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Irish Coffee: It’s a shame about Clifford Ray 01.04.11 at 12:03 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

Either Peter Vecsey doesn’t like the Celtics, or the Celtics didn’t like former assistant coach Clifford Ray, because Vecsey detailed a pretty bizarre set of circumstances he claims led to Ray’s departure.

Here’s the nuts and bolts of the New York Post story:

Two weeks before the season began, Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, who kept assistant Clifford Ray on hold the whole summer, informed him his services would no longer be needed.

An agreement eventually was signed by Ray, who was pressured by team president Danny Ainge to sign by a certain date (without getting lawyers involved) or forget it. Ray, the 1974-75 champion Warriors’ starting center, received $100,000 to go away quietly, enough to keep him and his family (including a 13-year-old son) going for a year or so.

Additionally, the Celtics approved medical attention for Ray, specifically for an MRSA infection he contracted in his foot several years ago while working (hence, the boot he wore so long) in Boston’s contaminated practice facility; Paul Pierce and Delonte West also got sick.

Had Ray not been in Minnesota last summer and gone, at the urging of his girlfriend, to the Mayo Clinic, doctors told him he was within days of having his foot amputated.

Rivers told Boston reporters he had no room in back of the bench for Ray because newly hired first assistant Lawrence Frank‘s deal allowed him to enlist a friend.

True enough. But the real reason Ray wasn’t invited back is because Rivers didn’t think he was healthy enough to get out on the floor and coach. Like the infection was Ray’s fault. Like Rivers didn’t know Ray was ailing for years. Like he couldn’t have reached that conclusion last June so that Ray would’ve had ample time to find work elsewhere.

Pierce and West both missed games in 2006 with infections in their finger and toe, respectively. Pierce also missed two weeks last season with an infection in his knee. Whether or not any of those incidents are related to what Vescey described as a “contaminated practice facility” is unclear.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Clifford Ray, Doc Rivers, Kendrick Perkins
Delonte West gets some really good news about his right wrist 01.03.11 at 11:16 pm ET
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When Delonte West fell after a made lay-up against New Jersey on Nov. 24 at TD Garden, he and the Celtics feared the worst about his right wrist. It was a nasty fracture that appeared to – at the least – end his regular season.

But that perspective changed on Monday.

Calling it a big step, West had the hard cast protecting his healing right wrist removed on Monday, the first step of what he hopes could be a return on or shortly after the All-Star break. It was replaced with a brace to allow him some ability to start moving it for light rehab.

“It’s feels stiff but it’s not painful,” West said. “I got great news from doctors. They said maybe three weeks [then] rehabilitation. I’ve already started out conditioning, ball-handling. I’m left-handed anyway. Fortunately, I’m left handed anyway so I able to get shots on my left hand. It’s just a matter of time before I gain game strength in this one.

“Today is Day 1. I got a lot accomplished,” he said of Monday’s milestone in recovery.

As for watching the likes of Nate Robinson, Von Wafer, Marquis Daniels and even rookie Avery Bradley being forced to pick up the slack as Rajon Rondo‘s back-up, West admitted it’s been rough.

“I can’t wait to get back out there,” West said. “It’s killing me sitting back here and rooting from the sidelines but we all have a position to play and right now mine is getting healthy and getting ready to contribute.”

The initial timetable called for West to return in time for the playoffs but West said he’s hopeful for a return after the All-Star break.

“Honestly, I have no idea,” West admitted before sounding a hopeful but realistic tone. “I’m praying and I’m trying my best to get back before then. But the trainers and the coaching staff, they’re really trying not to rush me but I think I’m really rushing myself right now.”

As for his biggest test, that will come after his rehabilitation, which is still three weeks away.

“I guess it would be lifting but first I have to regain movement but picking up weights and catching a basketball,” West said. “I think right now the biggest fear is falling and having to extend [the wrist]. Today is Day 1, the cast is off. It’s a good day and it’s all uphill from here.”

Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Delonte West, Marquis Daniels
Irish Coffee: Who means most to Celtics’ success? at 11:42 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

Add Paul Pierce‘s sprained ankle to the ever-growing list of injuries that have plagued the Celtics through their first 32 games this season.

Following Sunday’s 93-79 victory in Toronto against the Raptors, Doc Rivers told reporters, “We have a game [Monday] night, so he’ll be OK.” But it was another “not again” moment that reminded Celtics fans of the team’s fragility.

It also reminded me of this article from the Los Angeles Times, which made the following statement:

Rajon Rondo, their lone indispensable player, has an ankle injury and has been out three times but keeps returning before he’s 100 percent.

Is Rondo really their only indispensable player? Could they legitimately reach their goal of an 18th NBA title without Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett or – for that matter – any of the starters who are undefeated as a unit in the playoffs?

That’s when I decided to look at the Celtics’ record with and without each player in the lineup during The New Big Three era. Here’s how it shakes out with and without each guy (winning percentages in parentheses):

  • Paul Pierce … With: 195-69 (.739); Without: 8-6 (.571)
    Winning percentage discrepancy: .168
  • Rajon Rondo … With: 191-68 (.738); Without: 12-7 (.632)
    Winning percentage discrepancy: .106
  • Kevin Garnett … With: 169-58 (.745); Without: 34-17 (.667)
    Winning percentage discrepancy: .078
  • Ray Allen … With: 192-72 (.727); Without: 11-3 (.786)
    Winning percentage discrepancy: –.059
  • Kendrick Perkins … With: 167-65 (.720); Without: 36-10 (.783)
    Winning percentage discrepancy: –.063

Based on these numbers, Pierce has been the most valuable player on the team over the last three-plus regular seasons. Not Rondo. It’s also interesting to note the Celtics’ success without Allen or Perkins in the lineup.

One thing is certainly clear: Pierce, Rondo and Garnett are all indispensable. Well, at least that L.A. Times piece gave us one interesting note:

From the last four openers to Christmas Eve, Boston has gone an astounding 94-14 … a 71-win pace. Not even the Bill Russell teams that won 11 titles in 13 seasons ever did as well in that time frame.

The Celtics’ best four-year opener-to-Christmas Eve run in the Russell era was 94-26 from 1959-1962. Even posting win totals of 72-69-62 in Michael Jordan‘s last three seasons, the Bulls were 64-14 before Christmas.

Unfortunately for the Celtics, after the last three Christmases, they went 84-54 when injuries hit … as they have once more.

Just for fun, let’s look at the same numbers for each of the top-10 rotation players for this year’s team. How have the 2010-11 Celtics performed in their absences, taking into account the relatively small sample size?

  • Kevin Garnett … With: 24-6 (.800); Without: 1-1 (.500)
    Winning percentage discrepancy: .300
  • Rajon Rondo … With: 18-3 (.857); Without: 7-4 (.636)
    Winning percentage discrepancy: .221
  • Shaquille O’Neal … With: 17-6 (.739); Without: 8-1 (.889)
    Winning percentage discrepancy: –.150
  • Delonte West … With: 3-2 (.600); Without: 22-5 (.815)
    Winning percentage discrepancy: –.215
  • Jermaine O’Neal … With: 7-5 (.583); Without: 18-2 (.900)
    Winning percentage discrepancy: –.317

The order of these players’ importance to the Celtics is certainly not surprising, but one thing is: How little an impact Jermaine O’Neal has had on this team. The Celtics have been a significantly better team when he doesn’t see the floor.

PAUL PIERCE THE COMEDIAN

On his Twitter page, Pierce made no mention of how his ankle was feeling on Monday morning, but he did offer this: “Excuse me I need to get thru please” — accompanied by the following video …

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Read More: Boston Celtics, NBA, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo
Paul Pierce pulls no punches: ‘I really didn’t come to play’ 12.31.10 at 7:55 pm ET
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Paul Pierce did what a captain usually does after an emotional loss, one without two stars in the lineup.

After scoring just 12 points and grabbing seven rebounds in 36 minutes of an 83-81 loss to the Hornets Friday, Pierce was not about to make excuses for a team that was missing Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett. As a matter of fact, he put most of the blame squarely on his own shoulders.

“Maybe Paul Pierce has to do a better job in stepping up his game,” Pierce said in third person. “I really didn’t come to play to today, evident when you look up, six turnovers, but we only lose by two. The responsibility is on the guys out on the floor.

“Regardless of the injuries, I’ve [said before] injuries are going to happen. Regardless of the injuries, we’ve still got to show up to play. There’s no moral victories…and the guys that we put out there have got to be ready. We’re on the home court with guys who know how to play the game…a game that we feel like we should win.”

The Celtics used an 18-0 run in the fourth quarter to open an 73-66 lead with under seven minutes remaining, only to see the Hornets outscore them, 17-8, down the stretch.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, NBA, Paul Pierce
NBA Power Rankings, 12/30 12.30.10 at 1:00 pm ET
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San Antonio Spurs1. San Antonio (27-4): At some point, you’ve just got to hand it to the Spurs. Like the Celtics, they did lose to the Magic in Orlando this week, but they just keep winning games — against good opponents, like the Lakers. Like their leader, Tim Duncan, they’ve quietly dominated this NBA season.

Dallas Mavericks2. Dallas (24-6): How in the hell did the same Mavericks team that has beaten the Thunder, Spurs, Jazz, Heat and Magic on the road lose to the Raptors by eight at home? Just for that, they can’t be any higher than No. 2 — even if Dirk Nowitzki is contending for his second MVP honor. Although, Thursday night’s showdown with the Spurs could change all that.

Boston Celtics3. Boston (24-6): The Celtics have lost twice since Thanksgiving — on the road, on Christmas and on a back-to-back – so you can’t beat them up too bad. Despite their recent 14-game winning streak, they’re just not the same efficient team without Rajon Rondo mixing the drink offensively and Kevin Garnett stirring it defensively. Their returns could boost them back to No. 1.

Miami Heat4. Miami (25-9): The Heat are on fire. They’ve won 16-of-17 (no thanks to Mike Miller), including six games against .500-plus teams and their Christmas Day win over the Lakers. Yet, they’ve lost 3-of-4 to the only teams they really need to worry about this season: The Celtics and Magic.

Oklahoma City Thunder5. Oklahoma City (22-11): Over the last month, Kevin Durant has reinserted himself into the MVP conversation (along with teammate Russell Westbrook). In December, Durant has averaged 29.2 points, 6.2 boards, 3.5 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.1 steals while shooting 51.4 percent. Not bad. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, NBA, power rankings
The Three-Pointer: The knee, or not the knee is the Kevin Garnett question at 12:31 am ET
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The Celtics' training staff attends to Kevin Garnett after he dropped to the floor. (AP)

Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

It’s fitting that the adage — Murphy’s law — came from an Irishman, as it probably crossed the mind of every Celtics fan who watched as Kevin Garnett crumpled to the floor in agony late in the first quarter of his team’s 104-92 loss to the Pistons in Detroit on Wednesday night.

It certainly entered Doc Rivers’ thoughts.

“I thought it was his knee the way he did it — the knee or the Achilles,” Rivers told reporters in Detroit. “You’ve heard me say it before: Injuries when nobody’s around, to me, are always the severe ones. There was no one around when he grabbed it, so I thought it was a bad one. Let’s just hope it’s not. I don’t think it is, but we’ll find out later.”

It looked like the knee as Garnett limped up the floor to commit a foul on Tayshaun Prince and stop the clock. It definitely looked like the knee as trainer Ed Lacerte rubbed Garnett’s leg on the bench. And it had to be the knee when replays looked eerily similar to Garnett’s season-ending injury in 2009.

But Garnett hobbled to the training room on his own accord, the first sign that it wasn’t, in fact, the knee. Later, he walked gingerly (but better) to undergo X-rays that eventually revealed no fractures.

During the game, the Celtics were quick to calm the nerves of their fans, their coach and even their players, as the team stressed that Garnett suffered “a lower left leg injury” — not a knee or ankle issue.

After the game, the C’s claimed that tests revealed no structural damage to the knee, and Garnett most likely injured his calf muscle. That noise you’re hearing is the collective sigh of relief from those same Boston fans, coaches and players.

“I don’t think it’s bad, so I’m not that concerned,” added Rivers. “He’s going to miss games, probably. I don’t know how many. I don’t think it will be that long, but, listen, it happens.”

Watching Garnett hop on one leg, it wasn’t a few games most Celtics observers were concerned about. It was another promising season that had appeared to go up in flames before what can now only be termed as “good news” came from the Celtics’ organization.

Which raises another Irish law, Coughlin’s, from the 1988 classic film “Cocktail”: “Anything else is always something better.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Charlie Villanueva, Detroit Pistons, Kevin Garnett
Fast Break: Pistons pound Celtics 12.29.10 at 10:09 pm ET
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Kevin Garnett left the game with a lower right leg injury late in the first quarter, but even before that the Celtics were in trouble during a 104-92 loss to the Pistons on the road on the second night of a back-to-back. Paul Pierce scored a game-high 33 points on 11-of-16 shooting, but only one other Celtic (Ray Allen) reached double figures. The Celtics drop to 24-6, despite Pierce’s effort to fuel a failed fourth-quarter comeback.

Meanwhile, despite the absence of their leading scorer (Rodney Stuckey), six Pistons scored in double digits: Tracy McGrady (21), Tayshaun Prince (18), Charlie Villanueva (14), Austin Daye (12), Ben Gordon (12) and Chris Wilcox (10).

WHAT WENT WRONG

Kevin Garnett goes down: Late in the first quarter, Garnett went up for a wide-open dunk, held on to the rim for an extra second as he grimaced in pain and limped up the floor on his left leg. Moments later, Celtics trainer Ed Lacerte worked on the same right leg that kept Garnett from finishing the 2008-09 season and hobbled him last year. Then, the official word: Garnett was out for the remainder of the game with a “lower right leg injury.”

Later, the Celtics stressed it was not a knee or ankle issue, but indeed a lower right leg injury. Garnett underwent X-rays, which showed no fractures, and he’ll have an MRI on Thursday. He walked to the locker and training rooms on his own accord.

Is it New Year’s Day? As Tommy Heinsohn said on the television broadcast, “They’re playing like they’re hungover.” The Celtics looked sluggish, even before the injury to Garnett. In the first quarter alone, they committed eight turnovers and allowed the Pistons to shoot 11-of-20 (55 percent).

In all, the C’s committed 21 turnovers, leading to 23 Pistons points. Detroit also shot 39-of-69 from the field (56 percent) and 10-of-14 from 3-point range (71 percent) for the game.  The Celtics even made McGrady appear like the McGrady of old, as he totaled 21 points, eight assists and four rebounds.

Sharing the wealth: In their first matchup of the season, with Rajon Rondo in the starting lineup, the Celtics recorded 20 more assists than the Pistons (33-13) in a 109-86 victory.

This time around? The Pistons actually recorded eight more assists than the C’s (26-18), as Nate Robinson (one assist) got the start in place of the injured Rondo. In fact, the Celtics totaled more turnovers than assists.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Paul Pierce does it all: With Garnett out for the remainder of the game, all eyes turned to Pierce for leadership on both ends of the floor. He responded — even though his teammates did not. Pierce scored 33 points to go with eight assists, five rebounds and five steals. Allen was the only other Celtic to reach double figures, finishing with 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

Jermaine O’Neal contributes: In 23 minutes off the bench, Jermaine O’Neal — who had shown little to nothing since returning on Christmas Day — recorded six rebounds and seven points, making his only two shots from the field. He even drew an important fourth-quarter charge on defense.

While it wasn’t much, O’Neal produced more in this outing than he had in the two previous games combined. If Garnett misses significant time this season, a giant magnifying glass will be focused on O’Neal’s impact.

Free-throw shooting: The Celtics didn’t get to the free-throw line much, but when they did they made them count — making 18-of-19 (94 percent). Pierce, Allen and O’Neal were a combined 14-for-14 from the charity stripe.

In fact, the C’s shot pretty well from everywhere on the floor, making 34-of-66 shots from the field (51 percent) and 6-of-15 3-pointers (40 percent).

Read More: 1994 NCAA Tournament, Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons, Kevin Garnett
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