Gary A. Vasquez/US Presswire
The Celtics were left clawing at Andrew Bynum, trying to slow the Lakers' big man.LOS ANGELES -- Celtics coach Doc Rivers didn't try to sugarcoat it while addressing his team before Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
"The Lakers are bigger than us -- they are going to be bigger before the game, in the middle of the game, and after the game," Rivers said to reporters, relaying his message to his team. "So we’re not going to grow today, but we have advantages in other places and that’s how we are going to have to play."
That's a message he'll be telling his team for the foreseeable future unless it can find some big-man talent somewhere (anywhere?!), particularly with Thursday's trade deadline rapidly approaching.
The Celtics currently have two big men with questionable futures as Jermaine O'Neal contemplates potential season-ending wrist surgery, while Chris Wilcox is seeking further tests for a cardiac ailment that could likewise end his year. All of which leaves Boston thin on big men and searching for a serviceable 7-footer by any means necessary.
"Obviously, we’re looking to grab a big from somewhere, hopefully not by giving away a player, but hopefully by going another route," Rivers said. "With Chris’ situation, the tough part about it is, we don’t know if he’s going to come back or not, and the [trade] deadline is coming up. So the quicker, obviously, we find that out, it does help us. We need another [big man] regardless, so we’ll be out there. I don’t think there’s a bunch of teams lining up to help the Celtics."
The Celtics' preference seemingly would be to swing a trade for a proven big man, which would prevent them from having to eat a contract by waiving a player from their maxed-out 15-man roster. But Rivers stressed the team wouldn't sacrifice future financial flexibility to navigate that path. Which means the team might have to investigate less optimal ways to free space (releasing rarely used Marquis Daniels or buying out O'Neal if he can't return would be potential avenues).
As if the Celtics needed anything else to worry about with their bigs, rookie center Greg Stiemsma, who did not play the final 13 minutes on Sunday, left the Staples Center with a walking boot on his right foot, apparently a precautionary measure as he moved around the locker room without issue immediately after the game. Stiemsma endured right foot ailments while in college at Wisconsin.
Stiemsma logged 14 minutes in Sunday's loss to the Lakers, making his only shot while chipping in 2 points, 4 rebounds and 3 blocks (including one on both Gasol and Bynum). The Celtics leaned heavier on Kevin Garnett (35 minutes) while using Stiemsma as the only reserve big, but Rivers noted that he'll attempt to drive Garnett's minutes back down Monday on the tail end of a back-to-back against the Clippers.
Regardless of personnel, the Celtics have to find a way to be more competitive up front. The Lakers won the battle on the glass (42-34) and points in the paint (42-30). Bynum went off for 20 points and 14 rebounds, while Gasol added 13 points and 13 rebounds. Maybe no frontcourt is as daunting at the Lakers', but the Celtics are coming off a week in which they were absolutely annihilated on the glass, somehow stealing wins over Houston and Portland in which they were outrebounded by at least a minus-19 differential.
Asked after the game for Boston's defensive strategy on Bynum, Rivers quipped, "Whatever it was, it wasn't very good, clearly. We feared that he might have a big game with our lack of size. What we wanted to do was make sure we stop the others. [Metta World Peace] had 14 points, [Matt] Barnes has a big tip-in -- I thought those were the plays that beat us. Bynum was phenomenal, give him credit, but going into the game we thought there was chance of that, but we should still win the game."
Doc's diagnosis on Celtics-Lakers struggles
Rivers stressed that the reason for the Celtics' and Lakers' early-season inconsistencies were different, blaming Boston's woes on poor conditioning, while saying the Lakers' roster movement made things difficult on first-year coach Mike Brown.
"I know us, we just didn’t come into the season ready, in my opinion, as far as physically," Rivers said. "When you’re not a young team, that catches up to you. Right now is the best condition we’ve been in as a team, then obviously we get [the O'Neal/Wilcox injury] blow, but I like where we are at now, besides the injuries, which are part of it.
"I do think [the Lakers] had the big [Lamar Odom] trade right before the season started. And I think that kind of threw things in a flux for them. Honestly, they had two big trades really, just one of them happened." A deal with league-owned New Orleans for Chris Paul was nixed. "I think that had an impact on their team, I think it had to. I thought that made Mike’s job almost impossible early on. Walking in to coach a team, you have your preseason talks and you get them all to buy in, and then a trade happens where three or four of them are involved -- then one is rejected -- where’s the trust after that? I think it made it a very difficult job for Mike. I wouldn't want to be in that situation."
Loose balls: Crossing paths
* Darren Erman, a former Celtics coaching assistant, waited outside Boston's locker room after Sunday's game to greet old friends. Erman is now an assistant coach for player development with the Golden State Warriors, who visited the Los Angeles Clippers for the back end of a Staples Center doubleheader on Sunday night.
* With the floor changeovers taking place at the arena, players were redirected in all directions trying to depart after Sunday's game. Rivers and Rondo were making their way toward the Celtics team bus when they crossed paths with Kobe Bryant. Rivers immediately hollered for Bryant and it was hugs all around.
* Chris Paul, arriving for the Clippers game, was headed in that same direction soon after the Rivers, Rondo and Bryant dap-fest. Not sure if he passed Rivers and Rondo in the crowd of bodies, but if he did, well, it would have been awkward given the preseason flirtations with a potential Paul-for-Rondo swap.
* Mickael Pietrus rolled his left ankle in the first half and sat out a long stretch before returning with a minute to go in the third quarter. His putback in the opening moments of the fourth frame helped Boston rally ahead. Pietrus, who missed Friday's game with right knee soreness, played just 10:55, chipping in five points on 2-of-7 shooting with three rebounds, a steal and a block.
* Paul Pierce and World Peace were tagged with double technicals for a third-quarter dust-up (though Kevin Garnett probably deserved one more for an emphatic shove of World Peace while trying to separate the two). The flare-up seemingly fueled World Peace, who went off for 10 third-quarter points and helped stop Boston's initial run after the Celtics had pulled ahead early in the second half.