By Kevin Henkin
Last October at the end of preseason, I ran a Van Halen-themed Celtics column to coincide with the band’s reunion show in Boston. That was 66 regular season wins and two playoff round advancements ago. Fast forward seven full months later and we find the Celtics exactly where we expected them to be, namely deadlocked with the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals. With the return of Van Halen to the area in Providence on Sunday night (tremendous show, by the way), it seemed fitting to close the loop with another VH crossover piece. As such, I offer the following insights on all things related to this epic Celtics/Pistons series unfolding before our eyes, structured within the aforementioned Van Halen song title format:
I’m just wondering, has there ever been a foul call against the Pistons that one of their current players have ever agreed with? I mean it. Ever? Even in the cases where blatant visible contact is made, the Detroit players act amazed and outraged by the call that follows. Honestly, Billups, Wallace or Hamilton could lay a Kermit Washington haymaker on Rajon Rondo on his way up the court and then act shocked beyond belief at the sound of the official’s whistle. If they played clean, this might just be a minor annoyance. But they don’t. The Pistons seem to pride themselves on their ability to either draw fouls on exaggerated flops or to get away with arm hooks, moving picks and sneaky push offs. Johnny Most would positively despise these guys. We can only imagine the nicknames. McBaldspot and McFacemask? Little Lord Chauncey-pants? The possibilities are endless.
Where Have All the Good Times Gone
Did anyone catch Dan Shaughnessy’s piece in the Sunday Globe? I had to check the date on the paper to make sure it wasn’t April 1st just because of the sheer ludicrousness of the theme of the article. In short, it was a lamentation by Shaughnessy that the media rules have changed to the point where A) too many people (read: bloggers) are getting media passes and therefore are ruining access for everyone else, B) neither he nor Bob Ryan share rides to the airport with Celtics players and thus don’t really know them anymore, and C) that because media icons like Shaughnessy and Ryan have to petition for access to the players just like everyone else, the poor readers end up suffering from that lack of access. This is just too rich, coming from a guy who includes “Antagonize readers” on the top of his list of daily chores, next to “Rigorous One Mile Run”. Shaughnessy also mentioned that the players are growing increasingly distrustful of the media under the present rules in place. Again, this from a guy who once called Jose Offerman a “piece of junk”, David Ortiz a “sack of you-know-what” and has since engaged in his own personal and highly unprofessional war of words against Curt Schilling. Are you kidding me? This is like Hannibal Lecter preaching to us about the evils of cannibalism. It would be funnier if it wasn’t yet another stark reminder of just how far the quality of the Boston Globe sports page has fallen over the past two decades.
Outta Love Again
I’m putting together a petition that says “Can We Go Back to Sitting Sam Cassell in Favor of Eddie House Again?” I’m pretty sure I can get 10,000 signatures by noon. Yes, yes, I know all about Lindsey Hunter and his effect on House’s handle coming up the floor. However, I thought Boston’s previous switch to Pierce and Posey on ball handling duties with House in the game worked fairly well. Beyond Cassell’s superior ball handling, there is simply no other reason to play him over House. On defense, Cassell has been getting burned more often than Charles Barkley at a Casino table. On the other end, he famously hogs the ball (did you see Pierce steadily denying him the rock two games ago?) and, too often, he alters the offense to fit his own game. Cassell also has a disturbing tendency of hefting up ill-advised long jumpers before the offense even has a chance to set up. To justify such a bold shot selection, he damned well better be knocking those down, but he hasn’t been. As they say, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Sam Cassell is clearly insane but if Rivers continues to send him out there, then I’ll begin to wonder about the coach’s mental health as well.
Think about the huge play of Pistons’ players such as Rodney Stuckey and Jason Maxiell. Lindsey Hunter has also done an exceptional job in filling his role as the primary harrasser on the ball. Unfortunately, the Celtics have received nothing close to such a sustained level of contribution from their bench players thus far in this series. It’s been a major issue for Boston and will continue to be so unless the reserves find a way to step up their game. At this point in the season, the Celtics need several things to happen at the same time to continue winning: Play lockdown defense, receive strong offensive play from two of The Big Three, and receive a lift from the bench (Rondo’s play is also important but, for the sake of argument, let’s keep things simple). The Celtics’ starters are obviously tired and that fatigue is leading to breakdowns on the defensive end. How many times have we seen them play excellent defense for the first 20 or 22 seconds, only to see it fall apart at the end of the possession? It’s the legs. They’re running short on juice. To help alleviate the problem, the starters need more rest but Doc Rivers hasn’t been able to provide that rest because his reserves haven’t been getting the job done. How this issue plays out will have a crucial impact on the reaminder of this series and (hopefully) beyond.
…until we meet again, in the wake of the monumentally important Game 5…