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Boston Celtics: Should They Start Delonte West Ahead of Rajon Rondo?

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The Boston CelticsSaturday night victory over the New Orlean Hornets was notable for a number of reasons, but of particular interest was the play of starting point guard Rajon Rondo and backup point guard Delonte West.

Rondo had another disappointing night. Despite hitting a couple of unexpected mid-range jumpers, for much of the game Rondo seemed a step slow. His mediocre tally of five assists was well below his season average, but about on par for his recent performances.

Delonte West, on the other hand, was a revelation. Putting up almost identical numbers (nine points, five assists), West managed to do so with 10 minutes less playing time. Unlike Rondo, West was a blur on the court. Whether sprinting down the court to lead the fast break or posting up his man down low, West was clearly a positive to the team every minute he was on the floor.

Now, this is not to say that West is a better player than Rondo. Far from it. West is a good player. Rondo is a great player—and one with a proven record of leadership. It is similarly not fair to compare an almost healthy West, less fatigued from less minutes, with a banged up Rondo. But on Saturday night, West has a better player, pound-for-pound, than Rondo.

With Rondo’s recent admission of a lingering injury to his pinky finger, and his related run of poor form in recent weeks, it is perhaps time to question whether it is time for Doc Rivers to bench Rondo in favour of the recently returned West.

West looked very comfortable running the point for the Celtics in recent games. His speed and ability to go down low in the post make him a matchup nightmare for most teams. Rondo meanwhile could do with some time to rest and recuperate.

Although the Celtics have an uphill battle trying to retain the top seed in the Eastern Conference, Rondo is not the right man to lead that fight. His injuries, combined with a general slump in form, have hurt the Celtics in recent games.

West, meanwhile, continues to improve with each game. Benching Rondo in favour of West would have a number of benefits. Rondo would get a chance to rest and recuperate and West would better familiarise himself with the new Celtics team.

However, perhaps the biggest argument against giving Rondo some bench time in favour of West is Rondo himself. Rondo has shown himself to be stubborn and proud, almost to the point of arrogance. It is what makes him such a tough player. But, it also can work to the detriment of his team. It is unlikely his ego could take being benched, or even having his minutes reduced.

Benching him could be received as a slight against his contribution to the team. And the last thing the Celtics need is an unhappy Rondo, with a chip on his shoulder. However, Rondo shouldn’t think a move to bench him undermines his importance to the Celtics.

In fact, the exact opposite is true.

The Celtics need a healthy and rested Rondo for the playoffs. Right now, Rondo is neither. For the greater good of the Celtics, and for Rondo, Doc Rivers needs to sit him in favour of West. At least until the playoffs. And then, hopefully, the Celtics can ride a 100 percent battle-ready Rondo all the way to an 18th championship.

Texas Beat Down: Houston Rockets Humiliate Boston Celtics

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In Friday’s 93-77 loss to the Houston Rockets, the Boston Celtics gave little glimpse of the team that aspires to championship glory this season.

In an often times brutal match, the Celtics were out-hustled and out-played by a sharp shooting Rockets team that grabbed the lead and never let go.

Technical fouls on Kevin Garnett and Glen Davis reflected the tense nature of the match. At one point a rough Jordan Hill foul saw Davis lunge towards him in anger, only to be restrained by his team mates. Clearly frustrated by their own poor play, and the dubious nature of a number of calls, the Celtics dug themselves deep into a hole from which they were unable to recover.

The Houston Rockets’ backcourt dominated the Celtics. Kyle Lowry and Kevin Martin combined for 45 points, 18 of those coming from behind the three point line. Buoyed by an ebullient home crowd, the Rockets were dominant on offence, outpacing the Celtics 34-18 in the second quarter on the way to building their insurmountable lead.

The Celtics offence, on the other hand, just never got started. Poor shooting from Pierce (2 of 10) and Rondo (2 for 11) reflected the team’s struggles. Productive games from Jeff Green (15 points, 2 blocks) and Glen Davis (16 points, 7 rebounds) were unable to compensate for the woeful Celtics’ offence. There is perhaps no more telling statistic for the game than the fact that Rondo’s eleven field goal attempts were a team high. A team high in field goal attempts from a player not known for his offensive game, having a bad shooting night? Surely a symptom of a team that had lost its way.

By half time the game’s outcome was clear. Doc Rivers sat his starting five for much of the second half, hoping to save their energy for the rest of their three game road trip. And they will need it. Despite this loss the Celtics are still in the race with the Chicago Bulls for the Eastern Conference’s top seed, with the Bulls loss to the Indiana Pacers.

However, if Friday’s game is any indication, it is highly unlikely that the Celtics will be able to hold onto the top seed until the season’s end.

Boston Celtics: Tough Schedule Makes Eastern Conference Top Seed Impossible?

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With yesterday’s win over the Washington Wizards, the Chicago Bulls have now taken sole possession of the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

What does this mean for the title chances of the Boston Celtics?

Last season the Boston Celtics surprised many by battling their way to the NBA Finals, despite finishing the season seeded only forth in the Eastern Conference.

This season, however, Celtics Coach Doc Rivers decided not to take such a risk. The Celtics were going after the number one seed in a big way.Although Rivers has subsequently changed his tune, claiming that the number one seeding is no longer a primary goal for the Celtics, it will make their journey back to championship glory a lot more difficult if they cede the top ranking in the East to the Chicago Bulls.

However, the battle to regain the top seeding in the east will be tough – particularly because of the tough schedule of games remaining for the Celtics.

The Celtics have 17 games left this season. Of these, only seven are in Boston and most are against teams they would have likely defeated anyway (e.g. Charlotte Bobcats, Washington Wizards).

In particular, a string of dangerous April away games – including matches against the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat—could put a dent in the Celtics’ wins column. A four game away tour in late March-early April will also test the endurance of the aging Celtics.

Celtics’ remaining games

Wednesday, March 16   Indiana Pacers
Friday, March 18           @ Houston Rockets
Saturday, March 19       @ New Orleans Hornets
Monday, March 21        @ New York Knicks
Wednesday, March 23   Memphis Grizzlies
Friday, March 25           Charlotte Bobcats
Sunday, March 27         @ Minnesota Timberwolves
Monday, March 28        @ Indiana Pacers
Thursday, March 31      @ San Antonio Spurs
Friday, April 1              @ Atlanta Hawks
Sunday, April 3            Detroit Pistons
Tuesday, April 5           Philadelphia 76ers
Thursday, April 7          @ Chicago Bulls
Friday, April 8              Washington Wizards
Sunday, April 10          @ Miami Heat
Monday, April 11         @ Washington Wizards
Wednesday, April 13    New York Knicks

The Chicago Bulls meanwhile have a much easier schedule. For a start they a nice three game home stretch against the Toronto Raptors, Phoenix Suns and Celtics. The Celtics have no such luxury, with only two back-to-back home games (Memphis Grizzlies-Charlotte Bobcats and then Detroit Pistons-Philadelphia 76ers). The Bulls’ April is also a lot less challenging than the Celtics—with only Boston and Orlando Magic proving to be real competition.

Chicago Bulls’ remaining games

March

Thu 17    @ New Jersey
Fri 18     @ Indiana
Mon 21   vs Sacramento
Tue 22   @ Atlanta
Fri 25     vs Memphis
Sat 26    @ Milwaukee
Mon 28   vs Philadelphia
Wed 30  @ Minnesota

April

Fri 01      @ Detroit
Sat 02     vs Toronto
Tue 05     vs Phoenix
Thu 07     vs Boston
Fri 08       @ Cleveland
Sun 10     @ Orlando
Tue 12     @ New York
Wed 13    vs New Jersey

So, does this mean that it will be impossible for the Celtics to regain the top seed in the Eastern Conference before the playoffs? No. But it does make it a lot more difficult.

Perhaps the more critical question though is, “what impact does this have on their title chances?”. As seen last year, the Celtics have shown that they don’t need home court advantage to win playoff series. However, the last thing a team that aspires to win it all needs is to be exhausted from the regular season just as the playoffs begin. The risk remains that their tough end of season schedule could tire out an already fatigued team.

Although not at their physical best, the Celtics have always been a team with great heart. Their fans can only hope that this is enough to overcome the upcoming challenges of the regular and post seasons.

Boston Celtics: Is It Kevin Garnett’s Fault That Everybody Hates Them?

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First of all, let’s get this straight. People hate the Boston Celtics. Really hate them.

And not just Los Angeles Lakers fans, either.

A random search through the many fan sites that litter the Internet and you will find ample evidence of this hatred. Depending upon which site you visit, you will see them take the prize as seventh, eighth or more charitably 17th most hated franchise in all of sports.

Although this year the Miami Heat have given the Celtics some competition in this regard, they have a lot of catching up to do. Hoops fans have been hating on the Celtics for over 50 years now, and it is likely to continue until well past the time when LeBron James is making his acceptance speech at Springfield, Massachusetts.

So, let’s take it as given that the Celtics are hated. Sure, other teams are also hated—most notably the Los Angeles Lakers—but NBA fans seem to hold a special place in their heart for hating the Celtics. So, why this great hatred? There are a couple of likely reasons:

Jealousy

This is the reason all Celtics fans instinctively point to.”Why wouldn’t other fans hate us? They wish they were us!” Even from an objective standpoint there is, of course, much to be jealous of when one looks at the Celtics’ list of accomplishments. A league best 17 championships. MVPs and Hall of Famers by the dozen. An unparalleled history of success—the envy of any sport franchise.

But, is this enough? Is this simply a case of sour grapes? Celtics detractors point to other reasons for their hatred of the team, including:

Celtics Fans

For many hoops fans, their main sticking point with the Celtics are their fans. Few fan bases are more knowledgeable, engaged and supportive than Celtics fans. Great if you are with them. Terrible if you are against them. Celtics fans’ rabid fervour, blatant homer ism and perceived arrogance have labelled them as the league’s worst by many long time fans.

This is reflected in the plethora of Celtics fan hating sites, such as the Facebook group “I Hate Glory Hunting Boston Celtics Fans”.

Racism

Although the debate continues as to whether the Celtics organization of the past was an inherently racist institution, it is true that the city of Boston has long had a negative reputation in this regard.

Celtics legends such as Robert Parish and Bill Russell have spoken openly about the racism they endured whilst living in Boston, even whilst being lionised for their feats on the court. Such tales can’t help but make an impact on hoops fan who, like Bostonians themselves, question how much Boston has changed to rid itself of its racist past.

Dirty Players

This is an argument raised more recently than in previous decades. Whilst the Celtics have not yet reached Detroit Bad Boy levels of infamy, they are getting a reputation as a team that plays rough and dirty.

With current Celtics players like Kevin Garnett being voted the most hated player in the league, it is only natural that this influences how fans of the game feel about the Celtics as a whole. One need not look very far for a roll call of Garnett’s dirty deeds and bad behaviour. Garnett, and to a lesser degree the rest of the Celtics, is willing to do whatever it takes to win. And that “whatever” is not always pretty.

Arrogance

It is one thing to win. It is another thing to expect to win. It is an altogether different thing to tell everybody that you expect to win. This is the issue that confronts the current Celtics team. Garnett and others has gone on record saying that the Celtics are the best team, often repeating his assertion that the Celtics starting five had never been defeated in a seven game series when healthy.

Obviously, such claims are no longer relevant, but such confidence can easily be mistaken for arrogance. Add in the trash talking Paul Pierce and the cool confidence of Rajon Rondo, and you have a team that some say is asking to be hated.

So, which of these factors is it? What is the key to the mystery of Celtics hatred? As is often the case with matters of this kind, it is probably a little of each element.

What do you think? How much is jealousy and how much is based upon genuine cause for complaint?

Camelo Anthony Trade: Why the Deal Is Good for the Boston Celtics

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Well, it looks like it’s finally happened. Denver have managed to give Carmelo Anthony everything he’s been wanting for the last year—a shiny New York City address.

Presumably many articles will now be written about what this means for the New York Knicks, for the Denver Nuggets, and for the spurned New Jersey Nets.

However, none of these teams is in the title hunt—at least not this season. While Anthony’s decision will have an enormous impact on the future of all three parties, the repercussions won’t be felt as heavily right now.

Oh, and this is good news for the Boston Celtics.

By parting ways with three of their starting five, New York has written off the 2010-11 season in favour of the future.  In giving up so much of what has made the New York Knicks resurgent this season, the Knicks have ensured that they will be no competition for the Celtics this year.

It will be months before the “new” New York Knicks are able to gel as a unit, both on and off the court. There will be plays to learn and egos to manage—both of which take time.

We all saw how long it took for the Miami Heat to become the three-headed beast we all expected them to be this season. With the season past the halfway point, there is insufficient time for the New York Knicks to become a cohesive and competitive team.

So, for now, the Knicks have done the Boston Celtics a huge favour. One less Western Conference obstacle on their way to a potential eighteenth ring.

The real question that remains however is whether they will be an even bigger obstacle in the future.


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