UPDATE: The Celtics announced that Shaquille O’Neal was on the flight to Cleveland for Tuesday’s game with the Cavaliers.
WALTHAM — Forgetting the time practice begins is not the best way to endear yourself to the coach – especially when it comes after the coach gives you and the rest of the team the Thanksgiving weekend off. But Shaquille O’Neal can be lucky that he’s built up a lot of goodwill with Doc Rivers.
“You get over it,” Rivers said. “Listen, if a guy had a history, then you deal with it differently. When a guy doesn’t have a history or something, it happens. It’s life, you move on. You do whatever you do, fine [the player] or whatever all that stuff is. I never release that stuff and it’s not a big deal.”
The Celtics center missed practice on Monday when he forgot when practice began, according to coach Doc Rivers. Team spokesman Jeff Twiss confirmed that O’Neal did make the team flight to Cleveland for Tuesday night’s game. The absence comes after the 12-4 Celtics were given Saturday and Sunday off by the coach to enjoy the Thanksgiving weekend. Glen Davis had to take his place in practice for the short-handed C’s.
“Today, we only had 11 guys, which sucks,” Rivers said. “It hurts your practice because that means most of your guys are on the floor for the entire practice. That’s not the way to go. He got times mixed up, he missed one, he owes us one. We’re good.”
Asked if he would punish O’Neal, Rivers joked, “I was going to spank him. He may not hurt. It may hurt me.”
Then Rivers was asked if he handles star players differently than other players.
“It depends on who you are,” Rivers said. “If you have a history of that, we deal with it. It’s a human game and it always will be. I don’t have a set rule for one guy or two guys. Each guy is an individual basis is what I’m saying. You deal with it that way. You put money in the bank. If you’re a guy who tends to use his money up, then it’s a little shorter.”
The Celtics had a 90-minute practice that began at noon at their complex in Waltham.
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …
I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the basketball ties in the wake of Sunday’s passing of Leslie Nielsen — one of the great comedic actors in history.
Playing Dr. Rumack in the 1980 comedy classic “Airplane”, Nielsen starred alongside NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as Roger Murdock. Unfortunately, Nielsen didn’t appear in Kareem’s best scene.
In addition, back in 1994, when Del Harris assumed the head coaching position of the Los Angeles Lakers, he joked about serving as a double for Nielsen in Hollywood. ESPN.com’s Marc Steincontacted Harris for comment …
“We had already had the lookalike thing going, and I had actually signed a name to an autograph a time or two, so I said to him, ‘How about going in the locker room and act like you are me and tell them they played a good game or you are proud of them or whatever you have.’ He did it and the guys loved it.
“He brought a lot of laughter to the world, but not tonight. Peace, Leslie.”
R.I.P. Leslie Nielsen. Now, on to some Boston Celtics links …
Celtics head coach Doc Rivers expects to catch 10 of his son Austin's games this season. (AP)
DOC’S DIAGNOSIS OF AUSTIN RIVERS
NBA.com’s Shaun Powellcaught up withDoc Rivers to discuss the success of his son, Austin Rivers, who ranks No. 1 among Class of 2011 high school basketball recruits.
The only actual news to come from the story is that Doc will miss up to 10 potential practice days in order to catch some of his son’s games in Florida.
“It’s not the best way, but it’s the only way,” Rivers told Powell. “If they play and I’m off, I’m there.”
Will Doc’s potential absence for as many as 10 practice days affect this veteran-laden Celtics team? In my mind, no chance. It might have some small effect on a young team, but because of their collective experience this C’s squad is the ideal group for Rivers in this situation, as a few absences in favor of father-son bonding shouldn’t impact their success one way or another.
And, in many ways, the father-son relationship between Doc and Austin Rivers is just like any other involving a teenager.
“You know when you’re a teenager you really don’t even want to talk to your parents anymore,” Doc said, with a laugh. “So basketball does give you a conversation piece. While the bond my wife and I have with all of our kids is away from basketball, it helps.”
In other ways, their relationship is unlike most, in that Doc could one day coach his son in the NBA.
“I harbor dreams that he makes it to the league,” Rivers said. “But coaching him? That’d be tough. Because I have to live with his mom. She runs the household. If I didn’t play him one day, I’d have to go home to his mother. And that would be no fun at all.”
Of course, if Austin Rivers lives up to his billing as the nation’s No. 1 recruit, the Celtics probably won’t have a chance at drafting him in a few years — considering he’d be a top-10 pick in that scenario.
FORMER CELTICS STRUGGLE TO FIND HOMES
In a bizarre story over the holiday weekend, despite Stephon Marbury‘s popularity in the Chinese Basketball Association last season, Shanxi Zhongyu opted not to sign the former Celtics guard to one of its three contracts allotted for international players.
Not only that, but the team only alerted Marbury after he arrived for training camp in Taiyuan. As a result, he hasn’t been able to sign with another CBA team, because they too have signed their three international players.
“If they said they weren’t going to sign him a month ago, then Marbury still would have had a lot of other opportunities because there are still some teams who are quite interested in him,” Titan Sports associated editor and close Marbury confidant Yang Yi told NIUBBall.com. ”But now, every CBA team has already signed their import players, so it’s going to be real tough for Marbury to find a team to play with.
“He’s dissapointed in Shanxi. This is treachery. Marbury isn’t strapped for cash, he doesn’t need to play in China because he needs money. He just feels really sad because he loves Shanxi. This summer he was working out and keeping his body in shape. He feels really hurt by the team.”
In other news, former Celtics All-Star Antoine Walkercould sign a contract with the NBA Development League as soon as Monday.
One former Celtic who isn’t having trouble finding his place is Al Jefferson, who got emotional after his Utah Jazz upset the Los Angeles Lakers.
“I haven’t beaten the Lakers in probably six years, since I left Boston, and I haven’t been in a playoff game in six years and it felt like a playoff game,” Jefferson told The Orange County Register. “Every possession counted. Kobe Bryant being who he is, and we were down, we fought back, we didn’t give up. We won against all odds. It was just amazing, man. I’m overwhelmed. It’s never been like this before, and to be a part of this. It just meant a lot to me.”
CAN RAJON RONDO AVERAGE 20 ASSISTS?
Rajon Rondo believes he can average 20 assists per game. At least, that’s what he told NBA FanHouse.
OK, so how many assists per game does Rondo believe he can average this season?
“Twenty,” he said.
Realistically, how many?
“Twenty,” said Rondo, who did hand out 24 Oct. 29 against New York but hasn’t exceeded 17 in any other game.
OK, why do you think that?
“Because we’re shooting the ball extremely well,” he said. “We’re playing together and moving the ball.”
In order to produce 20 assists a game, Rondo would have to average 21.1 dimes over the next 66 games this season. While I’m not buying that — considering he’s only eclipsed 20 assists once this season — I still think he has a shot at John Stockton‘s 1989-90 NBA record of 14.5 assists per game.
SHAQ DOMINATES BASKET & RINGS
The Onion once again took on the Celtics, this time in a tonge-in-cheek article entitled, “Shaquille O’Neal shows he can still dominate around basket of fries.” Here’s a sample:
“Shaq’s already got four onion rings on his fingers, but he still wants to get one more for the thumb,” Kevin Garnett said. “And you know what? Tonight he showed he’s going to do whatever it takes to get a whole handful of onion rings. Whatever it takes.”
Never a dull moment when it comes to this Celtics squad.
(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)
Call it a lack of respect from certain members of the Raptors, an overwhelming desire to make good on a sub-par performance five days earlier or a kick in the butt from his head coach, Kevin Garnett was a man on a mission Friday night.
After Andrea Bargnani dropped 29 points on the Celtics last Sunday in a 102-101 come-from-behind Raptors win in Toronto, Celtics coach Doc Rivers pulled Garnett aside and essentially told him that can’t happen again. Garnett responded by scoring a season-high 26 points while holding Bargnani to 11 in Garnett’s best two-way game of the season as the Celtics prevailed, 110-101, Friday nigh at TD Garden.
“Doc has different ways of motivating me,” Garnett said. “He pulled me to the side, he wasn’t really happy with Bargnani situation up there and I wasn’t really pleased with that, either. And tonight was more of a concentrated effort to just make sure I kept him under control. It doesn’t take much to motivate me.”
Rivers was far more subtle in his post-game comments but hinted that he saw the KG everyone expected on Friday night.
“Kevin’s energy tonight was off the charts, and you knew it would be, if you know Kevin,” Rivers said. “Because the last time we played them, the guy in his position had a pretty good game, and that’s just Kevin Garnett.”
Then there were the words of Shaquille O’Neal, who hinted that Raptors forward Amir Johnson was talking trash and directing it at KG on the court. Pretty dumb idea, if true.
Garnett said he was inspired by his own fire and Rivers’ words of inspiration.
“It was 50-50 a little bit,” Garnett added. “I didn’t get much sleep [Thursday] night. That’s what it is. I’m going to see Bargnani as long as I’m in the league but I guess the way Doc came at me was the way he wanted it. That’s what he wanted. I likes to see me a little of the chain at times and I don’t mind being like that.”
Rajon Rondo admitted he wasn’t completely back to his old form but said he felt good being back on the court for the first time since suffering a strained left hamstring. Rondo played 35 minutes in Boston’s 110-101 win over the Toronto Raptors Friday night at TD Garden.
“I was rusty,” Rondo said. “Guys made shots in the first quarter. We got some easy looks from my teammates. My timing was a little off for me. But I feel fine.”
But as for his eight assists in the first quarter and 14 for the game, Rondo said he felt like he was seeing the court very well.
“I was in the zone passing the ball,” said Rondo, who added the extended minutes took its toll afterward. “Tired. I hadn’t played in a week. Playing 35 minutes, I was trying to sit the fourth [quarter].”
Rajon Rondo returned to action, dishing out 14 assists in the Celtics' win. (AP)
The Celtics broke open what was a semi-close game thanks to a third quarter in which they out-scored Toronto 28-15. The end result was a 110-101 victory for the C’s, snapping the Raptors four-game win streak.
Perhaps the biggest news of the night was the return of point guard Rajon Rondo, who had missed the C’s last three games with a hamstring injury. Rondo lacked his normal explosion, but more than compensated with some adept passing going toward the hoop.
Rondo would finish with 14 assists to go along with four points (shooting 2-for-6 from the field while missing both of his two free throw attempts). He played 36 minutes, initially coming out of the game with 2:32 left in the first quarter, having already helped the C’s build a 12-point lead with eight assists.
Here is what went right and what went wrong as the Celtics improved to 12-4 …
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE CELTICS
- Kevin Garnett dominated the inside for the Celtics (thanks in largepart to the set-ups of Rondo). The forward was active on both ends, resulting in a game-high 26 points and 11 rebounds. His replacement, Semih Erden, also performed admirably, contributing with eight points on 4-for-4 shooting from the floor (8 points) in 11 minutes.
- The Celtics made a living early on going over the top of the Toronto defense, as was evidenced by four alley-oop passes from Rondo in the opening two quarters alone. One in particular stood out, with Shaquille O’Neal flying through the air to slam in a Rondo pass, giving the C’s a 22-9 lead at the time. The result of the flurry of lay-ins was 67 percent shooting from the floor by the hosts in the first quarter.
- Shaq played inspired ball once again, coming up one rebound short of recording his third straight double-double (this time scoring 16 points to go with nine rebounds). Most notably was O’Neal’s ability to beat Toronto’s Andrea Bargnani down the floor on more than a few occasions. Through three quarters the center was 5-for-5 from the floor, and, even more impressive, 6-for-8 from the foul line.
- Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch was at the game and still looked spry.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE CELTICS
- The Celtics bench had a tough time putting the game away, which was on display both in the first half, and after the C’s built a 22-point lead late in the third quarter. The Raptors would ultimately close the gap to six points midway through the fourth quarter. The backcourt combination of Marquis Daniels (one free throw) and Nate Robinson (2 points)didn’t yield many dividends.
- In this case, what could have gone wrong for the Celtics: Shaq swinging his fist around violently after missing a lay-up after being fouled. Toronto guard Jerryd Bayless, who was just inches away from the roundhouse, might not have survived if he was positioned differently.
- Von Wafer saw some rare early action, presumably getting a chance to fill in for some of the minutes left behind by the injured Delonte West.But after two second-quarter minutes, his presence was negligible.
In the five days since the Celtics were embarrassed in a Sunday afternoon matinee in Toronto, they regained their swagger in Atlanta, gutted out a win over New Jersey and lost one of their most indispensable reserves in Delonte West.
West’s injury casts a pall over the C’s, and there are no easy solutions for them right now. The immediate plan seems to be to stand pat with what they have, which means more playing time for Von Wafer and an accelerated learning curve for rookie Avery Bradley. This also means an increased role for Marquis Daniels, who was just getting comfortable as the backup small forward. he now has to return to being the team’s most versatile reserve.
These are tough times for the Celtics who didn’t begin to suffer team-wide injury breakdowns until after the new year last season. If they can survive this stretch, and continue to win games, it will serve them well in the second half of the season when Doc Rivers will likely ease off on his veterans. That luxury doesn’t exist right now, and so it will be up to Wafer, Daniels and Bradley to fill in the gaps.
The Raptors have won four straight after a dreadful start and serve as a strong test to the Celtics resolve.
RAPTORS (6-9, 5-5 last 10)
Offensive Rating: 106.2 (15)
Defensive Rating: 107.7 (19)
Pace: 94.6 (8)
Likely Starters: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Sonny Weems, Reggie Evans, Andrea Bargnani
CELTICS (11-4, 7-3 last 10)
Offensive Rating: 108.2 (11)
Defensive Rating: 100.5 (3)
Pace: 90.4 (26)
Likely Starters: Nate Robinson, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal