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Irish Coffee: Paul Pierce’s legacy

11.04.10 at 1:40 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Shaquille O’Neal watched in the locker room as Paul Pierce passed, clinging to the ball commemorating his 20,000th career point and smiling, ear-to-ear.

O’Neal turned to Celtics assistant coach Armond Hill and said, “Didn’t I score my 20,000th career point on you?”

No, it wasn’t quite 26 years ago when Hill hung up his shoes that Shaq reached 20,000, but it was eight seasons ago — signaling just how far Pierce has to go in order to reach Shaq & Co. in the top-five scorers of all-time.

Still, what Pierce achieved Wednesday night againt the Bucks doesn’t happen too often in the NBA, although it may not seem that way, considering three of the 35 other players in the history of the league to accomplish the feat were just a few feet away from him in the locker room.

“He’s been one of the best players in the league for a very long time,” Jermaine O’Neal said after Wednesday night’s game. “It’s hard to be that good for a long time for multiple reasons: aging, injuries, change in regimes — sometimes that has an effect on your game. But he’s been very consistent at what he does, and he’s very deserving of it.”

Of the 36 NBA players to reach the 20,000-point plateau, only 18 of them scored their first 20,000 for a single team (that includes Pierce). Of those 18, only 16 scored their first 20 grand in the same city. And of those 16, only nine began and ended their careers with the same team. Obviously, Pierce has the opportunity to be the 10th.

“It makes me think about what I went through in my career — just how tough it is to play with one team,” Allen said. “At some points, it gets rocky, because you hit those low points where a team’s not winning.

“Franchises are cyclical in sports. In those lean years he was able to stick it out here, and people still stuck behind him and the team, so that’s commendable. It doesn’t happen a lot these days in sports.”

Pierce’s career in Boston hasn’t been without its ups and downs. In 2005, he was reportedly offered to the Portland Trail Blazers for the No. 3 pick and Nick Van Exel, and the Blazers instead traded the pick to Utah (the Jazz turned that selection into Deron Williams).

“Things change, management changes, sometimes the view changes,” added Jermaine O’Neal. “Once that happens, players tend to move around. It’s a special thing to do it for one team and once city for 13 long years. You’ve got to tip your hat off to him as a peer, as a teammate, and someone that’s watched him. I’ve been a fan of him for a long time.”

None of Pierce’s Celtic teammates and fellow 20,000-point scorers — Garnett, Allen or Shaq — scored their first 20 grand for the same team.

FOUR PLAYERS, 80,000 POINTS

Among the Celtics’ four 20,000-point scorers, only Shaq scored his first 20,000 in fewer games (727) than Pierce (889). It took Allen (962) and Garnett (979) almost another season’s worth of scoring to reach the mark.

Our own Mike Petraglia captured Pierce’s reaction to reaching the plateau, so let’s take a look at how the other three felt when they reached 20 grand …

There’s a funny story (depending on how you look at it) surrounding Shaq’s 20,000th point. He scored it as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers on March 20, 2008, in 107-99 victory against the Kings in Sacramento.

However, as a result of Shaq’s criticism of then-King Mike Bibby‘s selection to the Team USA roster over Allen Iverson, a friend of Bibby’s defaced the commemorative ball shortly after the game, inscribing “Shaq is an a**hole” on it.

The defamation clearly angered Shaq, as did the lack of acknowledgement from the Lakers organization on the achievement.

“I’ll just have to get another ball at 30,000,” O’Neal told The Los Angeles Times in 2003.

Shaq currently stands at 28,281 points — fifth all-time. Meanwhile, Garnett has 22,345 at 22nd all-time. KG scored his 20,000th point as a member of the Celtics on March 8, 2008, in a 119-89 blowout of the Memphis Grizzlies — oddly enough, on an assist from Pierce.

“I wasn’t aware coming in,” Garnett told The Boston Globe in 2008. “It’s a great accomplishment for me. I’m more grateful to every coach, point guard, staff member, everybody whose put me in a position to be successful and I just say thank you.

“It’s a bit more meaningful as a Celtic when it happened. It seems like things are lining up for something more beautiful, like a championship.”

A year and a half later, also as a Celtic, on December 10, 2009, Allen scored his 20,000th career point — fittingly, on a 3-pointer in a 104-102 victory against the Washington Wizards. Since then, he’s climbed to No. 28 all-time.

“It’s interesting how basketball’s such a team sport, but it’s governed by so many individual statistics,” Allen told The Globe. “I’m just grateful I’ve had great teammates, I’ve had great coaches, and I’ve had pretty good organizations, and that’s helped me be where I am today.”

In another  strange coincidence that will forever tie the Celtics’ Big Three together, Allen scored his 18,000th point on the night Garnett reached 20,000, and Pierce scored his 19,000th point on the night Allen reached 20,000. Welcome to The Twilight Zone.

PIERCE: GREATEST CELTICS SCORER EVER?

Larry Bird (21,791; No. 25 all-time) and John Havlicek (26,395; No. 11 all-time) are each one of the nine NBA players to score more than 20,000 points, beginning and ending their careers with the same team. Of the two, only Bird got to 20 grand in fewer games (809) than Pierce.

Pierce will in all likelihood pass Bird in the 2011-12 season, but will he ever catch Havlicek?

Since he is signed through the 2013-14 season, Pierce would have to average 19.8 points while playing every single game throughout the course of his contract in order to tie Havlicek. That’s definitely unrealistic.

However, should he play an additional two seasons for the Celtics after his current deal, averaging 16 points and 67 games per year (including this one), he’ll surpass Havlicek to become the greatest scorer in Celtics history.

(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, Paul Pierce

Ray Allen on D&H: Trash talking is a part of the game

11.04.10 at 12:33 pm ET
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Celtics guard Ray Allen joined Dale & Holley to talk about a number of topics including what it feels like to score 20,000 points and whether he seriously considered leaving Boston last summer. (To hear the whole conversation, visit the Dale & Holley audio on demand page).

He was also asked about the incident between Kevin Garnett and Charlie Villanueva.

“There’€™s a lot of instances that go on during the game,” Allen said. “I’€™ve heard a lot of trash talking in my day. I know Kevin and Charlie were going at it. One of the things about Kevin that people don’€™t know is he wanted to go to UConn. He talks so much trash about UConn now only because I went there. Charlie was the recipient of that trash talk because he went to UConn. I thought it was all in good fun. I don’€™t think he said anything that was out of bounds.

“So many people were asking, is trash talking out of bounds? What is off limits? So many people say so many things, so I don’€™t know if Kev said it to the extent of what [Villanueva said], but at the same time, that’€™s all within the lines. We’€™re trying to play basketball. I can only imagine what the guys in the NFL say to each other.”

Allen was asked if anything was out of bounds. He answered: “If you have something that’€™s going to get underneath somebody’€™s skin and you know it will keep them from playing basketball, at that moment when you’€™re playing basketball, I got to do what I got to do to win the game.” He added, “Some guys are trash talkers and the guys who can’€™t take it, they’€™ve got to stay out of that arena.”

Allen also shared his thoughts on Michael Jordan and why trash talking him was a bad idea.

“One thing, MJ was nice with his trash talking,” Allen said. “There were certain guys that he couldn’€™t stand, but if you said something to him, then he was going to shoot the next 10 shots in a row. The coach on the other side was like, ‘€˜Man, why did you say something to him? Leave him alone. Do not push his buttons.’€™ So everybody knew don’€™t talk trash to MJ because he’€™s going to be able and score and dunk on you, whatever.

“Guys in the league, you just know who to mess with and who not to mess with. Some guys just go crazy. Some guys just use it. They look at you and say, ‘€˜I’€™m going to attack you from here on out just because you said something to me.’€™ That’€™s part of the game and people love the personalities of [athletes], but everybody’€™s different. ”

More highlights from their conversation after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Kevin Garnett, Michael Jordan, Ray Allen,

‘The Truth’ about Paul Pierce and 20,000 points

11.04.10 at 1:24 am ET
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There are many reasons Paul Pierce is considered ‘The Truth’ around the NBA. He is the go-to guy and captain of the Celtics who leads the team by word and action. On Wednesday, he did both and his reward was a place in NBA history – a place only 35 others have reached – 20,000 points in a career.

‘€œComing into the game I knew it, but I didn’€™t want to press it, but I knew I needed 23 I think tonight to get it, I knew once I got to 22 I looked up and it was a great opportunity, as a player about certain things and they know,” Pierce admitted.

With the TD Garden crowd rising in anticipation, Pierce became just the 36th player in NBA history to reach the milestone when he made the first of two free throws with 13.3 seconds left in overtime during the Celtics’ 105-102 win over Milwaukee on Wednesday night. Pierce followed that by converting the second to put the Celtics up four points, giving them a cushion they would need to win their third straight.

He spoke the truth about his feelings afterward.

“You know it was an emotional moment for me, tough for me to swallow,” Pierce said. “I was just thinking about all the years I have been here and you don’€™t see it to often where a player accomplishes that kind of feat playing with one team. It is a great accomplishment. The fans seeing my ups and downs throughout the years and sticking with me, just to be able to accomplish this type of feat, it means a lot to me I am not going to downplay it.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 20000 points, Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Dominique Wilkins

Fast Break: Celtics sear the deer in OT

11.03.10 at 11:21 pm ET
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The Celtics got another MVP-like performance out of Rajon Rondo, and it was just enough to edge the Milwaukee Bucks (1-4) in overtime, 105-102, at the TD Garden Wednesday night. Rondo finished with 17 points, 15 assists and eight rebounds to help the C’s improve to 4-1.

Paul Pierce led all scorers with 28 points — the final six at the free throw line in the last 13 seconds — to eclipse 20,000 career points and, fittingly, put the game away. The milestone carried undeniable significance for the 13-year Celtics veteran.

“You don’t see it too often where a player accomplishes that type of feat with one team,” an emotional Pierce said after the game. “It means a lot to me. I’m not even going to downplay it. … Five years ago, I wouldn’t have even dreamed that I would have scored 20,000 points in a Celtics uniform. The team was going in a direction, I was a disgruntled player at the time. To still be here talking about this feat, it’s an incredible moment for me.”

THREE THINGS THAT WENT RIGHT

THEY FOUND THEIR FIFTH GEAR: After an Ersan Ilyasova 3-pointer put the Bucks up 80-74 with 3:29 to play, the Garden got awfully quiet. The Celtics’ closing five — Rondo, Ray Allen, Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Glen Davis — changed that, quickly.

Over the next 2:09, the C’s outscored Milwaukee, 16-4, taking a six-point lead with a minute to play and igniting the hometown crowd. In that two-minute span, Garnett and Bucks big Andrew Bogut picked up double technicals after the former dunked on the latter, leading to a shoving match.

Rather than disrupt the C’s momentum, especially in the wake of the day’s KG-Charlie Villanueva Twitter fiasco, the incident seemed to ignite their fire further. Led by another sparkplug (who else but Rondo?), the Celtics literally ran all over the Bucks to pour fast break layup after layup into the net.

The Celtics showed a gear that other teams — even the Bucks, a 2009-10 playoff team — just can’t match. And it came on the second night of a back-to-back, in the fourth quarter. Sure, it took overtime for the C’s to Sear the Dear, but Wednesday night was going Milwaukee’s way until that two-minute stretch.

ALLEN’S GOT HIS GROOVE BACK: The memory of Allen shooting just 3-of-14 in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals was burnt into the minds of many Celtics fans throughout the offseason. Critics claimed the veteran may have been entering the so-called twilight of his career.

But a shooter like Allen never loses his stroke, even at age 35, especially when it’s as sweet as Ray’s. Twice already this season — Wednesday night against the Bucks (23 points on 9-of-20 shooting) and opening night against the Heat (20 points on 7-of-13 shooting) — he has demonstrated that he can still fill it up against the league’s best.

DEFENDING THE POINT GUARD: We know what Rondo is capable of offensively, but the Celtics point guard is already making a run at a second straight All-Defensive First Team selection. He held Brandon Jennings — a legit Rookie of the Year candidate last season — to just 13 points on 5-of-13 shooting. Rondo also kept Jennings from finding open teammates, limiting him to four assists in 34 minutes.

Wednesday night’s performance came on the heels of Rondo’s defense against Detroit’s Rodney Stuckey, who was limited to 6-of-15 shooting and three assists Tuesday night.

THREE THINGS THAT WENT WRONG

WHERE’S THE BENCH? The Celtics were essentially playing with a six-man roster for the majority of the game against the Bucks, as Glen Davis (14 points, 4 rebounds) provided the team’s only real contribution from the pine.

Meanwhile, Nate Robinson, Von Wafer and Semih Erden only played 10 minutes between them. The Small 3 combined for a whopping two points, six rebounds and one assist. When Rivers played a lineup of Erden, Davis, Daniels, Wafer and Robinson, they managed to make a 25-16 lead at the end of the first quarter turn into a 32-31 lead midway through the second quarter.

DEFENDING THE CENTER: Entering Wednesday night’s game against the Bucks, Celtics centers had to defend the following guys:  Joel Anthony (Heat), Ryan Hollins (Cavaliers), Timofey Mozgov (Knicks) and an 87-year-old Ben Wallace (Pistons) — not exactly the Bill Russells of this era.

Bogut was the C’s first true test at the 5 spot. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft and an All-NBA Third Team selection last season, Bogut ate up the Celtics duo of Jermaine O’Neal and Erden to the tune of 21 points and 13 rebounds.

Bogut probably isn’t having his way like that against Shaquille O’Neal and Kendrick Perkins, and the reason for that is toughness — plain and simple.

SAME OLD, SAME OLD: There are three statistics Doc Rivers is going to point to over and over again throughout this season: turnovers, rebounds and veteran minutes. The first two will likely determine when the Celtics end up in the loss column. And the third could signal how often they end up there.

The Bucks led the turnover (11-16) and held the rebounding advantage for much of the night, until the Celtics edged them out, 43-42, in the overtime period.

Meanwhile, Allen, Pierce and Garnett combined for 120 minutes. That’s a direct result of the bench’s lack of production. If the C’s need those kind of minutes — especially in the second of back-to-back games — to pull out wins against good teams, that spells trouble in the form of fatigue down the road.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, NBA, Paul Pierce

Ray Allen on Twitter & NBA: ‘It’s a very fragile world’

11.03.10 at 8:42 pm ET
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Not that this is news but Ray Allen is no Kevin Garnett. He admitted as much before Wednesday’s game against Milwaukee when asked his take on “Twitter War” between KG and Charlie Villanueva.

“I don’t want a mic on those guys in the NFL and I don’t want a mic on these guys in the NBA,” Allen said. “You have the opportunity to hear some things that maybe you don’t want to hear or some kids don’t need to hear but that’s the heat of the battle, that’s in competition. I’ve never been a trash-talker. I believe in close competition you can find something you can beat your guy at. Most guys know when they’re beat and I’m not a pound-on-my-chest player and never have been.

“If I just made a three or a dunk, whatever it may be, I think everybody saw it. I don’t need to draw more attention to it.”

Allen said the first he heard of the ‘Twitter war’ between Villanueva and Garnett was while he was on his way to Wednesday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks. Allen said athletes have to be careful what they say on and off the court and now on-line.

“It’s a very fragile world that we live in now,” Allen said. “You almost have to have people around you to protect everything that you say and do and somebody has to watch you. As athletes, I think we have to be more responsible.”

Villanueva, via his Twitter page after Tuesday’s game in Detroit, accused Garnett of calling him a ‘cancer patient’ while Garnett said in a statement Wednesday that it was a misunderstanding and and that he called Villanueva a ‘cancer’ to his team. Allen said he believes athletes are under a spotlight that’s getting hotter and hotter.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Charlie Villanueva, Detroit Pistons, Kevin Garnett

Doc Rivers backs Kevin Garnett’s version

11.03.10 at 7:59 pm ET
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Doc Rivers said he was standing next to Kevin Garnett when he said whatever it was that he said to Charlie Villanueva Tuesday night and the coach stands by his player’s account. “I’€™m not going to go off on a tangent on this whole thing,” Rivers said before the C’s played the Bucks. “I actually heard what Kevin said. I was standing right there. What he released is what he said. I’€™m going to leave it at that.”

Villanueva wrote on his Twitter account: “KG called me a cancer patient.”

Garnett responded in a statement: “My comment to Charlie Villanueva was in fact ‘€˜You are cancerous to your team and our league.’€™”

Rivers didn’t care for the way Villanueva handled the situation. “I used to play and I can’€™t imagine us running and talking about what was said,’ Rivers said. He then joked, “Larry [Bird] has said some terrible stuff to me and I’€™m still hurt by it. There are times when guys do cross the line, but you get over that too. I don’€™t think talking about what guys said during the game… I just don’€™t find a place for it.”

Rivers acknowledged that he’s uncomfortable with Twitter and the Celtics have a roster full of players who actively tweet.

“What we try to tell them is it’€™s your life and have fun and all that, but what goes on [with] the team stays on the team,” Rivers said. “I think so far they’€™ve been pretty good with it, but this is a new generation and we’€™re going to continue to have problems with this until we figure it out.”

Read More: Charlie Villanueva, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett, Larry Bird

Kevin Garnett: ‘I would never be insensitive’

11.03.10 at 4:48 pm ET
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Kevin Garnett just released the following statement in reaction to Charlie Villanueva‘s accusations on Twitter following Tuesday night’s Celtics-Pistons game:

I am aware there was a major miscommunication regarding something I said on the court last night. My comment to Charlie Villanueva was in fact ‘€˜You are cancerous to your team and our league.’€™ I would never be insensitive to the brave struggle that cancer patients endure. I have lost loved ones to this deadly disease and have a family member currently undergoing treatment. I would never say anything that distasteful. The game of life is far bigger than the game of basketball.

Garnett’s version of the story is far more tame than Villanueva’s claim on Twitter that KG called him “a cancer patient.”

Side note: If KG’s take is accurate, I’ve got to say … that’s some pretty good trash talk. And shame on Villanueva for not only taking to Twitter — but misconstruing Garnett’s message. It’ll be interesting to hear Villanueva’s reaction to KG’s reaction.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Charlie Villanueva, Detroit Pistons, Kevin Garnett
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