Sunday, July 10, 2011

Obligatory Lockout Statement.

All I can say is that after one the best seasons in recent memory, the National Basketball Association is mired in one of the worst possible eventualities. This has been on the horizon for a while, and as a fan it makes me genuinely sad that it has come to pass - especially when we have all just seen how epic, awesome and truly moving the sport of NBA basketball can be. But I will not be going an further, I will advise you to read this brilliant and comprehensive Blog by mighty American sport brainiac Bill Simmons called GRANTLAND that sums up the whole collective bargaining agreement and even offers viable solutions with an unexpected movie metaphor 

Lets hope this mess reaches a positive outcome before we miss a whole season and the league suffers through another 5 seasons to get back the momentum they had.

Green and white for life. 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Belated 2010 - 2011 NBA season Recap - part 2

5. Derrick Rose: Chicago under ex Boston coach Tom Thibdeau, claimed the number one over all seed At 62 - 20 for 2010 -2011. This was a team that improved in the early part of the regular season and then just went over the top, pushing past the Heat and Celtics. Sure Noah, Boozer, Deng, Asik, Gibson, Watson are all very good players but one man literally held them and every success together - Derrick Rose. Averaging 25 PPG, 7.7 APG and 4.1 RPG he literally grabbed the League MVP trophy and ran away with it. No - he is not a robber, it season was just that decisive. The Bulls looked like a lock for the finals, that was until the heat figured out how to play together and used a 6’8” LeBron to guard a 6’3” Rose. Containing Rose even a little bit exposed the lack of secondary scoring that led to the Bulls down fall in 5 games of the Eastern Conference finals. But I will say this; every regular season Bulls game I watched always involved me at some point rewinding the Tivo to study Derrick Rose before the coverage went to the slow-mo replay.  Several times. I seriously had to watch it again to fathom the speed and strength with which Rose possesses. It is almost unbelieveable.

4. Kevin Love 31 / 31 game: On November 12th 2010 a Knicks vs Wolves game made news. Yeah, I know how that sounds, was there a bomb threat? Did a celebrity sing ‘Star Spangled Banner off key? No - Kevin Love amassed 31 pts and 31 rebs to help his lowly Wolves rally from 21 down past a then Carmello-less Knick team. To put it into perspective no player in the NBA has surpassed that statistical mark since Moses Malone got 32 pts and ...wait for it...38 boards (DAMNN!) for the Houston Rockets  vs Seattle way back in 1982. When the T-Wolves coach (Kurt Rambis) said "Those numbers are just stupid. I don't even know what to say." you know it was really something. 

3. BLAKE GRIFFIN: So much has been said about ‘the Blakenator’. So I am just going to write a series of short sentences frequently using full stops to be dramatic. He won a dunk contest jumping over a car. November 20, 2010; he dunked on all the Knicks pretty much on his way to 44pts and 15 rebs in a loss but made the best slam of the year in that game. He has lead in double figures points and rebounds in both categories for the Clippers in at least 10 games, and topped either points or rebounds in many others. He played in the rookie challenge and all star game. Did I mention the Car? Yes. January 16th ,2011: He got 18pts and 15 rebound to beat the Lakers and snap their 7 game win streak (I put this in because Clippers and Boston fans share a hatred of this team). He’s making Clippers home games more attractive. He won Rookie of the Year half way through the season (well, not really but it felt like that). His play embodies the best parts of Karl Malone and Charles Barkley’s skill set. He is the future of the NBA. And he is damn fun to watch.

2.Rondo all year and then especially in game 3 vs the Heat: In the big three era I have often compared the team to a boxer. I am no pugilist but but I know my Rocky movies, and the Celtics have come to resemble the lovable and fictional sports hero Rocky Balboa. Last year, the celtics made the most inexplicable run after a really ordinary regular season. Then, bang Miami in 5, Cleveland in 6, Orlando in 6 then the finals. It was like Rocky beating Clubber Lang (being how they played in the play offs) after getting pummeled by him in the first match up (being how they played in 2nd half of the regular season regular season). So does that make Doc Rivers Apollo Creed? Unfortunately they didn’t know when or how to stay down, running on empty while taking the Lakers 7 games within 6 points of a title (It still hurts to say that).
As the we go from the big three era, to the post big three era Rondo is now well and truly the head and heart of this team. He will captain this team after Paul Pierce retires. As has been said before by smarter people than me - ‘As Rondo goes, so go the Celtics’. Rondo came out starting this season throwing out assists like crazy and to quote what I wrote on December 5th 2010  - He was devastating during the later half of the year with some lapses, but he is down right incredible now. Posting between 10 and 24 assists in the first ten games, Rondo leads all NBA players with an average of 14.9 per game. That’s very nearly five clear of Jason Kidd. Wow. It also helped that Shaq could catch every thing he threw any where near the rim.
As the season went on the play settled into a less frenetic model of consistency, but still fairly fast paced and impressive. Then the Perkins trade came and altered the landscape of team chemistry on the Celtics team. Rondo lost arguably his closest friend on the team. And understandably hit a slump in production and general play. The team spiraled losing games they could have won. As Rondo goes, so go the Celtics. He finished the year averaging 10.6 pts 11.2 apg 4.4 reb and regaining form quickly. Knicks first round 4 - 0. It all looked really good. The Celtics had beaten the Heat 3 - 1 in the regular season. It just took the Heat that long to figure it out and hit their game. 2nd round down 2 against a monster gaining strength. Playing at TD Banknorth in front of a home crowd, Rondo hit the floor and Dwayne Wade, dislocating his elbow. It was bad (the picture tells a better story). He went to the locker room. He then came back out a short time later, playing the game and winning it with his team and one good arm. 6 pts 11 ast and 3 rebs, closing out a game 3 and giving hope to fans whilst channeling Willis Reed by biting down and playing hard. Unfortunately two games later Miami went on to play Chicago in the conference finals and Boston was an afterthought.
In that 3rd game Rondo proved that he was the leader of the Celtics from now on. It would take more than pain to stop him. A dislocated elbow was an inconvenience. His toughness was as resolute as his will to win. In the post game interview the reporter is stressing the the fact his injury was serious. You can see it in his eyes, he would have played another game there and then. Unbelievable.    

1. The triumphant Dallas Mavericks: Here we find ourselves at my favorite moment for 2010 - 2011. But to call it a single moment is a misnomer. The Dallas Mavericks victory over the Miami Heat in 6 games was more of a trickling different factors and momentum cascading into a 3 game domination and consequent supreme victory. It wasn’t just the Mavs clawing back to even the series at 2 -2, but that was cool. It wasn’t Nowitski playing with flu and looking like death warmed up and still beating a bunch of guys who thought it was funny to be that sick and still play, but who lost the game to that same unwell guy? I could sight stats, but the only two things I need mention; 27 pts per game and Dirk. A perennial all star and possibly one of the best forwards to play the game - Dirk Nowitski simply owned the play offs. Not just owning one team, but all the teams the Mavs played. On scarily 12 deep Dallas team, he is the cut above. The closer. He was simply transcendent - peaking in the final 6th game and leaving a legacy. A real legacy where you go out and play at such a level people talk about it, like you are breaking the laws of physics. Not a Miami legacy where you talk about winning multiple titles at a big party that masquerades as a player introduction - before the 2010 - 2011 season even started (see ‘Belated 2010 - 2011 NBA Season Recap Part 1’ No 7. the Miami Heat etc - that bit I mentioned about character). What Dirk accomplished would not have been possible without the calibre of team mates he had. Chandler, Kidd, Terry, Stevenson, Barea. Hell even Cardinal and Mahinmi played at that championship level. For me though, to pick a moment, from all those that came together in the 2010 - 2011 finals was the last minutes of  game 5. Not because of the amazing scoring run, the sheer excitement and awesomeness   but the look in Jose Jaun Barea eyes when he sank those threes. Determination and will forged in fire is the closest thing I can think of - but you had to see it. That is when i knew the Mavs would win the next game. That is when the title was theirs.

There you go. Done. Green and White for Life.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Belated 2010 - 2011 NBA season Recap - part 1

First off let's get the obvious out of the way...Boston did not win it's 18th banner.  They where in contention but had the rug pulled pretty hard and fast from under them by a bunch of guys in Florida who like to wear black and pretend to be sick.

Things pretty much changed at mid season due to one of the most emotionally gutting trades in years, sending Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to the Thunder for Jeff Green and Nenad Kristic.  I am also abit pissed they traded Semih and Luke Too. The record was better this year, and to put the dog turd on top of the cup cake, Boston gets owned by the Miami Heat in the play offs.; a team they handled 3 times out of 4 in the regular season. 

Being a fan of the C's since 04 - 05 season, this season wasn't as bad as i have bared witness too. It just could have been so much better if certain things had not occurred. Although I have every reason to be unhappy about The 2010 - 2011 NBA season and how it all finished up, I honestly can’t be. I just loved being a fan of not only the Celtics this year, but of the NBA ; the game, it’s theatrics and some goddamn great games this year. I have come up with a top ten (not all Boston related) as to why I can call this season one of the best in years. So here we go;

10. The Eastern Conference power shift: Orlando pulling a desperation trade, that actually made Phoenix a better team in the long term, Coach Thibadeu and the Bulls claiming the no 1 seed, a monumental Knicks / Nuggets trade that should have occurred in the preseason and the resurgence of a revamped Miami all contributed to a seismic power shift. During this time Boston pretty much remained an elite team, I would goes as far and say this was true even after the Perkins / Robinson for Kristic / Green trade that dealt a blow to their immediate title chances but may pay dividends in the long run. In some ways all these changes, despite how I may feel about them personally will define the eastern conference especially for a while to come.  
9 . The new Denver Nuggets: I just loved watching this team post Carmello Anthony. A devastating scorer and feeble defender with sticky hands is traded. In return the Nuggets get Galnari, Felton, Chandler and Musgov who pretty much fit in and helped the team win in the short term while keeping Denver looking OK in the longer term. The ‘share the wealth’ system under Coach George Karl was as elegant as it was refreshing to watch. Although Denver could have used a super star in the first round of the play offs. 

8 . Wallace going to Portland: Gerald Wallace was the last player of the original Charlotte Bobcats. Not like they where an old team or anything, but hey traded a damn good player for Pryzbilla and to free up some cash? Portland changed from a very good Portland team into a potentially awesome team. Sure they rolled through the end of the regular season gaining a great head of steam. Brandon Roy found a time machine  for one game in the first round of the play offs giving the Dallas Mavericks an impetus to fall in a heap (but not for long). Wallace has untapped bad ass-ness and skills to match but he was languishing in Charlotte toward the end of his time there. Portland is an astute trade away from being a western conference contender if they keep the core they have together now intact.   

7. Miami Losing, then winning, then winning some more..and then losing in the finals: One of the worst things this year was the fact that I had no choice but too watch the Heat play way more than I really wanted to. What the hell did TNT think would happen when they distributed ‘fan night’ voted games to overseas sports networks (ONEHD in Australia). Fans voted for the popular team with the big names teams and not always the best games. Frankly, I would have loved to have seen more Warriors games and less Lebron. More Wolves games and a reduction in seeing Wade draw fouls and sink free throws.  Less of Chris Bosh’s tiny head and soft play and more Memphis. And let’s be honest, that whole ‘men crying in there’ thing, survey any group of NBA (non Heat) fans to speculate and I guarantee two names will come up - Brad Miller and Chris Bosh. On the flip side of this coin, I got to know the Heat roster fairly well and it is undeniable, the team Pat Riley put together was very good. Their D was suffocating. I am sure that some stat nerd has correlated all the breakaway dunks that came off steals from their defense for the heat in 2010 - 2011, I don’t know the exact figure. Perhaps somewhere in the ‘wow! that many?’ range. The Miami Bench was a significant part of why they got as far as they did and why they failed when they got there. I have great respect for Haslem, and if he and Miller had been avoided injury this year the story of how it ended may have been a little different. And that gets us to where it all ended for the Miami Heat, and to their credit in one season with a virtually new team they got to the finals. That is a significant feat. But to win the finals very good teams, with flawed benches and achieving significant feats don’t win a title. A team has to transcend and become something greater than the sum of their parts, a fluid and unstoppable machine driven by hunger and determination that you can see in their eyes. If you don’t do have that then the only trophy you win is for the conference. And it is just not the same. ThIs Heat team will win the title within 3 years, when the lessons they have learned in these most recent finals have shown them the way and what they need to do. That team will be better not just in talent but in character, An area Miami perhaps needs the most work.  

6. The rise of Memphis and Oklahoma City: If you love Basketball games, where young teams give a damn and actually give the impression they care about each other and will take it to any team any time - then the Thunder and the Grizzlies are the team for you. As a fan of the game it fills me with joy to watch the skill, athleticism, ‘hard nosedness’  and purity these two teams personify. And this season, boy did they make an impression. OKC added Celtic Kendrick Perkins making their Ibka / Durant / Perkins back court well...freakin’ scary. Meanwhile with the additions of Tony Allen and Shane Battier the Grizz got some teeth defensively. Zac Randolph put his game into ‘I am going to annihilate any team not in OUR jersey’ mode, posting some crazy numbers offensively. and the play off push these teams seemed to make became an avalanche. Oklahoma city got by Denver while 8th seeded Memphis simply owned 1st placed San Antonio. One of very few teams to cause such an upset in the modern era. And as if this was not enough they met in one of the best 2nd round play off brackets in the race to the finals. It was back and forth, taking-one-in-your -house and back again capped off with a 3OT game four, finally ending in a 123 - 133 victory to the thunder who would eventually take the series in seven. 

Taking care of part two. Stay tuned. Green and White for Life.     

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Boston grabs Perdue team mates Moore and Johnson in 2011 NBA Draft

The 2011 NBA draft has come and gone.

Some would would say ‘was it here? Really?’.

Generally some who know much, much more than me consider this a non event and weaker draft than we have seen in recent years. Yes, Kyrie Irving went No1. Some interesting trades occurred (Stephen Jackson to Bucks, Salmoms in Sactown, Magette in Charotte and thankfully somewhere other than Milwaukee). But my attention was focused on the 25th and 55th pick and the busy hands of Boston Hauncho Danny Ainge.

At no 25 Ainge seemed to do it again, drafting Marshon Brooks - scoring machine in a league with Jimmer Fredette (who found a home in Sacramento via Milwaukee). But ‘Unkanny Danny’ pulled a sneaky and perhaps prudent move; Sending Brooks to NJ for their pick at 27th pick - Perdue big man Jajaun Johnson. What I have seen and heard of this guy; not heaps. What I do know is that Dan got the C’s a 6’ 10” big with great length and athleticism, shot blocking ability and a low post to midrange game. Primarily he will make his living in the paint. Upside for Johnson is big, apparently and he is a four year graduate, which means he is green but not as green as some. Johnson also fills a need for More bigs in green jerseys, which will help some next season (if there is one).

So what is better than one potential laiden prospect from Perdue? How about 2nd one. With the 55th pick E’twaun Moore. Again not heaps I know about this guy; a great 6’4” athlete with length at the SG. ESPN’s chad ford said Moore is a ‘consummate role player, he isn’t great t anything, but his game is solid’. Ford rated rated the C’s draft picks at an A-, only rating the Jazz and Wolves higher. Moore is also a four year man who in that time raised his PPG average from 12.9 to 18 flat. His stats bear out a similar trend of gradual improvement in most other areas of his game, bearing out Fords assessment.

Doc Rivers rates the the Perdue college hoops program as ‘great’ by the way.

But again we find ourselves here, the rookie / draft day post where the future has ment uncertainty for first year players in recent times. Rookies from last year - gone. Luke and Semih where good enough to stick around and better than some, but they got used as trade bait and are now looking to catch passes from Irving not Rondo. I really hope that Doc plays these guys. I can’t put it any simpler. Johnson will get a lot more minutes initially if Glen Davis wants to Glen Davis somewhere other than bean town. Likewise for Moore if Ray Allen well...stops being an ageless juggernaut.

If Doc Rivers gives these guys court time, it will pay dividends. That and the fact they are team mates already, to me that is a bonus and all the more reason to put these to guys on the floor together. It’s just finding that window from the bench to the court. But this in coming season, urgency and chemistry will be at a premium more than they have ever been in the big three era. Things may be different and different is good if you are looking for playing time.

Green and white for life. 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Celtics rookie Luke Harangody get's double double.

Luke Harangody had a great game today.

In fact it was a day that in years to come may (and I stress may) define the beginning of an NBA career and longer term Celtic affiliation. The rookie who wears no. 55 had a career game today vs the Toronto Raptors, with an impressive 17 point, 11 rebound 1 assist and 2 block stat line as Boston prevailed 102 - 122 at home (his previous high was 4 pts). It was also a night in which the Celtics amassed 3,000 wins in font of a home crowd enjoying seeing Harangody make his first significant contribution as an NBA player. From all reports chants of ‘LUUUUKE!!’ erupted from the TD Banknorth crowd during the course of the game.

This is important to me as a fan, to see the potential beginnings of another Celtic rookie strengthening an already talent laden but injured team especially at the 4 and 5 spots. Of course we have seen an initial and sudden flourish of a celtic NBA rookie before from players like Rajon Rondo and Glen Davis, with contributions becoming more frequent as the player learns to adjust to the steep learning curve of the NBA and eventually becoming part of the unit. We also remember Gabe Pruitt and Bill Walker. A long stint in D-league or a trade can just as easily be on the cards for a rookie.

I have had my eye on this player because after watching post draft footage on you tube and summer league games highlights, it appeared the C’s had got a bargain in the 2nd round of the 2010 draft;  

“Luke Harangody is a solid Power Forward, a player with a reputation as a fierce competitor and low post work horse. Playing for Notre Dame in the highly competitive 'Big East', Harangody was the go to option for the 'fighting Irish' and thrived playing some the best players of the 2010 draft class this past college season. With numbers like 21.8 ppg and 11.4 rpg averaged over his last three seasons at ND, he was a steal at 52 outweighing any misgivings other NBA teams may have had about his abilities or potential.” (25th June 2010, draft review)

and then not long after...

“Speaking of rooks, Harangody really stood out in Orlando, playing an under talented and some times under maned SL roster (playing their last game losing to the Nets, with 7 players?!). Luke show cased a solid 3 pt shot, great rebounding and great intensity and aggression. Plus he has the weirdest shooting style I have seen in a while.” (from july 14th 2010)

It is clear that this kid loves to scrap and fight for whatever he can get on the court, not for himself but his team. Doc Rivers also gave genuine props to his player for his explosive and hard fought effort;

"He was great. He was phenomenal," Rivers said. "He'll make mistakes because he's young. He'll make mistakes because he's going too fast. He'll never make mistakes because he's not playing hard...I just thought his energy was fantastic," Rivers said. "When he slows down, he can make shots. He's an uncanny rebounder for his size."
ESPN game recap 
Perhaps it is Haragody’s unconventional shot, tenacious attitude and flat out knack for boards (Kevin Love, any one?), but this rookie had his day, just like Davis had his first good game. Just like Rondo showed us the first flash of brilliance. Yes, a lot has to happen and some time has to pass before he becomes a certified Celtic mainstay. But it was his comment after the game that really made me think that No. 55 could have a home here in years to come;

"On this team, you have to take a look around the locker room and realize who's around," Harangody said, understanding his limited playing time. "This was just one game. Nothing has changed. My role is always defensive and get a rebound." 

ESPN game recap 

That is someone with their head screwed on straight, knowing at this point in your development on a talented team, you have to take advantage of an opening in a context that very much dictates it’s terms to you. Knowing your role, embracing the limitations of the role as it is offered and play like you are so damn hungry when ever you get a chance. If you keep this attitude there is a good chance your team will want to keep you around.

The big three are in their last years, to look ahead and say ‘let’s consolidate the future later’ is crazy when you have pieces already taking shape. The future of this club is not an aging core of future hall of famers, but a Rondo / Bradley / Davis / Erden and Harangody line up. This unit might do alright as a combo to put on the floor in blow outs and garbage time this year, but keep them together for 3 even five years and see what happens.

Green and White for life.