By Matt Richardson
Don’t you love on sports radio when the hosts start arguing about who made what prediction (I knew the B’s would force a game 7!!!), and finally somebody says “pull the tapes”. It seems like they never actually pull the tapes, but we here at FCP apparently have a better production team. So as the playoffs commence with the C’s scrimmaging against Atlanta for 4-5 games, I thought it might be an interesting time to review a couple of the things I wrote early in the year (and no, we’re not going to review my claim that the C’s intended to stand pat after the Ray Allen trade). On to the tapes…
The “Other” Starters
I wrote: A couple of thoughts on Rondo and Perkins. What a position to suddenly find themselves in, default starters on a team variously ticketed to the playoffs, the Eastern Conference Finals, and even the NBA finals. The way I see it though, these guys are in very different situations. Perk, to me, is in a no lose situation. His name was never bandied about in trade talks, and certainly no trades that I’m aware of broke down or hit a snag due to the Celtics unwillingness to part with their “Center of the future”. Heading into his 5th year, Perk is faced with extremely low expectations. Rebound. Play defense. Throw his body around. That is pretty much it. The upside there is huge. He should be able to do the above, but in addition to that, can you imagine how many easy looks he is going to get down low when the defense collapses on Garnett in the post or Pierce and Rondo on drives? How many uncontested dunks is he looking at a game? 4? 7? Not to mention easy offensive rebounds/putbacks. I would not be surprised at all to be reading a “Kendrick Perkins: The Overnight Success” feature come January.
I’d say that Perk answered the bell this season; he wasn’t fantastic, but he was solid and dependable. Checking his stats I was surprised to see he started 78 games, or 95%, after starting a career high 53 last season, an improvement of 47%. He averaged 24 minutes with 7 points on .615 shooting (or roughly 3 dunks per game, so I was a little heavy on that one) with 6 boards and 1.5 blocks. One thing that stuck out about Perk this year was his creativity around the hoop. He made tough contested hoops, up and unders, etc, not always 9 out of 10 in degree of difficulty, but he made lots of 6’s & 7’s, which I was very happy to see.
I also wrote: Rondo, on the other hand, faces considerably tougher sledding. First, he was declared all but untouchable by Danny Ainge. No pressure there. Second, while Perk is flying very much under the radar, Rondo enjoys no such anonymity. It’s up to him to make sure the offense hums along efficiently and oh by the way live up to his reputation as a defensive stopper on the other end of the floor. If this team isn’t clicking offensively after 3-4 weeks, a lot of people are going to be looking at Rondo and suggesting he isn’t up to the task; shades of Dustin Pedroia during the first 3-4 weeks of the Sox season. Turned out okay for Pedroia, lets hope for the same from Rondo.
Well they certainly didn’t have to worry about the “clicking after 3-4 weeks” part. Rondo by all accounts had an exceptional season. His stats are ho-hum (30 minutes, 10.6 points on .492 shooting, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, and 1.7 steals) but we’re not judging Rondo by stats. I think the best thing you can say about Rondo is that Sam Cassell now seems like a luxury, not a necessity. And I still think his dunk against Detroit was the signature play of the season. Everybody knew Ray Allen could hit game winning shots; we didn’t all know that Rondo could step up to the plate against our biggest conference competitor, understand a situation and emphatically make exactly the right play.
I wrote: I get the feeling that Paul Pierce has no idea what he’s in for. I think there were times when Antoine Walker pushed Pierce beyond his “I want to win but I don’t want to work too hard at it” credo, and Walker is a guy who routinely stays out too late, gets robbed at gunpoint and fails to meet minimum body fat guidelines. To say that Garnett is going to explode Pierce’s comfortable little bubble is an understatement.
Simply put, Paul Pierce deserves to take a bow for the way he played and conducted himself this year. Before the season, when everything looked good but we didn’t yet know, there was a definite undercurrent that went something like: if this season gets derailed by chemistry issues, chances are it will be Pierce that causes it. With that in mind, we could not have asked for a better season from Pierce. He has seemed more focused and goal oriented than at any other point in his career; he’s clearly recognized the opportunity he and the team have and he seems entirely intent on realizing it. Again you can’t judge him by stats; I thought maybe he would have set a career high in FG %, or a low in turnovers or something, but he didn’t have a career year in any category accept free throw percentage. Yet in many ways this seems like his best season, and I get the feeling he’d say it’s his best season, and that is where he has exceeded my expectations.
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