Five 'glue guys' to watch in the NBA this season


Five 'glue guys' to watch in the NBA this season

BOSTON – Golden State’s Stephen Curry and his backcourt mate Klay Thompson, along with Draymond Green, hauled in most of the headlines this past season in the Warriors’ jaunt towards an NBA title.

But in the NBA Finals, it was Andre Iguodala who came away as the Finals MVP, proving yet again how valuable “glue guys” can be when it comes to winning at a high level.

Iguodala was a former All-Star, a known commodity prior to helping the Warriors win it all.

But every year there are players who emerge as “glue guys” who play a vital role in their team’s fortunes.

They don’t necessarily put up great stats and for large stretches of the season, their work flies below the radar of most fans.

If their respective teams win a lot of games, chances are you’ll hear the names of others being significant to that success before they are mentioned.

But that’s OK.

That’s what glue guys are about.

And as Green (five-year, $85 million to stay with the Warriors) and DeMarre Carroll (four years, $60 million to play for Toronto) proved to us all, you can still haul in a nice payday and not necessarily be the best or second-best player on your team.

That said, here are five players who won’t blow you away with their numbers but they may wind up being their respective team’s most important player when the games matter most:

Kevin Garnett, Minnesota
Last season: 6.9 points, 6.6 rebounds per game.
Kevin Garnett the perennial All-Star is long gone, folks. But the player he is today is still relevant, especially for a team like the Timberwolves with so much youth. Even at 39 years of age, Garnett is still one of the craftier players in the NBA who can impact games with his mind as well as his body. Having a player with that kind of basketball DNA is a huge asset for a Minnesota franchise that’s rebuilding around rookie of the year Andrew Wiggins and a host of other young but talented players. The Timberwolves will be better this season but certainly not a legit playoff contender in the Wild, Wild Western Conference. Garnett’s presence will play a prominent role in that on-the-floor growth. And as far as what Garnett brings to the floor, he can still hold his own when it comes to defending bigs, especially “stretch 4s.” According to NBA.com statistics, players defended by Garnett shot 7.3 percent worst from beyond 15 feet with him guarding them compared to their usual shooting percentage from that range.

Alonzo Gee, Portland
Last season (Denver and Portland): 4.5 points and 1.7 rebounds
Without LaMarcus Aldridge (signed with San Antonio), the Blazers will have to play differently and that change will likely mean becoming a more defensive minded, grind-it-out kind of team. That’s great news for Gee who came over from Denver and immediately showed that he could defend multiple positions on the floor and be effective which was evident by him leading the NBA last season in defensive field goal differential (minus 7.9). That means opposing players shot 7.9 percent worst from the field with him guarding them, relative to what they usually shot from the field. Those numbers aren’t going to fill up seats anytime soon, but it does provide hope that Portland’s Aldridge-less future will be brighter than most expect.

Terrence Jones, Houston
Last season: 11.7 points, 6.7 rebounds
Jones has been one of the more under-rated players out West the past couple of seasons, doing a good job of getting value out of his role gradually increasing. While the Rockets have benefited from his pick-and-pop game which has helped to create better shot opportunities for James Harden, Chandler Parsons and Dwight Howard (when healthy), Jones’ ability to finish while rolling to the basket is even more impressive. Last season he had the fourth-best effective field-goal percentage of 73.3 percent when rolling to the rim. You have to wonder just how good the Rockets would have been if Jones’ season wasn’t limited to just 33 games courtesy of inflammation in his left leg and later, a collapsed lung.

Kyle O’Quinn, New York
Last season (in Orlando): 5.8 points and 3.9 rebounds.

The Knicks’ lack of an elite or even a proven point guard means good looks (i.e. open) at the basket will not be plentiful. That’s where the signing of O’Quinn becomes such an important one for New York and its quest to get out of the NBA basement and become somewhat relevant again in terms of winning games. Last season with Orlando, O’Quinn seemed to be at his best when faced with a defender tightly contesting his shots. In fact, the 6-10 forward shot 61.5 percent from 2-point range last season when he had two feet or less of space to operate with prior to shooting. That was the ninth-best field goal percentage under those circumstances in the NBA last season.

Jae Crowder, Boston
Last season (in Dallas and Boston): 7.7 points and 3.6 rebounds.

From being a trade throw-in in December from Dallas, to becoming an indispensable part of the Boston Celtics’ future. Look around folks. Nobody was going to get a five-year deal from Danny Ainge except Crowder (five years, $35 million), and the reason is simple. He is a guy that this franchise knows they have to absolutely have around if they are to continue climbing up the Eastern Conference standings. You don’t need to call on a search party to find players on this roster as it is constructed now, who can do some of the things Crowder does, better. But when you combine all those skills such as scoring, defending, rebounding the ball and then you throw in the two biggest intangibles to good play – leadership and toughness – the picture of Crowder’s value becomes very clear. The addition of Isaiah Thomas at the trade deadline last season made Boston better, but it was the ascension of Crowder into getting more minutes was what made Boston one of the best teams in the NBA after the all-star break. He gets a full training camp to establish his role with the team, one that may involve him coming off the bench. But that doesn’t matter. Whether he’s starting or coming off the bench, Crowder has shown the ability to impact games in a big way at both ends of the floor, the kind of player Boston needs as they continue pushing forward with the goal being to build off the success of last season.

Horford helps Celtics get back on track

Horford helps Celtics get back on track

Aggressive Al Horford was on the floor Friday night for the Boston Celtics, a good sign for a Celtics team that has been battered by injuries. 

As the oldest member of the team, the 31-year-old’s leadership has to become more example-driven as well as existing in the spoken word.

CELTICS TALK PODCAST  - Smart's importance to C's, dissecting the East

Horford was on point for most of Friday’s 92-83 win over Orlando, a game that was far more lopsided in Boston’s favor than the final score might indicate.

The 6-foot-10 forward/center had a near double-double with 15 points and nine rebounds. 

What was more telling was that Horford took a team-high 18 shots from the field, as clear a sign as you will find that Horford’s mindset on Friday was to attack Orlando’s defense early and often. 

And while it’s true that the Magic are one of the worst teams in the NBA, that doesn’t diminish the way Horford executed the plays called by head coach Brad Stevens as Horford played the role of primary scorer more often than usual, instead of being a major facilitator.

Having missed Boston’s previous two games, Horford was admittedly concerned if the lay-off might affect his conditioning. 

“Wind-wise I felt good,” Horford told reporters after Friday night’s win. “A little rusty on offense. But defensively I felt great. I felt our team came out with energy; just a good win.” 

A win that became a lot easier to get with Aggressive Al on the floor. 

 Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds in Boston’s 92-83 win over Orlando.



Terry Rozier: He continues to provide the Celtics with really solid guard play, with all-star guard Kyrie Irving (left knee soreness) missing. Rozier had a game high-tying 17 points along with seven rebounds and five assists. 

Greg Monroe: The third quarter was when Monroe really began to take over the game. He finished with 17 points, 10 of which came in the third. 

Shelvin Mack: Not a lot to cheer about for Mack and the Magic who once again struggled in so many phases of the game. But Mack still managed to score 16 points. 



Al Horford: Having missed the two previous games, Horford was back in full force on Friday. He had 15 points on 6-for-18 shooting to go with nine rebounds

Boston rebounding: The Celtics control of the glass began from the outset and never really eased up. For the game, Boston grabbed 55 rebounds compared to just 40 by Orlando. 



Fourth-quarter Celtics: The only real blemish on an otherwise impressive performance by Boston, was the team’s overall play in the fourth quarter. Boston was outscored 31-17 and turned the ball over 10 times in the quarter. 


Celtics snap skid with dominant win over Magic, 92-83

USA TODAY Sports Photo

Celtics snap skid with dominant win over Magic, 92-83

The Orlando Magic are one of the few teams already eliminated from playoff contention. 

And on Friday, it didn’t take long to see why.

CELTICS TALK PODCAST - Smart's importance, dissecting the Eastern Conference

The Boston Celtics didn’t waste any time taking control of the game and never letting up as they cruised to a 92-83 win.

Terry Rozier and Greg Monroe led the Celtics with 17 points each and Shelvin Mack had 16 points and seven rebounds for Orlando.  

With the win, the Celtics (47-22) snapped a two-game losing skid and improved their record since returning from the All-Star break to 7-3. 

Getting back on a winning track was just part of Boston’s motivation heading into Friday night’s game. 

With several key players out with injuries, the Celtics’ depth was once again on display from the opening tip to the final horn. 

In the first half, reserve guard Shane Larkin led the team in scoring with 10 points. 

And in the third quarter, backup center Greg Monroe was too much for the Magic to handle around the basket.

In the third, Monroe scored 10 of his 17 points off Boston’s bench. 

This was a game that the Celtics showed few signs of the kind of let-up we have seen them display against bad teams from time to time. 

But Orlando opened the fourth quarter with a 9-2 run that cut Boston’s lead down to 77-61 with 9:18 to play. 

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens had seen enough and called a time-out. 

Orlando was able to chip away a little more at Boston’s lead which peaked at 24 points but was down to single digits in the fourth which provided a glimmer of hope that maybe just maybe, the Magic could get back in the game.

But when it mattered, Boston made the plays in the game’s closing moments to secure the victory. 

For the Celtics, the goal on Friday night was two-fold: find a way to win and come away healthy. 

Boston found success on both fronts, a refreshing change the Celtics hope to do more of going forward. 

Marcus Smart underwent surgery on his right thumb earlier in the day, which is expected to keep him sidelined for 6-8 weeks which would put his return to the floor at the earliest, sometime near the end of the first round of the playoffs or early into the second. 

Daniel Theis underwent season-ending surgery recently for a meniscus tear in his left knee.

And Boston played without Kyrie Irving (left knee soreness), but he might back in the lineup for Sunday’s game against New Orleans.

Al Horford returned to the lineup after missing the previous two games due to an illness, and he didn’t disappoint in finishing with a near double-double of 15 point and nine rebounds.