- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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With a new year comes a new mailbag on ESPNBoston.com. Today we unveil the Celtics mailbag, which, with your help, will become a weekly feature during the season.
Borrowing heavily from colleague Mike Reiss and his must-read Patriots
mailbag, we'll answer your questions and give you a platform for your thoughts on Boston basketball.
Consider this a portal to the team. One of our goals is to take your questions inside the locker room and get answers from the players themselves. For now, you're stuck with me and my half-baked thoughts.
Use the comments feature at the bottom to join the conversation and tell me how wrong I am about everything. Chances are you're right.
I'd also like to give this mailbag a little personality, so I'm soliciting advice for names. Leave one in the comments section, or send me a reply on Twitter. Maybe I can steal something from ESPN for the person who comes up with the best name. Please don't make me name this "The Forsbag." Let's get creative, like someone who suggested "Leprechaun Letters."
We'll break down each mailbag into subsections (use the anchor links below to hop to a section). Any other suggestions you have, I'm all ears.
A: Given that both players are more than halfway to their
(not-so) Sweet 16 (players receive a one-game suspension for every other technical foul starting at 16) and we're not even at the midpoint of the season, it's somewhat concerning. The good news is that it's been a quiet month so far -- at least the past 10 days -- with Wallace picking up his league-leading 10th technical of the season on Jan. 2, and Perkins tech-less since Dec. 30. Celtics coach Doc Rivers has preached the motto, "He who angers you, owns you," and hopes his players keep their emotions in check. The irony, of course, is that Rivers lost his cool Monday night and contributed to the Celtics'
meltdown in a loss to the Hawks at the Garden. Captain Paul Pierce suggested earlier this season that players had talked with Wallace about avoiding the suspension limit since it's clear the Celtics can ill-afford to lose players, particularly at a time like this when injuries have mounted. Perkins has to be disappointed that a pair of technicals acquired on the West Coast trip to close out 2009 were not overturned, as he had previously hoped. The guess here: Wallace and Perkins both finish the year about 16-17, maybe miss a game, but any tech-induced absence reminds them they need to cool it.
Q: After reading that a technical given to Rasheed Wallace was rescinded, I was wondering if this is a frequent occurrence throughout the league? This seems to confirm Wallace's claim that the refs target individuals and have quick whistles. Any thoughts on this? -- Jim (Boston, Mass.)
A: Rescinded technicals are fairly common as Wallace, Perkins, and Rivers have all had at least one removed this season. That said, it probably doesn't occur nearly as much as players and coaches think it should. Give the NBA credit for at least having a system in place for reviewing whether a call was warranted. As for Wallace, he's always going to be in the crosshairs. Not that he doesn't bring it on himself, but one technical he had rescinded was from a Miami game where he simply shouted, "And one!" after the play. Shows how trigger-happy officials can be, judging based simply on a player's emotional outburst, when all he was looking for was a foul call.
Q: I actually didn't think the call on Glen Davis Monday night against the Hawks was that bad. Do you think, looking back at it, Doc Rivers regrets getting that upset? -- Joe (Cape Cod, Mass.)
A: Joe, I think Rivers regrets getting thrown out, because that gave the Hawks two additional free throws on the double technical and helped them creep back into the game (and eventually prevail). As mentioned in a previous question, Rivers has preached keeping cool, so I'm sure he's not thrilled with the example he set for his players.
But the refereeing in that game was certainly open to scrutiny and it's easy to see how a player or coach could lose it when the opposing team is living at the free-throw line. As for the flagrant-foul call itself, Davis probably could have been gentler to Marvin Williams, but I don't think it deserved a flagrant or even a clear-path call. That said, the Celtics had 19 minutes and a six-point lead after the dust settled and still couldn't regain their composure.
Bugged by the injury bug
Q: I'm from Southern California and you'd assume I'm a Lakers fan, but the truth is, I'm an NBA fan and have taken an interest in the Celtics. My question is: Do you think, based on these past few weeks, that Boston's coaching staff is doing the right thing in making sure that injured players are ready for the playoffs despite currently missing games where the Celtics needed wins? -- Noorpaul (Covina, Calif.)
A: Despite the Celtics' struggles recently -- 3-5 in their last eight games -- I do believe the team is taking the correct approach in regards to injuries with a "fix it now" mentality. Let's use Marquis Daniels as an example. The Celtics bench is a complete mess without him and his ability to play three positions, particularly the point guard spot. But Daniels was absolutely killing the team trying to play through the pain of what turned out to be a torn ligament in his left thumb. In the 16 games he's missed thus far, the Celtics are 10-6 and, considering they've been without Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Rajon Rondo during that stretch, I think most fans will take it.
The Celtics have seemingly identified that 60 wins is still going to get them one of the two top spots in the Eastern Conference.
If they have to sacrifice home-court advantage in a later-round series, I think they do that in order to have all their horses. The other distinction to be made here is that these injuries have truly needed time to heal. As Rivers stressed while discussing Garnett's injury Monday night, he doesn't remember Michael Jordan taking time off just to be ready for the playoffs, and Rivers won't simply rest his players to rest them.
Q: I understand that the Celtics consider their bench to be deep, but couldn't they be a litter deeper if they ever gave a few minutes to J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker? Do you think those two will ever make an impact? -- Kenyatta (Jackson, Miss.)
A: Kenyatta, your question might be the most popular query I've received since the Celtics started battling the injury/illness bug. It is a bit of a mystery how Giddens is able to start one night -- albeit with three starters absent -- but can't get off the bench a couple nights later when the Celtics are still shorthanded. The guess here is that Boston simply doesn't want to invest any additional time and energy into players who don't figure into its future. Boston didn't pick up Giddens' team option for next season and seems ready to let the former first-round pick walk after this season. Maybe they were showcasing him for a potential trade because he hasn't left the bench since playing 20 minutes in a 103-96 win over Toronto on Jan. 2. As for Walker, I can't help but assume he's just not physically ready (at least to the team's liking). I think the Celtics are forced to carry him right now just to have 12(somewhat) healthy bodies, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him head back to the Maine Red Claws of the NBA Development League to condition that surgically-repaired knee more once Boston gets more players back.
Q: What's the latest on Marquis Daniels? -- Billy (Boston, Mass.)
A: Rivers indicated that, while he hasn't talked to the training staff about it in recent weeks, he anticipates Daniels return right after the All-Star break. "I don't think that's changed, but I haven't asked in three weeks," Rivers said before Monday's game. "The last time I checked, that's what they said. I think he'll be ready to play then. A lot of times they say that and they mean that's when the cast comes off. I think he'll be ready to play after the All-Star break."
Daniels traveled with the team on its most recent trip and has been working on strength and conditioning before home games (he even got some one-handed passes in with Shelden Williams Monday).
The one thing I'll note here is how long it's taken Glen Davis to get comfortable following his thumb injury. Now, with Daniels, it's on his non-shooting hand, but I think, even when he does come back, it's going to take a few weeks for him to really regain form.
Q: Do you really think the C's can stay healthy enough to compete with some of the younger teams in the East? -- Tim (Natick, Mass.)
A: Considering the Celtics' payroll, that's the $85.2 million question, isn't it? With three losses against the Hawks this season, and troubles at times against athletic teams (like Golden State and Philadelphia), there's certainly reason to be concerned. But, if nothing else, the Celtics -- shorthanded as they've been -- have shown the ability to compete with Cleveland, Orlando, and Atlanta, the three teams I think you have to be most worried about in the Eastern Conference. If you're a Celtics fan, you have to hope Boston is getting all the injuries out of the way now and will avoid the Garnett-like situation that plagued the team a year ago. I do believe the Celtics will need all of their horses to make a run at an NBA title. Anything less might cause a 2008-09 repeat.
Let's make a deal
Q: I have to imagine the Celtics will be players in the trade market. Anyone in particular you could see them going after? Rick (Hartford, Conn.)
A: Rick, my gut tells me the opposite. I see a team that, when healthy, has a rock-solid nine- or 10-man rotation. In fact, the only hole I see is at the backup point guard spot, which Daniels could alleviate once healthy. That said, I think Lester Hudson's departure was a clear sign that the Celtics do plan to add a veteran at some point this season. The guess here all along has been that Tyronn Lue, currently the team's director of basketball development, will simply slide into roster spot No. 15 when he's physically ready. That said, if the Celtics can add a proven talent to their bench and the other team is willing to take players with expiring contracts like Brian Scalabrine, Tony Allen, and/or Giddens, then there's a chance for a move that will make a slightly bigger splash.
Q: Do you think Big Baby could be trade bait around the deadline?
Seems like he might have some value and that the C's would probably part with him in the right deal. -- KC (Hingham, Mass.)
A: Interesting thought, KC. Here's why I don't think it'll
happen: The Celtics have Davis at a very cap-friendly number this season and next ($3 million this year, $3.3 million next) and this is a guy who stepped in admirably for Garnett during last year's postseason run. That said, next year the Celtics will have to make a choice about whether to lock Davis up long term or maybe move him before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. The Celtics will already be facing the need to re-sign Perkins long term (he'll make $4.4 million in the final year of his contract next season) and, with Wallace signed through 2011-12, Baby's improved play could price him out of Boston.
Why so angry?
Q: Am I the only one who is fed up with Big Baby? -- Joe (Durham, N.H.)
A: I understand the frustration, particularly from the fact that it was a bone-headed, off-the-court situation that forced Davis to not only miss the first 27 games of the season but also struggle now as he recovers. That said, and as I alluded to in the previous question, Davis provides a very valuable asset off the bench. He's struggling with his shot as that right thumb heals (shooting 40.5 percent despite being a career 45.3 percent shooter), but his rebounding numbers are up (4.4 per game this season; 4.0 last year) and that's despite nearly six fewer minutes per game than a year ago. A sprained ankle suffered against Golden State didn't help Davis' cause, but I think you'll see him really ramp up his production as his wounds heal. Especially with Garnett out, Davis is so vital to Boston's success as the primary frontcourt backup. Unless you're pining for more Scalabrine.
Q: When is the coaching staff going to teach the bigs how to set a pick at the foul line without moving the player being picked off the play or throwing a hip-check? Almost all of them set a moving pick, and then they're in foul trouble in the first quarter. Stand still!
Just once! Please? -- Jim (Presque Isle, Maine)
A: Sometimes I'm amazed at what doesn't get called a moving pick these days. That said, Rivers has often trumpeted Perkins as the best pick-setter in the league. And it's hard to argue. When Perk sets a fundamentally sound pick, he's one of the best at not only creating opportunities for the guards, but rolling to the basket. It's part of the reason he leads the NBA in field goal percentage this season at 64 percent.
Is there anyone out there tracking pick stats yet? I feel like John Hollinger should be on this. I want quantitative stats that show the best pick-setters in the league. Or even just a picks plus/minus, where players are penalized for moving-pick violations.
Q: Not really a question, just wanted to congratulate you on your great work on the blog and on Twitter. Always insightful, informative, complete, and on-the-ball (well, figuratively). Thanks. -- Ricardo (São Paulo, Brazil)
Q: Hello Mr. Forsberg, I'm a pupil from Germany doing my A-Levels.
Therefore, I have to write a work of about 20 pages about the Boston Celtics in the 2007-08 season. So I would like to ask you if it would be possible to send me some information about that season and maybe even your own opinion of the 2008 Celtics season. I really would appreciate that. Kind regards. -- Dimitri (Nürnberg/ Bavaria/ Germany)
A: Twenty pages?! That's barely enough room to cover Scot Pollard.
Q: Do you have any advice for a young aspiring sports writer just out of college? -- Ramin (Old Orchard Beach, Maine)
A: I wanted to make a joke about going back to school for your master's degree in another field, but the truth is I love my job and feel blessed to be doing what I do. My only advice is to bust your tail, as hard work will get noticed -- even if it doesn't feel that way all the time. And embrace technology. The rules of sports journalism are changing every day and you should want to stay ahead of the curve. Finally, if you want to bring me some Pier Fries from Old Orchard Beach, I'll sing your praises to everyone at ESPN.
Q: Hi Chris, I'm a Yankees fan, but I don't hate the Red Sox, never did. In fact, I think it was good for baseball when they won in 2004.
You're probably shocked, but that's the truth. I love baseball and I'm a trivia expert. I've stumped Mike and the Mad Dog, and Warner Wolf, too. I think the leagues should give the luxury tax money to the last-place teams to buy players. I heard Lowell is gone? Who plays third?
Sox pitching is now better than Yanks. -- Joe (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.)
A: Leave it to a Yankees fan to send a baseball question to the Celtics mailbag. I'm kidding, I'm kidding. Can I introduce you to my friend, Gordon
Chris Forsberg is a roving reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.
Celtics mailbag: Fretting over technicals, trades, injuries and more.