Weekly Countdown: Sorting out the Celtics' main playoff concerns
The dominant team of the regular season and the No. 1 seed overall enters Game 6 on Friday in Cleveland as the only survivor yet to win a playoff game on the road. The Celtics' 0-5 record away from home -- versus opponents who had fewer victories at home than the Celtics had on the road this season -- is symptomatic of larger issues listed here. If the Celtics prevail in this conference semifinal and go on to beat the Pistons in the next round, then they'll have overcome these postseason concerns; if they lose, then here are some of the reasons why.
"I end up passing the ball every time,'' he said, "because they know, He's coming up to do this, deny him. And then somebody's open and I always pass it.
"It can be frustrating out there at times, because I know I can help the team and I know I can take a little bit of pressure off
But the issue isn't so much the number of field-goal attempts, but rather the way the Celtics have played. It came into focus during the second half of their Game 5 victory over the Cavs when Pierce (29 points overall) took on a larger and more meaningful role than in previous games as he aggressively went to the basket and ate up points at the free-throw line. Point guard
Garnett finished with 26 points while playing off Pierce and Rondo, which was a welcome renewal of KG's role. There has been some grousing that Garnett has not been enough of a go-to presence in the playoffs, but that's not who he is. He is a complementary star who is more useful as a creator than he is as a finisher, and his strengths should be valued. It's much harder to find someone who does the defensive work and makes the high-post passes as he loves to do than it is to find an out-and-out finisher.
One of the problems for the Celtics is that their offense has stagnated so badly -- with Pierce (41.3 percent in the playoffs) and Allen struggling -- that Garnett has been needed to finish in the post more than during the regular season, when Boston was flowing offensively to the strengths of its three stars. There was a stretch during Game 3 at Cleveland when the Celtics ran a series of excellent possessions through Garnett in the post. Instead of milking him and forcing the defense to react, however, Garnett then went several possessions without touching the ball, ultimately forcing Rivers to call timeout to emphasize Garnett's role in the offense.
The Spurs are an example of a team that feeds the hot scorer -- resulting in a big scoring night for
If Rivers isn't the right coach for the Celtics, then who would replace him? There are only three active coaches who have shown they can win a championship:
There are no other proven winners. There are a lot of coaches like Rivers who are trying to create the right formula on the fly.
The bottom line for these Celtics is that no overhauled NBA team has ever won the championship in its first season together.
"You're talking about different guys, different personalities from different places, different philosophies, coming together for a month's period to get together and win a championship,'' Allen said. "It is hard.''
What has become clear during these playoffs is that the Celtics are still learning to play with each other while trying to win a championship. Some may say that winning 66 games should have provided enough group experience. The bad thing about the regular season is that everything went their way. They never were forced to overcome any major issues as a group. They kept winning even when Garnett was injured in midseason.
Now there are times when their three main players revert uncomfortably to their old ways, when each starts forcing shots like he's the only star on the court instead of playing off the strengths of each other. In Rivers' case, he went away from his regular-season rotation before returning in Game 5 to high-energy rookie
"We know what we want, I will say that,'' Rivers said. "We believe we're going to do what we want to do this year, I'll put it that way. We have no history. Going into it as a group, we understand that this is a process for us and the key is for us to be successful through the process. A lot of teams use it to get to something later; we're using it to get to it now. And that's the challenge.''
Can they improve quickly? "Oh, yeah, it's just a matter of one game getting it done and then you see, OK, this is what we got. Roll with it.''
We'll soon see if the second half of Game 5 was a sign of better things ... or a short-lived half of inspiration.
European coaches have a few big advantages over their NBA peers: Teams in the Old World are built to win rather than to make money, players are paid based on their winning records rather than on their individual stats, and players don't receive long-term, guaranteed contracts and therefore can be replaced or fired if viewed as losers or selfish. (The same principles apply to coaches in Europe as well, which is why they are fired at a much higher rate than coaches in the NBA.)
Plug a Euroleague champion like CSKA Moscow into the NBA schedule and it could finish ahead of some rebuilding teams that aren't nearly as experienced, versatile or organized. But no team can win in the NBA without stars. This is a talent-based league. As mentioned above, it's no coincidence that the Lakers' Jackson has won nine NBA championships with the world's dominant player, and if he adds to his treasure, then thanks will go to Kobe. The franchises that take a European approach are the Spurs and Pistons, whose level of teamwork is unparalleled in the NBA. But neither team would have a prayer if not for the three or four All-Stars on its roster.
I wish they would eliminate the rule, but why would they? They would be voting out a loophole that benefits most of the teams in the league in opposing
Referees have enough to do already; to force another controversial judgment call upon them doesn't seem practical. One rule change that might respond to your concerns would provide officials with instant replay to analyze all potential flagrant fouls. This enhancement may be considered after the season, NBA executive VP of basketball operations
Excellent point there. The award usually goes to someone who turns a loser into a winner -- it's almost like a most improved award. In fact, the best performances are usually by successful coaches like Popovich, who uses the regular season to build a championship foundation, or Jackson, who integrated
Compare the thick rule books of the two biggest basketball leagues in our country. The NBA rule book, otherwise known as the collective bargaining agreement, exists as a vehicle to funnel the majority of basketball income to the players. The NCAA rule book exists to prevent money from going to the players, so that its rule makers can keep it for themselves.
Star players who take money are not criminals. Rather, the system is criminal.
"No, we never reached that, that was never part of our discussion,'' Stern said. "That's for some other body to consider. I know their argument is that the scholarship and all the other benefits are a payment of type. That's something I specifically have chosen not to involve myself in. I'm looking for things not to be involved in, and this is No. 1 on that list, OK?''
As expected, much mail was generated by
Of course Paul deserves -- and universally receives -- credit for bringing out the best in his teammates. But the point remains that James hasn't played with an athletic shot-blocker like Chandler or an array of shooters like those who surround Paul.
But who is the point guard? The Cavs have been seeking one for years to take the ball out of James' hands. That's why he wanted them to acquire
James is doing OK for a 23-year-old who is still the second-youngest player on his team. Jordan and
Isn't it obvious that you have never read anything I've written about Kobe Bryant for the last several years? Quite.
It definitely helps James to play in the East, where the road to the Finals is less encumbered. It's also true that his scoring numbers would shrink if he were surrounded by better teammates. But all I was referring to was his ability to lead an unimpressive Cavs roster to five playoff series victories and a Finals before his 24th birthday. His performances last year in the conference finals against Detroit cannot be considered a fluke.
You had me in agreement until your over-the-top statement about Kobe. It would be interesting to see what James could do in the West, but I can't agree that he would've had a bigger impact on the Lakers than Bryant in previous years. For one thing, Bryant was a much better defender than James in that time.
Anytime the Lakers lose, there are questions about whether he tried to do too much by himself or whether he didn't do enough while deferring too much to his teammates. There always has to be a reason why things go badly for the Lakers, which in a way serves as a compliment to Bryant's overwhelming talent. All of this looking-over-his-shoulder is going to end when he wins another championship, at which time he will instantly earn the benefit of the doubt. Until then, he'll be second-guessed to the highest standard.