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Celtics owners Steve Pagliuca, Wyc Grousbeck on D&C: ‘We’re going for it’ 12.21.11 at 5:04 pm ET
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Celtics owners Steve Pagliuca and Wyc Grousbeck stopped by to chat with D&C guest hosts Dale Arnold and Bob Ryan Wednesday morning and discussed the upcoming season, Rajon Rondo‘s mindset, and why this could be the best Celtics team Danny Ainge has put together.

After the Celtics’ disappointing loss at the hands of LeBron James and the Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the owners expressed optimism about the C’s fortunes for the shortened 2011-12 season.

“It’s going to be a frenetic season, obviously packed in, a lot of games,” Pagliuca said. “The good news for us is that we have a veteran core, but we’ve got a lot of young legs on the team. Danny’s done another great job of building this squad. It’s a very deep team, and that deep team will pay service. Also, with a short training camp, we have four veterans coming back. They know the offense; we have veterans coming in. Doc [Rivers] will have them in very good shape to play.”

Added Pagliuca: “The positive side early is that the team has a lot of depth. One through 15 we’re about as good as we’ve been. If you look at the players Danny’s added here, they can all play basketball. We’re going to get some offensive rebounding this year with [Chris] Wilcox and [Brandon] Bass on the boards, so we’re optimistic. It’s really early in the season, but so far they’ve looked really good.”

Grousbeck said the decision was made to stick with the Big Three and build around them for another shot at the title, holding off any rebuilding plans.

“We do think about the future every day. We really, really do,” Grousbeck said. “But this does look like another year when this core has a chance. And if we supplement them to the max, everything we can possibly do under the new rules, it looks like to us, and more importantly to the basketball staff, that these guys have one more chance at least. So, you make that decision and you put the throttle fully that way. We’re not halfway. … It wasn’t a bad team last year. This year it looks like we can have a chance. Shortened season, almost anything can happen. So, we’re going for it.”

Added Grousbeck: “It has been a shortened preseason. There hasn’t been a lot of chance to really settle in with this team yet, this roster, and see it, and get a sense of other rosters as well. Having said that, every time I see [Kevin] Garnett, [Paul] Pierce, [Ray] Allen, and Rondo walk out on the court and Rivers coaching them, I get goose bumps, actually. So, I’m hopeful, and we’ll see.”

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Irish Coffee: Celtics sour grapes over David West 12.20.11 at 11:06 am ET
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Celtics president Danny Ainge lost out to former teammate Larry Bird in the David West sweepstakes, and that left a bitter taste in the mouths of Ray Allen and head coach Doc Rivers.

Ainge reportedly offered a sign-and-trade package of Jermaine O’Neal and a younger player to the Hornets for West, who would then be signed to a three-year, $29 million deal, according to ESPN.com’s Jackie MacMullan.

Instead, Bird signed the free agent to a two-year, $20 million contract, offering a higher annual value and a shorter window until West’s next free agency period, when he likely wouldn’t be coming off reconstructive knee surgery.

“Once it got down to the end, I think his ego kicked back in,” Allen told MacMullan. “He wanted the dollars. I guess it comes down to ‘What is a championship worth to you?’ Think of all the guys who have made $20 million and could be considered one of the best ever, but they get chided because they never won. We [the Big Three] all had to do less when we won. We’re still taking less to make it work. But it’s worth it. No one can ever say to KG [Kevin Garnett], Paul [Pierce] or me, ‘You guys never got your ring.’”

“I’m very disappointed,” Rivers told Jackie Mac, “but we’re moving on with the guys we have.”

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Jeff Green will miss the 2011-12 season 12.17.11 at 12:42 pm ET
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Jeff Green will have surgery and is out for the season, (AP)

The Celtics announced on Saturday that forward Jeff Green will have heart surgery next month after his physical revealed an aortic aneurysm. Green will not play this season, although there is hope that he will be able to continue his career next season.

Symptoms for aortic aneurysms often go undetected until examinations, such as physicals. Green’s condition was detected during a team physical on Friday after he had agreed to a one-year contract. He had been held out of practice while he underwent further tests.

“While we are saddened that Jeff will not be able to play this season, the most important thing is his health, and we were fortunate to have access to an amazing team of specialists to evaluate Jeff’s case,” team president Danny Ainge said in a statement released by the team. “The entire Celtics family supports Jeff during this difficult time in his career.”

The Herald reported that his contract will be voided, although it’s unclear where the Celtics go from here. They had one open roster spot even with Green and if his contract is voided, that would open another. They are already over the salary cap and they used the mini mid-level exception on Chris Wilcox, leaving them able to offer just the veteran minimum.

The Celtics could apply for an injury exception, which would allow them to sign a player for up to half of Green’s $9 million contract as a replacement. However, doing so would validate Green’s contract and cost the team up to $27 million in contracts and luxury tax payments.

Former Celtic James Posey was recently waived under the amnesty clause and he is an unrestricted free agent after clearing waivers. While different players with much different skillsets, comparisons were made between the two after Green was the centerpiece of an unexpected trade in February that sent Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to Oklahoma City for Green, center Nenad Krstic and a first round pick from the Clippers that carries top-10 protection through 2016.

The prize, however, was Green, a 6-foot-9 player with obvious basketball skills but no defined strength, He was expected to provide youth, athleticism and scoring for a team that needed all three.

Green was a capable backup for Paul Pierce, something that was desperately needed after Marquis Daniels was lost for the season with a spinal cord injury, but he never appeared to get in sync in Boston, averaging just 9.8 points and 3.3 rebounds in 26 regular season games.

Beyond backing up Pierce, his playing time was often sporadic. It was a significant adjustment for Green who went from a starting role where he was getting 36 minutes a night with the Thunder to an undefined backup situation that saw him on the floor for just 24 minutes a night.

“I wasn’t comfortable in my spot,” Green said on Tuesday. “It was tough to transition coming from Oklahoma to doing what I was doing there to coming here and trying to find my spot somewhere where I can score the ball.”

Still, Green’s numbers held up when adjusted for the lost time (his scoring and rebounding averages were essentially identical per 36 minutes for both teams) and his shooting percentage climbed from 44 percent with the Thunder to 49 percent with the Celtics. Both he and the team were expecting better results in his first full season.

“Coming to this situation last year was very stressful, trying to grasp everything right away was hard,” Green said. “Now I’m in a situation where I can relax a little bit. I’m on point with everything.”

In a condensed season, Green was expected to see significant playing time. The plan was to work Green in tandem with Kevin Garnett, giving them a small-ball look. While Green struggled to defend bigger players without a strong frontcourt compliment, he performed well when paired with Garnett and the other All-Stars. His absence also leaves the backup small forward to Daniels and Sasha Pavlovic, although coach Doc Rivers is less concerned with that situation.

“We have enough players,” Rivers said. “That’s why we have Sasha and Marquis to play the [small forward.] What it would take us away from is going small. We gameplanned all summer about the small lineup we were going to run with Kevin and Jeff .”

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Celtics scrimmage: Avery Bradley and E’Twaun Moore thrill ‘em at the end 12.16.11 at 10:07 pm ET
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Back-up point guard Avery Bradley hit a baseline jumper as time expired to lift the Green team to a 52-51 win over the White in an intrasquad scrimmage for the Boston Celtics Friday night before about 4,000 fans at TD Garden.

Rookie E’Twaun Moore‘s three-pointer with 0.8 seconds remaining had given the white team, featuring Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo the lead before Bradley’s game-winning shot. A portly Mike Sweetney, weighing in at well over 320 pounds, put the White up, 48-46, with just over 50 seconds remaining as the two sides exchanged buckets in a furious finish before an appreciative crowd.

Rajon Rondo started for the White team, along with Ray Allen and Jermaine O’Neal at center. Marquis Daniels started for the Green while Chris Wilcox started at center and took the opening tip for the Green.

The games were split into two 12-minute halves. The White trailed 27-18 at halftime before the Green, mostly stocked with reserves.

Wilcox led everyone at the scrimmage with 17 points and 10 rebounds, both game highs. Brandon Bass started and led the White with 13 points and five rebounds. Bradley, Dooling and Daniels each played the entire 24 minutes of the scrimmage.

The game was highly entertaining and featured the first look for fans at newcomers Wilcox, Bass, Moore, Keyon Dooling – who made all three of his 3-point attempts.

After the scrimmage, coach Doc Rivers said there was no medical update on the condition of Jeff Green, who failed his physical earlier in the week. He visited with doctors on Friday with team President and general manager Danny Ainge. WEEI.com’s Paul Flannery reported after the game that an announcement is expected sometime Saturday.

The Celtics open their brief two-game preseason schedule Sunday in Toronto, with the two teams playing in Boston on Wednesday night.

Paul Pierce will not make the trip to Toronto while Kevin Garnett is questionable after injuring his thumb on Thursday in practice. Rivers said after Friday night’s scrimmage that the X-rays were negative.

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Jeff Green shoots around before Celtics Media Day 12.13.11 at 9:58 am ET
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Celtics forward Jeff Green participated in a shoot around for 10-15 minutes prior to the team’s Media Day from 10 a.m. to noon, and our own Mike Petraglia caught it on tape. Following Monday’s practice, C’s president of basketball operations Danny Ainge indicated that something in Green’s physical raised a red flag, thus delaying both Green’s one-year, $9 million contract from being finalized and his ability to practice. While the team has not further addressed the issue, the fact Green was on the floor shooting around at the Celtics’ practice facility in Waltham — especially in front of a group of about 30 media members — is a good sign.

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Celtics free agent options at power forward redux 12.02.11 at 5:32 pm ET
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Welcome to the fifth and final part of this week’s daily post-NBA lockout position-by-position breakdown of free agent options available to the Celtics. We’ve profiled the C’s biggest needs – at center and shooting guard — as well as two other critical positions (backup point guards and small forwards), so we move to the final piece of Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge’s puzzle: Backup Power Forwards.

The Celtics started this past season with a surefire Hall of Fame four in Kevin Garnett, and backed him up with a Sixth Man of the Year candidate in Glen Davis. The C’s version of assistant to the assistant regional manager rotated from Luke Harangody to “We Hardly Knew Ye” Chris Johnson to Troy Murphy, with a dabble of Jeff Green, who played the four for the Thunder but is more suited to the three on the Celtics. Got all that? Good.

As we’ve noted  before, the Celtics have six players under contract in 2011-12 for a combined $64.3 million (Garnett, $21.2 million; Paul Pierce, $15.33 million; Ray Allen, $10 million; Rajon Rondo, $10 million; Jermaine O’Neal, $6.23 million; Avery Bradley, $1.53 million), and should match any offer Green receives — unless another team far exceeds his qualifying offer of $5.9 million.

Davis and Murphy are free agents, and while they might sound like a buddy cop duo from Dublin, they’re actually both pretty darn good for second and third options at the four. The addition of first-round pick JaJuan Johnson — a 6-foot-10 senior power forward out of Purdue — likely makes a Murphy-type expendable. But even with Garnett, Green and Johnson expected to be on the 2011-12 roster, the Celtics should seek one more power forward option, in case Johnson isn’t ready and to leave Green on the wing.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the options available to the Celtics at backup power forward, separating the current free agent players into four categories and forgetting about David West, because that ain’t happening.

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Irish Coffee: Rajon Rondo rumors, fact and fiction 11.30.11 at 9:14 am ET
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FACT: The Celtics are discussing Rajon Rondo in a trade for Hornets point guard Chris Paul.

When rumors started flying that team president Danny Ainge has included Rondo in trade discussions, there was always only one player who could possibly be on the other end of that conversation: Chris Paul.

With nobody to take over the reins in Rondo’s absence, the Celtics would have to land another point guard in return for the two-time All-Star. And considering the attractiveness of Rondo’s contract (4 years, $44 million remaining), that floor general would have to be decidedly better than Rajon Rondo.

In my mind, that list includes two names: Derrick Rose and Paul. There is no way in hell the Bulls are trading the reigning NBA MVP, so that leaves Paul, whose impending free agency puts him on the bargaining table.

Sports Illustrated’s Sam Amick confirmed that notion on Tuesday, citing numerous sources in claiming Ainge “is highly motivated” to land the 2005-06 NBA Rookie of the Year. Colleague Paul Flannery explained why the exchange makes painstaking sense but may require a third team to get done. And Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reported the C’s have made calls to the Pacers for just that reason.

The 26-year-old Paul has averaged 18.7 points (47.1 FG%, 35.9 3P%, 85.3 FT%), 9.9 assists and 2.4 steals in six NBA seasons, decidedly better numbers than the 25-year-old Rondo (10.7 points, 48.6 FG%, 24.2 3P%, 62.2 FT%, 7.6 assists, 1.9 steals) on a decidedly worse team.

While Rondo is one of the five best point guards in the NBA, Paul is one of the five best players in the league. That’s why Ainge is exploring the trade. And if it falls through, as ESPN.com’s Ric Bucher suggested it would, there’s nobody more stubborn than Rondo to prove Ainge, me and everybody else wrong.

FICTION: The Celtics offered Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green in a trade for Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook and center Kendrick Perkins. Read the rest of this entry »

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