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Irish Coffee: Bill Russell on the NBA, Celtics & more 12.07.10 at 10:35 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

(Part 2 of the interview between Bill Russell & Kevin Garnett can be seen here.)

It’s not every day you get the sage advice of Bill Russell, so when it happens, don’t miss it. The Celtics legend needs no introduction, so let’s get to his latest interview, with SLAM Magazine …

RUSSELL on winning: “I think I know a lot about the subject. My college team has the second-longest winning streak in history. My Olympic team still holds the record for greatest margin of victory. And the Celtics were perhaps the best team in the history of American sports. We won eight straight titles and nine of 10 in the decade of the ’60s. To do that against the best basketball players on the planet is remarkable.”

RUSSELL on offense: “To me, I was a better offensive player than a defensive player. By the end of my first year, I always put the offense in motion, and after a year or two almost all the plays went through me. In fact, [John] Havlicek said after I left, he missed me more on offense than on defense.”

RUSSELL on Wilt Chamberlain: “Wilt was an enormously talented man and I wasn’t going to do things that would inspire him to play harder, even if that meant giving him an easy basket here and there. You have to understand, this was a great, great player. And you had to keep things in perspective. He was a guy you couldn’t dominate physically or mentally. You can’t play somebody else’s game and have a chance to win. We had a style when he arrived, and the idea was to maintain that style, because it was successful.

“Wilt’s numbers speak for themselves: 100 points in a game, 27 rebounds averaged in a season! But after he did all these things, Wilt kept on not winning, and people never understood that, so they started criticizing him. But I never did. I thought he was great. Basically, I saw it as he had an agenda and I had an agenda. And we both fulfilled our agendas.”

RUSSELL on racism: “Fans all over the country were racist and obnoxious, some places more and some less, but I never permitted that to have an adverse effect on my playing, and within the Celtics that did not exist.”

RUSSELL on player/coaching:Red [Auerbach] offered me the job first and I said I wasn’t interested. So he asked if I had any recommendations and said that he would not hire anyone who I didn’t approve of 100 percent, because I had meant too much to the franchise. I had some ideas, but we couldn’t work out a deal. Frank Ramsey, who was my first choice, couldn’t leave home. Bob Cousy couldn’t get out of his contract at Boston College and so on. Red came up with one last name, and I just wasn’t going to play for that person, so I decided that I would, in fact, do it.”

RUSSELL on the dynasty: “Last year’s championship is only important in how other teams fear you; you still have to go out and beat everyone again. People say there were better teams than the Celtics, but we set the standard. A given team might come up for a year, but only we could sustain it.”

RUSSELL on mentoring: “When a new big man came into the league, I wanted to make sure they knew I was around, and to establish that there were boundaries that should not be crossed. But I also wanted every player in the league playing as well as possible, because I wanted the league to be totally elite. It always made me feel good to hear people say, “The greatest athletes in the world play in the NBA.'”

RUSSELL on Bob Cousy: “Not only was he a great player, but the things he did were completely in sync with what I did. He would transition from defense to offense as his guy went to the basket, because he knew I’d take care of him. I knew which way he’d force him, and I’d be there waiting while also cutting off his passing lanes. Meanwhile, Bob was heading downcourt, so we’d take control of the offense while the other team still had the ball. Nobody had done that before, because they didn’t have the ingredients, namely a great rebounder and defender to grab the ball and turn it around, and a fast, in-control guard to throw to.”

RUSSELL on his legacy: “Maybe it’s egotism, but I have never seen another player who even approached the way I played the game in terms of depth. I’ve never seen anyone do the number of things I do well.”

So, yeah, I could pretty much sit and listen to Bill Russell talk about how he folds laundry and be completely enthralled. In fact, I might go buy his “Russell Rules” and “Red and Me” audio books on iTunes right now. Paul Flannery was absolutely right: Give Bill Russell a damn statue!

SQUASHING THE INJURY BUG

The Celtics aren’t setting any timetables for the returns of Rajon Rondo, Jermaine O’Neal, Delonte West and Kendrick Perkins from injuries that range from minor to major. Here’s a quick rundown of the latest updates on all four guys …

Rondo (day-to-day via The Boston Globe): Doc Rivers said he might consider sitting Rondo for a stretch of games if needed.

“We get a two-day break after [Sunday's Nets game], and that’s one of the things that went into this [thinking]. We’re just going to try to get through it.”

Jermaine O’Neal (pre-Christmas return via NECN.com): Considering he hasn’t played in a game since Nov. 8, being off his game [during Monday's practice] was a given. But just being able to run up the floor, and feel little to no pain afterwards, was yet another indication that he is moving past the left knee injury that has sidelined him for the last 12 games.

“Hopefully in the next week-in-a-half to two weeks, I’ll be playing no problem,” he said.

West (1-2 months away via CSNNE.com): Following surgery on Nov. 30, the outlook for his return has picked up considerably. West said the wrist is healing up so well, there won’t be any need for it to be placed in a hard cast.

“Just stimulate it with treatments, and I’ll be back to working out within the next two weeks,” said West, who added that he’ll have it in a soft cast when he resumes working out.

Perkins (eyeing late February via the Boston Herald): “It can be real,” Perk said of playing sometime late next month, “but I think if I play it smart I’ll wait to come back until after All-Star break. That’ll give me more time. I think, what’s one more month, right?”

SHAQ-A-CLAUS BRINGS HIS ELVES

According to the Inside Track, all of the Celtics showed up at Children’s Hospital Boston and Boston Medical Center on Monday to deliver some Christmas cheer.

They split up, Shaquille O’Neal and Ray Allen tooke one group to Children’s — with O’Neal leading a Shaq Fu-style version of “Frosty the Snowman” among other carols.

Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett took another group with Santa to the Top of the Hub, where they spent some time with the Boston Medical Center’s pediatric hematology program.

Santa hats off to those guys. They’re not just winning on the court.

DOC RIVERS LOSES A MENTOR

Doc Riverscollege basketball coach, Hank Raymonds, 86, died of cancer on Monday morning. Raymonds coached Marquette from 1977-83, mentoring Rivers throughout his life — starting from his time as a player at Marquette from ’80-83 and continuing through last year’s Celtics run.

Rivers expressed his grief with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Here are some nuggets:

“I use Hank’s lines all the time. The line I always use that he used on me a lot is, ‘I’m never going to coach you for who you are today. I’m going to coach you for who you should be someday, and what you should be someday.’ I use that on my players, I use that on my kids, and I think it’s a great thing. To me, that sums Hank up as much as anything.”

“Hank called me every time we would have a bad turnover game or a bad rebounding game. Then when I went to see him [over the summer] the first thing he said was, ‘Oh my gosh, the rebounding — the Lakers killed you guys on the glass.’ I loved to hear it. It’s funny. It’s not what you want to hear, but the one guy who can tell you that is Hank.”

“Hank has had a profound impact. And the thing about Hank is he never let go. It’s not like when I left he stopped. … I look at him, he’s a basketball treasure that really not enough people know about. I’m glad I do. I always laugh and say, ‘He’s my little secret.’ And I’m fine by that.”

(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)

Read More: Bill Russell, Boston Celtics, Delonte West, Doc Rivers
Irish Coffee: 10 ‘The Association’ observations 12.06.10 at 12:16 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

In case you missed “The Association” — NBA Entertainment’s behind-the-scenes documentary of the Celtics — on Friday night, here are 10 observations from the first episode:

1. When do the Celtics play the Lakers?

Because the vengeance factor on a scale of 1-10 is going to be an 11. Obviously, that Game 7 loss in Los Angeles hurt the C’s, but watching them talk about it gives you an idea of how deep it struck them and how hard it drives them.

“Once you went back to the locker room without that trophy in your hand, it settled in,” Paul Pierce said. “It’s like you lost your best friend or something.”

The Celtics revisit the Lakers rivaly for the first time this season on Jan. 30, in Los Angeles. Where is Doc Rivers going to hide the money this time?

2. Mark my words: Rivers will coach the Celtics in 2011-12.

Ever since the start of the season, there’s been discussion about whether or not Rivers will return to the Celtics bench again next season. Heck, he even discussed his hesitations about returning this season.

“It was a difficult process,” Rivers said. “My first thing was my family, and the bottom line is that if I thought that me coaching would affect my family in the wrong way, I was out. My family, on the other hand, pushed me to coaching. They really wanted me to coach, especially the kids. They all to a man wanted me to come back, see if we could get this together and go for it one more time.”

My question is this: If his family wanted him to return this season — when two of his sons would be playing together for their high school basketball team — why would they urge him otherwise next season, when three of his four children will have already graduated high school and left home?

3. Ahh, to be a fly on the wall when the veterans talk sports.

“The Association” provided a glimpse, taking us inside the trainer’s room during a discussion between Shaquille O’Neal, Ray Allen and Jermaine O’Neal that centered on what it means to be athletic.

“I’m not an athlete,” Shaq said. “I ain’t never had athletic skills. It’s hard work. My definition of athletic is somebody that starts off like that. I’m not an athlete. I’m just a good dancer.”

Hearing these guys talk about sports is like what it would’ve been to hear Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro and Robert Duvall discuss the art of acting while they filmed Parts 1 and 2 of “The Godfather.”

4. The Celtics are embracing a unique experience.

Whether or not we get to be a fly on the wall with the Celtics, the important thing is they’re embracing the fact that it’s unique for them to be part of a team that features six former All-Stars and five potential Hall of Famers.

“Moments like this I cherish, because I’ve been on teams where you don’t have this opportunity,” Pierce said. “When you continue to play with All-Stars like — at one point, we had Kevin [Garnett] and Shaq on one team with Jermaine and me and Ray coming in. It was just like, man, you felt that in the gym.”

On a young team, like the Heat, players might look at the big picture: We could win some championships over the next eight years. On this veteran Celtics team, however, there is no big picture. It’s now or never, and they seem to get that.

5. The home opener against the Heat really didn’t mean anything.

In the wake of the league’s most hyped opening night game in its history, when the veteran Celtics disposed of the newlook Heat, all Rivers had to say to his team in the locker room was this: “Great win. Let’s get out of here.”

“People not acknowledging a giant that’s already been there and done it, that tested us in the wrong spot,” Glen Davis said. “Us as players demand respect.”

Even from behind the scenes, all that game appeared to be for the Celtics was one game in a season-long voyage to recapture the league’s respect.

6. Rajon Rondo dives for loose balls in practices.

It was one clip in a brief montage of a team practice, but it told you everything you need to know about the Celtics point guard. His leadership was born in hard work, and it’s grown on the court more than off of it.

“There was a time when I sat down with Rajon, and I said, ‘Here’s 10 characteristics of a leader, and you don’t fit any of these characteristics right now,'” said Celtics president Danny Ainge. “It was a challenge early on, because I think he wanted to be a leader, but he was trying to carve out his own niche amongst the Hall of Famers he was playing with.”

Whether or not Rondo is the best point guard in the NBA, the important thing is that he believes he is, and he’s stubborn enough to prove it. I enjoyed how Rivers summed up his protege with one word: “Rondo is a fire.”

7. How can you not root for Delonte West?

West stood alone, firing shot after shot from the corner of the Celtics’ practice facility. He was in his element. Then, speaking to the camera, holding back tears, he was once again out of it.

“I’m overcome with emotions that I’ve never had before,” West said. “It’s like I’ve been given another shot at life. All of this was almost taken from me. Basketball is my life.”

And that was filmed before he broke his wrist. His journey back to the Celtics has been a long one, and now it’s only going to be longer.

8. Old dogs can learn new tricks.

Rivers had told John Havlicek if he ever draws up a play not to hesitate to bring it by a practice. Well, Havlicek did. With guys like Hondo and Tommy Heinsohn around, you sometimes forget how much knowledge the C’s have to draw from.

“Celtic pride and Celtic mystique, there is something real to it,” Havlicek said. “There’s just something that comes out of you, knowing that you have that Green jersey on, and I knew that players coming from other teams to our team all of the sudden were transformed into another way of thinking.”

It’s pretty amazing that the Celtics organization allows for guys like Doc and Shaq to continue learning about the sport, even after being around it for so long.

9. Even on the Celtics, office dynamics can be a funny thing.

There were two internal relationships you got a real sense of from watching “The Association”: 1) Garnett and Rondo, and 2) Shaq and Kendrick Perkins.

“Seriously, out of the eight years I’ve been in the NBA, this might be the craziest team I’ve ever been on — just as far as personality,” Perkins said. “You got Paul. You got KG and Rondo. KG and Rondo are like those two brothers who grew up in the same house, but their momma always had to get on them about fighting. They really love each other at the end of the day. That’s those two. Me and Doc call them the two divas of the team.”

First, the transformation of Shaq’s relationship with Perkins — from foes to friends — is real. You don’t kiss somebody on the cheek you don’t like. It’s that simple. And second, especially with the “that ain’t no foul” back-and-forth between KG and Rondo, it’s nice to see some insight into two Celtics whose personalities you don’t often get to witness.

10. At this point, the 2008 NBA title means nothing.

Sure, the banner hangs overhead every time they take to the parquet, but it really means nothing to the leadership of this team. They know, above all, if they want to be remembered as true Celtics, they need ring No. 2.

“You win a title, no one can take it away from you,” Rivers said. “But if you want to be mentioned as part of one of the great teams here, you have to win two.”

Not many teams can draw from that extra motivation once they’ve proven themselves by winning an NBA championship. Well, besides the Lakers.

Stay tuned. The next episode of “The Association airs on Jan. 21.

SHAQ ‘DANCING WITH THE STARS’?

After the Celtics’ victory against the Bulls on Friday night, NBA TV interviewed Shaq. Rick Fox said that he opened the door for big men to compete on “Dancing with the Stars,” and then asked Shaq if he’d be open to the idea.

Shaq didn’t deny his interest. He is, however, going to challenge 75 kids to a dance-off with the “Michael Jackson: The Experience” video game, as part of a holiday charity event at the Boys & Girls Club of Roxbury, according to the Boston Herald’s Inside Track.

As far as the rest of the interview goes, the most interesting portion came when Shaq said he was feeling more like a 16-year veteran than an 18-year veteran, as a result of missing at least 20 games in five of his past six seasons.

“I just want to be remembered as either the most dominant big man to ever play the game or one of the most dominant big men, and I would like to have four or five or six rings. I’m just playing. I’ve still got about two years left. I missed two years because of injury, so my legs are feeling good. Hopefully, I can get No. 5 and No. 6. That’s my goal.”

NATE ROBINSON NOT LACKING CONFIDENCE

Following what was probably his most complete performance of the season — 21 points, six assists and six steals in 31 minutes as the starting point guard in place of Rondo — Nate Robinson told the New York Post he’s not lacking self esteem.

“When I shoot, I feel I can make every shot,” he said. “I feel like I can’t be stopped.”

I guess Rondo isn’t the only Celtics point guard with a healthy dose of arrogance.

CELTICS NEVER LACK STORYLINES

Even after a lazy Sunday afternoon game against the Nets, when the Celtics lit them up in a 25-point blowout, there was plenty talk about. Just take a look at Steve Bulpett’s notebook from the Herald …

Is there anybody who takes more lumps than Big Baby? Apparently, he was beaned in the head by a medicine ball mishandled by Marquis Daniels.

‘€œThat hurt,’€ Davis said. ‘€œI’€™m doing my routine, doing my little Dougie dance, and he hit me in the head. But he woke me up though. It was an early game. I needed something like that.’€

Jermaine O’Neal could return to practice next week, which would give the Celtics a nice boost considering Garnett’s been playing 40,000 minutes a night.

‘€œBasically the plan is to go every day this week,’€ he said. ‘€œI won’€™t travel with the team. I’€™ll come in and get some extra cardio. If I do well throughout the week, then I’€™m cleared to practice next week.’€

After missing a Monday practice following the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Shaq had to sit out the second half against the Nets because he forgot to bring his anti-inflammatory medicine the night before the game.

‘€œI just forgot to take my drugs,’€ Shaq said. ‘€œWithout them, I can’€™t really play right now. But I’€™ll be fine Wednesday [against the Nuggets].’€

 Should we should be concerned about Shaq getting on in years?

(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’€™s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)

Read More: Boston Celtics, Nate Robinson, NBA, Shaquille O'Neal
Kevin Garnett tunes into his ‘unplugged’ side 12.04.10 at 2:27 am ET
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Kevin Garnett wasn’t just on his game on the court against nemesis Joakim Noah but he was just as sharp off of it, talking about everything from his battle with Noah “The Nobody” to a potential labor stoppage next season, his future and his respect for “ring brother” Brian Scalabrine.

Sounding a very philosophical tone, Garnett said he is not looking for any sympathy for the nagging injuries he’s played through but rather just trying to enjoy himself as long as he can and as long as the NBA is still in business.

On Friday against the Bulls, Garnett showed the dominant form from the 2008 championship season, scoring 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting while grabbing 17 rebounds in Boston’s 104-92 win at TD Garden.

Garnett’s loudest statement wasn’t about silencing Noah but rather enjoying the moment.

“Especially with the lockout coming up, who knows if this is my last year or if we don’€™t play next year what it’€™s going to be,” Garnett said. “So I’€™m trying to enjoy the guys now, you know.”

He also addressed questions about his rivalry with Noah, the only player he refused to greet on the court just before tip-off Friday.

‘€œI’€™m going to tell you something about people, man,” Garnett began. “Everybody has an opinion, and obviously, he had one. I’€™m not entertaining nor addressing nobodies. I’€™m not even entertaining them. I’€™m focused on basketball and these wins and trying to make this team better. Other than that, I’€™m not on anything’€

Asked specifically if he considered Noah a “nobody”, Garnett smiled, winked and said more with less.
like he did with Detroit’s Charlie Villanueva and Milwaukee’s Andrew Bogut exactly a month earlier at the Garden.

‘€œNext question,” he responded.

“I’m not dealing with nobodies anymore,” Garnett said back in November of his on-court run-ins with Villanueva and Bogut and the criticism that he is a “mean” player.

But most of all, he sounded like a veteran who was just enjoying getting his health back so he could show off his considerable talents, talents that will take him to Springfield someday and the Hall of Fame.

‘€œAnytime you win, it’€™s enjoyable, to be honest with you,” Garnett said. “Playing with Shaq, some of the new guys, JO’€¦I’€™ll be glad when he gets back. I’€™ll be glad when Perk gets back’€¦.Delonte. We have a real vibrant team and I love our team. I don’€™t like it, I love our team. I love our guys and this is the first time in a long time I’€™ve allowed myself to actually enjoy them. But I do have a certain way and a certain style that I like to be when I hit the court. Shaq gets a smile out of me very now and then, but for the most part I’€™m still me.”

But perhaps the funniest and most telling quote of the night came when he was asked about seeing Brian Scalabrine for the last time this year at TD Garden. Scalabrine got into the game in the final minute during “Gino Time” to chants that even KG had to respect.

“I love Scal to death,” KG said. “Right after the game, always go and show him respect. That’s my [championship] ring brother. But Gino’s my dude.”

Read More: Andrew Bogut, Boston Celtics, Brian Scalabrine, Charlie Villaneuva
Fast Break: Kevin Garnett takes care of Joakim Noah 12.03.10 at 10:41 pm ET
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Doc Rivers says it time and time again – watch out if Kevin Garnett comes to the building fired up.

It was clear from the opening tip – when KG fist-pounded every starter on both teams – with one notable exception. He greeted eight starters, then made his way to Keith Bogans, greeted him and wished him well before walking right past Joakim Noah. Garnett – for the most part – productively channeled his dislike for his arch-nemesis.

Garnett had a double-double by halftime and led a defensive charge in the third quarter as the Celtics beat the Bulls, 104-92, Friday night at TD Garden.

Aside from the Celtics winning their sixth straight to improve to an Eastern Conference-best 15-4, the other highlight for the fans was the surreal chants of “SCAL-A-BRINE” several times in the fourth quarter, with the Celtics comfortably ahead.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE CELTICS:

Garnett was a monster: KG made it clear early he would not be denied, either offensively or on the glass. He finished with 20 points and 17 rebounds in arguably his most energetic game of the year. Garnett only had one true run-in with Noah, getting in Noah’s face after a 10-foot turnaround with 2:24 left in the second quarter. Both players were T’d up but nothing much happened the rest of the way.

Rondo got up: Everyone and their brother and sister went silent with 4:54 left in the third quarter when Rajon Rondo cut through the lane, jumped up in the air on a pass and landed awkwardly. Rondo’s right leg slipped on the landing and his left leg stuck in the floor. He immediately held his left knee and remained on the court about 30 seconds. He got up and stay in the game and immediately hit a 22-foot jumper, showing everyone he was ok.

Turning up the D: Led by Garnett down low and Pierce on the wing, the Celtics showed a dominant defensive effort. After allowing 29 points in the second quarter, the Celtics held the Bulls to 19 in the third, building their lead up to 82-67 after three. The Bulls made just 6-0f-19 from the field in the third quarter as the Celtics got back to basics.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE CELTICS:

A defenseless bench: When you look at the stat sheet, you see that the Celtics reserves can score with anyone – and they can. It’s the defense that’s troubling, like in the second quarter, when the Bulls shot 53 percent and outscored the C’s 29-22. It’s certainly understandable that without the injured Delonte West and Jermaine O’Neal, the depth isn’t there for the Celtics. But they’re going to need more than just “Sixth Man of the Year” favorite Glen Davis to produce. Semih Erden is still finding his way and managed some very important minutes late in the third and early fourth quarter as Shaquille O’Neal sat on the bench with five fouls. They were lucky that the Bulls bench was just as ineffective. Nate Robinson (sore left foot) was clearly not the same player and Marquis Daniels had eight points in 26 minutes.

Foul trouble: With 9:28 left in the fourth quarter and the Celtics up, 84-70, Glen Davis went to the bench with his fifth foul, joining O’Neal with the same number. That’s not good. Boston’s two best bruisers – and only bruisers – were not available against a Bulls team that relies on finesse and quickness from players like Noah, Luol Deng and of course, Derrick Rose. That played right into the Bulls’ hands.

Leaking leads: Maybe it’s splitting hairs, but for the second straight game, the Celtics built what appeared to be a very comfortable lead at home, leading by 17 in the third quarter and by 15, 82-67, heading into the fourth. The Bulls made a charge early in the fourth. It’s a nasty habit that bears at least some attention, especially on your home court, where the Celtics improved to 9-1 this season.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Joakim Noah, Kevin Garnett
Irish Coffee: The homecomings of Celtics greats at 12:55 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

 

Other than a Cavaliers assistant coach telling him to “shut the [bleep] up” and a fan tossing a battery in his general direction, things couldn’t have gone much better for LeBron James in his return to Cleveland on Thursday night.

The two-time NBA Most Valuable Player produced 38 points, eight assists and five rebounds, as his new team (the Heat) beat his former team (the Cavaliers), 118-90. Not too shabby.

But you know who had a better game in his first game against his former team? Danny Ainge.

I decided to do some quick research into every former player who either had his number retired by the Celtics or appeared in an All-Star game as a member of the team in order to see who had to face the C’s after appearing in another uniform.

Basketball Reference didn’t have box scores for the seasons that Jo Jo White (Warriors), Dave Cowens (Bucks), Ed Macauley (Saint Louis Hawks), Tiny Archibald (Bucks), Bailey Howell (76ers) and Paul Silas (Nuggets) could’ve faced the Celtics as opposing players for the first time after donnning green and white.

That left Ainge, Cedric Maxwell, Robert Parish and Antoine Walker. Here’s a synopsis of how each player performed in his first game against the Celtics after playing in Boston:

Danny Ainge (1989-90 Sacramento Kings)

  • Back story: Ainge and Brad Lohaus were dealt by the Celtics to the Kings for Joe Kleine.
  • The game: Celtics 115, Kings 112 (OT)
  • Stat line: 39 points, nine assists and six rebounds
  • His quote: “It was a highly emotional game for me. I never wanted to beat a team so badly as I did them that night.”

Antoine Walker (2003-04 Dallas Mavericks)

  • Back story: The Celtics traded Walker and Tony Delk to the Mavericks for Raef LaFrentz, Jiri Welsch, Chris Mills and their 2004 No. 1 pick.
  • The game: Celtics 105, Mavericks 103
  • Stat line: Seven points, eight assists and seven rebounds
  • His quote: “It was nice to see [the fans' reaction] and very surprising. It kind of puts a closing for me in Boston, and I can move on with my career.”

Cedric Maxwell (1985-86 Los Angeles Clippers)

  • Back story: The Celtics dealt Maxwell, their 1986 No. 1 pick and cash to the Clippers for Bill Walton.
  • The game: Celtics 125, Clippers 103
  • Stat line: Six points and 10 rebounds
  • His quote: “Revenge? How can you be seeking revenge against a team that’s stil paying you?”

 Robert Parish (1994-95 Charlotte Hornets)

  • Back story: At the age of 41, Parish signed two-year, $5.5 million free-agent deal with the Hornets.
  • The game: Celtics 98, Hornets 91
  • Stat line: Eight points, four rebounds and one block
  • His quote: “I must say I was surprised by the length of the ovation. I’m not comfortable with being honored, showered with appreciation. But it’s always appreciated.”

Unlike LeBron’s return to Cleveland, the only bad blood that existed in these cases came between the player and management as a result of the trades — rather than between the fans and the player. All four of those guys are beloved by Boston fans. I’m not sure James will ever capture Cleveland’s adoration again.

HALL OF FAMER BILL FITCH?

Speaking of former Celtics, two-time NBA Coach of the Year Bill Fitch, who guided the C’s to the 1981 NBA championship, is a finalist for the 2011 class for the Hall of Fame.

“I haven’t even thought about that,” Fitch told Houston’s local FOX affiliate. “When you get to be my age (76), the only hall you think of is the big one upstairs.”

“They have a shirt and tie of mine somewhere up there,” Fitch added. “You know how when you win a big game the hall of fame asks you for something. So I feel like I’ve undressed at the hall, but they’ve never asked me to stay.”

Fitch may have the eighth-most wins in NBA coaching history, but he also ranks second for most losses at the helm. Former Celtics star Don Nelson and coach Rick Pitino are also finalists for this year’s Hall of Fame class.

FIVE CELTICS IN NBA’S TOP 50

Sporting News polled 76 current and former NBA players and coaches — including Rick Barry, Dee Brown, Bob Cousy, Dave Cowens, Bill Fitch, Tom Heinsohn, Daryl Morey, Jim O’Brien, Doc Rivers, Paul Silas and Jo Jo White – to determine the league’s top 50 players.

Kobe Bryant ranked No. 1 for the second straight season, capturing 49 of the 76 first-place votes. James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Dirk Nowitzki, Deron Williams, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol rounded out the top 10.

Here’s where the Celtics finished (last year’s ranking in parentheses):

14. Paul Pierce (10)
16. Rajon Rondo (38)
20. Kevin Garnett (7)
25. Ray Allen (27)
35. Shaquille O’Neal (16)

Considering 11 of the 76 contributors had Celtics ties, the numbers may have fallen in their favor. Do you think Heinsohn had them ranked 1-5, with Glen Davis at six?

RAJON RONDO: NBA’S THIRD-BEST POINT GUARD?

Baseketball Reference creator and Trail Blazers statistical consultant Justin Kubatko contributed an interesting analysis to The New York Times of the NBA’s top point guards over the last year and change. Along with their shooting percentages and assist percentage (number of teammates’ field goals assisted while on the floor). He also included two new statistics:

“The first, steal percentage, is an estimate of the number of steals the player records per 100 opponent possessions. The second, win shares per 48 minutes, is an estimate of the number of wins the player generates per 48 minutes played (the league average for this statistic is 0.100).”

The results determined Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo and Tony Parker were the league’s most productive point guards, in that order. Here are the results:

  • Paul: 51.9 2-PT FG%, 39.4 3-PT FG%, 86.7 FT%, 51.2 AST%, 3.68 STL%, 0.264 WS/48
  • Williams: 51.1 2-PT FG%, 34.4 3-PT FG%, 82.8 FT%, 46.0 AST%, 1.66 STL%, 0.175 WS/48
  • Rondo: 52.8 2-PT FG%, 25.4 3-PT FG%, 61.9 FT%, 42.8 AST%, 3.16 STL%, 0.166 WS/48
  • Parker: 51.0 2-PT FG%, 30.6 3-PT FG%, 77.4 FT%, 36.2 AST%, 1.40 STL%, 0.144 WS/48

Perhaps what’s most surprising is how much better Paul is than everyone else. As Kubatko notes:

This is not much of a contest. Paul shoots the highest percentage on 3-pointers and free throws; he has the best assist percentage; he has the top steal percentage; and he generates wins at a rate almost 51 percent higher than the next-closest point guard.

‘THE ASSOCIATION’ PREVIEW

The first of NBA Entertainment’s five-part, behind-the-scenes documentary of the Celtics airs Friday night at 7.p.m. on ESPN, prior to their game against the Bulls at the Garden.

My favorite part of this preview, other than the fact that former New Kid on the Block Donnie Wahlberg is narrating it, is this quote from Shaq:

“Sometimes, you’ve got to put things in business terms. When I was younger, I was the CEO — everything was branded my way. But now, I’m an older guy, an experienced gentleman and they have a CEO, so I look at myself as a consultant. And, if it’s all about winning, then you have no problem doing that.”

(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’€™s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)

Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, LeBron James, NBA
NBA Power Rankings, 12/2 12.02.10 at 4:57 pm ET
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1. Boston (14-4): The Celtics rank first in the NBA in field goal percentage and assists per game, while ranking fourth in points allowed. They’re in the midst of their second five-game win streak of the season, and their four losses are by an average of just 4.0 points. On Wednesday night, they showed an ability to beat  a good team (the game Trail Blazers) despite playing poorly. All that adds up to one dangerous team.

2. San Antonio (15-3): The Spurs are the biggest surprise of the season, and they’ve done it by reinventing themselves — again. While the dynasty Spurs of yesteryear were more of a slow-‘em-down, defensive-minded team, this year’s edition ranks fourth in the NBA in scoring at 106.6 points per game. Maintaining a veteran core, they’ve integrated younger talent like James Anderson, DeJuan Blair, George Hill and Tiago Splitter onto the roster. 

3. LA Lakers (13-6): The Lakers have lost four straight for the first time since acquiring Pau Gasol three years ago. That’s pretty significant. Speaking of Gasol, as a result of Andrew Bynum‘s absence, he’s been logging 39.4 minutes per game this season. What’s more concerning for the Lakers is the fact that they’ve struggled to integrate their newcomers into their defensive schemes — and rank 18th in points allowed as a result.

4. Dallas (14-4): Believe it or not, the Mavericks are actually playing defense. Tyson Chandler has set a tone that’s translated into a third-place ranking in points allowed. And Dirk Nowitzki continues to be an offensive force. He may look like he’s flopping around the court, throwing up rainbows, but he makes 54 percent of them. As a result, the Mavs already have wins over the Nuggets, Celtics, Spurs, Hornets, Hawks and Heat.

5. Orlando (14-4): Having won nine of their last 10 games, the Magic are the hottest team in the NBA. The main reason? Their defense. They allow the fewest points per game of any team in the league. Dwight Howard is making his case for MVP, leading his team in points, rebounds, blocks and steals. Even Rashard Lewis has shown signs of life, as he’s back to shooting 40 percent from beyond the 3-point line.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, NBA, power rankings
Irish Coffee: Big Baby buoys bench at 1:29 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

 

BOSTON — In the aftermath of Wednesday night’s 99-95 victory against the Blazers, Celtics forward Glen Davis sat, seemingly exhausted, at his locker.

Following what may have been his most complete and efficiently productive game in a Celtics uniform, Davis had earned the rest. He had just recorded 16 points (7-of-9 FG; 2-2 FT) and seven rebounds in 29 minutes, including a stretch of eight straight points and three consecutive 20-foot jumpers over  a three-minute span in the third quarter that singlehandedly kep the Celtics within striking distance of the Blazers.

“I took the shots that were given to me,” said Davis. “That’s what it’s about.”

Taking that notion further, what it’s really all about is making those shots, and Davis has done that at a remarkable rate this season, shooting 50 percent from the floor — the highest clip of his four-year career. The benefit of that is two-fold: 1) obviously, points on the board, and 2) opening up opportunities for his teammates.

“If I can spread the floor, I can help out Kevin [Garnett],” said Davis. “Teams won’t double-team him. They’ve got to guard me.”

In this space, before the season started, I presented an argument for Davis as a potential NBA Sixth Man of the Year winner: “Given any injury to Shaquille or Jermaine O’Neal, Davis would be the first to gobble up those minutes. Is there any reason he couldn’t average 14 points and six rebounds in 25 minutes a game?”

Through 18 games this season, he’s averaging career highs of 11.1 points and 5.3 rebounds in 29.4 minutes per game — but it’s his efficiency and versatility that have vaulted him into the NBA’s Sixth Man discussion.

Assume the role of a go-to scorer as a power forward for the one of the best benches in the league? Sure. Perform the “little things” — like taking charges — as the center alongside Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett down the stretch of close games? Done. Drag smaller defenders into the post? Easy (especially with his frame). Pull bigger defenders away from the basket? Not a problem.

So, what does being in the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year conversation mean to Davis?

“Nothing, until you win it,” he said. “You can talk all you out. You can say, ‘He’s top two, he’s top whatever.’ It doesn’t really count until you’re No. 1 at the end of the season, when you’re having a press conference, congratulating your team and thanking all the people who helped you get that award. I’d be excited to get it. Just to be considered is not enough for me.”

Celtics head coach Doc Rivers told Dennis & Callahan on WEEI on Thursday morning that he was in Danny Ainge‘s ear, urging him to select Davis with the 35th pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. Rivers knew Big Baby’s potential, because he’d seen Davis succeed against his sons and the nation’s top talent on the AAU circuit.

“But we didn’t know he was going to be this good,” Rivers admitted.

After struggling with some maturity issues over his first few seasons in the league, Davis has earned the trust of not only Rivers but all of his teammates as well.

“Most definitely,” said Davis. “I’ve been here for four years now, and that’s Doc’s system. You’ve got to trust his players. He’s looking at me as a player that he trusts.”

DOC RIVERS: COACH OF THE MONTH

The NBA named Rivers the Eastern Conference Coach of the Month prior to the Celtics’ victory against the Blazers. It didn’t mean much to Doc, but Garnett elaborated:

‘€œI love him,’€™’€™ Garnett told The Boston Globe. ‘€œI told Danny that the day y’€™all get rid of Doc is the day I sort of tip my hat and thank the Boston area and the Boston fans. I love Doc, he’€™s a credit to our success and the building of the players, because he’€™s always motivating and he’€™s always pushing you, finding ways to get you rekindled.’€™’€™

IN SUPPORT OF BILL RUSSELL

In case you missed it, our own Paul Flannery detailed why the Celtics should build a statue outside of the Garden in Bill Russell‘s honor. In a fantastic Boston Magazine piece, he builds an argument that’s pretty hard to disagree with. Here’s a nugget:

In Boston, we now have statues of three sports figures — Bobby Orr, Red Auerbach, and Ted Williams — sprinkled throughout the city. (Williams, oddly, also has a tunnel named after him.) That’€™s quite a list, actually. But there’€™s one glaring omission: the one sports star — no disrespect here to Teddy Ballgame or Tom Brady — who left a bigger mark on this city than any other. I’€™m talking about a guy who won 11 championships in 13 seasons. Whose name has become synonymous with victory, hard work, and shared sacrifice. I’€™m talking about Bill Russell.

This is a disappointing oversight — absurd, really, given Russell’€™s accomplishments — but a correctable one. What we need is a Bill Russell statue outside the Garden, where the greatest Celtic of them all will stand watch over the franchise he helped build.

KOBE BRYANT: ‘WE’RE SLOW’

Wednesday night’s loss to the Rockets marked the first four-game losing streak for the Lakers since they acquired Pau Gasol. So, what’s the reason for the skid? ESPN.com presented that question to Kobe Bryant:

The general assessment of the team by its players remained that the team had a lot of work to do on both offense and defense, leading to a chicken-or-the-egg type of situation about which is more damning when it’s lousy.

“We’re slow. We’re slow. We’re slow. We’re slow on rotations,” Bryant said, picking on the defense and maybe subconsciously mentioning the word once for every consecutive loss.

THE LEBRON JAMES SAGA

You may not have heard, but a guy named LeBron James who plays for a team called the Miami Heat is returning to his hometown to take on a team by the name of the Cavaliers. The Cleveland Plain Dealer consulted everyone from players to fans to therapists to clergy in order to determine what the reaction should be. Here’s Cavs point guard Mo Williams‘ take:

“This game is not just for us. It’s for 20,000 fans and for the millions watching and pulling for us. We’ve got people that ain’t even Cavs fans pulling for us. We’ve got a lot behind us.”

Lost in all the discussion of LeBron’s return to Cleveland is this: Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has launced a probe into alleged tampering by the Heat in their pursuit of James, according to Yahoo! Sports:

Prior to the start of free agency on July 1, no Miami Heat representative ‘€“ including star Dwyane Wade  was allowed to discuss with James the specific circumstances around Wade, Toronto’€™s Chris Bosh and James joining together with the Heat.

One focus of the law firm’€™s probe includes an alleged Pat Riley-James meeting in Miami in November 2009, and a meeting of James’€™ inner circle with Wade in Chicago in June 2010, sources said.

Riley, James, Wade and Bosh have denied there was a predetermined collusion in the historic free-agent binge, although the players have admitted to discussing the possibility of playing together as far back as the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

If Gilbert’s accusations turn out to be truths, the Heat could lose draft picks. As if there weren’t enough drama surrounding Thursday night’s Cavs-Heat game.

(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’€™s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)

Read More: Big Baby, Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Glen Davis
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