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Irish Coffee: Vin Baker Comes Clean

10.29.10 at 10:37 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

 

Six years after the Boston Celtics terminated him for violating his alcohol treatment program, a near-broke Vin Baker has come to terms with how alcoholism and depression squandered a 13-year career — and an $87 million contract.

While promoting a book he’s written about his ordeal, Baker admitted in an appearance on Connecticut’s Stan Simpson Show that he began to recognize the existence of a problem before the 2002 trade that sent him from the Seattle SuperSonics to the Celtics.

“Towards the end of my Seattle career, when I was traded to Boston, I knew something was going on that I had to change,” Baker told Simpson. “At the time, I really couldn’t change it, because it’s a disease. It affects 18 million Americans. At the time, I didn’t know what was going on. I had to fix it. It was a situation where the support system around me was tough.”

Irish coffee, indeed.

One season removed from an Eastern Conference Finals appearance in 2001-02, the Celtics had hoped Baker could return to some semblance of the player that made four straight All-Star Games from 1995-98 and won a gold medal at the 2000 Olympics.

In Boston, Baker sunk deeper into the diseases that had already derailed a promising career. In just 89 games over two seasons, he averaged only 7.7 points and 4.6 rebounds before being suspended from the team when coach Jim O’Brien smelled alcohol on his breath during a practice. Baker said he wanted to change, but couldn’t.

“I had to figure out a way to make it right,” Baker said in his appearance on the Connecticut FOX affiliate. “I couldn’t make it right. The Celtics — a great organization — they worked with me, but with my issues I didn’t take the time I needed to take to make it right.”

It’s a shame Baker’s career fell off so sharply and abruptly, considering that four-year stretch — averaging 19.7 points and 9.6 rebounds — before a 1998-99 NBA lockout that saw the New England native balloon to 300 pounds.

“When you’re doing certain things on the court, a lot of times people just trust your talents,” Baker added in the interview. “They don’t know what’s going on inside your heart and your mind, and it becomes very difficult to relay to people that, you know, I might be struggling with something. Entertainers, basketball players, NFL players – sometimes it gets to a point where they don’t understand who you are as a person. They just look at the money, the power, the fame.”

SCALABRINE ON THIBODEAU

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Brian Scalabrine revealed what made Tom Thibodeau such a valuable asset in Celtic practices over the last few seasons: The C’s assistant coach and defensive guru wasn’t afraid of anybody, including Kevin Garnett.

“He likes KG, and KG loves Thibodeau, but he stared right at Garnett and said, ‘We’re doing it this way, you have to do it better, do it harder, and do it more together or I’m going to have to make a change,'” Scalabrine told the Tribune. “If coach Thibodeau can do that to Kevin Garnett, he can do that to anybody.”

The question moving forward is — when this year’s Celtics suffer defensive lapses — can Lawrence Frank do the same to guys like KG and the O’Neal brothers? Time will tell.

By the way, if you’re wondering how Scalabrine is performing in Chicago, the answer is: Just fine, thank you very much. He’s shooting 100 percent from the field. Of course, he’s only taken one shot in 11 minutes.

Oh, and my new favorite Twitter personality to follow is @FakeScalabrine. Over the last few days, he’s given us gems like: “Shaq is picking up my slack with the missed layups,” and, “Watching Nate clank threes and just thinking, ‘Man, that could be me.'”

SI: GARNETT GOING STRONG

Speaking of Garnett, Sports Illustrated’s Kevin Mannix details just how much KG’s knee problems affected his play last year — and how far he’s come since.

One Eastern Conference scout told Mannix that he thought KG was “finished” last season after seeing Andray Blatche score 23 points on the 2007-08 Defensive Player of the Year.

“Offensively, he understood what he could or couldn’t do,” Doc Rivers told Mannix of last season. “He had become a pick-and-pop player. It frustrated him that he couldn’t post more. He couldn’t get his balance. Defensively, guys were driving by him, beating him off the dribble. He couldn’t get blocked shots.”

“Watching Kevin now is like night and day from last season,” Rivers added in the interview. “In camp last year, I thought he was physically healthy, but mentally he wasn’t sure. He was scared to do things.”

One of the driving forces behind KG’s return to the old KG was Pau Gasol’s 18.6 points, 11.6 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game in the 2010 NBA Finals.

“Gasol having that good series,” Rivers added, “really ticked Kevin off.”

RONDO’S NEW SHOE

Nike revealed a new shoe: Zoom Hyperfuse Rajon Rondo PE. What do you think?

(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’€™s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, NBA, Rajon Rondo

Preview: Celtics-Knicks

10.28.10 at 11:27 pm ET
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For the last two seasons, the New York Knicks tried to pretend that their team didn’t exist. The goal, which was carefully articulated and plotted by Donnie Walsh, was to remove contracts, not to win games. The fans bought into this strategy and in truth, it was an easy sell. They had their fill of shortsighted quick fixes with long-term implications and two years of penance wasn’t so bad if the return turned out to be LeBron James.

There were two problems with this plan. One, Walsh and his coach Mike D’Antoni did very little to make the last two years anything more than a chore. The only development players on the roster were Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Tony Douglas and Bill Walker, which left a roster full of players who knew they were going elsewhere eventually and they reacted accordingly. The other was that there was no guarantee LeBron would want to go to New York, and when he didn’t, Walsh was forced to scramble.

On the whole, the scramble doesn’t look so bad as the Knicks were able to sign Amar’e Stoudemire and Ray Felton and acquire Anthony Randolph, Kelenna Azubuike and Ronny Turiaf for David Lee. Throw in a potential second-round steal in Landry Fields and a 7-foot Russian named Timofey Mozgov and suddenly the Knicks look like an actual team with direction and a directive to be competitive.

If the Celtics are going to have any competition in the Atlantic Division it’s going to come from the Knicks. Stoudemire is an A-list scorer and Gallinari doesn’t look to be too far behind. Felton is a solid point guard, which alone is a huge upgrade from what they were running out in previous seasons, and now there is depth.

To be sure there are still holes on New York’s roster, especially when it comes to size and rebounding and a team that plays D’Antoni’s system could always use more shooters, but the Knicks finally resemble a coherent basketball team whose goal is winning games, not shedding contracts.

NEW YORK (1-0)

Probable Starters: Felton, Fields, Gallinari, Stoudemire, Mozgov

Injuries: Randolph (ankle), Azubuike (knee surgery), Eddy Curry (hamstring)

BOSTON (1-1)

Probable Starters: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal

Injuries: Avery Bradley (ankle), Kendrick Perkins (knee surgery)

KEY MATCHUP: Stoudemire vs. Garnett

Garnett shutdown Chris Bosh in the first game of the season to such an enormous degree that people are already questioning whether Stoudemire would have been a better frontcourt running mate for James and Dwyane Wade. In his second game, Garnett recorded 15 rebounds, which is more than he had in any game last season.

He will have his hands full with Stoudemire who is the focal point on the Knicks offense. Stoudemire had 19 points and 10 rebounds in the Knicks opening night win over Toronto, but he also turned it over nine times. This will be a solid early-season test for Garnett because Stoudemire is one of the best pick-and-roll big men in the league and he will Garnett work all game.

KEY STAT: Turnovers

The Celtics have already turned it over 39 times. That’s how a team that is shooting 47 percent for the floor and 39 percent from 3-point range has an efficiency rating in the 20’s and has scored less than 90 points in both of its games. The Celtics simply must take better care of the ball. (Related: Zach Lowe had an interesting post about the Celtics turnover problems on The Point Forward).

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

The Celtics have not yet played a complete, 48-minute game and their struggles in the fourth quarter against Cleveland brought back bad memories of regular season collapses from a year ago. This will be their third game in four nights and it will be interesting to see how Doc Rivers uses his bench in what should be fast-paced game.

There’s also the matter of establishing their homecourt advantage, something that the players have noted over the past few days. The C’s are off until Tuesday and this would be a good spot to finish their first week on a winning note at home against a team in their division.

Read More: Amare Stoudemire, Kevin Garnett, Knicks, Preview

NBA Power Rankings, 10/28

10.28.10 at 2:40 pm ET
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1. LA Lakers: After receiving their championship rings, the Lakers started 1-0, thanks to new addition Steve Blake, who nailed a last-second 3-pointer to defeat the Rockets — on an assist from Kobe Bryant. Wait a second, Kobe trusted a teammate? And a new teammate to boot? I must have read that wrong.

2. Boston: The Celtics made their statement on opening night: When they’re up for a game, they can beat anybody in the league, including the LeBron-led Heat. Then they made another statement last night: When they’re not up for a game, they can lose to anybody in the league, including the LeBron-less Cavaliers.

3. Miami: LeBron was right when he said after the loss to the Celtics that Rome wasn’t built in a day. In reality, it was built over the course of 870 years. I don’t think it’ll take that long for the Heat to start jelling. They played pretty poorly in the opener — and still almost beat our No. 2-ranked team on the road.

4. Oklahoma City: Kevin Durant took his first step towards claiming his MVP trophy, totaling 30 points and seven rebounds in a season-opening win over a team that will probably be one of the league’s best defensive squads (the Bulls). So, what’s in store when he plays against the Pistons tomorrow night? Watch out.

5. Orlando: I overheard a conversation at the TD Garden the other night. One guy said to another, “Hey, how come you don’t like Orlando’s chances this year?” The other guy’s reply? “They still have Vince Carter, don’t they?” I couldn’t agree more. That’s why — no matter how impressive their preseason was — they’re not higher.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, NBA

Paul Pierce on D&H: Shaq has helped Kevin Garnett

10.28.10 at 1:43 pm ET
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Celtics captain Paul Pierce joined the Dale & Holley show and touched on a number of topics including what would have happened if Doc Rivers had decided to leave, how the Heat will have to adjust to playing with each other and what Shaquille O’Neal has done for Kevin Garnett.

“I love Shaquille in the locker room,” Pierce said. “The one guy he’€™s making better on and off the court is Kevin. You can just tell with Kevin’€™s attitude, he’€™s a lot more loose than he’€™s ever been. Kevin really listens to a lot of things Shaq has to say because they’€™ve been through their wars together and I know Kevin has a lot of respect for Shaq and what he’€™s done in this league, as do all of us. His presence has really helped us out as a ballclub, in the locker room and on the court.”

(To hear the whole interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page).

Here are more highlights from the interview:

What happened in Cleveland?

That’€™s the Cleveland Cavaliers minus LeBron James. They had a lot going. It was the home opener, a lot to prove with LeBron being gone, they played a great game. I can’€™t take anything away from what they did last night. They came out and gave us one, right over the head.

Did you take them lightly?

I hate to use that word lightly. I play the game the same way every night. They came to play. I don’€™t want to take anything away from what they did. We had our run, we had a chance to put them away, they just stuck with it. They made some big shots, the crowd got into it and they finished the game.

What’s the difference in Cleveland’s offense without LeBron?

When you got LeBron James in the lineup the offense is a little more predictable because you know he’€™s gong to get the ball pretty much every time down the court or 90 percent of the time. They’€™re really try to find an identity. They don’€™t really have a true go-to guy so they have to rely on out-working everybody, ball movement and sharing and playing together. They did an excellent job of that last night.

How will the Heat co-exist? What did he do with Garnett and Ray Allen?

I think they’€™re going to have make some sacrifices and that’€™s going to be the key. What’€™s unique about us with me, Kevin and Ray, I think we all bring something different with our games. Ray, he’€™s a great player without the ball. Kevin, you can play through Kevin or he’€™s great at setting screens and making people better, also I can play off the ball. I can be spot-up shooter.

In their case, they have LeBron and [Dwyane] Wade who constantly have the ball in their offense. Neither one of them has been asked to stand on the wing or stand in the corner and be a spot-up shooter. That’€™s an adjustment I think they’€™re going to have to make in figuring out their roles. Who’€™s going to be the lead dog on offense? Who’€™s going to be the facilitator and who’€™s going to play a different role, like, say, [Chris] Bosh being a guy who’€™s just going to rebound, play defense and screen?

It’€™s tough, especially for these guys because they’€™re in the prime of their careers and it’€™s going to be tough for them to swallow that knowing that they can give much more than what they’€™re going to give on a night-in, night-out basis for them to win. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Shaquille O'Neal,

Doc Rivers on D&C: ‘We have a chance to be really special’

10.28.10 at 10:39 am ET
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Celtics coach Doc Rivers joined Dennis & Callahan for his weekly visit and talked about the loss to the Cavaliers, the win over the Heat and the longest second in his life. It’s been a whirlwind beginning to the season, but Rivers likes what he sees from his team.

“I enjoy this group,” he said. “I enjoy coaching them. We’ve got to solidify ourselves as a group, as a team. I think we’re on our way to doing that. I think we have a chance to be really special, but we’re not there yet and we have work to do.”

(To hear the whole interview, visit the team Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page).

Rivers conceded that the opening night win over the Heat was more than just another game. “We’d be lying if we said it was a normal game,” Rivers said. “It was still only one game, but it didn’t have a lot of meaning. A lot of people wanted to see us play Miami and a lot of people wanted to see Miami.” But Wednesday night in Cleveland, the Celtics ran into a team that was also on an emotional high. “You could feel the energy in the building in Cleveland,” Rivers said. “It was important for everybody. But those are the game you still try to find a way to win.”

The key play came late in the game when Anthony Parker made a 3-pointer with one second on the shot clock that appeared to take longer. “The tough part for the officials was, they could not overrule it,” Rivers said. “All they could do was go by video and look at the light when the light comes on. They were in a tough position. I think they knew that, but there’s nothing they could do about it. That has to be one of the longest seconds that I’ve ever experienced.”

Rivers also didn’t feel like Wednesday night was one of Rajon Rondo‘s better performances, despite scoring 18 points and having nine assists. “His numbers were great but it wasn’t his best game,” Rivers said. “It was one of those games where the ball was in his hands too much. We played the Cleveland game like we played the second half of the Miami game. Last night was an execution night. Rondo’s offense will come from transition, pushing the ball up the floor, attacking the paint.”

On the technical foul that Shaquille O’Neal picked up in the fourth quarter against the Cavs, Rivers said he was “blown away” by the call. “It’s a work in progress, obviously, whatever this is,” Rivers said of the new technical foul enforcement. “I was blown away by that tech. It’s hard to believe Shaq did enough to get that tech.”

Rivers also said he wanted to have his whole team together before making an assessment of whether this is his most talented team.

“When we get Delonte [West] and [Kendrick Perkins] back, then you can make that argument,” he said. “Until then, I’m not so sure yet. Shaq’s going to give us stuff, I don’t know every night he can and what he’s capable of. We’ve got to get more out of [Jermaine O’Neal]. We look at him as a defensive player. He can be a terrific defensive player with our unit, but he’s just not there yet.”

Read More: Doc Rivers, Rajon Rondo, Shaquille O'Neal,

Irish Coffee: Top 5 Tommy Moments

10.28.10 at 10:36 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

 The Worcester Telegram’s Bill Doyle had a nice piece on Tommy Heinsohn and Mike Gorman entering their 30th season as the Celtics‘ broadcasting team.

Get this: Tommy actually believes he’s calmed down in his tenure as the color man.

“I stopped making it World War III,” Heinsohn told Doyle.

We’ll see about that. Here’s five of Tommy’s greatest moments as an announcer caught on tape:

1. “This is getting ridiculous. This is absolutely ridiculous.”

2. “Can I say it now? I … LOVE … WALTER!”

3. “I’ve seen a lot of players, but I can say this without a moment’s hesitation: Jackie was HORRIBLE. SUCKED!”

4. “This is absolutely — NBA: It’s stupid.”

5. “Wait a minute. That’s a terrible call. That is a TERRIBLE call.”

THE LONGEST SECOND

In case you missed it, with one second remaining on the shot clock last night, Cleveland’s Anthony Parker managed to catch an inbounds pass, swing the ball left to right, set up for a 3-pointer and get it off.

I’m sure Tommy got a kick out of that call, especially considering it basically ended the C’s chances against the Cavaliers last night.

“That was the longest second in NBA history,” Doc Rivers cracked. “I wasn’t going to argue. Somebody didn’t push that button quick enough.”

“We’re at home,” Byron Scott countered. “It’s supposed to be a long one second.”

CLEVELAND REAX

The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Bill Livingston explained why Cleveland fans thanked the C’s for defeating the Heat and deserved that extra-long second …

It was a very long second. But the Cavs and their fans had waited a very long time, through the spring, the summer, and into the fall for a break. This morning, the Cavs can look down in the Eastern Conference standings on the Miami Heat, albeit by only a half-game.

It won’t last. But neither did the false savior.

The Plain Dealer’s Mary Schmitt Boyer called the Celtics Cleveland’s “archrival.” Isn’t that cute? They think C’s-Cavs is a rivalry …

By beating the archrival Eastern Conference defending champion Celtics in their first regular-season game since the departure of LeBron James, the Cavs served notice that they’re still here and they can — and will — win without James.

Jim Ingraham of Ohio’s Morning Journal reveled in the victory, taking a shot at LeBron …

No fan base has ever needed a win on opening night more than this tortured, tormented fan base, abandoned as they were by a self-absorbed tag-along, looking for a shortcut to a championship ring.

They were rewarded for their loyalty with a rousing king-cleansing opening night victory.

 SHAQ: OBAMA’S WARMUP ACT

Apparently, President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton need Shaquille O’Neal‘s help ingratiating themselves to foreign diplomats. According to the New York Daily News, an autographed pair of Shaq’s shoes is among the gift items given to government leaders on overseas trips.

What else from the Celtics could Obama use in his gift package? Tommy’s headphones? Paul Pierce‘s wheelchair? Perhaps Rajon Rondo‘s headband; he doesn’t need that anymore.

(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’€™s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)

Read More: Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, NBA, Shaquille O'Neal

Fast break: Celtics suffer letdown against Cavaliers

10.27.10 at 9:54 pm ET
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It was the second night of the first back-to-back of the season and the Celtics were playing in a decidedly different atmosphere than the one they experienced in Boston on Tuesday. Still, there are no viable excuses for the Celtics, who blew a fourth-quarter lead in a 95-87 loss to the Cavaliers. (Recap.)

The Celtics played with fire throughout the game and it ultimately burned them, especially down the stretch where they were outscored, 13-3.

THREE THINGS THAT WENT WRONG

Too many turnovers: The main problem with the Celtics offense remains turnovers. They had 10 in the first half and another nine in the second. The Cavs wound up with nine more shots than the Celtics, one reason why they were able to win despite shooting under 45 percent.

Jermaine O’Neal will need some time: Give Jermaine O’Neal credit for getting himself healthy enough to play after a variety of training camp injuries, but he was not effective at all in 12 lackluster minutes. O’Neal fouled out with two points — his first points of the season — along with three turnovers and two rebounds.

Fourth quarter techs: Nate Robinson and Shaquille O’Neal picked up technical fouls on the same play, which helped propel a Cavaliers run. Fourth-quarter techs are a major no-no for Doc Rivers.

THREE THINGS THAT WENT RIGHT

Kevin Garnett looks fresh: Garnett had his second-straight double-digit rebounding game with 15 boards. There’s a long way to go, but Garnett looks so much more athletic than he did at this time last season.

Glen Davis knows his role: The Celtics bench needs to fine-tune things, but Davis has assumed the role of sixth man. He saw action at both the center and power forward spots and scored 14 points to go with five rebounds in 33 minutes of action. He and Marquis Daniels have been the top reserves.

Managing minutes: Rivers acknowledged that he played his veterans too many minutes in the opener, and despite the second-half run by the Cavs, he kept his starters on the bench and let his team play through it. Ray Allen and Paul Pierce went from 40 minutes down to the mid-30’s and Garnett clocked in at a more reasonable 30 minutes. Managing minutes may have cost the Celtics the game, but Rivers is going to keep the long view throughout the season.

Read More: Cavaliers, Fast Break, Glen Davis, Jermaine O'Neal
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