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Irish Coffee: The homecomings of Celtics greats 12.03.10 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
Danny Ainge on Delonte West injury: ‘We’ll stay with our roster’ 11.25.10 at 9:59 am ET
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Celtics GM Danny Ainge told the Boston Globe that he had no plans to make a trade to replace point guard Delonte West, who suffered a broken right wrist on Wednesday and could be out for months.

‘€œWe like our guys, and Avery [Bradley] is starting to get healthy and Avery and [Von Wafer] are going to have to step up and play,’€™’€™ Ainge told the Globe. ‘€œIn order to make a move we’€™d have to let someone go and we like our guys. It’€™s tragic for Delonte. Basketball is a very important part of his life. I hate to see this happen. But Delonte will be able to return late in the season to help us.’€™’€™

West missed the first 10 games of the season, during which the Celtics went 8-2. However, the team’s depth at point guard has been further depleted by the absence of Rajon Rondo, who missed his third straight game on Wednesday and, according to Celtics coach Doc Rivers, could miss Friday’s contest as well.

Still, the Celtics have Nate Robinson and Marquis Daniels to play the position in addition to Rondo and Bradley.

“We like those guys when the season started and I like them even more now with the work they are putting in and this league is a league of opportunity,” Ainge said. “So we’ll stay with our roster for now and see what we got.”

Read More: Avery Bradley, broken wrist, Danny Ainge, Delonte West
The strong and sensitive Delonte West 11.17.10 at 11:35 pm ET
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Shaquille O’Neal has a lot of faith in Delonte West, who made his long-awaited return to the court Wednesday night in the Celtics‘ rout of the Wizards at TD Garden. After all, he played last year with him in Cleveland.

“I learned that you guys think he’s crazy but he’s not,” O’Neal said. “Not at all. I could handle him. We always have conversations about the game. He’s very smart. He’s just misunderstood at times.”

West was a very grateful man Wednesday night. And he wore his emotion on his sleeve. He was eligible to play in an NBA game for the first time since serving a league-mandated 10-game suspension for off-court misconduct involving firearms and a motorcycle in the summer of 2009.

With that behind him – and with the faith and support of his teammates and Celtics management - he entered the game as a sub for Ray Allen with 3:12 left in the first quarter. He was nervous as if he were a rookie making his NBA debut.

“It brought a tear to my eye,” West said of the loud ovation he received from the crowd, many on their feet in support.

Then West was brought back to earth by Washington’s Nick Young.

“Then Nick Young hit three shots in my face, and that dried up my tears real quick.”

West had the ideal scenario to return to the court on Wednesday night and he took advantage, scoring 12 points, grabbing five rebounds and handing out four assists to lead the bench in Boston’s 114-83 win over the Washington Wizards at TD Garden.

“Any game is perfect for me,” West said. “I just want to be back helping out. I’€™m so excited to be back. Thankful to the lord for this second opportunity and I’€™ll make the best out of it.’€

After playing in practice and in the preseason with the team, West was making his official debut back in a Celtics uniform after serving a 10-game NBA-imposed suspension for off-court misconduct. The Celtics gave the once-troubled guard one more chance, signing him shortly after Minnesota waived him in the summer.

‘€œIt felt great,” West said. “For a minute there in the summertime I thought I wouldn’€™t see an NBA court again. I thank the Lord, ownership here, the coaching staff, and Danny Ainge. They know what I am about. I’€™m just blessed to have this opportunity to do what I love to do. They knew the difference between a bad decision and a bad person. I’m just blessed to have this opportunity to do what I love to do.”

West made his debut when he replaced Ray Allen with 3:12 left in the first quarter and Celtics coach Doc Rivers said it was only natural that he showed some initial rust but not for long as West found his rhythm, finding Paul Pierce for an open three on the right wing, a three Pierce drilled to give West his first stat in his first game back – an assist.

‘€œI didn’€™t want to do too much,” West admitted. “Sometimes not doing too much is what the team needs you to do. The second unit responded well in the second half. The first half, our timing was just off. Marquis [Daniels] missed a few practices, I’€™m getting back into the mix. We’€™re just trying to adjust to playing with one another. Biggest thing is we got the victory. Other kinks we’€™ll work out.’€

He played 21 minutes in his first Celtics game since being dealt to Seattle following the 2006-07 season.

‘€œIn the first half, I just wanted to get my feet wet,” West said. “I noticed that my timing was off a little bit. Guys that know me, I don’€™t really force much. I let the game come to me. With that second unit sometimes you got to force the flow. When you’€™re up 20 or 15, it’s hard to go out and want to be aggressive. You want to maintain the lead and give the starters some rest.’€

Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Delonte West, NBA
Danny Ainge on The Big Show: Health of O’Neals ‘a concern’ 11.11.10 at 7:30 pm ET
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Celtics executive president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, in his weekly appearance on The Big Show (lsten to the interview at The Big Show audio on demand page) said that the health of centers Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal had become something of a concern. Shaquille O’Neal has missed the last five games while recovering from a bruised right knee, while Jermaine O’Neal was sidelined in the second half of this week’s contest against the Mavericks due to a left knee injury.

Shaq, Ainge said, is expected to return to the lineup against the Heat on Thursday. Jermaine O’Neal, on the other hand, is expected to remain sidelined. While Ainge did proclaim the health of the two centers a concern, he also said that it was not a complete surprise that the team is managing minutes at the position.

“I think that Jermaine and Shaq are a concern with their health,” said Ainge. “I felt like with the four centers we have that we’d be able to make it through the year. I didn’t expect Shaq to play 82 games, and I didn’t expect him to play more than 20-25 minutes a night at the most, and that was if he was playing well.”

With the two O’Neals dealing with their knee issues and Kendrick Perkins trying to work his way back from his torn ACL, Ainge said that rookie Semih Erden will continue to see minutes.

“Semih is going to get a chance to play with the up-and-down health of the two O’Neals,” Ainge said. “He has pretty good instincts about where to be both offensively and defensively. … Sometimes he’s thinking too much rather than relying on his instincts.”

Ainge also touched on the recent remarks by Joakim Noah of the Bulls that were critical of Celtics forward Kevin Garnett. Noah called Garnett “very mean” and “ugly,” comments that Ainge suggested were a non-story.

“I’m sure Kevin’s enjoying it. … It’s hilarious. I’m sure Kevin is enjoying every bit of it,” Ainge said. “I don’t even think this is a story. i don’t even want to talk about it, it’s so boring. … Joaquim Noah popping off is not very interesting.”

Ainge also discussed the early inconsistencies of the Heat, a team that he characterized as alternately dominant and vulnerable, as well as the status of Perkins’ recovery and the nature of his team’s budding rivalry with Miami.

Read More: Danny Ainge, Jermaine O'Neal, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O'Neal
Irish Coffee: Celtics lack killer instinct 11.02.10 at 11:05 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

 

We know they love Halloween, but does this Celtics team have a killer instinct?

I raised this concern when the C’s let a pair of double-digit leads vaporize at both second-half quarters in the opening-night win over the Miami Heat.

And Dime Magazine’s Austin Burton raised it again just three games into the 2010-11 NBA season — suggesting Boston has played to its competition through the first three games.

 The Celtics did it last season, when they were just average down the stretch before bouncing back to find their rhythm in the playoffs and get with a few possessions of winning another NBA championship. But for a veteran team – led by Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal and the playoff-experienced Rajon Rondo -- that has been through the wars and knows the importance of staying focused and consistent, it’s a red flag.

The Celtics had the killer instinct in 2007-08, when they won 66 regular-season games and the NBA title. A whopping 21 of those victories came by margins of 20 points or more.

They simply didn’t let many games slip away, as they did in Game 2 against Cleveland — dissolving a double-digit lead in the second half against one of the worst teams in the league.

The 2007-08 C’s started 20-2, winning by an average of 16 points and losing only to a pair of teams that reached the second round of the playoffs that season (the Orlando Magic and the LeBron James-led Cavaliers).

Meanwhile, this year’s edition of the Celtics has led all three of its games by double digits late in the third quarter, only to be playing meaningful minutes down to the buzzer.

Against the Heat, an 83-70 lead with four minutes to play dwindled to an 83-80 advantage in the final minute. Against the Cavs, the C’s turned a 66-55 third-quarter advantage into a 95-87 loss. And against the Knicks, Boston owned a 101-90 lead with two minutes left, only to be clinging to a 103-101 advantage in the final minute.

To further the issue, Burton points to tonight’s game as a potential defining moment for this season’s Celtics, especially considering they haven’t played since Friday night.

The Celtics will get another test of their focus on Tuesday, when they visit the Pistons on the road. A fierce playoff rival for the C’€™s as recently as 2008, Detroit was in the Lottery last year and aren’€™t expected to do much this year. Ben Gordon‘€™s and Co. are 0-3 right now, but two of those losses were down-to-the-wire games against playoff teams in Oklahoma City and Chicago. If the Celtics overlook Detroit – perhaps eyeing an upcoming stretch that has them home for the Bucks and Bulls before playing at OKC, Dallas and Miami – Gordon and Rodney Stuckey and the Pistons’€™ talented scorers will hand Doc Rivers another unexpected L.

Losses piling up are certainly a concern, but as the Celtics showed last year: For this team, what happens in the regular season stays in the regular season. The more concerning number — other than a potentially lower playoff seed — could be the mounting meaningful minutes.

The more games the Celtics are able to demonstrate a killer instinct — turning second-half, double-digit leads into certifiable blowouts down the stretch — the fewer minutes Rivers has to trot out his aged starters.

“I love sitting on the bench in the fourth quarter when you’ve got a blowout,” Ray Allen said in the preseason. “That means everybody as a team gets the opportunity to play. Everybody works hard throughout the week, so when you know guys get a chance to play that’s when you know you’ve got it.”

Which only stresses the killer instinct question: Do this season’s Celtics have IT?

MAGIC DON’T MATCH UP

What the Celtics do have — according to Orlando Sentinel‘s George Diaz — is a considerable matchup advantage against the Magic. In fact, the columnist essentially threw in the towel against the C’s and Heat just a few games into the season. Here’s a glimpse:

The Magic don’t have any players who can break down a defense by going one-on-one, unless Vince Carter steps into a Hot Tub Time Machine and it’s 1997 all over again.

Without one, they won’t have a prayer of beating the Celtics or the Heat in a playoff series.

It may sound like one man’s opinion, but it’s not. Even Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy owned up to that discrepancy after getting blown out by the Heat on Friday.

“Against a good defensive team we have trouble a little bit,” Van Gundy told the Sentinel. “We don’t have — and this isn’t to put down anybody in our locker room — but we don’t have the great one-on-one players. We don’t have Dwyane Wade and James and Pierce and Kobe Bryant.”

That’s got to be fairly eye-opening for any Orlando fan. I had my doubts about the Magic from the start, relaying recently a conversation I overheard at the Garden:

“How come you don’t believe in the Magic?” one guy said to another.

To which the other guy replied, “They still have Vince Carter, don’t they?”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Jimmer Fredette, Mike D'Antoni
The Delonte West Timeline 10.29.10 at 4:34 pm ET
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Following HoopsWorld’s report that Delonte West and Von Wafer exchanged blows during a practice before tonight’s 7:30 p.m. game against the New York Knicks at the TD Garden, we put together a simple timeline of an offseason that explains a little why the Celtics may be considering dumping West even before he fulfills the 10-game suspension levied upon him this summer …

  • July 15: On trial for six weapons charges from a 2009 traffic stop in Maryland, West pleaded guilty to carrying an eight-inch bowie knife and transporting a handgun on his motorcycle. He was sentenced to eight months of home detention, two months of probation and 40 hours of community service. As a result, NBA commissioner David Stern suspended West for the first 10 games of the 2010-11 season.

The Washington Post reported: “Three guns were found — a 9mm Beretta in West’s waistband, a Ruger .357 Magnum strapped to his leg, and a 12-gauge shotgun in a guitar case slung over his back, authorities said. West also had additional shotgun shells in a backpack, investigators said.”

  • July 26: In the wake of “The Decision,” the Cleveland Cavaliers traded West — along with Sebastian Telfair — for Ramon Sessions and Ryan Hollins.
  • August 3: In order to save $4.1 million in salary, the T-Wolves released West.
  • September 1: The Celtics signed West to a non-guaranteed deal for the veteran minimum.
  • September 27: Officially donning a Celtics uniform again on Media Day, West denied rumors that sufraced during the 2010 NBA Playoffs that he and LeBron James‘ mother, Gloria, had engaged in a relationship.

“Not at all,” he told reporters. “I come from an era where you don’t say nothing bad about someone’s parent, so not at all.”

  • October 11: In an open diary to the public on ESPN.com, West praised the camaraderie of this veteran Celtics team. He also commented on his past:

“People make mistakes but that’s what life is,” West wrote. “You’ve got to learn from them and keep going. This team is here to win. The unselfishness stands out. Everyone is just submerging themselves within the team. It’s all about team here. That’s the type of player I am anyway, I’m always about the team. I put the team before my individual goals my whole career. It’s good to be on a team like this.”

  • October 13: On a preseason road trip, the Celtics sent West back to Boston from New York to undergo testing for the back spasms that had been ailing him throughout training camp.
  • October 22: Still healing from his lower back injury, West returned to practice in a limited fashion.
  • October 24: In a game of 2-on-2 (West and Semih Erden vs. Wafer and Luke Harangody), West and Wafer exchanged words after West drove hard to the basket and scored consecutive baskets against Wafer — with West telling Wafer to “do something about it.”
  • October 26: Shaquille O’Neal told ESPN’s Brian Windhorst that he encouraged Celtics vice president Danny Ainge to sign West, because the two had respect for each other as teammates in Cleveland.

“I know he won’t get out of line,” O’Neal told Windhorst. “There’s five or six guys that he truly respects here. Last year I don’t think he respected anybody but me on that team. So I was able to talk to him.”

“He got out of control a lot of times and usually when people get out of control they shut their buttons off to somebody they respect,” O’Neal added. “I know he respected me because I can get out of control too. I had to yoke (sic) him up once or twice, tell him to let it go bro.”

  • October 26: In an interview with WEEI’s Big Show, Ainge admitted that the team considered the risks of re-signing West.

“I think everybody is aware that Delonte has had challenges off the court,” Ainge told The Big Show. We are trying to give him the support that he needs. The players that were with him before, our coach that was with him before and myself and ownership I think we were aware of that risk and I think we were comfortable with that risk.”

  • October 29: Following a physical game of 3-on-3 in practice, Wafer returned to the locker room as West taunted him with obscenities, according to HoopsWorld. West allegedly threw a punch at Wafer in the locker room, leading to a scuffle. Now, Ainge is reportedly considering terminating West’s deal.
Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Delonte West, NBA
Danny Ainge on the Big Show: C’s hope Shaq is ‘not a statue’ on court 10.26.10 at 5:50 pm ET
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Celtics general manger Danny Ainge joined the Big Show Tuesday afternoon to discuss the Celtics season opener and his thoughts about the roster heading into the season.

Ainge said that his biggest concern about the roster is the risk of injury at the center position and that he expects the team to rely more on their bench depth. He also emphasized how important keeping Doc Rivers on the bench was.

“I can’€™t say how excited I am to have Doc back,” Ainge said. “I’€™m not sure our roster but our team there would be a lot of differences. I think the continuity is huge.”

Ainge also talked about the  fact that the model the Miami Heat used to build their team this offseason would continue to be a possibility.

“The door is open just with free agency and I don’€™t know what’€™s going to happen as we move forward in collective bargaining,” Ainge said. “I think the door is open by us bringing in the Big Three and Miami doing a Big Three.”

Below are the highlights from the interview. To listen to the full audio visit the Big Show on demand audio page.

On his fears about this roster:

I think that I’€™m a little concerned with the health of our guys. But I feel I probably will be all year. But I’€™m excited about our team.

Is the idea to use deeper bench to get through the regular season?

Yeah, I think that is our objective to play more people. I’€™m not as concerned about Ray [Allen], Paul [Pierce] and KG [Kevin Garnett] and [Rajon] Rondo, the guys who are coming back. But our center position just because of [Kendrick] Perk [Perkins], Shaq [Shaquille O'€™Neal] and his age, and Jermaine [O'€™Neal] has got a lot of mileage there. That’€™s probably my biggest concern with the health.

On Marquis Daniels this year:

Marquis played, as you guys remember last year, played really well for us early on in the year. Then he got hurt and never really got in a rhythm. Although, in February he shot like 70% from the field. He had two or three road games out west that were spectacular. When we had Michael Finley come back and Nate Robinson come back and Tony [Allen] was coming back off an injury, there was just a logjam there. And Tony actually won that job back with his great defense. But Marquis has had a good training camp. When he’€™s gotten an opportunity to play and get in a rhythm off the bench and starting one of the preseason games, I think that he played really well and he’€™s had a good week of practice.

Ever seen anything like this opening night before?

I never have. Opening day is always a special day. Most places will sell out opening night. I think with some of the excitement that we have with our own team but obviously with Miami and maybe the most significant offseason in the history of any team. I get a kick out of those people who want to criticize Miami for doing something wrong. I think they had a pretty spectacular offseason. You can land some of the guys that they did in the free agent market, not just LeBron [James] and [Chris] Bosh who are very special players but some of the other players, they got some good guys too.

What are you expecting out of Shaquille O’€™Neal this year?

I hope he’€™s not a statue tonight. I hope he actually gets off the bench and moves a little bit and talks on defense. Shaq has been great so far, he’€™s been good in practice, he makes it out on the court almost every day and he’€™s fun in the locker room. So far he’€™s been good.

What was behind the decision to bring Delonte West back?

Well you know first of all I think Delonte was a favorite of a lot of people in Boston. He was a fun guy to watch, a lot of people embraced Delonte when he was here as a player. I think a lot of people, including our players, respect Delonte. Not only the guys that played with Delonte like Paul and Rajon and Perk but [they guys who] have been playing against him the last few years as an opponent, they have a great respect for him on the court. So yah I think everybody is aware that Delonte has had challenges off the court. We are trying to give him the support that he needs. The players that were with him before, our coach that was with him before and myself and ownership I think we were aware of that risk and I think we were comfortable with that risk.

On familiarity with West factoring into decision to bring him back:

Not only familiar but actually like him, find him enjoyable, at the same time troubled. What’€™s happened to Delonte over the past couple years is not shocking to any of us. We know that he has challenges of the court but we love what he brings to the court.

What would have been the difference in the roster if Doc Rivers had left?

It would be different. I’€™m not so sure if the face of our team would be different, I mean the roster. Paul really wanted to come back, he has his reasons to want to come back and Ray has his reasons to want to come back. So I’€™m not so sure if those things would have been different. But obviously our team would be different, the personality of the team would be different, the leadership of the team would be different. Doc is a great coach to lead these guys. I can’€™t say how excited I am to have Doc back. I’€™m not sure our roster but our team there would be a lot of differences. I think the continuity is huge.

On shelf life of this Celtics’€™ roster:

I think that none of us have the answer to that. I think that these guys based on how they played last year, they put together a seven to eight game streak in the Orlando [and] Cleveland series last year that was as good of seven or eight games stretch that any Celtic team has ever played, including the ‘€˜08 team, that was two years younger and went on to win a championship. Last year’€™s team in the middle of that stretch was better than that 2008 team. I think that this team kind of earned the right to try it again.

How important is this game to you?

I think it’€™s important in that it gives you a real test of where you are, you will be able to tell that. I think that you both teams will show signs of greatness and teams will show signs of it being the first game, who makes the fewest mistakes. This is a team that you don’€™t want to make mistakes on because LeBron and Dwyane Wade are arguably two of the greatest open court players I’€™ve ever seen. Turnovers turn into automatic baskets in the other direction, so we have to take care of the ball.

What does this game really mean?

It is good theater. It is a real test. These are two of the top teams, not a lot of people talk about Orlando, Orlando is legit. Orlando is a really good basketball team. So they [Orlando] belong in the same conversation in my opinion. I guess they are getting away from getting all the hype on opening night. I think Miami and Boston are sure aware of Orlando as well.

On whether there is a different view on this season after last year’€™s results:

I don’€™t think so. Going into last season before the season started, our motto was win playoff games. With KG’€™s health starting the year last year and things that happened to Paul during the course of last season, we weren’€™t right. I do take a little offense to this turning on and turning off thing, I don’€™t think it works, I don’€™t think it worked last year. What people fail to realize is that we had number one or number two in the league in blowing fourth quarter, double-figure leads last year. To get a double-figure lead in L.A. against the Lakers at home, against Orlando, you got to show up to play, your just not finishing games for whatever reason. I don’€™t think that we had the resolve last year but we saw what the team is capable of in the playoffs. I hope this year we don’€™t have the health issues, or as many and I think we’€™ll be a better team because we’€™re deeper.

On whether other teams and players will emulate what Miami did in franchise:

The door is open just with free agency and I don’€™t know what’€™s going to happen as we move forward in collective bargaining. I think the door is open by us bringing in the Big Three and Miami doing a big three. New York for three years we heard about how they were creating space and nobody really talked about Miami till last year and Chicago. Teams can create space and opportunities fairly quickly, by trading away players and getting rid of assets to try to free up cap space. But there was only one Miami this year that came away with what everyone was seeking, it couldn’€™t be New Jersey, New York and Chicago.

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