Posted on: September 20, 2010 11:04 am
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.
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: July 1, 2010 8:33 pm
Edited on: July 2, 2010 9:35 am
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.
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 17, 2010 7:32 pm
LOS ANGELES – Among the subplots swirling around Game 7 of the NBA Finals is what happens next for both teams. Regardless of the outcome, big changes could be on the way for the Lakers and Celtics.
Boston’s Big Three aren’t getting any younger, and Doc Rivers hasn’t tipped his hand about whether he’ll step away from coaching next season to spend more time with his family. The Lakers’ roster is far less fragile than it was when they lost to the Pistons in the 2004 Finals, but the key figure who holds everything together, Phil Jackson, has the power to blow it all apart.
“There’s a lot of questions in terms of what Phil’s going to do,” said Derek Fisher, the Lakers’ only core player who isn’t under contract for next season. “He’s probably the biggest thing that turns the trifle in terms of how the future looks, as far as whether he’s back or not.”
When the Lakers have experienced playoff failures in the past – the poor showing in the ’04 Finals, the back-to-back first-round losses to Phoenix – the threat of major changes has never been far behind. The ’04 team was a different story, given the way it was patched together with future Hall of Famers Gary Payton and Karl Malone. After the 2007 loss to the Suns, Kobe Bryant went on the infamous offseason rampage when he issued, then rescinded a trade demand.
“You talk about franchises where there’s tradition to win championships, that’s what you expect,” Lamar Odom said. “This is the type of pressure that we live for. This is what makes us. This is what makes being a sportsman, playing for an organization that’s established like this: the Cowboys, the Yankees, the Boston Red Sox, the Boston Celtics, the L..A. Lakers. That’s just the way it is.”
The key figure who could prevent all hell from breaking lose in Laker Land, Jackson, hasn’t tipped his hand – not even to his players and coaches.
“Although it appears that I’m a lot closer to it, I’m actually in the same seat that you are,” said assistant coach Brian Shaw, one of those who would be in line to replace Jackson if he retired. “He hasn’t let us know or given us an indication one way or the other. So we have to just sit and play it by ear just like everybody else.”
Said Fisher: “I have no clue to be honest. I don’t think he does either. He tries to teach us in terms of just embracing the now and the moment and being here in the present and not really worrying about what’s coming down the line. I think it’s the same way for him. I think he’ll gage where he is emotionally and physically. Obviously, the result [of Game 7] could play a part in it.”
Same goes for the Celtics, who face the prospect of losing Rivers and seeing that trigger major roster changes. Ray Allen will be an unrestricted free agent, Paul Pierce can opt out of his contract and become one, and Kevin Garnett – though under contract for two more years – clearly is in decline.
"It’s one of the toughest things, which Boston will face here probably pretty shortly,” said Shaw, a former Celtic and Laker. “KG is getting up there, plus Pierce, Ray Allen, and Rasheed [Wallace]. I know the Boston team that I played on in the late 80s, they had [Kevin] McHale, [Robert] Parrish, DJ [Dennis Johnson], [Larry] Bird – these guys all kind of got older at the same time. Do you show loyalty and keep everybody until the wheels fall off and then have to start over? Look how long it took Boston to get back to where they are now. Or do you say, ‘Some guys are getting kind of towards the end,’ and try to infuse some youth?’”
Critical decisions that both teams will be facing, days or even hours after one of them is crowned champion.
Posted on: May 14, 2010 2:44 am
BOSTON – At the end of a playoff series he’d been very much a part of winning, Kevin Garnett was asked the obligatory question about what LeBron James’ next few weeks will be like.
Garnett did better than answer it. He offered LeBron a piece of advice.
“Loyalty is something that hurts you at times, because you can’t get youth back,” Garnett said Thursday night after the Celtics eliminated the Cavs 94-85 with the help of his 22-point, 12-rebound performance straight out of 1998. “I can honestly say that if I could go back and do my situation over, knowing what I know now with this organization, I’d have done it a little sooner.”
Garnett, one of the original high-school-to-the-NBA stars, will turn 34 the day after Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Magic. Fifteen years in, he is chasing his second championship. The only thing loyalty got him was 12 years in Minnesota with one trip past the first round of the playoffs.
“I don’t know what’s going through his mind,” Garnett said of LeBron. “He’s a different individual. I haven’t spoken to him or anything, but the world is his. Whatever he wants it to be, whatever decisions he makes are probably going to be best for him – not only him, but for him and his family.
“He’s the face of basketball,” Garnett said. “I think his desire is definitely there. It’s going to be the talk of the summer because, you know, everyone’s going to be tuned in. It’s not just him, but D-Wade and Chris Bosh and all the other solid free agents available this summer. It’s going to be an interesting summer.”
A summer that started early for LeBron, in large part because Garnett found his health and his youth and some puzzling defensive schemes perpetrated by the Cavs. After Garnett had caused major problems for Antawn Jamison in the first five games of the conference semifinals, Cavs coach Mike Brown’s counter move was starting the game with Shaquille O’Neal defending him – a matchup straight out of 1995, and one that should’ve stayed there. Garnett picked-and-popped Shaq right out of that defensive look, and nobody else had much luck with him, either.
“It’s my 15th year, and I have seen almost everything that you can possibly do in a basketball game,” Garnett said. “My mentality throughout these whole playoffs has been attack, attack, to be the presence. So when they put Shaq on me, my thought process didn’t change. It didn’t change at all.”
Something clicked for Garnett, and for the Celtics, once the playoffs started. He averaged 18.8 points and 8.0 rebounds in the series, and helped close it out Thursday night with a ferocious dunk that made it 88-74 with 5:53 left and a clutch hook shot off an inbounds play that wound up being the game’s last basket.
“He’s healthier and happier, which makes all of us happier,” coach Doc Rivers said. “With health, I’m assuming that brings confidence.”
And results, too.
Posted on: April 18, 2010 10:26 pm
As I mentioned Saturday night, I'm a little surprised Kevin Garnett got suspended for his elbow to Quentin Richardson's head in Game 1 of the Heat-Celtics Series. Surprised, but not outraged.
Of all the factors I mentioned in trying to predict whether the league would suspend Garnett, the one that probably made the difference was the fact that Garnett's elbow was not thrown during the regular course of play. In other words, KG didn't inadvertently clip Q-Rich with an elbow while going for a rebound or contesting a shot. The league takes a more severe stance on extracurricular violence, and Garnett's outburst as he stood over injured teammate Paul Pierce certainly fell into that category.
In any event, the Celtics have no grounds to whine about this one. Garnett's bark has been bigger than his bite for more than a year, and this time he took a bite out of the Celtics' chances of winning this series. The fact that Garnett will miss Game 2 in Boston puts the Celtics in serious jeopardy of squandering home-court advantage. There's no one to blame but Garnett for that.
As much as I laughed upon learning that Richardson had called Garnett and Pierce "actresses" for their histrionics on the play in question, this is no laughing matter for the Celtics. They won Game 1 with stifling defense, keeping Dwyane Wade from beating them off the dribble for long stretches in the second half. I guess we'll find out how big a part of that Garnett was. My first reaction is that Wade will be more aggressive getting to the rim with the knowledge that Garnett won't be there waiting there for him.
But let's not forget this: The Celtics beat the Bulls in an epic first-round series without Garnett last year, and pushed Orlando to seven games without him, too. This is a team that knows how to overcome setbacks like this. They didn't win their 17th title two years ago for no good reason.
It's sort of funny that the player Boston will be relying on to step in for hothead Garnett is another renowned hothead, Rasheed Wallace. The recruiting visit that Doc Rivers, Danny Ainge, and the Big Three made to persuade Sheed to sign with them last summer never looked so important.
Posted on: April 18, 2010 12:18 am
The story of Game 1 of the Heat-Celtics first-round series should have been the way Boston stifled Dwyane Wade in the second half and found the defensive dominance that led them to the 2008 title. The Celtics were back Saturday night -- until Kevin Garnett's elbow got in the way, twice, with 39 seconds left.
Now, the question is a legitimate one: Will KG be suspended for Game 2?
Another question is, should he be?
Taking all the usual factors into consideration, I think the answers are no, and no. But after beating the Heat 85-76 to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-7 series, these are questions the Celtics shouldn't have to be contemplating.
You've seen the replays by now, and if nothing else, it should be clear that this was just an example of Garnett's typical bluster and machismo going too far. Hindered by a leg injury and all that mileage, Garnett has become a caricature of himself -- a woofing, cussing, emotional tinder box that on Saturday night kindled a fire that couldn't have been more unnecessary.
Anyone who knows Quentin Richardson -- and Garnett should know him by now, Q-Rich has been in the NBA for nine years -- would know that he approached the sideline in front of the Miami bench strictly out of concern for fallen Celtic Paul Pierce. As Pierce lay writhing in pain after sustaining a stinger on his right shoulder, Richardson immediately walked over to check on him.
"I just thought Q was standing over him talking some nonsense," Garnett said afterward.
KG, taking issue with somebody talking nonsense? Please.
Garnett immediately shoved Richardson out of the way, a course of action with which Richardson, to no one's surprise, took issue. Talking and jostling ensued, and things escalated into a full-scale shoving match immediately after Garnett connected with a vicious elbow to Richardson's face.
Garnett was assessed two technical fouls -- one for the initial shove and the talking, and a second for the elbow -- and was ejected. The issue now is whether the league office will/should take further action against the Celtics' big mouthed big man.
A few factors to consider: No one other than Pierce was injured in the fracas. The benches didn't clear, although it was difficult to determine what was going on with the Miami bench since Pierce had fallen into it. No punches were thrown, as far as I could see on the various replays.
It would be perfectly reasonable for league disciplinary czar Stu Jackson to conclude that the only harm in this situation was punished by the game officials, who dealt with Garnett appropriately after viewing the replays. But there are a couple of things I'd be concerned about if I were Doc Rivers or Danny Ainge: The league often considers whether contact is "unnecessary" or "excessive," and whether there is a windup before contact was made. Garnett's second elbow could reasonably fit all three criteria.
It also satisfied another definition of conduct that often is punished further by the league office: It escalated a tense situation into something else -- a full-fledged shoving match that easily could have resulted in punches being thrown.
The fact that it didn't result in punches being thrown is good for the Celtics. But the fact that it could have, I think, means that the next 18 hours or so will be accompanied by the appropriate amount of nervousness in New England.
All things considered, I don't think Garnett will be or should be suspended for Game 2. But if he is, I wouldn't object. And Garnett would only have himself to blame.
Posted on: 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.