It’s dangerous to read much into trends a week into an NBA season — the sample size is too small. Look at it this way: For some three or four game stretch this season, the Miami Heat will look terrible, but that doesn’t mean they are terrible and will not be the team to beat come June.
But in Boston, one early season trend going on grabs your attention because it is a continuation of last season — when Kevin Garnett sits, the team’s defense struggles. A lot. Even in their win over Washington the Celtics gave up a 16-point lead when Doc Rivers tried to get KG (and others) some rest.
Through three games, Garnett is a +6 — 1-2 Boston has outscored its opponents by 6 points when he is on the floor this season (as a team, Boston is -16). For comparison Rajon Rondo is -9 and Paul Pierce is -6. And you don’t want to get into the bench, which has ugly numbers. The Celtics were supposed to have more depth this season but it has yet to really show up. Again, small sample size theater, but we have seen this movie before.
Here is what Cedric Maxwell said on Comcast SportsNet New England after the Wizards game (video below), courtesy CSNNE.com.
“Well they start off early on, you think about playing defense, they did a lot of good things,” Maxwell said. “They really shut down Washington, didn’t allow them to score any points early in the game. After that, the problem with the Celtics so far [is] going to the bench. When KG comes out of the game the Celtics have had some difficulties and some problems….
“I think the thing about KG, KG is the engine,” Maxwell said. “You can have the keys — Rondo has the keys to everything — but KG is the engine and when the engine is going the car is going the right way. KG rebounds effectively and defensively he is the captain of what they do really well. When he’s been out of the game, they have struggled.”
Boston needs to find a way to solve this because they can’t wear KG out all season giving him big minutes then expecting him to be fresh for the playoffs. It’s early, too early to really worry about it. But it’s a trend to watch because it’s not a new one. Just one Boston thought it had solved.
Shaquille O’Neal’s No. 32 jersey already hangs in the rafters at Staples Center for the Lakers. He’s getting a statue there, too.
Next season, he will have his number retired on the other warm southern coast, this time in Miami.
The Heat have announced they will retire Shaq’s No. 32 jersey next season.
“Shaquille O’Neal is one of the truly elite players in the history of the game and one of the greatest players to ever wear a Heat uniform,” team president Pat Riley said in a released statement. “He took us to another level as a basketball franchise while leading us to our first NBA championship. Retiring his number in the rafters, along with Heat greats Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway, is something we are very proud of.”
Riley left out that the Heat also retired Michael Jordan’s 23, and Dan Marino’s 12 also hangs in the rafters of the arena. Neither of those make much sense, but whatever.
Shaq played three-and-a-half seasons in Miami, averaging 19.6 points and 9.1 rebounds a game. Shaq was a three-time All-Star with the Heat and was at the heart of the franchise’s first title, along with Dwyane Wade… and Mark Cuban would tell you the officials. But that’s another discussion. He was also bitter after being traded to Phoenix and slammed Miami management and players on his way out the door.
Time heals all wounds.
Jimmy Butler is out of the NBA All-Star Game in Toronto this weekend due to a strained knee. Which suck, because he earned that spot, and while the fans didn’t vote him in the coach’s did.
Butler’s teammate Pau Gasol will replace him.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver gets to make the call on a replacement, and he stayed in Chicago, but he added a front court player to replace a guard. Keeping a Bulls representative might have been part of the thinking. The coaches’ votes on replacement players has been weighed in the past (Gasol may have been high on that list, coaches love him). Also, the East roster has a lot of wings and was light on bigs (Andre Drummond, Paul Millsap and Chris Bosh are the only real bigs), so this gives coach Tyronn Lue some flexibility up front.
The East leading Cleveland Cavaliers remain with just one representative, LeBron James (voted in by the fans).
Gasol is averaging 17 points, 10.9 rebounds, and a couple blocks a game, and is the only thing close to a consistent performer the Bulls have. Besides the injured Butler.
It was concerning when it happened — Jimmy Butler injured his knee and had to be taken off the court on a stretcher.
But then the reports came back saying the X-rays were negative, this was just a strain. Butler was going to miss some time, but the question was how much?
Turns out, 3-4 weeks — including the All-Star Game, the team announced Tuesday. From the official team press release:
Bulls guard/forward Jimmy Butler was re-examined by Bulls Head Team Physician Brian Cole. Butler is expected to miss the next three to four weeks with a strained left knee. Butler has begun rehabbing his injury and he will be allowed to engage in all activities as tolerated with the primary goal of maintaining his conditioning over the ensuing weeks.
Butler is the Bulls best player, averaging 22.4 points a game and handling a lot of the shot creation for the team (along with Derrick Rose, who was out Monday injured). The Bulls offense is 1.6 points per 100 possessions better when Butler plays, plus he usually draws the other team’s best wing player as his defensive assignment.
Following an ugly loss to the Hornets Monday night, the Bulls are now 5-12 in their last 17 games. Since Joakim Noah went out for the season with an injured shoulder in particular, their defense has struggled. They still have no offensive identity. Chicago has fallen to the seven seed in the West, just 1.5 games ahead of Charlotte and falling out of the playoffs completely. This injury is simply going to add to that slide.
The Bulls thought they were the team that could challenge Cleveland for supremacy in the East at the start of the season. Now they may need a late push just to make the playoffs.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will pick his All-Star Game replacement. In the past, he has picked the player highest in the fan voting not selected as a reserve, in this case that would be Kyrie Irving. But Silver can go any direction he chooses.
George Karl isn’t going anywhere as coach of the Sacramento Kings after all.
At least for now.
Marc Stein of ESPN, who had the report that the Kings decided to fire Karl during the All-Star Break — now says the two sides have sat down and hashed things out. For now.
Those first reports went too far down the line, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.
First things first, the Kings are a leaky organization right now. Which is never a good sign.
This has become a power struggle in the organization — DeMarcus Cousins has said the Kings’ problems go beyond the players, and he is known not to be a fan of Karl (Rajon Rondo is the coach’s biggest supporter because Karl gives him a green light). Owner Vivek Ranadive remains too impatient, stability is needed.
But there are still big picture questions to be answered.
Ranadive, with Vlade Divac, needs to sit down and set the long-term course for this team, including style of play they want to have, then decide if Karl can be part of that future. Also, if Cousins can be part of that future. If those two can be part of the future together (I’m not sure they can).
There needs to be more meetings with the Kings, and then this summer some significant decisions must be made. But doing it now at the All-Star break isn’t going to change anything. So Karl stays.