Posted on: May 1, 2009 1:59 am
Edited on: May 1, 2009 3:18 am
CHICAGO -- It had all the potential to be the ugliest incident in this physical, tense series. The Celtics' Rajon Rondo, already at the center of a controversy stemming from his blow to Brad Miller's head at the end of Game 5, got tangled up with Kirk Hinrich while trying to rebound Stephon Marbury's errant 3-pointer with 28 seconds left in the first quarter Thursday night.
Rondo threw Hinrich into the scorer's table, one of those "wanton acts of violence" commissioner David Stern is always talking about. Hinrich, tough as nails, popped up and bolted toward Rondo. With his arms close to his chest, Hinrich shoved Rondo, who appeared to raise his right arm or elbow in an attempt to swing at Hinrich. He never connected, either because he thought better of it or because referee Ed Mallory had grabbed his arm. We won't know Rondo's take until Saturday; he was the last player out of the showers in the Celtics' locker room and did not speak with reporters.
"I was just boxing him out and he tried to throw me to the side," Hinrich said. "I pushed him, so I guess they looked at it and gave him a flagrant and gave me a technical. I just shoved him."
Crew chief Joe Crawford reviewed the replay and assessed a flagrant foul, penalty one to Rondo and a technical foul to Hinrich. A flagrant two would've resulted in an automatic ejection and a Celtics loss that wouldn't have taken three overtimes. Rondo had 19 assists and no turnovers in the Bulls' 128-127 victory, and he was pivotal in the Celtics' 23-3 run that began when he subbed back into the game with Ray Allen with 10:16 left in the fourth.
Hinrich said Rondo didn't punch him, but it will be another busy day at the league office sorting out this incident. No suspensions are expected, largely because both players stopped their aggression after the initial collision and took no escalating action.
"It’s playoff basketball and you're going to have run-ins like that and it happens," Hinrich said. "... I kind of shoved him and then I don’t know who stepped between us. I'd have to look at it. It kind of happened real fast. I don’t think he threw a punch at me. It’s one of those things where you get caught up in the moment and you try to catch yourself and bring yourself back down."
Posted on: April 28, 2009 4:10 pm
Edited on: April 28, 2009 6:53 pm
BOSTON -- As if the Celtics-Bulls series wasn't already good enough, now it has the final ingredient: a good old fashioned referee conspiracy.
The Boston Herald and Boston Globe both reported Monday that two of the three referees who officiated Game 4 in Chicago are Chicago natives who were seen leaving United Center with family members clad in Bulls gear. The two refs in question were Dan Crawford and Marc Davis. The third officlal, Bill Kennedy, was involved in an incident with Celtics coach Doc Rivers during the team's St. Patrick's Day game. Kennedy ejected Rivers during the March 17 game, and both were subsequently fined.
A couple of problems: After the NBA's extensive and unprecedented efforts to clean up its officiating and hold referees to the highest standards of conduct in the wake of the Tim Donaghy scandal, are we really going to hold them accountable for what kind of clothing their family members wear? Am I biased because one of my sons wears a Dwyane Wade jersey and the other one prefers LeBron James? And finally, there was only one questionable call in Game 4, the block-charge call that was missed on the Celtics' Brian Scalabrine. One key element that is required for a referee conspiracy would be blown calls.
Heading over to Game 5 now. The Bulls' Ben Gordon is questionable with a strained hamstring and says it'll be his call on whether he plays. I suppose that means he will.
UPDATE: Gordon said an hour before tipoff that he's "50-50," but coach Vinny Del Negro spoke before the game as if Gordon was going to play. He's still officially a game-time decision.
As for the officials, the NBA moved to tamp down any brewing controversy in this series -- and others -- by fining Rivers, Rockets coach Rick Adelman, and Portland coach Nate McMillan $25,00 each -- and their teams $25,000 each -- for criticizing the officials. Between Games 4 and 5, Rivers lobbied for moving screen calls against the Bulls' Brad Miller, who fouled out of Game 4. He also said Kendrick Perkins has been targeted on illegal screen calls.
"Ah, that's a waste of time," Del Negro said before Game 5. "I don't think Brad's fast enough to set an illegal screen. Plus, he was on the bench (with six fouls). So I don't know how much sense that makes."
Posted on: April 21, 2009 2:27 pm
In the visiting locker room before Game 1 in Boston, the Bulls' Luol Deng mentioned something interesting that comes to mind now with word that Leon Powe is out for the year with a torn knee ligament.
The morning after John Salmons tweaked his groin in late March, Deng rushed to the practice court to test the stress fracture in his leg to see if there was any chance of an accelerated comeback. With the Bulls in a tight playoff race, Deng felt an extra sense of urgency to get back on the court and "give it a go," he said.
"The next day," Deng added, "I had a huge setback."
So the strategy didn't work. But that doesn't mean it can't be tried again. Not by Deng, but by one Kevin Garnett.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers has made it abundantly clear that Garnett will not play in these playoffs and that he's not entertaining any more questions about it. That doesn't mean the story -- or Garnett's desire to return -- will go away.
Garnett's every move is under close scrutiny, as evidenced by this story Sunday in the Boston Herald describing a surprise appearance by Garnett on the Celtics' practice court in workout clothes. Clearly, Garnett is continuing to test his knee in an attempt -- however futile -- to rejoin his team and avert a first-round series loss to the Baby Bulls.
The Celtics can't do this without Garnett, much less without Garnett and Powe, a key reserve in their title run last year. So based on how Deng and other injured players are known to react when more teammates get injured, I'd say it's a pretty safe bet that Garnett will kick it up a notch in his effort to return.
It might not work, and Rivers might not want to talk about it. But that doesn't mean it can't be tried.
Posted on: April 21, 2009 12:18 am
BOSTON -- Rajon Rondo sought out Doc Rivers before Game 2 of the Celtics' first-round series against the Bulls Monday night. He had more questions on his mind than the inquiring minds who've been quizzing Rivers about Kevin Garnett's knee.
"What do you need me to do?" Rivers said Rondo asked him. "What can I do defensively? What should I do offensively? Am I dribbling too much? Am I not getting the ball to Ray? Am I not getting the ball to Paul? Are we not posting enough?"
"They were great questions," Rivers said. "They were terrific questions. He’s a student of the game, and I love when he does that. We communicate a lot like that. It was just, in my mind, so many (questions) that we needed to free his mind. Hell, there’s no way I could have played with all those freakin' questions in my head. And I screwed it up by giving him answers."
Rivers walked away from his pep talk with Rondo and was worried that he'd made the situation worse by entertaining his point guard's inquiring mind. A point guard can't be asking questions before the most important game of the season. He has to just play.
"So when I walked into the locker room, I told Rondo that he had the keys to the team and just go play and stop asking me questions," Rivers said. "Just go play. This is your team; go play. I thought that first seven minutes was the best I've ever seen him play."
We will remember the last 4 1-2 minutes of the Celtics' 118-115 victory over the Bulls, which tied their first-round series at 1-1 heading to Chicago. How could you forget the last 47 seconds, with two crazy jumpers by Ben Gordon and two equally crazy 3-pointers by Allen -- including the game-winner with two seconds left?
Who knew Rondo's psyche was even more damaged than anyone thought after what rookie Derrick Rose did to him in Game 1?
Rondo put the doubts and questions aside and came out relentlessly and fearlessly attacking the basket, as if sending a message to Rose. It didn't hurt that Rose picked up two fouls in the first 3:11. When I looked at the stats at the 7:27 mark of the first quarter, it was 18-6 Boston. The Celtics were 8-for 14 from the field, while the Bulls were 2-for-7. What jumped out was that the Celtics had gotten off twice as many shots. That was all Rondo.
"We had a play drawn up to start the game," Rivers said. "We never got to it until six minutes into the first quarter, because every basket was a transition basket – make or miss. And that’s how we want to play."
When you looked at the box score when it was over, you realized that both teams shot 50 percent. But the Celtics had 96 field-goal attempts to the Bulls' 80. And you remember that the first 4 1-2 minutes were just as important as the last 4 1-2 minutes. Just not as memorable.
Posted on: April 20, 2009 1:56 pm
Here I am at LaGuardia's Marine Air Terminal, killing a few minutes before heading up to Boston for a very critical Game 2 for the defending champion Celtics. If you were following me on Twitter, you'd already know that. If, on the other hand, you have a life ...
Anyway, a canceled flight has given me a chance to bring you a bonus, pre-game version of Buzzer Beaters. Buzzer Beaters 2.0 will arrive after Monday night's games.
What do the Celtics need to do Monday night to keep their slim repeat hopes alive? Much more than slow down Derrick Rose. Obviously, they're going to need more than 1-for-12 shooting from Ray Allen, and they're going to need more than 8-for-21 shooting from Paul Pierce. More important than all of that is the rebounding factor. KG or no KG, the Celtics cannot get outrebounded like this (53-45 in Game 1) on a consistent basis and expect to win this series. Rose hurt them the most with his timely baskets and fearless penetration. But you can argue that after Rose, Joakim Noah's 17 rebounds were the biggest factor that doomed the Celtics.
Ball movement -- or lack of it -- is the other one. Sixteen assists on 39 field goals? That's not going to cut it, whether the Celtics are playing Rose's Bulls or Jordan's Bulls. (Monday night, by the way, is the 23rd anniversary of MJ's 63-point playoff performance against the Celtics.)
The other game Monday night is every bit as intriguing and just as important for the home team. The Spurs' reconfigured bench kept them afloat for much of this season when Manu Ginobili has been out. It needs to deliver in Game 2 and not get run off the court by J.J. Barea, Brandon Bass, and Jason Terry. All these Game 1 road upsets have illustrated to all of us how little we know. That educuation would be furthered if the proud, veteran, playoff-tested Spurs and Celtics take another one on the chin. The numbers would suggest that the Spurs are in more trouble than the Celtics. Boston can write off Game 1 to simply being unable to win when your two top scorers shoot 9-for-33. But the Spurs got outstanding games from Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, made 11 of 14 3-pointers, and got Michael Finley's highest scoring game in more than five weeks (19 points). Yeesh. Mark Cuban will be Tweeting his brains out if the Mavs win this one.
Posted on: April 18, 2009 12:03 pm
BOSTON -- With all the focus on Kevin Garnett, there's been barely a mention of another key player missing the Bulls-Celtics series. But Luol Deng said Saturday he may be able to return in some capacity if Chicago advances to the second round.
"In my mind, yes," Deng said in the visiting locker room before the Bulls and Celtics opened their best-of-seven series. "I don't know what the doctors will say, but I feel like I could hopefully do something."
Deng has been out since the end of February with a stress fracture in his right leg. He revealed Saturday that an MRI this week showed the fracture is about halfway healed.
"It's leading in the right direction," Deng said. "It could be a month. It could be longer. I could be OK in two weeks."
Unlike Garnett, who is averse to sitting on the bench when he can't play, Deng said he's OK with it. Garnett, too, told Celtics coach Doc Rivers he'd make an exception and join his teammates on the bench.
"I know Garnett is very intense," Deng said. "I can sit on the bench. It's tough, but I'm fine sitting on the bench."
Rivers and the Celtics were still wrestling with a more serious, off-the-court health situation as they prepared to open their title defense. Team president Danny Ainge was continuing to rest comfortable in Massachusetts General Hospital after suffering a mild heart attack Thursday.
"He told me I've got to start eating better and exercising more, because I have more stress than him," Rivers said. "I told him he's stressing about me stressing. And to relax."
Posted on: April 16, 2009 6:31 pm
Edited on: April 16, 2009 7:06 pm
Celtics president Danny Ainge is recovering at a Boston hospital after suffering a minor heart attack Thursday. He is "recovering nicely" at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he is expected to be hospitalized for several days, according to a statement released by the team.
Ainge, 50, a member of two NBA championship teams with the Celtics and their general manager since 2003, will miss at least Game 1 of the Celtics-Bulls series when the Boston opens its title defnse on Saturday. He's the architect of the Celtics team that won its 17th championship last season, having pulled off blockbuster trades for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.
I know there's someone out there thinking that Thursday's news about Garnett did this to Ainge. Don't go there. It's times like these when we all realize there are things bigger than sports. Speedy recovery, Danny.
Posted on: April 16, 2009 2:52 pm
Well, the WEEI website has survived the onslaught of distraught Celtics fans who must've crashed it upon hearing the news about Kevin Garnett this morning. Here's a link to the entire transcript of Doc Rivers' interview with the station Thursday morning. Notice that Doc is adamant that he "thinks" Garnett is out for the entire postseason, but carefully couches his comments by saying, "I don't know that for a fact yet." Doc also sprinkles in other gems like the following:
"I mean, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t keep getting treatment and see where he can go. But I mean, there’s no way he can play."
Rivers said pretty much the same stuff after practice Thursday, according to a transcript provided by the Celtics' PR department.
"He’s out. I think he’s out," Rivers said. "It’s not official if he’s out for the entire playoffs, but it's official as far as I’m concerned. ... I think for the playoffs. Listen, he looked better last week than he did today. Obviously, out of left field, honestly, but it is what it is. He’s obviously done everything he could do to get back on the floor to the point where I was convinced he was going to be back on the floor. I was convinced there wasn’t going to be a minute limitation, but there’s no way, just no way.
“After two steps, it didn’t take long," Rivers said. "... I mean, he ran more than that but, it was just ridiculous to watch. I was surprised because I saw him run last week and he looked great. That just told you that this wasn’t heading the right direction. They’re still going to do treatment and they’re going to treat him and try to get him back as soon as they can get him back. Just common sense -- if it hasn’t healed yet, it’s not going to heal.”
Asked what the tipping point for him was, Rivers said, "Just couldn’t run. And you saw his face and you saw him trying to mask like there was no pain, which he couldn’t do that. Honestly, when we shut him down he was frustrated and upset about it but he stopped immediately. That told you all you need to know.”
Rivers also said Garnett will need surgery to remove a bone spur from his right knee that is unrelated to the tendon injury that is keeping him out of the playoffs. The Celtics have asked Garnett to sit on the bench for support during the first-round series against Chicago that begins Saturday in Boston. Garnett typically has not sat with his teammates when injured.
Now, I have to provide this caveat before I say any more: After the season, I will be attending rehab specially designed for those susceptible to conspiracy theories. But hear me out: Is there any chance Rivers is pulling our legs? (No pun intended.)
Garnett's injury has been odd from the beginning, and his aborted, four-game comeback was strange, too. After looking good in running drills only a week ago, it's weird again that the injury took such a dramatic turn for the worse two days before the playoffs. All I'm saying is this: Pay attention to how careful Rivers was with his words. And remember that the conference finals -- if the Celtics can somehow manage to make it there without Garnett -- don't start for another month.
Something tells me we haven't heard the end of this story yet.