The first half of the NBA season is officially done with the all star break upon us. The Boston Celtics first half was a disaster by all accounts. The team struggled early due to health issues and that was the running theme the rest of the way. The Celtics currently sit as the sacrificial eighth seed for either the young Chicago Bulls or the ready to prove they re champion Miami Heat. This is not where this team needs to be and the grades are going to reflect it. However, the starters have not been terrible. Injuries have really hurt this team all year and that needs to be taken into consideration.
DOC RIVERS: A-
Doc’s team may not have the record to show it, but he has coached his butt off and the grade reflects it. People may think the record should cause a drop in grade, but how many coaches could even have the team in the playoff picture? This team has been without key pieces from the start and yet they are in the playoff picture. The team is also older, lacking size, and not as athletic as most teams. The team under Rivers always competes until the whistle ends. This team may not find a way to win, but even in a blow out they have managed to put a scare into some serious playoff teams like Chicago, Miami, OKC, and LA.
JERMAINE O’NEAL: C
JO has done a solid job on the defensive end. He has been a solid shot blocker and help defender. JO has even started to be an excellent charge taker to force the turnover. If he was not counted on for more, his grade would be higher.
However, all is not great with JO. JO only plays limited minutes. His injuries are also something that forces him to miss a game here and there. His offense is not as involved as it needs to be at times. The man also just misses too many open foul line jump shots. The biggest issue is his rebounding. His rebounding is absolutely wretched. Too many times JO fails to box out and the offensive rebound is given to the other team.
RAJON RONDO: B
Rajon Rondo has shown that he truly is Boston’s most dynamic offensive weapon. Rondo is clearly one of the best playmaking passers in the NBA as his second in assists clearly demonstrates. If his teammates move without the ball Rondo will make great things happen.
The good news is Rondo is starting to look for his offense more. Rondo has had a couple thirty plus point games. He uses his speed to get into transition and then the easy baskets follow. His jump shot has gotten a lot better too this season.
As with JO all is not great with Rondo. The problem is Rondo has been his usual constantly inconstant self for Boston. One game he will look like the best player on the court. The next game Rondo is almost invisible. Superstars show up every night. Rondo has not done that.
Rondo also has failed to provide the leadership due to lack of maturity. The dumb incident with Rondo whipping the ball at the refs in Detroit was a small microcosm of his mental issues. This lack of leadership has prevented Rondo from truly making the team his and Boston overcoming some of these injury issues.
RAY ALLEN: B-
The thirty six year old Ray Allen has once again proven this year that through hard work and dedication to his craft that he has found the fountain of youth. Ray is once again doing his job stretching the floor by shooting 48.5 percent from beyond the arc while averaging about 15 points a game. Ray has done this despite being the focal point of defenses by being doubled at the three point line and off of screens.
Ray began the year on fire and was leading the team in scoring before the return of one Paul Pierce from injury. Then Ray began to struggle to get open for his shot as the defenses keying in on him. This led to a mini slump for Ray and his resulting B- grade. It was not so much the lack of shooting, but the careless mistakes that Ray would sometimes make that made me feel like it was a slump. Ray after being doubled would be too careless with a pass and that has led to some bad turnovers and transition offense for the other team. Ray also has at times tried to force too many shots over the defense.
KEVIN GARNETT: B
If I was just grading on defense and intangibles, KG would get an A. The man is still at thirty five one of the most gifted defensive players that I have ever watched. The team’s defense with him on the floor verses without him on the floor is almost night and day. KG just is an amazing shut down and help defender with active hands. He is also one of the few Celtics that actually rebound defensively. KG also brings passion and fight with his attitude. The team truly gets it’s never say mentality from both their coach and KG.
The problem is KG is just not the same offensive player that he once was. Too many times instead of attacking the paint, KG settles for the jump shot. His automatic post moves in 08 are just not utilized due to his decking explosiveness. However, KG has the last ten games gone to the basket more and the result is he is averaging about 18 points a game. I just hope that he does not tire out and continues this attacking mentality.
PAUL PIERCE: B
Paul Pierce once again is leading the team in scoring and going to the all star game. The “Captain” is still Boston’s best all around scorer as evidence by his 17.6 points per game average. Pierce even for one stretch was an A+ player. When Boston began the year 4-12, it was Pierce that took over and carried the offense on his back to winning 8-10 games. This shows Pierce can still bring it.
The problem for Pierce is he like his team has been inconsistent. After his hot stretch, Pierce kind of struggled. No longer was he attacking the basket. Pierce was settling for jump shots like his teammates and the offense became stale. Pierce also stopped moving without the ball and that left Rondo high and dry as well as costing him easy baskets. Granted defenses changed their tune and were keying in on both Pierce and Allen, but Pierce did not help himself. The result was Pierce went from averaging 20 points per game to his 17 a game now.
WHAT THEY NEED TO HAVE HAPPEN:
The season is only half over. The Celtics are still in position to move up in the standings. What they will need from their starters is more consistent play. Guys like Pierce, Rondo, and Allen cannot go from lighting it up to being non existent on the floor. The offense needs to get a lot better. The team’s offense is at it’s best when the ball is moving and so are the players without the ball. Too many times this is just not the case.
The team also needs to get healthy. The team just cannot afford more injuries to the starters. Each one of them has a part and is essential to them squeaking out wins. How many of these tight losses would have been wins had Pierce, KG, Rondo, or Allen been on the floor instead of injured.
The Celtics are sitting at the eight seed. They have a losing record, but have been in most games during the fourth quarter despite health issues. They are a veteran team that knows they need to finish at the least the six seed. I just have to think they will get healthy and go on one more run and reach at least that level. However, I also thought this team was at worst a three seed this year going in. We shall see what is in store the second half of the year. Remember Go Green Or Go Home!!!!!!