Tag:Ray Allen
Posted on: November 19, 2010 11:50 pm
 

Without Durant, Westbrook goes solo

BOSTON – At one point during the Thunder’s surprising victory over the Celtics without Kevin Durant Friday night, Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks saw something he admired, but didn’t necessarily like.

Driving fearlessly into the conversation about the most lethal point guards in a league filled with them, Russell Westbrook was doing what he was supposed to do in Durant’s absence. He was trying to carry his team, on the road, against the defending Eastern Conference champions. Against the team that lost to the team that knocked the surprising Thunder out of the playoffs last spring.

The trouble was, he was trying too hard. After a turnover and a charge on consecutive out-of-control possessions in the second quarter, Brooks took Westbrook out and tried to give him a chance to cool off.

“He has a spirit that’s not going to back down,” Brooks said after the shorthanded Thunder beat the Celtics 89-84, their second victory in four days against a playoff team on the road following an equally impressive performance in Utah. “But sometimes, you have to back down and use your guys. I said, ‘Russell, you have four guys out there working just as hard as you are. Use them.’”

After a three-minute stint on the bench, Westbrook settled down and ultimately needed those guys – on both ends of the floor – to hold off the Celtics down the stretch. Westbrook finished with 31 points, six assists, and seven turnovers, dueling with Rajon Rondo until the Celtics’ point guard missed the last five minutes with a strained hamstring. The Thunder won despite going the last 9 1-2 minutes without a field goal, with Westbrook going 0-for-7 with six points – all from the foul line – in the fourth quarter, and with Durant sitting on the bench in street clothes with a sprained ankle that caused him to miss a game for the first time since the 2008-09 season.

After finding out less than an hour before tipoff that the Thunder would be without Durant in addition to starting forward Jeff Green, the Celtics suffered a classic case of letdown.

“We were definitely out of sync,” Ray Allen said. “We didn’t have any ball movement. We didn’t have any rhythm all night.”

In effect, the Celtics learned how it feels to be their opponent on most nights. Typically, it is Rondo who controls the tempo and dances through the defense with the ball on a yo-yo string. Westbrook did it with aggression and straight-line speed, whereas Rondo does it with lateral quickness and cut-your-heart-out guile. But Westbrook’s method was just as effective.

“Russell did a phenomenal job controlling the tempo,” Brooks said.

That is, after coming to the bench, listening to a lecture Rondo used to hear all the time from Doc Rivers, and resisting the urge to do too much.

“When guys are down,” Westbrook said, “other guys have to come in and be ready to play.”

Just not too ready.

The Thunder needed a confidence-builder after struggling to a 3-3 start that was capped by a 92-83 loss to the Celtics at home on Nov. 7. Their success will almost always be about Durant. But it was interesting to see Westbrook fearlessly attack Rondo without his superstar scoring machine on the floor with him.

More and more, Westbrook’s matchup with the opposing point guard will be as much reason to watch the Thunder as Durant. The rest of this month alone will feature Westbrook vs. Jason Kidd and Chris Paul. Early next month, Derrick Rose. Westbrook belongs right there in the conversation with all of them.
Posted on: October 26, 2010 10:17 pm
 

Big Three = Big Flop

BOSTON – On opening night, the Big Three were a Big Flop.

So much for the coronation, the predictions of a 73-win season, and shooting to the top of the Eastern Conference in July. In October, when it finally mattered, the Celtics were still the Celtics. The Heat were the test-tube babies of the 2009-10 Cleveland Cavaliers and the 2006-07 Heat: Not good enough.

The champions of the summer have a lot to work on in the fall.

Returning to the scene of his greatest career disappointment, LeBron James once again was denied by the savvier, grittier, defensive-minded Celtics, who inflicted the first scar on the team expected by some to dominate the NBA. The original Big Three beat the newer version, 88-80 Tuesday night in the 2010-11 NBA season opener.

Boston had to sweat out a flurry of one-on-one majesty by King James, who had 15 points in the third to turn a 45-30 rout into a six-point game, 63-57, heading into the fourth quarter. Then, the Celtics – 26th in fourth-quarter scoring last season – tempted fate with a sloppy closeout attempt as the Cavs – I mean, Heat – went on a 10-0 run from the 4:14 mark to the 1:10 mark. The run cut Boston’s 83-70 lead to 83-80 with 70 seconds left.

The Celtics, still undisputed Kings of getting baskets out of timeouts in big moments, got a 3-point dagger from Ray Allen with 49.8 seconds left to keep mighty Miami winless in 2010-11. The Heat, and their accompanying media circus, travel to Philadelphia Wednesday for Game 2. And if opening night was any indication of the drama and hype that will surround this team, it is going to be a crazy ride.

But the anticipated issues of chemistry between LeBron and Wade, who missed all but three minutes of the preseason with a hamstring injury and Chicago court appearances, reared their ugly head all night. LeBron led the Heat back in 1-on-5 Cavs style in the third, with Wade and Chris Bosh on the bench. Like his old team, LeBron’s new team had no answer to pesky Rajon Rondo and no fortitude in protecting the basket from Boston’s improved frontcourt.

All of this is fixable, and not entirely surprising when you consider that the Celtics’ core has been together for three years, with one title to their credit, and the Heat have been together for what coach Erik Spoelstra reminded everyone before the game was 14 practices and two shootarounds.

But none that changed the fact that LeBron would walk out of TD Garden, his house of horrors, in much the same fashion that saw him leave last spring: In defeat.
Posted on: September 20, 2010 11:04 am
 

Preseason Primers: Celtics


Ah, it seems like The Decision was only yesterday. This week, CBSSports.com will be rolling out our team-by-team training camp primers, which can be found here in the BergerSphere and in the informative, snarky, rollicking neighborhood known as the Facts & Rumors blog . I'm starting with the defending Eastern Conference champion Celtics. You know, the Vintage Big Three. (I'm so 2008.) In keeping with the cloak of secrecy surrounding the Miami Heat's training camp, you will need a security clearance to find out when we're dropping the camp primer on the South Beach version of the Big Three.

Boston Celtics

Training camp site: Newport, R.I.

Training camp starts: Sept. 28

Key additions: Shaquille O’Neal (free agent), Jermaine O’Neal (free agent), Von Wafer (free agent), Delonte West (free agent)

Key subtractions: Tony Allen (free agent), Shelden Williams (free agent). • Likely starting lineup: Rajon Rondo, PG; Ray Allen, SG; Paul Pierce, SF; Kevin Garnett, PF; Jermaine O’Neal, C.

Player to watch: Kevin Garnett. Getting the Big Ticket back to health is of no small importance for the defending Eastern Conference champs. During the Celtics’ surprising run to the NBA Finals, KG finally started to move around better and was able to log substantial minutes without any obvious consequences. Will Garnett ever get back the explosiveness that he possessed before his knees started breaking down? No way. But if he can lose the limp and get some of his lateral mobility back – which he showed glimpses of during the Finals – his impact on the Celtics’ success cannot be overstated.

Chemistry check: Under Doc Rivers’ leadership, the Celtics have been more adept than any team in the league at incorporating new (and mostly zany) personalities into an established locker room. If the Celtics can withstand the potentially disruptive additions of Stephon Marbury, Nate Robinson and Rasheed Wallace, then bringing Shaq into the fold should be easy. But it’s worth wondering how enthusiastic O’Neal will be if asked to accept a secondary role – first to Jermaine O’Neal, and then to Kendrick Perkins once Perk recovers from his knee injury. Prediction: If Shaq didn’t make waves in Cleveland with the way Mike Brown underutilized him, there’s no way he causes trouble for Rivers. One thing about Shaq is that he respects those who’ve earned it. As for Delonte West: If anyone can harness his talents and help him get his personal life under control, it’s Rivers.

Camp battles: Boston has plenty of frontcourt depth. What Rivers will be looking to establish in camp at Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I., is a dependable backcourt rotation. Tony Allen, who became a defensive stopper of sorts during the playoffs, is a big loss. Rivers will be counting on Daniels, Robinson, West and perhaps someone who isn’t on the roster yet to give him quality minutes behind Rondo and Ray Allen.

Long shots: The Celtics recently worked out Adam Morrison, Rashad McCants, Cuttino Mobley and Trenton Hassell. There isn't much room at the inn, but it's a sign of how badly Boston needs some backcourt depth. Mobley, who has been cleared by doctors to resume his career after retiring due to a heart ailment, is the longest of these long shots.

Biggest strength: Experience. From the championship in ’08, to Garnett’s injuries, to Glen Davis’ shirtless, bloody fistfight in a moving car, to Rondo’s growth as the undisputed leader of the Big Four, to Perkins’ series-altering knee injury in the ’10 Finals, the Celtics have been galvanized by experiencing ups and downs together. Rivers’ decision to return for another season, coupled with extensions signed by Pierce and Ray Allen, has set the table for one more run with the Celtics’ core group before age catches up to them.

Glaring weakness: The glass-half-full version of the above says experience, exshmerience: The Celtics are too old for this stuff. But that’s what everybody thought last year when Boston played .500 ball from Christmas Day to the end of the regular season. At that point, my preseason Celtics-Spurs prediction for the Finals was looking about as dead in the water as the Celtics were. As it turned out, I was only half wrong. I wouldn’t advise counting them out until someone beats a fully healthy Celtics team in a seven-game series.


Posted on: August 12, 2010 9:00 pm
 

What new ground was broken in CBA talks?


NEW YORK -- With star-studded attendance and a conciliatory tone, collective bargaining talks Thursday between the NBA's owners and players changed the attitude, if not the substance, of the debate. Even with union vice president Mo Evans calling the players "partners" with the owners -- what's next, LeBron James and Dan Gilbert double-dating? -- the two sides are still far from a deal to avoid a lockout after the 2010-11 season.

But quietly, modest breakthroughs were made Thursday on several big-picture points relevant to the new financial structure owners and players are trying to create. According to sources with knowledge of the negotiations, here are the key points that owners and players actually agreed on -- or at least, agreed to disagree:

* First, there seems to be agreement on both sides that something needs to be done to improve the competitive balance of the league. How to do it, however, remains hotly contested. The players believe many of the owners’ woes can be solved through broader revenue sharing, for which they included a plan in their proposal. The owners continue to believe that how the owners divvy up hundreds of millions in annual losses doesn’t solve the problem that expenses are too high. According to sources, the owners seem to be hunkered down in their pursuit of shorter contracts with less guaranteed money – and they appear to be focusing on those issues even more than reducing the 57 percent share of basketball-related income (BRI) that the players receive. In the owners’ view, shorter contracts and the ability to restructure them midway through – a provision that exists in the NFL’s CBA – would help teams become more competitive faster. The players acknowledge the problem with the current system when teams burdened with bad contracts get “stuck in the mud,” according to a source, and need 3-4 years to clean up the mess. But the players disagree with the owners’ desire to shorten contracts and limit guarantees, even with the long history under the current CBA of players with declining ability becoming contractual albatrosses for their teams. Tracy McGrady and his $24 million salary getting dumped on the Knicks as an expiring asset last season is an extreme, but not rare example.

* With top players such as Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Richard Jefferson taking significant pay cuts on new deals this summer, there also seems to be common belief that payrolls will decline during the 2010-11 season for the second consecutive year – even after the biggest free-agent spectacle in league history. Since some rosters aren’t complete and the NBA’s fiscal year hasn’t closed yet, the amount of the decrease isn’t known, and the two sides differ on what the amount will be. The owners seem ready to acknowledge a 1 or 2 percent decline, while the players believe 5 percent is more realistic.

* Regardless of the amount of the payroll decline, one team executive said owners were rattled by the bold free-agent coup pulled off by star players this summer – with James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh teaming up in Miami – and have become focused on limiting player movement as a result. Any efforts to curb players’ free-agent rights would be staunchly opposed by the union. But there is a real sense from the owners, according to this executive, that they’re determined to write provisions into the new CBA that would provide stronger disincentives for free agents to leave their teams.

“If there’s anything I’d love to see happen in collective bargaining, it’s for the term ‘free agent’ to go away and I’d love to see the term ‘mid-level’ go away,” the executive said. “There’s nothing free about it, when you’re making the mid-level, you’re making more than two-thirds of the league. Mid-level sounds like mid-major, Holiday Inn, Applebee’s. It’s inappropriately termed.”

* Sources also revealed new details of the players’ proposal, which National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter has declined to specifically discuss publicly. In perhaps the first concession of the year-long negotiations, sources say the players have proposed issuing owners a credit on their books for capital improvements to their arenas. The Knicks, who are investing as much as $850 million to renovate Madison Square Garden, would benefit handsomely from such a provision. The players presented this as a way to encourage owners to modernize old arenas and thus create additional revenue streams.

Posted on: July 8, 2010 12:17 am
Edited on: July 8, 2010 12:50 am
 

Free-Agent Buzz (UPDATE)


In anticipation of LeBron James' free-agent decision, stock in Madison Square Garden Inc. jumped 6.4 percent to $21.57 per share on five times the normal trading volume Wednesday. If only James could capture some of that value as part of signing with the Knicks.

Well, despite a Forbes Magazine report last month that James could pull off such a coup, he can't. Please return to your regularly scheduled free-agent absurdity.

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The Warriors and Knicks are in advanced talks about a sign-and-trade arrangement that would send free-agent power forward David Lee to the Bay Area for Anthony Randolph and Ronny Turiaf, two people involved in the talks confirmed to CBSSports.com. The trade is being set up as a contingency plan for the Knicks if James chooses to sign with another team Thursday. If James chooses to sign with the Knicks, they will have to renounced his rights -- and thus the rights to sign and trade him under the Larry Bird exception -- in order to clear the necessary salary cap space. Lee's agent, Mark Bartelstein, also is believed to have maintained contact with the Nets, who are in danger of getting shut out in the free-agent chase. But the Golden State scenario for Lee has legs, to an extent.

"It's got legs," one of the people involved in the talks said. "But it needs arms, a torso and a head."

The Knicks, who like other teams in the hunt for James have no clue what he's going to announce Thursday, are exploring other scenarios in which they re-sign Lee -- although Lee is believed to be ready to move on. If James says no to the Knicks, and team president Donnie Walsh orchestrates the Lee trade, then Randolph and Turiaf will go down in ignominy as the players the Knicks got instead of LeBron. If nothing else, that would take some pressure off Amar'e Stoudemire, who will be introduced Thursday in a news conference at MSG.

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After Ray Allen agreed to a two-year, $20 million deal to return to the Celtics Wednesday, with a player's option on the second year, Boston continued to explore acquiring a big man to fortify the frontcourt while center Kendrick Perkins is out with a knee injury suffered in the NBA Finals. A person familiar with the Celtics' plans said they were in discussions with free agent Jermaine O'Neal, who also was talking with the Nuggets and Mavericks.











Posted on: July 5, 2010 3:28 pm
Edited on: July 5, 2010 7:04 pm
 

Free-Agent Buzz (UPDATE)

Ray Allen will give the Celtics “every chance of re-signing him,” but has been in contact with the top-tier free agents and wants to wait until they choose a team before making a decision, a person with knowledge of the situation told CBSSports.com Monday.

Allen’s conversations with Celtics brass have been “productive and cordial,” the person said. But Allen, like other free agents, can’t have a complete picture of his value or the best situation for him until the likes of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh decide where to sign. It is not clear whether Allen, 34, has spoken with those players, but a person close to one high-profile free agent said Allen has been in contact via text message as the Big Three try to assemble a supporting cast for next season and beyond.

“I don’t think Player X has asked him, ‘If I sign here, will you come with me?’” the person said. “It hasn’t been in any formal way, but they’ve been in contact.”

Allen also has received “general inquiries” from several teams, including those with significant cap space, including the Heat, Bulls, Knicks and Nets, one of the sources said. The Celtics have been informed that Allen would prefer not to make a decision until the so-called cap-room teams find out which players they’ll be able to attract.

With Doc Rivers back for one more season and Paul Pierce returning on a four-year, $61 million deal, Allen will feel tremendous pull from within the Celtics’ organization to re-up for one more championship run. But Allen is seeking a three-year deal, and could be presented with some intriguing options once James and Wade decide where to play. According to people familiar with their strategies, both players have prioritized recruiting a low-post scorer and 3-point shooter as they decide whether to stay with their existing teams or venture elsewhere.

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Now that the Knicks have agreed to terms with free-agent power forward Amar'e Stoudemire, the process of surrounding him with talent capable of winning a championship begins.

"The Knicks are back," Stoudemire told the assembled media at Madison Square Garden Monday after agreeing in principle to a five-year, $99.8 million deal.

Stoudemire also said that he'd be reaching out to LeBron James with a recruiting pitch. If that doesn't work, what are the Knicks' other options? Sources confirmed Monday that the primary target would be Carmelo Anthony, who'd be an unrestricted free agent next summer -- or available at the February trade deadline -- if he doesn't accept the Nuggets' three-year, $65 million extension offer. CBSSports.com first reported Saturday that there's "zero chance" Denver officials will agree to trade Anthony this summer.

In the meantime, the Knicks will continue searching for a pick-and-roll partner for Stoudemire to operate with -- and if it isn't James, free-agent point guard Raymond Felton will be a primary target. The Knicks have had discussions about a sign-and-trade for Felton that would involve their own free-agent power forward, David Lee, a person with knowledge of the talks said Monday. But the Bobcats are lukewarm on such a proposal for the same reason they've had zero conversations with Felton's agent, Tony Dutt, about re-signing him -- the luxury-tax implications. But don't rule out such a scenario yet; a person with close ties to Felton said Monday that the Bobcats point guard is intrigued by the possibility of pairing with Stoudemire in coach Mike D'Antoni's triple-threat, pick-and-roll offense.

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Bobcats coach Larry Brown was not with the organization's summer-league team Monday when play opened in Orlando. But don't draw any conspiratorial conclusions. A person close to Brown told CBSSports.com that the coach is on a previously planned family vacation and that the team is proceeding under the assumption that Brown will return to coach the team next season.

"We're looking at it as status quo," the person said.
Posted on: July 3, 2010 11:45 pm
Edited on: July 4, 2010 12:02 am
 

Pierce, Celts finalize 4-year, $61 million deal


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: July 1, 2010 8:33 pm
Edited on: July 2, 2010 9:35 am
 

Pierce, Celtics close to deal (UPDATE)

Paul Pierce, who opted out of the final year of his contract and walked away for $21.5 million, is close to agreeing to a new four-year, $61 million contract, a person familiar with the deal told CBSSports.com.
 
Two sources cautioned that there's still work to be done on details, but the framework of the deal has been agreed to and is expected to be completed by Saturday.

Pierce, 32, has been negotiating exclusively with the Celtics and was motivated by Doc Rivers’ return to the sideline and his desire to make one more championship run with the core group that has been together since Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett were acquired in blockbuster trades this time of year in 2007. The challenge for Pierce and Allen, both free agents, is that both will have to give up some money to fit into the Celtics’ financial plans.

“Guys are going to have to decide, ‘Do you want to chase every last dollar, or do you want to be a Celtic?’” a person familiar with the team’s strategy said.

The question for Pierce was whether to push for a four-year deal or accept a more realistic three-year deal. One of the key issues still to be resolved is the guaranteed amount in the fourth year, sources said. Pierce will turn 37 in the fourth year of the deal.

Nonetheless, it was sensible for Pierce to opt out for several reasons. For one, he wants to help keep Boston’s core together, and a longer-term deal would give him more money in the long run while giving the Celtics more flexibility. Like other free agents, he’s facing uncertainty about a collective bargaining agreement that will be more punitive towards the players next summer. If negotiations with the Celtics had broken down, Pierce would've had no trouble getting a commitment from teams unable to satisfy their needs in the current chase for free agents.

Though he’ll turn 33 next season, Pierce is still capable of being the primary scorer on a winning team and probably could put up better numbers on a team without as many offensive options as the Celtics have.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com