Posted by: Nate | July 7, 2008

New Site up and running!

New Site is up!

Just wanted to let everyone know that I have officially moved domains from WordPress hosted, to a self hosted site. The new web address is http://www.207prospectus.com and all the new updates and content, along with the new design (which is still somewhat in progress) will be happening over there. So make sure to check out the new site, change your bookmarks and subscribe to the new RSS feed. I’ll have my Celtics Champioship post up shortly, including pictures from the parade, so be sure to come check that out.

I just want to say thanks for reading and following along here to those who have been reading for awhile and we’ll see you over at the new site.

Posted by: Nate | June 13, 2008

Just Call It A Comeback!

What a game. I was up, then down, then up and pacing and fist pumping, then swearing and banging the wall, then ecstatic all in the span of a couple of hours. After that roller coaster ride I wasn’t sure if I should celebrate or drink a glass of water and lie down for my health. I can’t wait to watch that on ESPN Classic in a few years.
I’d also like to point out that I really like the “Wired” feature ABC has running for the Finals, it really adds a cool element to the games. Not only do I get to hear the pre-game and halftime speeches from each coach, but other lovely snippets throughout the game that have the potential to be expletive laden. Great feature.

Speaking of the pre-game speeches, I wasn’t exactly jacked up by Doc Rivers address to the team before game 4, where he told them 63 different ways that they ought to be focused on winning the game. I also really disliked his decision not to foul at the end of game 3 and force the Lakers to make some free throws to really ice the game. It isn’t like they were doing all that well with the avalanche of opportunities they were getting all game. Why throw in the towel there? I didn’t get it. Follow that up with the bizarre speech and his T in the opening minutes of the ensuing first half train-wreck and I was looking for hit man.

I have to give credit where it is due though, and I think Doc has done a good job in this series as a whole, especially going small last night which spread the floor and sparked the run and harping about defense over offense (which won us the game). So, good job Doc and keep it up. I was questioning your job as recently as the East Finals, and you’ve finally shown flashes of competence and are making me and many others look foolish for our predictions of a lopsided coaching battle against you this series. Don’t let us down. You’ve already talked me off the ledge.

Ray Allen and Paul Pierce have been absolutely awesome this series, especially Allen who had turned in 4 great games in a row, and Pierce who continues to get to the line, make clutch shots and play outstanding D. Take out his stinker in game 3 and he is turning in one of the great performances overall in recent finals history.

After the first quarter, when the Lakers were making the extra pass, being aggressive to the hoop and helping off of Rondo to pressure KG, Pierce and Ray, I didn’t feel very good about this game. The Lakers looked like the team everyone thought they were when they picked them to win the series and they were making all the adjustments I thought they needed to in order to get back into it. Couple that with horrid play from our point guards early (I still don’t know why Cassell is getting into these games) and shaky performances from Pierce and KG on the offensive end again and we’re down 18 at the half and showing few signs of life.

Now, courtesty of “Wired” we got to hear Doc’s halftime speech to the guys that spurred the great comeback. Roughly: “Guys, we have to make plays defensively. Do that and the scoring will come.” Either they edited out some key inspirational part to that (unlikely) or Pierce made some comments in the huddle about sucking it up, playing hard D and recounting tales of the ’02 comeback against the Nets and the time he got stabbed 11 times and was playing ball again soon after (very likely). Whatever really happened, the ensuing half was THE BEST defensive basketball I have seen played in the NBA for a half ever. Considering the Lakers scored 58 points in the first half, and only finished with 91 is a remarkable turnaround. The Celtics were swarming around the court on the defensive end like a next of angry hornets, giving up very few good looks to anyone the rest of the game. That right there should be shown in basketball camps around the country as the crowning achievement of how defense wins games (and championships).

Huge contributions from James Posey and Eddie House off the bench, with House finally getting some minutes over the shooting machine Cassell and the hobbled Rondo. Can’t say enough about the big shots these guys hit down the stretch, the defense they played and the way that having a shooter that needs defending (House) on the floor opened things up inside for KG and Pierce to get to the rim. Kudos, Doc, on going with the smaller lineup and making the right adjustments. Maybe you just needed 15-20 playoff games in the same season to get the hang of it, who knows.

Series Notes So Far:

1. The Celtics have been successful when they establish an inside presence of some sort early. It can be KG, Perk, Powe or PJ but they need to take advantage of the foul-prone Odom and defensively soft Gasol. We saw what Odom can do when he is on the floor in the early going last night, so taking it to him early is critical.

2. Which leads into number two, as establishing the inside early allows Rondo and Pierce to slash through the lane and get to the hoop or kick out and give the shooters some open looks. Floor spacing is critical for this Celtics offense in the half court set and it all starts with making them respect you inside.

3. Cassell should not be playing in these games. When he is in, the offense stagnates as he wastes half the shot clock dribbling around before shooting a fadeaway 15 footer. You know a guy shouldn’t be playing when even Celtics fans are upset when he hits shots, since it just encourages him to shoot more. Give me Eddie House the rest of the way.

4. A few interesting numbers through 4 games:

Rebounding: Total: Boston +14
Offensive Rebounds: Boston +3
The Celtics have had an edge on the boards, giving them more second shot opportunities and more importantly, limiting the number of looks the Lakers get on offense.

Shooting Percentages: With the exception of the Game 3 loss, the Celtics have shot better from the floor, from 3PT range and from the line than the Lakers have. The other key component to winning playoff basketball next to defense is making your free throws. It also doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that more often than not, making more shots than your opponent will win you the game.

Hustle Plays/Heart: This is just an outside observation from a biased source, but outside of Trevor Ariza, Sasha Vujacic and Kobe Bryant does anyone on the Lakers team even seem to care about this series? I don’t see any of them on the floor, diving for loose balls, taking the hard foul, stepping up to take charges – nothing. Granted, not every player on the Celtics is doing all of these things either, but you are seeing a lot more hustle, diving and stepping up from Boston so far. Makes you wonder the toll a season of getting reamed out publicly by Kobe for mistakes has taken on some of these guys.

5. Ray Allen. The guy has come to play and has turned in four very steady performances and I was raising doubts about his ankles and ability to be consistent. He has shown up in the Finals as advertised, draining 3’s, nailing free throws and making some great passes. Hell, he’s even been pulling down a healthy amount of rebounds each game too. It’s everything we hoped for when we traded for him and the horrible visions of his dreadful first 2+ playoff series in a Boston uniform are long gone.

6. Two days from now could be a very sweet day here in Boston and work productivity on Monday could be very, very diminished across New England. I’m certainly ready.

Bonus Trivia: Other than Bill Russell, what NBA player has won more than 3 consecutive NBA titles? With which team/teams did he do this with?

Posted by: Nate | June 5, 2008

2008 NBA Finals Preview

With the  TV executives dream match-up of two great NBA powers beginning tonight between Boston and Los Angeles and the whole nation wrapped up in this series from the get go, it’s time for me to a do a preview of the series and the keys to success for each side.

Coaches:

I’ll start with the coaching match up between Doc Rivers and Phil Jackson. I think plenty of people have, and will, mention the huge disparity in this pairing. It is not an accident that Jackson has 9 NBA championships and is competing for his 10th. The man is an excellent coach with a brilliant offensive scheme in the Triangle Offense and has coached some of the most talented players in both recent memory and the history of the game. Doc, on the other hand, just won his first playoff series this season and has looked panic stricken and jittery for most of the playoffs. There are signs that Doc is coming around after grinding out 20 games with this unit already this post-season, but no matter how you spin this it’s a massive mismatch in the Lakers favor.

Starting Lineups:

Ray Allen               —     Kobe Bryant
Rajon Rondo          —     Derek Fisher
Kendrick Perkins   —     Pau Gasol
Kevin Garnett        —     Lamar Odom
Paul Pierce             —     Vladomir Radmonovic

I’ll say this right from the outset, I don’t think any one player on the Celtics will be able to completely neutralize and defend Kobe Bryant. We were the best defensive team in the NBA this season, and I don’t think any differently now, but Kobe is the reigning MVP, one of the greatest players of all time and is playing out of his mind as of late. There is no way Paul Pierce, James Posey, Tony Allen or anyone else takes Kobe out of the game by themselves.

As a team though, I think we can contain him much like we did LeBron by trying to force a lot of outside jumpers, contest everything in the paint and make him give up the ball. Granted, his supporting cast is much, MUCH better than LeBron’s, so it will certainly be a team effort defensively as Kobe getting 15 assists is just as bad as him scoring 35-40 points on his own.

Conversely, though, I am not sure the Lakers have a good answer for Paul Pierce defensively. He can take guys Radmonovic off the dribble or hit the long jumper over the likes of Sasha Vujacic. Putting Kobe on him is something the Lakers may employ, but at what cost to Kobe’s offensive game would this come? I think Pierce’s play will be a huge key to the Celts success and if he and Doc can properly exploit the mismatches created by him to get easy buckets or create opportunities for others, we’ll be in good shape.

Point Guard Play:

The Celtics have an edge in quickness, agility and offensive potential in the Rondo – Fisher match-up. Fisher is capable of having strong scoring games, but in that offense his is relied upon mostly to facilitate and hit the occasional open shot. Rondo’s role is virtually identical except he has shown a strong inability to make, and now even take, open outside looks. In his defense, when his is playing well eh can get to the hoop off the dribble often, if he is so inclined, but we haven’t seen a lot of that in recent weeks. Given Fisher’s experience both in the NBA and the playoffs and Rondo’s inexperience, tendency to rush things and relative lack of confidence in his game (thank you Doc Rivers and The Sam Cassell Experience) you have to give the consistent edge here to the Lakers.

The Big Bodies:

Kevin Garnett had his way with the Lakers during the season series (won by the Celtics 2-0) and has been a pretty consistent player throughout most of the playoffs. Granted, those 2 games were before the Gasol trade, so you have to take that into account. I’m not totally sure what Gasol brings to the Lakers defensively, but I think it’s safe to say that his ceiling there is probably “average” and his main effect on the floor will be his offensive output. I can see Garnett and Perkins easily having their way inside against both Odom and Gasol, neither of whom is going to be anything like the interior defense of Detroit with Wallace, McDyess and Maxiell.

Where things get interesting here, and frankly for the whole series, is the defensive match-ups. Do the Celtics put Garnett on Odom, which would likely draw him a bit further away from the basket due to his outside shooting? Or do they leave him on Gasol, which keeps him closer to the hoop to be able to help defend the rim and if so, who does Perk end up guarding? Radmonovic? Odom?

It’s very intriguing and I think the defensive key to the series is the Celtics ability to properly decipher the assignments needed to be most effective. The Celtics are more apt to win playing staunch defense and getting their scoring opportunities the way they have all season by working inside to KG and either having him take it or opening something up for an outside shot and then playing the glass. Here’s hoping that by game 3 Doc and the boys have figured out the proper defensive alignments and made the adjustments necessary to keep Kobe relatively in check. If not, Gasol and Odom can both throw up huge numbers offensively especially if Bryant continues his unselfish play.

The Allen Factor:


The third of my 3 big keys for the Celtics here, in addition to the play of Paul Pierce offensively and smart defensive play as a team, is Ray Allen. The question all Boston fans have been sweating since the Atlanta series is which Ray shows up for The Finals? If we get the Ray who can change the entire course and structure of a game by hitting 3’s (see Game 5 vs. Detroit) then the Celtics offense takes on a whole new dynamic. If we get bizzaro Ray who can’t hit anything AND not keep up with his man on defense, then we are in bad shape. Personally, I was encouraged by his play as of late and it looks like he is finding his touch again but it should be noted that Allen is almost 33 years old and coming off of 2 ankle operations this past off-season. Oh, and game 1 of the finals marks game 103 of the season, not counting pre-season games or off-season workouts. Let’s hope the Celtics employ miracle workers on the training staff like they do out in Phoenix for Steve Nash and Shaq…

The Benches:


As in most big playoff series, some games are going to be won by the role players and reserves who step up and fill in when the big guns are struggling. It’s a known fact. Let’s take a look at each squads key reserves (with apologies to Brain Scalabrine and co.).

For the Lakers, they have Vujacic, Farmar, Walton and Turiaf that see anything other than the deep end of the bench. Vujacic has a good shooting touch from the outside, evidenced by his career .381% from 3, which he elevated to .437% during the regular season and .411% during the playoffs. He’ll be counted on to spread the floor, hit the open shots and presumably cover the likes of Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo or whomever is replacing them for the Celtics.

Farmar is the backup point guard whose job is to spell Fisher and keep the offense flowing without screwing up too much. Basically, he’s Rondo without the offensive upside and starting role. He’s been struggling from the floor all post-season so it’s possible the Celtics player defending him will be readily available to double and/or help out on someone like Bryant or Gasol.

Turiaf is essentially just a warm body down low to come in, bang the boards, use his allotted fouls and give Odom, Gasol and Radmonovic a quick rest. The more minutes he plays in this series, the better for the Celtics.

Walton has been a key sub for the Lakers, providing valuable minutes off the bench by hitting open looks, finding the open man or making the hustle plays. He has the ability to be effective if left open or alone and has shown an ability to find the open teammate as well.

For the Celtics the bench fluctuates depending on Rivers’ state of mind. Some games we go 9-10 deep, others we play 8. I think he is getting the hang of a stable rotation, but again, we can only hope this is the case.

PJ Brown, the wiley veteran, has played his way into a prominent role off the bench and been very solid. He contributes a few points every game and can make an open jumper as well as hit free throws. He bangs inside on the boards and could be a sneaky source of rebounds for the C’s if he can get continue to get position as he has been in recent games. Provides another strong veteran presence for the team as well, which never hurts.

James Posey has become one of the lockdown defenders who can spell Pierce or Allen and hit open 3’s, making the loss of Allen from the floor less of a factor. My hope is that Doc utilizes his defensive ability a lot this series in an effort to curtail the potent Laker offense and no one takes too long of a look at his “Po-Z” tattoo.

Eddie House is the energy guy for the Celtics, adored by the fans and capable of hitting some big shots when needed. He doesn’t have the defensive ability of Posey, but has proven his worth in a moderate role off the bench. His biggest impact for me is probably his energy (seen here) over anything else, as maintaining intensity, especially on the road will be important. His son also plays a prominent bench role in cheerleading and flag waving, under the expert tutelage of Sam Cassell.

Glen Davis
/Leon Powe are the other big bodies who bang on the glass, utilize their fouls and score the cleanup points underneath. Both have had breakout games where they score 15-20 points during the course of the season, but I doubt either of them will get the minutes or the opportunities at this juncture of the season to repeat those efforts. Their playing time will also largely be a factor of the foul situation of the other big men in the game as well.

Sam Cassell is now head cheerleader and vocal leader for the team. We took a shot on him, and I think at this point it’s pretty clear he is running on fumes. His back is always wrapped like he just got out of a car wreck, and he has been atrocious from the floor. He and Eddie House’s kid should be cheering and nothing else this series.

The Prediction:
No one knows how Doc will coach this series, what kind of performance you’re going to get from half the Celtics players on a nightly basis and they are going up against one of the premier basketball players of all time at his absolute prime. Doesn’t sound like a winning equation to me.

However, the Celtics have home court advantage, the best defense in the league and enough X factors involved to take this series. It isn’t going to be pretty (much like the rest of their slog through the playoffs) but I think with the support of the Garden faithful, strong defense and a hot hand or two the Celt’s can take it, despite lacking the dominating player.

Celtics in 7!

Posted by: Nate | June 4, 2008

Ortiz injures wrist; Out 2-4 weeks.

As I am sure many of you already know by this point, Red Sox slugger David Ortiz injured his wrist Saturday against the Baltimore Orioles and has landed on the disabled list. I refrained form making a post initially because there was a lot of noise surrounding the severity of the injury and I didn’t want to throw up any misinformation. Now that it’s been a couple of days, doctors have looked at it and performed tests we know exactly what we are dealing with.

According to the Red Sox website, Ortiz will spend the next two to three weeks in the protective [wrist] covering with the hope that the rest will allow scar tissue to repair the partially torn sheath that covers the ECU tendon in his left wrist.” As you may remember, this is similar to the injury Curt Schilling had on his ankle during the 2004 postseason that led to the infamous bloody sock, so there is some experience with this type of thing on the team. Both manager Terry Francona and General Manager Theo Epstein told the media that doctors had informed them that surgery for this type of injury is unlikely at this point.”

While this sounds promising, the possibility of surgery still looms large in Ortiz and the Sox futures. The current plan is to immobilize the wrist for 2-3 weeks hoping that the tendon sheath will be able to repair itself. According to medical reports given to Francona The idea is that it heals over with scar tissue and he’s not a risk [for reinjuring the wrist].” Assuming that in 3 weeks or so they take the cast off and the wrist checks out with no pain, Big Papi will start to rehab and get ready for game action again and could return shortly thereafter. This is obviously the best case scenario for everyone.

Ortiz himself said that as long as the pain is gone and he can’t re-injure the wrist permanently by coming back, he would play through some discomfort and “clicking.” If the pain goes away, that’s the main key. If the pain goes away and I still have the clicking, then I can probably play through it and maybe fix it after the season. Otherwise, if I still have the pain, I’m going to be out.” If there is still pain after the cast comes off, it is likely that he will undergo surgery and be out for the season.

While things look bleak now, the team and Ortiz are remaining upbeat and the Red Sox actually have an excellent opportunity to audition some of their younger talent. Jeff Bailey, Chris Carter or Brandon Moss may all get a look with the big club while Ortiz is on the shelf in an effort to see what they have in the minors and if these players can fill the void, or if they should explore external options. If these guys play well, and they all have shown flashes of power this season and in their careers, then the Sox should weather this storm decently well. My hope is that one of these guys sticks for about a month and really increases their trade value and then Ortiz comes back healthy.

Currently, Chris Carter has officially gotten the call up from Pawtucket and his season line so far is as follows:

.310 BA, .366 OBP, .526 SLG with 10 HR (5 of which have come in the last week+). You can read the full scouting report on him here.

He certainly looks like a decent option, along with Jeff Bailey whose season line to date is:

.315 BA, .407 OBP, .668 SLG with 17 HR. His full scouting report can be located here.

I think both of these kids can perform at the MLB level and I am excited to watch them show off their skills at Fenway over the next 2-4 weeks. Here’s hoping that they continue to be successful with the big club and are just keeping the seat warm from Papi.

Posted by: Nate | May 28, 2008

Changes Coming Soon

Just wanted to let everyone know that I am currently working on setting up my own domain for this blog and moving it there, so I haven’t been posting as frequently as I would like. I’ll continue posting here until I have the new site all set up and designed the way I want it. Obviously, I’ll update here when the new site launches, and this link will re-direct there as well.

If you have any suggestions you want to see implemented in the re-design in terms on layout, readability, new features please, please let me know.

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