|Irish Coffee: Celtics sign Saleh, add frontcourt depth||04.01.11 at 12:07 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …
With the concerns about the health of all three of their potential starting centers — Nenad Krstic, Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal — the Celtics have added depth at the position by signing former Winabi Parish School standout power forward Saleh, according to Kenyan newspaper The Daily Nation.
“Do the names [Hakeem] Olajuwon, Manute Bol or Dikembe Mutombo mean anything to you?” said Jimmy Dolan, a former assistant coach at Saint Joe’s College who represents Saleh.
Dolan discovered Saleh at a 1994 faculty dinner while watching a film about Saint Joe’s missionary efforts in Africa. Also a member of Saint Joe’s 1981 NCAA title team, Dolan represented the 35-year-old Saleh in the C’s negotiations of a $40,000 deal — or the equivalent of 40 cows — with the 6-foot-9 post who possesses a “vertical leap that’s off the charts.”
“I would like to play for the Celtics very, very much,” said Saleh, who learned about the NBA in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition. “My father is a stubborn man. He says I have a lot to learn before I’m a leader.”Asked if he’s ready for the NBA, Saleh added, “Does a zebra have stripes?”
Saleh agreed to sign with the Celtics after leading his Winabi squad to a comeback victory against rival Mingori, 57-56. Without their starting point guard, his team trailed by 10 with a little more than two minutes to play, but Saleh sparked an 11-0 run, capped by his game-winning windmill dunk as time expired — a move he dubbed “The Jimmy Dolan Shake and Bake.”
|Jon Barry on Celtics winning Eastern Conference: ‘I think they will’||03.31.11 at 11:25 am ET|
Appearing on the Dennis & Callahan Show, ESPN NBA analyst Jon Barry said despite the Celtics‘ recent struggles, he still believes they will win the Eastern Conference when it’s all said and done. (To listen to the entire interview, click here.)
“I don’t put a lot of stock what happens at the end of the regular season,” Barry said. “Last year the Lakers lost 7 of 10 and went on to win the thing. Boston was 27-27 their last 54 and got to the Finals in the seventh game. So I wouldn’t read too much into this. But I’m a bit concerned because I really thought they were the best team with Kendrick Perkins on their roster. Now I think they let the pack in a little bit closer to them. I still think they can win the East and I think they will, but I think they’ve brought the other teams back to where they have a better opportunity to beat them.
“I like their experience,” Barry added. “I think Chicago has had a tremendous year but this is a team that hasn’t gone past the first round. The Miami Heat I think still aren’t ready to do it, come playoff time they’re not built for playoff basketball. I do believe the Celtics will come back and circle the wagons and be ready to go and be the team to beat in the East.”
Barry explained that he was taken aback at how much trading Perkins away has affected the Celtics.
“I’m a bit surprised,” the analyst said. “This was the No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference with Kendrick Perkins playing 12 games. The impact that he’s made on the floor obviously hasn’t been that big and they’ve played through it. I’m a bit surprised that they’re losing games. They haven’t been able to score. Their execution late in games has been poor. It’s kind of been there bugaboo the last few years.”
Some of the other topics touched on by Barry …
The Celtics recent struggles: “Obviously, since the Kendrick trade this team has not played well. [Rajon] Rondo in particular has not played well. We know how close he was with Kendrick Perkins. I know he has a pinky issue. There’s been no bones about it that these guys are unhappy that Kendrick’s left. Doc Rivers has felt the same way and they got to find a way to crank it back up here as we get started her in couple weeks for the real season.”
|Doc Rivers: This is what happens when our ‘butts got tight’||03.26.11 at 12:40 pm ET|
So – like any parent would with their misbehaving, unmotivated teenaged child – Doc Rivers has laid down the law.
He warned his kids, err his players, with five minutes left in Friday night’s sleepwalker against the Bobcats that if they won the game, fine, but you’re doing it on your own. Alas, the Celtics never recovered from blowing a 13-point lead, allowing the 28-42 Bobcats to go on a 16-0 run en route to a 83-81 win over the Celtics.
The natural first question afterward was whether Rivers was shocked. Rivers gave a qualified answered.
‘No, the way we’re playing shocks me,” Rivers said. “Our attitude shocks me. We’re just not ready to win any games right now the way we play, the way our approach is to basketball games. I told them that with about five minutes left. I said if we win great, you find your own way. Right now, I just think we’ve become very, very selfish. Not just as far as trying to get our own, but everything is about how we’re playing individually. Instead of how the team is playing. You can see it, a guy struggles, he pouts, he mopes. Everything is me, me, me on our team right now. Feeling sorry for themselves, instead of giving themselves to the team and playing.”
And Rivers reiterated the ‘lack of urgency’ message delivered by Paul Pierce following Wednesday’s loss to Memphis.
“You can just see it manifest throughout the team,” Rivers said. “Until we can get through that we will continue to have results like we had tonight. Clearly should have won the game. I thought the starting unit in particular, came in casual in the fourth quarter, assuming they were going to win the game. No urgency. Then all of the sudden when the game got won, their butts got tight.
When you got that 11-point lead, the shots aren’t easy anymore. I always say it, you screw around with the game and the game will screw around with you. Either I’m doing a terrible job getting to them or right now they just aren’t there. I don’t know why, it’s my job to figure it out though.’
‘We deserve it,” Rivers said. “Everything they did we deserve. I’m not going to comment on individual plays. I just think we deserve everything that happened. It had nothing to do with soft. I could care less about their slumps. It’s not hard, you keep playing. You play hard. You’re not going to play well every night, but it can’t be about you. It’s got to be let me do something else to help the team.’
As for comparisons to last year when they suffered home-court losses to the Nets and Wizards late in the season, Rivers said they don’t hold water since it was he who was holding out his players.
‘Nothing like this. Last year I shut them down,” Rivers said. “They were injured. They’re not injured. They’re not playing well.”
Are they bored?
“Yeah, Yeah, I think so,” Rivers said, before pausing and adding, “Last year we lost Game 7 [NBA finals] on the road.’
|Irish Coffee: Celtics answer all questions||03.25.11 at 1:32 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Rather than fishing for answers to Celtics questions — like, “Did Shaquille O’Neal suffer a setback?” … “Will Jermaine O’Neal ever return?” … “What’s wrong with Rajon Rondo?” … “Is Doc Rivers gone after the season?” … and, “Why does Kevin Garnett obsess over ‘Big Love’?” — let’s just go straight to the leprechauns’ mouths.
All those questions were answered during interviews on WEEI’s Celtics Thursday when Rivers joined the Dennis & Callahan morning show, Garnett appeared on Mut & Merloni and president Danny Ainge spoke on The Big Show. Here are the highlights:
Shaq reportedly received a cortisone shot last Tuesday, what gives?
Doc: “Hopefully Shaq will be back within the next five or six days. Again, that’s the estimated time of arrival.”
Danny: “He’s day-to-day starting about that time. I think Shaq is probably not going to play in Minnesota or Indiana, and I think from that point on it’s day-to-day. He could play in San Antonio, or he may play the next game or the game after that. I’m not certain.
“It’s up to him. Like, ‘Are you ready to play?’ He wants to practice before he goes out to play, so we’ll just wait for him to say, ‘I feel ready to go.’ You can’t just say, ‘Hey, you’re going to play tonight; get out there and play.’ …
“With Shaq, he’s got some soreness in the Achilles tendon, and he wants to try to have it as pain-free as possible before he goes out there to play, rather than play in these games right now. And that’s what we’re trying to wait for. It’s a lot more pain-free today than it was last week.”
KG: “We change dramatically [with Shaq]. You have not only a post presence but a presence, period. Shaq is physical on both ends. He lets that presence be known from the minute the ball goes up.”
Can the Celtics expect anything from Jermaine O’Neal?
|Paul Pierce on getting touches late: ‘I’m not going to make that an issue’||03.24.11 at 10:51 am ET|
Sometimes Paul Pierce can display a misleading, almost nervous, smile after a befuddling loss.
Wednesday night was such a case.
Pierce was asked whether he would like to get his hands on the ball more down the stretch, especially when the Celtics were trailing by three and his team needed a big basket. Pierce did get the ball but with 4.2 seconds left, leaving the C’s captain to fire a desperate trey that fell short.
‘We ran some stuff,” Pierce said. “We had the turnover right there down the stretch. For the most part I liked the looks we got. We got Big Baby with a nice shot. Less than 30 seconds we get Rondo right in the paint, going up for a shot that he takes all the time and makes. I’ll take that for a game winner. It just didn’t go our way today.’
Yes, Pierce would like to have touched the ball a little more but he said he didn’t want the team forcing the ball to him.
‘Probably a little bit more, but I play within the framework of the offense,” Pierce said. “I’m not going to make that an issue. We’ve been winning the way we play all year long and the last four years. I’m not going to make that an issue.’
Doc Rivers had a different take.
“We’ve got to score more points,” Rivers said. “I thought in the second half we went through that one stretch where we didn’t even start our offense until like seven seconds on the clock. Milking the clock; I thought the ball just was bounced and didn’t move. Whenever we do that. You know, listen, I think as a whole, our team, we’ve got to get back to understanding ‘ you know Paul is pretty good. And he’s got to get more touches in games. And I think we go back and forth on movement and we want that, but we’ve also got to get Paul involved. That’s on me; I’ve got to get Paul involved more.’
Pierce and the Celtics were also cautioned by their coaches before the game that the Grizzlies were one of the best offensive teams they’ll see in the paint this season. Despite all the pleading and prodding during film sessions, the Grizzlies came out and doubled the C’s 52-26 in the paint.
‘I am surprised because the whole emphasis of today was they are one of the best, if not the best in the league at points in the paint,” Pierce said. “The emphasis was to pack the paint, they aren’t a great three point shooting team so there is no excuse for all that. We should have done a better job in there, make them kick it out and make them knock down a couple of jumpers.
“I thought overall, for the most part we played pretty good defense. We held them to what, 90 points. Especially Zach Randolph, he has been playing out of his mind. A lot of these guys have been playing well. I thought it was a pretty strong defensive game.”
The Celtics also committed 20 turnovers on their home court, which they haven’t exactly been defending that well, especially against teams from the West.
Are the C’s tired? Sure, but as they themselves admitted, who isn’t at this time of the season?
‘The light is at the end of the tunnel, only a few more games left,” Pierce said. “It should be a better sense of urgency I believe around here. Especially finishing off the season on a good note and trying to get that home court advantage in the East.’
Doc Rivers admitted before Wednesday’s game the Celtics were very interested in acquiring Leon Powe at the trade deadline on Feb. 24. But concerns about Powe’s chronic knee problems scared the Celtics away.
After the game, after Powe led the Grizzlies with 13 points, Rivers called Powe the ‘baddest man on the planet’ in Memphis’ 90-87 win over the Celtics at TD Garden. The second-guessing was only natural. Couldn’t the Celtics use that kind of low post offensive threat and defensive toughness right now? Kendrick Perkins is in Oklahoma City, both O’Neals are out and there’s no timetable for either’s return, and Nenad Krstic still fighting what Rivers called ‘ghosts’ on the court.
Truth be told, Powe did not drab a single rebound. And further truth be told, Powe admitted afterward that he could read the writing on the wall after the Celtics acquired Troy Murphy that Boston would not be his landing spot in any deal from Cleveland.
‘I feel good, I appreciate Cleveland, they let me out of my contract and you know, they gave me an opportunity over there, I just appreciate all they did for me,” Powe said of the Cavaliers giving Powe a chance in the summer of 2009, after reconstructive knee surgery. “Just got to this team and they play my style of ball too. It’s a post-up team, they like to go to the post and be strong with the ball, like to play defense. It’s a young team too, I can call some of them young fellas, I’m young still too, but they my young fellas. Yeah I’m a veteran, I’m veteran Powe now.’
Veteran Powe, afterall, is looking out for his best interests, which include a multi-year contract offer next season. He knows he has to show some value to a playoff-bound team to show other teams he still has game.
Powe’s game on Wednesday was all about attacking the Celtics’ depleted low post presence. And he did that with regularity from the moment he checked in with 39.1 seconds left in the first quarter. He made 5-of-6 from the field, all on the low post.
‘Oh man it’s great, it’s fun, especially when you get a win,” Powe said. “This is a great team over there, a great team, and when you can come on the road and beat a great team like that. And do it on the defensive end, like I thought we did, it’s huge for a young, up and coming team, it’s huge, and that just adds fuel to our confidence.’
Powe was arguably the second-most important bench player behind James Posey on the 2008 Celtics world championship team. He brings defensive toughness to the Grizzlies that he did to the Celtics in that championship season.
‘I just try to bring over our help side defense, clogging up the paint,” Powe said. “I’m just making sure that when there’s a pick and roll set, what we learned from the Celtics is, sometimes you pre-rotate, take that away and let other guys sink in, sink and feel. And I thought that was what we did all night tonight, and when we got away from that they got back in the game, got the lead, and then we got back to it on the defensive end and that’s how we pulled it out, with some good tough defense.’
The Celtics had few answers for the second-most important Celtics bench player behind James Posey on the 2008 world champions.
“He was the baddest man on the planet tonight,” Rivers said.
|Grizzlies guard Tony Allen: ‘I’m a Celtic’||at 12:26 am ET|
Tony Allen spent the first six seasons of his career in a Celtics uniform and the last six months as a member of the Grizzlies, so forgive him if he blurred the lines of his allegiance following his new team’s 90-87 victory against his old team. Or don’t.
“I’m a Celtic, but unfortunately, I wear a Grizzlies jersey right now,” said Allen, who was the only member of the Memphis starting five to receive a positive response from the Garden crowd during Wednesday night’s game. “It was a nice reaction. I liked it.”
Allen signed a three-year, $9.5 million deal with the Grizzlies this past offseason. The Celtics reportedly offered Allen two years and $5.2 million to remain in Boston.
“Yeah, it’s strange, but most importantly I was just happy about the victory and how our guys stuck together and focused for 48 minutes,” said Allen. “That’s what it’s all about.”
Celtics fans weren’t cheering when Allen’s night was done, as his eight points and seven rebounds helped the Grizzlies drop the C’s a full game behind the Bulls in the standings.
“I wanted this win more than anything,” he said. “We got it.”
Following his first game in Boston wearing any other color than Celtics’ green — the Grizzlies only appearance at the Garden this season — Allen exchanged kind words with former teammate Kevin Garnett after the final whistle.
“He said, ”Good luck the rest of the way. I miss you,'” said Allen. “He showed me love. It was an emotional day, but I’m happy with the win.”
Another former Celtic, Leon Powe, joined Allen in Memphis after the Cavaliers bought out the remainder of his contract after the trade deadline. Prior to the game, Celtics coach Doc Rivers admitted that the Celtics expressed interest in Powe, but ultimately decided his knee concerns were too big a risk. Powe’s 13 points on Wednesday night begged to differ.
“Leon is a presence down there,” said Allen. “He’s a little undersized, but he’s strong. The more he puts in his work on that block, it kind of lightens the load for us. Leon’s just gotta keep being Leon.”
So, did their combined experience as members of the 2007-08 Celtics team that won the NBA title help aid the Grizzlies victory?
“I felt like I was in practice,” added Allen. “I knew all they’re plays. I knew everything they were going to run. It felt good. It was nice to see Doc with those nice suits that he wears. And it was a good overall experience coming here to Boston.”
Latest from Bleacher Report
- Austin Ainge Offers Window to C's Pre-Draft Process
- Trade Possibilities for C's with Draft Approaching
- Latest Buzz Surrounding Jamal Crawford, Kristaps Porzingis, Celtics'...
- Latest NBA Trade Rumors, Buzz
- Ranking Celtics' Biggest NBA Draft Needs
- Buzz Surrounding Ty Lawson, Celtics Draft Plans and More
- Realistic Targets for Celtics to Chase During Offseason