Should the Celtics follow the Lakers' lead?

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nba_pierce_250.jpgOf all the battles that NBA teams face, short-term thinking vs. long-term planning may be the most crucial.

On one hand, most teams are trying to win today, because dropping a loss at an inopportune time makes them prey in the standings. The team has an eye to the standings in an effort to connect to a potential playoff run that could seem ages away, by the primary objective is to go out there with the best players available and do whatever it takes to win tonight.

But on the other hand, decisions made in the NBA are rarely so short-sighted. Coaches keep a watchful eye on their players’ minutes, as to avoid wearing them down for the postseason. Practice schedules are meticulously organized, as to avoid late-season burnout, despite the fact that additional practice time could really help some teams. Some players need surgery on this or that, and others just need a few games to rest lingering injuries. None of these decisions necessarily come easy, but it’s how the game behind the game in the NBA is played.

Shutting down a player for a few games or even half of a season is an incredibly tricky endeavor. But the Lakers did it with Kobe Bryant, and now the Celtics may have to do it with Paul Pierce. From Julian Benbow of the Boston Globe:

It was the second game Pierce played with the injury, and it affected the way he caught the ball, gripped it, dribbled it, and passed and shot it. “That’s everything you do with a basketball,” Pierce said, running down the checklist. Pierce was 2 for 10 against Denver, making his biggest contributions on defense, blocking four shots. But he said the nagging injury to his shooting hand has limited him. “It’s sore right now,” Pierce said. “It’s affecting my shot a lot. Right now, I’m not really looking to be aggressive with it. I’m just trying to do the other little things to help this ball club and hopefully in the next few days it’ll get better.”

Pierce already has missed seven games this season with knee and foot problems, and coach Doc Rivers said he’s considering giving the forward more time off to mend. “You can see it on free throws,” Rivers said, alluding to Pierce’s 1-for-4 afternoon from the line. “I think the thumb, the knee, and the foot, it may have caught up to him right now. We may have to look at giving him some rest. I don’t know yet, but on the surface that’s the way it looks like it’s going.”

The Celtics may not be performing at a level on par with their 2007-2008 mark, but they’re still third in the East at 35-19. That said, Boston sits just a game ahead of the fourth-ranked Atlanta Hawks, and staying out of the fourth seed is crucial to Boston’s playoff run. The Cavaliers are the team to beat in the conference right now (even in spite of their current three-game losing streak), and likely will still be come April. If the Celtics want to avoid matching up with the Cavs for as long as possible, they need to either stay at third or climb up to second.

To make matters even more difficult, the Celtics have actually been playing very good basketball of late. Boston has struggled plenty this season, but they seem to be improving significantly. Additionally, the newly-acquired Nate Robinson still needs time to establish some on-court chemistry with his teammates, and the Celtics have a decidedly different look and feel without Pierce on the floor. If there’s a more important stretch for Boston this season, I know not of it. Yet Doc Rivers may have no choice but to rest Pierce in the name of the playoffs, despite the fact that resting Pierce may hurt team’s chances to make some noise when they get there.  

Cavaliers’ 3-point shooting was excellent. THEN, they made 25 in a game

Cleveland Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith (5) reacts after the Cavaliers beat the Atlanta Hawks 123-98 in Game 2 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2016, in Cleveland. Smith hit seven 3-pointers in the game. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
AP Photo/Tony Dejak
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The Cavaliers set a record for 3-pointers in a team’s first six playoff games on this Kyrie Irving shot:

Did you notice anything strange about that clip?

It came in Game 1 against the Hawks – Cleveland’s fifth playoff game.

That’s right, the Cavs needed just five games to set a record for 3s through six playoff games. Then, they piled on 25 3-pointers – a record for any NBA game – in their Game 2 win over Atlanta on Wednesday.

Cleveland’s 97 3-pointers through six postseason games absolutely crushes the previous record:

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The difference between the Cavs and second place equals difference between second and 88th.

In fact, Cleveland has already demolished the record for 3s through EIGHT playoff games (previously 90 by the 2014-15 Hawks). Again, the Cavaliers have played just six games this postseason.

Where is all this outside output coming from? The key long-distance shot makers:

Add it all up, and the Cavs are making 16.2 3-pointers per game – which would easily set a playoff record:

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Cleveland could make no 3-pointers in its next two games – and still rank first for 3s per game in a postseason.

Not that the Cavs appear likely to go cold from distance anytime soon.

Their stars generate open looks and make 3s themselves. Smith is an unrepentant gunner, and he’s feeling it.

These are the Cavaliers as scary as they get.

John Wall undergoes surgery on both knees, expected to be ready for start of next season

Washington Wizards guard John Wall speaks during a media availability before an NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks, Wednesday, April 13, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
AP Photo/Nick Wass
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John Wall tried putting the Wizards on his back and carrying them into the playoffs.

Washington fell short, but the process still took a toll.

Wizards release:

The Washington Wizards announced that guard John Wall underwent a successful procedure today to excise calcific deposits in his left patella tendon in order to eliminate pain and assist healing.  He will begin the rehabilitation process immediately and is expected to be available for the start of the 2016-17 season.  Wall also underwent an arthroscopic lavage on his right knee in order to remove loose bodies.

If the Wizards are just using the next date most fans care about, this might not be such a big deal. That would open the door for Wall being healthy at any point over the summer.

But if the start of next season is his targeted return, that’s more troubling. Sitting an entire offseason is a big deal, and that means potential complications are more likely to cause him to miss games. It’s also a worse indicator for his long-term health.

As the Wizards enter free agency primed to spend, the last thing they need are questions about the length of their franchise player’s prime.

Larry Bird shows courage in his convictions by firing Frank Vogel

Larry Bird, Frank Vogel
AP Photo/Michael Conroy
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Larry Bird sounded cruel.

The Pacers president announced to the world that Frank Vogel begged for his job. Not only did he oust the coach anyway, Bird seemed to toy with him at a press conference today. Asked what he’d tell someone checking Vogel’s references, Bird answered with a resounding: “He’s the best.” What will Bird look for in the Pacers’ next coach? The same things that led him to Vogel during the last search.

So why did Bird fire Vogel?

“My experience has been good coaches leave after three years,” Bird said.

And maybe Bird is cruel, foolish, self-absorbed or any other adjective being thrown at him today.

But also realize he sincerely believes this.

After all, he also ousted a coach who went 147-67, reached two conference finals and an NBA Finals and won Coach of the Year in his three-year tenure.

Himself.

Bird coached Indiana from 1997-2000, and even though he guided the team to the 2000 NBA Finals, he still stepped down after that third season.

“Three years is enough for a coach in any one place” Bird said he told the Pacers when they hired him.

Despite all his success, he stuck to it.

Bird said he spoke to Red Auerbach about the value of coaching turnover, and Boston had plenty. Bill Fitch got four years at the helm of Bird’s Celtics, K.C. Jones five – “nicest man I ever met, and they let him go, and we were having success,” Bird said – Jimmy Rodgers two and Chris Ford two (and another three after Bird retired).

Vogel coached Indiana five-and-a-half years.

“That’s a long time for me for a coach,” Bird said.

As so many teams across the NBA chase continuity, Bird actively rejects it – maybe to his detriment. Five of the six longest-tenured coaches in the league are still alive in the playoffs: Gregg Popovich (Spurs), Erik Spoelstra (Heat), Dwane Casey (Raptors), Terry Stotts (Trail Blazers) and Mike Budenholzer (Hawks). The Mavericks’ Rick Carlisle is the exception.

Bird just doesn’t want to follow that model.

“Every day the same voice and the same, I think guys sometimes tune that out,” Bird said. “It happens. It’s unfortunate.”

It is unfortunate, and it cost Vogel a job he appeared to be succeeding in and wanted to keep. You can wonder whether Bird and not just players tired of Vogel’s message, even if it were a wise one. Bird clearly believes he can assemble a roster, and he has own ideas about how he wants it coached (small, up-tempo, dynamic).

But don’t wonder about Bird’s intentions when he brings up three-year term limits for coaches.

Right or wrong, he believes in them.

Larry Bird: Kevin McHale won’t coach Pacers

Larry Bird
AP Photo/Michael Conroy
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1. Kevin McHale withdrew from the Kings’ coaching search.

2. The Pacers fired Frank Vogel.

Will McHale reunite with former Celtics teammate Larry Bird in Indiana?

“I would not do that to Kevin, have him to work for me,”Bird said at a press conference today. “That’s just not fair. I respect the man too much, and we’ve been through too many battles together to bring him in here and be my coach. I would love for him to be my coach, but it ain’t going to happen, because our relationship.”

It would have been compelling to watch Bird and McHale work together, but I’m not convinced McHale is the best coach available – though that’s not the only concern.

After all, Bird just ousted someone who might be a better coach than any replacement.