Boston Celtics: Keyon Dooling
He Tweeted: "Hey everyone thank you for all the love and support that you guys give me daily. FYI I won't be returning this season #StayTuned"
And then: "Please don't be sad everyone. You never know what the future holds for me just know that I am pushing hard for each and everyone of you!"
Dooling, who now serves as director of player development for the Celtics, told ESPN Boston on Sunday that he'd be willing to consider a return to action if Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and coach Doc Rivers asked him to. Ainge soon after shot down the idea. The rumor persisted, leading to Dooling's acknowledgment that he would not return on Wednesday.
Dooling, 32, retired last summer despite agreeing to a one-year contract extension with the Celtics. He said at the time that he "had given the NBA 12 good years" wanted to spend more time with his family.
* On the surface, Dooling's decision to hang up his high-tops is surprising given that he's only 32. But the former first-round pick (10th overall by Orlando in 2000) spent 12 well-traveled years with six different teams. His on-court role last season in Boston was minimal (early-season injuries didn't aid that cause) and he was staring at being deep on the shooting guard depth chart this season. With nearly $30 million in NBA contracts pocketed, the grind of another 82-game season might not have had the same appeal it once did for the family-oriented Dooling.
* The Celtics will miss Dooling's off-the-court leadership. His ability to both nurture younger players like Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley, and offer unfiltered opinions to veterans like Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce made him an indispensable part of last season's team. Dooling will likely pass that leadership baton to Jason Terry, who will bring a veteran presence and voice to the Celtics' locker room this season.
* Selfishly, reporters will miss Dooling next season. Late in the season, he morphed into unofficial team spokesman of sorts, handling the not-so-glamorous task of being the voice of the team when media members were desperate to fill up their notebooks. Dooling had a way of offering a thoughtful take on any topic, whether it was basketball-related or otherwise. Dooling also served as vice president for the National Basketball Players Association.
* The Celtics have enough depth at the guard spot to account for the loss of Dooling (though they still have a small need for a pure backup ball handler). The departure does reopen the door for a younger player. The Celtics' signing of veteran center Darko Milicic Thursday brought the team to 14 guaranteed contracts for next season; the loss of Dooling pulls the Celtics back down to 13. That means the team's three non- or partially guaranteed players -- rookie Kris Joseph and first-year guards Dionte Christmas and Jamar Smith -- are still vying for two open spots (along with any training camp invite who could make an impression). Christmas, who already seemed to have the best odds because of the money guaranteed in his contract next season, takes another step toward cementing an NBA roster spot given that he has a similar skill set to that of Dooling.
* With a tip of the cap to salary-cap guru Larry Coon, the Celtics are still on the hook for Dooling's $854,000 salary (he'll actually make $1.35 million, but the league pays the remaining portion of it). Unless Dooling elects to forfeit his salary (or negotiates a low-money buyout), it appears the team will still be billed (which adds a wrinkle of difficulty given its cap constraints).
Dooling's agent, Kenge Stevenson, said in a statement: "Keyon has decided that he has given the NBA 12 good years and that it's time to pursue other interests and spend more time with his family. He will never forget his time with the Boston Celtics."
In his only season in a Celtics uniform, Dooling emerged as a strong veteran presence in the locker room last year, while overcoming early season injuries and contributing to Boston's lengthy postseason run. He finished the season with averages of 4 points and 1.1 assists over 14.4 minutes per game. He was re-signed to a one-year, veteran's minimum contract late in July.
"We'll miss Keyon's spirit and energy, both on and off the court," Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said in a statement. "The whole Celtics family wishes him well as he enters the next phase of his life."
Over the course of his 12-year career, in addition for playing for Boston, Dooling, 32, suited up for the Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, New Jersey Nets and the Milwaukee Bucks. He finished his career with averages of 7 points and 2.2 assists, having shot 34.9 percent from 3-point range.
News of Dooling's departure comes mere hours after the Celtics agreed to a veteran's minimum deal with free agent center Darko Milicic. Boston will still have 13 guaranteed contracts entering training camp.
The departure of Dooling bodes well for several of the players Boston currently has signed to partially or non-guaranteed contracts, including Dionte Christmas, Jamar Smith and rookie Kris Joseph. All three players could spend time at shooting guard and will be competing for one of the final roster spots when training camp opens in a little more than a week.
Minutes per game: 12
* Forsberg: Under. Dooling averaged 14.4 minutes per game in 46 regular-season appearances last year, but the Celtics restocked the guard position this offseason with the additions of Jason Terry and Courtney Lee. That'll make it a little tougher for him to find consistent minutes, so it will be on Dooling to define his role this time around -- whether it's as a pure ball-handler adding depth behind Rajon Rondo, or deep depth at the 2 with an ability to consistently knock down 3-pointers (like he did in the playoffs last year on short minutes).
* Payne: Under. Dooling will benefit from Avery Bradley likely starting the season out on the shelf as he rehabs from shoulder surgery. But once Bradley returns to the lineup, Dooling will revert to an insurance role. The C's will already have a logjam at the shooting guard spot between Bradley, Terry, and Lee. Lee will likely start at the beginning of the year, while Terry and Bradley will alternate between the backup point guard and shooting guard spots. Dooling will still have a voice on the team, but his time on the court will be minimal.
Points per game: 3.5
* Forsberg: Under. Smaller doses of playing time, coupled with the fact that Terry and Jeff Green are likely to drive the bench scoring will limit Dooling's opportunities to fill up the point column. He'll knock down the occasional clutch 3-pointer, but his value won't be judged in the least by his offensive output.
* Payne: Under. I'm choosing the under due to a lack of minutes, as Dooling has proven in the past he can hit timely shots and score in bunches when given the chance. That just won't be his role for this season's team.
* Forsberg: Over. Way over. Let's face it, every team needs a guy like Dooling. He's a consumate professional who will be ready whenever his number is called. But his biggest contribution will come in the role of -- as Brandon Bass so appropriately dubbed him last season -- the "Reverend." You can't put a price tag on Dooling's ability to mentor younger guards like Rondo and Bradley, whose ears he immediately attracted upon arriving in Boston last season. Couple that with Dooling's ability to tell the other veterans on the team when they aren't pulling their weight and you have a locker room leader whose value clearly exceeds a veteran-minimum salary. Dooling also served as a bit of team spokesman for the Celtics at times last year and, selfishly, reporters will be thrilled to have him back to offer his perspective on the team's season.
* Payne: Is there the equivalent of a salary cap for the number of upbeat veterans one team can have in its locker room? As if Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Terry weren't enough, Dooling adds that extra kick. Terry and Dooling are bound to hit it off and I'm firmly convinced they'll deserve their own radio show mere weeks into the season, with the draw being their charismatic and upbeat personalities. Dooling's so clutch to have around for the likes of Bradley, Lee, Dionte Christmas, and even Rondo -- and not just for on-the-court matters. If those guys want to grow into class-act professionals, there's no better role model than Dooling.
All four moves were previously known. The only player left to formally be signed and announced is Jeff Green, whose deal has been termed "imminent" for the better part of the month (though both the team and player's representatives have remained steadfast a deal will eventually get done).
Dooling, who averaged 4 points and 1.1 assist in 14.4 minutes per game last season, is back on a one-year deal at the veteran minimum. Said Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge: "Keyon’s veteran leadership was a very welcome addition to our locker room last season. His infectious energy both on and off the court is a great asset for this team.”
Collins, an 11-year veteran most recently with the Atlanta Hawks, is on a one-year deal at the veteran minimum. Said Ainge: "Jason’s ability to defend in the post will be a great addition to this team."
Christmas and Smith have partial guarantees on minimum-contract deals in hopes of earning a roster spot at training camp.
Team bios on all four players are after the jump.
Dooling, who cemented himself as a locker-room leader last season and overcame early injuries to be a solid on-court contributor in the second half of the year, will ink a one-year, veteran-minimum deal.
Dooling's agent, Kenge Stevenson, said his client is excited to be back in Boston. The Celtics owned Dooling's rights, but will re-sign him at a one-year, minimum deal. Dooling, who will earn $1.35 million (of which the Celtics are responsible for only $854,389) is taking a potential paycut, but clearly enjoyed his time in Boston and wants to be part of another title quest.
The 32-year-old Dolling averaged 4 points and 1.1 assists over 14.4 minutes in 46 regular-season appearances last season. More importantly, he emerged as a strong voice in a veteran locker room and was a person that young guards on the team looked up to.
Dooling also emerged as a fan favorite and created some bench continuity when he and fellow reserve Marquis Daniels created the "Flexin'" craze, a double fist-pump sideline celebration that took a life of its own into the playoffs.
When rookie center Fab Melo asked for his college digits last month, he was told No. 51 was unavailable as the team was seemingly keeping it warm for Dooling. Once all the other pieces came together, the sides were able to hammer out a deal.
Player: Keyon Dooling
2011-12 averages: 4 ppg, 1.1 apg, 0.8 rpg, 14.4 mpg
2011-12 salary: $2.2 million
Season highlight: After the 76ers dominated the first half of a pivotal Game 5 in Boston, "Reverend" Dooling (as Brandon Bass has dubbed him) sounded off in the locker room at halftime, not afraid to call out the Celtics' starting unit for lackluster play in a must-win game. The Celtics responded with a dominant second half en route to a 101-85 triumph. Dooling didn't offer much on the floor (0 points, 4 fouls, 2 assists over 9:25), but his locker room leadership was highlighted by his pep talk and proved that his contributions can't quite be measured in standard metrics.
Season lowlight: Dooling missed 16 of 17 games due to hip and knee issues starting in mid-January. After sitting out seven straight games, Dooling returned on Jan. 26 in Orlando, only to re-injure himself and miss the next nine games. It wasn't until late March that things really started to click for Dooling on the court.
Final grade: C+
Teacher's notes: Judging solely by his on-court production, Dooling probably had a D season. He averaged a career low in scoring (three points below his career average), shot below his career averages at all three major spots (40.5 FG%, 33.3 3PT%, 74.2 FT%), and his assists disappeared as he struggled to run the offense. What's more, his regular-season defense was mediocre at best. Then in the postseason, Dooling looked like a different player. He was more confident in his shot and showed a lot more intensity on defense. That, coupled with his leadership, helped boost his season grade.
What's next?: After playing for six teams in 12 seasons, Dooling might crave a little stability and said he would be interested in a Boston return. If the core is kept together, he might be a low-cost depth option and his value to the locker room is evident. (We'd be remiss if we didn't mention that Dooling was a locker room favorite of the media as well, patiently willing to tackle our questions and giving thoughtful responses. Readers got better insight on this team because Dooling was so accommodating to us.)
Honor roll: Click HERE to read past report cards.
Don't agree with teacher? Just want to sound off on Dooling's 2011-12 season? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.
Second-year guard Avery Bradley, who underwent shoulder surgery on Friday, was the only Celtic who didn't participate in Saturday's shootaround, and everyone else will be available for Saturday night's Game 7.
Saturday morning's shootaround consisted of a brief film session followed by a run through of halfcourt offensive and defensive sets.
"We’ve been doing that throughout the course of the season, it’s just magnified throughout the playoffs," Dooling said. "It’s something that kind of gets us going. We put two fists in the air and kind of pump our fists a little bit -- just something to let our guys know that we are cheering for them, we’re rooting for them. We've got their back."
After Boston's Game 1 triumph over the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference semifinals Saturday night at TD Garden, a reporter suggested that it looked like the players were doing chin-ups, Dooling chuckled.
"Well, if you’ve seen my body, you’d know I haven’t done too many chin-ups," he deadpanned.
Dooling admits the celebration could use a name. Someone asked Daniels about it on Twitter a couple of days back and he said simply it was a, "Florida thang," a reference to how Dooling (Fort Lauderdale) and Daniels (Orlando) are both natives of the Sunshine State. (Maybe that would be a good name for the celebration?)
Dooling said to ask about a name again down the road.
"What we're going to do is we're going to decide on the name and you can ask me next time," he said.
Your turn: Got a good name for the sideline celebration? Sound off in the comments.
Update, 9:42 p.m.: Well, go ahead and close the ballot box...
What if I told you Air France had taken just one 2-point shot this entire series? Yes, it was the impressive reverse layup at the end of the third quarter of Game 5, so Mickael is shooting 100 percent from inside the arc. From downtown? A whole different story. Remember how much we all use to complain about Rasheed Wallace’s shooting from downtown? Well, Mickael shoots it nearly just as much and for the past month, he’s been worse than Rasheed ever was. In this series, Pietrus has hit just 2-of-13 3-balls, clocking a horrendous 15.4 percentage from beyond the arc, while taking just over 2.5 attempts from deep per game.
* Forsberg's thoughts: We've been saying for much of the series that the Celtics need more offensively from Pietrus and it might be time for him to attack the basket with more aggression, hoping to give himself a spark and the 3-pointers will follow. But to put Pietrus' offensive struggles in perspective, consider this: According to Synergy Sports data, he is averaging 0.5 points per possession, registering a mere 8 points on 16 possessions, which ranks him in just the 3rd percentile among all playoff participants. By comparison, Ray Allen is averaging 1.143 points per play (40 points in 35 possessions). Pietrus gets a bit of a pass because his defense has been solid (even if the stats suggest that, even there, he's still struggling at times to contain the likes of Joe Johnson).
It seems prudent to also put Keyon Dooling in the spotlight while we're discussing Pietrus' offensive struggles. While Dooling was in and out of the rotation during the regular season, he's been nothing short of spectacular in the playoffs, scoring 21 points on a mere 14 possessions, good for a best-in-the-league 1.5 points per play. Dooling is 8 of 14 (57.1 percent) from the floor overall, providing much-needed bench offense as Pietrus struggles to find his own shot.
Dooling politely tried to steer the conversation to the other end of the floor.
"We made some shots, but the key for us was defense," he said. "We really locked in, defensively. We were able to kinda slow [Atlanta point guard Jeff] Teague down -- he’s like 'The Little Engine That Could,' he’s all over the place, but [Celtics guard] Avery [Bradley] did a good job of corralling him, our bigs did a good job of giving us extra shows... It was a defensive win for us."
Undeterred, the reporter asked again about the big shots. Keeping with his theme, Dooling got defensive.
"No, I heard your question," he said with a smile. "It’s not about what I did. It’s about our team and our defense."
And there in a nutshell is why coach Doc Rivers loves Dooling. Here's a player that was in and out of the rotation all season long, all while battling multiple injuries early in the season. His defense was downright atrocious at times, but here in the playoffs he's elevated his play. All while being a vocal leader on and off the court for the Celtics.
Boston players talked a lot about being professionals after Tuesday's win and Dooling's effort (and that of someone like little-used Marquis Daniels) epitomized how Boston bench players have stayed ready this season.
"We all have roles on this team," said Dooling. "My role has been like that all year. In the playoffs, everything is magnified, but we just want to lock in and encourage our teammates, and we felt like we had an opportunity to win. Nobody really gave us this game on paper without having [suspended point guard Rajon] Rondo, so we were looking at this as opportunity to step up again, and somebody did. We love stepping up to the plate."
With Mickael Pietrus plagued by foul trouble, Dooling logged 21:05 of floor time (more than Pietrus at 19 minutes) and was a big reason Boston was able to rally. Rivers had said there would be some unsung heroes in this series and Dooling made him look smart with his effort Tuesday.
Dooling was pursuing Jones around a screen set by Juwan Howard on the right wing, and Jones' elbow flung back on the handoff and struck Dooling in the face.
UPDATE: Dooling returned for the start of the second half.
One of the underperforming players getting a chance to distinguish himself is veteran combo guard Keyon Dooling. Acquired during the offseason in a trade with the Milwaukee Bucks, Dooling endured a frustrating first half while battling hip and knee ailments that limited him to 16 of the team's 32 games before the All-Star break.
Now operating almost exclusively as a shooting guard, Dooling has seen his court time jump up over the last 10 games and, while he's struggled at times with his shot, Rivers is hoping to get him going a bit.
"Keyon basically missed the beginning of the year, then he missed a big stretch [late in the first half due to injury]," said Rivers. "Keyon hasn't played a lot of games and he's had very few practices with us. He's just trying to get his rhythm. What I love about him is he plays hard every night and he plays with energy. And he's a threat behind the 3[-point line]."
Over the last 10 games, Dooling is averaging 3.1 points and 1.3 assists over 14.6 minutes per game and shooting just 24.3 percent from the floor during that stretch. The one thing Dooling doesn't lack is confidence, however, and even though he made just 1-of-9 trifectas in wins over Milwaukee and New Jersey, he isn't afraid to keep firing away. For the season, the 12th-year guard is averaging 4.9 points and 1.3 assists per game. Dooling's only bucket Sunday came on a 21-foot jumper late in the first quarter and he finished with two points, an assist, and a steal over 9 minutes, 24 seconds against the Knicks.
Unlike teammates Marquis Daniels and Sasha Pavlovic, Dooling is a veteran with his confidence still intact. The Celtics know they need more from their bench -- even as the rotation shortens up and it's harder for players to get on the court -- and it's clear that Rivers hopes he can get Dooling to evolve into a solid contributor during this stretch run.
Dooling injured the hip in the second quarter and soon departed for the locker room. He came onto the court after halftime, but was soon declared out for the remainder of the game.
Dooling scored three points over eight minutes in Thursday's tilt. He was averaging 7 points, 1.3 assists, and 0.9 rebounds over 18.4 minutes per game in nine appearances.
The Celtics were playing without three starters Thursday against the Magic in guards Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen and center Jermaine O'Neal. Boston, who played without five bodies in Monday's home win over Orlando, did get three players back in Dooling, Chris Wilcox and Mickael Pietrus.
Dooling, currently in his 12th NBA season, has played for six organizations (previous stops with the Clippers, Magic, Heat, Nets and Bucks), but it's only taken a month in green for the C's to jump to the top of his list.
"This is by far the best organization I've ever played for," Dooling said. "They make it fun to come to work every day. They take care of you from the time you walk in the door with that good breakfast, to the time you leave, with that good lunch. And obviously when you get the coaching of Doc Rivers and you've got all the history around this place, and you've got a whole city behind you, a whole state behind you, a whole area behind you, it would be just asinine for somebody not to want to play here."
Dooling was partly responding to an inquiry concerning the notion that high-profile NBA free agents don't see Boston as a desirable destination. But Dooling noted that he hasn't heard that perception of the city around the NBA. While not arriving in Boston via free agency himself (the C's utilized a trade exception to send the draft rights of Albert Miralles to the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for the veteran combo guard), Dooling has marveled at the reception he and his family have gotten within the community.
"It's been awesome for me. How many free meals have I gotten?" Dooling joked. "Dunkin' Donuts donuts and coffee and all that for free? Are you kidding me? Me and my family have been very, very impressed with the reception that we've gotten everywhere we've gone. As a matter of fact, the people who helped me move are coming to the game [on Friday]. It's just been awesome. People have just been awesome. I don't know if it's because I'm a Celtic or if it's my smile."
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