NBA Playoffs Celtics Magic Game 1: The Redick-ulous Ray Allen matchup

3 Comments

nba_allen.jpgOne is arguably the best jump shooter in the NBA, one of the best pure shooters in history, and one of the top five guys you want with the ball in his hand and an open look with the clock ready to expire. He’s an NBA champion, a roundball legend, and a primary component for an NBA title contender.

The other is a bench player commonly forgotten among one of the league’s deepest teams. He is remembered best for his college exploits, yet another white Duke player who played well enough to make the league but will never be considered top-tier. A good player, not a great player, just another cog in a contender’s machine.

But J.J. Redick could have a huge impact on this series.

Redick is averaging fewer minutes these playoffs than he did last year, mostly thanks to a deeper Orlando rotation and more minutes for star Vince Carter. But his production is up, and Redick has shown enough this season to be counted on when called upon by Stan Van Gundy. And if SVG is drawing anything on this series from last year’s Eastern Semifinals, he’ll call upon Redick to stop Ray Allen.

In the Celtics’ wins last year, Ray Allen was a huge factor. And in their losses in that series, his struggles were also a factor. When SVG brought Redick in, we assumed it was to provide more shooters on the floor, not as a defensive adjustment. Imagine our surprise when Redick came in and clamped down on Ray Allen, deleting all the space he worked hard to create for catch and shoot opportunities.

The Celtics use Allen off multiple screens, often popping him to the wing for catch-and-shoot, relying on his perfect form and release. It’s a dagger that often comes just when an opponent thinks they’ve covered all angles. The problem is getting through the screens is incredibly difficult. Getting past the absurd number of moving screens the Celtics use (this is not a criticism, if you can get away with it, you should, but let’s be honest. Glen Davis does more stutter steps than K$sha), the Celtics have huge bodies who know how to screen, and often clamp Allen’s defender between two closing screens, one on each side.

Redick showed an absurd amount of toughness we didn’t know he had in him, fighting through those screens to run off the three. It doesn’t take much to interrupt a shooter on catch and shoot. He’s not focused on his defender, the objective is speed in order to negate the effect of the defender. Which means if you can get there, you have a good possibility of forcing him to reset or miss the shot.

Redick is younger, and hasn’t logged as many minutes as his Magic counterparts, which means that when Van Gundy sends him in on a suicide mission to shut down Allen, Redick can respond better physically. Throw in his coachable nature and you’ve got a machine primed to close out Allen. Take away Allen and the Celtics’ offensive game is halved due to how much space Allen provides on the floor.

Vince Carter, on the other hand, has quite a few miles on him, and tends to suffer minor injuries often. He responds to those minor injuries as if he has been shot with a crossbow laced with poison, covered in fire. Forcing Carter to run through Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett, and Glen Davis screens is an easy way to make sure Carter comes up gimpy at some point in this series.

SVG has had a major advantage over his coaching counterparts in his willingness to use deeper players on the bench to exploit specific matchups. Allen may be healthier than he was last year. Redick may not have the success he did. But if Allen starts to get hot, SVG needs to turn to the former Dukester for some instant defense. It’s not like he’s losing anything in terms of three point shooting with him in.

It only takes a half second for Ray Allen to set you on fire. Redick can be the half second closer that douses the flame.

Joseph Tsai to buy rest of Nets, Barclays Arena for $3.4 billion

Getty Images
1 Comment

NEW YORK — Joe Tsai has agreed to buy the remaining 51 percent of the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center from Mikhail Prokhorov in deals that two people with knowledge of the details say are worth about $3.4 billion.

Terms were not disclosed Friday, but the people told The Associated Press that Tsai is paying about $2.35 billion for the Nets – a record for a U.S. pro sports franchise – and nearly $1 billion in a separate transaction for the arena. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the transactions have not yet been completed.

Tsai is the co-founder and executive vice president of the Alibaba Group, the Chinese e-commerce giant. He already had purchased a 49 percent stake in the team from Prokhorov in 2018, with the option to become controlling owner in four years.

Instead, he pushed up that timeline for full ownership of a team on the rise after signing superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in July.

Prokhorov, a Russian billionaire, became the NBA’s first non-North American owner in 2010 and oversaw the Nets’ move from New Jersey to Brooklyn two years later. He spent big in the first couple years after the move in a quest to chase a championship, but the team soon became one of the worst in the NBA before rallying to return to the playoffs last season.

“It has been an honor and a joy to open Barclays Center, bring the Nets to Brooklyn, and watch them grow strong roots in the community while cultivating global appeal,” Prokhorov said in a statement. “The team is in a better place today than ever before and I know that Joe will build on that success, while continuing to deliver the guest experience at Barclays Center that our fans, employees, and colleagues in the industry enjoy.”

The deal is expected to be completed by the end of September and is subject to approval by the NBA’s Board of Governors.

That would put Tsai, a native of Taiwan, in full control of the team by the time the Nets head to China to play two exhibition games against the Los Angeles Lakers in October. That comes at the start of a season of renewed excitement for the Nets, who just three seasons ago won an NBA-worst 20 games but are set to make a big move up the standings after landing two of the best players on the market when free agency opened.

“I’ve had the opportunity to witness up close the Brooklyn Nets rebuild that Mikhail started a few years ago. He hired a front office and coaching staff focused on player development, he supported the organization with all his resources, and he refused to tank,” Tsai said. “I will be the beneficiary of Mikhail’s vision, which put the Nets in a great position to compete, and for which I am incredibly grateful.”

Brett Yormark, the CEO of BSE Global, which manages the team and the arena, will oversee the transition before leaving for a new role.

Jazz coach Quin Snyder tells Donovan Mitchell to ‘be a sponge’ around Gregg Popovich

Getty Images
3 Comments

While other players continue to pull out of the USA Basketball roster — De'Aaron Fox was the latest, and P.J. Tucker before him — Utah’s Donovan Mitchell has been outspoken in his commitment to the team.

“Me, I’m 22, some guys are older and got to rest their bodies and I understand that…” Mitchell said Friday night after Team USA’s exhibition game win over Spain. “For me, I’ve never been part of USA Basketball and I’m honored to be here, I’m honored to have this privilege to go out and compete.”

A lot of players have left — or just not put their names in the hat in the first place — saying they wanted to focus on preparing for the regular season, especially players in the Western Conference, which is deep with outstanding teams. The Utah Jazz, now with Mike Conley at the point, are one of those teams with high expectations.

Mitchell, however, has the full backing of his coach Quin Snyder to stay with Team USA and learn from Gregg Popovich, as Snyder told Marc Stein of the New York Times.

“Both Donovan and I have been excited for this opportunity, not just the chance to compete for his country but to play for Pop. I think he has an appreciation for the fact that he’s playing for the greatest coach that’s ever coached…

“Just try to throw yourself completely into it,” Snyder said he told Mitchell. “And try to communicate with Coach as much as you can. Be a sponge.”

Popovich has had an impact on the young players on the roster. For example, there’s more maturity to Kyle Kuzma‘s game, and Popovich recognized him on the court Friday night when Kuzma made a couple of smart plays against Spain.

Just having different coaching voices — not just Popovich but his assistants Steve Kerr, Lloyd Pierce, and Villanova’s Jay Wright — can help a young player. The message may be consistent, but said in a different way, one that better gets through to the player. Styles matter.

Mitchell led Team USA in scoring against Spain with 13, but Snyder and Jazz fans are hoping for more. Not just gold at the World Cup in China starting Sept. 1, but that Mitchell comes back energized and with a broadened game after having been a sponge next to Popovich.

Marcus Smart reportedly cleared to play for Team USA

Getty Images
1 Comment

Through two weeks of training camp, first in Las Vegas then in Los Angeles, through one intrasquad scrimmage and one exhibition game, Marcus Smart has sat in street clothes.

The Celtics guard has a calf injury that has sidelined him. On Thursday in Los Angeles he took part in the shooting parts of practice during training camp, but not the full-contact scrimmages against the select team. All he could really do was this.

Friday night he never got out of his warmups and did not play against Spain, but he did say on the broadcast he would be back.

Turns out, he was cleared to be back the next day according to Mark Stein of the New York Times.

This takes away a little of the sting of De'Aaron Fox deciding to withdraw from the team just before it left on Saturday for Australia.

It also means four Celtics are on the USA roster: Smart, Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown. USA assistant coach Steve Kerr jokingly said to me last week he asked Brad Stevens for a thank you gift for running Celtics mini-camp.

Smart is one of the 13 players headed down under for a series of tune-up games before the World Cup (against Australia and Canada). If he’s fully healthy enough to go, Smart is a lock to make the roster because of his physical perimeter defense and ability to shoot the three (36 percent last season in the NBA, and the international line is a little closer in). He likely would come off the bench at the two behind Donovan Mitchell.

Bill Walton broadcast White Sox vs. Angels game and was nothing short of brilliant

2 Comments

Bill Walton is brilliant.

The Hall of Fame hippie and big man was in the broadcast booth Friday night — not for basketball, but for the White Sox vs. Angels MLB game. Walton loves baseball even if his understanding of the sport is… unconventional.

I want Bill Walton to narrate my life.

The world missed him while he battled serious back issues, it’s so good to have him out and around and being himself again.