Posted Jan 24 2011 9:26AM
Kendrick Perkins checked his watch the other day.
"Twelve days," Perkins said Saturday night.
It was my understanding that there would be no math in this column. But that probably means Feb. 3 is the day Perkins comes all the way back. One more good practice, and the next night, the Celtics host the Mavericks at TD Garden. And then, maybe, Perkins is all the way back and Boston can pick up where it left off last June -- when an 18th championship was in reach.
That's right -- you haven't seen the best of the 33-10 Celtics yet.
Doc Rivers is fond of saying his "real" starting five -- Perkins, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo -- has not been beaten in the playoffs. That group took a 3-2 lead to Los Angeles last June in the Finals, with two shots at the title. But in the opening minutes of Game 6, Perkins went down in a heap, having torn his right ACL. He missed the last two games of the Finals, and the Celtics got destroyed on the glass 53-40 in Game 7 and L.A. won 83-79 as Boston wilted in the final minutes.
Seven months later, with a rematch at Staples Center on tap for next Sunday, and the Celtics swear they haven't thought about the one that got away.
"What happened is set in stone now," Allen said. "So I try not to play the 'what if' game."
Boston has rolled through the first half of the season, with a three-game lead over Miami for the best record in the East. While the Heat and Magic have had their share of stumbles, the Celtics have been dominant; only Miami has a larger point differential than Boston's 7.51. And Orlando and Miami both have acknowledged how the Celtics are the team to beat. But every personnel move Boston made in the offseason was as much about Los Angeles, with its rebounding deficit from last year in mind, as the SuperFriends or Superman.
The Celtics signed the O'Neals, Shaquille and Jermaine, in the offseason to make up for the absence of the injured Perkins and the retired Rasheed Wallace. But Perkins said he'd be back before the All-Star break, and he returned to practice last week.
His return to the lineup will be a shot in the arm for the Celtics, who've already lost Jermaine O'Neal for 23 games and for the next four weeks while he tries to avoid season-ending surgery on his left knee. Garnett missed nine games with a calf injury; Shaq hurt his hip last week and is not expected to play against Cleveland on Tuesday.
The Celtics have been dominant at times, with Shaq looking spryer than anyone expected him to be and Pierce and Allen shooting better than 50 percent. Rondo leads the league in assists and is fifth in assist-turnover ratio. Big Baby Davis, Marquis Daniels and Nate Robinson have been solid off the bench. But to deal with the Lakers, Boston needs all of its bigs. It needs Perkins back on the floor along with Shaq -- though not at the same time.
Perkins rehabbed four hours a day, strengthening his quads and glutes, then graduated to some shooting on the court without running, then finally started running on a treadmill. There was little swelling and Perkins didn't suffer any setbacks while strengthening his leg.
"Just trying to get back as soon as possible," he said. "Obviously it's my contract year and stuff like that. Really, I was just trying to get back and healthy as soon as I can and then go from there. I was trying to finish at least half of the season."
The 26-year-old Perkins will certainly be one of the top free-agent centers available. His work last spring before the injury, providing top-notch D on Dwight Howard without much help, and providing that vital back line of defense against LeBron James, was as important and Garnett's length and Rondo's ballhawking out front. Boston will certainly pay to keep him, but there could be limits.
A strong showing the second half of the regular season, followed by a playoff in which Boston wins its last game, would do nothing to hurt Perkins' standing.
"He looks good in practice, I will say that," Rivers said. "He's running well. He's working hard; I don't know if I've seen him or any guy work as hard as he's worked. He really wants to get back. He wants to get back to playing. He knows it's going to take time once you get on the floor. We know that, too."
Boston will need him. The only really healthy bigs the Celtics have at the moment are Glen Davis and rookies Semih Erden and Luke Harangody.
"It's exciting to know, for (Perkins') own sanity, that he's back on the floor," Allen said. "Having another big body that's defensive minded, it definitely makes us a lot better. Bringing Shaq and Jermaine in, trying to incorporate them into everything that we're doing, there's an adjustment period. Jermaine hasn't been on the floor a lot, so we've been minus a big, and Shaq has been in and out.
"There's been a little inconsistency there as far as bigs, and minutes played. Perk's been a guy that's typically always been in there, and we've had a consistent lineup over the last three years. He knows, pretty much, the protocol of what we're doing, and I'm sure he'll catch up pretty quickly."
But Rivers says Perkins will help at the other end of the floor, too.
"We've been good offensively this year," Rivers said. "But when he's in there, we're really good. Because we can run stuff that we ran two years ago out of a (timeout), that he knows. Timing and all that stuff is so important, and he gets that. He'll be able to come back quicker because of that."
And the "real" starting five will get to defend its honor.
He's got bad tendinitis in his right knee, and, of course, that means he's favoring his left knee, which is starting to bother him, too. His starting center is now JaVale McGee instead of Superman, and the only way he's going to see the playoffs this year is on TV.
It's been a bit of a comedown for Rashard Lewis.
"I told myself I didn't want to come here with my head down, with a negative attitude, because that's going to bring a negative attitude to the team," Lewis said last week. "I wanted to keep a positive attitude, with positive energy, and just keep playing basketball. You've got to set goals. And I think we have to set a goal of trying to make the playoffs."
It's a measure of how bad the East has become this season that Lewis isn't insane to make that statement. Washington is only five games out of the loss column for the final spot, and if the Wizards weren't approaching historic territory when it comes to road futility -- they're 0-20 away from home entering Monday night's game at New York -- they'd actually be in the middle of the playoff race.
But such are the adjustments Lewis has had to make since the Dec. 18 trade that brought him to Washington for Gilbert Arenas.The Wizards are at the exact opposite end of the NBA firmament from the Magic, rebuilding again behind John Wall and other young kids who are trying to figure out what it means to be professional.
And so Washington brought Kirk Hinrich from Chicago, and Lewis from Orlando. And Josh Howard from Dallas, too. Given his spotty history with the Mavericks that might surprise, but the Wiz say that Howard has been a solid player and good leader since he came from Dallas last season. They'd like to keep him next year if possible.
Perspective changes depending on what perch you're looking from. When you're where the Wizards are, you think coach Flip Saunders has tightened up practice habits, running a hard workout with scrimmages. But Lewis comes from a place where coach Stan Van Gundy is notorious for his two-hour shootarounds. "When I first got here, it seemed like the shootaround was a little loose," Lewis said. And so, in every way, Washington is starting from scratch. And for a 31-year-old that doesn't figure to get many more shots at a championship, scratch is not a great place to be.
But his new digs allow Lewis to stretch muscles he hasn't used in a while. Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson run the Magic, on and off the court, and Lewis had to get in where he fit in. (Odd for a guy making $124 million, but that's the NBA.) By contrast, the Wizards want and need Lewis to be a primary scorer, both in the low post -- where he hasn't been regularly since his early days with the SuperSonics -- and behind the 3-point line. And they need his leadership.
"Leading by example is big for these guys," Lewis said. "Not just in the locker room. After the games, telling everybody what they need to do, or what they have to do. I think getting to practice early, getting up extra shots, getting in the weight room, showing them you have to do the little things to compete out on the court. And talking to these guys on the court will go a long way ... but it's not just about talking."
Saunders already holds Lewis in such regard that he sent him out as a captain Saturday night against Boston when Hinrich missed the game with a shoulder injury.
"Everyone always said he's pretty quiet, but he's been pretty outspoken," Saunders said. "He's been very vocal with our players, with our young guys. (Friday) night after the game he said, 'Guys, we didn't play very well tonight. We've got to forget about it. We've got a game tomorrow. Boston's an elite team in the East. We've got to come in here ready to play' ... when things are down, he's the one guy who's always trying to push things up."
All of that, though, doesn't mean Lewis isn't shocked that he still isn't in Orlando, playing for a championship.
"I went to shootaround that morning," Lewis said. "Normal day. After that, I went to get something to eat. Put my phone on silent, and it was ringing off the hook when I was sleeping. Woke up from my nap and I had a number of missed calls. 'Cause I heard the rumor that morning, but I didn't think nothing of it, because you hear rumors all the time in the NBA. But when I saw who I had missed calls from, then I pretty much said in the back of my mind that the rumor must have been true. And it was most definitely shocking, and I was upset about it. But you can't bring that attitude to this team."
The whispers were that Lewis' production had dropped significantly in Orlando -- he was averaging just 12.2 points for the Magic when he got traded, his lowest scoring average since 2000 -- and that the Magic didn't think it would get any better. Lewis and Vince Carter, dealt in a separate trade to Phoenix, were supposedly viewed as the part of the Magic that general manager Otis Smith believed had gotten stale, and needed changing. Lewis has heard that theory, too. Obviously he disagrees. But he says he doesn't hold any ill will toward Orlando.
"I was mad that day I got traded," Lewis said. "But not angry at the Orlando Magic, or Otis for trading me. I think it's a business. I've been in the league for 12 years. I think I was prepared for that day to come, just 'cause of the fact that I'm a veteran and I've been in the league for 12 years. I've seen Gary Payton get traded, Desmond Mason get traded, having different teammates every year. Ray Allen. The list goes on and on. If I was a young guy I think it would have hit me a little bit harder. But I've been in the NBA for 12 years and I've seen it happen to a lot of guys."
(Last week's rankings in brackets; this week's record in parentheses)
1) Chicago  (3-1): At 30-14, unbeaten in the Central and 20-4 at home, Bulls playing their best basketball since a bald-headed fella led them to some measure of success in the '90s.
2) San Antonio  (2-1): Spurs will either come back to the pack or salt away home court in the West after upcoming stretch of 11 out of 12 games on the road, including the Rodeo Trip, through the All-Star break.
3) L.A. Lakers  (2-1): Was talking to a Denver guy the other day about the Lakers' smackdown of the Nuggets on Friday. He was wondering during the game when George Karl was going to put in his size to combat L.A.'s huge frontcourt. And then he realized that Karl already had, with Nene back on the floor. But the 6-foot-11, 250-pound Nene was dwarfed by the Lakers' 7-foot, 285-pound Andrew Bynum. This is why the Lakers are still the team to beat.
4) New Orleans  (4-0): Only team in the league to beat the Spurs twice this season after Saturday's 96-72 rout.
5) Boston  (3-1): If I didn't know any better -- though, luckily, I do -- I'd suspect the lads didn't go straight to bed upon their arrival in D.C. Friday night.
6) Orlando  (3-1): Since the big trades Dec. 18, Ryan Anderson is averaging 13.1 points, 6.2 boards and shooting 46 percent in 22.5 minutes off the bench, scoring in double figures in 14 of his 16 appearances. Not sure there's another reserve big available who'll be that productive.
7) Oklahoma City  (1-2): If he starts doing this on the regular, look out.
8) Miami  (1-1): Erik Spoelstra plans to use LeBron more as a "point four" at power forward to faciitate Mike Miller's return to the rotation.
9) Portland  (4-0): I have given up trying to explain and/or understand how the Blazers lose another big man every week and keep winning. This time it's Marcus Camby (meniscus tear, knee surgery). But Portland plugs in Joel Przybilla and keeps rolling, just like it plugged in Camby, and Dante Cunningham, and Juwan Howard, and ...
10) Atlanta  (3-1): The 59 points the Hawks scored in their 41-point loss Friday to the Hornets was the fewest since the franchise moved from St. Louis in 1968.
11) Utah  (0-4): Wouldn't call it panic time in the Wasatch, but the Jazz are in trouble.
12) Denver  (1-1): 'Melowwwwww.
13) Dallas  (2-2): Mavericks adding Peja Stojakovic, waived by Raptors, after trading Alexis Ajinca to Toronto to clear roster spot. Yahoo! Sports reports other teams complain about arrangement.
14) Memphis  (2-2): Z-Bo making late All-Star push with 10 straight double-doubles.
15) New York  (0-4): STAT's 13th technical Saturday against Oklahoma City leaves him three short of a mandatory one-game suspension.
New Orleans (4-0): A huge week for the Bugs and their city, on and off the court. On Friday, the Hornets blew out Atlanta on the road by 41. On Saturday, New Orleans extended its overall winning streak to eight in a row by blowing out the Spurs at New Orleans Arena, breaking San Antonio's own eight-game win streak. And the Hornets drew a sellout crowd of 18,023, bringing the team within striking distance of the attendance average threshold for the first half of this season -- 14,735 -- which the team and the state of Louisiana negotiated as part of the team's lease at its building. If the Hornets don't meet that threshold, they'd be free to break the lease, which extends through 2014, after this season by paying a $10 million penalty to the state. The Hornets' final home game before the Jan. 31 deadline is Monday night against Oklahoma City, and if the team draws more than 11,000 tonight it will meet the threshold. As of Sunday night the team was confident it was close to a sellout.
New York (0-4): The Knicks went 0-for-3 on Texas-Oklahoma swing and have lost six straight overall, making just 35 percent of their 3-point attempts in Houston, San Antonio and Oklahoma City. More to the point (or lack of same): Ray Felton goes cold during the week, shooting just .328 (21 of 64). On the other hand, the Wizards are at the Garden tonight, so the losing should come to an end.
What's Deron Williams thinking these days?
I hate to do this to my friends in the 801, but there's no point in sugarcoating it. When this Carmelo business is done, you're on the clock, Utah.
Deron Williams ain't especially happy, and as every NBA fan should know by now, an unhappy star makes for a vulnerable team in the Age of LeBron.
"It should be happening by now," Williams said last week. "We've just got to figure it out. We can't just come out and expect teams to give us games."
The "it" in Williams' mind is the maddening inconsistency of the Jazz, culminating in Utah's 0-fer road trip, including bad losses at Washington and New Jersey. You can usually set your watch by Utah's defense and its offensive efficiency under Jerry Sloan, but this season the Jazz has been all over the place, falling behind by double digits a dozen times in the first two months of the season.
That Utah came back to win most of those games made a great story, and as late as last Monday the Jazz were tied for first in the Northwest. (They're 1 1/2 games behind the Thunder for the division lead now). But Utah hasn't been the defensive stopper of years past (the Jazz are 17th in points allowed) and they don't bludgeon opponents on the glass (24th in rebound differential, getting outboarded by 2.16 rebounds per game). Nor has Utah been next to unbeatable at Energy Solutions Arena (they're 15-7 there this season after going 32-9 at home last season).
"We've had some games where we've had some miracles happen and we came back and won them," Williams said. "We can't rely on that game after game. We have to find some consistency. We have to find a way to be tougher mentally and get out and put teams away early. We can't let teams build confidence on us early and get their confidence going, because any team in the league can beat you when they do that ...we've struggled on defense at times; we've struggled offensively at times; we've played great offensively at times, we've played defensively at times."
But Williams is also disappointed at the parade of talent out of Salt Lake City.
He made no secret of his displeasure last year when the Jazz traded Ronnie Brewer to the Grizzlies for a first-round pick, and he lamented the imminent departure of Carlos Boozer to free agency. And when Kyle Korver followed Boozer to Chicago, and the Jazz didn't match Portland's offer sheet for undrafted rookie Wes Matthews, Williams wasn't the only one worried that Utah's talent drain couldn't be overcome.
Utah's great general manager, Kevin O'Connor, salvaged the situation as well as could be expected, trading for power forward Al Jefferson and signing free agent guards Raja Bell and Earl Watson. But is Utah better, or running in place in the ultra-competitive West?
Williams was happy with the moves.
"I was excited, 'cause it got a little scary there," Williams said. "We lost Wes, we lost Kyle, we lost Booze, and it was like, 'What are we going to do?' And we bounced back and we added some good guys. We added Al, we added Earl, we picked up Gordon (Hayward) and Jeremy (Evans) in the Draft, and they've been two bright additions to the team. And I was pleased. We got Raj."
But is Utah as good defensively as it used to be? And does this team have the luxury of working all those new players in?
"Not really," Williams said. "My contract's up in two years. It's a now or never situation. I don't know what I'm going to do after this one."
Williams has not said what he will do in the summer of 2012, only that he won't have a half-hour program to announce his intentions. But he paid attention to what happened last offseason, when James, Chris Bosh and Wade teamed up and went to Miami as a package deal.
"Of course," Williams said. "You've got to. It's a different state. Guys are doing different things now. They're trying to change that with the CBA, that's for sure."
That may be Utah's biggest edge going forward. Regardless of what changes are made to the next collective bargaining agreement, it's almost a certainty that a new deal will still allow the incumbent team to pay more than other teams. It's been a hallmark of the Commish's desire to make sure that smaller markets have a chance to field competitive teams. And Williams will give the Jazz every chance to improve the roster further between now and '12.
But the clock is ticking, as of right now.
"It's not surprising on the road," Williams said. "We've had that problem before on the road. Our record is a lot better this year. But it's surprising at home. We still haven't figured out what's going on. We're at the halfway point now. It should have happened weeks ago, months ago. But it is what it is."
This would also explain the lack of lottery winners in the Rose City. From Alwayne Allen:
Do you think that there's something wrong with Portland's medical staff? Because I'm starting to think there is! First [Greg] Oden (I won't even go there) and [Joel] Pryzbilla, and now Marcus Camby; not to mention Brandon Roy. Andre Miller has proved to be one of the more durable NBA guys; he should probably be on Portland's medical staff considering that, and your "cousin" seems to be avoiding injury because no one calls him a center. When I look at a team like Phoenix and all the great stories I've heard about their medical staff and some of the players they've helped, I have to wonder: is Portland's medical staff so bad that they can't take care of their big me and specifically their centers? Or have the current centers just been extremely unfortunate and under what I shall dub the 'PCIC' (Portland Center Injury Curse)?
It's hard for me to be objective about guys like Jay Jensen, the head athletic trainer in Portland; no one has answered more of my questions more patiently and more completely about more injuries over the years than Jensen. I don't know the team's doctor, Don Roberts; he doesn't do interviews with the media. But I don't think that Richard Steadman, the noted surgeon from the Steadman Hawkins Clinic in Vail, Colorado, would let Roberts operate in his hospital if he was a quack. The Blazers know that their fans are at their wits' end trying to figure out why so many players are getting hurt, and hurt for long periods. And they know that Jensen and Roberts get a lot of the heat.
"I continue to have 100 percent confidence in Jay and our medical staff," team president Larry Miller texted Sunday. "We will continue to do everything we can to address the health of our players."
Jensen doesn't hide when the injuries come. He explained why it made sense for Brandon Roy to return for the playoffs less than two weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery last April. He went over the litany of tests the team has put Greg Oden through the last two years, and all the people he's spoken to, to try and figure out why Oden's knees can't seem to hold up. And when the team announced last month that Oden would miss the whole season with another microfracture knee surgery, Jensen was front and center again, commiserating with the angry fans.
"I can understand their frustration," Jensen said then. "We're frustrated, too. I understand if somebody wants to say ... the blame's gotta go somewhere. There's got to be a reason for this happening. And believe me, we're our own hardest critic when it comes to that. It's hard to take when your head coach (Nate McMillan) goes down (last year) with an Achilles' injury. You're like, what the heck is going on?"
It's gotten to the point where a Blazers fan asked me Saturday if Portland has looked at the court surface at the Rose Garden to see if it may be a factor in the injuries. As it was as good a potential explanation as elves, voodoo or termites, I asked Miller about it.
"The floor didn't cause Andre Miller to get sick (Saturday)," Miller said.
Can Jesus headline in L.A.? From Kenneth Jimenez:
Ray Allen is one of my favorite players and I was wondering if he has a good chance of making it to the All-Star Game this year. I know his stats are not as flashy as the other guards, but can he get in based on his past accomplishments?
And also, where will his jersey be retired? Other than Milwaukee (hopefully!), how will they retire it in Seattle/Oklahoma City? I mean, he never played in OKC, so won't it be a little awkward? And what about Boston?
Ray's having a great year (career-best 51 percent shooting, including a career-best 45 percent on threes). And the Celtics are tops in the East. So I suspect he'll be in L.A. as a coaches' pick, behind fan starters Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose, along with his backcourt mate Rajon Rondo and New York's Ray Felton. As far as his jersey being retired, I'm not sure it will be anywhere. Ray has been a terrific player but his teams in Milwaukee and Seattle never made the Finals, and even though he won a ring in Boston the C's standards for retiring jerseys are a little higher than most. I'd be surprised if his uni got up in the rafters at TD Garden.
Antebellum historians would thus call it "The Season of Northern Aggression." From Brett Jarman:
Is there any way the league could change the conference boundaries ever? Imagine for instance, a number of years of East/West, then a change to North/South? Would certainly make the playoff matchups interesting.
In a word, Brett: no. It's already East-West, so there wouldn't be any real change there, and North-South would be logistically impossible (unless you think it's cheap for Miami to fly to L.A., and vice versa, two or three times a year, including playoffs).
Send your questions, comments, criticisms and autographed Halle Berry photos ("To David, the only man I've ever really loved") to firstname.lastname@example.org. If your e-mail is sufficiently informative, poignant or smart-alecky, we'll publish it!
(weekly averages in parenthesis)
1) Derrick Rose (26.3 ppg, 6 rpg, 8.3 apg, .396 FG, .821 FT): Career highs across the board, which will lead to his first All-Star starting nod wth Miami's Dwyane Wade in the backcourt, voted in by the fans unless there's a 1948 Texas Senate election-kind of fraud afoot.
2) Dwight Howard (26 ppg, 13.3 rpg, 1.2 bpg, .589 FG, .576 FT): Shot .578 before the big shakeup. Shooting .554 since the trades. Not exactly a major dropoff.
3) Kobe Bryant (20 ppg, 5 rpg, 8 apg, .556 FG, .563 FT): Has gone for 30 or more only once in the last 12 games, like he's laying in the weeds, waiting. Waiting.
4) LeBron James (36 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 6.5 apg, .424 FG, .760 FT): Here's what LeBron said Saturday, with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh out: "My mindset goes back to when I was in Cleveland, not having a superstar alongside of me, not having a dominant player alongside of me. That takes nothing away from my teammates at all. It's just the facts." OK, then.
5) Chris Paul (13.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 9.3 apg, .349 FG, .864 FT): CP3 re-enters MVP talk despite not-great personal numbers as Hornets win eight straight for the second time this season, and complete a fantastic week with wins over Memphis, Atlanta and San Antonio.
Dropped out: Amar'e Stoudemire
24 -- Three-pointers needed by Boston's Ray Allen to surpass Reggie Miller as the NBA's all-time leading 3-point shooter. After making two Saturday, Allen has 2,537 career threes, 23 behind Miller's record of 2,560.
29 -- Consecutive double-doubles by Minnesota's Kevin Love, which leads the league after Blake Griffin's streak of consecutive double-doubles ended at 27.
6,900 -- Number of Suns tickets that will be reduced in price next season, according to the Arizona Republic. The seats will be reduced in price from 15 to 25 percent, the paper reported, and it will be the third year in a row that Phoenix has not raised its ticket prices.
1) I don't know if Mikhail Prokhorov is serious or not about the Nets pulling out of the Carmelo Anthony trade talks (he did say he was in charge of "strategy," after all), but he sure acted the part well if he was kidding.
2) "Blake Almighty" is aaight for a Griffin nickname. But I prefer "Bad Blake," after the Jeff Bridges carousing country and western legend character in Crazy Heart. Of course, Bridges couldn't do this with a trampoline and a six-foot rim.
3) Cousin LaMarcus is ballin' . Probably won't make All-Star, though, which means he can come home to see the family over the holiday -- cousin Ray-Ray, Uncle Paul, Aunt Nettie and all them.
4) This is not for the kiddies. But this rant on the Cavs' wretched defense is hilarious. (Repeat: this is not for the kiddies.)
5) On the fifth anniversary of Kobe's 81-point game against Toronto, Grauman's Chinese Theatre announces Bryant will become the first athlete to have his hands and shoes imprinted into the famous cement display outside the Hollywood landmark. Cool.
6) If you're Roger Goodell, and you've got the Green Bay Packers and the PIttsburgh Steelers in two weeks in the Super Bowl, you are grinning from ear to ear this a.m., one would think.
1) The Curious Case of Rip Hamilton continued this week with his seventh straight DNP-CD Saturday against Phoenix. As Hamilton was rumored to be part of the three-team deal between the Nets, Nuggets and Pistons that would have sent Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups to New Jersey -- with Hamilton coming to join them in exchange for Troy Murphy -- it made sense for Detroit to hold him out of games while the trade was being worked out. But if the trade is really dead, why is Hamilton not playing at all?
It's an odd way to treat a guy who's been a warrior for the franchise for eight-plus seasons and helped the Pistons win a championship in 2004. But Ccoach John Kuester decided to shorten his rotation a couple of weeks ago, and Hamilton -- who missed a game earlier this month with a stomach flu deemed dubious outside of Detroit -- is the odd man out. But expect team president Joe Dumars to do right by Rip and send him somewhere soon where he'll have a chance to win. (You know my feelings on the subject -- get Rip to Utah! Although Dallas would make sense, too.)
2) The Big Man sounds down, which is understandable.
3) Looked like the Nuggets remembered that whole 20 of 21 shooting in the third quarter of your last meeting and the 144 points allowed on Sunday, Indiana.
4) Part of basketball history passed on last week when George Crowe, the last surviving member of the New York Rens -- the first black-owned, all-black basketball team -- died in California. The Rens were a pioneer team in the 1920s, 30s and 40s that was one of the pre-NBA's best squads, playing numerous series with their rivals, the Original Celtics. Fortunately, the great Claude Johnson's blog, www.blackfives.com, was on the case well before Crowe's death with a series of articles on the man and the team on which he starred.
5) Keith Olbermann's path crossed mine for a couple of years when I first began at ESPN. He was already a star with Dan Patrick doing the 11 p.m. SportsCenter, and I was just the last guy the Four-Letter hired. But Keith stood up for me, publicly, on several occasions when we barely knew one another. So it was sad to see that Keith was leaving "Countdown," his hit show on MSNBC. This has nothing to do with the political bent of the show; I've disagreed with as many of his positions as I've agreed with. Nor is Keith a friend; doubt he remembers working with me. We were just two people who worked together for a while, and he was kind when he didn't need to be, and I will never forget that, and I wish him luck in whatever he decides to do next.
6) This may make the "Worst PR Decisions of All Time" short list.
Then where's the moves, Dan? You don't panic when things get tough. You think. You examine. You calculate. THEN you strike. And we will strike.
Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert (@CavsDan), Friday, 6:28 p.m., assuring Cleveland fans that he will make moves to improve his horrific 8-32 team. With a $14 million trade exception in their back pocket, the Cavs will assuredly be in the middle of any number of trade proposals before the Feb. 24 deadline.
This week's Mr. Fifteen is Boston rookie forward Luke Harangody. The 23-year-old from Notre Dame is averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds in a little more than eight minutes a night for the veteran Celtics, becoming a fan favorite in much the same way as former Celtic Brian Scalabrine. But Harangody's resumé coming out of college is stronger than Veal's; he left South Bend as the Irish's second-leading scorer (2,476 points, trailing only Austin Carr) and rebounder (1,222 boards, only behind Tommy Hawkins), and was selected a consensus second-team all-American by the NCAA after being named to his third straight all-Big East team. Harangody was taken in the second round (52nd overall) by Boston and has occasionally broken into Doc Rivers' rotation following Kevin Garnett's absence with a calf injury late last month.
Me: What were your expectations coming to this team?
Luke Harangody: I came in here and said I was going to work hard and keep my mouth shut, and that's what I've done so far. There's already enough personalities in this locker room.
Me: You had to do anything crazy for rookie hazing?
LH: I expected more. It hasn't been anything too outrageous. I mean, there will be calls late at night to go out, go to the CVS and things like that, get the peanut butter and jelly before the game. Nothing too crazy.
Me: With your pedigree, were you disappointed where you went in the Draft?
LH: I was. I think mostly because I'm a competitive person. But once I found out where I was going, I had the goal that I'm going to make this team, and so forth and so on. Just a set of realistic goals. Next is to make it in the rotation, things like that.
Me: And the other goals?
LH: Obviously to get on the floor more. Be more in the rotation. When Kevin went down I was able to get part of that, and make the most of every opportunity, and so on and so on. I have to realize I have to be patient, especially on a team like this. Every day, just coming in and working hard, and getting in with Perk (injured center Kendrick Perkins) here. He's been getting on me to work out. That's what's so great about being on this team.
Me: How have those workouts with Perk been?
LH: He's just, coming back from his injuries, a lot of people don't get to see how hard he works, what he does, to come back in game shape. I'll do whatever I can to help him out, whether it's one-on-one, after practice or things like that.
Me: So you can help this team even if you're not playing.
LH: Yeah. I realize everybody on this team has their part. I do whatever I can.
Me: What was that Toronto game like? ( Harangody had 17 points and 11 rebounds in a season-high 27 minutes Jan. 7 against the Raptors, getting extensive minutes for the injured Garnett off the bench.)
LH: It was just one of those things where I felt like my old self out there. I think the big thing Doc (Rivers) talks to me is just being able to slow down out there and relax, and I'm starting to feel that more and more every day. That was a big example of it.
Me: I imagine it's especially difficult, even coming here, when you've been a big star in college. How difficult is the transition?
LH: Coming from being in that kind of position to now, you kind of have to sit back and realize where you're at. I talk about all of the players in this locker room, things like that. People often ask whether I'd like to be on a team like this or a team where I'd get a lot more playing time. I've learned so much as this year's gone on. I think like I'm very blessed to be around this organization. So I take it for what it's worth, and if I get an opportunity here I'm going to make the most of it. I don't think you can get this environment anywhere else.
Me: What exemplifies the seriousness of purpose here?
LH: The first time I realized this is serious and the business part of it is, we won, I think we won 14 in a row or something like that. I don't know, we were coming in, we were playing somebody, it wasn't a team with a great record; I can't tell you who it was. (Editor's note: Harangody was probably talking about the Sixers, the Celtics' 14th win in a row, just before Christmas.) We had practice and guys were kind of screwing around, and the veterans got on them. You win 14 straight, and some teams might say, we're on a roll right now; we're good to go. But this team is very day-to-day, same routine. That's very impressive to watch.
Me: Has your game day routine changed?
LH: It has. I used to think in college I had a great work ethic, and I'm not going to knock it -- I did. But I think it needs to change at this level, 'cause you have to work that much harder. I have to learn from a lot of these guys. I've taken a little piece of their work ethic, their repetition on game day, too.
Me: What do you expect your career path to be?
LH: I see myself as just bringing that same role I have on this team. Obviously I need to add a little more. But I'm learning as the season progresses. Just being that guy that can come in there, energy guy, rebound, play a little defense, knock a couple of pick and pop shots down.
Me: You talked to coach (Mike) Brey at all about the adjustments?
LH: Yeah, I talk to coach Brey a lot, about sometimes when I'm down about not getting playing time, things like that. He's obviously been great about that. He's always been there for me to talk about me being patient, and everything will work out in the end.
Me: Any regrets you didn't come out after your junior year (Harangody pulled his name out of the 2009 Draft to finish his senior season at Notre Dame)?
LH: No. I think I would have been in the same situation after my junior year. I don't think my Draft status would have changed. And I was able to get my degree as well. So I'm very grateful for that.
"We've had discussions with Denver. And I think it's possible. But unfortunately, he clearly wants to be one place geographically."
-- New Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob, in an interview with the San Jose Mercury News, detailing Golden State's hopes to make a big trade by bringing in Carmelo Anthony. Lacob also didn't dispute the notion that the Warriors could deal either Monta Ellis or Stephen Curry before the Feb. 24 deadline.
"Who in their right mind would leave $65 million if it was about money?"
-- Anthony, lamenting his deteriorating relationship with fans in Denver -- whom he believes think he just wants to leave the Nuggets in search of a new contract instead of the $65 million extension the Nuggets have offered -- to Sports Illustrated.
"He's good. We're not."
-- Raptors coach Jay Triano, after Dwight Howard punked his Raptors for 31 points and 19 rebounds through three quarters in Orlando's 112-72 embarassment over Toronto Friday.
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|Focus And Intensity|
Damian Lillard drives strong and Patrick Beverley gets the strip from behind.
|Postgame: Randy Wittman|
Coach Randy Wittman talks to the media after Sunday's Game 1 victory.
Nene talks to the media after Sunday's thrilling Game 1 victory.
|Postgame: Tom Thibodeau|
Coach Tom Thibodeau talks to the media after Sunday's Game 1 loss to Washington.
Wesley Matthews misses on the 3-pointer, Damian Lillard tries the putback, and LaMarcus Aldridge cleans up with the tip-in.