It’s something you don’t see every offseason: Jermaine O’Neal had one of the worst playoff series in recent memory when the Heat met the Boston Celtics in the first round of last year’s playoffs, going a combined 9-44 from the field in five playoff games. Then, after the Celtics learned Kendrick Perkins will need surgery and the Heat went on a spending spree, O’Neal ended up signing a two-year deal worth approximately $12 million with the very team that shut him down last April.
The Celtics are essentially trading the most turnover-prone center in the league for the least turnover-prone center in the league.
Among 27 centers who played at least 1,000 minutes last season, only one–Tyson Chandler–turned the ball over on a higher percentage of possessions than Perk, according to Basketball-Reference. Perk turned the ball over on 20.4 percent of possessions on which he was involved with the play that ended the possession, an unacceptable mark for a point guard, let alone a center.
The scary thing? That turnover rate was the lowest of Perk’s career…
Zach is also excited about O’Neal’s ability to stretch the floor:
[O’Neal] attempted about 60 percent of his shots last season from outside 10 feet, and he made those shots at a career-best rate. For instance: O’Neal made about 44 percent of his shots from between 16 and 23 feet (i.e. long two-pointers), one of the best marks in the league among centers or power forwards, according to Hoopdata. Perspective: KG, one of the very best big man shooters ever, hit 46 percent from that range last season; Ray Allen hit 45 percent.
O’Neal knocked down exactly 40 percent of his shots from that range in both ’08 and ’09, so while 44 percent is his career high, it’s not wildly out of line.
Perkins is limited offensively, but he always knew what his role was in Boston’s offense. O’Neal is just as good of a finisher as Perkins is (he made around 70% of his shots at the rim last season, according to Hoopdata), and also has the ability to step out and hit the pick-and-pop jumper. The question will be whether O’Neal has the discipline to only take shots around the rim and wide-open mid-range jumper; O’Neal is skilled, but he shouldn’t be taking possessions away from KG, Pierce, and Allen. If O’Neal can accept the fact he’s a role player on the Celtics, he could potentially take a lot of the sting out of Perkins’ injury.
Tributes have poured in all over the NBA world since Kevin Garnett announced his retirement on Friday afternoon — from other players, commissioner Adam Silver and media members who covered him. Garnett and Tom Thibodeau have a lengthy history together: Thibodeau coached Garnett in Boston as an assistant under Doc Rivers, and they won a championship in 2008. This spring, Thibodeau took over as head coach and president of basketball operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves, the team that drafted Garnett, saw his best years and saw him end his career. Thibodeau released a heartfelt statement on Saturday congratulating Garnett:
“I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate and thank Kevin for all of his great accomplishments and contributions to the NBA, the Minnesota Timberwolves organization, and for me personally with the Boston Celtics. Kevin combined great talent with a relentless drive and intelligence. I will always cherish the memories of the way in which he led the Celtics to the 2008 NBA Championship. His willingness to sacrifice and his unselfishness led us to that title. Kevin will always be remembered for the way in which he played the game. His fierce competitiveness, his unequalled passion for the game, and the many ways in which he cared about this team was truly special. KG is without question the all-time best player to wear a Minnesota Timberwolves jersey, and he is also one of the best to ever play this game.”
It’s a shame that Thibodeau didn’t get to coach Garnett again in Minnesota, but the team is in good hands with Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.
The Indiana Pacers have been a franchise for 50 years — 10 in the ABA and 40 in the NBA. To celebrate this anniversary, they’ve unveiled a new patch that they will wear on their uniforms this season. You can check it out below:
It looks pretty sleek, combining the Pacers’ logo with the zero in “50.” It’s subtle and well-designed.
This summer, three of this generation’s defining NBA players, and three of the greatest players of all time, called it a career: Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett. The latter two in particular had a lot in common, as psychotic competitors and polarizing personalities. They had many memorable battles over the years, including the Lakers-Celtics Finals in 2008 and 2010 (they each won one) and the playoffs in 2003 and 2004, when Garnett was in Minnesota. On Saturday afternoon, a day after Garnett officially announced his retirement, Kobe paid tribute to him with a tweet.
The next time they’ll be together is 2021, when they go into the Hall of Fame together.
With the NBA season around the corner, there are a lot of eyes on how teams and players will handle the national anthem protests that have become prominent in the NFL. Clippers head coach Doc Rivers wholeheartedly supports the notion of his players participating, and hopes the whole team can figure out a statement to make together. Via Dan Woike of the Orange County Register:
“Listen, we need social change. If anyone wants to deny that, they just need to study the history of our country,” he told the Southern California News Group on Friday. “… I’ve said it 100 times. There’s no more American thing to do than to protest. It’s the most patriotic thing we can do. There are protests I like and protests I don’t like. It doesn’t matter. …Protests are meant to start conversation. The conversation, you hope, leads to acknowledgement, and the acknowledgement leads to action. We’re, right now, still in the conversation.”
“I hope we do it as a group. I know whenever you protest as one solid group, the protest has more teeth if you want to protest,” he said. “… I’m supporting our guys’ right to protest. I’m saying that up front. My hope is you believe it and do it for the right reasons and not just because it’s a hot topic on Instagram.
Rivers has a unique perspective — his father was a police officer, but he’s seen plenty of racism in his life. This won’t be his first time leading a team when it comes to social issues — he was able to unite the Clippers in the spring of 2014 when the Donald Sterling racism scandal broke. It’s encouraging to see NBA coaches trending towards fostering open dialogue on their teams about these issues.