Tag:Celtics
Posted on: June 18, 2010 6:33 pm
Edited on: June 18, 2010 8:00 pm
 

Finals over, now time for main event

LOS ANGELES – At the risk of looking ahead before the party at Ron Artest’s house is over, it’s time to consider how different the NBA landscape will look the next time someone hoists the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Everyone but Gregg Doyel seemed to enjoy the epic, seven-game series given to us by the Lakers and Celtics. In fact, the series was ABC's most-viewed Finals and Game 7 was the most-watched NBA game since Michael Jordan's last championship shot in 1998 against the Jazz. At a time when owners and executives are understandably nervous about what the future will hold under a new collective bargaining agreement, it didn’t hurt for the sport to put its best foot forward for two weeks in June.

The momentum will carry right into the draft next week, when the NBA welcomes its next potential superstar, John Wall. Then, the main event: free agency, beginning July 1. The decisions and alliances that will be made during the first week of July could shift the balance of power and change the sport for the next decade.

Will LeBron James stay in Cleveland, to be joined by Chris Bosh or another high-profile free agent in a sign-and-trade? Will he form an alliance with Dwyane Wade in Miami, Derrick Rose in Chicago, or a superstar-to-be-named-later in New York? Will Kobe Bryant, fresh off his fifth title, push for a sign-and-trade scenario that would add Bosh to the Lakers’ embarrassment of riches?

The possibilities are endless, though Bryant was in no mood to contemplate all of this after celebrating his second straight title Thursday night. Asked by an enterprising reporter about the daunting possibility of facing a team with, say, LeBron and Wade in next year’s Finals, Bryant shot back, “What is it with you? You want to just emotionally drain me? I don’t want to think about that. Those guys, I’ve seen those guys up close and personal. I don’t want to think about playing against both of them at the same time. I want to enjoy this for a little bit.”

Not for long.

Once the free agency dust settles, the focus will shift from the Summer of LeBron to an army of lawyers, actuaries and accountants who are wrestling with the 800-pound gorilla in the room: the collective bargaining agreement. As thrilling as the Lakers-Celtics series was, it only underscored how concentrated the power – and titles – are among the big-market, high-revenue teams. Despite the fact that the players will include a plan for changing the league’s revenue-sharing model when they submit a proposal to the league in the next two weeks, sources indicate that NBA negotiators remain adamant that revenue sharing will not be part of the bargaining process. Months after getting an early start on negotiations, the owners and players still disagree on the validity of $400 million in losses stated by commissioner David Stern. Any way you slice it, it’s going to be a long, ugly fight with the goal of preventing a work stoppage when the current agreement expires on June 30, 2011.

Which brings us back to how things will look the next time the confetti is falling as Stern hands over the championship trophy 12 months from now. Stern’s NBA could be embarking on the most impactful era of basketball since Jordan retired, with big stars in big markets and world-wide interest in the sport perhaps even surpassing the Jordan era. And this could also be true next June: The NBA could be days away from a lockout that would kill all the momentum.

These are important times with a lot at stake, and with no time to do what Bryant pleaded with reporters to let him do: Enjoy it for a little bit.



Posted on: June 17, 2010 7:32 pm
 

Summer of change looming for Lakers, Celtics


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: June 14, 2010 1:45 am
 

Wade not planning for Riley to coach


BOSTON -- Dwyane Wade sat courtside Sunday night for Game 5 of the NBA Finals, a stage that he desperately wants to revisit. His coach in the 2006 Finals, Pat Riley, recently floated the idea that, if asked, he wouldn't rule out a return to the bench. Wade, for one, isn't planning for such a comeback.

"That’s just something that was said," Wade said after the Celtics beat the Lakers 92-86 to take a 3-2 lead in the Finals. "That’s not anything we’re concentrating on right now in Miami."

Wade said Riley hasn't spoken with him recently about his plans for next season, when it is believed that a request from a marquee free agent would prompt Riley to come down from the executive suite and replace the highly regarded but ringless Erik Spoelstra on the sideline.

"Right now, Spo’s the coach and that’s what I plan for going forward," Wade said.

Wade, one of the top free agents of the frenzied summer that will begin in earnest July 1, prefaced his willingness to answer questions in the hallway leading to the locker rooms with the following caveat: "As long as it's not about free agency." But Wade did confirm a report in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that he spoke last week in Los Angeles with fellow prospective free agents Chris Bosh and Joe Johnson.

"We’re just friends," Wade said. "Just like you talk to your friends, we’re all friends and we all communicate."

Though Wade said he hasn't begun the recruiting process to help lure another star to Miami, the notion of Riley returning to coach could be a big draw. Of the teams with the most cap space to chase free agents, the Nets (Avery Johnson) and Bulls (Tom Thibodeau) have committed to new coaches. The Knicks already have Mike D'Antoni, who is close to several top free agents from his time as an assistant for Mike Krzyzewski with Team USA. The Clippers are holding out hope that they could lure Larry Brown or Phil Jackson, and the Cavs have made a five-year, $30 million play for the top name in college coaching, Tom Izzo.

For now, in Wade's mind, Riley should be excluded from that list. Just know that recruiting season hasn't really begun yet.  



Posted on: June 10, 2010 3:55 pm
 

Pierce vs. Artest will be key to Game 4

BOSTON -- Lost in the officiating angst and Ray Allen's feast-or-famine shooting is a matchup that will be critical to the outcome of Game 4 of the NBA Finals Thursday night: Paul Pierce vs. Ron Artest.

As Mike Freeman has noted , Pierce has been notably absent from the Finals festivities thus far, averaging only 16.3 points while shooting 36 percent from the field. That's simply not good enough for the Celtics to win this series. Allen's 3-point shooting comes and goes, but Pierce needs to produce for Boston to take the momentum back from the Lakers.

Pierce has downplayed the notion that Artest's defense has anything to do with his lack of productivity in the first three games, but that's wishful thinking on his part. Sometimes Artest is a viable option on offense, and sometimes he shoots 1-for-10 or dribbles around aimlessly before launching an ill-advised shot. But one thing the guy does is play defense. Been doing it for years. This is why the Lakers signed him.

Well, not exactly. The Lakers signed him presuming they'd be facing LeBron James and the Cavaliers in the Finals, but the Celtics dispensed with Bron & Co. and proceeded to unleash a torrent of organizational change on the banks of Lake Erie. When you draw up a defensive game plan for the Celtics, the first guy you zero in on is Pierce. Phil Jackson and his staff haven't been required to do much in that regard other than put their arm around Artest, point to No. 34 in green and white, and say, "Get him."

Artest has, with brute force and quick hands and savvy that comes not from video study but gut instincts. Artest has said on several occasions during the playoffs that he doesn't study the opponent he's guarding, whether it's Kevin Durant, LeBron, or Pierce. On Friday, he explained why.

"I've seen every move in New York City, so I don’t have to study my opponent anymore," Artest said. "Every move that somebody has in the NBA, I’ve seen it already. I’ve seen it in New York already."

Artest was asked if he could still dominate a game defensively -- as if holding the Celtics' No. 1 scoring option to 36 percent shooting was somehow not dominant.

"I have before," Artest said. "I've dominated a game defensively and scored four points. You really don’t see it. It’s like that death blow, the Chinese blow? Where you hit and you don’t really feel it yet until it’s in you, and like five seconds later you kind of die? You've see that on TV?"

Sure, Ron. Anyway, Artest's approach to guarding Pierce hasn't been steeped in any nuance. Just straightforward grappling and a few playground tricks.

"I guess you just play the same way that you’ve been playing for all these years, but just stick to it," Artest said. "That’s why sometimes I have bad games because I'm playing the same way I've been playing for years. I try to get better, but one thing I have been doing for years is playing defense. I know how to change a game defensively, know little things I can do to disrupt everybody on the floor. Offensively sometimes, certain days, I may have 30 [points]. I've worked on that part of my game. Some days I might go 1 for 10. But defensively I can probably make somebody else shoot bad. So the days I don’t play well offensively, I've got to make sure I stay executing and maybe only take two shots or four shots, get some deflections, get some stops, pull out some old New York City tricks defensively and see what happens. See if it works."
 
It's worked so far on Pierce. If it keeps working, the Celtics are in trouble.

Posted on: June 8, 2010 8:57 pm
 

NBA's Jackson defends Finals officiating

BOSTON – NBA executive vice president for basketball operations Stu Jackson dismissed complaints from both coaches about the officiating in the NBA Finals, saying Tuesday night that blown calls and missed calls in the first two games were “within the range” of what has been seen throughout the postseason.

“We felt pretty confident that both the first two games of the Finals were officiated very well,” Jackson told CBSSports.com on the court before Game 3. “As expected, in the playoffs in general but certainly during the first few games of the Finals, the level of intensity and aggression is very, very high. You couple that with the fact that both of these teams have a great deal of movement in their offenses and the officials’ emphasis on allowing freedom of movement, and you’ve got a situation where when you put those factors together and you’ve got a lot of fouls called.”

The first two games resulted in 57 personal fouls called against the Celtics and 55 against the Lakers. Overall in the postseason, fouls called are up roughly one per game over last year’s playoffs, Jackson said. The difference has been in the free throws – 72 attempted by the Lakers in Games 1-2 compared to 62 by the Celtics. That’s an average of between six and seven per game more than last year’s Finals between the Lakers and Magic.

“That’s not controllable,” Jackson said of the preponderance free throws, which obviously depends on the timing of fouls and whether they are shooting or non-shooting fouls. Though Jackson refused to give a percentage grade for call accuracy through the first two games, he said the officials are aware of two areas of emphasis based on how these teams play.

“One is, both teams have a lot of movement by perimeter players,” Jackson said. “But also there’s a great deal of post play in this series. When you add up the sum total of Big Baby [Davis] , Rasheed [Wallace], [Kevin] Garnett, and [Kendrick] Perkins against [Lamar] Odom, Pau [Gasol] and [Andrew] Bynum, it’s a war in the paint in this series. And it needs to be called as such.”

Both coaches have complained about there being too many whistles – and the direction of the whistle – in the first two games. That’s just standard politicking in the NBA playoffs. But the pace of both games was slowed by the number of fouls called, and the way particular players have been officiated – such as all the Celtics’ big men getting into foul trouble and Kobe Bryant getting whistled for five fouls in Game 2 – has raised awareness about the refs’ performance. But Jackson said the league’s video review of the first two games showed nothing out of the ordinary.

“I’m just miffed and amazed how the other team complained about the fouls since we’ve been the team that’s been in foul trouble for two games,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said before Game 2. “Maybe they do different math there or something. I don’t get that one.”

The best indication of how the officials have done might be the simple fact that both teams are complaining. When I mentioned that to Jackson, he smiled and said, “That’s not in our analytics.”
Posted on: June 7, 2010 3:45 pm
 

Lakers mull adjustments for Game 3


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: June 5, 2010 5:23 pm
 

Source: Thibodeau accepts Bulls' offer


LOS ANGELES -- Tom Thibodeau has accepted an offer to become head coach of the Bulls, a person with close ties to the Celtics assistant confirmed to CBSSports.com Saturday.

The news, first reported by the Chicago Tribune, comes as Thibodeau is preparing for Game 2 of the NBA Finals with Boston trailing the Lakers 1-0.

Thibodeau, 50, architect of the Celtics defense that contained Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Dwight Howard during Boston's unexpected return to the Finals for the second time in three years, is not permitted to speak with the media due to team policy that muzzles assistant coaches. But the person with knowledge of the agreement called his decision to leave the Celtics for the opportunity to be the head coach in Chicago -- a marquee franchise with a solid roster and cap space to add a max free agent -- "a no-brainer."

No official announcement will come from either team during the Finals.


 

Posted on: May 24, 2010 6:44 pm
 

Kobe: Celtics' success no surprise

PHOENIX -- For the Lakers, talking about the Celtics is taboo, to say the least. Andrew Bynum tried it, and Phil Jackson accused him of a brain -- um -- malfunction. Lakers fans chanted, "We want Boston!" during Games 1 and 2 of the Western Conference finals at Staples Center, and Kobe Bryant chided them for being "disrespectful to the team that we're playing."

But discussing the Celtics' surprising blitz though the postseason -- evicting LeBron James from the second round and getting his coach fired, and now breezing to a 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals? That's fair game.

So Bryant was asked on the practice floor Monday how much Boston's ruthless dismantling of the Magic has surprised him.

"Honestly? Zero," Bryant said.

And the Cavs?

"I just thought it was great defense," Bryant said. "I just wasn’t surprised by it. You give them a series to prepare, and they're going to be prepared like you wouldn't believe. They're going to home in on things that you do and take those things away from you. And if you can't make adjustments ... throughout a series, you’re going to have problems."

Yes, even when the Celtics were struggling with a .500 record after Christmas, Bryant saw this coming.

"They started the season off the right way," he said. "Once they stepped back and let [Rajon] Rondo do what he does, that team started taking off. They're a great defensive team -- defense, rebounding, that’s how they punch their ticket. That’s how they go about doing it."

Just don't ask him about playing the Celtics. Not yet. And no more "We want Boston!" chants until this series is over.

"It makes no sense," Bryant said. "No sense."

That must be how the Suns feel trying to defend Bryant. In Game 1, they limited his supporting cast by not double-teaming him, and Bryant scored 40 points. In Game 2, they pressured him when he had the ball and Bryant dished out 13 assists. In Game 3, they played zone on nearly every possession in the second half, and Bryant hurt them both ways -- scoring 36 points and handing out 11 assists.

"You know Kobe’s going to score, there’s no doubt about that," Jason Richardson said. "He’s going to get his 30-plus points or whatever it is. But when he’s doing that, you don’t want him to have 10 or 11 assists because that means he’s getting people involved. We've got to figure out a way. Are we going to let him score or are we going to let him be a distributor? We've got to pick our poison, which one we want. Because you know that any given time he can score, so I don’t think we want him to be a distributor, too."

Suns coach Alvin Gentry has wrestled with how to defend Bryant and also how to combat the Lakers' size advantage. Bryant is going to do what he does, but the best strategy by far that the Suns have employed against L.A.'s front court was Amar'e Stoudemire's aggressiveness in taking the ball to the basket and getting to the foul line in Game 3. Did it work because he was able to get Bynum and Lamar Odom in foul trouble? Or did he get them in foul trouble because the strategy was working? That will be the next stylistic adjustment in a series that could still take a few more strategic twists and turns.

That, and how much zone the Suns want to play. It worked in the second half Sunday night because Bynum and Odom were limited by fouls and the Lakers weren't hitting from the perimeter; they uncharacteristically launched 32 attempts from 3-point range, making only nine.

"I like seeing it a lot when they don’t go in," Gentry said of the Lakers' trigger-happy night beyond the arc. "The zone is good when the shots are not going in. ... It also gave us an opportunity to win, and that’s the only thing that concerns me. I'll do anything. We’ll play any way if it helps us win."

That's one of many reasons why too much Boston talk from the Lakers wouldn't be a wise idea. There are still a few things for the defending champs to figure out between now and then.



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