Sunday, March 30, 2014

Following The Brooklyn Bounce, Celtics Have Big Personnel Decisions To Make

I know that the Celtics just lost two in a row to the Playoff-bound Toronto Raptors. I know that there have been 72 games played already and that for the first time six years, the C’s are not making it to the second season. And, I know that there are some hard decisions that lie ahead for Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens about personnel and the future of the Boston Celtics.

The crazy thing is, none of that really matters to me right now and the truth of it is, it hasn’t mattered to me all season. My guess (and it’s an educated one, because I’ve talked to a few other C’s fans out there over the course of the season) is that there are others out there who will relate to the sentiment I’m about to express: nothing has really mattered because my brain has yet to process the entirety of the ending of the era that once was since Paul Pierce and co. left town.

Sure, I’ve watched the games and cheered my team on, rooting for the next generation wearing the green and white and wishing for brighter days. But, my mind has yet to take this season out of the context of what we were and what we now are as a result of who we no longer have – especially because they’re off chasing Playoff glory with another team while we’re stuck in neutral. Coincidentally, with the Lakers also out of it, this will mark only the second time in 65 years that one of the two teams didn’t make the playoffs.

So, with that, let me recap my feelings from the last game played this season against our former captain and his new band of brothers. And then, I promise you – I’ll move on and I’ll even try to squeeze out a thoughtful assessment of the talent remaining on the team and what the Celtics should do with it.

Ah Brooklyn Brooklyn take me in
Are you aware the shape I'm in
My hands they shake my head it spins
Ah Brooklyn Brooklyn take me in
Avett Brothers

In the end, it was just another beating at the hands of a superior team.
When the Celtics met the Nets for the 4th and final time of this long, agonizing death of a season, it was merely a case of the better team clinically and unemotionally taking care of business against a team that’s been bound for the NBA Lottery since the tip of the ball at the start of the season.

The Celtics – 1-3 against the Nets and 23-49 against the rest of the League – were bludgeoned by the Brooklynites for much of the game, which was remarkable for its general lack of remarkableness. Sure, you had the most familiar of faces from around these parts now toiling for the black and white (actually, in this one, he toiled for Brooklyn Dodger grey and blue…but I digress…) in Paul Pierce, but it wasn’t really our former captain…it was a guy who used to play here coming back to win a game that his team needed in order to continue their momentum and steady march toward better seeding in the Playoffs.
To continue with the “ex-wife\ex-husband” analogy that I, and so many others, employed to describe the trade that ushered in this new era of Piercelessness, this final reunion felt – at least for me – like that moment when one realizes that the flickering of a former flame has finally gone completely cold.

Though, without a doubt, there were still some feelings of nostalgia and maybe even some sentimentality, as evidenced by the friendly fist-bumps and passed pleasantries between former teammates and front-office friends. But, behind the increasingly brief reminiscences, there was formality and finality – Pierce, Garnett and the rest of the Nets were focused on the looming Playoffs, having long-since come to grips with the move to Brooklyn; and the Celtics, while continuing to acknowledge the special history shared between the two players and their former team, have turned their attentions to the NBA Draft Lottery and the team that they must continue to rebuild.
This, by the way, is a good thing.

Because, as we sit four notches from the bottom of the anemic Eastern Conference with just ten games left in the season, there are a lot of questions to be answered and decisions to be made. A whole lot.
As our beloved team prepares to move from the bench to the couch, management has any number of trade combinations ready to be worked and a ridiculously rich number of draft prospects available, none of which I am prepared to get into.
No, instead, I think I’ll just focus on those players with jerseys sitting in the home locker room that Danny is evaluating and assessing even as you read this. 

Rajon Rondo: If anyone has ever read even one of my posts about Rondo, then you already know what I’m going to say: Talent like his doesn’t come around often and he is the embodiment of what a true point-guard should be. If Danny can get him some scorers to run with, then I see no intelligent reason to let this future Hall-of-Famer slip out of town and help some other team play for a ring.

Avery Bradley: Maybe I’m just drinking the green Kool-Aid, but I think he’s earned the right to be the Celtics’ second guard next to Rondo. He’s finally stepped up his offensive game in the way that fans have been clamoring for since his arrival as one of the best on-the-ball defenders in the League. The common wisdom was, “If this kid could only get his act together on offense, he’d be AMAZING.” Well, how does 15 points per game while shooting the three-ball at a clip of 37% grab you? Sure, I’d prefer for a starting 2-guard to be a little taller, but what he lacks in height at 6’ 2”, he more than makes up for in tenaciousness and hops. It should take something really special to make Danny part with this guy.

Brandon Bass: The stats: 11 points 6 rebounds and shooting 48 percent, and almost 90% free throws. Since he arrived in Boston in the swap for Big Baby Davis, he’s been nothing but the loyal, hard-working soldier and I see a place for him on this team, even as Olynyk begins to take on a larger role. But, will he be happy with being possibly/eventually the third-string forward behind Sullinger and Olynyk? And, it’s only a matter of time (and draft picks) before the Celtics start rolling with a permanent center over 6’ 9”, so it’s entirely possible that Bass ends up being a trade chip down the line. If it gets him to a place with playing time and a shot at the Playoffs for the prime of his career, I’m all for it. I think he’s probably going to be a casualty of the glut of bigs with only so much playing time to go around, and the fact that he has good value for contending teams in need of a “stretch 4.”

Jared Sullinger: He’s a keeper. There’s no two ways about it. The days of Sullinger breaking out into a 20/10 player aren’t far away. If you’re going to have to choose between Bass and Sully long-term, it’s Sullinger who has the bigger upside and the kind of toughness you want out of your present-day power forward. Could he improve his free throw shooting, particularly since he will be drawing scads of fouls as he works his body into position under the hoop for years to come? Absolutely. He’s no Shaq, but even at 77% from the stripe, he’s giving up the kinds of freebies that can add up to be the difference in tight games. And, if he’s going to insist on shooting the three regularly, then he’s going to have to do better than 25% to make taking the shot worthwhile. He could (emphasis on “could”) develop into a Kevin Love-type if he stays healthy and keeps working at it.

Jeff Green: Ahhh, Jeff, Jeff Jeff. Let’s all just face it, Greenheadz, he’s never going to be that #1 that everybody hoped he would be, failing at first to help us forget Kendrick Perkins and then becoming a very unreliable replacement (non-replacement?) for Paul Pierce. But, with that said, he’s still a really good #2 and a Hell of a #3. What I’m saying is, he’ll never be the player you
count on as your night-in, night-out leader, but he can blow up and get you 40 on any given night. Of course, he’ll probably then come back and give you six the next night, but… Look, he’ll never be your Jordan, he’s not even going to be your Pippen, but he’s still a bit of a step up from your Horace Grant, and that guy was instrumental in helping the Bulls to three Championships and the Lakers to one. I would love to see Jeff become an important piece of an up-and-coming contender in Boston, but I wonder how long Danny will tolerate his uneven performances before he fields that inevitable call with the offer-he-can’t-refuse for a more established if less-talented player or even MORE first-round picks.

Kelly Olynyk: I’m a fan. I think he’s going to turn out for the Celtics if management can be patient and let him develop some strength and acquire some veteran savvy in dealing with the bigs of the game. He’s had three twenty-plus games and 14 double digit games averaging 19 minutes per game. His skills are undeniable: he can shoot and pass like a guard and rebound like a forward. Though his rookie rawness is also undeniable, I think he’s going to make it in this League if he stays healthy.

Kris Humphries: How much has Humph grown on me (and, I suspect the majority of Greenheadz across the country)? I stopped calling him Mr. Kardashian three months ago. While I don’t really want to see him as my starting center as this team enters contender-mode, there is most certainly a place near the 8th spot off the bench for a guy who hustles nightly and is always a threat to get you a double-double in boards and points. Again, while I hate to see talented players waste their best years playing for lottery-bound teams, I would be happy seeing Humph riding the upswing in green in a couple of years.

Jerryd Bayless: In the games since he joined the Celtics, he’s scored in double figures in nearly half, including one 29-point outburst. Is he the answer at backup point/shooting guard long-term? No. There will be plenty of more prolific and more talented shooting guards with size coming onto the open market and in the draft for the Celtics to make any kind of long-term commitment to Bayless that extends beyond third or fourth guard off the bench. I’ve always liked Bayless’ fearlessness and ability to score in bunches, but he’s not as consistent as one would want and there’s a reason he’s changed teams five times over his career.

Vitor Faverani: I’m really torn here. On the one hand, I really like what it seems he COULD be. On the other hand, there’s a chance that he doesn’t get a lot better than the best that we’ve already seen from him. Though he’s a rookie in the NBA, he’s already 26 years old. He’s shown, on occasion, that he can be an athletic force on the boards and on fewer occasions, a scorer with intermittent three point range. You could do worse than to have a legitimate 6’ 11” center on your bench, but if there are better options available or a roster spot you need to use for a better prospect, I’m not gonna get all teary-eyed watching the Jumbotron tribute once he’s gone.

Phil Pressey: Y’know…I kinda like this kid. I think he really needs to work on his offense – 28% shooting, 64% free throw shooting just ain’t gonna cut it in the NBA – but his passing skills are undeniable. He has a knack for setting people up to receive the ball in some of the most unlikely situations and if he can improve defensively as well, he might be a quality backup for years to come.

Chris Johnson: It really remains to be seen whether Johnson can make more of his opportunities, as he has the limited one’s he’s been given, and whether his drive will remain as high once he secures a longer-term deal. He’s got good size for a shooting guard at 6’ 6”, has a good stroke from three and a great free-throw percentage, and is a tireless worker. You could do worse than to have him on your bench as a role player and as an example to the young and impressionable about how to give the game your all.

As for the rest of the crew, I’ll name check you for old time’s sake – Gerald Wallace, Keith Bogans, Joel Anthony, Chris Babb – thanks for everything you gave the Celtics. I wish you well in your future endeavors. I can’t imagine we’ll be seeing you again for too long next year.

Now, if you’ll all excuse me, I have to get ready for the Playoffs and flip my jersey to black.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Return...

Okay, people…we all know what today is. No need to beat the long-dead horserug…we know what it is, and it’s huge.

It’s huge, not because two of the greatest Celtics ever to walk the parquet are coming back home wearing enemy colors for the first time. It’s huge, not because this will be the "first time" for fans who have been secretly (and some not so secretly) in a state of mourning since the announcement of the “blockbuster” that sent our beloved Truth and Big Ticket down to Yankeeland, erasing all but the final traces of the glory days and opening the window to the long, cold winter that lay ahead for professional basketball in these parts.

No, it’s huge because, as they walk through that door, the glow of the past trails closely behind them and in theirs and our shared history of greatness, we see the future hope that we will one day rise again, just as we rose from the departures of Bill Russell and Red Auerbach and Larry Bird before them.

With ten first-round draft picks (TEN!!) over the next five years and several talented young players to place around Rajon Rondo (the last remaining vestige of championship sparkle, not counting members of the front office), the future is closer than some may imagine and The Return will be even more glorious than the return of two legends seeking to recreate that Championship magic with another team.

Welcome back, Paul…Kevin. But, don’t get too comfortable. We’ve got some plans of our own.

And, now…here are some stories from around the interwebs to get you even more amped for today’s big game:

Pierce, KG brace for Boston return
By ESPN's Chris Forsberg

Pierce, Garnett discuss their return to Boston
By the Boston Globe's Baxter Holmes

Oh, and one more thing...


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sunday, December 29, 2013

These C's Please, As Bass Plays @$$ Off

 Well, it certainly has been a while, eh, GreenHeadz?
After a month-long hiatus from talking about the team I love to love, I’m finally back in the saddle (for a little while, anyway…).

So, what is it that’s brought me back this time? What troubling topic or sensational situation has stirred me out of my long winter’s nap (other than the overwhelming need to empty some words onto a site that probably only myself and MAYBE my Mom and Dad will read, that is)?
The answer? “A couple of things.”

The first would be a loud and obvious skipalong down DUH’sVille Lane with me exclaiming as many, many others already have this season: “I really like this team.”

But, I wanted to also talk about Brandon Bass for a second. I know, I know…I’ve already talked about him at length earlier this season in reference to both he and Jeff Green being the keys to keeping the Celtics from going completely under while Rondo rehabs his surgically stigmatized knee. Here’s the thing, though. I didn’t do him nearly the amount of justice he deserved because plays like the one he made against Dion Waiters in the closing seconds of the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers are somehow still treated as the exception and not the rule at this point, which is dead wrong.

Bass has been, perhaps, the Celtics' most consistent defender this year, taking up for the team and filling in the rather sizeable chasm that was left when defensive heart, soul and all around wizard Kevin Garnett departed for bleaker times down in Brooklyn.
Bass has not only rushed in to plug the breach, contributing to the Celtics ranking as 5th in the league in points allowed, he’s helped to bring along the young cadre of big men that the Celtics look to as the future of the team in Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk and Vitor Faverani. He’s been one of the most consistent of these surprising Celtics thus far, and I still wonder aloud (to anyone who will listen) why so many people continue to believe he has to be part of some dump-and-run trade to land a player who may or may not be as consistent.

Don’t get me wrong, I do see how Sullinger is morphing right in front of us into, as some have somewhat prematurely called him, “the Kevin Love of the East.” And, I am still among the “Kelly Will Do Swell-ly” fan club members who united over Olynyk’s summer league success, but I still see a role for a veteran big man who isn’t afraid to defend the post, can hit the sweet 15-footer, and power to the hole when all else fails.

My other reason for coming out of mothballs after a month in the closet (yes, I DO know how that sounded, thank you very much)?
I have had a major change of heart with respect to “winning by losing.”  

As you may remember (all three of you who have been faithfully reading this blog), I talked about how, while I was 152.08% against any form of tanking, I was also not sad about the idea that the Celtics would be bad, very bad, without Rajon Rondo as their sole superstar for a portion of the season, which would be good, very good, because we had almost as many first round draft picks as Keith Bogans will have DNP’s for the C’s and the lower the pick, the more likely they’ll click (or something equally rhymey and exciting).

The only problem? This team genuinely seems to want to win and, on most nights, just about plays its heart out. I really want to see these guys continue to develop their chemistry and collective ability to fight their way out of trouble to grab the win against more talented teams. I want to see these guys go through adversity together and come out on the other side with an understanding about what it takes to win in any situation. And, I want to see this team claw its way into the Playoffs and dare the other teams to tell them why they don’t belong there yet.

Of course, this means that they would play themselves right out of the Lottery, but you know what? I really don’t mind that. Did I mention that they had a bunch of first round draft picks?

Here’s my thought process on the whole thing:

The Baby C’s battle through the season, even taking it up a notch with the inevitable return of Rondo in the second half of the season; they get to the 8th or – gasp! – even 7th spot in the East, take their lumps in the first round against the top seed while gaining valuable experience; and then Danny “Trader Dan” Ainge wheels and deals a few of the picks and maybe a Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Courtney Lee and/or Bogans into a Lottery selection after all.
Hell, with the way the season is going for the Nets, and the fact that they essentially took a large, stinky poop on any chance to contend in the not-too-distant future by making it rain on the Celtics with their former draft picks, the Celtics will still have lottery picks in the bank when they finally hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy overhead in the Garden.  

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Celtics Back To Winning Ways With Losing Days

Now that’s more like it.

The Celtics are finally back on track after a spell of disagreeable basketball.
I say “back on track” because they’ve now lost five in a row, and I say “disagreeable basketball” because I don’t agree with that four-game win streak. I mean, what the Hell are they trying to prove, anyway? This train’s bound for glory and by glory, I mean the NBA Draft Lottery.

Look, I love wins as much as the next guy, but we’re playing for much more than a handful of W’s. We’re playing for the big picture, and that doesn’t include making a first-round exit in the Playoffs. Been there, done that.

Now, I’m being a little facetious (emphasis on the “little”). Of course I want our Celtics to be competitive, which I think they can be on most nights. And, I’d have to be crazy (or a New York fan) to not want these guys to start developing a winning attitude so that, when the time comes and the right team is in place, they know how to win the right way. Tanking is not an option. It has never worked for the Celtics, and history makes the strong argument that it hasn’t really helped many other teams, either.

That said, the Celtics best chance at near-future contention is not to please the fairweather fanbase but to draft smartly, trade wisely and play the style of basketball to match the talents of those wearing the green and white jerseys.

For those of you who believe that draft picks won’t get the C’s back into championship contention, that’s just crazy talk. With a draft that is believed to be as deep as any in recent memory and the Celtics in possession of six first round picks in the next five years, there is a significant opportunity to draft a once in a blue moon superstar to pair with Rajon Rondo, Jared Sullinger, Jeff Green, Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk. Hell, they may even be able to draft two. And, if Danny Ainge and co. believe that the player they need is already toiling for the NBA, then he can trade off a combination of multiple picks and a superfluous player (Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and/or Keith Bogans, anyone?) or two (see: “Like 2008 Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen”).

My point is, as I have said before, true GreenHeadz should just sit back, relax and embrace the stress-free simplicity of the 2013-14 Boston Celtics. You’ll be glad you did in about three years.
Bring it, Indiana! And, remember...

Monday, November 11, 2013

Hookin' Up Dunks & Facials & Throw Downs...
...With one of the game's most
emphatic dunkers.

Yes, Indeed, folks...though the season is only six games old, Jumpin' Jeff Green has already taken enough heads to warrant our very first "Conjunction Dunktion...With Jeff Green" post of the 2013-14 season.

So, sit back relax and then prepare to jump back up to your feet again and cheer, as the NBA's most carnivorous dunker plays whack-a-mole with the rest of the League.

Mean Jeff Green Gets Edgy With Reggie In A Preseason
Game Against The "New-Look" Brooklyn Nets
Proving That He's An Equal Opportunity Kind Of Guy, Jeff Throws One Down Against The Other Side Of Town vs. The New York Knicks
Making Those Toronto Dinos Sore, Jeff
Soars And Scores Against The Raptors
Making The Ball Disappear Through The Hoop Against The Magic, Jay Gee Went On A Spree In Orlando
Putting The Exclamation Point On This Week's "Conjunction Dunktion" As Well As Jason Maxiell's Head, J-Max Probably Wishes This Video Would Disappear

Saturday, November 9, 2013

C's Kick Heat In Nuts With Buzzer Beater, Extend Win Streak To 3

Are you freakin' serious!?!? Did the "rebuilding" Boston Celtics just stick it to the defending champion Miami Heat? With a game winning 3?! In their own building?!?!?!
Yes!! Yes, sportsfans...this really happened! After continuous (and mostly negative) comparisons to Paul Pierce as in "Jesus,'re the new Paul Pierce, for Christ's sake!! You have to start being our go-to guy!!", Mean Jeff Green threw up the middle finger to haters everywhere and sank the game winner right in LeBron's face!

With the Celtics down two following a classic tank job at the free-throw line by Dwyane Wade who missed two freebies that would have iced the game for the Heat, Jeff Green raised up, up, up over LeBron's outstretched arms and calmly made like M.C. Hammer, not only saying "You Can't Touch This" to South Beach's Number 6, but proving that he was "2 Legit To Quit." Okay, even I know how bad that last sentence was, but what can I say? I'm still delirious from passing out after "The Shot" happened.

But, as much as I would love to continue talking about that incredible and unexpected win, I wanted to do something a little bit different. Sure, other blogs and sports sites will show you photos like the ones above that display in full glory the afterglow of the win, but I'd like to bring fans the stories behind the story.
And, what I am about to reveal could change the way we look at the National Basketball Association forever.
Without further ado...the win in pictures.
While others looked at the series of photos above and reveled at the sight of Jeff Green floating as his shot found its way across the arena and through the basket, I took a closer look at the photos to reveal the truth (No, not THAT Truth...though Jay Gee certainly seemed to be channeling his inner Captain).
God favors the Boston Celtics. I know, I know...but read on...if you dare.
As the shot went up, this Miami-based Celtics fan put in a special request with the man upstairs...

And, as we all know very well, the Miami Heat represent the Devil...I mean, come if the red uniforms, flame at the tip of the "T" in "Heat" (which, by the way, resembles a pitchfork with missing prongs), and the reference to the more-than-balmy temperatures down under the down under didn't already give it away, you have LeBron, Wade, Bosh AND Battier on the same team? And, Chalmers...don't EVEN get me started with Chalmers!

Anyway, in this battle of good vs. evil, clearly, God won this round. Just look at how the Devil's minions reacted to the sight of pure goodness as it flooded the arena...

Many of them appeared to feel the light of righteousness entering through their heads.

It was apparently too much for this guy, as he began to head for the exit even as the ball soared to its glorious destiny...
Say what you will about Miami fans, though (and there IS plenty to say!) they sure do know their famous paintings. Several of them chose to deal with their pain by emulating a well-known Edvard Munch work of art...
Scream 1

Scream 2
Clearly, though...this one really put a hurt on Heat fans right where it counts...

...and, ultimately, good didst triumph over evil.

The End.

Box Score

Tale of THE SHOT