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Pavlovic Ready to Fill Starting Role for Injured Pierce 12.23.11 at 4:44 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Friday after practice, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said team captain Paul Pierce is unlikely to play on Sunday’s opening day match-up against the Knicks.  According to Rivers even if trainer Ed Lacerte clears him to play, Pierce will not be in the starting lineup and will only log about 15-20 minutes in the contest. Rivers said the void left by Pierce’s nagging right-heel injury will be filled, most likely, by ninth-year veteran, Sasha Pavlovic.

Pavlovic played 17 games in Boston last season, and was signed late in this year’s shortened training camp. Pavlovic feels better about his role on the team following last season’s stint, and also realizes he has large shoes to fill Christmas day. “I feel a lot more comfortable,” Pavlovic said. “It’s going to be tough with Paul not going, but whenever coach calls my name I’m going to be ready.”

Pavlovic played with three other teams last season, before signing with the Celtics at the tail end of the year. Before last year Pavlovic played one year in Minnesota. Though, he is best known for being a key role player for five seasons in Cleveland, including the 2006-07 team which made a run to the NBA Finals. Read the rest of this entry »

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Practice Notes: Green sighting, KG on his future & mentoring, Opening tip looms 12.22.11 at 7:44 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Less than a week after finding out he would need season-ending surgery to deal with an aortic aneurysm, Jeff Green was taking jump shots after practice.

The Celtics are insistent that Green is still part of the organization even though he will not play this season. “Jeff doesn’t have to be here,” coach Doc Rivers said. “Jeff wants to be here. He is part of our culture and our family.”

Jeff Green was at Celtics practice Thursday (Courtesy NBA.com)

Green is scheduled to have surgery January 9th. Kevin Garnett was happy to see Green at practice, but asked that people respect his family’s privacy. “What he’s about to go through, none of us have been through,” Garnett said. “It’s definitely life changing. We don’t know what the future holds in all of this, but it’s good having him around as a young brother that he is to us. We wish him the best.”

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Keyon Dooling accepts the challenge 12.20.11 at 11:47 pm ET
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Keyon Dooling will play an important role for the Celtics this season. (AP)

WALTHAM — During Tuesday’s practice, backup point guard Keyon Dooling pulled Celtics coach Doc Rivers aside to talk about the second unit’s identity. Among the things Dooling noticed was that the reserves were trying too hard to emulate the first team’s offensive approach, a difficult task considering the relative talents of each unit. Rivers agreed.

The conversation illustrated Dooling’s assertive attitude and keen insight, both of which have impressed Rivers throughout training camp. ”I knew [Dooling] is an energy player,” Rivers said.  ”But energy players don’t usually mean high IQ [players. Where Keyon has surprised me is he really thinks the game."

Rivers said Dooling has made for a seamless transition to his new team and that he understands the offense as well as some of the players who have been here for years. His high basketball acumen gives Rivers the luxury of versatility. In Sunday's preseason game in Toronto, the coach experimented playing Dooling at shooting guard, despite not having practiced at the position.

Dooling is confident he can make the transition between guard spots when necessary. "Right now everything is on the fly," he said. "I learn fast. I know the [shooting guard] position and where to be even though I haven’t gotten the reps [in practice]. Wherever the opportunity presents itself, I’ll be ready.”

The well-traveled guard is an integral part of the Celtics new-look rotation and Rivers is looking for major improvement from his bench players this season.

“Last year we failed miserably,” Rivers said. “Me [included]. We didn’t do the bench [well] and the bench didn’t save us ever. It lost some games for us, but it didn’t save us in a lot. This bench, the one thing I do like, they’re not going to back up. That doesn’t mean they’re going to play well, but I like they’re a tough group. They respect the starters but that’s about it. That’s all they’re getting.”

Rivers loves the fact that Dooling will challenge Rajon Rondo every day in practice.

“Rondo has laughed about it several times, this guy doesn’t back up at all and it’s been great,” Rivers said. “They go at each other in a positive way. I think it’s the first time Rondo’s had that and it’s been great for him.”

Dooling hasn’t appeared in the playoffs since 2008 with the Magic and he feels rejuvenated about playing for a team with high expectations. “This is my best opportunity to compete for a [championship],” he said.  ”I’m very aware of that. I’ve been out of the playoffs the last few seasons, so my window has suddenly opened up.”

If the Celtics window is going to stay open they’ll need strong performances from players like Dooling.

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Avery Bradley and E’Twaun Moore make their case for playing time 12.17.11 at 5:40 pm ET
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Avery Bradley

The opening tip of the season is fast approaching and the Celtics still have to figure out their rotation, particularly who will backup Ray Allen. Veterans Marquis Daniels and Sasha Pavlovic would seem to have the inside track, but without Jeff Green they will also play small forward behind Paul Pierce.

“Somebody will win it, and we’re going to let them,” said coach Doc Rivers following last night’s open scrimmage at the TD Banknorth Garden. ”We’re honest with guys. There is a spot there and not everyone is going to play it. It has been a competitive camp because of that.”

One candidate to fill the vacant role is Avery Bradley. The 2010 first round draft pick  struggled earning playing time as a rookie while dealing with injuries and ineffectiveness last season. Bradley came to this year’s camp knowing there is an opportunity to contribute. However, he also knows opportunity means competition.

“I know everybody is going to be working hard for that position,” Bradley said. “I’m going to try to do everything Doc says. I know I’m going to come in grind and work hard.”

Without summer league or a full training camp, the lockout could have stunted the development of young players like Bradley, but he spent the extended offseason working out with his veteran teammates.

“I have the best teammates,” Bradley said. “I would work out with Jermaine O’Neal in Las Vegas and get [text messages] from Kevin [Garnett] checking in on me to make sure I’m working. Paul [Pierce] always invited me to [California] to help me work on my game and keep it sharp.”

Rivers praised Bradley’s ability to get to the basket and draw fouls, but he thought Bradley had trouble finding the proper rhythm during the scrimmage. “He was trying to do too much, going too fast,” Rivers said. “That’s where you see what we see.”

E’Twaun Moore is another candidate for playing time. The second round draft pick has impressed his coaches and teammates in camp, and he knocked down a 3-pointer late in the scrimmage that gave his side the lead before Bradley’s winner. Moore could have passed to Allen, but the rookie had the better look and was aggressive.

“He didn’t hesitate,” Rivers said. “That’s what I like about him.”

With the first of only two preseason games on Sunday in Toronto — every minute becomes paramount for the young Celtics.

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Brandon Bass is comfortable with his role 12.16.11 at 1:11 pm ET
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Brandon Bass is excited to join the Celtics. (AP)

Last season while playing with the Magic, Brandon Bass was the only low-post presence alongside Dwight Howard. The Magic roster had size beyond Bass and Howard in the frontcourt, but Ryan Anderson and Hedo Turkoglu are swingmen with a proclivity to hang around the three point line rather then big bangers battling in the trenches.

Consequently, Bass has proven he isn’t afraid to take on other big men in the paint, and he will need to do so with the Celtics. The lack of depth up front is more than evident. “I’d love to grow a little bit,” coach Doc Rivers joked at practice yesterday. “I think [the players'] growth spurts are done, at least upward.”

The scarcity of size on the roster means Bass will need to contribute substantial minutes both at the power forward and center position despite being only 6-foot-8.  ”That’s the role I’ve played my whole career,” he said. “Even in Dallas I played [power forward] and [center]. I’m comfortable playing both [positions].”

When Bass suits up for the Celtics in Madison Square Garden opening day on Christmas, he will start a new chapter in his career — playing on his fourth team in his seventh season. His nomadic path has not deterred his attitude or goals to win a NBA championship.

“With hard work and dedication [settling with a team] will take care of itself,” Bass said. “I envision myself hopefully helping this team win a championship.”

One of the biggest challenges presented by the lockout is whether players can adjust to their new teammates in a shortened training camp. Bass praised the Celtics’ veteran core for making the transition easier. “Walking into a new environment,” he said, “I felt a little uncomfortable. But all the guys – Kevin [Garnett], Paul [Pierce], Ray [Allen] – quickly made me feel at home.”

Bass was acquired in a sign-and-trade deal that send Glen Davis and Von Wafer to Orlando. Bass and Davis are different players, but will likely play similar roles. While they posted similar numbers, Bass is a better shooter and a more efficient offensive player.

Bass was drawn to the celebrated history of the Celtics. “Walking in the locker room, seeing the pictures on the wall of legends that played here was a great feeling,” he said and he hopes before his time is over in Boston, he can help add another championship to the rafters.

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JaJuan Johnson’s growing pains as a Celtics rookie 12.15.11 at 9:54 am ET
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WALTHAM — As Celtics practice ended Wednesday, Ray Allen went through the meticulous 3-point and free throw shooting routine that has made him a perennial NBA All-Star and future Hall of Famer. While the rest of the team fled to the locker room, only Allen and one other player were left on the floor — rookie JaJuan Johnson.

“It’s a huge learning experience,” said the former Big Ten Player of the Year and First Team All-American of playing catch-up in a shortened training camp. “I learn something new every time I step on the court with these guys.”

Johnson (or, as Kevin Garnett calls him, “Rook” or “New”) joins a veteran Celtics team, so his role will change from a primary scoring option to complementary role player, and head coach Doc Rivers feels the rookie is slowly starting to figure out how to implement his game at the NBA level.

“He’s starting to learn who he is,” said Rivers. “He knows he is a jump shooter, and he is starting to be comfortable enough to take that shot. Today was the first day when he picked and popped, caught it and shot it. The other two days he would catch it and try to make another play.”

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