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The wait for Chris Kaman 03.15.12 at 3:19 pm ET
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OAKLAND — With no deadline deals to be had, the Celtics will now turn their attention to the veteran free agent market in their quest to fill the big-man void left by Chris Wilcox who will have heart surgery on March 29. The Celtics will have to clear a roster spot to add a player as they are at the 15-man roster limit. A prime candidate for a buyout is center Jermaine O’Neal who has not played since the All-Star break.

The deadline for players to be waived and be eligible for the postseason on another team’s roster is Mach 23rd.

If the Celtics are able to make room, they will surely have their eyes on Hornets center Chris Kaman who is in the final year of his contract worth $14 million. New Orleans wasn’t able to make a deal for Kaman at the deadline and under normal circumstances, he’d also be a likely buyout candidate. However, the Hornets are owned by the NBA and that might complicate matters. Would the league sign off on a buyout knowing that Kaman will be in high demand for teams that are trying to win a championship?

They will have competition. Yahoo! reported that San Antonio and Miami would also be interested in Kaman if he is bought out.

The Celtics have gone to the buyout route in the past. They were able to coax PJ Brown out of retirement and add Sam Cassell in 2008. Both players helped them win a championship. They weren’t as fortunate in 2009 — Mikki Moore and Stephon Marbury — or last season when they aacquired Troy Murphy, Carlos Arroyo and Sasha Pavlovic.

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Trade Deadline: Making the Chris Kaman cap math work 03.14.12 at 5:18 pm ET
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The Celtics need a big man. The Hornets have no real use for Chris Kaman. They made him available earlier in the season and even kept him away from the team while they explored trade possibilities.

The problem is that Kaman makes $14 million and fitting that contract under the cap is difficult, especially for a team like the Celtics who are not only over the cap, they’re also over the luxury tax line. Recent reports indicate that New Orleans is willing to accept second round picks for Kaman, but not willing to take on any more salary.

With a number of players in the final years of their contracts, there are a handful of scenarios where the Celtics could satisfy that demand, starting with the expiring deals for Jermaine O’Neal and Chris Wilcox. Adding Keyon Dooling’s expiring deal would make the math work, but adding a young player like JaJuan Johnson would make it more difficult.

Further complicating matters is the fact that the Hornets are owned by the NBA. Would the league be willing to sign-off on a deal that yielded only second round picks and expiring deals? Celtics team president Danny Ainge has said that he wasn’t going to trade future assets to help this year’s team and it’s not likely he’d be willing to part with one of his two first round picks for a short-term rental.

If the price for Kaman goes beyond those bare-bones parameters, the Celtics could wait and see if the Hornets buy him out. They’d have to make room on the roster, which is at the 15-player limit.

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Filling the void left by Chris Wilcox 03.11.12 at 9:11 pm ET
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The Celtics will need to replace Chris Wilcox, who is undergoing tests related to a heart condition. (AP)

LOS ANGELES — What are the odds, Doc Rivers wanted to know, of losing two players because of a heart condition?

“It’s not a great place. It’s scary. It really is. The chances of having one of these in a year is pretty minute,” Rivers said before the Celtics took on the Lakers on Sunday. “The chances of having two is like, impossible. There’s a chance that may happen. We just have to wait and see.”

Already reeling from the loss of Jeff Green to heart surgery – a loss that had a deep and a lasting impact on everything from the roster to the rotation – the Celtics are preparing to be without Chris Wilcox, as well. Going back to his days with the Pistons, Wilcox has been tested regularly and something came up last week that forced more tests and evaluation.

“I’d rather find it than not,” said Rivers who was understandably vague about the exact nature of Wilcox’s condition. “At the end of the day we’re lucky and that’s what I told our team: That we’re very lucky that this happened and not unlucky. I think that’s the way you have to look at it and that’s how we’re looking at it.”

There is no timetable for Wilcox, although Rivers said they probably wouldn’t know definitively for at least week. He was able to see the team before they headed out on the trip.

“He seemed like he was in good spirits,” Brandon Bass said. “I wish the best for him. I’m praying for him. He’s a country boy, he’s tough. He’ll be all right.”

On the court, Wilcox’s absence leaves a huge hole in the middle for the Celtics. They had recently decided to go with a nine-man rotation and Wilcox was the first big man off the bench, backing up both the center and the power forward spots. His per-game averages of 5.4 points and 4.4 rebounds don’t nearly explain his importance, not to mention his occasional flashes of open-court brilliance.

“I can’t say much about it but obviously team-wise it’s a hell of a blow for us,” Rivers said.

Without Wilcox and Jermaine O’Neal, the Celtics are down to two veteran bigs: Bass and Kevin Garnett. Bass missed time with a knee injury, but has played well since he returned and Garnett’s minutes are closely-guarded. They need help just to get through the regular-season grind, but with the trade deadline looming, this doesn’t necessarily change the team’s approach. Read the rest of this entry »

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Chris Wilcox: Duracell Man 02.16.12 at 1:38 am ET
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Chris Wilcox has been making a positive contribution for the Celtics. (AP)

One of the biggest compliments a bench player can receive is being called an “energy guy.” Over the course of an NBA season starters go through lulls or, even worse, injuries. Reliable role players that bring energy to the table every night may not catch someone’s attention in the box score, but their ferocious and relentless style of play can change the outcome of games.

Exhibit A: Chris Wilcox‘s production the last three weeks.

After starting the season poorly due to injuries, Wilcox turned the corner while helping Boston during its comeback win on the road against Orlando.  The very next night he scored 14 points in a victory over the Pacers. A few days later, when the Celtics began a five game winning-streak, Wilcox began to flourish and Doc Rivers even attributed the dramatic 91-89 victory over the Knicks to his effort on the offensive boards. But the 6-foot-10 back-up center wasn’t scoring in bunches, or collecting every rebound in site. Instead, he was showing his worth with something intangible — his energy.

“He’s figured it out,” Rivers said. “I think this is how he should be every day in his career. I don’t think it should be inconsistent. I think this is who he is, this is a talent he has. Energy from a big is a talent. It’s who he should be every night. I tell him that all the time.”

The best part of Wilcox’s contributions over the period is the subtle way he tries to make a positive impact. Many bench players fall into the trap of pressing for more minutes. They may force shots or disrupt the flow of the offense to prove they belong on the floor. Wilcox has let the game come to him.

In the 12 games since his breakout performance against Orlando, Wilcox is only taking about four shots a game, but has shot an efficient 34-of-52 (65 percent) from the field. His focus has been largely predicated on the little things like boxing out, creating deflections on the defensive end and trying to get ahead of the pack to give the Celtics fast break opportunities.

“The fact that he runs the floor and he’s in front of everybody,” Rivers said. “And [Rajon] Rondo has trust that he can throw the ball up and he’ll go get it. Rondo made some tough passes tonight and Chris caught them and finished. No different than [Tom] Brady and [Rob Gronkowski]. You get confidence in certain guys.”

Wilcox has not only accepted the challenge of being a spot starter, but thrived in the role. On Sunday against the Bulls, he had 11 points (5-of-6 shooting) to go along with nine boards. Even though his role was enhanced, it was still an energy play which highlighted Wilcox’s performance. With the game still in the balance, JaJuan Johnson completed a thunderous dunk off a Rondo lob. After another Chicago turnover, Rondo pushed the ball forward and found Wilcox for yet another dunk. The crowd rose to their feet and the Celtics never looked back.

“I love playing with Chris,” Rondo said. “He’s probably one of the fastest bigs in the league. I tell him to get out there and run with me and he does a great job every night. We’re starting to get easy baskets in transition and that’s what we need offensively.”

Although the Celtics lost Wednesday night against the Pistons, Wilcox continued to impress in another spot-start performance scoring 17 points (8-of-12 shooting) and collecting nine rebounds in a season-high 32 minutes. The overall result wasn’t ideal for Boston, but Rivers and company know they got what they bargained for when they signed the veteran late in training camp.

“He’s giving us exactly what we hoped he’d give us when we signed him,” Rivers said. “Energy, athleticism, running the floor, finishing at the basket. If he can stay were he’s at right now, I’m very happy with that”.

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In glorious defeat, Rajon Rondo faces media music at 1:10 am ET
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BOSTON — Give Rajon Rondo credit. Three days earlier, the Celtics point guard ducked out of the locker room without speaking to reporters after a win over the Eastern Conference-leading Bulls. On Wednesday night, he faced the media music following a 98-88 loss to the Central Division-worst Pistons.

Silent in victory, vocal in defeat. Not that he really said all that much. So goes the enigma that is Rajon Rondo.

Upon scoring a career-high 35 points against Detroit three days after equaling his career best against Chicago, Rondo simply said, “I made some, I missed some.” For the record, he made 15 field goals and four free throws, missing 12 field goals and five free throws.

On Sunday, Rondo became the fourth player in NBA history to record 32 points, 15 assists, 10 rebounds and two steals in a single game, joining Magic Johnson (thrice), LeBron James and Reggie Theus. Wednesday’s performance brought his totals for the last two games to 67 points, 21 assists, 15 rebounds and six steals.

Rondo’s reaction? “The main thing is our record is 1-1 in these last two games,” he said.

Entering the fourth quarter, the Celtics trailed the Pistons, 73-72. Detroit’s lead grew to six as Rondo sat the first 3:33 of the final frame, and even after his return the Pistons stretched the lead to 13 with just over five minutes remaining. The C’s never recovered, as just four of Rondo’s 35 points came in the final quarter.

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Chris Wilcox and JaJuan Johnson may not be Kareem Abdul-Jabar but they were pretty good Sunday 02.12.12 at 9:29 pm ET
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The Celtics were without Jermaine O’Neal and Brandon Bass Sunday. They were going up against a front-court of Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer that destroyed them on Jan. 13 in Boston in Chicago’s win over the Celtics.

You figured the Celtics were in for a long afternoon-into-night. You figured wrong.

Chris Wilcox got the start and scored 11 points and grabbed nine rebounds in 26 minutes while rookie JaJuan Johnson had 12 points in 33 remarkable minutes off the bench as the Celtics stunned the Bulls, 95-91. The Bulls only outscored the Celtics, 40-38, in the paint. Wilcox ran the floor, finishing four Rajon Rondo fast breaks with dunks, while Johnson had the biggest game of his rookie year out of Purdue. Those were two big reasons why.

“I think anybody can run. I mean, [Kareem Abdul-Jabbar] was running at 37, 38, and 40,” Doc Rivers joked. “So it’s not that – whatever your speed is, you’ve just got to do it every time. And I think it’s the consistency of doing it every single time. Chris was phenomenal, though, with his speed, and so was JaJuan. I mean, both of them. The one things we did know when those two were in – you know, our post defense was what it was, and I thought JuJuan overall, except for the very beginning when he first got in, they he kind of – then he kind of caught on, and got into it. After that, I thought his speed and Chris’ athleticism, both of them, had a major impact.”

As for Johnson, Rivers wants to see more.

“Yeah, but he’s got to keep doing it. You know, one game doesn’t make a star. One season doesn’t make a star. So you’ve just got to keep doing it, and he’s got to do it consistently. He will, like I keep saying, he’s a great kid and he wants to do it. He’s young and he’s still learning focus and all that. But he’s a good player.

“And be able to catch. I mean, they both have pretty good hands, okay hands, but, yeah it helps. It really helps. And you know what people miss is I thought Paul and Ray ran – and because they run, and we showed them on the film, we showed old games today on the film – that when the two guards run, Ray and Paul, and it puts them in the dilemma: do they stay out, wide, in the break and take away their threes? If they do that, if one of our bigs run, then we’re going to get it. I don’t believe two bigs on the other team is going to run every single time, is the point I keep making. Someone eventually is going to say, ‘I’m not running back.’ One of those bigs. And we’re going to get a lay-up.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Irish Coffee: It’s not the Celtics bench’s fault 01.30.12 at 7:40 pm ET
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After the Celtics blew an 11-point lead to the Cavaliers with a little more than five minutes left, Paul Pierce told reporters, “Maybe I should play a little bit more” in the fourth quarter. In so many words, the bench blew the game.

Not so. A lineup of E’Twaun Moore, Mickael Pietrus, Sasha Pavlovic, Brandon Bass and Kevin Garnett entered the final 12 minutes with an eight-point lead, and various combinations of four reserves and one starter played Cleveland even until Pierce re-entered the game with 3:42 remaining and the Celtics holding an 87-79 lead.

In fact, rarely has any of the 10 losses through the first third of the season fallen on the Celtics bench’s shoulders. Just the opposite. With Garnett the lone starter to play all 19 games, an argument could rather easily be made that the C’s reserves are the main reason the team hasn’t started worse than 9-10.

“The first full month has been a tough month for us, but we are a team of workers,” KG said last week. “Since I’ve been here, that’s all we’ve done. We haven’t really leaned on a lot of the talent, moreso the hard work.”

While Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and Jermaine O’Neal have all nursed injuries through the first four weeks of the lockout-shortened season, the hodgepodge that includes a second-year guard, a pair of trade acquisitions, two free agent signings and three rookies has formed some semblance of a cohesive group.

THE STALWARTS Read the rest of this entry »

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