Tuesday, November 13, 2007

. . . and featuring Doc Rivers as K.C. Jones

Part 1 of TATB's player-by-player look at your unbeaten, rejuvenated, and remarkably enjoyable Boston Celtics.


KEVIN GARNETT: Of course it's only appropriate that we start this thing with the fulcrum of it all. I think I got to the essence of what KG would bring to the Celtics when the deal first went down, but even those of us who long admired his work in Minnesota have enjoyed certain revelations. I knew he was unselfish, but I didn't realize he was such a clever and efficient passer, especially in feeding cutters from the low post. (If Paul Pierce doesn't set a career high for field-goal percentage, then he's not trying.) I knew he was an elite rebounder - the guy has led the league four years running, after all - but I didn't realize how easy he makes the game's hardest labor look; he's always in position, and if he gets his hand on the ball, you can be sure no one else is getting it. I've always tended to view overly vocal "emotional leaders" with a cynic's eye, but you can tell by the way his teammates react to him that there is absolutely no b.s. to Garnett's personality; he walks the walk, in the locker room and on the court, and everyone else follows. After Papi, he's the most charismatic athlete in New England at the moment, a certain Patriots quarterback included, and I'll let you know when I've wrapped my head around the reality that he actually plays for the Boston Celtics. I can't help but daydream how history would be different if Garnett had played his whole career here, but I'm also savoring every moment of watching him do everything in his power to restore a franchise's pride right now. Damn, this is fun.

KENDRICK PERKINS: He still looks like he's pre-planning his post moves rather than reading the defense and trusting his instincts, but with the offensive stalwarts now surrounding him, he's getting a lot of easy, uncontested shots, which theoretically should improve his self-confidence when the ball is in his hands. He should shoot 55 percent blindfolded, not that his offense matters on this team. He's here to do the little things - rebound, block shots, stick an elbow in Vince Carter's sternum whenever the opportunity arises - and Perkins does those things with increasing efficiency. He's a decent complement to Garnett up front, and it has not gone unnoticed how hard he's worked to shed his rookie-year baby fat and become a physically imposing NBA power forward. He's still a kid (23), yet he conducts himself like the consummate pro. Here's hoping Big Baby is paying attention.

RAJON RONDO: I think he's doing just fine, don't you? Sure, sometimes he looks like he has his master's degree from the Marcus Banks Academy of Pointless Dribbling, and I wish he was just a little bit more natural as a playmaker (as does the suddenly visible Bob Cousy, who nonetheless gives "Way-jon Wand-o" the benefit of the doubt, something he's been reluctant to do with young point guards, from Chauncey Billups to Banks to Sebastian Telfair.) But he's a demon defensively, he's so beep-beep! quick that he often beats his man off the dribble even when the defender is giving him the jumper, he's got moves like Plastic Man when he's finishing in the open court, and the early morning work he reportedly puts in with Ray Allen is paying off with a gradually improving jumper. Rondo's a bright, talented kid who seems to have the dedication to improve. Can't really ask for much more than that from any second-year player.

TONY ALLEN: Probably the only player on the team I don't particularly like. Yes, I know he's still not fully recovered from a major knee injury, and that has at least temporarily robbed him of his two main attributes as a player: his explosive leaping ability and his quickness on the defensive end. Which leaves him with . . . not much. Allen's basketball IQ is about what you'd expect from someone who blew out his knee dunking after the whistle. He handles the ball like his fingers are fused together (who were Doc and Danny kidding by suggesting he could handle backup duty at the point?), he's perpetually out of control - or should I say "Toine-like" - when he's attempting to run the break, and he's beginning to strike me as a reluctant passer. If his pre-injury athleticism never comes back, he might find himself wearing a Yakima Sun Kings jersey before he knows it.

BRIAN SCALABRINE: Funny what playing for a good team and with talented teammates will do for a player's perception. Scal is never going to look graceful at, well, anything, and he seems to be one of those guys who plays to the level of those around him; remember, when he was with those good Nets teams, he was a very useful role player who more than once tormented the Celtics. When he tries to do too much, sure, he can look like that awkward stiff from your Rec League team, but he plays fearlessly, sets a mean pick, knocks down an occasional three, and seems intent on showing Celtics fans that he's a better player than he showed a season ago. I might go so far as to say he'll be a fan favorite by season's end, a more useful version of Lakers-era Mark Madsen. However, no matter how well he fits with Garnett and friends, we must admit that he'll always be our second-favorite translucent redhead in the Association as long as Matt Bonner is around. Concord, N.H. . . . represent!

EDDIE HOUSE: We've already seen that the journeyman guard can, and will, shoot it. (If ESPN Classic actually existed anymore other than in name, I'd love to see his 61-point game from his gunnin' days at Arizona State. Sadly, an endless loop of the 2003 World Series of Poker takes precedence over anything, you know, classic.) But his real gift? Comedy. This is from ":07 Seconds Or Less," Jack McCallum's casual look at the '06 Suns, for whom House provided as many punchlines as jump shots:

House . . . is able to get to an insult with maximum expedience. He looked at James Jones's size 18 sneakers one day and said: "How do you play basketball with them big-ass skis on your feet?" When [Boris] Diaw entered the locker room wearing a pair of retro short shorts, House said, "Damn, Boris, you gotta pull your shoes up." And when [Raja] Bell showed up in a strangely patterned brown jacket, tight-fitting and zippered just below the waist, House took one look at him and said, "Damn, Rah-Rah, you look like ----------- luggage."

Comcast Sports Net should give this guy his own reality show, immediately. Or maybe he and Scal can do a buddy flick together, the hoops version of Nolte and Murphy in "48 Hours." Naturally, it would be called. . . . (drum roll) . . . "48 Minutes."

(Groan.)

And on that note, I'm heading off to bed to dream of banner No. 17 (hopefully with a plotline that includes some Beesley). I'll be back in the day or two with a look at Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and the rest of the roster.

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