Jahlil Okafor, Duke vs. MSU, 11.18.2014 – Highlights

Jahlil Okafor

Duke vs. Michigan State

11.18.2014

Jahlil Okafor – #15 Duke

Welcome to our first highlight video of the NCAA season. First up, appropriately, is Jahlil Okafor of the Blue Devils, widely considered the #1 prospect in next year’s NBA Draft.

As always, I try to capture the good and the bad in these videos. One of these days, some kid will force me to scrap the bad. This is not that day, however.

Okafor started the game gangbusters, going for an early six point using a variety of post moves. He shows an advanced repertoire of spins, drop steps and face up drives. His footwork is solid but not flawless. He seems to have average arm length to go with good height. Okafor has also lost some weight since I last saw him in the McDonalds game.

One major thing that stood out with Okafor was his lack of boxing out on rebounds. Seemingly easy boards went over his head while he was waving one arm at them a couple times. Also on the negative side of things, he appears to be a lazy defender at present. His indifference led to at least three layups/dunks by my count.

Despite the negatives, this is definitely a player to watch. There are very few college bigs who will be able to handle him on the post. I definitely want to see more of his face up game and see if his rebounding improves with time. Despite his lazy defense, if anyone can coach up this kid, it is Mike Krzyzewski.

Let us know what you think by commenting, tweeting or discuss it with these Nuts over on our forums.

Are Any of the Current Celtics Keepers?

Obviously, this current vintage is not a winner. In fact, this looks to be a team that will lose about 60% of the games it plays. Are any current Celtics worth keeping around for a time when this franchise is in the business of winning again? Do any of the young guys show signs of being reliable players for a winning rotation? Are there any cornerstone players currently on the roster?

Let’s take a look at the current roster and see what we’ve got here.

Rajon Rondo – Alright, I was wrong. He’s the best PG they’ve had since forever but his presence means nothing when it comes to wins and losses. The only thing that makes me hesitant is those times he goes full Hulk mode in the playoffs. But, with the way this franchise is shaping up, the playoffs are probably a few years off. He’s not really carrying the team on his shoulders through the bad times, so there is really no particular reason to keep him past the trade deadline, especially if a contender has a PG go down.

Jeff Green – We all know he is what he is. Some nights, he can carry the offensive load. Maybe 5 nights a season, he’ll commit to playing tough defense. With the way salaries are going, he’ll be underpaid soon, if he isn’t already. Still, being underpaid and being a winning player are two different things. Jeff’s career 44% shooting and 53% total shooting percentage are about as vanilla as his average game is. If Green opts out next summer, I think you have to let him go, given that someone will vastly overpay him. If he doesn’t opt out, there isn’t any real reason not to keep him around another season.

Avery Bradley – Young Avery is now 24. He should be entering his prime. He remains a streaky outside shooter who’s three point efficiency varies wildly from season to season. He has also shown to be fragile, having never played more than 64 games per season. He’s playing on a new contract which will rise from $7M to close to $9M. That shouldn’t be much of a deterrent. Given the paucity of good shooting guards, I kind of lean towards keeping him around for a while. Still, his shortness is bothersome guarding his position and he doesn’t get many steals for a heralded defender.I think he’s one of those guys you just keep until you can find an upgrade. With his contract situation, they have that luxury.

Jared Sullinger – I believe he is being done a disservice by allowing him to heave up threes. He’s an undersized PF who puts up great numbers on his 2pt shots, yet his total contribution is blunted severely by the three point shooting. His passing this season has been eye opening and should be something to keep dibs on as the season rolls on. Right now, he looks like he could be a 20/10 guy by his age 25 season. Unfortunately, he’ll never be able to guard his position worth a damn. This is the kind of player you hold onto like grim death until you can trade him for an upgrade. You don’t trade him for two lesser players or draft picks. He’s a lot like Al Jefferson in that regard and should be used in a similar trade down the line.

Kelly Olynyk – His shooting efficiency says he should be an effective player. His defensive shortcomings say he’s a backup center in the league, at best. Does anyone really want a backup center that cannot defend the position, though? His defense will not improve. He’s already older than Sullinger, who is nearly equally hopeless defending. The best case scenario I can see with this player is starting him at center until he’s 25 or so. By then, the team’s pace and offense might inflate his value somehow. But if you are starting him, it is a big white flag. You just will not win many games with Kelly Olynyk as your starting center.

Evan Turner – Pure ZeroVORP, unless he’s turning the ball over more than usual, in which case he’s completely worthless. His minutes at the point are confusing, to say the least. He will never have an acceptable shooting percentage for his size/position due to his three point woes. The Celtics have him under contract for one season after the current one. We’ll likely see the end of him then.

Marcus Smart – He’s a strong defender on a team that doesn’t play defense. It will take him years to get to his prime. I’m not sure the Celtics will have the luxury of waiting for Smart’s prime and I’m not convinced his prime will be worth waiting for. I’ve said this before, young guys that will be stars show it almost immediately. It does take longer for point guards, so you have to give him a little more rope but I’m skeptical right now. He might be the guy that gets packaged with Sullinger for a star level player, if that opportunity ever shows itself.

Brandon Bass – He’s been declining as a rebounder for about three seasons now. He will never be worth much of anything in trade. He doesn’t have many skills aside from hitting 14 footers and sinking free throws after a rare offensive board. He’s the most likely player to have a defensive board hit him on the ass. Still, he has always worked hard and has never been a malingerer. This is his last season under contract with the Celtics. I don’t hate him nearly as much as some here, though, so I would not mind him re-signing in Boston for something around the MLE for a couple seasons. Anything more than that, in dollars or years, and I would wish him well in his future endeavors.

Tyler Zeller – If the friggin guy is going to continue to sink 80% of his field goal attempts, hell, he can fucking start for me. I don’t care that he’s awful defensively. He’s got better size than Olynyk, decent hands and he’s sinking 80% of his attempted shots. We’ve got this season and next season to discern whether or not he’s the greatest shooting seven footer in the history of the NBA. In reality, though, he doesn’t seem to be a guy that hurts you out there and as long as that continues, I’m guessing the Celtics will want to keep him around.

Marcus Thornton – While I like him as a mad bomber coming off the bench, he is currently making too much money and expires at the end of the season. I would have no problem if they re-signed him for something around $4M/season but I’m guessing he thinks more of himself than some 15 minute per night backup. No tears will be shed at his departure.

James Young – If he makes it, it will take him many seasons to do so. It is also highly unlikely that he will make it with the team that drafted him. Guys like Young tend to get traded a couple of times before they get it. There is also no guarantee that he will ever get it. Young won’t be worth much in trade over the life of his rookie deal either, so the Celtics are probably stuck with him for a couple more seasons.

Gerald Wallace – Kill it with fire.

Phil Pressey – It is beyond my comprehension why Pressey is still a Celtic. He has no real skills. He plays a position that has three players ahead of him on the depth chart. If he doesn’t go to sleep every night saying, “Every day is a gift,” to himself, it would be astounding.

That is all I’ve got. I like a couple guys as backups but really don’t see any major cogs for a winning team at present. Depressing, but it is what it is.

Should Brad Stevens Be On The Hot Seat?

Plead as he might, Brad Stevens hasn't gotten the Celtics to perform at an acceptable standard this season

Plead as he might, Brad Stevens hasn’t gotten the Celtics to perform this season

I think its a valid question even though the season is young. This team has absolutely no discernible strategy on defense. They make no adjustments in game. They make no changes on either end of the court at halftime. They are scoring points, but NBA games are won and lost on the defensive end, unless you have a roster resembling the 2000’s Suns.

Stevens was justifiably given a pass last year as he was saddled with a bad roster and a franchise looking to maximize their draft position. There were red flags however. Their second half of the season decision to focus on offensive rebounding seemed to fly in the face of all of the advanced statistics and metrics. He was without the clubs franchise point guard for 3/4 of the season, and was forced to play guys like Gerald Wallace, who has no future on the club.

But this season has been a horror show. They have blown multiple double digit leads, haven’t been able to stop dribble penetration or three point shots. They look confused out of timeouts on both sides of the ball. Defense is 80% effort in the NBA, and if you can’t get your players to perform on that end of the floor on a consistent basis it falls on the head coach. Tonight they let up 62 points from the likes of the Morris twins and Alex Len. Unacceptable.

One has to wonder if this is what Danny Ainge had in mind when he hired Stevens. He came out of college with the tag of a young coach ahead of his time in X’s and O’s and in game strategy. He has been a complete failure in both this season. If Stevens isn’t the long term answer at coach, the rebuilding process won’t begin until they find a coach who is. No one is expecting the team to move the needle much in the win column this season, but its reasonable to expect good effort on a nightly basis. Failure to get this from a team trying to rebuild can foster a culture of losing, where poor effort is accepted and you begin a cycle of suck that can sometimes take a decade to get out of. Just ask the Wizzards, Clippers and Kings of the last 15 years.

If the seat Brad Stevens is sitting on right now isn’t warm, it will get real hot if the team can’t win Wednesday in Philly.

College Football Final Four: Down The Stretch They Come!!

CFB

So with Arizona State losing there is now one undefeated team in Florida State, six one loss teams, and TEN two loss teams. In other words the college football playoff race is a fantastic, fluid, heartstopping mess. So with that in mind, here are the CelticsNuts college football final four as of week 14:

1) Alabama: Back to back epic wins at LSU and at home against the former #1 team in Miss State. A lone loss to Ole Miss isn’t enough to keep this team from the top spot, which is theirs until they lose, which they very well could either against Auburn or in the championship game against (probably) Georgia. Sabien is the best in the business and you have to like their chances to run the table here. Only Alabama could hire Lane Kiffen and not have it blow up in their faces. Of course there is still time for that to happen………

2) Oregon. Idle this week, which is the safest place to play in college football these days. They should easily win their next two and will face a showdown with either USC, Arizona, Arizona State, or UCLA, all of which suddenly have life after ASU watched their fate slip out of their hands at Oregon State at 2am on Sunday morning. I don’t see a two loss Pac 12 team deserving of a spot in the final four, so its Oregon or bust for conference fans.

3) TCU. I resisted the urge to drop them after their lackluster performance against a horrible Kansas team, and FSU fans must be wondering why I penalize them for bad wins but not TCU. Its simple…..TCU has quality wins against Kansas State, West Virginia and Oklahoma. Two easy games remain in their schedule and with no conference championship in the Big 12, it would appear TCU is a lock for the final four.

4) Miss State. Can’t drop them out of the final four from the top spot with a 5 point loss at Alabama. Just can’t. They need win the Egg Bowl at Ole Miss and hope Alabama destroys Georgia in the SEC title game to keep its spot. The committee has Florida State solidly in the final four, so I’m going against the experts here.

On the bubble: Really too many teams to list, but here are the teams I think have a legit shot at making the post season:

FSU: They just don’t have enough quality wins on their schedule to crack the top 4, but I wouldn’t have an issue with anyone who was adamant that the only undefeated team from a power conference must be in the top 4. They don’t have anything left that can help them, and a loss would end the debate…..they would be out. Their second half wins against some non sucky opponents can be looked at two ways; they have a deep resolve to win games no matter how far they fall behind, or they aren’t as good as last season, keep falling behind to average opponents, and eventually its going to catch up with them. What happened last season should be irrelevant……..this isn’t the pros and there is just too much turnover from year to year to give anyone credit or a knock for whats happened in the past.

Baylor: They beat TCU, so they have a legitimate gripe if they are left out and TCU goes. But heres some irony….their loss to West Virginia is much worse than TCU’s loss to Baylor. It also doesn’t help any of the Big 12 teams that they don’t have a championship game OR declare a champion when there is a three way tie, which will probably happen. But if you want to swap Baylor for TCU because of the head to head matchup, thats fine by me. In fact I’m quite surprised the committee has TCU ahead of Baylor in the standings because of head to head, but I don’t think they can suddenly change gears and take it into account. A “bad win” by TCU could get Baylor in as well. Stay tuned.

Georgia: The win against Auburn puts them back in the conversation, although they do need Missouri to lose to Tenn or Arkansas to get into the SEC championship game. If they get there, and win, I GUESS they make the final four. It really depends on what importance the committee puts on the conference championship games. They also could create a scenario where NO teams from the SEC make it in, if Alabama loses again, Ole Miss beats Miss State but loses to Arkansas (who had the toughest schedule in the nation) and the division winner loses to Georgia. As an SEC fan I don’t even want to think about this.

Ohio State: I have to mention them only because with all these one loss teams losing and more of them to come because a few will face each other in the coming weeks, they could get in if all of the teams mentioned above lose another game. It could happen. But their schedule has just been preposterously easy, they have a horrendous loss to Virginia Tech on their resume, and they did themselves no favors by not blowing out Minnesota this week. Their upcoming win against Michigan will be the equivalent of a win against a good 1AA team. But like Lloyd Christmas, they have a chance.

Kansas State: Same spot Baylor is in only they lost to TCU. In the same spot as Ohio State.

The two loss Pac Ten teams: It would be a travesty if the committee allowed one of these teams in. They have had AMPLE opportunity to get signature wins and make their case and all of them have failed. Most of them have lost to mediocre or bad teams. I want no part of them in the final four.

So there you have it with two weeks of regular season games left followed by conference championships. Each week gets more crazy than the last, with meaningful games all over the schedule and teams facing elimination in the eye in close games. The SEC has been its usual spectacular self, providing the most electric and intriguing matchups week after week.

The only true winners this season have been the fans.

C’s Blow Early Lead, Lose To Depleted Thunder

Perkins

In this day and age of the salary cap, when a team like the Thunder are missing their two best, highest paid players, they are left with one of the worst teams in the NBA. Add in the fact that they were on the second night of a back to back, and the Celtics had a SEVENTEEN point first half lead, this is a loss that stings. Probably the worst loss of the Brad Stevens era when you consider that a group of D leaguers, players who played in China, and Reggie Jackson beat you simply by playing a zone defense. A poorly played and coached game by the Celtics in all aspects.

The Good: The first quarter. The Celtics came out on fire, hitting their shots, playing solid defense and jumping out to a 17 point lead and 11 point lead after one quarter. That is the extent of the “good” in this game, unless you want to praise the team for getting 5 players in double figures scoring wise in a 109-94 loss.

The Bad: The Celtics couldn’t shoot the ball (44% from the floor), especially from three point range where they were able to connect on only 9 of 33 shots for a paltry 27%. Avery Bradley (2-9) and Jeff Green (1-5) were the biggest offenders from downtown. They also allowed a journeyman like Anthony Morrow to go for 28/5/5 on 11/16 shooting and an astounding (or appalling) 4/5 from deep. They were also out rebounded 41-35 and outscored 94-70 in the last three quarters. 94 points in three quarters allowed by a team thats dead last in the NBA in scoring this season. Ouch.

The Ugly: The Celtics’ inability to adjust to the zone defense employed by the Thunder. Stevens had three quarters, including a 15 minute halftime session, to make the proper adjustments, and they fell flat on their faces. Certainly a great deal of this falls on the players, but anyone who watched the game saw a team completely befuddled by a defense most players have seen since they were in grade school. Stevens was brought here with the tag of a coach ahead of his time with regards to X’s and O’s and in game adjustments, and to see this team struggle against a defense you will see JV high school players use is disconcerting to say the least.

This is only one game, and there will be nights like this, but as a fan you hope that even if losses pile up due to lack of talent, effort will always be a stalwart. For the most part this team HAS played hard this season, especially on offense, but tonight was a horror show on both ends. Beyond the Xs’ and O’s it was effort and lack of effort is unacceptable especially when playing a bad team on the second night of a back to back.

They continue to focus on offense and three point shooting while ignoring the defensive end. This worked well enough for a team like the 2000’s Suns, but its not going to work for a roster like the Boston Celtics. Stevens and his staff have some work to do going forward as teams in the NBA employ scouts who will surly report back to their bosses that the Celtics don’t have an answer for a zone defense. They better find that answer soon because they are going to see a steady diet of it until they prove they can score on a consistant basis when teams utilize it.

Regardless of what happened tonight the season rolls on, with a tilt against the Cavs on Friday and then the Suns on Monday, both at home. Like last weekend, a split of these games would be an acceptable result and inspired effort, especially on the defensive end, will be expected.

http://scores.espn.go.com/nba/boxscore?gameId=400578403

Our College Football Final Four

Finally it will be settled on the field.

Finally it will be settled on the field.

So, here is my final four. I’m taking a cue from the selection committee, who said they take into account big wins and quality losses when making their selection.

1) Miss State. Their wins against LSU, Auburn, Texas A&M (who now looks different after beating Auburn) and Kentucky are enough to take their undefeated record seriously enough to keep them in the top spot. They face Alabama at Tuscalusa Saturday which will settle their spot. Basically an elimination game for both teams.

2) Oregon. I think this team has been getting better each week, which I think is important when ranking your final four. They will have to get by Arizona State to finish in the top four and that game will probably be a pseudo quarterfinal playoff game. I will say, one wonders what happens if the Utah player doesn’t make the blooper of the year and fumble the ball at the one when he was a foot away from giving his team a 14-0 lead at home. But he DID make the blunder, and they ended up getting blown out, so I can’t fault Oregon there. That offense is just phenomenal and the defense is just good enough to make them a serious contender.

3) TCU. My feelings on the Big 12 keep changing each week. I like the conference from a fans perspective, but when you see those games at LSU in the teens, one wonders how Big 12 teams would fare in that environment. My guess is not well. Their quality wins are against Oklahoma (a win which looks less impressive each week), WVU (very bad for them WVU crapped the bed last week) Oklahoma State (another team that has looked less impressive as the season has matriculated) and Kansas State. The fact that they were beating Kansas State 41-7 in the fourth is why they are here. Its a good win even though its at home. They are basically a lock to make the final four now as they are in the top 4 with the committee and have a very favorable schedule moving forward with games at Kansas, at Texas and Iowa State. A loss obviously eliminates them.

4) Alabama. A high quality win against LSU on a Saturday night….a game they basically had lost until the LSU kicker blew the game by kicking the ball out of bounds with :53 seconds left in the game. Their schedule is a monster down the stretch with Miss State and Auburn left at home, then probably a game against probably Missouri, who has a favorable schedule down the stretch not playing a ranked team.

On the bubble:

Florida State: Their most impressive win is I GUESS against Lousiville. Or maybe Notre Dame. ND losing to Arizona State KILLED them here as it made their schedule look much much worse. They are 1 point favorites Saturday against a decent Miami team. They need to CRUSH Miami to get back into my final four. A championship game against a decent Duke team really does nothing for me nor will it do much for the committee. If they win out they will be in the final four, but not mine. This is a much different team than the one that won the “championship” last year.

Baylor: I don’t know how they get in. They can run the table with wins over Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Kansas, all at home, which really hurts their chances because those wins will be less impressive than would road wins. Kansas State losing to TCU really crushed them and they have to be kicking themselves for losing to West Virginia……if they win that game they are a lock for the final four with a win over Kansas State.

Arizona State: They really control their own destiny here. They can get a quality win over Arizona on the road, and if they get that a win over Oregon would put them in the final four. They are well coached, have a good quarterback, a decent defense for the Pac Ten.

Ohio State: The loss to a bad Virginia Tech team doomed them, and it should. Their conference is godawful, with some of their wins the equivalent of 1AA victory. The two overtime win against Penn State, in that conference, is the equivalent of a loss in this mans opinion. The committee correctly has them ranked 8th resisting the urge to drop them below any of the two loss teams.

So your saying theres a chance?

Auburn: If they win out and Alabama beats Miss State, they would have wins down the stretch against Georgia, Alabama, and then the Sec South champ. I think it would be impossible to keep them out.

Ole Miss: They need tons of help to make this happen. They need Auburn to lose to both Georgia and Alabama. They need Miss State to beat Alabama. They would need to win out which would include a killer win against the #1 team in the land in Miss State.

So we’re heading down the stretch and everyone will be going to the whip to make the final push to the final four. Not many teams can absorb a loss moving forward and make the final four, with the possible exception of Miss State, which would needs all kinds of other help to make it happen. To my surprise it appears to me that four is the perfect number for a playoff. Its kept the most compelling aspect of college football in tact, which is that they boast a product where even more than the NFL, there are 3 or 4 games each week which have an armageddon feel to it. Its been a sports fans dream, and they finally will settle their championship on the field as opposed to votes.

Everyone wins

C’s Survive Pacers, Lose Smart

Bradley

This was as fun a basketball game as your going to get with two bottom feeding NBA teams doing battle. A timely block by Brandon Bass and free throws by Jeff Green keyed the victory to lead the Celtics to their second win of the season against 3 losses by a score of 101-98.

The Good: Jared Sullinger had another strong game finishing with 17/6/5, Bass added 10/4/4 on 3/4 shooting from the floor and 4/4 from the line. The Celtics withstood several runs by the Pacers who were lead by Roy Hibbert’s 22/11 including an impressive 6/6 from the line. This was the first time this season the Celtics were able to execute down the stretch of a close game, sharing the ball on offense and making the key stops when needed, holding the Pacers to 45% from the field and 26% from 3. They also limited their turnovers to 12, way down from the appalling 27 they committed Wednesday against the Raptors.

The Bad: The Celtics again had almost no interior presence allowing Hibbert to do damage on the glass and in the paint on offense. There are no answers for this on the roster and its something that will take creative coaching and game planning to win games moving forward. They can survive a game against the depleted Pacers, but will struggle against any quality team with a strong front line. They may lose by 60 when they face off against the Grizzlies.

The Ugly: Marcus Smart left the game with an apparent ankle injury, which was so bad he was down for at least ten minutes and was carried off on a stretcher. Bad break for the Celtics who will need every able body they can muster to win games this season. This opens the door for more playing time for Marcus Thornton and (gasp) Gerald Wallace. Not good no matter how you slice it.

So its on to Chicago where the Celtics will face arguably the best team in the East in the Bulls who won tonight 118-115 in Philly.

Celtics Turnover A Game To The Raptors

Lowry

For a team like the Celtics, that’s going to be scratching and clawing to get wins, you just can’t blow a 16 point lead in the first half against a good team without its starting front court and playing their third game in four nights. So without further ado, the good, bad and ugly:

The Good: They out rebounded the Raptors 55-24. You will hard pressed to find another NBA game all season where a team has a THIRTY ONE rebound margin and lose the contest. Rondo (13/10/15), Sullinger (19/16) and Olynyk (18/13) all had double figure boards. Marcus Smart hit a massive three pointer (12/2) to tie the game with a minute left and Sullinger simply couldn’t be stopped inside. This team continues to play at a very high pace and they share the ball well, tonight with 6 players scoring in double figures.

The Bad : The Celtics continue to lack any interior presence on defense, allowing players to penetrate and finish with no repercussions. Zeller has been a massive bust in this department so far, brought here to replace Chris Humphries and protect the rim. This caused Lowry (35 points) and Derozen (23 points) to get to the line 16 times, where they were able to connect on 15. Evan Turner’s 5 turnovers in 12 minutes of play is unacceptable and will open the door for Marcus Thornton to take his minutes moving forward. Turner has done nothing to date to suggest he’s anything other than the train wreck he was in Indiana, and if he wasn’t a high lottery pick one wonders if he would even still be collecting a check in the NBA.

The Ugly : Turnovers were the deciding factor tonight. The Celtics turned the ball over an astounding 27 time with Rondo (5), Turner (5), Smart (4) and Bradley (4) leading the charge….or retreat as it may be. A team trying to play at the pace the Celtics are playing at must protect the ball as much as humanly possible because they simply don’t have the offensive firepower to overcome possessions where they don’t get a shot at the basket.

http://scores.espn.go.com/nba/boxscore?gameId=400578351

So it appears the Celtics have decided to model the Spurs offense this season, pushing the pace, moving the ball side to side, and sharing the scoring responsibilities each night. When you have the Spurs roster it results in championship basketball. When you have a roster like the Celtics the most likely outcome is what the Minnesota Timberwolves got out of their team the last three years. Lots of losses with both teams scoring well over 100 points and nights here and there where they other team can’t keep up and you get a blowout win. See game one of the season against the aging Nets team for what that might look like.

Defense wins games in the NBA. Its been that way for the better part of the past 25 years. If they continue to focus on offense over defense, the games will be fun to watch but the needle in the W column won’t budge much.

On to the weekend where the Celtics play back to back games against the depleted Pacers at home and the Bulls in Chicago on Saturday. Splitting the games would be a nice outcome.

C’s Roll In Opener

One step closer to an 82-0 season!

One step closer to an 82-0 season!

With all the action going on in college football, the NFL and MLB, I didn’t have a chance to look at the Celtics this preseason. I had heard whispers that they were running a new offense featuring lots of three point shots and early offense. This would be in stark contrast to last season where they spend the second half of the season spitting in the wind of advanced statistics and focusing on offensive rebounds. It was an abject failure as they lost an astounding 57 games. So here is the first of many post game installments on Celticsnuts of “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly where we give a quick recap of the game with some thoughts on what worked and what did not.

The Good: Well, pretty much everything. Rondo returned from an arm injury and looked in midseason form, spending the first half dishing to teammates for buckets and the second half penetrating for an array of circus shots in the paint. Marcus Thornton looked like the Celtics version of JR Smith scoring 10 points in 10 minutes of first half action. 10 Celtics scored in the first half as they cruised to a 67-51 lead at the break. In the second half it was more of the same as 8 players scored in double figures (the last time the Celtics had this many in double figures was 2002) lead by Kelly Olynyk who finished with 19/6/2, Rondo finished with 13/12/7, and rookie Marcus Smart added 10 in his NBA debut. The Celtics walked away with an easy 121-105 win.

The Bad: Deron Williams and Joe Johnson combined for 38 points, but looked godawful on defense and generally slow to every key spot on the floor. The Nets will surly be a different team when their 7 foot center and 20/10 player Brook Lopez returns, but they looked like lottery fodder tonight, unable to even slow down a Celtic team thats not exactly the early 2000’s Suns. Marcus Smart finished with 3 of 7 shooting, which is something to keep an eye on. If he can’t shoot his future in the league is going to depend in his ability to defend.

The Ugly: Marcus Thornton’s head. Poor dude is going bald something bad and has decided not to do anything to mask it. High definition is not kind to this poor man’s scalp.

So onward and upward for the Celtics who will travel to Houston Saturday to take on the clown prince of basketball in Dwight Howard and his three point shooting teamattes. Expect a much stiffer test and it will be interesting to see if this offense can carry over against a tough opponent on the road.

The Celtics take on the Rockets and the clown prince of the NBA Saturday

The Celtics take on the Rockets and the clown prince of the NBA Saturday

The End Of NBA Players In FIBA Play?

We may never again see a team if NBA players representing our country in FIBA play

We may never again see a team of NBA players representing our country in FIBA play

Joe Theismann. Thats the first thing I thought of when Paul George suffered his horrific lower leg break in the Team USA scrimmage tonight in Las Vegas. The second thing I thought of was, this was the last time we will ever see NBA players participating in FIBA basketball with Team USA or any other country. There is just too much at stake. George is in the middle of a contract that will pay him nearly 80 million over the next five years. He’s an up and coming star and the Indiana Pacers most important player. This is a massive blow to the NBA and a catastrophic one to the Pacers.

Will we ever see this again in the NBA?  One can only hope

Will we ever see this again in the NBA? One can only hope

I admit I have always been a fan of NBA players playing in the FIBA tournaments. We are the country that invented basketball and it only seemed right that we send our best players to these tournaments to prove our supremacy. The possibility of injury was always in the back of the mind of any fan of the NBA, and owners like Mark Cuban publicly expressed his dislike for the risk. Like all sports, there is always a risk of serious injury anytime a game, practice, pick up game or scrimmage is played. This one happened on national television, shocking all those who watched and reduced several members of team USA to tears. Tears for their fallen teammate, and tears for the demonstration that they too could see their careers go up in smoke in the blink of an eye. For something they are not getting paid to do.

The sad scene in Las Vegas tonight

The sad scene in Las Vegas tonight

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. I expect Cuban to be the most vocal and first to demand NBA players stop their association with Team USA. And despite the fact that I love watching the best basketball players on the planet team up and compete against the best the rest of the world has to offer, I can’t say I would blame him. The NBA is a business, and these massive contracts aren’t handed out for charity. They are given with the expectation of a return of great play, added wins for the franchise and money in the pockets of owners and everyone employed by the NBA. If this had happened at any NBA sanctioned event or a player training to become a better NBA player, no one would blink an eye…..its the cost of doing business in the league. But this was preparation for a FIBA tournament, and at the very least would be putting additional wear and tear all players participating. Now we have a player who has suffered a career threatening injury. Its tragic, and on its face completely avoidable.

The fallout should be interesting to say the least. Even if the NBA was to allow their players to compete, one wonders how many players will continue after witnessing the tragedy during the Las Vegas scrimmage. I would expect that basketball stanchions will be moved back several feet to allow players more room to fall on contested plays at the basket. I assume there will be serious discussions between the NBA and Team USA about continuing their partnership.

Nothing good came out of the events at the Thomas and Mack Center tonight.

Will this be the last gold medal for NBA participants?

Will this be the last gold medal for NBA participants?