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Celtics Blog

Friday, October 31, 2003

Memphis Game Preview

Here's the Bill Simmons Eastern Conference preview. I'll just let Bill describe tonight's opponent, the Memphis Grizzlies, from his West preview of a few days ago:

8. Memphis Grizzlies
(I'm sorry ... I can't resist.)

"Okay, you're Hubie Brown. You have an underrated point guard in Jason Williams, a guy who LED THE LEAGUE in assists-to-turnover ratio. He can push the ball and create scoring opportunities for his teammates. You have athletic bodies in Lorenzen Wright and Stromile Swift, two guys with TREMENDOUS upside potential who can rebound and finish. You have a seven-footer with some upside in Jake Tsakalidis. You have two guys who love doing the Little Things in James Posey and Shane Battier. You have two terrific shooters in Mike Miller and Wesley Person, guys who can EXTEND THE DEFENSE and create space for Pau Gasol. And in Gasol, you have a horse who commands double teams and scores two ways, either FACING THE BASKET or with his BACK to the basket.


"Now, you know your team is gonna come to play every ... single ... night. You're deep, you can run, and you can defend. And Gasol gives you a GENUINE OFFENSIVE OPTION at crunch-time, someone who is ready to take his game to the next level. You also know that, if you are close in February, Jerry West will make a move to PUSH YOU over the top. You aren't even thinking regular season upside anymore ... you are thinking PLAYOFF upside."


Yes, the inimitable Hubie Brown will be pacing the sideline tonight in Memphis as he tries to mold his collection of promising young players into a cohesive, winning team. In the East they would have a shot at the playoffs. In the West, they don't. It should be interesting to see how some of the new/young players respond to playing on the road. Can Vin Baker deal with the pressure and distractions of not having the crowd behind him as he did at the Fleet on Wednesday?

Papers Roundup

The Herald's Mark Murphy gives Mark Blount some well-deserved attention. The Globe's Shira Springer offers a glimpse into the statistics the coaching staff looks at.

LeBron Watch

Cleveland.com has all you could ever want on the #1 pick at their LeBron Watch page. Night #2 of the James era was another impressive game statistically (21 points, 12 boards, 8 assists), but he did have a lot more turnovers too in a loss at Phoenix. And what was up with the ugly new orange Suns uniforms that just say "PHX" on the front? I'm sick of teams always changing logos and jerseys to try to generate more money in merchandising. (How 'bout those hideous Mavs silver duds from opening night? Mark Cuban has already canned them.)

Thursday, October 30, 2003

More Simmons

Part two of his West preview. The East preview is coming tomorrow.

Simmons West Preview

Here.

The Season Opener

There was much to like in last night's 98-75 win over Miami. Still, the Celtics beat a Heat team without Caron Butler and Lamar Odom, so we shouldn't overreact.

Pierce was solid. Vin Baker looks like he'll be able to contribute down low, and I was impressed he didn't lose his composure when he had a few stupid fouls called on him. Mark Blount was very impressive with four blocks and five assists. Williams, Battie and LaFrentz provided a nice spark off the bench.

The only downsides were that Kedrick Brown looked tight in his first game as the starter and that Marcus Banks seems to have plenty more to learn about running the point. Fortunately the team has depth and these guys should be able to be brought along without hurting the Celtics too much. Kedrick just needs to calm down and play like he did in preseason. Banks has great physical skills and will need to get better at making passes on the break, as Bob Cousy pointed out on FSNE last night.

The new FleetCenter announcer Eddie Palladino did a good job, I thought, showing enthusiasm without grating either. And I want to correct my mistake that the new Lucky, Damon Blust, is not wearing a full costume, as the C's mascot has in past years, but rather cheering the team on with his own face and limbs visible.

Mark Murphy has info on the Celtics new white sneakers they will be wearing at home games.

Bob Ryan also has a nice column up on Vin Baker's return.

The team has a back-to-back on the road Friday and Saturday nights in Memphis and New Orleans.

Bremer

Lost in the excitement of LeBron James' debut last night (and he deserved the hype with 25 points and 9 assists) was JR Bremer's solid start with the Cavs (box score). Bremer had 20 points shooting 6-for-9 on threes, including a triple that briefly gave Cleveland a lead on Sacramento early in the fourth period before they went on to lose to the Kings. JR always seemed like a decent guy and I'm happy to see he's doing well with his new team.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

LeBron's Debut

The debut of the much-hyped Cleveland Cavs rookie is tonight at Sacramento. ESPN has coverage at 10:30.

New Announcer

Eddie Palladino makes his dedbut as the stadium announcer for Celtics home games tonight. I hope he's classy and not an annoying screamer like the people who announce at some other arenas in the NBA.

By the way, tix are still available for the game if the spirit moves you to head downtown.

UPDATE: The new occupant of the Lucky the Leprechaun costume is also profiled on celtics.com.

Miami Game Preview

Opening night is at 7 tonight at the Fleet. The Miami Heat are in town and they have major injury problems. Dwayne Wade, the rookie slasher they plan to play at point guard, had 18 last night in Philly but he hurt his hip in the second half. It's uncertain whether he'll play or how effective he'll be. Lamar Odom, the big free-agent acquisition for Miami this offseason, sprained his ankle last night too and is likely out. The Heat already have Caron Butler on the shelf for a month after knee surgery. That leaves Eddie Jones as the only real scoring threat Miami has left. The team scored 74 points last night too.

Basically the Celtics have to win this game. Strange things can happen--like when Boston blew the home opener to Chicago last season, and the Bulls didn't win another road game for months after that--but it's most likely that the C's will be pumped up and win handily.

C's Ticket Sales Up

In the Globe today.

Walker's Dallas Debut

Antoine had 19 points in the Mavericks 109-93 loss at LA last night. He and Nowitzki co-led the team in scoring, and Walker was 5-of-6 on threes to go with 7 boards and an assist in 33 minutes. Dallas looked really bad, not just defensively but also on offense. Even though 'Toine hit a bunch of threes, I doubt Don Nelson wants him shooting so many.

Antawn Jamison is much too good of a player to be coming off the bench too. I don't know how the Mavericks will be able to keep everyone happy with so many guys who score and do little else. The Lakers, on the other hand, looked very strong, even without Kobe. Malone and Payton haven't missed a beat in switching teams.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

TV Games

The season opens tonight with two games on TNT, and NBA.com has all the TV details for the week. The Turner studio crew of Charles, Kenny, Ernie and Magic will be doing a one-hour season preview at 7:00, followed by Suns-Spurs (San Antonio gets championship rings beforehand) and Mavs-Lakers (debuts for Malone, Payton, Walker, Jamison with new teams). Yahoo's game preview notes that Kobe probably won't play tonight. (And what's up with the new Kobe-Shaq feud? I thought Kobe would try to keep a low profile given that he'll soon be on trial for rape, but no, he lashes out at Shaq being out of shape and says he's played with lots of injuries in the past, etc. Very bizarre.)

Ozersky Prediction

48 wins says Josh Ozersky at Hoops World in an article on the upcoming Celtics season. He has some good comments on trade rumors and national media reaction to the Antoine deal.

Depth

Shira Springer has the optimistic view of the Celtics' increased depth, writing that it should allow the team to play a more up-tempo style. Steve Bulpett likens the Celtics to the Pistons of the last two years:

I think the Celtics will be better in the regular season than expected because they'll be able to throw some heavy depth at people. (Detroit did that the last couple of years but faltered in the playoffs because there are tighter rotations with more rest between games and people like Jon Barry went back to being people like Jon Barry.) Therefore, the critical factor for whether the Celts truly improve and can make a dent in the postseason will be how well they can develop people.

The Starting Lineup

For tomorrow night's opener hosting Miami, the Celtics will start Mike James at point guard, Paul Pierce at shooting guard, Kedrick Brown at small forward, Vin Baker at power forward and Mark Blount at center. We already knew about James, Pierce and Baker before Jim O'Brien announced Brown and Blount yesterday. The lineup is hardly set in stone, with changes likely during the course of the year.

Choosing Brown over Eric Williams is a tough call, especially given how good defensively Williams has been the last few years and the scoring he's shown in preseason. I think it's the right move though. Brown has tons of potential and it's time to see what he can do. Apparently he's very strong defensively as well. Williams is more of an inside player at the 3, which the Celtics had more use for back when they had Antoine Walker as 4 playing a lot on the perimeter. Now that the Celtics will have more traditional power forwards playing down low, they need more of a slashing, athletic small forward in the mold of Kedrick Brown. Eric Williams will be a good anchor for the second unit.

The center and point guard spots are the ones most likely to see changes. Raef LaFrentz will probably become a starter in a few weeks once he becomes comfortable with the Celtics' system. Blount has been called the best center defender in camp by O'Brien, and Tony Battie continues to recover from offseason knee surgery by playing limited minutes. I doubt Battie will return to the starting lineup--there have been lots of trade rumors involving him lately. At the point, Mike James may lose the starting job in midseason if Marcus Banks shows that he's ready to take over the reigns.

I will be interested to see how O'Brien juggles minutes for the guys coming off the bench. Jumaine Jones and Walter McCarty also should get some time off the bench, with Jones even a possible starter down the road (Ainge is really high on him). The team has a real logjam at the 3 that O'Brien will have to deal with. I'm also curious how much of an opportunity Jiri Welsch will get to play and in what role. Finally, the big question for the season is whether Vin Baker will continue to make the positive contributions he's made during the preseason or regress to his old ways. If he's good, the Celtics should have the size and depth to be a playoff contender.

Bank of America Center

In the wake of Bank of America buying Fleet, the head of BoA says he'd like to change the name of the arena from FleetCenter to Bank of America Center. I think this is definitely a worse name--Fleet, despite being a corporate name, had a nice, crisp, one-syllable feel. Bank of America Center is a pain to say and sounds kind of silly.

Monday, October 27, 2003

NBA Previews

For now check this post on my other blog, Dimmy Karras, which links to several online NBA preview articles.

Welcome

This will be the place for Boston Celtics blogging throughout the season ahead. I'll have a better template up and running in the next few days and lotsa links and info on the 2003-2004 Boston Celtics coming your way.