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Lakers Fans at the Staples Center

06.03.10 at 8:39 pm ET
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LOS ANGELES — Fans outside the Staples Center give their opinions on the Celtics, who they think will win the series and the city of Boston before Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

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Rondo’s new challenge

06.03.10 at 8:34 pm ET
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LOS ANGELES – Derek Fisher has been in the NBA for 14 years, but he still poses new challenges for Rajon Rondo.

In the previous two rounds of the playoffs, Rondo has been matched up with younger point guards in Jameer Nelson and Mo Williams. Even though 35-year-old Fisher may not be as quick, he can create problems for Rondo that he has yet to encounter this postseason.

‘€œHe’€™s smarter,’€ Rondo said prior to Game 1. ‘€œI think he’€™s been to seven finals so this is probably the same old story for him. He’€™s probably going to play like this is his last, but Derek’€™s a veteran. Like I said, he’€™s very smart and he’€™s a unique player, so I have to be aware of his tricks he may try to throw at me, some of his veteran moves he may have to draw fouls against me or whatever it may be.’€

Fisher’s basketball IQ will keep Rondo on his toes throughout the series. The combination of his skill and intelligence has Rondo on the alert.

‘€œYou can’€™t underestimate Derek,” he said. “He definitely can shoot the 3, you can’€™t lose sight of Derek, and he draws fouls. He shoots 99 percent from the line so he’€™s not an easy match up. He’€™s a tough match up.”

Read More: Celtics, Derek Fisher, Lakers, Rajon Rondo

Ray Allen’s patience is rewarded

06.03.10 at 8:32 pm ET
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LOS ANGELES — Ray Allen is a creature of habit. For him, the only thing worse that not doing his pregame routine, which isn’t really an option anyway, is not being able to do his pregame routines because there are no games.

The extra rest may have been necessary to get his teammates healthy, but Allen has never liked having a long break in his rhythm. “It’s seem like it’s been forever, but it’s here,” Allen said. “You wait five, six, seven days, but it just happens just like that.”

However, this time is a little bit different because this is the NBA finals.

“You get a chance to soak up the sun and enjoy the success that you’ve had,” Allen said. “Once you get that you have to keep going and keep focus. There is definitely no comparison to the first few rounds. The conference finals are no comparison. As a team, as a player, it’s the Super Bowl. It’s just another level.”

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Thibodeau reportedly turns down Hornets

06.03.10 at 6:57 am ET
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According to a report in the New York Post, Celtics assistant coach Tom Thibodeau turned down the Hornets’ offer of their head coaching position. Thibodeau reportedly had been given until the start of Thursday night’s Game 1 of the NBA finals to accept the offer, with Charlotte planning to give the job to Trail Blazers assistant Monty Williams as a backup plan.

Thibodeau also is in the running for the Bulls vacancy, and reports indicated that Bulls executives Jon Paxson and Gar Forman flew to Los Angeles to interview Thibodeau, who also interviewed with the Nets before the Celtics departed for the West Coast.

Meanwhile, ESPN NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy removed himself for consideration from all vacancies, according to the The Star-Ledger in New Jersey. Van Gundy reportedly was considered a leading candidate with the Nets, who also interviewed former Mavericks coach Avery Johnson.

Big Papi breaks down the NBA finals

06.02.10 at 11:30 pm ET
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Big Papi is also a big Celtics fan. When he isn’€™t working in the batter’€™s box, David Ortiz enjoys watching the C’€™s work toward another championship.

‘€œI’€™m all the way with the Celtics,’€ he said.

Ortiz believe the Celtics have what it takes to win it all against the Lakers. He offered up his NBA finals analysis, including why he thinks Paul Pierce is the key to the Celtics success, how Kevin Garnett pumps him up, and what makes the C’€™s a ‘€œteam.’€

Ortiz on’€¦

Kevin Garnett: ‘€œKG is a monster down there. KG, he puts everybody in the mood. When he’€™s [trash talking] people out there and getting mad, that pumps me up. That even gets me ready to play baseball. I love it. I love it. I’€™m telling you, when I see KG doing that, I want to jump on the court and [kick butt] with him. It’€™s not a secret that his game is something else.’€

Paul Pierce: ‘€œI believe that Pierce has got to keep his game up the way he’€™s been doing it [for the Celtics to win]. ‘€¦ I want Pierce to stay where he’€™s at, scoring those 25, 30 points.’€

Rajon Rondo: ‘€œRondo’€™s fine in his game. I’€™m not worried about Rondo.’€

Kendrick Perkins: ‘€œMy man the center, Perkins, keep on [kicking butt]. Clean it out down there (in the paint). Don’€™t let anybody get in there.’€

Ray Allen: ‘€œI don’€™t worry about Allen. He’€™s shooting the [heck] out of the ball. That’€™s a game that you know is going to be there because he’€™s been hot as hell. I don’€™t know how he does it. He’€™s been shooting some balls with everybody on top of him.’€

Glen Davis: ‘€œBig Boy, I’€™m watching his game all the time. ‘€¦ He’€™s just awesome. I love watching him down there hustling and doing his thing.’€

The bench: ‘€œThe bench is unbelievable, too. When those guys (the starters) take a break, it’€™s like they’€™re still in because those guys on the bench, they come out and get it done. That’€™s a team, that’€™s a team. That’€™s what I call a team. So I’€™m cheering for them big time.’€

Key to victory: ‘€œThey’€™ve got everything. First of all, everybody’€™s healthy to begin with. The games have been unbelievable. They just have to increase the defense just a little bit more, just a little tiny bit. Not anything crazy because their defense has been great too, just a little more and that’€™s about it, it’€™s an easy win.’€

Read More: Celtics, David Ortiz, Glen Davis, Kendrick Perkins

Lakers get cash for drawing charges

06.02.10 at 2:28 pm ET
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Lakers coach Phil Jackson has tried every approach he can to get his players to take charges. The coach’s strategy includes insulting them ‘€” calling his big men “thin-chested” ‘€” as well as offering $50 cash for each charge.

“To motivate us in a way to take charges and getting away with it,” Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic told ESPN’s Shelley Smith.

Vujacic said the Lakers see an opportunity to get some spending money vs. the Celtics.

“Their whole team is kind of a charging possibility taking team,” he said. ” We’ve just got to be smart. They are a very smart team that can go from block to a charge, so we’ve been working a lot on charges and how to take them and stuff, so, we’ll see.”

The ESPN story indicated the money comes from players’ fines ‘€” for example, the team collects $25 from a player every time he gets called for illegal defense. Assistant coach Frank Hamblen said Lamar Odom has been keeping the pot full.

“I mean, I just pencil him in every night for illegal defense,” Hamblen said. “I ask him every night: ‘Lamar, you know the illegal defense rules, don’t you?’ ”

Hamblen said the Lakers haven’t had many takers in the charge-drawing sweepstakes. At least one player isn’t interested in that strategy.

“I don’t even know how to take a charge,” Ron Artest said. “To get the charge, you have to fall. I’d rather not fall. You call an offensive foul [on the New York playgrounds], possibly be a fight. That’s just how we grew up playing basketball.”

Read More: Celtics, charge, Lakers, Lamar Odom

NBA mock draft

06.02.10 at 6:36 am ET
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The Attack Athletics Center in Chicago hosted various general managers, coaches and team scouts late last month. The assembled individuals tried to gather as much information as possible on 52 of the best college basketball prospects at the annual NBA draft combine. During the two-day event May 20-21, the players were tested on their physicals, group workouts, skills, drills and interviews.

Some prospects had their draft stock rise, while some didn’€™t participate at all and raised questions. One player that raised eyebrows and interest was 19-year-old Ryan Richards from England. Standing at 6 feet, 10 inches, the forward showed the ability to shoot the ball from the perimeter while being fundamentally sound. After heading into the combine as an unknown, Richards improved his status and looks like an intriguing second-round pick.

Paul George from Fresno State was another player who had eyes on him after playing at a lower-profile college. Like Richards, George raised his stock by showcasing his coveted combination of athleticism and shooting. He appears to be a lottery to mid-first round pick after demonstrating his skills at the combine.

Two players — among many — who declined an invitation for both days of the combine were Al-Farouq Aminu and Quincy Pondexter. While Aminu is projected to be a top 10 pick, Pondexter is on the fringe of being a first-round selection. Though their absence could mean they feel safe in their current project, it could also mean they don’€™t want to exemplify their weaknesses through drills and workouts.

One player who needed to impress in the interview portion was Kentucky big man DeMarcus Cousins. Coming into the combine with questions about his character, Cousins didn’€™t fully squash that perception. He answered questions by the media with short and seemingly curt responses. Despite the concerns about his maturity, Cousins demonstrated in his only season with the Wildcats that he can be an immediate factor in the NBA.

With that said, here is the first-round mock of the NBA draft, which will be held on June 24.

1. Washington

John Wall, Kentucky, Fr., PG, 6-foot-4, 196 pounds

Wall is the no-brainer No. 1 pick in this draft. Possessing incredible quickness and athleticism that allows him to drive by defenders in a Rajon Rondo-like fashion, he will give Washington a true point guard to play alongside Gilbert Arenas. Read the rest of this entry »

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