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Jackie MacMullan on M&M: Veteran teams play well in shortened seasons 11.29.11 at 1:30 pm ET
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ESPN.com’s Jackie MacMullan joined Mut & Merloni to give her thoughts on the Celtics and how they will fare now that the union and the owners have come to a tentative agreement to end the NBA lockout. Boston is set to face the Knicks on Christmas day in the first game of a shortened 66-game season.

MacMullan pointed to the 1999 NBA season, which was shortened to 50 games due to another lockout, and how older teams like the Spurs, the Magic and the Knicks were among the best in the league.

“You look at who came out of that shortened ’99 season, it was all veteran teams,” MacMullan said. “The Orlando Magic had one of the oldest teams in the league, the New York Knicks were dragging Patrick Ewing along and of course the San Antonio Spurs, who ended up winning the whole thing. They didn’t do well in those back-to-back-to-back games, in fact they did somewhat poorly, the older teams.

“But over the long haul, you had a bunch of veterans. Do you think anyone needs to tell Kevin Garnett how to stay in shape during the lockout? Do you think anyone needs to tell Ray Allen? And I would daresay even Paul Pierce has figured it out at this point. So the veteran teams tend to do well in these shortened seasons because they know what it takes not just to get into shape, but to stay in shape as the lockout goes along.”

While many think that the Celtics’ window to win another championship has closed, MacMullan said that the team has the ingredients to still be a contender.

“These guys know how to do it, they play the kind of defense that can get it done,” MacMullan said. “The question of course we always have with them is, can they score enough points? Because they really do get bogged down offensively.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

On what moves the Celtics will make before the start of the season: “I think it will be small moves. They have a core that they can try to go out a win. Don’t laugh, I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried going after Grant Hill one more time, another old guy, a veteran that Doc loves and I think would be great in their locker room. They need a big body. My guess is they’ll go for a defensive type of center, like Kendrick Perkins, who’s going to cost them less money. Maybe a Joel Przybilla, his name has been out there. Do they go after a young, athletic guy like Al Thornton? They might.

“I was intrigued with one thing. Greg Oden is a restricted free agent in Portland. We know about his terrible, terrible foot problems. Do you take a flyer on him, one that doesn’t cost you a ton of money? My guess is whatever you did Portland would match it. But I just go all the way back to when we thought the Celtics might have a No. 1 pick, they were in the Greg Oden camp. Not the Kevin Durant pick, and by the way, that’s true of 99 percent of the people in the NBA at that time. So do you take a shot at Greg Oden? I don’t know. I doubt you overpay for him. You maybe overplay a little, but I doubt you throw big, big bucks at him and my guess is Portland would match no matter what. But he’s just a guy to throw out there because if he could at all be healthy, he’d really help you.”

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10 questions post-NBA lockout Celtics must answer 11.26.11 at 4:34 pm ET
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Now that the NBA lockout is all but over, we can talk actual basketball again. No more exhibition games. No more Paul Pierce sightings at the World Series of Poker. No more overseas discussions. Should lawyers on both sides approve the tentative agreement as expected in the next three days to a week, both training camp and free agency are scheduled to begin on Dec. 9, leading up to a Celtics at Knicks season opener on Christmas Day.

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, head coach Doc Rivers and the rest of the C’s brass face a ton of questions over the next month. Here are 10 of the biggest ones they’ll have to answer.

10. How will the Celtics fill out the remainder of the roster?

The C’s currently have just six players under contract: The Big Four of Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen as well as center Jermaine O’Neal and second-year guard Avery Bradley. That leaves nine open spots on the 15-man roster.

Jeff Green has received a $5.9 million qualifying offer that makes him a restricted free agent, and the remaining eight players from the team that lost a five-game Eastern Conference semifinal series to the Heat are free agents. Only Nenad Krstic, who signed a two-year deal with CSKA Moscow that did not include an NBA out clause for this season, is off limits.

First-round draft pick JaJuan Johnson is a lock to land one of those nine open slots, while second-round selection E’Twaun Moore is a strong candidate to make the roster. Johnson has been working out in his hometown of Indianapolis during the offseason, and Moore has averaged 9.5 points in six appearances for Italy’s Benetton Treviso over the past two months.

Prior to the lockout, undrafted Pitt swingman Gilbert Brown was on the team’s radar, so he has a chance to join the Purdue pair on the bench as well.

Assuming Green remains in Boston, Ainge will at the very least have to find veteran players capable of playing significant backup minutes at center, power forward and the two guard positions. Re-signing combo guard Delonte West would go a long way in cementing the latter, and we’ll be examining the free-agent options at each position throughout this week.

9. Is the annual mid-level exception still available to the Celtics? Read the rest of this entry »

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Irish Coffee: Paul Pierce faces unwarranted criticism 11.15.11 at 3:00 pm ET
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I understand why role players would just want to accept the most recent NBA owners’ proposal, regardless of whether or not it benefits them or others just like them beyond the 2011-12 season.

But that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

As longtime NBA assistant coach Herb Brown told The Jersey Journal, “I think it’s terrible, it’s awful. [Someone like] Kevin Garnett doesn’t get hurt by this situation, but the 10th, 11th and 12th man does.” Still, there’s a reason you’re not supposed to shop for groceries when you’re hungry.

Take 22-year-old Cavaliers forward Samardo Samuels, for example. He’s among the rank-and-file NBA players who would have accepted the owners’ final proposal — if the NBPA ever gave him the chance to vote — and does not support Celtics captain Paul Pierce‘s charge to decertify the union.

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Irish Coffee: E’Twaun Moore or E’Twaun less? 11.07.11 at 11:12 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee.

If you just watched this highlight video and knew nothing else about E’Twaun Moore, you might think the Celtics second-round draft selection is destined to become an NBA rotation player once the lockout comes to an end — especially when the announcer for his Italian club Benetton Treviso yells: “E-Twaun Moore-ah, alley-oop-ah!”

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

In four games and 26 minutes a night as a starter for Benetton TV (2-2), Moore is averaging 7.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 0.5 blocks per contest. Sure, he’s shooting 50 percent from the field, but he’s making just 30 percent of his 3-point shots and 50 percent of his free throws.

While Moore’s production in all phases of the game (10 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block and 1 assist in 25 minutes) during a 72-55 blowout win on Sunday is encouraging, let’s put his performance into perspective.

Brian Scalabrine and Von Wafer, two players who could barely crack the Celtics lineup in the Big Four era, also play in the same Italian league. In fact, Scalabrine, plays for the same team, and he’s generating 12.0 points (71.4 FG%, 66.7 3P%), 6.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 0.8 steals in 32 minutes a night. Wafer plays Moore’s position for Vanoli-Braga Cremona, averaging 19.4 points (63.6 FG%), 3.4 rebounds, 2.2 steals, 1.2 assists and 0.4 blocks in 31.4 minutes over his first five games.

Moore’s ability to make the Celtics roster might depend less on his expected contribution and more on the team’s financial situation after a new collective bargaining agreement. Read the rest of this entry »

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Irish Coffee: Top 10 opening-night Celtics efforts 11.01.11 at 1:24 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

It’s a sad day for basketball fans. The NBA was supposed to debut on Tuesday night with back-to-back nationally televised games between the Bulls and defending world champion Mavericks, followed by the Thunder and Lakers in the nightcap. Then, the Celtics were slated to host the Cavaliers on Wednesday night.

Instead, Monday represents the day the NBA begins robbing its fans of professional basketball, so now is as good a time as any to remind everyone what we could be missing. Without further ado, we present the Top 10 opening-night performances of the past 25 years by Celtics (Rule No. 1: no repeats).

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Delonte West, Kevin Garnett, NBA Print  |  Email  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
Irish Coffee: The NBA CBA, the Celtics and the future 10.28.11 at 2:18 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

By now, you’ve probably heard the NBA is on the precipice of a collective bargaining agreement that would end the lockout. Good news, obviously. How such a deal would affect the Celtics is an entirely different matter, so let’s examine five issues that could impact the team this season.

Issue: Scheduling

  • Pro: TrueHoop’s Kevin Arnovitz makes a compelling case for a 44-game NBA schedule, with teams playing twice weekly. Needless to say, that would be welcome news for Jermaine O’Neal‘s knees, among other various body parts on these old Celtics. But it’s a pipe dream.
  • Con: The NBA is already making plans to ensure the full NBA regular-season slate remains intact — starting a month late on Dec. 1 and ending in late April, according to The New York Times. As Sports Illustrated’s Zach Lowe notes, such a schedule could mean eight games — give or take — would be crammed into an existing schedule that already features 18 back-to-backs for the C’s. In other words, goodbye No. 1, 2 and possibly 3 or 4 seed!

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Irish Coffee: Manny Pacquiao loves the Celtics 10.27.11 at 12:18 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

When Filipino boxing legend Manny Pacquiao plays basketball, he wears a Kevin Garnett Celtics jersey — and drops 15-foot buckets like No. 5. Maybe Garnett should implement the old bounce-the-ball-off-the-defender’s-knees move from the embedded video. If only the 5-foot-7 Pac-Man were a foot taller.

Pacquiao’s man love for KG & Co. — and vice versa — has long been publicized. Soon after the 2008 NBA title run, a bunch of Celtics attended the southpaw’s victory against David Diaz in Las Vegas and celebrated with him afterward. In March 2009, Pacquiao sent a bunch of autographed boxing gloves to the Celtics prior to a game. And last summer, Paul Pierce called Pacquiao the “best pound-for-pound boxer in the world.”

Pacquiao’s next fight just happens to be against Juan Manuel Marquez in Las Vegas on Nov. 12. I’m guessing it’s no coincidence that Allen Iverson‘s Las Vegas Superstar Challenge is scheduled for Nov. 12-13, and Pierce is involved. Let’s just say there could be a few players battling hangovers in the championship game of The Answer’s two-day tournament. Good thing Iverson has no distractions during the showcase.

Maybe Garnett, Pierce and Rajon Rondo could also link up with Pac-Man when they visit Macau — about a two-hour flight from the Philippines — during the All-Star World Classic tour that begins in Puerto Rico on Sunday. All three Celtics are scheduled to participate in the exhibition along with Kobe Bryant and 10 others.

Or maybe the NBA lockout will end by Sunday, and Pacquiao can watch all 82 Celtics games on TV.

(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, Manny Pacquiao, Paul Pierce Print  |  Email  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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