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Saturday Notebook: The Friendly Road, Rondo’s D, Baby’s Misses and the Curse of Gerald Green

 

Happy Saturday. The sun is shining in New York, and that development has reduced me to the human equivalent of the dog who sees his owner picking up the leash for a walk. Outside outside outside outside outside!

• Chris Forsberg at ESPNBoston.com wonders whether we’ve all been overlooking a major positive sign amid our hand-wringing over the C’s inconsistent play:

Road success is often a quality indicator of playoff success. The Celtics put together an NBA-best 31-10 mark on the road during the 2007-08 campaign, the year they brought home banner No. 17. The second-best road team that year? The Los Angeles Lakers, the team that Boston beat in the NBA Finals, had a road mark of 27-14.

Doc wanted none of the road optimism:

“It doesn’t mean anything,” said Rivers. “Nothing means nothing, winning on the road or not winning at home, once you get into the playoffs it doesn’t matter.”

And then he added this zinger about the reason for the C’s success on the road:

“Crowd noise — half of them are deaf right? — they’re so old, they can’t hear it anyway. So maybe that’s an advantage.”

 Oh, Doc. You cad. 

Forsberg offers one other piece of optimism going into the Dallas game tonight:

But the Celtics’ success on the road hasn’t been hindered by the grueling back-to-backs this season. The Green improved to 8-4 on the first night of a back-to-back opening on the road with Friday’s win (they’re 0-3 in those games at home this season) and Boston is 4-3 on the second night of back-to-backs on the road this year.

That’s good. But you know what the best thing about the playoffs is? No back-to-backs. More rest means the Celtics might play more often with the energy level they showed last night.

• It seemed obvious to me that the C’s were flying around the court early, and the C’s—and Rockets—verified that after the game. Here’s the Globe’s Julian Benbow on Rondo’s shut-down D against Aaron Brooks last night:

He didn’t want to hear anything about Brooks after the game. So he made up his mind.

“My mentality, definitely before the game,’’ he said, “was to play defense.’’

Rondo took just five shots, focusing on hounding Brooks the entire night.

They looked like two racecars as Rondo chased Brooks wherever he went, enjoying every minute despite being drained of energy.

You’ve probably heard this by now, but Brooks had hit at least one three in 39 consecutive games going into last night. That is a Houston franchise record. That record will stand at 39. 

• Doc Rivers seems to think Rondo was indeed playing extra-hard on D last night (via the same Globe piece):

“Rondo was tired,’’ coach Doc Rivers said. “I think he wanted to come out at the six-minute mark in the third, which he never does. That’s from chasing Brooks around everywhere.’’

There is no doubt in my mind that Rondo played harder—and smarter—on defense last night than he has in a handful games this year, particularly in a series of games in mid-February when he allowed Andre Miller and Chauncey Billups to beat him cleanly off the dribble and occasionally lost track of them off the ball. The knee-jerk reaction is to howl about Rondo not playing this hard every night. 

But that’s the NBA. Nobody plays at post-season intensity 82 games per year. Since it’s sunny out, I’m taking the more positive route about Rondo’s D last night: Rondo knows how to be an elite defender and understands the sorts of careless mistakes he has to remove from his defensive game when the stakes are high. For whatever reason, the personal stakes for Rondo were higher last night. He wanted to shut Brooks down. And so he did. This is the Defensive Rondo we should see during the playoffs—attentive to his man, selective about his helping and wandering for steals, ultra-fast and feisty with screens. 

• It’s becoming one of the more heated debates among Celtics fans: Is Glen Davis a good offensive rebounder, or is he merely gobbling up offensive rebounds off of his own (very frequent) misses and rejections around the rim? I’d suggest there’s a middle ground, but I’ll get there in a second. First, the facts:

Right now, Davis has the 2nd-highest offensive rebounding percentage in the entire league, according to Basketball Reference. Put more simply: The numbers suggest Baby is the 2nd-best offensive rebounder in the league. 

Doc Rivers addressed this in the Globe (the same Benbow piece linked above) last night in discussing Baby’s five offensive boards:

When Glen Davis came into the locker room after pulling down seven rebounds (five on the offensive glass), his teammates had a nickname for him.

 “They’re in there calling him Moses Malone,’’ Rivers said, “because he got five offensive rebounds. Four of them were his own misses.’’

Davis is obviously getting a lot of boards off of his own misses. Baby misses a ton of shots at the rim. According to Hoopdata, Davis is hitting just 53.2 percent of his shots at the basket. That’s an improvement from where Baby was a month ago (about 49 percent), but it’s still one of the very worst marks in the league for a big man. 

According to 82games, opponents this season have blocked about 28 percent of Baby’s inside shot attempts. That’s not just bad. That’s historically bad. 

So there’s some accidental stat-padding going on with Baby’s insane offensive rebounding numbers. He’s not the 2nd-best offensive rebounder in the NBA, even if the stats say he is. 

But here’s the middle ground I spoke about before:

1) Baby is the best offensive rebounder the Celtics have—by far—and a decent chunk of his ORBs come after shots from the other four C’s on the court. How many? I don’t know, and I don’t think that number exists;

2) Even if Baby is rebounding a ton of his own misses, this isn’t just a sign of his failure as a finisher. It has benefits for the team. 

Cue Doc (via the Globe):

“He just couldn’t get anything to go down for him. But it created fouls, it created second shots for us. So that was good. I think his energy over the last couple of weeks has been terrific.’’

Among Celtic regulars, only Paul Pierce attempts more foul shots per minute than Big Baby. And the rest of the C’s big men don’t draw a lot of fouls or bang on the inside for offensive rebounds. Leon Powe was great at both of those things. He plays for Cleveland. Rasheed Wallace doesn’t do either of those things. He now plays for Boston. 

What Baby is doing inside isn’t ideal, but I’d argue that it’s a net plus for the team. That said, he has to finish better inside, and his stats in that area are crawling up. Let’s hope the crawl continues. 

• Nate Robinson let Doc Rivers have it after his University of Washington team beat Doc’s alma mater (Marquette) in the first round of the NCAA tourney (via the Herald’s Mark Murphy):

“He had the whole bus chanting, ‘Marquette (expletive), Marquette (expletive),’ ” Rivers said. “I just had to sit and take it. To the victors go the spoils.

Stupid question: Is the expletive there “sucks”? The Herald can’t print “sucks”? It could be something worse, I guess, but “sucks” seems to be the most natural fit given the sentence structure.

• Also via the Herald: Doc is introducing more complex plays to the new guys, and he wants KG and Pierce to spend some time playing with a portion of the second unit:

It’s one sign that the reserves, with Nate Robinson and Michael Finley now part of the mix, are ready for the plan to get a little more complex.

“We’re trying to add stuff half the time,” Rivers said. “But the more we can put in, the more we can keep Paul (Pierce) and Kevin (Garnett) out there with (the second unit). We haven’t been able to keep them in with those guys as much because of it.

“So we’re trying to put in all of Paul’s plays and all of Kevin’s, and that way we can combine these guys more.”

Very interesting, and definitely something to monitor over the last dozen or so games of the regular season.

• Perk’s still confident about breaking Cedric Maxwell’s franchise record for field-goal percentage in a season (via this Herald story):

“I’ll get it,” he said of the shooting percentage title.

Max’s record (set in 1980) is 60.9 percent. Perk is currently at 60.7 percent, meaning he’s fallen behind Max for the first time in a long, long time. 

• Jay King at Celtics Town wonders if we’ve the last of Boston’s favorite grossly overpaid bench-warmer.

• Finally, it seems that no matter how many years pass, we’re always going to be writing about Gerald Green. In a piece about David Lee, SI’s Ian Thomsen interviews Doc Rivers, who claims he lobbied for the C’s to draft Lee in 2005:

Rivers was a fan of Lee’s and begged the Celtics to acquire him in the 2005 draft. “It’s the one I stuck my chest out about because I was in the minority in the draft room that night,” said Rivers. “But I had the advantage of being in Florida and I’d seen him, and my oldest son had played in a ton of pickup games with him and he said, ‘All I know about David Lee is every time I play a pickup game, his team wins.

Now, the key word there might be “acquire,” because the C’s were picking 18th, and there wasn’t a personnel guy in the league who would have picked David Lee 18th. (He went 30th to the Knicks in what probably goes down as the best value pick in that draft, though Indy deserves credit for snagging Danny Granger at #17.  Deron Williams and Chris Paul, selected #3 and #4, are clearly the best players from that draft).

Perhaps Doc was lobbying for the C’s to work a deal with New York? Or trade down into the mid-20s and nab Lee?

Instead, the C’s selected Gerald Green, an object of ridicule at this year’s Sloan Sports conference in Boston.

On that note: OUTSIDE OUTSIDE OUTSIDE OUTSIDE OUTSIDE!

  • What Can I Say?

    Please clean up that “value pick” comment on David Lee. Dude is a good player, I don’t want to come off like you are nuts…but lets not discount CP3 or Deron W.

    Other than that…great piece.

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  • http://www.celticshub.com Zach Lowe

    value pick = value of player versus what you’d expect out of that pick. You expect something good/very good out of #3/4 and nothing out of 30.

  • What Can I Say?

    Just read in an article that Doc Rivers said David Lee is essentially the point guard of the Knicks and D’antoni runs everything through him. Haven’t seen that since KG with Minny.

    Still…CP3 is a Hall of Famer. LOL.

    LOL at Gerald Green. LOL at Mark Cuban.

    LMAO at Jay King. Now there is a Celtics fan. A NBA version of himself. Great stuff about Sheed too. LOL at Jason Terry.

    Go head Perk.

    I like the strategy about more plays and more Finley and Nate Rob with the Big 3. I want Rondo and Nate Rob to continue to play together as well.

    I’ll say this about Big Baby…he is a hell of a Orebounder. He just needs to understand the value of a new 24 seconds. He isn’t Andrew Bynum, he is Glen Davis. Bring it back out.

    When Rondo has good games, he is the best point guard in the league this year. That guy is amazing. “Dominant” as Doc puts it. Another notch in Danny Ainge’s Executive resume.

    Finally, I am inclined to ride with Doc’s and KG’s comments about the road success. Don’t fall for the Okey-Doke Celtic fans. Translation: I’m smarter than you take me to be Chris Forsberg.

    Here is another perspective…the Celtic’s record on the ROAD is the basically the same as it is at HOME.

    Go PAC-10!

  • What Can I Say?

    I appreciate the clarification Zach.

    I am a Bay Area product who roots for the Celtics as much as Larry Ellison to buy my boyhood team. So being accustomed to Latrell Sprewell and Gilbert Arenas talent later in the draft is not new to me. But one thing I will say, I wish those guys were half as smart and mature as Mr. David Lee. That guy is very easy to like and if I were an owner, his agent would have at the very least a call from me. Your actions off the court can translate into dollars on both ends of a business relationship. See Antawn Jamison.

    Big game today. 4-4 or 5-3 on day 2′s of back 2 backs?

    I’m going with 5-3.

  • Dawson C. in California

    Is anyone with me on this?

    Why is Glen Davis playing over Sheldon Williams?

    Celts started 23-5 with SW playing alot, then have been about .500 when GD took his place. Not to say it is Big Baby’s fault, but it was working with SW.

    SW is a better shooter, free throw shooter, and rebounder than Big Baby.

    See Stats:

    FG%: SW .510, GD .433
    FT%: SW .759, GD .635
    Rebs per min: SW .26, GD .22
    Pct of Shots blocked: Big Baby 28% (Highest pct. in NBA history)

    Why is Big Baby playing over Sheldon Williams?

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