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Irish Coffee: The Celtics Vengeance Factor 11.30.10 at 11:48 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

I love vengeance movies. Good (“Kill Bill”) or bad (“The Punisher”). I’ll watch it. And I’ll love it.

So, in the wake of last week’s Celtics victory over the Raptors and in the face of Tuesday night’s rematch against the Cavaliers, I got to thinking: How good are the post-Kevin Garnett-trade C’s at exacting revenge?

Examining the Celtics’ record over the last three-plus seasons in rematches against opponents following a regular-season loss in their previous meeting, it’s clear these C’s are pretty damn good at vengeance — like Charles Bronson in “Death Wish” good — especially against sub-.500 teams.

After losing to the Raptors by one on Nov. 21 this season, the Celtics handled Toronto during a nine-point victory in their rematch five days later. It marked their first shot at vengeance of the 2010-11 regular season.

Since the start of the 2007-08 season, the Celtics have a record of 26-11 in rematches following a loss against that team in their previous meeting. Their average margin of victory in those 26 wins was 10.3 points.

Against sub-.500 teams during that same span, the C’s are now 9-0 in vengeance opportunities. Tuesday, the Celtics have another shot, as they face a 7-9 Cavaliers club that beat them 95-87 in Game 2 of the season.

The Celtics are favored by seven points in Tuesday night’s game. I’m just saying.

A CAVS TRAP GAME?

There’s no question that Thursday’s Cavaliers game against the Heat means more to Cleveland than Tuesday night’s rematch against the Celtics. And rightfully so, considering LeBron James‘ return to the town he dissed in his “Decision.”

But the Cavs are trying to avoid looking past the C’s, because — based on their comments to the Akron Beacon Journal — they expect the vengeance factor.

”We really took advantage of them playing the night before,” [Cavaliers guard Mo] Williams said of the first meeting against the Celtics. ”We ran, we ran, we ran. It was a new-look team at the time that didn’t know what to expect. I expect to see a better, more prepared Boston tomorrow.”

If the Cavs’ game plan against the Celtics was a secret before, it isn’t any longer.

”One of the reasons we were successful the first time is we got up and down the floor and put Shaq in a lot of pick and rolls,” [Cavaliers coach Byron] Scott said. ”That won’t change. We’ll still try to do that. If we do that like we did the last time, our guards will get wide open shots. We just have to keep it spread as much as possible and get the ball moving side to side.”

Well, then. I guess the Celtics don’t need to videotape any Cavaliers practices.

Oh, and speaking of LeBron’s return to Cleveland, if you haven’t already, read Adrian Wojnarowski‘s piece on James’ egotistical behavior. It’s probably the best insight into the Akron product you’ll read — including gems like these …

[Dwyane] Wade was one of the Team USA players who’€™d watch incredulously as James would throw a bowl of fries back at a renowned chef and bark, ‘€œThey’€™re cold!’€ Or throw his sweaty practice jersey across the court and command a team administrator to go pick it up. Everyone wants James to grow out of it, but he’€™s never showed much of an inclination for self-examination and improvement. And he’€™s never surrounded himself with people who’€™d push him to do so.

The fundamental problem for [Heat head coach Erik] Spoelstra isn’€™t that James doesn’€™t respect coaches — he doesn’€™t respect people. Give LeBron this, though: He’€™s learned to live one way with the television light on, and another with it off. He treats everyone like a servant, because that’€™s what the system taught him as a teenage prodigy. To James, the coach isn’€™t there to mold him into the team dynamic. He’€™s there to serve him.

BLOGGING, LAKERS-STYLE

I’m not sure why I do this to myself, but I’ve been following the 24-part series of profiles about the Lakers bloggers on the Los Angeles Times website.

Here’s what I’ve learned (in vast generalizations): Somehow, they’re all Lakers fans, yet none of them came from Los Angeles. Take one blogger’s story about how he became a Lakers fan as an example:

Born and raised in NYC, I didn’€™t really start watching much basketball until I found myself living in Cambridge, Mass., coming out of college and rooming and living with a crazy Celtics fan during the ‘€™85-‘€™86 season. I got one look at Magic Johnson and the Showtime Lakers, and I was instantly hooked. I eventually found myself living and working in L.A. early in my film/TV career in ‘€™87, ‘€™88 and some of ‘€™89 where my love for the Lakers was truly forged. I have been following the team religiously ever since.

They all hate, hate, hate the Celtics, which I’m sure fuels their objectivity:

Opposing team, player you dislike the most: The Celtics and all things green. Paul Pierce and the ‘€œwheelchair’€ incident will always cause me to gag. More recently, however, Lebron and his now infamous ‘€œI’€™m going to take my talents to South Beach…’€ episode have trumped the hatred I have for the Celtics. I’€™ve never disliked a team more than I do this Heat team at the moment — I hate the Celtics, but I loathe the Heat.

Ladies and gentlemen, your L.A. Times basketball bloggers!

REMEMBERING RUSSELL

Sports Illustrated named Drew Brees its Sportsman of the Year. Back in 1968, Bill Russell became the first NBA player to capture the honor. Here’s what the former Celtics player-coach told SI about winning the award:

“My pride was being part of a team. If Red Auerbach had talked about me being a pioneer, I would not have taken the coaching job. He told me it was a Celtics Job. … Until that time I disdained awards. But they said Sportsman wasn’t about the best athlete or winning something — it was about contributions to society through sports.”

Since Russell, only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1985), Michael Jordan (1991), Tim Duncan/David Robinson (2003) and Dwyane Wade (2006)have been named Sportsman of the Year. Brian Scalabrine was robbed in 2008.

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

Read More: Bill Russell, Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron James
Irish Coffee: An NBA tribute to Leslie Nielsen 11.29.10 at 11:13 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the basketball ties in the wake of Sunday’s passing of Leslie Nielsen — one of the great comedic actors in history.

Playing Dr. Rumack in the 1980 comedy classic “Airplane”, Nielsen starred alongside NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as Roger Murdock. Unfortunately, Nielsen didn’t appear in Kareem’s best scene.

In addition, back in 1994, when Del Harris assumed the head coaching position of the Los Angeles Lakers, he joked about serving as a double for Nielsen in Hollywood. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein contacted Harris for comment …

“We had already had the lookalike thing going, and I had actually signed a name to an autograph a time or two, so I said to him, ‘How about going in the locker room and act like you are me and tell them they played a good game or you are proud of them or whatever you have.’ He did it and the guys loved it.

“He brought a lot of laughter to the world, but not tonight. Peace, Leslie.”

Of course, Nielsen also had ties to the NFL (co-starring alongside O.J. Simpson in the “Naked Gun” movies) and Major League Baseball (impersonating an umpire in “Naked Gun”).

R.I.P. Leslie Nielsen. Now, on to some Boston Celtics links …

DOC’S DIAGNOSIS OF AUSTIN RIVERS

NBA.com’s Shaun Powell caught up with Doc Rivers to discuss the success of his son, Austin Rivers, who ranks No. 1 among Class of 2011 high school basketball recruits.

The only actual news to come from the story is that Doc will miss up to 10 potential practice days in order to catch some of his son’s games in Florida.

“It’s not the best way, but it’s the only way,” Rivers told Powell. “If they play and I’m off, I’m there.”

Will Doc’s potential absence for as many as 10 practice days affect this veteran-laden Celtics team? In my mind, no chance. It might have some small effect on a young team, but because of their collective experience this C’s squad is the ideal group for Rivers in this situation, as a few absences in favor of father-son bonding shouldn’t impact their success one way or another.

And, in many ways, the father-son relationship between Doc and Austin Rivers is just like any other involving a teenager.

“You know when you’re a teenager you really don’t even want to talk to your parents anymore,” Doc said, with a laugh. “So basketball does give you a conversation piece. While the bond my wife and I have with all of our kids is away from basketball, it helps.”

In other ways, their relationship is unlike most, in that Doc could one day coach his son in the NBA.

“I harbor dreams that he makes it to the league,” Rivers said. “But coaching him? That’d be tough. Because I have to live with his mom. She runs the household. If I didn’t play him one day, I’d have to go home to his mother. And that would be no fun at all.”

Of course, if Austin Rivers lives up to his billing as the nation’s No. 1 recruit, the Celtics probably won’t have a chance at drafting him in a few years — considering he’d be a top-10 pick in that scenario.

FORMER CELTICS STRUGGLE TO FIND HOMES

In a bizarre story over the holiday weekend, despite Stephon Marbury‘s popularity in the Chinese Basketball Association last season, Shanxi Zhongyu opted not to sign the former Celtics guard to one of its three contracts allotted for international players.

Not only that, but the team only alerted Marbury after he arrived for training camp in Taiyuan. As a result, he hasn’t been able to sign with another CBA team, because they too have signed their three international players.

“If they said they weren’t going to sign him a month ago, then Marbury still would have had a lot of other opportunities because there are still some teams who are quite interested in him,” Titan Sports associated editor and close Marbury confidant Yang Yi told NIUBBall.com.  “But now, every CBA team has already signed their import players, so it’€™s going to be real tough for Marbury to find a team to play with.

“He’s dissapointed in Shanxi.  This is treachery.  Marbury isn’t strapped for cash, he doesn’€™t need to play in China because he needs money.  He just feels really sad because he loves Shanxi.  This summer he was working out and keeping his body in shape.  He feels really hurt by the team.”

In other news, former Celtics All-Star Antoine Walker could sign a contract with the NBA Development League as soon as Monday.

One former Celtic who isn’t having trouble finding his place is Al Jefferson, who got emotional after his Utah Jazz upset the Los Angeles Lakers.

“I haven’t beaten the Lakers in probably six years, since I left Boston, and I haven’t been in a playoff game in six years and it felt like a playoff game,” Jefferson told The Orange County Register. “Every possession counted. Kobe Bryant being who he is, and we were down, we fought back, we didn’€™t give up. We won against all odds. It was just amazing, man. I’€™m overwhelmed. It’€™s never been like this before, and to be a part of this. It just meant a lot to me.”

CAN RAJON RONDO AVERAGE 20 ASSISTS?

Rajon Rondo believes he can average 20 assists per game. At least, that’s what he told NBA FanHouse.

OK, so how many assists per game does Rondo believe he can average this season?

“Twenty,” he said.

Realistically, how many?

“Twenty,” said Rondo, who did hand out 24 Oct. 29 against New York but hasn’t exceeded 17 in any other game.

OK, why do you think that?

“Because we’re shooting the ball extremely well,” he said. “We’re playing together and moving the ball.”

In order to produce 20 assists a game, Rondo would have to average 21.1 dimes over the next 66 games this season. While I’m not buying that — considering he’s only eclipsed 20 assists once this season — I still think he has a shot at John Stockton‘s 1989-90 NBA record of 14.5 assists per game.

SHAQ DOMINATES BASKET & RINGS

The Onion once again took on the Celtics, this time in a tonge-in-cheek article entitled, “Shaquille O’Neal shows he can still dominate around basket of fries.” Here’s a sample:

“Shaq’s already got four onion rings on his fingers, but he still wants to get one more for the thumb,” Kevin Garnett said. “And you know what? Tonight he showed he’s going to do whatever it takes to get a whole handful of onion rings. Whatever it takes.”

Never a dull moment when it comes to this Celtics squad.

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

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Leslie Nielsen, NBA
NBA Power Rankings, 11/25 11.25.10 at 3:18 pm ET
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Obviously, we’re going to release a Thanksgiving Day version of the NBA Power Rankings, taking a look at what teams should be thankful for one-sixth of the way through the season. So, without further ado, here they are:

1. L.A. Lakers (13-2): The two-time defending champion Lakers can still be thankful for Memphis Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace for deciding to deliver Pau Gasol to them. Statistically, Gasol is the most efficient player in the NBA right now, cementing himself as the best big man in the league.

2. San Antonio (13-1): The Spurs can be thankful that Richard Jefferson is still alive, Tony Parker has a renewed focus solely on basketball and Manu Ginobili is healthy. Surround those guys with the ever-productive Tim Duncan and a nice core of young talent, and you’ve got a championship-contending formula once again.

3. Boston (11-4): The Celtics can be thankful that they didn’t land the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft that turned into Greg Oden. As a result, the C’s decided to go another route, trading for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. As an aside, it’s a shame that Delonte West broke his wrist on Wednesday night; after overcoming some personal issues, he was truly embracing this season.

4. New Orleans (11-3): The Hornets can be thankful Chris Paul hasn’t gone completely insane over their inability to surround him with enough talent to contend. I’m not sure how they’re doing it this season, but they’re winning with a group of guys that — outside of David West — aren’t exactly household names. You can’t argue with their success against a tough schedule.

5. Dallas (10-4): The Mavericks can be thankful that Dirk Nowitzki was still available with the ninth pick in the 1998 NBA Draft and that their owner is a bazillionaire who is willing to spend money to surround him with the talent to win 50 games a season year in and year out. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, NBA, power rankings
An NBA Turkey Day Special 11.25.10 at 8:00 am ET
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On this Thanksgiving Day special, we give you the top five NBA players ever to hail from Turkey. Get it? Turkey? Thanksgiving? Turkish players have had a long and storied history in the league, only the exact opposite. It may be a reach, but it’s also pretty awesome when you think about it. You get to say names like Ersan Ilyasova. Without further ado …

5. Chicago Bulls 7-foot rookie center Omer Asik (O-mair A-sheek): Averaging 3.3 points and 0.8 points per game in 12 career appearances.

4. Boston Celtics 7-foot rookie center Semih Erden (Seh-MEE EHRD-ehn): Averaging 3.4 points and 2.3 rebounds in 11 career appearances.

3. Milwaukee Bucks 6-foot-10 third-year forward Ersan Ilyasova (ER-sahn Ill-ee-uh-SOH-vuh): Averaging 8.3 points and 4.8 rebounds per game in 160 career appearances.

2. Utah Jazz 6-foot-11 nine-year veteran center Mehmet Okur (MEM-et Oh-KUHR): Averaging 13.9 points and 7.2 rebounds in 604 career appearances.

1. Phoenix Suns 6-foot-10 11-year veteran forward Hedo Turkoglu (HEE-doe TURK-uh-loo): Averaging 12.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game in 766 career appearances.

 

The fist pump at the end of the Mehmet Okur commerical is amazing. Quick programming note: Irish Coffee will return on Monday morning. In the meantime, don’t forget to consume a few actual irish coffees over the Thanksgiving holiday break. Good times.

Read More: NBA, Semih Erden, Thanksgiving, Turkey
Irish Coffee: Is Kobe Bryant a winner or whiner? 11.24.10 at 11:19 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

All Kobe Bryant has ever cared about is team-building, winning and  championships.

Wait, what?

In an interview with Yahoo! Sports columnist Adrian Wojarowski, Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant waxes poetically about his drive for success and what he learned from two of the greatest basketball minds ever: Bill Russell and … Michael Jackson?

After reading the story, dry heaving several times and doing a little research, I want to make one thing clear: When he has good teammates and is winning, all Kobe Bryant has ever cared about is team-building, winning and  championships.

Let’s take a look at a few of Bryant’s quotes from Wojnarowski’s piece …

“It sounds weird, I guess, but it’€™s true: I was really mentored by the preparation of Michael Jackson. … That’€™s the mentality that I have — it’€™s not an athletic one. It’€™s not from Michael Jordan. It’€™s not from other athletes. It’€™s from Michael Jackson.”

One question from that nugget: Is Kobe the first young mind ever to be proud of being “mentored” by Michael Jackson? Too soon?

“Guys have voices now, want to build brands,” Bryant said. “I don’t identify with it, but I understand where it’€™s going, why it’s going there. That’s not for me.”

On the same day the interview was published, a story that Nike-sponsored Kobe is going to wear special “Grinch” style green shoes against the Miami Heat on Christmas day. But, you know, Bryant would never want to build a brand or anything.

“I focus on one thing and one thing only — that’s trying to win as many championships as I can.”

Let’s not forget Bryant’s thirst for winning from 2004-07, during which time he wanted to be traded, shot roughly 15,000 shots per game and won 34, 45 and 42 games. Kobe has never won more than 45 games without Shaquille O’Neal or Pau Gasol, who have been the most dominant centers in the league during their respective tenures alongside Bryant.

Meanwhile, Paul Pierce‘s 2001-02 Boston Celtics won 49 games with Tony Battie at center, Kevin Garnett‘s 2003-04 Minnesota Timberwolves won 58 games with a Ervin Johnson/Michael Olowakandi combination at center, and Ray Allen’s 2004-05 Seattle SuperSonics won 52 games with Jerome James at center.

Now, I’m in no way arguing that any of those three guys are better than Kobe. Bryant is one of the top five guards ever to play the game. But this notion that he has always been “all about winning” is absurd. He’s only all about winning when he’s winning.

Speaking of the C’s, here’s what Bryant had to say about the Celtics-Lakers rivalry …

“Now that’€™s a war. Boston is a great city to go to, all the history. If you’re an opponent, they hate your [expletive] guts — like New York, like Chicago, all those Eastern cities. That’€™s the one that gets me excited. If you’€™re a basketball purist, that’€™s the [expletive] you want to see.”

Well, at least Kobe’s right about one thing.

A CELTICS THANKSGIVING FEAST

Well, Thanksgiving is almost upon us, so the obligatory Turkey Day sports stories are popping up all over the place. ESPN.com caught up with a bunch of Boston athletes to ask them what they like most about Thanksgiving? Here are the answers from Celtics players …

  • Shaquille O’Neal: “Lucille’s [his mom's] fried chicken and macaroni and cheese. My favorite part of Thanksgiving is eating!”
  • Glen Davis: “Macaroni and cheese, but I most look forward to cutting the turkey. I’m the one who carves the turkey, and I think I do a good job.”
  • Nate Robinson: “My favorite Thanksgiving food is turkey, ham ‘€¦ you’ve got to do both. Turkey, ham, dressing with maple corn bread is real good, what else? Yams and macaroni and cheese. I like having all my family being together and having a good time, and then there is always football on that day. We all watch football.”
  • Kendrick Perkins: “I love, love, love turkey, baked turkey actually. I love the football games that are on, being able to play cards and games and stuff like that with the family at the house. I think Thanksgiving to me is one of the most underrated holidays. Everybody looks forward to Christmas, but I think Thanksgiving is more like where you wake up to the food, just the smell of the house and stuff like that is all just warming and stuff, so that’s what I look forward to.”

Honestly, my family has never had mac and cheese for Thanksgiving, but it sounds amazing. Then again, maybe I’d just end up weighing as much as Shaq and Big Baby. In my 6-foot-1 frame, that wouldn’t be pretty.

IS JERMAINE O’NEAL OVERPAID?

On average, NBA teams pay roughly $1.7 million per victory. Based on who got paid the most to produce the least amount of wins, Forbes Magazine determined the most overpaid players of the 2009-10 season. No. 2 on the list? Jermaine O’Neal.

That shouldn’t worry Celtics fans too much, as he was making $23 million when he statistically produced a whopping 3.1 wins last season. His true value, according to Forbest, was $5.3 million, and the C’s signed him to a $5.7 million deal in the offseason.

Still, it’s looking as though he could actually be worse than 2009-10, when he averaged 13.5 points and seven rebounds in 28 minutes per game.

By the way, the Orlando Magic’s Rashard Lewis was the most overpaid player in the league last year, collecting $18.9 million for 14.1 points and 1.5 assists in 32.9 minutes per game. This year, Lewis is worse, averaging just 11.6 points and 1.2 assists in 31.8 minutes per.

CELTICS PLAYING THE SIMS GAME?

According to NBA Fan House, The Celtics’ NBA Development League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws, signed former University of Michigan forward DeShawn Sims to replace the injured Stephane Lasme.

Sims played for the C’s in the Orlando Pro Summer League over the summer and will join Celtics training camp invitees Jamar Smith, Mario West and Tiny Gallon on the Red Claws’ roster. The 6-foot-8, 235-pound Sims averaged 16.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per game for the Wolverines as a senior, earning Second Team All-Big Ten honors. …

Well, that’s it for today, folks. Have a Happy Thanksgiving and try to catch a high school football game. Go Barnstable Red Raiders. Beat Falmouth.

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

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers, NBA
Irish Coffee: It’s matter over mind for Celtics 11.23.10 at 11:47 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

When these veteran Boston Celtics are resting their aching bodies and losing back-to-back games to the Detroit Pistons and Philadelphia 76ers in April, remember this four-game stretch in November.

Pundits enjoy saying things like, “Games in November don’t matter much in the NBA,” but these Celtics are more mentally prepared only when the games matter — if that makes sense. And come playoff time, as we all know, every game means something.

Exhibit A: Last Wednesday’s 31-point blowout of the Washington Wizards. If the Celtics suffer letdowns against meaningless teams, why would they care about a Wizards team without John Wall, its newest star?

Because it mattered to Kevin Garnett, who was undressed last April to the tune of 31 points and 11 boards by Washington’s Andray Blatche.

“This is a team that gave us problems last year, and we haven’t forgotten that. I haven’t,” Garnett told reporters after the win. “Paul [Pierce] and I got here and could hear [Wizards assistant coach] Sam Cassell voice about how young they were and how they were going to come at us. We made note of it. We talked about it, you know, before the game and coming out here, taking care of business. I thought we stayed with that for 48 minutes.”

Exhibit B: Kevin Durant and Jeff Green‘s Oklahoma City Thunder came to town, only Durant and Green didn’t suit up. The Celtics had already quieted the Thunder with those guys in uniform, in their house, two weeks before. They’d already proven themselves against OKC. No urgency to do it again.

“I think we underestimated that team,” Shaquille O’Neal told the media following the loss. “Shot ourselves in the foot. It’s kind of hard in this league to get up for certain people. Tonight, we disrespected the basketball gods. We paid for it.”

Exhibit C: On a lazy Sunday afternoon, the Celtics faced a Toronto Raptors club that was worse than usual, playing undermanned after a trade. The C’s thought a hard-fought first quarter and a solid six-minte stretch in the second half would be just enough effort to take care of Toronto. Think again.

Before the game, I tweeted, “Do you think a Celtics lineup of Delonte West, Nate Robinson, Marquis Daniels, Glen Davis and Semih Erden could give the Raptors a game? I kinda do.”

I figured the home loss to OKC and a day off in between would fuel the Celtics to a blowout in Toronto.  I thought this team had learned something from playing to the level of their opponents last season, but perhaps what they learned is that they can play that way — and still be successful.

The guys over at Gino’s Jungle tweeted back, “I thought a lineup of KG, Pierce, Ray Allen, Shaq and Rajon Rondo could beat a Durant and Green-less OKC, so no game’s a gimme with this team.” And they were right.

“We’re a better team than those two teams,” Pierce told reporters after the defeat. “I know we are. Just mentally, I don’t think we have the right mindset coming into these games.”

Exhibit D: Monday night in Atlanta, the game once again had meaning to the Celtics, who got swept by the Hawks last season. That led to a 99-76 dominating victory against the Hawks in Atlanta.

In the aftermath, one thing became clear: These Celtics will play hard when they want to play hard, regardless of how good of a motivational speech head coach Doc Rivers delivers before the game.

“I gave that up my first year coaching,” Rivers said postgame. “This group, that’s who they are. We’re going to have those poor nights. But I just thought the loss Sunday set the tone for us. You could feel it.”

The examples should have been evident right from the start, when the Celtics dominated the Miami Heat in Game 1 and then lost to a woeful Cleveland Cavaliers team in Game 2.

Remember all of this evidence when people are questioning how much the aged Celtics have left in the tank entering the NBA playoffs. When these C’s have something to play for, they are great — capable of wiping the floor with mere good teams like the Atlanta Hawks.

REACTIONS FROM ATLANTA

Yup, when these Celtics play hard, they can make any team question itself. And that’s exactly what the Hawks were doing on Monday night. Head coach Larry Drew thinks his team might have had a few too many Four Lokos the night before, and Mo Evans is asking, “Who am I?” like a heartbroken girl from a teenage drama.

  • “I told the guys I don’t know what you are doing the night before we play,” Drew told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I don’t know what you are doing away from the floor. Something is going on that is not allowing us to play with an energy and passion that we should be playing with. As a head coach, I’ve got to find out what it is.”
  • “The Celtics know who they are,” Evans added. “We don’t have an identity, unless it’s when things go bad we go the other way. Maybe that’s our identity and we don’t know it.”

The AJC also caught up with Shaquille O’Neal, who said he picked the Celtics over the Hawks because Boston gave him a better shot at a title. And it sounds like the Hawks agree with him.

“They have a blend of veteran players with the core of their team, and it’s a lot easier to fit in a vet like Shaq,” Drew added. “If we brought him in here, it would be a little tougher. I don’t think his personality would have fit with our guys. It makes more sense to have veteran guys around him.”

DELONTE WEST DISHES ON HIS DISORDER

CBS Sports.com senior writer Ken Berger wrote a fantastic piece on Delonte West’s battle with bipolar disorder.

However irresponsible West’s actions were when he was arrested on multiple weapons charges a year ago, it’s impossible not to root for a guy who is working as hard as he is to overcome his issues.

Here are a few highlights:

  • “Bipolar is like, when things are bad to you, they seem worse and when things are good, they seem great,” West said. “I’m at a place where things are behind me and I’m focused on what I love to do.”
  • “When you’re thinking about, ‘Am I going to go to jail after the season?’ and going through a tough divorce during the season, those things can weigh on you sometimes,” West said. “When you’re a professional athlete, you’ve got to be a robot sometimes. You’ve got to check your emotions at the door. But we’re humans. You can’t say, ‘OK, I’m not going to think about this,’ when it’s something to really think about. … When things are up in the air and all people can say to you, the courts and the lawyers, is, ‘You’ve got to wait and see,’ there’s a lot of nights when you’re not sleeping.”
  • “There’s only one way it’s going to play out,” West said. “I want it to play out that way and it’s going to play out that way. And that’s holding the trophy at the end of June. Man, that’d be a strong chapter in the book or the movie I’m going to write one day.”

I love that last quote. It comes from a man who is taking hold of his own destiny.

West also sat down with Chris Tomasson at NBA FanHouse to discuss being a role model, Gloria James and the Von Wafer fight.

“You’ve got to remember, this is just a game,” West told Tomasson. “Some people are die-hard fans and they paint their face and it’s all great. But you got to do unto others as you have unto yourself. People say something about your mother and drag your mother through something like that and your family, you’d be ready to do something yourself. So it’s sad that happened. But, you know, they hated Jesus, too. You got to keep going. So I wish [LeBron James] much success down there [in Miami] with his family, and I got to keep going here.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Delonte West, NBA
Irish Coffee: Are referees screwing the Celtics? 11.22.10 at 12:32 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

In remembrance of the 47th anniversary of John F. Kennedy‘s assassination — and in the wake of the two worst officiated games of the Celtics season — we’ll examine an NBA conspiracy theory: Are the C’s getting screwed by the referees?

“You answer that,” Celtics head coach Doc Rivers told MSNBC.com. “I need my money, I have four kids. I’ll let you answer that. I didn’t see anything.”

Now, let’s get one thing straight: The Celtics deserved to lose to the Kevin Durant-less Oklahoma City Thunder and Toronto Raptors. They coasted through both games like Rasheed Wallace sleepwalked through the entire 2009-10 regular season and should’ve won each game by double digits.

Still, after two absolutely terrible calls in the final seconds against the Raptors — the Ray Allen “forced” turnover and the Paul Pierce “blocking” foul — it’s worth taking a look at how the Celtics are being treated by the referees (Tommy Heinsohn, of course, might say “like a rented mule”).

Statistically speaking, the Celtics have been called for more personal fouls (292) than their opponents (278) in addition to attempting fewer free throws (295) than their opposition (335).

Given that the Celtics have led 11 of their 13 games in the final two minutes, when teams are purposely fouling in an attempt to make a comeback — you’d think that both those numbers would be flipped around in the C’s favor. At the very least, they should be much closer to an even split.

However, the C’s have only attempted more free throws than their opponent four times in 13 games. On two of those occasions — against the Milwaukee Bucks and Memphis Grizzlies — the opposition intentionally put the Celtics at the free throw line 10 times apiece at the end of regulation and overtime.

While other teams have shot five or more free throw attempts than the Celtics on five occasions, the C’s have only outshot an opponent at the free throw line once — an OT victory against the Bulls at home. For future reference, Tom Washington headed the officiating crew for that game.

Want to hear something really spooky? The Celtics’ lowest free throw total and one of their biggest free throw discrepancies of the season — a 20-7 margin in favor of Dallas during a two-point Mavericks win — one of the referees was … wait for it, wait for it … a Kennedy.

It was Bill Kennedy to be exact. Yup, the same Bill Kennedy who has had a long, tumultuous history with Celtics head coach Doc Rivers.

Is it just Kennedy who has a score to settle with Rivers, or are there other officials on the grassy knoll contributing as well?

WORST LOSS EVER

The back-to-back losses to the Durant and Jeff Green-less Thunder and Raptors could possibly be the worst two-game stretch since Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett arrived.

In 2007-08, the Celtics only lost consecutive games three times, including just one three-game losing streak. None of those stretches came in the first three months of the season.

The following year, during an injury-plagued 2008-09 season, the C’s only lost consecutive games four times (none before Christmas), which included a four-game losing streak in January.

Last season, in total, the Celtics lost back-to-back games 10 times (including four three-game losing streaks) — the first of which came in mid-November.

Their worst performance last season came in back-to-back losses to the Clippers (29-53) and Warriors (26-56). While that was pretty awful, it came on back-to-back nights during a four-game road trip that started on Christmas and took them through Florida, California and Arizona.

The bench was supposed to infuse this year’s team with enough energy to help them avoid losing streaks like they suffered last season. In their past two losses, however, the Celtics bench has been outscored by undermanned opponents, as a result of the Thunder’s Durant/Green injuries and the Raptors’ Jarrett Jack trade.

Could it be a 2009-10 regular season all over again? I thought this Celtics team would be hungrier after its loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the finals.

SANS RONDO

So far this season, the Celtics are 0-2 in games they finish without a healthy Rajon Rondo. However, for fans looking for a glimmer of hope should Rondo not play against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night, the C’s actually possess a winning record (5-4) since 2007-08 without Rondo in the starting lineup.

Here’s a look at the games he’s missed since taking over the starting point guard position (and how the backup did in his place) …

2007-08
Dec. 30: Celtics 110, Lakers 91 (Tony Allen: 16 points, 4 assists, 4 turnovers, 3 rebounds, 1 steal)
Jan. 12: Wizards 85, Celtics 78 (Allen: 8 points, 0 assists, 4 turnovers, 6 rebounds, 4 steals)
Jan. 16: Celtics 100, Blazers 90 (Eddie House: 10 points, 5 assists, 2 turnovers, 4 rebounds, 1 steal)
Jan. 18: Celtics 116, 76ers 89 (House: 15 points, 4 assists, 2 turnovers, 4 rebounds, 1 steal)
April 16: Celtics 105, Nets 94 (Sam Cassell: 9 points, 4 assists, 0 turnovers, 0 rebounds, 0 steals)

2008-09
March 8: Magic 86, Celtics 79 (Stephon Marbury: 4 points, 0 assists, 3 turnovers, 1 rebound, 0 steals)
March 11: Heat 107, Celtics 99 (Marbury: 0 points, 4 assists, 2 turnovers, 0 rebounds, 2 steals)

2009-10
Jan. 2: Celtics 103, Raptors 96 (Allen: 14 points, 7 assists, 3 turnovers, 5 rebounds, 1 steal)

2010-11
Nov. 21: Raptors 102, Celtics 101 (Nate Robinson: 22 points, 2 assists, 1 turnover, 4 rebounds, 0 steals)

Robinson is the best scoring option off the bench in Rondo’s stead, but what the Celtics really need is a guy to continue running the offense as a distributor (Delonte West?). In three of the C’s four losses without Rondo in the lineup, his replacement failed to dish out more than two assists.

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

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, John F. Kennedy, NBA
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