Courtney Lee has all the tools. He can shoot, jump, run,
dribble and defend. With all those skills, the biggest question is why the
27-year-old Western Kentucky product is on his fourth team in five NBA seasons.
A quick rundown of the point guards Lee has played
with in his career may help explain why. Jameer Nelson, Devin Harris, Kyle
Lowry and Goran Dragic are all decent players with varying high points in their
careers, but none is a distinguished floor general. Lee, who is known for being
able to finish on the break and hit an open jumper but cannot always create his
own shot, would have benefited from playing a true playmaker.
Lee finally may have found that playmaker in Boston. Using
the most uncomplicated of offensive strategies — run out ahead of the defense,
catch a pass, score a layup — Lee piled up 18 points to tie Paul Pierce for
the game's high in the Celtics' 115-85 win over the Brooklyn Nets in a
preseason game Thursday.
Lee hardly had to take a shot from beyond 10 feet as he shot
8-for-12 from the field. He made a few nice individual plays, to be sure, such
as a step-back jumper that thunked through the nylon. But most of the time he
simply reaped the benefits of Rajon Rondo's awareness and deft passing, which
in turn had been facilitated by Lee and the Celtics' strong defense. (Lee had four
steals to help Boston forced 19 steals and hold Brooklyn to 37 percent
This could be why Lee agreed to a sign-and-trade deal in
August when he might have gotten more money as a free agent elsewhere. Rondo
could turn out to be a career-maker for the well-traveled shooting guard, who
may have only needed a point guard to give him the ball in the right spots. Likewise,
Lee appears to be the type of backcourt partner Rondo has dreamed of having –
one who can not only shoot and defend, which Rondo has had in Ray Allen and
Avery Bradley, respectively, but who can also beat even Rondo down the floor
and finish in traffic. The Celtics count on Lee being able to do all three, and
Rondo seemed to enjoy hitting Lee for touchdowns in Brooklyn.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers claims to love the depth of his
team, but he would rather not test it this early. Seeing Pierce limp off
the court in the second quarter after turning his left ankle therefore must have
been unnerving for the coach. Many of the Celtics players are somewhat
replaceable in the rotation. Pierce is not one of them.
Pierce had his ankle retaped and returned for the second
half, so a crisis was averted. The moment still served as a warning, though,
that Danny Ainge's best-laid plans are dependent on health and luck, just like
anything else. Brandon Bass did sit out the second half with what was described as a bruised right knee, but that was merely precautionary.
GREEN CLEANS UP
Jeff Green is not an incredible shooter and his athleticism
is not off the charts, yet somehow he makes it all work. Green's best quality might be
that he never gives up on a play. That was evident when he trailed a play that
should have ended with Jason Terry hitting a layup, but the ball spun out of
the cylinder. Before any of the Nets players reacted, Green glided in and
tipped the ball in.
Maybe Green would have made this play anytime, anyway, and
he had his share of hustle plays with the Sonics and Thunder and at Georgetown
before that. But given his year away from the court, one has to wonder if he
appreciates those types of plays a little more.
STATS ARE FOR DUMMIES
Blowout preseason games generate some weird statistical
quirks. The team on the winning side of a whuppin' typically spends a lot of
time at the line, but the Celtics never really had a chance to get to the foul line in
this one. They were too busy running unimpeded to the rim or simply draining
unmolested jump shots. The Celtics managed their 30-point victory despite shooting
21 fewer free throws than the Nets.
How hot were the Celtics? They were so hot, their shooting
percentage actually got better as they moved farther from the hoop. They
connected on 11 of 19 shots from 3-point range (58 percent) compared to 48 of
85 overall (56 percent). That is correct: The Celtics shot a better percentage
on threes than they did on twos. It was almost like those short shots were too
easy for the Celtics in this one.