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Celtics Blog

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Hiatus

Stating the obvious here, I'm not doing much with the site these days. Until further notice, get your fix from the FSNE site with Bruce Allen's "Banner Headlines", Obey the Truth, and the other links. I didn't see the game tonight, but winning in Miami is nice--the Heat's been better since getting people healthy.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Half-Way to... 40 Wins?

The Celtics have now completed half their regular season schedule at 20-21. I ominously noted in my last post that the win in Houston wouldn't mean anything if the Celtics turned around and lost to the Rockets at home later in the week--and that's exactly what they just did.

I actually fell asleep watching the game, which is just as well given how it turned out, but it leaves me without much to say. The box score reveals how different this was from the Sunday game. Pierce had an amazing 4 points on 1-10 shooting, compared with 27 Sunday. Yao Ming, held to 6 points Sunday, had a 21-15 evening, with 19 in the first half, and he shot 10-14. The Celtics shot 36 percent, compared with 47 percent Sunday. Vin Baker registered his second DNP-CD since coming back to the team last night in Milwaukee following his three-game suspension. Clarence Weatherspoon similarly registered a DNP-CD for the Rockets, making me wonder why Houston traded Moochie Norris for a guy they aren't playing.

I caught just a bit of the Milwaukee game Tuesday, which was similarly dispiriting. I wonder if Ricky Davis was having Cleveland flashbacks as he scored a lot and his team played no defense?

As my nap suggests, I'm a tad overworked at the moment, but more regular and hyperactive blogging should be resuming shortly.

Monday, January 12, 2004

20-19!

The Celtics went over the .500 mark finally with a 97-93 win in Houston tonight. The victory was the team's third straight and first in Texas in a very long time. They may finally be turning the corner with the new personnel feeling comfortable, though Pierce provided a reality check in Sunday's Globe when he said, "I see it as probably around the All-Star break when we're really going to start coming together."

Jiri Welsch and Walter McCarty had 21 each to complement Pierce's 27. Jiri was a blistering 7-8 shooting, 3-3 from three, and Walter hit 5-10 from beyond the arc.

Houston came in a highly touted defensive team, and Boston's 47% shooting came against the club leading the league in defensive field-goal percentage. The Rockets aren't so good on offense, as they often hoisted shots at the end of the clock after being very slow to run their sets. Yao Ming also was a non-factor with just six points in 23 minutes--he didn't play in the fourth.

It's a nice road win and all, but it won't mean much unless the Celtics can beat Houston again at home on Wednesday night. Hopefully we can start carrying over our strong play on the road (10-8, 6-1 at Western teams) to the home games.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Think, Then Speak

ESPN's "NBA Shootaround" show seems to be full of inane comments from the panel that are calibrated just to get people riled up, not to actually be correct. Case in point: last night they brought up Ricky Davis's dissing of Cleveland in advance of the Cavs' first visit to the Fleet since the trade. Bill Lame-beer (not exactly unbiased toward the Celtics, one would think), seizing on Davis's comment that Boston is a much better team, then said the funny part was that the Cavs might have a better record than the Celtics come year end. Excuse me?

The Celtics pummeled the Cavs 107-82 last night. LeBron James had 19 points in 43 minutes and looked terrible doing it. Paul Silas kept him on the floor to the bitter end either to punish him or, as he said afterward, to try to let him find himself. Meanwhile, the Celtics had six guys in double figures, including Pierce's 30-12-8 performance. Davis, obviously pumped to stick it to his old team, put in 16. Brandon Hunter made his NBA debut with two points in seven minutes.

Hunter is getting the playing time now that the Celtics are rather thin across the front line. LaFrentz, attending his first game since knee surgery, is out for the year (even though he told Willie May--the "modern-day Edward R. Murrow" in the words of Peter Stringer--he could recuperate before season's end in an interview last night, don't bet on it). Vin Baker's status is also up in the air, with Vin slated to return from a three-game suspension Tuesday night in Milwaukee (before that we play in Houston Sunday night at 8:30). Chris Mihm and Mark Blount started at the 4 and 5 for the second consecutive game, now that Jim O'Brien seems to have figured out that playing Walter McCarty big minutes at power forward isn't going to work.

The game also marked the return of Tony Battie, Eric Williams and Kedrick Brown (Doc Holliday must have been happy to see KB back in town). Battie had a strong 10 point-13 rebound night, while Williams and Brown, both of whom started, were pretty quiet.

Michael McClellan has a good take on Davis over at Celtics Nation.

Also, this letter to the Globe indicates I was somewhat correct to view Peter May's column earlier this week on Baker as unduly harsh:

To claim, as May does, that this relapse means that the Celtics can no longer "trust" Baker, since it violates the agreement they had made that he would not drink, is absurd. It presupposes that trust can only be maintained in a "perfect" recovery, which is false. There are very few recoveries that are perfect. The key factors in whether Baker--or anyone else--succeeds in his recovery from alcoholism are the degree of insight he has into his condition, how committed he is to getting better, and what positive steps he is willing to continue to take.

Anyone who believes that a relapse somehow changes everything--that the Celtics are now forced into some kind of momentous decision--is misunderstanding the natural history of the disease and the perseverance and commitment required to manage it.

ROBERT J. PETRELLA, MD


Pierce was fined $7,500 for throwing the ball in the stands during the Orlando game Wednesday night.

The upcoming schedule: at Houston Sunday 8:30, at Milwaukee Tuesday 8:00, vs. Houston Wednesday 7:00. That last one is Asian-American night at the Fleet, on account of Yao Ming.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Boston 101, Orlando 93

Tonight's game was a nice rebound from the dreadful loss to Detroit on Monday. The C's got much better inside play with scoring in the paint and strong board work. I really liked what we saw from Chris Mihm in his extended minutes with Baker now out for a few games with his booze suspension. The only negative came with some frustrating calls in the third, leading Pierce to lose his cool and throw the ball the length of the court to protest a traveling call. It was highly uncharacteristic of him to show such a temper.

I'll leave my remarks to that since it's ungodly late. Just one more thing: isn't it cold of Peter May to be writing about how the C's can get out of Baker's contract on the morning after we get the bad news? Jeez, how about an ounce of compassion?

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Unfortunately, I Saw This One Coming

Vin Baker has been suspended three games for violating his rehab program's conditions. Sunday I wrote the following:

The lineup continues to be in flux. Vin Baker has been replaced in the starting lineup by Walter McCarty, a move that O'Brien says is to get more "mobility" on the floor. Baker was scoreless in 11 minutes last night. I commented on his plight yesterday, which continues to be a problem for the Celtics. The big fear is that he starts hitting the bottle again (could that be behind his decline already?).


I certainly hope not, and I guess it's possible he's violated the program without that meaning that he's going out on benders every night. Still, with his play falling off so precipitously, one has to wonder.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Marbury a Knick

Good move by Zeke in New York to shake things up. He adds a legit star to build excitement and sell tix. I like Marbury, who isn't selfish as he used to be--he's second in the league in assists, helping out my fantasy team. Phoenix dumped him for salary reasons, and going back home to NYC may help him since he's wanted to play there.

Now that the Knicks have moved Ward and Eisley, the trade where they picked up Moochie Norris last week makes a lot more sense too.

Call me crazy, but I think the Knicks have a shot at the eighth slot, not that it'll take more than 40 wins to get there.

Not Exactly a Well-Oiled Machine

The Celtics lost to Detroit 78-68 Monday night (get it, Pistons, not well-oiled?). The offense continues to look atrocious. I'm not doing stats tonight, I'm sure they're terrible.

Tom Heinsohn made a good comment on the broadcast about how putting Walter McCarty in the lineup made them much more of a perimeter team. Dammit, here are the stats after all. Vin Baker was scoreless in seven minutes. He had no shots, rebounds, fouls, nothing. The guys who played, meanwhile, were busy jacking up 34 threes, hitting only nine of them--yikes. It's like Antoine Walker is back in town and having a string of very bad games.

Remember back a week or two ago when McCarty was hitting threes and the C's were winning? I warned it was fool's gold, and it looks like I was right. Too bad Jim O'Brien has decided to go with this lineup. Walter needs to be a complementary bench player at most, otherwise we're not going to be a good team.

Also, remember this?

Danny Ainge can think of one way to immediately take some of the scoring burden off Paul Pierce [news].

Acknowledging that Baker's scoring has been on the decline, the director of basketball operations suggested yesterday that Baker's low post talents are not being utilized enough.

"I feel Vin Baker is being neglected in our offense, and right now we're also getting nothing out of the small forward position,'' Ainge said yesterday, after learning the captain of his team spoke out for the second time in a week.


At the time, people thought it notable that Ainge was publicly questioning O'Brien. Since that time I think Ainge has become less talkative with the media, a result of taking heat in the wake of the Davis trade, being booed on Cedric Maxwell Night, and the rumors that he and Obie don't get along. So don't expect Ainge to speak out on the Baker situation, but he must be pissed that Vin is riding the pine, right?

The silver lining to the game was the defense that kept the Celtics in the contest late. After tying it at 65, Detroit closed with a 13-3 run. We can't shoot this terribly every night, at least.

We need things to get on track for an upcoming pair of home games with Orlando Wednesday and Cleveland Friday. Those should be wins.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

We'll Take It

Even when you score nine points in the second quarter and the game is an ugly display only slightly resembling quality basketball, a victory counts. The Celtics played a putrid first half but were able to step up in the final 24 minutes to get the win.

The lineup continues to be in flux. Vin Baker has been replaced in the starting lineup by Walter McCarty, a move that O'Brien says is to get more "mobility" on the floor. Baker was scoreless in 11 minutes last night. I commented on his plight yesterday, which continues to be a problem for the Celtics. The big fear is that he starts hitting the bottle again (could that be behind his decline already?).

Unhappy with the first half, O'Brien started the thrid period with Marcus Banks and Ricky Davis, hoping for a spark. He got it, as the Celtics put together a run to end the period down by just a single point. Then in the fourth, Mike James returned to the floor and put up 14 points, while Pierce also managed to find the scoring touch after struggling earlier with his shot. Pierce finished with 33 and James 18. Boston held its own on the glass (Bulls 49-48 edge) and outshot Chicago, 36.8% to 33.3 %. I told you it was ugly. (box score)

The Bulls looked pretty bad, I must say, unable to take advantage of the Celtics' struggles. Only Jamal Crawford scored in double figures for them and the team was 1-16 on threes.

But let's forget about the disorganized mess that is the present and take a long view along with Peter May, who writes that it's too early to tell if Danny Ainge's moves are paying off. After surveying the personnel moves of the past year, May concludes:

So, there you have it. Ainge has improved the team's talent, which he said he'd do. He has made the Celtics more athletic and younger. He has demanded the team play a certain way, which O'Brien is endeavoring to do. Yes, Ainge's apparent ambivalence about the team this season can be a bit disconcerting, especially to the coaches. You have to wonder: If and when Ainge ever gets the team he wants, how many around right now will be around to enjoy it?


At least the wait-and-see attitude is refreshing compared to the mindless pessimism of Dan Shaughnessy.

Three home games this week: Detroit Monday, Orlando Wednesday, Cleveland Friday. These are games we need, so let's hope we start to put it all together.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

Shaughnessy Pessimism

Dan Shaughnessy has an overly pessimistic article on the Celtics today:

In the cold, dry, colorless Celtic winter of 2003-04, we speak of the golden days of 2002 as if they were part of the Bird-Parish-McHale era. The mere sight of [Indiana's Kenny] Anderson practically kindles memories of Sam Jones and Frank Ramsey.

The Celtics of 2002 are all gone except for Paul Pierce, Walter McCarty, and Mark Blount. That's right. In the name of progress -- moving back so you can move forward -- the Celtics have been blown up since they came within two wins of making it to the NBA Finals.

Now a visitor, Anderson went across the hall to commiserate with Pierce before last night's game...

They are a sub-.500 team treading water in the great middle of the NBA's deep sea of mediocrity. They are a unit too dependent on one scorer, too often willing to stand and watch Pierce perform. The second-half rebounding last night was pathetic (Indiana had a 12-2 edge on the offensive glass after intermission and took 20 more shots than the Celtics). Players are still getting to know one another, and O'Brien is figuring out a way to integrate Davis into the program...

Like it or not, living in the present is the only way to go. Antoine Walker is not walking through that door, folks. Eric Williams, Tony Battie, and Kenny Anderson are not walking through that door.

No more talk of missing persons. No more talking about 2002 like it was a banner year. These are your Boston Celtics. Get used to nights like last night.


Geez, talk about overstating the importance of one loss. Fine, not re-signing Rogers was a bad move, but now we've got new ownership and Ainge making personnel moves. The team with Walker, Battie, Williams et al wasn't going back to the Conference Finals. Shaughnessy admits the Celtics are still putting the pieces together after a trade, so why end the column "Get used to nights like last night"? Isn't there the chance the players will become more comfortable over time and O'Brien will find the right combinations to put on the floor--perhaps like what happened after the Walker trade and the team, following a struggle the first month of the season, went on a five-game winning streak?

Shaughnessy's pessimism schtick is tired (especially with regard to his bogus "curse" load of crap about the Red Sox). As I've written before, we need to have a little bit of patience while the team gets itself together. But there's definitely talent here, which means there could be playoff success in the future for them. And by the way, what would happen if the season ended today, Dan? The Celtics would be the East's seventh seed, hardly a disaster.

I admit, last night's game was bad, especially considering the Celtics went from leading by 15 in the second quarter to trailing by 19 with a few minutes remaining. The offense bogged down when they kept trying to get the ball to Pierce way out high with Artest hounding him. Boston actually shot over 50 percent on the night but took 20 fewer shots than Indiana. Being outrebounded by a 47-34 margin doesn't help. (box score)

Artest was the star of the game, finished with five steals to go with his 28 points, and he even pulled down Pierce's shorts on one play. The refs didn't see, Pierce hiked up his pants quickly, ran off a screen, and nailed a three in Artest's face. Expect to see the clip of Artest pantsing Pierce over and over on highlight and blooper reels. Even though this one was kinda funny, it also shows how Artest continues to be a thug of a player who thrives on intimidation. It's unfortunate, in a way, because Artest is so skilled he really doesn't need to pull that crap. His hands are amazingly quick reaching in for steals.

Jermaine O'Neal also continues to be someone no one on Boston has a chance of guarding. He had about the quietest 21-13 possible. Reggie Miller sucked for three quarters but then finally drained a few threes in the fourth quarter. People are going a little overboard by saying it was "shades of the old Reggie" though, since he was 4-12 on threes for the game, which is nothing special. If you take 12 threes, you'll probably score a decent amount.

We saw some good intensity from Mihm and Davis, I thought, who are hopefully getting more accustomed to being in Boston. Mike James had another strong start offensively that he couldn't maintain, as did Jiri Welsch, who scored all 14 of his points in the first half. The big problem remains Vin Baker, who had another weak outing with six points and one rebound. Remember when he scored 20 a few times early this year? I fear he's hit a wall in the comeback.

Tonight the Celtics have a back-to-back in Chicago. Fortunately Pierce only played 29 minutes last night, a season low, which means he could be fresh tonight. See Bulls Blog for more on Chicago, a team that's been hard hit by injuries but still managed to beat the Celtics at the Fleet in November.