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Irish Coffee: Celtics sign Saleh, add frontcourt depth

04.01.11 at 12:07 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

With the concerns about the health of all three of their potential starting centers — Nenad Krstic, Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal — the Celtics have added depth at the position by signing former Winabi Parish School standout power forward Saleh, according to Kenyan newspaper The Daily Nation

“Do the names [Hakeem] Olajuwon, Manute Bol or Dikembe Mutombo mean anything to you?” said Jimmy Dolan, a former assistant coach at Saint Joe’s College who represents Saleh.

Dolan discovered Saleh at a 1994 faculty dinner while watching a film about Saint Joe’s missionary efforts in Africa. Also a member of Saint Joe’s 1981 NCAA title team, Dolan represented the 35-year-old Saleh in the C’s negotiations of a $40,000 deal — or the equivalent of 40 cows — with the 6-foot-9 post who possesses a “vertical leap that’s off the charts.”

“I would like to play for the Celtics very, very much,” said Saleh, who learned about the NBA in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition. “My father is a stubborn man. He says I have a lot to learn before I’m a leader.”Asked if he’s ready for the NBA, Saleh added, “Does a zebra have stripes?”

Saleh agreed to sign with the Celtics after leading his Winabi squad to a comeback victory against rival Mingori, 57-56. Without their starting point guard, his team trailed by 10 with a little more than two minutes to play, but Saleh sparked an 11-0 run, capped by his game-winning windmill dunk as time expired — a move he dubbed “The Jimmy Dolan Shake and Bake.”

For more on the signing, check out the full story here

DWYANE WADE: ‘WE HAVE TO GET OVER’ CELTICS

In an appearance on The Stephen A. Smith Show, Heat guard Dwyane Wade admitted that the Celtics — and not the Bulls — are the team Miami must get past in order to make the leap to serious NBA title contender. The Heat are 0-6 against the Celtics and Bulls. The exchange:

  • SS: Who worries you the most? I would imagine it being the Boston Celtics? Am I correct in saying that?
  • DW: “Yeah, the Boston Celtics. No question about it. That’€™s the team we have to get over the hump on. It’€™s the team that’€™s had our number … whether it’€™s a close game or if it’€™s a blowout or whatever. We have to get over the hump. I got knocked out of the playoffs last year in Miami versus them. LeBron [James] got knocked out the last two years [by the Celtics as a member of the Cavaliers], so it’€™s building up to a great finish. It’€™s just about when it’€™s going to happen. I think  we continue to just get better and get into our mind when we play them that we’re just as good a team as them. It’€™s going to come down to the end of games. We have to execute. We have to do the little things to win the game, and eventually we’€™ll get over the hump.”

DOC RIVERS: ‘WE WOULD LOVE TO GET THE NO. 1 SEED’

In a conversation with the San Antonio Express News (hat tip to Celtics Town), Doc Rivers discussed the Celtics’ desire (or lack of) to capture the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference:

“I guess it’€™s important. I don’€™t know. We want to win the games, obviously, and I’€™m sure so does Pop. We would love to get the No. 1 seed or keep the 2 seed. At the end of the day, I want to be healthy and have our rhythm. If that takes up to Day One of the playoffs, I’€™m good with that.”

After defeating the Spurs, the Celtics trail the Bulls for the top seed by a full two games with eight to play, but the C’s do have a head-to-head battle with Chicago on April 7. If they can gain one game and win that matchup, the Celtics would own the tiebreaker. They also possess the tiebreaker against the Heat, who the C’s lead by one game in the loss column for the No. 2 seed.

FOCUSING ON CELTICS DEFENSE

In an interesting read about who deserves the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award (Dwight Howard gets my vote), we learned that Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Glen Davis all rank in the league’s top 10 for best team defensive efficiency with a particular player on the floor. NBA.com has Garnett as a forward on the NBA All-Defensive First Team.

HoopSpeak’s Beckley Mason also put together a nice piece on the differences and similarities between the Celtics and Heat’s defensive philosophies. As you might guess, the C’s approach is more team-oriented.  

(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’€™s Irish Coffee or a future mailbag? Send an e-mail tobrohrbach@weei.com or a Twitter message to @brohrbach.)

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Dwyane Wade, nenad krstic
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