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Semih Erden is ready for his closeup 11.01.10 at 4:36 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Semih Erden was working in the post against Jermaine O’Neal during practice Monday. Erden started to his left, faked like he was going right and then finished back on the left side. It’s the kind of move he’s been pulling off with regularity since he joined the Celtics, but not the only one.

“He gave me a move in that open scrimmage the other day,” Shaquille O’Neal said. “Real nice move. That just tells me he has the potential to go at me whenever he wants to. With him, he’€™s going to have to get a rhythm out there with the guys. He’€™s young and he’€™s going to get his shot.”

Erden’s shot may be getting closer to becoming a reality because, as expected, the Celtics are about to go into a stretch of games without at least one of the O’Neals.

Shaq made the trip to Detroit and hasn’t been officially ruled out of Tuesday’s game, but after he missed practice for the second straight day with a shin injury, it’s not likely that he’ll play.

Jermaine O’Neal, on the other hand, looks like he will be able to go against the Pistons. That helps, but the Celtics need at least two big men against the Pistons large frontline and that means Erden will finally get a chance to show what he can do in a game situation.

“Yeah I’€™m ready,” Erden said responding to a question in English without the help of his translator. “I feel good. Every day I learn something. It’€™s good for me. I’€™m lucky.”

That tiny interaction is a major step forward for Erden who has the added pressure of not only being a rookie, but a rookie from Turkey who is being asked to assimilate the NBA game as well as a new language.

“He knows how to play,” Doc Rivers said. “He’€™s just trying to learn how to play our way. The language barrier is a problem, there’€™s no doubt about that. You just got to keep working on him. He’€™s going to be a good big in this league and he’€™s going to be a good big for a long time. What we don’€™t know is whether he’s a good enough big right now.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Jermaine O'Neal, Kevin Garnett, Semih Erden, Shaquille O'Neal
Shaq misses practice, status uncertain 10.31.10 at 4:42 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Shaquille O’Neal didn’t practice Sunday and his status for the week ahead is uncertain. He banged his fibula in a collision with Amar’e Stoudemire Friday late in the Celtics win over the Knicks and did not return. “I always have a freak injury,” O’Neal said Sunday. “We’ll be all right.”

O’Neal said that he hopes to practice Monday, but he may have to sit out for the next few days. The Celtics play at Detroit Tuesday and host the Bucks on Wednesday. The Celtics did get good news, however, when Jermaine O’Neal returned to practice.

“The O’€™Neal brothers are both banged up a little bit,” Doc Rivers said. “Jermaine actually practiced most of the practice. He went in and out, but he had a pretty good practice. Our fear, and it’€™s going to happen one day, [is] where we’€™re not going to have either one of the O’€™Neal brothers. That would be a concern for us. Right now, I think we’€™ll have Jermaine [Tuesday] and I don’€™t know about Shaq.”

If both can’t play, Rivers indicated that he would probably start Semih Erden, rather than Glen Davis because he prefers to have Davis come off the bench and backup the four and five spots in the rotation.

“He knows how to play,” Rivers said of Erden who has not seen any time yet this season. “He’€™s just trying to learn how to play our way. The language barrier is a problem, there’€™s no doubt about that. You just got to keep working on him. He’€™s going to be a good big in this league and he’€™s going to be a good big for a long time. What we don’€™t know is he a good enough big right now.”

As for Davis, who has averaged better than 14 points and five rebounds while playing almost as many minutes as the O’Neals have combined, Rivers explained his rationale: “When you start him, you really take away your options. Then if he gets into foul trouble you take away all his options. It would be either Semih or J.O.  Like I’€™ve told you guys for two years, when Baby gets outside of his role is when he struggles. When he stays within himself he’€™s an excellent basketball player.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Jermaine O'Neal, Semih Erden, Shaquille O'Neal,
Delonte West on fight: ‘We’re ready to move past that’ 10.31.10 at 4:01 pm ET
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WALTHAM — It’s been 48 hours since reports about the fight between Delonte West and Von Wafer first became public and the only person who had not been heard from on the incident was West. He spoke after the Celtics ran through practice Sunday and tried to downplay it.

“It’€™s not that serious,” he said. “We’€™ve moved past that. We’€™re competitive guys. I’€™m competitive, he’€™s competitive. As long as it’€™s for the betterment of the team, there’€™s nothing wrong with healthy competition and pushing each other to get better. Things went a little too far at the same time we’€™re ready to move past that. We’€™re professionals and we’€™re on to something different.”

West did say that the initial report that appeared on Hoops World was inaccurate. The story indicated that the Celtics were ready to cut West, but Danny Ainge denied that.

“I read the reports and a lot of things were taken out of context,” West said. “Facts were made up that were not true how things played out. Guys get into scuffles or whatever you want to call it. At the end of the day we’€™re like brothers in here. At the end of the day we’€™re trying to win. We’€™re competitive. We’€™ve got fiery guys in here. You got to move on and get to the next thing.”

West was not at TD Garden Friday night. Per NBA rules, suspended players have to be out of the building two hours before a game starts. West is three games into a 10-game suspension after pleading guilty to weapons charges stemming from a traffic stop last summer. He said the he’s been working out at the team’s practice facility during games and then watching them there.

“That’€™s a penalty you have to pay,” West said. “I’€™m not arguing with it. I’€™m still on a team and able to play basketball. It could be a lot worse. There’€™s no negatives here. I’€™m positive and I can’€™t wait to get out there and contribute.”

He also said that he appreciated the support of the Celtics organization. “To be on a team such as the Celtics and they have high hopes for me and asked me to contribute and help them win a championship, that’€™s a very high compliment, and I take it to heart,” West said. “I don’€™t want to let this team down.”

West said that his back, which kept him out of several preseason games, felt “100 percent.”

Read More: Delonte West, Von Wafer,
Von Wafer denies incident, Doc Rivers confirms 10.29.10 at 7:30 pm ET
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[Click here to listen to Celtics coach Doc Rivers acknowledge the fight between Wafer and West.]

Before the Celtics game with the Knicks Friday, Von Wafer tried to downplay the incident that occurred between him and Delonte West earlier in the day.

“I don’€™t know what’€™s going on but you’€™ve got to talk to Doc [Rivers] and Danny [Ainge] about that,” Wafer said before the Celtics game with the Knicks. “What happened?” Pressed further, Wafer continued to deny that an altercation took place. “I don’€™t know nothing about it,” he said. “First time hearing about it.”

Both Ainge and now Rivers have confirmed that there was a fight between West and Wafer after practice Friday, the second incident between the two in the last week.

“There was a fight and that’€™s all you need to know,” Rivers said. “I’€™m going to leave it alone, but obviously I’€™m not real thrilled with it. We’€™ll handle it.” Rivers went on to say that it shouldn’t have been made public. “It should stay inside the locker room,” he said. “It didn’€™t and that’€™s OK, but we’€™re just going to leave it alone.”

Asked if it could have an affect on the Celtics, Rivers said, “It could. I doubt it. I hope not. You never know. I hope it does not.”

Wafer also denied posting anything to his Twitter account Friday afternoon. “I didn’€™t Tweet anything today,” Wafer said. “I didn’€™t Tweet one word today.” A post which was later deleted from Wafer’s account read: “Today was a test!…I am a professional and will continue to conduct myself as one…God has a plan for me.”

West was not in the Celtics locker room before the game. Other Celtics refused to answer questions about the incident.

“I was out of the locker room at the time,” Ray Allen said. “I just walked in and heard about it so I don’€™t really know anything about it. Everybody’€™s in here getting ready to play the game.”

“From my interpretation being here it was business as usual,” Allen continued. “We’€™re around each other too long. It’€™s 82 games and playoffs. I told you guys earlier in the year we argue to no end. A lot of times we have to agree to disagree. We are brothers. Kevin [Garnett] and I have known each other a long time. We argue with the best of them. We always have a difference of opinion. It is what it is. That’€™s just the nature of competition.”

Read More: Delonte West, Ray Allen, Von Wafer,
Preview: Celtics-Knicks 10.28.10 at 11:27 pm ET
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For the last two seasons, the New York Knicks tried to pretend that their team didn’t exist. The goal, which was carefully articulated and plotted by Donnie Walsh, was to remove contracts, not to win games. The fans bought into this strategy and in truth, it was an easy sell. They had their fill of shortsighted quick fixes with long-term implications and two years of penance wasn’t so bad if the return turned out to be LeBron James.

There were two problems with this plan. One, Walsh and his coach Mike D’Antoni did very little to make the last two years anything more than a chore. The only development players on the roster were Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Tony Douglas and Bill Walker, which left a roster full of players who knew they were going elsewhere eventually and they reacted accordingly. The other was that there was no guarantee LeBron would want to go to New York, and when he didn’t, Walsh was forced to scramble.

On the whole, the scramble doesn’t look so bad as the Knicks were able to sign Amar’e Stoudemire and Ray Felton and acquire Anthony Randolph, Kelenna Azubuike and Ronny Turiaf for David Lee. Throw in a potential second-round steal in Landry Fields and a 7-foot Russian named Timofey Mozgov and suddenly the Knicks look like an actual team with direction and a directive to be competitive.

If the Celtics are going to have any competition in the Atlantic Division it’s going to come from the Knicks. Stoudemire is an A-list scorer and Gallinari doesn’t look to be too far behind. Felton is a solid point guard, which alone is a huge upgrade from what they were running out in previous seasons, and now there is depth.

To be sure there are still holes on New York’s roster, especially when it comes to size and rebounding and a team that plays D’Antoni’s system could always use more shooters, but the Knicks finally resemble a coherent basketball team whose goal is winning games, not shedding contracts.

NEW YORK (1-0)

Probable Starters: Felton, Fields, Gallinari, Stoudemire, Mozgov

Injuries: Randolph (ankle), Azubuike (knee surgery), Eddy Curry (hamstring)

BOSTON (1-1)

Probable Starters: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal

Injuries: Avery Bradley (ankle), Kendrick Perkins (knee surgery)

KEY MATCHUP: Stoudemire vs. Garnett

Garnett shutdown Chris Bosh in the first game of the season to such an enormous degree that people are already questioning whether Stoudemire would have been a better frontcourt running mate for James and Dwyane Wade. In his second game, Garnett recorded 15 rebounds, which is more than he had in any game last season.

He will have his hands full with Stoudemire who is the focal point on the Knicks offense. Stoudemire had 19 points and 10 rebounds in the Knicks opening night win over Toronto, but he also turned it over nine times. This will be a solid early-season test for Garnett because Stoudemire is one of the best pick-and-roll big men in the league and he will Garnett work all game.

KEY STAT: Turnovers

The Celtics have already turned it over 39 times. That’s how a team that is shooting 47 percent for the floor and 39 percent from 3-point range has an efficiency rating in the 20’s and has scored less than 90 points in both of its games. The Celtics simply must take better care of the ball. (Related: Zach Lowe had an interesting post about the Celtics turnover problems on The Point Forward).

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

The Celtics have not yet played a complete, 48-minute game and their struggles in the fourth quarter against Cleveland brought back bad memories of regular season collapses from a year ago. This will be their third game in four nights and it will be interesting to see how Doc Rivers uses his bench in what should be fast-paced game.

There’s also the matter of establishing their homecourt advantage, something that the players have noted over the past few days. The C’s are off until Tuesday and this would be a good spot to finish their first week on a winning note at home against a team in their division.

Read More: Amare Stoudemire, Kevin Garnett, Knicks, Preview
Paul Pierce on D&H: Shaq has helped Kevin Garnett 10.28.10 at 1:43 pm ET
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Celtics captain Paul Pierce joined the Dale & Holley show and touched on a number of topics including what would have happened if Doc Rivers had decided to leave, how the Heat will have to adjust to playing with each other and what Shaquille O’Neal has done for Kevin Garnett.

“I love Shaquille in the locker room,” Pierce said. “The one guy he’€™s making better on and off the court is Kevin. You can just tell with Kevin’€™s attitude, he’€™s a lot more loose than he’€™s ever been. Kevin really listens to a lot of things Shaq has to say because they’€™ve been through their wars together and I know Kevin has a lot of respect for Shaq and what he’€™s done in this league, as do all of us. His presence has really helped us out as a ballclub, in the locker room and on the court.”

(To hear the whole interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page).

Here are more highlights from the interview:

What happened in Cleveland?

That’€™s the Cleveland Cavaliers minus LeBron James. They had a lot going. It was the home opener, a lot to prove with LeBron being gone, they played a great game. I can’€™t take anything away from what they did last night. They came out and gave us one, right over the head.

Did you take them lightly?

I hate to use that word lightly. I play the game the same way every night. They came to play. I don’€™t want to take anything away from what they did. We had our run, we had a chance to put them away, they just stuck with it. They made some big shots, the crowd got into it and they finished the game.

What’s the difference in Cleveland’s offense without LeBron?

When you got LeBron James in the lineup the offense is a little more predictable because you know he’€™s gong to get the ball pretty much every time down the court or 90 percent of the time. They’€™re really try to find an identity. They don’€™t really have a true go-to guy so they have to rely on out-working everybody, ball movement and sharing and playing together. They did an excellent job of that last night.

How will the Heat co-exist? What did he do with Garnett and Ray Allen?

I think they’€™re going to have make some sacrifices and that’€™s going to be the key. What’€™s unique about us with me, Kevin and Ray, I think we all bring something different with our games. Ray, he’€™s a great player without the ball. Kevin, you can play through Kevin or he’€™s great at setting screens and making people better, also I can play off the ball. I can be spot-up shooter.

In their case, they have LeBron and [Dwyane] Wade who constantly have the ball in their offense. Neither one of them has been asked to stand on the wing or stand in the corner and be a spot-up shooter. That’€™s an adjustment I think they’€™re going to have to make in figuring out their roles. Who’€™s going to be the lead dog on offense? Who’€™s going to be the facilitator and who’€™s going to play a different role, like, say, [Chris] Bosh being a guy who’€™s just going to rebound, play defense and screen?

It’€™s tough, especially for these guys because they’€™re in the prime of their careers and it’€™s going to be tough for them to swallow that knowing that they can give much more than what they’€™re going to give on a night-in, night-out basis for them to win. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Shaquille O'Neal,
Doc Rivers on D&C: ‘We have a chance to be really special’ 10.28.10 at 10:39 am ET
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Celtics coach Doc Rivers joined Dennis & Callahan for his weekly visit and talked about the loss to the Cavaliers, the win over the Heat and the longest second in his life. It’s been a whirlwind beginning to the season, but Rivers likes what he sees from his team.

“I enjoy this group,” he said. “I enjoy coaching them. We’ve got to solidify ourselves as a group, as a team. I think we’re on our way to doing that. I think we have a chance to be really special, but we’re not there yet and we have work to do.”

(To hear the whole interview, visit the team Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page).

Rivers conceded that the opening night win over the Heat was more than just another game. “We’d be lying if we said it was a normal game,” Rivers said. “It was still only one game, but it didn’t have a lot of meaning. A lot of people wanted to see us play Miami and a lot of people wanted to see Miami.” But Wednesday night in Cleveland, the Celtics ran into a team that was also on an emotional high. “You could feel the energy in the building in Cleveland,” Rivers said. “It was important for everybody. But those are the game you still try to find a way to win.”

The key play came late in the game when Anthony Parker made a 3-pointer with one second on the shot clock that appeared to take longer. “The tough part for the officials was, they could not overrule it,” Rivers said. “All they could do was go by video and look at the light when the light comes on. They were in a tough position. I think they knew that, but there’s nothing they could do about it. That has to be one of the longest seconds that I’ve ever experienced.”

Rivers also didn’t feel like Wednesday night was one of Rajon Rondo‘s better performances, despite scoring 18 points and having nine assists. “His numbers were great but it wasn’t his best game,” Rivers said. “It was one of those games where the ball was in his hands too much. We played the Cleveland game like we played the second half of the Miami game. Last night was an execution night. Rondo’s offense will come from transition, pushing the ball up the floor, attacking the paint.”

On the technical foul that Shaquille O’Neal picked up in the fourth quarter against the Cavs, Rivers said he was “blown away” by the call. “It’s a work in progress, obviously, whatever this is,” Rivers said of the new technical foul enforcement. “I was blown away by that tech. It’s hard to believe Shaq did enough to get that tech.”

Rivers also said he wanted to have his whole team together before making an assessment of whether this is his most talented team.

“When we get Delonte [West] and [Kendrick Perkins] back, then you can make that argument,” he said. “Until then, I’m not so sure yet. Shaq’s going to give us stuff, I don’t know every night he can and what he’s capable of. We’ve got to get more out of [Jermaine O’Neal]. We look at him as a defensive player. He can be a terrific defensive player with our unit, but he’s just not there yet.”

Read More: Doc Rivers, Rajon Rondo, Shaquille O'Neal,
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