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Irish Coffee: What Jared Sullinger’s decision means to the Celtics’ future 03.28.11 at 11:44 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Over the weekend, when Ohio State freshman forward Jared Sullinger vowed to return to Columbus for his sophomore season, the thought struck me: Because of the uncertainty surrounding the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, could many college underclassmen be targeting 2012 rather than this year’s NBA draft?

It sure looks that way, and that benefits the Celtics — considering they own their 2012 pick and the selection that came with Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic for Kendrick Perkins.

That pick from the Thunder is a little complicated. It’s top-10 protected and falls in the less favorable spot between the Clippers and Timberwolves. Basically, if either the Clips or Wolves capture any pick from 11-30, the lower one belongs to the Celtics. If both teams get top-10 picks, the pick gets pushed to the next season — until 2016, when it’s unprotected.

Considering the Clippers own the eighth-worst record this season and should improve based on a young roster that includes Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon, there’s a legitimate chance the Celtics could own two picks in a draft that will be much better than anticipated.

Of the 40 college underclassmen projected as potential first-round picks, only three have declared to enter the 2011 NBA draft — and none of them is a lottery projection. Of course, the remaining 37 players have until April 24 to declare.

Still, two w0uld-be lottery guys (Sullinger and Texas freshman forward Tristan Thompson) are going back to school. According to ESPN.com’s Chad Ford, 23 of those 37 — and six potential lottery picks, including North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes, Arizona’s Derrick Williams and Kentucky’s Brandon Knight — are “50-50″ with less than a month to decide. The remaining 12 still reportedly have “one foot in the door.”

So, if half of those 50-50 guys — along with Sullinger and Thompson — wait until 2012, that could push as many as 15 more potential first-round picks to a draft that might also include Celtics coach Doc Rivers‘ son Austin Rivers. With possibly two picks in that draft, the C’s should be able to add some serious young talent for cheap dollars in 2012.

With a lockout looming, at least Celtics fans have something to look forward to.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Jared Sullinger, Jermaine O'Neal, Kevin Garnett
Irish Coffee: Celtics answer all questions 03.25.11 at 1:32 pm ET
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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?

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Danny Ainge, Doc Rivers
Getting the new Celtics to play like Celtics 03.24.11 at 5:28 pm ET
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There’€™s really no precedent for what the Celtics are trying to accomplish in a post Kendrick Perkins world. While other teams have added complementary parts to the equation at the trade deadline or even one large piece to the puzzle, the Celtics turned over a third of the roster, while also trying to re-introduce three important cogs who missed a combined 134 games because of injuries in Delonte West, Shaquille O’€™Neal and Jermaine O’€™Neal.

That’€™s a lot of change for a team that prides itself on its consistency. For years they knew exactly what they wanted to do, and how they were going to do it. When something went wrong it required a subtle tweak more than a complete overhaul.

Step one is the relatively straightforward assignment of having the new players learn the system. That takes time and repetition, but at the end of the day basketball is basketball and it’€™s not like there’€™s a hundred different ways to defend the pick and roll.

More than the schemes and the playbook, however, the biggest challenge is more intangible than tangible and it’€™s the biggest question hanging over the team for the next three weeks: How do you get the new faces to play like Celtics?

“The most important thing Doc [Rivers] is trying to teach them is how we play, how the Celtics play,” assistant coach Armond Hill said following the team’€™s practice on Thursday. “How we move the ball, how we play defense.”

Added fellow assistant Kevin Eastman, “Every team that is vying for championships, they have a DNA. Part of our DNA is not just the set that we run or who we go to, but it’€™s how we do it. The how is every bit as important.”

Ask any of the veteran Celtics and they will echo the coach’€™s thoughts.

“Getting them to understand the level and disciple and professionalism and all the other things that come with being a Celtic, Kevin Garnett said on an interview with WEEI’s Mut & Merloni [Listen to the audio here]. “The responsibility of playing hard every night. We’ve set that precedent here.”

They have been around each other so much over the last three and a half seasons that their approach has become second-nature. That doesn’€™t mean they don’€™t mess things up on occasion. Just look at the last minute of the loss to Memphis on Wednesday where the execution broke down. But when things go wrong, they have a deep understanding of the how and the why and it becomes a matter of fine-tuning the process to get the desired results. There’s a level of trust and familiarity involved and that simply can’t be distributed and absorbed like a playbook.

That, more than the wins and losses, is what the last three weeks of the regular season is all about. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Kevin Garnett, Troy Murphy, Von Wafer,
Irish Coffee: Celtics make statement(s) in New York 03.22.11 at 2:15 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Make no mistake that Monday night’s Celtics victory against the Knicks was a statement by Doc Rivers & Co. that a) any discussion of a Celtics-Knicks rivalry still ends in a hammer-nail declaration, b) they care about the No. 1 seed more than people think, c) the Eastern Conference crown still belongs in Boston and d) Kendrick Perkins wasn’t the only tough guy in Green. The Associated Press pictures tell the whole story, so let’s let them (NOTE: click on the pictures in the rest of this entry to follow the links) …

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Garnett, NBA
Kevin Garnett: Rajon Rondo’s playing hurt 03.17.11 at 12:41 am ET
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Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo‘s recent struggles have been well documented. While he appeared more explosive on the parquet, he still went scoreless and rebound-less while recording eight assists  against the Pacers on Wednesday night.

That (lack of) production led to this question posed to teammate Kevin Garnett: What’s wrong with Rajon Rondo?

“Rondo’€™s playing hurt,” said Garnett. “He’€™s hurting. He’€™s giving us everything he has. He’€™s grinding. He’€™s playing countless minutes for us, and he’€™s not playing like a washed-up guy.”

Asked if he thought it was Rondo’s tweaked ankle that was giving the C’s floor general problems lately, Garnett responded curtly, “I don’t know. You’d have to talk to him.”

On a less serious note, Garnett made a fantastic comparison between the Celtics and the “Ocean’s Eleven” cast, especially upon the inevitable returns of Shaquille O’Neal and (hopefully) Jermaine O’Neal.

“You know what’€™s crazy?” said Garnett. “This is like a good movie. As a matter of fact, I’€™m going to use ‘Ocean’€™s Eleven.’ You haven’€™t seen Matt Damon. You haven’€™t seen Brad Pitt. You haven’€™t seen Bernie Mac. You’€™ve just seen [George] Clooney and a couple other guys.’€

So, which character is Garnett? “I’€™m Saul,” he said. Saul Bloom, of course, is the old pro who comes out of retirement to play a valuable role in the casino heist.

Garnett also touched on a few other hot-button topics from the Celtics’ victory …

  • On Delonte West’s return: “He’s a seasoned vet. He’s been in the thick of it. He’s been in countless playoff games. He has the experience. You kind of expect that from him. Whatever the perception is of Delonte isn’€™t the reality of what we deal with every day. He’€™s a very, very vocal guy — very smart. He definitely knows X’€™s and O’€™s, and he’€™s tough as nails. To get a guy like that back in your lineup, it makes your team better overnight.’€
  • On Jeff Green’s 19-point effort: “Jeff Green is so versatile. If you put a three on him, he’€™s too small. If you put a four on him, he’€™s too big. He’€™s too quick. He has so much he can go to, and I think he’€™s going to pick up from some of the vets and the personal parts of the game where he can make himself better. He’s an unfinished product. When he puts that all together, he’s going to be something special.”
  • On the surging Bulls: “I don’t really care about Chicago.”
Read More: Boston Celtics, Delonte West, Kevin Garnett, Ocean's Eleven
Irish Coffee: Rajon Rondo & Derrick Rose’s contrasting styles 03.15.11 at 12:00 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Bulls point guard Derrick Rose has only been held to fewer than 10 points once all season — and never fewer than six. Conversely, his Celtics counterpart, Rajon Rondo, has been held to single-digit scoring 21 times in the 2010-11 season — and less than six points nine times.

Meanwhile, Rose has recorded double-digit assists just 16 times — and never more than 14. On the other hand, Rondo has produced 10 or more assists 36 times — and more than 14, well, 14 times.

To say the least, Rose and Rondo have led the Celtics and Bulls to a tie atop the Eastern Conference by playing different styles as the floor generals of their respective teams. But which is more successful?

In the 29 times since 1980 that someone has recorded at least 11 assists per game, that player has reached the conference finals nearly half the time (14-of-29). Those are favorable odds for the Celtics, as Rondo has produced 11.7 assists per game this season.

Still, only six times in that span has someone averaged 11 assists and led his team to the NBA Finals. Each time his name was Magic Johnson, who led the Lakers three titles in such seasons (1985, ’87 and ’88).

Fear not, Celtics fans, for no point guard who has averaged at least 24 points per game has even won a playoff series in the last 30 years. Michael Adams (1991), Gary Payton (2000), Allen Iverson (2005, ’06, ’08) and Gilbert Arenas (’06, ’07) have all produced 24-plus points a game as the primary point guard on their roster and never made it out of the first round.

Before you say, ‘Hey, Rose has had a better year in 2010-11 than any of those four players in those seven seasons — and he’s surrounded by better talent,’ consider Iverson’s 2007-08 season with the Nuggets:

  • Rose (’10-11): 24.7 points, 8.0 assists, 4.3 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 3.5 turnovers, 44.1 FG%, 33.7 3-PT FG%, 84.5 FT%
  • Iverson (’07-’08): 26.4 points, 7.1 assists, 3.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals, 3.0 turnovers, 45.8 FG%, 34.5 3-PT FG%, 80.9 FT%

I’d say Iverson’s supporting cast of Carmelo Anthony, Marcus Camby and a healthy Kenyon Martin are fairly comparable to Rose’s supporting cast of Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and a questionably healthy Carlos Boozer. And that Nuggets team got swept in the first round.

There’s no question that Magic’s three 11-assist championship seasons were better than Rondo’s performance this year, but would you also concede that Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and a 39-year-old Shaquille O’Neal are a better supporting cast than Magic’s 1988 supporting cast of James Worthy, Byron Scott, A.C. Green and a 41-year-old Kareem Abdul-Jabbar that won the title?

I think I just talked myself into betting on the Celtics to win the Eastern Conference. If not, I can take solace in the fact that Brian Scalabrine would make the NBA Finals as a member of three different franchises (2002-03 Nets, 2007-08 & 2009-10 Celtics, 2010-11 Bulls).

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Derrick Rose, Kevin Garnett
Talking Hoops, Episode V with Kelly Dwyer 03.14.11 at 4:44 pm ET
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In the latest edition of Talking Hoops with Paul Flannery we talked with Kelly Dwyer, editor of Yahoo! Sports Ball Don’t Lie. Few people know the Bulls as well as Dwyer, so we went in-depth on Chicago’s rise from talented als0-ran to legitimate championship contender. Then we talked about the Celtics and what we can expect from their new additions and later, we ran through the sleepers in the Eastern Conference.

We also reminisced about the Fab 5, Rodrick Rhodes and Dwyer tries to convince me to listen to ELO.

LISTEN HERE: Talking Hoops, Episode V

Read More: Bulls, Celtics, Fab 5, Kelly Dwyer
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