Tag:Kevin Garnett
Posted on: May 2, 2011 4:32 pm
Edited on: May 2, 2011 6:42 pm
 

Pierce OK for Game 2; will Celts respond?

MIAMI -- Paul Pierce will not face further disciplinary action for his altercation with James Jones in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, a league source confirmed Monday to CBSSports.com. Whether the rest of the Celtics will show up with him for Game 2 against the Heat remains to be seen.

After reviewing the incident that resulted in the first of Pierce's two technical fouls in Miami's 99-90 victory in Game 1, league officials decided Pierce's actions did not warrant a fine or suspension. Before practicing Monday at the University of Miami, Pierce said he was "definitely worried" about how the league would view the incident, but the Celtics clearly have more problems to worry about as they try to avoid falling behind 0-2 in a playoff series for the first time in the Big Three era.

"I was surprised at getting kicked out, yeah," Pierce said. "I didn’t think what I did warranted an ejection. But sometimes, players get caught in the heat of the game and sometimes the refs do, too."

Pierce and Jones received technicals after Jones wrapped Pierce up as the Celtics star pump-faked him into the air with 7:59 left Sunday. Pierce and Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Monday they believed that play, as well as a later altercation between Dwyane Wade and Pierce, should have resulted in flagrant fouls on the Heat. 

Instead, Pierce was assessed his second technical foul after Wade tried to run through him on a screen with 7:00 left. Referee Ed Malloy gave Pierce a technical, and crew chief Dan Crawford explained after the game that Pierce received it -- and the accompanying automatic ejection -- for a "verbal taunt." 

UPDATE: After reviewing the incidents Monday, NBA officials rescinded Jones' flagrant foul from the Pierce incident but charged him with a flagrant foul, penalty-one for striking Pierce around the neck. In addition, the league office downgraded Jermaine O'Neal's flagrant-one with 2:30 left in the third quarter to a personal foul. The call was devastating to the Celtics, resulting in a five-point swing when Jones made both free throws and Mike Bibby added a 3-pointer that gave the heata 72-58 lead.

While Rivers disagreed with the explanations given by Crawford after the game, he expertly turned the tables on his team Monday -- essentially taunting his players for allowing the Heat to dictate everything in Game 1, including the physical tone and an aggressive defensive posture that forced the Celtics into a timid, impatient offensive approach.

"Miami wants to show us they’re physical," Rivers said. "That’s cool with us. And we just want to play the way we play. I honestly don’t know if that’s physical or not. That’s for everyone else to say. But at the end of the day, they’re going to play their style, we’re going to play our style, and somebody’s style is going to win."

This is the fourth time the Celtics have trailed 1-0 in a playoff series during the Big Three era; they've yet to lose a Game 2. In 2009, Boston lost Game 1 of the conference semifinals to Orlando at home and lost the series in seven games. The other two instances came on the road during the 2010 playoffs: against the Cavaliers in the conference semis (Boston won the series in six games) and in the NBA Finals against the Lakers (Boston lost the series in seven).

"This is the first time we’ve been in the playoffs with this team," Rajon Rondo said. "It’s different. Obviously, the Big Three have been here. But it’s only five guys now -- myself and Baby (Glen Davis) -- and everyone else hasn’t been in a playoff series with them. So it’s a different team. But we’re confident that we can win Game 2."

How do the Celtics avoid falling behind 0-2 for the first time since Pierce teamed with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in 2007? Five things:

1) Listen to Rivers and be the aggressor: Rivers has such a good feel for the personality of his team, and he knows how insulted his players will be when hearing him belabor the point about how Miami dictated the physical tone in Game 1. Look for the Celtics to come out much more assertively at the start. This means A) clean but hard screens and fouls from the get-go from the Celtics, and B) the officials will have their hands full even more than in Game 1. If you thought that was physical, chippy, cheap, or whatever, just wait until Tuesday night.

2) Channel the aggression into better execution: It's not enough to be aggressive. It has to come with a plan. Rivers has needled his players in recent days by publicly stating again and again how much more athletic the Heat are, saying at one point that if this were an Olympics, Miami would win. That may be true, but this is a basketball game. Rondo has to be in attack mode, but under control and with a purpose. He also has to limit his turnovers; he had five of Boston's 13 in Game 1. The Celtics have to get into their offensive sets early, and stay with them long enough to get to the second or third option instead of letting Miami's athleticism break them down into isolation or desperation -- or worse, turnovers, which activate Miami's unstoppable transition game.

3) Find James Jones: In the film session at the team hotel Monday morning, Rivers highlighted how Jones got free for seven 3-point attempts (he made five) without being forced to take a single dribble. "That's poor defense," Rivers said.

4) Win the matchups they should win: The Celtics actually got decent production from the bench (23 points), but they need more from Rondo and Garnett -- especially when both teams' starters are on the floor. Rondo vs. Mike Bibby and Garnett vs. Chris Bosh should be clear-cut advantages for the Celtics, but Rivers admitted they got away from going into the post to Garnett too early in Game 1.

5) Hope the Heat shoot too many jumpers ... again: The Celtics actually should have been pleased with Miami's shot selection in Game 1. Especially early in the game, Miami fell in love with the jumper. According to Synergy Sports Technology, 43 of Miami's 68 field-goal attempts were jump shots. That plays right into the Celtics' hand. Unless, of course, they go in.



Posted on: April 21, 2011 8:55 pm
Edited on: April 21, 2011 9:00 pm
 

Stern envisions replay official, challenge flags

PHILADELPHIA – NBA commissioner David Stern defended the officiating through the first week of the playoffs Thursday night and said he envisions a time when the league will have a dedicated replay official and when coaches will be allowed to throw challenge flags in the final two minutes of games. 

“The officiating has been how officiating is,” Stern said during a stop on his playoff tour at Game 3 between the Heat and 76ers. “We have this issue. We have humans that officiate our games and they don’t catch everything. But they’re the best at what they do.” 

The opening week of the playoffs included several controversial calls, including one in which Oklahoma City’s Kendrick Perkins was incorrectly credited with a basket in the Thunder’s 102-101 victory over the Nuggets in Game 1 of their series due to a missed basket interference call. The league office issued a statement acknowledging the mistake, but a blatant trip by the CelticsKevin Garnett against the KnicksToney Douglas – helping to free Ray Allen for a deciding 3-pointer in Game 1 of that series – did not result in a mea culpa from Stern’s officiating department. 

Stern stressed several times the need to strive for accuracy through replay enhancement without further slowing down the games. 

“Eventually, you may have someone sitting at a desk rather than having a Talmudic discussion of three referees every time there’s a disputed play,” Stern said. “We might have one person whose job it is to keep the headphones on and always watch. And you might let a coach throw the flag in the last two minutes. We’re striving for accuracy. … We have to find a way to speed the game up, and to get it right. That’s the most important thing.” 

With developments Thursday further enhancing Sacramento’s efforts to prevent the Kings from moving to Anaheim, Stern said Oklahoma City owner Clay Bennett – chairman of the relocation committee – and several league officials are in Sacramento “verifying” Mayor Kevin Johnson’s assertions to the Board of Governors last week about Sacramento’s renewed financial commitment to the team. 

“Our preference was to understand that better, and the verification is under way,” Stern said. 

Asked if the recently agreed upon sale of the Pistons to Tom Gores and the expression of interest from Ron Burkle to buy the Kings and keep them in Sacramento was proof that the NBA’s financial state isn’t as dire as owners say, Stern said, “No. It just means they know we’re going to get a good (labor) deal and they’re already factoring it into their decisions to buy. And they know we’re not only going to get a good deal, but a deal that really makes it sustainable to buy a team.” 

Among the other topics addressed by Stern Thursday night: 

• Asked if the league needs provisions in a new collective bargaining agreement to prevent “player-made teams” like Miami’s, Stern said, “No, because I have grown up in this league with teams that had great players.” Referencing the Celtics and Lakers of the 1980s, Stern said, “To me, you may call me a players’ person, but the players made a deal that says they’re allowed to become free agents and decide where they want to go. And you’re making it into a federal offense to discuss where they might want to play with another player. It doesn’t warm my blood. In fact, if the team that can get those players is under the cap, that’s the way the system was designed to work. I don’t get too boiled for that.” 

• However, when asked about a Yahoo! Sports report from December that Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert – a key member of the NBA’s labor relations committee – had retained counsel to investigate tampering allegations against the Heat for signing LeBron James, Stern said, “I’m aware of the issue, but there’s been no formal complaint of tampering or anything like that filed. … If there was tampering that someone could prove, that would make my blood boil.” 

• Reiterating comments he made earlier Thursday in New York to the Associated Press Sports Editors, Stern said he and players’ association chief Billy Hunter are in agreement that a court battle such as the one consuming the NFL in its labor dispute “should be avoided. … We’re going to do our best (to get a deal). And we’ve got more than two months.” 

• After maximum contract lengths were reduced by one year in each of the past two CBAs, Stern said he favored ratcheting them down again. “Shorter and less guaranteed,” he said. “I have no idea what they’ll agree to and I’m not going to negotiate with them here.” 

• On whether the Heat have met expectations, Stern said, “They met my expectations, but they didn’t meet everybody else’s. Before the season, everyone thought they were going to win 75 games and we should just mail the trophy. In fact, it takes a while for a team. This is a team game, and they’ve done pretty well. They’re pretty darn good and they’re playing awfully well, but it hasn’t been the walk in the park that they expected.”
Posted on: February 8, 2011 1:31 pm
 

Reggie Miller sticks up for small markets

As the superstar exodus to greener pastures and glitzier cities continues in the NBA, Reggie Miller rode to the rescue of the small market Tuesday. 

In TNT's pre-All-Star conference call, Miller said a franchise tag to curb player movement will be "tough" to implement in collective bargaining. But if that's what it takes to keep stars in small markets -- Miller played his entire 18-year career in Indiana -- he's all for it. 

"I was disappointed when LeBron left and went to Miami," Miller said. "I'm not faulting him, because obviously this is America and people change jobs and occupations and locations all the time. But for a guy that's been in a small market for 18 years, I just love when stars and superstars -- and you had the biggest superstars in our league in terms of name recognition in LeBron in a small market -- I didn’t think overall that helps the brand. Therefore, I hope Deron Williams stays in Utah and Chris Paul stays in New Orleans. It's good to have superstars in smaller markets because it helps the brand." 

Fellow Turner Sports broadcaster Kevin McHale, who famously traded Kevin Garnett from Minnesota to Boston in 2007, called the franchise tag an "interesting concept." Depending on how it's implemented, a franchise tag would either give teams cap relief to help them retain a star player, further restrict star players' movement, or both. 

"There's something to that," McHale said. "It gives the team that drafts a guy and develops a guy more of an opportunity to hold onto the player. I agree having the talent distributed throughout the whole NBA is much better for the game as whole. If you win, they'll want to play in different cities, no matter if it's Oklahoma City or New York City. If you're winning, they're going to want to go there and be part of it." 

Whether the owners can get such an onerous request past the union without a fight? Good luck. 

"They're going to have to get the players' association to buy into that," McHale said. 

The prospect of a franchise tag in a new CBA plays directly into the future of Carmelo Anthony, who is seeking a trade yet is concerned about losing money by passing on a three-year, $65 million extension that could be less lucrative in the new labor agreement. If the Nuggets decide to keep Anthony, part of their motivation would be having solid knowledge that they'd be in a position to retain Anthony with a franchise tag after the new deal is ratified. Anthony's countermove, obviously, would simply be to opt out of his $18.5 million contract for next season. That game of chess is likely to unfold all the way down to the Feb. 24 trade deadline.
Posted on: November 3, 2010 4:31 pm
Edited on: November 3, 2010 6:41 pm
 

Garnett denies calling Villanueva cancer patient

Kevin Garnett on Wednesday denied calling Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva "a cancer patient" in a trash-talking rant during the teams' game the night before.

“I am aware there was a major miscommunication regarding something I said on the court last night," Garnett said in a statement from his representatives released by the Celtics. "My comment to Charlie Villanueva was in fact, ‘You are cancerous to your team and our league.’ I would never be insensitive to the brave struggle that cancer patients endure. I have lost loved ones to this deadly disease and have a family member currently undergoing treatment. I would never say anything that distasteful. The game of life is far bigger than the game of basketball.”

After the Celtics beat the Pistons 109-86 Tuesday night, dropping Detroit to 0-4 and sending the team into turmoil, Villanueva wrote on his Twitter account that Garnett had called him a "cancer patient" during a trash-talking rant. Villanueva has no body hair due to a rare autoimmune disorder known as alopecea areata.

"KG talks alot of crap, he's prob never been in a fight, I would love to get in a ring with him, I will expose him," Charlie V tweeted. "KG called me a cancer patient, I'm pissed because, u know how many people died from cancer, and he's tossing it like it's a joke. I wouldn't even trip about that, but a cancer patient, I know way 2 many people who passed away from it, and I have a special place 4 those."

Moments after Garnett's statement was released Wednesday, Villanueva wrote on Twitter, "
New day, moving forward, Pistons lets get a win tonight." But before the Pistons played the Hawks in Atlanta on Wednesday night, Villanueva was asked about Garnett's denial.

"I know exactly what I heard," Villanueva said, according to the Detroit Free-Press .

Posted on: October 21, 2010 9:39 pm
 

Stern: Players, refs will adjust to new tech rule

NEW YORK – Lost in David Stern’s no soup for you proclamation Thursday about slashing player salaries by one-third was this nugget from the NBA commissioner: There is “widespread support” among NBA owners for the league-ordered crackdown on players’ complaining, and the referees will have to adjust to the new enforcement, too.

“In some cases, players were a little confused,” Stern said, referring to the flurry of preseason technical fouls resulting from the lower tolerance for complaining and demonstrative protests about calls. “They’re being illuminated with respect to it. In some cases, a referee might have reacted too soon, and they’re being alerted to it. So overall, we think it’s moving its way. We don’t take it as a major problem.”

Stern went so far as to invite the National Basketball Players Association – with which the NBA is locked in a challenging labor negotiation – to “exercise all of their rights” in challenging the league’s new guidelines. The day after the CelticsKevin Garnett was ejected with a double-technical last week against the Knicks, the union threatened to file a grievance with the National Labor Relations Board over the NBA’s anti-whining campaign.

“We’ll be talking to them,” Stern said of the union. “I don’t think it’s going to come to that. I think you’ll see that they will come to understand that we actually have a joint goal here. To have the greatest athletes in the world whining up and down the court is nothing that anyone that loves this game would want to see. … This, to me, is about protecting and promoting the players.”

While Stern gave a little ground in admitting that some referees have overstepped in the early enforcement of the anti-whining rule, he tried to take the ground back with this statement: “I think the players will do more adjusting than the referees, but there will be some referee adjustments as well. I don’t think it’s going to be a problem.

“They’re the best athletes in the world,” Stern said. “And they do have passion, intensity, teamwork and the like. We just think if we can clear the stage for them to demonstrate those skills, and they’re not perceived as debaters and whining, that elevates them to a place where they should be.”

Several players have spoken out publicly against the new guidelines, which call for an end to emotional outbursts over referees’ calls as well as repetitive complaining about the officiating during the games. The owners, however, are on board with the league’s determination to clean up the whining.

“The owners are behind that,” Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor said after the league’s Board of Governors meeting wrapped up at the St. Regis Hotel. “We all see that as the best for the game – not only for the appearance of the game, but it’ll speed the game up by having the players not demonstrate or talk too much.”

Stu Jackson, the NBA’s executive vice president for basketball operations who is overseeing enforcement of the new policy, showed the owners video examples of techs that have been called or not called during the preseason to drive home the point that a middle ground can be achieved. Taylor said the owners were “pretty comfortable that it was being handled all right.”

“If we say to our players, ‘You can’t go up and throw your fist in the air in the face of a referee,’ they stop that, and they run over to the other side [of the court] and they throw their fist in the air,” Stern said. “We say, ‘OK, guys, stop it.’ Guess what? They’re stopping it. … They know exactly how to adjust. They will adjust here and the referees will call fair games, and our fans will have a better appreciation for how good our players really are.”

Posted on: October 15, 2010 8:22 pm
 

Source: League won't cave on tech issue

NBA players complaining about new rules designed to stop complaining won't result in league executives rethinking the crackdown, a person with knowledge of the situation told CBSSports.com Friday.

"I don't think it will have any effect," said the person, who has knowledge of the NBA's strategy but wasn't authorized to discuss it.

So after a flurry of technical fouls and a stridently worded threat of legal action from the National Basketball Players Association, it appears that the NBA and its players' union are headed for a showdown only months before the collective bargaining agreement is set to expire.

After the Celtics' Kevin Garnett was ejected Wednesday night in the latest incident highlighting the league's crackdown on whiners, the NBPA issued a statement calling the rule changes "unnecessary and unwarranted," saying they could cause a "stifling of the players’ passion and exuberance for their work" and "may actually harm our product."

"The changes were made without proper consultation with the Players Association, and we intend to file an appropriate legal challenge," the statement said.

There has been no public comment from commissioner David Stern or any of his lieutenants in light of the NBPA's threat. But the person with knowledge of league's strategy said officials are determined to put a stop to constant complaining about calls and verbal abuse of officials and won't cave as a result of the NBPA's threat.

The closest parallel in recent showdowns between the NBA and the union came during the 2006-07 season, when league executives backtracked on their switch to a synthetic Spalding ball after years of using a leather ball. The synthetic ball was widely panned by players, and the union filed a grievance with the National Labor Relations Board saying it wasn't consulted about what amounted to a drastic change in working conditions.

(I know those of you who work in the real world are snickering, but this is the terminology that the lawyers use to arrive at common-sense solutions that are obvious to the rest of us.)

After a few weeks, the league pulled the synthetic ball and went back to leather -- though not necessarily in response to the players' grievance. It turns out players were receiving what amounted to paper cuts from the rougher surface of the ball.

This is different -- in a way. On one hand, nobody's health is being endangered by the NBA's crackdown on complaining. But the league did increase the fines for technical fouls, and players' ability to perform could be affected if they're whistled for techs, ejected, or suspended for piling up too many techs. Then there's just the small matter that nobody wants to watch that.

Some -- like Matt Moore of the Facts & Rumors blog -- say too bad. Don't have tantrums like a 5-year-old in the school yard, and you won't be assessed any technical fouls. I say the solution is somewhere in the middle. Clearly, nobody wants to see NBA players griping about every call and non-call. The gesturing, cursing, pointing and other expressions of disbelief that various players possibly could've committed a foul ... all that has to go. But nobody wants to pay hundreds of dollars to sit in the stands and watch Kobe Bryant get ejected from a game under these new rules. (And believe me, he will.)

In the end, this won't be solved by grievances, lawsuits or other complaining. (Complaining, after all, is what the league is trying to get rid of.) It'll be solved when league officials figure out how to communicate to the referees exactly how far is too far -- and when the refs get a better feel for how to enforce this new normal of on-court behavior. And yes, it'll be solved when the players adjust to their new boundaries.




Posted on: October 14, 2010 12:55 am
 

NBA's new rule causes technical difficulties

NEW YORK – Last season, the Celtics had one of the most gifted technical-foul accumulators in NBA history on their roster. With 14 techs, Rasheed Wallace was one behind teammate Kendrick Perkins and the Magic’s Dwight Howard for the league lead.

So after pushing the limits of on-court indecency on their way to the NBA Finals, the Celtics now have the equally impressive distinction of defining how quick a tech trigger is too quick under the league’s crackdown on griping about calls. On Wednesday night, Jermaine O’Neal discovered that under these rules, pillow talk can get you T’d up.

O’Neal was called for a foul while defending Knicks center Timofey Mozgov with 4:39 left in the second quarter of the Celtics’ 104-101 victory. O’Neal described the following exchange with official Zach Zarba.

“I walked up to him and he said, ‘Jermaine, walk away,’” O’Neal said. “I said, ‘I can’t talk to you now?’ Just like that. Soft, bedroom voice. And he gave me a tech. … To me, that’s too quick. Way too quick.”

Seconds later, noted loudmouth Kevin Garnett was whistled for a tech by referee Kane Fitzgerald, and then for another one, resulting in an ejection. Those two extremes, seconds apart in a preseason game played just a few city blocks from NBA headquarters, highlighted the problem David Stern has with his latest attempt to sanitize the league.

“I see what the league is trying to do with the consistent talking to the refs all the way down the court,” O’Neal said. “I can understand that aspect of it. But when guys walk up and ask, ‘What did I do?’ We should be able to do that.”

Officials from the NBA’s officiating department were on hand for the Knicks-Celtics game Wednesday night to explain the new threshold for technical fouls to the media. I got the shpiel last week in Miami, and this is my interpretation: What Garnett did certainly warranted two techs and an ejection. What O’Neal did warranted an explanation and that’s it.

This is what the NBA is wrestling with on the eve of its most anticipated season of the post-Jordan era. Stern went after the players with a dress code years ago, and he’s got the barber sheers out for all the haircuts owners have in mind for players in collective bargaining. Now, Stern is out to strip the players of more control by stopping the constant bickering about calls. If anything is more inherent to basketball than complaining about calls, I don’t know what it is. But this is where we are.

Until both players and referees adjust to Stern’s latest new world order, we have a mess – a needless controversy of the NBA’s own making, as if the league isn’t good enough at unintended controversy and conspiratorial hooey, especially when it comes to the officiating.

“It’s going to make it look like it’s about the officials,” O’Neal said.

Zarba, Fitzgerald and Kevin Fehr were on a roll Wednesday night, as if they were the Big Three everybody came to see. But it isn’t their fault. According to O’Neal, the look in the officials’ eyes after dishing out four techs to O’Neal, Garnett and Mozgov in a matter of minutes was, “I’m just doing my job.”

And they weren’t the only ones. I counted 12 techs in seven preseason games Wednesday night. I didn’t go to the videotape, but I’m willing to bet that a good number wouldn’t have been techs a year ago.

“I think they’re going to have to take a second look and see how it affects the games and especially the stars,” the Celtics’ Paul Pierce said. “You know people pay good money to come out and see the stars play. Even though we have to play by the rules, I think there has to be some kind of leniency. When a guy turns and just looks at you for a technical, that can cost you a game. That can cost you a player coming out of the game. I think that’s something they’re going to have to look at real hard. This is an emotional game and players are going to use emotion and that’s not going to stop.”

There is a middle ground to be found here, and it isn’t Pierce’s position. (It certainly isn’t Celtics Hall of Fame announcer Tommy Heinsohn’s .) But whatever it is, someone had better find it before the story of Miami’s dynamic duo of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade is overwhelmed by the story of technical fouls.

“Our research shows that fans think NBA players complain too much,” NBA vice president Stu Jackson said on a recent conference call. Just wait until they find out what fans think after watching highlight after highlight of players getting T’d up and tossed during the first week of the regular season.

This is the way Joe Borgia, the NBA’s vice president of referee operations, explained it in the media seminar held last week prior to the Heat’s preseason opener in Miami. Demonstrative and continuous displays of emotion will not be tolerated under the new rules. Players will be allowed to display emotion in the heat of the moment, as long as it isn’t over the top – and as long as they get under control and walk away. To drive home the point, the league has raised the fines for technicals, too.

But Borgia also said that give-and-take between players and refs would be allowed to continue in a civilized way. In other words, what O’Neal did Wednesday night should have been allowed. If a player simply is asking for an explanation of a call, he is supposed to be entitled to the explanation. Just no follow-up questions, and no aggressive displays of emotion.

Pretty simple. But to no one’s surprise, neither the players nor the refs understand where the line is yet. That’s a sign that the line needs to be moved.

“I think officials will have a better feel on it,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “J.O., I was very surprised because he never raised his voice. He didn’t walk away, but it wasn’t anything demonstrative. We’re going to figure it out; it’s just going to take some time. When you talk to the officials, they don’t get it yet. They’re trying to figure it out. It’ll get figured out by Game 1.”

There was an effort a couple of years ago to crack down on the players’ excessive complaining. It was a story for a while, and then things went back to business as usual. With the players wielding all the control in free agency this past summer, and with a potentially ugly CBA fight under way, the days of zero tolerance are here.

The players will adjust. Once they do, the refs will give them more leeway. There has to be give-and-take. Every call and non-call on an NBA court can be debated and reviewed all night. Some disagreement is OK, if done respectfully. A lot of it isn’t OK, and that’s the part Stern is trying to get his referees to eradicate.

“It’s about all of us,” Rivers said. “It’s not just the officials. It’s the players and the coaches. We’ve got to keep trying to make this a better product. And so if people smarter than me have decided that this is what we need to do, then we need to do it and we need to adhere to it. I don’t think it’s that hard.”

No, it shouldn’t be. And ultimately, it won’t be. As long as what you're seeing so far in the preseason isn't the norm.
Posted on: September 29, 2010 7:25 pm
 

Rivers on KG: 'He'll make or break us'

NEWPORT, R.I. – A year ago, Kevin Garnett was visibly limping up and down the court during training camp, trying to hide the fact that he still wasn’t fully recovered from a knee injury that sabotaged the Celtics’ title defense. On the second day of practice Wednesday, Garnett had no limp, no brace, and no signs of being the kind of defensive liability he was last season.

“Night and day,” coach Doc Rivers said. “I wish he would take a break in practice, but that’s another issue we’ll have to solve. He’s explosive again, especially defensively.”

Rivers must have felt like he was standing in a time machine Wednesday when Garnett grabbed a rebound, threw an outlet pass, and still beat his teammates down the floor. I didn’t see it with my own eyes – that portion of practice was closed to inquisitive observers – but Rivers’ account was believable.

“He couldn’t do that last year,” Rivers said. “Even if he could, he didn’t think he could.”

For the Celtics, it’s simple: To have any chance of getting past Miami to take another shot at the Lakers, they need Garnett to be the old Garnett – or, rather, the young Garnett. If nothing else, Rivers will settle for the healthy Garnett in his bid to get the Celtics back to No. 1 in the NBA in field-goal defense; they slipped to No. 9 last season.

“He’ll make or break us,” Rivers said.

That’s because during the Celtics’ surprising run to the Finals in June, Tom Thibodeau’s infamous defensive schemes were compromised and watered down due to Garnett’s lack of mobility. Gone were the days when Thibodeau could take full advantage of Garnett’s agility – not to mention his reputation as the best defensive player in the league – by letting Rajon Rondo attack the ball with halfcourt and midcourt traps supported by Garnett.

“We literally didn’t pressure the ball up the floor [last season],” Rivers said “When you think about it, you have Rondo on the floor and Kevin to shadow and we couldn’t do it last year. That was a huge concession for our defense, and it put way too much pressure on our defense. Teams were running their offense at 18-20 seconds. Two years ago, they didn’t get into their offense until 12 or 10. That was a huge difference for us.”
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com