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Message or not, Doug Collins was certainly impressed with the Celtics 04.06.11 at 12:00 pm ET
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It took nearly 20 minutes after the final buzzer of the Celtics’ 99-82 win over the Sixers Tuesday night for Doc Rivers to show up for his postgame news conference in the small media room at TD Garden.

Turns out, he was being showered with praise by Sixers coach Doug Collins.

“We ran up against a team that played probably as well as they’ve played in a long time,” Collins said. “I talked to Doc after the game, 29 assists, they executed brilliantly, they had two or three really great defensive spurts. To start the third quarter, we fought to get back in, and we cut it to four again, and then they had another defensive spurt.”

Then came the really sugar-coated stuff.

“I told our guys how that’s really what championship teams do, they might not play it for 48 minutes, but they’re going to lock you down for stretches, and win those what I call five minute skirmishes. And I thought they won two five-minute skirmishes in the second half which I really thought gave them separation.”

As for the message sent and received business that was in vogue after the game should this be a playoff preview, Rivers said he was really only concerned about the final score, nothing less, nothing more.

“No. No. Not at all,” Rivers said, downplaying the mere suggestion. “I just think we won today, and they lost today, and they’re going to watch film and we’re going to watch film. But it’s good to win.”

That doesn’t mean everyone was buying it. Rondo admitted he thought the Celtics made a ‘little statement’ about just how hard it’s going to be for the Sixers to knock off the Celtics in a seven-game series.

But back to Collins. Without mentioning him by name, the Sixers coach also had praise for the way C’s GM Danny Ainge has rebuilt the depth of the bench to support his starting guards.

Delonte West really helps them, Jeff Green has played very well against us, and they played a very very good game,” Collins said. “Rondo once again leading their team, Ray Allen shooting a high percentage. So when they play like that, it should make Doc smile because they’re one of the best teams in the league.”

Collins has been around long enough to know that trash-talking a superior opponent, especially one you might see in the first round of the playoffs in 10 days, almost never does any good.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Doc Rivers, Doug Collins
Bill Simmons on D&C: ‘I don’t know’ what Celtics are now 04.04.11 at 10:37 am ET
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Bill Simmons

ESPN’s Bill Simmons appeared on the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning to discuss the Celtics’ playoff prospects and reflect on the Kendrick Perkins trade. To hear the interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Simmons said that if Shaquille O’Neal can’t return after straining his right calf Sunday, he can’t see the Celtics winning it all.

“They can’t win,” Simmons said. “I mean, part of this Perkins trade was that you had to keep your fingers crossed that you were either going to get Shaq and Jermaine [O'Neal] or one of them or pieces of both of them or whatever. And those guys aren’t involved. There are too many teams that have size that they’re probably going to have to come across at some point, especially because it just seems like the Lakers are going to be there now. They’re just not big enough to beat the Lakers.”

Simmons said he wasn’t entirely opposed to the Perkins trade at the time it was made, but that it’s now easy to see it wasn’t a good move.

“I thought it was a trade that made sense on paper, which is what I wrote,” Simmons said. “It was because they had this huge hole behind [Paul] Pierce and [Ray] Allen. … But it was one of those things where they just moved from one hole to another hole. Now they don’t have to worry about Pierce and Allen getting into foul trouble or putting a ton of miles on them or whatever, but now they have this other hole.

“I didn’t even fully realize after they made the trade how much it was going to affect our identity,” Simmons continued. “I worried about it, but it’s really affected their identity. I think the one thing we’ve learned over the last month is that these guys really bought into that whole, whether it was stupid or not, nobody had ever beaten them in a playoff series when they were healthy. And that was something they fed off.”

Simmons said the trade doesn’t help the Celtics long term, either. “The part that nobody mentions with the Perkins trade is that they’re talking about how they want to get younger — Jeff Green and moving forward and all that kind of stuff,” he said. “Where are they going to find a young center three years from now or two years from now? There’s not a ton of centers out there. So in a way, you’re in the same type of hole you would’ve been in trying to get younger anyway.”

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Read More: Bill Simmons, Danny Ainge, Kendrick Perkins, Shaquille O'Neal
Irish Coffee: Jermaine O’Neal’s Celtics impact 03.31.11 at 12:02 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

On Feb. 1, when the Celtics began a two-month-plus stretch without either of the O’Neal “brothers,” if you had to put your life savings on which one would return first, how many people would’ve put money on Jermaine O’Neal?

Not many, me included. I know I would’ve put my $47 on Shaquille O’Neal. And, as Dale Arnold might say, if you gave Doc Rivers Sodium Pentothal, he’d probably admit that he would’ve rather had Shaq back first. But that’s not the case.

Jermaine O’Neal is returning to the Celtics lineup for the first time since Jan. 10, when his knee swelled to the point of no return. In 17 games this season, he had averaged 5.2 points and 3.8 rebounds in 18.1 minutes.

So, what, exactly, can we expect from Jermaine O’Neal? If we can agree that all the Celtics need to replace Kendrick Perkins‘ minutes are guys who can defend bigs, rebound the basketball and knock down open shots created by the Big Four, then J.O. can give you plenty. Not as much as Shaq, but it’s something, right?

Let’s start with defense. Here are the points per possession (PPP) and field-goal percentages allowed by Perkins, Shaq, J.O. and Nenad Krstic on man-to-man defense in their limited time as Celtics this season:

  • Kendrick Perkins (7 games): 0.81 PPP on 41.0 percent shooting
  • Shaquille O’Neal (36 games): 0.77 PPP on 37.6 percent shooting
  • Jermaine O’Neal (17 games): 0.76 PPP on 35.2 percent shooting
  • Nenad Krstic (17 games): 0.90 PPP on 44.2 percent shooting

In a limited sample size, Jermaine O’Neal actually gave the Celtics the best defense of all four guys. Even if he can give them 15 minutes a night, that might limit Krstic’s ineffectiveness on the defensive end. When Shaquille O’Neal returns, the C’s should finally have the defensive depth at center that can fill the void left by Perkins.

Now, let’s look at rebounding. Here are the rebounding rates — or the percentage of missed shots corraled by a player in his time on the floor — for those same bigs:

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Jermaine O'Neal, Kendrick Perkins
Jon Barry on Celtics winning Eastern Conference: ‘I think they will’ at 11:25 am ET
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Appearing on the Dennis & Callahan Show, ESPN NBA analyst Jon Barry said despite the Celtics’ recent struggles, he still believes they will win the Eastern Conference when it’s all said and done. (To listen to the entire interview, click here.)

“I don’t put a lot of stock what happens at the end of the regular season,” Barry said. “Last year the Lakers lost 7 of 10 and went on to win the thing. Boston was 27-27 their last 54 and got to the Finals in the seventh game. So I wouldn’t read too much into this. But I’m a bit concerned because I really thought they were the best team with Kendrick Perkins on their roster. Now I think they let the pack in a little bit closer to them. I still think they can win the East and I think they will, but I think they’ve brought the other teams back to where they have a better opportunity to beat them.

“I like their experience,” Barry added. “I think Chicago has had a tremendous year but this is a team that hasn’t gone past the first round. The Miami Heat I think still aren’t ready to do it, come playoff time they’re not built for playoff basketball. I do believe the Celtics will come back and circle the wagons and be ready to go and be the team to beat in the East.”

Barry explained that he was taken aback at how much trading Perkins away has affected the Celtics.

“I’m a bit surprised,” the analyst said. “This was the No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference with Kendrick Perkins playing 12 games. The impact that he’s made on the floor obviously hasn’t been that big and they’ve played through it. I’m a bit surprised that they’re losing games. They haven’t been able to score. Their execution late in games has been poor. It’s kind of been there bugaboo the last few years.”

Some of the other topics touched on by Barry …

The Celtics recent struggles: “Obviously, since the Kendrick trade this team has not played well. [Rajon] Rondo in particular has not played well. We know how close he was with Kendrick Perkins. I know he has a pinky issue. There’s been no bones about it that these guys are unhappy that Kendrick’s left. Doc Rivers has felt the same way and they got to find a way to crank it back up here as we get started her in couple weeks for the real season.”

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Read More: Celtics, Danny Ainge, Doc Rivers, Heat
Irish Coffee: Celtics should stop making excuses 03.30.11 at 2:24 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

The Celtics are 5-7 in their last 12 games. You know that. I know that. And they know that. There’s nothing you and I can do about it, but there’s plenty they can — starting with taking some responsibility for coughing wins up to teams like the Nets and undermanned Bobcats.

Just listen to the comments from Celtics veterans in a recent HoopsWorld story

Ray Allen: “I’m not comfortable, and I think even if we didn’t make trades we still had injuries where we were still playing catch up. I’m not comfortable.”

Was he more comfortable taking the same amount of shots per game in January (11.9), when the C’s finished 12-4 without Kendrick Perkins while Allen averaged more points, rebounds and assists than he did this month?

Paul Pierce: “It’s hard when you got pieces missing every other week, it seems like. In another week, we’re going to be a whole new team.”

Was it hard when the Celtics went 33-10 without Perkins for the first 43 games of the season, or when they finished 19-6 in their first 25 games without Shaquille O’Neal — or did it get exponentially harder over the last 12 games against powerhouses like the Nets and Bobcats?

And then listen to the comments from the newest Celtics in that same HoopsWorld story …

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Erik Ainge, Ray Allen
Irish Coffee: Celtics answer all questions 03.25.11 at 1:32 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

Rather than fishing for answers to Celtics questions  — like, “Did Shaquille O’Neal suffer a setback?” … “Will Jermaine O’Neal ever return?” … “What’s wrong with Rajon Rondo?” … “Is Doc Rivers gone after the season?” … and, “Why does Kevin Garnett obsess over ‘Big Love’?” — let’s just go straight to the leprechauns’ mouths.

All those questions were answered during interviews on WEEI’s Celtics Thursday when Rivers joined the Dennis & Callahan morning show, Garnett appeared on Mut & Merloni and president Danny Ainge spoke on The Big Show. Here are the highlights:

Shaq reportedly received a cortisone shot last Tuesday, what gives?

Doc: “Hopefully Shaq will be back within the next five or six days. Again, that’s the estimated time of arrival.”

Danny: “He’s day-to-day starting about that time. I think Shaq is probably not going to play in Minnesota or Indiana, and I think from that point on it’s day-to-day. He could play in San Antonio, or he may play the next game or the game after that. I’m not certain.

“It’s up to him. Like, ‘Are you ready to play?’ He wants to practice before he goes out to play, so we’ll just wait for him to say, ‘I feel ready to go.’ You can’t just say, ‘Hey, you’re going to play tonight; get out there and play.’ …

“With Shaq, he’s got some soreness in the Achilles tendon, and he wants to try to have it as pain-free as possible before he goes out there to play, rather than play in these games right now. And that’s what we’re trying to wait for. It’s a lot more pain-free today than it was last week.”

KG: “We change dramatically [with Shaq]. You have not only a post presence but a presence, period. Shaq is physical on both ends. He lets that presence be known from the minute the ball goes up.”

Can the Celtics expect anything from Jermaine O’Neal?

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Danny Ainge, Doc Rivers
Irish Coffee: Pat Riley longs for Doc Rivers 03.11.11 at 9:51 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

Four months ago, when rumors started swirling that Pat Riley wants Doc Rivers to replace Erik Spoelstra as head coach of the Heat in 2011-12 (if there is a 2011-12 season), the current Celtics head  coach told WEEI: “As far as I’m concerned, I’m a Celtic and I plan on being that for a long time, as long as I’m coaching.”

Yet, Riley still pines for his former point guard when the two were Knicks, like Rick Blaine longed for Ilsa Lund in “Casablanca.”  Unfortunately for the Heat president, Rivers chose Celtics orchestrator Danny Ainge as his Victor Laszlo.

We’ll let Yahoo! Sports columnist Adrian Wojnarowski explain

Yes, Riles has long been intrigued with Doc Rivers, his old point guard with the New York Knicks. In his mind, Doc’s an extension of his own coaching tree. He must love to hear Rivers tell the story about how Riles told him that he would one day be a coach, about how Doc told him that he was crazy. The Celtics have a contract extension waiting for Rivers, sources say, but so far he’s wanted to wait until the season’s end to deal with it. For him, it would be difficult to make a direct leap from an aging Celtics roster to the Heat. Rivers is too entrenched, too woven into the franchise’s fabric now. What would happen to his relationships with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, with that city, those fans who adore him?

Nevertheless, he’s perfect for Miami. He’s a championship coach. He has a blueprint for making a Big Three work, for holding difficult stars accountable and together. Yet Rivers has a relationship with his GM that Riley has never had with a coach. He isn’t afraid to tell GM Danny Ainge that he’s completely wrong, that he’s going to do it his way and that that’s just way it has to be. Rivers and Ainge can argue, debate and sometimes even rage, but ultimately Ainge lets Rivers coach the Celtics. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Riley, or Rivers, could have the autonomy that they would need to co-exist. Go down the list of strong-minded, successful coaches, and ask yourself how many could come from the outside and fit into that insular Heat world.

Do you think every time the Celtics visit American Airlines Arena, Riley quotes the words written by Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein‘s grandfather and great uncle: “Of all the arenas, in all the towns, in all the world, he walks into mine”?

Celtics fans can revel in the fact that the Heat essentially want to be the Celtics, from the president right on down to the players. And to throw another log on the fire, read Jessica Camerato’s discussion with former Heat starter and current C’s backup point guard Carlos Arroyo — conducted in Spanish and translated by Miami blog Hot Hot Hoops – during which Arroyo explains the difference between the two teams:

“I think it starts with the players. Not every player has incredible team chemistry. [Boston] already has a lot of time together, and they know each other very well on the court. I think that’s what Miami is missing. Boston always has a very complete team and I hope it happens this year.”

For everybody’s sake, let’s jut hope Riley doesn’t start crying in the front office.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett
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