Posted Jan 16 2010 11:57AM
Make no mistake about it. The Boston Celtics' biggest concern this season is health.
Kevin Garnett has missed the last eight games after hyperextending his surgically-repaired right knee, Rasheed Wallace is currently on the shelf with a foot injury, Glen Davis missed the first 27 games of the season, and Marquis Daniels has played in just 17.
Garnett's injury derailed the Celtics' attempt at a repeat a year ago, and if he isn't healthy come April, they don't have much of a chance at a championship this year. But even if the Celtics are injury-free, they aren't the same team that they've been the last two seasons, because they've regressed in one key area: rebounding.
In fact, no team has regressed more on the boards from last season than the Celtics have. Through 38 games, they've grabbed exactly two more rebounds than their opponents, going from the second best rebounding team in the league last season to the 18th best this season. And the regression has come on both ends of the floor.
|Celtics' Rebounding Rates, Last Three Seasons|
"It's been disappointing," Doc Rivers said of his team's rebounding decline Wednesday, "because we've actually added to our team, and you'd think we'd be a better rebounding team. And unfortunately, we just haven't been."
It's possible that the roster moves the Celtics made have had the opposite effect that Rivers was looking for. Though he's recovering from knee surgery and wouldn't be playing even if the Celtics retained him, Leon Powe (now with Cleveland) was the best rebounder in their rotation last season, grabbing 17.3 percent of available boards when he was on the floor.
The Celtics added Wallace to their frontline, but he's not a very good rebounder for a big man. With 10 guys on the floor, the average player (guards included) grabs 10 percent of available boards, and the 6-foot-11 Wallace is just above that mark at 12.0 percent. He's especially deficient on the offensive end, where he spends a lot of time on the perimeter, grabbing just 4.3 percent of available boards, less than his 6-foot-4 teammate, Tony Allen (7.7 percent).
Injuries, of course, have taken their toll. Percentage-wise, Davis has been a much better rebounder than he was last season (17.0 vs. 11.4 percent), but he's played in just 10 games thus far. And with Davis and Garnett both in uniform just three times this season, Brian Scalabrine has played increased minutes, mostly at power forward. And Scalabrine is a terrible rebounder, grabbing just 6.0 percent of available boards when he's on the floor.
Still, the biggest culprit in the Celtics' rebounding decline may be Garnett himself. At this point in the season, he's played a greater percentage (49) of the Celtics' total minutes than he did last season (45 percent), but while he's grabbing the same percentage (5.7) of available offensive rebounds as he did last season, his defensive rebounding percentage has gone down from 25.5 to 23.1.
Even though he was technically "healthy" for the first 25 games of the season, Garnett did not have his typical lift and explosiveness.
"Kevin really hasn't rebounded yet the way he can," Rivers said. "But that will come."
Still, Rivers believes it's unfair to blame the rebounding decline solely on the Celtics' big men.
"I think our biggest crutch right now is when we don't control the ball and the ball gets in deep and our bigs have to help," he said. "They shoot, and that releases their big to get to the glass. I think that's hurt us more. So it's more the dribble penetration that has been our Achilles heel right now."
Rivers isn't nearly as concerned about offensive rebounding. He'd rather his players get back and stop transition than crash the boards.
Even with their rebounding issues, the Celtics still rank second in the league defensively (allowing 98.5 points per 100 possessions) and ninth offensively (scoring 106.7). And they're first in the league in points per possession differential.
|Celtics' Second-Chance Points Per Game, Last Three Seasons|
But they're scoring 1.1 fewer second-chance points per game and allowing 2.0 more than they did last season. Even if the offensive boards aren't a concern, those extra two points they're allowing are worth about five wins over the course of a season.
Five wins could be the difference when it comes to home-court advantage in the playoffs against the Cavs, Lakers or Magic. So yes, the Celtics need to get healthy. But even if they do, they need to get on the boards.
All statistics are through Friday, Jan. 15 and were compiled with the help of the NBA and StatsCube.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.
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