In Appreciation of Jeff Green

NTCF faithful reader Steve in Texas recently emailed me asking when I was going to show Jeff Green some love.  After Green Unknowntorched the Suns for 31 points 7 rebounds and 4 assists, I figure there is no better time than now.  Jeff Green is the most polarizing figure on the Celtics.  There are a group of fans that hate him because he was the get back in the Kendrick Perkins deal.  There are fans who don’t have an opinion of him because he is too inconsistent to formulate an opinion on. Then there are fans, like me, who root hard for him to succeed and love it when he does.

Since Green arrived in Boston in February of 2011, I thought he would be the heir apparent to Paul Pierce.  But he got off to a slow start in 2011 with the Celtics, missed all of 2012 because of a heart condition, and has been so-so in the 2012-2013 season.  Steve in Texas brings up a great point however. Jeff Green came into the league with the Oklahoma City Thunder.  He was an offensive option behind Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden.  When he came to Boston he was an option behind Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Rajon Rondo.  He is still behind Pierce, Garnett, and maybe Terry on the offensive end as the team is currently constituted.

If you ask me, it’s pretty unfair for the Celtics fan base to expect Jeff Green to “be the man” when the egos and pecking order indicate a different reality.  Much was made about Danny Ainge not pulling the trigger on deals that would send Pierce and imagesGarnett out of town so the Celtics could build for the future. Many of you will say I am wearing green shaded sunglasses, but I believe the Celtics’ future is Jeff Green.  Until recently when has Doc Rivers been able to showcase Green?

The first game the Celtics played without Rondo because of his ACL injury, Jeff Green did an admirable job against the best player in the league, LeBron James.  He has also shown an uncanny ability to drive to the basket and throw down thunderous dunk after thunderous dunk.  His outside shooting has come along rather nicely in recent weeks as well.  Even Kobe has to raise an eyebrow when he sees that Green had 31 points on just 14 shots against Phoenix.

Lastly, to those people that hate Jeff Green because we lost Perk to the Thunder; Just stop it.  Kendrick Perkins has been terrible for the Thunder.  I don’t want to hear the argument that he and Garnett were mean defensively and gave the Celtics and identity.  Making mean faces and setting bad picks is not worth $30 million over 4 years.  Perkins is averaging 4 points and 5 rebounds in 25 minutes a game for the Thunder.  He is ridiculously slow, bad on rotations, and provides 0 offense.  Perkins is effectively done.  Jeff Green can be and will be productive now and in years to come.

I can be followed on Twitter @ScottieNTCF

 

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

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.

Kendrick Perkins and What This All Means

Last night Kendrick Perkins returned to the Celtics line up for the first time since the devastating knee injury he suffered last year in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.  Unfortunately I was unable to enjoy watching his return because I was preoccupied with trying to be an all-pro rec league volleyball player, but from what I’ve heard, and from the limited time I was able to see him on the court, all signs point to something great.

At first we were told that the earliest Perk would be back was the January 28th game against the Suns in Phoenix.  That was pushed back to the Feruary 4th game against Dallas back in Boston.  So unless you had not been listening to the reports before the game, seeing Perk take the floor in the first quarter to a standing ovation may have come as somewhat of a shock, but it was necessary.  Neither O’Neal, Jermaine or Shaq, was going to be available last night, with visual evidence showing that Shaq may have thought he was supposed to suit up for the Bruins in goal.  That meant that the Turkish Terror (work in progress), Semi Erden, was going to be the only “big guy” in uniform.  Now I believe in Semi, but that is something frightening to hear even if you are playing the lowly Cavs (those same Cavs that beat us in the beginning of the season…you know, the kind of games that you are SUPPOSED to win…the kind of games that make the difference between having and not having homecourt in the playoffs and most importantly the Finals…I will not even get started on the Wizards).

Having Perkins back means only good things for this team:

1) The Celtics fans out there can only be satisified and appreciative of the performance that Shaq has given us so far this season when he has been able to stay on the court…as for Jermaine O’Neal, we wish he would channel his inner 2002-2004 player.  Perkins is going to give Shaq the rest that he needs at his age so that he will be serviceable when we need him most in the playoffs.  He is also going to make it so Jermaine O’Neal can start fouling out in the 4th quarter, not the 3rd…that is if he sees the court.  Ok, correction, he is going to make it so that we can see Jermaine O’Neal help us the only way he probably can; changing the Garden over after a Bruins game…although he will still obviously get hurt and miss some time.

2) As well as Semi “The Turkish Tyrannosaurus*” Erden has been playing, you have to think that he is the future center, possibly starting, more possibly back up.  We are not going to have to rely and ask to much of a rookie when it comes playoff time, that is a major relief.

3) The Lakers, Spurs, Magic, and Heat should all begin to worry.  Along with us, the Lakers know that if Perkins does not go down in that series the Celtics win their 2nd title in 3 years.

4) The Celtics are no longer go to be ranked 30th in the league in rebounds per game.  If there was one thing that Perkins did well it was go after the boards and rip them down with his brute Perk strength…now if Tommy can just teach him to keep the ball high instead of bringing the ball down and trying to dribble…why does bring the ball down and try to dribble…

5) Championship**

*I apologize for this.

**There are probably a few more points than four, feel free to comment and add, I just see these as the most important.

Mumbles: Blizzard Edition

After shoveling for nearly two and a half hours, I feel the need to rant.  It is usually ideal therapy for me so I figured there is nothing better than to sit down at my computer and just let it have it.

* First and foremost, all you people out there who love snow and are the outdoorsy type were either dropped on your heads as children or should make an appointment to get your head examined, pronto.

*Yesterday, the Patriots took care of business by dismantling the Bills giving them home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  While this is an obvious advantage for the Pats, let us not lose sight of the fact that the Pats just last season were blown out on Foxboro turf by the Ravens 33-14 in the first round of the playoffs.  The Patriots could play host to any number of teams as the AFC playoff picture hasn’t quite come into focus yet.  To be honest there isn’t a clear cut team that I am “comfortable” with the Pats facing after their first round bye as each team poses it’s own set of problems.

*Going into this season I was hoping the Patriots would use the Raiders pick to scoop up Alabama’s Mark Ingram.  Now with one week to go in the regular season, that is no longer the case.  BenJarvus Green-Ellis has been incredible for the Pats this year.  He has carried the ball 209 times this year for 928 yards and 12 touchdowns, without a fumble.  In fact during his 3 years in the league spanning 309 carries he is yet to fumble.  (Lord, I hope I don’t jinx the man).  He has also been great in the back field in picking up blitzes to protect Brady.  He along with Danny Woodhead have been a very pleasant surprise this season.  What’s even better is they are both young and can share backfield duties for years to come.  Their success has enabled the Patriots to concentrate on other areas come draft time.

*I am really hoping that the Celtics aren’t about to partake in their annual swoon after Christmas.  Last season the Celtics were 23-5 going into Christmas day, eerily similar to this season.  Last season they played the Lakers and lost, much like they did with the Magic this season.  Last season, after Christmas the Celtics played less than .500 ball and got a 5 seed in the playoffs.  I am hoping the Celtics can maintain the dominance they have showed this season because I feel home court advantage will be important to them come April as evidenced by their 13-1 home record, best in the NBA.

*Many fans are wondering if the Celtics will make their usual trade deadline move as they have the past 3 years (PJ Brown, Mikki Moore, Nate Robinson).  Such a move will be unnecessary as they will actually be getting healthy around that time.  Expect Kendrick Perkins, Delonte West, Jermaine O’ Neal and Rajon Rondo to all be fully healthy come mid- February.  I have long said this is the deepest team I can remember in the NBA.  For that very reason I think they are the best team in the NBA.

*There has been a lot of discussion as to what the Boston Red Sox batting order will be come 2011.  Some writers (Gordon Edes) actually think that Dustin Pedroia will bat 5th or 6th.  Now what bothers me is that he is a so called expert and gets paid to offer his opinion on such matters.  But how can one man who has his amount of access to the club even think this?  Why would anyone bat the league leader in runs scored when healthy (2008-118 runs 2009-115 runs) deep in the lineup and not have him set the table for the big boppers?  His logic escapes me and if anyone can help me understand what he is thinking it will be greatly appreciated.

*In regard to the Sox lineup, here is something that hasn’t really been brought up.  Why not bad Carl Crawford ahead of David Ortiz? If Crawford was to bat in the 5 hole and Ortiz 6, there would be no more Ortiz shift.  A walk to Crawford would soon turn into a triple if teams were to employ the dreaded shift.  With the shift out of play, Ortiz is looking at 15 to 20 more hits this season.  At the same time I see the flaw in having back to back lefties in the lineup,  but I think it is more valuable to get rid of that shift as many times as possible.

*Last week I wanted Claude Julien fired and was calling for Santa to give him a shake weight to occupy his time.  Don’t get me wrong I still want him canned.  But how cool was it to see Shawn Thornton drop the gloves 2 seconds into the game against the Thrashers last Thursday night? I was calling for some kind of spark that would show me the Bruins did have heart.  Thornton produced that and then found the twine twice in a 4-1 win over the second best goalie in the NHL, in Ondrej Pavelec.  Hopefully Bruins fans will look back to December 23 as the turning point in the season, that got the boys in black and gold going.

*Speaking of the Bruins, I appreciate Marc Savard’s effort in trying to drop the gloves toward the end of the Atlanta game.  But what the hell was he thinking?  This is a man who was knocked out for an extended amount of time last season after a cheap shot by Matt Cooke.  Then missed the first few months of this season with post concussion syndrome.  I never want to see one of my guys turtle but that was an exception.  I understand he didn’t want to be the only one on the ice not dropping his gloves, but he has to realize common sense.  Don’t put yourself at obvious risk of furthering your injury!

I can now be followed on Twitter @ ScottieNtcf.

March Mumbles

Beware the Mumbles of March!

*There is not much more that can be said about how fantastic a run the USA Hockey team put together during this year’s Winter Olympics.  But being a college graduate with a major in sports management, I see the success as more of an opportunity.  The NHL has the window it needs to capture an audience and to generate a fan base.  I think it is in commissioner Gary Bettman’s best interests to take a page out David Stern’s NBA marketing plan and to start marketing its athletes.  Sure, we all know who Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin are. Now it is time to expose the Zach Parise’s and Ryan Miller’s of the league.  The puck is in your zone Bettman, don’t be a siv.

*I have never been more angry at the Boston Celtics than I am now.  Rasheed Wallace claims the team is bored. Yeah Rasheed? Well my $125 and I were quite bored watching the New Jersey Nets wipe the hardwood with what was once a proud organization.  I would have loved to march up to Wyc Grousbeck’s office and ask for some of my money back at least.

*And to Kendrick Perkins: Don’t call out anyone on the team out ever again. Especially a future Hall of Famer in Kevin Garnett.  Garnett had 28 points and 12 rebounds against the Nets. You sir, were used, abused, and owned by Brook Lopez. Nice job with your line of 2 points and 2 rebounds.

*With Robbie Hummel going down for the season with a torn ACL, the Purdue Boilermakers go from Final Four hopeful to just hoping they can make the Sweet 16.  At the time of this writing I like Kansas, Kentucky, Villanova, and Duke as my Final Four. But I am still holding out hope that my Texas Longhorns will get their act together.

*Patriot Nation is rather concerned about the direction of their beloved Patriots. This off-season will prove pivotal in seeing where the Pats are headed. Can they continue their dynastic ways or will they slip into mediocrity.  They can head in the right direction by going against their business model by bringing in Julius Peppers.  It is no secret that the Patriots could not garner any pressure on opposing offenses last season.  By bringing in Peppers they will get a bestial pass rusher to compliment big Vince Wilfork.

*Stop reading this post, drop everything, you are doing and do yourself a huge favor.  Go see Shutter Island right now. It is easily the best movie I have seen since The Departed which ironically has Leo and Scorsese as well.  I am on the fence as to what I liked better, but I am leaning toward Shutter Island and I am looking forward to seeing it again this week.

*Everything that I have read and heard indicate that David Ortiz showed up to camp in fantastic shape.  This is obviously beyond good news for the Red Sox as they will need his bat in the middle of the lineup this season.  One has to believe that Ortiz is looking forward to silencing all of his critics from one season ago.  Add that motivation to a contract year, and I am expecting Papi to have a solid season.

* At the time of this writing Tiger Woods is home and getting back into golf shape.  I will forever be in Tiger’s corner. I hope he comes back for the Masters and embarrasses the rest of the field to the tune of winning by 10 plus strokes.

*Add Thomas Jones to the list of running backs that have an expiration date of 32 years.  Credit the New York Jets with being ahead of the curve and releasing Jones before he became another Shaun Alexander.  With all that being said, I wouldn’t mind seeing him as a 2nd running back for the Patriots.

*I fully intend on drawing up my own NFL Mock Draft when the time is right. But for now I will put down what the first five picks in this year’s draft will be.  I am certain Tampa Bay will trade up for the number one pick, so here is my prediction:

1) Tampa Bay selects Ndomukung Suh, DT, Nebraska

2) Detroit selects Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma St

3) St Louis selects Jimmy Claussen, QB, Notre Dame

4) Washington selects Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma

5) Kansas City selects Eric Berry, S, Tennessee

Kendrick Perfect

The emergence of Kendrick Perkins has been crucial for the Celtics fast start this season. It seems like Perk has really stepped into his role and is really starting to look for his shot.  In past years we have seen him a bit hesitant to break down his man and instead of driving to the basket or posting up he has looked to find a teammate. Not this year. He is a new Kendrick Perkins. He’s getting the ball in the post and reeking havoc down low. He’s finally posting his man up and looking for his shot. He has already surpassed his season total in shot attempts from last season and he’s converting on them as edividenced by his  leading the NBA in field goal percentage.

During Perk’s early days with the Celtics,  you would have never saw this coming.   Drafted straight out of highschool, he didn’t get much playing time for his first season, only playing 10 games that year. His second year in the league he played 60 games but didn’t really show any true potential. His third and fourth year weren’t any different.  He looked like he should have gone to college and refined his game. He was looking like a bust. Then things changed. The Celtics signed a man named Kevin Garnett and that was the biggest signing of Kendrick Perkins career.

The 07-08 NBA season brought Kevin Garnett to Boston and when the Celtics signed Garnett they got a new Kendrick Perkins as well. Now, he still wasnt very productive on the offensive side of the ball, but you saw a big change in him defensively. He and Garnett became monsters down low on defense. You could see Garnett’s intensity rubbing off on Perkins. That’s when he became "Angry Perk".  His physical play was a big part of the success of the Celtics defense that season. He didn’t look back from there. He carried that with him into next season. When Garnett went down with the knee injury, we started to see the Kendrick Perkins we’re seeing this season, especially during the playoffs.  Despite the Celtics early departure that year, Kendrick  really shined. He averaged a double double, recording 12 points and 11 rebounds a game. He also played 36 minutes a night.

Now Perkins  isin the upper echelon of  centers in the NBA.  His numbers may not be that of a Dwight Howard or a David Lee, but still very solid.  He also does a lot for his team, that many centers cannot do as far as his physical play, which is unmatched by any center in the NBA.  He’s 4th among centers in blocked shots and 1st in technical fouls. That’s what you want in a physical center like Perkins.  He’s not afraid to send a message early to the other team, and usually the  message he sends….hurts. His scoring is up, doubling his career average this season and he is close to averaging a double double posting 12 points and 8 rebounds a game. He’s been a constant contributor to the Celtics all season and it looks like he isn’t going to stop anytime soon. As I mentioned earlier, he’s leading the NBA in field goal percentage, taking 11 shots a game and converting on 6 of them. Now it is not 20 to 25 shots a game but he has still been very efficient. Perkins has also been playing well against the top centers in the league. One example is holding Dwight Howard to 5 point  and  9 point performances.

He’s a big part of this Celtics team and continues to improve his game every night. He’s becoming a force down low and a main option for a Celtics team that already has 3 prolific scorers. While his game is not pretty, it’s effective, and look for Kendrick "Angry Face" Perkins to make a big impact for the Celtics as they gear up for a stretch run into the playoffs.