Posted on: July 3, 2010 11:45 pm
Edited on: July 4, 2010 12:02 am
Paul Pierce is officially staying in green-and-white, finalizing his four-year, $61 million contract with the Celtics Saturday night, a person with knowledge of the agreement told CBSSports.com.
Pierce had opted out of the final year of his contract, which would've paid him $21.5 million, in part to give the Celtics flexibility to retain free agent Ray Allen and make a run at another championship with coach Doc Rivers, who announced this week he was returning for the final year of his contract. Pierce, 32, accepted less than the maximum the Celtics could have paid him as a 10-plus-year veteran, which was $96 million over four years. But a person familiar with the situation said the fourth year was fully guaranteed, which had been a sticking point in the negotiations.
Now, the Celtics will focus on retaining Allen, a move that would keep the Big Three -- and point guard Rajon Rondo -- intact for a run at the franchise's 18th championship. Also Saturday night, NBA.com's David Aldridge reported that forward Rasheed Wallace -- who informed the team after the NBA Finals that he planned to retire -- is possibly reconsidering that decision.
Posted on: June 30, 2010 1:35 pm
Edited on: June 30, 2010 2:03 pm
Doc Rivers has decided to return for the final year of his contract to coach the Celtics, a person familiar with the decision confirmed to CBSSports.com Wednesday. Rivers had been thinking about stepping down to spend more time with his family.
The news of Rivers' return for one more year, first reported by the Boston Herald, should calm nerves across New England as the Celtics faced the destruction of their successful nucleus with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce hitting the unrestricted free-agent market at 12:01 a.m. Thursday. Rivers, though, is the glue that has held the Big Three together. With his commitment to return, the Celtics almost certainly will focus on upgrading the supporting cast rather than replacing Allen or Pierce.
Though Rivers, according to Yahoo! Sports, received a raise over the $5.5 million he was due for next season, his indecision about returning was not about the money. Those close to Rivers say he was seriously conflicted about returning to the bench vs. taking a year or two off to watch his children play high school and college sports. In fact, Rivers has been in San Antonio watching his son, Austin, dominate the FIBA Under-18 World Championships. As you can see, Austin has a little more hang time than his pop.
Rivers was emotional in the postgame news conference after the Celtics lost to the Lakers in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, seemingly melancholy about the uncertain future for the Celtics of the Big Three era. Rasheed Wallace, recruited by Rivers, team president Danny Ainge, and the Celtics' veteran core to join them this past season, has decided to retire. Kevin Garnett has two more years on his contract, and Rajon Rondo has five years left. But Allen is unrestricted and Pierce opted out of his $21.5 million deal for next season. Both intend to return, but nothing is a given in the frenzied free-agent negotiating period that will begin about 11 hours after Rivers' decision became public.
The timing of Rivers' decision was no coincidence; only he in the Celtics' organization has the persuasive powers to convince Pierce and Allen to forego potentially lucrative invitations to compete for a championship elsewhere, possibly with other marquee free agents. Those invitations will come fast and furious, but the knowledge that Rivers will be back certainly will give Pierce and Allen pause about leaving.
Ainge has every intention of keeping Pierce and Allen, and both players prefer to stay in Boston and make at least one more run at a title together. Rivers is the best negotiating tool Ainge has.
On his way out of Staples Center after an emotional locker room session with his players and the emotional news conference, Rivers encountered a heckling Lakers fan who'd somehow gotten past security. The fan taunted Rivers, asking him how it felt to lose to the Lakers -- a team Rivers' Celtics had beaten in the Finals two years earlier. NBA security director Bernie Tolbert shooed the fan away. Rivers, displaying the class that has made him one of the most respected coaches in the NBA, offered no reaction -- just kept walking, into a summer of uncertainty that looks a lot more promising now for the Celtics.
Posted on: June 7, 2010 3:45 pm
LOS ANGELES – The game wasn’t even over for an hour, and already Kobe Bryant’s mind was back in Boston. Back to the scene of one of the most bitter disappointments of his Hall of Fame career.
It was two years ago when Bryant walked out of the new Boston Garden with a 39-point loss to the Celtics in Game 6 of the Finals haunting him. It had been four years since Bryant had been back to the Finals, and this was the memory he’d carry with him into a long, painful offseason: Celtics fans pelting the team bus with expletives and garbage.
So Bryant’s mood deteriorated rapidly on Sunday night, after the Lakers lost home-court advantage with a 103-94 loss to the Celtics that evened the Finals at 1-1 going back to Boston. On the chartered flight, memories of the 2008 Finals surely were on his mind, not to mention the screech of the referees’ whistle.
Bryant was a non-factor in Game 2, taken out of the mix by foul trouble. Bryant finished the game with five fouls, and backcourt mate Derek Fisher had three – emblematic of the Lakers’ defensive struggles against the devastating combination of Ray Allen’s 3-point shooting and Rajon Rondo’s mastery in the open court. So when it comes to adjustments for Game 3, it begins and ends there for the Lakers.
Phil Jackson made a choice heading into the series that Rondo would be the player most deserving of Bryant’s defensive attention. It worked in Game 1; not so much in Game 2, due in part to a tough whistle on Bryant and also to the Celtics’ improved defense and rebounding, which were the catalyst for Rondo’s latest playoff triple-double. Rondo makes the Celtics’ engine go, but the problem with putting Bryant in his path played out in Game 2, with Fisher unable to reroute Allen around screens or shrink his air space enough to contest his shots.
So with the series shifting to Boston for the middle three games, will Jackson consider putting Fisher on Rondo, with the knowledge that the Lakers’ point guard has fared OK against Deron Williams and Steve Nash in the two previous series? Will he need to use Bryant’s length and strength to slow Allen’s 3-point rampage?
It’s a tricky proposition for Jackson. Though Bryant’s aching knee has improved during the course of the playoffs, putting him in a rat race around screens with Allen could sap the energy he needs on the offensive end. But if Allen keeps getting the looks he got in Game 2, the Lakers will be in for another disastrous outcome in Boston.
What to do? Before watching the film or deciding what strategic adjustments to make, Jackson first took aim at the officials in the aftermath of Sunday night’s loss. With a fine from the NBA office almost certainly to follow, consider it a $25,000 down payment by Jackson to get the officials’ attention should he decide to stay with the same defensive approach in Game 3.
“When they take away any bumps, when Fish is trying to make him divert his path and they don't allow him to do that, they call fouls on Fish and that really gives him an opportunity to take whatever route he wants,” Jackson said. “That really makes it very difficult. We just have to adjust to the ballgame [and] to what the referees are going to call. Are they going to allow us to take direct line cuts away from him so he has to divert his route, [or] get a foul called on Fisher? That makes for a totally different type of ballgame. Then Fish has to give the routes that he wants to run and then he's got to play from behind all the time. That's an adjustment we all need to make in the course of this series.”
One that will have plenty to do with the outcome.
Posted on: May 20, 2010 5:42 pm
LOS ANGELES – For three playoff series, Derek Fisher has heard about how he’s the weak link in the Lakers’ title defense. There was no way he could keep up with Russell Westbrook’s quickness, hold up against Deron Williams’ size, or stifle Steve Nash’s creativity.
“They say he’s old and slow,” noted philosopher and defensive guru Ron Artest said. “I just don’t see it.”
Nobody else does, either. And no, your eyes have not deceived you. Here are the Lakers, two wins away from a third consecutive trip to the NBA Finals – and they’ve gotten here not despite Fisher, but in large part because of him.
“I guess I’m smart enough to know that if we win, it doesn’t really matter,” Fisher said. “I guess for some guys it’s harder to not take things personally and try to be who they aren’t when the goal is really to help your team advance. And when you do that, the individual things kind of mean less. I’ve said it before: I’ve never seen anything on the side of any one of my rings that says anything about points per game, percentages per game, who had the most assists, who had the most steals. It’s just a ring. It has your name on it and the team and the organization and that’s it. That’s pretty much all that matters to me.”
No, Fisher, 35, hasn’t done it all by himself against the murderer’s row of point guards the Lakers are toppling on their way to the Finals. After Westbrook sliced through the Lakers’ defense in victories at Oklahoma City in Games 3 and 4 of the first round, Kobe Bryant raised his hand after a video session and said, “I’ll take him.” Bryant slowed Westbrook down, and the Lakers haven’t lost a game since – eight in a row heading into Game 3 of the conference finals Sunday in Phoenix.
But Fisher didn’t need much help against the Williams, arguably the best point guard in the league, as the Lakers swept past the Jazz. Nash, the gold standard for modern-day point guards – or point guards of any era, really – hasn’t been able to find the kind of space and freedom he’s accustomed to with Fisher digging in and using his underrated combination of strength, quick hands and good old fashioned guile.
“He can guard all the point guards,” TNT analyst Hubie Brown told me. “Fisher, in my opinion, is one of the feistiest defensive point guards that we have in the league. He’s very cerebral. He understands the defensive game plan. You can never fall asleep with the basketball because he’s got quick reflexes and quick reactions, plus he gets a lot of deflections. Then off of his man, OK, he’s one of the best point guards that we have in the league in double-teaming and also playing the passing lane on any type of a ball reversal back to his man.”
(Note to reader: At this point in my conversation with Brown the other day, I prayed that the Lakers’ practice court would open up and swallow me. In 30 seconds, Brown had said more intelligent things about basketball than I’ve ever written. And there was more to come.)
“This guy, you don’t hide this guy,” Brown said. “Also, if you break down his game, if he’s running in transition, you never have to worry about a guy getting a clear layup because he’s going to take a charge. And in this league, that’s very difficult for guys to do no matter what size they are – to take the full contact while people are moving. So to me, he’s the total package.”
In the Lakers’ 124-112 victory over the Suns in Game 2 Wednesday night, Fisher’s numbers didn’t measure up to Nash’s – but his impact on the game far exceeded his counterpart’s. Fisher had seven points on 2-for-8 shooting with five assists, two steals and two turnovers. Nash had 11 points and 15 assists, but shot only 4-for-8 from the field with five turnovers. At key sequences in the game – when the Lakers were building an early lead and then pulling away in the fourth quarter after the Suns had tied it at 90-90 – Fisher wound up on the superior end of the action.
Late in the first quarter, Fisher intercepted a post pass from Nash as the Suns were trying to find their offensive rhythm. Late in the second quarter, Fisher hurt the Suns with his offense – finding Andrew Bynum for a dunk, hitting a corner 3-pointer and making a driving layup to give the Lakers a 65-56 halftime lead. Midway through the fourth, Fisher forced Nash into consecutive turnovers, the first leading to a corner 3-pointer by Jordan Farmar on which Nash failed to close out defensively. In 67 seconds, the Lakers stretched a six-point lead to 11 and the rout was on.
“Steve can hurt you without scoring, whereas some of the other guys at the point guard position need to score for their team to win,” Fisher said. “Overall it’s exactly the same. You want to limit penetration. You want to keep the guy in front of you. You want to make him shoot the ball over the top instead of letting him get to the rim and make plays for himself or other people. You want to make him work as hard as possible. You’re not going to stop him, but you can’t allow him to do whatever he wants to do out there. And sometimes that means sacrificing yourself, your game, your body and that means picking up some fouls to do it. Just do what it takes.”
Next up, presumably, will be the Celtics' Rajon Rondo, who has been the single most influential point guard in the postseason -- better than Williams, Nash, Jason Kidd, all of them. Once again, it will seem to be an impossible task for Fisher to hold up against Rondo's length, speed, quickness and guile. And once again, Fisher will have to find a way.
That’s what he does: whatever it takes, and more than everybody expects.
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 28, 2010 11:53 am
Edited on: January 28, 2010 7:45 pm
First of all, as Charles Barkley would say, I love the seven first-time selections. All-Star weekend is badly in need of some juice, and I think there's a good chance that some of these first-timers -- Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo -- will provide some of the weekend's most memorable moments.
I know this is a knee-jerk sports world and we're supposed to fight about everything, but I don't have enormous problems with the coaches' selections. In the East, they picked Rose and Al Horford over my picks -- David Lee and Josh Smith. I disagree on Horford; Smith is the Hawks' most important player after Joe Johnson, and Horford doesn't play enough minutes to be an All-Star. Lee deserves to be there, too. Being based in New York, I have more than my share of chances to watch him bust his behind on a talent-less team. Rose? I don't have any problem with him being an All-Star. He'll be great to watch in an All-Star Game. Guys like Rose understand the moment and know how to rise to it.
In the West, I only differed with the coaches on one selection: They chose Zach Randolph; I chose Chauncey Billups. If I met with every coach who chose Randolph and we debated outside some NBA locker room, I don't think anybody would win. Z-Bo is having a great year on a surprisingly competitive team. Billups remains the glue that keeps the Nuggets together. I'll take the No. 2 pick in that draft and be happy.
In making my picks, I used the same criteria the coaches are instructed to use: select seven reserves, ranked 1-7 for weighting purposes, according to the following positional breakdown: center, two forwards, two guards, and two wild cards.
Here were my picks -- with the coaches' alternative in parentheses, where applicable:
1. Chris Bosh, F, Toronto: The "other" 2010 free agent went into the season determined to put up huge numbers, which he is. Bosh's steady play also is a big reason for the Raptors' recent resurgence.
2. Rajon Rondo, G, Boston: Nothing against Kevin Garnett or Ray Allen, but Rondo may have surpassed both of them as the most important Celtic after Paul Pierce.
3. Josh Smith, F, Atlanta (Coaches picked Derrick Rose): Defense, shot-blocking, scoring -- J-Smoove does it all, except take too many 3-pointers. He's eliminated that annoying aspect of his game and deserves to be rewarded.
4. Gerald Wallace, F (wild card), Charlotte: This is a tough call between Wallace and Danny Granger. I'll give the nod to Wallace because of defense and team success.
5. David Lee, C, Knicks (Coaches picked Al Horford): It's time to stop attributing Lee's machine-like double-double production to Mike D'Antoni's system and recognize that there's nothing wrong with being one of the best pick-and-roll big men in the league.
6. Joe Johnson, G, Atlanta: Johnson should send a thank-you gift to Jamal Crawford, whose ability to absorb some of the end-of-quarter/end-of-game scoring load has kept Johnson fresh.
7. Paul Pierce, F (wild card), Boston: Rondo makes the Celtics' engine go, but Pierce is still the closer -- one of the best in the league at both ends of the floor.
1. Dirk Nowitzki, F, Dallas: Still playing at an MVP level and never gets the recognition he deserves.
2. Chris Paul, G, New Orleans: In terms of statistics and overall talent, the best point guard in the league.
3. Brandon Roy, G, Portland: With all of Portland's injuries -- including Roy's own balky hamstring of late -- this budding superstar deserves credit for keeping the Blazers afloat.
4. Chauncey Billups, G (wild card), Denver (Coaches picked Zach Randolph): We take Mr. Big Shot for granted because he's so consistent, but remember: He's consistently great. Monta Ellis deserves serious consideration here or for one of the wild-card spots, but there are simply too many great guards in the West for him to break through.
5. Pau Gasol, C, Lakers: Despite missing a big chunk of the season, Gasol has played enough to warrant an All-Star nod. When he's on the floor, he's among the most gifted and impactful big men in the league. Gasol or Randolph? I'll take Gasol.
6. Kevin Durant, F, Oklahoma City: We knew he could score, but now KD is emerging as a much improved defender and leader.
7. Deron Williams, G (wild card), Utah: This is why there's no room for Randolph on my squad, despite his solid 20-point, 11-rebound averages on a much improved Memphis team. D-Will is too good -- and the Jazz's recent resurgence too notable to overlook -- for one of the top point guards in the NBA to continue to get overlooked.
Posted on: November 5, 2009 11:12 am
After reviewing the altercation between Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul during and after Sunday's game in Boston between the Celtics and Hornets, the NBA decided not to take disciplinary action against either player.
Posted on: November 2, 2009 9:49 pm
Edited on: November 2, 2009 11:19 pm
NEW YORK -- The NBA is reviewing a confrontation between point guards Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul after Sunday night's game between the Celtics and Hornets, CBSSports.com has learned.
Each player got a technical foul after a tussle under the basket, then they exchanged words after the final buzzer and had to be separated. Paul made an unsuccessful attempt to finish the discussion with Rondo in the Celtics' locker room afterward. Boston won 97-87.
Hornets coach Byron Scott said before his team faced the Knicks Monday night that he hadn't addressed the matter with Paul and didn't believe he was out of line.
"The only thing I heard Chris say after the game as we were walking off was, 'He's going to respect me as a man,'" Scott said. "I don't know what Rondo said, but obviously Chris took exception to it. But I didn't ask him about it or really think much about it after that."
Each player could be subject to a fine, depending on the league office's ruling.
UPDATE: After the Hornets lost to the Knicks 117-111, Paul wouldn't discuss what Rondo said to him that made him so irate. "That’s over and done with," he said. As for the league's decision to review the matter, Paul said, "I’ll wait until somebody says something to me. First I heard of that."
There's a chance Paul could be the subject of a league disciplinary review for the second straight game. During a scramble for a loose ball Monday night, Paul got tangled up with the Knicks' Al Harrington, who got up rubbing his head as though Paul had punched him. Replays showed Paul at one point flailing his arms, but Paul said afterward he didn't throw any punches. Harrington said his head had collided with Paul's knee.
“He didn’t punch," Harrington said. "When I dove, his knee . . . my head hit his knee. He might have slipped a couple of jabs in there, but it didn’t affect me. I fight in the summer so it’s all good. ... It was nothing. It’s nothing anybody should review or anything like that.”