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Rondo and Reserves Propel Celtics over Nets 10.13.09 at 10:57 pm ET
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On Tuesday night, the Celtics overcame a 14-point deficit to defeat the Nets, 91-88, in Newark, N.J., during preseason action (recap here). With Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen getting the night off, the Cs were propelled by Rajon Rondo and the reserves.

  • Rondo led the Cs with 18 points, 13 assists, and nine rebounds in 40 minutes. This is in contrast to Sunday’s game against the Nets when he posted eight points, three assists and two rebounds in 26 minutes.
  • Rasheed Wallace (20 points, 9 rebounds, 25 minutes) was the Celtics’ driving force in the first half. However, he rolled his right ankle in the third quarter and eventually left the game. Doc Rivers told the media he considers the injury to be mild.
  • Eddie House demonstrated his tenacious intensity by fighting for loose balls, forcing jump balls and hitting clutch shots, including a go-ahead jumper with 34 seconds left. He finished the night with 14 points.
  • Glen Davis continued to knock down his mid-range jumper en route to 18 points. The Celtics were a game-high plus-12 with Davis on the court.
  • J.R. Giddens, whose talent only had been showcased in the D-League, played his best NBA game. He grabbed 13 rebounds and scored seven points.
  • Marquis Daniels started the game but left after 15 minutes with a stomach bug.

The Celtics will travel to Hartford to take on the Raptors on Wednesday night.

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Garnett: The wings are coming 10.12.09 at 5:17 pm ET
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WALTHAM — The dunk happened sometime today between 1 and 2:30 p.m. when the Celtics had their practice closed off to the media, but it did happen.

Doc Rivers worked the Celtics hard Monday, one day after a preseason game with the Nets, and one day before a back-to-back set with New Jersey and then Toronto in Hartford. During the session, Kevin Garnett went up for a lob and brought it home.

“Kevin was great,” Rivers said. “I don’t think he came out today. He’s getting stronger and stronger. The only thing left, today, he caught a lob and dunked it. It was an amazing dunk and everyone was like, ‘Whoa, we haven’t seen that.’ He’s not as explosive yet, but it will come. You can see it. When he did it he yelled out, ‘Oh I can do it.’ That was good to see.”

KG’s reaction?

“I think Doc wants me to grow wings and fly,” Garnett said. “I tell him just to be patient. The wings are coming.”

The wings, and everything else, are coming into focus for the Celtics as they reach roughly the midway point of training camp. The starting five is back and healthy and the reserves have shown enough in the preseason games that the bench seems far more settled than it has in the past.

Still, there remains work to be done incorporating the new players — Rasheed Wallace and Marquis Daniels particularly — into the offensive and defensive systems as well as learning the little things about each other that only come with time and reps.

“Even though everyone has a high IQ when it comes to basketball, we still have chemistry [things to work on],” Garnett said. “Where ‘Sheed likes to have the ball, where Marquis likes isolation and everybody understanding everybody’s game. It’s not a big thing, but it’s something that you have to give a certain amount of attention to. The new guys have to learn our schemes and understand terminology.”

There’s no question the Celtics are feeling good about where they are with the season-opener at Cleveland looming in a little more than two weeks. A big part of that is fact that the players came into camp in basketball shape.

“Every guy on our team has come to camp in better shape than they were last year,” Rivers said. “Eddie [House] came to camp in phenomenal shape. Kevin, conditioning-wise, is probably not where he was last year because he spent half the summer not being able to work out. But everyone else: Paul [Pierce] is in great shape, [Glen Davis] is in great shape. A lot of that is that we lost and no one likes that feeling. You want to do something about it.”

NOTES: Part of the reason that Rivers worked the team so extensively Monday is that he plans to rest the veterans in at least one of the next two games. Look for the coach to use that time to begin working on some rotation patterns. Rivers said that he is set on the first four off the bench — House, Daniels, Wallace and Davis — and then the rest will sort itself out depending on matchups.

Pierce turns 32 Tuesday (look for a story by colleague Jess Camerato that day) and while the captain was not in a mood to reminisce, Garnett offered his thoughts on his teammate. “Paul makes things easier,” Garnett said. “I’m not going to lie about that. He not only makes things easier, but simpler. Offensively, things get simplified, plus a lot of things he and I don’t need to talk. We have a bond and a chemistry that’s unspoken.”

Pierce on rookie Lester Hudson, who is three months older than six-year veteran Kendrick Perkins: “He’s a 25-year-old rookie. How many of those do you have? He plays mature. He came in and he understands the game a little better than your average 19- or 20-year-old rookie. That’s good.”

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Progress as usual for Celtics 10.11.09 at 5:16 pm ET
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Before dissecting the Celtics‘ 100-93 win over the Nets at the TD Garden Sunday afternoon (recap here), let’s get the preseason disclaimers out of the way:

Devin Harris didn’t play for the Nets.

Ray Allen played 15 minutes in the first half and got up exactly one shot.

The Celtics first unit ran the same play, and only that play, during the entire first quarter when they were operating in the half court.

In other words, it’s dangerous to read too much into any preseason game, let alone one that featured 35 turnovers and 56 personal fouls, but for the purposes of discussion, there were several bright spots for the Celtics on Sunday. Of note:

Kevin Garnett’s comeback continues: Garnett logged 21 minutes and scored 12 points to go with six rebounds. He was also moving up and down the floor with a noticeably easier gait.

“Sprint,” Garnett said when asked what he was most encouraged by. “I thought today I got up and down. I tried to put pressure on their defense, get in the middle, call for the ball. As far as being aggressive this is probably the most aggressive I’ve been since I’ve come back and played. Reaction time was a lot better, a lot faster.”

Garnett was also back to old feisty self as he got mixed up with New Jersey’s Yi Jianlian during the first quarter.

“Wasn’t nothing,” Garnett said. “He don’t know me, I don’t know him.”

Good day for the captain: Garnett shot 6-of-8 from the floor but he wasn’t the Celtics’ most effective scorer. That was Paul Pierce, who scored an almost effortless 25 points on 8-for-12 shooting, operating mostly against New Jersey rookie Terrence Williams. But once again the most encouraging sign for the Celtics beyond their general health was the play of the second unit.

“To tell you the truth I thought our second unit was a lot more impressive than we were,” Pierce said. “They were the ones that pushed the lead out and they’re looking like they’re jelling well together. We are still coming along as a unit, but that’s the process of preseason.”

The rotation begins to take shape: Much has been made about the versatility of the C’s second unit thanks to veteran additions Rasheed Wallace and Marquis Daniels, but as good as they’ve been, the team will begin to integrate the starters with the reserves into forming a cohesive rotation.

From the beginning of the preseason Doc Rivers has brought Wallace in first off the bench to get him time with the starters, but beyond that look for a few more combinations to begin taking shape.

“The one group we haven’t had — Rasheed, Kevin, Eddie [House], Paul and Ray — that’s a group that you’d like to have on the floor,” Rivers said. “You have to be careful with the point guard. The three teams that we’ve played all pressure all the point. That’s dangerous for us.”

Rivers has a bunch of options at his disposal, and depending on matchups, foul trouble or injuries, he can mix and match as the season progresses. Finding ways to utilize House (who scored 13 points) always will be a top priority.

As the preseason games begin to pile up, Rivers said he’ll give veterans Pierce, Garnett, Wallace and Allen time to take some games off. The Celtics have two back-to-backs coming up, with the first set coming this week when they play at New York Tuesday and then the Raptors in Hartford Wednesday. They have another back-to-back set next week as well, which seems like a good time to work out some rotation kinks.

Health update: Everyone played, with the exception of Tony Allen, who is working his way back from an ankle injury. “There’s going to be good days and bad days [for Allen],” Rivers said before the game. “We’re not going to know until he gets on the floor.”

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Former Magic Notice Changes in Celtics at 5:01 pm ET
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The last time Rafer Alston, Tony Battie, and Courtney Lee played against the Celtics, they sent the C’s packing for the summer. The trio were members of the Magic team that eliminated the Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. This year they are in a different uniform and noticed the Cs have a different look as well.

Alston, Battie and Lee were traded from the Magic to the Nets over the summer as part of the Vince Carter deal. On Sunday they got their first take at the Celtics with their new team during preseason action at the TD Garden (recap here).

“They got a brand new season,” Battie said. “I mean, you look and [Kevin Garnett] is back and Rasheed [Wallace] is part of it. They got a great steal in getting Marquis Daniels, and you have those three additions coming back in the team. So, I think they’re the team to beat, definitely.”

Last season a hobbled Celtics squad was outscored, outrebounded and burned from the 3-point line by the Magic. Without Garnett on the court and veterans Ray Allen and Paul Pierce overworked, the Celtics bench could not save the season. Now the additions of Wallace and Daniels give the team much-needed depth.

“They get their big guy back and then they add Rasheed Wallace in there now,” Alston said. “I think when you’re trying to take away a lot of their main guys, they have a lot of guys that can step up and stretch the defense or post up on the low block. They have a different dynamic to their team, especially from a defensive aspect for other teams.”

Both Alston and Lee agree the series would have been completely different if the Celtics had so many weapons last season.

“They would’ve been a better team,” Lee said. “They definitely would’ve been harder for a matchup because you can play Marquis at the 1 and you sub in Rasheed, so they keep a shooting big in at all times, so they definitely would have been better.”

Said Alston: “I don’t think we would have been able to roam a lot off of a lot of their guys — [Rajon] Rondo, [Kendrick] Perkins, Big Baby [Glen Davis]. Those guys who really bring more scoring to the offense, especially from the bench standpoint.”

The combination of a healthy Garnett and a revamped second unit has Alston noticing a difference in the 2009-10 Celtics. Although he isn’t as willing as Battie to name them the best in the Eastern Conference, he can’t deny the changes on the court.

“Whenever they have all their guys, they have a swagger,” he said. “When someone goes down they don’t have swagger no more. That’s just how they are.”

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Kevin Garnett’s strong debut 10.07.09 at 11:39 pm ET
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Kevin Garnett’s highly anticipated return to live game action was sharp, efficient and uneventful. The first two adjectives are nice, but the last is the most important for the Celtics as they began pursuit of another NBA championship in a 96-90 loss to the Rockets in their 2009 preseason opener in Hidalgo, Texas, Wednesday night. (Click here for a game recap).

On the Celtics’ first possession, Garnett popped out and drained 20-foot jump shot. A few possessions later Garnett again played pick-and-pop and knocked down another. The jumpers were a pleasant reminder of the Garnett we all remember, as were the six points, five rebounds and two steals, but what was most telling in Garnett’s 14 minutes (8 in the first half, 6 in the second) was that he was mobile getting up and down the floor and active on defense in his first game since March 25.

The only blemish was when he couldn’t get up quickly enough on a Rajon Rondo lob, but that’s partly timing as well. Garnett’s second half was mostly nondescript, although he did work in a post-up on the left block where he showed his usual deft footwork.

The Celtics are still 20 days from the actual season-opener, Oct. 27 in Cleveland, and there’s a lot of training camp left for Garnett and his surgically repaired knee to grind through, but Wednesday night in the Texas border town was a positive first step.

A few other quick observations from the Celtics opener:

THE REPLACEMENT REFS ARE A PROBLEM

It’s hard to find a lot of sympathy for NBA refs at any point in time, but count on a growing sentiment to emerge among the players and coaches as the preseason continues. The game was too fast for the refs at times and there was an awful lot of hand-checking that went uncalled.

And yet there were still 102 free throws, which even for a preseason game is way too many. NBA players are adept at adjusting their games to the refs, but what they want more than anything is consistency, which was in short supply. There were some funky calls, including a travel on Ray Allen for a move he’s been making since before he played Jesus Shuttlesworth in “He Got Game.”

The easiest prediction of the night was the technical foul on Rasheed Wallace after what he thought was a clean block.

THE SECOND UNIT SHOULD BE MUCH BETTER THIS YEAR

Beyond Garnett, the most impressive player on the floor for the Celtics Wednesday was Marquis Daniels, who finished with seven points, three rebounds and a team-high five assists. Whether or not he can actually be the backup point guard is still an open question, but after watching the opener it may not even be the right question.

Daniels split time at the spot with Eddie House and rookie Lester Hudson, but with Daniels and Wallace on the floor the Celtics are incredibly versatile, which helps negate the need for a creator type of point guard. Daniels looks like he can be the long sought-after replacement for James Posey defensively, but it’s Wallace who is the long sought-after replacement for Posey offensively with his ability to stretch the floor.

The biggest mark against Daniels’ game is that he is not a particularly good long-range shooter, but he is a terrific slasher, and with House and Wallace stretching the perimeter there should be ample room for Daniels to operate.

The second unit looks to be a combination of House, Daniels, Wallace, Brian Scalabrine and Glen Davis, and you’ll notice that all five can play more than one position, which allows the Celtics to mix and match “positions” depending on the matchups.

PATIENCE REQUIRED FOR RONDO’S IMPROVED JUMPER

It’s a positive development for the Celtics that Rondo spent part of his summer working with former NBA sharpshooter Mark Price. That’s exactly the kind of extra effort the Celtics have been looking for from the mercurial guard.

Rondo’s work with Price focused on correcting a mechanical flaw, and that will take some time for him to work through. He wasn’t particularly effective, going 1-for-4 from the floor and only 5-for-8 from the free throw line, but in just 17 minutes of action he didn’t get much of a chance to show it off, either.

This obviously is a big October for Rondo as he eyes an extension. The deadline is Oct. 31 to get something done, and while it’s not like he’ll make any more or less bank based on his preseason shooting numbers, the extra work will go a long way toward validating a long-term commitment.

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Returning Celtics hit the court in preseason opener at 11:37 pm ET
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On Wednesday night, all eyes were on Kevin Garnett as he returned to the court for the first time in more than six months during the Celtics’ preseason opener against the Rockets in Hidalgo, Texas. Although Garnett’s playing time was limited, his knee injury looked out of mind when he drained the first shot of the game.

But Garnett was not the only player who returned to the Celtics looking to improve upon last season. Paul Pierce, Kendrick Perkins and Glen Davis lost weight, Rajon Rondo bulked up, and Ray Allen claims to be in the best shape of his career. See how the members of the 2008-09 team fared as they began the 2009-10 season.

Kevin Garnett
Last game: March 25 vs. Orlando Magic
17 minutes, 4 points (2-5 FG), 8 rebounds, 1 assist
Preseason opener: 13 minutes, 6 points (2-6 FG), 5 rebounds, 1 assist

Paul Pierce
Last game: May 17 vs. Orlando Magic
39 minutes, 16 points (4-13 FG), 7-10 FT, 2 rebounds, 3 assists
Preseason opener: 16 minutes, 8 points (2-6 FG), 4-4 FT, 1 rebound, 0 assist

Ray Allen
Last game: May 17 vs. Orlando Magic
41 minutes, 23 points (9-18 FG), 3-6 3PG, 4 rebounds, 3 assists
Preseason opener: 17 minutes, 8 points (3-6 FG), 0-2 3PG, 2 rebounds, 1 assist

Rajon Rondo
Last game: May 17 vs. Orlando Magic
37 minutes, 10 points (4-10 FG), 2-2 FT, 6 rebounds, 10 assists
Preseason opener: 17 minutes, 7 points (1-4 FG), 5-8 FT, 1 rebound, 3 assists

Kendrick Perkins
Last game: May 17 vs. Orlando Magic
39 minutes, 8 points (3-11 FG), 15 rebounds, 2 blocks
Preseason opener: 14 minutes, 3 points (1-2 FG), 3 rebounds, 2 blocks

Glen Davis
Last game: May 17 vs. Orlando Magic
31 minutes, 13 points (4-7 FG), 4 rebounds
Preseason opener: 23 minutes, 9 points (3-6 FG), 4 rebounds

Eddie House
Last game: May 17 vs. Orlando Magic
17 minutes, 2 points (1-3 FG), 0-1 3PG, 0 assists
Preseason opener: 21 minutes, 9 points (3-6 FG), 1-2 3PG, 0 assists

Brian Scalabrine
Last game: May 17 vs. Orlando Magic
13 minutes, 2 points (1-5 FG), 1 rebound, 2 assists
Preaseason opener: 18 minutes, 4 points (1-2 FG), 2 rebounds, 0 assists

J.R. Giddens
Last game: March 6 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
1 minute, 0 points (0-0 FG), 1 rebound, 1 steal
Preseason opener: 13 minutes, 1 point (0-1 FG), 1 rebound, 0 steals

Tony Allen (ankle) did not play against the Rockets. Visit WEEI.com’s Green Street for live coverage from the TD Garden on Friday night as the Celtics take on the Knicks in their preseason home-opener.

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NBA GMs Pick Celtics as Best Defensive Team at 11:29 am ET
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A survey of NBA General Managers on NBA.com revealed the more than 60 percent of the execs believe the Los Angeles Lakers will win it all again this season. That doesn’t mean, though, the Boston Celtics were not recognized.

The Cs were predicted to win the Eastern Conference, earning 50 percent of the votes. They also received 100 percent of votes to win the Atlantic Division.

Which team will win the Eastern Conference?
Boston Celtics     50.0%
Cleveland Cavaliers     42.9%
Orlando Magic     7.1%

Over 60 percent of GMs selected the Celtics as the best defensive team in the 2009-10 season. Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo each received votes for individual defensive categories. Rondo tied Kobe Bryant with the most votes for best ball-on-ball defender.

Best defensive team:
Boston     60.7%
San Antonio     32.1%
L.A. Lakers     7.1%

Best defensive player:
Dwight Howard, Orlando     46.4%
Kevin Garnett, Boston     17.9%
Ron Artest, L.A. Lakers 17.9%

Best on-the-ball defender:
Rajon Rondo, Boston     25.0%
Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers     25.0%
Ron Artest, L.A. Lakers     17.9%

Best interior defender:
Dwight Howard, Orlando     64.3%
Kevin Garnett, Boston     32.1%

Best perimeter defender:
Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers     34.5%
Shane Battier, Houston     24.1%
Ron Artest, L.A. Lakers     20.7%
Rajon Rondo, Boston     6.9%

On an individual basis, Garnett received the second-most votes (20.7%) for best power forward behind Tim Duncan. Ray Allen also received votes for best shooting guard.

Click here for complete results on NBA.com. General Managers were not allowed to vote for their own team.

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