SB Nation and numerous other writers have taken on the sober question of what the Boston Celtics may expect from the recent signing of the 27-year old center Ryan Hollins, who was a 4-year UCLA product that was drafted in the 2nd round by Charlotte in 2006. The center was waived by the Cavs on March 20th and signed by the Celtics last Friday.
His most redeeming qualities appear to be that 1) he's 7-footer that's relatively athletic, 2) he's healthy and 3) the California native is on friendly terms with Pierce and Garnett, who he practiced with frequently last summer. However, the bottom-line is that the Celtics will need Hollins to rebound better than his ridiculously low 2.4 rebounds per game or 7.5 rebound per 48 minutes over the last two years with the Cavaliers. His total rebound percentage (TRB%) rate is 9%, i.e., he only grabs 9% of the available rebounds when he's on the court. That TRB% is the lowest of all centers or forward/centers according to www.basketball-reference.com (minimum 50 games total over last two years). Oy! But if you want to lend some company to the misery, Boris Diaw, Brook Lopez and Joel Anthony are also card-carrying member of the "I Can't Rebound but I Play Center" club.
So why exactly was Hollins waived by the Cavs, who now become razor thin along their frontline with Varejao out? And why would the Celtics want someone that will in all likelihood lower their ranking as the 3rd worst rebounding team in the NBA?
Refer to No. 2 above - he's healthy dag nabbit. The Celtics only boast two veterans on their front line (Garnett and Bass) in the post-Wilcox/J O'Neal era, along with two rookies (Stiemsma and Johnson). Getting support from two of the Big Three also doesn't hurt either (see No. 3 above).
A Podcast by the Cav's beat writer Tom Reed and Cleveland.com's Glenn Moore indicated the following: Ryan Hollins' agent asked for buyout of his contract, and the Cavs agreed. Coach Byron Scott was reluctant to give Hollins much run despite the absence of Anderson Varejao and Semih Erden being hurt. Hollins realized that he lost his chance at big minutes when Scott started him for seven games this month, and yet he proved to be ineffective. Scott then decided to go with rookie Tristan Thomas at center and the rest is history.
The situation between Thomas and Hollins is strangely similar to that of Bismack Biyombo and Boris Diaw in Charlotte. In both cases, a lottery-pick rookie center supplanted a poor rebounding veteran mid-season, making said veteran dispensable in the eye's of the team's brass. Both Hollins and Diaw were unceremoniously waived from their teams.
Reed and Moore thought that releasing Hollins was a classy move by the Cavs, as it gave Hollins an opportunity for a fresh start to play somewhere else. The Cavs expected the 7-footer to play at the rim better, and Hollins simply had lost his clout on the Cavs after Scott had warned the players that playing time was not going to be guaranteed.
In the end, both Hollins and the Cavs proclaim that his release was mutually beneficial for both sides.
There is also the behind the scenes story that Pierce and Garnett, who played summer ball with Hollins in LA, may have lobbied for the Celtics signing Hollins . . . check this tweet out . . .
For real, guys. RT @brohrbach: KG: "I don't make many friends, but I can honestly say I made a friend in Ryan (Hollins) this summer."— Kelly Dwyer (@KDonhoops) March 26, 2012
So the KG/Pierce connection likely lead Hollins to push his agent to get the release, or for Ainge to inquire with Hollins' agent to ask the Cavs for his release. Yes - there could be a little behind the scenes drama going on here to get Hollins to come the Celtics.
Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald had the following explanation by Hollins on his move from the Cavs to the C's:
"Right after I was bought out of Cleveland, (general manager) Danny (Ainge) came calling, and it was a no-brainer from there. Miami put out some interest, Indiana put out some interest, but just the veteran leadership (and) the name behind the Boston jersey and some experience with Paul and Kevin (Garnett) in the summertime, I know what it means here. I couldn't pass up this opportunity."
"I've got to be better. I've got to be better, and a lot of it is fit. You get with certain teams, certain chemistries, certain environments, and guys tend to flourish. Hopefully this is my team and my situation. As a matter of fact, I'm going to make it my team and my situation."
When asked if he was aware of the need that Boston has for an effective forward/center, Hollins said:
"(I'm) very aware. This just isn't a decision you jump into overnight. You take things one step at a time and assess them. It's a huge opportunity here, so I've got to get on my ‘A' game and ready to play. There's minutes here and there's definitely a need, and I see where I can help this team. . . . We know what we have to do, sacrifice of ourselves for the team. If it's rebounds, I've got to go after rebounds, I'm going to eat, sleep and dream rebounds."
The Cav's fans would argue that talk is cheap as the Cav's fan base had clearly lost confidence in Hollins, in addition to Coach Byron Scott obviously giving up on Hollins as well. Checkout this video from ESPNCleveland850:
SOME HIGHLIGHTS AND LOWLIGHTS
Searching for some silver linings on Hollins' performance is difficult indeed - he was having his worse efficiency ever this past year with Cleveland . . . let's hope it was just a falling out between him and Coach Byron Scott.
His league-worst ranking at rebounding at the Center positions has been established.
His foul rate of 5.9 per 48 minutes is borderline untenable and needs to be cut in half for him to be reliably integrated into the rotation . . . along with the high foul rate, he's got a bit of a reputation as "an enforcer" having altercations with Charlie Villanueva April 11th of last year (hmmm . . . did he compare notes with KG over the summer about this?) and being particularly physical against the Miami Heat in a game played on March 29th of last year . . . he reportedly wanted to fight the Heat players while clocking 5 fouls.
Okay - let's focus on his strengths . . . like his athleticism. Fact: Hollins competed on UCLA's track and field team in the high jump, long jump and triple jump . . . there were no gold medals but you get the idea that Hollins likes to jump.
Hollins gets a decent number of blocks. He essentially matches the block output of his ever-active former team-mate Anderson Varejao . . . but if Varejao can rebound at the 7th highest TRB% rate while doing a fair job at getting blocks, why can't Hollins? Enough with the rebounding . . .
Hollins can play above the rim, and he's had a nice set of dunks highlighted by www.nba.com. My favorite was a December 2009 game between the T-Wolves and the Wizards, where he "walks the stairs" and dunks on Andray Blatche
Perhaps the biggest highlight of Ryan Hollins 6-year career that may give the Celtics hope is that same March 29, 2011 game against the Heat . . . a mere 12 months ago. In that game, he helped the then 15-58 Cavs throttle the 51-23 Heat in a little payback against King James in the Quicken Loans Arena. Hollins scored 13 points on 3-of-4 shooting with three rebounds, two assists, two steals, and three blocks in 36 minutes, helping the Cavs in a surprising win over the Heat. He had a plus-minus of +33 for that game, compared to a -24 for Chris Bosh. The video highlight is a good one and is shown below:
The Celtics could certainly use a little bit of help from someone who steps up when playing the Heat. Which begs the question, will Ryan Hollins play up to his potential?
Note: Updated with Tweet on KG friend statement