Jordan Crawford: The Point Guard

Originally pigeonholed as a scorer and nothing else, when the Celtics acquired Jordan Crawford at the trade deadline last season it was widely assumed he wouldn’t stick with the team beyond 2012/13. The words ‘wild’ and ‘erratic’ were common phrases used to describe a man known as ‘Steez’.

If it wasn’t for his existing contract and Boston’s flirtation with the repeater tax, Danny Ainge would have cut Crawford loose over the offseason, due to the abundance of shooting guards occupying the C’s roster. When it became clear Crawford couldn’t be cut without risking the repeater tax in July, A. Sherrod Blakely reported Ainge and co. were shopping J-Craw around:

A league source said the Celtics would “love” to move Jordan Crawford but have had little to no interest thus far.

It was understandable. Many fans in Boston figured the arrival of MarShon Brooks would make JC expendable, and after a sample of Crawford in green, question marks surrounded what type of player he could be for the team. Feeling uncomfortable with the ball in his hands last season may not have been Crawford’s own doing, as Doc Rivers was happy to let him run the floor without learning or calling set plays, and to just let the game come to him. This equated to some flashes of brilliance with passes and finishes around the rim, some bizarre shot selection, and some absolute frustration from all involved.

Crawford’s maturity and ability to be a good teammate were also lingering concerns. His verbal stoush with Carmelo Anthony after game 5 in last year’s playoff exit, despite not logging a single second of action in the contest, didn’t bode well for his reputation.

Enter preseason 2013. Impressing his teammates in camp, and new coach Brad Stevens with his ability to run the floor, Crawford was moved into the starting point guard role in the preseason, which has now carried over into the Celtics’ first 8 regular season contests.

A high of 10 assists against the Magic at the TD Garden on Monday night, one shy of a career-best 11 dimes, helped highlight Crawford’s growth, his unselfish play, great ball-handling ability and confidence to pass the ball on time and on target.

Steez has gained the trust of his teammates and fans alike, bringing a sense of safety and security with the ball in his hands. When Crawford enters the game, you know the offense will get a boost. Avery Bradley told ESPN

“Not to take away from anybody else that might start with me, to have Jordan come out there, he kinda has a swagger to his game,” said Bradley. “He feels like he’s better than everybody and, to have someone that brings that energy every single night, it makes you feel a lot more comfortable out there. I love when he starts and having somebody beside me that’s going to go to war with me every single game.”

In the C’s first win of the season against the Jazz last week, Utah came back to within 6 points in the final quarter. When Crawford returned, I felt a sense of relief knowing he had the ability (and confidence) to create his own shot, and to create for others. Fast becoming a signature of his game, the deep bail-out 3 pointers with the shot clock winding down have become a specialty, as well as his crafty drives to the basket, spinning his opponent inside out, with the option of dishing to an open teammate or finishing with a tough, but effective, floater.

Gone are the days of erratic passes and wild shots, as Crawford has become a valuable member of the Celtics in this early part of the season. Let us know your thoughts on Crawford’s early season promise in the comments below!

- Michael (@mickyt34)

A Study in Green: Kris Joseph, Jarvis Varnado & Darko Milicic

In this week’s addition to A Study In Green, we talk about former Celtics Kris Joseph, Jarvis Varnado and Darko Milicic.

darko-milicic-celtics

The Good

Joseph‘s start for the Celtics in the 2012 NBA Summer League was promising.  in the Orlando Summer League, Joseph played 5 games, averaging 9.4 points per game and 5.8 rebounds per game.  In his 10 games for the Maine Red Claws he averaged 17.7 points per game and 2.9 rebounds per game. This was a solid performance from someone who was still developing as a player. Upon his return to the Celtics, he showed flashes of improvement during garbage time. Thus, it came as a surprise when the Celtics waived Joseph.

Philadelphia 76ers v Boston Celtics

For Varnado, he was signed by the Celtics from the Sioux Falls Skyforce on Christmas Eve to add depth to the Celtics thinning front court after the injury of Chris Wilcox and the departure of Darko Milicic.  It was believed that Varnado would add some flair to the Celtics line up, bringing in his shot-blocking ability which made had earned him the NCAA Division I Record for most shots blocked.

As for Darko, well, we hardly knew ye. (Ed: other than the preseason Europe games, where he did reasonably well.)

The Bad

In the end, both Joseph and Varnado failed to break into the Celtics rotation.  They only played a handful of games in green with most of the minutes coming in garbage time. As a result, they were unable to cement their spot in the team and were subsequently waived on January 6.

Darko sustained a wrist injury early on and failed to recover, and was eventually released from the team due to personal matters.

The Verdict

It’s hard to judge a player’s ability based on the limited minutes they played. Joseph looked like he had great potential if he was given more minutes.  He ended up finding his way back to the Celtics in the Garnett, Pierce and Terry trade, only to be waived again. Joseph is an example of why the basketball lifestyle isn’t always glamorous.  In the past 14 months of his pro career, Joseph has signed 5 contracts, one in Boston, one in Maine, two in Brooklyn and one in China.

In Varnado’s case, he was only there to fill up space in the roster.  Being waived was probably the best thing that ever happened to him because he was signed by the Miami Heat shortly after, scoring himself an NBA Championship ring for just for being on the roster.

Finally, as for Darko Milicic… we’re all still left scratching our heads wondering if he would have ever made an impact.

A Study In Green: Jason Collins

In this week’s addition to A Study In Green, we talk about former Celtics centre Jason Collins. Let’s see how Collins’ time with the Celtics panned out.

0503_oag_jason-collins

The Good

Collins’ strength may not appear on the stat sheets but in his time with the Celtics, he was able to demonstrate his ability as an effective defender who was able to set hard screens for the other scorers.

Although Collins has shortcomings as a player, he is universally regarded as a fantastic teammate. A great role model towards the younger players, he is the kind of guy who plays hard in practice and relishes the opportunity to mentor younger guys.

The Bad

Collins is far from the best player in the NBA. In 32 games for the Celtics, which included 7 starts, he averaged 10.3 minutes per game, 1.2 points per game and 1.6 rebounds per game. In addition, Collins would also find himself in early foul trouble in many of the games he played.

He was never really able to find a spot in the Celtics under Doc Rivers’ rotation and was subsequently traded, along with Leandro Barbosa, to the Washington Wizards for Jordan Crawford.

The Verdict

There isn’t much to say about Collins’ time at the Celtics. To sum up, it was an uneventful tenure. In a Celtics team that lacked height, Collins did provide a presence in the paint and on the defensive post.

There have also been questions of whether Collins could possibly be a Celtic again next season as he would come cheap and provide great leadership. This now seems unlikely since the Celtics have signed Brazilian centre Vitor Faverani and a coach who is keen on going forward with a young team. Being on the wrong side of 30, it will be hard for Collins to find a team in the NBA.  However, any team could benefit from Collins’ presence as he could provide a veteran defensive post presence in limited minute.

What did you think of Jason Collins’ time as a Celtic? Would you want to see him back for the Celtics? Why or why not?

A Study in Green: Terrence Williams

After 4 NBA teams and a stint in China, Terrence Williams signed with the Boston Celtics in the mid-season for some added depth at the guard spot.  With the intention of having him as a backup point guard, Danny Ainge was intrigued with his versatility and exceptional ability to create for both himself and others.  The general fan did not know a lot about Williams. What they did know was that he was a lottery selection, taken at the 11th pick in 2009. He was an athletic freak with good versatility, and he was also a “knucklehead” that teams gave up on.  With strong leadership coming from within, the Celtics were hopeful that they picked up a player that would seize his opportunity and finally start realising his potential – all at a very cheap price.

The Good

It didn’t take Boston fans long to see Williams’ potential.  In his second game, he posted a 9 point, 4 assist and 4 rebound game in 25 minutes of play against Phoenix.  Because he was new to the team and unfamiliar with the system, Doc just let him play on instinct – which seemed to work wonders for him as his passes were crisp, his shot looked good, and he proved to be able to create for both himself and others.  He had flashes where he showed his athleticism but with the inconsistent playing time and learning the team’s system on the fly, it was hard for him to show real value.

The Bad

Terrence Williams averaged a pedestrian 4.6ppg, 1.8rpg and 1.6apg in only 13.3mpg through the remainder of the season.  Being picked up at mid-season, inconsistent playing time was impossible to overcome.  Despite his lack of playing time, Williams signed on with the team for a 2-year non-guaranteed deal.  After being taken in the lottery, his NBA career had been dogged with maturity issues – and signing a multi-year deal with the Celtics showed that he may have finally turned a corner.  Unfortunately, this was short-lived as he was arrested just after the season ended for allegedly brandishing a gun to the mother of his son.  As the Celtics were already looking to shed salary so they could fall under the tax line, they acted quickly and waived Williams.

New York Knicks v Boston Celtics

The Verdict

Williams was signed for 2 years because both Danny and Doc valued his ability to play point guard, plus his physical skills in being able to defend a larger 2-guard.  The Celtics brass were optimistic that they had found the backup they were looking for.  It is a shame that he cannot seem to get away from the trouble that has plagued his young career.  Being young and loaded with potential, he still has a chance to shake off the negativity and still have a productive NBA career. If he doesn’t, it looks like a return to China and the CBA is possible.

What did you think of Terrence Williams in Green?  Did you want him to stick around for next season or were the Celtics right to waive him?  Please share your thoughts below.

A Study in Green: DJ White

Moving on with the “A Study in Green” series, we look back at a CBA import who joined the Boston Celtics on a 10-day contract, and was eventually signed to a multi-year deal in the 2012/13 NBA season. Hello, DJ White.

DJ White of the Boston Celtics

The Good

For a guy who averaged 7.2 minutes a game only because he was on the floor for 28 minutes during the Celtics’ final season game against Toronto, we honestly couldn’t have asked for much more. Despite playing very limited games (and minutes) in the season, DJ did what a bench guy was supposed to do. Play with energy and move without the ball. Share the rock, take the shot when it’s there, and not turn the ball over too much (2 TOs in 12 games).

(Incidentally, this clip showed the Bobcats game I attended on a media pass at the Garden. More tidbits on DJ inside.)

He showed up together with Shavlik Randolph, but it was obvious Randolph became more favoured in Doc’s books as the big man off the bench as the season rolled on. Could he have done more? Maybe, but we will never know. I for one, was pretty happy with him. For a team that sorely lacked size, whatever contributions he gave (4 blocks in one Memphis game!) was more than what our draft big Fab Melo had to offer.

The Bad

If we really had to pick something and argue about flaws, it would likely be the rebounding.

While his rebounding average wasn’t fantastic (1.1 RPG), DJ delivered rebounds whenever he was on the court for extended stretches. In games where he played short minutes (less than 6 minutes), he more often than not, ended up with no rebounds. If we were to argue that rebounding is all about boxing out, hustling and grabbing that loose ball, 6 minutes (theoretically 12 possessions at least) should be more than enough time to make something happen.

I have always been a slow starter in basketball, Coming off the bench in league games at times, turned me into an insomniac with a massive hangover in the first few minutes of play. Perhaps, DJ just couldn’t “turn it on” and become a rebounding maniac the moment he stepped onto the floor? Not surprising by any stretch of imagination. Or perhaps, it was the defensive rotations that took him out of position for rebounding? No matter the reason, NBA athletes are just human beings, and we cannot expect every guy to be another Dennis Rodman.

The Verdict

At the end of the day, DJ came onto the team to bolster a badly-injured roster. With limited minutes, he did what he was supposed to. While more would have been a real bonus, I honestly do not think any blame could have been placed on the guy. Now that he has been traded to the Nets in the blockbuster Ticket/Truth deal and waived subsequently, we wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavours, and hope that he finds a place to call home in the NBA soon.

What did you think of DJ White’s contribution last season? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Drop a comment and let us know.

A Study in Green: Chris Wilcox

Our reviews from the 2012/13 season continue, this week turning our attention to a no-fuss veteran in Chris Wilcox.

Credit: @Lil_kaino

Credit: @Lil_kaino

The Good

Putting Taj Gibson on a poster

Putting Taj Gibson on a poster

Chris Wilcox’s Twitter said it all: ‘Minor setback for a major comeback.’ The man wearing #44 received some horrible news, namely the fact that he required aortic surgery in season 2011/12. This caused Wilcox to miss the remainder of the regular and post-season, including the run that would take Boston to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

The comeback of Chris Wilcox was quite remarkable. A man who was returning from a heart procedure that occurred in March of 2012, was playing in Boston’s pre-season campaign in November of the same year. He began the season with a flourish, playing like a man who had nothing to lose and illustrating just how happy he was to be back on the court. Pairing with Rajon Rondo early in the season by connecting on fast breaks and alley-oops, Wilcox proved he could be quite a handy role player for the Celtics on the offensive end.

For the season, Wilcox went for a ridiculous 72% shooting from the field. This was largely due to finding open looks under the basket, and being rewarded for running the floor. Another unbelievable statistic showed Chris Wilcox was the league’s most efficient offensive player in the regular season according to Synergy Spots data.

The entire NBA’s most efficient offensive player.

The Bad

Inconsistency plagued Wilcox’s 2012/13 campaign. He was bounced from regular minutes, to playing behind Jason Collins and Shavlik Randolph over the course of the season. On the defensive end, CW struggled to rebound the ball on a regular basis and was sometimes slow on defensive rotations, which might have explained his sporadic appearances. A thumb injury didn’t help his cause either, sidelining him for a good month of the season as well.

Wilcox found himself in the doghouse of Doc Rivers a few times too, which might have been the reason the Celtics attempted to trade him to Washington for Jordan Crawford at the deadline. Wilcox was able to veto the deal, which meant the Celtics were forced to send Jason Collins as part of the trade instead.

As a result of Wilcox’s inconsistent season, he was unable to gain minutes in the playoff rotation, only appearing in two games against the Knicks for a total of six minutes, despite the Celtics’ obvious need for a big presence in the paint and on the boards to help Kevin Garnett.

The Verdict

While appearing in 61 games this season, Wilcox showed glimpses of the energy forward-center the Celtics so desperately needed off the bench. The only problem was, strong performances on both ends were hard to string together for CW. Now as an unrestricted free agent, and with the Celtics roster containing so many big men, it would seem Wilcox may not return in green uniform next season. As a good locker room guy and ambassador for Lupus awareness (visit chriswilcox.com for more information), we wish him the best at his next team!

Let us know what you thought of Wilcox’s season by commenting below.

A Study in Green: Jordan Crawford 2012/13 season review

Jordan Crawford fan art credit Kaine Underwood, resident Celtics Down Under artist.

Jordan Crawford art credit Kaine Underwood, resident Celtics Down Under graphic artist.

Every night, he scares both coaches.”

Doc hits the nail on the head with this quote when asked about Jordan Crawford.  After our bench scoring spark plug in Leandro Barbosa went down, Boston had no choice but to try to bring in somebody else to add a semblance of offense to the bench unit.  Enter Jordan Crawford, who prior to joining the Celtics, was known for throwing down a 2 handed dunk on LeBron, and his love for shooting the basketball.  Towards the end of his Washington stint, Crawford’s questionable shot selection and maturity contributed to him being buried deep on both Washington’s bench, and Randy Whitman’s dog house.

The Good

At the price of seldom-used Jason Collins and an injured Leandro Barbosa, Boston’s biggest need was met when they traded for Jordan Crawford mid-season at a very cheap price (he is still on his rookie deal also).  Not only was his bench scoring (9.1ppg in 21mpg over 27 games with Boston) important, but, his ability to create his own shot was equally as important, especially with Rondo injured and out of action.

Crawford is also an extremely good passer, to the point when Danny Ainge casually mentioned that Jordan might be the best passer on the team.   Jordan’s vision and patience in probing a team’s defence has been one of the most underrated aspects of his game.

The Bad

Shot selection.

Jordan Crawford, Alonzo Gee, Kyrie Irving

Crawford has never met a shot that he doesn’t like.  Doc knew the type of player that Jordan was, but, he could not change him in such a limited amount of games, so, he just let him play.  There was a lot of good, but, unfortunately, there was a lot of bad too.  jump shots instead of moving the ball more, contested long jump shots early in the shot clock, and out of control drives were things that would drive us fans crazy.

Crawford also struggled mightily in the playoffs, where he saw his averages drop to 3.6ppg in 11.8mpg.  After an incident free run in Boston during the regular season, his immaturity came up again after a stirring Celtics win in game 5 at MSG.  In a game where Crawford was a DNP-Coach’s Decision, he had some choice words for Carmelo Anthony after the game-and nearly came to blows with the star.  It was an undisciplined act that left a sour taste in my mouth in what otherwise was a great victory.

Verdict

After some major moves, the Celtics now have an unbalanced roster, which includes a logjam at the shooting guard position.  With that in mind and with the acquisition of Marshon Brooks, a player with a very similar skillset, the Celtics have reportedly shown interest in moving Crawford.  The roster is severely unbalanced at the moment so dealing some of our shooting guards will be a must-whether we can get any value back for Crawford will be a deciding factor on if he is moved or not.

Jordan Crawford is the definition of an X-factor.  If he can control some of his wild shots/drives while playing with some more consistency, he could very well carve out an important sixth man role (just like Jamal Crawford type), whether or not it is for the Celtics, only time will tell.

What are your thoughts on Jordan Crawford?  How would you rate his performance in his short stint with Boston?  Is he a keeper, or trade fodder?

A Study in Green: Shavlik Randolph

The ‘A Study in Green’ series turns to a late-season acquisition this week, someone Celtics fans admired for his hustle and effort to put his body on the line for his team; Shavlik Randolph (aka #ShavKill).

Boston Celtics - Shavlik Randolph

The Good

After dominating as the leading scorer for the entire Chinese Basketball Association for the 2012/13 season, the Celtics signed Randolph to two 10-day contracts in February and March. Many didn’t know what the man could bring to the table, but once he found himself a spot in the rotation he was instantly noticed.

Although he only appeared in 16 games across the NBA season, Randolph proved himself to be an excellent rebounder. Sloan Piva of Yahoo! Sports noted if Randolph’s games had qualified for statistical leads, he would have been rated as a top 10 rebounder per possession in the NBA.

this guy grabs over 20 percent of all missed shots while he’s on the floor

The all-out effort wasn’t just for rebounding either, stepping up for charges and making rotations on the defensive end. Doc Rivers noted Shavlik was leading with his head, due to blood noses and countless falls to the floor. Randolph illustrated the kind of energy big man the Celtics had been in desperate need of since rookie Jared Sullinger had gone down with a season-ending back injury in February.

During his sixth NBA season, Shavlik posted a career high 16 points against the Cavaliers in April, and a career-equalling 13 rebounds against the Hawks at the end of March.

The Bad

For such a low-cost and low-risk player, Randolph proved to be a very nice addition for the last month of the regular season, with no real negatives to speak of. However, due to Doc Rivers’ desire to cut his Playoff rotation to only 7 or 8 players, Randolph barely got a look at the court for the Celtics’ short 6 game post-season run, posting a total 3 minutes of playing time.

The Verdict

While Randolph was only around the Celtics for the latter part of the season, he proved to be an energy guy with a great basketball IQ over that period. With the Celtics declining to pick up his option on the 1st of August for the 2013/14 season, I personally believe Shavlik will be missed. He has the potential to become a regular rotational big man, hustling for those boards and putting his body on the line for his team. If the Celtics don’t make roster space and invite Shavlik to training camp, I hope to see him do well with another team in the NBA.

Let us know what you thought of Shavlik’s short season by dropping a comment below!

A Study In Green: Courtney Lee

In this week’s edition of ‘A Study In Green’ we turn our focus to Courtney Lee.

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The Celtics acquired Courtney Lee in a sign-and-trade with Houston in July 2012. At that time, it was seen as a big step forward in trying to replace Ray Allen. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to find consistency and confidence throughout the season.

The Good:

It wasn’t all bad for Lee. When Rajon Rondo went down with that season ending knee injury, Lee stood up in the 6-game winning streak that followed. Over that streak, Lee was able to average 10.6ppg. His best game over that stretch came against Orlando, where he put up an impressive stat line of 14 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals.

Although Courtney wasn’t really able to find his feet with the team on the court, he looked to mesh well and become good friends with many of them off the court, especially Jeff Green and Avery Bradley. This is good for Lee’s future in Boston, with those two looking like being huge parts of the Celtics rebuild. I just hope next season, Lee is able to mesh better with them on the court.

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The Bad:

Towards the end of the regular season, Lee fell out of Doc Rivers’ rotation and hardly saw any game time. Personally, I thought this was a bad move from Doc, and don’t think that I’m only bashing Doc now that he has packed his bags for Hollywood. Yes, Lee wasn’t producing what we had all hoped, but I still don’t think he was playing badly enough to fall behind Jordan Crawford and to a lesser extent Terrence Williams. Williams did show glimpses, but I think Lee should’ve been getting more minutes than T-Wil.

To highlight just how little time Lee spent on the floor in the Playoffs, consider this: he played only 39 minutes and 9 seconds of 293 first round Playoff minutes against the Knicks.

(Ed: Let us not forget how hesitant Lee looked at times on offense. While this would have been a visible effort from finding the balance between deferring to Truth and Ticket and finding his own offense, he did succeed in making me cough blood on countless transition attempts, when he would pull the ball back into half-court offense instead of attacking.)

The Verdict:

Courtney Lee has 3 years and upwards of $15 million left on his contract. I hope he is still around next season to show us that he is still worthy of that contract. With a new coach, comes a new opportunity and a clean slate for Lee. I truly believe that Lee can find his shooting stroke and be a threat from beyond the arc next season.

What were your thoughts on Courtney Lee’s season? Do you think the Celtics should keep or trade him?

A Study in Green: Leandro Barbosa

Leandro joined the Boston Celtics in a very under-the-radar signing, right before the 2012-13 season commenced. He was merely picked up as an insurance policy to cover the backup minutes whilst Avery Bradley was out, and to serve as a 5th guard in a loaded backcourt upon AB’s return. With previous seasons of low production, and his 6th Man of the Year Award a distant memory, the media and fans were not sure how he would fit into a what was then a loaded roster. I was only happy we signed him because the Lakers were after him as well, and I was just happy to get in their way.

bos_g_lbarbts_400

As the season progressed however, he proved his importance to our team in a short timeframe, only to go down with a torn ACL before the All-Star break.

The Good

It didn’t take us long to see Leandro turn into the “Brazilian Blur”. On opening night, he single-handedly turned a Miami blow-out into a contest, dropping 16 points all in the fourth quarter while only missing 2 shots. His season averages weren’t mind-blowing by any stretch of the imagination (5.2 points & 1.4 assists), but he did give the Celtics an offensive spark off the bench on many nights where the team looked old and ragged. He also dazzled the crowd with a number of high-difficulty trick shots that left his defenders scratching their heads.

He received his big opportunity once Rondo went down with his season-ending knee injury, which opened up a spot in the regular rotation. Barbosa did not disappoint, averaging 8.7 points, 2.7 assists in just under 22 minutes in the 7 games after that. He was a big reason why the Celtics rallied to win 7 games in a row directly after Rondo went out. On the 8th game however…

The Bad

The Brazilian Blur tore his ACL to end his season, adding further insult to injury after losing both Rondo and Sullinger in a two-week span. This effectively was the straw that broke the camel’s back for an already depleted Celtics team.

Prior to Rondo’s injury, and Barbosa’s subsequent rise, he was playing very inconsistent basketball averaging a measly 1.3 points in the month of January, failing to score in double digits once. His erratic play, and questionable shot selection at times pushed him out of the regular rotation temporarily. His lack of minutes lead to reports by ESPN Brazil that Barbosa wanted out of Boston due to a lack of playing time (all of which he denied at the time).

bos_u_barb66_cr_400

The Verdict

Barbosa struggled during the season at times because of inconsistent court time, and seemingly, lack of offensive freedom. With Rondo in the line up, Barbosa was forced to play off the ball much more even though he is much more effective with the ball in his hands. Doc encouraged Barbosa to be more aggressive in his play offensively. To create shots for himself and others, but, forcing wild shots and disrupting the offense at times ultimately sent him to the bench.

After his minutes spiked from the Rondo injury, he enjoyed a lot more offensive freedom and regular minutes, showing much more consistency in his play. Just as the Celtics relied on him more and more, his body unfortunately failed him.

We wish him the best of luck for his recovery and for the next seeason.

How do you think Leandro Barbosa played in last season of 2012/2013? Leave your comments below.

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