae Crowder added 18 points for an offensive-minded bench.

The Celtics continue their home stand when they host the Charlotte Hornets on Friday. They'll face the West leading Warriors Sunday, with one of the title favorites in the Cavs after that.The Celtics are just one game back of the Nets for the 8th spot, with a log jam of course for number eight.

Key Stats:

-Boston outscored New York 67-45 during the second half.

-Turner notched his first career triple-double with 12 rebounds, 10 points and 10 assists.

-The Celtics made 14 3-pointers, 12 more than the Knicks.

Rondo's Season of Hell

The Haters are having another party.   They do love kicking Rondo, don't they?   I think that tells you exactly why they rip him so much, though of course they claim it's all about basketball.  No it's not.  It's about other stuff - maybe about Rondo's nonconformist attitude.  Many sports fans and media are, in my view, conformists.  This is what the phenomenon of rooting for laundry is about, in my opinion.  Here are some lovely twitter offerings this am...

...from one of the usual suspects ...

 2 hours ago2 hours agoRemember when owner Wyc Grousbeck said Rajon Rondo isn't coachable? The former C's All-Star is at it again.
... "at it again" - three of the most efficient hate words known to the world of gossip...

Props to  Rajon Rondo ignores Rick Carlisle, who screams at and benches him  
...from someone I haven't seen on the hate bandwagon before - note how ignoring is evil beyond all evil, but screaming is good beyond all good...

... another from the realm of 'usual suspects'...
 54 minutes ago54 minutes agoRajon Rondo is having issues with a coach. Again. Talk about predictable.
... and here's one  enjoying the thrill of going global on Rondo...
 39 minutes ago39 minutes agoI've been doing this for nine years. Rondo is far and away my least favorite person I've covered.
My goodness!  Rondo is his least favorite person ever?!!!  So there must be some reason for that kind of hatred, right?  Funny how none of Rondo's haters ever explain in any remotely rational way why they hate him.

Naturally,  we have to turn to CelticsBlog and their Hater In Residence for some really creepy rejoicing...
Lol.  I knew Rondo would get exposed in Dallas, but this is above and beyond what I anticipated.  He's been a disaster there.

One thing I find interesting is that no one has a bad word to say about guys who shredded teams by demanding trades, most recently Goran Dragic.  Those guys aren't considered headcases, but Rondo is.   Rondo, by contrast, is - rightly or wrongly - arguing with his coach about the way he thinks things should be done.  He always wants to playcall and Carlisle knew that from the beginning.  In the end, Rondo is guilty of  arguing basketball with his coach, and for this he apparently deserves to be slimed by many.  Of course it would come off a lot better if he would find his game somehow, show a little more urgency on the court, unleash his passion in the game itself,  but then again, he's in a situation where squaring the circle is not going to be easy.  It hasn't been easy all season.  He's already altered his game a LOT for Carlisle, but as far as I can tell, it's not appreciated.  Carlisle doesn't seem to be willing to meet him half way, or a quarter of the way, or any part of the way at all, when it comes to the central pillar of Rondo's game - playmaking.

Another thing I find interesting is that, so far as I know, Rondo hasn't said a single negative thing about Carlisle, Danny, Stevens or anyone else.  Danny, by contrast, has unleashed at least three rips on Rondo that I know of.  When the trade first happened, he said that his instructions to his management team was to consider whether they should pay 100 million dollars to a guy who is a bad shooter, a bad defender, but a master passer.  Well, that's a rhetorical question as set up, and Danny knew it, but it's also - when made public - a helluva public dis of a guy they were supposedly considering building around.  A while later Danny commented that Rondo acted one way in front of him and another way around his coaches.   Wow.  That is a major, major attack on Rondo's character.   The other day, to top all this off, he said that new acquisition Isaiah Thomas is better at the pick and roll than anyone the team has had for a while.  Mmm - take that shot Rondo!!

Oddly enough, no one is calling Danny out for trashing Rondo.   Can you imagine the hailstorm of hate that would break out if Rondo offered any criticism of Danny?

I said this summer that I thought it was going to be a hellish year for Rondo if Danny didn't trade him with enough time to begin to build a relationship with his new team.  To give Danny credit, at least he did send Rondo to a contending team, not to some hellhole, but by holding Rondo long after he had blatantly made the final decision not to build around Rondo, just so he could try to squeeze some extra value out of him - that was vicious.  He may have destroyed Rondo's career.    And then there is that sweet and lovely man, Brad Stevens, so admired for getting the best out of his players.  I didn't see him getting any best out of Rondo.  I saw him just waiting for Rondo to be gone so that Stevens could fully install his preferred scrap and scramble offense.

Is there a bad guy in all this?  I would say not, though if I had to point to one it would certainly be Danny Ainge, the guy who has turned being a GM into an endless hustle.  Time to retire Gino for this...

Do the Hustle! 
That's right, Danny.  Keep doing the hustle.  Keep bringing in young guys who are desperate to show something and keep flushing established vets who happen to be all too human.   I suspect what goes around will come around to you, very appropriately ... perhaps when your young scrappers themselves become strong veterans and go elsewhere, or perhaps when Brad Stevens ditches the Cs for Indiana University, or  who knows?  I just  think you have a great big helping of what goes around coming your way.

I hope that both Rondo and Carlisle realize that they need to find a way to work together.  If you can't do that, then cut Rondo loose so he can try to fit in somewhere else.  But really, I don't understand why two guys with reputations for being two of the smartest people in the game can't come up with something interesting together.  Is it really too much to ask that two of the best minds in the game show some real ingenuity and understanding of the game, enough to surprise us a little?

If you have enough energy to fight each other, you have enough energy to work together.


Reportedly Rondo and Carlisle argued heatedly in the locker room too.  Rondo has been suspended for tonight's game against the Hawks.  Carlisle's statement says that he and Rondo need to communicate better with each other.  I think that makes a lot of sense and it sounds hopeful, but will these two guys REALLY make the effort ?   Rondo is a guy who basically wants to be a coach on the floor.  Everyone knows this.  He's been very good about subordinating himself to the team, but where is the basketball IQ that folks have said both these guys have?  At some point Carlisle has to realize that you can't ask a guy to efface himself and ask him to excel at the same time.  Why is he the only one being asked to make sacrifices?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Rondo benched by Rick Carlisle, after heated exchange

Thanks Danny Ainge, and I don't mean thanks for trading Rondo. When Rondo was first traded to Dallas it seemed like Ainge was doing Rondo a favor, and doing the Celtics a favor. Well, Rondo is in a bad situation in Dallas. The chemistry isn't there, and Rondo is being painted as an unruly player once again.

Carlisle had the highly publicized benching of Rajon Rondo in January, and I don't feel like he wanted him in Dallas. The move doesn't make sense when you have Monta Ellis, who dominates the ball. I hope Rondo bolts from Dallas this summer. Get out of town!

Kevin Garnett Timberwolves Introductory Press Conference

This press conference made me really miss KG. This is big time for the franchise of Minnesota. Maybe not today, but down the road KG will aid the Wolves rebuild in some fashion. This will be a nice money maker for the Wolves, because KG is the greatest player in their franchise history, and people will come to see him play and buy his merch.


"It's perfect," Garnett said on Tuesday at a re-introductory news conference that came five days after he was acquired from Brooklyn in a trade. "If you have a story, this is a fairy tale. This is a perfect ending to it. This is how you want to do it."

"He's our history. He's it. He is the face of the franchise," said Sam Mitchell, a former teammate and now an assistant coach on the team.

I think this i a great ending for KG, and honestly it's sad seeing him retire with the Wolves.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Celtics end trip with 115-110 win in Phoenix

A lady in the crowd screamed out "Isiah, hows the weather in Boston", and Thomas wasn't phased by anything in his return to Phoenix. Isiah Thomas looked very similar to his namesake against his old team, as he poured in 21 points off the bench as the Celtics held off the Suns for a 115-110 victory. Thomas has been a perfect addition to this Boston team that lacked a player of his skill set after trades that sent out star players Rondo and Green.

Thomas isn't a superstar, but his ability to score the ball is better than I expected. Thomas also showcased his play making skills, when he connected with Bass on a few easy baskets in the paint. Thomas finished with 7 assists in Boston's win. Thomas reminds me of Jason Terry and Nate Robinson, and he could be crucial in a couple of years if Boston progresses in to a playoff team.

Avery Bradley was the key to this win, and he's found a nice shooting groove on Boston's three game trip. Avery Bradley added a team-high 23 points along with 6 big steals. Bradley has emerged as the Celtics leader. He's also been pretty clutch with big shots in LA, and with a big three. He stripped Bledsoe in a one-possession game then knocking down a 3-pointer at the other end in transition that pushed Boston's lead to six (100-94).

The game wasn't as close as the final score suggests. Boston's biggest lead was 20 points, but the Suns made it a game in the 4th quarter. The contest featured just one tie and one lead change. Jae Crowder looks like a new version of Gerald Wallace or James Posey out there. Crowder filled up the stat sheet with 12 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals.

The Celtics salvage the final game of a three-game road trip after Monday's win. They could have won all three games, but with injury issues and trades. I'll take the win. The Celtics improve to 21-33, and their just 2 games back of the 8th spot. The Celtics finish out the week at home, against the Knicks Wednesday and Hornets Friday.

The Celtics continue to show a lot of fight, and in the past I've had some mixed feelings about Stevens. Especially with his handling of Rondo. But he has the Celtics playing well, and they have responded to him with their play. Stevens said this after Boston won the second game of a back-to-back.

"I hope we're developing a collective toughness... that no matter if the bus breaks down or the flight's late or whatever, we've got a game to play."

Just Right for Rondo?

I love to talk about Rondo's shooting.  It's not because I consider myself to be a shooting guru.  Obviously not.  But I do love shooting myself and so I love to talk about it.   I have thought for years that Rondo was destined to be a good shooter one day and I'm frankly very surprised that it hasn't happened yet.  Apparently 'advanced stats' show that marked shooting improvement is rare in the NBA and pretty much never takes someone from poor shooter all the way to good shooter.  Here, as in so many other aspects of his game, I think Rondo  defies the statistics, or will defy the statistics.

When I look at Rondo's shooting, I see that he seems to be most comfortable with hook shots and scoop shots, floaters and finger-rolls.  The way I look at it, these shots involve lots of spin, arc and arm extension.   So these are the things I preach for Rondo.  I think people worry too much about where how he cocks his elbow and all that stuff.  The theory I preach is that not everyone has to have classical form.  For most players it is probably best, but when you have a player who has a peculiar form, maybe this is what is best for them.  The way I see it, a real shooting guru should know when to coax someone's form, nudging it rather than really changing it.

Rondo reminds me a little of George Gervin...
Gervin had a weird body, long and skinny like Rondo, and a way of moving that could be both graceful and awkward.  His signature move was the finger-roll, but he used an array of moves around the basket that were a bit like the array Rondo uses.  He didn't really use the backboard as much as Rondo.  Rondo's love for the backboard - spinning balls off it into the basket like a magician - is why I think Rondo should use bank shots whenever possible, and practice them as much as he can.  If the backboard is your friend, Rondo, make the most of it!  I always think of Havlicek as a guy who loved to use the backboard.  I could see Rondo doing it as much or more.  I also think that Rondo should use hook shots around the basket more.  I say, practice until you are blind but have an absolutely killer hook from all kinds of angles.

The way I remember it, Gervin had a weird jump shot, but he was an effective mid-range shooter.  He was taller than Rondo but he relied a lot on timing to get his shots off, much as Rondo does.  Guys like Monta Ellis use their elevation and their ability to contort in the air like an acrobat to get shots off near the basket, but you can use elevation, length and timing too.  Rondo seems to be afraid to shoot in crowds because he gets blocked sometimes - which happens to everyone - but timing can be as effective as sheer athleticism. Unfortunately, Rondo may have to look at basketball history to find good role models because most scorers in the game today who operate near the basket are power guys - even if they are small - more than finesse guys.  But that only means that a determined finesse player can surprise people.

I would preach to Rondo that he ought to think about shooting the way he thinks about passing, in that timing and feel are key.  The toughest thing about shooting is that you are aiming at something that isn't there, the void in the middle of the basket.  People tend to focus on something that is there - usually the back rim - and that leads to clanging the shot.  But a passer knows how to throw the ball to what isn't there - to the player that will be there in half  a second.  He feels the player more than sees him.   That's the way it can be with the basket.  I think a great shooter feels the basket more than sees it - after all, what you are shooting at literally isn't there.  It's a void.

But if I were Rondo's shooting guru, I would endlessly preach arc and extension.  Release that ball as high as you can, extending your arms as fully as you can, so it seems to fly off your finger tips.  Rondo already knows how to do this with scoops, hooks, finger-rolls and floaters --- lots of extension and the ball rolling off the fingertips.   Shooting a J should be the same way for Rondo, if you ask me.  Extend the arms fully and release the shot as high as you can so it explodes off the fingertips.  Think arc (unless you are banking).  You almost can't arc a shot too much.  Don't think about the back rim.  Think the same way you do as a passer - imagine what is not there.   You don't pass the ball to where your teammate is.  You pass to where your teammate will be.  Think the same way about the basket.  Don't pass the ball to the part that is already there - the rim.  'Pass' the ball to the part that is not there - the void in the middle.  Imagine that the net represents the hands you are passing to.

Perhaps Rondo has found his Rondo Whisperer in Dirk's favorite shooting coach...

Rondo’s unconventional, ineffective shooting stroke certainly represents a challenge. ...

Rondo started shooting with Geschwindner immediately after Nowitzki made the suggestion – a partnership the media got a quick glimpse of after Thursday’s shootaround in Oklahoma City – and continued until Holger packed up his flannel shirts and blue jeans and headed back to Germany on Friday. Rondo plans to continue following the program that Geschwindner, who will return for the playoffs as is his custom, put in place.

... the placement of Rondo’s shooting elbow was not the one point. For Rondo to become a respectable shooter, he will have to drastically alter his form, keeping his elbow straight underneath the ball instead of cocking it at an awkward angle. But that sort of massive mechanical overhaul is best done during the offseason, not midseason.

Geschwindner actually provided Rondo two points of emphasis: the arch of his shot and his footwork follow through.

“Sometimes I land and I’m not straight facing the basket,” Rondo said. “I think you see Dirk do it – he spreads his legs a lot when he shoots so he can stay on line. That [and] the arch on the ball.”

I'm not sure that I agree that a total overhaul of Rondo's shooting is what is needed.   It sounds like maybe Holger is someone who can understand the idea of working with the  natural or even the learned tendencies of an exceptional player.  What is wrong for 99 out of 100 players might be just right for Rondo.  I would emphasize extension, release and arc.  Over and over - extension, release and arc.   And then there is the zen of it.  Throughout his career it's been clear that sometimes Rondo gets the zen of shooting as well as anyone in the game.  Learning to find his way to that zen more often is something that has to take place in Rondo's mind.  I still believe in him.  The shooting we have seen from Rondo this season is a reflection of the confused and upsetting situation he has been in, in my opinion.  The 'real Rondo' may yet emerge.  There are sometimes signs that he is becoming more comfortable in Dallas.   That could bode well.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sullinger's season is done

This was another injury-shortened season for Sullinger. The 22-year-old forward played in only 45 games during his rookie season before a disk issue in his back needed surgery. Sullinger returned to play 74 games last season, battling through various injuries such as a finger injury that affected his shooting at times. Sully was a huge risk when drafted because of his injury problems.

Now, the stress fracture will limit him Jared to 51 games this season. He was the most consistent Celtic, and I felt the Celtic with the brightest future. But now with this recent injury. I question Sully's future as a Celtic, and as an NBA player. The Celtics' playoff chances have taken a blow with Sullinger's injury. Boston is losing its best player, so it's hard to believe that Boston will make the playoffs.

ESPN Boston

Boston Celtics forward Jared Sullinger will miss the remainder of the season with a left metatarsal stress fracture, the team announced Sunday.

He said he felt some discomfort in the foot the day after Boston closed the first half of the season with a win over the Atlanta Hawks on Feb. 11.

Sullinger averaged 14.4 points and 8.1 rebounds in 28.7 minutes per game this season. The uncertainty surrounding Sullinger's rehab from the foot injury also makes it that much harder for Danny Ainge to trade him or maybe to resign him. The Celtics other young big Kelly Olynyk has been out with a sprained ankle since injuring it on Jan. 22 against the Portland Trailblazers. The news is better for Kelly, as he's getting closer to a return. Kelly has also battled through injuries in both his rookie season and his second year.

I still don't see this duo being the future of the Celtics, or at least both. Maybe my point is that both of these players won't carry Boston to banner 18, but they'll be two solid players that could be vital as role players.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Kings shake off early struggles to beat Boston

Boston started out hot Friday night. They started the game with a 16-point lead, but the Kings answered back with a 17-0 run. The game was back and forth for most of the night after the Kings rallied back late in the first quarter. The Kings pulled away in the final minutes of the 4th quarter behind veteran Andre Miller. The Kings beat Boston 109-101 in Sacramento. Avery Bradley finished with a team-high 28 points.

Cousins finished with a game-high 31 points, as Boston falls in the standings for the final playoff spot. Boston played well with a solid 24 assists, on just 11 turnovers. They did have crucial turnovers in the 4th that gave the Kings a comfortable lead in the final minutes. Zeller was solid with 22 points, but he had just 4 rebounds. With the Celtics down to just 10 players because of injuries and the two trades. The Celtics got very little production out of the bench. The bench combined for just 15 points.

The Celtics are now 2 full games out of the 8th spot, with the Pacers, Pistons, and Nets winning. Boston currently sits 12th in the east. The Lakers will play again Sunday when they square off against the Lakers.

-Celtics out rebounded 57-40
-Celtics only shot 40%
-Kings out score Boston 54-38 in the paint

How Bad Can It Get for Rondo?

Rondo's return from his head injury was epic yesterday and pretty much all bad.  He had the worst plus/minus on the team and seemed to earn it, seeming unable to accomplish anything at all on offense for most of the game and then getting torched by Westbrook in the closing minutes, which shut down a possible comeback.  One has to remember that Rondo's injury was severe and his layoff for recovery was as ill-timed as could be, but what a heinous game.  Rondo was hoping to be courted over the summer.  At this rate, he might be well advised not to wait by the phone.

This has been a season from hell for Rondo fans and things look like they are sure to get worse.  That is, every time one thinks to oneself, hopefully, 'gee, this season can't get any worse', it does get worse.  In three years, Rondo has gone from being a guy who was knocking - hard - on the door to superstardom to being a guy who may be knocking on the exit door from the league.  What is the story behind the story?  Fall from grace stories can be even more fascinating than 'how I conquered the world stories', but we may have to wait for riveting details and for he saids she saids.   Rondo is not one to talk and other folks involved are not to be trusted.  I think there are faults on both sides.   One has to speculate, I suppose, if one wants to make sense of it all.  Perhaps it is better not to.

My take is that Rondo, despite his demeanor, is a very emotional player.   I think that in some ways he was probably lucky to come to the Celtics, a team that probably nurtured his unusual talents and overlooked his failings more than a lot of teams might have done.  At the same time, I think that playing for the Celtics has to have been a life of endless mental torture for Rondo because of the way that Danny has kept Rondo twisting on a string, in my opinion.  If you ask me, Danny has severe commitment phobia when it comes to players  (and many fans are disgustingly enthusiastic about his 'stack 'em and pack 'em' philosophy).  Still, even I have to admit to his genius.  He brought in Stevens to build a scrappy team and little by little he has been crafting a kind of dream team for Stevens.

It looks like the Stevens Celtics will be brilliant.   I can't blame fans for rooting for a team that will play hard, scrappy, fluid basketball.  It looks like Celtics ball under Stevens will be a lot like Patriots ball under Belicek.  The names will change but the style of play will remain, and it will be effective.  System ball trumps all.   It's not the kind of ball I care about and it's not the way I would have rebuilt the team.  I think that the Celtics had plenty of material to work with for a bridging approach and in Rondo they had a very natural centerpiece for a new era, someone who was already growing into that role.

In my view,  it all started with the Perkins trade.  This was where Danny started breaking down the team in search of 'assets'.  It was a trade that made no sense for a team in the hunt for a championship, but made a lot of sense for a gm looking to play the assets game.  It seemed evident at the time that Rondo didn't take the Perk trade well.  I believe that was the beginning of the long goodbye between him and the team.  It must have hurt Rondo a lot that Danny traded away Rondo's best friend on the team, but the hurt may have gone deeper.  As I recall it, Danny made  a commitment to a championship run in 2011 and on this basis he got Paul and Ray to sign team-friendly deals, and he got guys like Rondo to leave a lot of blood and guts on the floor.  That was the season that Rondo started out like he was on fire, but soon developed injuries that must have made him feel like he really was on fire - yet he soldiered through them.  How many fans remember the pictures of Rondo swathed in towels and ice packs?  Plantar fascitis was just one of his ills that year, and in my experience, it feels like fire.   Danny's words said one thing and at first, his actions seem to back up his words, but that changed.  Even Doc came out after the season and said that The Trade didn't make sense to him because of its timing.  That may well have been the beginning of the end between him and Ainge.

After that, Danny began to really churn the team, while still talking championship.  In 2012, a resurgent KG and a dominant Rondo almost led the listing Celtics to the finals a third time.  This should have been a wakeup call to Danny that bridging was the right approach, but that summer he continued to churn the team and they entered the next season with a revamped roster and no clear direction.  I think Doc must have realized then that Ainge wasn't going to bridge and that is what caused him to leave. Maybe we will hear more about that some day.  Danny made the big Nets trade on draft day, Stevens was hired and the Big Churn was on.  Rondo?  He began to look like an afterthought.  Rondo fans tried to believe that it wasn't the way it looked, but time showed us that the situation was what it looked like.  

Today had to have been a tough day for Rondo.  Not only was he coming back from an appalling headshot, but he surely must have taken a pretty hard heart shot when he heard about Danny's trade deadline moves, which basically confirmed that Danny has been looking past Rondo for a long time.  Presumably Rondo has been looking past the Cs too for a long time.  He could surely read the writing on the wall.  But to see Danny pull in Isaiah Thomas, the first guy he called during free agency over the summer - well that speaks volumes.  It must have hurt even someone as stoic as Rondo seems to be.

Will the downwards spiral of Rondo's career continue?  It looks like it will.  He looked yesterday like a man who has virtually given up, if you ask me.  I think the talent is still there, on both ends of the floor.  For example, several times last night Rondo attacked the paint and got right into the heart of the defense, but then, after missing his first layup attempt, which had a high degree of difficulty (but which he made  a really good play on except that the ball didn't quite fall), Rondo seemed to give up on himself, passing out to the perimeter each time he got deep into the paint.  It was sad to watch.  Also sad to watch was Rondo's terrible shooting.  My feeling is that the various shot doctors Rondo has worked with may be taking the wrong approach.  They may be trying to turn Rondo into  a classical shooter when he really should develop his own style.  I think the key for Rondo is high arc, but it looks to me like the emphasis is always on correcting his delivery.  Sometimes, though, a player should just do it there way.   Classic form is a great thing, but since when is basketball a cookie cutter game?  And then at the end of the game, when the Mavs seemed to have one last chance to get back into it, Rondo apparently got carved up by Westbrook.  By then I had stopped watching and was listening.  

I knew last night's game was over after one minute of play.  You could see that the difference in energy and chemistry between the two teams was impossible to overcome.  Still, I watched the first half and part of the second.  Things look so bad.  Monta and Rondo barely play on the same team.  Dirk and Rondo have a good feel for each other, enough that it reminds me of Rondo and KG, but the key in 2012 was the way Rondo and KG started playing off each other in a two man game that worked brilliantly in the stretch run.  Nothing like that seems to be coming to the fore in Dallas.   The offense seems completely disjointed.  The Dallas defense can be stout when called upon, but the offense is just in tatters.  It's looking very much like Rondo will have to move on.  Do he and Ellis even know each other's names?

As hopeless as things look for Rondo and the Mavs, I think Rondo's problems are in his head and heart.  Physical healing is important, but sometimes healing the way you think and feel is even more important.  Rondo is missing shots he can make and passing up scoring chances that he could feast on.  He's done a really good job, for the most part, of lifting up his defensive game, but even that seems to falter when he feels discouraged.  The talents is still there.  It looks like some sort of breakthrough inside is needed.  It would be great to see Rondo rise again as the most imaginative and creative player in the league...