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Celtics will be tested 01.04.09 at 11:47 am ET
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On Sunday the inconsistent Boston Celtics bench will be tested by a newly improved New York Knicks second unit. The trade for Al Harrington gives the Knicks the luxury of having a starter come off the bench. Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said the Knicks reserves were already deep with guard Nate Robinson and the addition of Harrington gives the second unit even more weapons.

“[Harrington] can go from the post to the three-point line and the four spot, and it makes it a very difficult cover,” Rivers said after Saturday’s practice. “They also put him at the three at times which makes them a more physical team. So I guess he’s giving them versatility. When you look at with (Zach) Randolph, he was a post guy. There was no doubt about that. He was going to go to the post, so I think that’s where they changed.”

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Destination Championship: Why Boston has become a hotspot for NBA vets 01.03.09 at 9:53 pm ET
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Come to Boston and win, that’s how the Celtics organization is seen by many around the NBA. It has become a paradise of victory, a hotspot for veterans who want a legitimate shot at a championship. But it is also a place where selfishness and egos are checked at the door. Personal accolades mean nothing unless the team wins.

So what makes the Celtics, who downplay individual achievements, so much more appealing to vets than other teams who celebrate superstardom? Why settle for blending in when you could stand out next to Kobe Bryant or LeBron James? For those who have made the sacrifices, the explanation is very simple.

“Coming here you get to fit in and be a cog in the wheel,” Ray Allen said. “It’s not about any one individual here on this team. We play together and we beat teams together. We lose together. Everything is together.”

Over the past few weeks the Celtics have been named as possible destinations for veterans Stephon Marbury, Robert Horry, and Dikembe Mutombo, among others. Even though they could have a legitimate shot of winning all with the Los Angeles Lakers or Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston has been a primary destination in the rumor mill.

“I think what’s appealing is that we play together. We have three stars and they actually play together and I think that shows more,” said head coach Doc Rivers. “But honestly I think they would play with Kobe as well and I think they would play with LeBron as well. We may be more aggressive in the market, let’s say, than some of those teams. And maybe we’re not. I think they would play for any of them. At least I would if I were the player.”

Eight-year vet Eddie House, who has signed two contracts in two years with the Celtics, can understand why these players would be interested in Boston. The journeyman had already played with plenty of big names before — Elton Brand, Steve Nash, and Jason Kidd, to name a few – and was lured back by selflessness rather than headliners.

“When you’re playing with one guy then the ball’s dominated by one guy,” House explained. “Here, you’ve got a group of guys who like to share the basketball, who can take the load if they’re asked to take the load. They aren’t depended on the take the load, but if they are asked to take the load that night they will do it.

“But for the most part, it’s very unselfish and it’s not a ‘me’ attitude. With those guys (Bryant and James) it’s more so they have to dominate the ball and you have to play off of them. To where these guys will get you the ball and play with you, instead of you playing off of them.”

The Celtics are set apart from the rest of the league by more than just their trophy. The success of Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce sent the message that being the superstar doesn’t guarantee being the best. It was only when these vets took a step back that they won it all.

“The point of us coming together last year, we were at a point in our lives, in our careers where we were somewhat content with what we had done individually,” Allen said. “We could continue at that pace and finish our careers out that way being a great scorer on a team that never won. But if we didn’t [let go] of our egos and come together, we would have been doing that for the rest of our careers. That’s why, at that time, it seemed like it was a great moment for all of our careers. And I think there’s that progression for most athletes.”

Should the Celtics make any mid-season moves, they already know how to adapt to new additions. Last season veterans P.J. Brown emerged from semi-retirement and Sam Cassell accepted a buyout from the Los Angeles Clippers for the prospect of a ring. These acquisitions could have rattled the Celtics, but those already on the team didn’t see less playing time. They saw a better shot at the title.

“The late in the season addition when you’re already the number one team, you could have some grumbles about that and guys might not welcome guys in,” House said. “But everybody knew this is a business and not only is this a business, but we were on a mission to a hang a banner in the rafters. So we had to accept what was going on for the greater good.”

39-year-old Cassell re-signed with the Cs fully aware that he could be inactive the entire season. At this stage in his career, he doesn’t need 20 minutes per game to be happy.

“It’s about winning,” he said. “For me, I don’t know what [other veterans'] agendas are, but for me it was about winning. I just got a nice taste of winning so I just wanted to win. This was the best opportunity for me to win again.”

As long as the Celtics continue to win with their unselfish play, Boston will stay on the map for veterans who want to capture a championship without having to do it all on their own.

“We welcome the help,” Allen said. “Our egos, we’re pretty selfless here on this team when it comes to playing basketball. We just want to win.”

The door is open for eager vets, just as long as they leave their egos behind.

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Allen Feels for Marbury 01.03.09 at 12:13 pm ET
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Ray Allen has always felt a connection to Stephon Marbury. The two have been linked together since they were teenagers and Allen has kept tabs on Marbury’s career, from the highs of All-Star seasons to the lows of the on-going standoff with the New York Knicks. Even though Marbury is direct competition in the backcourt, Allen can’t help but feel for the embattled guard.

“It’s somewhat disappointing watching what happened with Stephon,” Allen said after Saturday’s practice. “He and I grew up playing together, against each other [in] high school basketball and then being drafted together, we got traded for each other. So I’ve always followed his career. He was in my draft class.

“So this year was somewhat disappointing regardless of whatever was going on in the organization, I thought he still could help that team. So it’s not like he’s a guy who can’t play basketball anymore. With his skill set, his talent, he still can come out and play basketball and carry a team.”

Will Marbury carry the Celtics this season? Allen has not spoken with Marbury about any talks about a move to Boston and wouldn’t offer any insight on the rumors.

“Danny’s the guy who has to make decisions and we feel as though he’s very, very qualified to make those decisions,” Allen said of Celtics President Danny Ainge. “So for us right now, we’ve got to focus on what’s going on here on the floor. If that does happen then will move on with that, with Stephon.”

Even though Allen won’t speculate on Marbury, that doesn’t mean he would oppose an additional asset this season.

“We welcome the help,” he said. “Our egos, we’re pretty selfless here on this team when it comes to playing basketball. We just want to win.”

While Marbury’s future is in question, Allen has little doubt about his game. Even though he hasn’t seen him play since preseason action, he has a feeling Marbury’s not letting up.

“He’s always been a strong guy so I know he hasn’t, basketball-wise, he hasn’t fallen off,” Allen said. “And not to mention with the speculation out there, in his mind I bet you he believes that if he has a chance to come here that he’s probably doing what he needs to do to take care of himself.”

The Celtics will take on the Knicks on Sunday at Madison Square Garden.

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Sounds of the game… Celtics 108, Wizards 83 01.03.09 at 12:57 am ET
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The Celtics had just come off a rare stretch in which they not only lost three of four on the West Coast but didn’t play very well in the process. Well, nothing like the six-win Washington Wizards on your home court to serve as the perfect tonic. Friday night, Paul Pierce came out and made his first nine shots from the floor and the Celtics went from one-on-one basketball that cost them dearly in Portland to passing the ball around and sharing the wealth. Rajon Rondo had 14 of Boston’s 31 assists on the night and the big men help the Celtics outrebound the Wizards, 47-35, with Kendrick Perkins hauling in 10.

Doc Rivers said his team desperately needed this win.

Rivers said he was concerned that his team might be tired coming off the road trip.

Rivers said his team isn’t about to coast in the second half with so much at stake.

Paul Pierce said he just took what was given to him.

Pierce said he was able to take advantage of open chances.

Eddie House said the key to success Friday night revolved around sharing the ball.

Wizards coach and Tufts grad Ed Tapscott said his team had no answer to Pierce and the Celtics.

Caron Butler said Pierce and the Celtics took it to the Wizards.

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Cassell: I’m cool with it 01.02.09 at 9:24 pm ET
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The buzz surrounding the Boston Celtics interest in Stephon Marbury lends itself to a pressing question — what does this mean for Sam Cassell? The 39-year-old point guard has yet to play a minute this season and is biding his time coaching the reserves from the bench. It’s no secret that Cassell has bigger plans after basketball, so what does he think about a possible acquisition that could bump him from the roster?

“I’m here to do what this team asks me to do,” Cassell said. “I’ve had a great career and I’m cool with it. Whatever the team needs from me. I want to coach. I’m almost 40-years-old … so it’s going to happen sooner or later. Either this year or next year.”

But just because Cassell is up for whatever helps the Celtics, that doesn’t mean he’s ready to hang up his sneakers today. Cassell said there is no agreement between he and the Cs that he’ll step down during the season.

“No not at all. There’s nothing unwritten in this league,” he said. “I’m a part of this team til the end.”

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Celtics-Wizards Passing Analysis 01.02.09 at 9:12 pm ET
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The number for tonight, boys and girls, is twenty. As in assists. In their loss to Golden State, the Celtics had 18 assists, and only two from the bench. Against Portland, the number was 13, and only one came from a reserve. On Friday night against Washington (go here for the recap), the Celtics had 31 assists, with seven coming from the second unit.

“The big thing,” Brian Scalabrine said, “is that we passed the ball so well.”

The Celtics have so many weapons offensively, but it’s both a blessing and a curse that they don’t take advantage of those weapons if they don’t share the ball. The Celtics are so well-conditioned to not exert their individual personalities on the offensive end that there are times when the offense breaks down and gets muddled when the passes aren’t moving and the cuts aren’t being made.

This goes against the prevailing Alpha Male wisdom that has permeated the NBA since the rise of Michael Jordan. That is, the great player is the great player because he is unstoppable one-on-one. That was fine for MJ, who was the greatest of them all, and it worked out well for Hakeem Olajuwon, as well, but for 40 some-odd years before Jordan great teams worked because they played as a team.

Certainly other teams of recent vintage have played like that (Detroit in 2004 being the best example), but what makes the Celtics so unique is that they have three certain Hall of Famers who willingly share the ball and the responsibility, sometimes to a fault.

“We play against ourselves,” Scalabrine said, and what he meant is on the rare occasions when the Celtics actually lose, it’s generally because they don’t play well together as a team.

The starting five has figured that part out. Paul Pierce was at his best against Washington, taking advantage of a hideous mismatch against young Dominic McGuire who has neither the size nor the experience to play Pierce.

Pierce dropped in 26 of the most effortless points you will ever see him score, and he so mystified McGuire that Washington coach Ed Tapscott was forced to put Caron Butler on Pierce, and Butler is coming back from an ankle injury.

“Paul was terrific,” Tapscott said. “They are a very good team. They share the ball. They don’t seem who to care who scores.”

They don’t just seem to not care who scores, they really don’t care. “I was just playing in the flow of the game,” Pierce said. “We moved the ball and spaced the floor and I was just taking advantage of my opportunities.”

But here was the difference Friday. The second unit came in and did the same thing. The reserves racked up seven assists, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s a whole lot better than what they managed on the road. “That’s more like how we’ve been playing,” Doc Rivers said. “Both units.”

The reward, as Kevin Garnett termed it, for the bench’s play was a short night for the starters. Ray Allen played 30 minutes and everyone else was in the 20′s. That’s exactly the blueprint for the Celtics as they enter the dog days of their schedule. They have road games at New York (Sunday) and Charlotte (Tuesday), a home game against Houston Wednesday, and then two more on the road, Cleveland Friday and Toronto Sunday.

“Great night,” Rivers said referring to the short minutes. The fine line that Rivers has to walk for the next few months is keeping the minutes down for Garnett, Pierce and Allen, while developing the second unit that clearly has some flaws, and finding a way to win games.

“We need some practice,” Rivers said almost wistfully. “We need to work these things out, but we don’t want to lose while we’re working them out. We want to win.”

Post-script: Normally it’s Garnett who gets off the great one-liner, but Pierce took home the honors when he was asked about tying Danny Ainge’s team record for most 3-pointers in a game without a miss. Pierce made his first five, but missed the sixth, his only misfire of the night.

“Hmmm, I’ve got to think about it,” Pierce said. “Records and Danny Ainge? I guess so because he doesn’t hold that many records. It would have been nice to erase his name. Just messing with you Danny.”

Just to illustrate the point, all five of Pierce’s 3-pointers came on assists.

****

For a complete breakdown of Friday’s game against the Wizards, visit the Celtics Game Day Blog.

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A Win is a Win for Celtics 01.02.09 at 8:58 pm ET
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The Boston Celtics rebounded from their 1-3 road trip with a 25-point demolition of the Washington Wizards on Friday night. (RECAP HERE) They were the obvious favorites and, despite their recent struggles, the win came as no surprise. But what do the Cs gain from beating a 6-25 team? Would it have been more significant to bounce back against a legitimate playoff contender? The Celtics explained that a win is still a win, no matter who is on the losing end.

The Celtics were just out for a win

The Celtics were just out for a win

Leon Powe: “In our case, it’s good to get a win. I don’t care if we beat the Pee-Wees and my little brother’s Little League team. It feels good to get a win today and that’s what we all realized. We just had to get a win and get our confidence back up and prepare one game at a time. We beat this team and then we can look toward the next one. I know we’ve got Cleveland coming up pretty soon but every game for us is big because it’s a tight race right now for homecourt advantage.”

Kendrick Perkins: “Just to get a win and get back on track, it doesn’t really matter against who. If we would’ve got the win against Portland it would have been great but to get the win tonight is still great. We’ve got two games coming up on the road that we need to take care of, the Rockets back here, and then to Cleveland. I think this will be a nice stretch for us to see what we’re made of and bounce back from that three out of four losses.”

Tony Allen: “It didn’t matter who we played today. We wanted to come back out and just start fresh. It’s all about responding and I think today we did that … We played with a sense of urgency today. We knew we had to come out and make a statement and respond to those losses. They didn’t look so good.”

Brian Scalabrine: “Doc said at the beginning of the year he wanted to make a schedule up and every single game that we had was going to be a signal of the Boston Celtics, meaning that we play against ourselves. Every night we play it’s us that we lose to or it’s us that we beat. So it’s really all about us.”

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