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Refs Coming Back? 10.21.09 at 10:11 am ET
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Several reports Tuesday indicated that the league and the referee’s union are closing in on a labor agreement that would return the regular refs to work and prevent the so so-called “replacement refs” (read: scabs) from working regular season games.

People are of two minds on this one. The casual NBA fan will shrug his or her shoulders and wonder why anyone would care about the refs since they’re all horrible anyway. The hardcore NBA fan, on the other hand, is smiling a little bit today because the thought of a 60-foul, 3+ hour game is no good for anyone.

Throughout the preseason it became rather obvious that the replacements weren’t up the speed of the NBA game, which led to a number of ticky tack calls after the original foul. Despite a directive from the league to not talk about the refs, complaints had begun to surface.

Charlotte coach Larry Brown was fined $60,000, while Memphis coach Lionel Hollins was fined $25K for saying the refs favored Magic center Dwight Howard. Not surprisingly, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy didn’t like the insinuation. Plus he had already been docked $35,000 for criticizing the refs in a separate incident. (Perhaps Hollins didn’t get the memo that the Magic don’t get any respect from the media, the league or the zebras).

The final straw may have been an exhibition game between the Knicks and Maccabi Tel Aviv, in which Maccabi coach Pini Gershon was ejected and refused to leave the court for an extended time. According to a report by Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Maccabi had paid $500,000 to play the game and was using the money from the game to benefit an Israeli orphanage.

International incidents aside, the return of the regular refs in time for the start of the regular season is good news for the league, the players and believe it or not, the fans as well.

Read More: Larry Briown, Lionel Hollins, refs, Stan Van Gundy
Celtics Bench Falls to Knicks 10.20.09 at 10:41 pm ET
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The Celtics and Knicks entered Tuesday’s game with the same goal: to win. But the two teams had different underlying objectives. For the Knicks, it was about getting a victory from their starting unit. For the Celtics, it was about developing the bench in what looks to be the Big Three’s final game of the preseason.

Despite losing, 108-103 (recap here), Doc Rivers told the media after the game there were plenty of things for him to be pleased with, including the development of the second unit. Below are numbers and notes from Tuesday’s game:

  • Managing Minutes: None of the Celtics starters played over 30 minutes. In fact they only combined for 130 minutes, compared to the Knicks starters with 157. Final counts for the starting five: Rajon Rondo (27), Ray Allen (30), Kevin Garnett (24), Paul Pierce (26), Kendrick Perkins (23).
  • More than the Second Unit: Rivers added Brian Scalabrine and J.R. Giddens to the mix with Eddie House, Marquis Daniels, and Rasheed Wallace in the fourth quarter. Scalabrine and Giddens came into the game down 98-90 and were part of an 11-1 Celtics run.
  • Getting Chippy: Preseason action got heated in the second quarter as the Celtics and Knicks exchanged flagrant fouls in a matter of a minute. First House was whistled for a flagrant against Jared Jeffries, which sent Jeffries to the ground. (House did help him to his feet.) Nate Robinson followed up with a push that sent Rondo into the scorers table. Garnett was also called for a technical foul in the third quarter.
  • Three’s Not Company: Last season the Celtics were hampered by the Magic’s long-range shooting during the Eastern Conference Semifinals. On Tuesday they faced the same challenge as the Knicks shot 13-for-36 (36.1%),  compared to the Celtics 6-for-24 (25.0%). The Knicks’ missed their fair amount of three-pointers, but at the end of the game they still put 39 points on the board from behind the arc.

The Celtics will take on the Cavaliers on the road on Wednesday night. Don’t expect to see Pierce, Allen, or Garnett on the court for the final game of the preseason. Catch their regular season debuts in Cleveland next Tuesday.

Read More: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen,
Hawks say Pierce lost bet on ’08 playoffs 10.20.09 at 9:32 pm ET
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Al Horford of the Atlanta Hawks had some interesting things to say about Celtics captain Paul Pierce Tuesday in a radio interview on Atlanta’s 790 The Zone. Recalling the teams’ intense, seven-game, first-round playoff series in 2008, Horford said Pierce was so confident that, during some trash-talking on the court, Pierce bet Horford $10,000 that the Celtics would sweep.

“I haven’t talked to him [since the series], but I know he owes me money,” Horford said. “Marvin [Williams] was a witness. We were at the free throw line and he was telling me that they were going to sweep us and all this and, you know, we bet and I never got anything.”

Williams also took part in Tuesday’s interview and backed up his teammate’s accusation.

“He bet ten thousand we wouldn’t win a game,” Williams stated.

Later in the interview, Horford and Williams claimed that they were not holding a grudge.

“I’m not mad at him at all,” Horford said. “You know, I mean, he’s a competitor like you said and, you know, he wants to win. He’s a good player, so, I mean, it’s fine for him to talk. He’s a vet.”

Said Williams: “You know, growing up, you know, Paul Pierce was one of the guys I looked up to. At the end of the day, he’s a competitor, man, he wants to win just like we want to win and it’s never personal.”

For more on the story at Hooponion.com, including the audio of the interview, click here.

Fun With Numbers 10.20.09 at 9:43 am ET
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There are a couple of very different sets of numbers that caught my eye this morning.

First, is the postseason data from 82games.com, which shows that Rajon Rondo was the Celtics best player in the playoffs last season, and by a fairly wide margin. There are a couple of other observations we can make from the data. Among them:

1. The Celtics really missed Kevin Garnett. Compare the 2008-09 playoff numbers with the 2007-08 numbers and not only will Garnett’s Roland Rating (a simple explanation is here) jump right off the page, but so will the effect he had on his teammates …

2. Particularly Paul Pierce. The Captain shot much worse in 2008-09 then in 2007-08 and had a significantly lower percentage of assists leading to his shots, which speaks to ball movement, which is one of Garnett’s most underrated offensive contributions. There were a number of theories for Pierce’s sub-par postseason, but a simple reason may have been that he just had to do too much and work too hard to get his shot off without KG.

3. The bench was really bad, especially Stephon Marbury. There was also no depth. Of the players who did play, Eddie House was the biggest contributor among the reserves (no surprise), but that was about it.

Moving on, the fine fellows at basketball-reference.com have put up a huge amount of preseason data (hat tip to Henry Abbott at True Hoop), and from that we can see that the Celtics most efficient offensive player has been Mike Sweetney (!)

We can also see that Garnett and Rasheed Wallace have been killing it defensively. Of possibly greater importance, the Celtics have also played the best team defense in the NBA, which is nice. You can waste hours of your life playing with this stuff, but as Abbott and everyone else pointed out, there’s only a week left until the games start to really count, which is the best number of all.

Read More: Geekery, Kevin Garnett, Numbers, Paul Pierce
Celtics to Host Annual Shamrock Gala 10.19.09 at 3:28 pm ET
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On Friday, October 23 the Celtics will host their annual Shamrock Gala to benefit the Shamrock Foundation. The event, which will be held at the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel from 6:00pm-9:30pm, will include a discussion with the team hosted by WEEI’€™s Glenn Ordway. Those scheduled to attend include:

This year’€™s auction items will include a trip for two (including airfare, dinner, and accommodations) to be on the set of ‘€œEntourage’€ in Los Angeles, courtesy of the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation. All proceeds will benefit the Celtics Shamrock Foundation, which currently partners with Perkins School for the Blind, Boston Children’€™s, Horizons for Homeless Children, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (MSPCC), and Berklee College of Music.

Tables for the Gala can be purchased by contacting Rebekah Splaine at 617-854-8090.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen
Celts Make it Five Straight 10.18.09 at 6:09 pm ET
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Marquis Daniels can do a lot of things on the basketball court. That’s a big reason why the former undrafed free agent has had a long and productive career as a role player.

Coming into the Celtics preseason game with the Raptors Sunday in Toronto, Doc Rivers figured to see just how many things Daniels could do on the court. He has already proven himself as a capable ball handler and backup swing man, but Rivers wanted to see him running the point and playing small forward for extended stretches of game action in the Celtics 101-82 victory over Toronto. (Click here for a recap).

Daniels was in the 3-spot for about six minutes of the second quarter when he ran with Rajon Rondo and Eddie House in the backcourt and Glen Davis and Rasheed Wallace up front. The lineup had some rough spots offensively, but they were active and pesky on defense and Rivers may have found yet another combination to play with once the regular season starts.

There was talk of other more exotic lineup combinations, but few materialized Sunday. Instead Ray Allen and Rondo played 30+ minutes and Kevin Garnett checked in with a 21-point, 28-minute afternoon. The starters were in rhythm offensively in the first half, shooting 78 percent in the first quarter as Garnett and Allen combined to go 10-for-12 for 23 points.

The second half was more ragged, but all in all, it was another productive preseason outing for the Celts who have won five straight.

A few other observations:

Allen finds his stroke: As the Celtics check items off their preseason to-do list, they can add another notch after Allen finally had a hot shooting night. Coming into the game, Allen was shooting just 36 percent in his four outings. But after going 6-for-6 in the first half and finishing with an efficient 20-points, the veteran shooter is back on track.

Not that anyone should have been worrying about Allen. He is coming off one of the best shooting seasons of his career and he came into camp in terrific shape. But Allen is in the final year of his contract and his season will be watched carefully for any signs of slippage. As a general rule, when shooting guards in their 30’s lose it, they tend to lose it quickly.

Allen has been able to defy the ravages of time and has the game to continue being a successful shooter for a few more years. Whether that will translate into another big contract remains to be seen.

Inside the matchups: The Celtics don’t figure to get a lot of competition from the Atlantic Division this year. The Knicks and Nets are in various stages of their rebuilding programs and while the Sixers and Raptors should find themselves in playoff contention, neither is likely to make a serious move in the east.

Still, the games against Toronto are some of the more intriguing ones for the Celtics because there are three great individual matchups — Rondo vs. Jose Calderon, Paul Pierce vs. Hedo Turkoglu and Kendrick Perkins vs. Chris Bosh.

Rondo and Calderon are two of the top point guards in the conference, while Pierce and Turkoglu love to mix it up with each other. The two are among the craftiest practitioners of their art in the league and Pierce has tremendous respect for Turkoglu.

Perkins, meanwhile, is on the cusp of earning serious defensive cred around the league, especially after he battled Dwight Howard with one arm in last season’s playoffs. Bosh is one of his toughest covers because the Raptors big man can go inside and out and because he has several inches on Perkins.

Give Bosh the edge Sunday. He had Perkins in foul trouble for most of the afternoon and finished with 15 points and eight rebounds, but expect to see some great battles during the regular season.

NOTES: As expected, Tony Allen (ankle) and Bill Walker (knee surgery) didn’t play. Former Celtic Patrick O’Bryant had two points, four rebounds and five fouls in 12 uninspired minutes. The teams combined for 43 turnovers and 54 fouls.

The Celtics have two more preseason games — at New York Tuesday and at Cleveland Wednesday. Don’t expect to see much against the Cavs.

Read More: Celtics, Kendrick Perkins, Marquis Daniels, Raptors
‘Rare’ lineup for Celtics on Sunday 10.17.09 at 4:25 pm ET
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WALTHAM – Celtics coach Doc Rivers said following Saturday’s practice that he intends to use a ‘rare’ lineup on Sunday in Toronto against the Raptors in the team’s sixth preseason game.

Rivers will start Paul Pierce, along with Ray Allen and Marquis Daniels, with Daniels the most-likely choice to start at the point. Daniels, who has played big guard as well as small forward, has been getting time in practice as the point behind Rajon Rondo.

“We’re just going to do that [Sunday] to see what the other team does defensively,” Rivers said Saturday.

Daniels, along with Eddie House and rookie Lester Hudson figure to get a long look as Rivers considers back-up options behind Rondo off the bench.

Read More: Celtics, Marquis Daniels, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo
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