Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …
Entering Wednesday night’s game against the Nuggets, the Celtics have played 20 games and are a quarter of the way through the NBA regular season. It’s time for a report card …
- Grade: A
- Comments: He’s been on a season-long rampage to prove each and every doubter wrong. A season removed from being considered done, cooked, finito, Garnett’s field goal and free throw percentages, points, rebounds and steals are all up. Even more importantly, he’s back to his 2007-08 Defensive Player of the Year form.
- Grade: A
- Comments: Since entering camp in impressive shape, he’s been remarkably efficient so far. Pierce’s true shooting percentage  (62.1 percent) ranks third in the league at his position, and his rebounding numbers are up. Not to mention the fact that — according to Doc Rivers — he’s assumed a larger vocal leadership role.
- Grade: A
- Comments: Emerging as a legitimate Sixth Man of the Year candidate, his numbers have increased in every single category. His knockdown jump shot has forced opponents to spread the floor, opening things up for his teammates. And his propensity for drawing charges has been both invaluable and highly entertaining.
- Grade: A-minus
- Comments: Two reasons he’s not an A: 1) He’s already missed more games this season (four) than he did in the previous two seasons combined; and 2) he’s shooting 44.4 percent from the free-throw line. Otherwise, he’s been phenomenal — threatening John Stockton’s single-season NBA assist record.
- Grade: A-minus
- Comments: His scoring average may have dipped from last season, but he’s back to doing what he does best: Burying 3-pointers at a 40 percent clip. He’s also dishing out assists at his highest rate since arriving in Boston. My one gripe? I’ve seen him play better defensively (Exhibit A: Wesley Matthews‘ 23 points).
- Grade: B-plus
- Comments: Shaq has given the Celtics pretty much everything they could’ve hoped for, and he’s shooting a mind-boggling 68.4 percent from the floor. So why a B-minus? 1) He’s missed 25 percent of their games, and 2) for all the talk of his production, his points, rebounds, blocks and steals are all down from 2009-10.
- Grade: B-minus
- Comments: He’s shown glimpses of what he could be: a double-digit scorer and lockdown defender off the bench. But he’s also shown he can play 20-plus minutes and make little contribution to a game’s outcome. The team’s playoff success could hinge on his ability to be the former player, rather than the latter.
- Grade: B-minus
- Comments: In four games as a starter, he’s averaging 0.58 points and 0.19 assists per minute, shooting 57.9 percent from 3-point land. In 16 games as a non-starter, he’s averaging 0.43 points and 0.12 assists per minute, shooting 29.3 percent from beyond the arc. Translation: He needs to be more productive off the bench.
- Grade: C
- Comments: The good news? The Celtics found a 7-footer who can contribute minutes on a championship-contending team in the second round of the 2010 draft. The bad news? Whether it’s the shoulder injury or not, Erden has at times looked lost on both ends of the floor. All in all, he’s been better than expected.
- Grade: C-minus
- Comments: As a player, he’s been a B-plus/A-minus. Overall, though, he’s been a C-minus. His 10-game suspension kept him out of the start of the season. His dust-up with Von Wafer was concerning. On the court, West was who we thought he was — a valuable member of the team. Then came the unfortunate wrist injury.
- Grade: D-minus
- Comments: He’s been a consummate professional and great locker-room presence. On the court, though, J.O. hasn’t contributed much to the Celtics’ success. He’s been battling a knee injury ever since he arrived in Boston, and even when he has seen the floor, he didn’t exactly light the world on fire.
- Grade: F
- Comments: With the injury to West, the Celtics need a backup 2-guard who can spell Allen and contribute scoring to the second unit. They’ve been waiting … and waiting … and waiting for Wafer to assume that role. Only he hasn’t. He’s been a “DNP – Coach’s Decision” five times and only earned 5.5 minutes a game.
- Grade: Incomplete
- Comments: This is a guy whose potential was ranked higher than John Wall‘s only two years ago. He’s capable of being a shutdown defender and productive point guard in the league, but no late-first-round rookie was going to step in and claim big minutes for the Celtics behind Rondo and Robinson.
- Grade: Incomplete
- Comments: An undersized guy who put up big numbers in college, can he be another Big Baby? That question won’t be answered this season. Like Bradley, Harangody finds himself behind two productive veterans at his position (Garnett and Davis). But bigs have thrived under KG’s tutelage, and he should, too.
- Grade: Audited
- Comments: By all accounts, Perkins is working his butt off in the gym to get back on the court. At the same time, he’s not rushing his recovery, as he’s hoping to come back after the All-Star break. Those are both good signs. The Celtics need a healthy Perkins in the playoffs. That’s the only goal, and he appears to be on target.
- Grade: A-minus
- Comments: Despite the depth of talent he gets to draw from, it hasn’t been easy for Rivers. He’s blended huge personalities into great team chemistry. He’s also successfully juggled injuries to J.O., Shaq, West, Rondo and Perkins. The only concern? Rondo, Allen, Pierce and Garnett are all piling up a ton of minutes.
- Grade: A
- Comments: Ainge managed to re-sign Pierce, Allen, Rivers, Robinson and Daniels for at least one more title run. The Shaq signing has been literally and figuratively huge. The addition of West was phenomenal, even if it hasn’t panned out, yet. The only negatives? J.O. and Wafer have essentially contributed zilch.
According to Forbes Magazine, Rajon Rondo is the NBA's third most valuable player. (AP)
RAJON RONDO: THIRD MOST VALUABLE?
Forbes Magazine released another NBA study , this time analyzing the most valuable players in the league during the 2009-10 season, based on win creation  vs. salary.
According to sports economist David Berri‘s calculations, Rondo was the third-best player for the buck last season. Earning $2.1 million, his actual value was $29 million. Only LeBron James and Kevin Durant were more valuable to their teams.
Speaking of Rondo, ESPN.com’s Chris Forsberg got Pierce to open up  about how Rondo — in comparison to Robinson — has helped his production. Here’s what he said:
“When Rondo’s not out there, the dynamics of the team change because I’m a guy who gets a lot of stuff off fast-breaks, off of cuts, you know, find and be wide open. Then you insert maybe Nate or Marquis and then maybe it’s a different way that I approach the game. I may have the ball in my hands a little bit more. But we’ve played a few games now without Rondo and we’ll make the necessary adjustments. There’s certain plays that we’re comfortable running with Rondo, just because he’s been in the system, and they work great for us and not so well maybe with Nate, but he’s only been in the system for a year and some change.
“They definitely have two different packages when each of them is on the court, and we’ll see how it all works out, but with either one we feel like they give us something different, being that Nate is more of a shooter and scorer; Rondo, he’s more dynamic with his passing. But if we have neither one of them, then maybe I’ll take over some point guard duties, or it’s time for someone like Avery Bradley to step up, or maybe Marquis.”
ANTOINE WALKER STAMPEDING
Former Celtics All-Star Antoine Walker officially joined the Idaho Stampede in the NBA Development League. According to coach Randy Livingston, Walker will begin work immediately. He’ll face the C’s NBADL affiliate, the Maine Red Claws, on Dec. 16 and 19.
Here are some highlights from an interview  he did with NBA FanHouse:
- “I’ve been out of the game for the last year and a half and it’s been very difficult. To get an opportunity to play is great. Having an opportunity to get back into the NBA is one thing, but this is also giving me an opportunity to do what I love every day again.”
- “I think I left the game at the wrong time. I want to leave the game on my own merits. When you leave the game for a year and a half, doors close fast on you, so I want to reopen those doors and hopefully this is the way to do it.”
- “I don’t want to come out and say I have to score 35 or 40 points to get myself back to the NBA. I’d rather come in with a team concept, play to win and have fun playing. I just want to come be Antoine — play basketball, play hard and play to win.”
KEVIN GARNETT VS. SHAQUILLE O’NEAL
NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner interviewed Garnett and Shaq about their relationship, which sounds awesome in theory, but most of the article just focused on whether they could’ve played together back in their primes. Still, it’s worth a look . Highlights:
- Shaq on playing with KG in his prime: “It wouldn’t have worked at all. We’d either have eight [rings], or we’d have had problems. In my opinion, I don’t think it would work.”
- KG on playing with Shaq in his prime: “It wouldn’t have happened.”
- KG on finally playing together: “You fight and you chase something. We’re all men here, we’ve all chased the girls once or twice. Or man. Or whatever your preference is. Then to finally get that date and actually get that relationship and actually go forth to everything that you wish it was, it’s very similar to that.”
I love that last quote. Much like when NFL pass-rushing great Deacon Jones said , “Any time you go upside a man’s head — or a woman’s — then they have a tendency to blink their eyes,” KG’s attempt to be politically correct just got awkward.
(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach  on Twitter.)
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