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Kevin Garnett is ‘pretty close’ to returning but that won’t happen Friday night 01.13.11 at 4:16 pm ET
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WALTHAM — In a sign that he is close to returning to game action, Kevin Garnett took part in contact practice with the Celtics on Thursday for the first time since straining his right calf against Detroit on Dec. 29. Coach Doc Rivers said that Garnett participated in a little more than half the practice, going through plays and running up and down the court but ruled him out of Friday’s home game against Charlotte.

“He went through half the practice or more than that, actually,” Rivers said. “He looked pretty good. He’s not playing [Friday] but he looked pretty good. Besides just his wind, I thought his movement was very good. I want to see him another practice but he’s getting close.”

Rivers said trainer Ed Lacerte and team doctor Brian McKeon checked out Garnett and cleared him to participate in all of the contact drills and plays in practice.

“That was him and Eddie, they just thought he could go and Dr. McKeon, all three, thought he’s fine so we let him go,” Rivers added. “There were a couple of times I wanted him off the floor and he stayed on the floor and did all the pick-and-roll defense live. We went up and down and he did all that live.”

The Celtics are 5-3 in the eight games without Garnett in the lineup.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, NBA, right calf
And the hits keep on coming as Semih Erden pulls his groin at 4:13 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Doc Rivers paraphrased Bill Parcells following Thursday’s practice that didn’t include injured forwards Semih Erden and Jermaine O’Neal.

“This is who we are right now,” Rivers said in announcing the latest injuries to hit the Celtics‘ front court.

Jermaine O’Neal had an MRI Thursday on his sore left knee that acted up in the second half of Monday’s game against Houston.

Rivers is concerned that surgery will likely be needed to correct the issue.

“Don’t know yet,” Rivers said following practice Thursday. “I know he did [have] an MRI. Honestly, my guess is they’re going to have to do something. So, I don’t know that. I’m just using my doctorate right now. My guess is they’ll probably have to do something.”

Complicating matters is a groin pull sustained by back-up center Semih Erden, which kept him out of practice Thursday and limited the Celtics to nine healthy players. With Kevin Garnett still out with a strained right calf, Kendrick Perkins (right knee) not yet cleared for contact practice and Shaquille O’Neal getting limited minutes to save his stamina for later in the season, the Celtics are struggling with depth in the front court.

“It puts more pressure on them,” Rivers said of his remaining healthy front-court players. “Semih couldn’t practice today. He has a groin pull. So, that’s what we are. We have 15 players. We’re going to send Avery [Bradley] down [to D-League] pretty soon, too, so he can get some reps playing basketball. I just think he needs to play basketball. It’s part of it.”

The Celtics face Charlotte on Friday night at TD Garden as they continue their season-long six-game homestand, likely without Garnett, Erden and Jermaine O’Neal.

Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, injuries, Jermaine O'Neal
Irish Coffee: Semih Erden vs. Jermaine O’Neal at 11:56 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

It’s a hodgepodge edition of Irish Coffee this morning, so stay alert. While Brent Barry may have compared Glen “Big Baby” Davis to an actual baby in the video that accompanies this blog, we’re going to take a look at the per-minute averages of Celtics centers Jermaine O’Neal and Semih Erden:

J. O’Neal: 0.29 points, 0.21 rebounds, 0.16 personal fouls, 0.07 blocks, 0.06 turnovers, 0.03 assists, 0.01 steals, 44.7 field-goal percentage, 77.8 free-throw percentage.

Erden: 0.28 points, 0.18 rebounds, 0.17 personal fouls, 0.06 turnovers, 0.04 blocks, 0.03 assists, 0.02 steals, 57.7 field-goal percentage, 60.5 free-throw percentage.

After Erden dropped 10 points and nine rebounds in 33 minutes against the Kings while O’Neal sat out his 21st game of the season with a sore knee, I thought to myself: Would Erden be a better option than O’Neal? Considering these numbers at this point, why not invest your time in a 24-year-old rookie with room for improvement rather than a 32-year-old veteran who has logged 24,757 minutes and has a sore knee for life?

Paul Flannery has more on the growing concern that is Jermaine O’Neal’s knee in his Three-Pointer.

SACTOWN REACTION

The difference between the Celtics and Kings is so glaring that Sacramento’s players and coach not only openly admitted that fact, they expressed their desire to essentially grow up to be the C’s:

Kings coach Paul Westphal (via the Sacramento Bee): “You could pick up how they work together to take away your first and second options. They were really on the same page doing that. … They really don’t care who shoots. They run their stuff, and they know they have threats at all the places, and they get the shot they want.”

Kings guard Beno Udrih (also via the Bee): “On offense, nobody’s worrying about who’s going to score. They just hit the guy that’s open. They set screens. They play basketball basically the way it should be played.”

And then there’s my favorite quote of the day, also from Westphal, on the starting matchup between Kings rookie Eugene “Pooh” Jeter (Boston fans have probably used that nickname for another guy) and Rajon Rondo:

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Jermaine O'Neal, Semih Erden
Energy savings pay off for Nate Robinson and the Celtics at 2:43 am ET
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Doc Rivers may have liked the way his team was playing in the first half than Monday night. He went as far as to say if the Celtics somehow managed to lose Wednesday to the 8-27 Kings at TD Garden, he could sleep well knowing his team played good, solid basketball.

But the truth of the matter is that Celtics fans were downright concerned when they saw the Kings – without their top scorer Tyreke Evans – wipe out an 8-0 lead and actually grab a lead, albeit very brief, in the first quarter. The Celtics kept spinning their wheels in the first half, even with Paul Pierce scoring 15 of his 25 points in the first quarter.

The Celtics – without big men Kevin Garnett and Jermaine O’Neal- looked fatigued and out of rhythm. They needed a spark and Nate Robinson was only too happy to provide it. Robinson came in and made 6-of-9 shots, including 4-of-5 from long distance.

Robinson was just 11-for-32 in his six games this month entering Wednesday. His 16 points off the bench provided instant energy and eventually allowed Doc Rivers to give his starters the fourth quarter off.

‘€œThat’€™s how you have to play every night,” Robinson said. “Play with a lot of energy and be yourself. Everything else will fall into place.’€

After allowing the Rockets to make 21-of-34 shots in the second half on Monday, the Celtics – with a 57-49 halftime lead – were determined not to let it happen 48 hours later.

‘€œJust continue to pick it up on defense,” Robinson said. “We have been lacking the last couple of games. Rebounding was a talking point as well. As a team today we dug down deep. We were like ‘€˜we have to rebound and get stops and run’€™. We did that and got a lot of easy buckets tonight.

‘€œJust do things harder. There is always another notch that you can go too. Just pick it up. We have to pick each other up regardless if it’€™s the starters or second team, everybody has to be tuned in together and play a full 48 minutes.’€

Robinson had 16 to lead four bench players in double figures. Another player in double figures, Marquis Daniels with 12, could see what Robinson meant to the Celtics on Wednesday – instant energy and a very important player to help take minutes from Rondo and preserve him for the second half of the season.

‘€œLittle Nate played good tonight,” Daniels said. “He’€™s shooting the ball real well. He got his bird wings going. He’€™s playing real good right now. We just have to stay focused and stay hungry.’€

In total, Semih Erden, Daniels, Robinson and Von Wafer all scored at least 10 points, outscoring Sacramento’s bench, 56-47. Daniels said it was very refreshing to see not only Robinson but the rest of the bench contribute offensively so the starters could enjoy the rest of the game from their courtside seats.

‘€œDefinitely, I saw Paul icing early, Ray is icing early, Rondo. It’€™s always a good thing to see those guys icing early,” Daniels said. “We are going to need those guys later down the line.’€

Read More: Boston Celtics, Marquis Daniels, Nate Robinson, NBA
Doc Rivers thanks Danny Ainge for the chance to make Celtics coaching history 01.12.11 at 11:34 pm ET
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Doc Rivers remembers the 2006-07 season vividly, and for all the wrong reasons.

The Celtics had just completed the second-worst season of their existence, losing 58 times and Rivers would have totally understood if his boss decided that – in addition to changing the roster – it was time to change the coach.

But GM Danny Ainge saw something in Rivers and convinced Celtics ownership to stick with Rivers since he felt he was the right coach to handle the egos and personalities of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. One championship and one near-miss later over a span of four years, Ainge has been greatly rewarded for his loyalty.

On Wednesday night, following a 119-95 win over the Kings at TD Garden, Rivers passed K.C. Jones for third on the franchise’s regular season all-time coaching wins list with 309. And it was Ainge whom Rivers thanked for giving him the chance.

‘€œYeah, you know, I don’€™t know what that means, honestly,” Rivers said. “It’€™s awesome, I guess. I mean, I just don’€™t know what that means, yet, because I’€™m not thinking about it much, I’€™m not done. But it’€™s nice. And, listen, it’€™s Danny Ainge at the end of the day. I’€™m full-aware of that. We were bad for two years and he stuck with me. And believed in me. And so, at the end of the day it’€™s Danny Ainge more than me.’€

Rivers, whose record stands at 309-221, trails only Tommy Heinsohn (427) and all-time leader Red Auerbach (795) on the franchise’s all-time list. Rivers guaranteed one thing Wednesday, he won’t be shooting for first. ‘€œNo. That ain’€™t gonna happen. I can guarantee you that!’€

Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Doc Rivers, K.C. Jones
Irish Coffee: Does poor Celtics offensive rebounding matter? at 11:48 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Despite losing two straight games, if you look at the Celtics’ statistics, there’s not much they’re doing poorly over the course of this season. They’ve made more field goals than their opponents while taking fewer shots. They’ve dished out more assists, snatched more steals, swatted more blocks and committed fewer turnovers.

In fact, only one number sticks out. The Celtics have been out-rebounded overall by four. More specifically, they’ve been out-boarded on the offensive glass by 97 and rank last this year in the category that Red Auerbach called “the hardest single phase of basketball.”

When you consider the fact that the C’s are shooting a league-leading 50.2 percent from the field — leaving fewer chances for themselves — that number is less glaring than at first glance, but does it matter at all? C’s head coach Doc Rivers doesn’t think so.

“I’m not a big believer in offensive rebounds,” said Rivers. “I think if you if you get back every single time and not get offensive rebounds, you probably save more points in the long run. So, that’s not a concern.”

Anyone who watched Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals — when the Lakers out-rebounded the Celtics 23-8 on the offensive end — might disagree with Rivers on that contention. While fans often rely on emotions for their arguments, Rivers can generally point to statistics to back up his statements, so let’s look to the numbers.

Here are the top-five NBA teams record-wise with their rank in offensive rebounds per game in parentheses:

  • 1. Spurs (15th)
  • 2. Heat (25th)
  • 3. Celtics (30th)
  • 4. Lakers (5th)
  • 5. Mavericks (29th)

Here are the bottom-five NBA teams record-wise with their rank in offensive rebounds per game in parentheses:

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Marquis Daniels, Nate Robinson
Irish Coffee: The transformation of Von Wafer 01.11.11 at 11:17 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Optimus Prime. Wheeljack. Von Wafer. The name even sounds like a “Transformers” character.

For Doc Rivers and the Celtics, that’s exactly what he is. Wafer left Houston as an established offensive player and came to Boston as a defensive project.

‘€œHe played very well for us,” Rockets head coach Rick Adelman said prior to Monday night’s 108-102 defeat of the Celtics. “He was a real spark off the bench. He won a lot of games for us. He’€™s a guy who once he gets comfortable he’€™s a real threat. I think eventually he’€™s going to help them.’€

In 2008-09, as a member of the Rockets, Wafer played 20 minutes a night, averaging 9.7 points in 63 games — including 11 starts. He even hit a clutch 3-pointer that sunk the Celtics almost two years ago to the day. This season, with this Celtics team, he might not get more than five minutes on a given night.

“Whether you play five minutes or 15, you’€™ve got to play hard,” added Adelman. “You’€™ve got to make a contribution to the team. Some guys don’€™t feel like that. They feel like they have to get minutes to help the team. You can’€™t do that.”

When Wafer first arrived in Boston, he fell into the camp of guys who felt like they needed minutes to contribute — and by contribute, he meant score. After all, that’s what Adelman wanted from him in Houston.

“He’€™s unbelievable,” Wafer said of his former coach. “He just let me do whatever, let me be who I was. It didn’€™t matter how many shots I missed. He just let me play.” Even at the expense of his defense.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets, Jermaine O'Neal, NBA
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