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Doc Rivers to his new reserves: We don’t take practice off so you better be ready 03.05.11 at 8:40 pm ET
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WALTHAM — You could sense the urgency in his voice.

Doc Rivers is a coach who exudes confidence and a positive attitude. But he also calls it the way he sees it and can push the emotional buttons of his players when need be.

After practice Saturday, he sent a very clear message to his second unit.

“They’ve got to get out of their [old] habits, wherever they’ve been,” Rivers said, referring clearly to Jeff Green, Sasha Pavlovic, Troy Murphy and Nenad Krstic. “We don’t [practice] long but we play with intensity, play hard. You just see some of their habits and some of their habits have to change. It will. It’s just going to take time.”

Rivers made it clear before practice began with several hundred fans listening in that their “help” defense was very sub-par Friday night in a 107-103 win over the Warriors.

“Learning to cover for each other is number one,” Rivers said. “But you can’t do that unless you have unbelievable focus and intensity and that’s what we’re trying to show them. I thought they were trying to do the right stuff on their help [defense] but they were always late because they’re not ready.”

Then Rivers got really serious.

“A lot of pros practice and they think practice is leisure and we don’t believe that here. It’s quick here but it’s hard. When you have your starters, who are playing 35 minutes [a game] going hard and you have your second unit going in cruise control, that’s not going to settle well with me.”

Message delivered.

During the open practice Saturday afternoon at their practice facility, which gave a peek to fans and special guests into some of their basic defensive principles, defensive coach Lawrence Frank called out positions and assignments and helped Rivers get the new players accustomed to the Celtics‘ way of defending. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Carlos Arroyo, Delonte West, Doc Rivers, Jeff Green
Not so fast on Shaquille O’Neal return but hope remains for Delonte West Wednesday at 2:34 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Shaquille O’Neal will likely not be able to return to the Celtics lineup on Wednesday after all, coach Doc Rivers said following Saturday’s practice. Rivers indicated he was hoping to have both O’Neal and Delonte West back by Wednesday to help them begin getting playing time to gear up for the playoffs.

“Probably not going to be ready Wednesday because his foot is bothering him a little again,” Rivers said. “Delonte, we’re hoping Wednesday.”

O’Neal has missed the last 12 games and has been out since Feb. 1 with a sore right lower leg and sore right achilles tendon. West missed his third straight game Friday with a sprained right ankle. Glen Davis shot free throws following Saturday’s practice but is still nursing patellar tendinitis in his left knee and is expected to miss several more days of practice while Von Wafer, who injured his right calf during Friday’s win over the Warriors is still in a walking boot.

The team also informed center Chris Johnson that they will not renew his 10-day contract for now as Doc Rivers announced the priority is to sign a back-up point guard.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Chris Johnson, D-League, Dakota Wizards
Fast Break: New Celtics, familiar results 02.28.11 at 11:37 pm ET
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This is going to take some time, but while Celtics coach Doc Rivers learns how to use his new toys (he had Jeff Green playing everything from the 2-guard through the four-spot), the Celtics remain the Celtics in the fourth quarter. Locked in a tight battle with Utah, the veterans made the right plays and executed down the stretch.

Ray Allen and Paul Pierce made huge shots. Kevin Garnett was dominant defensively and on the boards and Rajon Rondo made the right decisions and also sank a crucial jumper. The Celtics won 107-102, which gave them a 3-1 West Coast trip and also kept them two games ahead of the Heat in the loss column for the best record in the conference.

They have the next six weeks to figure out what kind of team they will be, but when it comes time to win games, they haven’t forgotten their formula.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Kevin Garnett is Kevin Garnett again: In the midst of all the turmoil, Garnett has very quietly run off a string of double-doubles on this West Coast trip. After scoring 18 points to go with 14 rebounds he now has seven in his last eight games. Garnett was at his best, though, on the defensive end, where he switched over to Al Jefferson late in the game and shut the big man down.

The key moment came when Garnett and Jefferson were called for double technicals late in the fourth quarter. The T’s didn’t stop the chatter between the two players and Jefferson was obviously primed to get the ball and score. He got the ball, but Garnett gave ground at the right moment and caused a travel. It was a classic veteran trap and Jefferson fell right into it.

Rajon Rondo takeover: Rondo scored only six points in the first half and passed up a couple of easy looks to make passes instead, but in the second half he reverted back into an attacking machine. When Rondo doesn’t look for his offense he makes himself so much easier to defend. But when he keeps the threat of scoring alive, it makes him nearly impossible to defend.

Nenad Krstic is no Perk offensively: Krstic is known as a player who can step outside and make jump shots, but he’s also shown in limited time an ability to score with his back to the basket. The Celtics don’t use a lot of post-ups as part of their regular offense, but Krstic has a nice touch around the basket and is also able to roll smoothly to the basket. Offensively, he is a definite upgrade from Kendrick Perkins‘ limited repertoire.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Krstic is no Perk, defensively: Then there’s the other end of the floor. Krstic will get better as he gets used to playing in the Celtics’ defensive scheme (and also gets used to playing alongside Garnett). Early on he’s looked slow in rotations and a step behind the play. Krstic was also abused by Jefferson, who scored 18 of his 28 points in the first half. It wasn’t all Krstic’s fault, but the Jazz went flying through the lane time and again for layups. The Celtics will have to adjust to Krstic as much as he will have to adjust to them.

Glen Davis continues to struggle: Over his last three games, Davis has shot 9-for-28. Over the last two months Davis has been as up and down as any Celtic, but they keep using him in the fourth quarter. Davis remains the best — and maybe only — option for getting crunch-time minutes with the other four starters, but if Rivers wants to continue to experiment he may take a look at his closing lineup over the next month and a half.

Delonte West is hurt again: The Celtics got bad news even before this one started as West rolled his right ankle during an informal workout on Sunday. He missed Monday’s game with Utah and is likely to miss Wednesday’s game when the Celtics return home to play the Suns. With Nate Robinson in Oklahoma City, the Celtics are relying on West to be the third guard, not only backing up Rajon Rondo, but Ray Allen as well.

But it’s at backup point guard where they desperately need his steady hand and veteran experience. Rookie Avery Bradley took those minutes against Utah and was more aggressive and confident than he’s been to date, but Bradley is not the answer this season. The Celtics need West to be healthy.

Read More: Celtics, Delonte West, Fast Break, Glen Davis
Delonte West sprains ankle, out for Utah game at 1:28 pm ET
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During an informal workout Sunday, Celtics guard Delonte West sprained his right ankle when he stepped on another player’s foot and will be out for the Celtics game Monday night against Utah. Doc Ricers told reporters in Utah that West is also questionable for Wednesday’s game with Phoenix when the team returns to the Garden.

This latest injury once again puts the Celtics in a bind as West is the only experienced point guard on the roster behind Rajon Rondo, following Nate Robinson‘s trade to the Thunder. Rookie Avery Bradley, who has played 10 minutes in his five games since returning from the D-League will likely back up Rondo for the time being.

Another option for Rivers is using Paul Pierce as a point-forward. That worked in stretches earlier in the season when Rondo was out with injuries.

Read More: Avery Bradley, Delonte West, Nate Robinson, Paul Pierce
Irish Coffee: President Obama wants Bill Russell statue in Boston 02.16.11 at 11:58 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

(NOTE: Between the 16:30 and 18:30 marks, President Obama speaks about Bill Russell; at the 35-minute mark, Russell receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom)

In a brilliant article in Boston Magazine, WEEI.com’s Paul Flannery stated the case for a statue in Bill Russell‘s honor in the streets of Boston. On Tuesday, President Barack Obama hopped on Flannery’s bandwagon. The following is a transcript of President Obama’s remarks as he awarded Russell the Presidential Medal of Freedom:

When Bill Russell was in junior high, he was cut from his basketball team. He got better after that. He led the University of San Francisco to two championships. In 13 seasons with the Boston Celtics, he won 11 championships — a record unmatched in any sport. Won two while also serving as the team’€™s coach. And so happens, he also was the first African-American ever to hold such a position as a coach in a major league sports team of any sort. More than any athlete of his era, Bill Russell came to define the word “winner.”

And yet, whenever someone looks up at all 6 feet, 9 inches of Bill Russell — I just did; I always feel small next to him — and asks, “Are you a basketball player?” — surprisingly, he gets this more than you think, this question — he says, “No.” He says, “That’€™s what I do, that’€™s not what I am. I’m not a basketball player. I am a man who plays basketball.”

Bill Russell, the man, is someone who stood up for the rights and dignity of all men. He marched with King; he stood by Ali. When a restaurant refused to serve the black Celtics, he refused to play in the scheduled game. He endured insults and vandalism, but he kept on focusing on making the teammates who he loved better players, and made possible the success of so many who would follow. And I hope that one day, in the streets of Boston, children will look up at a statue built not only to Bill Russell the player, but Bill Russell the man.

In honor of Russell receiving the highest civilian award given in the United States, The Boston Globe discussed Russell’s impact on and off the basketball court with Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino as well as Celtics legends Tommy Heinsohn and Bob Cousy, who spanned nine of Russell’s 13 seasons and nine of his 11 title runs:

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bill Russell, Boston Celtics, Delonte West, President Barack Obama
Rajon Rondo gets inside the heads of the Heat 02.13.11 at 7:24 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo may be a guard but he certainly is getting accustomed to being in the center of the action.

The Celtics trailed, 43-39, at halftime and looked tired, even to coach Doc Rivers. Rondo knew something had to change and fast if the C’s were to avoid a third straight loss.

“D-West talked to me coming out of halftime and couple of guys told me to try and up the tempo and the only way I could do that was by pressuring the ball,” Rondo said.

Even if it meant picking up LeBron James at midcourt. And he did. And the Celtics responded with a 20-3 run that gave them the lead they never relinquished.

“I was just trying to cut the head of the horse, just wanted to change the tempo of the game,” Rondo added.

Rondo had a triple-double with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists and Kevin Garnett added 19 points as the Celtics won for the third time in as many tries against King LeBron and the Heat, 85-82, Sunday afternoon at TD Garden.

So Doc, whose brilliant idea was it?

“It was Rondo’€™s idea,” Rivers said. “Really what it was, was that we just ‘€“ I told him to pressure the ball, and he took that whoever brought it up. I didn’€™t mean that. He took it that way and then I stayed with it. He actually during a time-out thought we were going to switch back, and when I didn’€™t say anything he was surprised. Because I liked it.

“Sometimes you go off the book and today was clearly that. That match-up made no sense, honestly. And it hurt us a couple times. The only thing I saw honestly is that it gave us life. Because he was trying so hard and working so hard, I just sort of force everybody else to join in. And even [Assistant Coach] Lawrence [Frank] was like ‘€˜We can’€™t do this!’€™ And I said, ‘€˜You’€™re right, but we’€™re just going to keep doing it.’€™ And it was good for us.’€

The Celtics, who scored just 11 points in the fourth quarter, reclaimed first in the Eastern Conference by a half-game over the Heat, improving to 39-14 while the Heat fell to 39-15. With a chance to tie the game, James missed the front end of a pair of free throws with 12.5 seconds remaining and Mike Miller missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer just before the buzzer.

The Celtics had six players in double figures but captain Paul Pierce was not one of them. He missed all 10 shots and finished with just one point in 39 minutes. The Celtics shot just 30 percent in the opening quarter and 37 percent in the first half, and trailed 43-39 at the half. But Boston outscored Miami, 20-3, to open the third quarter and take command of the game.

The third quarter also featured some playoff-brand physical play and frustration from the the Heat. After Zydrunas Ilguaskas set a devastating screen on Rondo, who immediately got up. Moments later, Garnett got retribution with a clean pick on Mike Miller. But Dwyane Wade took exception and threw an elbow at Garnett. Wade was whistled for a flagrant foul and the two teams had to be separated.

The Celtics are off until Wednesday when they host the Nets in the final game before the All-Star break.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Delonte West, Doc Rivers, Miami Heat
Nate Robinson will try to play against Heat 02.12.11 at 4:15 pm ET
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Nate Robinson was at the Celtics practice facility until 11 p.m. Friday night getting treatment on his bruised knee, which he injured in a freak collision with the Lakers’ Shannon Brown. He was at the facility again Saturday, but didn’t participate in the team’s practice, other than in the walkthrough segment.

With the Celtics down to just nine other healthy players, Robinson will try to go Sunday when they play the Heat at the Garden. “The pain in there is kind of funky so we’€™re just trying to ice it right now,” Robinson said.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Delonte West would not play Sunday, but may try to give it a go on Wednesday when they play the Nets in their final game before the All-Star break. Shaquille O’Neal (Achilles) and Semih Erden (groin) also won’t play and their return has been delayed until after the break at the earliest.

“Semih’€™s out until after the break and Shaq will be too,” Rivers said. “We don’€™t even know if they’€™ll be back after the break right now. Semih’€™s groin is not improving and Shaq’€™s Achilles is not improving at all. We thought we’€™d have them both back by the last game, but that’€™s fine. We’€™re good.”

Asked if Shaq’s injury has become worse, Rivers said, “It just hasn’€™t healed. It’€™s no worse, but it hasn’€™t healed as quickly.”

With Jermaine O’Neal (knee surgery) and Marquis Daniels (bruised spinal cord) also out for the next month at least, the Celtics need all the bodies they can muster for the next two games.

“We’€™ve just got to find a way to win regardless of who goes down,” Robinson said. “That’€™s why it’€™s called a team.”

Read More: Delonte West, Nate Robinson, Semih Erden, Shaquille O'Neal
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