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Even though in a loss, I see improvement

Here is our second installment of the our CelticsLife 5 on 5, enjoy! Leave comments and post your own ideas below.

1. What is the biggest surprise so far? (Good or Bad)

Terry P: Our defense has gotten off to a rocky start. I know we don't have great individual defenders but our team defensively has always been great. I thought with a full training camp and most of our players healthy, we would start great on defense and would just have to work on our offense. I was wrong.

Jun: The biggest surprise of the season thus far has been our offense. We’ve actually been very good offensively so far, ranking 10th in the league in offensive rating. After ranking 27th last year, it is refreshing to see such a rebound. The biggest surprise is the fact that our offense is so good because we seemed to have somewhat fixed our main problems: turnovers and getting to the line. So far in the season, the team is ranked 3rd in FT/FGA (17th last year), and 8th in turnover percentage (25th last year). It is still early, but hopefully we can keep this offensive production up and get our defense back up to speed.

Mike D: Biggest surprise so far has got to be Barbosa. The dude made his practice debut 3 days before the season started due too Visa issues and yet has forced his way into the rotation (and temporarily - the starting line-up). The guy has always been a scorer but I thought it would be interesting to see how he fit into Doc's rotations with his defensive liabilities. So far (7.1 Pts/game in 15 mins/game) so good.

Jacob: The biggest surprise thus far has been Chris Wilcox's return to form. When he missed the preseason with back spasms, I was thinking he might miss a bunch of games early and never regain his athleticism from last year. However, he has played far better than we could have hoped for, running the floor well and bringing tons of energy. He's deadliest when playing with Rondo, and if he can stay healthy, Danny Ainge deserves praise for re-signing this guy to the min.

Karl: The biggest surprise is definitely Jeff Green being such a bust. Fortunately the last few games he's seemed to pick it up, but I have no sympathy for players with that level of talent that don't give 100% every second of the game. You know how many of us short gingers would love to play in the NBA? Step it up Jeff Green. You're better than this.

2. Who is a bigger threat: Knicks or the Nets?

Terry P: Knicks. I hate to say it. I tried to write the Nets here but I just couldn't. JR Smith is proving himself, Jason Kidd might be one of the best signings all summer (who woulda thought that striking out on Steve Nash could have been a great thing for them), and Melo is being a leader and a major MVP candidate. Nets beat us because we didn't have rondo and it was a back to back game (which we never do well). Knicks for now.

Jun: This is the Knicks, easily. Right now the Knicks have the best offense and second best defense in the league. The offense will probably slow down (hopefully) but the fact that they are so dominant defensively (and they were good last year too) and have an amazing bench gives them the nod over the Nets. The scariest thing about the Knicks is just how hot they can get from 3, which could prove fatal in a 7-game series.

Mike D: The Knicks. In the last 5 v 5, I said I wasn't buying the Knicks as true contenders yet, and I still have my doubts. Are Carmelo and J.R. Smith really new men? How will Amare impact the flow they have going? Big questions there. BUT..they look damn impressive. The Nets to me are a hodge-podge of talent that doesn't quite fit together. Humpheries/Lopez provide no defensive backbone and Joe Johnson dribbling in circles and then shooting a fadeaway at the end of the shot clock isn't an ideal crunch time offense. Bottom line is I see the Knicks getting a top 4 seed, while the Nets will start the playoffs on the road.

Jacob: The Knicks are a much greater threat than the Nets. They have a more dangerous offense: Carmelo looks amazing alongside role-players who have greatly exceeded expectations: Smith, Felton, even Kidd. Factor in that they aren't even healthy yet and they could be a serious challenge in the playoffs. The Nets look solid but they aren't good enough on offense to overcome their poor defense. The biggest reason the Knicks are better, literally and figuratively, is Tyson Chandler. His impact has allowed the Knicks to actually play good defense at times, whereas Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez have nowhere near that ability. Ultimately, however, neither of these teams should be a big focus for Celtics fans, because if we're not significantly better by the end of the season, then we're not going to be able to defeat the Heat, Clippers, and Spurs of the league.

Karl: Nets. The Nets starting 5 is frightening with the addition of Gerald Wallace. The Knicks will come back to earth at some point and Carmelo will play hero ball in the playoffs. Deron Williams for the Nets frightens me. If he puts it all together he could be the best point guard in the league. I also like Lopez down low and Joe JOhnson, though an underachiever, will win the Nets a playoff game they weren't supposed to win. That being said Celtics in 6 if they play each other.


3. Who has a better Layup, Rondo or Barbosa?

Terry P: I love Rondo but Barbosa has this nice high arc, off the backboard lay-up which is so pretty. He put it on display last night. His speed and quickness to the basket mixed with his soft touch around the rim is so wonderful to watch. Every time he has a layup I know he will make it regardless of the difficulty.

Jun: Rondo. They are both great finishers, in terms of aesthetically pleasing layups and actual finishing capability, but Rondo gets the nod for his creativity and better finishing ability (64.1% vs. 61.1%). Barbosa is a speed demon but Rondo is a wizard with the ball. Also I have a thing for wrong-footed layups.

Mike D: Rondo. I'm a big fan of Barbosa (see question 1) but it's Rondo. The "opposite hand lay-up" (using right hand on left side of the hoop or vice vera) has become his go-to move. And the way he can manipulate his body and beat people to the rim makes it borderline unstoppable. Barbosa is really quick, but Rondo is more explosive.

Jacob: Rajon Rondo has one of the best layups in the league, particularly in terms of trick shots. However, he's generally not the most consistent, having blown wide open layups, and here at too high a rate (with some really memorable whiffs in the clutch. While Chris Paul and Tony Parker aren't any better in terms of incredible highlight layups, they are closer to automatic. The good news is that this year, Rondo's field-goal percentage has been terrific and he seems much more dependable from close range.

Karl: Rondo, though both of these guys are just incredible finishers. I think Barbosa wins in style points but Rondo wins in pure consistency. Plus how could you vote against Rondo in anything except free throw shooting?

4. Do we need a trade? If so, what would work?

Terry P: I would, but nothing too big. I want to keep Bradley, I love the way he worked out last season. Jeff Green's contract as of right now is probably not on any other teams wish list while Sully is too much of a good prospect to trade. So after saying that, there is probably nothing I could trade or change as of now.

Jun: I do think we need a trade, not a major one, but something that can get rid of the flotsam on our bench to try and get some better flotsam. Darko and Collins are just wasting space on the bench and we have too many combo-guards (as good as that sounds). A trade of one of our scrub bigs and a combo-guard to try and get an upgrade at the bench big position would be great. Very difficult to pull off, but I think we need it to stay in the conversation for contention.

Mike D: Not yet. In about a month the Celtics will be making a fantastic trade . Avery Bradley for no one. Bradley's defensive presence transformed this team last year and I think he can really put his mark on this year's edition. At the very last the C's need to see how the team reacts with Bradley back in the line-up before making a potential blockbuster. A 5-4 start isn't the end of the world, if anything - I've liked what I've seen.

Jacob: It's too early in the season to be thinking about a trade. We haven't even seen Bradley play, barely seen Darko Milicic or Jason Collins, and most of our pieces are still getting acquainted. Leandro Barbosa, Courtney Lee, Jeff Green, and Jason Terry have all shown off serious ability but at the same time have had many forgettable, even horrible nights. Throw in the fact that guys like Brandon Bass and Green can't even be traded until later in the season, and discussing trades is more for the fun of the "what if?" game than for actual fact-based discussion. Get back to me in 40 games; if Boston is 2nd in the East and healthy, I wouldn't break up our chemistry unless it's for an All-Star caliber player (or a minor trade where we don't give up any rotation players.) If we're 6th in the East and struggling with injuries, then it's time for Ainge and Co. to get creative.

Karl: It's too early. Look, I'll be the first one to admit that I don't know enough about salary matches and this and that to argue this as well as the rest of the writers. I'm an idea guy not a facts guy. At the same time I know we can't trade Jeff Green for Josh Smith or something else ridiculous and I definitely don't want to get rid of Bradley. Sullinger hasn't done much this year so he isn't really an asset either. I'd say make a trade for a rebounder, but we have no one to trade for. I like this team right now and think if we put it together we'll be okay. People need to realize or rather remember that the regular season is not about wins and losses it's about getting your lineups together. As long as we get a 5 or 6 seed we'll be fine.

5. How did you like Doc Rivers howling at the ref for the Bogans' foul?

Terry P: Doc cracks me up! He even showed the ref last night hooking Bogans himself. I love Doc man we are so blessed to have him as our coach.

Jun: I loved it. Doc’s reactions to things are arguably the best in the league, and it is impossible to not be entertained by them. Doc cares about his players greatly, and he really shows it with everything he does on the court. The referees were also pretty bad last night, so he had every right to be angry.

Mike D: Doc is the M-F'ing man. Love everything about the guy, including this. When you see stuff like this it shows the respect that Doc has from players across the league, not just in the Celtics locker room. The good doctor does what he wants, when he wants too.

Jacob: One of the many reasons players love Doc Rivers is that he always sticks up for them. He often takes the blame after losses, and he jumps on referees who miss calls. The Keith Bogans foul was an obvious flagrant to me, so Doc was justified in ripping the officials. Any time you reach around a player's throat as opposed to going for a block, you deserve a flagrant. Keith wisely held Barbosa up after the initial contact, a smart veteran move to make it seem less extreme, but that is still an excessive and dangerous play. The biggest mistake by the refs was calling a foul when Barbosa stole the ball in the last minute, bailing out the Nets. But to be fair, anytime two of your best shooters miss 4 free throws in the last 40 seconds, (Paul Pierce then Jason Terry), you don't deserve the win. Boston easily could have won, but it's obvious home-town bias to say "The ref's stole the game!"

Karl: Loved it. Look, I didn't think that was a flagrant foul but it was worse than most flagrants that are called in the league these days. You can breath on someone and you get a flagrant. How is wrapping your arms around their neck not a flagrant. I love Doc Rivers's commitment and loyalty to his guys. Also, though I used to think yelling at refs didn't change the way they reffed, the fact is these guys are human and you never know what that affect can have on the next borderline call.

Feel free to share your answers to these 5 questions below.

Terry P =) 11/16/2012 09:06:00 PM Edit
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