A couple of bonus items from Sunday’s papers:
• The Herald’s Steve Bulpett has a nice item in which John Lucas, the former Cavs, Spurs and Sixers head coach who is now an assistant for the Clippers, discusses the development of Kendrick Perkins. Lucas has worked with Perkins (and many other players) during the off-season in Texas:
“I love that kid,” Lucas said. “I knew about him right away just by his commitment. He’d drive 75 miles each way, every day to work out in Houston. He did that for the first month, and then he got a place for the next two months. Then he’d drive in for the week and go home on weekends. That’s commitment.
“He worked hard from the start, and as soon as he got his body straight and got some of the hangers-on off of him, he really took off. And you know what? He may be the best defensive center in the league. He’s just improved so much.”
One thing of note: Lucas talks about Perk’s need to ditch various hangers-on. This reminded me of a piece Peter May (formerly of the Globe) wrote for HoopsHype last year, in which Perk discussed his early career poor spending habits:
“At the beginning, every one I knew had a hand out and I was spending like $200 and $300 a week. That adds up. It got to $11,000 a month. That adds up too,’’ Perkins said. “You have to learn to distance yourself from people, even if that means staying inside at home more. You know, out of sight, out of mind? That first year in the league was tough for me. You’re worried about offending people if you say no. But you eventually learn that you have to do it.”
Good for Perk. He figured out that he needed to work hard both on and off the court to become a reliable NBA player. Now he just needs to cut out the turnovers.
• Tony Allen is feeling good about himself, according to a piece Mark Murphy has today in the Herald:
“I look at it like he’s just testing me,” Allen said of the Celtics coach. “Each test I pass is another game to get confidence. I’m just trying to get my body back in strength.
“It’s an honor and a pleasure to just be out there playing,” he said. “All I ever wanted to do was to just play. I’m trying to make the best of it, trying to help this ballclub win games. It just feels good being out there.”
“I can do a lot of things – I just don’t pinpoint,” he said. “I’m a basketball player. As long as I’m playing and not turning the ball over, I’m helping my ballclub. Rebounding, steals, assists, taking a charge, passing out Gatorade, whatever.”
That qualifier is the key: As long as he’s not turning the ball over. I don’t mean to pick on Tony, but he is turning the ball over. He and Perkins and neck-and-neck in the race to have the highest turnover rate on the team (each is coughing it up on about 21 percent of possessions which end with them trying to do something with the ball), and those numbers are just too high.
One immediate way for TA to cut those TOs: Do NOT get airborne without having made a definite decision to either shoot or pass to a particular player. Some guys (Steve Nash, John Stockton, Rajon Rondo) can pull off this in-air improv. TA can’t, and he needs to stop trying it.
• Murphy’s TA piece contains an interesting detail about the C’s late-game screen/roll strategy, focusing on TA’s decision to switch onto LaMarcus Aldridge (with Perk switching onto the ball-handler, Andre Miller) in overtime against Portland on Friday:
“I stayed with LaMarcus,” he said. “We call that a veer back. In the Dallas game I didn’t do that. It just clicked in my head, ‘OK, I’m beat off the dribble, Perk steps up (to cover Miller).’ I stayed with LaMarcus, I contested the shot, loose ball tapped into the backcourt, I went for it.”
Murphy casts this as TA learning from his mistakes, since he and Perk defended a Jason Terry/Dirk Nowitzki screen/roll differently down the stretch against Dallas on Wednesday—by having TA chase Terry over the Dirk screen while Perk jumped out to help on Terry and the rest of the C’s defense rotated to help on Dirk and the other Mavs.
Here’s the thing: The Celtics almost always defend the screen/roll the way did on that play against Dallas. They rarely switch, and Doc has said before that he prefers not to switch on screen/rolls.
But it’s a sort of NBA cliché that teams switch on screen/rolls more often—and, for some teams, every single time—down the stretch of close games. On big possessions in crunch time, teams prefer the penalty for switching (mismatches) over the penalty for not switching (forcing your defense into a series of rotations).
The Celtics have been a semi-outlier in this regard for the last 2 1/2 seasons. They don’t switch as often as other teams, both during the course of the game and during the last few minutes of close ones.
Is this changing a bit? Did Doc instruct the team to switch on the Aldridge/Miller screen/roll? If so, was it a one-time thing?
Something to monitor…
• I’m less satisfied with Doc’s take on the team’s rebounding problems (via the Globe’s Frank Dell’Apa). Brian Robb referenced this excerpt in his earlier notebook, but I wanted to discuss it further:
Rivers on offensive rebounding: “I don’t worry about offensive glass much. As many offensive rebounds as you get, I’d rather get back on defense. I’m more concerned about the defensive glass. We’re shooting above 50 percent, so half your offensive rebounds are gone every time you shoot the ball.
“We’re holding teams to 41-42 percent, so they’re clearly going to have more offensive-rebound opportunities. If we can get defensive glass, then we can shoot 60 percent because we can run.’’
On the one hand, this shows that Doc understands that it’s the percentage of rebounds a team gets that matters, not the simple raw numbers. In other words: The Celtics shoot a higher percentage than do their opponents, so the C’s will naturally have fewer chances to get their own offensive rebounds (because they miss less often) than their opponents will have on the other end. In other words: You shouldn’t be surprised if the other team grabs more offensive boards than Boston.
On the other hand, the C’s defensive rebounding rate is bordering on crisis level. The team is now 16th in defensive rebounding percentage (rebounding abut 73 percent of opponent misses), the lowest they’ve been since KG arrived here.
That is not good enough. The C’s have rebounded between 74.4 percent and 76 percent of opponent misses over the last two seasons.
Right now, opponents are out-rebounding the C’s 39.5-39.0 per game. That doesn’t bother me on its own as much as the team’s defensive rebounding percentage, though the two are obviously related. To wit: According to the research of M. Haubs at The Painted Area, of the 52 teams that have played in the NBA Finals over the last 26 years, only four have had negative per-game rebounding margins.
If you look at those 52 teams, you see a few great rebounding teams, several good ones, those four bad ones and a bunch of mediocre ones. The Celtics don’t need to be a great rebounding team to win the title, which is good, because they won’t ever be with this roster. But they at least need to be mediocre.
And right now they’re verging on bad.