Farewell June 2013

Normally, I embrace the month of June.  In fact, it is my favorite month of the year.  Summer begins, warm weather, trips to the beach, hell my birthday is in June.  However; June 2013 was simply awful for a Boston sports fan.  I, myself, can’t wait until Monday morning when I can turn the calendar to July.

Since I started blogging (even dating back to the McKeon and the Mongoose days), as a Boston sports fan, I have primarily been able to write about successes, champions, and legendary athletes. Boston fans have seen two World Series’ trophies, four Lombardi trophies, 1 Stanley Cup, and 1 Larry O’Brien trophy.  We have also seen three out of the four teams we root for lose more than one championship game or series.  None of that pain or disappointment comes close to what Boston fans have endured over the month of June.  Where do I even begin?

Aaron Hernandez

The most notable detrimental event in June is Aaron Hernandez being charged with the murder of Odin Lloyd.  Sure as a Patriotsap_aaron_hernandez_mi_130728_16x9_992 fan this bothers me.  But as a human being it down right pisses me off.  I hold true to the belief set forth by Robert DeNiro’s character, Lorenzo, in A Bronx Tale. “The saddest thing in life is wasted talent.”  That is just what Hernandez is, wasted talent.  This kid was given everything out of the womb from a physical standpoint.  Bill Walton would refer to him as “the biggest winner of the genetic lottery known to man.”  Hernandez is 6’1, built out of granite, and has amazing agility.  He was given everything: A full scholarship to the University of Florida, drafted by the best organization in the NFL, to play with the best quarterback in the history of the NFL, and as of last August given a sizable contract.

In life, all Hernandez had to do was stay in shape.  Everything was given to him.  He never pulled an all nighter trying to finish a term paper in college.  He never had to sit in a cubicle hearing a boss drone on about TPS reports. Hell the guy probably never had to clean his house or even take out the garbage.  He was living the American Dream; being paid millions of dollars to play a game. And he blew it all.

I have to wonder when it will all hit Aaron.  He will no longer enjoy his mansion in North Attleboro.  He will no longer be able to eat at 5 star restaurants.  He will never hear the roar of 60,000 fans cheering as he catches a pass from Tom Brady.  It is all gone.

Boston Bruins

Back in the middle of May, the Boston Bruins pulled off an improbable comeback over the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.  Down 4-1 with eight minutes left, the Bruins came from behind to shock the world and advance to the second round against the New York Rangers.  The Bruins skated past the Rangers in 5 games setting up a date with the powerhouse Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final.  Most experts believed the Bruins would have a hard time beating the Penguins because of their offensive juggernaut. The Bruins proved all the naysayers wrong, owning the Penguins in 4 games.

The Bruins advanced to play the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final.  The Bruins looked to be a team of destiny.  The Andrew Shawmiracle comeback over the Leafs, the dismantling of the Rangers, and sweeping the Penguins.  Gregory Campbell helped kill off a penalty for 1 minute skating on a broken leg.  All the plots to the beautiful story line were in place.

The Bruins came to Boston down 3-2 for Game 6. Milan Lucic scored a goal late in the third period.  It looked as though the Bruins, the improbable Bruins, would force a Game 7 in Chicago.  The with 1:15 left in the game, Brian Bickell beat Tuukka Rask to tie the game.  17 seconds later, Dave Bolland beat Rask to put the Blackhawks ahead and bring the Cup back to Chicago.  I will not attempt to get fancy in describing my feelings as these events unfolded on June 24 (the night before my birthday).  The Bickell goal felt like a wild mule kicked me square in the genitals.  The Bolland goal felt like I lost those genitals 17 seconds later.

After the Bruins were able to shock the Maple Leafs, I was convinced they were going to win the Stanley Cup.  They destroyed the Rangers resulting in John Tortorella receiving a pink slip.  Their win over the Penguins cemented my belief the Cup was coming home to Boston.  Then I sat there on my couch on June 24, watching Andrew Shaw lift the Cup over his head on the TD Garden ice.

How can that be?

Boston Celtics

I made a promise to myself I would not watch a single second of the NBA Final because I did not want to give David Stern his much desired television rating.  My problem, however, is my access to Twitter.  Tuesday, June 18, the Spurs were 5 seconds away from beating LeBron James and the Miami Heat for the NBA title.  My twitter feed blew up.  I could not resist temptation.  I had to tune in to see the sad faces of LeBron, Wade, and Bosh.  I even had my tweet all lined up.  Not 6, Not 5, Not 4, Not 3, Not 2!  1!  I tuned into the game just in time to see Chris Bosh tip a rebound out to Ray Allen, yes Ray Allen above all people, bury a three from the corner to send the game into overtime.  Why did it have to be Ray Allen?  Former member of The Big Three.  The guy who left town to take less money because he did not want to play in Boston in anymore.  The guy who abandoned Pierce and Garnett to go play with the Celtics’ biggest rival.  Why did it have to be Judas Shuttlesworth?

As we all know the Heat went on to beat the Spurs and win their second straight NBA title.

On the local front, the Celtics traded Doc Rivers to the Clippers for a 1st round draft pick.  I am yet to determine how I feel about NBA Finals Game 6: Los Angeles Lakers v Boston Celticsthis. The beef between Bill Simmons and Rivers further complicates things.  I have long been a fan of Doc Rivers.  I am on the fence about Simmons.  Some days I like him, most days I find him wildly annoying.  As it stands now, I find myself being annoyed with Doc Rivers.  He essentially asked out-of-town because he did not want to be apart of a rebuild.  Knowing he did not want to be apart of a rebuild, he had no problem signing a 5 year contract for $35 million last season.  Obviously KG and Pierce would not be around for those 5 years.  He obviously knew a rebuild was happening.  Instead of owning up to him quitting on the current Celtics, he has made many excuses as to what went down between he and Danny Ainge leading up to this trade.

There is a lot of Ray Allen in Doc Rivers.  The both feel the need to be liked by the fans.  They can’t handle the fact Boston fans may be upset with them.  Ultimately, I am glad the Celtics received compensation for Rivers.  But the bottom line is Rivers did quit on the Celtics and he is currently trying to protect his reputation with Celtics fans by saying it was not his idea to leave town.

After Rivers asked to be dealt to the Clippers, the writing was on the wall Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett would be moved as well. Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce Believe it or not, I have mixed emotions about this one.  Paul Pierce has been a Boston Celtic since I was 13 years old.  I can’t remember what the Celtics were like without him.  I remember when he slipped to the 10th pick in the 1998 draft.  I was ecstatic,  That ecstasy lived on for the last 15 years.  Anyone who knows me, knows I will argue Pierce is a top five player over the course of his career.  Seeing him don a Brooklyn Nets uniform will be difficult.  Seeing him be coached by Jason Kidd will blow my mind.  It is not hard to forget the Nets were Celtic rivals in the early 2000’s.  Right at the center of that rivalry? Paul Pierce and Jason Kidd.

Seeing Kevin Garnett go will be difficult as well.  I remember working as a camp counselor the summer of 2007 when Garnett was traded to the Celtics.  I walked around the camp with a radio, listening to WEEI, as the trade talks heated up.  Garnett brought an unparalleled intensity to Boston.  It was impossible not to get fired up along with him when you were at the Garden.  Credit Garnett for getting that building as loud as it got most nights.  Without Garnett, there is no Banner 17 hanging from the rafters.

#34 will hang from those same rafters one day.  I hope #5 does as well.  They were great Celtics.  Great isn’t even the word.  There are no words to describe Pierce and Garnett.  Their last move as Celtics?  Bringing home three first round picks to help rebuild the franchise.  It does not get any better than that.   Damn it, I hope they knock off the Heat next year.

June was an awful month in Boston. July 2013, I welcome you with open arms.

I can be followed on Twitter @ScottieNTCF

Celtics V Lakers Game 7

The title says it all.

The best rivalry in all of sports has reached its zenith.  A game seven between the Celtics and the Lakers is what David Stern and basketball purists across the nation had hoped for at the start of this season.  Anyone with a pulse and an affliction for the game of basketball will be glued to their television sets tonight. 

There is an interesting contrast between the two teams playing tonight.  The Celtics play a more team-oriented brand of basketball, the Lakers ebb and flow are dictated by Kobe Bryant.

The whole team for Boston must contribute in order to win this game.

 I fully believe that we are going to see something special from Paul Pierce tonight.  Game five was great to see, and I think game 7 will be a similar performance from the pulse of this team.  Rajon Rondo needs to be mindful to get Pierce involved early so that he can get into a groove.  If Pierce starts hot it will open up the rest of the offense.  Spacing is so important, and if Pierce can get going early it will open up passing lanes for everyone else. 

I think Ray Allen needs to be special.  He has proven that he likes the rims in LA better this series, tonight, he will need to love them.  KG will need to be on with his long-range jumper.  He needs to get Gasol out of the paint on defense so that there are second chance opportunities for the C’s.  Davis will need to knock down jumpers when he gets his chance.  I think that LA will make him prove he can hit a few before he sees any pressure.  With Garnett and Davis possibly pulling out the bigs for LA, the second chances could prove huge throughout the game. 

The glaring hole in the paint tonight for the Celtics in the absence of Kendrick Perkins will not be filled by one man.  It is going to take some minutes from players who have not seen much of the floor, one who hasn’t put on a jersey in weeks.  After Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis, the Celtics will need Sheldon Williams and Brian Scalabrine to step up tonight, frankly they need them to not screw up.  I feel more comfortable putting in Scal before Williams personally from a pure effort standpoint.  As awkward as he is he has shown in the past that his hacking mentality can be disruptive and his effort is something I believe the team can feed off of. 

Rasheed Wallace could very well be the X-factor in this game.   As I said earlier I see Davis getting the start tonight.  However, I think Sheed’s contributions on defense will be crucial to the Celtics winning the battles down low. Wallace has proven he can play solid defense in the post and his experience in big playoff games should serve him well to keep an even keel mentally, ( even keel for him of course).   The key is how long can he stay on the court and be effective.  I am not as worried about the fouls as everyone else seems to be, I know I should be, but I’m not.  I think the refs let the payers play a little more than normal given the levity of this game.  Wallace isn’t used to playing big minutes, and this is the concern I have versus the foul-trouble argument.  Back in January he was playing 30-35 minutes in games, so it can be done. 

I think that Doc has done a masterful job managing his veterans minutes down the stretch of the regular season.  With one game left I think he will run them all ragged.  I think they are all aware of that fact.  The experience on this roster should allow them to keep mindful not to get too high too early and to stay within the flow of the game.

 The Celtice are 6-1 after a loss this year in the playoffs.  This team needs to be resilient, it needs to be fierce, it needs an outright herculean effort from every man in green tonight.  There are no more second chances, no more second guessing, no more we’ll get em next time.  This is what all athletes dream about when they are children.  A chance to play in this kind of game does not come along that often.  You can look at the Celtics roster for prime examples.  Ray Allen has never been in a game seven, nor has Garnett, not even Pierce.  Not in the finals, not on this stage.  The last game seven in the finals was in 2005 between the Spurs and Pistons (Wallace was on that roster), before that it was 1994  between the Rockets and Knicks. 

Tonight I am looking to see the Celtics fly to loose balls, take care of the ball, and rebound.  The team that wins the rebounding battle has won every game so far this series.  Without Perkins this will no doubt be tough,  but it can be done.  Boston needs to work hard down low and make every shot difficult.  The defense will need to eliminate second chance scoring from the Lakers every chance they get.  The defense needs to set the tone for this team, it needs to be the focus of every Celtic to play above his ability tonight.  Something special will happen tonight, history will be made, and in order for Boston to be on the right side of that, they need to play as a team. 

Ode to the Bench!-The Story of Game 4

BOSTON -96—- LOS ANGELES-89

GAME 4- Boston, Massachusetts

*The first three quarters of last night’s Game 4 might have been the most miserable 3 quarters of basketball I have ever seen.  The first three quarters of last night’s game rivaled any CYO game ever played.  The game was downright ugly.  The Celtics missed several lightly contested layups and many open look jumpers.  The offense of the Celtics has left a lot to be desired through four games, but their defense has been relentless.  Thank Thibodeau for that!

*The Celtics also got a huge pick me up from the bench.  Words will never do justice to describe exactly what they accomplished last night.  Glen Davis plays with heart and sometimes that is even better than having any talent.  He battles for every ball, crashes the glass, and hustles on every play.  I can’t even make fun of him for drooling and slobbering on himself after a huge and one put back.  He got me fired up to the point where I was screaming and yelling, jumping up and down, and fist pumping in my own living room.  I love seeing players play with emotion and The Ticket Stub has it.  Of course the line of the night came from Mark Jackson: “What do babies do? They drool, babies do that.”

*Eddie Who?  Doc Rivers has said all along that Nate Robinson would win a playoff game for the Celtics.  He did that in Orlando for Game 6, and along with his partner Shrek (Big Baby) they won Game 4 for the Celts.  In case you missed it, Nate the Great referred to he and Baby as Shrek and Donkey.  Ya gotta love it!  Nate provides that same spark that Davis does off the bench.  They play with all the emotion and heart in the world.  Nate banged 2 quick 3’s and then was able to penetrate into the paint and get some buckets there as well.  I didn’t even mind the technical he got for getting in Odom’s face.  That got the crowd into a frenzy and picked up the team as well.  It helped the Celts get that swag back.  It didn’t hurt that D-Fish missed the free throw as well.

*While Tony Allen can be somewhat frustrating on offense, he has played lockdown defense all playoff long.  When called upon he has played Kobe Bryant as good as anyone can play the greatest player on the planet.  He has forced Kobe into taking difficult shots and Kobe hasn’t had anything easy.  Tony has come a long way from the days of biting on every single upfake causing him to foul someone in the act of shooting.  I am really going to hate to see Tony leave for a higher pay day at the end of this season.  I love his ADHD mentality on the court and also on the bench when he simply can’t sit down for more than 3 minutes.  He is constantly up screaming and yelling encouragement to those on the floor.  He is the consummate team player.

*There was no bigger shot in last night’s game then Sheed nailing the three from the top of the key to ice the game.  I have been hard on Rasheed all year long and I stick by that.  However, the truth is the man knows how to win and his experience in the post season has been invaluable to this team.  He has played in your face defense on the big pansy known as Pau Gasol.  More importantly he hasn’t done anything to hurt the team which was characteristic of him throughout the regular season.

*Huge props to Doc for staying with the bench in the 4th quarter.  The man can coach and he showed that last night.  The bench wasn’t looking to “get anyone going” which has been the problem with the starters.  The bench just ran the offense and took what the Lakers gave them.  This needs to translate to the starters for the rest of the series.  If that happens the Celtics will take the title.

2010 NBA Finals Preview

So here we are.  After a long 82 game season followed by an exciting postseason, the Celtics are where they said they’d be, The NBA Finals.  They have knocked out superstars galore in Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, and Dwight Howard.  Now it is time for them to knock out arguably the best player in the game today, Kobe Bryant.  And if not for a Kevin Garnett knee injury last season, the basketball world would certainly have this same script for a third year in a row.  Without further adieu, I give to you, my NBA Finals preview.  (Rhyming not intended.)

With the NBA, one has to look at matchups.  That is how I will go about this post.  The in-series adjustments that will be made will come down to coaching and can very easily determine who wins this series.

Rajon Rondo vs. Derek Fisher

Rondo has been far and away the most valuable player for the Celtics this postseason.  He has constantly out hustled his opposition and run the Celtics offense fluently.  

Derek Fisher is the old veteran who is solid as a rock and has a knack for hitting big shots.  Thus far in the post season he has been able to slow down Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams, and Steve Nash.   I think that Phil Jackson will start him out covering Rondo but if Rondo starts abusing him like I think he will, Kobe will come over and guard Rondo much like in 2008. 

The problem here is, in 2008, Kobe stayed off of Rondo and was able to help on Pierce and Allen.  He won’t be able to do that this year as Rondo has refined his game since 2008 and has the ability to hit an open jump shot.  If Rondo can get into the teeth of the Laker defense consistently, this will be a short series.

Advantage: Celtics

Ray Allen vs Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant is the best player in the game.  He has solidified that notion this postseason.  There is almost no way of stopping him.  He wants to win and has the ability to inflict his will on a game at any point.  In Game 6 of the Suns’ series, the Suns came to within striking distance and that was as close as they got.  Kobe poured in 37 points and most of those points came with Grant Hill in his grill. 

In 2008,  Doc Rivers switched off between Pierce and Ray Allen as to was covering Kobe.  Look for much of the same this year but with a little help from Tony Allen off the bench.  TA was great against D-Wade and LeBron earlier in the playoffs and I have faith that he can’t at least slow Kobe down.

Ray Allen is the best pure shooter in the game today even at the ripe old age of 34.  It is aggravating to me that the Celtics offense won’t go through Ray.  He will scorch the net from downtown 2 possessions in a row and wont see the ball again until the next quarter.  If Kobe is forced into guarding Rondo, I think that Ray can run circles around Derek Fisher. 

Advantage: Lakers

Paul Pierce vs Ron Artest

This is without a doubt the biggest matchup of the series.  Whoever can get the better of who here will dictate who will be wearing another ring.  In 21 games against each other head to head, Artest holds the advantage being 11-10.  Artest is one of the best defenders in the game and he knows he has to stop Pierce at all costs. 

Pierce is coming off a series where he roasted the Magic because no one could match up with him.  Pierce averages 20.5 ppg against Artest in their long history.  Yet during the regular season, Artest held Pierce to 15 and 11 respectively in the two games they played each other.

Any offense that Artest offers the Lakers should be seen as an added bonus.  His responsibility will be keep Pierce at Bay for the  entire series.  If he can accomplish that, the Lakers will win the series.  It is my opinion he won’t be able to do that.

Advantage: Celtics

Kevin Garnett vs Pau Gasol

Garnett punished Gasol back in 2008 to the extent that the LA faithful were calling for Gasol’s head.  He played with no heart and backed down all series long.  Last season he manned up and played Dwight Howard as physical as anyone in the league.  Against Phoenix in the Western Conference Finals, Gasol disappeared again, a true Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde.  The question here is which Pau will show up.

While KG is not the player he once was, he does still have that vintage intensity and he has refined his offensive game somewhat.  He can bury the outside jumper at will and this helps open the court for Rondo and company.  KG was what was missing from the Celtics team a year ago.  His presence alone makes this team very tough to play.  He is physical and will get into Gasol’s head two minutes into Game 1. 

Advantage: Celtics

Kendrick Perkins vs Andrew Bynum

Bynum is consistently injured and Perkins is consistently in foul trouble.  Bynum is usually good for helping out around the rim and Perkins is usually good for clearing everyone out so Rondo or Pierce can grab a rebound.  This is as even as it gets.

Advantage: Even

Celtics Bench vs Lakers Bench

The Celtics bench consists of Rasheed Wallace, Glen Davis, Tony Allen, and Nate Robinson.  The Lakers have Lamar Odom, Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic, and Shannon Brown.  Rasheed and Odom pretty much cancel each other out because they are so much alike in the fact that they can show up and have a huge impact on the game or they can fade into irrelevance.  Overall I feel that the Celtics have the better bench because of Glen Davis and Tony Allen.  Both provide a spark, Tony with his defense and occasional dunks and Davis with his mid range jumper and ability to rebound.  The only thing worthy of note off of the Lakers bench is the soccer like flopping ability of Vujacic.  He has the ability to get under the opponents skin and also the ability to get a crowd riled up.

Advantage: Celtics

Doc Rivers vs. Phil Jackson

Those of you that know me, know that I think Phil Jackson is the most overrated coach in the history of sports.  I find it very easy to coach the greatest players in the game and let them do all your work.  Never once is he challenged to make an actual decision that could impact a game.  It is easy to coach the Michael Jordan’s and Kobe Bryant’s of the world.  Is it easy to coach young talent such as Al Jefferson, Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, and Tony Allen and develop them while constantly losing?  No.

I think that as much as Phil is overrated Doc is underrated and is one of the best "x’s and o’s" coaches in the league today.  As I mentioned before this series may come down to who can make the necessary adjustments as the series goes along.  Who can get the maximum production out of their rotations and who can find mismatches to exploit.  I am well aware that Phil has his abundance of championship rings, one for every digit on both hands I believe.  How many has he won without the best player in the game at that time on his roster? Zero. 

Advantage (and call me a homer): Celtics

 

This series will ultimately come down to three things.  Pierce vs. Artest, if the Lakers can contain Rondo, and which coach will make the correct adjustments throughout the series.

Final prediction:  Celtics in 6