I’ve got a confession to make: I live in a town that probably has the highest concentration of Jews this side of Israel. It takes about ten minutes to drive across my entire town, yet we have four separate temples. I’ve been to countless Bar-Mitzvahs and I even know what Mazel Tov means. So I thought it was impossible for me to be surprised by someone wearing a yarmulke. That is, until I saw a black, 6’10″ slam dunk machine wear one and talk about how he will soon observe Passover and Shabbat and then later started speaking Hebrew. That’s just not something you see every day.
Posts tagged: Amare Stoudemire
The Celtics have gotten rid of their morning walkthrough, but that doesn’t mean we have to. Here are a few Celtics links, and maybe even an NBA link or two, to help wake you up and get you focused for the day.
Jessica Camerato, WEEI – “The sudden disappearance of Rashard Lewis is not the only thing missing from the Magic team that defeated the Celtics in last season’s Eastern Conference semifinals. This time around they are playing without Hedo Turkoglu, who left Orlando last summer and signed a mulit-year deal with the Raptors. Even though the Magic acquired Vince Carter in his place — a role Carter’s teammates say he has filled well — the Celtics have noticed a difference in matchups without Turkoglu on the court. It is one they have benefited from in the conference finals. ‘Definitely with Turkoglu, he adds a size matchup being at 6’10 he can play the two, the three, the one. Obviously a walking matchup problem,’ Paul Pierce said following practice on Sunday. ‘I just think the things that he does playing with the ball and off the ball in the post, he’s one of the more versatile small forwards in the NBA and one of the toughest that I’ve seen to guard. Them not having him, I think it really works in our favor.’”
Julian Benbow, Boston Globe – “Being optimistic, coach Doc Rivers figured the defense would be better in the postseason. Being realistic, he knew if the Celtics wanted to win, they had no choice. ‘It had to be [better],’ Rivers said yesterday. ‘During the regular season, teams were hitting 110. We clearly are a different team.’ Indeed, the Celtics have had the Magic boxed in for the majority of the Eastern Conference finals, taking a three-games-to-none-lead with a 94-71 win Saturday night. The Celtics, who can close out the series tonight at the Garden, have given up 100 points just three times in these playoffs — their only three losses. In their 11 playoff wins, the Celtics have held opponents to 84.9 points a game. The defense that struggled to keep teams from hanging 100 at the end of the regular season is now playing as well as it has all season. ‘We’re playing well,’ said Rivers. ‘We’re playing as a group. There’s a lot of individual defenders on our team. [Rajon] Rondo can be terrific. So can Kevin [Garnett] and Perk [Kendrick Perkins]. But the reason we’re playing well is because as a group, we’re doing it together. We’re doing it in system.’”
Mark Murphy, Boston Herald – “‘I still don’t think [Kevin Garnett is] 100 percent – maybe about 85 percent,’ Perkins said. ‘He’s showing flashes of his old self, though, like how he shows in the pick-and-roll. He’s defending the pick-and-roll and getting back on the isolation. I don’t know how much better he can get at it. All I know is that he’s doing that great now.’ And as far as defending Orlando is concerned, the Celtics are getting all they need from their defensive heart. ‘It’s obvious, how much better he is now,’ Pierce said. ‘You’re seeing it in the way he rebounds the ball and sprints down the court. Let’s face it: Without Kevin we can’t win a championship. I’m replaceable, Ray’s replaceable, Rondo. But you can’t replace Kevin.’”
A. Sherrod Blakely, CSNNE – “‘We have a lot of different leaders on the team,’ Rondo said. ‘It starts with me, but Kevin is our vocal leader. Paul is our captain. And Ray is our leader as well. It’s no particular person that’s the exact leader.’ In an interview with CSNNE.com, Allen had similar comments about the C’s leadership this season. ‘Each guy on this team is an individual leader,’ Allen said. ‘Having a voice and leading. And sometimes not having a voice, and just leading by example. There’s a lot of different scenarios.’”
Steve Bulpett, Boston Herald – “On a club with this much talent, the sight of the Magic failing to play for each other is a clear sign that no magnetic force in sneakers has yet emerged. Watching them get humiliated Saturday night, the mind wandered back to the 2007 Red Sox falling behind Cleveland in baseball’s playoffs. David Ortiz called a players-only meeting, grabbed his jersey and said that wearing the Sox suit made one ‘a bad (very long expletive).’ Who among the Magic, we wondered, would step up and make that speech? (Insert audio of crickets here.) The players said they’d had an upbeat practice, but afterward they looked more like they were at a wake. Their own. Perhaps the corpse of the previous night’s debacle hadn’t yet cooled. ‘I’ll be honest,’ said Van Gundy. ‘I’m somebody who says I’m never shocked, but I was shocked (Saturday) night that we didn’t handle the situation better and play with more intensity and determination. I was shocked by our lack of effort throughout the game (Saturday) night. That shocked me. Look, they thumped us pretty good. Everything’s got to change, from our defensive disposition to our effort to our offensive energy and decision making.’”
Jessica Camerato, WEEI – “The Celtics are one game away from eliminating the Magic and advancing to the NBA Finals, and they believe credit should be given where credit is due. ‘I believe we deserve all the credit,’ Ray Allen said following practice on Sunday. ‘It’s only two teams playing. We’re putting them in the situation that they’re in, and we’re adjusting and trying to find the ways that we can confuse them as much as we can, and make it tough defensively on them and offensively. They’re not going out there and doing it to themselves.’”
ESPNBoston.com – “Rajon Rondo is enjoying a playoff run for the ages. He is averaging over 17 points, 10 assists and five rebounds per game. He is just the fourth different player to have those numbers in playoff history. The others are Magic Johnson (nine times), Isiah Thomas (1985) and Bob Cousy (1959).”
Gary Washburn, Boston Globe – “The Magic are being counted out, and their effort in Game 3 gave neither their fan base nor anyone else reason to believe the series will extend beyond tonight. ‘We can still play great basketball and we will [tonight],’ said Nelson, the lone Magic player who has consistently played with desire in the series. ‘It’s just been mental breakdowns. Before practice, I was frustrated a lot. But it’s over with. There are numerous things we could have done a lot better. Our effort wasn’t there and film doesn’t lie. We can complain and say things during the course of the game, but when you sit there and watch film and you see things, that’s the mental toughness we’ve been lacking for the first three games. This is not the team you’ve seen win 59 [in the regular season], and the first two series. But we’ve got to prepare ourselves for this game and put those three behind us.’ So the goal, at least for now, has been reduced from winning the NBA Finals to winning one game.”
Michael Vega, Boston Globe – “Did the Bruins’ playoff demise serve as a cautionary tale for the Celtics after their 94-71 victory in Game 3 Saturday night gave them a three-games-to-none lead over the Magic? ‘Well, it should be,’ said coach Doc Rivers yesterday during practice in preparation for tonight’s Game 4 at the Garden. ‘I know you guys will make it [a cautionary tale], so I don’t even have to worry about that. The greatest part — and probably the toughest part — about playing sports or coaching sports in Boston is the history. Everyone’s going to remind you of the good history, and everyone’s going to remind you of the bad history. So, in some ways, it could be a benefit for us.’ Though Kevin Garnett acknowledged ‘closeout games are the hardest, the most difficult’ games to win, he was quick to point out, ‘This is not hockey,’ when asked if he had any concerns about the Celtics suffering the same fate as the Bruins. ‘I’m not even looking at that,’ he said. ‘The Bruins are not the Celtics and the Celtics are not the Bruins. It’s apples and oranges.’”
ESPNBoston.com – “[Stuart] Scott: ‘How does Orlando try to win Game 4?’ [Magic] Johnson: ‘Honestly, they can’t. I’m going to just be honest. When you think about the Boston Celtics defense, they’ve taken away everybody, especially the role players. … They’ve broken Orlando’s will to win. I don’t see the spirit, I don’t see the will of this team coming out to beat the Boston Celtics.’”
Chris Forsberg, ESPNBoston – “Celtics coach Doc Rivers suggested Sunday that reserve guard Tony Allen has been playing through ankle pain that left the team wondering if he’d even be available for Game 3. ‘Tony’s ankle has been bothering him a lot, but he’s playing through it,’ said Rivers. Allen missed the first 20 games of the 2009-10 season with a sore right ankle after rushing himself back from offseason ankle surgery and aggravating the injury during the only preseason game he appeared in.”
Rich Levine, CSNNE – “In 2010, it’s about greed. It’s about wanting more, but knowing, deep down, that if it doesn’t work out, there’s still that one; that no one will go home completely empty-handed. That’s not to say that the motivation isn’t there. This team has a whole new set of doubters to prove wrong. A second title would take them to borderline dynastic. But there’s still nothing like the first, and no way to re-create that urgency. That doesn’t mean the Celtics are doomed. It’s just another reason why, as the captain said, this year’s completely different.”
Steve Buckley, Boston Herald – “This past regular season, with too many people hurt, too many questions, too many observers whispering they’d be one-and-done in the playoffs, the Celtics were just 24-17 at home. By comparison, the Toronto Raptors, who at 40-42 had only the 19th best record in the NBA, were 25-16 at home. Yet there was Kevin Garnett Saturday night, taking in Gino Time as only he can. For not only are the Celtics ‘back,’ they have conquered whatever problems they brought out to the parquet during the regular season. When they take the court tonight for Game 4 against the deflated, sad Magic, the Garden will be primed and ready to be the launching pad to the team’s second trip to the NBA Finals in three years. It wasn’t long ago – just weeks, really – that people were asking which of Boston’s four pro sports franchises was the closest to winning a championship. Few had the Celtics on the list, even after they dismissed the Miami Heat in just five games in the first round. The Celtics made believers of everyone when they humiliated the Cleveland Cavaliers in the next round, but there was one home clunker in the mix: a 124-95 loss to the Cavs. But think big picture: The Celtics are 6-1 at home in the postseason.”
Mark Heisler, L.A. Times – “Just what the Lakers needed, a real series. Now a virtual certainty that they will play rough, tough Boston — should they advance, of course — the Lakers found themselves needing a quick knockout in the Western Conference finals, but they didn’t get it Sunday. Instead, the Phoenix Suns climbed off the canvas and smote them, 118-109, meaning that the Lakers either put the Suns back on the ropes Tuesday or the series will go from ‘real’ to ‘tied.’”
Paula Boivin, Arizona Republic – “If you can judge a man by his shoes, then you can judge a basketball player by his locker. Amar’e Stoudemire has a diagram of John Wooden’s pyramid of success taped inside his space. On a shelf is a book called ‘Becoming Vegan.’ The man has spoken a lot about becoming a more complete player. On Sunday in Game 3 against the Los Angeles Lakers, he finally delivered. Forty-two points. Eleven rebounds. And a big-time nasty attitude. This is what the Suns have wanted from Stoudemire, what they needed if they hoped to avoid a Lakers sweep. It is the type of game that tips the scale toward staying as the front office contemplates how hard to court him. ‘He got his way (Sunday night),’ Lakers forward Pau Gasol said after the Suns 118-109 victory. ‘We’ll get our way next time.’ Will they? Those are words Stoudemire should embrace. He did it Sunday night. The Suns need him to bring it again.”
AP – “The Cleveland Cavaliers have fired coach Mike Brown after five seasons for failing to win an NBA title with LeBron James. ‘After a long and deep analysis of all of the factors that led to the disappointing early ends to our playoff runs over the past two seasons, we concluded that it was time for the Cavaliers to move in a different direction,’ Gilbert said Monday in a statement released by the team. ‘The expectations of this organization are very high and, although change always carries an element of risk, there are times when that risk must be taken in an attempt to break through to new, higher levels of accomplishment. This is one of those times.’”
The NBA’s Final Four begins today with the Orlando Magic hosting the Boston Celtics, and continues tomorrow as the Los Angeles Lakers host the Phoenix Suns. Each season, the media try to pinpoint a storyline that casual hoops fans will find interesting enough to follow.
This season, the storyline has fallen into our laps, and it’s one every man can identify with: redemption.
Intellectually, it’s easy to understand that you can’t relieve the past, that you get one good shot at each opportunity life presents you, and that’s it. Emotionally, however, past mistakes can be hard to stomach. They cut away at our insides like a host of razor-sharp kidney stones pushing their way through the ureter. We can’t help but wonder what if…
[ NOTE: Right now, I am currently in a bout with a host of kidney stones-- hence the short and sweet game recaps-- and I can personally attest to the pain they cause. Not fun.]
What if Boston had Kevin Garnett last post-season?
What if Orlando had a healthy Jameer Nelson in last year’s NBA Finals?
What if Los Angeles had a healthy Andrew Bynum against Boston two seasons ago in the NBA Finals?
What if Phoenix Suns’ players Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw hadn’t been suspended for leaving the bench in the Western Conference Finals against the San Antonio Spurs?
As F. Scott Fitzgerald, one of America’s most beloved novelists, once famously wrote:
It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. … And one fine morning —- So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
Miraculously, all four teams left standing have a chance to answer those what ifs, to redeem their past failures.
Orlando is one of the most interesting stories; not only do they want to redeem themselves for last year’s Finals loss to the Lakers, but they also have to prove to the world that last year’s victory over a Kevin Garnett-less Celtics team was no fluke. Over the last month of the season, Orlando looks like a team hell-bent on redemption–they haven’t lost a game. With the Turkoglu-for-Carter swap, an improved Dwight Howard, and a healthy Jameer Nelson, the Orlando Magic believe that redemption is on the horizon.
Though the Los Angeles Lakers are the defending champions, they too have a burning desire for redemption. Believe me, a championship hasn’t done anything to make Kobe Bryant forget about the 39-point beatdown his team suffered in the series-clinching Game 6 against the Boston Celtics–the biggest margin of defeat ever in a championship-deciding game. Kobe Bryant is maniacal about his place in history and, if the Celtics and Lakers face each other in the NBA Finals, redemption will be THE motivating factor for the Lakers. Back-to-back championships would be great, but beating the Celtics in the Finals would be the icing on the cake of Kobe Bryant’s greatness. Not to mention the Game 7 stink-bomb Kobe threw on the court against the Suns in the first round in 2006.
Of the four teams remaining, the Phoenix Suns are the ultimate underdogs, a team that has knocked on the NBA Finals door for nearly a decade with nothing to show for it but battle scars and psychological toughness. Before the season, this Phoenix Suns were written off by every analyst who forgot about one thing–Steve Nash’s greatness.
With the back problems that have plagued Nash’s career, it’s a miracle how far he has been able to carry the Suns on his back. But for Nash, a Conference Finals appearance is meaningless. Nash wants to redeem a career of personal accolades for the only real team accolade–an NBA championship. Nash and the Suns might be a long shot to make the Finals, but don’t bet against Nash– he has made a career ofredemption, and proving the skeptics wrong.
Barely recruited out of high school, Nash attended lowly Santa Clara, where– as a senior– he led his 15th-seed Broncos past second-seeded Arizona in one of the greatest upsets in the first round of NCAA tournament play. Drafted by the Phoenix Suns out of college, Nash played limited minutes behind Kevin Johnson and Rex Chapman before he became a star with the Dallas Mavericks. But, after becoming a perennial all-star with Dallas, Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban decided not to re-sign Nash, who quickly signed a deal with the Phoenix Suns. Nash’s history with the Suns is well-known: back-to-back MVP awards, good to great–but not great enough– teams that just fell short. And now, Nash has a chance to put the past behind him once and for all.
Finally, we get to the Boston Celtics, who have had redemption on their minds nonstop since they were unable to defend their title after losing Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals to the Orlando Magic without The Big Ticket, Kevin Garnett. The mantra all year has been, ” if we’re healthy, we’ll compete for a championship.” Well, it’s the Eastern Conference Finals now, and Boston is as healthy as any team remaining. The time has come to redeem themselves for last year’s early exit.
For the Celtics and Magic, today is that tomorrow Fitzgerald wrote about.Today is that tomorrow, and each team still playing is dedicated to running faster, stretching out their arms further, hoping that one fine morning, they will host the NBA Trophy.
So, who do I think will earn the redemption? Lakers in six, Celtics in seven. And I’ll worry about the NBA Finals when the time comes. For now, I’m too busy being borne into the past, as I think about the future.
The New York Times has a piece about Bill Walton’s recovery from back surgery. Walton’s back pain had gotten so bad that he pondered suicide, and is just now starting to “climb back into the game of life.”
Walton climbing back into the game of life means that he’s back to kicking knowledge — and hyperbole — about basketball. He shows that he still knows his stuff… well, kinda.
When the subject was his health, Walton was generally solemn and measured. When the conversation turned to basketball, he was as energetic and opinionated as ever.
Walton predicted that the Boston Celtics would beat Cleveland and Orlando to make the finals. He called the Celtics’ Rajon Rondo the best point guard in the East, and said the Lakers’ Pau Gasol was “the best big man in basketball today.” He said LeBron James should play for free, to allow his team to surround him with better talent.
So, how right was Walton?
Rajon Rondo the best point guard in the East:
Check. I don’t think this can even be argued at this point. How could you, when Rondo can be utterly dominant offensively (especially in the playoffs) and is also on the NBA’s First Team All-Defense? Some nitwits might say Derrick Rose, but Rose can’t hold a candle to Rondo’s impact on the defensive end.
The Boston Celtics will beat Cleveland and Orlando to make the finals:
I hope. During the regular season, you would have had to be mentally deficient to make this argument. But now, as the Celtics turn on the after-burners in the playoffs, it is seeming more and more like a legitimate possibility.
Pau Gasol is “the best big man in basketball today”:
Well yeah, he’s the best big man in basketball… if you don’t consider Dwight Howard to be a big man. Additionally, one could make the argument that Pau isn’t as good as Tim Duncan, Amare Stoudemire, or Brian Scalabrine (just kidding with Scal.) Dirk Nowitzki, either, if you consider him a big man. And Chris Bosh is no slouch. Even if you think Gasol is better than all those other guys (and he might be — he’s damn good), no way he can touch Howard. Howard is too dominant defensively.
Lebron James should play for free:
In a perfect world, you’d like to think superstars making in excess of $90 million in endorsements alone should think about playing for free — or at least less than the max — to help their teams build around them. Of course, it will never happen. Not in a million years. I’m not saying it should happen, either: It’s tough to leave $20 million or so per year on the table.
As for the rest of the NY Times piece about Walton, continue reading at your own risk. If you keep reading the rest, you might actually start to like Luke Walton, and I know none of you want that.
Can anything else happen to keep the Phoenix Suns from beating the San Antonio Spurs?
After being owned by the Spurs for many years, Phoenix was finally going to get a break to go its way. A late and careless turnover by San Antonio left Jason Richardson with a wide-open dunk. But — in the name of Tim Duncan three-pointers and Robert Horry clotheslines — Richardson’s dunk just wasn’t to be.
Don’t worry, Jason. As Ball Don’t Lie’s Trey Kerby points out, even your missed dunk would have won this year’s dunk contest.
Richardson should have taken a lesson from teammate Amare Stoudemire. Dunk the damn thing.
Wondering who Danny Ainge was calling as the trade deadline came to an end? A laundry list of teams, actually. (Via the Herald)
This trade also means that Ray Allen gets to remain a Celtic, though the team looked into a wide array of potentially big deals using the veteran guard’s expiring max contract as bait.
A team source said that the Cs looked into acquiring Phoenix forward Amar’e Stoudemire, for instance. Management also looked into possible trades for Utah’s Carlos Boozer, Miami’s Michael Beasley, Philadelphia’s Andre Iguodala and Golden State’s Monta Ellis.
The team also came close to completing a trade with Washington for Caron Butler, before the forward was traded to Dallas.
I hope he gave everything he had into making one of those trades work out. The Celtics needed a change, and I’m not so sure Nate Robinson is what the doctor ordered.