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Stephane Lasme’s added motivation 10.12.10 at 3:10 pm ET
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BOSTON — Surely, Von Wafer and Mario West are motivated to make the Celtics roster, but Stephane Lasme is playing for something more.

Training in Italy this summer for Russia’s Spartak Saint Petersburg squad, Lasme — a citizen of Gabon — was informed that if he didn’t return to the United States and land a year-long job, he could lose his residency.

“My wife and my baby are American,” the 27-year-old Lasme said after Sunday’s 91-87 win over the Raptors. “To get a chance to see them, I basically have to get a job here.”

Playing for teams in Serbia and Tel Aviv ever since he failed to make the Golden State Warriors and Miami Heat in 2007-08, Lasme decided to return to the U.S., even if that meant a “big, big, big” pay cut.

“I had to make a choice between seeing my family or not seeing my family and taking that much money,” said the 6-foot-8, 220-pound former UMass forward. “For me, the choice is obvious. I’m gonna see my family.”

Even if Lasme fails to make the Celtics roster, he could stay relatively close to his wife Anastasia and 17-month-old Lily in Marlborough, Mass. A new NBA rule would allow the C’s to sign him — along with two other players — to their Developmental League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws.

“Even if I don’t make the team, I’m going to stay around,” said Lasme. “(Signing with the Red Claws) is an option that I’ve thought about with the new rule. Maine is not that far away from home.”

Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers listens to a question during his off-day news conference at the NBA basketball finals Friday, June 11, 2010, in Boston. The Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers are tied 2-2 going into Game 5 Sunday in Boston.

Stephane Lasme is making Doc Rivers' roster choice easier. (AP)

It’s appearing more and more likely that Lasme won’t have to worry about that. Wafer’s minutes have declined in each preseason game, and West has contributed little in two brief stints. Meanwhile, Lasme has made his presence felt, significantly.

After totaling 12 points and four boards in just seven minutes in the opener, he threw down a highlight-reel dunk over Andrea Bargnani in a key moment of Sunday night’s victory over the Raptors. He’s looked downright Leon Powe-esque, and that’s a good thing (remember 2008?).

“I like him a lot,” C’s head coach Doc Rivers said after the game. “I do. He just does everything. He has energy. He has a high basketball IQ. He’s athletic. He’s probably our most athletic player. … He has a great shot at making our team. He’s terrific.”

Capturing Atlantic 10 Player of the Year honors after averaging 13.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 5.1 blocks as a senior, Lasme concluded his college career as UMass’ all-time shot-blocking leader, over Marcus Camby. Since then, he’s added to his game, and if the Celtics keep him around, he’ll get to show off the skills he learned in Europe over the last two years.

“I’ve had a couple of good coaches who have tried to develop my game in the summer, and I think it’s worked out pretty good,” said Lasme. “I’ve worked a lot on my ball-handling and shooting. I know I haven’t shot the ball (from the outside) yet, but I’ve worked a lot on those two aspects. The more I play, the more I’m going to get a chance to show that.”

In all likelihood, he’ll get that chance.

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Irish Coffee: Ron Artest guarantees title 10.12.10 at 9:15 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

Ron Artest is pretty confident the Lakers will repeat as NBA champions. He practically guaranteed it in a recent Tweet, claiming he’ll give away his second ring to whoever writes the best essay “on how we can make America better” (he’s already scheduled to auction off his 2009-10 championship ring to benefit mental-health causes).

Where does this competition rank in prestige among essay contests? It probably falls somewhere between the Ayn Rand Institute Essay Contest and the John F. Kennedy library’s Profile in Courage Essay Contest, right? Artest, after all, is the same guy who wrote such lyrical poetry as “Booty Wooty” …

Now I might be quick to get a tech,
But I keep my girls in check,
Punch ‘em in the neck
With the utmost respect.

Talk about making America a better place, huh? Hypocrisy at its finest.

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Shaquille O’Neal still wants a mini horse 10.10.10 at 9:46 pm ET
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If he can’t have Einstein, the world’s smallest horse, Shaquille O’Neal still wants a miniature horse of his own. After his first home game in a Celtics uniform, he confirmed his interest in acquiring Einstein (“I asked about it”) but said he didn’t make any official offer for the New Hampshire horse, as Paris Hilton did. He didn’t seem too disappointed that Einstein wasn’t up for sale, as long as he can still land a mini horse elsewhere.

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Fast Break: Celtics tame Raptors 10.10.10 at 8:42 pm ET
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Led by Nate Robinson‘s 13 points and the rest of the bench (again), the Celtics held off the Raptors, 91-87, to improve to 3-0 this preseason. Delonte West and Marquis Daniels also contributed 11 points apiece off the bench.

THREE THINGS THAT WENT RIGHT

1. Gutsy second-unit minutes: Playing the majority of minutes in the second half of a close game, the Celtics bench responded each time the Raptors starters tried to make a run. A monster dunk by Stephane Lasme, a corner 3-pointer from Daniels and a nifty double-clutch layup over a defender by Robinson all proved key moments down the stretch. If you’re Doc Rivers, you love knowing the bench guys can contribute important minutes if necessary.

2. Quick transition: The Celtics hauled down 36 defensive rebounds — as Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Luke Harangody and Semih Erden each grabbed at least five — and did a good job of looking for Rajon Rondo, West or Robinson running the floor. Some nice outlet passes (by Shaquille O’Neal in particular) led to a number of easy baskets offensively. The C’s did a nice job of passing all the way around, amassing 23 assists as a group (led by Rondo’s 7).

3. Setting the defensive tone early: In two of the Celtics three preseason games, they’ve held opponents to fewer than 20 points in the first quarter and 40 points in the half — building an early lead and dictating the tone from the tip. I’m sure Doc enjoyed Jermaine O’Neal fitting quickly in the team’s defensive mindset, blocking three shots in his first six minutes in a Celtics uniform.

THREE THINGS THAT WENT WRONG

2. Shaq’s foul trouble: In just 16:37 on the floor, Shaq picked up five fouls. While he has whistled for one of them for standing still as Jarrett Jack charged into him (kinda like a fly smacking into a windshield), that still spells trouble. With Kendrick Perkins sidelined, the C’s can’t afford to have one of the O’Neals consistently in foul trouble.

3. Too many turnovers: After committing 20 and 18 turnovers, respectively, against the 76ers and Nets in their first two preseason games, the Celtics again got careless with the ball, committing 22 turnovers. Rondo led the way with five giveaways, but the bigger crime was the nine turnovers from post players (Semih Erden 4, KG 3, J. O’Neal 2).

1. Guard the 3-pointer: The Raptors knocked down 5-of-11 3-pointers on the night, led by Leandro Barbosa, who knocked down a pair on fairly open looks as the Raptors took a brief second-half lead. While it may not have hurt them against the Raptors, giving open looks to teams like the Magic is only gonna hurt their chances. Guys rotating defensively need to push that extra mile to get out to the wings on those looks.

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Shaquille O’Neal vs. Paris Hilton 10.08.10 at 3:06 pm ET
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I swear, the best stories always pop up around Shaquille O’Neal. This stuff just wouldn’t come up if he weren’t around. Anyhow, Shaq and Paris Hilton obviously both want Einstein, the world’s smallest horse, who resides in Gilmanton, N.H. Only they can’t have him.

“Shaq would have to arm-wrestle Paris Hilton for him,” the horse’s owner, Charlie Cantrell, told the New Hampshire Union Leader. “We’ve been contacted by so many people, but he’s not for sale. He’s priceless.”

Now, I’m positive Paris has no idea who Einstein is. Shaq, on the other hand, probably does. In fact, he’s probably called himself The Big Einstein at some point his career.  Of course, I have to make the obvious joke: Why would Shaq want the world’s smallest horse, when he already has a rather small, self-proclaimed donkey (Nate Robinson) on his own team? And … scene.

nate_robinson

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Irish Coffee: Big ‘Swoll’ Baby; NBA goes Euro 10.08.10 at 9:48 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

Um, Ok, Big Baby, whatever you say. Is it just me, or is anybody else confused as to what Glen Davis is saying here to NBA TV …

“Everybody on the East Coast watch out. We’re coming. Working hard on the elliptical. Get a nice burn before practice. Get rid of some of this body fat. They ain’t gonna call me Big Baby no more. They gonna call me Big ‘Swoll’ Baby.”

I’m not gonna lie, I actually had to consult UrbanDictionary.com on this one. They define “swoll” as “to be muscular, jacked, strong, etc.” (I also love their use of it in a sentence: “Man, I’m mo swoll than AC Slater“).

So, to get this straight, Davis no longer wanted to be called Big Baby, so last season he suggested Uno Uno, and now he wants to be called Big Swoll Baby. I think I’ve got it now.

The buffer Davis led all Celtics scorers with 20 points in last night’s 96-92 preseason victory against the Nets. Once again, the C’s second unit looked sharp, as Nate Robinson added 17 points and Delonte West scored 12 before leaving in the third quarter with discomfort in his lower back.

If you’ll recall, West missed Monday’s practice with lower back spasms. Not to worry, he stressed.

“I came in at halftime and felt my lower back pinching,” West told ESPN.com. “It’s real minor, but the muscle back there was tightening up and I think the tension was pinching the nerve, maybe. It was real uncomfortable. You saw me out there stretching before I went in for the third quarter, I just couldn’t move the way I wanted to. It’s just precautionary.”

NBA commissioner David Stern talks to reporters before the NBA draft lottery, Tuesday, May 18, 2010, in Secaucus, N.J.

Will David Stern make the NBA go Euro? (AP)

LAKERS NO LONGER WORLD CHAMPIONS

NBA Commissioner David Stern made a bold prediction yesterday: “We’re going to have, really, our most successful season. … I think you’re going to be getting to see some of the greatest basketball ever played.” He made the statement prior to a game between Euroleague champ FC Barcelona and the NBA champion Lakers.

The Spanish team actually defeated the Lakers, 92-88, adding fire to the debate: Should the NBA champs face off against the Euroleague champs in a battle for world domination?

Stern: “I would guess that we will be in continued discussions with our friends at the Euroleague about an expansion of this possibility.”

Euroleague CEO Jordi Bertomeu: “To us, it is something we would like to happen. We would like it because that would mean that we would have met the circumstances, both sporting and economic, to make a game like that possible. We can only hope and expect, and I do, that with the work of our clubs and teams, those conditions will be met. In the event that those conditions are met, and continuing the same collaborations we have had so far between the Euroleague and the NBA, I am sure such a game would be a possibility.”

ESPN.com asked Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant if Barcelona could compete in the NBA over the course of an 82-game season, and their answers differed:

Jackson: “They’re not up to the competition that we face night in and night out. But that’s not taking anything away from them. The physicality of our game, the size of our players, those are things that night in and night out are very difficult to contest.”

Bryant: “I think they execute extremely well, they know each other extremely well, they move the ball extremely well and that’s what you’re looking for. In the NBA, teams that do that are few and far in between, teams that play together as a unit. You see a lot of isolation game; you see a lot of guys going one-on-one. They do a great job moving the ball, they do a great job helping each other defensively, so I disagree, but, what do I know?”

Bryant hit just 2-of-15 shots in the loss to Barcelona. As we all know, failing to perform in championship games is nothing new to Kobe. Remember his 6-for-24 performance in the final game of the 2010 NBA Finals? Of course. How could you forget?

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NBA Power Rankings, 10/7 10.07.10 at 12:48 pm ET
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pr_header1

Los Angeles Lakers1. LA Lakers: As the long as the Lakers avoid terrorist threats in Europe and manage to stay healthy, they’ll hang on to this spot throughout the preseason. I’m not too worried about a loss to the T-Wolves or Kobe’s knee being 60 percent. And they’re pretty used to surviving without Bynum at this point.

Boston Celtics2. Boston: When your biggest question mark is whether Von Wafer or Mario West will fill the final spot on the roster, I’d say your team is in pretty good shape … as long as Nate Robinson doesn’t hurt Shaq with one of his pranks. Oh, and Semih Erden looks like he’ll actually contribute.

Miami Heat3. Miami: Don’t let D-Wade’s hamstring injury alarm you. Those things happen in the preseason, and he’s played through far worse. The Heat looked good. No surprise there. And if Udonis Haslem keeps contributing like he has, they just might slide up to No. 2 on opening night.

Oklahoma City Thunder4. Oklahoma City: The Thunder recently invited the greatest name in the NBA to their training camp: Longar Longar. If he makes the team, watch out league. What better complement to Durant, Westbrook and Green?

Dallas Mavericks5. Dallas: The Mavericks are a bunch of 30-somethings who have a limited window left to challenge for an NBA title. Sound familiar? Yup, they’re like the Celtics, only they don’t rebound much and play porous defense. Still, they’ll be tough out West.

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