Coming into this NBA season, many teams (namely in the East) made moves that are expected to make them immediate contenders rather than looking too far down the road. The Cleveland Lebrontourage knows they need to win to impress Lebron to stay in town, Orlando knows their already struggling fanbase won’t put up with much more “almost” winning, and Doc Rivers and the Celtics are no different.
Many teams are looking into this season as a season that will be defined by rest. The ability to give the older players days off and short minutes and still be successful will make them stronger come the end of the season. We will call it the “Papelbon Approach” which mirrors the moves the Red Sox have gone through in recent years to preserve Pap’s arm to remain strong through the end of the season.
The November 2 issue of ESPN: The Magazine held a lot of preview information on the 2009-2010 season and one of the biggest talking points was rest. San Antonio coach Greg Popovich has come out and said that he would rest superstar Tim Duncan regularly this year so that he remains healthy andstrong once the playoffs come around. Cleveland has the manpower to rest Shaq while Big Z is on the floor. And the Celtics have bulked up the team greatly to help the Big 3 remain healthy and fresh while taking some other precautionary steps.
With the team that the Celtics have built themselves this year, they not only have an incredible amount of experience but they also have to deal with father time and their answer to that has been an unconventional one in the world of professional sports.
To put it bluntly, someone has to keep an eye on today’s professional athletes. Not meaning they need more paparazzi shots of them toting their tiny purse dog in the front basket of yourSchwinn around New York City, but they need to actually be financially advised, they need “crews” to go out in public with them, and they need a human alarm clock to get them where they need to be in the morning. But this only pertains to 99% of young athletes.
This year, the Boston Celtics hatched a plan unheard of in today’s era of professional sports. The team decided to rest their players and keep them fresh by dismissing the morning shoot around portion of their game days. To most teams, this plan would immediately trigger something in a player’s mind that would tell him to go and get his face plastered across TMZ with “viewer submitted footage” of him “making it rain” in a strip club at 3am with Nelly by his side or to end up dropped at a hospital after accidentally shooting himself in the leg with an illegally owned hand-gun at a night club… or something ridiculously improbable like those completely made up examples.
The morning shoot around is used as a structured way to maintain that your guys are not out the night before a game and in to get warmed up the morning of a evening game.
But for this roster that has been assigned to the Celtic green for this season, those kinds of issues are not a problem and won’t be, especially since the departure of Gabe Pruitt. Rondo is trying to make a name for himself and get into the elite level of PG, the Big 3 are more focused than Jimmie Johnson driving 200 mph in a giant circle, Perk just got married so he is locked down for at least a year or two. The reserves are also a solid group with ‘Sheed being a family man, Scal trying to keep his future broadcasting career an option, and many other examples of the team working toward a common goal without the eye of Big Brother.
I wanted to take a look at the first 2 weeks of the season to see how the extra rest have played into the outcomes of the games and especially see how the Big 3 have been forced to play through it as well. A little bit of Patrick’s number-ability has worn off on me during the podcasts so watch out… and get ready for some serious number crunching.
Over 2 weeks, this Celtics team has played 8 games so far against Cleveland(4-3), Charlotte (3-3), Chicago (4-2), New Orleans (3-5), Philadelphia (3-4), Minnesota (1-7), Phoenix (7-1), andNew Jersey (0-7). These 8 teams have a combined record of 25-32 just to give you a little background on what the competition was. They average 98.5 ppg (T18th in the league) and are giving up a league best 84.4 ppg. Astounding defense, fresh legs, and some iffy value teams can do you good!
Of the 8 games the Celtics have played, 4 have been at home and 4 have been on the road. The Celtics are scoring 99.75 ppg (Charlotte, Chicago, New Orlando, and Phoenix) at home compared to 94.5 on the road (Cleveland, Philadelphia, Minnesota, New Jersey).
Coming into the research for this post, my first thought was “This morning off thing should be a huge help when they are playing the second game of a back-to-back” and wow, was I right. There have been 3 back-to-back games so far withthe second of each coming against Charlotte, Minnesota, and NJ. You would think against those teams, no problem putting up big scores, but not so. The C’s averaged 89.33 ppg in the 2nd of back-to-back games… against teams with a combined record of 4-17 compared to an average of 103.6 ppg in games coming off of an off day. Mind you as well that those “off day” games came against Cleveland, Chicago, NO, Philly, and Phoenix who are all very good teams.
So are the Celtics just playing to match the intensity of the competitor? At first glance, you would think that it’s simply because the C’s are playing their starters for more of the game against a good team but that’s not true either.
In the Celtics highest point total game (118 against Chicago), the Big 3 only played 79 minutes and 17 seconds total with Pierce being playing the most of them with 31:20. This highest point game was also the game in which the Celtics’ Big 3 played the least by more than 5 minutes, which was in Philly for their second highest point total of 105. Total absurdity.
As for the thought that having the game-day mornings off to rest the legs and whatnot, there are real arguments in both directions.
Here is a breakdown of how the Celtics score and points given up by quarter (C’s scoring – Opponent scoring):
As you can see, they are giving up an average of 20.25 – 22.125 points per quarter while scoring between 21.125 – 27.125 points per quarter. The extra rest seems to help them here as they are coming out of halftime strong outscoring opponents by an average of 10 points just in the second half.
The extra rest seems to be helpful as well while the Celtics lead the league in multiple categories including Steals (80 – Rondo leads the team with 25), FG% with 49.8% shooting, Defensive rebounds (254 – led by KG with 53), and Assists (209 – led by Rondo with 72).
Of course, there are also some statistics that are generally associated with players being tired as well that are pointing to the C’s such as being ranked 18th in the league in Free Throws with 73.6% (even Allen is only shooting 87.5%) and being tied for 7th in the league for Personal Fouls with 160 (led by Rondo with 22 and ‘Sheed with 21). Offensive rebounds are abysmal on this team with only 60 to put them in 24thin the league but that can easily be attributed to their outside game. With them shooting the most 3s in the league (and sometimes their active center, ‘Sheed, out there shooting them too) it doesn’t put the bodies in the paint to get the board.
Then the middle of the road stats: 4th in Three Pointers with 40.3% (led by Pierce – 51.6%, Allen – 34.3%, ‘Sheed – 34%, and House – 44.4%), 5th in Turnovers (107 – led by Pierce / Rondo with 16 each), and tied for 3rd in Blocks with 43 (led by Perk with 19 and KG with 11).
How’s that for some NBA statistics for ya?!
These Celtics seem to be headed in the right direction with the extra time off. It obviously hasn’t hindered the team in any way and has obviously even helped. With a team that had the shooting ability that this team does, fresh legs have been able to allow them to shoot from long distance more and effectively. The bench is gigantic asset to this team as well and they will be increasingly important as the season continues. With the guys they have coming off the bench, the aging veterans of the Boston Three Party are able to play limited minutes and still have the team come out on top.
The very best thing that the Celtics have going for them right now is their “Ubuntu” spirit and knowing that each and every one of them are headed toward a common goal. The Celtics were able to get over the ‘Big Baby broke his thumb being stupid’ thing quickly and got him back on board with a level head. They were also able to get the new deal done with Rondo to ensure he will be in a Celtics uniform for the next 5 years after this season which should be known was the only extension signed to a player from the 2006 draft class and will keep the talk from underlying everything this season.
The Celtics are headed in the same direction from The Big Ticket, The Truth, and Jesus Shuttlesworth down to the “Irish guy at the end of the bench”. (Note: 4SB gets at least 1 hit a day from people searching for the “white guy”, “Irish guy”, “Celtics redhead”.)
With games in the next week home against the Utah Jazz (Wed.), home against the Atlanta Hawks (Fri.), and at the Indiana Pacers (Sat.), we should have a slightly better chance of knowing how this thought process is holding up. Despite a lot of talk surrounding the matchup of Rondo and Deron Williams on Wednesday, expect a big points game from the Green and 3 more wins on the week!