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Irish Coffee: President Obama wants Bill Russell statue in Boston 02.16.11 at 11:58 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

(NOTE: Between the 16:30 and 18:30 marks, President Obama speaks about Bill Russell; at the 35-minute mark, Russell receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom)

In a brilliant article in Boston Magazine, WEEI.com’s Paul Flannery stated the case for a statue in Bill Russell‘s honor in the streets of Boston. On Tuesday, President Barack Obama hopped on Flannery’s bandwagon. The following is a transcript of President Obama’s remarks as he awarded Russell the Presidential Medal of Freedom:

When Bill Russell was in junior high, he was cut from his basketball team. He got better after that. He led the University of San Francisco to two championships. In 13 seasons with the Boston Celtics, he won 11 championships — a record unmatched in any sport. Won two while also serving as the team’€™s coach. And so happens, he also was the first African-American ever to hold such a position as a coach in a major league sports team of any sort. More than any athlete of his era, Bill Russell came to define the word “winner.”

And yet, whenever someone looks up at all 6 feet, 9 inches of Bill Russell — I just did; I always feel small next to him — and asks, “Are you a basketball player?” — surprisingly, he gets this more than you think, this question — he says, “No.” He says, “That’€™s what I do, that’€™s not what I am. I’m not a basketball player. I am a man who plays basketball.”

Bill Russell, the man, is someone who stood up for the rights and dignity of all men. He marched with King; he stood by Ali. When a restaurant refused to serve the black Celtics, he refused to play in the scheduled game. He endured insults and vandalism, but he kept on focusing on making the teammates who he loved better players, and made possible the success of so many who would follow. And I hope that one day, in the streets of Boston, children will look up at a statue built not only to Bill Russell the player, but Bill Russell the man.

In honor of Russell receiving the highest civilian award given in the United States, The Boston Globe discussed Russell’s impact on and off the basketball court with Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino as well as Celtics legends Tommy Heinsohn and Bob Cousy, who spanned nine of Russell’s 13 seasons and nine of his 11 title runs:

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Read More: Bill Russell, Boston Celtics, Delonte West, President Barack Obama
Irish Coffee: Top 5 trick basketball shot videos 02.15.11 at 1:47 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

It’s an off day before the Celtics’ final game prior to the All-Star break, so what better time to unleash the top-five trick basketball shot videos of all-time. Without further ado …

5. Sick Basketball Shots

 

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Read More: basketball, top five, trick shots,
Irish Coffee: Why Celtics should earn No. 1 seed 02.14.11 at 1:21 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Rest up, Celtics, because it doesn’t get any easier than this. The C’s are midway through their most relaxing regular-season stretch of the New Big Three Era in terms of travel.

And never have they needed it more. Seven members of the team’s 15-man roster are battling known injuries as the All-Star break looms, and that doesn’t include Glen Davis‘ bruised noggin, Kevin Garnett‘s rehabbed knee or Rajon Rondo‘s feet.

The good news: The Celtics are in the midst of a 15-day stretch between road games. They played in Charlotte on Feb. 7 and travel to Oakland on Feb. 22. In between, they’ll have played just three home games, all three days apart. Sure, there’s an All-Star Game in between (in Los Angeles) but that’s hardly heavy lifting for Garnett, Rondo, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce (depending on Pierce’s MRI results), especially since Doc Rivers is manning their minutes.

In the previous three seasons, the Celtics’ longest stretch between road games around the All-Star break was seven days. And in the last two seasons, the NBA has sandwiched a pair of road games for the C’s around the All-Star Game — hardly the mini vacation players desire.

The bad news: Since 2007, the Celtics have had three stretches of 15 days or more between road games. This current span is one. The other two have come at an even more ideal time — days before season’s end. Two years ago, the C’ss played five straight home games from March 27 to April 12. Last season, they had six consecutive home contests from March 22 to April 6.

This season, they’ll have no such luck. Starting with a four-game West Coast road trip after the All-Star Game, the Celtics play 17 of their final 28 games on the road, including 10-of-16 to close out the season. However, only 10 of those 28 games come against teams above .500.

With a half-game lead for first place, the Celtics are battling the Heat — and perhaps the Bulls — for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. In all likelihood, nobody will catch the Spurs (45-9) for the league’s best overall record, so we’ll only include the Lakers out West as we take a look at how many of these teams’ post-All-Star break games are against teams above .500:

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Read More: Bill Russell, Boston Celtics, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Garnett
Chris Bosh: ‘I really hate losing to’ the Celtics 02.13.11 at 8:36 pm ET
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Chris Bosh tripled his scoring output from his Heat’s 88-80 opening-night loss to the Celtics, and it still didn’t matter. The C’s held Miami to 82 points in a three-point victory on Sunday that gave the East leaders a 3-0 season advantage over the conference’s second-place team.

“We’€™ll just have to wait to beat the Celtics in another month or so,” said Bosh. “I really hate losing to these guys, man. We’€™re just going to have to wait a little bit longer. Things like this are going to make us better. Coming into an environment like this, against tough teams like this, battling for first place, it’€™s going to add to our experience and add to our trust. We’€™re just going to have to keep going and learn from it.’€

The two teams don’t actually face each other until April 10 — three days before the end of the regular season — but the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed could already be determined by then. As it stands now, the Celtics (39-14) own a half-game lead on the Heat (39-15).

“We’re in each other’€™s way of winning an NBA championship with other teams in the Eastern Conference like Chicago and Orlando and a few other teams,” said Lebron James. “This is a team that everybody is trying to catch. They’re the defending Eastern Conference champions.”

Despite the fact that the Heat only committed two more turnovers than the Celtics (15-13) and led 43-39 at the half, Miami attributed much of the loss to their 12 first-half turnovers.

“The margin for error against a great team like that is very small. ‘€¦ We dug ourselves a hole, and we just couldn’€™t get out of it,” said Bosh. “Like I said, against a good team like that, you can’€™t really do that.”

“You can tell I’€™m upset,” added James. “I just want to win. We all want to win. We know for the most part it was our mistakes. Give a lot of credit to Boston, of course, but we had a lot of unforced turnovers. We were shooting 56 percent from the floor in the first half, but we had 12 turnovers. We’€™ve got to at least give ourselves a chance to get the ball up on the rim. In the third quarter, they caught fire, and you can’€™t get behind a team like that.”

The Celtics outscored the Heat 35-18 in the third quarter. Interestingly enough, Rajon Rondo opted to play defense on James in that same quarter. But don’t look for James to credit Rondo, as the former shoved the latter twice for listening in on a Heat huddle.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Chris Bosh, LeBron James, Miami Heat
Fast Break: Rajon Rondo’s triple-double cools Heat 02.13.11 at 3:46 pm ET
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The first half felt like a preseason exhibition, and the second half played like a postseason battle. In the end, the Celtics defeated the Heat, 85-82, recapturing first place in the Eastern Conference by a half-game on Sunday afternoon in the TD Garden.

With 12.5 seconds to go and Lebron James on the line with a chance to tie the game with a pair of free throws, the Heat forward made just 1-of-2. Moments later, Glen Davis nailed a pair on the other end, and Mike Miller missed a game-tying 3-point attempt at the buzzer, as the Heat (39-15) lost to the Celtics (39-14) for the third time in three tries this year.

Rajon Rondo‘s third triple-double of the season (11 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists steered the Celtics, despite Paul Pierce‘s worst offensive performance (1 point) since March 9 of his rooke season. The C’s survived 62 combined points from the Heat’s Big Three of Chris Bosh (24), Lebron James (22) and Dwyane Wade (16).

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Heat get chippy: When things got sloppy midway through the third quarter, it ignited the Celtics — and their crowd. First, Zydrunas Ilgauskas knocked Rondo to the ground on a legal screen, and then Kevin Garnett returned the favor on Miller. That’s when Wade decided to shove Garnett.

As the referees discussed the severity of Wade’s foul (a flagrant-1), Rondo listened in on the Heat’s non-timeout huddle. That’s when James decided to shove Rondo — twice. Those events came during a stretch in which the Celtics expanded a two-point lead to a 13-point advantage.

Don’t get Rajon Rondo angry: Rondo was playing well before Ilgauskas decked him. Afterwards? He was on a mission. The Celtics point guard produced his first triple-double since totaling 22 assists, 12 points and 10 rebounds against the Spurs on Jan. 5. Not to mention the fact he had just one turnover. As a result, Garnett, Davis, Ray Allen, Kendrick Perkins and Von Wafer all reached double figures as well.

Bench boost: Despite leaping 9.5 feet instead of 10 while missing a fast-break dunk attempt, and then belly-bumping Chris Bosh on the rebound, Glen Davis performed admirably off the bench. He totaled 16 points and four rebounds in 30 minutes. Over the previous eight days, in the Celtics’ three losses, he shot 5-of-18 and averaged six points. That was a far cry from the guy who cemented himself as a Sixth Man of the Year candidate earlier this season.

And despite looking lost at times, Von Wafer made two big second-half 3’s to total 10 points.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Paul Pierce feeling the Heat:: After missing practice with an illness earlier in the week, Pierce still appeared sluggish on Sunday against the Heat. He missed all 10 of his shots — including five 3-pointers. Meanwhile, his defensive assignment, James, made 10-of-21 buckets and outscored him 22-1 for the game.

Easy like Sunday morning: Even the crowd didn’t seem entirely into the game in the first quarter. The Celtics took three more shots than the Heat in the opening 12 minutes, yet they trailed 20-15. That’s because the C’s shot just 6-of-20 (30 percent) while defensively allowing the Heat to connect on 9-of-17 field goals (52.9 percent) in that same span.

Riding the starters: Considering the Celtics’ depth was as shallow as a kiddie pool, and they still defeated the next-best team in the East, the C’s couldn’t have asked for much more. It’s a stretch in the “what went wrong” department, but Doc Rivers was forced to play Rondo and Allen 40-plus minutes, Perkins 30-plus minutes for the fifth straight game and a (less than 100 percent) Pierce 35-plus minutes. Since the C’s play just once (Wednesday) in the next nine days, that shouldn’t cause much concern.

Read More: Boston Celtics, LeBron James, Miami Heat, NBA
Irish Coffee: Perfect remedy for loss to Lakers 02.11.11 at 11:30 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Few game films exist of Bill Russell‘s playing days, but a United States Information Agency documentarian by the name of Gary Goldsmith had some rare footage in his vault: Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals between the Celtics and Cincinnati Royals.

The video has since been shown on NBA TV, and SLAM Magazine recently caught with the filmmaker. Goldsmith takes us through the documentary’s process, and the unquestionable highlight of the interview is this aside on a retired Bob Cousy wandering the Garden hallways:

‘€œHe was holding his head in his hands and saying to somebody, ‘€˜We can’€™t lose. If we lose, they’€™ll never let us up. It will be like the Yankees; they’€™ll grind us in to the earth. We’€™ve got to win.’€™ He wasn’€™t saying this to anybody for publication; this was a private comment that he made. It’€™s that sense of how important it was to sustain their championship level. I got a feel for it from moments like that.’€

Part 1 of Goldsmith’s “The Final Game” is embedded in this blog. Be sure to check out Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5 on YouTube. There’s nothing better than watching a game from the last run of the Celtics’ nine consecutive championship seasons to get over a loss to the Lakers.

The time spent is worth it just to hear Red Auerbach‘s incessant chatter from the sidelines:

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Read More: Bill Russell, Boston Celtics, Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen
Kobe Bryant: ‘I’ll bust your ass’ 02.11.11 at 1:10 am ET
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Kobe Bryant scored 20 of his game-high 23 points in the second half to help his Lakers drop the Celtics 92-86 and even their season series at one apiece. And then he issued a warning to the four Celtics who will be attending the All-Star Game in Los Angeles next weekend.

“It doesn’€™t matter who I play,” said Bryant. “I could play you, and I’€™ll bust your ass.”

During a five-minute interview with the media following the Lakers’ victory, Bryant hit on everything from Ray Allen‘s record-breaking 3-pointer to the latest book assignment he’s received from coach Phil Jackson. Here’s a rundown of the conversation:

  • On Ray’s record: “I just told him congratulations. It’€™s a mutual respect kind of thing, because we came into the league together. There’€™s not too many guys from that draft still playing and competing at a high level. I’€™m just very, very happy for him. We always compete when we go at it. That’€™s part of it. At this stage of our careers, there’€™s a respect because of that. I don’€™t get along with chumps very well, and he’€™s not a chump.”
  • On the Garden: ‘€œIt’€™s great. This is one of the best atmospheres ‘€” if not the best atmosphere ‘€” you can play in in the league today. This arena, what they do, this is a challenging place to play, but it’€™s a lot of fun.’€
  • On his play: ‘€œI wanted to be more aggressive in the first half, but I didn’€™t want to force it too much. I wanted to keep my guys in the game a little bit. In the second half, I just forced it. The game wasn’€™t coming to me, so I took it.’€
  • On the win: “It depends on where we go from here. We don’€™t go to New York and lay a dud. Then this game doesn’€™t much.”
  • On the Lakers: “We always remain a pretty confident bunch. It’€™s good to see the hard work that we’€™ve been putting in paying off. We’€™re seeing results. From the last time we played them until now, we’€™ve gotten a little bit better in our defensive rotations, and we didn’€™t make as many mistakes down the stretch.”
  • On the East: ‘€œ[The Celtics] are right up there. It’€™s them and Miami. We’€™ve played against Boston twice and Miami once, and they look good.’€
Read More: Boston Celtics, Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers, Ray Allen
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