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.
The Sporting News published a story  with the following headline: “Chemistry of happy-go-lucky Celtics bound to be tested by limited minutes.” The article then detailed how cohesive a unit this C’s team has been throughout the preseason, showing no signs of complaint. Finally, the author tossed this final paragraph into the fold:
“Playing time, then, will be tight in Boston, and nothing can torpedo good chemistry quite like jealousies and resentments over who’s on the floor and who’s benched. Rivers has said he’d like to use a 10-man rotation this year, and he’s got to hope that will keep everyone happy. If it doesn’t, the happy-go-lucky tone the Celtics have established in training camp will change quickly.”
This statement comes after 500 words from the Celtics explaining exactly why such jealousies and resentments aren’t about to happen this year, including this nugget from Pierce on Doc:
“Everybody’s seen how he’s been able to mesh personalities. He’s coached a young team with inexperience, and he showed he can do it with a veteran team with a lot of personalities and All-Stars, and bring them together and win. That’s a difficult combination for a coach. Around the league, you look at certain coaches that can only coach young players, and some can only coach veterans, but Doc’s done it all.”
Remembering Larry Siegfried
Over the weekend, when we heard that Larry Siegfried died , my father said, “I could’ve played for those Celtics teams and won five championships.” Well, I just wanted to point out here that Siegfried was better than just another body on a stacked Ohio State team that won an NCAA  championship and a loaded C’s team that won five titles in his seven years in Boston.
Sure, the 1960 Buckeyes team that won the NCAA  championship featured Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek, but Siegfried averaged 19.6 points a game for the Buckeyes the year before their arrival.
And, sure, on the Celtics Siegfried played alongside Hall of Famers Havlicek, Sam Jones , Tommy Heinsohn, Bill Russell , K.C. Jones and Frank Ramsey, but he more than contributed. On the 1965-66 title team, he started and averaged 13.7 points. Likewise, on the 1968-69 championship squad, he started and averaged 14.2 points.
More importantly, however, he earned the respect of all those guys, as reported in some great tributes …
Bobby Knight : “I never saw a better guard in the Big Ten  than Larry Siegfried. He was a great player. He was tough as hell. He was physical, he could jump. … If I had my choice of any guard who played in the Big Ten  when I coached and everything else, I’d have a hard time picking someone else.”
Jerry Lucas: “I don’t think people realize how great he was. There were a lot of great players at Ohio State, so he didn’t get the attention he might have on other teams.”
John Havlicek : “He was the type of player who sacrificed a lot because as a sophomore he led the team in scoring. When (Jerry) Lucas came along with the other freshmen, he had to take a back seat. He accepted and did it well and there was no one who worked harder or was more tenacious than Larry when he played basketball. A lot of times he was a complainer but we all knew that everything was fine as long as he was complaining. That was the nature of his personality.”
The Onion on the Heat
I’ll leave you with a couple items from The Onion, which posted a couple funny stories on the Heat over the weekend. From “Miami Heat Spend First Two Weeks  Of Training Camp Practicing Pregame Introductions”:
After two weeks of intense twice-a-day practices, sources within the Miami Heat organization are reporting that players are already in midseason pregame introduction form. “We spent the first week working on the basics, mostly running out of the tunnel, jumping into one another, and rocking back and forth in a big circle,” said newly acquired forward Chris Bosh, still catching his breath Tuesday from a high-five/low-five drill. “But working with guys like LeBron (James) and Dwyane (Wade), it’s amazing how quickly we got the feel for one another’s preferences. Like just yesterday, Wade and I caught eyes in practice and I instinctively knew he was going to jump into the ring of us starters, and that we should all explode like he was a missile crashing into us.”
After much deliberation, members of the MiamiHeat.com web team decided today that the featured homepage image should depict Miami Heat small forward LeBron James playing basketball.
According to sources, the choice to go with a photograph of James was made in an early morning staff meeting. Several different image ideas were suggested, including LeBron James shooting a basketball, LeBron James passing a basketball, and LeBron James playing defense in a basketball game.
The selected photo will reportedly replace yesterday’s picture of LeBron James standing on a basketball court and dribbling a basketball with one hand while pointing with the other.
Gotta run, folks. See you tomorrow. Same time. Same place.
(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach  on Twitter.)