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The NBA 30 on 30: Blogosphere Forecast (4 of 7) 10.26.10 at 11:04 am ET
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NBA fans live a team’s ups and downs. They react to every draft pick, trade and free-agent signing. They debate the merits of the 15th man. They find significance in the most insignificant stats. They simply KNOW their team. So, too, do bloggers. That’s why we sought the opinion of the league’s best blogs — one for each of the 30 teams — to break down the team they cover and, of course, the Celtics.

We’ll move to the Eastern Conference and the Atlantic Division with the fourth of a seven-part  series (Check out the Western Conference in Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3) …


CHICAGO BULLS
by Doug Thonus, Chicago Bulls Confidential

ON THE BULLS: The Chicago Bulls are a team with a lot of strengths, but the early injury to Carlos Boozer has hurt their odds of building up continuity this season.

Much like the Celtics, they carry considerable injury risk going forward. Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Boozer, Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson and Ronnie Brewer all have injury risk on top of that of a normal player, while Kyle Korver, C.J. Watson and Keith Bogans are also struggling with various minor injuries in preseason.

A healthy Bulls team would have a puncher’s chance at any team in the East if they jelled well and played to their full potential. But a Bulls team that can’t get on the floor together to build continuity is closer to Atlanta and Milwaukee than to Boston, Orlando or Miami.

The big question mark will be how much of an upgrade Tom Thibodeau is from Vinny Del Negro. The Bulls’ schemes have given fans a reason to be hopeful, and if Thibodeau can get more out of the talent than Del Negro the roster might have more upside than a cursory glance would indicate.

Given the injuries and unknowns, a realistic upside for the Bulls is an Eastern Conference Finals loss to Miami, while a realistic downside is a first-round exit to one of the Big 3.

I’d place the Bulls fourth in the conference with my expectations set at a second-round exit at the hands of Miami, Boston or Orlando after a hard-fought, first-round victory against Atlanta or Milwaukee.

ON THE CELTICS: The Boston Celtics strike me as a team that should play well this season and have another excellent postseason.

There is some legitimate fear that the wheels could fall off the bus at any given point, given that the vast majority of key players are at the age where injuries increase and performance can rapidly spiral downward.

However, the team is excellently coached and has tremendous depth, continuity and experience. Their upside, if all goes well, is NBA Champion. They were a Kendrick Perkins ACL away from likely winning the chip last season, and they’re the one team that has a shot to give Miami fits in the Eastern Conference.

Their downside is as a fifth seed that gets bounced early in the playoffs if they struggle to integrate new personalities, can’t find solid rotations once Perkins is back or struggle with age and injuries.

I’d place the Celtics third in the East in the regular season, but I think they’ll top Orlando in the second round. I’d place my expectations at an Eastern Conference Finals loss to the Miami Heat in a tough series.


CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
by Andrew Schnitkey, Waiting for Next Year

ON THE CAVALIERS: The Cavaliers are indeed going through a transition phase, but transition may be the name of the game for this team.

Under new head coach Byron Scott, the team wants to get out and run in transition and use a new motion offense to try to implement a team-oriented approach. This is obviously a shock to the system after years of watching LeBron James dominate the ball himself and stand around dribbling.

The Cavaliers have looked good so far in the preseason, relying on the new youth movement with guys like J.J. Hickson, Daniel Gibson and Ramon Sessions showing a lot of improvement.

The team has heard all offseason how they are nothing now that LeBron is gone, but most of these players know nothing but winning. There is still a winning mentality on this team, and they are already playing with a chip on their shoulders as they look to prove doubters wrong.

This is a team that will be better conditioned than most teams and will not be outworked by many teams.

Having said that, there are still some major issues. A lack of true center will be a major problem for this team, as will be the potential defensive setback the team faces from losing a lockdown wing defender like LeBron.

Above all else, though, there’s no true go-to guy here. That will cost this team many games in the fourth quarter’s waning minutes.

This will be a gritty team that will play hard and make things tough, but ultimately there’s no replacing a LeBron James in one season. I predict a record of 31-51.

ON THE CELTICS: Well, obviously, I saw firsthand what Shaquille O’Neal brought to the Cavaliers last season. It wasn’t pretty, and he often complicated things as the team struggled to adapt to his presence.

In fact, the Cavaliers actually seemed to play better without Shaq when Anderson Varejao could slide to the 5 and Hickson could play the 4. So, I’m not optimistic about what Shaq has left to offer the Celtics this season.

Having said that, I still expect the Celtics to be one of the top three contenders in the East this season. The Big 3 plus Rondo is an effective core, and adding Delonte West should prove to be a nice boost to the team’s depth.

Much like last season, I expect to see the Celtics more or less coast through much of the regular season and then really turn it on in the postseason.

The Eastern Conference is stronger, but I don’t see anyone in the Atlantic threatening the C’s alpha-dog status there. I project a record of 52-30 and another division title. And I expect the Celtics to be the Heat’s toughest out in the playoffs.


DETROIT PISTONS
by Brian Packey, Detroit Bad Boys

ON THE PISTONS: After a year full of sprained ankles and utter disappointment, the Pistons have a clean slate heading into the new season.

While there isn’t a completely clean bill of health after the Jonas Jerebko injury, the Pistons are much healthier and claim to be very determined to prove their doubters wrong in 2010-11.

Unfortunately, while less injuries and DETermination should lead to more wins, it won’t be enough to put the Pistons back into the playoffs. Record: 36-46.

ON THE CELTICS: With everyone talking about the Heat this year, it might be easy to forget about the Celtics again (similar to how the Magic stole their spotlight last year with their 2009 Finals run).

But, similar to how they surprised teams in the 2010 playoffs, the Celtics are as for real as they were in 2008. The additions of both O’Neals should boost their defensive presence inside and even open things up a little on the offensive side for their own Big 3.

If they can stay relatively healthy, I’d say they’re a lock for 55 wins this season. 


INDIANA PACERS
by Jared Wade, Eight Points, Nine Seconds

ON THE PACERS: To most NBA onlookers, it will not be a remarkably different season in Indiana than the past few. But for Pacers fans, there will be at least one key difference: Hope.

With the acquisition of Darren Collison, the continued — and perhaps vast — improvement of Roy Hibbert and the expected rock-solid production of Danny Granger, the team should for the first time in a half-decade have a true foundation.

This foundation is not earth-shattering. No one will be calling them The Big 3. But it is an actual nucleus, and a lot of people smarter than me think that Paul George, the team’s first-round pick No. 10 overall), should already be included in talks of a more promising future.

Tyler Hansbrough and Josh McRoberts, to a lesser degree, are expected to show some people that they can be valuable rotation players in this league as well.

On top of all that, the team has a bevy of expiring contracts to use as trade assets if they so desire. Some $30 million will be coming off the books next summer, and since so many GMs/owners will likely be looking to clean their salary caps up before the looming CBA negotiations/probable lockout, Larry Bird should have plenty of opportunities to get some quality players back for any of Mike Dunleavy ($10.5 million), T.J. Ford ($8.5 million) or Jeff Foster ($6.7 million).

I expect the front office to flip about half of its expiring contracts (they also have the Jamaal Tinsley buyout, worth around $5.5 million, “expiring” come June) for some mid-tier players they want (think the Kevin Martin deal last year). Then they’ll let the rest expire. Come summer, that will let them fill some more holes through free agency.

No, they won’t be getting an Amar’e Stoudemire, a Chris Bosh or a Carmelo Anthony — but they’ll have a direction by the time this season ends. That will feel like something new to fans.

And if they can somehow play well enough to score a seventh or eighth seed and get into the playoffs this year, well, Pacers fans can truly consider this the beginning of a new era for a franchise that needs nothing more desperately than to begin a new era.

ON THE CELTICS: The Celtics should make the Eastern Conference Finals in their sleep. Until we see just how good the Heat are, it’s tough to call anything more than that.

And if Miami is as dominant as I think they’ll be, the Celtics might just be too old, but if Eric Spoelstra‘s boys don’t jell completely, there’s no reason that Boston can’t win the whole thing.

The depth on this roster is somewhat absurd. Obviously, a lot of people aren’t expecting much out of the law firm of O’Neal & O’Neal, but they’re two big bodies that will make a difference and take a ton of defensive pressure off of Kevin Garnett and Perkins.

You certainly don’t want to rely on Jermaine O’Neal to score in the post at this point, but he still alters shots, swats weak attempts and takes charges at a high level.

The Delonte West acquisition was huge. Even with Nate Robinson and Marquis Daniels, the team lacked some ballhandling ability outside of Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce last year. He gives them a guy off the bench who can go off for 20, just be a spot-up shooter or even initiate the offense. Plus he guards people.

Nate has his strengths (namely energy and hustle), but he can’t do all that. That will make this team more dynamic — presuming, ya know, he keeps his head on straight.

With Ray Allen, Paul and KG all one year older, the bench is going to be key. They need consistency out of the reserves, and if Doc Rivers can figure out how to keep all these bodies happy — something I’m sure he will, like he did last year by keeping Nate ready to go even while glued to the bench — there’s no reason, other than a possibly unstoppable Heat juggernaut, that they can’t bring home Banner 18.


MILWAUKEE BUCKS
by Jeremy Schmidt, Bucksketball

ON THE BUCKS: Milwaukee — with its eager, younger players and overlooked veteran additions — likely has its sights set on the Celtics.

The two teams had a few memorable moments last year and could have had something special in the playoffs had things worked out on the last day of the season.

Milwaukee stocked up themselves this offseason, signing Drew Gooden just after adding Corey Maggette for Dan Gadzuric and Charlie Bell.

Milwaukee focused on keep their core players from last season while looking to address their main weaknesses this offseason, namely free-throw shooting and power forward size and depth.

The Bucks seemed to have succeeded on both accounts and will very likely be in the hunt for the Central Divison crown. If they capture it, they still may have a hard time surpassing the Celtics’ win total.

A top-four finish doesn’t seem out of the question for the Bucks, and at the very least a playoff spot seems certain.

ON THE CELTICS: Last year, the Celtics seemed prime to fade into the sunset of NBA teams who once were contenders. This year, they seem to have reloaded and added considerable depth to counter their considerable age.

Everyone is talking about the O’Neal’s, Shaquille and Jermaine, but let us not forget that the Celtics quietly, and wisely, picking up Delonte West this offseason.

After trotting out Nate Robinson, Eddie House and at times even Tony Allen as a backup point guard last season, the Celtics definitely needed to address their backup point guard position this past summer. West’s steady hand (I can’t believe I just wrote that and meant it) could be very useful when Rondo is out of the game.

The added bulk up front helps, too, especially if the new technical rules lead to numbers quickly adding up for KG and Perkins. The Celtics have added new blood and appear to be in as good a shape as any of the teams in the East that don’t play in Miami.

Another division title and top-four seed likely awaits the Celtics at year’s end.

Stay tuned for Part 5 of this seven-part series: the Eastern Conference’s Southeast Division.

Read More: blogs, Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers
One year later: The tweet that impacted the NBA 03.15.10 at 11:22 pm ET
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One year ago Monday, then-Milwaukee forward Charlie Villanueva entered the locker room during halftime of the Bucks-Celtics game. He logged into Twitter and posted the following tweet:

@CV31: In da locker room, snuck to post my twitt. We’re playing the Celtics, tie ball game at da half. Coach wants more toughness. I gotta step up.

Those hundred-something characters opened the virtual book on social networking in the NBA. His midgame tweet was frowned upon, and it created a ripple effect: Before the start of this season, a league-wide policy was enacted. Among its guidelines included the restriction of cell phones and other communication devices 45 minutes before the game and prohibited it during halftime.

A year later, Villanueva, now a member of the Pistons, is still surprised by the impact.

‘€œIt’€™s funny, because Twitter wasn’€™t really that big of a deal, like nobody really knew too much about it,’€œ he told WEEI.com following Monday’s Pistons-Celtics game. ‘€œI didn’€™t know it was going to get that much attention. I just did it, fun for the fans and whatnot, and the next day it just blew up. The media just took it and ran with it.

“Obviously I didn’€™t mean for it to get that much attention, but hey, it put my name out there even more,’€ he added with a laugh.

As of Monday night, Villanueva had 73,685 followers. It is a huge jump from his following a year ago. In an instant, he went from a Twitter novice to one of the early faces of social media in the NBA.

‘€œIt was crazy because I had just started, too,’€ he said. ‘€œI probably had like 2,000 followers at first. It was probably a couple of months old, two or three months old, my account. After that, it rose to like 13,000 in two or three days. It was ridiculous. Ever since, it’€™s just been picking up.’€

Villanueva has turned a potential negative into a positive by taking advantage of the benefits of social networking. He has raised awareness for charitable organizations, held contests for his followers to win game tickets, and spread well wishes to friends and fans alike.

‘€œThere are a lot of opportunities,’€ he explained. ‘€œYou get to meet a lot of people. It’€™s very important for networking, just opportunities come abound, appearances, they can just work directly with you instead of going through a third party.’€

Twitter has become the norm for many NBA players. On the Celtics, Paul Pierce (@paulpierce34) has over 1.5 million followers, Ray Allen (@greenRAYn20) has nearly 25,000, and Shelden Williams (@SheldenWilliams) is a frequent tweeter with over 10,000 followers.

Now a seasoned vet, Villanueva has some advice for his fellow NBA athletes who are starting out in the world of social networking.

‘€œWhat the fans want to see is you being straight up and interacting with them as well,’€œ he suggested. ‘€œShowing pictures as well, they want to see what’€™s going on, what an NBA player does on a day-to-day basis.’€

Tweeting has become something Villanueva does on a day-to-day basis. Except during halftime, of course.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Charlie Villanueva, Detroit Pistons, Paul Pierce
Fast Break: Celtics – Pistons at 9:42 pm ET
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No one on the Celtics scored more than 15 points yet they beat the Pistons by 26, 119-93, on Monday in Boston.

The victory was a total team effort, the kind of win the Celtics needed after their leadership had been critiqued. Ray Allen said the team has “a bunch of leaders,” and showed up on Monday. Every player on the C’s scored.

Allen, Michael Finley, and Paul Pierce scored 15 points apiece; Kevin Garnett scored 14; Glen Davis contributed 13; and Kendrick Perkins and Marquis Daniels each added 11. (Rajon Rondo scored just three points and dished six assists.) The Celtics shot 62.2 percent from the field, 0.1 percent away from their season high.

Player of the Game: Finley was the spark plug off the bench the Celtics have needed. He started off shooting a perfect 3-for-3 and finished the game 6-for-7 from the field and 3-for-4 from behind the arc. Finley’s 15 was the most he has scored since October 20, 2009 when he posted 20 against the Thunder in preseason action.

Turning Point: After being tied 6-6 five minutes into the game, the Celtics went on a 14-3 run early in the first quarter. They got up by as many as 18 early on and never gave up their lead.

Tayshaun Prince left the game with 4:53 remaining in the third after hitting his lower back against Jason Maxiell’s knee while fighting for a rebound. A timeout was called as Prince lay on the court and received medical attention. He was eventually helped off by the Pistons staff and did not return to the game.

– Before the game, Doc Rivers affirmed that he is not giving up on the Celtics. ‘€œI don’€™t care how frustrating it gets for me,’€ he said. ‘€œI see it, and if you see it or not, I see it and I’€™m going to get it out of you. And that’€™s what I told them after the game [Sunday]. I don’€™t know how but I will get it out of you.’€ Rivers also pointed out Rasheed Wallace and Marquis Daniels and said both players could be more productive. Wallace posted 8 points and 4 rebounds; Daniels contributed 11 points and 5 boards.

Tony Allen set Nate Robinson up for an alley-oop dunk off the backboard with 43.5 seconds left. Despite drawing a standing O from the crowd, Robinson was called for a technical for hanging on the rim.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons,
Third Quarter: Celtics – Pistons at 9:08 pm ET
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The Pistons outscored the Celtics, 33-25, in the third quarter, but the C’s are still holding on a commanding lead heading into the fourth. They are up 89-70 after three.

The Celtics are shooting an impressive 55.9 percent from the field. However, they let the Pistons shoot 12-for-17 in the quarter. Jonas Jerebko was on a mission to get his back in the game. He scored all of his 10 points in the third, many coming at the basket. Kevin Garnett scored eight for the Celtics.

Kendrick Perkins was called for a technical foul. It was his 14th of the season and second of the month.

Read More: Add new tag, Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons,
Scal can’t rush back 03.01.09 at 9:37 pm ET
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Life has been put on hold for Brian Scalabrine since suffering what he believes to be his fifth concussion — the third in a matter of weeks — on February 19 against the Utah Jazz.

‘€œYou can’€™t do anything,’€ he said prior to Sunday’€™s game against the Detroit Pistons. ‘€œYou can’€™t watch TV for more than like 30 minutes, can’€™t read a book, can’€™t get on the Internet.’€

It’s forced a change in lifestyle for Scal and his family. What does he do now for fun?

‘€œLike what we did back in the day, we conversate. My wife’€™s getting tired of me talking to her though,’€ he said with a laugh. ‘€œMy daughter, she gets bored after 20 minutes. So like I said, you really can’€™t do anything. You really, really, really can’€™t do anything.’€

Scalabrine was initially diagnosed with a cervical strain in his neck. However he now believes that “99 percent” of his injury was caused by a concussion. He also suffered two concussions in January. After being deemed asymptomatic by doctors, he will undergo an MRI on Monday morning.

“I can’t worry about that until we get to the real deal,” he said. “Am I deep, deep down inside concerned a little bit about it? You know, it’s your career, it’s your life, yeah. But hopefully it all works out and I have no problems.”

Even though concussions are more common in the NFL than the NBA, one player can relate to Scalabrine’s setback. Indiana Pacers guard T.J. Ford has suffered three severe spinal injuries dating back to the 2005 season. His most recent injury occurred last season — caused by a flagrant foul by the Atlanta Hawks‘ Al Horford — and left him motionless on the court.

Ford bruised the same area of his spinal cord so many times that he eventually has his vertebrae fused together. He understands the importance of properly healing any injury in that part of the body.

“You want to be cautious any time you’re dealing with your neck, head, or spinal injuries because it eventually could affect how the rest of your life is,” Ford said. “So he has to be very cautious. The best thing to do is seek out information and get as much advice as possible about the injury and ways that you can get better so that you can live a good, healthy life and still be able to do the things you love to do.”

As Scalabrine awaits a diagnosis, the Celtics are struggling without him. The loss of Scalabrine, Kevin Garnett (knee), and Tony Allen (thumb) has depleted the Celtics bench, forcing Paul Pierce to play 48 minutes against the Pistons. (RECAP HERE) Glen Davis also aggravated his left foot and walked with a slight limp after the game. Scalabrine is itching to help his team.

“It’s different,” said Scalabrine. “The athlete and the common person, you cannot treat them the same way. Like a common person gets the flu and he’s supposed to relax for two weeks. An athlete, you can’t do it. Like they were talking to me about three months with no activity. I mean, that just doesn’t work for us. Everyone knows this. We have to deal with what it is. And you have to deal with, if you tweak an ankle they tell you take six to eight weeks off, you’ll be fine. Well six to eight weeks for us, that’s two months. You can’t do that. That’s 30 games. I just believe that you have to treat them separately.”

But Scalabrine can’t rush back, says Ford. In fact Scalabrine can’t even read a book at this point in time without the words blending together.

“It’s preparation. It’s preparation, it’s hard work, just building that confidence back,” Ford said. “And I think it starts off the court, just with conditioning yourself while you’re working out so when you get back to this level you’re not thinking twice about it.”

Doctors will determine the timetable for Scalabrine’s return. In the meantime, all he can do is stay optimistic.

“You can’t worry about it one way,” he said. “In my mind, I’m like, I’m not discouraged. I’m like thinking that I’ll be back in a week. That’s what my mind is.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brian Scalabrine, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers
Celtics-Pistons Game Blog: Second Quarter at 1:32 pm ET
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At the start of the second quarter … Celtics 22, Pistons 20

– The last time Kendrick Perkins and Jason Maxiell met Perk wound up with a flagrant foul and a $10,000 fine. But Perkins has put the January 30th incident behind him. “I don’t really think about that. You just brought it to my mind. I didn’t even think about it, so just go out there and do whatever I’ve got to do and play hard,” Perkins told WEEI.com before Sunday’s game. “I just block it out. I’ve moved on since then.”

Tony Allen is in taking in the game in street clothes from the Celtics bench. Allen (thumb) will wear a cast on his left hand for another two weeks and hopes to return to action four games before the end of the regular season.

– Looks like the novelty has already worn off. As soon as Stephon Marbury committed a turnover, an angry fan began berating him from the stands.

– Georgia Tech is being represented today. Both Marbury and Pistons guard Will Bynum are former Yellow Jackets.

– Celtics assistant coach Tom Thibodeau spent some one-on-one time with Mikki Moore during a timeout. Moore has picked up three fouls in five minutes, but Doc is leaving him on the court to get acclimated with the Celtics system.

Leon Powe received a loud ovation when he headed to the bench with nine points and five rebounds in eight minutes.

Rajon Rondo got tripped up on Rasheed Wallace and fell to the ground while driving to the basket. He got back up, though, and attacked the hoop on the next possession.

– Soulja Boy Jr. was recognized during a timeout for his recent feature in Boston Magazine. Seven-year-old Daylon Trotman was named a Person of Interest in the February issue. Trotman has been entertaining Celtics fans to the tune of Soulja Boy’s “Superman” anthem.

- At halftime … Pistons 55, Celtics 47

Read More: Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons, Mikki Moore, Stephon Marbury
Perkins ‘cool’ with call 02.02.09 at 12:24 am ET
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It’s only the first half of the season and Kendrick Perkins has already been whistled for nine technical fouls and a  Flagrant 2. His latest call against Jason Maxiell during Friday’s game against the Detroit Pistons earned him a $10,000 fine. But Perkins isn’t worried about developing a bad reputation around the league. If anything, he says, his early technicals helped the officials understand his game.

‘€œI think it’s mostly gaining the respect from the referees, having a better relationship,’€ he said prior to the Boston Celtics game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. ‘€œSo now when I get mad at a call they’re not just quick to jump on me. It’s more of a respect thing.’€

Perkins has noticed the referees have eased up since he got called for his ninth T in early December.

‘€œThey let me get physical on the block as far as defending people,’€ he said. ‘€œSo I think since I’ve calmed down ‘€“ I haven’t got a technical in about 25 games ‘€“ so I’ve been pretty cool.’€

As for the Flagrant 2 against Maxiell, Perkins attests he was not aiming for his neck. He’ll accept the consequences, though, knowing it comes with the territory of going hard on the court.

‘€œI think I’ve just got to keep going out there playing my game, being physical and just being smart at the same time,’€ he said. ‘€œThere are a lot of hard fouls that I’ve given that aren’t flagrant, so it’s cool.’€

Read More: Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons, Jason Maxiell, Kendrick Perkins
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