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Posts Tagged ‘Celtics’

A Perfect Sunday of Basketball in Boston

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on April 19, 2015

Starts off with Beautiful Basics, a clinic for new-to-the-game players and others who just like working on fundamentals, 9am in super trendy Somerville. Followed closely at 10:30am by a robust Intermediate Skills & Scrimmage Clinic in which players run drills like in a college practice and end with a full court game to put it all together.

Noontime brings players in for the Free Throw Project: 100 free throws twice a week (Monday nights, too). Got to improve on our league free throw percentages!

At 3:45pm we swing over to Fidelity House, Arlington Ctr, the gym where Pat Connaughton put together ll the great pieces to his game. Two one hour Parent/Kid Clinics: first for kids ages 7-11 (though my 2 and 6 year olds are allowed to sneak in) and at 4:45pm, ages 12 and up! Play the game the best way, the fun way!

Next, like dessert after a great meal we go home and watch (on tape) the Celtics edge LeBron and the Cavs at the buzzer in a Game One, Round One upset! (posted 17 minutes before tipoff)

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Energy, Emotion, Passion and Game 7, Celtics vs Lakers

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on June 16, 2010

Last night, near the end of the game, Mark Jackson said something like, “well, one thing for sure, the coaches won’t have to motivate their teams to come play Thursday night. It will be all about energy, emotion, and passion.”
There’s always a lot of talk by coaches and commentators about one team “coming to play” and the other team not. I dispute this. I don’t dispute it in the regular season – the long, long regular season – where it is impossible to “bring it” every night, but in the playoffs? C’mon, I believe in the most fundamental definition of all those “energy” terms, in the playoffs, especially The Finals, these players come to play, but the circumstances at the outset, usually the first few minutes, but occasionally a little deeper into the game, actually decide who sustains that energy, and who wins and who is deemed the team that brought the passion.
Basketball is unlike other sports, especially individual sports. Think about track and field or tennis; the hardest thing to do in those sports is once you are ahead, to then remain ahead. The energy comes from the pursuer. In basketball, for some reason, it is easier for individuals and teams to gain energy once they get on a little role. Success begets success and success brings new life, looseness, energy and freedom to the body. Made shots lead to more made shots, swarming defense by one player brings quickness and desire to the next player, a quick transition basket leads to quick feet and another steal and on and on. You’ve seen it a million times. An avalanche of energy; but the key is getting to the top of that first hill before the other team. At some point one team is saying to the other, “you are now reacting to us. Bye bye.” You’ve got to not just come with energy, but you have to win the energy game that exists within the bigger game. That’s why the first quarter, who wins the first quarter has been so important in this series. Whoever has won the first quarter has won the game in all six contests. You win the first quarter and you win the battle of who can sustain the energy. And, further, that’s why Rondo is so important to the Celtics. He’s the energy guy; he gets them out and going. If he starts by owning every inch of the 94′ x 50′, the Celtics will feed off him and give themselves a shot at winning the game. If Rondo, drives and dishes, or drives and makes the Lakers defense react, then it takes the pressure off their shooters when they run their sets (which proved totally futile last night and will prove futile again tomorrow tonight). Rondo must create. Rondo = energy and if that energy translates to made shots (as Jeff VanGundy said a few games ago, “this is a league of makes and misses”) then that energy brings the Celtics the championship. If the Celtics don’t push Rondo to that 100 mph role, then the Lakers with home court crowd and the momentum of Game Six, size, rebounding advantage and the indomitable Kobe Bryant, will grab the energy trophy and hoist it over their heads at game’s end.

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I Don’t Get it. Why Do Teams Quit? (Cavs, Game Six, 05/13/10)

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on May 14, 2010

We were at the game last night so did not hear the broadcast or, specifically, if Jeff van Gundy, pulling the few remaining strands of hair out of his head, said this same exact thing: why did the Cavs give up, or not try to make a slim but-oh-so-very-possible comeback in the last minute? Why? What is lost by not trying? There was plenty of time left! I don’t get it!
This is what I saw: 00:52 left, score 94-85 Celts. 9 point spread. Rondo crosses half court dribbling. Mo Williams turns and looks to the bench with a look that asks, “should I foul?” The coach and everyone on the bench returns blank stares. Williams should have tackled Rondo and then gone to the bench and slapped every one of the coaches upside the head.
This is what I easily imagined: Williams fouls Rondo. Rondo had just missed his last 2 FTs and was 3/7 on the game and the Celtics, as a team, had missed a bunch in the 4th qtr. Missing FTs, which sometimes seems contagious, was in the air. Rondo, placid as ever at the line, wipes the sweat that has oozed out from under the headband. (I think of the old Al McGuire-ism, “if you want to know if he’s gonna make it, look in his eyes.””) He misses both, Cavs outlet, James pulls up from 28′ and nails a 3. Crowd groans, lots of air whooshes out the building, like there’s a train to catch to Lowell. Time-out Cavs. Alright, Cavs down 6. 00:43 remain. Cavs set up the press, all-out ball denial. Doc Rivers takes Rondo out to remove the FT liability but loses point and quickness to get open. Pierce inbounds to Ray Allen. He catches and holds, Cavs come in to trap. Allen, an upright ballhandler, dribbles ball off his own foot (or there’s a five second call or the ball never gets caught or the ball goes off the Cavs but it’s a bad call or a million other things that are at least POSSIBLE!) Cavs ball. They inbound, James catches, 3 Celts run at James who fires ball to corner for Parker (who had hit his last 3). Bang! Cavs down 3, 94-91, 28.7 damn seconds still to go. 13,909 of the 18,000+ plus fans put both hands on their heads, mouths agape. KC Jones stirs from his aisle seat across from us, coming momentarily awake. Havlicek gets up and steals away to the bathroom. All sort of things can happen after that: they foul Rasheed, he makes one. Cavs down 4. They score quickly (James dunk). Cavs down 2, still at least 10 seconds left. Foul, miss, score, a 3. Whatever. Whatever! But something! Something!
I mean, c’mon. Did they not practice as a team since October? Did they not just play over a hundred games together (exhibition + regular season + playoffs)? Weren’t they bonded? A band of brothers? Don’t they care enough to at least take a chance at the 1 in 20 or 1 in 50 or 1 in a 100 shot they’d have at pulling this off? Not only would they have a (slim) chance of winning, which is damn plenty reason enough, but they would have chance to make history, a historic comeback, one that people would be talking about for decades. Um, sort of like when Reggie Miller scored 8 points in 9 seconds against the Knicks in the playoffs. 8 points in 9 seconds!!! In contrast, 9 (or 10) in 52 seconds seems downright ho-hum, a walk in the park (along the burning Cuyahoga).

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Observations on Phoenix Suns at Boston Celtics, Jan 19, 2009

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on January 21, 2009

1. Our seats are nine rows behind the visitor’s bench, even with the baseline, great place to watch pre-game, on-court preparations by the players. The Suns warmed up at that hoop before the game. Nash stood in the far corner talking to some guy in a suit, hoisting up three-pointers while they chatted. I’m assuming but I sure don’t know, that Nash had been out there earlier in the evening doing a more focused routine. One thing I noticed and had noticed before, is how far back Nash’s shooting hand sits before the release. It’s almost flat or ninety degrees to his forearm. Not entirely unusual but it became even more pronounced when I watched Shaquille O’Neal’s warm-up shooting form. He does not have any bend-back in his shooting hand at all! None. Whereas Nash’s fingers are pointed almost directly backwards before the ball goes up to be released on a jumper or free throw, Shaq’s fingers are pointing straight up! No wonder there is no backspin, no rotation on the ball. (Is there somewhere on the Internet that says that Shaq broke his wrist or something, some physical explanation for this?) Go ahead, put your shooting hand up in the air, point your fingers straight up, palm, in other words facing forward, and imagine shooting a jumper or free throw that way. This was the form he used while warming up/practicing his shot just inside the free throw line. I want to emphasize this was NOT a jump hook or anything he was shooting. This was his form. Unworkable. Unless he has some physical deformity, this is inexcusable. He basically pushes the ball at the hoop.

2. When Shaq caught the ball low, back to the basket and he was being defended by fellow LSU matriculant, Glen “Big Baby” Davis, Shaq was unable to back Big Baby down. Never could he while dribbling, back to the hoop, gain hardly more than an inch. Dribble-pound, dribble-bump, dribble-grind. Three hundred twenty-five pounds plus and going nowhere. My guess is that no one else in the league could do that to Shaq. Davis was down low, center of gravity way down low, forearm in Shaq’s kidney. Shaq got called for one charge (Davis drawing it); Shaq traveled; Shaq missed; Shaq missed again; Shaq fell; Shaq dunked once or twice. On this night, anyway, rather amazingly, I thought, not a go-to match-up;

3. When at the beginning of the game, Brian Scalabrine was matched up defending Amare Stoudemire, I kept turning to my wife and saying, “G-a-w-w-d-d-d! There’s the match-up the Suns will go to!” I mean, there have been times in the past few years when you’ve been tempted to put Stoudemire top ten. Right? At times dominant, on big-time rolls. Forty points the norm. Alas, on this night, if Stoudemire caught the ball, matched up with the only guy on the Celtics who voted for John McCain, ten times, he failed to score ten times. His only basket on a three point scoring night was when KG was matched up with him and KG left him to double on Shaq (which elicited a “why did you do that?” look from Big Baby when Shaq found Stoudemire for a dunk). I just could not believe that he couldn’t take him. Another match-up that was going no where. Honestly, it had me wondering whether the offensive schemes for the Suns under Terry Porter are taking advantage of their players’ strengths;

4. Rondo vs. Nash. Nolo contendere. Kudos to Rondo. One sequence: from somewhere around the right wing, Rondo found himself isolated with Nash with a live dribble, Rondo threw about seventeen of the most heart-stopping, ankle-breaking, stomach-turning, head-spinning moves on Nash, sixteen of which Nash stayed with. Lay-up Rondo. Once again, what Phoenix was running was leaving Nash’s hands tied. Hands tied is not good for point guards. For one thing, Nash is among the best at transition passing. This Phoenix team (save Grant Hill occasionally) does-not-run. Secondly, Nash and the pick-and-roll? Non-existent in this game. Rondo (and the Celtics) in a rout. (It has to be mentioned that Rondo took three jumpers in this game, each out of team and ball movement, each in rhythm. Each went in. Previously, Rondo was taking jumpers either as the shot clock wound down, or when defense was daring him or embarrassing him by backing off and he had to shoot. Here, on this night, he was just a shooter shooting. Really nice to see development like that in a player.

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Sniffing Out a Last Second Play

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on January 13, 2009

So, in the Raptors/Celts’ game last night, after a missed shot by the Raptors (they were down three), long offensive rebound and heads-up one extra pass by the NBA’s all-time, three-point FG% leader, Jason Kapono, Andrea Bergnani hits a three to tie the game with one second on the clock. Time-out Celts. What was then surprising and fascinating from a coaching standpoint was who was on the floor for the Celts ensuing last second play. One second? What do you need? Minimum of some shooters, the real deals and the decoys. So, they come out of the huddle and first thing the announcers did (and should do) is give the offensive line-up, as if to suggest what the strategy will be: who will take the shot? First name they say? Rajon Rondo. Why is that interesting and, truly, if you think about it, illuminating, is what is Rondo, of all people gonna do in that one second? “What is he doing out there?” is what the Raptors’ assistant coaches should have been thinking (and pointing out, pronto)! Rondo is not a shooter. (The only negative in his game.) We know that, so he’s not in there to shoot. There is no time to do the other two things he does well: pass the ball and/or drive to the hoop. Right? No time for any of those three things: shoot (nope), pass (nope), drive (not enough time). And, at 6’1″, 160 lbs., he’s not in there to screen. Only possibility? Alley-oop for Rondo. And that is exactly what the Celts did: curled him off a ballside screen, down the middle of the lane he went, up to the rim the pass came. Timing was off and the play did not succeed but give the Celtics credit for a good play, but a play that with some quick thinking by those responsible for the defense (players and coaches) could have been sniffed out. (Postscript: the Raptors pretty obviously did not sniff the play out because had they, they would have stuck Rondo’s defender underneath the hoop, and instead he trailed him, bodied him up all the way around the screen, a step behind all the way!)

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Rondo Redux

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on December 21, 2008

Went to the Knicks at Celts game tonight. Glad to report Rondo eschewed ‘the move” tonight. Didn’t need it even once as he controlled the game, beating Duhon and Robinson off the dribble 4 straight possessions in the 2nd half. 26 points, 6 or so rebounds and assists. It’s good to know he reads this blog and follows so closely the advice given here. (Smiley face inserted.)

Fun and interesting game, by the way. From Nate Robinson hanging from the rim with two hands during just about the entire Celtics’ starting five introduction to David Lee swatting a well-after-the-whistle shot by Eddie House to Quentin Richardson yapping non-stop to a follow-up rebound one-hand tomahawk by the super-diminutive Robinson (who has got A-T-T-I-T-U-D-E). Because our seats are close to the visitors’ bench, witnessed the Knicks’ respecting and listening to D’Antoni during time-outs. There’s gonna be a good club in The Apple before very long. Right now they have no size and no defender in the backcourt.

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Final Celtics’ Player Scorecards (Nos 1,2,3)

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on June 19, 2008

Here are my thoughts, a look back at the players, where they came from, what they did.

First The Three Amigos:

1. Paul Pierce: listed first because he, in my mind, was not just the Finals’ MVP, but the Celts’ MVP for the season. I was down on Pierce the past couple of seasons, wanted him traded, outta here. All the usual reasons: selfish; egocentric; an unjustified, unearned overinflated view of himself; the constant pouting about calls, just a bad overall package. Sure he was an outstanding scorer but he always acted as though he were entitled to more. But sometimes, you gotta do more to get more. Doc Rivers and his unwillingness to bow to Pierce, especially the previous two seasons, is the salvation of Pierce. And Pierce’s own willingness and ability to change. (Great piece by Jackie MacMullan on the transformation of Pierce.) And change he did. We didn’t just witness a great basketball player playing his best on the world’s biggest basketball stage, we saw a young guy grow up. We saw him learn to take responsibility for himself and learn to trust others. Talk about not being able to win without Posey or KG or Thibodeau; the Celts could not have won without Pierce becoming a new and different and more mature human being.

Outplayed “the best player on the planet“. Changed the course of the series in Game Four when he proved Bryant could be guarded one-on-one in the Celtics’ defensive schemes. Went to the basket unbridled against absolutely anyone and everyone (okay, except Bryant when Bryant wasn’t in foul trouble). Dished the ball appropriately and effectively when the Lakers gave him too much attention (Game Six, nine first half assists!). Never cried, complained, whined about all the bad calls. Stayed focused, understood what it’s like to be on a team, and the true leader of the team. And the best part for me to see, what had to have been hard for him: listening to the MVP chants for Garnett when Pierce is the one who’d been here for ten years, when he had made the biggest sacrifices of all, when he was the one who went inside himself and brought out a new and better and more reliable and trustworthy version of himself. He could have pouted or seethed, acted out in some unseemly fashion, “I’m the MVP!”. Nope, Instead he embraced his teammates and put on display a “someday they’ll retire jersey No. 34” performance.

2. Kevin Garnett: How badly did he want this thing? How perfect a fit was this man for this team? How quiet were his critics, those who suggested he could not step-up in the biggest moments, after he could not miss in Game Six? Um, how much Red Bull does he drink??? And what was he saying to Michelle Tafoya after the game? Can we run that back one more time?

Funny thing about KG, his much criticized unwillingness to “takeover” during “crunch time” is probably, long-term, big picture, a good thing. I think the guy is just unselfish, truly believes in moving the ball to the next best open player. For a good part of the season and at least the first two rounds of the playoffs, I was thinking KG was the most automatic 17-20 foot jump shooter in the league. I was amazed. I didn’t think he could miss but he started to the first few games of The Finals, then he got it back late in Game Five and was back to form in the Final Massacre. We knew it was gonna be good when he, first game of the season, rejected, cartoon-style, a Gilbert Arenas (fellow adidas guy!) drive. Squish. Should have been a Celtic from Day One, right out of high school. I believe he thinks he was.

3. Ray Allen: I believe Ray Allen’s biggest contribution was the demonstration before his teammates of his professionalism on and off the court. I think Pierce (and a whole bunch of others) saw it and learned from it. I remember waiting to talk to Thibodeau and Van Gundy after a game when they were with the Knicks and ML Carr was coaching the Celts – that was a good year in Boston! Anyway, Charles Oakley walked by as I talked (briefly) with Van Gundy (he asked me how Never Too Late was doing!). Oakley was dressed like a businessman, a three-piece, pinstriped suit, he carried a briefcase. This was their power forward, one of the best in the game. He was leaving work. When the Celts got Ray Allen this year, I thought of Charles Oakley that night and how that professional persona that Ray Allen too would bring would really benefit this team.

Here’s another thing that Ray Allen did: he improved Paul Pierce’s free throw shooting. This may sound absurd, but these guys, these NBA guys, the good ones, are competitive with one another as well. They know each other’s numbers. And they don’t want to look bad. Paul Pierce’s career free throw percentage was not nearly what it should have been given the kind of shooter he is. Enter Ray Allen and his gaudy numbers from the line. During a pre-season game, I said to my wife (ask her!) that Paul Pierce’s numbers would go way up, that he would not abide missing when Ray Allen was making. It was good clean competition. Ray won but Paul did, too. He had by far his best season from the line.

Ray Allen proved throughout The Finals, guarding Kobe for much of it, that he is an above average defender. He also is a great practitioner of what I consider the most astounding athletic feat regularly employed by NBA players: the catch on the dead run, pivot (turning 180 degrees), square up, elevate straight up and knock down jump shoot. Dunks I can understand, ankle breaking crossovers and spin moves I can see, but how do they run away from the basket, catch and turn and get themselves under such great control to finish with soft, smooth accurate 25 foot shots??? My favorite part of Ray Allen’s game this year were his drives to the basket though; proves he’s way more than just a shooter. Especially his embarrassment of Sasha and that lefty finish. That and when Mark Jackson said, “Rondo finds Jesus Shuttlesworth wide open in the corner!” Amen.

The RV ride with Van Gundy that proved they could overcome anything.

to be continued (James Posey, Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, et al)

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Doc Rivers Has Won the Coaching Match-up

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on June 10, 2008

I am moved to write this because I profoundly disagree with the assessment of so many: that the Lakers, in The Finals, have the coaching advantage.

First of all, please don’t give me this talk about rotations. I’ll answer the question with a question: Was Leon Powe ready to play? What Celtics players have been told is “be ready to play”. That’s all the rotation that’s needed.

Bottom-line: a basketball coach’s job, any coach’s job, is to prepare his team. Prepare in terms of physical readiness, strategy, execution, honed skills; have them ready to execute his vision. But more importantly, absolutely paramount, the coach’s job is to ensure that the players are mentally and emotionally prepared to, plainly put, give it their all. A sustained, determined, consistent, focused, confident effort. I believe that from the moment this Celtics’ coaching staff started putting together their long-term goals during that European trip and all the way to the pre-game preparation for the Lakers (sorry . . . Fakers), he has done the job and done it extremely well. Every move, every decision was made to prepare the team for a no-nonsense run to the championship. Look at the result. And, I believe, it would have been very easy to screw this up. Great as these guys are, they are no Bird-McHale-Parish-Walton-DJ outfit. With all due respect, KC Jones could not have crooned his way to a title with this group. Doc’s a smart, genuine, knowledgable players’ coach, who’s learned his lessons well enough to have a vision and to communicate exactly what was necessary to get them there. They, the players, bought into it enough so they’re gonna win this thing. Comparatively, the Lakers look woefully ill-prepared, at the beginning of games, on defense, end-of-game situations. You would have to agree, easy to see. And you’d have to agree that that is the biggest difference in this series: one team has been readied for the long, hard, physical, don’t-back-down haul of it, the other not. Doc deserves a ton of credit.

Now I’m thinking, wondering about taking this to the next logical Doc versus Chief Triangle match-up; what if you gave Doc Rivers Kobe, Pau, Odom and the rest of that crew last October and gave Jackson The New Big Three and friends? What if you give me your guys and I give you mine? Not buying it? What would the present group of Celtics be like without the never-say die commitment to defense? And what would the Lakers be like with it? And where do teams get that attitude from? The coach, plain and simple. Sure, Doc couldn’t do it without KG anchoring the focus end of the defense, but couldn’t he do the same with Kobe? Have in-and-out-of-focus defender, Kobe, commit to defense to the degree that the rest of the team would follow? I’ve become enough of a believer that I think at this stage in their careers, Rivers’ new team could actually take Jackson’s in a seven game series. I just don’t see this Lakers team playing together, being together, playing with a purpose and determination and confidence. All that sits in Jackson’s lap. Sure, the better team can take that out of you, but, if you’re mentally tough, prepared with that mental toughness and determination, you can’t all of a sudden look like Federer playing Nadal. Impossible. The body language has made it clear right from the start: the Lakers know they can’t beat Doc Rivers’ team. Phil hasn’t told them anything or done what it takes to make them believe they can.

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Real Players Don’t Say “Glass”

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on May 29, 2008

Last night, near the end of the first half of the Celtics thrilling 106-102 Game Five playoff victory over the Pistons, Kevin Garnett banked in a desperation three-pointer from straight out to beat the shot clock. The shot was replayed by ESPN numerous times. Lucky shot. Big three points. I’m pretty good at lip-reading KG and what he normally says is not reprintable here, but what he didn’t say after knocking in that shot was “glass”. Cuz he didn’t mean to bank it in. But you know what? Had he intended to bank in a shot (Tim Duncan anyone?) he would not say it then either. Real players don’t say “glass”.

In a previous post, “The Great Ones Use the Glass“, we tried to help players understand that shooting the ball off the backboard is an enormously worthwhile skill to develop. What we didn’t say was shoot the ball off the backboard and shout the word “glass” as if it was the first time you ever did it. Why, I mean, what an odd and totally insecure habit. Stop it now! The reason recreational level players shout glass when they put the ball off the board is they want to make sure that everyone knows it’s not a mistake. Lord. If your game up to that point hasn’t established that you are capable of shooting the ball with some clue as to how it’s gonna get in the hoop, then maybe you should be yelling “glass”. Or “I’m new at this game!”. Or “I’m pretty sure you think I’m not very good so let me try this gimmick of announcing what I am doing. Some day, when I grow up, I won’t have to do it”.

Bank it in. Run down court and play defense like you know that they know that you know exactly what to do and how to do it on the basketball court. 

Posted in general improvement, shooting | Tagged: , , , | 6 Comments »

The Impossible

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on May 27, 2008

At the Never Too Late Basketball camps and clinic, we work with recreational type basketball players. But just because they’re never going to be paid to play doesn’t mean we can’t give them pro moves. We work on dribble drop-step in the post; we drill spins and explosiveness off the between-the-legs dribble; we go up-and-under in the post; we go hard curling off screens and catch and shoot the moment the ball touches our hands. What we don’t work on is what-we-cannot-and-never-will-do. In other words, the impossible. 

We will not be working on this at the “Nov/Int Skills & Scrimmage Clinic” at Matignon HS in North Cambridge, MA this Thursday night:

So you don’t think this is a one time only Jason Maxiell deal:

 

 

 

 

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