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Danny Ainge on The Big Show: Health of O’Neals ‘a concern’

11.11.10 at 7:30 pm ET
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Celtics executive president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, in his weekly appearance on The Big Show (lsten to the interview at The Big Show audio on demand page) said that the health of centers Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal had become something of a concern. Shaquille O’Neal has missed the last five games while recovering from a bruised right knee, while Jermaine O’Neal was sidelined in the second half of this week’s contest against the Mavericks due to a left knee injury.

Shaq, Ainge said, is expected to return to the lineup against the Heat on Thursday. Jermaine O’Neal, on the other hand, is expected to remain sidelined. While Ainge did proclaim the health of the two centers a concern, he also said that it was not a complete surprise that the team is managing minutes at the position.

“I think that Jermaine and Shaq are a concern with their health,” said Ainge. “I felt like with the four centers we have that we’d be able to make it through the year. I didn’t expect Shaq to play 82 games, and I didn’t expect him to play more than 20-25 minutes a night at the most, and that was if he was playing well.”

With the two O’Neals dealing with their knee issues and Kendrick Perkins trying to work his way back from his torn ACL, Ainge said that rookie Semih Erden will continue to see minutes.

“Semih is going to get a chance to play with the up-and-down health of the two O’Neals,” Ainge said. “He has pretty good instincts about where to be both offensively and defensively. … Sometimes he’s thinking too much rather than relying on his instincts.”

Ainge also touched on the recent remarks by Joakim Noah of the Bulls that were critical of Celtics forward Kevin Garnett. Noah called Garnett “very mean” and “ugly,” comments that Ainge suggested were a non-story.

“I’m sure Kevin’s enjoying it. … It’s hilarious. I’m sure Kevin is enjoying every bit of it,” Ainge said. “I don’t even think this is a story. i don’t even want to talk about it, it’s so boring. … Joaquim Noah popping off is not very interesting.”

Ainge also discussed the early inconsistencies of the Heat, a team that he characterized as alternately dominant and vulnerable, as well as the status of Perkins’ recovery and the nature of his team’s budding rivalry with Miami.

Read More: Danny Ainge, Jermaine O'Neal, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O'Neal

NBA Power Rankings, 11/11

11.11.10 at 5:54 pm ET
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1. LA Lakers (8-0): Phil Jackson said this Lakers team is not as good as the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls team that won an NBA record 72 games because of defense. Still, they’re pretty darn good, or so says their league-leading unbeaten record and 12.5 point differential.

2. New Orleans (7-0): The Hornets have played the toughest schedule in the NBA and remain undefeated. I don’t think there’s anybody outside the New Orleans area that would’ve predicted that. But since Chris Paul is back to his MVP form from three years ago, anything can happen.

3. Boston (6-2): The Hornets played their way into the No. 2 spot, rather than the Celtics playing their way out of it. I came hardly blame the Celtics for a two-point loss to the Mavericks on the road. The health of the O’Neal Bros. could catch up to the C’s, but it hasn’t quite yet.

4. San Antonio (6-1): The Spurs just keep on winning. They’re reliable like that. They still have just one loss, and it’s to the Hornets. Believe it or not, Tim Duncan is the fourth leading scorer in San Antonio, where their average of 106.7 points per game ranks fourth in the league.

5. Dallas (5-2): The Mavericks rank third in the Southwest Division but fifth overall. Talk about tough. Dirk Nowitzki is still a top-1o player (top five?), and he said the Tyson Chandler/Brendan Haywood center tandem is the best he’s seen in Dallas. Oh, and they’re actually playing defense.

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Irish Coffee: Kendrick Perkins’ NBA secrets

11.11.10 at 10:22 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Celtics center Kendrick Perkins may be out for the first few months because of his ACL injury, but that doesn’t mean he can’t offer advice on how to guard the NBA‘s elite post players, like the Miami Heat’s Chris Bosh.

In a recent Dime Magazine article, Perkins discussed his strategy …

“Very skilled face-up guy, but he’€™s not a physical player. I try to push him off the block and play him physical. He’€™s gonna score a few, but you can’€™t get frustrated by that. Just stay focused. You’€™d rather him hit you for 18 points than for 40 points.”

Given the physical play of Kevin Garnett, perhaps that’s why he was able to hold Bosh to eight points on 3-of-11 shooting in their first meeting this season. Yet another matchup to watch tonight (we covered Rondo vs. Arroyo on Tuesday).

Perkins also discussed his game plan against Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, Yao Ming, former teammate Al Jefferson and current teammate Shaquille O’Neal

“I’€™ve been playing against Old Shaq, so I don’€™t know what it was like when he was younger. He’€™s kinda like Dwight [Howard], but not as athletic. He can’€™t really finish over the top no more, so you just keep a body between him and the rim.”

Throughout the discussion, Perkins is brutally honest, saying of Jefferson, “I don’t think he’s a great passer.” Great, great stuff.

The same author is also responsible for the magazine’s power rankings. Somehow, the Heat (No. 3) are ranked three slots higher than the Celtics (No. 6), despite the C’s better record and head-to-head victory. Hmmm …

SHAQ FOOL

The never-ending stream of entertainment that comes from having Shaquille O’Neal in town just keeps flowing.

Shaq and Sports Illustrated’s Jimmy Traina sat down for a Q&A to discuss comedy. Here are a few things we learned …

  • Garnett is the funniest player in the NBA.
  • “Best prank I pulled was on Lou Amundson in Phoenix. I took a Snickers bar, put it in some water to get it real brown and wet and put it in my hand. [When he] came off the bench to go in the game, he had on white shorts, I rubbed it all over his shorts and said ‘good game, bro,’ so when he was running on the court he thought he s#@! himself.”
  • Shaqeeta is done.
  • He wants to become the next “The Rock” in the movie business and star alongside Denzel Washington, Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt.
  • His favorite “Yo Mamma” joke: “Yo Mamma is so nasty her crabs have crabs.”
  • The Big Aristotle is the best name he’s given himself.
  • His top five comedy movies of all-time: “Don’t Be a Menace To South Central While Drinking Juice in the Hood”, “Harlem Nights”, “Life”, “Me, Myself and Irene” and “Step Brothers”.

Shaq did the SI Q&A to promote an online video series for Power Balance where he interviews himself. It’s the funniest thing he’s ever done. Here’s a great exchange …

Shaq1: “So, you and Kobe [Bryant] finally made nice?”
Shaq2: “Who?”
Shaq1: “Did he get you a diamond ring?”
Shaq2: “I don’t accept diamond rings from guys.”
Shaq1: “Well, you should, because then you would have five rings, too, stupid.”

I also enjoyed Shaq asking himself, “What page were you on of the ‘Kazaam’ script when you called your agent and said, ‘I’m in’?” Hilarious.

O’Neal is also promoting his second annual “Join Shaq, Give Back” holiday campaign. As Shaq-a-Claus, he is encouraging “shoppers to donate new, unwrapped toys and cash in Toys-R-Us and Babies-R-Us stores nationwide and online at ToysRUs.com/ToysforTots.”

“My parents always encouraged me to give back to those less fortunate, and ever since I made it to the NBA, I’€™ve been visiting Toys-R-Us stores during the holiday season to buy gifts for kids in need,” O’€™Neal said. “As a father myself, I know firsthand how magical it is for a child to open a gift on Christmas morning.’€

Since Oct. 31, the program has raised $366,139. Great stuff all-around off the court. Now, if only he could get back on the court.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Chris Bosh, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett

Talking Hoops: Episode Three

11.10.10 at 4:43 pm ET
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The third episode of the Talking Hoops podcast is now online.

This week I talked with Kevin Arnovitz, site editor of ESPN.com’s Heat Index, about how the Heat have played since leaving Boston and what’s going on with Chris Bosh. Kevin and I also discuss how the Heat feel about the Celtics, whether Thursday night’s rematch will have a lasting impact on the season and if Miami will ever be a basketball city.

In the second part of the show, I sit down with Michael Holley to see if we can get at the root of all the LeBron James hate. Holley’s from Akron and he gives a little insight into his hometown and its dynamic with Cleveland.

Read More: Chris Bosh, LeBron James, Talking Hoops,

Irish Coffee: Why Miami is a fifth seed

11.10.10 at 1:53 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

The offseason’s biggest hype — How far can the Big Three (LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh) carry the Miami Heat? — has now become the regular season’s biggest question — How far can the Little Two (Carlos Arroyo and Joel Anthony) drag down the Heat?

After Utah’s 116-114 overtime win Tuesday night against the Heat, the writing is on the wall: Miami needs point guard and post help — STAT. If the Heat don’t get it, should they meet, the Celtics will beat them in the NBA playoffs.

So far, the Heat are 0-3 against elite point guards (Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul and Deron Williams). That trio averaged 12.7 points and 16.7 assists — producing 46.1 points per game — against Arroyo, who averaged just 5.3 points and 1.0 assists (producing 7.3 points) in those three games. From the point guard position alone, the Heat essentially started each game in a 39-point hole.

Overall, in the Heat’s eight games, Arroyo is averaging 5.6 fewer points and 6.3 fewer assists (18.2 fewer points produced) than his point guard counterpart. You know it’s bad when Devin Harris totals six points and one assist — and outplays you. Thursday night’s game against Rondo isn’t going to help, either.

Take a look at Arroyo’s production against Miami opponents’ primary point guard:

  • Arroyo: 3 points-0 rebounds-0 assists; Rondo: 4-5-17
  • Arroyo: 6-3-1; Louis Williams: 15-1-7
  • Arroyo: 7-4-4; Jameer Nelson: 10-3-1
  • Arroyo: 12-5-4; Harris: 13-1-6
  • Arroyo: 8-6-3; Sebastian Telfair: 13-1-1
  • Arroyo: 0-1-1; Paul: 13-2-19
  • Arroyo: 4-1-0; Harris: 6-2-1
  • Arroyo: 10-0-2; Deron Williams: 21-4-14
  • Total: 50-19-16; Opponents: 95-19-66
  • Average: 6.3-2.4-2.0; Opponents: 11.9-2.4-8.3

Things get far worse in Miami when you factor in the center position. Joel Anthony is averaging just 1.9 points and 4.3 rebounds in eight games. He’s scored only 15 points in 145 minutes this season. His counterparts?  Oh, they’re only averaging 14.5 points and 7.4 rebounds against him.

Take a look at Anthony’s production against the primary center for Miami’s opponent on that given night:

  • Anthony: 2 points-7 rebounds-1 assist; Glen Davis: 13-5-0
  • Anthony: 0-3-0; Elton Brand: 12-9-0
  • Anthony: 0-4-0; Dwight Howard: 19-7-0
  • Anthony: 1-3-2; Brook Lopez: 20-5-1
  • Anthony: 4-5-0; Nikola Pekovic: 12-8-0
  • Anthony: 2-5-0; Emeka Okafor: 26-13-1
  • Anthony: 2-2-0; Lopez: 12-3-2
  • Anthony: 4-5-0; Al Jefferson: 2-9-2
  • Total: 15-34-3; Opponents: 116-59-6
  • Average: 1.9-4.3-0.4; Opponents: 14.5-7.4-0.8

Because of how putrid Arroyo and Anthony have been this season, the remaining members of the Heat have to make up an average of 18.2 points per game. They might be capable of that if Bosh wasn’t also being outplayed.

On average, after being dominated by Paul Millsap Tuesday night, Bosh has been outscored by his counterparts by 1.7 points and out-rebounded by 1.1 boards per game. See how he’s fared against opponents:

  • Bosh: 8 points-8 rebounds-2 assists; Kevin Garnett: 10-10-3
  • Bosh: 15-7-1; Thaddeus Young: 15-3-1
  • Bosh: 11-10-1; Rashard Lewis: 2-3-0
  • Bosh: 18-1-2; Derrick Favors: 13-13-1
  • Bosh: 13-6-2; Kevin Love: 20-6-1
  • Bosh: 15-1-1; David West: 15-7-0
  • Bosh: 21-5-2; Favors: 11-5-0
  • Bosh: 17-9-3; Millsap: 46-9-1
  • Total: 118-47-14; Opponents: 132-56-7
  • Average: 14.8-5.9-1.8; Opponents: 16.5-7.0-0.9

What does all this mean? Every game, the Heat are essentially trailing 20-0 before the first whistle. That’s a big hole for James and Wade to dig out of each night. They must be muttering, “You’re killing me, Smalls,” more than Ham did in “Sandlot.”

The worse news for the Heat? There isn’t much out there to replace those guys. Is signing people like Rashad McCants or Robert Swift to the veteran minimum going to help? Honestly, I’m not sure it could get any worse.

The other option is for Miami to seek a trade, but who do they have to deal? Udonis Haslem is the only guy who would garner any interest. And it’s not like they can get someone else’s salary dump, because they don’t have the salaries in return to make the numbers match up.

Basically, they are what they are until next offseason. So, what are they? I’m thinking a No. 5 seed behind the Celtics, Magic, Bulls and Hawks.

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Irish Coffee: Should Rajon Rondo rest his feet?

11.09.10 at 11:13 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Although Rajon Rondo continues to downplay his “minor” case of plantar fasciitis, HoopsWorld had an interesting breakdown of Rondo’s numbers since the issue arose following the Celtics‘ overtime victory against the Bucks.

I’m not sure I buy the fact that his assist numbers have decreased since that game as a valid argument for its effect. It’s a little much to expect Rondo was going to keep up his 16.8 assist-per-game average, considering that would obliterate John Stockton‘s all-time NBA record of 14.5 dimes per contest.

Still, after watching Rondo’s apparent success through eight games, HoopsWorld’s analysis of his non-assist numbers is surprising …

It should be noted Rondo’s free-throw shooting percentage — 50.0 percent — is the lowest of his career, and his field-goal shooting, also at 50.0 percent, is the lowest percentage since the 2007-08 season. His Win Shares of 1.1 have drastically dropped from last season’s 9.6. In addition, his turnovers per game at 4.0 are his highest level ever.

That may say more about the “win share” statistic than it does about Rondo’s game, considering he’s clearly been the best player on the floor for the Celtics this season. Although, the turnovers are certainly a concern.

As HoopsWorld notes, Rondo ranks first in assists (at 118, by a whopping 52 over Andre Miller) and assists per game (14.8), while sitting at second in steals (27) and steals per game (3.1).

But only two NBA players have committed more turnovers this season and only seven have committed more per game than Rondo. The Celtics point guard ranks 41st in the league in steals-to-turnovers (0.8), behind guys like Chris Paul, Mike Conley, Jrue Holiday and Jason Kidd. And Rondo ranks ninth in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.7) — again behind Paul and Kidd, as well as Charlotte’s DJ Augustin.

The turnover problem can be chalked up to either carelessness or (too much) creativity rather than the plantar fasciitis, but if a heel injury was going to affect any part of someone’s game, wouldn’t it be his shooting? Considering the lift from the legs necessary to get off a shot, it makes sense.

After the preseason, when he hit 50 percent of his shots from 10 feet or farther, it appeared as though Rondo had improved his shot-making and the confidence in his shot-making ability (a little bit of a chicken-and-egg argument there), as Celtics Hub noted in a fantastic breakdown of his jumper.

Through the first five games of the regular season, Rondo was 9-of-20 from 10 feet or further (and 50 percent from 3-point range). Since that Bucks game, when the plantar fasciitis really flared, Rondo is just 4-of-14 from beyond 10 feet (28.6 percent), including Monday night’s failed game-winning 3-pointer.

The Boston Globe and SLAM Magazine theorized that Rondo’s attempt in the waning seconds was a positive sign that he’s gained confidence in his jumper. But isn’t there a chance that the missed attempt — whether it was affected by the plantar fasciitis or not — could hurt that confidence going forward?

And, in turn, could Rondo’s teammates (i.e., Paul Pierce and Ray Allen) lose confidence in his shot-making ability during those big moments? Time will tell, as similar situations are going to arise as teams will mirror Dallas’ late-game strategy until Rondo proves he can make them pay.

ALREADY RESTING FOR THE PLAYOFFS

As Dennis & Callahan discussed, in the wake of Jermaine O’Neal missing the second half of Monday night’s loss to the Mavericks because of soreness in his left knee, Rondo mentioned to The Globe that the Celtics should be more concerned about health down the road than contributions in the regular season right now …

“I told him if you’€™re not feeling great, just go ahead and sit it down. Health is the most important thing. I don’€™t want JO or any of our players out there trying to be a hero and tough it out. It’€™s about the stretch and the end of the season. So if he needs to take a couple days off and get some rest, so be it.”

Following up on that HoopsWorld article, considering that rest appears to be the best treatment for plantar fasciitis, it’s interesting to note that Rondo doesn’t have the same sentiments when it comes to his own health …

The obvious question about whether or not he was going to have to sit out games in efforts to get better had to be broached.

“No, I don’t want to,” he replied.

Perhaps Rondo should listen to his own advice. After all, if indeed a few days rest can make him healthier in the long run, shouldn’t the Celtics consider sitting him once Delonte West returns from suspension?

NBA VERSION OF DUMB CRIMINALS

I’ve always loved dumb crime stories. Years ago, in the Wellesley Townsman, I remember two separate items in the crime log: 1) a man had stolen an entire ham from a local butcher; and 2) police had picked up a man walking down the street with an entire ham shoved down his pants. Yet, nobody had put the two together.

Well, the police work was a little better in Charlotte, N.C. During a Bobcats game, a Brooklyn man wanted for murder “waltzed past a JumboTron camera … in the same gaudy bling he wore when he allegedly pulled the trigger,” according to the New York Daily News.

Then, the genius showed up at another Bobcats game just days later. He was of course welcomed by North Carolina police and the FBI.

A KEVIN GARNETT RIP JOB

 Count Mike Fisher of FOX Sports Southwest and DallasBasketball.com among those who don’t buy what Kevin Garnett sold in his press release following the Charlie Villanueva Twitter incident …

Garnett — having his PR people type up this statement while they attempted to keep a straight face — claims that what he told Villanueva while in the heat of Celtics-Bucks battle was that Charlie V is ‘€œcancerous to your team and our league.’€

That is completely credible to any NBA fan who is: 
a) Unfamiliar with Garnett’€™s especially twisted habit of bullying opponents who don’€™t fight back
b) Under the impression that Kevin Garnett talks like a robot.

ARE THE LAKERS AIMING FOR 72 WINS?

Most of the preseason talk surrounded whether or not the Miami Heat could win 72 games this season. Well, after their 4-2 start, there aren’t too many people left on that bandwagon. 

However, after the Lakers’ 7-0 start, some hopped on the L.A. train. Obviously, most people agree no team — especially one as veteran as the Lakers — should aim for such a goal in lieu of staying healthy for the playoffs.

My favorite take, though, comes from The Los Angeles Times’ Mark Medina

For the same reasons the 2008-09 Lakers and 2009-10 Lakers didn’t surpass the mark are the same reasons the Lakers shouldn’t pursue.

Oh, OK, so the the Lakers are the only ones that have kept themselves from winning more than 72 games in each of the last two seasons? Good one.

Medina’s colleague, Mark Heisler, has a more realistic take on why the Lakers won’t even attempt at the 72-win NBA record …

Since Lakers fans deserve an update on their team’s chances — now far better than Miami’s since they only have to finish 65-10 — here it is: 0 percent.

Here’s my methodology: I take the hype from their 21-3 and 23-4 starts the last two seasons and note their win total at the end, 65 and 57, respectively. Then I multiply by coach Phil Jackson‘s inclination to push them — zero — and come up with zero!

Not even Jackson, who coached the record-setting 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, would admit there’s a comparison between that team and this year’s Lakers …

“Not the same defense,” Jackson told Heisler. “Unfortunately, we have a lot of offensive prowess. The defense isn’t quite the same.”

Well, I’m glad that’s settled. Let’s drop the 72-win talk for any and all teams.

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

The Three-Pointer: Rajon Rondo has a lot to prove

11.09.10 at 12:03 am ET
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Remember that scene in the movie “Billy Madison” when Adam Sandler apologizes to Steve Buscemi for teasing him in high school, so Buscemi crosses him off his “kill list”? You kind of getting the feeling that NBA point guards should start finding reasons to apologize to Rajon Rondo.

With the possible exception of a stretch in late February and early March — when Rondo will face Deron Williams, Steve Nash, Stephen Curry and Brandon Jennings in consecutive games — the Celtics point guard won’t face another stretch like he has over the past four games.

In six nights, Rondo faced Jennings, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Jason Kidd, finishing 3-1  — with the defeat arriving in an 89-87 loss to Kidd’s Mavericks Monday night in Dallas.

Despite battling mild plantar fasciitis, Rondo outplayed them all. See for yourself …

Celtics 105, Bucks 102 (OT)

  • Rondo: 17 points, 7-of-10 field goals, 15 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 steals, 6 turnovers
  • Jennings:  13 points, 5-of-13 field goals, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, 3 turnovers

Celtics 110, Bulls 105 (OT)

  • Rondo: 10 points, 5-of-10 field goals, 11 assists, 3 rebounds, 4 steals, 4 turnovers
  • Rose: 18 points, 8-of-19 field goals, 9 assists, 5 rebounds, 0 steals, 6 turnovers

Celtics 92, Thunder 83

  • Rondo: 10 points, 5-of-8 shooting, 10 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 steals, 4 turnovers
  • Westbrook: 16 points, 6-of-16 shooting, 10 assists, 4 rebounds, 4 steals, 8 turnovers

Mavericks 89, Celtics 87

  • Rondo: 11 points, 5-of-15 shooting, 15 assists, 6 rebounds, 5 steals, 4 turnovers
  • Kidd: 0 points, 0-for-5 shooting, 10 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, 3 turnovers

In all, Rondo averaged 12.0 points on 51.2 percent shooting, 12.8 assists, 4.8 rebounds, 3.8 steals and 4.5 turnovers. Defensively, he allowed the other four to produce 11.8 points on 35.9 percent shooting, 8.3 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 5.0 turnovers.

The difference, though, went beyond the numbers. Rondo dictated the tempo against each of them on offense and disrupted the normal flow of his opponents’ games on defense. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: brandon jennings, Chauncey Billups, Deron Williams, Jermaine O'Neal
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