Once a year, Phil Jackson offers books to his Los Angeles Lakers, so that they may read them and learn something. He personalizes the books; each player receives a book that will be more meaningful or helpful to him. For example, Jackson gave Ron Artest his own “Sacred Hoops” last season, to help Artest become more familiar with Jackson’s coaching style and personality.
I hate to steal an idea from Jackson (partially because I echo Kendrick Perkins’ sentiments that he’s quite arrogant, and mostly because he’s a Laker), but, well, I’m going to anyway. To commemorate the regular season, I’m handing out books and movies for some of the players to consume.
Kevin Garnett: “Without Limits”
One of the most important subplots to Boston’s postseason: How many minutes can Garnett play? Last season, Garnett’s minutes raised minimally in the postseason, from 29.9 minutes to 33.3 minutes per game. But last year, Garnett had the mobility and health of Crutchie, the crutches-bound paperboy from “The Newsies.” He’s a different player this season, as highlighted by Paul Flannery here, and could potentially play more minutes this postseason. How important would that be for Boston? The Celtics are 16.74 points per 100 possessions better with Garnett on the court.
Thus, Garnett receives a movie about Steve Prefontaine, a mile runner who was quoted in the movie as saying, “I can endure more pain than anyone you’ve ever met. That’s why I can beat anyone I’ve ever met.”
Carlos Arroyo: “The Air Up There”
I don’t know much, but I know this: Arroyo would definitely become an infinitely better basketball player if he started using the Jimmy Dolan Shake N’ Bake.
Danny Ainge: “The Blind Side”
No, not the movie. Any movie in which A) Sandra Bullock calls a football coach while he’s in the middle of coaching a game, and B) said football coach actually picks up the call, cannot be considered a quality flick. But the book, written by Michael Lewis, was well done. One of the storylines was the growing importance of left tackles, the big bruisers who get overlooked by most fans but are essential in protecting a quarterback and establishing a dominant run game. Sounds kind of like Kendrick Perkins, no?
Look, I’m not saying trading Perkins was the cause of all Boston’s issues. It wasn’t. There are so many other mitigating factors. But as the Oklahoma City Thunder roll to a 13-3 record with Perkins in the lineup and the Celtics completely fall apart in his absence, it’s becoming abundantly clear Perk was undervalued. (Or, since the Celtics were 33-10 before Perk returned from injury, at least having someone like Perk, who will rebound, guard every center in the league with single coverage, clog the lane, set mean screens, care nothing about whether or not he scores, snarl and/or throw an elbow at his opponents every once in awhile. Shaq could possibly play that role—and did when Perkins was injured—except his body’s a Jenga tower.)
Read the following passage and tell me it doesn’t remind you of Perk’s role on the Celtics:
The offensive line never abandoned, at least in public, it’s old vaguely socialistic ideology. All for one, one for all, as to do our jobs well we must work together, and thus no one of us is especially important. But by the mid-1990s the market disagreed: it had declared this one member of the offensive line a superstar. Not some interchangeable homunculus, not low-skilled labor, but rare talent. This judgment was not rendered overnight; it was the end of a long story, of football coaches and general managers sifting and judging and scrambling to determine the relative importance of the positions on a football field, and to find the people best suited to play them.
I’m not sure exactly what “interchangeable homunclus” means, but I know it doesn’t describe Perk.
Ray Allen: “The Prestige”
I just want Allen to understand that magic tricks, such as the disappearing act he’s show lately, aren’t all fun and games.
Rajon Rondo: “The Giver”
It’s tough being the only person who can see color; err, being the only Celtic with youth. Like Jonas in “The Giver”, Rajon Rondo has a gift and a burden. For Jonas, it began with the ability to see colors when none of his peers could. For Rondo, it is being young and talented and athletic on a team that’s anything but. Being that as it is, Rondo has a responsibility to his older teammates.
He has to lead them. He has to carry them on nights when they’re too old to bring a solid effort. He has to make their jobs easier, because they aren’t quite what they used to be. He has to escape from Sameness (the dull and indifferent end to the season) to Elsewhere (a championship level of play), and he needs to bring his little brother Gabriel—err, I mean the Celtics—along with him. As Bob Ryan points out here, since the March 9th loss to the Clippers, the Celtics are last (dead last!) in points per game. That stat doesn’t account for pace, but, still, having the league’s lowest-scoring team is never good. And the fall from grace coincides with Rondo’s curiously poor play.
Shaq and Jermaine O’Neal: “Into The Wild”
In all honesty, I have never read “Into The Wild.” But the book has been laying around my house for years, and it has this quote on the front cover: “Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter.” I figure the O’Neals can relate.
Troy Murphy: “Rudy”
Disclaimer: At least consciously, I did not chose Troy Murphy (rather than Carlos Arroyo or Von Wafer) to receive “Rudy” based on racial reasons.
He’s seven foot nothing, 250-nothing, with hardly a speck of athletic ability. He hung in there with the best NBA players in the world for nine years. And he’s going to walk out of this season after possibly making his first playoff appearance. In this life, he doesn’t have to prove anything to anybody but himself.
Keep telling yourself that, Troy. Really.
Jeff Green: “Good Will Hunting”
Remember when Will Hunting worked as a janitor at MIT, even though he was smart enough to pick any job he wanted, smart enough to win the Fields Medal, smart enough to solve an equation in one day that it took other geniuses years to decipher? I’m not saying Jeff Green’s as talented at basketball as Will Hunting was at math; but he’s definitely squandering some amount of his considerable talent. To an extent, Green can do it all. He can shoot from outside, post up smaller defenders, soar for alley oops, sprint by guards in transition and pass with great vision, and he has the body of a young Len Bias. Yet the Celtics play significantly worse when he’s on the floor. And the Thunder have gotten better since he left.
Look, I root for Green and I see all his talent, so don’t take this the wrong way. But in twenty years, if he’s still living here, coming over to my house to watch the Patriots games, still working construction, I’ll fucking kill him. That’s not a threat, now. That’s a fact. I’ll fucking kill him.
Okay, maybe I won’t really kill him. Being a solid bench player, like working construction in Boston, is admirable work. It’s just that Green’s capable of far better.
That’s all for today, folks. Good day, ladies and gentlemen; and until that day comes, keep your ear to the grindstone.