Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big storyline. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
Bolden couldn’t take advantage. Williams bodied him, slid his feet, cut him off, and forced the pass.
“He turned the ball over and didn’t even get a shot up,” Williams boasted. “I was like, ‘man, you better ask somebody. I’m not weak. I’m not a little small guy.’ I was like, you gotta give me that credit.”
Not only did he stop a guy four inches taller, he switch onto the attacking guard after the pass.
“That’s what’s needed,” Williams said. “That’s what our team is asking me to do. I have to be able to play multiple positions on the defensive end and guard guys that are smaller and larger than me, so, it’s something I take as a challenge for sure.”
A minute later, Williams was challenged again.
“On the other end they put (Anthony) Lawrence on me and I was like ‘that’s disrespectful,’” he said with a furrowed brow. “I told coach, I said ‘run it and I’ll get us a basket.’”
Look at that defense, look how pretty that is. Now, granted, in a perfect world Onuaku would’ve gotten back onto his man a bit sooner, but other than that, what you’ve got there is textbook defense. Even though the action is centered on Bolden and Williams (and Bolden should’ve been called for a travel), the other four Celtics are staying on task. Their positioning is practically perfect.
In today’s outside oriented NBA, it’s no surprise that three of four Cavs are set up outside the 3-point line, and the Celtics guarding them are well-positioned. All three C’s are roughly the same distance from their opposites, and are positioned in such a way as to screen their assignments from the guy with the ball, while also being in a position to cut off any drive to the basket. Bolden can’t pass to any of the weakside players because there are Celtics in the way, and Williams does an excellent job of cheating to Bolden’s right early in the sequence, making it difficult for him to get a clean pass off to Mitrou-Long. Once Bolden commits to posting up Williams, it’s all over. Williams, like Smart, knows how to make best use of his lower center of gravity to body up Bolden (pro tip: If you’re shorter than the guy who’s trying to post you up, the trick is to make yourself even shorter–legs wider apart, center of gravity even lower, and then lean into the guy.)
Of course, in the NBA, Onuaku would’ve gotten absolutely burned for leaving his guy, but that’s not important–these are two evenly matched teams. What’s important here is the scheme. Last season the Celtics were #8 in 3-point defense in the NBA. That was the first time they were outside the top 5 since 2007.
There is a considerable amount of evidence that three point defense is, on the whole, a random statistic, but the Celtics have been consistently effective, and a large part of that effectiveness comes from defensive discipline. The Celtics had it when KG was playing for the team, because he demanded it, and they had it the first five years of the Stevens era because he demanded it. Last season was an ugly and largely unwatchable fluke, and I’m looking forward to an upcoming season of more pretty defense like this.
Page 2: Where, in keeping with our theme, TACKO FALL!!!!!
Fall remains a phenom here in Vegas, with people marveling at his height and ability to dunk, land, and still be holding onto the rim.
Fall scored 12 points, making all four shots (including two of those dunks) and two free throws. His most impressive basket was a little right-block shimmy and hook shot. He’s got a surprisingly nice touch around the rim.
Coaching Fall has got to be a huge challenge. He’s fully half a foot taller than almost any other center in the NBA, and he’s not exactly built like a linebacker (which, to be fair, is probably better for his joints). There have been few players of Fall’s size and shape that have had successful NBA careers because the center position is one of the most physically challenging in the game. And in an era where perimeter defense features far less contact than has historically been the case, there is still a great deal of pushing and shoving in the post. Tacko’s height is, paradoxically, almost a disadvantage if he tries to play like a conventional center, because of how high his center of gravity is.
So the challenge for the Celtics’ (and Redclaws’) coaching staff is how do you maximize the abilities of a guy with pretty much just one NBA antecedent (Manute Bol)? It’s not like you can give him a lot of film to study.
Fall might always be a defensive liability–much depends on how well he learns to use his length to counteract his rather diaphanous physique. He has more promise on the offensive side, where, with a suitable repertoire of post moves and the ‘nice touch’ John described above, he should be able to consistently create enough space to get his shots off.
Finally: Where I come clean on a lot of missed predictions
I’m going to receipt myself here:
This is an incredibly talented team, and at some point in time they’re going to click and spread terror across the NBA. We just have to sit back and wait for that moment to happen.
The Celtics are doing what they need to do to win this series, and Giannis is not doing what he needs to do to get the Bucks to the next round.
Bottom line is that if Giannis is thinking that much about how the Celtics are playing him, there’s that much less room in his brain for other more important things.
Kyrie and KD already have an agreement between themselves to join the Nets. I consider this to be the least likely scenario. It requires too much in the way of fortunate coincidences. That is, in order for Kyrie and KD to team up (1) their contracts would have to sync, (2) they’d have to have already identified a team that would have space for 2 max players that (3) they both wanted to play for, and (4) this all would probably have to be arranged before the 2018/19 season started.
And, in any case, I would not be surprised if, shortly after 6:00 Sunday, we find out that Kyrie and the Celtics have agreed on a new contract.
I don’t put a lot of stock in reports that Irving is ‘impressed’ with the Nets’ ‘infrastructure.’ Pretty much anybody in the NBA with their head on straight is “impressed” with the Nets’ “infrastructure” given that Ainge robbed them blind six years ago. Without context, that’s a meaningless observation.
However, in my defense, these predictions failed because the following people were much stupider than I thought they were:
- Terry Rozier
- Kyrie Irving
- Sean Marks
- Michael Jordan
Starting at the top: Rozier seems to have landed in velvet. He’s making just shy of $20M a year after a season in which he did just about everything possible to tank his value on the market. However, he’s being paid by one of the worst run teams in the NBA, and while the money may be nice, there will be little else for him in Charlotte. The Hornets are bad and getting worse. Terry may be able to build his brand with the team, but he’s not going to be playing for anything other than a paycheck.
Who knew, at the start of the season, that Rozier would almost single-handedly sabotage the Celtics’ second unit? Few rotation players in the league were worse than Rozier this season, and his sulky play unquestionably cost the Celtics multiple wins.
Then we have Kyrie Irving. I considered it highly unlikely that Irving and KD would make the decision to team up during the regular season because of how quickly that decision would have to be arrived at. Who knew that Irving and KD would apparently put about as much thought into where they were going to spend the next four years of their careers as I put into where I’m going to have supper this Saturday.
And, Kyrie hates dealing with an adversarial media–so why on EARTH would he go to a city where journalism is a contact sport? I mean, surely he wouldn’t be that stupid, right? Wrong.
Sean Marks is also stupider than I thought he was. He did an admirable job assembling a competent team out of the dregs that he inherited. So what’s his first major move as GM? He signs an injury-prone guy who just ruptured his Achilles and who’s going to be 32 before he plays a single minute of basketball for the Nets. This is a terrible deal (unless you’re Kevin Durant). Kobe Bryant was not as good a player as people, in general, think he was. Most of his reputed greatness can be attributed to savvy marketing by Nike. However, he was an incredibly durable athlete. He played 35 games during his first full year back from his Achilles tear.
As we’ve seen with Gordon Hayward, it takes a long time for players with no other injury concerns to recover their confidence and get back to game speed, and Durant has always been injury prone. The Nets signed KD to a four year contract (with the fourth year a player’s option), and maybe they’re going to get one good year of KD, the third year of the contract, (but probably not even that) before he declines his option and becomes a free agent again–or opts in and forces the Nets to pay him max-player money while performing at a decidedly sub max-player level.
Michael Jordan may not be stupid, but if he isn’t he’s incredibly dishonest. Letting Kemba walk in order to save a few bucks is, superficially, a stupid, stupid move. Kemba is, without question, the best player that this iteration of the Hornets have ever had.
However, I might be selling Jordan short. I’m pretty sure that the Hornets are not, as a whole, a money-losing operation. Through a variety of moves, over the past five years, Jordan has always seemed to be trying to win, but I have my doubts that he was ever serious about winning. Jerry West, who is the unquestionable gold standard for ex-player executives (and who may well be second only to Red Auerbach by this point in time), has never lost that competitive drive. Ainge has never lost that competitive drive.
MJ, I think, has. I think he’s figured out that making moves that say ‘we’re trying!’, but which don’t cost much–like trading for a declining Dwight Howard, or hiring a past it Mike Kupchak–allow him to have his cake and eat it too. Charlotte never becomes good enough that the cost of keeping a team together eats into his profits, but they’re also prevented from becoming the laughingstock of the NBA, as they were earlier in his ownership tenure.
And all MJ has to do to protect his investment is lie plausibly about what he wants, selling gullible fans on hope that he has no intentions of investing in.
Either that, or a guy worth $2 billion was stupid enough to let Kemba walk for a measly $5 million or so a year.