Photo courtesy of ESPN.com
Tuesday was an unexpectedly busy day for the NBA, which garnered several headlines leading into this Saturday’s draft. The Spurs traded for Richard Jefferson and the Timberwolves moved Mike Miller and Randy Foye to Washington for the fifth overall pick, giving them four in the first round this year. But the most intriguing story of Tuesday was about a trade that didn’t happen.
The original report came from Yahoo! that the Celtics had offered the Detroit Pistons Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen for Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Rodney Stuckey. The rumor sent buzz for the Celtics skyrocketing, and called for an almost immediate press conference. Of course, the Boston media always feels entitled to an explanation for rumors of this magnitude.
Celtics President and GM Danny Ainge was quick to debunk the notions that the Celtics were trying to deal Rondo, but made it clear that the Celtics love Rondo as much as one would expect:
What’s clear from Ainge’s comments is the speculation that arose from the trade rumor, like the dissatisfaction with Rondo’s character and work ethic (he apparently showed up late to a playoff game against the Magic) or his contract situation, is merely just speculation.
Like any great GM, Ainge would only make such a drastic move as trading two core players if he feels the Celtics will improve as a result of it.
But what’s also clear is that the Celtics are not ruling out the possibility of a major trade in the future. Ainge doesn’t see anything big happening this off-season, but what they will do between now and the 2010-11 season is still up in the air.
Rondo is set to become a free agent after the 2009-10 season, joining perhaps the greatest free agent class in the history of sports. If the Celtics do not extend Rondo’s contract in the next year, his name will be added to the likes of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Dirk Nowitzki, Amare Stoudamire, Chris Bosh, Steve Nash, and yes, Allen as well.
Allen’s contract expires after 2010, making him the most likely player to be moved. The Celtics will remain in control of Kevin Garnett’s contract through 2012 and Paul Pierce through 2011, owing them over $40 million combined during the 2010-11 season. This will make signing Rondo to an extension very difficult for the Celtics, especially if he commands a top-tier salary.
But with the way Rondo has improved over the last two seasons, it’s looking like he’s on his way to a hefty payday. After helping the Celtics win their first championship in 22 years in 2007-08, Rondo took his game to another level in 2008-09. His points, rebounds, assists, and percentages all improved, and he averaged a triple double (16.9 points, 9.7 rebounds, 9.8 assists) in 41.2 minutes per game during the playoffs. And he’s still only 23.
Needless to say, Rondo will be seeking a raise over the $2.6 million he’ll make in 2009-10. To reward his movement into the upper echelon of NBA point guards, the Celtics will need to dish out some serious dough. Can they afford it?
If you ask me, keeping Rondo in Boston for his prime years would be worth moving Garnett within the next year. That may mean sacrificing another championship run, but I think it’s still worth it to keep Rondo in a Celtics uniform for the long-term.
It’s pretty clear that Garnett is beginning to decline in terms of both health and performance, which is pretty normal for a man of his age and build.
The window of opportunity for the Celtics’ “Big Three” is closing quickly, and soon enough they will have to look toward the future. That said, it wouldn’t be easy for the Celtics to find a taker for Garnett’s enormous $21 million-plus contract that doesn’t expire until 2012.
But if he can prove to still be able to remain healthy for a full season, it would be tough for a contending team in need of a veteran presence to turn down a man of Garnett’s ability and experience.
But I digress…If- and it’s a pretty big if– the Celtics were open to moving Garnett and could find a deal that works, I would be all for it- provided the main motive is to retain Rondo on the roster.
Rondo doesn’t shoot the ball very well at all; it’s always been his achilles heel. He’ll never be an elite scorer at the point guard position like Chris Paul or Deron Williams.
But he more than makes up for his shooting woes with deft quickness to the hoop, magician-like hands, and tremendous determination and confidence. He has a rare combination of skills that could make him an elite point guard even without great shooting ability.
He may already be there; I personally wouldn’t quite call him elite yet but he’s already at the All-Star level and still has plenty of time to improve. I think all he needs is to develop a reliable three-point shot and he can easily be mentioned among the likes of Paul and Williams.
He can already do everything else with his hands at a very high level. He quickly became my favorite Celtics player and arguably the most exciting player to watch since he came into the league in 2006.
It would pain me as a Celtics fan to see Rondo running all over the place, never tiring or letting up, always looking for the best possible pass or pestering an opponent for a steal, constantly wreaking havoc on the opposing team’s game plan, in a different uniform. It wouldn’t come as a surprise if a team like Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, or- gasp!– the Lakers were interested in his services come 2010.
Whatever the Celtics do with Rondo, I’m just hoping it doesn’t come devoid of benefits. Trading him would be disappointing, but would also only happen if Ainge feels the Celtics would be better off doing it, and the Celtics would likely end up with some nice players and/or draft picks in return.
Letting Rondo walk to free agency and join another team would be extremely painful to watch, especially if he dons a yellow and purple jersey.
At this point, I would be open to seeing Garnett move elsewhere in order to make room for Rondo to stay here for the future. He’s the most exciting, talented young point guard the Celtics have had in years, and without him for the future the Celtics could be headed straight back to the league basement by 2012.
To say the Boston Celtics’ draft history is a storied one would be an enormous understatement. They have experienced agony and ecstasy, passed on future Hall-of-Famers and stolen others over five decades of selections. With this Saturday’s draft looming, it’s only appropriate to cover the five most significant moments in Celtics draft history.
Honorable mention: Selecting Paul Pierce in 1998; Passing on Kobe Bryant along with 12 other teams in 1996; the sudden death of 1987 top pick Reggie Lewis
5. Larry Bird Falls to Celtics at No. 6 in 1978 Draft
Larry Bird’s draft class is proof of how pivotal top selections can be. Even the Pacers passed on the Indiana State University star and French Lick native, who turned out to be one of the NBA’s all-time great players. Though this draft produced some other good players such as Maurice Cheeks and Reggie Theus, no 1978 draftee had nearly the career Bird had with the Celtics. Thirty-one years later, the decision of the first five teams to pass on Bird still stands as one of the great draft mistakes in league history.
4. Celtics Select John Havlicek with Last Pick of First Round of 1962 Draft
While the 1962 Draft produced several good players who had solid pro careers, only one from that class would end up in the Hall of Fame. John Havlicek scored 26395 points in his 16 NBA seasons- all with the Celtics- first in franchise history and 11th all-time.
Oh, did I mention the Celtics already had Bill Russell, Bob Cousy and Tommy Heinsohn? And were coming off a fourth consecutive NBA championship? After adding Havlicek, they would go on to win six of the next eight titles. Havlicek carried the torch from Russell admirably, leading the Celtics to two more championships in the 1970s. As the subject of one of the NBA’s most famous calls (“Havlicek stole the ball!”), he’s engraved himself permanently in Celtics lore.
3. Celtics Miss Out on Tim Duncan in 1997 Draft Lottery
To their fans’ dismay, the biggest story of the Celtics’ 1996-97 season was where they would end up in the draft. They finished 15-67, giving them the second-best chance to land Wake Forest stud Tim Duncan with the first overall pick. It was clear that Duncan was a transcendent talent, which made the 1997 lottery one of the most exciting in NBA history.
Celtics fans’ hearts dropped as soon as the San Antonio Spurs, who finished 20-62, were revealed as the lucky recipients of Duncan’s services. The Celtics landed the third pick, with which they selected a young point guard named Chauncey Billups. Unfortunately, Billups lasted only 51 games in Boston, several years before reaching his full potential, as Rick Pitino traded him to Toronto for Kenny Anderson.
As for Duncan, he only went on to be one of the greatest power forwards to ever play the game, winning four titles in 12 seasons with the Spurs. And at 32, he may not yet be done winning. It certainly would have been great for New Englanders to see Duncan assert his greatness in Celtic green.
2. Celtics Lose Out on Top Picks in 2007 Draft, Trade for Garnett and Allen
From one rough year to another, the Celtics also stunk ten years later, in 2007. The Celtics stumbled throughout the season to finish 24-58, again second in the draft lottery.
The imminence of the Celtics owning a top-two selection in the draft had the Boston media salivating over the likely prospect of landing Texas’ Kevin Durant with the second-overall pick. But the ping pong balls once again did not bounce Boston’s way, as the Celtics got saddled with pick no. five, the lowest possible pick they could have had.
President Danny Ainge traded that pick, Jeff Green, to Seattle for Ray Allen and Glen “Big Baby” Davis, a move that would pale in comparison to the massive five-for-one deal weeks later that brought Kevin Garnett to Boston.
We all know what happened next. The Celtics completed the biggest single-season turn-around in NBA history, winning 66 games on the way to their 17th NBA title.
I still enjoy imagining what the Celtics could have been had they ended up where they should have at no. 2. They might not yet have a championship, but a starting five of Durant, Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Al Jefferson, and Kendrick Perkins looks great on paper.
1. The Death of Len Bias
In any sport, a first-round draft pick, especially one in the top three, is meant to turn around the fortunes of franchises. Len Bias did just that, unfortunately in a severely tragic way. It seems disrespectful to label Bias a “bust,” but the 23-year-old Maryland star’s shocking death after the 1986 NBA Draft stunned the nation and left the Celtics reeling for nearly two decades.
In April 1984, then-President and GM Red Auerbach traded guard Gerald Henderson along with cash considerations to the Seattle Supersonics for their 1986 first-round pick. It turned out that it would become the second-overall pick for the Bird-led Celtics, who had just defeated the Houston Rockets for their 16th NBA championship.
The reigning NBA champions, in the midst of another mini-dynasty, selected Bias, the 1986 ACC Player of the Year, who had been compared favorably to fellow ACC star Michael Jordan. Had Bias lived up to his big-time expectations, the Celtics could have won several more championships adding him to a team that included four future Hall-of-Famers.
Instead, Bias took his draft celebration down a dark path. He snorted an excessive amount of cocaine in his Maryland dorm, which led to his fatal heart attack less than 48 hours after being picked. The Celtics floundered through much of the 1990s after the original Big Three declined, and were left to wonder what Bias could have done for their franchise.
Kobe was feeling a little lonely here…
Dwight Howard has played excellently this postseason and surprised many by leading the Orlando Magic past both the defending-champion Celtics and the LeBron James-led, No. 1-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers. So it’s only fitting that he also gets props from the NBA by posting a top-10 video of his top plays of the season. The guy is a beast, ’nuff said.
In honor of the NBA Finals, which tip off tonight in Los Angeles, I’m posting this video of the top ten plays of the season…From Kobe Bryant. Yes, the man is clearly good enough to fill up an entire video reel by himself, so sit back and enjoy!
The media has been stirring for the last few days after the NBA’s top seed in the playoffs, the Cleveland Cavaliers, fell to the Orlando Magic in game six of the Eastern Conference finals. Orlando quietly played very well against the Cavaliers this season, and likely surprised many people with their victory, LeBron James included.
The league MVP this season and leader of a 66-win team, James obviously had high expectations placed on him, mostly by himself. So it’s no shock that he was overcome with disappointment at the end of game six, which the Cavaliers lost 103-90.
What the series was supposed to show in the end was that James’ supporting cast in Cleveland really isn’t good enough to win an NBA championship, and looked better as a result of the MVP’s superlative play. What it ultimately showed, though, was that the 24-year-old James, the league’s biggest star and most recognizable face has a thing or two to learn about sportsmanship.
After quickly disappearing into the Cleveland locker room and not saying a word to the media or anyone, LeBron broke his silence that, while less than 24 hours, felt like an eternity.
Jalen Rose’s commentary at the end says it all. In the spirit of competition, there is still a level of respect for one’s peers whether or not they like each other. Ali and Frazier still tapped the gloves even though they likely hated each other in real life. Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin share an intense budding rivalry in the NHL, but they still embraced after their series showdown was over.
What LeBron did after game six was unacceptable. The problem wasn’t even that he didn’t give the media the juicy nut-graph quotes they were looking for. It was that he didn’t show his opponents the proper respect.
He went further by commenting that he can’t shake anyone’s hands just after they beat him up. What he doesn’t seem to realize is the amount of disrespect he’s showing toward Dwight Howard and the Magic by doing that. In time, he will learn that although he may not want to even look at Howard, let alone shake his hand, he still needs to do it. For the sake of the sport.
I’m not a LeBron James hater by any means. I don’t jump on the kid for any little transgression he might have. But this really bothered me. I always see James as mature beyond his years, a consummate professional who’s always willing to give props to the ones who humble him. He did it to the Celtics last season, so I expected more of the same this time around.
He eventually gave the Magic the credit they deserved, but he had already done the damage to his credibility, however small it may be in the big picture. He said he e-mailed Howard after the game to congratulate him, which is fine & dandy. But Howard had to have at least been thinking “Gee, why couldn’t he say this to me on the court?”
The scrutiny that’s coming over James might make him realize what he did was a lapse in judgment that came in the spirit of competition. There’s nothing wrong with having an intense desire to win; James wouldn’t have a chance at an NBA title without it. But when he does not reach the goal he sets out to attain, he needs to recognize the ones that stopped him. For that one night after his season ended, he failed to do so.
The Denver Nuggets, WWE distractions aside, have played very well in the Western Conference Finals, which is now tied 1-1. Despite the tests the Los Angeles Lakers have faced this postseason, none is greater than the one posed by Denver.
The Nuggets let game one at the Staples Center slip away from them, but did not allow the Lakers to capitalize on the momentum they gained from that game. Denver held on for the 106-103 victory that wrested home-court advantage from L.A. The Nuggets now head to the Pepsi Center, where they are undefeated this postseason.
Now for the video…Probably the most memorable moment for the Lakers in game two, Trevor Ariza takes a pass for what looks like a three-point attempt before driving straight to the hoop to leap right over the Lakers’ Dahntay Jones for the monster slam.
WWE Chairman Vince McMahon is clearly not happy at all about the scheduling gaffe by the Denver Nuggets this past April that landed WWE’s upcoming “Monday Night Raw” taping on the very same night as game four of the Western Conference Finals between the Nuggets and the Los Angeles Lakers.
But Mr. McMahon is also taking the whole situation in stride, and rightfully not changing any of his plans. It’s obviously not his or WWE’s concern to make sure they aren’t double-booked with the Nuggets, and it’s Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke’s responsibility to ensure that no scheduling conflict takes place. He deserves the verbal jabs that McMahon throws at him for showing a lack of both competence in running his business and faith in his own team.
I’m one who believes a steel cage match between the two would be quite entertaining to watch. With the way Vince thinks about business, it still wouldn’t surprise me if he tried to do something in conjunction with the Nuggets. But for now, it doesn’t seem like he wants anything to do with Kroenke, and I can’t wait to see what happens Monday night when the WWE trucks show up for their taping.
Here’s an amusing interview between Vince McMahon and former WWE employee Jonathan Coachman on this still-developing situation:
Now focused on preparing to face the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers took a little time to goof off Sunday, taking some crazy long-distance shots from places they would never have to shoot from in an actual game. It might have taken a hundred takes, but LeBron James nailed a 40-footer from behind the backboard at an awkward angle. I still think LeBron will be capable of making these kinds of crazy shots regularly- while on the actual playing court, of course.
There will be no Eastern Conference Finals for the Celtics or the City of Boston this year. No Pierce-LeBron showdown sequel. No Lakers rematch. The Celtics instead have an off-season to reflect on an undermanned, inconsistent conclusion to 2008-09, in which the Celtics lost to the Orlando Magic in game seven at The Garden, only the fourth game seven home loss in franchise history. The Magic have now made believers out of their critics, writes Chris Mannix of SI.com.
When general manager Danny Ainge overhauled the roster of the Boston Celtics in the summer of 2007, the team underwent an almost miraculous transformation from league laughingstock to championship contender. At that point, it was realistic to give them a four-year window for championship-level success, because by the fourth year the Celtics may not have their Big Three at all, let alone in their mid-30s and the twilight of their respective careers. Bob Ryan has similar, yet optimistic questions about the Celtics’ future.
Now, two years have passed, and the window is halfway closed. The Celtics had to battle like lions through this postseason without Kevin Garnett, their emotional leader and defensive anchor. They struggled throughout series to figure out different ways to stop their opponents’ offenses.
The Magic ultimately defeated the Celtics with their near-universal prowess from behind the three-point line. Dwight Howard turned out to be something of an x-factor in the series, as the Celtics obviously could not ignore him on defense but ended up giving way to the open man as Orlando drained three after three to send the Celtics’ season swirling around the drain and leave any chance of late-game Paul Pierce heroics nonexistent.
Without invaluable members of the bench that were vital to their championship in 2008- guys like Leon Powe, P.J. Brown and James Posey- the Celtics replaced them with mediocre-at-best role players like Brian Scalabrine and Mikki Moore and underachievers like Stephon Marbury. Eddie House at times had to play way over his head for the Celtics to have a chance to win certain games, something he never had to do last season.
How did coach Doc Rivers feel about the game seven loss and the Celtics’ season? As usual, he made no excuses for his guys, no “We missed KG” posturing, no blame to be placed. He acknowledged that they clearly didn’t play well in game seven, but also that the Magic deserved credit for their win. Above all else, the sweaty, emotionally-drained Rivers made it clear how proud of his guys he was at how hard they fought to repeat their magical playoff run.
But make no mistake, the biggest reason for the Celtics’ defeat by far was the loss of Garnett. His ailing knee never fully recovered, and now Celtics fans are left to wonder if he could have made a magical return had the Celtics advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs. What was a four-year window for the big-three-led Celtics is now two at most, with Garnett looking to already succumb to the injury-riddled decline years of his NBA career.
There’s no doubt that Garnett’s desire and intensity that could make him a coach some day is still there. He still has the fire in his belly that drove his motor, and infected the rest of the Celtics in a way that they rallied around each other and reached the summit as a team, a complete unit. But his body is betraying him. His 6’11”, 240-pound frame can only sustain the rigors of an NBA season for so long, and at age 32 Garnett could already be burning out.
It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that Garnett will be right back in the Celtics’ starting lineup come this November as the pivotal 2009-10 season kicks off. What also commences at this point will be Garnett’s three-year, $60 million extension. With his age, injuries and missed games on the rise, the Celtics will need to be even more careful with Garnett throughout the season in order to avoid another 2009-like disaster.
Garnett’s minutes will need to be monitored even more closely than in his first two seasons as a Celtic. He averaged 32.8 and 32.2 minutes in his first two seasons, respectfully. That number may now need to dip below 30 for the first time since Garnett’s rookie season in 1995-96 to keep his legs and knees fresh and 100 percent for the postseason, which even with Garnett out they should plausibly reach again.
A positive in the Garnett situation is that Glen “Big Baby” Davis really stepped up his game in the postseason, and showed his ability as a future starting power forward in the NBA. He will likely receive a bigger workload than the 21.5 minutes per game her averaged this season, and it would come as little surprise if he and Garnett split their minutes down the middle from now on.
The Celtics were very impressive during the regular season- perhaps more than they got credit for- going 62-20 despite missing Garnett for 20 games. But in the postseason, where their opponents got better and took their games to another level, the Celtics struggled. Almost every game was a battle, and the defense often looked disorganized.
Now the Celtics need to start thinking about the future. Garnett will likely be around for at least two-and-a-half of the three years of his extension, and potentially could become an albatross by then. Ray Allen will likely enter the epic free agent class of 2010, where someone may be willing to dish out a five-year deal to get him. The Celtics, however, like aren’t one of those teams.
Paul Pierce will be the final domino to fall in the big three’s departure from Boston, but he is by far the most likely to stay with the team for the remainder of his career. As the third-leading scorer in the history of the franchise- putting him behind only John Havlicek and Larry Bird- it’s only right that Pierce would never don another jersey in his career. In this age of free agency, athletes that stay with one team throughout their career are only getting more and more rare.
Pierce has a legitimate shot to pass Bird and possibly Havlicek if he stays with the Celtics for the rest of his career, so since he’s won a championship and will see his #34 raised to the rafters one day, why not make him a Celtic for life?
The Celtics will need to be patient with Pierce, but not too patient. There’s no doubt that Pierce has an undying love for this team, its fans and the City of Boston. But with his last chance to cash in coming in two years, what reason is there to believe that Pierce wouldn’t at least consider a lucrative offer to play near his roots on the West coast, say for the Clippers, Warriors or even-gulp-the Lakers???
For the next three years, deciding what to do with the big three will be the biggest task to manage for Ainge and his front office. But what also needs to be considered before it’s too late is what to do with their young stars, who have already blossomed into at least above-average NBA players. The aforementioned Davis averaged 15.8 points in 14 postseason games, including five games of over 20 points scored and a game-winning shot at the buzzer of game four against the Magic.
Kendrick Perkins is also developing into a reliable-enough scorer in the paint area, averaging 11.9 points on 57 percent shooting, as well as a great rebounder. He still fouls too much, but he is still young and developing, and could eventually become an excellent drawer of defensive fouls. At the very least, Perkins figures to average double-digit rebounds as he enters his prime, and could even develop into a Marcus Camby-type when he reaches his peak. It’s hard to believe this kid is still only 24 and has been in the league six years.
Despite Davis and Perkins’ accelerated maturity, the biggest rising star on the Celtics is undoubtedly Rajon Rondo. The 23-year-old, fleet-footed, deft-handed point guard was absolutely spectacular in the postseason this year, averaging a triple-double (16.9 points, 9.7 rebounds, 9.8 assists) and giving the sports world notice that he belongs in the discussion of the league’s very best point guards.
Rondo still doesn’t have the shooting ability of a Deron Williams or Chris Paul, but he is a high-percentage scorer who can drive to the hoop with the best of them, and once Jason Kidd is done could take over as the very best rebounding point guard in the league. His long arms and enormous hands give him the ability to move the basketball with efficiency and deception, and his quick feet make him a dangerous target at any spot on the floor.
Personally, I think it’s realistic for Rondo to average something like 17 points, six rebounds and nine or ten assists per game in his prime. And it also can’t be stressed enough that he is one of the most reliable defensive point guards in the game. Celtics fans must hope that Ainge does not forget about locking this young start up with a long-term contract before another team makes him an offer he can’t refuse.
In June 2007, the window of opportunity of Celtics championships was closed, dirty and dusty, and the locks had gathered plenty of rust. But in just one year, Ainge cleaned the window, removed the rust and opened it as wide as he could as the culture of the Celtics in Boston completely changed. They took on a life energy that had not been seen since the teams of the late-80s. And like those teams, they delivered a championship. They took home a title while the window was at its most open.
But now that window is starting to close. The rust is starting to recollect itself. Aging stars are starting to break down. And worst of all, LeBron James is entering his prime. Yes, he’s entering it. He’s not there yet. But neither are Rondo, Perkins or Davis. At this turbulent and uncertain cross-road for the Celtics, it’s ultimately most important that the young stars stay around long enough, and that the big three are healthy enough, to keep this window open for several more years.
As I’m reporting this story, I’m feeling a little disappointed that LeBron James’ votes to the 2009 All-NBA team were unanimous. It’s not like I was expecting any different or should have; this was a foregone conclusion and is only being reported as actual news because, well, the All-NBA team is always reported.
But I am ultimately disappointed by the unanimous voting for LeBron because I wish there was some jerk who voted him to the second team for no reason other than to cause a stir. That would’ve been just hilarious.
But alas, I have to report the inevitable. LeBron is a unanimous selection for the 2009 All-NBA team, and as the league’s MVP he clearly should have been. No surprises in the rest of the first-team lineup: Nowitzki, Wade, Howard and Bryant. I’m fine with it.
LeBron was certainly a human highlight reel this season. NBA.com put together a nice video package here, but these plays barely even begin to cover James’ highlights from this season.
Before the final possession of the game, Marv Albert commented that the Boston Celtics and coach Doc Rivers wanted the ball in the hands of either Paul Pierce or Ray Allen to try to win the game. And of course, they were in a do-or-die situation, down by one with just 11 seconds left, so to give either of those two the ball would have made perfect sense. But the actual game-winning shot came from perhaps the unlikeliest of sources, forward Glen “Big Baby” Davis, who has filled in admirably in the absence of Kevin Garnett. Paul Pierce came out with the ball and likely was going to take the shot, but he immediately drew the double-team, which left him with no choice but to pass the ball off. “Big Baby” was doing his job just by being in his sweet-spot for a mid-range jump-shot. Pierce located Davis quickly enough to get him the ball so he could shoot uncontested, and the ball sank through the hoop just as the buzzer sounded.
It was an incredibly clutch shot for the Celtics, as they would have faced a possibly insurmountable three-games-to-one deficit had Davis missed. But instead, the series is tied 2-2 and the Celtics regained home-court advantage. Game five will be in Boston at the TD Garden at 8 p.m.
The game is yet another in which the Celtics’ young stars are shining brighter than they have all season. Rajon Rondo continued his outstanding play with a Garnett-like line of 21 points and 13 rebounds, and Kendrink Perkins contributed 12 and 13 of his own, to go with five blocks. What was disturbing for the Celtics, however, is they got only two points on 1-of-8 shooting out of their bench, whose play has been wildly inconsistent. But here they are, in a tied series going back home. The Celtics can take control of the series with a win Tuesday night.
More bush-league actions in postseason play, but this time it comes from the NBA. After stealing game 1 from the Boston Celtics, the Orlando Magic were in the midst of a demoralizing game 2 blowout in which Eddie House ended up scoring 31 points when Rafer Alston reacted very poorly to a made shot by House. After House drained his shot, he celebrated, after which Alston gave him a smack upside the head. House immediately turned around and got in Alston’s face, but thankfully for the Celtics didn’t do anything worse. Alston will likely get fined for this, if not suspended for a game:
Here is House’s reaction to Alston’s actions, among other things:
There should have been no debate, anticipation or questions about this year’s NBA MVP award. The honor belongs to one man, and one man only. Though still a young man, this man has come into his own at the tender age of 24, and after already leading his team to an NBA Finals appearance, he has led them to the top of the NBA standings and status as the team to beat in the postseason. Of course I’m talking about LeBron James, and of course nobody else had a shot to beat him out for this award, right?
The report today by the Cleveland Plain Dealer confirmed what most of us should have been expecting for a long time. Official voting details have yet to be announced, but James should be expected to garner most, if not all the first-place votes. The “battle” he had throughout the season with Kobe Bryant and Dwayne Wade was merely an illusion of the media, something we ourselves created to lead the general public to believe there could be a surprise winner in this race.
No, it was LeBron all the way. He took the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 66-16 record while averaging about 29 points, eight rebounds and seven assists per game. He helped turn Mo Williams into an All-Star and Anderson Varejao into an above-average power forward. The fact that the Cavaliers rolled right over the Detroit Pistons, 4-0, in their playoff series- the only team in the first round to do so in under six games- only reinforces the fact that voters made the right decision.
Not nearly enough people jumped onto the Kobe or D-Wade bandwagons to derail LeBron’s campaign. It’s simply his time. He is slowly beginning to take this league over, and very well could already be on top when he enters his prime. And no, he has NOT reached his prime yet. The idea that he averaged a 30-8-7 scoring line at age 24 ought to strike fear into fans of all opposing teams.
This kid could very well average a triple-double over a full season in his prime, and I honestly hope he does. I can always appreciate greatness, no matter what uniform he wears. LeBron James has taken the next step to becoming just that.
Check out this video made by a YouTube member of the top 20 plays from LeBron James’ 2008-09 regular season. And be sure to go to the website for thousands more videos of this human highlight reel.
The younger Boston Celtics stars are stepping up in the absence of Kevin Garnett- and the Chicago Bulls are simply stepping up. The dueling teams delivered another tight, back-and-forth overtime game that came down to the final precious seconds. This time, the Celtics prevailed on the late-game heroics of their captain.
Paul Pierce led the Celtics in minutes with 51 and scored the final six points, including a 20-foot jumper with 3.4 seconds remaining in OT, to finish with 26 as the Celtics defeated the Bulls 106-104 in the third overtime game of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series, which the Celtics now lead 3-2. Kendrick Perkins pulled down 19 rebounds, his postseason career-high, and Rajon Rondo nearly reached another triple double, finishing with 28 points, 11 assists, and 4 rebounds in 49 minutes. Glen “Big Baby” Davis also had a big night for the Celtics, scoring 21 on 7-for-11 shooting.
Ben Gordon led the Bulls in scoring after an MRI revealed a strained hamstring and left him day-to-day. Although Gordon only shot 6-for-21 field goals, he was 11-for-12 from the free throw line and ended up with 26 points. The Bulls kept themselves in the game with far superior bench play. Kirk Hinrich played 31 minutes off the bench and scored 19 points, while the entire Celtics bench was only 2-for-10 shooting all night. With two seconds remaining in OT, Brad Miller had a chance to make two free throws to tie the game and likely send it to double overtime, but missed his first shot.
Game 6 will be at Chicago Thursday night at 9:30 p.m. EST. The Bulls would like to see more of the same out of Joakim Noah– who nearly matched Perkins with 11 points and 17 rebounds- and more out of Derrick Rose, who scored only 14 and had no free throw attempts. The Celtics are certainly not going to want to be forced to rely as much on their starters as they did Tuesday night.
The way this series is going, it’s almost safe to predict another OT game in No.6. I say why not? This series has just about already reached classic status.
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In a weekend packed with excitement and thrills for New England sports, Jacoby Ellsbury made one play that supplanted the rest as the most memorable.
There are several things that can be highlighted about the Boston Red Sox’s three-game sweep of the New York Yankees in the first meeting of the season between the two teams. The finale alone is full of notables and mentionables. It could be the 10th straight win for the Red Sox. It could be that they swept not just the Yankees, but the entire nine-game homestand including a double-header sweep against the Minnesota Twins. It could be that the Red Sox got 5 1/3 strong innings out of starter Justin Masterson, and more sparkling bullpen work including 2 2/3 perfect innings out of farmhands Michael Bowden and Hunter Jones.
But the one thing that stood out above all these was a single stolen base. To be more specific, it was a steal of home plate. Ellsbury stood on third and stared down Andy Pettite, and suddenly lost all sense of apprehension within himself. For the first time since high school, he attempted to steal home. And he made it safely and relatively comfortably.
Ellsbury’s play was the first straight steal of home- that is, a steal of home without any other play involved- since B.J. Upton did it against Kelvim Escobar and the Los Angeles Angels on Sept. 17, 2007.
David Ortiz also drove in a run with his sixth double of the season just before Ellsbury’s steal. J.D. Drew followed the steal with an RBI double of his own.
The Red Sox won the first game, 5-4, on a Kevin Youkilis walk-off home run in the 11th inning. They also won the wild middle game, 16-11, on the strength of a go-ahead home run by Mike Lowell and a grand slam by Jason Varitek.
The weekend for New England sports also included the Celtics and Chicago Bulls, who battled to a 121-118 double-overtime victory for Chicago. The game saw 28 lead changes and several late game-changing shots.
Also not to be forgotten in this week’s madness was the New England Patriots, who partook in the 2009 NFL Draft. The Pats traded out of the first round and acquired extra picks for this year and next year. Their most intriguing draft acquisitions included safety Patrick Chung, cornerback Darius Butler, and wide receiver Brandon Tate.
If you missed Ellsbury’s steal or just haven’t seen it by now, here’s a clip: