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News » NBA NOTES 2009-11-30

NBA NOTES 2009-11-30

NBA NOTES 2009-11-30Older, more veteran NBA teams hit their stride in March or April. Like a clunky Volvo wagon, they're built for the long drive, not a drag race.

That, at least, is one NBA adage.

So when you see Rasheed Wallace shoot 4-for-16 and huff to get down the floor on the break, envision the bigger picture.

The next time Kevin Garnett doesn't elevate high enough to finish off a Rajon Rondo alley-oop pass, remember that he'll find those extra inches by St. Patrick's Day.

Danny Ainge, the Celtics president of Basketball operations, played on a team like this. Few teams were stocked with as much veteran, aging talent as the Celtics team that won the 1986 NBA title.

That team lost one home game all season - never mind three in the first month - but did manage to get shocked by the young Patrick Ewing Knicks on Christmas Day in Madison Square Garden.

They were better later.

But Ainge doesn't want to hear it. The current Celtics shouldn't be using age as an excuse. They should not be pacing themselves, or looking four months hence.

Too much can go wrong in the meantime.

``You can't sit around and wait,'' he said. ``To be honest, I don't see a lot of similarities between the '86 team and this one.

``I don't buy into those excuses,'' Ainge said of the long-term argument. ``The bottom line is that we're a better team than (how) we're playing. We're just not showing it. We're playing well some times, and not well at others. (The players) just need to focus like the coaches focus.

``If we're not paying attention to that, and we're thinking that we're so good, then we're in trouble. I see a difference in how we play when we have our backs to the wall, so you can tell that we have what we need, but it has to be more than that.''

The problem, for now, is that the Celtics know they can beat most teams with less than their best effort.

Ainge likens it to a golfer who is getting by with only parts of his game working.

``The things we're doing are common,'' he said. ''It's like the golfer - say, Tiger Woods - who's missing a lot of fairways, but is making the putts he needs to win. That's where we are.

``Our team can win right now without focusing on the little things, but that's not going to last. (Coach Doc Rivers) is doing a good job, and the players want to win and do it. Are they willing to pay the price in practice? But I don't think there's much to it yet.''

That's right, not yet. But as Rivers has already stressed, his team freelances far too much. Players break plays and ignore options. Ainge blames it on a disdain for the little things - the little things that led to the 2008 title.

``That's all part of it,'' he said. ``When you do that, you feel you don't have to do the little things to win. Obviously the team has a lot of confidence - they've had some success as a team and they play very good at times.

``We struggled with that last year, too,'' he said. ``It's not just effort and discipline. You have to focus on the little things in practice. You certainly can't wait until January or February.''

And yet that tendency exists. Call it the curse of veteran team with a winning track record.

Rivers can take some comfort in the fact that as a veteran team, there is little or no panic. Young talent would respond to the Celtics' early travails in an entirely different way.

``Oh, yes,'' said the coach. ``With a younger team you would be worried at shootarounds, because you would be panicked that they didn't have the IQ to get it, and the ability and maturity and the timing. That would be a whole different scenario. That would be an alarm going off.

``(This team) knows what they have to do, and they know what they're not doing. That's the remarkable thing about a veteran team. They just do it. That's where discipline and the toughness comes in.''

But sometimes discipline and toughness can be overtaken by overconfidence - the sense that everything will work out three months hence.

``It's a cliche for us to always say we take one day at a time,'' guard Ray Allen said. ``You take each game like that, but at the same time you take in the bigger picture. We use that experience to withstand younger, inexperienced players.''

Atlanta, the second team to beat the Celtics at home this season, had that kind of team. Panic across Celtics Nation ensued.

``I really don't pay attention to it,'' Allen said of the outside world. ``You don't read the papers. I'm concerned with everyday life. It's what we deal with. It's interesting. It's always been interesting for people to ask what I think about other people talking about us, and what we think of this person or that analyst. We're the ones who spur the talk on and create the speculation. Who better to get it done than us?

``That's what we stay true to and stick to, instead of paying attention to the speculation out there in society.''

Allen does understand, however, that time is indeed short.

``It's already gone by pretty fast, if you think about it,'' he said. ``Christmas is going to be here pretty fast. We'll be right there, talking about playoff Basketball before you know it. So we have to keep our habits steady and consistent. But everybody is hitting their stride. There's nicks and bruises, but everybody is pretty healthy.''

Right now, the team's mental state may be another matter.

``Sometimes you do have to wait on them,'' Rivers said. ``Once they get the basics first, you want them to play with IQ, but they have to go through the basics to get to the second part - what we call random.

``But you can't play the game in random, and that's what we're doing at times, on the defensive end, too. (Orlando's) first nine points the other night were off of that, and I was like, `(Expletive), we just went through a walkthrough.' We actually trapped Dwight Howard once, and we never trap Dwight Howard. It's not like anyone is doing it to hurt your team. That's just the IQ that's been activated, but it's not the time.''

Really going global

NBA commissioner David Stern's global vision, with the NBA brand of paramount status everywhere from Spain to China, is about to face a tiny test locally.

Adidas, the German-owned sneaker giant and uniform supplier for the NBA , has announced plans to move production of jerseys to a factory in Thailand.

Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York has already spoken out against the move and with good reason - a New York company that has made NBA uniforms for the last 40 years will likely close if adidas make this move. Approximately 100 people at American Classic Outfitters are expected to lose their jobs if the move goes through.

Stern is forever going on about his league's international appeal. It will be interesting to see how he feels about the loss of American jobs.

Arenas lets it fly

He wouldn't be Gilbert Arenas if he weren't stirring the pot. ``Agent Zero,'' or whatever you choose to call him, raised eyebrows last week with a long postgame monologue about taking the offense of the struggling Wizards into his own hands. This came after teammate Brendan Haywood loudly told the media - and within easy earshot of his fellow Wizards - that it was time to ``check your ego at the door.''

The Wizards center looked north to the Celtics for his inspiration.

``I watch the Celtics, and that's what they do,'' he said. ``Paul Pierce can have 12 in the fourth quarter (and) if they're up, he don't care. That's what we've gotta do.''

Arenas, exiting the shower at the time, followed with his own treatise on dominating the ball. Along the way he talked about ``hidden agendas,'' the Wizards' eight impending free agents, and the fact that he has sacrificed more than anyone else for the common good.

Worried that some might think he was at odds with Caron Butler, Arenas made it known that everything was wonderful between the two.

Haywood, equally concerned that some thought his comments were directed toward Arenas, Tweeted his innocence.

Perhaps Arenas should remember one point he's certainly never going to bring up: During his lengthy absences over the last two years, the Wizards have generally played better without his ball-suffocating self. . . .

When Wizards owner Abe Pollin passed away last week, the NBA lost yet another of those old-time characters who had so much to do with the league's development over its first four decades.

For starters, he truly cared about keeping the Bullets/Wizards in the Beltway. ``He was one of the best owners there was,'' Celtics announcer/legend Tom Heinsohn said. ``He was a very loyal guy. He stuck with people and they produced for him. He always had very competitive teams. He had to move the team around a couple of times, but he stuck with it.''


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Added: November 30, 2009


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