At 19-38 the Boston Celtics are enduring one of their worst seasons ever. For a franchise that has a league leading 17 championships and a .591 regular season win percentage all-time, a down year like this is nothing to be overly concerned about.
The Celtics knew when they sent Kevin Garnett and Paul Piece to Brooklyn and traded head coach Doc Rivers to the Los Angeles Clippers for a first-round pick that they were going to take a couple of steps back this season. Every franchise has to do it at some point. The Celtics were fortunate to squeeze an extra season or two with Garnett and Pierce as their center pieces, but like all good things, it had to come to an end at some point and this summer was that time.
The departures of Garnett, Pierce and Rivers have been compounded by Rajon Rondo’s absence for all but 12 games so far this year.
This is a development year, and for this franchise they are few and far between. They should benefit from this one for many years to come, though. Brad Stevens is getting to learn the NBA head coaching ropes without any pressure. Jeff Green, Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger are having strong seasons with expanded roles. They’re going to have a high draft pick in one of the most highly-regarded draft classes in recent memory. And, most importantly, Rondo is healthy and on the road back to being one of the more productive point guards in the league.
Although their second round pick Colton Iverson, who they acquired in a draft night trade, is not with the team this season, he’s another piece of the Celtics’ future that is developing to be a difference maker in coming years, only overseas in Turkey. Iverson is playing with Besiktas CT and averaging 8.6 points and 6.6 rebounds in 21.6 minutes a game.
The Celtics have kept a close eye on Iverson and have stayed in frequent contact with him, making the cross country journey recently to watch him in person.
“It’s great to know that they’re still supporting me, watching me evaluating me, helping me think about ways that I can better,” Iverson said to Basketball Insiders. “I know they’re really invested in me right now; I am going to try and put in the hard work and do everything I can to be ready, when they are ready for me be to be ready for them. I am going to keep working every day. Knowing that they have my back and are supporting me right now is a great motivation and I’ll keep working harder than ever before.
“It’s a special feeling knowing that such a prestigious organization is really counting on you to get better and work hard and do the things for them that they need. I am trying to live up to the expectations right now even though I am not technically part of the team; I am just trying to get better. If and when they do need me, to be ready to produce and help the team win any way possible. I know it is such a big time organization, they have legends that have played there and so many championships, it really is a high expectation that you have to be ready for and ready to live up to.”
Iverson exploded onto the draft scene during his final year of eligibility at Colorado State, where he transferred to for his senior year after three years of being a role player at Minnesota. He went from being completely off the radar to a draft pick by putting up 14.2 points and 9.8 rebounds a game. With all the makings of a blue collar big man in the same mold of Kendrick Perkins, who helped the Celtics win a championship in 2008, Iverson was given a small list of things to add to his game this year in Turkey.
“My offensive game definitely needed improvement for the next level,” Iverson said “Having the post moves to go against pros so I’ve been working on that this year, stepping out being able to knock down 10-15 foot jump shots, working on pick-and-roll defense, which is going to be huge in the NBA because 75 percent of the offense in the NBA is pick-and-roll. Being able to guard that will really benefit me and just continue rebounding, which is what I’ve always been good at, if I can continue rebounding at a high level that will really transition well into the NBA.”
As Iverson states, pick-and-roll defense will be key for him at the next level. Fortunately, the style of play and defensive schemes in the Turkish league give Iverson the chance to work on it every game.
“It was a little bit different for at first because Summer League we relied on the guards to fight through screens and you basically were just like a second source,” Iverson said. “Right here it’s all on the big man to contain penetration, stop the guard completely, then allow for recovery and get back and guard your man in time. You have to be able to that and it happens really fast. It’s a little bit different over here because there is no defensive three seconds so it’s a little bit more crowded in the paint, I guess that helps you a little bit. It’s definitely on the big man to contain penetration on any pick-and-rolls.”
He’s also been forced to step away from his comfort zone inside the paint offensively and work on becoming more versatile like the Celtics’ desire.
“There is definitely not as much back to the basket game here, there is a lot more setting screens, being at the high post, the short corner,” Iverson said. “It’s a little bit different for me, it’s a bit of an adjustment. I think it’s going to benefit me in the long run because I am expanding my game and I’m learning to have the ball in different situations and scenarios. Even though it is different for I think I am benefitting from it and the experience of it.”
Iverson’s contract expires at the end of the season, after which he plans to come back to the states and train at Impact Basketball in Las Vegas, Nevada as he did in preparation for the NBA Draft until he can join the Celtics’ summer league team.
Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge recently hinted that the team could swing big to make some improvements this season. Last time the Celtics were this bad was the 2006-07 season where they went 24-58. The next season they went 66-16, a record for the biggest turnaround in a single season in league history. If anyone knows how to rebuild in a hurry, it’s him. As an affordable, defensive-minded center who is still improving, Iverson could easily fit into his big plans.
Clippers Officially Sign Glen Davis
The Los Angeles Clippers announced today that they have signed free agent forward Glen Davis. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed. Davis will be available to play in the Clippers game vs. New Orleans tonight and will wear uniform number 12.
Davis, 28, appeared in 45 games (43 starts) this season with the Orlando Magic averaging 12.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 30.1 minutes per game. A native of Baton Rouge, LA, Davis is reunited with Clippers head coach Doc Rivers, who coached him for four seasons in Boston and together were a part of the 2008 NBA Championship Celtics team.
A seven-year NBA veteran, Davis has appeared in 417 career games (120 starts) with both Orlando and Boston, averaging 8.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.0 assists in 23.1 minutes per game.
Originally drafted by Seattle with the 35th overall selection in the second round of the 2007 NBA Draft, Davis was traded to Boston along with Ray Allen as part of a Draft Day trade. After four years with the Celtics, Davis joined the Magic on Dec. 12, 2011 along with Von Wafer in exchange for Brandon Bass.
The power forward has made 69 career Playoff appearances, averaging 8.3 points and 4.2 rebounds in 21.9 minutes. Last season, Davis averaged a postseason-best 19.0 points and 9.2 rebounds for the Magic in five playoff games (all starts).
Davis enjoyed a successful college career, playing three seasons at Louisiana State University. He averaged 16.7 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.16 blocks in 95 games (93 starts) at LSU, with his best year coming in 2006 when he led the Tigers to the Final Four and was named the SEC Player of the Year and a first-team All-American, leading the SEC in scoring (18.6) and rebounds (9.7).
Kemba Walker, Kevin Love Named Players of the Week
The Charlotte Bobcats’ Kemba Walker and the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Kevin Love today were named NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week, respectively, for games played Tuesday, Feb. 18, through Sunday, Feb. 23.
Walker led the Bobcats to a 4-0 week behind averages of 22.5 points (tied for seventh in the conference), 8.8 assists (second in the conference) and 5.5 rebounds. His 40.5 minutes per game ranked third in the East. Walker tallied 20-plus points three times and eclipsed the 30-point plateau once. He scored 24 points, handed out a career-high 16 assists and added five rebounds on Feb. 19, during a 116-98 win over the Detroit Pistons.
Love helped the Timberwolves to a 2-1 behind a league-best 36.7 ppg and 12.7 rpg (fourth in the league). He recorded a point-rebound double-double in all three contests, and notched one triple-double with 37 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists on Feb. 22, during a 121-104 win over the Utah Jazz. Love leads the NBA with 47 double-doubles on the season.
Here is a recap of the week for Walker and Love:
Kemba Walker, Charlotte Bobcats
Feb. 18 @ Detroit: Collected 22 points, six assists and four rebounds in a 108-96 win over the Pistons.
Feb. 19 vs. Detroit: Tallied 24 points, 16 assists and five rebounds during a 116-98 win over the Pistons, finishing a home-and-home sweep.
Feb. 22 vs. Memphis: Scored 31 points and added eight rebounds and five assists in a 92-89 win over the Grizzlies.
Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
Feb. 19 vs. Indiana: Scored 42 points and added 16 rebounds in a 104-91 win over the Pacers.
Feb. 22 @ Utah: Collected a triple-double with 37 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in a 121-104 win over the Jazz.
Feb. 23 @ Portland: Posted 31 points and 10 rebounds during a 108-97 loss to the Trail Blazers.
Other nominees for the Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week were Charlotte’s Al Jefferson, Golden State’s Stephen Curry, Indiana’s Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers’ Jamal Crawford and Blake Griffin, Miami’s Chris Bosh, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, Portland’s Damian Lillard, Sacramento’s Isaiah Thomas, Toronto’s Kyle Lowry and Washington’s John Wall.
NBA Daily: Checking In With Terrance Ferguson
Oklahoma City Thunder rookie Terrance Ferguson talks to Basketball Insiders about learning from his teammates, earning minutes and being mentally tough.
Before he reached the NBA, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Terrance Ferguson was once often referred to as a man of mystery. After changing course on two different programs in a two-month span, Ferguson ditched the typical one-and-done collegiate season for an adventure on the other side of the planet. But even after the Thunder selected Ferguson with the No. 21 overall pick in last year’s draft — the questions still lingered. How would a teenager with one season overseas adjust to the world’s most physical basketball league?
Not many rookies can contribute to a 40-plus win squad out in the cutthroat Western Conference so quickly — but down the stretch, here Ferguson is doing just that. With the Thunder locked in a tight playoff battle with six others teams, the 19-year-old’s hard-working personality has fit alongside the roster’s three perennial All-Stars — Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. And although his rookie season has come with some growing pains, Ferguson is earning meaningful minutes and making the most of them.
“I think it’s my work ethic, I come in every day with the same mentality,” Ferguson said. “I work my butt off — inside the game, being physical. Even though I’m a skinny guy, as everyone can see, I’m still everywhere on the floor being physical. I think [the coaching staff] really likes that, especially on the defensive end.”
Skinny or not, Ferguson is one of the league’s youngest players, so the 6-foot-7 guard has plenty of room to grow — literally. But for now, he’s playing an integral role on an Oklahoma City team looking to protect its high postseason seed. Late January brought the unfortunate season-ending injury to Andre Roberson — an All-Defensive Second Team honoree in 2016-17 — so the Thunder have needed both new and old players to step up in bigger roles.
While those candidates included the three-point shooting Alex Abrines, veteran Raymond Felton and the newly-acquired Corey Brewer, Ferguson’s recent rise in the rotation has arguably been the most interesting development. Since the calendar flipped to January, Ferguson has featured in almost all of the Thunder’s games, tallying just two DNP-CDs and one missed contest following a concussion. This steady diet of opportunity comes as a stark contrast to the 15 games in which he received no playing time, spanning from the season’s opening tip to the new year.
Of course, playing time is not always indicative of success, but Ferguson himself isn’t surprised that he’s carved out a crucial role ahead of the playoffs.
“Not really, it’s all up to coach’s decision,” Ferguson told Basketball Insiders. “I’m just here playing my part, staying ready at all times and some minutes came, so I’mma take them and play to the best of my ability.”
Back in October, Basketball Insiders’ own Joel Brigham spoke to Ferguson about his unconventional path to NBA and the choice to spend a year grinding with the Adelaide 36ers, an Australian outfit. In the land down under, Ferguson averaged just 15 minutes a night, considerably less than he would’ve likely received as a highly-recruited prospect here in America. Some five months later, Ferguson’s early-season stance on the move still stands out.
“I’m living the dream now, right? I must have done the right thing,” Ferguson said.
Today, it’s hard to disagree with Ferguson’s decisions considering that they’re currently paying off. In 2009, Brandon Jennings became the first to skip college and play in Europe before being drafted, with Emmanuel Mudiay most notably following in his footsteps six years later. While those two point guards both were selected in the top ten of their draft classes — at No. 10 and No. 7, respectively — it still remains the road far less traveled.
Considered raw by most pre-draft evaluations, an early expectation was that Ferguson would spend much of the season with the Oklahoma City Blue, the Thunder’s G-League affiliate. Instead, Ferguson has played in only three games with the Blue, where he has averaged a commendable 14.7 points, four rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.
But as of late, the Thunder have found somebody that’ll always work hard, learn from others and do the little things that don’t show up in the box score.
“I’ve learned a lot more from when I first started,” Ferguson told Basketball Insiders. “I got great teammates — I got Nick Collison, I got Russ, PG, Melo, so just picking their brains. I got Corey now, so just the work ethic they put in, just picking their brains each and every day about what I can do better, watching game film, it’s a lot of things.”
When he was drafted, Ferguson had a reputation as a skyscraping leaper with the athleticism to become an elite perimeter defender. Although his current averages with the Thunder understate his innate potential, Ferguson knows he can contribute without scoring — even noting that he can make up for it “on the other side of the court.” Playing defense and competing hard every night, he has slowly made a name for himself.
And while Ferguson has tallied far more single-digit scoring outings than his 24-point breakout performance in early January, he’s earned the trust of head coach Billy Donovan and his veteran teammates, which is something the rookie will never take for granted.
“Coach believes in me and that means a lot to me,” Ferguson said. “But my teammates believe in me, so I’m not gonna let them down. I’m gonna go out every day and play my hardest, compete and try to get the win each and every night.”
One might assume that his year abroad in Australia helped to mentally mold him into the high-flying, hard-nosed rookie we see today. Ferguson, however, contends that he’s had that edge from the very beginning.
“I’ve been mentally tough, it wasn’t overseas that did that,” Ferguson told Basketball Insiders. “I had to be mentally tough just to go over there — so I’ve always had that mentality, the [desire] to just dominate, play to the best of my ability and compete.”
And now he’s doing just that in the NBA.
Is Kyrie Irving’s Second Opinion a Cause for Concern?
Shane Rhodes breaks down the tough situation the Celtics are in with Kyrie Irving.
The Boston Celtics are in one awful predicament.
With a third of the roster out due to injury, Brad Stevens has been forced into the impossible task of maintaining Boston’s championship aspirations with some subpar talent; while they have performed admirably, the likes of Abdel Nader and Semi Ojeleye wouldn’t see the same run they are currently on with most contenders. Gordon Hayward has missed the entire season, save a few minutes on opening night. Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis are all currently out, some for the year and others not. Key contributors Al Horford, Marcus Morris and others have missed time as well.
It couldn’t get worse, could it?
Well, it may just have. Reports surfaced Tuesday that Irving, who had missed time this season — including the last four games — with left knee soreness, is seeking a second opinion after a lack of progress in his recovery.
My understanding is that Kyrie Irving is getting a 2nd opinion on his left knee, perhaps as soon as tomorrow. Bottom line: he needs the screws out. Knee is flaring up. He will either play thru it going forward or … he will get thee screws out and won’t play at all. Stay tuned.
— Tony Massarotti (@TonyMassarotti) March 20, 2018
With lack of progress on his ailing left knee, Celtics All-Star Kyrie Irving plans to travel for a second opinion later this week, league sources tell Yahoo.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) March 20, 2018
In the wake of the Isaiah Thomas fiasco and his ailing hip last Summer, an injury that lingered deep into this season, the Celtics will likely be more than cautious with Irving, whom they gave up a haul (the rights to the 2018 Brooklyn Nets first round pick, most notably), to acquire. But one can only wonder if these persistent issues — Irving’s left knee was surgically repaired after he sustained a fractured kneecap in 2015, and he reportedly threatened the Cleveland Cavaliers with surgery this offseason before his trade to Boston — are a cause for concern for general manager Danny Ainge and the Celtics.
The situation presents the Celtics with a quandary, to say the least.
Knee injuries aren’t exactly a death-knell, but fans need not look far for to see the devastating effect they can have on NBA players (e.g. Derrick Rose). They can snowball and, over time, even the best players will break down. Regardless of the severity, Irving’s knee issue presents problems both now and in the future.
The problems now are obvious: the Celtics, already down Gordon Hayward, cannot afford to lose Irving if they are at all interested in making a Finals run this season. Boston struggles mightily on the offensive end when Irving and his 24.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 5.1 assists aren’t on the court. In a playoff atmosphere, especially, the team would sorely miss his scoring prowess.
Looking ahead, if Irving is dealing with these problems at the age of 25, what could the future hold for the All-Star guard? Knee issues, most lower body issues in general, are often of the chronic variety, and constant maintenance can wear on people, both mentally and physically.
Just a season separated from a likely super-max payday, will the Celtics want to commit big-money long-term to potentially damaged goods?
If there is a silver lining in it all, it is the fact that 20-year-old rookie Jayson Tatum must now shoulder the scoring load, something that should go a long way in building on the potential that made him the No. 3 overall pick last June. And, should Irving miss the remainder of this season, exposure to the fires of the playoffs should only temper the Celtics’ young roster. In the event that Irving’s absence isn’t prolonged, time like this could only serve to strengthen the roster around him.
Still, Ainge brought Irving to Boston for a reason: he was meant to lead the Celtics into battle, alongside Gordon Hayward and Al Horford, in their quest for a title. Obviously, he can’t do that from the bench. Without Irving at 100 percent, the Celtics are not a championship caliber squad, healthy Gordon Hayward or not. That fact alone will make Irving’s situation one to monitor going forward and for the foreseeable future.
NBA Daily: Houston Has It All
Deciphering whether Houston is a contender or pretender is tough, but they’re making it easy.
It is very easy to get caught up in the NBA regular-season hyperbole. The past is littered with a plethora of NBA teams that looked like world-beaters in the regular season only to pull up lame in the playoffs and emerge as a bunch of pretenders.
So when it comes to the Houston Rockets, it’s no surprise many pundits and fans of the game fall heavily on one side or the other. The 2017-18 Rockets are a polarizing squad in that respect. On one side of the fence, you have the folks that are struggling to get behind Houston until they see how the franchise performs in the playoffs under the brightest of lights and on the biggest of stages. On the other, folks that place a great deal of weight on the 82-game regular season and the ability to sustain consistency throughout the marathon.
As always, the truth is somewhere in the middle.
At the top of Houston’s lineup are two future Hall of Famers in James Harden and Chris Paul. The latter was a perennial star in his heyday and is still a top-tier talent in the league. Harden, on the other hand, is closing in on his first MVP award and had serious cases for winning the honors in prior seasons, as well. Both Harden and Paul are criticized for their past playoff failures.
Paul entered the league during the 2006 season and has been dogged by the ever looming fact that he’s never reached a Conference Finals. Harden has been to the NBA Finals but has been dogged for multiple playoff missteps and shaky performances that remain etched in everyone’s memory. But something about this season’s Rockets team (57-14) seems different as the duo closes in on 60 wins.
One way to measure the true greatness of a NBA team is evaluating how many ways the roster can win playing a variety of styles. From the eyeball test, Houston checks the boxes in this category. The team sustains leads during blowouts. They have an offense built to erase large deficits quickly. The team possesses the talent to employ an array of versatile lineups to withstand top heat from opposing teams. Head coach Mike D’Antoni has shown the ability to adjust on the fly during certain situations. Houston is seemingly comprised of a bunch of guys that are selfless and ready to sacrifice at this stage of their respective careers.
Time will tell on all of those aforementioned aspects, but the Rockets are built to compete and win now. On paper at least, the team fits the criteria.
Paul has a chance to go down as a top five point guard in NBA history .His court vision is unquestioned and his big men always seem to end up being in the top five of field goal percentage each season (i.e. Tyson Chandler, DeAndre Jordan and now Clint Capela). In years past, the Rockets faltered down the stretch of games because the entire system ran through Harden. But this year’s club has the luxury of taking some of the on-ball expectation away from Harden and by giving the rock to Paul who naturally thrives in this role the squad doesn’t take a step back on the floor.
This is going to be big for Houston which has seen Harden gassed late in playoff games from carrying the entire load.
Small Ball Ready
Presumably standing between the Rockets and an appearance in the NBA Finals are the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors turned the NBA upside down with their free-flowing offense, long range accuracy and the successful ability to push the pace while playing small ball.
At the height of Golden State’s success they employed the “death lineup” which places All-Star forward Draymond Green at center. In different variations this gives the Warriors five guys on the court who can dribble, drive, pass and shoot. Versatility is important and if you look at this year’s Rockets team they have the ability to match the death lineup with their own version. Veteran forward P.J. Tucker would be able to guard Green in this scenario at center or Houston could just rely on the athleticism of Capela.
When it comes to defense, the Rockets will never be confused for the bad boy Detroit Pistons of yesteryear, however, the team has an assortment of individually capable defenders on the roster. Paul has all defensive team honors hanging on his mantle during his time in the league. Small forward Trevor Ariza made his bones in the league by placing an emphasis on defense. Before Capela emerged as a double-digit scorer, he was relied on as a defensive spark off the bench. Luc Mbah a Moute has a reputation and consistent track record of being a very willing defender.
Shooting, Versatility and Experience
All of this success, leads to the variation D’Antoni can put out onto the floor. The versatility to go with a small ball lineup or a lineup heavily skewed toward defenders is a luxury amenity. Houston also features five guys with 125 or more three-pointers made this season with Harden, Eric Gordon, Ariza, Paul and Ryan Anderson leading the way. A sixth, Tucker, should join the +100 club before season’s end. Veteran Gerald Green has only played 30 games with the franchise but has already knocked down 76 attempts from distance.
Experience is key as well. This year’s Rockets team features only one player under 25, receiving 25 or more minutes per night in the rotation. Look at NBA history, title winning teams are full of veterans not second or third year players.
Again, the Rockets will never be confused with the late 80s or early 90s Pistons but the team has more than a few guys that don’t shy away from contact or physical play. The collection of Nene, Tucker, Green and Ariza have had more than their share of shoving matches when things get heated on the floor.
With the start of the NBA playoffs (April 14) under a month away, the Rockets continue to build momentum toward a title run. Will Harden and Paul’s playoff demons from the past emerge or is their first true shot at greatness with a complete team? These questions will soon be answered.