Has Trading Rondo Made The Celtics Better?

Its up up and away for Rajon Rondo

Its up up and away for Rajon Rondo

Its over. For what feels like a lifetime, the Celtics have fretted over the decision of what to do with their mercurial all star point guard, and finally Danny Ainge made his decision. Trade him. Knee surgery forced the team to probably wait longer to make their decision, which no doubt wasn’t an easy one when you consider Rajon Rondo is arguably the greatest point guard in the storied history of the Boston Celtics. In the end he was sent to the Dallas Mavericks, who parted with Brandan Wright, Jae Crowder, Jameer Nelson, a 2015 1st round draft pick (lottery protected for one year) and a 2016 second round pick, as well as a $12.9 million trade exception for the privilege of adding the four time all star to their already loaded roster. While on its face this might seem like a paltry return for a player of Rondo’s talent, but when you consider he was in the last year of his contract, would probably need to agree to an extension to make the trade work, and he was shooting 33% from the line, it makes a lot more sense.

Whether or not Rajon Rondo can return to the player he was when he was racking up triple doubles in the playoffs with relative ease is anyone’s guess, and its Dallas’ gamble now. They were already on a historic offensive pace when they made the trade, and need most help on the defensive end, especially on the perimeter. Time will tell if the move will make them a championship contender. The general consensus is the trade, at the very least, made the Mavs a better team.

But did the trade make the CELTICS better?

At first glance I think most fans would say no. But a deeper look shows a three for one deal that has the potential to make the Celtics a more rounded team capable of reaching the playoffs in an Eastern Conference that is historically bad. If the playoffs started today the Celtics would be the 8th seed with a 10-14 record, with four teams behind them separated by 3 games or less. The 5-23 Knicks are just seven games behind the Celtics and the Celtics themselves are just 4.5 games back from the 5 seed Cavs. Long story short, the conference is a mess, and its not going to take a whole lot of improvement by the Celtics to stay in the race for post season play. And while this is going to make Rondo lovers angry, in their last 71 games the Celtics were 14-44 with Rondo and 8-5 without. It is what it is.

The best player the Celtics received in the trade was Brandon Wright. A 27 year old playing on his fourth NBA team in seven years, Wright is enjoying arguably his best season. He has career best FG% (an astounding 74%!!!!), Blocks PG (1.6) and free throw % (75%). The Celtics currently have no big who even pretends to protect the rim, and the trio of Sullinger, Olynyk, and Zeller have COMBINED for 49 blocks on the season. Wright has almost equaled that on his own, and he’s been playing alongside Tyson Chandler, one of the top shot blockers in the last ten years. His impact will be felt immediately on the defensive end as the Celtics have allowed teams to finish at the rim all season long. When a team can’t protect their rim, the ability to prevent dribble penetration is almost impossible, which has contributed to the Celtics giving up 105 points per game, good for 27th in the league.

The Wright way to block a shot

The Wright way to block a shot

But more importantly the addition of Wright will create competition among the teams front line in the rotation. From now on Stevens will be able to rotate players in and out depending on how they are performing, and not based solely on minutes. We saw Glenn Rivers work magic when he pitted Glen Davis against Leon Powe for minutes, distributing them largely on a merit system. If Stevens can get maximum effort out of his front line, all of whom are desperate to show their value in the league, the team as a whole will benefit greatly. Its much like the trickle down effect a solid relief pitcher has on the staff…..each makes the other better. It may take time for players to find their nitch and Stevens to set a rotation, but he now has a player in Wright who can block shots and is a career 61% shooter from the floor, and Zeller, who is shooting an eye popping 63% from the floor in his own right. The two should complement each other well.

This is why I am shooting 63% from the floor

This is why I am shooting 63% from the floor

The biggest question mark in the trade will be what value Jameer Nelson can bring to the team. He’s the biggest reason Dallas made this trade as he simply wasn’t able to compete with the army of talent at the point guard position in the Western Conference. Night in and night out facing the likes of Chris Paul, Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook and Tony Parker proved too much for the 33 year old Nelson playing on his 3rd team in 11 years. He certainly will be a shooting upgrade to Rondo, hitting 3 pointers at an acceptable 36% this year and 37% for his career. He’s an excellent free throw shooter (87%, 81% career) but isn’t much of a distributor for a point guard, dishing out 5.1 a game over his career and a jaw dropping 4.3 this season. There is hope however, as the last two years with the Magic he averaged over 7 a game. His biggest flaw in Dallas was his on the ball defense, which if it continues won’t change much for the Celtics as Rondo was at best an indifferent defender after Pierce and Garnett left. The hope for Nelson will be that the overall level of competition he will face on a nightly basis is going to plummet to a level which should allow him to get his game back to where it was just a year ago when he averaged 12/3/7.

I'm just happy to be out of the Western Conference

I’m just happy to be out of the Western Conference

The trade also allows the Celtics to give more minutes to Marcus Smart at the point. The 6th overall pick in last years draft his shown flashes of brilliance in his first season in the league, especially on the defensive end where, sadly, he has been the Celtics best player. His biggest problem has been health, playing in just ten games this season after a college career where he missed several games due to a variety of injuries. But like the competition in the front court, the addition of Nelson gives Smart a chance to compete for minutes and meaningful time at point guard, things that were never happening as long as Rondo was here. Its all right there for the taking if Smart can stay healthy and provide the tenacity that made him a difference maker at Oklahoma State where he took over games on both ends of the floor. If the Celtics can hit a home run with Smart they will speed up the rebuild process possibly by years.

"Can Marcus Smart PLEASE stay healthy?!?!"

“Can Marcus Smart PLEASE stay healthy?!?!”

The third and least heralded player acquired in the trade was Jae Crowder, a 6′ 7″ small forward from Marquette, taken in the 2nd round of the 2012 draft. He’s a lunch bucket type of player, who Draft Express called the “toughest SOB in the draft”. He’s spent time in the D league where he posted multiple triple doubles and did manage to squeeze his way into the Mavs rotation this season, playing 10 minutes a game and an acceptable .550 true shooting percentage. Some have compared him to Leon Powe, and this team can use all the toughness and attitude it can get, attributes they are sorely lacking as a team.

"The check cleared!!"

“The check cleared!!”

Its important to note that all three players will be eligible for free agency at the end of the season, so Boston will get a good look at all three and have to decide if they want to offer them a contract and make them a permanent part of the rebuild. But in the short term it looks like there is a good chance the Celtics improved their team with this trade. It was obvious Rondo didn’t want to be here, and having multiple players in contract years has the potential to create a spark of effort and enthusiasm to give this team a push to the playoffs in a conference where its nearly impossible to be out of contention and an upcoming draft not worthy of tanking for.

Say hello to your new Boston Celtics.

The three amigos.

The three amigos.

The End of the Lane

Earlier today, the Boston Celtics traded Rajon Rondo and first year power forward Dwight Powell to the Dallas Mavericks in return for point guard Jameer Nelson, power forward Brandan Wright and swing man Jae Crowder. This marks a critical turning point for both the Celtics and Rajon Rondo. The move likely signifies a further shift for the ball club towards rebuilding its roster. For Rondo, new challenges await. It is time to look back for Celtics fans, at one of the most brilliant and polarizing players to have ever worn the green and white.

Back when Rondo was still just a bought draft pick, he was controversial. The Celtics had already made a deal for Sebastian Telfair, a player who, while highly heralded, had yet to show much in the NBA. Telfair had two seasons remaining on his contract at the time, so it was incumbent on the team to make a furiously quick determination on whether he could handle the starting PG position for the team going forward. Then, they bought Rondo. And then, folks saw Rondo play in 2006’s Vegas Summer League.

It was obvious, from his first professional minute, that Rajon Rondo would be a player. Normally, watching a player compete against future Jiffy Lube employees during Summer League play tells you virtually nothing. Rondo was different – something folks would say about him for his entire nine season stay with Boston. You could see it right away and there was no missing it. If this little guy learned to shoot, he was going to be a Hall of Famer. His floor was a multi-year All-Star. I wrote that prediction after watching him play in one Summer League game.

Needless to say, he never fixed that shot. In fact, as the years have gone by, it has looked even more broken than anything. This should be viewed by basketball fans as a tragedy, right up there with Bernard King’s knees, as we should feel cheated out of missing out on seeing a transcendent basketball player do his thing. Rondo got those multiple All-Star selections, but he never really became the scorer someone with his intelligence should be. That broken shot was also the cause of a lot of the angst Celtics fans felt towards Rondo, as well as being the biggest reason he is no longer a member of the Boston Celtics.

As a player, Rondo went from a skilled help defender who could run sets for three Hall of Fame teammates to the era’s premier ball handler and distributor. That description doesn’t come without warts, of course. While he is a dazzling dribbler, as his time in Boston drew to a close, he tended to dribble the air out of the ball. His distribution skills, arguably matchless in today’s NBA, hid his atrophied offensive game and sometimes was a matter of distraction, as with the assists streak he had going at the beginning of the 2013 NBA season. There was his feud with Ray Allen, the general weirdness of not allowing his bare feet to touch the floor. To mask his horrendous free throw shooting, Rondo would rarely drive to the basket and attempt layups. Most notably, however, was the patently obvious lack of effort he exerted defensively in games he viewed as less important, something that drew the ire of nearly all Celtics fans.

Despite the flaws in his game, Celtics fans should remember exactly what they are losing in this trade. Rajon Rondo is the last connection to the team that helped raise banner number seventeen. They will be missing a player who tried to play through a dislocated elbow in order to beat LeBron and the Heat. Rondo’s playoff performance in 2009, leading a limping, Garnett-less Celtics squad past the Bulls and to a game 7 against the Magic by sheer force of will should never be forgotten. His most lasting memory should be his press conference after losing to the Heat, where he all but said, “You know what? Fuck LeBron and the rest of that whining team.”

He was arguably the best point guard to ever suit up for the Boston Celtics. Cousy had more banners but that’s about all he had on Rondo. Rare was the game that went by without at least one Rondo highlight worthy of a SportsCenter mention or a gif going up on some basketball site. He was a great player on some very good to great Celtics teams and when the time comes, I expect he’ll have his number retired above the parquet floor. All this, despite the fact that he couldn’t shoot the basketball.

Oh, what could have been.

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.