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Kendrick Perkins eyes early February return 01.16.11 at 4:08 pm ET
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Kendrick Perkins

All of a sudden Kendrick Perkins‘ return from surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament has gone from a luxury to a necessity. With Jermaine O’Neal contemplating knee surgery of his own and Shaquille O’Neal a day-to-day proposition, the Celtics depth at center is becoming a concern.

Perkins reached an important milestone Sunday afternoon when he was able to go through an entire practice. He said that he is targeting Feb. 4, when the Celtics play the Mavericks at the Garden as a return date. Without Shaq, who slipped on ice and strained his adductor muscle in his right leg, Perkins returned to his customary position alongside Kevin Garnett in the starting five.

“It did feel good to be out there again,” Perkins said. “We did some good things together. I didn’t have a sub today so I was a little tired, but it was cool.”

“Phenomenal,” Doc Rivers said. “He looked great. He’s in great shape. Today was the first time all year that we actually had a real first unit on the floor. It was another level because they could run anything they wanted.”

Perkins wasted little time getting his menacing groove back. He leveled Marquis Daniels with a pick, which sent Daniels to the sidelines after his back tightened up. Daniels sat out the rest of practice, but said he thought he would be fine to play Monday against Orlando.

“I hit him on a flat screen,” Perkins said. “I told him, ‘My bad,’ but he said it was a good pick so it wasn’t illegal, but I did hit him on a flat screen.”

From outward appearances, Perkins looks like he’s in the best shape of his life although there’s a big difference between regular shape and basketball shape, particularly when it comes to conditioning. While he has been out Perkins has lost about eight pounds to get down to 272. The eight pounds may not seem like much, but it makes a big difference for a big man playing on a surgically-repaired knee.

“I was just scared of gaining weight,” Perkins said. “I kind of starved myself a little bit. It was hard. Once they told me I could get in the weight room, I really got in the weight room.”

Despite the brace on his knee, Perkins said he’s not thinking about it while he’s out on the court. “I’ve never been scared of injuries or anything like that,” he said. “So, I feel like if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen.”

As with all their injured players, the Celtics won’t rush anyone back before they’re ready. While it may be tempting to push Perkins back even quicker if Jermaine O’Neal does have surgery, they won’t go down that road. An early February return would be ambitious enough.

Read More: Kendrick Perkins,
What Kevin Garnett’s return does for the Celtics 01.16.11 at 3:28 pm ET
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Kevin Garnett

The Celtics went through a hard practice Sunday specifically to allow Kevin Garnett to test his strained right calf muscle. While he went through the whole practice without a problem, the team will wait to see how he feels Monday before making a decision on whether he will play against the Orlando Magic that night.

“I think Kevin will go tomorrow,” Doc Rivers said. “We went to practice to see if he could go tomorrow. Meaning we’ll know that by tomorrow. If he feels good, he’ll go. If there’s anything [wrong] he will not go. I would probably put it back to-50-50.”

If Garnett is ready to return it would obviously be a huge lift for the Celtics. Not only because he is their best defensive player and rebounder, but also because it would move Glen Davis out of the starting lineup and back into his role as the team’s sixth man where they can take advantage of his versatility.

“It puts Glen back on the bench, which helps him and helps our bench,” Rivers said. “It just makes us better. Any time we get a player back it makes the bench better. It makes us more versatile because now Baby can go from four-to-five with ease coming off the bench. It’s far more difficult when he’s already a starter at one of those two positions.”

The Celtics have gone 6-3 since Davis replaced Garnett in the starting lineup, but they have benefited from a softer schedule with most of their games played at TD Garden. As a starter Davis has had his moments, but he has also struggled to replace what Garnett gives the Celtics offensively. (It would be unfair to ask him to replace Garnett defensively, since arguably no player in the league can do that.)

Davis has drifted further out on the perimeter and the results have not been positive. In his last five games, Davis has shot 33 times from 16-23 feet and made only eight. Outside of a 5-for-11 night against the Spurs, Davis is shooting just 29 percent from 16-23 feet since entering the starting lineup. Davis has been very successful scoring inside — he’s shooting a career-best 65 percent at the rim — but his outside shot seems to have abandoned him.

Davis’ return to the bench would also help the Celtics out with a difficult situation at center. With Jermaine O’Neal contemplating surgery and Kendrick Perkins still working through his rehab from offseason knee surgery, the Celtics are down to Shaquille O’Neal and Semih Erden at center.

Shaq missed practice Sunday after slipping on some ice. The Celtics said that he has a strained adductor muscle in his right leg, making him questionable for Monday’s game Erden has been hit-or-miss with some great games balanced out by some non-existent ones. Before Garnett got hurt, Davis played about 18 minutes a night at the five-spot, which would be important minutes as the team works’ through its depth issues.

Read More: Glen Davis, Kevin Garnett,
Fast Break: Celtics tame Cats 01.14.11 at 10:02 pm ET
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It’s mid-January in the NBA, which means everyone is either hurt, miserable or both. The Celtics had 10 players dressed and half of them were in some kind of foul trouble at various points in the game.

This was not a night for aesthetically-pleasing basketball, but the Celtics made the plays they needed to make in the fourth quarter and came away with a 99-94 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats.

Here’s how they did it:

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Shaquille O’Neal had his most important game of the season: Without Kevin Garnett and Jermaine O’Neal, the Celtics were down to Shaq and Semih Erden at center and Glen Davis and Luke Harangody as big forwards.

Shaq played 17 minutes in the first half, mainly because Doc Rivers had no other options and he logged a season-high 35 to go with 23 points and five rebounds. Considering everything that has happened to the Celtics this week in terms of injuries, this was a big-time performance and arguably his best of the season.

Rajon Rondo had the world on a string: There are times when Rondo can be spectacular, and other times when he is spectacularly precise. This game was the latter. Rondo read screens, angles and pick and rolls and dissected the Bobacats with precise passes and smart decisions.

Sometimes Rondo’s stats can be deceiving. His huge assist nights are usually tied to hot shooting nights on the perimeter. Not this night. He had 18 points, 13 assists and six rebounds and earned every one of them.

Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, like clockwork: Paul Pierce and Ray Allen shot a combined 12-for-20 from the floor, including 7-for-12 from 3-point range. For good measure they also made seven of eight free throws and each scored 19 points.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Foul trouble: The Celtics had 10 players available Friday night because of injuries and Avery Bradley’s assignment to the D-League. The one thing they could not afford was to have any kind of foul trouble, especially up front. Oh well. Erden picked up three fouls in three minutes in the second quarter, which meant Shaquille O’Neal had to play 17 first-half minutes.

Pierce picked up his fourth midway through the third quarter and left with 17 points on 7-for-12 shooting and the Celtics up by six. The Bobcats closed the gap with Pierce out of the game, but the Celtics pulled away early in the fourth quarter allowing Pierce to sit until the 4-minute mark of the fourth quarter.

Offensive rebounding: You could see this one coming a mile away. Without Garnett or Jermaine O’Neal, the Celtics frontline is exposed when it comes to rebounding. The Bobcats racked up 13 offensive boards and controlled the glass.

Free throws: The Celtics got to the free throw line only 25 times and most of those came late in the game when the Bobcats were trying to put them there. This isn’t that surprising since they are one of the worst teams in the league at getting to the line. It’s generally a given that their opponent will have more free throws than they will, but the Bobcats shot nine more than the Celtics, and were +8 at the line, which kept them in the game.

Read More: Bobcats, Celtics, Fast Break,
Jermaine O’Neal to decide on whether to have surgery next week 01.14.11 at 7:34 pm ET
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Jermaine O’Neal has already met with the Celtics medical staff and will meet with a doctor on Monday for a second opinion on whether he should have surgery on his knee. O’Neal said he would make an announcement on Tuesday. “My preference is to play,” O’Neal said. “You don’t get this opportunity very often.”

If O’Neal did have surgery he would likely be out anywhere from 2-3 months. That timeframe would possibly put him back by the end of the regular season, but realistically it would be very difficult for him to contribute this season.

“If it means two months or more, that’s basically it,” Doc Rivers said. “Everyone thinks when you say two months that means you play in two months. No, that means you start working out in two months. If you’re coming back in April and you haven’t played all year, there’s a very low chance of that you’re going to help us.”

Rivers said that O’Neal’s decision would have no bearing on what happens with Kendrick Perkins and his rehab. “They’re two different things,” Rivers said. “I’m going to look out for the best interest of J.O. and I’m going to look out for the best interest of Perk and I’m going to do that separately.”

O’Neal said he is beyond frustrated by this latest turn of events. After missing 19 games he was able to return and had played well defensively, but he had a tough back-to-back last weekend and his knee swelled up after practice on Tuesday.

“It’s past that. It’s past frustrating. It’s far past that,” he said. “I didn’t foresee this happening.”

Read More: injuries, Jermaine O'Neal,
What Avery Bradley’s D-League assigment means for the Celtics 01.14.11 at 3:20 pm ET
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Avery Bradley

As expected, the Celtics assigned rookie guard Avery Bradley to their D-League affiliate in Maine, Friday. Bradley has played in just two game since Rajon Rondo returned from an ankle injury, and he has logged only four minutes total when he played.

The Celtics are sending Bradley to Maine, who is coached by Danny Ainge‘s son Austin, to get him on the court. Bradley missed all of the summer and most of training camp following ankle surgery and while he filled in admirably during desperate situations, he also clearly has a lot to learn. He’s appeared in 14 games with four assists and nine turnovers in just 66 minutes of action.

Since this is the first D-League assignment of the season, we thought it would be helpful to preemptively answer a few questions:

1. Does this move affect the Celtics roster?

No.

The Celtics have 15 players under contract, the maximum allowed by the NBA, and Bradley’s assignment does nothing to change that. The D-League is not a true minor league in this regard.

In other words, this doesn’t mean the Celtics can sign a veteran free agent while Bradley is in the D-League. They can’t.

2. Why send him to the D-League?

Bradley needs games and practices and he wasn’t getting enough of either in Boston. This allows him the chance to get both, while working on his point guard skills. They can also bring him back at any time.

3. Is Maine the Celtics version of Pawtucket?

Yes and no, but mainly no.

The Celtics have an affiliation agreement with Maine. That means that when they send any of their eligible players — that also includes Luke Harangody and Semih Erden — to the D-League, they are automatically assigned to the Red Claws. The Celtics share an affiliation with the Charlotte Bobcats, meaning both teams can send their first or second-year players to the Red Claws. Most D-League teams operate with dual affiliation agreements.

Where it differs is that the rest of the Maine roster is made up of players who are eligible to be signed by any other NBA team.

Read More: Avery Bradley, D-League,
Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett passed in latest All-Star voting 01.13.11 at 1:35 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett have been passed by Derrick Rose and Amar’e Stoudemire, respectively, in the latest round of All-Star voting numbers released by the league. Rondo and Garnett have had slim leads over their counterparts since the returns started coming in, but Rose and Stoudemire have been making steady gains each week.

The Eastern Conference starters right now are: Dwyane Wade and Rose at guards, LeBron James and Stoudemire as forwards and Dwight Howard at center.

The West lines up with: Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant at guard, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony at forward and Yao Ming, who is injured, at center. Final results will be announced in two weeks.

Here’s the latest voting:

Eastern Conference

Forwards: LeBron James (Mia) 1,518,807; Amar’e Stoudemire (NYK) 1,143,391; Kevin Garnett (Bos) 1,049,544; Paul Pierce (Bos) 578,473; Chris Bosh (Mia) 427,551; Carlos Boozer (Chi) 320,661; Josh Smith (Atl) 280,158; Danilo Gallinari (NYK) 259,619; Danny Granger (Ind) 201,653; Luol Deng (Chi) 191,312.

Guards: Dwyane Wade (Mia) 1,499,768; Derrick Rose (Chi) 1,225,575; Rajon Rondo (Bos) 1,171,311; Ray Allen (Bos) 630,588; John Wall (Was) 260,893; Brandon Jennings (Mil) 254,614; Raymond Felton (NYK) 246,208; Gilbert Arenas (Orl) 240,586; Jamal Crawford (Atl) 163,971, Darren Collison (Ind) 156,230.

Centers: Dwight Howard (Orl) 1,537,619; Shaquille O’Neal (Bos) 639,661; Joakim Noah (Chi) 291,107; Andrew Bogut (Mil) 245,253; Al Horford (Atl) 193,449; Roy Hibbert (Ind) 183,092; Andrea Bargnani (Tor) 162,364; Brook Lopez (NJ) 125,022; JaVale McGee (Was) 106,710; Ben Wallace (Det) 79,017.

Western Conference

Forwards: Kevin Durant (OKC) 1,270,729; Carmelo Anthony (Den) 945,720; Pau Gasol (LAL) 851,456; Blake Griffin (LAC) 702,784; Tim Duncan (SA) 663,487; Dirk Nowitzki (Dal) 615,243; Lamar Odom (LAL) 364,950; Luis Scola (Hou) 347,986; Kevin Love (Min) 301,529; Caron Butler (Dal) 205,146.

Guards: Kobe Bryant (LAL) 1,757,216; Chris Paul (NOH) 949,049; Manu Ginobili (SA) 593,718; Steve Nash (Pho) 522,215; Deron Williams (Utah) 487,887; Russell Westbrook (OKC) 463,250; Tony Parker (SA) 355,993; Jason Kidd (Dal) 303,164; Vince Carter (Pho) 277,430; Kevin Martin (Hou) 266,037.

Centers: Yao Ming (Hou) 928,928; Andrew Bynum (LAL) 660,576; Nene (Den) 389,263; Marc Gasol 352,136; Emeka Okafor (NOH) 317,677; Brendan Haywood (Dal) 276,777; Marcus Camby (Por) 201,133; Chris Kaman (LAC) 165,684; Andris Biedrins (GS) 126,567; DeMarcus Cousins (Sac) 110,230.

Read More: All Star Game 2011, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo,
NBA Power Rankings, 1/13 01.13.11 at 10:55 am ET
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From time to time Rohrbach gives up his beloved Power Rankings and hands the duties over to me (read: his computer crashed and he begged me to do them). But we’re all about teamwork on the dotcom and his computer woes have left me with a problem: Who to put in the top spot?

The analytical part of the brain says Miami and it’s not really close. But the Heat lost to the Clippers Wednesday night and while the Clips are a much-improved team, it’s hard to rank anyone No. 1 coming off a loss to Donald Sterling’s team.

Besides, the Celtics beat them twice. But the Celtics are hurting a bit and haven’t really played good basketball for a month. No one but the most passionate Celtics fan would argue that on Jan. 13, right now, today, they are the best team in the league.

That leaves the Spurs, another team the Celtics beat, but San Antonio has the best record in the league and won all four of its games last week. So, congratulations Spurs. I’m sure this will make Gregg Popovich’s week.

San Antonio Spurs1. San Antonio (33-6): If you are looking for a darkhorse MVP candidate, you can do a lot worse than Manu Ginobli. 19 points, four rebounds and five assists a game don’t jump off the page, but he’s doing it in 32 minutes a night on the best team in the Western Conference (so far) and he is the Spurs go-to player in the fourth quarter.

Boston Celtics2. Boston (29-9): The following phrase should be forever banned from Celtics fans’ thoughts: “Imagine how good they’ll be when they get everyone healthy.” Considering that it’s mid-January and that hasn’t happened once this season, including preseason, what makes anyone think they will ever all be healthy at the same time?

Miami Heat3. Miami (30-10): Things LeBron James does not understand: contraction, karma, and English pop bands. Seriously, somebody put this dude in touch with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It’s entirely possible that LeBron is simply a bore with not many interesting thoughts to share with the world.

Orlando Magic4. Orlando (25-13): Have you seen Hedo Turkoglu’sShake Weight Dance?’ It’s about as awesome as you might expect. Turkoglu has emerged as the single most important player involved in the mega-trade between the Magic and Suns, which must come as a huge surprise to the people of Toronto and Phoenix since Turkoglu was a gigantic bust in those cities.

Los Angeles Lakers5. LA Lakers (29-11): The Lakers beat the Cavaliers by 55 points on Tuesday. 55! I don’t care how bad the Cavaliers are, that’s insane. Looks like the Lakers have worked out their creative differences. For now.  Read the rest of this entry »

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