Question Exchange: Celtics @ Hornets

Published: March 22, 2008

Matchup: Celtics(55-13) @ Hornets(46-21)
Off Efficiency: Celtics 107.5(10th), Hornets 108.3(7th)
Def Efficiency: Celtics 95.7(1st), Hornets 102.2(5th)

The Celtics roll into New Orleans tonight for a clash of Titans.  So far there is no confirmation of the rumor that Garnett was weeping in terror and Paul Pierce had to be sedated to get him on the plane to face the Hornets, but I'm sure it's all true.  I mean, who would want to face the Hornets?

The Celtics have had a so-so road trip up until this point, merely beating San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston on the road.  Without Ray Allen for two of those games.  Pshaw.

The Hornets, on the other hand, defeated Houston and Chicago this week, both of whom were freakin' incredible in the 90's.

Everyone is going to play.  Gonna be a good one.

Instead of positional analysis, which I will produce for the Celtics-Hornets game next week, I traded questions with Tom of the eminently respectable  He, of course, asked me questions too, and they should appear sometime today on his site.  Not sure when since I was a slacker and got them to him in the middle of the night last night. Tell me.  Who are the Celtics Big Three?  Garnett, Pierce and Ray?  Or Garnett, Pierce and Rondo.  From the(only 6) Celtics games I've seen this season, I'm leaning towards the latter. That's a great point.  For any given game, the formula is basically: Garnett + Pierce + Player X.  A number of guys have filled in that Player X role this year.  Most nights it has been Ray.  However I think just about every one on the roster has stepped up and been Player X at least once this season (with the exception of Scal and Pollard).  The bottom line is that the Celtics are deep.   Rondo has had some monster games, but in the past few games Perkins, Leon Powe and Sammy have all been that third guy for the Celtics. 

Specifically to your question though, Rondo has had a tremendous year.  While he's no Chris Paul (who is well on his way to being an all-time great point), Rajon has taken gigantic strides this year and has earned a spot in any discussion of great young point guards in the NBA.  The major critiques we heard at the start of the year were about his jump shot and his ability to lead.  While he's certainly not at a Nash level shooter, he's improved the jumper tremendously, to the point that teams have respected it more as the season has progressed and are no longer consistently leaving him wide open.  Rondo isn't quite the floor general that Sam is, but he has been effective distributing the ball, picking his spots to drive (he can get by anyone in the league off the dribble) and most importantly has made a number of crucial plays down the stretch in games that were paramount to getting the win – the latest example coming in San Antonio where he ripped an offensive board from a flat-footed Tony Parker. Is the success of Leon Powe and Glen Davis a product of their great teammates or are they actually solid players. Leon and Glen have been revelations this year.  Doc has been inconsistent with minutes for Leon and Glen, or as Celtics broadcasters Mike Gorman and Tommy Heinsohn have termed the combined players "Leon Davis", so a look at their individual stats does not reveal their true values. 

Both guys have played big roles in big games, for example, Leon was huge in the win in San Antonio and Baby was big in both wins versus the Pistons.  So, the answer to your question is Both.   They are solid players, hustle guys that are crucial to any contending team.  They're never going to be All-Stars, but they aren't glorified CBA guys either.  All that said, both guys certainly benefit from the attention that defenses put on the Celtics big-name players.  On a lousy team they're not worth much.  On a contending team they're gold. How is good ol' PJ Brown fitting in?  The man was well loved as a part of the Hornets.  Is he having much of an impact? Well….the first thing that came to mind when I read this question is this dude at my Saturday morning pickup game.  He's an older guy and has lost quite a bit of mobility.  He's a great shooter still and has a tremendous basketball IQ, but he can't quite get around the court quick enough anymore.  Its obvious that he knows where to go, how to get there, but the legs just don't get there fast enough.  That's P.J. on the Celtics.

Against the Spurs, Doc called P.J.'s number at a critical point early on in the fourth quarter after the Celts had come back, but San Antonio was starting to take back the momentum.  At first I was glad to see P.J. come in and give some of the guys a chance to rest, but it quickly became apparent that P.J. just didn't have it.  He was beaten to lose balls, was late on defensive rotations, just generally a step slow.  On the plus side, he did hit a real nice turn around jumper as the shot-clock was winding down.  But you could see he was very frustrated with his performance. 

There is some rust that has yet to be knocked off.  I'm hopeful that P.J. can figure it out and contribute 8 – 10 minutes on a given night (not even every game), play solid defense, rebound and knock down the occasional open 15 foot jumper. Few in New Orleans will be swayed, but make your case for Garnett as MVP. I guess this assumes that I vote for KG as the MVP in the blogger rankings.  I did to start the season, but last round Steve (Celticsblog's NBA blogger) and I put CP3 at the top of the list, and he'll probably be there again this coming round.  He's been unreal.

That being said here is my argument for KG as the Most Valuable Player.  With a strict emphasis on Valuable.  KG doesn't have the statistics of LeBron, Kobe or Paul, and I think any statistics only view of this award is extremely short-sighted. 

  • He's the best player on the best team in the league (record wise and in my opinion on a match-up basis too).
  • Defensive Player of the Year.  If he's not it, that award is a sham, but he's easily 1st team All-NBA Defense as consolation.
  • More importantly he's the quarterback and driving force for the best defense in the league (ask McGrady).
  • Unquestioned leadership.  He motivates everyone around him.  The players, the coaches and the fans.  Just writing about him makes me want to run through a wall.  
  • Without KG, the following players are not on the Celtics: Sam, Posey, House and PJ.  All four of those guys either have been key contributors or are expected to be contributors to the team.  People want to play with The Big Ticket.  That's an intangible value that I don't think anyone puts into the MVP equation, but directly relates to the on-court performance of the Celtics.  You may be able to argue that people want to play with LeBron and Chris Paul, but it hasn't actually happened this season in practice like it has with the Celtics. 
  • He makes everyone else on the team better.  His work ethic alone rubs off on everyone else – the entire team showed up to training camp a full month early to play – just because of KG.  But on the court KG demands so much attention that guys like Perk/Leon/Baby have been able to squeeze off a few cheap dunks or grab that extra rebound because the opposition is so focused on Kevin.



Thanks to Tom for the question exchange, and be sure to check out the CelticsBlog when you get a chance.

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