Morning Walkthrough: C’s modeled after Spurs; Wafer’s deadline actually today?; Pierce like fine wine
The Morning Walkthrough is a set of links to Boston Celtics articles throughout the internet, designed to get your day started the right way.
Steve Bulpett, Boston Herald – “The teams with the best records in their respective conferences will meet tonight and, in a stunning blow to those who manufacture bright lights and hype, neither LeBron James nor Kobe Bryant will be in the building. You’ll just have to settle for good basketball. Please accept the apologies of the prime-time gods. The Celtics still aren’t near full capacity because of injury (two of their starters and a key reserve remain out), but their group approach to problem solving has landed them at 26-7. The Spurs rolled into New York last night with a best-in-league 29-4 record. ‘Four or five years ago, Danny (Ainge) and I sat down and said we wanted to be them as much as we can,’ Rivers said. ‘I think (Spurs general manager) R.C. Buford and Danny — I don’t know if anybody does a better job than those two guys. They do it every year. They find the right guys for their team.’”
Bob Ryan, Boston Globe – “Are the Celtics the Spurs North? Or are the Spurs the Celtics South? Each should be flattered by the comparison. Root for a Lakers-Heat NBA Finals if you must. That would put you firmly in the majority of NBA fans worldwide. And it would be appealing, no doubt. That’s not the Finals I want. I want the Finals featuring the Big Fundamental vs. the Big Ticket. I want the Finals with a point guard battle between the elegant Frenchman vs. the Next Great Thing. I want the Finals spiced by a confrontation between the two cagiest combination games of the ’50s and the 21st century, one belonging to an Argentine and the other to a guy from Inglewood who now plays with an Old Celtics soul.”
Peter May, ESPN Boston – “The teams have a combined 12 losses — and it’s the first week of January. (Twenty-three teams already have 12 losses apiece.) San Antonio has blown away the competition in the Western Conference in the first 30-plus games to the point where Gregg Popovich has been the only winner of the conference’s coach of the month honors this season. The Spurs are on a ridiculous pace that even Popovich doesn’t expect to last, but he’s enjoying it while it does. ‘You know us. We never talk about what our record is,” Popovich said before the Spurs lost to the Knicks 128-115 on Tuesday night in New York. “It is whatever it is. But we know full well that this won’t continue for 82 games. We’re not the Chicago Bulls [who won 72 games in 1995-96]. That’s not us. We’ll come back to the center eventually, but our hope is that we’re still a good team when it matters most.’”
Gary Washburn, Boston Globe – “West has been around the team during home games and has remained optimistic throughout the recovery. With the Celtics battered by injuries in the backcourt — Rajon Rondo’s ankle, Nate Robinson’s sore feet — West’s versatility will be sorely needed for the stretch run. ‘It feels great [to have the cast off],’ said West. ‘Also, I got a chance to wash it today, so the smell of Cheetos is gone. It’s big for my morale, to look down and not see that cast. Actually, I almost put my jersey on today. I had my shorts on and everything and got a workout in. The day will be here before you know it and I will be back out there on the floor.’ If Von Wafer is on the Celtics roster tonight, his contract will be guaranteed for the rest of the season. That doesn’t mean they can’t waive him after today, but if they do, he will be paid for the entire season. Players such as Rodney Carney (Golden State), John Lucas III (Chicago), and Sundiata Gaines (Minnesota) were waived yesterday before the deadline. Celtics president Danny Ainge indicated that a decision would not be made until today, but Wafer’s season-best 10-point, 6-rebound effort in Monday’s win over the Timberwolves may have helped his cause. West also has a nonguaranteed deal, but all indications are the Celtics plan to keep him for the rest of the season.”
A. Sherrod Blakely, CSNNE – “Prior to suffering a broken right wrist injury in November, guard Delonte West showed up at the Celtics practice facility with the goal of getting in some quality gym time with no one around. The Celtics had just returned from a long road trip, and had the day off. ‘I was in here, 9:30, 10 o’clock,’ West recalled. ‘Shaquille O’Neal was on the table getting treatment. Jermaine O’Neal was in here, Paul Pierce was out here getting shots up. Ray Allen in the weight room, KG in the weight room. No more needs to be said about that. That speaks volumes, and that’s not just one day; that’s consistent.’”
Jessica Camerato, CSNNE – [Nate Robinson, on the Spurs:] “They’re rolling. They’re playing well. I’ve watched a couple of their games and they’ve got everybody clicking on all cylinders. They’re just a team that’s been together for a long time, and then they’ve got a couple new pieces – [Gary] Neal knocking down the shot – you’ve got the Red Rocket [Matt Bonner] over there, he’s knocking down shots, playing the way they’ve been playing. The team chemistry is awesome. So a team like that coming in, we’ve just got to match their intensity and just play our game and we’ll be fine.”
Paul Flannery, WEEI – “Pierce, ever so subtly, has taken it up a notch this season. On first glance, his numbers aren’t all that different from the levels he’s established with Garnett and Allen as teammates – 19 points, five rebounds and about four assists per game. But dig a little deeper and you’ll begin to see some of the improvements this season. He’s shooting over 50 percent from the field and 87 percent at the free throw-line, both career highs. He’s also making 3-pointers at a 39 percent clip, which have raised his True Shooting percentage (combining 2’s, 3’s and free throws) to .616, the highest mark of his career. In a sign of good health, Pierce is taking the ball to the basket and finishing at a rate (72 percent) comparable with Kevin Durant and LeBron James. (See how Pierce’s numbers break down at Hoop Data). Pierce has also hit the defensive glass, where his rebounding percentage is at its highest-level since the 2006-07 season, part of the team-wide commitment to defensive rebounding that they feel lost them the championship last season. Additionally, Pierce’s net plus-minus is +15 according to Basketball Value, which ranks fifth in the NBA and underscores his importance. This isn’t an overnight transformation. Pierce’s numbers since Allen and Garnett arrived have remained remarkably consistent over the last three and a half seasons, which is an achievement in its own right. Pierce made the adjustments in his game in 2007-08 and has gradually improved them to this point.”
Ronald Tillery, Memphis Commercial Appeal – “Tony Allen and O.J. Mayo were involved in a physical altercation Monday afternoon over a gambling debt during the Grizzlies’ flight home from Los Angeles. Team officials insisted that Mayo’s absence Tuesday night for the Grizzlies’ 110-105 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder was due to bronchitis and not the fight. But the incident was described as a one-sided scrap in which Allen clearly got the best of Mayo. Neither player was disciplined after meeting with coach Lionel Hollins once the team arrived in Memphis. According to a source, Mayo and Allen were involved in a card game that left Mayo owing Allen between $1,000 and $1,500. Mayo refused to pay and repeatedly insulted Allen. Allen then went to the restroom and returned to Mayo, who was acting more belligerent about losing. Allen then struck Mayo and the two had to be separated by teammates. Allen later apologized to the team and general manager Chris Wallace. A team insider contends the situation will not linger and cited Mayo’s encouraging text messages to Allen during and after the Grizzlies’ win over the Thunder.”
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