Please welcome Graham Brunell to the RedsArmy.com writing staff. Graham will be contributing a regular Tuesday column to Red's Army. You'll find Graham all over the Celtics web, and might recognize the name from his previous blog, Celtics 17.
By Graham Brunell
The Celtics are looking mighty good.
Resting at 20-4 after a win over the Bulls and Grizzles (in Chicago,
and Memphis, if I may point out), Boston sits atop the league with the
Association's best record. At this point of the season, no one wants
to face the Boston Celtics. Seen as flawless and unstoppable, Boston
has been trucking through teams left and right on sheer assurance of
themselves. Teams crumble under the weight of Boston's recent reign,
perturbed by the Celtics' so far unappraised dominance.
But is Boston's ascendancy truly infallible in all aspects? The view
from a diehard's eye is much different from the view of a fan watching
from a far distance (perhaps the fans of some of our fellow championship
contenders) in many ways. For one, the eye of a analyst who fairly assesses
all teams (general NBA fans) is much less biased than that of a close
follower of a specific team. However, if we're using the Celts as an
example, I can say without a doubt we are the experts in reviewing the
C's recent performances as opposed to those who size up the quality
of all teams.
Therefore, we laugh at the remarks of a flawless Boston Celtics team.
There isn't a moment that goes by in a true Celtics' zealot's life that
isn't muddled by the nags that goad us into picking out Boston's problems
piece by piece to speculate.
What's on the agenda to complain about on this fine day? Rebounding,
a part of basketball the Celtics are currently getting butchered in.
The atrocious numbers (seriously, looking at these numbers and the roster
they have, it's pretty bad) stick out like a sore thumb on the statsheet.
Boston is so handicapped beneath the glass it's become a major obstruction in Boston's game
and planning ahead. Excusing the fact that Glen Davis is injured at
the moment, could it have been any more unpredictable in the preseason
that the Celts would have done so poorly in terms of rebounding as they
are now with the roster they had/have?
Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images
Take a gander at these statistics: According to John Hollinger's insider
numbers, the C's rank 13th among the NBA in Defensive Rebounding Rate,
a stat figured by computing the amount of shots taken that a team rebounds,
of course on defense. However, the team is 29th in Offensive
Rebounding Rate (same formula, offensive end), and 20th in (overall)
Rebounding Rate. Those are some pretty discouraging numbers. Boston
has to quit sending players up the floor for the fast break and utilize
the knowledge they have that shows crashing the boards more harshly
gets you more rebounds. I've begun to notice that they are starting
to cannon their outside/long rebounders up the floor too often and much
too quickly to get an adequate enough chance at bagging a board. Pierce
is averaging substantially less rebounds than he has in the past two
seasons, and Ray Allen is also averaging less rebounds than he did in
the championship season, as well as last year. Those are two key perimeter
players that can help rebound, but more importantly, play a lot of minutes.
In consequence, there's two empty spots in the paint filled by the opposing
team that were reserved for those two before.
While Allen's numbers seem better than Pierce's (comparing them to past
seasons, not individual numbers), keep this in mind: Allen has one big
rebounding show once every string of games or so. He's had just two
seven-rebound games, and one five-board game. Aside from that, Allen's
numbers in that column have been relatively poor, even racking up a
0-rebound game, four one-rebound games, and four two-rebound games.
While the flashes of great rebounding technique and such are coming
back at a more consistent rate, we are still aren't taking advantage
of our size and skills under the bucket. Boston's only separated themselves
clearly in one game since the win that came against the Knicks, and
have even gotten pummeled themselves matching up with the fiery front
court line San Antonio boasts. Boston was out-rebounded by 25 in that
game, a significant and all too easy beat-down from the Spurs. While
Boston won by seven, the win would have been a lock-up had Boston's
offense not been firing on all cylinders (46.2 FG percentage for BOS,
just 12 TOs).
The addition of Rasheed Wallace, while still being a fresh offensive
weapon from outside and down low, has not proved to be the answer at
least on the rebounding end aside KG and Perkins. Wallace is averaging
just 3.9 rebounds this season, while playing 20.6 minutes. Compare that
to last season's 7.4 in only 11.7 more minutes, as well as 6.6 rpg in
10 more minutes in the year of 07-08, and it's not a good sign. Something
I'm hoping is that we may be missing is the body of Glen Davis. The
reason I'm praying for this is because we could have possibly underrated
the value of Big Baby (I'm using the nickname to get the mindset of
him having a strong force in the paint in your brains) when he's below
the basket. This means that when he's back to 100%, the C's could be
even better than we originally thought they would. Remember, 72 games
was a hot topic after acquiring Sheed. And now this? Sure, we know he
can effective as a garbage man, but could his physical presence be the
very thing that kept us alive in the series against the Magic? Even
the eighth seed Bulls?
Davis' wide stature and solid legs might have been the best boxing out
tool we had on the team, allowing Garnett and Perkins to snag more boards.
We felt Davis' vacancy wouldn't have a huge impact concerning the boards
because the stats simply weren't there; at least for a big man. The
thought of Rasheed Wallace joining the ship also seemed to fortify our
front line even without Davis. But, looking at the shoddy rebounding
numbers Sheed has put up, it'd be nice to get Davis back, and soon.
The return of Bill Walker might help us too. While Walker will only
accumulate a small amount of playing time at first, his exploding legs
will provide a dynamic rebounder from outside.
The contributions of both Garnett and Rondo on the rebounding end have
really kept this plane from crashing. While the Big Ticket is averaging
his lowest rebounding numbers since the rookie season, 7.5 a game with
a knee that looks fine but is causing confidence problems for the star
forward certainly isn't something to complain about. Assisting Garnett
is one of his favorite pupils, Rajon Rondo. Rondo, the C's PG, is recovering,
on average, 4.1 rpg. While the numbers may look lousy, he's far more
consistent than most of the Boston team. He even took home a nine-rebound
game just three games ago, and chipped in for seven in Saturday's game
when we came down on a wrecking ball on the Bulls.
But once again, there comes that "Everything looks great!… Except
for the rebounding numbers." While Boston polished off the Chicago
by a confounding 26 points, they still were out-rebounded by six. That's
not too much separation, but it's certainly not something you'd expect
to see in a blowout, especially against this struggling Chicago crew.
Boston's center Kendrick Perkins has certainly gone through some changes,
definitely for the good. After being able to experience Perk in real
action in the adolescent days and weeks of the season, Red's Army perfectly
described our newly molded center as "more nimble." So far,
we know Perk's more thorough efficacy is the most notable improvement
from last season, but glance at this breakdown of his rebounding numbers:
Perk is averaging .6 rebounds less than he was last season, but .5 more
defensive rebounds. The pattern shows that the Celtics are rebounding
significantly better on the defensive end of the floor, but ransacked
like the pocket books of little old ladies on the offensive end. To
corroborate that hypothesized trend, the sheet shows Perk nabs an entire
1.1 offensive rebounds less than he was last season. If he can make
the improvements there like he has in most every other column, or even
balance it out, that makes a great difference in the Celtics game. Perkins
takes credit for 22.5% of the possible defensive rebounds Boston could
tear down when the big man is on the floor (an 82games stat figured
by the amount of chances he gets and how many he takes advantage of),
but only 7.7% of the offensive rebounds. The team? 72% of the defensive
rebounds, a mere 24.9% of the offensive rebounds.
Guess ball don't lie. (That one was for you Sheed.)
In review, here are the main points for the Celtics:
- Make sure they've actually
brought down the rebound before giving the green light for our perimeter
guys to race up the floor.
- If Rondo can do it, you can
— Pierce, Allen, even Rasheed Wallace, step it up a bit under the basket.
- Perk: get on that offensive
What it all boils down here is that
we can't keep continuing this "mini-regime" in the league
if we don't get on the boards.
Rebound, I say! Rebound!
Photos by Ray Amati/Jesse D. Garrabrant/Joe MurphyNBAE via Getty Images