How Does a Guy Who Can't Dribble Drop 27 Points in One Half?

November 15, 2005

As the Garden fans stood and applauded Raef LaFrentz , and as his teammates offered high-fives, there was an NBA scout at Sunday night's Celtics-Rockets game who offered the following on the big man's 27-point explosion in the first half, including 7-of-7 shooting from international waters:

"How on earth can you let a guy who can't dribble score 27 points in one half? It's embarrassing."

Jeff Van Gundy undoubtedly would second that emotion. The Rockets coach clearly was miffed that the 6-foot-11-inch LaFrentz had as much time to shoot his threes as Tiger Woods enjoys lining up a 15-footer. But while the comment was directed at the Houston defense, there also was the undeniable inference that a 6-11 guy isn't supposed to be so proficient shooting 3-pointers. 

"He didn't do that at Kansas," said Paul Pierce , who was a Jayhawk teammate of LaFrentz's for three years. "[Coach] Roy Williams wouldn't allow that for a big man. But Raef was so efficient inside back then we didn't need it."

LaFrentz connected on 7 of 9 treys in all, matching his career high of 32 points in the Celtics' 102-82 victory over the Rockets. As of yesterday, he ranked ninth in the NBA, connecting on 53.6 percent of his treys. The Celtics as a team took 25 threes against Houston, a season high. They connected on 12, the most in the 88 games Doc Rivers has coached in Boston.

No, Doc didn't morph into Jim O'Brien overnight. The Celtics average a mere 14.2 attempts a game from international waters, 19th in the 30-team NBA. But their connection rate (41.2 percent) ranks fourth. Which makes you wonder . . . why don't they take more?

"As long as they're through the offense, if we play in and out, or if they come off of pick-and-rolls where we find Raef, those are good threes," Rivers said. "We can take those all day. If we can get them that way, it means we've shifted the defense, we've moved the ball, and it's probably a stand-still, spot-up shot. I'll take that any day."

LaFrentz is an anomaly in the NBA a guy with the size of a center who plays offense on the perimeter. Does he even have a post-up game? Rivers says he does and LaFrentz said he did when he was in high school and college.

"In college, I scored virtually all my points on the block," he said. "I'm far from that now. My game has changed a great deal, partially because of my role and partially because of my body. I came into the league as a center, playing against centers. But I'm undersized, so we had to find something else to be effective. Fortunately, I've been able to hit that shot so, on some nights, it's a weapon."

That has been LaFrentz's big selling point for years. When the Mavericks got him from Denver, the consensus was he'd be able to pull Shaquille O'Neal away from the basket with his 3-point shooting. Didn't happen.

It can be hard for old-school coaches to look at a 6-11 guy and not see someone who should be down on the block, posting up, playing with his back to the basket.

"You are who you are," Rivers said. "Raef is that. Raef has a better post game than he lets on, but that's an area at times where he tends not to go. But just by stretching the floor with his outside shooting, he is so valuable to us."

Mention to LaFrentz that he should be elbowing with the big men in the trenches, and he bristles.

"The people who say those things don't understand what they're saying," he said. "It's not a matter of manhood. It's a matter of what role you play on a team. Mark [ Blount ] is not a wuss. I'm not a wuss. We tend to play on the perimeter and that's the way it is. And, believe me, we get our fair share of licks on the defensive end."

Eastman is out

Rivers's coaching staff is getting temporarily reduced by one. Kevin Eastman is leaving to take a job with Nike, and he bade the lads farewell yesterday after practice. "It's a big loss," Rivers said. Eastman had worked with Nike before coming to the Celtics. Rivers said there were no immediate plans to fill the supposed vacancy Doc still has six other assistants but that Robert Parish is a possibility . . . The Celticsnever trailed in Sunday night's blowout. Two nights earlier, they never led in a blowout loss to the Spurs . . . The Celtics are averaging 18.5 turnovers a game, second-worst in the league to the Play The Right Way Knicks. However, the Celtics are also second (to Charlotte) in forcing turnovers . . . Ricky Davis , through six games, is tied for third in the NBA (with Shawn Marion ) in minutes per game, averaging 41.7. Pierce is 11th at 39.7 . . . Tony Allen is due in a Chicago court tomorrow. Allen's aggravated battery case was continued last month so evidence could be presented to a grand jury. Allen spent two nights in a Chicago jail last month before posting $150,000 bond. He is charged in connection with an Aug. 28 fight that escalated into a shooting at a Chicago restaurant. The Class 3 felony charge carries a maximum of five years in prison.

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