Tag:Rajon Rondo
Posted on: February 2, 2011 11:27 am
Edited on: February 2, 2011 11:29 am

Game Changer: LMA drops 40

The Rockets keep bugging the Lakers, DMC gets into it with KG, and LaMarcus Aldridge has the game of his life, all in today's Game Changer. 
Posted by Matt Moore


LaMarcus Aldridge has become a complete player this season, and has gone from good player to star. No further proof is needed beyond the performance Aldridge gave Tuesday night in the Blazers' 99-86 win over the Western-Conference-leading San Antonio Spurs. Aldridge dropped 40 on the Spurs, with a barrage of inside layups, dunks, and perimeter mid-range jumpers. See for yourself, in the shot chart from our GameTracker: 

7-13 on jumpers? That'll do, LMA. That'll do. Aldridge made a strong case for All-Star reserve in front of the coach for the Western team, not only with his shooting display to go along with 11 rebounds.  Aldridge has become the focal point of the Blazers, and he's the reason they're hanging onto the 8th spot in the West. That Aldridge has become the focal point after so often being passed over by Blazers management and fans is equally notable. First it was Brandon Roy, then Greg Oden, then Andre Miller, and most recently sophomore Wesley Matthews. But with Roy and Oden on the shelf, Miller marginalized by age, and Matthews still learning consistency, it's fallen upon Aldridge to shoulder the team. And he's risen to that challenge. 

Patty Mills at one point lobbed a dangerous, ill-advised pass into traffic for Aldridge. Mills knew it was a poor pass, but trusted in Aldridge to make a play. Aldridge nabbed the pass and nearly threw it down, drawing a foul. That's trust in your star, and the Blazers have it. That Aldridge has had to wait so long to reach this level must make it all the more worth it. Always the consolation prize, with the Blazers hopes for a title run with their young core vanished into a mist of lost opportunities, Aldridge is now the Blazers' best hope moving forward. He's a legitimate star to build around. 

For the Spurs, this game serves as a warning. The Spurs had no one to extend their perimeter defense against Aldridge with.  DeJuan Blair is not mobile enough and Duncan is unable to cover the distance and recover. As a result, Aldridge dropped the array of mid-range top-of-the-key shots you see above.  It's his sweet spot, just as Dirk's is the corner elbow, and David West's is the 16-foot baseline. All give the Spurs problems. Stretch fours are a problem for the Spurs, and they're going to be seeing a lot of them in the playoffs. Meanwhile, their offense sputtered and their defense wasn't able to hit the gear they're going to need in the playoffs.

Not the way they wanted to start the rodeo road trip. 


Aldridge, obviously.


Kobe Bryant: 32 points, 6 rebounds, 11 assists

Luis Scola: 24 points, 15 rebounds, 3 assists


The Celtics and Kings engaged in a pretty brutal standoff with the officials Tuesday night. The Celtics played their usual brand of brutal, physical, abrasive style, swiping, clubbing, shouldering, and creating so much contact the officials couldn't call everything. And when they did call something, the Celtics reacted with their usual outpouring of incredulity. What the Celtics weren't expecting was for the Kings to attempt the same approach. The Kings sped the pace up, which the Celtics hate, and then got aggressive down low, repeatedly blocking Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett, and Glen Davis. That helped the Kings to a three-possession lead, which of course the Kings blew down the stretch when their entire offense came unglued as the Celtics buckled down. 

The most interesting part of the game was the interaction between DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Garnett. Garnett did his usual "Look at me, I'm so crazy" act, hitting himself and mumbling obscenities. Cousins, for the most part, seemed off-put by Garnett's defense of him in the post, which involved a lot of slapping at the ball, missing, and hitting Cousins, then predictably getting the call because it's Kevin Garnett versus a rookie.  Cousins did mouth off to Garnett once, prompting Rajon Rondo to try and ease him back with his hand, which caused Cousins to slap the hand away, ending in Rondo shoving him and drawing a technical. It was a weird mirror image to Garnett's own behavior, if obviously less mature. 

Cousins was brilliant on offense, hitting everything from tap-backs and fadeaways to three-pointers.  But on defense, he too often lazed around getting back, didn't commit off-ball, and wound up in poor position. Imagine if the kid had a work ethic. 


The Lakers needed a win, and an injured, short-handed, small, poor defensively Rockets team was the perfect cure for what ails them.  Of course, for 48 minutes, the Lakers refused to take their medicine, and the Rockets used crack perimeter shooting and savvy ball movement to outwit the Lakers on their way to overtime. The Lakers would make a run by being tall and very good at basketball, the Rockets would call timeout, and then the Lakers would completely go away from everything that worked previously. Sure, the Lakers were missing Andrew Bynum. But the Rockets were missing Yao Ming, obviously, so it's not like they were full strength.

Meanwhile Pau Gasol drifted and drifted until overtime. Kobe Bryant dished seven assists before he scored 7 points in the first quarter, then started to take over offensively again.  Guess when the Rockets came back?  Meanwhile, he went back to distributing and finding Lamar Odom late, which allowed the Lakers to close the deficit and force overtime. In the extra period, it was simple physics.  The Lakers are tall and long, the Rockets are short.  The end. 

It wasn't a great win for the Lakers, but it's a win, and it's a start for their way back.
Posted on: February 1, 2011 6:58 pm
Edited on: February 1, 2011 6:59 pm

All-Star Debate: How many Celtics deserve to go?

Do Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce all deserve to represent the Boston Celtics during the 2011 NBA All-Star game? Our NBA crew debates that question. Posted by Ben Golliver.


All-Star reserves will be announced on Thursday, and par for the course, the coaches have some tough decisions. We'll be debating the merits of each choice the coaches will have to make. These debates don't necessarily reflect the actual opinions of the writers. Think of it as opposition research, only if we opposed everyone. Our second debate? Do all four Celtics deserve to make the cut?  

Sugar Ray Isn't Sweet Enough

by Matt Moore

I'll go with three, exempting Ray Allen.

We can all agree Rondo is a lock. I think it's safe to say Kevin Garnett has punched his ticket with his season so far. So if we're not sending four, which isn't a bad idea, it comes down to Paul Pierce vs. Ray Allen.  It's true that Allen's been phenomenal, hitting 45% from the perimeter. I've got no issue with him being in the three point contest... versus himself. He's an incredible weapon for the Celtics, having a stellar year.

But the fact remains that Pierce is the better overall player, even this season. Pierce is actually shooting slightly better than Allen from the field (51.2% for Pierce vs. 50.5% for Allen), slightly, and also shooting above 40% from the perimeter. Additionally,Pierce's role in the offense makes it more difficult to maintain that kind of efficiency. Pierce drives into traffic more often, takes step-back jumpers more often, and creates off the dribble with contested shots more often. 

Pierce's total contribution is higher as well, as he rebounds more efficiently and assists and turns the ball over at a similar rate as Allen. Beyond all this, though, Pierce is more tapped in to the emotional core of the Celtics. Allen is the cooler head to prevail, the friendly statesman. But Pierce is the bridge between Garnett's unbridled intensity and Allen's cool, calm personality. He's the franchise player of the C's and his play and player identity is worthy of All-Star status yet again this season.

The Captain Stays Home

by Royce Young

There's no doubt Rajon Rondo is an All-Star. The only question with him is if you think he should rightly be the starter in this game. 

Garnett? His numbers aren't huge but his value to the Celtics is immeasurable. His defense, his leadership and his ability to take over each game he's in makes him not just an All-Star, but an underrated MVP candidate. 

Ray Allen and Paul Pierce have both been completely fantastic this season but here's where we have to draw a line in the sand. Four Celtics just can't be on this team. Not that it's not deserved but four players from one team is a bit much. (Plus, three from Miami and four from Boston? That's more than half the roster!)

So the question comes to, Pierce or Allen? Who is more deserving? To me, it has to be Ray Allen. 

Allen's 3-point percentage is impressive enough (45 percent) but it's become more than that for him. He's an underrated defender at shooting guard and is a big reason Rondo is an All-Star. Allen doesn't have a lot of years left on his career, but this is no doubt one of his finer campaigns. He's hitting every big shot, playing well within the system and is such a dynamic weapon for one of the league's very best teams. 

It's not about numbers here for Allen, it's about his efficiency. Pierce is absolutely deserving, but since I've decided for some reason that three is enough, the nod just has to go to Allen. 

Send Them All

by Ben Golliver

The Eastern Conference, by and large, is a cyst upon the NBA yet again. 5.5 good teams (The Knicks get half credit for Amar'e Stoudemire) does not make a conference, and in filling out the All-Star roster, I'm all for pretending that the other 9.5 teams don't exist. Yes, I realize this co-signs the superpower movement that the Miami Heat kicked in to high gear, but in a popularity contest like the All-Star game, it's an acceptable lesser of two evils when compared to rewarding players that can't carry their teams above the pile of mediocrity.

The Boston Celtics aren't just above mediocre, either. Despite injuries to key players, they're the best and most feared team in the conference, by far. They play basketball the right way on both ends -- unselfishly on offense, intensely on defense -- and all of the key pieces make it work. (It's a testament to their overall talent level and dedication that they're able to keep chugging along when one of the key four players goes down.) 

Point guard Rajon Rondo should arguably be an All-Star starter, so he makes the cut without question. Ditto for Kevin Garnett, who has played excellently, if not always with class. And I'm struggling to come up with an argument against Pierce or Allen. Both Pierce -- with 19.2 points, 5 rebounds and 3.2 assists -- and Allen -- 17.2 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists -- have solid statistical cases. Both have started every game for Boston and have logged more minutes than anyone save Rondo, who is much younger than either of them. 

Whether its team success, past playoff triumphs, raw numbers or star power, the Celtics have every argument covered. All four deserve to go.

Posted on: January 31, 2011 7:54 am
Edited on: January 31, 2011 7:54 am

The Shootaround 1.31.11: All Celtics / Lakers

It was one of the biggest regular season games of the year, so here's a full plate of reaction to Sunday's game between the Boston Celtics and Losshootaround Angeles Lakers. The Celtics won, 109-96, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Posted by Ben Golliver. 

Boston's View

  • Boston Globe: "Rondo is the NBA’s best at making the pinpoint pass at the precise moment, but he relies too much on that skill. In the second half yesterday, Rondo made matters simpler for himself and his teammates. Very rarely does Rondo play an entire half, but yesterday he played all 24 minutes and the Celtics shot a mind-boggling 69.4 percent from the floor. And of the 22 baskets converted by Celtics other than Rondo, 15 were assisted by Rondo, including six of the team’s seven 3-pointers. That means he is moving the ball, delivering passes to sweet spots. That means the Celtics are an offensive machine and Rondo is the commander. “I told Rondo in front of the team it was one of his best games of the year,’’ Rivers said. “In the fact that I thought he called an absolutely perfect game. He’s our pitcher. I thought he just called a sensational game, coming out of timeouts, making sure guys were in their spots.’’
  • CelticsBlog: "His numbers don't jump off the page and it wasn't his best game statistically, but maybe that is what made it even better.  We've come to expect this from Big Baby.  This kind of solid, all around game has become the norm, not the exception.  Sure, there are times when Doc strains his last vocal cord because of something Baby does, but those are coming less and less often. In fact, the following thought occurred to me that really made me grin:  Big Baby might be the James Posey type piece of the puzzle we've been missing since 2008." 
  • CelticsHub: "Because the Celtics offense quietly rolled over the Lakers today. Paul Pierce, who you may have heard has scored more points per game against the Lakers than any other team in his career, hit stepbacks from everywhere. He and a few other guys combined for 9-17 from 3. Rajon Rondo picked up 15 assists in the second half, part of a team total of 34. You know all this. So why isn’t anyone talking about the crappy Laker defense?"
  • WEEI.com: "Paul Pierce destroyed Ron Artest: The captain destroyed his antagonist from last year’s finals, scoring 32 points on just 18 shots and sending Artest to the bench in the fourth quarter. There was nothing Artest could do to contain Pierce, who had both his long-range and in-between game working. The Celtics were overwhelming in the second half, but Pierce kept them in position throughout the game in what might have been his best performance of the season."
  • ESPNBoston.com: Paul Pierce: "The thing is, when you win a game here now, it's not for the championship. It's a regular-season game. When we play against the Lakers, it really gets our juices going, because they are our rivals. It's a big game just knowing that we can come into this building and get a win."

Los Angeles's View

  • Los Angeles Times: "We're talking humiliation … Celtics fans chanting "Beat L.A.!" … Celtics fan Matt Damon and friends yukking it up courtside between the Lakers' bench and superfan Norm Pattiz."
  • Orange County Register: "Kobe Bryant gave his team an 'F' for its defense in Sunday's 109-96 loss to the Boston Celtics, a grade teammate Derek Fisher didn't disagree with. ... Ron Artest, usually the Lakers' defensive plug, shrugged off Bryant's failing grade, saying, 'I got F's in elementary school and I still went to college. I also got A's in elementary school and it didn't help me.'"
  • Silver Screen And Roll: "Against the Celtics at Staples this afternoon, the Lakers forced a load of Boston turnovers, went to the free-throw line early and often, shot well on threes and got a masterly performance from Kobe Bryant. It should've been enough. But it wasn't. It wasn't close to being enough."
  • Land O' Lakers: "After the 109-96 loss to the Celtics, Phil Jackson was asked if Ron Artest, who scored just three points on one-for-10 shooting while struggling to check Paul Pierce, "got lost" on the way to Staples Center. "No, he was on time," Phil replied. "(But) he got lost on the court."
  • USA Today: The Lakers shot 44.4%, made four of nine three-pointers (three by Bryant) and had 10 assists. Ten assists? That quantified the lack of ball movement that led to Bryant as the only Laker to score in a nearly five-minute span while four Celtics were scoring. Boston expanded its lead from 91-87 to 107-91. "It's always balance that makes us better," Lakers guard Derek Fisher said. "We're not going to accomplish our goals by relying on Kobe to score 30 or 40 points every game."
Posted on: January 30, 2011 6:18 pm
Edited on: January 30, 2011 6:22 pm

At the buzzer: Celtics 109, Lakers 96

The Boston Celtics ran away from the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half of Sunday's game. Posted By Ben Golliver. paul-pierce-celtics-lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers held a halftime lead, but the Boston Celtics ran away with the game in the third quarter, winning the first rematch of the 2010 NBA Finals, 109-96, in Los Angeles.

Paul Pierce netted 14 points in the first seven minutes of the third quarter to pull Boston back into the lead, and a Lakers offense that had been powered by Kobe Bryant simply couldn't keep pace, scoring just 18 points as a team in the third quarter.

Down the stretch, Bryant pulled the Lakers back to within single digits -- 98-89 -- with a jumper with a little under four minutes to play, but the Celtics slammed the door convincingly, going on a 9-2 run over the next three minutes to ice the game. 

The story of the game was Boston's defense. Other than the 33 point explosion from Los Angeles in the second quarter, the Lakers scored 21 points in the first quarter, 18 points in the third quarter and 24 points in the final period. Bryant finished with an impressive 41 points, but his backcourt mates were virtual no-shows, as Steve Blake and Derek Fisher combined for just nine points on nine shots. Ron Artest was also a non-factor, scoring just three points on 1-10 shooting.

Pierce carried most of the offensive load for the Celtics, finishing with 32 points, five rebounds and three assists. Ray Allen finished with 21 points, Kevin Garnett added 18 points and 13 rebounds, and Rajon Rondo notched a double-double with 10 points and 16 assists.

With the win, Boston improves to 36-11. The Lakers drop to 33-15, losing their second consecutive game.

The Celtics continue their current road trip with a game against the Kings in Sacramento on Tuesday night. The Lakers next play against the Houston Rockets on Tuesday in Los Angeles.
Posted on: January 28, 2011 2:57 pm

Will it mean more to the Lakers this time?

Posted by Royce Young

After the Lakers took an embarrassing pounding at the hands of the Miami Heat on Christmas Day, Kobe Bryant was candid and open with why he thought his team lost.

He said, "I think these games mean more to our opponents than they do to us." Everyone stopped right there and rolled their eyes. What a pathetic, arrogant excuse. Then Kobe continued and it made a lot more sense.

"And I think we need to get that straight. We need to play with more focus and put more importance on these games. I don't like it."

Well, Kobe, here's another chance.

The Celtics roll into Staples to take on the defending champs Sunday in front of a national TV audience, a game that has all the hype you might imagine.

Surely though, the Lakers don't need to find extra motivation against the Celtics. This is their top rival and the team they played a grueling seven-game series with in the Finals last June. If this game means more to the Celtics than the Lakers, well, then something is seriously wrong.

Still, something about the way the Lakers have played big regular season games lingers here. Something about the way Kobe talked about the team not performing well in these situations sticks. Teams like the Lakers, the Celtics, the Spurs, they know it's just one of 82. This one isn't more important than the next one against the Timberwolves or Wizards. It counts the same amount in the standings.

But losing isn't ever acceptable for Kobe so when his team takes beatings like it did on Christmas, he's left wondering why. And one of the reasons, at least in his mind, is that it means more to the other guy.

And you know Sunday, this game is going to mean a whole lot to the Celtics. They are returning to the scene of the crime. They're coming back to Staples, where the last time they were there, they were left walking off the floor as purple and yellow confetti rained down and the Lakers lifted up No. 16.

I'm thinking Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce remember that pretty well. So if you're wondering if this game has a little extra importance to the Celtics, yeah, it probably does.

Which means the Lakers will have to figure out how to match that intensity. They'll have to find it in themselves to make this game mean something extra. Read Kobe's quote again. We need to play with more focus and put more importance on these games . Yes Kobe, you do. Otherwise you'll be back at the podium wondering what went wrong again Sunday. The Celtics are going to come ready to play. You better have your group prepared to match them.
Posted on: January 28, 2011 2:56 pm
Edited on: January 30, 2011 3:20 am

Celtics at Lakers: What it means for Boston

What Sunday's Celtics-Lakers game means for the Boston Celtics in the first rematch since the 2010 Finals. 

Posted by Matt Moore

On Sunday, Boston travels to L.A. for Modern Celtics-Lakers XX.  The 20th time these two have met since the 07-08 season (twice in the regular season for three years, plus 13 playoff games) will still represent what many feel is a clash of the two best teams in basketball currently, as well as the resumption of the oldest and greatest rivalry the sport has ever known. With Los Angeles at 33-13 and the Celtics 35-10, the two look every bit ready to see each other once more in the Finals, even with challengers like San Antonio and Miami in their path. 

This rivalry extends beyond the history and legacies of their franchises, though. There's a genuine dislike between the two teams, even if they share a mutual respect.  The Celtics' brutally tough, bullying defense and marksman like precision clashes organically with the Lakers' smooth ball movement and overpowering height and athleticism run through the Triangle.  Doc Rivers' explosive motivational coaching approach runs in contrast to Phil Jackson's zen-like trust in his players and press-conference tweaking.  And at the end of it, they just don't like one another. 

But as the two meet in the rare regular season game that actually does seem to matter (although afterward the loser will predictably dismiss such claims), what does this matchup actually mean for Boston? 

Just for Kicks

Kevin Garnett has never been one to back down from an opportunity for dramatics. As much as his reputation is for visceral toughness and unbridled intensity, he is also a showman.  While the legitimacy of his stanchion-smashing, cobra-weaving, "Anything is possible" lunacy is up for debate, he does know how to send a message in outright terms. Nothing proves that like the shoes it was announced Garnett would be wearing for the game. Yes, his shoes. Have a look, courtesy of Nice Kicks /Aaron Knows and The Basketball Jones :

On the tongue there? That's the Celtics all time record against the Lakers, 152-120. The shoe is delicately titled "Beat L.A.."  Kevin Garnett had shoes produced for one game.  If that doesn't serve as proof of Garnett's intentions in this game, nothing will. It's just his feet, but in basketball terms, that's as good as wearing a T-shirt that reads "I plan on kicking your face in because that's what my team does to your team."  It's an outright signal of the Celtics' entire attitude, which isn't just "We're going to win" but "We're going to win because we're better than you, our franchise is better than you, and our collective being in every way is superior to yours."

It's why the Celtics don't really respect Orlando, nor do they show real signs of respect for anyone. It's part of their own personal code of conduct. But it's amped to another level with L.A. That will always be part of it as the players seek to carry on the legacy of the game built into the rivalry. But it's even more prevalent because of how things were the last time these two stepped on a court together. 

Revenge and the Art of Maniacal Maintenance

Losing to the Lakers in the Finals was devastating for the Celtics. Losing a championship series is hard for any player, but these are the Celtics, a group of veterans trying to make good on promises to themselves as well as their fans that they would collect multiple rings once among players of their caliber. Beyond that, though, losing to L.A. creates a sense of failure beyond just disappointment. You've let down the players that came before you, the players who managed to beat the Lakers, who protected that legacy (despite the Lakers having won quite a few of their own throughout the years).  It's the darkest of all places, as Garnett told WEEI this fall about his mindset after Game 7: 
“Very dark, to be honest, dark. ‘Just leave me alone, let me be my myself. I don’t want to deal with anything right now. Let me just be in a dark place.’ Just the way I replay the game over and over in my mind, trying to get a resolution to some type of place to where you can settle with it. I never found it, but that’s what it is. I say it’s fuel to the fire. [Expletive? (Bleeped completely out] .“
via Sports Radio Interviews » Blog Archive » Kevin Garnett Goes To A Dark Place In The Off-Season .

Paul Pierce wasn't in a great place afterward either, when WEEI spoke to him about it: 
How long does it take a competitive person like you to get over a seventh-game loss in the NBA (Finals)? A week? A month? Ever?

“I still haven’t gotten over it. It’s tough. Because you envision back, and say, ‘If we could have done this different, that different in the game, it would have been a different outcome.’ So, it’s hard. You think about the what ifs and all of that. I don’t think you ever forget it.”

What’s the process? Do you go in your bedroom for a couple of days and sleep, and then don’t shave for a while, or don’t bathe, and then finally come out of the shell?

“I didn’t talk to people for a long time. I didn’t watch any basketball for a long time. I sort of kind of did go into a shell. I didn’t want to leave the house. I didn’t even want to go out and eat for a while, because you just felt that bad about the loss. But then as I got back into the gym and working out, I just used it for motivation and just sort of loosened up from there.”
via Sports Radio Interviews » Blog Archive » Paul Pierce on Losing Game 7 .

This is just speculation, but I'm betting Glen Davis' reaction was to eat a muffin. Or a boar whole, or something. Regardless, things were pretty rough for the C's after that loss. 

Nothing will really provide the Celtics with a satisfied feeling of revenge short of winning the championship, preferably over the Lakers this spring.  But this game is a chance to send a message.  It's an opportunity to go into the Lakers' house and show them that they are still every bit as tough as they have been, and even tougher with their improved depth. It's a chance to illustrate that they are the ones in control of this rivalry, even after last spring, and that even though this is just a regular season game, they can dominate at will. 

This isn't about just showing L.A. who's boss, it's about testing themselves. Being 35-10 means little to them because they don't care about beating the Nets, or the Bobcats, or even the Magic or Heat.  They want to show they can beat the Lakers.  Everything else is just a means to get there. 

And in part, the Celtics want the opportunity to show that they're right: Kendrick Perkins was the reason they lost. 

Man Down, Ring Down

Losing Kendrick Perkins before Game 7 hurt .  One of the Celtics' biggest advantages against the Lakers as opposed to nearly every team in the league is their ability to counter the Lakers' length with their own interior defense.  Perkins isn't a behemoth like Andrew Bynum, but what he lacks in height he makes up for in toughness, physicality, and savvy.  Losing him meant the Celtics lost just enough of an edge down low.

At the end of the matchup considerations, though, is this: the Celtics were without a starter for Game 7 of the Finals.  That's enough to prompt anyone to keep an excuse at the back of their minds, even if they'll publicly give the other team credit.  Perkins means a lot to this team, and even in limited minutes now that he's back, you can see what he brings the team.  

Sunday is an opportunity to showcase what they look like at full-strength, should they stay healthy till then (which is far from guaranteed, this is the Celtics, after all).  Even with Shaquille O'Neal nursing an injury and Jermaine O'Neal still struggling through his knee problems, this is the Celtics, at their core.  Sunday provides an opportunity to show the difference in the Celtics with and without Perkins. Perkins wasn't even expected to be available for this game, supposedly out another week.

But of course Tuesday he pops up healthy.  That's how this works. Some, like myself, never questioned that Perkins would be back for this game. This game matters to him. You'll have a hard time keeping him out of a game like this, even in the regular season. Because this is like a dress rehearsal.

Trial Run

There's no way to duplicate the intensity of the Finals, but this will be as close as it will get for a while, at least until the Lakers visit Boston in a few weeks.  And it's a chance to test things for future reference. How will Shaquille O'Neal do against Andrew Bynum?  How will Nate Robinson do as backup against Shannon Brown or Steve Blake?  What can a healthy Marquis Daniels do against Ron Artest

These are the questions that will be in Doc Rivers' mind, as they try and get a regular season win, but also try and figure out some things to rely on should these two meet again.  There's no way to block it out, though they may try. "It's just another game" will likely be a refrain at practice and shootaround. Don't be fooled. This is the setup, the first act of the 2011 chapter of Lakers-Celtics.  Let's draw the curtain, and see what happens.

Posted on: January 25, 2011 6:49 pm
Edited on: January 25, 2011 7:55 pm

Celtics C Kendrick Perkins returns Tuesday

Boston Celtics center Kendrick Perkins is set to make his return from a lengthy rehabilitation after knee surgery on Tuesday. Posted by Ben Golliver.kendrick-perkins

Watch out, world: The Boston Celtics are about to get their mojo back.  

Center Kendrick Perkins, the only piece of Boston's 2008 title-winning starting lineup not to play yet this year, is set to make his return on Tuesday night from a lengthy rehabilitation following knee surgery, according to WEEI

Perkins tore his right ACL in Game 6 of last year's NBA Finals and missed Game 7, costing Boston their chance to defeat the Los Angeles Lakers and bring home their second title in three seasons. He underwent surgery in July and said at the time that he expected to miss 5-6 months, putting his return pretty much on time.

More recent estimates had placed Perkins' return date around early February, so Tuesday night's return qualifies as a pleasant surprise to Beantowners. The Celtics are set to host the Cleveland Cavaliers, losers of 17 straight games.

What should Celtics fans expect from Perkins? After ACL surgery, mobility and quickness can be slow to return, and it can takes weeks if not months for a player to recover his top-end speed and agility. Most coaches will phase a player in gradually following this type of surgery, testing him at various minute thresholds to see if any discomfort develops. ESPNBoston.com reports that Celtics coach Doc Rivers plans to bring in Perkins off the bench and keep him to a "12-16 minute restriction." Whatever minutes Perkins can give the Celtics will be much appreciated, as both Shaquille O'Neal and Jermaine O'Neal have been ruled out with nagging injuries.

Perkins is often overshadowed by the Big 3 plus Rajon Rondo, but he's a key centerpiece, a solid defensive and rebounding force with the ability to finish at the rim as well. 

Update: Perkins checked in at the 8:02 minute of the first quarter and received a hearty standing ovation from the TD Banknorth crowd. Here's the video.

Posted on: January 21, 2011 11:33 pm
Edited on: January 21, 2011 11:36 pm

Jerry West: Lakers too old to be good for long

Los Angeles Lakers legend Jerry West says the current Lakers are getting too old to be good for long. Posted by Ben Golliver. jerry-west

Even in retirement, former Los Angeles Lakers guard, coach and GM Jerry West is still regarded as one of the finest talent talent evaluators in the basketball world. When he talks, people listen.

On Friday, West talked, but the franchise he's long been associated with might not like hearing what he had to say.

The Orange County Register reports that West told a business luncheon crowd that the Lakers were getting too old to remain championship contenders for very long and hinted that he would pick LA's chief rivals, the Boston Celtics, to win the NBA title this year.
“I don’t think the Lakers will be good for much longer, ” he said. “You can keep a car running for a long time by changing the tires, etc. You can’t change a player’s tires.”
West said many of the Lakers’ current players are “getting long in the tooth.” 
“If there’s a loose ball now, how often do they get it?” West pointed out to the crowd, which was relishing the sports talk.
“I think Boston is a very dangerous team,” he said of the Celtics. “I would not want to play them every other night.”

In a study conducted earlier this month by Hoopism.com, both the Lakers and the Celtics placed in the top three oldest teams in the NBA when you weight their age by minutes played. As of Jan. 8, the Lakers' average age was 30.87 and the Celtics' average age was 30.48, virtually identical. It's worth noting that Boston's figure should come down slightly once center Kendrick Perkins, who is 26 years old, returns from injury and starts playing heavy minutes again.

Looking into the future, though, it's easy to understand what's troubling West. Guards Kobe Bryant (32) and Derek Fisher (36) are edging close to the twilight of their career. Fisher, in particular, has seemed to be on his last legs for like six years now, while Bryant figures to have a few very productive seasons left in him. But it's not just the backcourt: Lakers coach Phil Jackson is said to be retiring after this season and that likely makes everyone associated with the organization feel like the current chapter is coming to a close.

With that said, it's still too early to panic completely. Los Angeles sports key pieces like Pau Gasol (30), Lamar Odom (31), Ron Artest (31) and Andrew Bynum (23) who are not yet "long in the tooth."  In actuality, Boston may have even more questions in a few years than Los Angeles, with Kevin Garnett (34) contemplating retirement, and Paul Pierce (33) and Ray Allen (35) entering the twilight of their respective careers. 

The big difference between Boston and Los Angeles, of course, is that Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo (24) has already solidified himself as the franchise centerpiece of the future. Arguably the best point guard in the NBA, Rondo will make any rebuilding effort that much easier. The Lakers, however, are left to ride Bryant for as long as possible and then pray that Bynum, who has dealt with knee injuries already in his young career, develops into a premier big man. Backup plan: wait for a dominant free agent to choose to come to LA.

Given the respective outlooks of the two teams, I think most people, like West, would choose Boston's future. Rondo's skill is more than enough to calm the nerves and provide hope.

Hat tip: Pro Basketball Talk

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