October 29, 2009

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LONGSHOTS: Run for the title looks in store for Celtics
by Dave Long

A lot of people got turned off by the NBA in the Pat Riley-induced “clutch, grab, maul and hold it until two seconds are left on the shot clock” era. But thankfully they play basketball again in the NBA with the best players in the world.

So I don’t know about you, but I am ready for the NBA season. Especially since the Celtics should be in the thick of things right up until the end if they stay healthy. And making it a season of even greater anticipation is that, given the age of the Big Three 2.0 edition, the window, as they say, may be closing on their title aspirations either this year or next, so it’s something to savor. Especially for those of us who watched the Cs be irrelevant for 15 years after the last Big Three hit the bricks.

And the year offers some real intrigue as well. For the first time in recent memory all five top teams made really big moves to shore themselves up and to compete with those made by the others in the Big Five, and that’s ratcheted up my sense of anticipation too.

So here’s a glimpse of what to keep an eye as the season got under way for the Cs in Cleveland vs. Lebron and the Cavs on Tuesday. 

What to Wonder About:
Sheed Factor: The addition of Rasheed Wallace has pretty much been greeted with universal approval — though not by me. I agree: what he’s been through most of his career is EXACTLY what they needed last year — length, a shot-blocking presence and floor-stretching three-point range. BUT — will he bring that every night 35, or at least at playoff time? If yes, it’s a great signing, but I do know both Big Baby and Leon Powe outplayed Wallace almost every time they faced the Pistons the last two years when he looked uninterested. So he’ll to have to prove it to me.

The Rondo Situation: Earth to Danny: what’s going on with extending him? It needs to be done by Saturday, or he’s a restricted free agent next summer? Maybe they’re waiting to see what value the market sets for him then, as he successfully did with Big Baby this summer. Or maybe it’s wait and see over the attitude thing that went public at draft time in June. But since I think he’ll be their second most valuable player by year’s end and was their best in last year’s playoffs, it all makes me a bit nervous.

What to Worry About:
KG: How much of a toll will the knee injury and surgery take on the player who was a top five player in the league before he got hurt? Will it be just a rust thing like it was with Tom Brady to start, or if he’s not quite the same guy, will it be father time?

Injury Issues: Ray, KG, Paul Pierce and the aforementioned Wallace are up there in years. That spells injury issues. It’s just a fact of life that not only do you get more injuries, but they take longer to heal as well. Thank goodness Terry “better to be safe than sorry” Francona isn’t coaching this team, because he’d be playing them all 20 minutes a night. But Doc will have to watch the minutes too and fortunately, with more quality depth on hand, he can.

What’s to Like: There’s quite a bit.
Quality Depth: While I still mourn the loss of Leon, assuming Wallace is what most hope he is at playoff time — they are taller, better defensively below the foul line and have a little of James Posey’s three-point range back. Big Baby will be better too — so KG can rest more and foul trouble in big games isn’t as much of an issue. And I LOVE the Marquis Daniels signing, because it lets Eddie House be a two guard on offense and a one guard on D and because the 6’7” Daniels can pass, play point and then cover the two on the other end.
Salary Cap Maneuverability: The reason they got stuck with Stephon Marbury and Mikki Moore last year at deadline time was their salary structure was so weighted to the Big Three they had no one else to throw in to even out the contracts. But with the expiring deals of Brian Scalabrine, Tony Allen and House, and (if it doesn’t quite work out) for Wallace or Daniels, they have around $15 million for balancing any deal. And while highly doubtful, there’s also Ray Allen’s expiring contract in case a mega deal surfaces.  

The Rest of the League: In my big five are the Lakers, Spurs, Magic and Cavs. Here’s what they added.

L.A.: The defending champs added the menacing Ron Artest, who guards Paul Pierce better than anyone in the NBA — which will be important if they meet in the playoffs.

San Antonio: I always thought Richard Jefferson was a bit overrated, but he’s a nice fourth piece to add to their Big Three of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker. And his slashing will open up the three ball for Matt Bonner.

Orlando: I love Dwight Howard, who was Russell-like (Bill, not Byron) against the Cs in taking away the middle in the playoffs. As for Vince Carter, never been a huge fan and Hedo Turkoglu was a weirder match-up. But it moves Rashard Lewis to the 3 so they’ll rebound better. 

Cavs: Lebron’s the NBA’s best player and with last year’s childish exit he’s got something to prove. But I don’t know about Shaq — who’ll clog the lane offensively and miss foul shots at the end of the game. But he gives them inside scoring and they’ll be better on D and the boards. So I guess it’s a plus.

The Next Five: Dallas — who won’t do much in the end because of the usual softness issues. Portland — who could be the breakout team, as their young talent’s growing up and this is the year Greg Oden puts it together. Houston — no Yao or Tracy McGrady, who it seems hasn’t played in five years, but I will take Luis Scola on my team any day. Denver — many think his team should make it a Top Six after the way they played last year after they got Chauncey Billups, but I’m not quite ready for that. Chicago — they lost Ben Gordon, but they get Luol Deng back and Joakim Noah — wins my first He’s A LOT Better Than You Think He Is award. What you saw last year in the playoffs was not a mirage.

Sorry To: Atlanta — athletic, but overrated — and Pheonix – where I love Steve Nash, but GM Steve Kerr has had one of the most mind-boggling If-It-Ain’t-Broke-Don’t-Fix-It tenures ever so they have issues.

That’s my take on what should be an exciting season for hoop heads. And given that the window is closing — it better be.

Dave Long can be reached at dlong@hippopress.com. He hosts Dave Long and Company from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Saturday on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.


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9/24/2009 Pitch count police trigger another dreamlike episode
9/17/2009 The mailbags open for business
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9/3/2009 On the shrink's couch in a near francoma
8/27/2009 Random thoughts and big refrigerator magnets
8/20/2009 Sixty-one years later and Ruth's still in the conversation8/13/2009 Empire strikes back during annual visit
8/6/2009 Ortiz and Manny's steroid story tests fans as well
7/30/2009 Trading places not as simple as "I'll take the old guy" 7/23/2009 Mailbag delivers some interesting questions and answers
7/16/2009 Random thoughts for a lazy summer day
7/9/2009 Season's second half is when it'll get interesting for the Sox
7/2/2009 Declaring independence of how others play the game
6/25/2009 Finding the right plan is as easy as A, B, C with Celtics
6/18/2009 A great experience came in the Knick of time
6/11/2009 Ripping key to Rodney's broadcast success?
6/4/2009 The Mt. Rushmores of the red Sox-Yankees rivalry
5/28/2009 First-place Sox are making the grade
5/21/2009 NBA rivalries have no rival in other team sports
5/14/2009 Lying from baseball's Pinocchio prompts questions
5/7/2009 Celtics bull their way into round two — finally!
4/30/2009 Tanked from the headlines, the Fenway series yanks it back
4/23/2009 Draft winds blow NFL teams to make interesting decisions
4/16/2009 Spring cleaning of a cluttered sports mind
4/9/2009 Red Sox Nation springs back to life
4/2/2009 Climbing sports Mt. Rushmore
3/26/2009 Mount Rushmore offerings and other spring thoughts
3/19/2009 B-Ball, Coach B and Baseball in the mailbag today
3/12/2009 Great talent a rush but not all it's cracked up to be
3/5/2009 In Bill we still trust?
2/26/2009 A mountain over this molehill
2/19/2009 Steroids muscle in on game's strength
2/12/2009 Bonner bombs away on Cs in garden party homecoming
2/5/2009 Nation's angst ends as V-Tek says what the heck and rejoins flock
1/29/2009 Super Bowl Sunday brings to mind past and present
1/22/2009 The elusive quality of greatness is the topic of the day
1/15/2009 Spring cleaning of the sports mind a little early
1/8/2009 Will hall have Rice on the menu come July
1/1/2009 Predictions and wants for the year ahead
12/25/2008 A look in the rear view mirror at 2008
12/18/2008 The Pats' playoff run and new Yankees contracts make big news
12/11/2008 Random thoughts and associations
12/4/2008 Pats should consider options when it comes to Cassel and Brady
11/27/2008 Putting the thanks in Thanksgiving
11/20/2008 News of the week has people talking
11/13/2008 Cassel's in the clouds compared to early expectations11/6/2008 Mail bag delivers some interesting questiont10/30/2008"Yankees Suck" - like mentality fuels political discontent10/23/2008 No ray of hope as season closes in Tampa Bay
10/16/2008 Going to the nines a thing of the past
10/9/2008 C-eeing some interesting stories unfold this week
10/2/2008 "How come?" is the main question of the day
9/25/2008 Observations on baseball in 2008
9/18/2008 If I were a QB, a DB, a stat geek or a soccer mom ...
9/11/2008 After disaster Brady's bunch won't pass on season
9/4/2008 Pats start off with high expectation and some concerns
8/28/2008 A race to the finish to take all month long
8/21/2008 National news items of interest for local folks
8/14/2008 A little of this and that from the good side of sports pile
8/7/2008 Manny happy returns from the Evil Empire
7/31/2008 Manny being Manny - the sequel Part XXXII
7/24/2008 Open the mail bag for some Red Sox questions
7/17/2008 Hall-worthy or not the latest question on Schilling
7/10/2008 Baseball season has actually started
7/03/2008 UL editorial in denial stop the presses
6/26/2008 Boston turnaround makes NBA green with envy
6/19/2008 Letters from the NBA finals
6/12/2008 A Father's Day letter to dad
6/5/2008 Twenty-one and six are the lucky numbers for the Cs
5/29/2008 Sometimes a bat is just a bat
5/22/2008 Some questions for folks right up there in the front row
5/15/2008 Numbers don't add up to supposed Fenway
5/8/2008 Cavalier attitude nearly derails first meeting with LeBron
5/1/2008 I'm so old,I remember ...
4/24/2008 Sox Line-ups, Celtics and ESPN investigations are in the mail bag
4/17/2008 Show me the way to that All-Star Game
4/10/2008 For C'ing a great time ahead as playoffs arrive this spring
4/3/2008 Bill James and the stats for 2008 Take Two
3/27/2008 Drowning in the NCAA office pool
3/20/2008 Whether forecast is right or not is the question
3/13/2008 Comment sparks wonder over just what I did
3/6/2008 New hires, new trades in pro sports
2/28/2008 Celtics issues far from black and white in the early days
2/21/2008 Congressional ineptitude muscles in on steroid hearings
2/14/2008 Basketball rounds into form under the cover of Pats football
2/7/2008 A giant win leaves Patriots fans feeling blue
1/31/2008 Foxboro lads earn pats on the back, and old Celtics mystique makes sense
1/24/2008 Mail bag asks about Rice, the hall and wild-eyed liberals
1/17/2008 Peyton manning the fort back home as Pats take on Chargers
1/10/2008 Grumpy old Dolphins are lost at sea on this one
1/3/2008 The primary concern is getting a clear picture
12/27/2007 The annual sports awards close out 2007
12/20/2007 Holiday gifts for the deserving and not so deserving
12/13/2007 Jets land in Foxboro as pat go number 14
12/06/2007 To include or not to include Ellsbury that is the questione
11/29/2007 Yanked from the sports pages in the Big Apple
11/22/2007 Here's what I'm thankful for at Thanksgiving
11/15/2007 Waiting game leads to a series of random thoughts
11/8/2007 OK it's week nine and I'm ready to talk
11/1/2007 Finally a little shut-eye for a sleep deprived nation
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10/112007 Who'd more popular, Patriots or Red Sox
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9/27/2007 I hate to say I told you so...
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9/13/2007 All round baseball week starts with a look at leaders
9/6/2007 It's Superbowl or bust for Pats in 2007
8/30/2007 The race is on as baseball enters September
8/23/2007 Spine vs. lack of spine theme for school board debate
8/16/2007 Time for thoughts from the summer mailbag
8/9/2007 Will this three make it big in Boston?
8/2/2007 Trading places all in a day's work for Boston GMs
7/26/2007 Getting out of a slump; an ameteur golfer can feel Sox' pain
7/19/2007 Does second chance guarantee a great outcome?
7/12/2007 Masse still a honeymooner in local baseball culture
7/5/2007 Brown Monster a big Fisher Cat hit
6/28/2007 Rambling along with some random thoughts
6/21/2007 The future is now for the C's come Thursday night
6/14/2007 Homers create bonds among fans for generations
6/07/2007 Sox win by losing two of three this weekend
5/31/2007 Lutz of things to think about
5/24/2007 Down 2-0 Ms for playoff payoff
5/17/2007 Baseballs' conventional wisdom is for the birds
5/10/2007 The Rocket lands in Gotham during Monarchs' playoff break
5/3/2007 Raiders say "No Moss" in fight with talented wideout
4/26/2007 A little history on the ancient Sox and Yanks rivalry
4/19/2007 Lessons to be learned from Robinson, Monarchs and I-Man
4/12/2007 A few questions for the sports gods
4/5/2007 Stanton his case on a variety of current topics
3/29/2007 Sox spring back into action on Monday
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3/15/2007 The madness of March kicks off on Thursday
3/8/2007 Jumping through hoops after an odd season
3/1/2007 A trip to the mail bag for Hippo Sports
2/22/2007 Six degrees of Muhammed Ali
2/15/2007 Monarchs rule as streak reaches 12
2/8/2007 Talking a good game ahead on all-sports WGAM
2/1/2007 Manning the Super Bowl watch more difficult in '07
1/25/2007 Winning and what else matters in college coaching
1/18/2007 ESPN polls are fanning the flames of national lunacy
1/11/2007 Patriots marching to MIami promised land
1/4/2007 Predictions for 2007
12/28/2006 REcognizing the best on the national front
12/21/2006 Present under the tree for all
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11/23/2006 Turkeys and thanks as the big day arrives
11/16/2006 Green-around-the-gills Celts looking to earn some respect
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11/2/2006 A week of highs and lows in sport
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10/12/2006 U turns Granite Stare around on football
10/05/2006 James' gang riding into town to face the Celtics
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09/14/2006 A lesson to be learned in remembering a somber day
09/07/2006 Usual pat choice to win AFC East questioned
08/31/2006 Whining won't yank AL East away from NY
08/24/2006 Spring forward or fall behind for Sox
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08/10/2006 Monarchs call press conference to crown new leader
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07/20/2006 Looking beyond the Big Three
07/13/2006 Cream rises to the top of baseball talk at the Dot
07/06/2006 Greetings and salutations toThe Nation at mid-year
06/29/2006 Being dealt is a consequence of the trade
06/22/2006 A year later, Boudreau's cup runneth over
06/15/2006 See dogs and cats battle for a different fan experience