On paper the new South Beach Collection looks staggeringly potent. Take one each of the top two shooting guards, small forwards, and power forwards; combine with adequate players at the point and center; mix well and serve large portions. Need another 10 players, should be no problem with applicants pushing forward their résumés like wealthy country-clubbers pressing Bernie Madoff to put their money in his sure-fire investments. Just the Meet-and-Greet played to more fanfare and trumpeting than the Duck Boat Tour in June of 2008. Call your broker and corner the market on confetti stock. Vegas has taken win/loss off the board and is going with margin of victory. The only real danger is whether one of the Big Three Egos will be injured patting himself on the back.
Is the order already in to Mercedes-Benz to make the custom carts to ferry Their Highnesses up and down the court so they won’t be too tired to autograph paraphernalia and huge checks? Have they installed the thrones and put the ocean-view windows in the American Airlines Arena interview room? Is there a line yet for the franchises to sell the rarified air breathed, drops of sweat (or will they just “glow”) shed, and the little carefully bagged shite cubes from the new Florida royalty? Well get with it, there are patrons to be gouged, marks to be shilled, and youngsters to be exploited—after all there’s one born every minute.
Barnum and Bailey never imagined to what lengths the freak show could be perverted. Dr. Naismith never imagined to what tawdry depths his wholesome peach basket pastime could be sunk. Even David Stern probably didn’t realize that the natural conclusion of his sell-the-star-not-the-game marketing was this orgy of self-aggrandizement. The Laker’s Showtime has reached it’s logical overload—will the movie version be titled DwaneLeBosh Almighty? Miami has finally come up with a Three Ego Circus that will make The Birdcage look like wholesome entertainment.
I propose that the Heat and the Lakers withdraw from the NBA. They can tour, playing each other every third night, like the Globetrotters. They could even take the first two rows of celebrities on the road with them—Jack and Jay-Z, Dyan and Madonna, the Star Island Posse and the Malibu Beach Club, the Laker Girls and the Miami Bikinis. Halftimes can feature midget tossing, pilates by Morganna, and a speed tattoo competition. Why stop at a one hour LeBronathon? This has Entertainment 24/7 written all over it. I’ve even got in mind a couple of NBA referees that should travel with the show, they certainly seem too full of themselves to do a good job in the regular-grind league any more.
Besides this way the rest of the Association can get back to playing the game of basketball. Those of us that enjoy good basketball can watch real games on NBA TV. Those of you that are just in it for the bling and the highlight reels can stick to The Big 3egos, LA Showtime, and the Extravaganza Sports Perversion Network. [Discuss on CG Forums!]
While you always have to take Summer League production with a raised eyebrow, there have been some promising signs with this years group. While they lost the early leads, and the games, to the Thunder and Sixers, these teams sported 5-7 draft picks each, some quite high. Most of the opposing starters logged significant minutes in the league last year. The Green counter with exactly two drafted players, and those in the last 8 picks made, but already exhibit some of the trademark signs of the Celtics—help defense, ball movement, unselfish passes, and smart play. These are good signs in general and, in my opinion, a surprising number of the players look competitive to make the squad. Enough so that I would offer make-good contracts to half a dozen.
From the roster: Jaycee Carroll G, 6-2, 180, Utah State Semih Erden C, 7-0, 240, Turkey Tony Gaffney F, 6-8, 215, UMass Rodney Green G, 6-5, 190, La Salle Luke Harangody F, 6-8, 255, Notre Dame Matt Janning G, 6-4, 198, Northeastern Vyacheslav Kravstov C, 7-0, 270, Ukraine Oliver Lafayette G, 6-2, 190, Houston Art Parakhouski C, 6-11, 260, Radford DeShawn Sims F, 6-8, 225, Michigan Ryan Thompson G, 6-6, 220, Rider Ryan Whitman F, 6-7, 215, Cornell
Contrary to the opinions of many bloggers who panned Erden and Gaffney, I have liked their play—more and more each passing day. These two are already signed as is Oliver Lafayette although at least Oliver and Tony have non-guaranteed contracts. On the other hand many bloggers loved Lafayette who has speed, a good handle, and seems to shoot pretty well—but hasn’t a clue of how to run an offense, constantly dribbles and passes into trouble, and does nothing to enable his teammates. We have no idea of how well complementary players can contribute because they were basically shut out of the action. This is especially applicable to Gaffney since he is not a one-on-one player. He covered some tough offensive threats and rather well I thought. His shot is horribly flat but I can see him as a much longer Tony Allen with at least as good a jumper and dangerous with off-the-ball movement and on the break. I think this spider man may be just the ticket to stifle some of the potent swing men in the league.
Harangody continues to score and haul in rebounds in spite of lack of height and provides the hardnosed lunch pail attitude any team can use. To these I would add Sims who has a lively body and if he can cover SF’s could be the power three Danny has long sought. He hasn’t gotten as much court time as others but has made use of it, perhaps too much since he more than any other has been a get-pass/shoot-ball player. At least he shot well as the week wore on and has a good release and arc. My pleasant surprises have been Janning and Parakhouski. Janning has a very good handle and beautiful shot. He would have difficulty staying in front of quick point guards but might do just fine against backups. Whether at the 1 or 2 his outside shot would demand respect opening up the court for our other scorers. He actually had a much smaller percentage of his passes deflected than either of the “point guards” or Carroll who played some point but seldom made a productive pass. Parakhouski seems a magnet for rebounds and I would welcome the opportunity for Clifford Ray to work on the big man skills of both he and Erden. As for Erden he looked both jet-lagged and rusty Monday but I like his energy. The rap on him is uneven focus but I thought he hustled and battled well if awkwardly. Often when I backed up the recording to see who was second or third man getting down court on a turnover, it proved to be this seven-footer who was the cavalry coming to the rescue. He showed on the pick and roll, and recovered. He helped from the weak side. Considering he had exactly one practice, almost no command of the English language, and was a late arrival, I thought he showed excellent court awareness and understanding of the game.
As for the rest. Carroll is certainly unafraid to shoot but seems to lack the handle to be a primary ball handler, and seems to have had trouble adapting to the increased size and speed at this level. Rodney Green has a good handle for a large guard and is an aggressive driver. Unfortunately he displays a lack of recognition between good and bad opportunities and is too often out of control. He seems to lack the shooting eye to play the 2 and the judgment to play the 1. The good news is that Kravstov has 6 fouls, doesn’t mind using them, and usually levies a toll on the party invading his lane. The bad news is that those 6 fouls will only keep him on the court for about 5 minutes and he seems to lack any offense at all although with the pathetic point guard play it was hard to tell. As for Thompson and Whitman, neither seems to have the physical tools, defensive mobility, or the offensive game to make the jump to the next level.
So those are my conclusions after three games of summer play. Come to think of it if Danny has found 6 players (with the highest draft pick being #52) worthy of competing for a roster slot, that is actually pretty impressive. I hope to see Erden, Parakhouski, Gaffney, Harangody, Sims, and Janning playing in green in October. [Discuss on CG Forums!]
I got the tee shirt pictured above for my birthday. I love this shirt. It has the Celtics starting 5 on the front and it says "Where Winning Together Happens" under the picture. That is the Celtics in a phrase. The Celtics have always been about team. Not just now, but back in the 50's and 60's and 70's and 80's as well. (Notice I didn't include the 90's as those were the dark ages of the Pitino era). The Celtics have always been about team and Doc came up with the perfect word to describe Celtics basketball: Ubuntu. I love the Celtics.
I've been watching the Summer League games and although at times it has been pretty rough, I've been very impressed with Luke Harangody. Even though he is undersized, he plays bigger. He has a nose for rebounds and plays hard on every possession. He has earned a contract. At first I thought that Erden was a stiff but after watching him through the 4 games and knowing that he had a sore back and sore wrist and knowing that he still doesn't know a lot of English, I kind of like the kid. He played hard and I loved the fact that he plays with a scowl on his face. I think he'll come around to be a player. Lafayette and Gaffney both showed flashes of being able to play as have several others. I like the size of the two big Russian centers but haven't been very excited about their play. Of the others, I was most impressed with Matt Janning in the little time we got to see him play. I was sorry to see him leave for Vegas. Today's game should be interesting with only 7 players available.
While all the hoopla has been going on around the league about Decision 2010, the Celtics have been quietly going about their business. I love what Danny has done so far. Pierce and Ray could have gotten much more elsewhere but chose to stay with the team and without a lot of fanfare. I like the signing of O'Neal and I like the Erden signing. I know that O'Neal didn't show up in the playoffs, but he was being blanketed on defense by Perk. Even Dwight Howard struggles against Perk and so I'm not holding his playoffs against him. He can still play against everyone not named Kendrick Perkins and now that he is with the Celtics, that won't be a problem for him. I'm happy to hear that Tony's coming back. He really matured and helped the team last year finally. Danny still has Sheed's contract up his sleeve to get at least one more good player. Without needing a one hour special to do it, the Celtics are doing some good things.
I'm glad that LeJerk's decision has been made and the circus of all that was his free agency is over. Every other free agent quietly made their decisions and whether staying or going just went about business. If he was going to crush the hearts of the team and the fans that have been so loyal to him for 7 years, the classy thing to do would have been to do it quietly and give them the courtesy of letting them know before he did it. After reading Dan Gilbert's letter I started to think that maybe LeBron planned on leaving Cleveland as far back as their series against Boston in the playoffs.
No one can deny that he quit on his team during that series, using a phantom elbow ailment to do so. If the Cavs had made it to the finals, he would have no excuse to leave Cleveland. But if he wanted to get out of Cleveland, what better excuse to do so than to lose in the second round. He was never going to stay in Cleveland and set up a perfect reason not to do so. I have no problem with LeJerk leaving to try to get a ring elsewhere. It's the way he did it that makes him so despicable.
The Heat will now have to fill out the rest of their team with vet minimum contracts. They will get some good players who will take less just to play with the Miami 3. I am expecting to hear the announcement any day that Erik Spoelstra has been demoted and that Pat Riley is coming back to coach. Let the Heat bandwagon begin. I would so love for that team to fail miserably and then see LeJerk quit on them too.
[Discuss on CG Forums!]
I, along with just about everyone else on the planet, am very tired of all the LeJerk James hype. He's going to NY because he was seen shopping for houses there. He's going to Chicago because he just had his title transferred from a Cleveland company to a Chicago company. He's going to Miami because he flew there Wednesday night. He's going to New York because his special is being filmed just minutes from the Knicks practice facility. Just a bunch of smoke and mirrors and hype.
First, I don't see it working at all in Miami. The Heat are Wade's team. They always will be. He won a championship there. He has played there all his career. If LeJerk goes to Miami, he will be playing on Wade's team. The Celtics were Pierce's team when Ray and KG joined the team. They are still considered Pierce's team. He is the Captain. It worked in Boston because KG and Ray were both able to check their ego at the door and change their roles from THE guy to one of the guys. After watching all this hype about LeJerk's decision, do you really think he can go from being THE MAN to being one of the guys? Can he check his ego at the door and not be the King any more, but one of the princes? I'm not buying that he can.
If LeJerk does go to Miami, I still don't see it working. They will have to fill the roster with vet minimum guys. They won't have the MLE because they were under the cap. When KG and Ray came to the Celtics, they already had the two hardest positions to fill taken care of with Perk and Rondo. They need to find a center for the vet minimum. And Mario Chalmers is no Rajon Rondo.
Also, when I think of those 3 together I think of that LA team that had Karl Malone, Gary Payton, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal. That team was loaded. They were the favorites to win it all from the beginning. But they couldn't win because that team had no chemistry. There were reports about bickering over minutes, touches and player clashes in practice. Unlike Ray Allen who is great at moving without the ball and then hitting shots off the catch, neither Wade nor LeJerk have that ability. LeJerk and Wade both need the ball in their hands. I just don't see it working.
This whole "Decision" thing has been a debacle. Unlike Amare, Bosh, Boozer, Ray, Pierce, Durant, and every other star who were free agents, LeBron couldn't go to meet with the teams in their cities. He had to have every one of them come to him and make a presentation before "the King." He is making his decision on a one hour ESPN special. Everything about this points to "Look at me - aren't I special?"
Ohio is LeJerk's home. The Cavaliers drafted him and have helped to build him into the star that he is. They went all out last year to build a championship caliber team around LeJerk. They brought in Jamison and Shaq. They went out and got Mo Williams and Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon. They had all the pieces but a team that is centered around one player will never be as good as a team that plays together as a real team. The Celtics proved that in beating the Cavs and the Heat in the playoffs. It wasn't LeJerk's supporting cast in Cleveland that failed as much as it was LeJerk's need to be the center of attention.
If LeJerk's decision is to go anywhere except Cleveland, he is an even bigger jerk than I have always believed him to be (and you can tell I already see him as one of the biggest jerks in the universe). If you are going to rip the heart out of your home town and spit on a city and state that are already struggling, do it quietly. Don't make a spectacle of it on national TV. I think all these rumors about where he is going are just hype to get more people to watch his "special" tonight. I fully expect him to come out (with tears in his eyes, I might add) and say all the reasons he thought about going to Miami, NY, NY, Chi, etc and then say that he just can't leave Cleveland because they have been so good to him and he thinks they can win it there. It's his team and if he wants his legacy to be up there with Kobe and Paul Pierce, then he needs to stay with the same team and build a winner there. Anything less will prove that he isn't the King of Akron (which is what he put as his location on Twitter) and I don't think his ego will stand for that.
[Discuss on CG Forums!]
I'm very excited to watch basketball again today. I know it hasn't been that long since the season ended, but I'm ready to move on and watch the Celtics Summer League entry and ready to start on our march to Banner 18 in 2011. It's also a nice break from all the Lebronapalooza that's going on, which I find totally ridiculous. Speaking of ridiculous, anything you want to know about the various SL teams and players you can find out over on Ridiculous Upside.
There are several players on the Celtics SL roster who are going to be playing for teams in the Vegas Summer League also. The list includes DeShawn Sims, Jaycee Carroll, Ryan Wittman, Ryan Thompson, and Matt Janning. There is also an interesting conflict in that Matt Janning is also listed on the Oklahoma City roster in Orlando. Since he is on both rosters, we may or may not see him on the Celtics.
Several former Celtics are on various Summer League squads. Gerald Green, after spending a year overseas is back trying to make an NBA roster by playing on the LA Lakers SL team. I always liked Gerald and he has all kinds of potential but just never could seem to get it. Patrick O'Bryant is playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Marcus Landry, who came over from from the Knicks in the Nate Robinson deal and then was waived is playing for both the Pacers in Orlando and the Knicks in Vegas. Michael Sweetney, who played for the Celtics last summer will be playing for the Wizards this year. Former Celtic Gabe Pruitt will be playing for the Nets entry. Another former Celtic, JR Giddens, will be playing for the Mavs this summer. Apparently, the Knicks aren't interested in bringing him back, even though they have plans to keep Bill Walker. And Darius Miles, whose comeback with the Celtics fell short last season, but not before costing the Blazers big bucks, will be playing for the Bobcats.
I think the player I am most looking forward to seeing is Vyacheslav Kravstov, the big center from the Ukraine. Eurobasket has this little blurb about him that totally caught my attention:
"A tough inside operator, who plays very hard and can bang with any opponent. Needs to improve some of his technical skills, but doesn't need to learn how to fight."
This guy sounds like my kind of center. He has played for BC Kyiv in Ukraine since 2005 and his game has improved with each season. This past season, the he averaged 14.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and a league-leading 2.7 blocks per game while shooting 70.4% from the field. The guy is very strong and can bang with anyone. He is a good rebounder and has a great attitude. He isn't the most polished offensive player but that will come and if it doesn't, the Celtics have plenty of offense but very much needs a guy who can rebound and block shots. And did I mention that no one needs to teach him how to fight? Yep, my kind of player. He is one of the best Euro prospects and may be a keeper. I'm really looking forward to watching this kid play. Here is the only clip I could find of him and it is an impressive block in the Bill Russell mold.
The Celtics have apparently signed former second round draft pick Semih Erden for this upcoming season. Erden seems to have a lot of potential, is athletic and has some skills. But, the knock on Erden has been his mental lapses and lack of intensity. I have always preferred the player with intensity, work ethic and motivation and maybe not quite as athletic because desire and work and intensity can overcome a lot of what is missing athletically. Just look at Larry Bird. He was slow, couldn't jump, and by all accounts, not very physically gifted. He wasn't a great athlete. But, his intensity, desire, and work ethic overcame all that to make him one of the greatest players ever. And then you look at a player like Patrick O'Bryant or Michael Olowokandi or Gerald Green, all of whom have great physical and athletic gifts. But without the work ethic and motivation, they just have not succeeded. So when I see Erden's intensity and concentration questioned, big red flags go up. I'd rather the big Russian center who knows how to fight and has the intensity and work ethic to back it up.
I've been hearing good things about Oliver Lafayette and Luke Harangody from the Celtics practices. Both Danny and Austin Ainge have been impressed with them both. I'm very interested in watching Lafayette and Gaffney play. Danny felt enough about these guys to lock them up the end of the season so he would have them for summer league and both appear to have what it takes to make the roster. I also can't wait to watch the 3 7 footers on the roster: Erden, Kravstov, and Parakhouski. I think one of the two, Kravstov or Parakhouski has a chance to make the roster. From what I have read about them, I like those two more than Erden. Again it goes back to attitude and mentality. I'll always go with the guy who works harder and has a tough basketball mentality than one who lacks concentration and motivation.
I'm ready for Summer League games to start! The only bad thing is that after Summer League there is that LOOOOONNNG time until training camp starts without any basketball. The free agent frenzy will calm down this month and then there is a long wait for any more basketball. But I'm going to enjoy watching the games. This season they are being broadcast live on NBA-TV along with being streamed online with a Summer League Pass Broadband which is much better than the online streaming from last year. My eyes and ears still hurt from trying to follow the bounding camera and listening to those two guys. I'm excited. How about you?
Here's the schedule in case you missed it:
July 5: Oklahoma City Thunder, 5 p.m.
July 6: Philadelphia 76ers, 1 p.m.
July 7: Charlotte Bobcats, 1 p.m.
July 8: Indiana Pacers, 3 p.m.
July 9: New Jersey Nets, noon