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Irish Coffee: Limiting Doc Rivers’ Celtics lineup options 10.19.12 at 5:21 pm ET
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Celtics coach Doc Rivers has options. Kind of like Leonardo DiCaprio has options. It’s hard to choose from the depth and versatility of talent at his disposal, so he tries every combination at his disposal. Eventually, the cream rises to the top, and that appears to be what has happened over the C’s past two preseason games against the Nets. In other words, Rivers may have found his Gisele Bundchen, Bar Rafaeli and Blake Lively of lineups.

In the first three-plus quarters of the two games against Brooklyn — before Micah Downs, Kris Joseph, Robert Kurz or Fab Melo made obligatory fourth-quarter appearances — Rivers used 23 different lineups. Other than starters Rajon Rondo, Courtney Lee, Paul Pierce, Jared Sullinger and Kevin Garnett, no unit played longer than 8:36 together. Before making any observations, here are the combinations, playing time and plus/minus statistics.

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Armond Hill: ‘What would happen if [Doc Rivers] gets thrown out’ 10.17.12 at 1:32 am ET
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When the second half began Tuesday night, Doc Rivers was no where to be found on the Celtics bench. As it turned out, there was no medical emergency. It was all pre-planned. Rivers told his longtime assistant Armond Hill he would be taking the reins in the second half. Why?

“He just came to me and said, ‘Armond, you’re coaching the second half.’ He’s always said that as much as players are in training camp, so are the coaches. And so what would happen if he gets thrown out, something like that?”

Rivers actually joked with reporters before the 97-96 preseason loss to the Nets at TD Garden that everyone should go home by nine o’clock in order to watch the debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. As it turned out, Rivers was in the locker room right about the same time as the debate began. But Hill insisted Rivers was actually watching the Celtics game since he knew every detail of what was going on in the game, including the Celtics losing a nine-point lead with 3:16 left in the fourth quarter.

“I can only thank Doc for giving me the opportunity to coach,” Hill said. “That’s what we’re all here for. He’s taught me and I’ve been with him and he continues to teach me and he’s given me another opportunity.

“As far as at the end, I put all the guys in and I didn’t have any point guards in. But, once I explained that Courtney [Courtney Lee] was cramping up a little bit, he understood. So we just played them. But we still had chances and I thought we shot quick, too quick, when we had a seven-and eight-point lead. But it’s all a learning experience.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Fast Break: Paul Pierce ends this Celtics-Nets debate 10.16.12 at 10:00 pm ET
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Even Celtics coach Doc Rivers couldn’t watch a full preseason game against a Nets team that didn’t send any of its starting five out for the opening tip. Conveniently, the second half of the C’s 97-96 loss coincided with the start of the presidential debate, and that’s when Rivers — an ardent support of President Barack Obama, a fellow former Chicagoan — excused himself, “allowing his assistant coaches to handle the bench duties.”

At least Paul Pierce stayed for the second half, capping a 29-point night on 10-of-17 shooting (6-8 3P) in 27 efficient minutes. Jeff Green (14 points) and Courtney Lee (13 points) also stuck around until the end of the C’s bench eventually coughed up a double-digit lead in the final minutes. Here’s what else Rivers missed.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Sharp Pierce: After entering training camp out of shape and suffering a foot injury that lingered long past the three games he missed to start the 2011-12 NBA season, Pierce seems prepared to begin this season in much better shape, showing no ill effects of the knee injury that hobbled during the playoffs. The Celtics captain connected on four of his first seven shots against the Nets, scoring 10 of the C’s 14 points in the opening seven minutes.

Green party: After struggling for the first time all preseason against the 76ers, Green turned in another aggressive performance, recapturing his leadership role on the second unit. After falling hard to the floor early in the second quarter, he shook off the trainer and even drew a charge on the other end. If there were any lingering questions about Green’s hesitance after returning from heart surgery, he answered them in that stretch.

On guard: Lee’s outside shot wasn’t dropping (1-4 3P), but the C’s starting shooting guard once again demonstrated the athleticism and defensive ability that made him so coveted. Also, his chemistry with backcourt mate Rajon Rondo is clearly developing, as Lee found open spots on the perimeter and Rondo naturally found him with a few nice crosscourt passes. Eventually, the career 39 percent 3-point shooter’s stroke will connect.

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Irish Coffee: Grooming Celtics rookie Jared Sullinger 10.11.12 at 8:00 am ET
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Jared Sullinger isn’t easily fazed. Not even when they called him and the other Celtics rookies in front of the entire organization during a team dinner and made him sing his favorite song: Jay-Z‘s “Public Service Announcement.”

Check out my swag’ yo, peep the way I wear it
No matter where you go, you are what you are player
And you can try to change, but that’s just the top layer
Man, you was who you was ‘fore you got here

Fitting. Sullinger isn’t intimidated by a team full of headstrong veterans whose system has produced one championship, two NBA finals appearances and three Eastern Conference finals showings in the past five years, and that’s because his basketball journey started almost from the day he was born.

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Irish Coffee: Celtics’ Rajon Rondo offers insight into why he believes he’s NBA’s best point guard 10.10.12 at 9:31 am ET
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After Rajon Rondo proclaimed himself the NBA’s best point guard over the summer, the Celtics All-Star has been asked to clarify at some point during almost every interview he’s conducted since, except there’s no clarification.

He believes it, and he hasn’t backed down from it, as evidenced once again in Steve DeOssie‘s cover story for Boston Common magazine. While most people not named Rondo readily admitted they’d take Chris Paul over him a year ago — and maybe even Derrick Rose, Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook, too — the C’s floor general certainly closed the gap during the playoffs. In fact, he might have eliminated the gap completely.

After all, Rondo led the league in assists by a full dime over Steve Nash last season and averaged almost three more assists than any other point guard in the postseason. Few outside of Magic Johnson could replicate Rondo’s 44 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Heat. There’s more to Rondo than meets the eye, and that’s what he believes separates him from the pack.

In DeOssie’s piece, Rondo not only reiterates his claim to the throne, but he clarifies exactly why he thinks so:

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Irish Coffee: Making the most of Paul Pierce’s minutes 10.03.12 at 6:29 pm ET
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Generally, what happens in preseason games has little bearing on the NBA’s regular season, but keep an eye on how Celtics coach Doc Rivers manages Paul Pierce‘s minutes over the next couple weeks.

“We’re going to try some things with Paul in the preseason,” said Rivers, “and just see how that goes.”

Last season, Rivers instituted Kevin Garnett‘s 5-5-5 plan, playing his center in five-minute increments. While Garnett’s time on the floor each game barely changed (31.3 in 2010-11 vs. 31.1 in 2011-12), his minutes were less taxing, and that paid dividends in the playoffs, when he enjoyed perhaps his greatest stretch in a Celtics uniform.

The plan is to execute the same plan for Garnett and a similar one for Pierce this season, although both the Celtics captain and Rivers admitted playing that duo on the same 5-5-5 schedule might not benefit the team.

“Doc is the coach around here,” said Pierce. “I trust his judgment and everything he does. We’ve been together a long time. I’m giving myself to the team. Whatever’s going to be best for the team, that’s what it’s gotta be. I think with me and Doc, we’ll figure things out, because if I’m on fire the first five minutes I can’t come out. Simple as that.”

“I’m all for it,” countered Rivers. “Paul is a gym rat. Paul is a guy I’ve never really worried about with minutes, but I’m going to watch his minutes. Obviously, if we can keep [Rajon] Rondo’s minutes down, we will. And Paul’s minutes down. It doesn’t mean we will. It would be nice. I like our bench.”

That last addendum could be the difference this season. Despite approaching his mid-30′s, Pierce’s minutes per game haven’t changed much the past three seasons (34.0, 34.7 and 34.0, respectively), and that can largely be attributed to having Marquis Daniels, Sasha Pavlovic and an ailing Mickael Pietrus behind him.

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Irish Coffee: Top 10 Celtics Media Day moments 10.01.12 at 5:36 pm ET
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Considering the Celtics have been unofficially practicing together since early September, Friday’s Media Day at the team’s practice facility in Waltham seemed less like a welcome home party than years past and more like an interruption of a team’s quest for the franchise’s 18th NBA championship already in progress. That attitude is reflected in the top 10 moments from this year’s Celtics Media Day compared to the same post last season.

10. Chris Wilcox on missing the playoffs again: “I was fresh out of surgery when they made it to the playoffs. The whole time, I was just trying to see whatever I could do. I was like, ‘Doc, there’s no way I could come back?’ And he was like, ‘Don’t even think about it.’ So, it was just motivation, because I can’t watch basketball and not play it. … I’m out trying to walk on treadmills and doing all these different kind of things, just trying to get back, because I wanted to be around basketball. I’ve never been to the playoffs before. That was going to be my first experience, and then that had to happen, so it was tough.”

9. Jared Sullinger on dropping to the Celtics: “Everybody was knocking me for the back problems and all this crazy stuff, but I could care less. Like I told everybody, if I dropped to the Celtics at 21, and I could go back and redo everything — and me not getting hurt — I’ll get hurt again and slide all the way back down to 21, just so I could be with the Boston Celtics. I’d redo it, because it’s a great organization, great vets, great team.”

8. Courtney Lee on the Celtics’ championship tradition: “Every organization I’ve been with, winning has always been the key, but here you believe — you feel it, you see it. We’re not even starting training camp yet, and we had our whole team here Sept. 4, and everybody was dedicated to getting better. The motto of it was to win a championship. The first day I got here, on the fourth, all Rondo was talking about is a championship and getting back and winning. Once you hear that from your star players, you don’t want to let them down, so that motivates you to get on the same page, and that’s all it’s about: Winning.”

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