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Preview: Celtics at Grizzlies 11.13.10 at 10:00 am ET
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In advance of Saturday night’s game between the Celtics (7-2) and Grizzlies (4-5) in Memphis (8 p.m.), we caught up with Chip Crain at the “3 Shades of Blue” blog. He answered our six most pressing questions on a young Grizzlies team …

1. The Grizzlies took a big step forward as a team last year. Do you expect them to take another one this season?

Well, we can always hope that the maturation of the team alone will be enough to get them over the hump, but honestly that’s about all the team has.

Will it be improved? Yes, I think they will. Will it be enough? It doesn’t look like it to me.

The problem with the Grizzlies is not their starting five but the bench. They simply  are too inexperienced off the bench, even with Tony Allen in the fold. Xavier Henry, Darrell Arthur and even Hasheem Thabeet have shown some promise, but they aren’t ready to contribute, which puts too much of a strain on the starters to see it lasting for 82 games.

2. What’s the general feeling on Rudy Gay in Memphis? Does his new contract affect the way fans feel about him?

People complained about Rudy Gay‘s contract when he signed it, but no one is complaining now. Rudy has always had a ton of talent, but for the first time he seems to be applying it to more than just scoring.

Rudy is somewhat popular in Memphis — more than Pau Gasol was when he was here but less than Zach Randolph is now.

3. Has the play of Marc Gasol helped fans get over the Pau Gasol trade? Or is there still bitterness?

Yes and no. Marc Gasol‘s play has won over many fans, but people still believe that the Grizzlies could have gotten more. After all, no one would trade Pau for Marc straight up. The Grizzlies got Javaris Crtittenton (out of the league), the draft pick that brought in Darrell Arthur and the draft pick that became Greivis Vasquez in the deal, so talent-wise the city is still sore about the trade.

However, that trade also allowed the Grizzlies to acquire Zach Randolph with the cap space, so Arthur, Randolph, Vasquez and Marc in return for Pau was a great trade in Memphians eyes.

Of course, it’s still a sore subject for the fans of teams that thought their team would have won the title if the Lakers hadn’t gotten Pau.

4. Chris Wallace became a bit of a punchline in Boston after his deal for Vin Baker. How do Grizzlies fans feel about him?

Chris Wallace is very fortunate. His owner has made so many blunders no one has really focused on the poor decisions Wallace has made. Everyone points at Michael Heisley making the calls and forgets who’s whispering in his ear.

Thabeet was a horrible pick that Wallace was against (if you believe the rumors) but Heisley insisted on. That got Wallace off the hook. The problem is that DeMarre Carroll was Wallace’s pick, and he didn’t get his third-year option picked up. Wallace passed on DeJuan Blair three times, and now the team is thin at power forward.

Arthur’s fast start this season has made people forget what a disappointment he’s been his first two seasons, and Conley’s fast start has helped him avoid criticism on that deal. The Kevin Love for O.J. Mayo trade has been a financial noose around the team’s neck as well, with the Grizzlies still owing Marco Jaric money while he babysits Adriana Lima‘s child. Mayo straight up for Love would be questionable now, and with the bad contracts the Grizzlies ate to acquire Mayo it looks really bad to me.

5. What’s a realistic expectation for Tony Allen this year?

I see his upside as starting shooting guard to allow Mayo to move to the bench as the designated scorer, while Allen becomes the defensive stopper in the starting rotation. The downside is he loses his playing time to Henry and Sam Young, and he joins the list of questionable Wallace moves I just mentioned.

Realistically, he should be one of the guys off the bench who contributes on some nights and never gets into games on other nights.  

6. Is Hasheem Thabeet a bust, or is there still hope?

There is always hope, but the buzzards are circling just the same.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies, NBA
Irish Coffee: Top 5 LeBron James parodies 11.12.10 at 11:59 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

If you haven’t heard by now, Paul Pierce mocked LeBron James‘ “Decision” on Twitter last night, saying, “It’s been a pleasure to bring my talents to south beach now on to Memphis.” Inspired by The Truth, this Friday version of Irish Coffee gives you the top five parodies of Lebron’s ridiculous offseason antics …

1. LeBron, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade form “New World Order”

2. Steve Carell reveals his “The Office” decision

3. Cleveland fans mock LeBron’s Nike commercial

4. Hitler from “Inglourious Basterds” reacts to  LeBron’s decision

5. “South Park” spoofs LeBron’s Nike commercial

REACTIONS FROM MIAMI

I love it when not-so-great sports cities are thrust into the limelight. Everybody gets a little too big for their britches, as it pertains to their place in the sports universe — kinda like when the “Jersey Shore” folks became overnight sensations.

Take this, for example, from the Miami Herald on Friday morning:

“Miami vs. Boston could someday be up there with Knicks-Heat, Bulls-Knicks, Pistons-Bulls, Spurs-Mavericks, perhaps even — with a lot of seasoning — Lakers-Celtics.”

Um, no it couldn’t. The Lakers-Celtics rivalry has 60 years of tradition behind it. Those two teams have more championships (33) than the number of years Miami has been in the league (22).

Actually, I take that back, if the Heat win the next 16 championships, then yes, Celtics-Heat could become like Celtics-Lakers. Sorry.

Then, I noticed this throwaway line at the end of another Miami Herald article:

About the only player who responded exactly how we would’ve expected was captain Udonis Haslem.

 Wait, what?!?! Udonis Haslem is their captain? Shouldn’t Wade be the captain? Does this mean that not one of the Big Three is a true leader? I’m confused.

MONDO RONDO

Two fomer Celtics beat writers — Jackie MacMullan and Marc Spears — took on the topic of Rajon Rondo. First, from Jackie Mac:

Rondo: “But if they put LeBron on me, who guards Paul? Who guards Ray?”

This is precisely why I don’t subscribe to the belief that Miami doesn’t need a point guard, because LeBron and Wade can assume the offensive load. That raises two questions for me: 1) If that’s the case, why have a point guard like Carlos Arroyo or Mario Chalmers on the floor? and 2) Who assumes the defensive load, because those guys can’t guard the point and the 2 or 3?

From the same article, Doc Rivers explains the difference in Rondo from last season to this one:

“Last year, or even the year before they would just get a rebound and throw it to the nearest guy. We’re telling everyone to get the ball to Rondo and let him do what he does. The trust they have in him is unbelievable.”

And Erik Spoelstra calls Rondo the best passer in the league:

“Rondo is as a unique a point guard as has been in this league for a long time. He’s so fast. He gets the overwhelming majority of his plays in random, unscripted situations. It’s his creativity and speed that separates him. You are talking about the best passer, arguably, in the game. If you try to body up and play him at half court, you are playing with fire.”

My interpretation from what these coaches told Jackie Mac? Rondo’s extraordinarily high assist totals might not slow down. If the Celtics are getting the ball into his hands more often in transition (i.e., unscripted situations), that explains the significant rise in assists.

Is it realistic to expect Rondo’s increase in assists to persist? Marc Spears asked the source:

“Last year, seven and eight assists were good for me,” Rondo said. “Now, people are expecting me to get 15 or 16 every night. I don’€™t know if it’€™s realistic, but I’€™m going to continue to try as long as guys make shots.”

DO THE CELTICS GET FAVORABLE CALLS?

Some guy over at the Bleacher Report decided to express his frustration about how he believes the Celtics get far too many calls, leading to their success.

Ah, not to excrement on your point, but I think the discrepancies in free throws in the Celtics’ last two games (13 fewer attempts against the Mavericks and 16 fewer against the Heat) — not to mention the 2010 NBA Finals (the C’s shot 57 fewer free throws in the series) — beg to differ.

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

Read More: Boston Celtics, LeBron James, Miami Heat, NBA
Irish Coffee: Kendrick Perkins’ NBA secrets 11.11.10 at 10:22 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Celtics center Kendrick Perkins may be out for the first few months because of his ACL injury, but that doesn’t mean he can’t offer advice on how to guard the NBA‘s elite post players, like the Miami Heat’s Chris Bosh.

In a recent Dime Magazine article, Perkins discussed his strategy …

“Very skilled face-up guy, but he’€™s not a physical player. I try to push him off the block and play him physical. He’€™s gonna score a few, but you can’€™t get frustrated by that. Just stay focused. You’€™d rather him hit you for 18 points than for 40 points.”

Given the physical play of Kevin Garnett, perhaps that’s why he was able to hold Bosh to eight points on 3-of-11 shooting in their first meeting this season. Yet another matchup to watch tonight (we covered Rondo vs. Arroyo on Tuesday).

Perkins also discussed his game plan against Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, Yao Ming, former teammate Al Jefferson and current teammate Shaquille O’Neal

“I’€™ve been playing against Old Shaq, so I don’€™t know what it was like when he was younger. He’€™s kinda like Dwight [Howard], but not as athletic. He can’€™t really finish over the top no more, so you just keep a body between him and the rim.”

Throughout the discussion, Perkins is brutally honest, saying of Jefferson, “I don’t think he’s a great passer.” Great, great stuff.

The same author is also responsible for the magazine’s power rankings. Somehow, the Heat (No. 3) are ranked three slots higher than the Celtics (No. 6), despite the C’s better record and head-to-head victory. Hmmm …

SHAQ FOOL

The never-ending stream of entertainment that comes from having Shaquille O’Neal in town just keeps flowing.

Shaq and Sports Illustrated’s Jimmy Traina sat down for a Q&A to discuss comedy. Here are a few things we learned …

  • Garnett is the funniest player in the NBA.
  • “Best prank I pulled was on Lou Amundson in Phoenix. I took a Snickers bar, put it in some water to get it real brown and wet and put it in my hand. [When he] came off the bench to go in the game, he had on white shorts, I rubbed it all over his shorts and said ‘good game, bro,’ so when he was running on the court he thought he s#@! himself.”
  • Shaqeeta is done.
  • He wants to become the next “The Rock” in the movie business and star alongside Denzel Washington, Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt.
  • His favorite “Yo Mamma” joke: “Yo Mamma is so nasty her crabs have crabs.”
  • The Big Aristotle is the best name he’s given himself.
  • His top five comedy movies of all-time: “Don’t Be a Menace To South Central While Drinking Juice in the Hood”, “Harlem Nights”, “Life”, “Me, Myself and Irene” and “Step Brothers”.

Shaq did the SI Q&A to promote an online video series for Power Balance where he interviews himself. It’s the funniest thing he’s ever done. Here’s a great exchange …

Shaq1: “So, you and Kobe [Bryant] finally made nice?”
Shaq2: “Who?”
Shaq1: “Did he get you a diamond ring?”
Shaq2: “I don’t accept diamond rings from guys.”
Shaq1: “Well, you should, because then you would have five rings, too, stupid.”

I also enjoyed Shaq asking himself, “What page were you on of the ‘Kazaam’ script when you called your agent and said, ‘I’m in’?” Hilarious.

O’Neal is also promoting his second annual “Join Shaq, Give Back” holiday campaign. As Shaq-a-Claus, he is encouraging “shoppers to donate new, unwrapped toys and cash in Toys-R-Us and Babies-R-Us stores nationwide and online at ToysRUs.com/ToysforTots.”

“My parents always encouraged me to give back to those less fortunate, and ever since I made it to the NBA, I’€™ve been visiting Toys-R-Us stores during the holiday season to buy gifts for kids in need,” O’€™Neal said. “As a father myself, I know firsthand how magical it is for a child to open a gift on Christmas morning.’€

Since Oct. 31, the program has raised $366,139. Great stuff all-around off the court. Now, if only he could get back on the court.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Chris Bosh, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett
Fast Break: Nowitzki sinks Celtics 11.08.10 at 11:07 pm ET
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Dirk Nowitzki hit a 17-foot jumper over Glen Davis with 17 seconds remaining, breaking an 87-87 tie and giving the Mavericks an 89-87 victory over the Celtics on Monday night.

Rajon Rondo missed a wide-open 3-pointer to win it, and Kevin Garnett missed a fadeaway jumper to tie it in the final seconds. Paul Pierce scored a team-high 24 points, Garnett added 18 points and 15 rebounds, and Rondo produced 11 points, 15 assists and six rebounds for the C’s, who fell to 6-2.

Nowitzki led the Mavericks (4-2) with 25 points, six rebounds and four assists.

THREE THINGS THAT WENT WRONG

1. First-half defense: You’re probably not going to beat anybody — let alone the Mavericks — when you allow an opponent to shoot 55 percent from the field for the first half. Dallas made 21-of-38 field goals in the opening 24 minutes, building a lead as large as 14, en route to a 10-point halftime lead.

Mavericks big men Tyson Chandler and Nowitzki were the biggest benefactors of the C’s porous defense. Chandler finished 5-for-5 in the first half, scoring all 10 of those points within two feet of the basket. Nowitzki scored nine first-half points on 4-of-7 shooting.

2. Shooting: It’s bad enough when you allow 55 percent shooting, but it hurts twice as much when your own field-goal percentage is hovering around 35 percent for much of the night. A second-half streak only raised the Celtics’ field goal percentage to 41 percent for the night.

Ray Allen (4-of-11), Jermaine O’Neal (1-of-6) and Rondo (5-of-15) all struggled from the field.

3. Losing the free-throw battle: Sure, the Celtics shot 100 percent from the free-throw line, but they only had seven attempts. The C’s got just one free-throw attempt combined from Glen Davis, Jermaine O’Neal, Garnett and Rondo.

Meanwhile, the Mavericks shot 20 free throws, making 17 (85 percent). Nowitzki alone matched the entire Celtics roster from the free-throw line, making all seven of his attempts. For the referees’ sake, it’s a good thing Tommy Heinsohn didn’t make the trip.

THREE THINGS THAT WENT RIGHT

1. The halftime speech must’ve worked: The Celtics were badly outplayed in the first half and lucky to be trailing by just 10 at the break. The few signs of grit the C’s showed in the opening 24 minutes didn’t pay dividends, as their own shots just weren’t falling.

Well, something clicked, as the Celtics went on a 22-9 run to start the second half, taking a three-point lead on a trey from (who else but) Ray Allen just 8:14 into the third quarter.

2. Team rebounding: Jermaine O’Neal may have left the game at halftime because of his ailing left knee, but the Celtics didn’t miss him. Garnett grabbed a team-high 15 rebounds, while Pierce (7 boards), Rondo (6) and Allen (5) also chipped in on the glass.

In all, the Celtics out-rebounded the Mavericks, 41-38.

3. Semih Erden continues to contribute: In Jermaine O’Neal’s absence, Semih Erden played 11 minutes, scoring six points on 2-of-4 shooting from the field and 2-for-2 shooting from the free-throw line.

Erden has yet to miss a free throw this season, entering Monday night’s game a perfect 7-for-7 from the charity stripe. Perhaps that production can offset any struggles Shaquille O’Neal has at the line this season.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Garnett
A Celtics tribute to Conan O’Brien at 3:20 pm ET
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In honor of Conan O’Brien‘s return to television Monday night, I give you Paul Pierce on the “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” show after he won the 2008 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player award during the Celtics‘ 2007-08 championship run …

… And here’s a great clip recorded during the 2010 NBA playoffs of Conan ripping Los Angeles Lakers fans and praising Boston fans while wearing a Pierce jersey. Funny stuff …

Read More: Boston Celtics, Conan O'Brien, Paul Pierce,
Irish Coffee: Different Celtics defense, same result at 10:52 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Last week, prior to the Celtics welcoming their former assistant coach Tom Thidodeau and the Chicago Bulls to town, Ray Allen asked a simple question: “Do they know everything we’re running?”

The same question was asked over and over around the Celtics locker room. The standard poker-faced response? Defensive schemes hadn’t changed much since Thibodeau’s departure.

Perhaps the C’s were playing their cards a little close to the vest.

“From what I’ve seen, they’ve tweaked some things,” Thibodeau told WEEI.com. “There are some things that were there before. I think a big part of their team is the personnel that they have, and it could change again when [Kendrick] Perkins comes back.”

The biggest question marks surrounding the Celtics’ defense entering the 2010-11 season had the same last name — O’Neal. With the additions of Shaquille and Jermaine O’Neal, how would the C’s integrate them — along with rookies Semih Erden, Luke Harangody and Avery Bradley — into a defense that ranked first, second and fifth in points allowed per 100 possessions over the last three seasons?

“Some of those guys have pretty good defensive foundations,” added Thibodeau. “A guy like Jermaine O’Neal — his shot blocking — and obviously Shaq’s a physical presence. He takes up a lot of space. He’s always been on the boards, rebounding. I think that they’ve got a lot of length up front, and they’ve got a lot of toughness on that team. So, when you add those things to their system, they’re tough to score on.”

So far, whatever wrinkles Doc Rivers and new assistant coach Lawrence Frank have put in place are paying dividends. The C’s currently rank third in defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) in the NBA. In perhaps their two most difficult games to date, they’ve held Miami to 80 points at the TD Garden on opening night and the Thunder to 83 points in Oklahoma City on Sunday night.

This fall, Jermaine O’Neal has looked fairly uncomfortable in the offense, but defensively he’s been a stalwart underneath — blocking a shot every 11 minutes in six games this season (despite reportedly undergoing a “minor procedure” on his left knee this season). Jermaine ranks 44th individually all-time in career defensive rating. Shaq also ranks in the top 100 ever, at 78. Perkins doesn’t rank in the top 250.

So, can the concerns over what Thibodeau’s departure would do to the C’s defense be laid to rest? According to Thibodeau himself, they certainly can.

“The good thing about their team is they’re smart,” said Thibodeau. “So, you can keep adding things to what you’re doing. Each year, we added something to it. It never remained the same. I think it’s their commitment to defense that makes them special. Again, that comes from, first, Doc, and then Kevin [Garnett], Paul [Pierce] and Ray. They’re commitment has made everyone else buy into it.”

Essentially, the foundation is still there, even if the exterior looks a little different.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo
Kevin Garnett on Charlie Villanueva: ‘He’s a nobody’ 11.06.10 at 1:12 am ET
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Kevin Garnett said he is tired of talking about his run-in with Detroit’s Charlie Villanueva on Tuesday in Boston’s win over the Pistons. Villanueva accused Garnett, via twitter, of calling him a cancer patient during a trash-talking session on the court. Garnett spent Wednesday trying to diffuse the situation, claiming there was a misunderstanding and he simply called the Pistons big man a ‘cancer’ to his team and the NBA.

Friday, Garnett said he’s done talking about it.

“He’s a nobody,” Garnett said. “I’m not paying attention to nobodies any more.”

It has been quite the emotional week for Garnett, who also got into a shoving match with Andrew Bogut the next night in a home-court win over Milwaukee.

Read More: Andrew Bogut, Boston Celtics, Charlie Villanueva, Detroit Pistons
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