Wake up with the Celtics  and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Shaquille O’Neal  entered the “Late Show with David Letterman” set wearing a hooded sportcoat, so it was pretty much a success right off the bat. After explaining how he got a cut on his head — banging his dome on a doorway while answering Letterman’s call — he touched on the following subjects:
- On whether Boston fans love him now: “They do.”
- On choosing Boston over New York: “I could’ve played in New York for more dough. … I thought we had a better shot at a championship.”
- On whether he’s ever feared a player: “Never.”
- On who he’d start a team with: “Historically, I’d probably go with Bill Russell .”
- On nobody liking the Lakers: “I don’t.”
- On LeBron James : “He’s a young guy. He’s a fabulous player. … I wish him well. Not too much luck, but I wish him well.”
- On Pat Riley : [sips water]
- On Phil Jackson : [claps] “Great guy.”
- On whether anyone could win 11 titles with his Bulls and Lakers: “I would say yes.”
- On Kobe Bryant : “Fabulous player. Probably the best player in the league right now.”
- On Kareem Abdul-Jabbar : “I spent eight years in L.A. and probably only talked to him twice. He’s one of the greatest centers ever.”
- On Steve Nash : “Great player. Great assist player. Love playing with him.”
- On Kevin Garnett : “The funniest guy in Boston. He is.”
- On Charles Barkley : “Probably one of the greatest power forwards to play. He’s a funny guy. He’s going to say what’s on his mind.”
PREVIEWING CELTICS AND SPURS
ESPN.com’s Peter May pieced together an all-encompassing preview  of Wednesday night’s matchup between the Celtics and Spurs. Highlights:
- Outside of the Heat on opening night, Celtics fans haven’t gotten a chance to see the Spurs, Magic, Mavericks, Jazz  or Lakers at the Garden yet.
- The Celtics and Spurs have a combined 12 losses; 23 teams have 12 losses.
- Gregg Popovich : “We know full well that this won’t continue for 82 games. We’re not the Chicago Bulls  [who won 72 games in 1995-96]. That’s not us. We’ll come back to the center eventually, but our hope is that we’re still a good team when it matters most.”
- The Spurs have had the same starting lineup for the first 35 games. Meanwhile, the Celtics have had seven starting lineups, as only Ray Allen  and Paul Pierce  have started all 32 games.
- Popovich: “We’re able to enjoy [Richard Jefferson ‘s] talents this year. We didn’t get much of that last year. But he has worked hard, and we need him. And Tony [Parker] and Manu [Ginobili] are healthy for the first time in three or four years because they didn’t play in the summer [for their respective national teams].”
- Tim Duncan  has played 14 seasons and made an All-Defensive team every year.
After detailing why the Celtics and Spurs has never blossomed into a mini-rivalry, CSNNE.com’s Rich Levine gives us a reason to hate the key members of San Antonio’s squad this season. Highlights:
- DeJuan Blair : “Has done more with zero ACLs than you’ll ever do with two.”
- Tim Duncan: “Set the Celtics organization back 10 years.”
- Matt Bonner: “Will make your heart ache for Scal; was once tossed from a game for an altercation with poor, defenseless Kevin Garnett.”
- Manu Ginobili : “The FLOP.”
- George Hill: “Colts fan!”
- Richard Jefferson: “The NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs — 2002 and 2003.”
- Tony Parker : “Spent three years married to Eva Longoria.”
The Globe’s Bob Ryan also got into the action, sorting through the comparisons  between the two teams. Highlights:
- Ginobili and Pierce are the two most befuddling players in the league, each with games that combine the best of the 1950s and 21st century.
- Popovich is the only NBA coach ever to graduate from a service academy (Air Force).
- The Doug Moe coached Spurs of the 1970s — featuring George Gervin — ran most teams off the floor and nearly won a title in 1979 if not for a questionable illegal screen by Billy “The Whopper” Paultz.
- As general manager and vice president of basketball operations for the Spurs since 1994, Popovich fired Bob Hill in 1996 and named himself head coach.
- In the 2001 NBA Draft, Parker was selected one spot after Jamaal Tinsley and seven slots after the Celtics took Joseph Forte at No. 21.
- “Since the 1976 ABA/NBA merger, they have won 16 division titles, more than all other teams but one (Lakers). They have missed the playoffs only four times since 1977, and Pop and Duncan have been in the playoffs every year they have been together. (Think [Bill] Belichick and [Tom] Brady.) They have won 50-plus games 11 consecutive seasons (winning 60-plus twice), but they never have had a start like this.”
Pounding the Rock ‘s Dale Dye and I have been trading e-mails about the C’s and Spurs over the past couple days. We’ll have the transcript for you later today.
MEANWHILE, IN LOS ANGELES …
There’s plenty of drama surrounding the Lakers this season, considering they’re just 16-11 since starting the season 7-0. Let’s start with the fact that Mark Cuban ripped Phil Jackson for claiming the Mavericks were done after Caron Butler‘s apparent season-ending injury:
“I love that Jeanie Buss’ boy toy had something to say about us. I don’t know if it was his thought or Jeanie’s thought, but it’s nice to know that she lets him speak in public about other teams.” (via USA Today )
Now, after years of sitting back on the bench, Jackson has decided to stand up during games and actually show some interest in the game action:
“I thought rather than sitting there and keeping them calm and cool, I would get up and energize them,” says Phil. “I got my brace out and I’m ready to start getting up off the bench.” (via L.A. Times )
Finally, there is unrest among the Lakers, starting with Ron Artest . Apparently, he and Jackson got into a shouting match at a recent practice:
At a recent practice, league sources said, Artest loudly confronted Jackson. As he tried to fit into the defending champions a season ago and earn his way, Artest grudgingly went along with Jackson’s public floggings. This season, Artest has less tolerance for it. Essentially, Artest told Jackson that if he wants to coach him, coach him. Just stop embarrassing him in public. …
In a lot of ways, this run is nearing an end for the Lakers. The Zen B.S. has run its course, the way every coach’s mantra does over time. Why it worked so well, for so long, had far less to do with the meditations and far more to do with the staggering array of talent under Jackson’s watch. This promises to be an excruciating season for the Lakers, and they still have so much to reassemble about themselves to be champions again. (via Yahoo! )