Summer League Blog
Just what the world needs...another blog. Celtics.com's Peter Stringer and Celtics Play-by-Play Man Sean Grande have you covered for the Summer League with regular updates from the desert.
Note: Opinions expressed herein are those of the authors, and do not necessarily represent those of the Boston Celtics.
POSTGAME - 5:50 p.m. EST
So it's all over in Vegas, a very quick getaway for the squad, with an afternoon flight back to Boston. As you read this, they're already en route to the always enjoyable trip through airport security. (Makes you wish you'd invested in travel-size toothpaste futures, doesn't it?)
Armond Hill went with the starters for the final quarter, down by 20, but it was a frustrating afternoon pretty much from start to finish. And the Mavs went showtime late, winning it 91-70. An impressive day for the former Tar Heel Reyshawn Terry, 19 points on what I was hoping would be a Vegas appropriate 7 of 11 shooting. Until he made his last two shots just to spite us here in this blog.
News? Well, I could make something up, but it's been a quiet late-week, which is really the way you want it in mid-July. Brandon Wallace for the record, sprained his right ankle in the third quarter. Nothing that should inspire phone calls to talk shows or anything.
Even in the very immediate aftermath, it's not hard to extract the headlines...A very strong week for Rajon Rondo, particularly on defense and on-court leadership. As it stands on July 14, an awful lot could be asked of Rajon this winter. Finding that next level isn't an option, it's going to be a requirement...The out-of-nowhere emergence of Brandon Wallce, so impressive away from the ball, and long and active, that he lived the Summer League dream, signing his a two-year NBA contract next to a box of Lay's Potato Chips downstairs in the media room...The spectacular arrival of Posh and Becks, resplendent amid the hundreds of paparazi Oh wait, that was in Los Angeles, scratch that. (Ladies, be honest with me for a second, he may be the Sexiest Man Alive or whatever, but tell me that voice doesn't kill it for you. It has to, right?)...The late-week emergence of Glen Davis was impressive (12.0ppg, 9.8rpg for the week, 17.4 rebounds/48 minutes). Almost as if he moved very quickly along the learning curve, cutting down his fouls-per-minute dramatically over the final two. He was the best player on the floor in the finale this afternoon (6 blocks in addition to a 19-14 double-double). And he looks more and more like one of those guys. The guys who've figured out how to play in the post despite being undersized.
Leon Powe showed once again how much heart is the great equalizer in the paint, Malik Rose has made a lot of money in this league with that game. And neither has the offensive skill set Glen Davis does...Gabe Pruitt's best half may have come last night against Milwaukee. With Rondo on the sidelines, he struggled "commanding" the team in the first half, which is what Armond Hill was looking for. But a strong second half, quarterbacking a come-from-behind-win and punctuating it with the baseline drive and jam that made Sportscenter...Of course, there will be questions about Gerald Green. The reality is, there's an expectation as a third-year player here in Vegas, the numbers will come easly, especially for an offensive prodigy like Gerald, and obviously they didn't. 29.8% from the floor will raise some chatroom eyebrows I have little doubt. But, and stop me if you've heard this one before, but he's still just 21...What you want to see from "vets" in summer league, is what I talked about here the other day, the feel that they're varsity players playing against the JV. That's an indication of the leap, which means that maybe Leon Powe's desert fortnight may be the best news of all. The C's leading scorer this week, Leon's one of the great reminders that the draft is a snapshot of the horse race, but there are so many ways to improve at this level, if you bring your mind and heart.
Of course, one could say the same about blogging.
I'm not really sure the 24-hour news cycle of our world is for the best, but it's clearly here to stay. But as someone who's made his living by documenting events in real time, it's been an interesting experience learning that there's more than one way to skin that particular cat.
Max and I will talk to you in October, when the games still don't count, but the weather will at least be a little cooler. You'll hear us no doubt on our new flagship home, WEEI, from time-to-time throughout the summer. And I'll see you next on FSN New England's Sports Tonight August 10th. In the meantime, you know where to find us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I've been a little hard on Vegas, I admit, over these last few days. But a half-mile from Cox Pavilion, there's a In-and-Out Burger. And for that, I'd walk through the desert any day.
HALFTIME – 4:50 PM EST
C's down big, 44-30 at the half as just like last night with Noel and Greer from Milwaukee, the Mavs perimeter players (Maurice Ager, Reyshawn Terry and Jose Barea) are getting whatever shots they want. Dallas' first unit shoots 57% (17-30) in the half. Again it's apparent the drop-off defensively without Rondo on the floor, bad news for today, good news for the Fall.
Here's the biggest problem with blogging. I wrote at 4:15 p.m., "It looks like the Gerald we've been waiting for on the offensive end, hitting his first two shots." He finished the first half 2-6.
Allan Ray is in an interesting subject this week. The Celtics have fewer than three weeks to make a decision on one of last year's biggest surprises. His three-point play midway through the first quarter was something we didn't see much of during his rookie year. The kind of play that makes the difference between a shooter (which he already is) and a scorer (which he'll need to become to win a roster spot, and remember, there's one fewer spot than there was a week ago with Brandon Wallace .)
Round one of the Brandon Bass-Glen Davis LSU showdown goes to the more experienced Bass. A three-point play. And that looks like it's going to be a wake-up call. Big Baby gets him right back on the next possession. It's hard to find storylines in summer league games, but it's interesting to see a young player react to a sidebar story like that...just a little something to raise the stakes. And right on cue midway through quarter two...his hesitation move and extra pass for a Lance Allred basket was an eye-opener, showing great patience....his destruction of the baseline barrier chasing a loose ball did not. But we'll take the hustle. Little question he's the best Celtic on the floor in the first half today, not even close, six points, eleven boards in 17 minutes.
And for the stat-rats among you...the Glen Davis' up-to-the-second rebound per 48 minute numbers (Max's favorite stat...not) look like this: a very healthy 18.4
When we saw Team China on Wednesday, they were playing their fifth game in six nights. The Celtics legs look similarly affected. Third game in four days, plus the always-popular "day game after a night game." New respect for Major League Baseball teams for having to deal with that. Plus the rain delays...imagine Max and me having to fill two-hour rain delays?
Saturday - 3:50 p.m. EST
Ask around Cox Pavilion, and those who have been here for the fortnight would tell you without question that Rajon Rondo was the Celtics MVP here. But ask players and team personnel, and they'll add another name to that list: Armond Hill.
And in this educational, see-what-you-can-do-at-the-next-level, desert jamboree that is the Vegas Summer League, you're looking to see who rises to the challenge. And to a man, ask around for who's met that standard, and you'll hear "coach Hill."
This seems like an easy gig. Golf shirts on the sidelines, two weeks in Vegas, forty-minute games, ten fouls a man. But the reality, and the coach he bested last night, Tony Brown, can attest, having handled this assignment the previous three years, is that it's anything but. In a profession that requires meticulous preparation to achieve success, it can be somewhat disconcerting to get just a few hours notice in some cases about who's going to comprise your team.
"All I ask is they play defense." He told me last night. "Everything else is a bonus."
Well if that's the case, it's been a week of bonuses for the organization
Today's battle with the undefeated and untied Mavs (4-0) is set to begin shortly. No Rajon Rondo again for the C's. In the regular season, we'd put an injury in parenthesis to indicate why...(strained calf), (hamstring), etc. But after the week he's had here, we should list him as "no Rondo today (graduation)."
The matchup to watch? Glen Davis and his former LSU teammate Brandon Bass. Bass was SEC player of the year in 2005, when Big Baby was a big freshman. Davis won the award the following year. Other Mavs of note on the floor today...Eddie Basden, former Bull and Delonte West's high school running buddy, DeSagana Diop, the shot blocker who's got NBA years under his belt, you want to see players working here in the summer to take that next step. Jose Juan Barea, the Northeastern product, he whose fans serenaded us all night from the TD Banknorth Garden balcony when the Mavs visited in March with a lyrical "Jose, Jose, Jose, Jose" chant all night. And Nick Fazekas, the Nevada All-American who slipped into the second round, and was the pick before the C's took Glen Davis (I've been blogging for three days and I'm already sick of 'Big Baby', hopefully a new nickname organically surfaces soon.
Must say looking into the eyes of some of the traveling party, legendary trainer Ed Lacerte, video coordinator Jamie Young, assistant coach Mike Crotty and on down the line, I feel even more now that 72 hours should be the limit on Las Vegas. I don't think human beings were built for more. At the very least you should have to get a physical checkup and be re-certified or something every three days.
I'm not saying it's hard to stay healthy here. But I did have to walk two and half miles off the strip to find a supermarket that sold fresh fruit and fat-free yogurt. By the end, I'm stumbling down Flamingo Road in 110 degree heat like Chevy Chase in Vacation with my pants tied around my head like a bandana.
Game time in 10 minutes...
DALLAS: BAREA, AGER, R. TERRY, MENSAH-BONSU, FAZEKAS
BOSTON: PRUITT, RAY, GREEN, POWE, DAVIS
Postgame - Friday
On the team bus headed back to the hotel. You'd be amazed how much of this "glamorous" NBA life we lead is spent on busses.
Astute observers of the NBATV feed of the game may have picked up I spent most of the second half courtside with Danny Ainge (and no, I did not eavesdrop on his conversation with Kevin McHale. OK, I did, but what happens courtside in Vegas...) and numbers guru Mike Zarren. If you're reading a summer league blog, I'd be willing to bet you'd love hanging out with Mike. He'd be the perfect wingman to have with you if you were going out on a Friday night. He'd be like a caddy, having all the vitals on every girl at the bar including the success rate of every pickup line she's heard in the last five years.
In any case, the most interesting observations being around NBA bosses this time of year, are about the evolution of a player's game as he gets his first taste of the next level. This was a night I focused on Gabe Pruitt, who like a lot of young point guards we've seen the last few years, is so accustomed to having the ball in his hands, it takes time to process just how quickly things happen in this league. If you have a shot, take it. If you don't, you could be on the floor with Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Al Jefferson, etc. So holding the ball is, 99 times out of 100, the wrong choice. Just watching him tonight, he looked like a different player in the second half: far more assertive, a very early and valuable object lesson as to what brings success in the NBA. When you see him in person, you'll be struck not by his size, but his length.
Armond Hill seconded that notion after the game, adding that he was looking for more than playmaking from Pruitt with Rondo out of the game, but also leadership. And he saw more of that in the second half.
It's also worth noting the work of Glen Davis and Leon Powe, they're the reason the C's dominated the glass (38-22). Another strong night for Big Baby, 19 points on eight shots. He'll be able to score in the NBA in his minutes, it's interior defending and conditioning that will earn him those minutes.
I have to say, ten days and sixteen teams seems like a lot to cram in here. But what's Vegas if not the celebration of excess? We are after all, a country so emboldened in our love of excess, that we actually celebrated the return of the hot dog easting championship belt back "home where it belongs." I'm often reminded, in this the land of the "all you can eat" buffet, that you're really not supposed to eat all you can eat. Even if it gets you on ESPN.
Come to think of it, I wonder how the Worldwide Leader has missed the cost-saving opportunity of combining the World Series of Poker (going on here in town this week), and the hot dog eating contest into some kind of sedentary decathlon. Throw in "Dream Job" and give the winner a SportsCenter anchor gig.
Quick turnaround for the squad...I'll meet you back here for the afternoon finale on Saturday.
Crunch time now...2:00 left in a tie game.
Allan Ray breaks the tie...he's looking tired after a long fortnight, but the ability to hit a big shot late when you're fighting through fatigue is the sign of a true scorer.
The Gabe Pruitt layup makes it 80-76...and even better it comes off his rejection of Lynn Greer's jumper from the top of the key...defense leads to offense.
More defense leading to the missed Markota layup...and a good out-of-bounds pass from Gabe Pruitt will give Brandon Wallace a pair of free throws...both missed but an offensive board leads to a Leon Powe slam and this one is history. C's score the final eight points and win 84-76.
This qualifies as a solid summer league win and here's why. The Celtics did it without this week's best player, Rajon Rondo. And more to the point, they did it with defense...holding the Bucks to barely above 30% shooting in the second half.
Some postgame comments to come....and some thoughts after spending most of the second half sitting with Danny (and Kevin McHale) for that matter courtside...
Halftime - Friday, 8:45PM EST
** How valuable has Rajon Rondo, the Celtics MVP here this week, been? The C's entered the game allowing 37% shooting from the floor in the first three games. With Rajon on the sidelines, the Bucks shot 59% in the first half. Including 11-18 for the perimeter group of Awvee Storey, Lynn Greer and David Noel...just the three the squad was preparing for before the game an hour ago.
** Watching Leon Powe, he like Rondo have most definitely earned "graduation" status from Summer League. The new low-post moves, the court awareness to call a timeout when Alan Ray was pressed along the baseline late in the 2nd. And how about him using the Ryan Gomes move of swinging his arms into the defender to draw a first quarter foul. (In the rest of the known universe, that's known as Tim Duncan's move, but here in the friendly confines of Celtics Nation...it's all about Gomes.)
** Big Baby's 18-footer midway through the first quarter is a good reminder of the skill-set that lies beneath the intellectual and physical learning curve that's ahead of him.
** I wrote the other night that Gerald's offense will never concern me, that his playing time will come from what he does on the defensive end of the floor. But when your field goal percentage (31% as of halftime) approaches the President's approval rating...you're having a rough week.
** On the other side, the technical foul point that Brandon Wallace cost the C's by hanging on the rim after his put-back dunk late in the first, seems like an exceptionally small price to pay for the find of the summer. Wait until Walter Norton and Bryan Doo get him in the weight room...and at the buffet table for that matter.
** Awvee Storey, who's name has been conspicuously misspelled on his jersey, has looked good this week for Tony Brown's Milwaukee entry. And by that I mean not that's he's shot 50% from the floor, but that he hasn't sucker punched a teammate and left him with a career-threatening injury like he did to his NDBL teammate Martynas Andruskevicius last year. Always nice to see small signs of progress like that in Summer League. (Right on cue, he almost ran over an usher chasing a loose ball.)
** If you're wondering about Rajon, and the minutes tonight, keep in mind the Celtics are dealing with a baseball phenomenon here in Vegas, not just a back-to-back, but a day-game-after-a-night-game. So no Rondo tonight, or Jason Varitek for that matter.
Friday, July 13 - Gametime
Courtside at Cox Pavillion...it's day eight of the summer league, and game four for the C's.
Tonight's opponent...the Milwaukee Bucks.
Bucks: Damir Markotta, Awvee Storey, Noel Felix, Lynn Greer, David Noel.
Celtics: Gabe Pruitt (for Rondo), Alan Ray, Gerald Green, Leon Powe, Glenn Davis
Is it me, or does that sound an awful lot like the last two times these teams met in April? I digress.
The Celtics just went through a quick walkthrough downstairs at the practice gym, focusing on defending the ball on the perimeter and clogging up the middle, so David Noel and Lynn Greer can't pass through at will. We'll see how that plays out shortly. Most noteworthy to me was Rajon Rondo not participating tonight, but rather looking more like an extra assistant coach on the sidelines. He was also constantly in the ear of Clifford Ray, asking questions you love to see a young point guard ask.
I'll be checking in throughout the night, and during tomorrow's early game to close out the session. Including some thoughts on another Celtic who has used this desert fortnight to hone his skills and become a more valuable member of the organization, Armond Hill.
But before we get started tonight here in Vegas, a quick thought.
I've been asked almost non-stop about Kevin Garnett for the last month, so I'd be remiss if I didn't address Doc's comments to Steve Bulpett in the Herald today, or Michael Wilbon's somewhat unfortunate response this afternoon.
I spent three seasons around KG working for the Timberwolves. And while he's a human being far too layered, far too fascinating to be deconstructed in a summer league courtside blog, I can say this comfortably. He would love Boston. Love it. Love the passion, love the energy. He and Paul Pierce would compliment each other, both on the court and in the room, the way you'd script two superstars fitting together.
I can't speak on the racial issue. I didn't ( just like all but one of the "voices of the Celtics"...little trivia opportunity for you) grow up in Boston, didn't live here during the turbulent times. And even if I had, I don't have the requisite credibility to comment, cursed with a complexion so fair I run the risk of spontaneously combusting every time I step outside on the Strip. But I've never had an NBA player under 40 indicate that race is an issue in Boston in the 21st century. I've heard cold, I've heard losing, I've even heard the lower deck and Storrow Drive, but never race.
Minneapolis is a great city, one of the country's most underrated and I truly loved living there, but if Michael Wilbon, or people in general were to suggest losing, cold weather and diversity were truly issues in this KG situation? It might be worth noting where he's spent the first 12 years of his NBA life.
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a big Wilbon fan. Max and I have always felt a kinship with "PTI", as both it and "Grande and Max", two pairings grounded in the concept of debate, and differences of opinion, not character, were born within days of each other six years ago.
But what strikes me tonight is that something at the very heart of whatever racial divide culture exists in any of our worlds, is the perpetuation of stereotypes. And what, by playing the tired and outdated 'Boston is racist' card, is Michael Wilbon doing if not that?
Thursday, July 12 - A Play-By-Play Guy Enters the Blogosphere
My first question was a pretty simple one.
"What's a blog, anyway? I mean, how do you write one?"
Seemed like a good first question. And the answer I got was that, basically it's just your run-on thoughts with three dots between them...seems simple enough. Max and I have been running on at the mouth for years now.
But the habit I've gotten into the last few years, in writing monologues for the start of our game broadcasts, or columns for Celtics.com, or e-mails, or whatever, is simply to put together a paragraph of complete sentences. Ones that address a certain concept, and build on that theme in an attempt to demonstrate its relevance. Followed by a stand-alone sentence simply for counter-emphasis.
At least that's the way I do it.
But if there was a city, an event and a culture that was a match made in YouTube culture heaven for blogging, it's Las Vegas and the NBA Summer League. Where else could you have every day, under one roof 16 teams, 150 players, a thousand new rumors and Don Nelson running around in shorts and a Hawaiian shirt?
Although it does force us to make a minor adjustment to the long-accepted (and truly celebrated here) catchphrase, "what happens in Vegas, etc." Because now, with many people here at Cox Pavilion also participating in this no-attention-span sport of competitive blogging, it really should read "What happens in Vegas, no longer stays in Vegas, but rather now is instantly available around the globe to anyone who feels like minimizing his game of solitaire for a second."
Maybe that's what the three dots are for...to keep the sentences short....so you don't go back to solitaire...or minesweeper...or the IM thread you've got going with that guy in your fantasy baseball league, or that cute girl on the other side of the office (little hint? Don't do the colon/end parenthesis smiley face...really not cool).
Come to think of it, I wonder why Larry King hasn't been given credit for inventing the blog. He was writing a USA Today column like this twenty years ago. "For my money, nothing beats a good tuna melt...Rita Moreno has still got it...I see big things ahead for Joyce DeWitt, etc."
Anyway, I'll be here in Vegas, covering Peter in this little corner of the Celtics.com store, through the end of week. Thursday's a day off for the squad, no practice. (Thus Larry King jokes, as opposed to Gabe Pruitt news.) They'll reconvene Friday night here at UNLV to take on Milwaukee. I'll be there, you know, blogging for you throughout the night. As well as the Saturday afternoon finale against DeSagana Diop and the Dallas Mavericks.
That's one of the best parts of summer league, by the way. It's like the old NFL strike season, or Major League Baseball with replacement players. You can actually bill a team as "DeSagana Diop and the Dallas Mavericks", "Jabari Smith and the L.A. Lakers", "Lynn Greer, David Noel and the Milwaukee Bucks."
Actually scratch the last one...that's how the Bucks played the last 25 real games last year.
This is my tenth year in the NBA, and to tell the truth, the exponential growth of interest in, and popularity of, the summer league is reflective not just of the increasing popularity in the NBA, but of the league's cultural relevance, both for better and worse. There's more interest, there's more information available than ever before. But the increasing value we place on potential, rather than reality, on promise, as opposed to delivery truly mirrors society. But that I suppose, is just part of the fun. See, the real fascination of Summer League, the game within the game, is watching the youth we've spent the last few months aggrandizing, take their first baby steps into the "real world" of professional basketball, where experience is the great equalizer.
That to me, is the story of the week here. Watching Gabe Pruitt and Brandon Wallace and Glenn Davis. Watching their brains work and their games make their first adjustment when all the things they've been able to do so easily on their way here, don't come so easy anymore.
The same way General Washington was forced to retreat across the East River when the British, still smarting from the lessons of Bunker Hill, had made the necessary adjustments. Or, you know, if you prefer, when Ralph Macchio's crane kick doesn't work in Karate Kid, Part 2 because the competition level is higher, same idea.
So as the core of the NBA's tomorrow make their first adjustments on the court here this week, maybe we should use the time to adjust our expectations of what's possible for them, and when. Not easy I know. After all being fixated on youth is what we're about as a country anyway now I suppose. It got us two months of Paris Hilton police blotter. Got us hourly updates on Lindsay Lohan's sobriety.
Not to mention where it got R Kelly.
But you clicked on this link to read about Summer League, right? Let me try to morph into traditional blog format here, running through some quick notes from Wednesday night's 80-52 smackdown (let me be among the first to employ one of this week's new additions to Webster's Dictionary. I'm quite sure the first entry attributable entirely to The Rock) of Team China.
** Ooohs and aaahs for Brandon Wallace's first quarter block on Yi. I'm quickly on the bandwagon for the newest addition to the roster, first reaction is that he has "game feel", something so many rookies of the Y2K NBA don't have entering the league. Rule of thumb for me the first time I see players and evaluate, is what's the upside? What does a player have that you can't teach, and what don't they have that you can? Now at first glance, Brandon Wallace is thin. Real thin. Kate Moss thin. Turn sideways and he disappears thin. When a summer league jersey, which we used to call a "pinny" back in the day, is falling off you, you need to find In and Out Burger. But weight, like a jump shot (Rajon Rondo) and strength (Al Jefferson) is something you can add on as you go. Game feel you can't.
** Much harder usually, is taking weight off, which is a battle Glenn Davis is clearly still fighting. (Sweet baseline jumper though late in the 1st) Big Baby might very well be the player that benefits the most from this week, jumping on that learning curve of the physical and emotional requirements of his playing his position in the NBA.
** Numbers lie in the summer, almost invariably...but it should be pointed out that Leon Powe's 23 point-12 rebound night came not against someone who'll be an intern at Smith Barney in the fall (like many roster-fillers here this week), but rather against an NBA veteran, five inches taller in Wang ZhiZhi. He was ginormous (another new Webster's word...I don't think The Rock ever used it) in this one. It's what you want to see when players return for their second year in Vegas. The sense that they're varsity players, playing in a JV game. Leon had it last night, Rondo's had it all week, the same way Gomes was the best player on the floor here last year.
** Gerald hasn't shot the ball well here this week, but I don't care if he misses every shot he takes. It's defense that's going to give him the minutes, and that's how he'll make the leap. If and when his execution matches the intensity and focus he's putting on that part of his game this week, big things will happen. He'll always be able to score at any level...in his sleep.
** It was not a good night, nor has it been a good week for Yi Jianlian, who at times last month was ticketed for the Celtics #5 pick. 26% shooting and 12.3 fouls/48 minutes But for Yi, and Kevin Durant, and Jeff Green and Greg Oden for that matter. It's a valuable reminder that the road ahead is long, and it's going to be bumpy, tonsillectomy or not. (How about the Blazers' prescription for their new franchise center? "Take two seats at the ESPY's and call us in the morning.")
** But watching Yi, and Wang Zhongguang, Zhang Songato and the rest of Team China last night, I did have one overwhelming thought....I would have given every Yuan in my pocket to hear Tommy broadcast this game.
I'll check back from courtside tomorrow night at Cox Pavilion.
Now my partner, my brother, yin to my play-by-play yang Cedric Maxwell isn't in Vegas this week. He's off scouting the Rocky Mountain Revue in Salt Lake.
(Anyone buying that? Anyone at all. Didn't think so.)
But for those of you that don't know, you can reach us year round at email@example.com. I'll be happy to open the mailbag over the next couple of days, and I promise...
Wednesday - 63-38 Celtics, End of Third Quarter
The Chinese National Team is playing its fifth game in six days, and it shows. They look tired, they're getting killed on the glass, and Yi was visibly huffing and puffing in the second qaurter. Since the end of the first quarter, the C's have outscored them 42-23.
Also, apologies for misdating my last two days of posts. Fixed now. Sean Grande points out that there are no clocks in casinos.
Wednesday - 5:54 PM PST
Gotta catch the team bus to Cox in about 15 minutes, but wanted to pass along a few things before tonight's game. First up, Celtics radio play-by-play man Sean Grande will be taking over the blog duties in the desert. I'm red-eying back to Boston tonight to be back in time for the Celtics Dancers Final Audition at Avalon tomorrow night -- make sure to check out Haley's Blog from this week's rehearsals. While Keith Sliney has already shot some pics from yesterday's action in Waltham, I'll have more for you tomorrow on the site as well. Rough job, huh?
That said, I still haven't come to grips with the fact that I'll be leaving behind the Caesar's Palace pool and all of the scenery that comes with it...
A side note: I was in the room at the Cox Pavilion when Brandon Wallace signed his deal, but since the team hadn't officially announced the transaction, I left it out of the blog. Similar to draft night when we made the Ray Allen deal, the team's official website always waits until transactions are officially announced (in that case, after the #35 pick was made) before publishing it. Just an FYI for fans who might have wondered.
I've never seen a contract signing before, but sitting around a card table with your agent and Leo Papile is not how I imagined that this stuff goes down. Then again, the only contract signings I can remember seeing usually involved Hulk Hogan, an inevitably these proceedings were interrupted by a steel chair shot across the head. So I was a little underwhelmed by the lack of ceremony surrounding Wallace's signing.
I had actually talked to him just a few minutes before about the adjustments he's making by playing the three ("I played the three in high school") and the speed of the NBA game. He's not a loquacious man by any stretch, but he certainly knows what his role will be. "Play defense and rebounding..."
Also, I caught up with Rajon Rondo to talk about his work this summer. I'll have more on that later this week. In the meantime, gotta grab my bags and head for the bus.
Tuesday - Known as Dunker, Green Looks To Diversify
Gerald Green is working on his ballhandling and defense this summer.
Photo: Jack Arent
Wayne Newton. Carrot Top. Criss Angel.
Um, Gerald Green?
Well, maybe that's a stretch. He not playing a casino every night and he doesn't have any billboards on the strip, but Green certainly has a flair for showmanship, not to mention a little bit of notoriety here in Las Vegas. Since winning the Slam Dunk contest here in February at All-Star Weekend, Green's profile has jumped immeasurably.
Cloaked in his Bose headphones upon arrival at the arena before the game, Green carries himself with a healthy amount of swagger as he prepares to play. But after the game, upon his departure from at Cox Pavilion on Monday, he was engulfed by young fans, most half his size, who wanted either an autograph or just to say hello. And he's glad to sign as he inches his way down the cramped sideline behind the scorer's table.
Still, while all of the recognition is great, Green told me Monday he wants more from his basketball reputation than just a few nasty YouTube-quality slams.
"I don't want everybody to just think I'm a dunker," Green said, taking his game sneakers off after Monday's loss to the San Antonio Spurs in Summer League. "I'm way more than that. I'm just trying to work on every aspect of my game."
Green says he expects to come return next season as a smarter, calmer and more patient player who better understands his role in offensive sets and defensive rotations. Defense, says Green, is where he wants to develop the most.
"That's one thing I want to do. All of the great players are great defenders too," Green said, acknowledging that his development will come with attention to the details that are required of NBA defense. "It's focus, being alert and getting down on defense, all of those things."
While Green's first two summer league games haven't been remarkable on the offensive end and he's struggled getting his shots to fall, he's clearly been more active on the defensive end. Whereas in the past he might get caught ball-watching, Green's head was on a swivel Monday, and he was contesting shots, getting his hand in the passing lanes and bothering post players when he was in the vicinity.
There's more work to be done, and summer league defense isn't quite regular season defense, but it's a start.
Green also said that he's been working on his ballhandling this summer, and that it's coming along nicely. He still seemed shakey at times with the ball at the top of the key -- he seems to prefer to catch and shoot from the elbow or work defenders on the baseline -- but Green seems to have the right attitude about fixing some of the holes in his game.
61-53 Spurs, Final
The Celtics were outscored 27-11 over the last 12 minutes of the game. Armond Hill blamed the loss on turnovers and individualistic play. A full recap of the game with reaction from Coach Hill is coming soon, and we also caught up with Gerald Green, Rajon Rondo and Brandon Wallace as well.
44-42 Spurs - 6:47/3rd
Jackie Butler socred the last four points in a 10-0 run for the Spurs to put them on top 44-42. Butler has 14 and today looks like the best guy on the floor. Gerald Green continues to struggle with his shot.
Halftime - 26-20 Celtics
Yeah, it's a low-scoring, sloppy game; Rondo's thrown a few passes into the stands, we've seen countless traveling violations, and the teams combined for a staggering 29 turnovers at the hald. A few people have already called it "the worst basketball game I've ever seen." It's somewhat reminiscent of the good old days at UMass Boston when Khalid El-Amin and Brandon Hunter were trying to find NBA jobs.
On the bright side, "the new defense is working" says Houston Rockets G.M. Daryl Morey, who stopped by to say hello to Celtics.com.
20-14 Celtics, 3:40/2nd Qtr.
Gerald Green is really asserting himself here in the second quarter, and most of the offense is running through him. Meanwhile, strength coach Walter Norton Jr. is stretching out Big Baby's right leg on the baseline by the Celtics bench. Meanwhile, Brandon Wallace is having another strong game on the defensive end, jumping into passing lanes, bothering shots in the paint and being just an all-around nuisance.
Lots of whistles early and some sloppy play, but the Celtics have an 11-10 lead after one. Gabe Pruitt is in at the point to start the second. Big Baby finished the first with four rebounds.
Monday, July 9 - Gametime - 1p.m. PST
We're just about to tip off at Cox Pavilion. Rondo, Green, Powe, Ray and Big Baby is your starting five. C.J. Watson, Donnell Harvey, Marcus Williams, James White and Jackie Butler will start for San Antonio.
Sunday Notes and Quotes - 2:14 PM PST
I caught up with Doc Rivers after today's scrimmage. He's pleased with what he's seen so far from the two second-rounders, and also impressed with non-roster invitees Brandon Wallace and Lance Allred.
"They're picking up stuff quickly," Rivers said of the Celtics second-round picks. "Davis is doing what he does, whereas Gabe has actually changed his position and so it's tougher for him but he's doing it very well."
The Celtics coaching staff knows that Pruitt can score with anyone, but they're more interested in seeing him stay in front of his man.
As for concerns with Pruitt's defense that Rivers mentioned during Friday night's broadcast on NBA TV, the Coach says he's already seen improvement.
"That's where I think he's already done a great job. You can see clearly in college he didn't focus on defense," Rivers said. "But I was honest with him. I told him, 'if you don't play defense, you won't be here by October.' And I said, 'I'm not looking at you for your offense. I know you can do that.' But I told him, 'if you can't play defense, I guarantee you I will not keep you.' And he's been great. He's been phenomenal."
Given Doc's comments, I asked him if young second-round picks traditionally understand how fragile NBA jobs can be, and if they actually realize that their liveliehoods are on the line in the summer following the draft. I liked his response...
"I hope not, because I think that they should always think that they're good enough. You know what I mean?" Rivers said. "I think our guys have a sense of urgency. Some players don't, which amazes me. Gabe and Glen clearly do [understand]."
As for Big Baby, when I asked him what it was like to go up against such a hyped up guy like Oden, he dismissed it and said "It's even now. We're all in the NBA now. He has to earn his spot too."
Both Oden and Davis had their troubles with fouls, and Davis said he'd make the adjustment.
"I've just got to get used to it," Davis said. "If I do that I'll have a better feel for the game."
As for Davis' penchant for fading away from the basket on his post moves, he said, "That's a shot I can make. My offensive game is not there [yet] but that's what I'm known for, so if I can do some other things I'll have a chance because they know what I can do."
Rivers joked that he didn't mind that Davis was fading away, but that he just wished he'd actually hit one...
Game 3: 14-14 Tie
Gabe Pruitt's spinning layup had the Celtics up 14-12 with seconds to play, but a Pistons' buzzer-beater left the game tied at 14-14. I guess you don't play OT in a Summer League scrimmage. The guys took to the floor for some more strecthing to finish the afternoon before loading up the bus to wrap up the day.
The Summer Celtics return to action tomorrow afternoon at 1 p.m., taking on the 0-2 San Antonio Spurs, who feature Jackie Butler and high-flyer James White.
Game 2 Final: Celtics 16, Pistons 10
The C's jumped out early and held on for a win in the second game, which featured mostly reserves.
Game 1: 14-12 Celtics
Leon Powe unofficially has six of the 14 for the C's....not sure if they're keeping individual stats at the scorer's table but we'll try to get some numbers later. Anyway, it appears we'll be running a bunch of 10-minute games. The second unit is now on the floor for game two. Carroll, Wallace, Pruitt, Allred and Glyniadakis started the second game.
We're pretty much in the bowels of the Cox Pavilion, so it's not surprising that the wireless is spotty at best.
Meanwhile, it's 14-4 Celtics with 3:18 left in Game 2. G-Money and Pruitt knocked down threes from the left corner on back-to-back possessions to stake the C's to their 10-point lead. Ainge to me on the sidelines, "The young guys are looking pretty good, huh?"
One thing that stands out: Davis seems to prefer fading away from the basket on his post moves.
July 8 - 11:16 AM PST - Touchdown at McCarren, Scrimmage at Cox
It was smooth sailing from Boston to the desert Sunday morning, and a quick cab ride from McCarren to the Cox Pavilion practice court where the Celtics and Pistons are preparing for a scrimmage. Bryan Doo has the charges running through some basic stretches and court work to warm up, and the Pistons are doing the same. If the countdown on the score board is to be believed, we should tip off around 11:30 a.m.
Quick notes: Sebastian Telfair isn't in the gym today. But one guy who is here in person, and who looks much bigger in person is Big Baby himself. I saw Mr. Davis at his press conference last week in street clothes, but for whatever reason he didn't look quite as big in civilians as he does in practice attire.
Starting lineup for the C's: Rondo, Ray, Green Baby and Powe in the home whites. The Pistons aren't wearing names so we'll have to track down a roster...No refs on the floor, but the 24 second clock is running. Coaches are saying from the sidelines to play thorugh fouls. Armond HIl just called for timeout, and the Celtics are up 6-4 with 5:09 to play in the first. Danny Ainge just walked in as well...
As if it wasn't hot enough in Vegas this week, Medford's own Maria Menounos was at the Cox Pavilion to check out the Celtics' Summer League games against the Blazers Friday night. Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty
July 7 12:53 a.m. - Celtics 74, Blazers 66
A few more thoughts after watching tonight's game...
Gabe Pruitt showed nice touch from downtown but really seemed to struggle defensively. You can bet he'll be hearing from the coaching staff over the weekend about needing to improve on D. In fact, when Doc Rivers joined the NBA TV broadcast he said pretty much the same thing.
Gerald Green played well early, tapered off later but certainly looked confident. That's good to see. Now in his third year of summer league, he should feel like he's the best guy on the floor whenever he's out there now that's he's gotten some real NBA experience under his belt. We all know he can shoot the three, but I'd like to seem him attack the hoop more, and he showed a few times tonight that his first step is better than advertised.
Rajon Rondo is still playing at breakneck speed, which is nice to see, but at times he still seems a bit out of control, especially when heading to the basket. I'd like to see him look to score more on his forays to the hole; he proved he could do it at the end of last year but he was kicking it out too much tonight when he probably could have just laid it in.
Leon Powe really took a spill when he went for that facial against Oden late in the game. We'll try to have an update for you tomorrow on his condition. He'll probably be feeling that one on Saturday morning when he wakes up.
Finally, I thought I'd done myself a favor by delaying my Vegas trip until Sunday morning when I heard about the ridiculous heat wave that beat down Las Vegas this week. Then I found out that celebrity Celtics fan Maria Menounos was at the game tonight.
Sometimes you can't win...
July 5 - 9:46 p.m. EST - Scratch Carroll; D-League Shuffles Deck Again
Jeff Twiss has checked in from "furnace blast toasty" Las Vegas, where the mercury hit a a blistering 116 today.
The word from Thursday's evening practice is that sharpshooter Pat Carroll did not participate due to a stomach virus, and TJ Thompson was replaced by Eric Hicks, a 6'6" forward from Cincinnati.
Twiss noted yesterday that Carroll, who appeared in two preseason games for the Dallas Mavericks last year, has "a nice stroke and is scrappy on defense". But it's not all bad news for the Carroll family this week, as Pat's older brother Matt reportedly just signed a six-year deal with the Charlotte Bobcats.
Also, the Celtics were once again re-assigned to a new D-League affiliate on Thursday following the announcement that the San Antonio Spurs have purchased the Austin Toros. Along with the Utah Jazz, the Celtics will now be affiliated with the Utah Flash.
Bassy recently bought a home in Las Vegas and has been working out with the Celtics' Summer League team this week.
Bryan Doo / Boston Celtics
July 4 - 11:30 p.m. EST - Bassy in the House
Happy 4th Celtics fans...We've got a few updates from Vegas to pass along, courtesy of PR chief Jeff Twiss. First off, Twister reports that the summer Celtics had their first practice on Tuesday night, and "Big Baby" Glen Davis has already caught his eye.
Twiss notes that Davis has a feel for the game, and he showed some good passing and a nice touch on his mid-range jumper. He also notes Davis' "healthy attitude". Davis did suffer a minor injury, as he sustained a bent back toenail on his right foot, and then had it stepped on during Wednesday morning's practice for good measure. Ouch.
Twiss also noted that Sebastian Telfair has been practicing with the team as well. A slimmed-down Bassy recently bought a home in Las Vegas has been working out this summer alongside Ryan Gomes in with noted guru Joe Abunassar. He's not on the summer league roster, nor is he expected to play for the summer league team, but according to Twiss he was running through plays on the Green team with Rajon Rondo, Leon Powe, Gerald Green and Davis for most of Tuesday's session.
And while it was damp and drizzly for the fireworks in here at home, Twiss reports the temperature in Vegas at a toasty 115, roughly 50 degrees warmer than Boston.
The Celtics tip off their five game slate with a tilt against #1 draft pick Greg Oden and the Portland Trailblazers on Friday night, and you can catch all the action live on Fox Sports New England. Meanwhile, Celtics.com departs Sunday morning for the desert to catch games two and three in person, and then play-by-play man Sean Grande will be checking in with us from Vegas next weekend as well. Also, Strength and Conditioning Coach Bryan Doo sent along some photos as well.