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NBA Power Rankings, 10/21 10.21.10 at 4:50 pm ET
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Los Angeles Lakers1. LA Lakers: So, Ron Artest was on Jimmy Kimmel Live last night. I knew he was crazy, but I guess I didn’t know he was that crazy. How long can he go without creating a distraction? It worked last year, but there’s a shelf life for these things. Still, they’re the two-time defending NBA champions, and they have ”length,” which doesn’t sound right, but size matters in this league.

Boston Celtics2. Boston: The Celtics finished the preseason with a 7-1 record, proving they can turn on the “all systems go” button, even when the games don’t matter. That’s a scary thought when wins and losses start to mean something. I’m a little skeptical about how the C’s will integrate Shaquille O’Neal on both ends of the court, but the depth on this team is the league’s best.

Miami Heat3. Miami: Injuries continue to pile up for the Heat: Dwyane Wade (hamstring), LeBron James (hamstring), Mike Miller (thumb), Mario Chalmers (ankle) and Eddie House (shoulder). The 2007-08 Celtics used the preseason to jell; this team will have to do it in the regular season. I’m being careful not to be a “hater” here, so Eddie House doesn’t flip me the bird.

Oklahoma City Thunder4. Oklahoma City: There are some interesting stories coming out about Jeff Green. He has a “special relationship” with his head coach, whatever that means. According to Etan Thomas, he’s an underappreciated player in the league. Just another one of the Thunder’s young guns.

Orlando Magic5. Orlando: Wait a second, it’s a contract year for Vince Carter? So, that’s why he’s trying again — and knocking down 61 percent of his shots (59 percent from 3-point range) this preseason. Combine a motivated Vince, a healthy Jameer Nelson and a Hakeem Olajuwon-inspired Dwight Howard, and you’ve got a recipe for success.

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Irish Coffee: Big Baby’s all grown up 10.21.10 at 11:03 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

BOSTON — At this time last preseason, Glen Davis watched in street clothes from the bench with a broken hand he suffered when he took a swing at a friend around 4 a.m. one night.

Big Baby’s done a lot of growing up since then.

“You make a mistake, and it helps you grow,” Davis said after last night’s Celtics win over the Nets in the preseason finale. “Situations happen. … I look at it, and I just look back on how young I was at that time. I’ve had a lot of things happen in my life so far.”

At the start of the preseason, Davis questioned his role, and coach Doc Rivers fired back: “I think Big Baby’s living up to his nickname again.” There was a here-we-go-again feel to it.

But in just three short weeks, Davis has grown into the leader of the NBA‘s best second unit, thanks in large part to Danny Ainge defining his role as,well, an indefinable one.

“It’s how you look at it,” said Davis. “I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t have a role,’ but I knew my role. It was just confusing. I know I’m a versatile player. I can do multiple things. I can play the 5, and I can play the 4.”

Rivers has also let Davis define his own role on the court.

“One thing Doc’s letting me do this year is allowing me to be more creative on my own. So far, in the preseason, I’m being a post threat, and I’m shooting an outside jumper. I’m just glad and fortunate that I know my role now. I know exactly what I can do for this team, and I’m going to do it the best I can.”

BIG BABY: SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR?

You’d be hard-pressed to find a better second unit in the NBA than Nate Robinson, Delonte West, Marquis Daniels, Big Baby and Jermaine O’Neal. So, why shouldn’t that unit produce the league’s Sixth Man of the Year?

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Big Baby knows his role 10.20.10 at 11:00 pm ET
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BOSTON — Glen Davis was lost, and now he’s found.

If you’ll recall, at the start of the preseason, Big Baby told reporters:

“I’ve got to find out what my role is. With Rasheed Wallace last year, I had to become a center. Now? I don’t know. Do I go back to playing the 4? We’ll see.

“It’s difficult because, as a player, you kind of don’t understand where the Celtics are going or what they are doing. No matter what I do – I can play great – it’s still not enough. I’m just here to help the team wherever possible, any way I can. Whenever I find my role, I’ll do it to the max, the only way I can.”

Now? He wishes he could take it all back. He knows his role now, after Doc Rivers pulled him aside, telling him to “shut up and play,” and Danny Ainge helped define his role — as a versatile big man off the bench who can play the 4 and the 5.

“I don’t even know why I made that comment,” Davis told reporters after last night’s preseason win over the Nets. “You guys have to help me out when I make stupid comments.”

Davis went as far as saying, “I’m a lucky big man to be on this team,” citing the experience he’s gained in a few years alongside veterans like Kevin Garnett, Rasheed Wallace, Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal.

After a poor first half as a team that left the Celtics trailing 55-48 going into the locker room, Davis and Shaq had a pointed discussion at the bench.

“We were just communicating with each other, making sure we were on the same page,” said Davis. “We have to do it a lot, because he really doesn’t know our defensive system. Me being here for four years now, I know it. So, I’m just trying to help him out, making sure he’s there when the rotations need to made.”

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Fast Break: Sharp Shaq ignites C’s win 10.20.10 at 10:04 pm ET
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Five Celtics scored in double figures — led by Paul Pierce‘s 17 points — and Rajon Rondo finished with 12 assists to ignite a 107-92 victory over the New Jersey Nets in the final game of the preseason. Boston finished the preseason at 7-1.

THREE THINGS THAT WENT RIGHT

1. Shaq looking sharp: A nifty spin move and another juke move around Joe Smith showed flashes of the Shaquille O’Neal of old. Sure, it was Joe Smith, but still. Playing 15 of the first 24 minutes, he finished the half with 12 points and seven boards.

Shaq did the little things, too. He tossed a nice outlet pass to Rondo for an easy bucket that put the C’s up 75-67 in the third quarter. He cleaned up the defensive glass, a serious deficiency for the Celtics in the 2010 game that shall not be named. And, believe it or not, he made 4-of-5 free throws, which raised his percentage to 69.2.

All in all, not too shabby for a 38-year-old.

2. Coming out of halftime firing on all cylinders: The Celtics could’ve easily packed it in and called it a night, trailing 55-48 at the half. If trap games existed in the preseason, this would’ve been it. The C’s started 6-1 in the expedition season, and if you haven’t heard yet they open the season against the new-look Heat on Tuesday.

Yet, the starters came out of the locker room and turned a seven-point deficit into a 13-point lead by the end of the third quarter, outscoring the Nets, 36-16.

3. Getting to the free throw line: The Celtics got to the line 24 times last night and made 18 of them. Shaq, Pierce and Glen Davis each got to the line five times, and only Big Baby (2-of-5) failed to knock them down.

Entering last night’s game, the C’s averaged 28.6 foul shots per game, and they were shooting 76.6 percent as a team. Last season, the Celtics attempted 25.5 free throws per game, making 74.6 percent of them.

THREE THINGS THAT WENT WRONG

1. Starting the game in a last-game-of-the-preseason effort: Looking sloppy and lackadaisical, the Celtics gave up 11 fast break points and scored none in the first quarter. That left them coming from behind … until an epic third quarter. Making up a 14-point deficit might be easy against the Nets, but it won’t be a cakewalk against the NBA’s upper echelon.

2. Giving up high-percentage shots on defense: The Celtics still allowed New Jersey to shoot 48 percent from the floor through three quarters — and that’s with the Nets shooting just 1-of-8 from beyond the arc. The C’s have plenty of bigs this year, so there’s no reason their interior defense shouldn’t be among the league’s best.

3. Do I really have to come up with three things that went wrong in a 20-point blowout during the last game of the preseason? OK, I guess the Celtics didn’t bring Gino out. What gives?

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Irish Coffee: One Reason Ray Allen Will Be Better 10.20.10 at 10:44 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

ESPN analysts Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy piled on the anti-technical foul bandwagon in a conference call to promote the station’s NBA coverage this season. While most of what’s been said on the subject has been redundant over the last week — (a la Van Gundy: “More free throws is never the answer”) — Jackson made an interesting point that could benefit the Celtics:

“If I was a guy like Reggie Miller I’d love the rule because it would add three or four points a night to my scoring total from technical fouls.”

Hmmm … I’m trying to think of a guy like Reggie Miller on the Celtics. Shaquille O’Neal? No. Rajon Rondo? Nope. Oh, I know: Ray Allen. Four current NBA players, including Allen, rank higher on the list of career free-throw percentage leaders than Miller (who is No. 9 at 88.8 percent): 2. Steve Nash (90.3 percent), 3. Peja Stojakovic (89.5), 4. Allen (89.4) and 6. Chauncey Billups (89.2).

Allen averaged 16.3 points per game for the Celtics last season, so an additional four points — which, for the NBA’s sake, better be an excessive estimate — would get him closer to his career average of 20.5 points a game.

The scariest name on that free-throw percentage list: Kevin Durant, whose 88.3 conversion rate ranks No. 11 all-time. Already an NBA MVP favorite, Durant’s 30.1 points per game led the league in scoring last year. An additional few points a game gets Durant that much closer to averaging 35 points. Only two players have done that since 1970: Michael Jordan (37.1 in 1986-87; 35.0 in 1987-88) and Kobe Bryant (35.4 in 2005-06).

NBA PRESEASON PREMONITION

The Sporting News produced the following NBA statistic: “Over the last nine preseasons, 17 teams have finished undefeated or with one loss. Of those 17 teams, 16 wound up in the playoffs. None went on to win a championship and only half survived to the second round, but the fact is, if you play well in October, there’s a good chance you’ll at least be playing in late April.”

Only four NBA teams currently have unbeaten or one-loss preseason records: the Celtics (6-1), Orlando Magic (6-0), Utah Jazz (7-0) and Memphis Grizzlies (7-0). I’m not sure this is good news for the Celtics, who need a monumental breakdown to miss the playoffs. Should they defeat the New Jersey Nets tonight, they would have to buck a recent trend to win the NBA title.

Along the same lines, 82games.com analyzed a five-year window to determine: Does the NBA preseason matter? Looking at records from 2001-02 to 2005-06, there was a corollary: successful preseason teams succeeded in the regular season; likewise, unsuccessful preseason teams failed in the regular season.

The most interesting statistic from the study: teams coming off less-than-30-win seasons that produced successful preseason teams gained an average of 19 wins the following season. The only team that fits that bill this season is the Minnesota Timberwolves, who finished 15-67 last season and are 5-2 this preseason.

Inductees Larry Bird, left, and Earvin "Magic" Johnson shake hands after being inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame Sunday, Nov. 22, 2009, in Kansas City, Mo. Other inductees include Gene Bartow, Walter Byers, Travis Grant, Jud Heathcote, Wayman Tisdale and Bill Wall.

Could Magic Johnson and Larry Bird team up to buy the Pacers? Just a conspiracy theory. (AP)

MAGIC JOHNSON’S DISAPPEARING ACT?

What the heck is Magic Johnson up to? A day after selling his 4.5 ownership stake in the Los Angeles Lakers for an estimated $27 million, Magic reportedly sold his 105 Starbucks franchises for another $100 million, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Magic was rumored to have interest in the sales of the Detroit Pistons and Golden State Warriors, which have since been sold. Back in 2006, when the Seattle SuperSonics were sold for $350 million, five teams were supposedly available for the right price: the Portland Trail Blazers, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, Magic and Grizzlies. None of those teams have been sold since.

Conspiracy Theory of the Day: Maybe Larry Bird and Magic Johnson are preparing to buy the Indiana Pacers. Bird did admit back in April that he’s fielded calls from people interested in buying the team. I’m pretty sure Magic has his number.

 Just as long as Magic isn’t planning on investing in another edition of that godawful TV show, “The Magic Hour.”

PERFORMANCE-ENHANCING SHOES

The NBA banned its players from wearing Athletic Propulsion Labs’ $300 Concept 1 shoes. Apparently, the shoes are spring-loaded to increase vertical leap. According to the Associated Press story, 30 percent of NBA players had shown interest in the shoe produced by former USC walk-ons Adam and Ryan Goldston. Any chance the aging legs of Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal were among that 30 percent?

(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)

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Report: Shaquille O’Neal applies for gun license 10.19.10 at 11:56 am ET
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Shaquille O'Neal is here to serve and protect you. (AP)

According to reports, Shaquille O’Neal applied for a lcoal gun license from the Sudbury Police Department.

If you’ll recall, Shaq began his law enforcement career as a reserve officer in the Miami Police Department. He later applied to become a deputy sheriff with the Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Sheriff’s Department while playing for the Cavaliers. Two quick thoughts on this item:

1) Well, Shaq did admit to killing off all the true centers.

2) Is Shaq simply fulfilling his proposed nickname: Blackie Bulger, the Godfather of Sudbury?

And this is reason No. 372 to be intimidated by Shaquille O’Neal.

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Irish Coffee: Ta-Ta Tony Allen 10.19.10 at 10:48 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

Tony Allen left for greener pastures. Green as in the color of cash; definitely not Celtics green. How can you blame him? After all, his list of injuries reads like a children’s song: ankles, knees and thumbs, so his earning potential could go at any moment — like a post-whistle dunk attempt.

He signed a three-year, $9.7 million contract with the Memphis Grizzlies. He wasn’t going to get that from the Celtics. And he was never going to play more than 20 minutes — maybe not even 15 — for this year’s C’s squad. So, why not sign with the Grizzlies?

“I was definitely overshadowed,” Allen told The Tulsa World. “Anybody would have been overshadowed considering those Hall of Fame prolific-type scorers that they had.”

He played 18.3 minutes per game for the 2007-08 Celtics team that won the NBA title and 16.5 minutes for last year’s team that reached the finals. He’s gotta be able to play more than that for a franchise that’s never won a playoff game, right? Wrong.

“I don’t think it’s smart,” Memphis head coach Lionel Hollins also told The Tulsa World. “What would you rather do? Win and play 15 minutes a game? Or you may not win as much and play 15 minutes a game. My thing is I would rather play on a winning team and have a chance to win championships — and get a playoff share too.”

Ouch. Getting thrown under the bus by his own coach isn’t going to help Allen’s injury woes.

THE GREAT POINT GUARD DEBATE

There’s a recent theory going around the blogosphere: Should you build your team around a point guard? That’s a big question for Celtics fans, considering two years from now that’s exactly what Danny Ainge will be challenged to do. Other than what will be a 35-year-old Paul Pierce, the only current player guaranteed to play for the 2012-13 Celtics is Rajon Rondo.

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