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Meet the new Celtics: Chris Wilcox 12.10.11 at 12:06 pm ET
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WALTHAM — In 2007-08, Chris Wilcox averaged 13 points and 7.7 rebounds per game for the then-Sonics. It was a breakout season for the 24-year-old who drafted eighth overall in 2002. Wilcox followed that up with similar numbers the following season, but as the Sonics became the Thunder, he found himself without a role and was traded to New York where he played a grand total of 330 minutes in 25 games.

He signed as a free agent with the Pistons after the 2009 season, but failed to carve out much of a role with the Pistons, just another veteran journeyman on a team going nowhere. But Wilcox enjoyed a productive final month with Detroit, scoring in double figures 11 times in the final 16 games.

Wilcox does most of his work inside. More than half of his shots come at or close to the basket and he’s a good offensive rebounder, something the Celtics clearly lacked last season. He’s a career 53 percent shooter who has more or less maintained his per-minute rates throughout his career despite serious swings in playing time.

Now the 29-year-old is with the Celtics on a one-year contract with a chance to resurrect his career on a team that needs size and rebounding. He was one of nine players on the practice floor Friday night when the team opened training camp and while the team is clearly in flux, Wilcox wanted a chance to play for a contender.

“This is my first chance of playing for a team of this caliber so I was willing to take this opportunity and come to Boston,” he said. “I wanted to be in a situation where I could win and that’s why I came here.”

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Celtics bench takes shape 12.09.11 at 1:58 pm ET
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When the short offseason began the Celtics had a bench unit that literally consisted of one player: Avery Bradley, and only one surefire means of acquiring talent in the taxpayer mid-level exception (a three-year deal starting at $3 million).

Over the last two days, Danny Ainge is set to acquire three veteran players for the rotation at the cost of the veteran minimum, a trade exception and a second round pick and Glen Davis, who is an unrestricted free agent. All without using the mini mid-level.

Ainge began by re-signing Marquis Daniels, who needs no introduction to Celtics fans. I made the case for bringing him back last summer assuming his heath checks out, and for one year this is a tremendous pick-up.

With wing scorers way out of the team’s price range — see Caron Butler‘s, 3-year $24 million with the Clippers for a scary deal and Mike Dunleavys 2-year, $7.5 million contract with the Bucks for a savvy one — Daniels offers underrated defense and his usual all-around offensive versatility. He was particularly missed against the Heat where he could have helped on both Dwyane Wade and LeBron James.

When Ainge traded Daniels to the Kings last season to clear a roster spot and help Sacramento reach the minimum salary floor, he also created a trade exception, which helped him land Keyon Dooling, a combo guard from the Bucks. Dooling shot less than 40 percent from the field the last two seasons, but he made up for it by making 38 percent of his 3-pointers two years ago and 35 percent last season.

Dooling is not point guard in the traditional sense, but he can handle the position in a backup role and also slide over to the other backcourt spot. He’s the likely replacement for Delonte West, who reportedly has offers from other teams and may not be back.

In his latest move, Ainge is set to trade Davis for Brandon Bass, his onetime teammate at LSU. At 6-foot-8, 240 pounds, Bass is primarily a power forward who can also play center in smaller lineups. He’s a much better shooter than Davis, particularly from 16-23 feet, where he knocked down 47 percent of his attempts last season. He’s not in the same class as a defender, but Bass’ contract is a much better fit than the 4-years and $26 million that Davis will get from the Magic.

Bass has a player option for $4 million for next season and while Ainge would like to keep the salary sheet as clean as possible, his salary is both reasonable and tradeable. Bass was bothered by a left knee injury last season, but he and the team elected to not have surgery and he wound up playing 76 games.

The Celtics will also have Bradley and first round draft pick JaJuan Johnson vying for playing time. Second round pick E’Twaun Moore is also in the mix along with undrafted free agent Gilbert Brown. The Celtics will also be inviting a trio of centers in Jamal Sampson, Greg Stiemsma and veteran Michael Sweetney, who was in camp last season.

There’s more work for Ainge to do beginning with restricted free agent Jeff Green. Look for him to add at least one more big man and possibly a shooter, as well. Training camp opens tonight.

Here’s a look at where the Celtics roster stands. (Note: Not all moves are official yet. Moore and his agent both told the Journal and Courier that he will sign a guaranteed contract on Friday night, so he is listed with the shooting guards.)

PG: Rajon Rondo, Dooling, Bradley

SG: Ray Allen, Daniels, Moore

SF: Paul Pierce

PF: Kevin Garnett, Bass

C: Jermaine O’Neal, Johnson

Invited: Brown (Guard), Sampson, Steimsma, Sweetney (Bigs/centers)

Restricted free agent: Green

Breaking down the Celtics schedule 12.06.11 at 11:00 pm ET
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Now that the 2011-12 schedule has finally been released, it’s time to dig in on what it means for the Celtics. With 66 games in only four months, there are a lot of odd quirks.

The Celtics won’t travel to Houston, Memphis, Phoenix, Portland, San Antonio or Utah. Boston fans won’t get a chance to see Denver, Golden State, the Clippers, Minnesota, New Orleans or Sacramento, which means no visits from Blake Griffin.

The three Western Conference teams the Celtics will face twice are Dallas, Oklahoma City and the Lakers. They will also play Chicago and Miami four times. There are also 18 back-to-backs and one set of back-to-back-to-backs with all three games coming on the road in April against Toronto, New Jersey and Charlotte.

Here are some other takeaways from the schedule.

There’s opportunity for a fast start.

After opening with three straight road games the Celtics face the Pistons in their home-opener on Dec. 30. After a quick trip to Washington on New Year’s Day, they then have five straight games at TD Garden and eight of their next nine at home. Add on a five-game homestand to open February and the Celtics will play 16 of 20 games at the Garden.

March and April will be a slog.

The Celtics frontloaded schedule will come back to haunt them in March when they have 11 of their 17 games on the road including a brutal stretch of eight straight road games featuring their only true west coast swing of the season.

Wed 07 @ Philadelphia   7 p.m.
Fri 09 vs Portland  7:30 p.m.
Sun 11 @ LA Lakers   3:30 p.m.
Mon 12 @ LA Clippers   10:30 p.m.
Wed 14 @ Golden State   10:30 p.m.
Fri 16 @ Sacramento   10 p.m.
Sat 17 @ Denver   9 p.m.
Mon 19 @ Atlanta   7:30 p.m.
Thu 22 @ Milwaukee   8 p.m.
Fri 23 @ Philadelphia   8 p.m.
Sun 25 vs Washington  6 p.m.
Mon 26 @ Charlotte   7 p.m.
Wed 28 vs Utah  7:30 p.m.
Fri 30 @ Minnesota   8 p.m.

April will be difficult because of the sheer number of games including that three games in three night on the swing that will also have them play five games in six days.

Fri 13 @ Toronto   7 p.m.
Sat 14 @ New Jersey   7:30 p.m.
Sun 15 @ Charlotte   6 p.m.
Tue 17 @ New York   8 p.m.
Wed 18 vs Orlando  8 p.m.
Fri 20 @ Atlanta   7 p.m.

Big Game Breakdown

Miami: The Celtics will first meet the Heat on Dec. 27 and then they won’t see them again until April when they face them three times.

Chicago: The slate of games against the Bulls is a little more spread out with home games on Jan. 13 and Feb. 12. They travel to Chicago for the rematch four days later and then return on April 5.

Lakers: The Lakers travel to Boston on Feb. 9 for a Thursday night game and the Celtics play in L.A. on March 11 for a Sunday afternoon contest that kicks off their long road trip.

Other games of interest include:

Dec. 28 at New Orleans: One night after playing the Heat, the C’s drop into the Big Easy and even if Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo are still on their respective teams that game will have no shortage of intrigue.

Jan. 11 vs. Dallas: The defending champs make their visit to Boston. Enjoy Kevin Garnett vs. Dirk Nowitzki while you can.

Jan. 16 vs. Oklahoma City: Expect another round of whether the Celtics would have drafted Kevin Durant if they had the chance stories. Oh and Kendrick Perkins makes his return as well.

Feb. 5 vs. Memphis: Speaking of ex-Celtics, Tony Allen is back with the Grizzlies on Super Bowl Sunday.

April 4 vs. San Antonio: The only time the C’s will see Tim Duncan and the Spurs.

Celtics 2011-12 schedule 12.06.11 at 9:56 pm ET
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At long last the Celtics schedule for the 2011-12 season has been released. With 66 games in a tight window there are some irregularities in this lockout shortened season. The Celtics will have 18 back-to-backs, but only one of the dreaded back-to-back-to-backs. They will have 11 of 16 games at home in January and then five straight and seven of their first eight at TD Garden to begin February.

The month of March will be a different story with an eight-game road trip, including five on the west coast. April will also feature five games on the road in the span of the week with their back-to-back-to-back coupled with a five-games-in-six-night stretch.

Fans in Boston won’t get a chance to see Denver, Golden State, the Clippers, Minnesota, New Orleans or Sacramento. Those six won’t make the trip to the Garden this year. In other words, no Blake Griffin. The C’s won’t travel to Houston, Memphis, Phoenix, Portland, San Antonio or Utah. They will see the Lakers, Mavericks and Thunder twice.

Sun 25 @ New York   12 p.m.
Tue 27 @ Miami   8 p.m.
Wed 28 @ New Orleans   8 p.m.
Fri 30 vs Detroit  7:30 p.m.
Sun 01 @ Washington   6 p.m.
Mon 02 vs Washington  7:30 p.m.
Wed 04 vs New Jersey  7:30 p.m.
Fri 06 vs Indiana  7:30 p.m.
Wed 11 vs Dallas  8 p.m.
Fri 13 vs Chicago  8 p.m.
Sat 14 @ Indiana   7 p.m.
Mon 16 vs Oklahoma City  8 p.m.
Wed 18 vs Toronto  7:30 p.m.
Fri 20 vs Phoenix  7:30 p.m.
Sun 22 @ Washington  1 p.m.
Mon 23 vs Orlando  7:30 p.m.
Thu 26 @ Orlando   8 p.m.
Fri 27 vs Indiana  7:30 p.m.
Sun 29 vs Cleveland  6 p.m.
Tue 31 @ Cleveland   7 p.m.
Wed 01 vs Toronto  7:30 p.m.
Fri 03 vs New York  8 p.m.
Sun 05 vs Memphis  12 p.m.
Tue 07 vs Charlotte  7:30 p.m.
Thu 09 vs LA Lakers  8 p.m.
Fri 10 @ Toronto   7 p.m.
Sun 12 vs Chicago  3:3o p.m.
Wed 15 vs Detroit  7:30 p.m.
Thu 16 @ Chicago   8 p.m.
Sun 19 @ Detroit   6 p.m.
Mon 20 @ Dallas   8 p.m.
Wed 22 @ Oklahoma City  7 p.m.
Tue 28 @ Cleveland   7 p.m.
Wed 29 vs Milwaukee  7:30 p.m.
Fri 02 vs New Jersey  7:30 p.m.
Sun 04 vs New York  1 p.m.
Tue 06 vs Houston  7:30 p.m.
Wed 07 @ Philadelphia   7 p.m.
Fri 09 vs Portland  7:30 p.m.
Sun 11 @ LA Lakers   3:30 p.m.
Mon 12 @ LA Clippers   10:30 p.m.
Wed 14 @ Golden State   10:30 p.m.
Fri 16 @ Sacramento   10 p.m.
Sat 17 @ Denver   9 p.m.
Mon 19 @ Atlanta   7:30 p.m.
Thu 22 @ Milwaukee   8 p.m.
Fri 23 @ Philadelphia   8 p.m.
Sun 25 vs Washington  6 p.m.
Mon 26 @ Charlotte   7 p.m.
Wed 28 vs Utah  7:30 p.m.
Fri 30 @ Minnesota   8 p.m.
Sun 01 vs Miami  3:30 p.m.
Wed 04 vs San Antonio  7:30 p.m.
Thu 05 @ Chicago   9:30 p.m.
Sat 07 @ Indiana   7 p.m.
Sun 08 vs Philadelphia  6 p.m
Tue 10 @ Miami   7 p.m.
Wed 11 vs Atlanta  8 p.m.
Fri 13 @ Toronto   7 p.m.
Sat 14 @ New Jersey   7:30 p.m.
Sun 15 @ Charlotte   6 p.m.
Tue 17 @ New York   8 p.m.
Wed 18 vs Orlando  8 p.m.
Fri 20 @ Atlanta   7 p.m.
Tue 24 vs Miami  8 p.m.
Thu 26 vs Milwaukee  8 p.m.

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Would Vince Carter make sense for the Celtics? 12.05.11 at 6:00 pm ET
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Word leaked out over the weekend that the Suns were prepared to buy out the final year of Vince Carter‘s contract when the lockout officially ends at the end of the week. In other words, the Suns would rather pay the eight-time All-Star $4 million to not play for them then shell out the $18 million required for the final year of his services.

This move has been long-expected and comes as absolutely no surprise because the 34-year-old Carter has been declining since the 2007 season and is coming off the least productive season of his career. His rate of getting to the free throw line has fallen off substantially and he hasn’t been the one-on-one maestro that he was earlier in his career for several years. Defensively, Carter is suspect at best and at worst uninterested.

Sounds like a perfect candidate for the Celtics, right? Actually, yes.

Perfect may be stretching it — OK, a lot — but the question for the Celtics isn’t whether Carter would make sense for them, it’s do the Celtics make sense for Carter?

Barring a blockbuster demolition of his roster, team president Danny Ainge has about six roster spots to work with and not a lot of options to fill them. He reiterated last week that size was the team’s top priority and assuming that’s where he devotes most, if not all, of the taxpayer mid-level exception (a three-year deal starting at $3 million) he still needs to find some warm bodies on the perimeter, preferably ones that can score.

“We just need to get more talent,” Ainge said after the team had been eliminated from last season’s playoffs. “Scoring droughts have been a problem we’€™ve had the last few years. For whatever reason we’€™ve had too many scoring droughts at crucial points in games and that’€™s hurt us.”

Ainge is absolutely right. It was an undersold story of the Celtics season that their bench was a major problem area last season, particularly offensively. If you want to know why Ray Allen and Paul Pierce played 36 minutes a night, every night, it’s because Doc Rivers didn’t have a lot of options, especially after Delonte West missed so much time with injuries.

Too often, Allen and Pierce had to play major minutes because the bench unit couldn’t hold a lead. It wasn’t just the total time on the court either. Allen and Pierce had to play tough minutes in close games because 10-point leads suddenly became deficits. Rivers won’t have that option with a condensed 66-game schedule staring them in the face. But where will that help come from?

If Ainge devotes his scant free agent resources on big men, that leaves him with only the veteran minimum to offer for perimeter help. As tempting as names like Jason Richardson, Jamal Crawford and Shane Battier may appear, it’s going to take a lot more than that to get them to Boston. There are a handful of other options, some more realistic than others, like Shannon Brown and Anthony Parker, but even they may be too rich for what Ainge has to offer.

That would leave Ainge sifting through the likes of Michael Redd, Jason Kapono and Rasual Butler. Put it another way, would you rather have 10-15 minutes of Vince Carter or Michael Redd, who has played just 61 games total the last three seasons.

Despite all his red flags, Carter still shot 36 percent from 3-point range. He still has size at 6-foot-5 and despite his reputation, he’s managed to play at least 70 games every year since 2003. Still, it remains to be seen if Carter can adapt from his role as a starter who plays 30 minutes a night to a bench spot that would require him to bring energy and instant offense. That’s the choice he’s going to have to make if he signs on with a contender.

Is he an ideal fit for the Celtics? Probably not thanks to his declining playmaking skills and defensive lapses, but the Celtics aren’t exactly in an ideal position either.

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Danny Ainge isn’t ‘trying’ to trade Rajon Rondo 12.01.11 at 8:18 pm ET
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During a press conference Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers held on Thursday at the Celtics practice facility in Waltham, Ainge was asked what he would tell Rajon Rondo regarding trade rumors involving Chris Paul.

“I’€™ll talk to Rondo, but I won’€™t tell you what I’€™ll say to him,” Ainge said. “Rondo will be fine. Rondo knows that we love him. He’€™s excited to come back and play basketball, is my opinion. He gets a lot of attention. He’€™s a great player. There’€™s a lot of people that call me and ask me about Rondo. How these rumors get out, it’s unfortunate but we didn’€™t leak those rumors out and we’€™ll deal with it. He’€™ll be fine.”

To which Rivers added:

“I’€™m not going to compare him to the other guys but I think he’€™s one of the top point guards in the NBA. There’€™s a reason when whatever this thing leaked out was all over the news it’€™s because the players they were talking about are both really good. Rondo has established that through his play. He is a great basketball player and he does so many things for our team. He should be flattered, in a lot of ways, that this is news.”

This prompted the following follow-up exhange:

Reporter: So Danny, you’€™re not trying to trade Rondo?

Ainge: I’€™m not.

I believe that. I believe that Ainge isn’t trying to trade Rondo just as he doesn’t “anticipate” moving any of his other core players, which was another way in which the question was phrased on Thursday.

Pick any adjective or qualifier you want, but I also believe that if Paul could be acquired for a package of players that involves Rondo that Ainge would do the deal. Just as I believe that Ainge would trade anyone on the roster if he thought it would make the team better. At no point on Thursday did Ainge or Rivers say the rumors, which have been reported by Sports Illustrated and Yahoo! were off-base, inaccurate or wrong.

Ainge is in limbo because he’s still not allowed to talk to Rondo until the new collective bargaining agreement is ratified.

“Usually I’€™m around them when these things happen. It’€™s sort of a unique situation that’€™s happened now,” Ainge said. “I will talk to the players and share them the truth about rumors. I don’€™t like to discuss them in the media, but I will discuss them with players.”

The rumors took a different turn on Thursday because Yahoo! also reported that Paul’s agents told the Hornets that he won’t sign an extension and that he wants to be traded to the Knicks, who everyone agrees don’t have the assets to acquire Paul. If Paul holds firm to that demand — i.e. don’t trade me somewhere I don’t want to go because I won’t sign an extension and will go to New York one way or another — that could weed out potential suitors. Like the Celtics.

That leaves Ainge in the potentially unenviable position of reassuring Rondo that he’s a big part of the long-term future.

“We love our players and I think our players know that,” Ainge said. “There may be sensitive feelings here and there but I think those will be addressed. I’€™m not worried about that at all.”

Celtics free agent stategy comes into focus 12.01.11 at 11:51 am ET
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Team president Danny Ainge and coach Doc Rivers met the media for the first time since late June and while there wasn’t much in the way of news, there was confirmation of three elements of Ainge’s free agent strategy.

1. Ainge won’t use the amnesty provision: This was expected, but there was at least a theoretical possibility that the team could use it on Jermaine O’Neal and get far enough under the luxury tax line to consider using the full mid-level exception.

2. The Celtics will likely use the taxpayer mid-level: There are three different free agent markets. There’s one for teams with cap space, one for teams that can use the full mid-level exception — a four-year deal starting at $5 million — and one for teams stuck with the taxpayer mid-level —  a three-year deal starting at $3 million.

They are already priced out of the market for players like Tyson Chandler and Nene and that could leave them out on high-scoring guards like Jamal Crawford and Jason Richardson. They will have to hope the market shakes out those big deals first and lets them compete with other contenders for veterans looking to sacrifice money for a chance at a championship.

3. Size is their biggest priority: No kidding, you say? Well, it’s also true that the Celtics need bench scoring just as much as they need height but with an aging O’Neal and Garnett manning the middle, Ainge has to find quality depth. Expect names like Joel Przybilla, Kwame Brown and Chuck Hayes to be mentioned prominently.

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