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Irish Coffee: Jermaine O’Neal’s Celtics impact 03.31.11 at 12:02 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

On Feb. 1, when the Celtics began a two-month-plus stretch without either of the O’Neal “brothers,” if you had to put your life savings on which one would return first, how many people would’ve put money on Jermaine O’Neal?

Not many, me included. I know I would’ve put my $47 on Shaquille O’Neal. And, as Dale Arnold might say, if you gave Doc Rivers Sodium Pentothal, he’d probably admit that he would’ve rather had Shaq back first. But that’s not the case.

Jermaine O’Neal is returning to the Celtics lineup for the first time since Jan. 10, when his knee swelled to the point of no return. In 17 games this season, he had averaged 5.2 points and 3.8 rebounds in 18.1 minutes.

So, what, exactly, can we expect from Jermaine O’Neal? If we can agree that all the Celtics need to replace Kendrick Perkins‘ minutes are guys who can defend bigs, rebound the basketball and knock down open shots created by the Big Four, then J.O. can give you plenty. Not as much as Shaq, but it’s something, right?

Let’s start with defense. Here are the points per possession (PPP) and field-goal percentages allowed by Perkins, Shaq, J.O. and Nenad Krstic on man-to-man defense in their limited time as Celtics this season:

  • Kendrick Perkins (7 games): 0.81 PPP on 41.0 percent shooting
  • Shaquille O’Neal (36 games): 0.77 PPP on 37.6 percent shooting
  • Jermaine O’Neal (17 games): 0.76 PPP on 35.2 percent shooting
  • Nenad Krstic (17 games): 0.90 PPP on 44.2 percent shooting

In a limited sample size, Jermaine O’Neal actually gave the Celtics the best defense of all four guys. Even if he can give them 15 minutes a night, that might limit Krstic’s ineffectiveness on the defensive end. When Shaquille O’Neal returns, the C’s should finally have the defensive depth at center that can fill the void left by Perkins.

Now, let’s look at rebounding. Here are the rebounding rates — or the percentage of missed shots corraled by a player in his time on the floor — for those same bigs:

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Jermaine O'Neal, Kendrick Perkins
Irish Coffee: Celtics should stop making excuses 03.30.11 at 2:24 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

The Celtics are 5-7 in their last 12 games. You know that. I know that. And they know that. There’s nothing you and I can do about it, but there’s plenty they can — starting with taking some responsibility for coughing wins up to teams like the Nets and undermanned Bobcats.

Just listen to the comments from Celtics veterans in a recent HoopsWorld story

Ray Allen: “I’m not comfortable, and I think even if we didn’t make trades we still had injuries where we were still playing catch up. I’m not comfortable.”

Was he more comfortable taking the same amount of shots per game in January (11.9), when the C’s finished 12-4 without Kendrick Perkins while Allen averaged more points, rebounds and assists than he did this month?

Paul Pierce: “It’s hard when you got pieces missing every other week, it seems like. In another week, we’re going to be a whole new team.”

Was it hard when the Celtics went 33-10 without Perkins for the first 43 games of the season, or when they finished 19-6 in their first 25 games without Shaquille O’Neal — or did it get exponentially harder over the last 12 games against powerhouses like the Nets and Bobcats?

And then listen to the comments from the newest Celtics in that same HoopsWorld story …

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Erik Ainge, Ray Allen
Irish Coffee: Chris Herren’s fall and rise 03.29.11 at 1:22 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

As a junior at Boston University, I remember attending a Celtics game during the 2000-01 season and hearing a fan scream, “Hey, Chris Heroin!” He was, of course, referring to Chris Herren, the kid I’d read about years before in Bill Reynolds’ book, “Fall River Dreams.”

It was a sad commentary on how far the former Durfee High standout had fallen since being named a McDonald’s All-American in 1994. Now, 10 years later, at the age of 35, Herren is the subject of another Reynolds project, “Basketball Junkie: A Memoir.”

After almost three years of sobriety from the substances that destroyed his career, Herren has been on the anti-drug speaking circuit at high schools around New England, detailing the poor decisions that led to his expulsion from Boston College, exile from the NBA and near-death experience after tours of basketball duty everywhere from China to Iran.

Here are two of those decisions Herren has been sharing with high school athletes:

As a 14- or 15-year-old Durfee High freshman, Herren attended a party, where he and four friends took down a few drinks on a Friday night. When his curfew came calling, his head said to call his mother for a ride home, but his self esteem let his best friend drive him.

“I didn’t have the courage, I didn’t have the self-esteem to say, ‘You know what, guys? This drinking and driving isn’t cool, and I’m not going to be a part of it,'” said Herren. “I jumped in the back seat, got dropped off, and six or seven minutes later my best friend was dead.”

A few years after he failed to prevent his drunken best friend from getting behind a wheel and colliding with a telephone pole, Herren had become a Boston College-bound high school senior and one of 22 players selected to the McDonald’s All-American Game (along with three other former Celtics: Antoine Walker, Raef LaFrentz and Danny Fortson).

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Read More: Austin Rivers, Boston Celtics, Chris Herren, Kevin Garnett
Irish Coffee: What Jared Sullinger’s decision means to the Celtics’ future 03.28.11 at 11:44 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Over the weekend, when Ohio State freshman forward Jared Sullinger vowed to return to Columbus for his sophomore season, the thought struck me: Because of the uncertainty surrounding the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, could many college underclassmen be targeting 2012 rather than this year’s NBA draft?

It sure looks that way, and that benefits the Celtics — considering they own their 2012 pick and the selection that came with Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic for Kendrick Perkins.

That pick from the Thunder is a little complicated. It’s top-10 protected and falls in the less favorable spot between the Clippers and Timberwolves. Basically, if either the Clips or Wolves capture any pick from 11-30, the lower one belongs to the Celtics. If both teams get top-10 picks, the pick gets pushed to the next season — until 2016, when it’s unprotected.

Considering the Clippers own the eighth-worst record this season and should improve based on a young roster that includes Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon, there’s a legitimate chance the Celtics could own two picks in a draft that will be much better than anticipated.

Of the 40 college underclassmen projected as potential first-round picks, only three have declared to enter the 2011 NBA draft — and none of them is a lottery projection. Of course, the remaining 37 players have until April 24 to declare.

Still, two w0uld-be lottery guys (Sullinger and Texas freshman forward Tristan Thompson) are going back to school. According to ESPN.com’s Chad Ford, 23 of those 37 — and six potential lottery picks, including North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes, Arizona’s Derrick Williams and Kentucky’s Brandon Knight — are “50-50″ with less than a month to decide. The remaining 12 still reportedly have “one foot in the door.”

So, if half of those 50-50 guys — along with Sullinger and Thompson — wait until 2012, that could push as many as 15 more potential first-round picks to a draft that might also include Celtics coach Doc Rivers‘ son Austin Rivers. With possibly two picks in that draft, the C’s should be able to add some serious young talent for cheap dollars in 2012.

With a lockout looming, at least Celtics fans have something to look forward to.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Jared Sullinger, Jermaine O'Neal, Kevin Garnett
Fast Break: Bobcats take bite out of Celtics 03.25.11 at 10:12 pm ET
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Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett all missed potential go-ahead buckets in the final 30 seconds, and the Celtics suffered their worst loss of the season, 83-81, against a Bobcats team that traded its best player (Gerald Wallace) and sat its next two most talented guys (Stephen Jackson and Tyrus Thomas) with injuries.

After blowing double-digit leads in both halves, the Celtics (50-21) still only trailed 82-81 with 27 seconds remaining. But Pierce (game-high 18 points) missed an ill-conceived, contested jump shot and Gerald Henderson made 1-of-2 free throws to put the Bobcats (28-43) up two with 15 seconds left. Allen and Garnett each missed 3-point attempts in the finals seconds.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Not putting the game away early: After just eight minutes of action, the Celtics had pushed their lead to double digits, and it appeared as though Gino might make an appearance as early as the second quarter. But a lineup that included Glen Davis, Jeff Green, Delonte West and Carlos Arroyo let the Bobcats close the game to 25-19 by the end of the first quarter. Charlotte remained within single digits through halftime.

Not putting the game away late: Just as they did in the first half, the Celtics coughed up a double-digit lead — this time in the fourth quarter, with the starters on the floor. The Bobcats took the lead when Pierce missed a pair of free throws, Henderson grabbed an offensive rebound and laid it in as three C’s watched. Pierce then clanged a 3-point attempt off the backboard and Davis committed his sixth foul. That fourth-quarter stretch defined a game full of poor decisions, as the Celtics settled for jumpers offensively and lacked effort defensively.

Committing turnovers (again): The Celtics committed 18 turnovers in their 90-87 loss to the Grizzlies on Wednesday, and on Friday they picked up where they left off — turning the ball over six times in the first 15 minutes. They finished with 17 turnovers that led to 13 Bobcats points.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Getting Ray Allen involved early: The Celtics’ offense has struggled of late, especially in the first quarter, and Allen’s lack of touches has been part of that dilemma. Not Friday. And definitely not against the Bobcats. Allen took (and made) two 3-pointers in addition to drawing a pair of fouls that led to four free throws. All in all, he recorded 10 of the C’s 25 first-quarter points — the team’s best output for the opening 12 minutes in almost three weeks.

After that, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything else that went right for the Celtics.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Charlotte Bobcats, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen
Irish Coffee: Celtics answer all questions 03.25.11 at 1:32 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Rather than fishing for answers to Celtics questions  — like, “Did Shaquille O’Neal suffer a setback?” … “Will Jermaine O’Neal ever return?” … “What’s wrong with Rajon Rondo?” … “Is Doc Rivers gone after the season?” … and, “Why does Kevin Garnett obsess over ‘Big Love’?” — let’s just go straight to the leprechauns’ mouths.

All those questions were answered during interviews on WEEI’s Celtics Thursday when Rivers joined the Dennis & Callahan morning show, Garnett appeared on Mut & Merloni and president Danny Ainge spoke on The Big Show. Here are the highlights:

Shaq reportedly received a cortisone shot last Tuesday, what gives?

Doc: “Hopefully Shaq will be back within the next five or six days. Again, that’s the estimated time of arrival.”

Danny: “He’s day-to-day starting about that time. I think Shaq is probably not going to play in Minnesota or Indiana, and I think from that point on it’s day-to-day. He could play in San Antonio, or he may play the next game or the game after that. I’m not certain.

“It’s up to him. Like, ‘Are you ready to play?’ He wants to practice before he goes out to play, so we’ll just wait for him to say, ‘I feel ready to go.’ You can’t just say, ‘Hey, you’re going to play tonight; get out there and play.’ …

“With Shaq, he’s got some soreness in the Achilles tendon, and he wants to try to have it as pain-free as possible before he goes out there to play, rather than play in these games right now. And that’s what we’re trying to wait for. It’s a lot more pain-free today than it was last week.”

KG: “We change dramatically [with Shaq]. You have not only a post presence but a presence, period. Shaq is physical on both ends. He lets that presence be known from the minute the ball goes up.”

Can the Celtics expect anything from Jermaine O’Neal?

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Danny Ainge, Doc Rivers
NBA Power Rankings, 3/24 03.24.11 at 6:47 pm ET
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1. San Antonio (57-14): How is it possible that a team has played better than .800 basketball for pretty much the entire season has flown so far underneath the radar? The Spurs are five games better than every other team in the NBA. Sure, Tim Duncan is out indefinitely with a sprained ankle, but underestimating any team coached by Gregg Popovich would be a serious mistake.

2. LA Lakers (51-20): Since the All-Star break, the Lakers have reeled off a 13-1 stretch and begged for attention at every turn. After the lone loss, suffered in Miami, Kobe Bryant was so upset that he decided to start firing up shots in front of TV cameras. Lamar Odom has incessantly publicized his upcoming reality show with wife Khloe Kardashian. And Ron Artest performed his new single “Go Loco” alongside such dignitaries as Fat Joe and B-Real of Cypress Hill on “Lopez Tonight.”

3. Boston (50-20): The Celtics are 9-6 since the dreaded Kendrick Perkins trade, and panic has set in from Stockbridge to Boston. They’ve lost their toughness! Rajon Rondo is lonely without his friend! Where’s Shaquille O’Neal?! Relax. You know what the C’s record was in the first 15 games after the 2010 trade deadline? 9-6. And, more importantly, they have a healthy Kevin Garnett.

4. Chicago (51-19): “Hey, the Bulls lead the Eastern Conference, what gives?” Is that what you’re thinking? Well, consider this: The Celtics have won eight more playoff series as a group than Derrick Rose & Co. — not to mention the fact that they’ve defeated Chicago in 2-of-3 meetings and play in a much tougher division.

5. Dallas (49-21): Is Dirk Nowitzki in the MVP conversation? I know he’s got Cedric Maxwell‘s vote. The giant German is threatening to join Ray Allen‘s “holy trinity of shooting” (the 50-40-90 club), as he’s draining shots at a 53.0 clip from the field, 41.8 from 3-point range and 89.0 from the free-throw line.  Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, NBA
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