Will the Celtics defense be as good next year?

5 Comments

celtics_defense.jpgFor all the talk about getting the old gang back together in Boston for one more run, it isn’t exactly the same old gang that is coming back next year.

And the changes that are coming could cut right to the core of what won Boston one title and almost two — great defense.

Jeff Clark over at Celtics blog takes a good look at the question, which really is a series of questions. The first one is — how big a loss is Tom Thibodeau, and can Lawrence Frank keep the defense going?

Frank is a diligent worker with head coaching experience.  He’ll provide a different voice and perhaps take a fresh approach to the lead assistant position.  However, he’s not Tom Thibodeau and perhaps he shouldn’t be expected to be just like Tom.  For the last three years Tom has essentially played the role of Defensive Coordinator, but most teams don’t define roles that strictly.  Frank is certainly going to help out with the defense, but he’ll have some say in the offense as well.  In fact as I’ve mentioned, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him groomed to take over for Doc if and when he leaves.  It remains to be seen if the loss of Thibodeau will hurt the team or if they’ll actually benefit from a fresh take.

Then there is the center spot — you can’t have a good defense in today’s slashing NBA without a long-armed big man protecting the rim.

Kendrick Perkins was that big body, and may be again late in the season. In the interim, Jermaine O’Neal gets that role. He is not Perkins, but he is not a bad defender either. He’s solid. In the right system with defined roles where his rotations are clear, he can do the job well enough.

Behind him is Shaquille O’Neal. Doc Rivers is already on record worried about teams pick-and-rolling Shaq into the ground. But the other problem is he has long been a freelancer on defense, not someone who has stuck with a system but looked for his own play. He makes them, sometimes, he’s fairly smart about it. But the Celtics system is built around rotations Shaq may well ignore.

That may be an issue.

But the biggest issue — as it is with all things Celtics — is health. If Kevin Garnett is healthy, the Celtics defense is going to be fine. If he is out, things drop off fast.

Readers on Celtics blog expect the team defense to be about the same with these new Celtics. I don’t see it, I think there is some regular season drop off. But that’s not the point — if all the key players are healthy come the playoffs, the Boston defense will be stifling teams once again. And Boston will be a title threat.

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
1 Comment

CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

Associated Press
1 Comment

Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

1 Comment

LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

4 Comments

For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.