Boston Celtics Playoff Push

The Boston Celtics started their post All-Star break in Golden State, a place that had not yielded a win to the C’s for the last six seasons, and through veteran play down the stretch against a younger, quicker team, including some big shots from the Real Big 3, they managed a 22 point victory.  Two days later, with the trade deadline hours away and a game to be played later that night in Denver, Danny Ainge decided to deal Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to Oklahoma City.  As news reached the Celtics team that their teammates (as well as Luke Harangody and Semih Erden being dealt to Cleveland) Kevin Garnett summed up the feeling of the team, especially about Kendrick Perkins, “…it feels like we lost a family member today.”  When Garnett came to the team he took Perk under his wing, and although we all thought Perk already had an attitude, Garnett taught him how to hone that attitude into something that was positive for the team and essentially made them the “Bad Boys” of the new century.  I believe what I am trying to say is that I hope the stay Perkins has in OK City is a pleasant one because I would not be opposed to the Celtics giving him the deal he deserves when the summer comes and bring him back to Boston, and they will regret not giving him that deal if Jeff Green does not pan out and we come within one game of winning the title again.

The Celtics, obviously flustered by what had transpired earlier in the day and only dressing 9, were beaten at the end of the game by the Nuggets and out rebounded by 15, continuing the trend of being in the bottom of the league in rebounds per game.  If you read my earlier post about the return of Kendrick Perkins you will see that all the words I used along with the idea of claiming a championship with him healthy and in the lineup is now obsolete, but a very encouraging thing happened on Saturday night when the West Coast trip was continued in Los Angeles against the Clippers.  Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic are the players Boston received from OKC (including a Top 10 protected 2012 First Round pick through the Clippers) and although Green was the big name, Krstic showed us something that we may not have expected and need him to continue to do…he had 6 of the Celtics 14 total offensive rebounds.  Realizing the mistake it could be to over analyze his performance on the offensive boards (he did not record a defensive rebound), Krstic had already been billed as mostly a big man perimeter shooter and not much of a threat down low banging with the big bodies.  Let us hope that he can show games like this against the Magic or Knicks (the Heat are not a problem when it comes to rebounding for Boston).

So here is the short break down for the remaining 25 games of the season.  Great news is that more than half (14) of the remaining games are against teams with losing records.  Sadly, in the “not so great” category, 15 of the games will be on the road, including trips to New Orleans, New York, San Antonio, Atlanta, Chicago, and Miami…who said it was going to be easy to secure the number one spot in the East?  Now, the most important fact of these remaining games is that Boston has 6 more back-to-backs left in the next two months, with potentially (we hope) easy ones on March 13th and 14th (vs. Milwaukee, @New Jersey), March 27th and 28th (@Minnesota, @ Indiana), a bad and good on April 7th and 8th (@ Chicago, vs. Washington) and April 10th and April 11th (@Miami, @Washington), and some real trouble spots on March 18th and March 19th (@ Houston, @ New Orleans) and March 31st and April 1st (@San Antonio, @ Atlanta).  The degree of difficulty appears to be evened out, but here in all likelihood is where the Celtics are going to lose the top spot in the Eastern Conference.  The Celtics record on the 2nd night of back-to-back’s is 6-7 this season…not so promising when you have 6 more left and you are trying the keep your position atop the Eastern Conference…I hope they make me eat my words, but I do not see them holding onto number 1 for the remainder of the season.

Follow me on twitter: @mike_ntcf

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Big East Game 16: Marquette 86 – Providence 62

-Another game for the Friars and another player not on the bench.  Sunday, Duke Mondy became the latest victim of the unexplained suspensions that have plagued this Friars team over the last few weeks.  Before Sunday’s match up, coach Keno Davis said he could provide no explanation for Mondy not being on the bench, which leads me to believe that some sort of disciplinary/academic issue is the reason behind the suspension.

-6 losses in a row means that any hope of playing basketball beyond the Big East Tournament is slipping away from the Friars.  As far as I know, to be considered for the NIT, a team’s record needs to be above .500.  Currently the Friars’ record stands at 14-15 (3-13 in conference).  PC needs to try and pull together and grind through the last couple of games in hopes that they can get back above .500.

-The Friars shot a dismal 31.5% from the field and 28.6% from beyond the arc.  As a team that plays terrible defense, PC isn’t going to win any games when they shoot that poorly.  Not only did the Friars shoot very poorly, they allowed Marquette to shoot 52.5% from the floor.  All of those numbers are unacceptable.

-Bilal Dixon finally decided to try and assert himself in Sunday’s game, but a 2-9 effort from the floor didn’t provide much help for the Friars.  Dixon did manage 9 rebounds to accompany his 4 points, but again foul trouble held Dixon to only 17 minutes for the game.

-Vincent Council reverted back to his usual ways, committing five turnovers while only racking up 4 assists.  Council has been plagued by bad decision making throughout nearly all of Big East play, and at this point Keno Davis needs to light a fire under Council.

-Gerard Coleman scored 16 points, but was only 5-14 from the field and 1-5 from three.  Coleman needs to realize that his game is driving to the hoop, not settling for three pointers.

-There is not much more I want to say about this game.  I’m very disappointed in the lack of consistency from this team, but I also think that my expectations on a game-to-game basis are a bit high.

-NEXT GAME: Wednesday, March 2nd @ #11 Louisville, 7pm

Big East Game 15: Notre Dame 94 – Providence 93

-Marshon Brooks and his 52 points stole the show on Wednesday night in Providence, but Ben Hansbrough’s 32 points proved to be more effective as Notre Dame escaped with a one point victory.  Marshon’s performance was amazing, but the Friars’ inability to get a defensive stop or a clutch rebound proved to be their downfall against the Fighting Irish.

-The Friars committed four turnovers for the entire game, which I believe is a school record.  Offensively, I have no problem with how Providence played, again it was their inability to stop the Fighting Irish that cost the Friars the game.

-PC made Ben Hansbrough look like a white version of Derrick Rose…he was truly unstoppable.

-Vincent Council played his best game in a very long time against Notre Dame.  Council was 5-10 from the field, scoring 13 points, grabbing 5 boards, dishing out 6 assists, to accompany 2 steals and 1 block, not to mention a huge three pointer that he made towards the end of the game.  The best number for Council on the night…0 turnovers.  I believe that Council has been playing banged up all year, but Wednesday’s game might be a sign that he is beginning to get back to his old self.

-Bilal Dixon continues to leave me disappointed after every single game.  On the other hand, Kadeem Batts will be the best player on the Friars in 2 years.

-Duke Mondy got another start, with Bilal Dixon seemingly in the dog house after coming off of the bench.  Mondy played pretty well, scoring 8 points, grabbing 5 rebounds and 2 steals.  Mondy is the most clutch shooter for the Friars and with some continued development, Mondy could be a consistent 15 point scorer for this team next season.

-Gerard Coleman finally made his way back into the starting lineup after spending a few games coming off the bench.  Coleman was unstoppable when driving to the lane, but was taken advantage of on defense because of his slender frame.  Coleman ended the game with 12 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal.  Coleman only took one three pointer on the night, which is a good sign.  Gerard’s three point shooting is not consistent enough to be relied on, but when he is driving to the hoop and making plays he is one of the best freshmen in the Big East.

-Although many people don’t see it, I love what Ron Giplaye brings to this team.  He provides some toughness and aggression that few other players on this PC team display.  Although comparisons to Jamine Peterson are a bit premature due to Giplaye’s lack of offensive skill, his build and rebounding ability is very similar to Peterson’s.

-Notre Dame shot over 56 percent for the game…an unacceptable number.  Providence shot 56 percent from the free throw line…an unacceptable number.

-Keno Davis keeps preaching that he believes this team will be better next year, and to be honest I’m with him on that one.  All you hear are these supposed fans saying, “How can they possibly be better when they are losing Marshon Brooks?”  I have a question for you, who was Marshon Brooks before this season started?  I have the answer, a decent wingman that averaged 14 points per game last season and refused to play defense.  Friar fans everywhere were up in arms when Peterson was dismissed from the team before this season, wondering who was going to score for the Friars.  This season it’s Marshon Brooks and next season it will be someone else.  Players like Gerard Coleman, Kadeem Batts, Vincent Council, Duke Mondy, and the rest of the bunch will continue to improve, perfecting their game, and next season someone else will emerge as the next star for the Friars.  The playing time that these young guys are receiving is invaluable, and can not be replicated in practice.  Over the next couple of years, these nail-biting losses will be turning into dramatic victories for the Friars.  I have faith in you Keno, hopefully everyone else starts jumping on board.

NEXT GAME: Sunday, February 27th @ Marquette, 4pm

What Are You Doing, Danny?

“If you chase two rabbits, both will get away”-Ancient Proverb

In the spirit of Bill Walton doing color commentary for the Celtics lately, I figured it was appropriate to start off this post with a ridiculous Walton-esque saying.  Today, just before the trading deadline, Danny Ainge made a slew of moves that have left Celtic fans scratching their heads.  He first moved Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Jeff Green and Nenad Kristic.  He followed that by moving Semih Erden and Luke Harangody to Cleveland for a two draft picks.  He also shipped Marquis Daniels to Sacramento for cash.

Obviously Danny is thinking…I don’t know what the hell Danny is thinking. With these moves, Danny is clearly chasing two rabbits.  He has his eyes on the future, clearly afraid of the Celtics going into the same recession that plagued them when Bird, Parish, and McHale retired.  He is also (believe it or not) trying to improve his roster for this season to win a championship.  But it is hard not to  have the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” frame of mind.  The Celtics didn’t have to make moves to get better.

Kendrick Perkins will be an unrestricted free agent after this season and Danny must have figured they weren’t going to re-sign him.  His injury on Tuesday night was nothing of consequence with this trade.  The Celtics lose their enforcer in the paint, the one man who could guard Dwight Howard, and a piece of the starting five that has never lost a playoff series together.  The Celtics also lose Nate Robinson who was replaceable with Delonte West coming back from injury.

Jeff Green is a 24 year old kid that was once the 5th pick by the Celtics and promptly shipped to (then) Seattle for Ray.  He will be expected to back up Paul Pierce.  Green is averaging 15 points and 5 rebounds in what many people are calling a down year. One would think Danny would make this move in hopes of resigning Green to start a nucleus with Rondo for the future.  The Celtics also acquired Nenad Kristic, a 7 seven footer averaging 7 points and 4 rebounds with the Thunder.

This is a highly risky move by Danny Ainge with the health of the O’Neal’s in doubt.  Danny must be confident that the front court of Shaq, KG, Kristic, and Glen Davis will be enough to win banner 18.

Ainge also freed up three roster spots by moving Erden, Harangody, and Daniels.  This will lead to all kinds of speculation where the Celtics can land players that were bought out.  Among those that have been mentioned are Troy Murphy, Rip Hamilton, and the return of my nemesis Rasheed Wallace.

There is a belief that these moves are the start of a process that will bring Dwight Howard to the Celtics after next season.  I hate the idea of playing for the future when this team had the second best winning percentage in the NBA and beat the likes of the Heat (3 times), Spurs, and Lakers.  I also don’t like making moves for the sake of clearing space in hopes of landing a big time free agent.  Remember when the Knicks did that and lost out on LeBron?

My knee jerk to this maelstrom of activity is very negative.  Perk did have a knack for getting my blood boiling at times with his play, but overall I appreciated the effort he put forth every night.  These Celtics have always won with defense and abandoning that strategy now is curious to me.  Danny Ainge has also broken up an outstanding chemistry and a team that when healthy was the definition of successful.

Usually after trades, the fan base should be excited about the players coming in because the they will improve the team.  These trades didn’t improve anything and I venture to say the Celtics have taken a few steps backward.  If the Celtics don’t win the 2011 NBA Championship, fans will be able to point to February 24 as the day the season was lost.

New England Patriots Draft Needs: Quarterback

Over the next few days I will be considering the biggest draft day needs for the New England Patriots and assessing what players could possibly get drafted to address those needs.  Today’s entry will focus on the quarterbacks.  The previous entries can be seen here:

Defensive Line: https://ntcf.wordpress.com/2011/02/18/2576/

Outside Linebacker: https://ntcf.wordpress.com/2011/02/13/new-england-patriots-draft-needs-outside-linebacker/

Wide Receiver: https://ntcf.wordpress.com/2011/02/19/new-england-patriots-draft-needs-wide-receiver/

Offensive Line: https://ntcf.wordpress.com/2011/02/20/new-england-patriots-draft-needs-offensive-line/

Running Back: https://ntcf.wordpress.com/2011/02/21/new-england-patriots-draft-needs-running-back/

Obviously, the Patriots are not in need of a top-flight quarterback with Tom Brady under center.  Brian Hoyer looks to be a good backup, maybe even with some potential to warrant trade interest from a team looking for a starter, or at least a talented guy to compete for a job.  But, last season the Pats went through the whole year with only 2 QBs on the roster.  That makes me a bit worried, if both guys ever went down, Julian Edelman would have to play QB.  Last year the Pats selected Zac Robinson, a QB from Oklahoma State.  His time in New England didn’t last long, but I expect them to look at taking another QB late in the 2011 draft.  Here’s a look at a few guys that could be new additions to the Patriots come 2011:

Name: Greg McElroy

Position: QB

School: Alabama

Year: Senior

Size: 6’2”, 220 lbs

Projected Round: 5th

Analysis: Greg McElroy has the ability to be an NFL quarterback, the issues lie with his throwing motion and his ability to digest coverages.  Alabama coach and Belichick friend Nick Saban will certainly have rave reviews for McElroy if Belichick ever asks, but McElroy is not ready to contribute in the NFL within 2 years.  He broke a bone in his throwing hand at the Senior Bowl, so recovering and training for the combine becomes a bit more difficult.  Success is undeniable, and McElroy led the 2009 version of the Crimson Tide to a National Championship.  Fixing McElroy’s throwing motion is a necessity, but he had a chance to develop into an NFL quarterback.

Name: Tyrod Taylor

Position: QB

School: Virginia Tech

Year: Senior

Size: 6’1”, 216 lbs

Projected Round: 5-6

Analysis: Tyrod Taylor is an awesome athlete, but many people don’t see him as a great quarterback.  I believe in Tyrod Taylor.  He fought through a ton of adversity at Virginia Tech and kept improving as a passer and decision maker.  Aside from Cam Newton having about 5 inches and 30 pounds on Taylor, I actually believe that their skill sets are somewhat comparable.  Taylor, the ACC player of the year, had a great week at the East-West Shrine Game practices and proved that he can make all the throws necessary to make it in the NFL, and was more accurate than people expected.  Taylor is expected to run in the 4.5 range in the 40.  His athleticism and hard-working nature alone make him an intriguing prospect.

Name: T.J. Yates

Position: QB

School: North Carolina

Year: Senior

Size: 6’4”, 220 lbs

Projected Round: 6-7

Analysis: Yates and the Tar Heels were expected to have a good 2010 season after loading up their team with elite prospects.  Several recruiting violations and off of the field issues later, Yates and the Heels limped to an 8-5 record, 4-4 in conference play.  All was not lost, as Yates posted his best season of his collegiate career, throwing for 3,418 yards and 19 touchdowns, while only giving up 9 interceptions.  Yates is a smart kid that understands offenses and reads defenses well.  His accuracy in short to mid range passes is very good, while his deep balls tend to drift a bit.  Yates possesses average arm strength, as sideline throws attend to take a bit long to get to his receiver.  Yates could be a very serviceable backup for many years in the NFL.

Name: Nathan Enderle

Position: QB

School: Idaho

Year: Senior

Size: 6’5”, 235 lbs

Projected Round: 7th – undrafted

Analysis: Enderle really improved his stock at the East-West Shrine Game.  While most quarterbacks there struggled to put some zip on the ball, Enderle showed the ability to make all of the throws while being surprisingly accurate.  His college teams were never overly successful, but Enderle weathered to ups and downs at Idaho, improving every year as a quarterback.  Enderle has a good feel for the pocket and has a quick release, but his ability to read defenses is questionable.  A project certainly, but Enderle has all the tools to play in the league.

Potential Deadline Acquisitions for the Boston Celtics

With the first domino finally falling in the NBA trade deadline season with Carmelo Anthony finally going to where everyone knew he was going all along (the Knicks), here is a look at some options for the Boston Celtics.

In the beginning of the season, I wrote that the Celtics had so much depth 1-12, they wouldn’t need to make their annual “PJ Brown, Sam Cassel, Stephon Marbury, Mikki Moore, Nate Robinson” acquisition.  Nate Robinson and Delonte West would be the backcourt off of the bench.  Marquis Daniels would spell Paul Pierce.  The O’ Neal’s and Glen Davis would be able to give KG and Perk their necessary rest.  This season the Celtics have been pleasantly surprised with the solid play of Semih Erden, adding to their impressive depth.

But the Celtics play in New England where the injury bug has established a residence over the past 4 years. Delonte West broke his wrist.  Marquis Daniels bruised his spine.  My grandfather has better knees than Jermaine O’ Neal.  Shaq is older than Betty White.  While, West and Shaq are expected back sooner rather than later, Jermaine O’Neal will be out until near the end of the regular season, and Marquis Daniels is likely not to return this season.  That leaves the Celtics needing a swingman to back up Paul Pierce.

In terms of trade bait, the Celtics don’t have many attractive options.  Kendrick Perkins and Glen Davis would be the most valuable trade pieces, but the Celtics obviously don’t want to move them.  Marquis Daniels and Nate Robinson both have one year left on their contracts and would be the most likely to be moved.  Avery Bradley and Luke Harangody are of little value to the Celtics and probably the rest of the NBA.  Semih Erden could be had for the right price.  Lastly, the Celtics are projected to be picking at the end of the first round in June’s draft, not a pick holding much value.

So who’s available? Here are a couple of names divided into groups of my feelings toward acquiring that player.

Absolutely Not, Danny Ainge!

Rasual Butler-  Has played 38 games with the Clippers this season but hasn’t been able to crack the rotation for significant minutes.  If he can’t crack the Clippers lineup how are we to expect him to be better than Von Wafer?  This guy reeks of a smaller Mikki Moore.

Roger Mason- Once upon a time Mason was a stud for the Spurs.  Ok I will take it back a notch, he was a solid role player for the Spurs who could knock down the open trey.  Fast forward to the present.  He has played in one game this season, playing 7 minutes.  That was back in October for the Knicks.  Nothing further needs to be written.

Josh Howard- Here is a guy who once had all the talent in the world, a guy I would have loved to have come off the bench… 3 years ago.  He was then given a big contract and immediately fell apart.  He admitted to drug use without being provoked to do so.  He bashed the national anthem on Youtube.  Then he started dealing with knee problems.  Bottom line: he is not worth the trouble, no matter what the price.

I’d be ok with it, but I am not excited

Anthony Parker- Parker proved last year in the playoffs he is capable of playing tough defense and can shoot the rock.  He is a quality reserve that I wouldn’t mind wearing the Green, but I think his sister is better than him. He is averaging 9 points a game this season and is shooting 40% from downtown on an atrocious Cleveland team.

James Posey- Only because of my sentimental ways would I like to see James Posey back in the Celtic uniform.  Who wouldn’t love to see Posey given the starting five the usual man hug before they take the court.  Posey is a glue guy that knows his role, hits his shots, and plays good defense.  He knows the Celtics system and is the consummate teammate.  My only reservation is he is not getting any younger and isn’t as athletic as I would prefer.

Do it!

Shane Battier- I’ve wanted Battier in Boston since the Celtics assembled the Big Three in 2007.  Battier would be the perfect swingman to replace Marquis Daniels.  He is a notorious Kobe stopper, and has a high basketball IQ evidenced by his play at Duke.  His stats are nothing great (8.8 ppg, 4 rpg, 2 apg) but they don’t have to be.  He has given the Rockets 30 minutes a game this season.  This is ideal to give a somewhat banged up Pierce time off before the playoffs.  Using ESPN’s trade machine, the Celtics could trade Marquis Daniels and Nate Robinson for Battier.  Would the Rockets do it?

Richard Hamilton- If Battier is not available, I would love to see Rip come to Boston.  I liked Rip back when he was at UCONN.  He is much like Ray Allen in that he can run for days.  He also knows how to win, dating back to his days with the Pistons when they won a championship with no superstars, just players who understood their roles.  Hamilton is likely to be bought out by the Pistons.  Granted I hate the buyout rule and have for years.  But when it benefits the team that I root for, I am all for it! Funny how that works.  He may come at a high cost to the Celtics, but I think he would be worth it.  I will just have to get use to that mask.

It is very important for the Celtics to get a swingman to spell Paul Pierce.  I am a huge Von Wafer fan but given the choice I’d rather have Hamilton or Battier.  I have long been in Wafer’s corner but at 6’5 he is too small to be a quality back up 3. (Rip is 6’7 and Battier is 6’8).  When thinking of acquiring more depth, the Celtics have to factor in who can guard LeBron or Kobe into their thinking.

The trade deadline is two days away.  Who do you want the Celtics to acquire in that time frame?

I can be followed on Twitter @ScottieNTCF

 

 

More Proof That The League Hates Matt Cooke

Matt Cooke continues to be a cheap shot artist and his repertoire does occasionally come back to bite him.  There are a few things that I’d like to point out.

1. Matt Bradley probably wouldn’t have went after just any body with their head down there.  Chances are he would have went in for a hit but kept it pretty tame and done just enough to rub Player X off of the puck.  Instead, he noticed it was Cooke with his head down and lined him up.  The hit was possibly worthy of a charging call (not sure if there were penalties handed out or not) but either way this was well deserved.

2. Even the Penguins didn’t really want to stick up for Cooke.  Jordan Staal went at Bradley and just kind of laid on top of him.  Staal must have realized he had to make it look like he was sticking up for his teammate but clearly knew Cooke had a hit like that coming.

3.  I love how Matt Cooke got up with that “what the hell?!” look.  Most goons like him are definitely the ‘dish it out but can’t take it’ type.  I also love how Scott Hannan jumped in and pretty much told Cooke to just back off because everything was over.

Thank you for your services Matt Bradley.  The NHL and fans alike approve of your actions.