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Tuesday, 01 December 2020 14:18

Ball don’t lie – ‘The Big Three’

Winning an NBA championship is hard; the road to a title demands a lot of the players on the floor. But one could argue that assembling a championship squad is even harder, a delicate dance involving winning trades, quality drafting, good signings … and more than a little luck.

Michael Holley’s “The Big Three: Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and the Rebirth of the Boston Celtics” (Hachette, $28) tells the story of one such squad and the titanic trio that operated at its center. It’s an in-depth look at how the 2008 Celtics championship squad was assembled, from the 2003 purchase of the Celtics by a new ownership group to the hiring of Danny Ainge as general manager to the acquisition of Garnett and Allen to the eventual breaking up of the band to move the franchise forward.

It’s a remarkably well-reported book, a detailed exploration of the many ups and downs that came along with trying to assemble this sort of next-level team. Through conversations and archival research, Holley crafts a portrait that focuses on the people involved as opposed to the numbers, a fine juxtaposition to Ainge’s ongoing insistence on refusing to allow the personal to interfere with his plan.

Published in Sports
Tuesday, 03 March 2020 12:43

Celtics Check-In – Third Quarter 2020

We’re three-quarters of the way through the NBA season and the Boston Celtics are putting forth another impressive performance. They look poised to finish strongly in the Eastern Conference, sitting in third place as of press time. While the top spot is likely out of reach – Boston’s 41-18 record leaves them 10 games behind the dominant Milwaukee Bucks – they’re just a touch behind the second-place Miami Heat. Barring disaster, they should still land home court advantage for at least the first round.

They’ve looked good recently, winning seven of 10 and generally looking like a contender. They’re in the top 10 in scoring (eighth) and the top five in scoring defense (fourth). They’ve got their issues – health will be a potential struggle, to be sure – and getting through the Bucks is certainly a tall order. Still, a couple of things go their way and they have a real shot at playing for a berth in the NBA Finals.

Let’s check in.

Published in Sports
Wednesday, 22 January 2020 14:24

Celtics Check-In 2020 – Halftime

As we approach the halfway point of the NBA regular season, the Boston Celtics appear to have positioned themselves well. At press time, they sit at 28-14, good for fourth place in the Eastern Conference. And while they’re nearly 10 games out of first place – the Bucks sport a robust 39-6 record to this point – they’re just a game-and-a-half back of the second-place Miami Heat.

All told, not too shabby.

While their recent performance hasn’t been particularly impressive – they’ve won just four of their last 10 – a hot start gave them a cushion which they’ve more or less maintained over the course of the season’s first half. It’s far from perfect, but they certainly look like a solid playoff contender.

Let’s check in.

Published in Sports
Tuesday, 25 June 2019 17:07

Celtics Check-In: 2019 Draft edition

Anyone who’s paying attention knows that the Boston Celtics are going through some things right now. Mercurial star point guard Kyrie Irving had one foot out the door for most of the season – he won’t be returning to the C’s. And it’s starting to look like Al Horford will join him; the do-everything big man declined his player option and seems inclined to head elsewhere in free agency.

In the midst of all that uncertainty, general manager Danny Ainge and the rest of the Boston front office had to deal with the draft. Despite the multitude of accumulated assets, the Celtics were unable to make the big splash for which many had hoped; it remains to be seen how well the players selected will perform in the Kelly green.

There were a lot of deals, with picks and players moving hither and yon. In the end, these are the players who were added to the Boston roster.

(Obligatory caveat: We here at The Maine Edge believe that draft grades are utter nonsense. Attempting to establish the specific success and/or failure of a draft – in any sport – before those players ever see the court/field is a fool’s errand. This is one man’s look at and thoughts on a team’s selections, nothing more.)

Published in Sports
Wednesday, 20 February 2019 14:00

Celtics Check-In 2019 – Third Quarter

It’s maybe a touch early to be marking the three-quarter mark of the season – with a 37-21 record thus far, the Celtics are 58 games into the season. However, with the All-Star break serving as a convenient delineation marker, it’s as good a time as any to check in.

It has been a nice rebound since we marked the season’s midpoint; Boston has won 80 percent of their games since the last time we visited them. Granted, that strong stretch moved them up just one spot in the standings – from fifth to fourth – but they’re just a game out of third.

It’s a team that has slowly been getting better, though they’ve got more than a few obstacles still in their way. Injuries and inconsistency have been the watchwords of the Celtics season; it’s all going to come down to whether they can get healthy and get their heads right in time for the postseason.

Let’s check in.

Published in Sports
Wednesday, 16 January 2019 13:55

Celtics Check-In 2019 - Halftime

We’re just past the halfway point of this NBA season and the Boston Celtics have not been living up to expectations.

After 43 games played, the Celtics sit at 25-18, a mere seven games over .500 and a record good for just fifth place in the Eastern Conference. Worse, all four of the teams above them look poised to continue their relative success going forward.

It’s not all bad – the team has actually played significantly better since hitting the quarter-pole at a mediocre 11-10. It’s just that this team looked ready to take a big leap forward after last season’s successes. Instead, the C’s have stumbled backwards, though they might still find a way to turn it all around.

Let’s check in.

Published in Sports
Wednesday, 28 November 2018 14:09

Celtics Check-In 2018 – First Quarter

I’ll freely admit to being something of a late adopter when it comes to the NBA. As a general sports fan, I was always aware of the NBA, but my interest never really went that deep – I was primarily and baseball and football man.

But recent years have shown me just how fun the game of basketball can be. And when the hometown team just happens to feature a mess of exceptional talent, well … it’s easy to get excited. However, this year’s squad hasn’t managed to proper utilize that talent to meet the loft expectations placed on them.

Obviously, we weren’t going to get a repeat of last year’s start; 16-game winning streaks don’t grow on trees. But we all though this team would be better than 11-10 at the season’s one-quarter mark. It’s not a terrible record, but at just above .500, they currently sit sixth in the Eastern Conference. They’ll get better, but when?

Let’s check in.

Published in Sports

It’s safe to say that the Boston Celtics of the 1950s and 1960s were the greatest dynasty in American professional sports. One could try to make arguments for other teams in other sports, but in terms of pure extended dominance, it’s tough to argue against eight consecutive championships and 11 titles in 13 seasons.

It’s also tough to argue against any two players being more vital to those victories than Bill Russell and Bob Cousy. But despite their brilliant dynamic on the court, their relationship beyond basketball is something a little more complicated.

Both aspects of the Cousy/Russell link are explored in Gary Pomerantz’s new book “The Last Pass: Cousy, Russell, and What Matters in the End” (Penguin Press, $28). Built around a years-long series of interviews with Cousy, the book explores the history of that dynastic time in Celtics history and examines an NBA that might have disappeared forever had Cousy and Russell not come along, all while also looking at issues of race in a particularly tumultuous time in our society.

Published in Sports

The Boston Celtics took fans on a heck of a ride last year, advancing to within one game of winning the Eastern Conference and heading to the NBA Finals for the first time in nearly a decade. Poor shooting on their home floor kept them from being the first team to keep LeBron James out of the Finals since … the Boston Celtics in 2010.

The 2017-18 Celtics arrived earlier than expected despite losing one big-ticket free agent acquisition (Gordon Hayward) five minutes into the first game of the season and the other (Kyrie Irving) with 20 games left. Yet with neither of their mega-talent additions on the floor, Boston still made the conference finals thanks primarily to huge leaps by youngsters Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown and the deceptive low-key excellence of Al Horford.

That team won 55 games and was the top seed in the East … and this latest incarnation is almost certainly going to be better. Maybe a lot better.

Published in Sports

There were rumors of potential paradigm-shifting fireworks from the Boston Celtics on draft night, but instead, Danny Ainge had a relatively quiet evening. All that happened was that a potentially lottery-level talent dropped into their laps at the back end of the first round.

The Celtics selected Robert Williams III, a 6’ 10” big man, out of Texas A&M with the 27th overall pick. The power forward, who will likely play small-ball center in the scheme of C’s coach Brad Stevens, was considered by many to be a high-level talent – potentially top-10 talent – but personal maturity questions led him to drop, which in turn led to Boston happily scooping him up.

Published in Sports
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