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Beleaguered Celtics wait for word on Mickael Pietrus 03.24.12 at 12:50 am ET
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UPDATE: Pietrus has been cleared to return to Boston, where he will be seen by the team’s medical staff.

Just when the Celtics were approaching some kind of normalcy, they had to watch in anguished anxiety as Mickael Pietrus hit the floor with a sudden thud. He lay on the ground for several minutes and left the game with the Sixers on Friday midway through the second quarter after he was loaded on to a stretcher.

There were few firm details on the nature of Pietrus’ injury, but he was taken to a Philadelphia hospital from the arena. In a bit of good news, Pietrus won’t have to spend the night in the hospital but he did remain in Philly for further tests.

Coach Doc Rivers told the media in Philadelphia that Pietrus had an X-ray and CT Scan and would also have an MRI. The official word is a “questionable closed head injury,” which could indicate a concussion.

“It’€™s just been a hell of a year right now,” Rivers said.

It was just over a year ago when Marquis Daniels suffered a spinal injury against the Magic that required surgery and put him out for the year. In December, the team voided the contract of Jeff Green after a physical revealed an aortic aneurysm that required surgery.

In February, Jermaine O’Neal aggravated a wrist injury that will require surgery to repair a chronic degenerative condition and will keep him out for the rest of the season. In March, tests revealed an aortic condition in forward Chris Wilcox, who will have heart surgery later this month and also be out for the season. The team requested waivers on Wilcox on Friday and signed free agent Ryan Hollins to help out with depth up front.

Without Pietrus, who was subbing for an injured Ray Allen (ankle sprain), and Avery Bradley, who sprained his ankle late in the second quarter, the Celtics didn’t have enough to stay with the 76ers in a 99-86 loss. They were outscored 37-17 in the third quarter, erasing what had been a strong first half in a game that could have vaulted them into first place in the Atlantic Division.

Still, considering all that has happened the last few weeks, their 4-4 road trip looks pretty good. They had one abysmal loss to the Kings last Friday, but otherwise had tough defeats against the Lakers and Nuggets. They beat the Clippers on the second night of a back-to-back, executed late in wins over the Warriors and Hawks and enjoyed an impressive win over the Bucks that gave them the tiebreaker and some breathing room in the playoff race.

“We have a resilient group, though,” said Rivers. “I’€™m so proud of our team — we just keep sustaining injuries. But guys are just trying to play and win.”

The Celtics return home on Sunday to play the Wizards before heading back out for a back-to-back with the Bobcats on Monday. They have five remaining back-to-backs and one three-in-three, all on the road, in April. They will need to keep that resiliency to finish the regular season, but for now they are simply awaiting word on Pietrus.

Read More: Mickael Pietrus,
Should the Celtics draft Austin Rivers? 03.23.12 at 2:55 pm ET
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Austin Rivers, the talented son of Celtics coach Doc Rivers, will reportedly declare for the draft after just one season at Duke, per Jeff Goodman of CBSSports. Austin Rivers began the year as the one of the nation’s top recruits but concerns over his lack of ideal scoring guard size — he’s 6-foot-4 — and playing style — high usage rate, undersized shooting guard — sent him from the preseason lottery to the middle of the first round in most draft projections.

Rivers averaged 15.5 points, and shot 43 percent from the floor and 36 percent from 3-point range with 3.4 rebound and 2.1 assists. He also had more turnovers than assists, which indicates that he’s probably more of a scoring guard than a point guard, but he’s still just 19 years old and has the time to develop and figure it out.

Rivers is also undeniably talented. Even if you barely watched him play, you no doubt saw his fluid game-winner that beat North Carolina. Here’s part of the scouting report from Draft Express, who has him ranked 18th at the moment:

“It was Rivers’ athleticism and scoring instincts that made him the catalyst for the Blue Devils offense and defined his role as freshman. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Rivers’s total number of pick and rolls and isolations used this season (356 over 34 games) ranks in the top-5 in the NCAA. Perhaps the only player on Duke’s roster dynamic enough to consistently distort defenses with his dribble penetration and generate his own shot in a pinch, Rivers may not have been his team’s primary ball-handler, but he was the creative force behind his team’s offense all year long, for better or worse.”

It’s worth reading the whole report because he improved steadily in the second half of Duke’s season and again, he’s just 19 years old. (Prediction: Rivers will rise back to the late-lottery).

The Celtics have two first round draft picks in 2012: Their own, plus the one from the Clippers that was acquired from Oklahoma City in the Kendrick Perkins trade. The pick is top-10 protected, but the Clippers seems well on their way to the playoffs, even if they implode along the way.

Those picks are in the 17-18 range for the Celtics and 20-21 for the Clippers, which is exactly where Rivers is slotted to fall at the moment. Even if he was available, it would be surprising if Danny Ainge selected the coach’s son.

First, there’s the simple matter of a coach who is demanding on rookies — a notion the coach says is overplayed — who would also happen to be the rookie’s father. Second, they already have a guard who needs the ball in his hands in Rajon Rondo, a legitimate All-Star point guard, who also happens to have a complicated relationship with the coach.

Coach Rivers has been cagey with his answers about the question. This is what he told Dennis & Callahan in January:

“I would love the opportunity, I guess. It would be uncomfortable. I just think that would be a strange thing to do. Having that said that, I wouldn’€™t mind. He can score, and I think that would be great for us.”

Doc Rivers has clearly enjoyed watching his son play, often rushing to ACC games during off-days in the Celtics’ schedule. It would be a fascinating story, no doubt, and as coach Rivers said, an argument could be made either way. Still, the educated guess here is that the Celtics will avoid what could be a potentially awkward arrangement.

Read More: Austin Rivers, Doc Rivers,
Options dwindling for the Celtics in their big man seach 03.21.12 at 11:35 pm ET
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The Celtics lost out on Ronny Turiaf when the veteran signed with the Heat. They lost out on J.J. Hickson when the Blazers were awarded the waiver claim. They even lost out on Chris Johnson, when the one-time Celtic was claimed off waivers by the Hornets.

The Bobcats waived Boris Diaw, but the talented, yet soft in the middle big man appears to be heading to San Antonio. As a final blow, the Hornets seem intent on keeping Chris Kaman.

Where does that leave the Celtics? The two names still in circulation are Ryan Hollins and journeyman Josh Powell. Here’s the take on Hollins: He’s 7-feet tall with a decent touch around the basket, but he’s a poor rebounder who lost his spot in the Cavs’ rotation to rookie Tristan Thompson.

Still, Hollins is better than Powell and would serve an immediate need considering the sore foot that Greg Stiemsma is currently playing through. If anything happens to Stiemsma, the Celtics are in major trouble and it could lead to Kevin Garnett playing more minutes than the team would like.

In order to add Hollins — or anyone else for the matter — the Celtics would have to make room on their roster by waiving one of their players. Chris Wilcox is out for the season and will undergo heart surgery later this month and Jermaine O’Neal decided to have wrist surgery and will also miss the rest of the season. 

Under the new collective bargaining agreement, they wouldn’t be able to re-sign a player they waived for at least a year so if they have any interest in bringing Wilcox back, they’d keep him on the roster.

This Friday is the deadline for players to be bought out/waived and still be eligible for the postseason on another team. As a reminder, players can sign at any time up until the last day of the regular season and still be eligible for the postseason as long as they are not on someone else’s roster by the Friday deadline.

Read More: Big man search, Boris Diaw, JJ Hickson, Ronny Turiaf
Celtics’ big man search: Ryan Hollins 03.20.12 at 1:48 pm ET
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For the last three seasons, Ryan Hollins has been an NBA rotation player. First with Minnesota in 2009 and then with the Cavaliers, Hollins has averaged about five points and three rebounds per game as a 16-minute backup center. He’s 7 feet tall, but there’s really nothing that stands out about his game.

He doesn’t create his own shot and while he has a decent touch around the basket and can make a long-distance jumper on occasion, he’s a career 66 percent free throw shooter. He’s the worst defensive rebounding center among players with 20 or more games who play 10-plus minutes per Hoop Data, and he isn’t much of a shot blocker for a 7-footer.

But Hollins is now available after the Cavaliers waived him, and once he clears waivers he’ll undoubtedly be on the Celtics‘ list. Despite his overall mediocrity, Hollins has some value to a team like the Celtics. He is athletic and can run the floor, two areas that are in major need of an upgrade.

He’s a center, and with Greg Stiemsma laboring with a sore right foot, the C’s need some protection behind Kevin Garnett, who has played a lot of minutes –about 34 a night — on this road trip. Hollins isn’t a fun name like J.J. Hickson, or as proven as Ronny Turiaf, but he is healthy and had been regularly up until the trade deadline.

As with the other candidates, the Celtics will have to make room on their roster with 15 players under contract. An obvious choices to be waived is Jermaine O’Neal who elected to have season-ending wrist surgery.

Read More: Big man search, J.J. Hickson, Jermaine O'Neal, Ronny Turiaf
The inevitable end for Jermaine O’Neal with the Celtics 03.20.12 at 12:17 am ET
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In his year and a half with the Celtics, Jermaine O’€™Neal played just 49 games and was on the court for only 1,001 minutes. He missed most of the 2010-11 season with a knee injury and on Monday, the team announced that he was going to have surgery to take care of a chronic degenerative wrist condition. O’€™Neal had wrist issues for years and they became worse after he took a fall in Dallas while trying to take a charge.

“Jermaine worked hard to get himself in condition to play this season despite his ongoing wrist issues,” said Danny Ainge in a statement. “He played through pain the entire year and gave us all he could, but unfortunately after the fall against Dallas there simply wasn’€™t anything else he could do. We appreciate his contributions to our team over the last two years.”

Make no mistake, O’€™Neal did play in pain and he played well during the 2011 playoffs, which almost made up for his lack of action during the regular season. The Celtics were hoping for a similar result this season, but they weren’€™t counting on it.

Ainge tried to trade him for David West during training camp and while he did provide some interior defense in his 20 minutes a night, there always seemed to be an internal battle between the player the team wanted him to be and the player he thought he still was. O’€™Neal responded to his critics in a fairly epic soliloquy back in December, although it was never really clear who those critics actually were.

“There’€™s a lot of misconception, a lot of debate, people that supposedly analyze the game,” he said. “When you analyze the game, you’€™ve got to know what position a team has players in. It’€™s easy to sit behind tables and say what you think, the fact of the matter with me here, Doc [Rivers] has given a role. All the debate about whether I score, I probably won’€™t answer that anymore.

“That’€™s not my role. My role has been given to me and my role has been said, to be a defender, not offensively. The people out there that’€™s saying I’€™m struggling offensively. That’€™s not my concern. I think I’€™m in the top 10 in blocks. I’€™m probably leading the NBA in charges as a center. I’€™m starting to get my legs back as far as rebounding and getting my timing. If you want to judge me, judge me on that. Judge me on how I get out on the pick and roll and help the guards.

“If I’€™m not rebounding, I’€™m not blocking shots, I’€™m not taking charges, I’€™m not getting on the perimeter and helping the guards, then we have a conversation to have.”

O’€™Neal was right. The Celtics never asked him to score, and they were almost five points better defensively when he was on the court than when he was off, but it’€™s still unclear if he actually believed that being a defensive specialist was the best use of his time. Unfortunately for both him and the team, his days as a 20 and 10 guy were long over by the time he came to Boston.With the Celtics he was barely a 5 and 5 man.

His decision to have surgery ends his season and potentially ends his career. Still just 33 years old, O’€™Neal has spent almost half his life in the NBA, with 16 seasons under his belt.

In his prime he was one of the best players in the league, but his time with the Celtics was mostly one of frustration. Ainge spent $12 million ‘€“ double that once the luxury tax was collected ‘€“ and one can make the argument that Rasheed Wallace was actually a better signing. Ainge has taken a lot or criticism over the last few years and his misuse of the mid-level exception is a glaring example.

The end for O’€™Neal has a touch of symbolism to it. The Celtics are going to get younger and the era of signing aging former stars to be role players is mercifully coming to a close. It’€™s likely that whoever they wind up signing won’€™t be nearly as good as O’€™Neal, but at least they’€™ll be able to get on the court.

Read More: Jermaine O'Neal,
Celtics’ big man search: J.J. Hickson 03.19.12 at 5:05 pm ET
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It’s not often a team reaches a buyout on a 23-year-old forward who is still on his rookie contract, but that’s what Sacramento has done with J.J. Hickson, per the great Adrian Wojnarowksi of Yahoo! Rare as that move is, it’s even rarer when the team buys out a player when it traded a player — Omri Casspi — and a first-round pick to acquire him, but that’s the Kings these days.

Would he make sense for the Celtics? Sure, but he comes with major caveats.

First, the good news: Hickson can score. He averaged 14 points and 8.7 rebounds for the Cavs in 2010-11. He has a career PER of 14.4 and did we mention he’s only 23 years old?

Now, the bad news: The Cavs traded him after giving him an extended look and he played only 36 games for the Kings while not doing do much with the time he had. Hickson is shooting 37 percent this season. His turnovers are up, his rebounding is down and he’s not exactly known as a defensive force.

Still, Hickson has talent and if he’s available for next to nothing, then it’s a chance the Celtics should take. He clearly has the most upside of anyone currently on the market and they aren’t looking for a 36-minute a night power forward.

However, in order to sign Hickson two things must happen. First, he has to clear waivers and with his low salary (about $2.3 million) and upside, some team may claim him for all of the above reasons. Second, if he does clear waivers, the C’s would have to clear a roster spot by cutting ties with one of their own players.

As with all available big men, the Celtics will have competition. Unlike some veterans, however, they can offer an obvious role as a backup forward and a chance to be part of an interesting rebuilding project while playing alongside Rajon Rondo.

Read More: Big man search, JJ Hickson,
Trade deadline fallout: How the deals affect the Celtics 03.19.12 at 12:41 pm ET
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The Celtics didn’t do anything about the trade deadline, but a handful of deals have direct, or indirect ramifications for their longterm rebuilding plans.

1. Dwight Howard stays in Orlando

Skip past the drama of the past week and understand that Howard’s decision to not exercise his early termination option is huge for the Celtics. First, it keeps him away from New Jersey who planned to build a team around Howard and Deron Williams. Second, it keeps him with a Magic team that will likely remain capped out for 2012-13. Third, it removes Howard from this summer’s free agent list.

Short of Howard moving to the Western Conference, this is a positive end result for the Celtics, who can now shift their attention elsewhere.

2. New Jersey makes a panic move

After not getting Howard, the Nets traded a top-3 protected pick to Portland for Gerald Wallace in an apparent effort to keep Williams happy. Wallace is a good player and the Nets spin is that the upcoming draft lacks game-changers at the top of the draft. However, what the draft lacks in quality it more than makes up for in quantity and the Nets gave away a coveted future asset for potentially half a season of Wallace.

Williams and Wallace have ETO’s and the Nets run the risk of losing both players at the end of the season. The Nets stay the Nets, in other words. This is good for the Celtics and possibly great for the Mavericks, who will no doubt zero in on Williams this summer.

3. Portland blows it up

Now this was a demolition. The Blazers not only traded Wallace, they also dealt Macus Camby to Houston for Jonny Flynn and Hasheem Thabeet. How does this affect the Celtics? The Blazers cleared a direct path to re-sign Nic Batum, who will be a coveted restricted free agent. Batum would have been perfect alongside Rajon Rondo.

4. Denver acquires JaVale McGee

Interesting move by the Nuggets, who dealt center Nene and his 5-year, $65 million contract. While this seems curious on its face, there is a method the madness. As Mark Deeks wrote, the Nuggets likely never had any intention of keeping Nene through to the end of his deal. He was signed to be traded, which is how a proactive organization goes about its business. (New Jersey, take note).

The principal return was McGee, an athletic shot-blocking freak, known more for his LOL-worthy stunts. However, he’s also an athletic shot-blocking freak and the basketball world is beyond curious to see what happens to McGee now that he is in a structured situation on a good team with a strong-willed coach.

He’ll command huge money as a restricted free agent — again, shot-blocking freaks are rare — and Denver has the upper hand on retaining him. McGee would have been an intriguing possibility for the Celtics, but like Batum he’ll now likely be out of their reach.

Read More: Deron Williams, Dwight Howard, gerald wallace, JaVale McGee
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