West gives Celtics just what they need, just in time


West gives Celtics just what they need, just in time

By A. Sherrod Blakely

NEW YORK As Delonte West's teammates made their way outside of the team's locker room following Saturday's 89-85 win over New Orleans, West took his time in getting dressed.


In many ways, it describes the basketball journey that has brought the 6-foot-3 guard back to Boston for a second tour of duty.

It is also an apt description of his game, one that the Celtics have desperately not seen enough of this season.

A 10-game suspension and multiple injuries have limited West to just 11 games this season.

But he's back in the mix, right on time as the Celtics try to finish the regular season with momentum heading into the playoffs.

His steady approach to the game should help a team that's in need of some consistency.

In addition, West also provides some much-needed toughness.

"I've been in the trenches. I've played against all these guys," West said. "I'm not nervous or anything out there."

Said coach Doc Rivers: "That's why Delonte West is so important for us."

It is that toughness, that dogged approach to the game, that has made West a fan favorite of the Celtics and a player that the C's core group know they can count on in a pinch.

"All grit" and "not giving up" were the words of choice used by Kevin Garnett in describing West.

His return not only makes the Celtics a deeper team, but also gives Rondo a back-up who is well versed in the Celtics system. In addition to West, the Celtics also have Carlos Arroyo, who was signed earlier this month after being waived by the Miami Heat.

"With D-West back and picking up Carlos, that's been big for me," said Rondo, who left Saturday's game briefly after re-aggravating a right pinkie injury. "Trying to get me as healthy as possible for a playoff push."

West is also looking forward to the postseason, one in which he will be counted on to contribute in a variety of ways.

Being a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none has been West's game since he has been in the league.

It's a role that he's more than happy to embrace.

"I enjoy playing the game of basketball," he said. "There's a game within the game. My time in Cleveland, coming off the bench, gave me an opportunity to sit and watch. Me being a high energy player . . . playing in 3-, 4-minute spurts, that's perfect for me. I come in, I can hand that off to somebody or change the tempo. That's what I do."

Paul Pierce has strung together his two worst back-to-back shooting performances of the season. After going 2-for-10 in a loss at Houston, Pierce was even colder the following night, going 1-for-9 in a win over New Orleans.

"The crazy thing," Pierce said. "Friday's loss at Houston I didn't have a rhythm. Against New Orleans, I had a good rhythm. All my shots felt good. I just missed them.

"That's something I'm not even worried about, truthfully. I'm just going to brush this off. I'm just glad we got the win."

He wasn't the only All-Star on the floor struggling.

New Orleans top player, Chris Paul, missed all nine of his shots from the field against the Celtics.

"If your name was Paul, you struggled shooting the ball," said Rivers.

For the first time this season, the Celtics went with a playoff-like rotation. It included the starting five of the Big Three, Rondo and Nenad Krstic, along with Glen Davis, Jeff Green and Delonte West off the bench.

"I have been stubborn, trying to force rest with our guys," Rivers said. "I told them, 'We're not going to go with a full rotation. We're going to shorten the rotation and make sure the bench is not in with five bench guys. It's gotta be one or two starters in together.' "

Rivers liked what he saw, but don't get too used to it.

"It was a one-game thing," Rivers said. "I'll do it here and there because I want to see more of a playoff rotation. But I'm not going to do that every often."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Beyond the numbers: The dual threat of Avery Bradley


Beyond the numbers: The dual threat of Avery Bradley

BOSTON – Another year, another season in which Avery Bradley plans to showcase a new and improved skill that will benefit the Boston Celtics.
But with each improved skill, Bradley moves just that much closer to being an all-around, two-way talent that creates problems for teams at both ends of the floor.
We all know about Bradley’s defense, which was good enough to land him a spot on the NBA’s All-Defensive first team last season. He also gets props for steadily improving his game offensively in some area every summer, but defenses might have their hands full more than ever with Bradley.
According to NBA stats guru Dick Lipe, the 6-foot-2 Bradley was the only guard in the NBA last season to shoot better than 70 percent in the restricted area among players who took a minimum of 200 field goal attempts.
He is among a list that includes Los Angeles Clippers big men DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin; Miami’s Hassan Whiteside; current teammate and former Atlanta Hawk Al Horford; San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge; Golden State’s Kevin Durant and Atlanta big man Dwight Howard.
But if you’re thinking about keeping him away from that part of the floor, Bradley also made the 3-point shot a bigger part of his offensive game last season; as in, 40 percent of his shots came from beyond the 3-point line.

Having that kind of diversity makes him a difficult player to get a clear read on how to defend. And because of that, it may open things up even more so for his teammates.
Bradley can shoot from the perimeter; he can score close to the rim. His ball-handling skills have improved in the offseason to where it no longer looks as though it’s a major weakness.
And he defends at a level few players in the league can match.
Collectively it makes Bradley one of the many challenges awaiting teams whenever they face the Celtics, a player who is poised to showcase his diverse set of skills beginning tonight against the Brooklyn Nets. 

Pregame number: Al Horford to the rescue


Pregame number: Al Horford to the rescue

Tonight’s pregame number to watch is 45.4%. That was the Celtics' score frequency on pick and rolls finished by the screener last season, which was the worst rate in the NBA.

Score Frequency: The percentage of possession in which the team or player scores at least 1 point.

The major problem for the Celtics last season was personnel, as Jared Sullinger finished the most pick and roll plays for the C’s after setting a screen, and he was -- to put it nicely -- freaking terrible. Sullinger was the second-worst roll/pop man in the league, averaging a paltry 0.87 points per possession.

Fortunately, the Celtics replaced Jared Sullinger with four-time All-Star Al Horford, who is one of the elite roll/pop men in the NBA. Last season, Horford finished fifth in the NBA averaging 1.13 points per possession as a roll/pop man and boasted a more than solid 57.1 eFG% on those plays. 

eFG% (Effective Field Goal Percentage): Measures field goal percentage adjusting for the fact that a 3-point field goal is worth one more point than a 2-point field goal. The equation is ((FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA

If you watched the preseason, then you already know the kind of impact Horford can have on the Celtics half court offense. So keep an eye out for those pick and rolls tonight and throughout the season, and we should see that 45.4% Score Frequency jump somewhere closer to 50%.