NBA AM: Are The Celtics Still Hungry Enough?
The Boston Celtics remain one of the most storied franchises in NBA history and since the 2008 campaign have won a title, reached the NBA Finals twice and made three trips to the Eastern Conference Finals. After an offseason of reloading via free agency and trades, most believed the team was well positioned to make another championship run.
But the Celtics have struggled to start the season and are just one and a half games ahead of the ninth place Philadelphia 76ers for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot if the season were to end today.
Naturally, the questions are starting arise on whether the veteran laden Celtics have lost their edge or are just sleepwalking through the regular season, hoping to turn it on during the latter portion of the schedule.
Veteran forward Brandon Bass believes the early struggles are just a matter of the team’s new pieces learning to inherit the championship edge.
“Everybody says that they have the edge man, that’s kind of cliché for guys to say,” Bass told HOOPSWORLD on whether his teammates are truly hungry. “But when you play for an organization like the Celtics, it doesn’t feel right if they’re not chasing the championship. I think that you have to inherit that here.”
The Celtics signed veteran guards Jason Terry and Leandro Barbosa in free agency, traded for shooting guard Courtney Lee, signed versatile forward Jeff Green and drafted promising rookie Jared Sullinger for their latest attempt at a title. The team also lost Hall of Fame bound guard Ray Allen in free agency this past summer. Allen was an integral part of the team’s most recent five year run.
Bass believes the days of just adding talent and expecting immediate results on the court are over, citing the Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers as the most recent examples. The Lakers, of course, added All-Stars Steve Nash and Dwight Howard to the roster this past summer, but went through rough patches early in the season.
“It’s been rough,” Bass said regarding the start of the season. “But I think we have a new group, bunch of new guys and we got to develop that same type of chemistry that we had last year and get back to winning.
“It’s definitely a process. And I think the [Los Angeles] Lakers are a perfect example to show it’s a process. Looking at them on paper and you automatically think they’re a championship team, instantly, and they’ve struggled.”
The Celtics play their next three contests on the road, two versus surefire playoff teams in Los Angeles (Clippers) and Golden State, before ending the trip versus the Sacramento Kings.
You can watch HOOPSWORLD’s full interview with Celtics forward Brandon Bass below.
Kendrick Perkins Calls Out Thunder Teammates
The Oklahoma City Thunder are arguably the best team in the NBA. But while the franchise can beat any team in the league on any given night it appears the Thunder have yet to figure out how to stop the Miami HEAT, losing five straight contests to the team dating back to last season’s NBA Finals matchup.
The most recent setback, a 103-97 road loss on Christmas Day, sparked veteran center Kendrick Perkins to challenge his teammates to become stronger mentally when trying to get over the HEAT hurdle.
“I just feel like — never overreacting to a loss — we just got to start getting back to who we are as individuals,” Perkins said according to the Oklahoman. “Turning off the TV and stop looking at articles on ourselves and start just losing ourselves in the team a little bit more than the sky’s the limit.”
The Thunder haven’t been dominated by the HEAT by any stretch of the imagination. The team’s four losses to Miami in the Finals last season were by a combined 31 points and Tuesday’s defeat to the HEAT was only a six-point deficit. The difference has come down to late game execution and Perkins says Oklahoma City must rededicate their focus to what has gotten them into a position to compete for titles.
“We just got to start knowing what got us here and what each guy did to get us to this point,” Perkins added. “We just got to make sure we start knowing who we are and what we are and what we mean to this team as individuals and the rest will take care of itself.”
At 21-6, the Thunder own the second best record in the league behind the Los Angeles Clippers, who are currently on a 14 game winning streak.
Orlando Magic Never Had Plans To Re-Sign Ryan Anderson?
As the end of the Dwight Howard era in Orlando grew closer, most expected the team to enter a prolonged rebuilding period. The team eventually traded Howard, cleaned out its previous basketball operations department, hired a new coach and orchestrated a trade of their second best player on the roster last season, Ryan Anderson, to the New Orleans Hornets.
Anderson won the league’s Most Improved Player award last season and entered this past summer as a restricted free agent. The Magic had an opportunity to match any offer received by the sharpshooting forward but opted not to do so.
The forward recently admitted he didn’t have plans to leave the Magic, but the organization never truly pursued him once free agency began. The Hornets agreed to a four-year $34 million deal with Anderson in a sign-and-trade with the Magic.
“Some people have the crazy idea that I wanted the trade and I wanted out of there, and that’s not necessarily how it went down,” Anderson said according to Joshua Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. “It’s a game, and I understand it and I am glad that I’m here. But I just want people to know that I wasn’t turning my back on the team or anything.
“The thing is, Orlando didn’t even make a move at me. So it was a situation where every other team we spoke with thought that Orlando was going to match, and the only team that was willing to take that risk was New Orleans. It was just a real different situation.”
Anderson is currently averaging 17.8 points and 6.9 rebounds per game for the Hornets.