Doc Rivers agrees to 5-year, $35 mil extension

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Though there was much speculation of this being the Boston Celtics head coach’s last season, Doc Rivers has verbally agreed to return to coach the C’s for another five years for a total of $35 million, according to the Boston Globe.

Many had thought that Rivers would step away from the NBA for a year at least, to spend time with his family.

And yet, instead of retiring, Rivers is sticking around for another five years with the Celtics to continue chasing another title.

With most of the Celtics’ starters aging, the window for that goal is closing after last week’s loss in the second round to the Miami Heat. The Big Three are a combined 102 years old and aren’t getting any younger.

However, Rajon Rondo is a premier point guard and is extremely talented, even with one arm, as we saw in the Celtics’ last few games. Surely his relationship with Doc had an impact on his decision to take the contract extension.

And even though the Celtics look to be on the downswing in their chances for a title with the current roster, Rivers is still an elite coach who can lead them to more rings. He gets his players to execute well and buy into a winning system. All in all, he’s one of the best coaches still in the league and the Celtics have to be glad he’s returning.

Celtics Need Shaq More Than We Thought

What the Celtics need to remember is a little phrase that Kevin Garnett himself screwed up in 2008; “anything is possible.” He meant to say “impossible is nothing”, the slogan of his former shoe sponsor, Adidas, but that’s besides the point. What matters here is the idea behind the phrase. While the Celitcs are looking at an improbable 2-0 hole, it’s not an impossible one. CelticsBlog did most of the leg work to breakdown the Celtics chances based on the NBA’s playoff history to actually come back and win this series.  According to the numbers, NBA teams have come back to win a series after going down 2-0 only 14 times.

But the game of basketball isn’t a coin flip and historic percentages don’t guarantee future results. Adjustments need to be made if the Celtics want to comeback to win. Watching the first two games, Miami seemed to outclass Boston in all aspects of basketball. in Game 1, the Heat won on virtue of their outside shooting. Not only did they hit 47% of their 3-pointers, they continually knocked down improbable jumpers from 17-20 feet out, one of the most inefficient shots you can take. The final result in the game was a  9-point victory for Miami but as a Boston fan, you weren’t that fearful. Pierce had been ejected in the game and outside of Ray Allen, no one showed up. Looking at the box score to see that Miami held the Celtics to just 42.7% shooting (Boston leads the NBA in FG%) was the most encouraging sign. There was no way Miami would stay that hot from the floor and Boston was bound to find the basket sooner or later.

Game 2 came and Miami’s shooting returned back to Earth but Boston still couldn’t find the rim and their defense seemed to be more Clippers than Celtics. Boston gave up 38 points in the paint and was only able to get Miami to turn the ball over 10 times. Add to that Miami’s game leading 44 rebounds, 12 of them on the offensive glass, and you begin to paint a picture of exactly how the Heat ground the Celtics down to pulp.

But this can’t be all the Celtics have left int he tank, can it? The Celtics beat the Heat three out of four times in the regular season and, for the most part, did it convincingly. So what’s different here?

Shaquille O’Neal.

Shaq has missed the last four games vs. Miami. Boston won the first game he missed but they had the assistance of Kendrick Perkins but dropped the final match-up of the season after Shaq was sidelined with injuries and Perkins was delt to the Thunder. In the games without a big man to clog the middle, Boston has gone 0-3 against the Heat. Not to knock Jermaine O’Neal but he’s played no more than 21 minutes in each of the playoff games vs. Miami. He’s played well,

having an overall +/- of +2 despite the Celtics being an overall -20 for the series but his limited minutes lead to long stretches of the game where Garnett or the struggling Glen Davis have to man the middle.

So, can a 39-year old, oft-injured, Shaq really be the answer? Currently, the Celtics are struggling on both ends of the floor so they can use all the help they can get. According to 82games.com, the line-up of Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Garnett, S. O’Neal played 266 minutes together and produced an offensive rating of 117 points per 100 possessions while only allowing 99 points per 100 possession and producing a +/- of +101 points.  It’s not that Shaq is an all-world defender or a threat to win his 4th finals MVP trophy. He’s just big. He’s big and he can still score one-on-one due to his massive size.

One of the biggest issues Boston is having is with Wade and LeBron playing the passing lanes, essentially neutralizing Rondo’s greatest strength, passing. Rajon loves to get deep into the defense and then find the open man with a kick-out, but with Davis struggling and Jermaine not giving anything on offense, the Miami defense is able to rotate more and shoot the passing lanes in comfort. A few times in game 2 Rondo beat his defender off the dribble, got into the lane and had the defense collapse around him. He had no inside threat to hand the ball off to (Garnett loves to hang out at the 17-ft range) and was unable to get the ball to the shooters because Wade and LeBron had no need to rotate off of Allen and Pierce. The results from Rondo’s drives were a variation of a forced layup by Rondo, a blown lay up by Davis or steals on the desperation kick-out passes to the Boston shooters.

In the first three games with Miami, Boston won by a total of 16 points. In those games the Celtics had over 40 rebounds twice and had 19+ assist in all 3 games. They also got to the free throw line 25+ times in each game. Since the third game Boston hasn’t had a game of where they collected more than 39 rebounds, they haven’t had more 18 assists or gotten tot he line more than 22 times. They’ve also lost the battle for the paint. Boston scored a combined 112 points int he paint over the course of the first three games. over the last 3, they have scored just 90. They’ve also been outscored in the paint by 18 in those 3 games compared to their +22 point advantage in the paint over the previous 3 games.

Shaq’s ability to be that dump-down guy for Rondo will help immensely. Not to mention, it will probably force Spoelstra to play Big Z more minutes which will send unsung hero, Joel Anthony, to the bench for longer than Miami can afford. It worked in the first three match-ups and Boston has to hope it works in the playoffs. But the key, as has been since Danny Ainge decided to ship Perkins off, will be Shaq’s health. If he can fill in the 20+ minute void that Jermaine O’Neal is leaving behind, Boston will have a good chance to get back into this series, especially with three of the next four games being played in Boston.

It’s going to take a lot of hard work and some luck for the Celtics to turn this one around. Thankfully, the Big Shamrock is finally active for game three. Now let’s see if he’s effective.

Shane is a contributor to Stacheketball.com, LarryBrownSports.com & NBAoffseason.com. You can find him babbling about basketball all over the net or tune in as he tweets nonsense on twitter @Suga_Shane.

 

Double Dribble Podcast Ep.002 – FINALLY!

The playoffs are FINALLY here. Listen in on the Double Dribble Podcast as Ben Swanson joins Erroll and Shane as they breakdown playoff match ups, highlight advantages and give you their first round series predictions. A lot of interesting takes including some shocking upset predictions. Who? Tune in to find out!

 

Ep 002 – FINALLY! 2011 First Round Playoffs Review by Shane Baker

Stacheketball Preview: Christmas Day Games

The great thing about Christmas is receiving presents from your loved ones. Oh, and if you’re into the whole giving thing, I guess that’s good, too. I prefer to be evil and just take take take.

All kidding aside, Christmas is an extra special holiday for NBA fans because they get to enjoy not one… not two… not three… not four… but FIVE games they can sink their teeth in. Let’s go ahead and take a quick look at all the five games that are coming on your tube tomorrow.

CHICAGO BULLS (18-9) @ NEW YORK KNICKS (17-12), 12 P.M. EASTERN/9 A.M. PACIFIC
I might curse myself if I don’t wake up in time for this but this should be a lot of fun. I expect them to pick up the pace and Chicago, with no Joakim Noah, might have no choice but to run the track meet with the Knicks. Still, the Bulls have been on quite a roll as of late, having won 9 of their last 10. The Knicks broke their three-game losing streak by beating the Oklahoma City Thunder in impressive fashion.

I think the pace and the now-loud Madison Square Garden will make the difference here. The Bulls will get caught up in the frenzy.

PICK: NEW YORK KNICKS WIN, 114-108.

BOSTON CELTICS (23-4) @ ORLANDO MAGIC (17-12), 2:30 P.M. EST/11:30 A.M. PST
To me, this isn’t hard to dissect. Boston has been on a huge roll as of late and while they ARE due for a letdown, I don’t think it will be against a Magic team (which, by the way, is still finding its way because of the trades) who has the Celtics in their heads. Yes, I get that the Magic ran over the Spurs last night at home but the Spurs don’t breathe defense as much as the Celtics do. It doesn’t matter that Rajon Rondo is out; the Celtics don’t seem to miss a beat defensively regardless on who’s on the floor.

PICK: BOSTON CELTICS WIN, 96-78.

MIAMI HEAT (22-9) @ LOS ANGELES LAKERS (21-8), 5:00 P.M. EST/2:00 P.M. PST
LeBron James seems to do really well against Kobe Bryant (head-to-head record of 8-5 and nice, tidy numbers of 27-7-7). And both teams have been playing well as of late, save for that goose egg the Lakers laid at Staples Center against Milwaukee.

I do expect the Lakers to be extremely motivated. They’re determined to make people forget about that performance against the Bucks… plus I’m sure they want to show everybody that they’re still a level above the Heat. It also helps that the Lakers have a much more skilled overall frontline than the Heat. I do expect Dwyane Wade to play on this hyped game… but for the Heat to win, their new triumvirate ALL has to play well.

Plus the Heat don’t seem to do well against elite teams… yet. No matter what though, we know the Laker fans aren’t going to stop yapping, win or lose.

PICK: L.A. LAKERS WIN, 100-94.

DENVER NUGGETS (16-11) @ OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (20-10), 8:00 P.M. EST/5:00 P.M. PST
I expect this one to also be a track meet. The one disadvantage, though, is that Carmelo Anthony is not playing due to his sister’s passing (rest in peace). When Chauncey Billups is sitting down, it’ll be fun to watch Russell Westbrook and Ty Lawson run up and down. Too bad for the Nuggets that Kevin Durant is starting to pick up… and this might be the breakout game Durant and the Thunder have needed. I almost expect him to score 45 in this one.

PICK: OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER WIN, 110-102.

PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS (15-14) @ GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS (10-18), 10:30 P.M. EST/7:30 P.M. PST
The Warriors lost a heartbreaker against the Blazers the last time they faced each other. But it’s amazing how the Warriors’ defense has dropped off in the last month-and-half or so, dropping from the Top 10 in defensive rating all the way down to #27. The Blazers have been playing well as of late, especially with LaMarcus Aldridge stepping up in the last week or so (29.3 points and 12.8 boards per in the last four games). If no one stops LaMarcus, then I don’t see the Warriors stopping the Blazers. And I’m not putting my money on the Warriors doing that.

PICK: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS WIN, 103-94.

Enjoy the games, people! Merry X-Mas to all of you!

Rey-Rey is the new editor of Stacheketball… more on that later… and is also the founder of the L.A.-based blog, The No-Look Pass. Follow him on Twitter: @TheNoLookPass.

2010 NBA Finals: Who Will Make An Impact?

So, the NBA Finals are upon us. This is the moment that culminates the season we’ve been mentally invested in since October (at the very least). There are previews, opinions and analysis pieces all over the interwebs, talking about the matchup between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers — contemplating the relative merits of each team and discussing whether the 2008 champs can defeat the 2009 victors, or vice versa.

Jeff Fox at Hoops Manifesto (he also writes at SLAM) approached a group of writers for their rankings on the top 10 players in the NBA Finals. Whilst we wait for the compilation of that piece, I thought I’d provide you with my rankings, along with some small pieces of commentary. Feel free to contribute your own ideas, or shoot mine down in flames — just don’t expect me to agree!

1. Kobe Bryant

There is no better player in the game when it comes to the Finals. Who else would you want with a game on the line?

2. Pau Gasol

The most skilled big man in the game. He is a joy to watch with his footwork, soft touch and basketball IQ. I could quite happily watch Pau and Pau only for the entire series.

3. Paul Pierce

The Celtics winning is all about PP putting points on the board. As in 2008, he could be the key to a Celtics victory.

4. Kevin Garnett

His intensity on defence is a necessity for this Celtics team. If he can be an effective scorer as well, then the Lakers have a serious task on their hands.

5. Rajon Rondo

He was never meant to be mentioned in the company of stars, but this young point guard has that type of impact. His performance against Derek Fisher will be key.

6. Ray Allen

The veteran scorer is as pure a shooter as there has ever been and a few big scoring games from him will turn the tide Boston’s way.

7. Ron Artest

Can he stop Paul Pierce? His ability to frustrate and irritate is a big factor for the Lakers this season.

8. Lamar Odom

The ultimate X-Factor. I’m sure that Phil Jackson makes his game plans with the thought that Odom will not show up — when he does, it’s a bonus and generally results in a Lakers win.

9. Kendrick Perkins

His D on Dwight Howard was lauded as a massive factor for the Celtics against Orlando. Will he be required to put up the same effort against Andrew Bynum? Unlikely.

10. Derek Fisher

If he gets the opportunity to knock down a big shot, there’s a good chance he’ll make it. Needs to hold his own against Rondo.