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Transcript of Danny Ainge on D&C: Big Three still can lead Celtics to championship 06.24.11 at 10:41 am ET
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Danny Ainge (AP)

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge checked in with the Dennis & Callahan show Friday morning, the day after he selected two Purdue players in the NBA draft.

The C’s first-round pick was 6-foot-10 JaJuan Johnson, and Ainge sounded cautiously optimistic that Johnson can help the Celtics immediately.

“I think he can contribute,” Ainge said. “I always hate to put too many expectations on guys before the draft and after the draft. I think that sometimes we get all excited and get carried away on the draft. Historically, there’s just not that many guys that come in on a good team, on championship-caliber teams, that are able to contribute. Well have three or four young guys on our roster this year, and one or two of them might contribute day in and day out. The others will have to find their spots through injuries and opportunities in other ways.

“Size is hard to find. I think that his size gives him a little bit of an advantage. And his experience in college — he was an All-Big Ten player, and he’s nearly 6-foot-10 and he’s long. There’s just not that many of those guys out there, so the competition is much thinner.”

Following a transcript of the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Obviously, you’re happy with your guy. How long did you target this particular guy, JaJuan Johnson?

We started following JaJuan closely last year, trying to see if he should come out to the draft. He was counseled to back to school. We liked him some last year, but we did follow him closely this year.

I think the only minus, really, is just he’s very thin. But he’s multi-skilled. He can shoot, handle the ball, pass, block shots, rebound. He just needs to put a little weight on.

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Chris Mannix on D&C: ‘Rajon Rondo has been on the table in the past year’ 06.22.11 at 9:35 am ET
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Sports Illustrated NBA writer Chris Mannix checked in with the Dennis & Callahan show Wednesday morning to talk about the Celtics and Thursday’s NBA draft. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Mannix said Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge will not shy away from dealing any player in order to avoid a slow descent into mediocrity, and he noted that even the team’s young star, Rajon Rondo, has been the subject of trade talks in the recent past.

“I think he’s talking about moving everybody. I really do,” Mannix said of Ainge. “I’ve had conversations with different people around the league; I would throw Rajon Rondo on that list as well. … He has explored dealing Rajon Rondo in the past. He has talked to other GMs about him in the past. I’m not saying he’s been willing to pull the trigger in the past, but Rajon Rondo has been on the table in the past year or so.

“This is just something that Danny does. He’s not afraid to make the blockbuster deal if he thinks it helps him in the long term. So, I think Danny is absolutely working the phones right now. I think every one of those guys is on the table for a potential deal that he’s sure is going to help him.

“This goes back to what I thought the second after Doc Rivers signed that five-year extension,” Mannix continued. “Doc didn’t sign on for five years to be part of a team that just decomposes as it goes back to the Gerald Green era from a few years ago. He believes this team is going to be able to contend in Year 3, 4 and 5, when presumably Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen are gone. But to do that, I think Danny is going to have to shake up the roster. And I absolutely believe, right now, before the draft, after the draft, in the offseason, whenever he’s able to talk to these teams again once the lockout is lifted, he is going to be aggressive on the phone lines trying to improve his team.”

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NBA Draft’s Potential Celtics: BYU G Jimmer Fredette 06.21.11 at 11:54 am ET
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Jimmer Fredette shoots during a pre-draft workout for the Utah Jazz NBA basketball team, Wednesday, June 15, 2011, in Salt Lake City.

Is there any chance Jimmer Fredette will fall all the way to the Celtics at No. 25? (AP)

WEEI.com continues to provide daily insight and analysis on the 2011 NBA draft. This is one in a series of profiles of players who might be available for the Celtics to select with one of their two picks (25th and 55th overall).

Jimmer Fredette

Position: Point Guard

Team: BYU

Height: 6-foot-2

Weight: 195 pounds

Stats: 28.9 ppg, 4.3 apg, 3.4 rpg

What he brings: Holed up in his hideout with no Internet connection before he got shot in the face, even Osama bin Laden had probably heard of Fredette. When your first name is entered into Urban Dictionary as a verb (Jimmered: “to be repeatedly scored upon with a variety of off-balance 3-point shots, off-balance drives and amazing long shots”), you know you’ve arrived.

If Matt Christopher wrote a book about Jimmer, it’d be called “The Kid With Unlimited Range.” College basketball’s leading scorer, Fredette could put up points from anywhere on the floor — contested or uncontested, from mid-range to long-range, off the dribble or off screens, off-balance in the lane or squared up at the free-throw line. Didn’t matter, as evidenced by his 59.4 percent true shooting percentage despite defenses designed to stop him.

There’s no questioning his shooting ability, but there are serious doubts about how well Fredette’s game will translate to the next level. Despite a lightning-quick release and impressive passing ability, he’s undersized and unathletic (by NBA standards), so legitimate concerns exist about Fredette’s ability to get open looks on the perimeter and score at the rim.

And then there’s the issue of Fredette’s defense. Considering he wasn’t a great — or even good — defender at the collegiate level, it’s hard to imagine him stopping many guys in the association. How far Fredette falls in the first round will indicate the number of naysayers about his NBA potential, but at some point that shooting stroke will be too hard for any team looking for scoring punch off the bench to ignore.

Where the Celtics could get him: First round.

What they’re saying: “Jimmer is really a fun guy to watch. Jimmer’s a blast to watch. Jimmer is a terrific offensive player. He shoots deep. He scores in a variety of ways. He’s a really fun guy to watch play, because he’s a throwback. I don’t know who to compare him to. I haven’t really seen a player like Jimmer.” Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge

Notes: Most NBA mock drafts have Fredette slotted to go to the Suns at No. 13, so it’s unlikely he could fall all the way to the Celtics at No. 25. … If he should drop a la Brady Quinn, there are the obvious BYU ties between Fredette and Ainge, as the former surpassed the latter’s school scoring record. … A fellow USA Basketball participant, Kevin Durant once tweeted: “Jimmer Fredette is the best scorer in the world.” … This profile of Fredette by Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix — in which Jimmer compares himself to Steve Nash and Deron Williams — is probably the best out there.

Video:

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Irish Coffee: Betting on the Celtics 12.14.10 at 2:16 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

Do the sportsbook oddsmakers know something that the people who cover the NBA don’t? I know, I know, you’d be shocked to find out that sportswriters aren’t always right. And it’s not like they have millions of dollars riding on their prognostications, as the bookies do.

In most publications’ NBA Power Rankings — including, likely, when WEEI’s come out on Thursday – the Celtics, Spurs and Mavericks are ranked Nos. 1, 2 and 3, in some order. Yet, in most online sportsbooks, the Heat and Lakers are still heavy favorites to win the NBA title. Take a look:

THE SPORTSWRITERS

NBA.com …………………………………. ESPN.com ………………………………….. CBSSports.com
1. Celtics ………………………………… 1. Mavericks …………………………………….. 1. Mavericks
2. Spurs …………………………………….. 2. Celtics ………………………………………….. 2. Spurs
3. Mavericks ……………………………….. 3. Spurs …………………………………………… 3. Celtics
4. Lakers …………………………………….. 4. Bulls …………………………………………….. 4. Heat
5. Heat ……………………………………….. 5. Heat ……………………………………………. 5. Magic
6. Thunder ………………………………… 6. Lakers …………………………………………….. 6. Jazz
7. Jazz ………………………………………… 7. Jazz ……………………………………………. 7. Hawks
8. Magic ……………………………………… 8. Magic …………………………………………. 8. Nuggets
9. Knicks ……………………………………. 9. Thunder ………………………………………… 9. Lakers
10. Hawks ………………………………….. 10. Knicks ………………………………………. 10. Hornets

THE BOOKMAKERS

BetUS.com ……………………………… Sportsbook.com ………………………………. Bodog.com
1. Lakers (+210) …………………………… 1. Heat (+180) ………………………………. 1. Lakers (+210)
2. Heat (+220) ……………………………. 2. Lakers (+200) ………………………………… 2. Heat (+220)
3. Celtics (+500) …………………………. 3. Celtics (+220) ………………………………. 3. Celtics (+500)
4. Magic (+1,000) …………………………. 4. Spurs (+800) ……………………………… 4. Magic (+1,000)
5. Spurs (+1,100) ………………………… 5. Magic (+1,200) ……………………………. 5. Spurs (+1,100)
6. Mavericks (+1,200) ……………………. 6. Bulls (+1,500) ………………………… 6. Mavericks (+1,500)
7. Bulls (+2,000) ………………………. 7. Mavericks (+2,000) ………………………. 7. Thunder (+2,000)
7. Thunder (+2,000) ……………………. 7. Knicks (+2,000) ……………………………… 8. Bulls (+2,200)
9. Jazz (+2,500) ………………………… 9. Thunder (+3,000) …………………………….. 9. Jazz (+2,500)
10. Hornets/Nuggets (+4,000) …………. 9. Jazz (+3,000) ………………………….. 10. Hornets (+3,500)

There are two possible conclusions to draw from this: either 1) the bookmakers are right to anoint the Lakers and Heat as the NBA title favorites; or 2) there’s a lot of money to be made (you know, if online sports gambling were legal).

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Irish Coffee: Celtics lack killer instinct 11.02.10 at 11:05 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

 

We know they love Halloween, but does this Celtics team have a killer instinct?

I raised this concern when the C’s let a pair of double-digit leads vaporize at both second-half quarters in the opening-night win over the Miami Heat.

And Dime Magazine’s Austin Burton raised it again just three games into the 2010-11 NBA season — suggesting Boston has played to its competition through the first three games.

 The Celtics did it last season, when they were just average down the stretch before bouncing back to find their rhythm in the playoffs and get with a few possessions of winning another NBA championship. But for a veteran team – led by Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal and the playoff-experienced Rajon Rondo -- that has been through the wars and knows the importance of staying focused and consistent, it’s a red flag.

The Celtics had the killer instinct in 2007-08, when they won 66 regular-season games and the NBA title. A whopping 21 of those victories came by margins of 20 points or more.

They simply didn’t let many games slip away, as they did in Game 2 against Cleveland — dissolving a double-digit lead in the second half against one of the worst teams in the league.

The 2007-08 C’s started 20-2, winning by an average of 16 points and losing only to a pair of teams that reached the second round of the playoffs that season (the Orlando Magic and the LeBron James-led Cavaliers).

Meanwhile, this year’s edition of the Celtics has led all three of its games by double digits late in the third quarter, only to be playing meaningful minutes down to the buzzer.

Against the Heat, an 83-70 lead with four minutes to play dwindled to an 83-80 advantage in the final minute. Against the Cavs, the C’s turned a 66-55 third-quarter advantage into a 95-87 loss. And against the Knicks, Boston owned a 101-90 lead with two minutes left, only to be clinging to a 103-101 advantage in the final minute.

To further the issue, Burton points to tonight’s game as a potential defining moment for this season’s Celtics, especially considering they haven’t played since Friday night.

The Celtics will get another test of their focus on Tuesday, when they visit the Pistons on the road. A fierce playoff rival for the C’s as recently as 2008, Detroit was in the Lottery last year and aren’t expected to do much this year. Ben Gordon’s and Co. are 0-3 right now, but two of those losses were down-to-the-wire games against playoff teams in Oklahoma City and Chicago. If the Celtics overlook Detroit – perhaps eyeing an upcoming stretch that has them home for the Bucks and Bulls before playing at OKC, Dallas and Miami – Gordon and Rodney Stuckey and the Pistons’ talented scorers will hand Doc Rivers another unexpected L.

Losses piling up are certainly a concern, but as the Celtics showed last year: For this team, what happens in the regular season stays in the regular season. The more concerning number — other than a potentially lower playoff seed — could be the mounting meaningful minutes.

The more games the Celtics are able to demonstrate a killer instinct — turning second-half, double-digit leads into certifiable blowouts down the stretch — the fewer minutes Rivers has to trot out his aged starters.

“I love sitting on the bench in the fourth quarter when you’ve got a blowout,” Ray Allen said in the preseason. “That means everybody as a team gets the opportunity to play. Everybody works hard throughout the week, so when you know guys get a chance to play that’s when you know you’ve got it.”

Which only stresses the killer instinct question: Do this season’s Celtics have IT?

MAGIC DON’T MATCH UP

What the Celtics do have — according to Orlando Sentinel‘s George Diaz — is a considerable matchup advantage against the Magic. In fact, the columnist essentially threw in the towel against the C’s and Heat just a few games into the season. Here’s a glimpse:

The Magic don’t have any players who can break down a defense by going one-on-one, unless Vince Carter steps into a Hot Tub Time Machine and it’s 1997 all over again.

Without one, they won’t have a prayer of beating the Celtics or the Heat in a playoff series.

It may sound like one man’s opinion, but it’s not. Even Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy owned up to that discrepancy after getting blown out by the Heat on Friday.

“Against a good defensive team we have trouble a little bit,” Van Gundy told the Sentinel. “We don’t have — and this isn’t to put down anybody in our locker room — but we don’t have the great one-on-one players. We don’t have Dwyane Wade and James and Pierce and Kobe Bryant.”

That’s got to be fairly eye-opening for any Orlando fan. I had my doubts about the Magic from the start, relaying recently a conversation I overheard at the Garden:

“How come you don’t believe in the Magic?” one guy said to another.

To which the other guy replied, “They still have Vince Carter, don’t they?”

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