Saturday Notebook: The Friendly Road, Rondo’s D, Baby’s Misses and the Curse of Gerald Green
Posted by Zach Lowe on Mar 20, 2010
Happy Saturday. The sun is shining in New York, and that development has reduced me to the human equivalent of the dog who sees his owner picking up the leash for a walk. Outside outside outside outside outside!
• Chris Forsberg at ESPNBoston.com wonders whether we’ve all been overlooking a major positive sign amid our hand-wringing over the C’s inconsistent play:
Road success is often a quality indicator of playoff success. The Celtics put together an NBA-best 31-10 mark on the road during the 2007-08 campaign, the year they brought home banner No. 17. The second-best road team that year? The Los Angeles Lakers, the team that Boston beat in the NBA Finals, had a road mark of 27-14.
Doc wanted none of the road optimism:
“It doesn’t mean anything,” said Rivers. “Nothing means nothing, winning on the road or not winning at home, once you get into the playoffs it doesn’t matter.”
And then he added this zinger about the reason for the C’s success on the road:
“Crowd noise — half of them are deaf right? — they’re so old, they can’t hear it anyway. So maybe that’s an advantage.”
Oh, Doc. You cad.
Forsberg offers one other piece of optimism going into the Dallas game tonight:
But the Celtics’ success on the road hasn’t been hindered by the grueling back-to-backs this season. The Green improved to 8-4 on the first night of a back-to-back opening on the road with Friday’s win (they’re 0-3 in those games at home this season) and Boston is 4-3 on the second night of back-to-backs on the road this year.
That’s good. But you know what the best thing about the playoffs is? No back-to-backs. More rest means the Celtics might play more often with the energy level they showed last night.
• It seemed obvious to me that the C’s were flying around the court early, and the C’s—and Rockets—verified that after the game. Here’s the Globe’s Julian Benbow on Rondo’s shut-down D against Aaron Brooks last night:
He didn’t want to hear anything about Brooks after the game. So he made up his mind.
“My mentality, definitely before the game,’’ he said, “was to play defense.’’
Rondo took just five shots, focusing on hounding Brooks the entire night.
They looked like two racecars as Rondo chased Brooks wherever he went, enjoying every minute despite being drained of energy.
You’ve probably heard this by now, but Brooks had hit at least one three in 39 consecutive games going into last night. That is a Houston franchise record. That record will stand at 39.
• Doc Rivers seems to think Rondo was indeed playing extra-hard on D last night (via the same Globe piece):
“Rondo was tired,’’ coach Doc Rivers said. “I think he wanted to come out at the six-minute mark in the third, which he never does. That’s from chasing Brooks around everywhere.’’
There is no doubt in my mind that Rondo played harder—and smarter—on defense last night than he has in a handful games this year, particularly in a series of games in mid-February when he allowed Andre Miller and Chauncey Billups to beat him cleanly off the dribble and occasionally lost track of them off the ball. The knee-jerk reaction is to howl about Rondo not playing this hard every night.
But that’s the NBA. Nobody plays at post-season intensity 82 games per year. Since it’s sunny out, I’m taking the more positive route about Rondo’s D last night: Rondo knows how to be an elite defender and understands the sorts of careless mistakes he has to remove from his defensive game when the stakes are high. For whatever reason, the personal stakes for Rondo were higher last night. He wanted to shut Brooks down. And so he did. This is the Defensive Rondo we should see during the playoffs—attentive to his man, selective about his helping and wandering for steals, ultra-fast and feisty with screens.
• It’s becoming one of the more heated debates among Celtics fans: Is Glen Davis a good offensive rebounder, or is he merely gobbling up offensive rebounds off of his own (very frequent) misses and rejections around the rim? I’d suggest there’s a middle ground, but I’ll get there in a second. First, the facts:
Right now, Davis has the 2nd-highest offensive rebounding percentage in the entire league, according to Basketball Reference. Put more simply: The numbers suggest Baby is the 2nd-best offensive rebounder in the league.
Doc Rivers addressed this in the Globe (the same Benbow piece linked above) last night in discussing Baby’s five offensive boards:
When Glen Davis came into the locker room after pulling down seven rebounds (five on the offensive glass), his teammates had a nickname for him.
“They’re in there calling him Moses Malone,’’ Rivers said, “because he got five offensive rebounds. Four of them were his own misses.’’
Davis is obviously getting a lot of boards off of his own misses. Baby misses a ton of shots at the rim. According to Hoopdata, Davis is hitting just 53.2 percent of his shots at the basket. That’s an improvement from where Baby was a month ago (about 49 percent), but it’s still one of the very worst marks in the league for a big man.
According to 82games, opponents this season have blocked about 28 percent of Baby’s inside shot attempts. That’s not just bad. That’s historically bad.
So there’s some accidental stat-padding going on with Baby’s insane offensive rebounding numbers. He’s not the 2nd-best offensive rebounder in the NBA, even if the stats say he is.
But here’s the middle ground I spoke about before:
1) Baby is the best offensive rebounder the Celtics have—by far—and a decent chunk of his ORBs come after shots from the other four C’s on the court. How many? I don’t know, and I don’t think that number exists;
2) Even if Baby is rebounding a ton of his own misses, this isn’t just a sign of his failure as a finisher. It has benefits for the team.
Cue Doc (via the Globe):
“He just couldn’t get anything to go down for him. But it created fouls, it created second shots for us. So that was good. I think his energy over the last couple of weeks has been terrific.’’
Among Celtic regulars, only Paul Pierce attempts more foul shots per minute than Big Baby. And the rest of the C’s big men don’t draw a lot of fouls or bang on the inside for offensive rebounds. Leon Powe was great at both of those things. He plays for Cleveland. Rasheed Wallace doesn’t do either of those things. He now plays for Boston.
What Baby is doing inside isn’t ideal, but I’d argue that it’s a net plus for the team. That said, he has to finish better inside, and his stats in that area are crawling up. Let’s hope the crawl continues.
• Nate Robinson let Doc Rivers have it after his University of Washington team beat Doc’s alma mater (Marquette) in the first round of the NCAA tourney (via the Herald’s Mark Murphy):
“He had the whole bus chanting, ‘Marquette (expletive), Marquette (expletive),’ ” Rivers said. “I just had to sit and take it. To the victors go the spoils.”
Stupid question: Is the expletive there “sucks”? The Herald can’t print “sucks”? It could be something worse, I guess, but “sucks” seems to be the most natural fit given the sentence structure.
• Also via the Herald: Doc is introducing more complex plays to the new guys, and he wants KG and Pierce to spend some time playing with a portion of the second unit:
It’s one sign that the reserves, with Nate Robinson and Michael Finley now part of the mix, are ready for the plan to get a little more complex.
“We’re trying to add stuff half the time,” Rivers said. “But the more we can put in, the more we can keep Paul (Pierce) and Kevin (Garnett) out there with (the second unit). We haven’t been able to keep them in with those guys as much because of it.
“So we’re trying to put in all of Paul’s plays and all of Kevin’s, and that way we can combine these guys more.”
Very interesting, and definitely something to monitor over the last dozen or so games of the regular season.
• Perk’s still confident about breaking Cedric Maxwell’s franchise record for field-goal percentage in a season (via this Herald story):
“I’ll get it,” he said of the shooting percentage title.
Max’s record (set in 1980) is 60.9 percent. Perk is currently at 60.7 percent, meaning he’s fallen behind Max for the first time in a long, long time.
• Jay King at Celtics Town wonders if we’ve the last of Boston’s favorite grossly overpaid bench-warmer.
• Finally, it seems that no matter how many years pass, we’re always going to be writing about Gerald Green. In a piece about David Lee, SI’s Ian Thomsen interviews Doc Rivers, who claims he lobbied for the C’s to draft Lee in 2005:
Rivers was a fan of Lee’s and begged the Celtics to acquire him in the 2005 draft. “It’s the one I stuck my chest out about because I was in the minority in the draft room that night,” said Rivers. “But I had the advantage of being in Florida and I’d seen him, and my oldest son had played in a ton of pickup games with him and he said, ‘All I know about David Lee is every time I play a pickup game, his team wins.‘
Now, the key word there might be “acquire,” because the C’s were picking 18th, and there wasn’t a personnel guy in the league who would have picked David Lee 18th. (He went 30th to the Knicks in what probably goes down as the best value pick in that draft, though Indy deserves credit for snagging Danny Granger at #17. Deron Williams and Chris Paul, selected #3 and #4, are clearly the best players from that draft).
Perhaps Doc was lobbying for the C’s to work a deal with New York? Or trade down into the mid-20s and nab Lee?
Instead, the C’s selected Gerald Green, an object of ridicule at this year’s Sloan Sports conference in Boston.
On that note: OUTSIDE OUTSIDE OUTSIDE OUTSIDE OUTSIDE!