Monday, December 16, 2013

This past week's Boston, Brooklyn, L.A. reunion

Boston – It’s been an interesting NBA season thus far, for Celtics’ fans. Weather you want them to ‘tank’ this year or succeed, you can’t help but be intrigued by this team, as they are currently first in the Atlantic Division. Let’s be honest a lot has to do with slow starts of New York and Brooklyn. Boston has been a product of their environment, but nonetheless the games have been fun to watch, especially the ones that end with a W.

There have been times of frustration but after an 11-14 start, some may start to wonder, what will happen once the floor general Rajon Rondo returns?   There are still a few more weeks before we cross that bridge. But in the meantime you can’t not help but mention Jordan Crawford and what he has done so far, when the Celtics come up in conversation. He is having his best year so far as a pro. Since Brad Stevens has inserted him as the starting point guard, he has been averaging 14 points 5.5 assists (career high) and three rebounds while making 45% of his shots.

“Crawford has done a good job of recognizing his strengths and recognizing his teammates' strengths,” says the NBA’s youngest coach [grantland.com]

Jeff Green is having what some may say an ‘all-star’ type season, averaging 17 points (career high), 4.4 rebounds and shooting 46% from the field. It’s been quite the adjustment for the first year NBA coach. But playing 19 games in 30 days for the month of November, including six back-to-backs is certainly a great way to get to know each other as a team. These young Celtics have accepted the challenge.

“I think the first month of the season was a real true test for us,” said Gerald Wallace, who has been moved to the bench after the first four games of the season. “We had some setbacks, and we’ve came back from that, so I think we’ve gotten a lot better. That whole month of November was probably the best thing that could have happened to us as a young team.”
The Celtics are coming off of ‘Reunion Week’ where they met Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Doc Rivers for the first time in the regular season. They finished 0-2, with opportunities to win both games. The only solace in the four games played in the last seven days was ending the week with two huge wins against the rival New York Knicks.


It included a 41-point blowout win last Sunday at Madison Square Garden, the largest win by any team in NBA so far this season. All former teammates have gone through their battles though before they met last week.


The Brooklyn Nets had high hopes this season of knocking off the Heat, when they completed a blockbuster trade with Boston this past summer, acquiring two future hall of famers and willing to pay a luxury tax upwards of $90 million. But before facing the Celtics, the Nets started off 5-14(fourth in the Atlantic). Deron Williams, their star point guard, had missed 10 of 11 games, while Paul Pierce had missed five due to a broken right hand, and role players like Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko have also been sidelines with no real timetable set on their return. With various other injuries to Brook Lopez, and resting KG, Brooklyn had yet to find any consistency, not to mention first year coach, and former point guard Jason Kidd was having friction with his coaching staff.  

After Kidd was fined $50,000 for asking his back up point guard to run into him, forcing to spill his soda onto the court because he ran out of timeouts during a game, things only got worse. The Brooklyn fans had seen enough especially after a 25-point lost to the crosstown rivals, the Knicks at home, where boos were raining down from the stands. KG who is averaging a career low in points (6.9) and shooting percentage (37%), but believes staying positive is key.

“We’re continue to show progress in practice," says Garnett.  "We’ve got to somehow transcend this over, carry over to what we do and what we talk about as far as schemes. We work on things with that game plan and teams are shooting the hell out of the ball. It’s a process, man.” [Boston Globe]

Defense has also been a liability for this team. Lead assistant coach Lawrence Frank was hired to run defensive schemes like he did so well for Doc in Boston. It’s clearly been documented that Kidd has had issues with Frank, going as far as demoting him after a blow out that was heard throughout the Nets practice facilities even though it was behind closed doors. It’s been reported since then Lawrence has hired attorneys to try and negotiate a buyout with the team.

Gerald Wallace who played in Brooklyn last year, still keeps in contact with some of his former teammates and gets asked by the media about his thoughts on their situation;

“The first month is always going to be hard, especially with a new coach and they’ve got a new system, new players,” said the former Net. “Everybody is trying to figure out and learn their roles. I think the main thing for them is getting everybody healthy and right now I don’t think they’re healthy.” [Boston Globe]

As of today, the Nets are 8-15, winning the last three out of four games. Including beating the Celtics last Tuesday night 104-96, where Paul Pierce and Deron Williams made their returns and won consecutive games for the first time all season. They then went on to beat Doc Rivers and the Clippers on Thursday night, (a nationally televised game) as KG and ‘The Truth’ got two wins over their former coach and team.

Hopefully this past week is what Brooklyn needed to save their season as they try to make a championship run.


Doc Rivers also has the pressure of a championship hanging over his head out in Los Angeles. He takes over a team that on paper is arguably the deepest team in the league. The Clippers have also been hit with the injury bug as key players such as J.J. Riddick and Matt Barnes are out for a significant amount of time, has forced them to find a shooter for the short term. Stephan Jackson has come to the rescue, they signed the free agent before Doc’s return to the Garden last Wednesday night. They were 13-8 coming into Boston, first in the Pacific Division, but in the middle of the pack in the Western Conference. It’s been an adjustment going from Boston to LA.

“I was at a place I loved and I was there for nine years. It just takes time,” said the former Celtics coach.

It’s not easy when two basketball teams occupy the Staples Center and the Lakers are the heavy favorite out of the two. The good thing is that they have allowed the Clippers to cover the Lakers championship banners when the Clippers play at home, an idea that Rivers came up with to help the home fans identify with just one team.


Doc knew what he was getting himself into when he chose to leave Boston as a ‘rebuilding’ phase was underway and an opportunity presented itself to not only coach a contender in the west, but make executive decisions for the team as well.




It was no surprise even after making an appearance on a Boston radio station stating he did in fact walk away from Boston, he still got multiple standing ovations at TD Garden.

“You make choices in your life, it happens,” said Rivers. "It was a very difficult decision to make-whether to walk away and sit a couple of years… I was afforded a great opportunity here with the Clippers. This was the first time I’ve been able to coach a team and run a team… So I thought it was the right time to take it.” [CBSBoston.com]

After nine seasons, 417 wins, two trips to the NBA finals and a 17th-banner, you really can’t be mad at one of Boston’s real winners over the past decade in a town where sports means everything. Either way I’m sure Doc is glad those two games are behind him, as there was also another reunion in Brooklyn for Doc with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, the following night. After beating the Celtics 96-88, he was asked afterwards which game would stir up the most emotion he unequivocally answered Boston;

“Oh it’s harder coming back here,” said the former Celtics coach. “Playing against them, I see two guys that I love in a Brooklyn uniform. Coming back here, that’s special to me. I get to walk under a banner I helped get and see the fans and a lot of my friends. This day and a half has been a lot of fun, but it’s also been emotional, too.” [ESPN.com]

After the video tribute, the hugs and the emotions this week for all three teams, its back to business as usual. The ultimate goal for Brooklyn and LA is to be the last team standing in June. There are significant injuries to the three clubs but that should change soon. One thing is for certain, the next time these teams meet, it should be even more interesting, especially when the Nets meet the Celtics at TD Garden next month.

Rajon Rondo has been cleared to practice as of Saturday and hopefully will be ready to play once KG and Pierce make their first offical visit to the Garden in late January. Until then it’s clear that these three teams will stay connected for the time being.


Joel Pav√≥n  

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