Friday, November 13, 2009

All My Friends Are Funeral Singers: An NBA Experiment Vol. 2.1

Sometimes, it's weird to think that the Celtics won't have a Marreese Speights, a Brandon Jennings, a J.J. Hickson or a Jared Dudley that will surprise me this year. Rajon Rondo is nice and all, don't get me wrong, but he's reached that all-too-important (and amazing) pinnacle of next-level for me. This is not a complaint about an 8-1 team that just destroyed the Jazz (note: 8-3 after losses to the Hawks and, uh, Pacers-- yikes) and showcased exactly why Deron Williams has trouble with elite point guards despite being a damned good one.

I happen to think the difference in elite and damned good might just be personnel. Chris Paul is the only elite point guard without good personnel. Deron and Rajon have good personnel (when Boozer shows up to play), so they look like elite points. I'm wondering what would happen to Deron without the cast he has and Jerry's ever-vigilant eye. I wonder, also, what will happen to Rajon once his cast begins to depart. So here's the math problem then: If R is a better passer/user of space than D and D is a better shooter/creator than R, which variable stabilizes as a point guard without a better cast? I'm afraid it might be D.

Back to the present though: went to see the C's play in Jersey in a particularly uninspired contest. Rajon and Ray were great, Garnett is a step slower and (my) reports of Marquis Daniels being a pointless acquisition are a bit premature. Perkins was a rebounding machine at the end-- he sealed the Nets fate in the last couple of minutes. The Nets are a bad team, only, I don't think they are 0-8 bad. Terrence Williams was a certified scorer when he got some space, B. Lopez played big and actually hit some 15-footers after struggling early and once Devin Harris comes back, they'll have a nice rotation on their hands. They aren't gonna be good by any stretch, but they aren't this bad. That said, they were inspired and worked extremely hard and scored 76 points. Yikes.

Some of that goes to how the Celts played them. When they ran a basic 2-1-2 zone the game and doubled anyone-- ANYONE-- who got below the elbow, it was nice change from the man-to-man they use. Perkins got into foul trouble trying to cheat off of his man early (in the man-to-man), so the zone saved Garnett from having to protect him. Smart move there. Once they established that Ray-Ray was on, Rondo actually sat a long time in the fourth and they went with House and Allen bringing up the ball. Strange move. Ray doesn't need to play 35+ minutes against the Nets. Bad coaching move. So, more of the same from early-season Doc: make the right moves and the wrong moves and the players pretty much sort it out. I can live with this but it makes me nervous.

Let's get to the scorecard. We're 8-1 (pre-Hawks and Pacers, I know) and playing excellent defense minus the Suns abomination. When the Suns are on point, you can only hope to outscore them and we aren't that team. The first unit has been good but not great and the second unit has been playing above their level. Somewhere in the middle is the truth (pun not intended) and all of this while being witness to a laid-back sense of the Truth (pun intended). Thus far, I'd say the team is playing right into my expectations. Thing is? Cleveland and LA have been playing above theirs (at least Cleveland has since they played Orlando). So, it may take another level-- Rondo may need to have some Chris Paul or Deron Williams rub off on him (that didn't come out right) and where Garnett raises a level he may not have any more. They may need a calmer Sheed (not gonna happen) and Pierce may need to replicate that 2008 run (uh, maybe?).

But that's in May. Right now, it's a Sheldon Williams November and I will take 8-1 all damned day. (Again, 8-3... I've been busy these last few days.)

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