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NBA Draft’s Potential Celtics: Missouri PF Ricardo Ratliffe 06.13.12 at 5:10 pm ET
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As part of WEEI.com’s coverage of the 2012 NBA draft, we are profiling all players considered likely candidates to be drafted June 28. The Celtics own three picks: 21, 22 (from the Thunder in the Kendrick Perkins trade) and 51.

Missouri forward Ricardo Ratliffe will need to use his strength and toughness to make up for a lack of size and quickness at the NBA level. (AP)

RICARDO RATLIFFE

Position: Power forward

School: Missouri

Age: 23

Height: 6-foot-8

Weight: 250 pounds

Achievements: 2012 All-Big 12 second team, 2011 Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, 2011 All-Big 12 honorable mention, 2011 Big 12 All-Rookie team

Key 2011-12 stats: 13.9 points, 7.5 rebounds, 69.3 FG%

What he brings: Ratliffe is very strong and brings toughness and aggressiveness under the basket. He’s undersized at 6-foot-8, which likely positions him as a power forward at the next level, but his athleticism and ability more than makes up for it. His production as a senior at Missouri was particularly impressive considering he only played 26 minutes per game.

Ratliffe is an extremely good finisher in the paint, making his presence felt by cleaning up misses and using his soft and reliable hands to receive passes and convert easy makes under the basket. Ratliffe’s offense really only revolves around the rim and he rarely steps out of the paint to take jumpers, which could hurt his NBA stock. He doesn’t have an array of post moves but does possess basic ones. Still, he thrives on others creating baskets for him, whether it’s on pick and rolls or second-chance opportunities.

Rebounding-wise, Ratliffe has improved over his college career and has the skills necessary in that area to make it at the next level. He uses his tools and size to excel both on the offensive and defensive glass, which will no doubt please NBA scouts. Defensively, Ratliffe might find trouble finding his identity. His 6-foot-8 frame makes him too small to defend centers and he isn’t quick enough to guard power forwards, but he does have the capability and size to develop into a good defender.

Where the Celtics could get him: If Ratliffe gets drafted, it’s likely to be late in the second round.

Notes: Ratliffe spent two years at Central Florida Community College prior to going to Missouri because he didn’t meet the NCAA’s academic standards coming out of high school. He was a highly touted JUCO player and ranked as the No. 1 incoming junior in the country upon his commitment to the Tigers.

Recent articles:

stltoday.com: Mizzou’s Ratliffe is right on target

ESPN.com: Ricardo Ratliffe’s season for the ages

Columbia Missourian: Missouri’s Ricardo Ratliffe puts artistic side on hold to focus on basketball

Video: Ratliffe shows how he has been preparing for the draft.

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NBA Draft’s Potential Celtics: Cincinnati F Yancy Gates 06.12.12 at 5:21 am ET
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As part of WEEI.com’s coverage of the 2012 NBA draft, we are profiling all players considered likely candidates to be drafted June 28. The Celtics own three picks: 21, 22 (from the Thunder in the Kendrick Perkins trade) and 51.

Yancy Gates showed some potential but had some maturity issues at Cincinnati. (AP)

YANCY GATES

Position: Power forward/center

School: Cincinnati

Age: 22

Height: 6-foot-9

Weight: 287 pounds

Achievements: Only player in school history to lead team in rebounding for four consecutive seasons, Big East All-Tournament team (2012), Big East All-Rookie team (2009)

Key 2011-12 stats: 12.2 points, 8.9 rebounds, 32.0 minutes

What he brings: Gates is a bruiser down low, and he proved to be one of the better rebounders in the Big East and the country. He noticeably improved his offensive rebounding ability, as he grabbed 3.2 per game last season. His combination of strength, size and good hands make him a valuable asset underneath the basket.

Gates possesses a solid post presence and has good footwork and an array of moves for a big man, but he’ll need to improve his shooting percentage at the next level. Offensively, Gates is a one-dimensional player who plays mostly under the basket. He only made 31 percent of his jump shots this season, according to Synergy, and he’ll have to work on jump shooting mechanics if he wants to develop into a capable shooter in the NBA.

Defensively, Gates is mobile and is able to deny his man and force him into difficult shots. For his size, he does a good job of fronting and contesting shots, which is clear from the fact that his foul rate improved each season at Cincinnati.

Gates’ rebounding ability would be a welcome sight for a Celtics team that ranked last in the NBA in that category in 2011-12. The C’s frontcourt was thin all season long, and with Kevin Garnett approaching the end of his career, a rebounding big man of Gates’ caliber will be sorely needed in the years to come.

Where the Celtics could get him: Gates is considered a second-round possibility who might not get drafted at all.

Notes: The character of Gates will be an area that will be heavily criticized leading up to the draft. In December, he was suspended six games for throwing punches in a bench-clearing brawl against rival Xavier, and he also was suspended in 2011 for mouthing off to an assistant during practice. In both instances, Gates returned and delivered strong late-season performances for the Bearcats, but his character undoubtedly will be monitored at the next level.

Recent articles:

Rivals.com: For Cincinnati’s Yancy Gates, suspension was a turning point

CBS New York: Cincinnati’s Gates Comes Of Age In Victory

Rivals.com: Yancy Gates’ career at Cincinnati has had its ups and downs, but he’s finishing strong

Video: Here’s a highlight reel of Gates during his first two seasons at Cincinnati.

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NBA Draft’s Potential Celtics: Alabama F Tony Mitchell 06.11.12 at 2:14 pm ET
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As part of WEEI.com’s coverage of the 2012 NBA draft, we are profiling all players considered likely candidates to be drafted June 28. The Celtics own three picks: 21, 22 (from the Thunder in the Kendrick Perkins trade) and 51.

Tony Mitchell had some success at Alabama, but he was suspended for the final month of his junior season before declaring for the draft. (AP)

TONY MITCHELL

Position: Small forward

School: Alabama

Age: 22

Height: 6-foot-6

Weight: 213 pounds

Achievements: MVP of Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament (2011), second-team All-SEC (2011), SEC All-Freshman team (2010)

Key 2011-12 stats: 13.1 points, 7.0 rebounds in 22 games

What he brings: Mitchell has the physical gifts and athleticism that make him a prototypical wing player at the NBA level. His long wingspan makes him a strong asset on the defensive end of the floor. He averaged 7.2 defensive rebounds and 1.3 steals per game last season, and his defensive prowess can lead to forced turnovers that Mitchell converts into highlight dunks.

Mitchell’s offensive arsenal is very limited, and his versatility on that end of the floor will be questioned at the next level. He averaged only 50.5 percent on two-pointers in 2011-12, although he did improve his mid-range ability, but his mechanics are still in development. His 3-point and free throw shooting also need to improve for him to be a volatile long-term NBA player.

On offense, Mitchell struggles to create his own shot, and he relies on dunks and catch-and-shoot situations for his offensive production. His ball-handling is less than average and he’ll need to work on improving his left hand and creativity to create offense for himself, especially at the NBA level.

Where the Celtics could get him: If he is drafted, Mitchell is expected to go late in the second round.

Notes: In February, Mitchell was suspended for the remainder of the season by Crimson Tide coach Anthony Grant for conduct detrimental to the team. Mitchell decided to enter the NBA draft this year instead of returning to school and trying to finish his collegiate career on a positive note.

Recent articles:

New York Post: After problems at Alabama, Mitchell impresses at Nets camp

Capstone Report: Tony Mitchell’s suspension much needed

Video: Here’s a compilation of Mitchell’s five dunks against Georgetown early last season.

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Doris Burke on D&C: Expect Chris Bosh to play 06.05.12 at 10:36 am ET
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Appearing on the Dennis & Callahan show Tuesday morning, ESPN basketball analyst Doris Burke addressed the controversy stemming from her halftime interview with Rajon Rondo in which the Celtics point guard said Heat players were “complaining and crying to referees in transition” during Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday.

“To me, it was first of all, shocking that he would say that. It’s the kind of response you rarely get,” Burke said.

Following the game, Burke asked Rondo if he expected any reprecussions from what he said at halftime, to which he said he didn’t take back what he said. But after that interview was over, cameras revealed Burke and Rondo talking to each other, a conversation that appeared to be a misunderstanding between the two. Burke revealed the conversation on the air and what she thought was going on.

“If you recall how I ended the interview, I said – and this really wasn’t my place, I wasn’t in the analyst’s role, but it just popped into my head – I said, ‘Your play backed you up.’ It was sort of a gratuitious comment, frankly, in the position I was in, but it just popped into my head,” Burke recalled. “And I don’t think he heard me. I think he heard me say, ‘Back you up,’ and whether he thought I was referencing his teammates maybe in the next game because of the kind of response that comment might illicit, I don’t know.

“I think he turned around to ask me sort of, ‘What did you say?’ and there was a point at which I sort of just grabbed his arm and I said, ‘This is what I said,’ he said, ‘What?’ and I repeated it.”

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Erik Spoelstra ‘couldn’t care less’ about Rajon Rondo’s comments 06.05.12 at 9:17 am ET
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Heat coach Erik Spoelstra on Monday dismissed Rajon Rondo‘s comments as nothing more than “normal playoff chatter” in regards to the Celtics point guard’s controversial remarks about the Heat during halftime of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday.

Following the Celtics’ 61-point first-half outburst, ESPN’s Doris Burke asked Rondo what kinds of holes his team was exploiting against the Heat defense. Replied Rondo: “Them complaining and crying to referees in transition.”

On Monday, when asked if there was any truth to Rondo’s comments, Spoelstra wrote it off.

“I could really care less — couldn’t care less about what another player has to say about our team,” Spoelstra said. “The deeper you get into a competitive series, the more people [say], the more noise there tends to be.”

Spoelstra instead chose to talk about how his players have improved with how they handle themselves when they don’t get calls.

“I think we’ve managed that part of the game better than we have in the past,” Spoelstra said. “I think, particularly in this playoff run, we’ve been able to focus on things that we can control. And that’s not one of them. But if you have been around our team, I think you’ve seen a lot of progress, particularly from last year.”

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National view: Officiating is center of debate again in Celtics’ loss 05.31.12 at 4:18 pm ET
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One game after the officiating was a hot topic of debate for five questionable technical fouls called on the Celtics in their Game 1 loss to the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals, Wednesday’s Game 2 was filled with controversy caused by missed calls and free throw disparities.

The biggest missed call in question occurred in overtime. With under two minutes remaining and the game tied at 105-105, Rajon Rondo drove the lane and went up for a layup, but was knocked in the head by Dwyane Wade.

The referees didn’t blow their whistles and missed the call as Rondo sat on the floor holding his head. The Heat quickly took advantage, converted a dunk on the other end and never looked back as momentum completely swung to their side and they secured the win.

“I don’t know how you miss that one,” ESPN basketball analyst Tim Legler said. ”There has to be an official on the baseline. You have a guy driving to the rim, you know that you’re anticipating contact as an official. [When] you get raked across the eye on a layup, it has to be called. It’s that simple. They missed it.”

CBSSports.com NBA blogger Royce Young also chimed in on the play. While he agreed that it was a clear missed call, he was also defensive of the officials.

“Referees miss calls. It happens,” Young wrote. “Nobody wants to hear that and it certainly doesn’t give Boston two points, but in the flow of an NBA game, something that moves really, really fast, sometimes an official doesn’t get it right.

“It’s not like they don’t want to. It’s not like they were thinking, ‘Eh, it’s Wade. Let it go.’ They want to do their job perfectly. It just doesn’t happen.”

Even Brian Windhorst, the Heat beat writer for ESPN.com, was critical of the missed call. He took to Twitter moments after Wade converted on a 3-point play to give the Heat a five-point lead.

“Great play by Wade but I’m feeling a little sick about that missed foul on Rondo. And I’m a staunch defender of officials as followers know,” Windhorst tweeted.

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On 25th anniversary, looking back at Larry Bird’s famous steal vs. Pistons 05.25.12 at 10:37 am ET
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Saturday marks the 25th anniversary of not only one of the greatest plays in Boston sports history, but one of the most memorable moments in NBA history.

In Game 5 of the 1987 Eastern Conference finals at the Boston Garden against the Pistons, Celtics forward Larry Bird added on to his legend, turning an almost sure defeat in a pivotal game into a stunning victory in the matter of seconds.

With the C’s trailing by a point in the closing seconds, Bird drove the lane and had his shot blocked by Dennis Rodman. With the ball heading out of bounds, Celtics guard Jerry Sichting tried to save it, but it was knocked off his body and the Pistons received possession, setting up the theatrics. With five seconds left, Isiah Thomas hurriedly tried to inbound the ball and lobbed a pass to Bill Laimbeer, who was standing on the baseline near the Celtics basket.

What Thomas didn’t see was Bird, who timed the pass perfectly and flew in from his position at the top of the key to steal the ball, a remarkable play that gave the Celtics sudden life with the final seconds winding down.

“Isiah’s pass just hung up there,” Bird recalled in a 2009 ESPN story about the play. “It seemed to take forever to get to Laimbeer. [After stealing the pass], I was thinking about shooting, but the ball was going the other way and so was my momentum.”

Narrowly avoiding falling out of bounds, Bird found Dennis Johnson streaking down the lane and sent him the pass. Johnson grabbed it and without hesitation laid the ball off the backboard and in as the Celtics took an improbable 108-107 lead with one second left.

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