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Practice report: Sharpening the tools

10.18.10 at 4:35 pm ET
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The Celtics are a little more than a week away from their much-anticipated regular season opener against the Miami Heat at the Garden. They have already played six preseason games, but after surviving a four games in five days road trip that included a quasi-home game in Hartford, the C’s are ready to get down to business with a week’s worth of practices.

“It’€™s a good time for us,” Paul Pierce said. “We can sharpen our tools.”

The news out of Monday’s practice was the surgical procedure underwent by Doc Rivers Sunday morning to ease the tension on his vocal chords. Rivers was home resting Monday, and there’s no word yet on when he will return. As expected, Rivers did leave a practice plan for his coaches, and under the eyes of Lawrence Frank, Armond Hill and Kevin Eastman, the C’s went through a two-hour practice session.

Of immediate importance is getting the players back and healthy for the start of the season. Delonte West returned to Boston for tests on his back last week and Frank said that West responded favorably. Still, West sat out practice as did rookie Avery Bradley who is dealing with the affects of an offseason ankle scope. Marquis Daniels was also limited at practice to non-contact drills. He’s dealing with rotator cuff soreness.

Jermaine O’Neal (hamstring) and Shaquille O’Neal (soreness in hips) practiced fully.

“We’ve got to get everybody back on the court,” Pierce said. “At the same time we’€™ve got a few nagging injuries that we’€™re taking care of right now. I think it’€™s good that we get them all out of the way. We’€™re right on schedule I believe. I’€™m confident about opening day, if it started today.”

Here are some points of emphasis for the final week of preseason camp: Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Paul Pierce, Shaquille O'Neal, Stephane Lasme, Von Wafer

Doc Rivers has ‘minor throat surgery,’ is day to day

10.18.10 at 2:45 pm ET
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Doc Rivers had a planned surgical procedure Sunday morning at Massachusetts General Hospital to relieve pressure on his vocal chords, the team said after Monday’s practice, which Rivers did not attend. The team called the surgery, “minor.”

“He came through,” said assistant coach Lawrence Frank. “He feels good, but right now the doctor just doesn’€™t want him using his voice. So he’€™s day to day, but everything looks good and we look forward to getting him back.”

Frank said that Rivers returned to his Boston home after the surgery and is essentially day-to-day. “They just want him to rest his voice box,” Frank said. “He gave us the [practice] plan and we executed the plan.”

The Celtics will have an open practice at TD Garden Tuesday night for season-ticket holders and sponsors. Their last exhibition game is Wednesday night at the Garden. There is no word as to whether Rivers will be back for either yet.

Read More: Doc Rivers, Lawrence Frank,

Irish Coffee: A Preview of Celtics Previews

10.18.10 at 10:49 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

 

Every publication from here to Los Angeles is rolling out its NBA preview, and the predictions for the Celtics are, well, pretty predictable: They’re old, but they’re deep. They coasted through the 2009-10 regular season, and they’ll do it again. If they can stay healthy, they’ll compete for a championship. See for yourself …

SLAM Magazine: “Get your jokes in about the Celtics while you can. Sure, the Big Three and Shaq Daddy may alternate using the wheelchair Paul Pierce used in Game 1 of the 2008 NBA Finals. They probably will take some games off in the regular season, as head coach Doc Rivers did last year to keep the team healthy for the playoff run. And Rajon Rondo‘€™s jumper, though improving, is still broken like the NBA single-game scoring record Michael Jordan would be if he had played in his prime today. That said, this is a team that finished second in team assists and fifth in points allowed last season, and they have seemingly improved as a team overall. No squad in the NBA overcomes their deficiencies like the Boston Celtics, and they are serious title contenders in the 2010-11 season. Don’€™t say we didn’€™t tell you so if the Miami Heat cool off, the Orlando Magic disappear and Irish eyes are smiling after another magnificent seventh game between the Lakers and Celtics.”

That points allowed indicator — and, more specifically, point differential — has been a fairly good reflection of the C’s success the last three years. In the 2007-08 season, they ranked second in points allowed (90.3) and first in point differential (+10.2), resulting in a 66-16 record, homecourt throughout the playoffs and an NBA title.

In the last two seasons, during the 2008-09 campagin (62-20) and last year’s regular-season walkthrough (50-32), those numbers slipped.

To put the importance of those stats in perspective, when the C’s finished 24-58 in 2006-07 BB3 (Before Big 3), they ranked 18th in points allowed and 23rd in point differential. Keep an eye on those numbers in the first month of the season, especially considering the C’s brutal schedule through the first few weeks.

Ball Don’t Lie: “The team looks great. Kevin Garnett appears to be the picture of health, a chubbed-out Paul Pierce is as feisty as ever, Ray Allen looks about the same, and the team just oozes competitive spirit. But this is a team built to turn over a new leaf when there aren’t any leaves on the trees next spring, not when the foliage is blowing around and the days are getting shorter. It’s a long season, people get injured and things tend to even out. And, as was the case last year, those 50 wins would have little bearing on what happens in the postseason. This is a championship contender. Perhaps more than ever.”

I’m not exactly sure what they’re getting at when they call Pierce “chubbed-out,” considering he’s shown up slimmed down in each of the last two seasons. Still, they touch on an interesting point: The C’s competitive spirit. With the play of the second unit, a renewed focus on that two-year window and a vengeance factor for that Game 7 loss, this year’s team appears to have a competitive edge we haven’t seen since 2007-08.

Hoops Daily: “The Celtics’€™ Achilles heel remains health.  A lot of guys have played a lot of games, and a major injury to anybody inside the Allen-Garnett-Pierce trio would be catastrophic.  Rebounding, the Celtics’ ugly nemesis last year, could prove to be even more problematic with Perkins in street clothes for a while. And then there’€™s the departure of Tom Thibodeau, the guy who masterminded the Celtics’€™ dominant lockdown defense for the last three years, to consider as well. The team has the personnel and the experience to continue their defensive dominance, but it wouldn’€™t be a shock if they took a slight step back in that department. The Big Three are rickety and parts of their bench are downright old, but if you’€™re an Eastern Conference team dreaming of a Finals matchup with the Lakers, you’€™d do well not to run into the Green come May. Expecting 50-55 wins is probably best for a group that will likely go through the motions in the regular season before showing up gangbusters in the playoffs.”

Obviously, a major injury to any of the Big 4 (with Rondo) would be catastrophic. Then again, that can be said for the Heat, Lakers and Magic as well. I’m not sure if I’m buying the rebounding issue, either, considering that was the Celtics main focus in the offseason. I’m not sure if you know, but the C’s picked up Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal in the offseason, not to mention the addition of Semih Erden.

However, the loss of Thibodeau needed to be mentioned. That point differential statistic is largely a result of a defensive scheme he implemented, and the C’s will be integrating the O’Neal Brothers and Co. into that scheme without Thibodeau. How Rivers and new assistant Lawrence Frank incorporate the new bodies into the “if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it” defensive system will go a long way in determining this team’s success. In his first two full seasons as head coach of the Nets (2004-05 and 2005-06), Frank’s teams ranked sixth in points allowed.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Doc Rivers, Larry Siegfried, Lawrence Frank, LeBron James

The reason Shaquille O’Neal was shouting ‘Chimichanga!’ at Big Baby

10.16.10 at 10:47 pm ET
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HARTFORD — Glen Davis would get the ball on the far wing, square up on an isolation, and then, rising above all the other noise in the XL Center, would come a voice from the Celtics‘ bench.

First time it was, “Jumbalaya!”

The next came, “Chimichanga!”

And, finally, was, “Barb-b-que chicken!”

The source of the shouting was Shaquille O’Neal. So why was he doing it?

“I can’€™t tell you. It’€™s an LSU thing,” he explained to group of reporters after the Celtics’ 97-84 preseason win over the Knicks Saturday night.

The center was then asked if it was something he did to all players who attended his alma mater.

“Yes, all LSU players,” O’Neal deadpanned. “I can’t tell you our secret society codes.”

But, while walking out to the bus, O’Neal offered a chance to unlock the secret. One guess, which was: It was encouragement for ‘Big Baby’ to eat up his competition on the isolation.

Another mystery revolving around the mysterious Big Shamrock solved. About one million to go.

Doc Rivers doesn’t ‘get all the hatred’ toward Miami Heat

10.16.10 at 9:35 pm ET
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HARTFORD — The questions will continue to come fast and furious as Oct. 26 approaches.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers understands the deal: The inquiries leading into his team’s season opener will be just part of the equation. Just as many questions will also center around the team the C’s are playing, the Miami Heat and their three faces of the franchise — LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade.

This time, just prior to the Celtics’ preseason tilt with the Knicks at the XL Center, Rivers was asked about the difference in people’s perception regarding the the Heat and the C’s.

“I don’t get all the hatred,” Rivers said. “I guess the press conference had a little bit to do wit that. We did it through trade, they did it through free agency, maybe that had a little bit to do with it. Whatever it is at the end of the day, when the games start the Miami fans are going to cheer for Miami, and the Boston fans are going to cheer for Boston. The Orlando fans are going to cheer for Orlando. We’ll see how it goes.”

Doc on how Celtics can get better: ‘We can win Game 7’

10.16.10 at 9:23 pm ET
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HARTFORD — Doc Riversinitial explanation of how his Celtics can better from last season’s team, which came one win away from the NBA title, wasn’t complicated.

“We can win Game 7,” he said prior to the C’s preseason tilt with the Knicks Saturday night at XL Center.

But, as the Celtics’ coach talked, he got more specific.

“We can rebound better. We were awful during the regular season. We turned the ball over during the regular season. And we didn’t win enough home games,” Rivers said. “I know we had the injuries, but we were losing the home games even when we were playing well last year. And in retrospect, it came back and we had a Game 7 on the road, so that’s how we can get better. I don’t know record-wise if we will be better or not, but I know we can be a better basketball team.”

Another difference Rivers will be looking for?

“Veteran teams have to be playing well all year, just like young teams,” he said. “I’ve said it before, what we did last year was unusual. It usually doesn’t work and in my opinion didn’t work. It got us to the Finals but didn’t us to what we wanted. We didn’t win it. That’s what we’re going to fight. Just because we have a lot of experience, we can’t use that as a crutch all year.”

Then came the final, much more specific, focal point that might allow the C’s to leave the season with a smile: Actually pounding the ball into the post instead of living on the perimeter.

“When you have injuries you tend to stay outside, and it hurt us. You look at some of the bigger games in the playoffs, we really didn’t have post presences at the time. That’s a difficult way to play basketball and win. We got away with it for the most part, but not all the way,” Rivers explained. “You’ll see more. Two years ago, we were an in and out basketball team. We had to basically abandon that in some ways.”

The coach continued: “We’re posting everybody. That’s what we told them the first day, is we have to get back to being an in and out team. We want to run, we want to get easy baskets, we want to look to the early post. Like yesterday, Kevin [Garnett] had five of them where sprinted down the floor, beat everybody down the floor, got deep in the post, and last year he was the last guy down the floor. He was dragging his leg. We had to do what we had to do to win. It allows you to stop runs when you have a post game. Teams are on an 8-0 run, you can call a timeout and go right to the post, you usually get something out of that. When you don’t that you just better hope to make every shot.”

And then there is the secret weapon …

Paul [Pierce] loves the post, so does Kevin. [Rajon] Rondo is the guy, for me, who is the new guy that we can actually use,” Rivers explained. “Rondo is better than you think down there. We were working on it a lot last year, we just never had the confidence to do it.

“What makes him effective is that you have to guard him down there. You can’t back off of him on the post. When he’s guarded, it not only spreads the floor, but it makes him a better passer.”

So, there you have it in a nutshell: The keys to unlocking the door that the Celtics couldn’t walk through a season ago.

One reporter’s take on which NBA team has the best starting lineup

10.16.10 at 10:51 am ET
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So you think the Celtics have the best starting lineup in the NBA? Well, Dime Magazine suggests they might have some competition for the honor. In an article penned by Andrew Macaluso, the merits of the C’s, Hawks, Mavericks, Lakers, and Magic are pointed out based off a numerical formula that looks solely at last year’s stats (hence, the reason for no Heat). Here is what Macaluso had to say about the Celtics:

When Kevin Garnett came to Boston, they instantly turned into a defensive-minded team. How do you think they won an NBA title the same season? After logging 1,179 minutes last season, Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins posted a record of 38-19 (66.6 win percentage) with an Off of 1.13 and a Def of 1.00. Unfortunately, Perkins went down in the playoffs with a major knee injury, so what did the Celtics do? They went out and signed (and drafted) nothing but defensive players. With ‘€˜Sheed Wallace retiring ‘€” although he made their defense worse when he was in the lineup ‘€” and even with Perkins out until February, I expect Shaq, J.O., Big Baby and rookieAvery Bradley, to help keep the Celtics’€™ defense in lockdown mode until Perkins comes back.

To read the entire article click here.

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