1. With Sheed Struggling, Finley Delivers
BOSTON -- When the Boston Celtics went shopping for a free agent to push them over the top in the 2009-10 season, they coveted a veteran with championship experience who could space the floor and hit big perimeter shots.
So hell-bent on delivering such a talent, Celtics brass boarded a private jet to Detroit during the offseason, hoping to lure Rasheed Wallace to Boston. The Celtics went so far as to overpay for his services, offering a three-year contract to assure he'd end up in green.
And while the 35-year-old Wallace hasn't nearly lived up to expectations, the same prototype showed up on the Celtics' doorstep earlier this month when Michael Finley arrived in town after receiving a buyout from the San Antonio Spurs.
Arriving with none of the expectations assigned to Wallace, Finley has already exceeded Boston's highest hopes by providing instant offense off the bench, even as he dives into the playbook.
Finley erupted for a season-high 15 points in less than 14 minutes Monday night, connecting on 6-of-7 shots, including a trio of 3-pointers, to help the Celtics thrash the visiting Pistons 119-93 at TD Garden.
In four games with Boston, the 15th-year veteran, from the same 1995 draft class as Wallace, is averaging 8.6 points, 2.4 rebounds and 0.8 assists in 14 minutes per game. That's on par with what Wallace is giving the Celtics at 9.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.1 assists over 23.1 minutes per game.
And it's costing the team more than $5 million less this season.
Fortunately for Boston, as polar opposites as the players are off the court -- Finley a sage veteran who said he'd be willing to impart wisdom to any players looking for it, while Wallace is the brash jokester who offers everyone a piece of his mind, from teammates to officials -- they've actually formed a formidable pairing on the floor.
While Wallace had another unremarkable -- yet surprisingly efficient -- evening by connecting on 3-of-4 shots for 8 points against his old team Monday, his biggest contribution has been creating shots for Finley.
"I've seen it in college when he was at Wisconsin, and you know, for the few teams he played with here in the league, I know what type of player Fin is," said Wallace. "That's one thing I told him when he first came here, when we're out there in that second unit, I'm going to swing you the ball, just basic basketball."
Said Celtics coach Doc Rivers: "I think Rasheed is doing a phenomenal job setting picks to get Mike open. For two guys that have not been together very long, Rasheed's realized what Michael can do and is using that body to get him open."
For his part, Finley says he's still learning the Boston playbook, particularly the team's help-defense scheme, given its stark contrast to the D employed by the Spurs.
"I'm still trying to find my way in," said Finley. "Like I've always said, this team was a good one before I got here. I just want to come in and help them be a better team, if that's possible. If I'm hurting this team, my ego can let me step away. I think I can help this team get to its ultimate goal [of winning an NBA title]. That's why I came here."
Finley is exactly the type of player Boston coveted this offseason. And, given Wallace's struggles to be effective, he might be exactly what they needed to make a true championship push.Chris Forsberg is a regular contributor to the Daily Dime
2. Super Feeling For Lakers
A few seasons back, NBA writer Ross Siler, then of the Los Angeles Daily News (now in Utah covering the Jazz for the Salt Lake Tribune), described the experience of writing about the Lakers as "82 Super Bowls a year."
Plus playoffs, of course.
Every game, big or small, is generally treated like Game 7 of the Finals by the faithful. But in my nearly five seasons covering the team, I've taken some amount of pride in keeping a level head. In not freaking out or losing perspective, remembering always that on any given night in the NBA, one team can beat another. Especially on the road.
On Monday night in Oakland, the Lakers chose to test my calm demeanor in a serious way. Quite frankly, against an undermanned, undersized Golden State Warriors team, one with about 35 percent of the D-League on its roster, only an act of God -- I'm talking a genuine, Lord Almighty-touching-the-Warriors-during-the-anthem act of God -- should have allowed the game to be close. This is a Golden State team so small, the sign at the amusement park noting how tall you have to be to ride this ride could post up half their lineup.
To read the full Land O'Lakers blog entry, click here
3. Daily Dime Live Recap
ESPN.com writers and TrueHoop Network bloggers chatted with fans and gave their in-game opinions throughout Monday's games -- all in Daily Dime Live.
4. Kobe Joins Magic
Kobe Bryant's 29 points led the Lakers to a 124-121 victory over the Warriors in Oakland. It was the 670th regular-season victory in which Kobe has played -- matching the total of wins in which Magic Johnson played, which is the second-highest in team history behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's total of 743.
• The Lakers had a commanding 56-25 advantage in rebounds in their victory over Golden State; we'll do the math for you -- Los Angeles collected 69.1 percent of the rebounds. That's the highest rebound percentage the Lakers have ever had in any game since the NBA introduced the 24-second clock in 1954.
•The Lakers' percentage was also the second-highest by one team in an NBA game this season; Philadelphia had 69.4 percent of the rebounds in a 117-101 win over the Warriors on Dec. 14.
5. Extreme Behavior
Aaron Brooks, Rockets: Sinks the winning shot with 2.9 seconds left, one of 11 buckets he had on 17 shots. Brooks finished with 31 points and nine assists in Houston's 125-123 win over the Nuggets.
Andre Iguodala, 76ers: Iggy missed all seven of his 3-point attempts in a loss to the Knicks, keeping him with Dwyane Wade, Baron Davis and Rasheed Wallace as the only players below 30 percent from 3 (minimum 200 attempts).
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
"I have a painting of him in my garage. I just walk by it with my head down."
-- Suspended Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas, talking about late Wizards owner Abe Pollin
6. Meet The Kobe
7. NBA Video Channel
8. March To No. 1 Pick
It's March Madness, baby! It's the big stage for some of college basketball's best players to show off their games. NBA scouts and general managers will be out in force over the next few weeks scouting everyone in the Big Dance.
A great March can really help a player's stock. Last season, Tyreke Evans and Jonny Flynn rode strong tournament performances to high lottery picks.
In 2008, Derrick Rose moved past Michael Beasley on most NBA teams' boards with an excellent performance, while other players like Russell Westbrook and Brandon Rush also helped themselves with strong tournament play.
In years past, Florida's Al Horford and Joakim Noah, LSU's Tyrus Thomas, Illinois' Deron Williams, Syracuse's Carmelo Anthony, Marquette's Dwyane Wade, Maryland's Chris Wilcox, Arizona's Richard Jefferson, Florida's Mike Miller, Miami University's Wally Szczerbiak and Connecticut's Richard Hamilton helped their draft position significantly in March.
Who will take advantage of the national stage to supercharge their draft stock this year? We've talked to multiple NBA scouts and GMs over the course of the season to give you a look at the top five NBA prospects they'll be watching in each NCAA regional. We'll start with the East.
To read the entire Ford blog entry, click here