Over the past day or so, the free agent market has dwindled considerably with signing after signing . Luckily, I’m here to straighten out where everybody is headed next season for you. And, if by some crazy mishap I overlook any signings, please let me know in the comments section and I will update the post. Read more »
Posts tagged: Zydrunas Ilgauskas
When the Three A-me-goes got together in Miami, it was widely assumed they’d be surrounded by a bunch of dog meat. With those three signed to max contracts, only veteran minimum contracts would be available for the Heat to bolster their roster.
Except, well, those three DIDN’T sign for max contracts (Update: Each player took about $2 million less than the max), so Mike Miller has agreed to a five-year, $27 million-ish contract to join them. And Derek Fisher is meeting in Miami today. And word on the NBA street is that the Heat will be able to somehow keep Udonis Haslem. And Matt Barnes is interested. And Zydrunas Ilgausakas is another rumor floating about. And would anyone be too surprised if Shaq joined his old buddies Flash and Lebron for a chance to tie Kobe in rings?
So the supporting cast might not be mincemeat after all. Not that Danny Ainge ever expected it to be. (Boston Herald)
“I think they’ve got a couple of holes to fill, but there are a lot of good NBA players who will end up playing for minimum salaries,” Celtics general manager Danny Ainge said yesterday. “I’m sure they’ll find guys who would love to come in and play in that situation. I don’t think there’s a problem at all.”
Ainge also thinks Miami will be able to draw from a larger pool of players because it won’t have to go strictly by positional need.
“They have big guys, and they have people like Dwyane Wade and LeBron and Mike Miller who are all ballhandlers and passers,” he said. “So they don’t need a classic type of point guard and all that stuff. The guys they have now are all very talented, but they’re versatile.”
The Three A-me-goes are scary enough. The thought of those three surrounded by meaningful talent makes me sick.
Oh well, I guess it will just be nicer when the Celtics take them down.
I’m still swamped with Goddamn finals, so I won’t be able to post too much again today. Sorry, folks, but finals are finally done in a few hours and I’ll be able to spend more time on the blog. I’m so happy I could kiss Dick Bavetta on the lips.
Gross. Anyway, here are some talking points about the series and my opinions.
On Lebron defending Rondo:
Yes, the Cavaliers should do it. Yes, the Celtics should be a little worried about Lebron moving to Rondo. It’s simple: Rondo is the C’s best player, and Lebron is Cleveland’s best defender. Lebron also happens to be the only player on Cleveland’s roster with the speed to even be a nuisance to Rondo. It’s a no-brainer for Cleveland, especially after the way Rondo obliterated them last game. While the move could free up Paul Pierce, Pierce has shown very few signs of life in this series. Even if Pierce does get going because of the defensive switch (and he might — seeing Anthony Parker after four games of Lebron will be like being released from jail), it’s just him getting going. When Rondo gets going, he’s dishing the rock and making sure everyone on the team gets into the action.
At the same time, I’m not sure even Lebron can stop Rondo right now. As long as the Celtics get stops Rondo should be able to have his way in transition… whether it’s the King guarding him or Shelden Williams’ brother-in-law. Cleveland’s best defense is probably its offense; hit a few shots, limit transition and keep Rondo out of the open court. Rocket science, it ain’t. Once Rondo gets in the open court, there’s only one way to stop him: Throw a whole bunch of gumballs on the court and hope he slips on one of them.
After gumballs, Lebron on Rondo is the Cavs’ best attempt to slow him down. You know the saying: cut the head off the snake and the body will die too. It’s just going to be tough to cut off the head, when he’s playing so damn well.
On Paul Pierce:
Pierce says he isn’t sick or injured, but he’s either that or halfway washed up. Pierce hasn’t been able to do anything — anything at all — in this series. Doc Rivers has commended his defense, but defending Lebron is more about help defense than the initial defender. No offense to Pierce (who’s tried valiantly to keep Lebron in front of him), or anyone else, but if Lebron James wants to go by his first defender he’s going to do just that. The man’s got a turbo button that other players just don’t have. Pierce isn’t limiting Lebron alone, I can tell you that. Something that I think is telling about the way Pierce has played: at times the Celtics have defended Lebron with Ray Allen… even when Pierce was on the court. I can’t ever remember them doing that. Ever. Pierce has always been the one who’s handled Lebron. With his size and strength, Pierce is simply a better matchup for Lebron than Ray. But Doc has still stuck Ray on him for portions of the game.
Maybe that doesn’t mean anything, and maybe neither does Pierce’s 11.8 ppg or 32% shooting this series. Maybe Pierce is just too tired from dogging Lebron to have an impact defensively. Maybe Lebron is just THAT GOOD defensively. Or maybe Pierce is washed up. It’s sad, but it’s looking more and more like Paul Pierce is a shell of the player he used to be. Say it ain’t so, Paul.
Pierce’s deficiencies haven’t really hurt Boston so far this series, but there will be a close game when Boston needs someone to score down the stretch. When that time comes, they’re going to need the Truth. Whether or not he’ll be there is another question.
On Lebron James’ throne:
I have called Lebron James the NBA’s best player for the last three years or so. He’s the league’s best individual talent, and it isn’t even close. At some point, though, he’s going to have to win a title.
Without a ring, it’ll be tough for me to keep referring to James as the game’s best. As much as you can say about Lebron elevating his teammates, it’s only during the regular season. Last year Cleveland had the NBA’s best record… and was cracked by Orlando in the Conference Finals. This year Cleveland not only has the NBA’s best record, but Lebron also has a much-improved supporting cast. If he AGAIN fails to lead the league’s best team to a championship, we might have to reevaluate the best player in the world. Yeah, Lebron also moved Cleveland to the Finals in 2007 and almost singlehandedly took down Boston in 2008, but the King has to come through when it matters most to continue to hold the throne as the NBA’s best player. Maybe this is the year he finally prevails, but then again maybe it isn’t. Cleveland has looked very vulnerable in three of its four games against Boston.
On Mike Brown:
If Cleveland doesn’t win a title this season, it’s time for Brown to go. I know he’s a great defensive coach, his teams always stop people, yada yada yada. But have you seen Cleveland’s offense? It’s clear that Brown has no idea what he’s doing. When it comes to offense, Brown’s riding the short bus. The Cavs have a mismatch with Antawn Jamison on the perimeter… and have hardly gone to it. They DON’T have a mismatch down low with Shaq… but pound the ball down there frequently. The Cavs have Zydrunas Ilgauskas, a guy who would spread the floor and bring Kendrick Perkins away from the hoop… and Big Z hasn’t played at all. The Cavs have the ability to go small, run Boston out of the gym and abuse Kevin Garnett with whoever he’s defending…. and I can’t remember one time when they’ve used Lebron as a power forward. As I said a few sentences ago, as long as Cleveland falls short of a title Brown should get canned.
Count Fox Sports’ Jeff Goodman as one person who considers the Boston Celtics to be major underdogs against the Cleveland Cavaliers. He compares 2008 to this season.
“It’s a whole different ballgame,” Celtics forward Glen Davis said of this year’s matchup.
That Cleveland team was comprised of LeBron and a bunch of spare parts.
There was Ben Wallace, in the twilight of his career, starting up front alongside Zydrunas Ilgauskas – who could barely move and rarely gets his worn-down 7-foot frame off the bench these days.
Delonte West has also been relegated to a reserve role, and the final starter, Wally Szczerbiak, is now retired and doing television work.
Now, James has plenty of help.
Shaquille O’Neal isn’t in his prime, but he’s still a major upgrade over Ilgauskas. The Cavs dealt for guard Mo Williams before 2008, and he was an instant All-Star with James by his side. Anthony Parker has been a valuable piece, and the Cavs established themselves as arguably the favorites to win the title when Danny Ferry added Antawn Jamison on Feb. 17 for what amounted to a late first-round pick.
The Celtics aren’t the same, either.
Garnett was a machine just 24 months ago, a 31-year-old relentless and athletic freak who was a virtual lock to put up 20 and 10 during the playoffs.
Now, he’s just another player after battling knee injuries that forced him to watch the entire postseason a year ago and also had him miss a significant portion of the 2009-10 regular season.
Allen was money.
Now, he’s a soon-to-be 35-year-old whose shot is as unpredictable as the New England weather.
Pierce was capable of exploding for 40 on any given night.
Now, he’s more likely to be held to single digits.
Sure, there have been significant improvements in Rajon Rondo’s game, but this is a mismatch.
My first reaction: Wait, Wally Szczerbiak is doing television work? For what station?
My second reaction: Ray Allen’s shot is far from “as unpredictable as the New England weather.” Actually, since the All-Star break Ray’s been on the money. He’s one of the game’s best shooters. If you recall, Goodman, Ray had one of the worst stretch of games of his life against Cleveland in that series two seasons ago. The chances of him being that bad this time around are as slim as Calista Flockhart. He averaged 9.3 points per game, and shot 16.7% from three-point distance. So let’s not pretend he’ll be worse this series, especially after he just spent five games throwing darts against Miami.
My third reaction: Other than the Ray Allen discrepancy, Goodman is just about right. The Celtics are underdogs, and should be.
But they aren’t toast, and one of the reasons Celtics fans can be a little confident is that Lebron has never won a championship. Until the Cavaliers win something, they still haven’t won anything.
What do you guys think?
I’ve spent a long time on Twitter debating the great Dan Shaughnessy’s latest article for Sports Illustrated. Shaughnessy writes that the Boston Celtics will beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round, backing up his opinion with a few reasons. (Down below, Sports Illustrated emails the controversial piece to at least one Cleveland sports blog.)
The Celtics have the same starting five as the championship team of 2008.
Very true, Dan. Also valid is that Rajon Rondo is better, to make up for the declining Big Three. Unfortunately, Cleveland DOESN’T have the same starting five. The Cavs no longer have Wally Szczerbiak or Ben Wallace in their starting lineup; in the NBA, subbing those two guys for Anthony Parker and Antawn Jamison is known as “a very good thing.” On top of that Shaq, as old as he is, gives them the added dimension of a go-to low-post player and still commands a double-team. And Anderson Varejao is approximately 2,742 times better than he was in 2008.
“No back-to-back games and plenty of down time — helps the old bones of Boston.”
Again, true. Boston is peaking at the right time, and part of that is the downtime of the playoff schedule. Of course, Cleveland doesn’t mind the rest, either. Shaq-tis’ old bones will be just as revitalized by rest as the Big Three’s. Still, the downtime helps the Celtics more than Cleveland because their stars are aging, while Cleveland’s star is a 25-year old combination of an airplane and a Mack Truck.
“But the Celtics know they can beat LeBron. And they know they can win in Cleveland (see Oct. 27, 2009).”
This was my favorite point of Shaughnessy’s. The Celtics have done it before, and they’ve done it as a unit. As accomplished as Lebron James is and as dominant in the regular season as the Cavs have been, they’ve never won when the lights shine brightest. “Deep down,” Shaughnessy wrote, “the Cavaliers know the Celtics can beat them.” I’m not sure how true that is, but I DO KNOW that the Cavs have never won a championship. King James has already been crowned, but never earned his throne. That’s not to say he won’t this year, but the Celtics have come through when it counts and the Cavs haven’t. That much is true.
“The Celtics have added veteran snipers Michael Finley and Rasheed Wallace. As much as it hurts to say this, the mercurial ‘Sheed might be the difference against the Cavs.”
First off, I’m not sure how Rasheed Wallace qualifies as a “sniper.” That’s like saying Shaq is “a pure shooter.” Secondly, Sheed won’t be the difference against the Cavs any more than he has been against the Heat. Third of all, the best Shaughnessy does to back up his prediction of Sheed being the difference is, “We haven’t seen much of ‘Sheed during the Miami series, but the Heat have been so bad, it’s hard to notice any Celtics’ shortcomings. Maybe ‘Sheed will finally shine at the Q.” Look, I’m fine with him saying Sheed will make a difference against Cleveland, so long as he backs it up.
Shaughnessy did nothing to back it up. Literally nothing. John from Red’s Army agrees that Sheed will play a bigger role in the potential Cleveland series, and backs it up by saying Shaq and Zydrunas Ilgauskas are immobile enough to overshadow Sheed’s own immobility. I can see his point; it’s weird, but Sheed will actually be more athletic than the Cleveland frontcourt. I disagree that Sheed will make a difference, but at least John has a reason.That’s more than Shaughnessy gave us.
I don’t think Sheed will give the Celtics anything against Cleveland. Doc Rivers has lost all faith in him. Sheed can’t hit the broad side of a barn, and can’t slide his feet for the life of him. If Doc Rivers doesn’t have the confidence to play Sheed against Jermaine O’Neal and Joel Anthony, do you think he’ll have the confidence to play him against the Cavs? No chance. Not unless Sheed gets hot one game. Unfortunately for Sheed and the Celtics, he has about as much chance of getting hot as I do winning the NBA Slam Dunk Contest. (Okay, maybe that’s a bad example… even though I can’t dunk, I could have won this year’s slam dunk contest.)
Sports Illustrated emails piece to Cleveland blog
Not only did Shaughnessy write an attention-seeking piece probably designed to piss off some people and infuriate others, but Sports Illustrated actually wrote at least one Cleveland sports blog an email to notify them of the article. I’m not even kidding. Here’s the email from Time Inc., as received by Waiting For Next Year, a very good Cleveland sports blog:
I wanted to let you know of an article that appears on SI.com today that takes a close look at the likely matchup between the Celtics and Cavaliers in the second round of the NBA Playoffs. SI.com contributing columnist Dan Shaughnessy believes that the Celtics can exploit Cleveland’s weaknesses despite the NBA’s reigning MVP and the Cavaliers astounding record at Quicken Loans Arena during the regular season.
Shaughnessy writes: “The Celtics have the same starting five that won the championship two years ago. OK — Pierce, Garnett and Ray Allen are not better than they were two years ago, but Rajon Rando is a much better player than he was in 2008, and Kendrick Perkins is two years stronger. Glen “Big Baby” Davis contributes much more than he did two years ago and the Celtics have added veteran snipers Michael Finley and Rasheed Wallace.”
If you have any questions or would like any other information, please feel free to contact me. The article is on SI.com now. Thank you.
Really, Sports Illustrated, you are THAT interested in stirring the pot? THAT interested in driving a little extra traffic to your website? You’re Effing Sports Illustrated, aren’t you a little beyond that? You shouldn’t have to stoop to that level. You’re better than that, SI, come on. I think we can all agree that Sports Illustrated should be A LITTLE past the point where it has to stir up the pot by personally emailing articles to sports blogs that might be offended by them.
Alas, this Shaughnessy piece wasn’t that bad. As far as predictions go, it’s a bold one, but most of his points make sense (clearly excluding the Sheed one). I’ve certainly written worse articles, I’m sure.
Shaughnessy is now the clear-cut leader of the Celtics bandwagon, and Sports Illustrated the clear-cut leader of hyping controversial articles via email. But I’ve got a plea for Shaughnessy and everyone else talking about Cleveland…
Let’s just get by the Heat first, eh?