Posted on: April 18, 2010 10:26 pm
As I mentioned Saturday night, I'm a little surprised Kevin Garnett got suspended for his elbow to Quentin Richardson's head in Game 1 of the Heat-Celtics Series. Surprised, but not outraged.
Of all the factors I mentioned in trying to predict whether the league would suspend Garnett, the one that probably made the difference was the fact that Garnett's elbow was not thrown during the regular course of play. In other words, KG didn't inadvertently clip Q-Rich with an elbow while going for a rebound or contesting a shot. The league takes a more severe stance on extracurricular violence, and Garnett's outburst as he stood over injured teammate Paul Pierce certainly fell into that category.
In any event, the Celtics have no grounds to whine about this one. Garnett's bark has been bigger than his bite for more than a year, and this time he took a bite out of the Celtics' chances of winning this series. The fact that Garnett will miss Game 2 in Boston puts the Celtics in serious jeopardy of squandering home-court advantage. There's no one to blame but Garnett for that.
As much as I laughed upon learning that Richardson had called Garnett and Pierce "actresses" for their histrionics on the play in question, this is no laughing matter for the Celtics. They won Game 1 with stifling defense, keeping Dwyane Wade from beating them off the dribble for long stretches in the second half. I guess we'll find out how big a part of that Garnett was. My first reaction is that Wade will be more aggressive getting to the rim with the knowledge that Garnett won't be there waiting there for him.
But let's not forget this: The Celtics beat the Bulls in an epic first-round series without Garnett last year, and pushed Orlando to seven games without him, too. This is a team that knows how to overcome setbacks like this. They didn't win their 17th title two years ago for no good reason.
It's sort of funny that the player Boston will be relying on to step in for hothead Garnett is another renowned hothead, Rasheed Wallace. The recruiting visit that Doc Rivers, Danny Ainge, and the Big Three made to persuade Sheed to sign with them last summer never looked so important.
Posted on: April 18, 2010 12:18 am
The story of Game 1 of the Heat-Celtics first-round series should have been the way Boston stifled Dwyane Wade in the second half and found the defensive dominance that led them to the 2008 title. The Celtics were back Saturday night -- until Kevin Garnett's elbow got in the way, twice, with 39 seconds left.
Now, the question is a legitimate one: Will KG be suspended for Game 2?
Another question is, should he be?
Taking all the usual factors into consideration, I think the answers are no, and no. But after beating the Heat 85-76 to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-7 series, these are questions the Celtics shouldn't have to be contemplating.
You've seen the replays by now, and if nothing else, it should be clear that this was just an example of Garnett's typical bluster and machismo going too far. Hindered by a leg injury and all that mileage, Garnett has become a caricature of himself -- a woofing, cussing, emotional tinder box that on Saturday night kindled a fire that couldn't have been more unnecessary.
Anyone who knows Quentin Richardson -- and Garnett should know him by now, Q-Rich has been in the NBA for nine years -- would know that he approached the sideline in front of the Miami bench strictly out of concern for fallen Celtic Paul Pierce. As Pierce lay writhing in pain after sustaining a stinger on his right shoulder, Richardson immediately walked over to check on him.
"I just thought Q was standing over him talking some nonsense," Garnett said afterward.
KG, taking issue with somebody talking nonsense? Please.
Garnett immediately shoved Richardson out of the way, a course of action with which Richardson, to no one's surprise, took issue. Talking and jostling ensued, and things escalated into a full-scale shoving match immediately after Garnett connected with a vicious elbow to Richardson's face.
Garnett was assessed two technical fouls -- one for the initial shove and the talking, and a second for the elbow -- and was ejected. The issue now is whether the league office will/should take further action against the Celtics' big mouthed big man.
A few factors to consider: No one other than Pierce was injured in the fracas. The benches didn't clear, although it was difficult to determine what was going on with the Miami bench since Pierce had fallen into it. No punches were thrown, as far as I could see on the various replays.
It would be perfectly reasonable for league disciplinary czar Stu Jackson to conclude that the only harm in this situation was punished by the game officials, who dealt with Garnett appropriately after viewing the replays. But there are a couple of things I'd be concerned about if I were Doc Rivers or Danny Ainge: The league often considers whether contact is "unnecessary" or "excessive," and whether there is a windup before contact was made. Garnett's second elbow could reasonably fit all three criteria.
It also satisfied another definition of conduct that often is punished further by the league office: It escalated a tense situation into something else -- a full-fledged shoving match that easily could have resulted in punches being thrown.
The fact that it didn't result in punches being thrown is good for the Celtics. But the fact that it could have, I think, means that the next 18 hours or so will be accompanied by the appropriate amount of nervousness in New England.
All things considered, I don't think Garnett will be or should be suspended for Game 2. But if he is, I wouldn't object. And Garnett would only have himself to blame.
Posted on: April 4, 2010 1:34 pm
Edited on: April 4, 2010 2:19 pm
BOSTON -- The video of Andrew Bogut's horrific arm injury was bad enough. The specter of a late-season injury to their own teams was enough to make stomachs turn Sunday at TD Bank Garden.
Ray Allen, a former Buck who had been preparing for possibly facing his former team in the playoffs, said, "This is a tough time of the year because they are making playoff plans, selling playoff tickets and they’re right there in the hunt. I think every coach dreads that."
Rivers was adamant -- and I agree -- that Bogut was not the victim of a dirty play. Running out for a court-length pass and breakaway dunk Saturday night against the Suns, Bogut dunked ahead of Amar'e Stoudemire and tried to hang on the rim in an effort to protect himself and Stoudemire.
"If he could've hung onto the rim long enough to get his feet back, he wouldn't have been injured," LeBron James said. "Just a freak accident."
There was no significant contact from Stoudemire, who may have had a hand on Bogut as he went up -- if that. The issue was that as he tried to protect himself by grabbing the rim, Bogut lost his grip and tried to brace the fall with his right arm, which bent catastrophically beneath his entire body weight.
And with it, the Bucks' aspirations of going deep in the playoffs crumpled, too.
Posted on: February 7, 2010 6:32 pm
Few grand conclusions can be drawn from February NBA games. But in this case, the Celtics' latest disappointing loss only underscored what has been a poorly kept secret among NBA executives for weeks: Ray Allen's time in Boston is likely coming to an end.
If the Celtics kept Allen and let his contract come off the books, they'd still be over the cap this summer with no avenues besides sign-and-trades to acquire a starting shooting guard. That's why Boston also has expressed interest in the Bulls' Kirk Hinrich, an excellent defender and ball-handler who would give the Celtics a starting two guard next season at $9 million and in 2011-12 at $8 million. The Bulls' motivation would be cap relief.
The Kings, who are not planning to be big free-agent shoppers this summer, aren't seeking to acquire cap space alone. They want assets -- and the Celtics don't have a young big man to offer. The Bulls, who almost certainly will move Tyrus Thomas, might need to be invited into that conversation to satisfy everyone's needs.
Whatever avenue they pursue, the Celtics don't want to go into this summer with no cap flexibility and no assets that could be used to keep them among the elite. Before Ainge struck the 2007 draft-related deal for Allen and then plucked Garnett from Minnesota with the help of former teammate Kevin McHale, the Celtics had just endured a 24-win season and hadn't been out of the first round since 2002-03. Ainge and Doc Rivers were on the brink of getting fired until the perfect remedy presented itself -- and the Celtics parlayed the Allen and Garnett deals into their 17th NBA title.
"Kevin McHale's out of the league," one rival executive said, only half-joking. "So they're not going to be able to recreate that deal again."
The period leading up to that was so grim that nobody in the organization wants to revisit it. The best way to avoid such a scenario would be to part ways with Allen. It wouldn't be starting over. Instead, it would be a bold attempt to have a chance against Cleveland, Orlando, and Atlanta in the playoffs and avoid going back to the depths of rebuilding.
Posted on: February 2, 2010 9:57 pm
The Celtics got positive news about one of their aging stars Tuesday night when tests revealed that Paul Pierce has a strained left foot -- not a broken one -- and is day-to-day.
Amid fears that the most productive member of the struggling Big Three might have a broken bone in the foot after colliding with the Wizards' Caron Butler when diving for a loose ball Monday night, the tests revealed a mid-foot strain. The Celtics didn't call it a sprain, although that's typically how this type of injury is classified.
In any event, it was far from the worst-case scenario for Boston, which has lost six of nine -- including three straight to Orlando, Atlanta, and the Lakers.
Posted on: February 1, 2010 4:34 pm
Edited on: February 1, 2010 4:37 pm
January is the month when NBA teams start figuring out what they are. The feeling-out period of November and December gives way a time when night-to-night performance dictates the tweaks that are needed at the trade deadline.
Based on the standings as we sit here on Feb. 1, there are nine teams legitimately in the Eastern Conference playoff picture (the line is drawn at the Knicks, who enter the month six games out of the eighth spot). In the West, 11 teams are strong playoff contenders (drawing the line at the Clippers, who are six games out of eighth). Of those 20 teams, which ones performed the best and the worst in the month of January, and why?
The “who” is easy. For the “why,” we need some statistical analysis. And for that, we turn to adjusted plus/minus expert Wayne Winston. In his blog, Winston opines on all 30 teams and why they performed the way they did in the month of January. Let’s break out Winston’s analysis of the playoff contenders with the five best and five worst records last month:
(To review, adjusted plus/minus tells you how many points better or worse a team would perform if a given player were paired with four average players against five average players. For example, LeBron James’ was plus-21 in January, meaning his team was 21 points better than average when adjusted for whom LeBron was playing with and against.)
1. Cleveland (12-3): It’s all about Shaquille O’Neal, whose adjusted plus/minus through December was minus-4 but in January was plus-4.
1. (t)Denver (12-3): Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups are overrated, according to Winston. Nene and Chris “Birdman” Andersen each had a plus-23 rating in January.
3. Charlotte (12-4): The Bobcats’ success can be attributed to Gerald Wallace (plus-15), Flip Murray (plus-11), and Stephen Jackson (plus-8).
4. Utah (10-4): Deron Williams registered a plus-17, but Andre Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer, and Kyle Korver all were plus-10 or better, too.
5. New Orleans (12-5): Chris Paul (plus-8) and Marcus Thornton (plus-9) combined to form an effective starting backcourt – a plan that will have to be adjusted with Paul out indefinitely due to a left knee injury requiring surgery. Darren Collison, you’re up ...
5. (t) Lakers (12-5): Winston says Ron Artest (minus-1) has been fading steadily since his Christmas night fall and unrelated foot ailments. Remarkably, his system credits Sasha Vujacic with a plus-16 – same as Kobe.
1. Houston (5-9): David Andersen (plus-7) has been helpful. Chuck Hayes (minus-9), not so much.
2. Boston (6-8): The main culprit, as you might expect, has been Kevin Garnett (minus-11), whose offensive rating was even worse than his overall adjusted plus/minus (minus-21). Glen “Don’t Call Me Big Baby” Davis also struggled (minus-14).
3. Phoenix (7-9): Channing Frye’s rating went from plus-13 through December to plus-2 in January. Amar’e Stoudemire, Jason Richardson, Grant Hill, Goran Dragic, and Louis Amundson all hovered between minus-9 and minus-11. Robin Lopez was plus-9.
4. Portland (7-8): Nicolas Batum (plus-16), Andre Miller (plus-13), Martell Webster (plus-13), and Jerryd Bayless (plus-10) kept the Blazers afloat. But they need a big man in the worst way, as Juwan Howard (minus-18) and Jeff Pendergraph (minus-14) killed them.
5. Miami (8-9): Rafer Alston (minus-14) hasn’t solved the Heat’s point guard woes. Dorell Wright (plus-11) was solid.
No single statistical method is the be-all, end-all for evaluating a team’s performance. Depending on which front office you’re talking to, you’ll get different accounts of which data are most meaningful. But these numbers shed some light on some common beliefs about what certain contenders need to add or subtract before the Feb. 18 trade deadline. In Denver’s case, the performance of Nene and Birdman seemed to debunk the notion that the Nuggets desperately need to acquire a big man. In Portland’s case, the data proves that the Blazers need an upgrade in the frontcourt.
The Celtics? They need Garnett to be as healthy and dominant as he was two years ago. (Don’t hold your breath.) Do the Jazz need to trade Boozer? If they want to get under the luxury tax they do, but not if they want to continue playing their best basketball of the season.
Which team that’s currently a long shot to make the playoffs had the best January? That would be the Bucks, who went 8-7 in January – better than six teams currently in the hunt. The Bucks are an aberration to Winston, as well, because all he could come up with to explain their success was Charlie Bell’s plus-10 rating in January. It’s an imperfect system that nonetheless provides some interesting stuff to think about as we close in on Feb. 18.
Posted on: January 28, 2010 11:22 pm
What did we learn from the Magic-Celtics game Thursday night -- a late-January game with little significance in the standings?
We learned that we want some more Magic-Celtics drama in the playoffs. Here's hoping we get some.
There was Jameer Nelson taking out his All-Star snub on Rajon Rondo early in the game, followed by Rondo proving why he's a first-time All-Star with a steal and key basket late in the fourth. There were J.J. Redick and Paul Pierce exchanging 3-pointers, followed by Rashard Lewis bursting past a limping Kevin Garnett for the go-ahead basket with 1.3 seconds left.
This game had it all, the way an Orlando-Boston playoff series would have it all once again. You had the Magic coming back from a 16-point deficit, then defending the final inbounds play so Rondo couldn't get the ball to Allen or Paul Pierce, but instead got it to Rasheed Wallace, whose buzzer-beating 3-point attempt for the win was off.
You had Garnett, clearly not himself, dragging his bum leg around to the tune of six points on 2-for-8 shooting in 33 minutes, and Vince Carter continuing to struggle in his role with 2-for-13 shooting and six points.
My instinct at this early point in the journey? The Magic can and will survive Carter's inconsistency because they're so deep and versatile. Stan Van Gundy has more lineups than Craig Sager has suits. The Celtics are a different story. They're a team built on defense first, and Garnett isn't close to being right. The Magic can get by with Carter having an off shooting night, and they can get by if they jack a few too many threes. They can get by with Jason Williams running the point and with Dwight Howard missing free throws.
The Celtics can't get by without a healthy, impactful Garnett. There would be nothing better than Garnett getting back to some semblance of himself, because the Celtics and Magic in a seven-game playoff series in May would be just about as good as it gets.
They meet again a week from Sunday in Boston, their final head-to-head matchup of the regular season. These two teams can't play each other enough, as far as I'm concerned.
Posted on: January 13, 2010 9:15 pm
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It’s time to call the fans’ All-Star voting what it is: A joke.
Ray Allen did Wednesday night, and I couldn’t agree more.
“I think the fan voting is watered down,” the Celtics star said before Boston played the Nets. “I like the fact that the fans get the opportunity to vote and pick who they’d like to see in the All-Star game. But I don’t think it should be 100 percent.”
Allen, currently fourth among Eastern Conference guards (Allen Iverson is second), said the he favors a system like the one used to selected players to the NFL’s Pro Bowl. In the NFL, votes are split in thirds among players, coaches and fans. Such an arrangement would avoid embarrassments like the one currently under way involving Tracy McGrady, who is second to Kobe Bryant among Western Conference guards even though he isn’t playing for the Rockets.
“The commissioner should put some type of rule in place like you have to play at least so many games to be eligible for the All-Star Game,” Allen said. “Because once you put all the ballots out, you can’t really retrieve them. If Tracy played, I’m sure he’d play well enough to be an All-Star player because he’s done that in his career. But again, that’s taking away from another player in the Western Conference who’s having a good year and has been playing and deserves to be in there.”
The commissioner, in case you haven’t heard, has other problems to deal with at the moment. But while the sanctity of All-Star appearances doesn’t rise to the level of firearms in the locker room, it’s something that will have to be addressed.
The NBA has been on the cutting edge of fan engagement with games available live online, unique content for its 1.7 million Twitter followers, and All-Star voting online and via text messaging. Not to come across as the ugly American, but it’s pretty clear that the expansion of voting globally has skewed the results – and not in a fair or good way.
On Wednesday, the league announced that fans would choose a participant in the All-Star slam dunk contest by voting electronically during a two-player dunk-off at halftime of the Rookie Challenge on Friday night of All-Star weekend.
That’s OK. It’s a dunk contest. But All-Star appearances and starts are still viewed as legitimate accomplishments in a player’s career, and are often cited when a player is inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. If McGrady is voted in as a starter, it’s time to re-evaluate the importance of All-Star appearances, the voting procedure, or both.
Allen said he’d give the fan voting 50 percent of the weight, the players 25 percent, and the media 25 percent in determining the All-Star starters. Coaches would retain the authority to pick the reserves under Allen’s plan
“The players will truthfully know who’s had a truly great first half of the season,” Allen said. “You would have five guys starting for the All-Star team regardless of hype or highlight. You just get guys that had the best first half of the season. … You guy should have a say-so. You’re obviously watching games night in and night out. The players are the ones scouting each other and they know exactly who is beating them every night and who they’re watching on film. So they see everything.”
More than the 746,625 fans who've voted for McGrady, anyway.