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The Other Side: Boston Celtics


I won't forget the last time the Wizards came to Boston. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)


The last time the Washington Wizards faced the Boston Celtics, the Celtics were going for their 13th consecutive victory and outrunning the rest of the league like Usain Bolt. This time around, the Celtics still have the best record in the NBA, but they are in the midst of their worst slump of the season.

They have lost three out of their past four games after a miserable West Coast road trip that saw them lose on back-to-back nights to the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors (huh?). Boston demolished the Sacramento Kings by 45 points, then suffered a controversial loss to the Portland Trail Blazers in which the Trail Blazers were somehow able to score an uncontested bucket -- with six players on the floor. Check out this play. It doesn't happen too often:


The NBA apologized for the loss, but it doesn't change the fact that the defending champions ended a memorable 2008 calendar year with a resounding thud.

The Celtics (28-5) will welcome the Wizards back to TD Banknorth Garden for the first time since the Wizards pulled out that amazing, 88-83 win on Jan. 14, when they came back from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit. After opening 2009 with the Wizards, the Celtics will play four games in four different cities in six nights. Here's what else you need to know about the Celtics:

1. The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls Are Probably Safe
When the Celtics left for their four-game trip before Christmas, the Celtics were on a 19-game winning streak, off to the best 29-game start in NBA history and on pace to win 76 games. When they returned to Boston after going 1-3, the Celtics are just focused on putting that awful trip behind them. Funny thing is, those few losses had some doubting their ability to repeat. After they lost to the Lakers and Warriors, the headline on Mark Heisler's column for the Los Angeles Times referred to the Celtics as "the worst 27-4 team ever." Ouch.

2. The Cs Talk Trash, Collect Ts
The victors inherit the spoils, but what about the hotheads, too? After winning his first NBA championship, Kevin Garnett has taken his taunting and trash talk to another level this season. In a game against Portland in early December, Garnett actually got down on all fours in front of Blazers' rookie Jerryd Bayless. Earlier this season, he clapped and barked down the court to harass Toronto's Jose Calderon. Garnett even made his teammate, Glen Davis, cry.

Philadelphia's Andre Iguodala said the Celtics should be a little classier, while the Oregonian's Geoffrey Arnold said the Celtics -- Garnett in particular -- go a bit overboard in letting opponents know how good they are. Garnett said Boston's critics need to calm down. What about the Celtics? Kendrick Perkins, Garnett and Paul Pierce have combined for 16 technical fouls this season. Perkins is third in the league with nine.

3. The Celtics Might Reunite Stephon Marbury and Garnett
With Dikembe Mutombo re-signing with Houston and P.J. Brown telling the New Orleans Times-Picayune that he plans on staying retired, the Celtics are still looking to improve their bench and interested in adding the New York Knicks' exiled point guard. The primary problem is Marbury negotiating a buyout from the Knicks, who could make not signing with the Celtics part of any agreement.

A possible Marbury-Garnett reunion sounds incomprehensible, considering how a jealous Marbury forced his way out of Minnesota almost 10 years ago. Since then, their careers have gone on much different paths.

By Michael Lee  |  January 2, 2009; 9:56 AM ET
 
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Comments

We all get to see what happens to the Wizards when they lose their Big Kahuna (Arenas) and another key starter (Haywood) at the start of a season. But what effect would a similar loss have on the League's best teams? As follows:

The Celts lose Garnett and Rajon Rondo
The Lakers lose Kobe and Bynum
The Cavs lose LeBron and Ilgauskas
The Magic lose Dwight Howard & Jameer Nelson

I'm guessing none of them get into the playoffs. And those teams were better than the Wiz to start with. Yet without those two regulars, they're shadows of themselves.

What about some of the other contenders?

The Hornets lose Chris Paul & T. Chandler
The Spurs lose Duncan and Ginobili
The Mavs lose Nowitzki and Terry
The Rockets lose Yao Ming and Rafer Alston
The Pistons lose Rasheed and Rip H.

Maybe the Spurs & Pistons hold on a bit longer than the others, because of their depth. Still, it wouldn't be pretty.

And the remaining stars would probably start to break down in little ways, just from the increased load over 80-some games.

Thinking of it this way, what the Wiz did last season in the face of all those injuries is fairly amazing.

And how thin these NBA teams are to begin with.

Posted by: Samson151 | January 2, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Oh I forgot: the Blazers would be fine, because they have six guys on the court to begin with.

Posted by: Samson151 | January 2, 2009 10:16 AM | Report abuse

LOL Samson, funny about the trailblazers

Well we can debate loss of players all day long but it means nothing since we are actually living that reality.

I hope the Wiz can keep up with them tonight and pull a W out somehow. Hope the bench comes to play and Nick catches fire as he has been up and down as of late

http://www.wizardsextreme.com


Happy New Years to Ivan, Michael and the rest of the regulars here from your friends at WizardsExtreme!

Posted by: WizardsExtreme | January 2, 2009 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Good point that folks seem to forget. No team in the league can lose their best offensive and best defensive players and be unaffected.
If we had good coaching, I believe we'd be close to .500 anyway and that's a tribute to our depth and GM.

Posted by: original_mark | January 2, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse

"If we had good coaching, I believe we'd be close to .500 anyway and that's a tribute to our depth and GM."

Double standard in full effect.

Last season the team was without Arenas all season and without Butler for almost 1/3 of the season. They ended up at .500 against all the odds and people still refused to give Jordan any credit for holding the team together, pissing and moaning and calling for Jordan's head on a plate.

Now they're 6 and 20-whatever without Arenas and Haywood and suddenly it's "if only we had good coaching, we could be at .500."

Can't have it both ways. Either getting an undermanned team missing two key players to .500 reflects good coaching or it doesn't. Stop trying to change the script to fit the actors.

Posted by: kalo_rama | January 2, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

THANK YOU KALO RAMA for pointing out the obvious, no one but no one wanted give Eddie Jordan any credit for his ability as a coach all i read and heard was EJ this and EJ that and he wasn't playing this one or that one and he was retarding Andray Blatche's progression as a pro(PLEASE!!!)I heard countless people, knowledgable about NBA coaching say that Eddie was doing an unbelievable job with the roster that he was given,but all the wizard armchair analyst were calling for his head,just what Ernie Grunfeld wanted to hear since he had been trying to find a reason to fire EJ since he was named GM, some of you complained; "we can't get out of the first round" well did any of you stop to think we were lucky to be in the playoff's to begin with, i mean think about it no Gilbert for two years and we still made the playoff's but noooooo that wasn't good enough for some of you. happy now? we are now stuck with a coach who doesn't know an X from an O who can't even draw up a play, and waiting in the wing's an assistant from that basketball powerhouse Howard University! yeah that oughta work, Eddie Jordan must be LHAO!!!.

Posted by: dargregmag | January 2, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Just wanted to let you all know I've written to David Stern asking to invoke "Blazers Rules" so the injury-plagued Wizards can get that extra man on the court where he can be of some use.

Proposed new starting lineup:

Butler
Jamison
Mike James
McGee
Nick Young
Rookie or vet of your choice

Wonder if we could make the playoffs?

Posted by: Samson151 | January 2, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Well EJ, as the Wiz coach, had his plusses and minuses, just like everything else in life. But its natural for people to focus on the negatives.

For me, after a while the headgames got sickening. AB was about to be his new BTH.

I actually have a hypothesis about that.

The one similarity between AB and BTH is that they both appear to be lackadaisical on the court. They look like they aren't giving max effort. ET and JMCGee on the other hand appear to be giving max energy (yeah JM produced and ET didn't, but that fact has little bearing on this conversation).

So EJ equated energy and effort (or the appearance thereof) with expected production, not realizing that a rebound is a rebound, whether or not you swing your elbows. A shot block is a shot block, whether or not you look athletic doing it. 2 points are 2 points whether its a finger roll or a dunk. And so on.

BTH's game didn't change one bit last year. AB's recent play looks the same (effort/energy-wise) as his earlier play.

In short, EJ likes guys who look like they're going hard, guys who look like they will produce, regardless of whether or not they really do.

I personally think that EJ would still be here had he not attempted to derail AB. The wiz had been developing AB for 3 whole years, and I don't think EG wanted to see the development effort go down the drain and watch AB turn into a perennial all-star in Detroit. With EJ, we would've gained ground on developing JM, but we would've lost AB one way or another. Which means that 2-3 years from now, we wouldn't have had the scariest young frontcourt in the league.

Now I will say that AB is not a self-starter. He needs a pat on the back. You have to coax max production out of him. But so what? As a manager myself, I understand that each person on my staff is different, and each responds to different stimuli. And, while each person is individually responsible for his/her own productivity, MY JOB (are you listening EJ?) IS TO DO WHATEVER I HAVE TO DO TO FACILITATE THE HIGHEST POSSIBLE PRODUCTIVITY FROM EACH AND EVERY SINGLE TEAM MEMBER, AS WELL AS FROM THE TEAM AS A WHOLE.

Posted by: jones-y | January 2, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

So in short, my opinion is that AB's lack of progress/stunted development/underperformance was both AB's fault and EJ's fault. And it cost EJ his job.

Posted by: jones-y | January 2, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

"The one similarity between AB and BTH is that they both appear to be lackadaisical on the court. "

It wasn't an "appearance." They were lackadaisical on the court. They played with low energy and inconsistent effort. It was a demonstrable fact that was often comment on by outside observers (commentators, journalists, announcers) who had no rooting interest either way.

"So EJ equated energy and effort (or the appearance thereof) with expected production, not realizing that a rebound is a rebound, whether or not you swing your elbows. A shot block is a shot block, whether or not you look athletic doing it. 2 points are 2 points whether its a finger roll or a dunk. And so on."

Any coach will tell you that is flatly untrue. Lots of guys put up nice numbers that fail to have impact on winning (Daruis Miles and Ricky Davis and Shareef Abdur_Rahim in their primes come to mind). It's not all about what shows up in the stat sheet. The way in which a player plays the game can have as big (or bigger) impact on winning than the final stat line.

"BTH's game didn't change one bit last year."

Simply untrue. He played with more energy and focus than he had at any other time in his career. Anyone who'd followed his entire tenure with the Wizards could have plainly seen that.

Posted by: kalo_rama | January 2, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

A NOTE TO JONES-Y: EJ wasn't trying to derail AB's career He was trying to get the serial-skirt-chaser to live up to his potential(imagine that,what a novel concept)but as it is with a lot of high school to the nba players they still think they're playing AAU ball where they can say and do what they want,unfortunately for Jordan he didn't have a GM to back him up,how come Caron and Antwan showed up for the weight room but Blatche repeatedly missed his weight room work and then you wonder why at 6-11 he was not a force around the hoop, and with BTH the same thing, EJ wanted him to listen and learn but BTH remained a serious underachiever until last year when his agent probably shopped him around and found out their were no taker's or none that BTH thought he'd be happy with so he came back and had a good but not a great year and don't give me that EJ wasn't giving them their minutes krap you earn minutes by playing hard in practice, studying your opponent(not the drink menu at club Love) working tirelessly on your game, you're making millions HELLO!!!. I had the pleasure of seeing Dwight Howard when he was a skinny HS player down here in the ATL do you know the difference between Dwight and Andray? HARD WORK and DEDICATION. EJ was unfortunately sabotaged by Ernie Grunfeld and untimely injuries didn't help either but still EJ should have been given the benfit of the doubt four straight playoff appearances i mean are you kidding me? well you can kiss that streak goodbye. Ernie Grunfeld had better have a plan and i'm sure he does, he's allinged himself with Abe Pollin's son Wes Unseld who in turn has Wes Unseld jr primed to take over next year or sooner as head coach well, good luck with that.

Posted by: dargregmag | January 2, 2009 4:59 PM | Report abuse

jones-y wrote: I don't think EG wanted to see...AB turn into a perennial all-star in Detroit. With EJ, we would've gained ground on developing JM, but we would've lost AB one way or another. Which means that 2-3 years from now, we wouldn't have had the scariest young frontcourt in the league."

Interesting observation. I confess I never saw Blatche in light of that sort of potential. But would anybody trade him straight up for, say, Amir Johnson? That's another guy swimming in potential who doesn't seem to get out on the court.

Posted by: Samson151 | January 2, 2009 5:50 PM | Report abuse

kalorama said:
"It wasn't an "appearance." They were lackadaisical on the court. They played with low energy and inconsistent effort. It was a demonstrable fact that was often comment on by outside observers (commentators, journalists, announcers) who had no rooting interest either way."

It was observable, yes. Anything that 'appears' is observable. The fact that objective observers noted its appearance says nothing other than the fact that it was observable. Did it correlate directly with production? I don't think so. We'll have to agree to disagree. IMO, the difference between last year and the prior one for BTW was consistent minutes. The difference between the first 11 games of this season and the last 10 for AB has been consistent minutes and the self confidence consistent minutes gave him.

kalorama said:
Lots of guys put up nice numbers that fail to have impact on winning (Daruis Miles and Ricky Davis and Shareef Abdur_Rahim in their primes come to mind). It's not all about what shows up in the stat sheet. The way in which a player plays the game can have as big (or bigger) impact on winning than the final stat line.

Agreed, the point I was making is that EJ seemed to be under the magic spell of ET's flailing elbows...

kalorama said:
He (BTH) played with more energy and focus than he had at any other time in his career. Anyone who'd followed his entire tenure with the Wizards could have plainly seen that.

I've followed him, and we disagree there. He has, of course, developed as an NBA center, but one thing has remained constant, he doesn't play outside of his physical ability: he's a lumbering center who clogs the lane on D, can only block the shots of other lumbering centers, and has difficulty outmaneuvering guys to get position for a rebound. In my opinion, its his lumbering physical presence that makes his game look lackadaisical.

As for AB, he's not a power power-forward. His game is more small forward-ish. He doesn't get off of his feet quickly, he needs a drop step or a running start to get any lift on his jump, his low post moves don't require him powering to the basket (which he obviously developed becasue he's not good at powering to the basket) and he has difficulty getting position for rebounds because of his lack of strength.

We can definitely question his effort (on and off the court), but again, we can't absolve EJ of his responsibility to get the most out of AB, especially on the court.

Posted by: jones-y | January 2, 2009 6:41 PM | Report abuse

dargregmag said:
A NOTE TO JONES-Y: EJ wasn't trying to derail AB's career He was trying to get the serial-skirt-chaser to live up to his potential(imagine that,what a novel concept)

That's where we disagree. Maybe derail was a strong word on my part, but please at least acknowledge that EJ didn't do his job in helping AB live up to his potential.

dargregmag said:
Blatche repeatedly missed his weight room work and then you wonder why at 6-11 he was not a force around the hoop, and with BTH the same thing,

See my last message. There are elements of natural ability and physical makeup that are necessary to be a force around the hoop. AB and BTH aren't built to be that. You are what you are.

dargregmag said:
EJ wanted him to listen and learn but BTH remained a serious underachiever until last year when his agent probably shopped him around and found out their were no taker's or none that BTH thought he'd be happy with so he came back and had a good but not a great year

EG never had any intention on trading or moving BTH, so that scenario doesn't fly. He remained an underachiever because of EJ's tireless mindgames. Its like EJ was mad he wasn't playing outside his physical ability. When he finally got minutes, he played. Well.

dargregmag said:
and don't give me that EJ wasn't giving them their minutes krap you earn minutes by playing hard in practice, studying your opponent(not the drink menu at club Love) working tirelessly on your game, you're making millions HELLO!!!.

So we're back to the self-starter argument. We just have differing perspectives on it I guess.

dargregmag said:
I had the pleasure of seeing Dwight Howard when he was a skinny HS player down here in the ATL do you know the difference between Dwight and Andray? HARD WORK and DEDICATION.

And physical toolsets. Dwight Howard is a monster because he works hard AND because God blessed him with phenomenal ability and the perfect frame to mature into. AB also has a ton of ability, but its very different in nature than Howard.

Posted by: jones-y | January 2, 2009 7:05 PM | Report abuse

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