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Rajon Rondo finds comic relief in Stern warning 10.22.10 at 4:22 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Rajon Rondo can be one difficult person to read.

Take Friday for example. Following practice, he was asked about David Stern‘s comments a day earlier in which the NBA commissioner said he wants player salaries cut by a third or up to four teams may have to be contracted. Stern is looking to save NBA owners – his bosses – between $750 and $800 million.

It was bargaining posture that sports fans have become accustomed to in the collective bargaining era. But still, the threat had a very serious undertone.

Are NBA players worried about Stern’s latest shot in the bargaining battle?

“Who? David Stern? It doesn’t worry me at all,” said Rondo, who is in line to make $9 million this season.

Is Rondo, the Celtics’ alternate player rep behind Paul Pierce, preparing for the possibility of a lockout at the end of the season?

“I’m preparing for like there is one,” Rondo added. “I’m saving a lot of money this year. I’m saving a lot on my car insurance, too. Geico.”

While that might seem like the off-hand comedic comment it is, he followed up with something a little more telling.

“We’re focused on the season. It’d be great if we could get a ring heading into a lockout but other than that, I’m focused on the season.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Irish Coffee: NBA’s (David) Stern warning at 10:36 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

What if your boss came up to you and said, “Um, yeah, I’m gonna need you guys to go ahead and cut your salaries by $800 million”? I know I wouldn’t like if WEEI slashed my salary by $800 million, and NBA players aren’t going to like it, either.

But that’s exactly what NBA commissioner David Stern is proposing on his side of the collective bargaining agreement to make his league profitable again. Owners claimed $380 million in losses last season and project $350 million in losses this season.

“Even though we reported we have record season ticket sales over the summer and otherwise very robust revenue generation because of the built-in cost of the system,” deputy commissioner Adam Silver told reporters, “it’s virtually impossible for us to move the needle in terms of our losses.”

The NBA player’s association contested those numbers, and I am, too. You’re telling me that the league is losing that much money when season-ticket sales are at an all-time high and they’re just four months removed from a seven-game finals series between the league’s two biggest rivals? Didn’t 8.4 million people tune in just to watch the league’s biggest star announce where he was going to take his talents?

Slashing salaries by 36 percent is going to be a hard sell to the players, especially in a year that the league itself projected attendance to rank in the top five seasons ever.

“They’re saying lockout,” Clippers center Chris Kaman told the Los Angeles Times. “You just never know. You’ve just got to be ready and prepare yourself for that, moneywise. I’ve been saving a lot – looking out.”

If this is truly how the NBA owners are expecting to negotiate the collective bargaining agreement, don’t expect the season to start on time next year. The Celtics‘ starting five would have to give up $40 million next year alone to meet Stern’s demands. I’m not naive enough to believe that’s possible.

CELTICS WILL LOSE: SCOUTS’ HONOR

Sports Illustrated’s Ian Thomsen released his annual survey of NBA advance and personnel scouts, and they don’t expect the Celtics to reach the finals. The highlights:

  • The Miami Heat and Orlando Magic are expected to finish with higher seeds than the Celtics in the East.
  • Three of the six scouts believe the Heat will take down the Celtics in the conference finals. Two scouts predict the C’s won’t even make it that far, and only one has Boston returning to the NBA finals.
  • That lone scout has the Celtics beating the Lakers in the finals. Three of them have the Lakers beating Miami, one has those two finishing vice versa and the sixth scout has the San Antonio Spurs as champs.
In this photo taken on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2010,  Inside the NBA analyst Charles Barkley watches basketball games from the viewing room at TNT studios in Atlanta.

Charles Barkley continues to call LeBron James' "Decision" extravaganza "silly." And he's right. (AP)

ONE-ON-ONE: CHARLES BARKLEY VS. LEBRON JAMES

First Michael Jordan took on Kobe Bryant, and now Charles Barkley takes on LeBron James. The Round Mound of Rebound told USA Today:

“When we were at the Hall of Fame, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and myself said we would not have went to Miami. That’s just a basketball situation. That has nothing to do with anything. We just said we wanted to beat the other guy. That’s not a criticism; that was just giving our opinion. My criticism, and the only criticism I’ve really heard about LeBron, is how he handled the situation.”

While many people are arguing MJ ripped Kobe and Barkley dissed LeBron, that’s not really the case. Jordan called Kobe one of the top-10 guards of all-time, and Barkley called LeBron the best player in the NBA. Those hardly sound like fighting words.

Now, the real controversy should be over this statement from Oscar Robertson to ESPN: “LeBron James is in a class by himself,” even compared to Jordan. Really? I think Jordan’s six NBA titles and LeBron’s zero beg to differ.

A LAYUP DRILL

In the bad news department, former Celtic Charles Smith was shot twice in the chest in a Washington D.C. home yesterday afternoon, according to the local NBC affiliate. Smith reportedly remains in critical-but-stable condition following surgery.

After capturing 1998-89 Big East Player of the Year honors, Smith played 60 games for the 1989-90 Celtics that reached the playoffs. Continue to cheer for him. …

According to The Washington Post, the Wizards waived Adam Morrison yesterday. Back in July, the Celtics were one of four teams scouting Morrison’s Las Vegas workout. Any chance the C’s could bring him in for a look? …

Former Celtic Dominique Wilkins met with 30 kids from Maine who suffer from Type I diabetes to share his own experiences with the disease, The Portland Press Herald reported. Add that to his highlight film. …

Los Angeles Lakers villain Sasha Vujacic proposed to tennis star Maria Sharapova. Despite his 2.8 points-per-game average, she accepted. I’m sure he cried.

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

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Player’s union plans legal challenge to techs 10.14.10 at 9:33 pm ET
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Billy Hunter, the executive director of the NBA player’s union, said in a statement that the union would mount a legal challenge against the league’s crackdown on technical fouls. Hunter added that the players were not consulted about the rule change before it was implemented.

Here’s the statement:

“We have not seen any increase in the level of ‘complaining’ to the officials and we believe that players as a whole have demonstrated appropriate behavior toward the officials. Worse yet, to the extent the harsher treatment from the referees leads to a stifling of the players’ passion and exuberance for their work, we fear these changes may actually harm our product. The changes were made without proper consultation with the Players Association, and we intend to file an appropriate legal challenge.””

The union’s move comes on the heels of Kevin Garnett’s ejection Wednesday during the Celtics exhibition game with the Knicks. Garnett was issued two quick technical fouls just before the end of the first half.

(For more on Garnett’s ejection and how the new rules affect the Celtics, click here).

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Irish Coffee: Big ‘Swoll’ Baby; NBA goes Euro 10.08.10 at 9:48 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

Um, Ok, Big Baby, whatever you say. Is it just me, or is anybody else confused as to what Glen Davis is saying here to NBA TV …

“Everybody on the East Coast watch out. We’re coming. Working hard on the elliptical. Get a nice burn before practice. Get rid of some of this body fat. They ain’t gonna call me Big Baby no more. They gonna call me Big ‘Swoll’ Baby.”

I’m not gonna lie, I actually had to consult UrbanDictionary.com on this one. They define “swoll” as “to be muscular, jacked, strong, etc.” (I also love their use of it in a sentence: “Man, I’m mo swoll than AC Slater“).

So, to get this straight, Davis no longer wanted to be called Big Baby, so last season he suggested Uno Uno, and now he wants to be called Big Swoll Baby. I think I’ve got it now.

The buffer Davis led all Celtics scorers with 20 points in last night’s 96-92 preseason victory against the Nets. Once again, the C’s second unit looked sharp, as Nate Robinson added 17 points and Delonte West scored 12 before leaving in the third quarter with discomfort in his lower back.

If you’ll recall, West missed Monday’s practice with lower back spasms. Not to worry, he stressed.

“I came in at halftime and felt my lower back pinching,” West told ESPN.com. “It’s real minor, but the muscle back there was tightening up and I think the tension was pinching the nerve, maybe. It was real uncomfortable. You saw me out there stretching before I went in for the third quarter, I just couldn’t move the way I wanted to. It’s just precautionary.”

NBA commissioner David Stern talks to reporters before the NBA draft lottery, Tuesday, May 18, 2010, in Secaucus, N.J.

Will David Stern make the NBA go Euro? (AP)

LAKERS NO LONGER WORLD CHAMPIONS

NBA Commissioner David Stern made a bold prediction yesterday: “We’re going to have, really, our most successful season. … I think you’re going to be getting to see some of the greatest basketball ever played.” He made the statement prior to a game between Euroleague champ FC Barcelona and the NBA champion Lakers.

The Spanish team actually defeated the Lakers, 92-88, adding fire to the debate: Should the NBA champs face off against the Euroleague champs in a battle for world domination?

Stern: “I would guess that we will be in continued discussions with our friends at the Euroleague about an expansion of this possibility.”

Euroleague CEO Jordi Bertomeu: “To us, it is something we would like to happen. We would like it because that would mean that we would have met the circumstances, both sporting and economic, to make a game like that possible. We can only hope and expect, and I do, that with the work of our clubs and teams, those conditions will be met. In the event that those conditions are met, and continuing the same collaborations we have had so far between the Euroleague and the NBA, I am sure such a game would be a possibility.”

ESPN.com asked Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant if Barcelona could compete in the NBA over the course of an 82-game season, and their answers differed:

Jackson: “They’re not up to the competition that we face night in and night out. But that’s not taking anything away from them. The physicality of our game, the size of our players, those are things that night in and night out are very difficult to contest.”

Bryant: “I think they execute extremely well, they know each other extremely well, they move the ball extremely well and that’s what you’re looking for. In the NBA, teams that do that are few and far in between, teams that play together as a unit. You see a lot of isolation game; you see a lot of guys going one-on-one. They do a great job moving the ball, they do a great job helping each other defensively, so I disagree, but, what do I know?”

Bryant hit just 2-of-15 shots in the loss to Barcelona. As we all know, failing to perform in championship games is nothing new to Kobe. Remember his 6-for-24 performance in the final game of the 2010 NBA Finals? Of course. How could you forget?

Read the rest of this entry »

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Celtics: Irish Coffee 10.05.10 at 9:40 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

Members of the Knicks, Lakers and Timberwolves were among the Americans warned yesterday of potential terrorist plots at sports arenas, according to the New York Daily News. The teams would reportedly return to the United States immediately if the terror alert increased.

“This is real,” a fomer senior U.S. counterterrorism official told the paper.

Man, after watching Jean Claude Van Damme in Sudden Death as a kid, I used to wonder if I’d enjoy teams like the Knicks and Lakers being involved in a terrorist plot, but this is scary stuff. In all honesty, let’s hope these teams make it home safe.

NBA Europe

While the Lakers were busy losing to the Timberwolves overseas, NBA commissioner David Stern spoke to the  British media about the sport’s future in Europe. His hope is that the upcoming 2012 London Olympics will spark basketball’s popularity in the United Kingdom. You know, because John Amaechi‘s 6.2 points per game didn’t quite capture the nation’s hearts during his five-year NBA career.

“It’s no secret that the UK trails other European markets in development, but we think this is a great market and participation rates are increasing,” Stern said. “That’s why we have our European headquarters in London, and we think the Olympics provides a huge opportunity to demonstrate that this is a sport of great inclusiveness.”

Admitting it’s certainly not in the near future, Stern was receptive to the idea of having not only one but an entire European division of NBA teams. “As our game gets better known post-Olympics, maybe that will come into view,” he said, ”but it’s nothing soon.”

The NBA will gain further exposure when the Raptors and Nets meet for two games in London in March. I’m not sure a Raptors/Nets series will be the exposure Stern is looking for, but still …

Rondo: “It’s still the Big 3″

Rajon Rondo sat down with ESPN.com to promote today’s release of NBA 2K11. We learned that he’s gathered more about the history of his league from playing the video game than watching actual NBA games as a kid; Nate Robinson, Kevin Garnett and Glen Davis are actually video game geeks; and Rondo wants a 99 rating (the highest in the game). Yet, when Rondo discussed his real team, he was much more modest:

“It’s still the Big Three,” he told ESPN.com. “Shaq is four. Shaq is an enforcer. I know that from experience. He knocks guards like myself down, but he can’t hit me no more, so I’m excited about that. I’m just one of the guys. I’m not saying I’m not important, but this is a team game. The Big Three still get a lot of attention, and I’m just really excited to start the season with them and be a part of this team.”

C’s a safe bet

Gambling lines are already coming out for the C’s opening night game against the Heat on Oct. 26, and according to the oddsmakers, these teams are pretty even. PinnacleSports.com has the Celtics +1 home underdogs.

The MGM Mirage in Las Vegas reportedly listed the Celtics at 5-1 odds to win the NBA title. The Heat were 3-2, the Lakers 9-5, Bulls 6-1 and Magic 10-1. But on the Sportsbook.com website, the Celtics are 10-1 to win the NBA title this season, tied with the Orlando Magic behind the Lakers (5-2) and Heat (8-5).

If gambling were legal in the United States, that 10-1 C’s bet would be a solid value.

I kinda think the C's should make the rookies wear these shorts during the preseason.

Hazed and confused

According to NBCSports.com, rookie hazing has begun in the NBA. The Sixers sent Evan Turner to buy Chick-fil-A for the entire team, while Pacers rookies Lance Stephenson and Paul George have been caught wearing pink Disney backpacks.

What do you think the Celtics should do to Avery Bradley, Luke Harangody and Semih Erden? I think they should make them wear the C’s uber-short ’80s shorts during the preseason. Maybe dance like fools in Halloween costumes? Oh, wait, KG, Robinson and Big Baby did that already.

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C’s minority owner could face fine 06.10.10 at 4:39 pm ET
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Celtics minority owner Jim Pallotta may be receiving a fine from NBA commissioner David Stern after Pallotta verbally confronted the commissioner with complaints about the Game 3 officiating after the Celtics’ 91-84 loss at home, according to a Boston Globe report.

Pallotta reportedly told Stern that the league should be embarrassed by the job its officials are doing. There have been 159 fouls called in the first three games of the NBA finals, with the Celtics outnumbering the Lakers by nine in that category.

Stern has a past of fining owners who criticize NBA officials, most notably Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who has doled out as much as $250,000 for his critical comments. Cuban’s comments, though, were made in the public sphere. Pallotta’s comments were made to Stern directly, meaning that there is a slight chance that his fine could be for less if there is even a fine at all.

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Menino flubs again, criticizes NBA officials at 2:18 pm ET
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Tom Menino is at it again.

At the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Tobin Community Center in Boston Wednesday, the Boston mayor thanked “Donald Sterns” and the NBA instead of David Stern, the actual NBA commissioner. (Click here for the video evidence.) The flub is somewhat defensible, given that Donald K. Stern was the U.S. attorney for the Bay State from 1993 to 2001. It’s probable that the mayor simply mixed up his Sterns.

This, however, is the second time in recent memory that Menino has mixed up his sports icons. Last month, at the ceremony commemorating the new Bobby Orr statue in front of the TD Garden, he claimed that Boston sports remember “Varitek splitting the uprights,” rather than Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri, as one of the “ionic” moments in Boston sports history.

Earlier in his Wednesday speech, Menino came very close to directly criticizing the much-publicized officiating of this year’s NBA finals.

“I’m not saying anything; the commissioner is right behind me,” Menino said, according to a Los Angeles Times piece by Baxter Holmes. But in just saying that, Menino had said enough.

Later in the piece, which can be read in its entirety by clicking here, the mayor talked about the effects a high-foul count has on the game.

“You just can’t take control,” Menino said. “You ruin it for the fans. The referees aren’t supposed to be the show. The players are supposed to be the show, but sometimes the referees want to be the show. That’s unfortunate.”

Eddie F. Rush, Scott Foster and Greg Willard have been announced as the referees for Thursday’s Game 4.

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