Who gets the game-winning shot?


Who gets the game-winning shot?

The best thing that we can say about last nights Celtics win is that a few weeks ago it would have been a loss. Basically, that was exactly the kind of game (non-Washington variety) that Boston made a habit of blowing in the early going. But on occasions like last night, their development is clear. Even if the process has been somewhat subtle.

The bottom line is that the Celtics didnt bring their A game against the Mavs. Not down the stretch, at least. The offense stalled, their defense sprang a leak (the leak was wearing a No. 9 jersey) and they failed to capitalize on so many essential opportunities. But at the end of the daynight(by the time it was over) morning, Boston capitalized enough. Enough to avoid a loss. Enough to ensure that all those extra minutes werent played in vain. Enough to move three games over .500 for the first time this season.

The Celtics now head out on the road for a three-game trip at Houston, at San Antonio, at Chicago with some serious momentum-building (or killing) potential. Of course, either way, its not the end of the world. The Celtics could lose all three or go 1-2 and (short of a horrific injury) there wont be any reason for panic. In the same breath, going 3-0 or 2-1 wont necessarily mean a thing. But it will keep this team trending in the right direction, and at this point, what else you can ask for?

(Oh, what's that? You want another big man? OK, good point. How about Courtney Lee and Jared Sullinger for Marcin Gortat? Would you do that? I'm not claiming any sources on the deal, I just think it's an interesting question. As of Saturday (December 15), all of Boston's free agents are eligible to be traded. At the same time, they've got Avery Bradley on the verge of return. Suddenly, the C's have four shooting guards and only guy (I'm not counting Jason Collins) who's taller than 6-10, and that's KG who can't rebound like he used to, and does most of his damage from 17 feet.

Translation: The Celtics desperately need a big man. They have way too many shooting guards. Come on, Danny. Let's make some memories. Either that or you'll leave me with no choice but to initiate the "Bring Birdman To Boston" campaign.)

Anyway, let's forget about trade rumors for a second, and focus on the big picture.

Specifically, one aspect of the Celtics attack thats been non-existent to this point in the season. One that was on display last night (twice), has the potential to seriously screw with them moving forward.


More specifically, a potential game-winning final possession. I'm talking less than 24 seconds left on the clock, with the Celtics either tied, down one or down two points. I'm talking one basket = victory. One miss = loss, or another overtime period for a team that's already played too many.

In situations like this, what should the Celtics do?

Before we answer that, let's take a quick look at they've done so far this year, in six previous "game-winning shot" opportunities:

(DISCLAIMER: The following videos are not recommended for those who enjoy good basketball, or for women who are nursing, pregnant or who may become pregnant.)
No. 1: November 7, against Washington

The score's tied at 88, with nine seconds left. The Celtics have possession at half-court, and inbound the ball to Rondo.

The play looks like it was called for Pierce, and even though the Wizards switched, Rondo still could have gotten him the ball. But he made the decision to try and win the game on his own, and that's fine. You just wish he'd try something other than a step-back three-pointer.

No. 2: November 25, at Orlando.

The Celtics grab an offensive rebound (!) with 19 seconds left in a 102-102 game, and reset the offense with the ballgameballgame in Paul Pierce's hands.

Nice defense by Afflalo. Tough look for Paul.

No. 3: December 7, at Philly

Rondo picks off an errant pass with three seconds left in a tie game. The C's inbound at halfcourt (to Rondo) with a chance to pick up a great win, on national TV, against a budding Atlantic Division rival.

This one was Rondo's from the start. As Doug Collins would say: "That play was called 'Give the ball to Rajon, and everyone get the & out of the way.'" And truthfully, there were only three seconds left, there wasn't too much Rondo could do there.

Except to maybe keep moving towards the hoop in order to maybe draw a foul, instead of settling for another off-balanced fade away.

No. 4: December 7, at Philly . . . TAKE 2

Same game. But now it's overtime. Now the Celtics are down one. And this time they inbound it to Kevin Garnett.


The play was called for Kevin, but he thought that Rondo had an angle on a lay-up. And he did. But whether it was a matter of the sprained ankle or just Rondo being Rondo, he didn't take the lay-up.

No. 5: December 12, against Dallas

This is last night. The game is tied at 96, with seven seconds left, and Boston inbounds the ball to Rondo in the backcourt.

The pick-and-pop to Pierce wasn't really there, but I don't think it mattered. It looked like Rondo was pretty damn set on taking that shot. Which, for the third time, ended up being a last second fade away jumper with a man right in his face. And this one barely made it to the free throw line.

No. 6: December 12, against Dallas . . . TAKE 2

Same game. But now it's overtime. The score is tied at 105, and the Celtics isolate Pierce with about four seconds left on the clock.

I guess this one worked a little better than Rondo's, seeing how Pierce's shot made it all the way to the charge circle. But again, not a great look.

So, there you have it. Six game-winning opportunities. Six off-balanced, well-defended jump shots. Zero makes. And that brings us back to the original question: In situations like this, what should the Celtics do?

Honestly, I don't want to make this about a power struggle between Pierce and Rondo, because I think both guys are better than that. In fact, I don't think the "Rondo or Pierce?" question is even all that important. The far bigger problem is that, no matter who it is, the Celtics are getting horrible looks at the end of games. They're not running plays. They're not taking it to the hoop In Rondo's case, maybe he's scared of going to the line? In Paul's case, maybe he can't beat guys off the dribble like he used to? They're just settling.

You also wonder how much that has to do with the fact that the Celtics have been tied in five of these six game-winning situations. When you're tied, the security of overtime takes away a lot of urgency. I don't think that's it's a coincidence that the only the time the Celtics have attacked the hoop (in theory) came when they were down a point in Philly.

That was the best "game-winning" play call that we've seen this season. It may have also been the only game-winning play call that we've seen this season. If not for Rondo slipping, or whatever, that could have gone on the "Doc Rivers Classics" highlight reel.

And for that, I don't think we should ignore the involvement of Kevin Garnett. KG can be a serious threat in these situations. He can extend the defense. He's a great passer. He's the one guy who has 0.00 percent ego when it comes to game-winning shots and will usually (especially in his later years) make the right "game-winning" decision.

But other than that one play in Philly, KG's been an after thought. He's not even in the picture.

Remember the shot he hit to beat the Knicks back in 2009?

I've still yet to see anyone stop this play. Every time the Celtics run it, regardless of the situation, it seems like KG gets that open jumper. At the very least, it always puts the defense on its heels. It creates some semblance of a strategy. It's also been in the Witness Protection Program.

Bring back the PierceKG Pick-and Pop!

Or just do something. Something else. Something at all. The Celtics have the best and most creative play-calling coach in the league on their bench. Doc Rivers stays up all night scribbling skeleton drills on his window like John Nash. It's time to transfer some of that creativity into the final seconds of action.

Either that, or petition the league to move the hoop up to the free throw line.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Young understands work isn't done after claiming Celtics final roster spot

Young understands work isn't done after claiming Celtics final roster spot

WALTHAM, Mass. – For so many years the game of basketball came easy – almost too easy – for James Young.

He stood out on a young Kentucky team that played at the highest levels, delivering the kind of performances as an 18-year-old college freshman that catapulted him into the first round of the NBA draft.

To be so young and already having achieved a childhood dream, to be in the NBA, Young was too young to realize how quickly the dream could become a nightmare if he didn't put in the necessary work.

The past couple of weeks have not been easy for Young, aware that the Celtics were torn as to whether they should keep him around this season or waive him.

They choose the former and instead waived his now-ex teammate R.J. Hunter, on Hunter’s 23rd birthday no less.

One of the first acts Young said he planned to do following Monday's practice was to reach out to Hunter, offer words of encouragement to a player he looked upon as a brother, a brother who is in a state of basketball limbo right now which could have easily been the latest chapter in James Young’s basketball narrative.

And that’s why as happy as Young is to still be donning the Green and White, his work towards proving himself to this team, to this franchise is far from done.

You listen to veterans like Jae Crowder, a second-round pick who has come up the hard way in the NBA, they speak of how Young now takes the game more serious.

Even Young acknowledged that he didn’t take the NBA game and the need to work at staying in the league as serious as he should have initially.

“I wasn’t playing as hard (early on),” Young admitted. “I just was satisfied being where I was, being too comfortable. My confidence was down. I have to change that around.”

Crowder, a straight-no-chaser kind of fellow, said as much when I asked him about the changes he has seen in Young.

“He’s taking stuff a little more serious,” Crowder said. “It’s growing up. He came in as a first-round draft pick and was on the borderline of getting cut. I don’t know what else is going to wake you up.”

That’s part of what made this decision so difficult and on some levels, left players with mixed emotions about the decision.

For those of us who followed this team through training camp, there was no question that Young had the better camp.

But the one thing that was never questioned with Hunter, was his work ethic. He made his share of mistakes and missed more shots than a player with a sharpshooter's reputation should, but you never got a sense it had anything to do with him not working as hard as he needed to.

That was among the more notable issues with Young who came into the league as an 18-year-old. That youth probably worked for him as opposed to Hunter who played three years of college basketball and was expected to be seemingly more NBA-ready.

Even though Hunter’s NBA future is on uncertain ground now, he’s too young and too talented to not get at least one more crack with an NBA team.

And by Boston waiving him, he really does become a low-risk, high-reward prospect that an NBA team might want to take a closer look at with their club. 

And Young remains a Celtic, doing all that he can to climb up the pecking order which now has him as the clear-cut 15th man on the roster.

He might see more minutes than rookie Demetrius Jackson and possibly second-year forward Jordan Mickey, but Young’s future with the Boston Celtics is still on relatively thin ice.

“I told him this morning, this might be the first time he’s earned anything in his life,” said Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations.  “He earned this by his play, day-in and day-out. He was given a lot as a young kid with a lot of promise, a lot of potential. We talked about earlier this summer, he had to come out and win a spot with some good competition and he did. He needs to keep doing what he’s doing.”

More than anything else, Young has been consistent in his effort, overall energy and attention to detail. But it remains to be seen if Young has done all that to just secure a roster spot, or has he truly grown up and figured out what has to be done in order to be an NBA player.

Celtics break ground on new practice facility


Celtics break ground on new practice facility

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- When it comes to finding ways to attract the best talent, colleges and universities often seek to upgrade their training facilities as an enticement to prospective players.
So why should it be any different at the pro level?
The Boston Celtics had a groundbreaking ceremony Monday morning for The Auerbach Center at New Balance Headquarters.
“When you think he was hired in 1966 and they’re still honoring him, it’s very humbling,” said Randy Auerbach, Red’s daughter.
New Balance officials echoed similar sentiments about the legendary Red Auerbach, the architect of arguably the greatest dynasty in professional basketball.
“Red Auerbach was a true entrepreneur whose passion for winning and dedication to the sport of basketball and the Boston Celtics was equally matched with his commitment to people and his local community,” said Jim Davis, Chairman and Owner at New Balance.  “New Balance is extremely proud to join with the Boston Celtics in honoring his professional achievements and personal values through ‘Red’s House’ at our Boston world headquarters.”
Celtics president Rich Gotham cited several benefits to moving the team to a state-of-the-art practice facility closer to Boston.
Among the reasons given was the potential for the practice facility to be a potential enticement for free agents.
“Players spend more time in the practice facility than they do in the arena they play in certainly, and maybe more than they do at home,” Gotham said. “So having a place where they feel comfortable, a place where they want to spend time to improve themselves across the board … it’s all coming together in a pretty big way. The best players know it’s integral to their success that make sure that support is there, that infrastructure is there. So when we’re out talking to a player, we’re going to be talking about this practice facility we’re building. Because we do think it’s an important part of our story.”
Some of the features of the new practice facility will include:
·  Two state-of-the-art parquet floor basketball courts where the team will practice
·  Leading edge audio-visual technology throughout the facility
·  Expanded strength and conditioning, training, and recovery facilities
·  Best-in-class locker rooms and players’ lounge
·  Physical therapy areas including hydrotherapy pools
·  Sports science and nutrition facilities
·  Expanded media work room, press conference and broadcast facilities
·  A flexible hospitality area designed for community relations activities, partner gatherings and other guest events
·  Work space for the team’s coaching and basketball front office staffs
While the facility will have all the bells and whistles you would come to expect in a new facility, Gotham said there will be a balance of sorts struck between that and the franchise’s longstanding history.
“What will be clear is it will be … at that intersection of, which is a strange intersection, of innovation but honoring our tradition,” Gotham said. “This will be a building that’s state-of-the-art, moving forward. But at the same time, I think one of the things we’re lucky to have is this treasure trove of great guys who came before us who left great wisdom and great quotes. You can see a lot of that built in. Coach Stevens is big on having motivational phrases around for the guys to see every single day when they come in for practice. If those come from Red Auerbach and Bill Russell, all the better. You’ll see us incorporating those kind of things.”