No Rondo? No Problem

This past week, I saw my beloved New England Patriots lose the AFC Championship on their home turf to the Baltimore Ravens, Unknownfive days later my Boston Celtics blew a 27 point lead to the Atlanta Hawks en route to a double overtime loss. ¬†Two days after that, I learned Rajon Rondo will miss the rest of the 2013 season with a torn ACL. ¬†The argument can be made this was the worst week of my life, at least in the world of sports. ¬†Most Celtics fans are on the Tobin Bridge ready to jump because of the loss of Rondo. ¬†You won’t find me on that bridge. ¬†In fact, I am at the opposite end of the spectrum. ¬†I think the Celtics will be better without Rondo.

Go ahead, mock me. ¬†Call me crazy. ¬†Tell me to take my green shaded glasses off. ¬†But let’s face it. ¬†The Boston Celtics were 20-23 before Doris Burke would tell us during the game against the Miami Heat yesterday Rondo would miss the rest of the season. ¬†The truth is I don’t believe the Celtics could be any worse than what they were.

I understand the Celtics just lost their superstar point guard who leads the league in triple-doubles. ¬†I understand the Celtics lost their point guard who dishes out double-digit assists per game. ¬†I get it. ¬†At the end of the day the Celtics were a below .500 team going into yesterday’s game. ¬†In my opinion, the two best games the Celtics have played all season were against the Knicks in New York and yesterday’s contest with the Heat. ¬†In both games Rondo did not play. ¬†He was suspended for the Knicks game and we all know about yesterday.

I must preface my next few thoughts with this. People who read this blog know I am a fan of Rajon Rondo. ¬†Over the last few weeks, the Celtics were a dead team. ¬†On offensive there was too much standing around watching Rondo dribble around everybody. ¬†The Celtics were getting piss poor shots at the end of the shot clock because there was no flow to the offense. ¬†With Rondo out, this now forces everyone to be apart of the offense. ¬†The Celtics are now going to be forced to play team basketball. ¬†I like seeing Kevin Garnett work out of the post. ¬†The inevitable double-team comes and he kicks it out to a guard for an open jump shot. ¬†It is really simple. ¬†The problem is when Rondo was on the court KG wouldn’t play near the basket because he didn’t want to clog the paint. ¬†With Rondo out, I expect better team basketball out of the Celtics.

Remember how excited I was about the Celtics depth back in October?  We will now see that luxury unfold for the rest of the season.  Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee, Jason Terry, and Leandro Barbosa know they are going to get their chance to play.  While none of the above are true point guards, I believe they can adequately handle point guard duties in small doses.

In a weird kind of way, Paul Pierce will be re-energized with Rondo going down. ¬†Paul Pierce will once again be The Man for the imagesCeltics. ¬†Too much was made of making it known the 2013 Celtics were Rondo’s team. ¬†The fact is this team belongs to Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. ¬†I expect Pierce to embrace the challenge of being the go to guy. ¬†He will play a lot of point forward. ¬†Throughout Pierce’s career, he has always been at his best with the ball in his hands. ¬†He is not like Ray Allen who runs off picks all day long. ¬†Pierce is at his best when he can drive to the basket or pull off his patented step back jumper from the elbow. ¬†Pierce is obviously on the back nine of his career. ¬†This will be his last go around as the head honcho.

Even with Rondo out, I believe this Celtics roster as currently constituted can beat every team in the Eastern Conference in a 7 game series. ¬†No doubt, Miami will give them their biggest challenge. I don’t see any scenario in which the Celtics can get better than they are right now this season. ¬†Trading Pierce and/ or Garnett makes no sense. ¬†There is no way the Celtics can obtain equal or greater value for either player. ¬†Not only do they still have the talent to compete, they are also mentoring younger players like Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger how to play the game. ¬†Don’t discount that last intangible. ¬†Garnett has done wonders for the likes of Kendrick Perkins and Big Baby Davis. ¬†Garnett and Pierce are essential to the proper growth and development of Sullinger, Bradley, and even Fab Mello.

Maybe I am overly sentimental when it comes to my teams. ¬†But I also believe I am being objective in looking at this year’s roster.images-1 ¬†The season ending injury to the team’s best player could be the best thing that could have happened to this team. ¬†I believe it will allow different players to step up and play key roles and it will motivate the players to “win it for Rondo.”As Sean Grande tweeted yesterday, “On a day when the Celtics lost their best player, they also found their heart.”

I believe in heart. ¬†The Celtics haven’t played with it at all this season until yesterday. ¬†Now the Celtics are motivated to shut up all the media pundits that are writing their 2013 obituary. ¬†I won’t write off the Celtics just yet, and frankly, you don’t have any reason to either.

 

I can be followed on Twitter @ScottieNTCF

 

Big East Game 8: Marquette 81 – Providence 71

-Well, I can happily say that the Friars will never see a bat on the court again in 2013.

-With that being said, the bat was probably one of the best Friars on the court.  The momentum it killed was much more than the actual team could do.

-LaDontae Henton blocked again, and again, and again…huge surprise!

-I texted Scottie this exact phrase during the game and as of January 27, 2013 I’m sticking with it: Sidiki Johnson > LaDontae Henton

-I mean I’ve heard of sophomore slumps, but he just looks so untalented compared to last year’s version. ¬†Maybe it’s confidence. ¬†Maybe it’s teams are focusing a little more on him. ¬†Maybe it’s off the court stuff. ¬†Maybe it’s the continued implementation of Cooley’s system. ¬†Maybe it’s a combination of all of those things. ¬†Whatever it is, it’s not getting any better and Henton keeps pissing me off.

-Sidiki Johnson is out of control at times. ¬†He looks so uncoordinated at certain points throughout the game. ¬†He takes some ill advised shots throughout the course of the game. ¬†With all of that being said, he is the most talented big man on this team. ¬†Yes, Batts shows flashes of brilliance and has become a more consistent player over the years. ¬†However, Johnson has a knack for snatching boards and always seems to make a path to the hoop. ¬†He played his best game (14 points, 6 boards, 2-3 from the line) against a Mongoose of a man in Davanta Gardner. ¬†I’m hoping that Johnson can build on this performance, and with a little fine tuning from the coaching staff, can become a more consistent contributor down the stretch.

-Kadeem Batts’ play has been slowly trending downwards. ¬†They don’t seem to be finding him as much, but he’s not converting his opportunities as efficiently as well. ¬†6 points and 3 boards simply isn’t enough out of Batts for the Friars to win. ¬†Yes, he was in early foul trouble, but this team needs to be firing on all cylinders to win in the Big East.

-I feel like the Bryce Cotton’s offense has become so forced over the past few games that it is taking the rest of the team out of rhythm. ¬†Teams are paying much more attention to Cotton as they should, but running him off 5 screens to throw him a quick pass for a fade away three hasn’t been wonderfully affective as of late. ¬†If the opposition’s defense is picking Cotton up man-to-man at half court doesn’t that mean there should be more openings for the other 4 guys offensively? ¬†I realize the importance of getting Bryce in the flow of the game, but at what cost?

-Fortune is becoming more and more useless as the season progresses.  His defense is decent.  His offense is scarce.  He is turnover prone.  That is a recipe for more time on the bench.

-Kriss Dunn shouldn’t be playing the 3. ¬†His defense is useful. ¬†His offense is spotty. ¬†He has yet to acclimate to the speed of the collegiate game, while showing us glimpses of brilliance from time to time. ¬†I want to see him get more time at the 1…even if it means watching a few stupid turnovers. ¬†It’s not like Council and Cotton make wonderful decisions all of the time…

-The Friars are desperate for a win, and yet the schedule doesn’t look promising. ¬†Hello Uconn, Villanova, Cincy, USF, Notre Dame, and Cuse over the next 6 games. ¬†This should be fun…

-NEXT GAME: Thursday, January 31st vs. UConn, 7pm (ESPN2)

 

Big East Game 7: Pittsburgh 68 – Providence 64

-Tough loss for the Friars, but it will be beneficial for the younger guys on the team.  Pittsburgh showed how you fight off a comeback and win a close game.  They never panicked.  They stuck to their game plan.  They left the Dunk with a win.

-Is Kris Dunn the reincarnation of Michael Jordan? ¬†If January 22, 2013 going to be remembered as the night of the “Flu game” against Pitt. ¬†You have the announcers saying that they have received word that Dunn is out for the game due to flu like symptoms before the half. ¬†Then, after halftime they put the camera on Dunn and it looks like he’s going to hurl into his jersey. ¬†Finally, with a minute left Dunn checks into the game for a defensive stop (a possession where he subsequently got torched en route to a Pitt score). ¬†If anything, Dunn is a warrior.

LaDontae Henton is terrible. ¬†I can’t elaborate much more. ¬†He finally hits a 3-point shot after about 37 consecutive misses, Tim Welsch starts going on and on about how that will break the streak and he’ll get going again. ¬†How does Henton answer? ¬†With a couple more bricks. ¬†Well done LaDontae, well done. ¬†The dude is useless. ¬†His nickname should officially be changed from “Buckets” to “Bucketless”.

-Pitt averages 9.8 turnovers a game and the Friars forced 13.  Not a huge difference from their average, but that shows a huge change in a team that used to play absolutely NO defense.  Dunn starts their defensive pressure, and the whole team picks it up behind him.

-With that being said, Pitt shot 51% from the floor. ¬†That number is unacceptable. ¬†Numerous times there would be a lot of pressure on the ball for the first 25 seconds of the shot clock and then Pitt would come away with an uncontested layup. ¬†I’m not sure if it was a rotational problem underneath or if there were some communication errors. ¬†Either way, coach Cooley needs to get it straightened out.

-Kadeem Batts is essentially the antithesis of the soft, stupid player that used to take the court for the Friars. ¬†This kid battles. ¬†He’s usually outsized and double teamed, but it doesn’t seem to matter. ¬†Kadeem has been arguably the most consistent Friar over the course of the season and I commend him for that. ¬†Cooley and his staff have done a wonderful job developing Batts, but the kid deserves some credit too.

-Vincent Council in the 2nd half is the Vincent Council that needs to play 35 minutes a game.  If not, we will struggle to win a close game all year.

-Josh Fortune’s defense is the only thing keeping him on the floor. ¬†Offensively, he does more bad than he does good. ¬†I can’t count the number of times I’ve had my head in my hands cursing Fortune. ¬†Whether it’s a kicked ball out of bounds, a bad pass, or just a stupid play. ¬†Fortune needs to find a way to limit his mistakes.

-Refereeing in the Big East needs to be improved…drastically.

-NEXT GAME: Saturday, January 26th @ Marquette, 2pm (ESPN3)

NHL Rant vs. Reality #1 – “It’s Tuukka Time!”

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Rant: Bruins fans! Let’s face facts. We drove Tim Thomas out of Boston. We the Northeast Liberal elite, the Bruins fans of young and old and the NHL and its presidential appeasement disguised as some custom to remain relevant. Relevant where? Within a society and economy which Tim himself believes is leading itself into a canned food depression, where the only thing we will have left to depend on is hunting bear for warmth and meat, and learning the ways of the crossbow? We will have to face ourselves when Chicken Little is proven right, and the sky falls down upon us, and he is made president, and in a strange twist of fate, the survived, bunker ridden Tim Thomas goes to visit him at the White House with¬†S. Truett Cathy from Chic-fil-a, and just as he’s about to shake his hand, he chops his head off, Cathy cooks him up and he eats him. Every night within our dreams we will watch Tim Thomas catching pieces of the Copernicus-like foul in his thick playoff beard, and that blood will be on our hands…or…

Tuukka_Rask_by_CaptainMazda

Reality: We can thank the man for our Stanley Cup and declare as a black and gold collective, “It’s Tuukka Time!”. There remains no risk with Rask. The Bruins will win the Eastern Conference uncontested with Tuukka in goal. Also, with a solid defense and multiple generations of young talent, there is no reason he can’t take home his first Vezina…

Big East Game 6: Providence 69 – Villanova 66

-I apologize for the delay. ¬†School has been crazy as of late and due to my emotional low after last night’s devastating loss, today has been a slow day to say the least.

-I want to thank Scottie for filling in for me, hitting the NTCF faithful with the Georgetown recap. ¬†He did a decent job, although he’s no Matty O.

-In a game that the Friars would lose 10 out of 10 times over the past couple of seasons, somehow PC held on and won a close game where both teams weren’t at their best. ¬†And by not at their best I mean that the Nova-PC game was one of the ugliest basketball games I have ever seen. ¬†Just look at the team numbers:

Villanova

FG%: 44.9%

3pt FG%: 31.3%

FT %: 68 %

TO: 24

Personal Fouls: 32

Providence

FG%: 33.9%

3pt FG%: 14.3%

FT%: 60.4%

TO: 12

Personal Fouls: 23

-The two most telling numbers from above are 24 and 60.4%. ¬†24, the number of turnovers committed by the Wildcats. ¬†Providence was pressuring the ball consistently throughout the game, and it shows up on the stat sheet. ¬†Villanova actually looked like a PC team from November. ¬†Nobody could be trusted to make a good pass. ¬†They had no floor general and played out of control for most of the game. ¬†60.4%, the free throw percentage for the Friars. ¬†I’m surprised they shot that well. ¬†The Friars will not win another Big East game all season if they shoot like that at the line again (especially considering they earned 48 trips to the charity stripe!!). ¬†Granted, Sidiki’s 0-6 from the line doesn’t help their stats, but guys like Batts, Council, and Cotton need to be reliable from the free throw line.

-I guarantee if someone keeps track of this stat, LaDontae Henton leads the countries in shots blocked. ¬†Now let’s get this straight. ¬†I’m not talking blocked shots, I’m talking SHOTS BLOCKED. ¬†It’s downright sickening. ¬†LaDontae goes from arguably the best freshman in the Big East last season to looking like Scottie playing against Syracuse. ¬†He’s so dependent on his left hand that I nearly vomit every time he takes the ball to the lane. ¬†The problem is (and as Scottie always texts me) every time he shoots a 3, a little puppy dies. ¬†LaDontae shouldn’t take another three all season. ¬†You may find your self asking, “But Matt, if he shouldn’t take a 3 and he gets blocked every time he goes to the hoop, what should he do?” ¬†My answer: sit on the bench and try to figure out what happened to the 2011-2012 LaDontae Henton.

-For those of you that think I’m being a bit to harsh, LaDontae’s stat line against Villanova: 6 points, 7 rebounds, 1 steal, 1/7 shooting, 0/3 from 3pt range, 4/4 free throws, 4 personal fouls, 28 minutes played. ¬†I’m willing to bet that Sidiki Johnson could gave you the same if not better production. ¬†To prove my point, Sidiki’s stat line: 4 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks, 2/5 shooting, 0/6 free throws, 2 personal fouls in 19 minutes. ¬†Looks pretty similar to me, and Sidiki played 10 less minutes. ¬†For all you LaDontae lovers out there, it’s time to get critical.

-After all of that ranting, you would think PC got blown out by 30.  There were some positive things.

-Vincent Council is getting there. ¬†His swagger is returning. ¬†His jumper still isn’t falling, but he’s starting to become that offensive¬†conductor once again. ¬†15 points, 5 assists, 3 boards, and 2 steals is what I want from Council at this point, physically. ¬†With that being said, he can’t foul out of games. ¬†He’s the floor general. ¬†He’s the extension of Ed Cooley on the court. ¬†The young guys need him out there. ¬†Vin has to be smarter than to foul out of games.

-Kris Dunn’s energy won that game for PC. ¬†I was close to saying that he was the best player on the floor for the Friars, but after shooting 3/10 I can’t go that far. ¬†Dunn’s energy in the press and his pure speed and athleticism offensively make me drool when watching him play. ¬†Scottie is constantly texting me “Dunn is overrated” or “Who recruited this bum?” ¬†As we all know, Scottie is an idiot. ¬†For a kid that missed practicing with this team until December, Dunn is blossoming nicely. ¬†I love starting him over Fortune. ¬†What I really do want to see is Dunn to get a little more time at the point offensively to give Council and/or Cotton a breather. ¬†This kid is special, we are just watching him adapt to the collegiate game before our eyes.

NEXT GAME: Tuesday, January 22nd vs. Pittsburgh, 7pm (ESPN 2)

NFL Championship Weekend 2013: Scottie vs. Matt

After tying in the regular season with picks, our NFL season has come down to the final 3 games.  I am currently 6-2 while Matt sits 1 game back of me at 5-3.  A bar tab is at stake here.  The last time we had this bet, Matt took it down, and he ran up the tab on me.  If I can hold my own in these last 3 games he can expect me to reciprocate his actions from 2 years ago.

As a dead-broke doctoral student, the last thing I need is Scottie ordering Dirty Shirley’s on my tab all night, so it isn’t about wanting to win at this point, it’s a necessity. ¬†I have complete confidence that my intelligence level nearly quadruples Scottie’s, however I’m 1 game down with only 3 to play, so my chances to grab a game are slim. ¬†Basically, I need to pick a team (i.e. Atlanta or Baltimore) that I don’t necessarily believe will win in order to keep my hopes alive. ¬†Let’s do it…

San Francisco 49ers @ Atlanta Falcons

Scott: 49ers

Colin Kaepernick was scary good last week against the Green Bay Packers. ¬†He was a man among toddlers out there. ¬†Sure Kaepernick runs like a gazelle, but he also has a howitzer for an arm. ¬†The Atlanta defense does nothing to make me think he won’t have a similar performance come Sunday. ¬†On the other side, I fully expect Matt Ryan to deuce his pants when he gets under center and is staring into the eyes of Patrick Willis and the 49ers defense. ¬†He was very fortunate to escape last week against the Seahawks. I don’t think he will be as fortunate this time around.

Matt: 49ers

It comes down to this: I’m up against the wall, being one game down with only three to go. ¬†I have more confidence in the 49ers taking down the Falcons than I do the Patriots rolling over the Ravens. ¬†But, that makes it sound like I’m nervous about the Pats game. ¬†In all honesty, I’m not, I just think the Falcons have absolutely 0% chance to win. ¬†Ok, to the game. ¬†Kaepernick isn’t an amazing quarterback, but he is a game changing athlete. ¬†The one question I always find myself wondering is why doesn’t anyone hit this kid. ¬†Yes, I know he’s fast and elusive, but there comes a point in time where you need to surrender the 15 yard penalty to ring this kids bell and send a message. ¬†Sadly for Atlanta, their defense doesn’t have anybody capable of getting the job done. ¬†I expect Atlanta to score 24, but I think the 49ers will score more.

Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots

Scott: Patriots

For some odd reason, I am more confident about the Patriots playing the Ravens than I was when they played the Texans last week. ¬†I fully expect the Patriots to run their hurry up offense all game long. ¬†The Ravens defense will not be able to keep up. ¬†They have played a lot of football these past two weeks, are banged up, and getting old. ¬†The Ravens will come out with their adrenaline pumping playing off the momentum from last week’s emotional come from behind victory and the idea of this potentially being Ray Lewis’ last game. ¬†Once that emotion wears off, the Patriots will take control of the game. ¬†I expect the Ravens to take away the middle of the field, allowing Brandon Lloyd to have a big game. ¬†If I go 0 for 2 in these picks, we are looking at a beyond boring Super Bowl. ¬†Patriots vs. 49ers is the exact opposite. ¬†What an awesome game that will be!

Matt: Ravens

Pure necessity forces the Baltimore pick here. ¬†Again, I have absolutely no confidence in Atlanta, while I have a sliver of confidence in the Ravens. ¬†Hence, you find me going with the Flaccjacket himself, Mr. Choke Artist, the ugliest quarterback in the game, Joe Flacco. ¬†The Pats have been playing well as of late, but so have the Ravens. ¬†You can never underestimate the power of motivation and inspiration. ¬†This Ravens team has it because of the impending retirement of their defensive leader. ¬†I am having flashbacks to the 2010 AFC Divisional Round when Ray Rice ran all over the Patriots en route to a Baltimore victory. ¬†Ray Rice is the key to the Ravens success. ¬†Keep Brady off the field, that’s Baltimore’s only hope.

Big East Game 5: Georgetown 74 – Providence 65

I am subbing in for Matty on this one because he apparently had better things to do than watch the Friars.

 

In the interest of full disclosure I was flipping back and forth between the Friars and Celtics last night.  Maybe that explains why IUnknown
have been miserable all day today.  Both teams played like old men at the Y.  I digress.  I am here to talk about the Friars and recap the shellacking they took from the Georgetown Hoyas.

The Hoyas raced out to a large lead early in the first half and never truly looked back. ¬†Providence had some runs in the second half but could never close the deficit to less than 5. ¬†I don’t want to be overly critical of the hometown team because it wouldn’t be fair. ¬†Georgetown is the more talented team and it showed last night. ¬†Otto Porter, Jr had 20 points on 8-13 shooting to go with 8 rebounds before fouling out. ¬†This kid is a top 10 pick come June.

As far as Providence goes, I feel they are way too dependent upon the Bryce Cotton 3 ball on offense. ¬†Cotton was 5-12 from downtown. ¬†I don’t like that he took TWELVE 3’s. ¬†I understand his knee has been giving him trouble but when he is slashing to the basket rather than camping out behind the arc, the Providence offense is much more productive. ¬†He got to the charity stripe once and that was on one of his normal fouled when shooting a 3 ball plays.

The Friars have become reliant on Cotton because LaDontae Henton has fallen off the face of the earth. ¬†His 37 point effort imagesagainst Brown might have been the worst thing that could have happened to this kid. ¬†Henton thinks he is a 3 point shooter. ¬†He isn’t. ¬†He is a scorer. ¬†Henton is shooting 25% from deep this season. ¬†The artist formerly known as Buckets needs to get back to what made him so good a year ago. ¬†He had a sweet mid-range game and got to the basket creating high percentage shots for himself. ¬†Henton took six 3’s last night. ¬†Too many. ¬†I have always been high on Henton and thought he would be the next Ryan Gomes or MarShon Brooks. ¬†I understand sophomore slumping but I think his slump is only because he has gotten away from what makes him good.

Kadeem Batts had a quiet double-double for the Friars last night with 10 points and 11 rebounds. ¬†I like what Batts has done so far this season. He has had his down games, Syracuse comes to mind, but that happens. ¬†The problem is PC can’t afford him having these off nights. ¬†Batts is a main cog in the offense. ¬†He needs to get his 15-19 points a game. ¬†If he is playing well and scoring, it opens up the floor for Cotton, Fortune, and company.

There is apart of me that believes the scouts that submitted their reports to ESPN on Kris Dunn are as real as Manti Te’o’s girlfriend. ¬†The other part of me smacks myself and realizes the kid is a freshman surrounded by so much hype that he was the savior of the program. ¬†It really is unfair to him. ¬†What I have seen is an inexperienced athlete that can make plays but doesn’t read defenses. ¬†He is a little too active on defense which leads to careless fouls. ¬†He has shown no offensive ability other than good handle and quickness. ¬†But he is a freshman.

JayVaughn Pinkston and the Villanova Wildcats come to The Dunk on Saturday looking to get back on track after a 58-43 loss to the Pitt Panthers. ¬†The Friars simply can’t afford to slip to 1-5 in Big East play if they want to avoid playing on day one of the last Big East Tournament.

To the Matty faithful, I hope my substitution and minutes on the court weren’t as useless as Brice Kofane.

 

I can be followed on Twitter @ ScottieNTCF