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Fast Break: Celtics cool Heat hype 10.26.10 at 10:21 pm ET
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The Celtics held the Heat to nine first-quarter points, and Ray Allen nailed a clutch 3-point shot to snap a late 10-0 Miami run and push the Celtics’ lead back to six in the final minute. Allen’s shot from the corner ended any Heat visions of a comeback from a 19-point deficit, and allowed Boston to claim an 88-80 opening-night win.

THREE THINGS THAT WENT RIGHT

1. Rondo to Shaq: Just four minutes into Tuesday night’s game, Rajon Rondo drove, drew three defenders and lobbed the ball to Shaquille O’Neal, who threw it down with ease. It was more than just two points.

Obviously, Shaq takes up a ton of space around the basket, which means Rondo has a larger area to which he can toss the ball without fearing interference. That’s could translate into a heckuva lot more assists for Rondo and a heckuva lot of easy buckets for Shaq this season.

In almost 12 first-half minutes, the Big Shamrock finished with six points but would have had 10 if not for a pair of missed bunnies.

The Rondo-to-Shaq combo also exposed the Heat’s biggest weaknesses: the point guard and center spots. The two Celtics simply owned Heat starters Carlos Arroyo and Joel Anthony. Many critics had serious concerns about “The Others” in Miami, and, for now, those apprehensions appear legit.

2. Interior Defense: The Celtics held the Heat to 12 first-half points in the paint on just 6-of-16 shooting. What’s more, the C’s grabbed 21 first-half defensive rebounds, allowing only two second-chance points en route to a 45-30 lead at the half.

The Celtics’ Big Three of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett held the Heat’s Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to just 7-of-27 shooting in the first half.

Shaq and Rondo’s dominance of Arroyo and Anthony extended beyond the offensive end. Not worried about their defensive assignments (Arroyo/Anthony combined for two first-half shots), the Celtics duo could sag off and help out on Miami’s trio of stars.

3. Ray Allen: With all the talk about how Garnett looks as healthy as he’s been since arriving in Boston and how Pierce showed up in terrific shape, it was easy to forget to mention Allen.

Maybe it’s because Allen always looks as though he’s in top shape, but the C’s shooting guard looked like he was in midseason form on Tuesday, scoring 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting (including 5-of-8 from downtown). His final 3-pointer of the night came with 50 seconds remaining. It snapped a 10-point Heat run that had cut the lead to 83-80 in the waning minutes.

Allen also did a nice job keeping up with Wade on the defensive end, limiting the Heat guard to 13 points on 4-of-16 shooting.

THREE THINGS THAT WENT WRONG

1. Apparently, Standing in the Way of LeBron James: Twice — once in each half — Pierce appeared to draw a charge on LeBron, who was barreling down the lane, shoulder lowered, towards the basket. And twice referees called Pierce for the blocking foul.

On the second foul, Pierce came down hard on his lower back. He limped to the sideline as the Celtics called timeout, and then went to the locker room clutching his side behind trainer Ed Lacerte.

A report came down that Pierce was out of the game with back spasms — return unknown. But he did return, finishing the night with 19 points.

Celtics head coach Doc Rivers was none too happy with both blocking calls and let the refs know his frustration.

2. Lacking a Killers’ Mentality: The Celtics led, 63-50, with two minutes remaining in the third quarter. The C’s had their chances to end the game then and there, but instead saw their lead dwindle as they settled for jump shots. Meanwhile, the Heat closed the quarter on a 7-0 run (thanks to four points from LeBron), cutting the gap to a manageable 63-57 deficit heading into the fourth quarter.

Likewise, in the fourth quarter, the Celtics held an 83-70 advantage with four minutes remaining. A few ill-advised shots taken too early in the shot clock led to a 10-point Heat run over the next three minutes that would’ve been 13 if not for a missed wide-open 3-pointer by LeBron.

3. Perimeter Defense: While the Celtics’ inability to get out on the wings defensively didn’t hurt them in the first half, the Heat got plenty of wide-open looks. Eddie House and James Jones missed a string of 3-point attempts in the first quarter. But Celtics fans likely understood that House wasn’t going to keep missing those.

In the second half, House and Jones — along with LeBron — finished 5-of-11 from beyond the arc.

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Halftime observations: Celtics-Heat at 8:42 pm ET
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After all the buildup and all the offcourt drama, there was finally a basketball game to be played between the Celtics and Heat. The start was ragged, which was either a by-product of all the hype, or simply two very good defenses playing all out and contesting every shot, rebound and pass.

Either way, the Celtics took a 45-30 lead into halftime thanks to spectacular defense that held Miami to 27 percent shooting (11-for-41) and forced nine turnovers.

The Celtics took a 16-9 lead after one quarter and the numbers were as ugly as the score suggested. The C’s shot 35 percent (7-for-20) with five turnovers. The Heat were much worse, making just 4-of-17 shots and registering six turnovers.

The Celtics settled down in the second quarter and led by as many as 18 points, but the Heat’s struggles on offense remained.

RAJON RONDO IS  ALREADY MAKING USE OF SHAQ

After a rough start where he missed a couple of chippies at the basket, Shaquille O’Neal came over to the Celtics bench where Kendrick Perkins whacked him twice in the head. It must have helped because O’Neal soon converted two dunks off gorgeous feeds from Rajon Rondo.

Rondo racked up six assists in the first quarter and will get a ton of easy assists simply lobbing the ball up to O’Neal. Rondo was the best player on the court in the first half.

CELTICS BIG THREE MAKES ITS POINT

They’re not the original Big Three, but the Celtics version reminded people that they’re still pretty good. Ray Allen led all scorers with 11 points, while Paul Pierce filled the stat sheet with eight points, five rebounds and two assists. Kevin Garnett was active and had good spring in his step, but he also missed a dunk and had another shot blocked. Still, Garnett showed far better range on defense than he showed much of last season.

THE HEAT ARE A WORK IN PROGRESS

Any lingering notion that the Heat would storm the floor and become a juggernaut right off the bat were put to rest early in this game. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James shot a combined 2-for-11 in the first quarter and things didn’t improve much from there.

Carlos Arroyo started at point guard, but Heat coach Erik Spoelstra went with Wade or James at the point for most of the first half. Miami hasn’t had much time together during the preseason and it showed in the first half. The Heat offense looked disorganized and was obviously inefficient.

NINE MAN ROTATION WITHOUT DELONTE

When Delonte West returns, the Celtics will be two-deep at every position. Until he returns from his 10-game suspension, however, Doc Rivers looks like he will go with a nine-man rotation with Marquis Daniels getting time at both wing positions behind Ray Allen and Paul Pierce.

The Celtics bench was strong in the first half with 14 points and seven rebounds. Daniels led the way with six.

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Grousbeck on Rondo’s missing headband, LeBron, Wade and Jeff Van Gundy at 8:00 pm ET
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Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck appeared on WAAF’s Hill-Man Morning Show on Tuesday morning. His discussion of the upcoming season touched included some pointed remarks about the new Heat nucleus and about a new fashion twist with point guard Rajon Rondo. A transcript of highlights is below. To listen to the interview, click here.

On the excitement surrounding the opener against the Heat:

“It’s caused our team to focus extra hard the whole month of training camp, I’m sure. It’s really great that we get to have the opener. I guess we deserve it,” said Grousbeck. “We’re the Eastern Conference champs. It’s great that [Dwyane] Wade lost last spring on our court. It’s great that LeBron [James] has lost every playoff series he’s ever played against us. I hope they’re listening. It adds to the pot boiling a little bit more.”

A computer simulation gave the Heat a 70 percent chance of winning the title:

“I wouldn’t guess 70 percent tonight. I’d give us 70 percent tonight. I love it. I love Jeff Van Gundy. He’s a very nice guy, but he can’t stand the Celtics because we keep knocking his brother out of the playoffs and he used to be a Knick. But he said they won’t lose two games in a row all year, and they will win 73 games. He’s made all these predictions about the Heat. I think that adds a lot of pressure. … Let’s start them off 0-1 tonight and see how they like it.”

On the absence of Rondo’s headband:

“He’s not going to have it on. He used to wear it upside-down, as a real connoisseur would know and I’m sure you noticed, he had an upside-down logo, turning the NBA upside-down. And they won’t let him do it anymore. They said they were going to fine him for that. So he said, ‘To heck with you, I’m not going to fine it at all.’ That’s the Rondo headband situation for you connoisseurs of men’s accessories.”

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Danny Ainge on the Big Show: C’s hope Shaq is ‘not a statue’ on court at 5:50 pm ET
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Danny Ainge (AP)

Danny Ainge (AP)

Celtics general manger Danny Ainge joined the Big Show Tuesday afternoon to discuss the Celtics season opener and his thoughts about the roster heading into the season.

Ainge said that his biggest concern about the roster is the risk of injury at the center position and that he expects the team to rely more on their bench depth. He also emphasized how important keeping Doc Rivers on the bench was.

“I can’t say how excited I am to have Doc back,” Ainge said. “I’m not sure our roster but our team there would be a lot of differences. I think the continuity is huge.”

Ainge also talked about the  fact that the model the Miami Heat used to build their team this offseason would continue to be a possibility.

“The door is open just with free agency and I don’t know what’s going to happen as we move forward in collective bargaining,” Ainge said. “I think the door is open by us bringing in the Big Three and Miami doing a Big Three.”

Below are the highlights from the interview. To listen to the full audio visit the Big Show on demand audio page.

On his fears about this roster:

I think that I’m a little concerned with the health of our guys. But I feel I probably will be all year. But I’m excited about our team.

Is the idea to use deeper bench to get through the regular season?

Yeah, I think that is our objective to play more people. I’m not as concerned about Ray [Allen], Paul [Pierce] and KG [Kevin Garnett] and [Rajon] Rondo, the guys who are coming back. But our center position just because of [Kendrick] Perk [Perkins], Shaq [Shaquille O’Neal] and his age, and Jermaine [O’Neal] has got a lot of mileage there. That’s probably my biggest concern with the health.

On Marquis Daniels this year:

Marquis played, as you guys remember last year, played really well for us early on in the year. Then he got hurt and never really got in a rhythm. Although, in February he shot like 70% from the field. He had two or three road games out west that were spectacular. When we had Michael Finley come back and Nate Robinson come back and Tony [Allen] was coming back off an injury, there was just a logjam there. And Tony actually won that job back with his great defense. But Marquis has had a good training camp. When he’s gotten an opportunity to play and get in a rhythm off the bench and starting one of the preseason games, I think that he played really well and he’s had a good week of practice.

Ever seen anything like this opening night before?

I never have. Opening day is always a special day. Most places will sell out opening night. I think with some of the excitement that we have with our own team but obviously with Miami and maybe the most significant offseason in the history of any team. I get a kick out of those people who want to criticize Miami for doing something wrong. I think they had a pretty spectacular offseason. You can land some of the guys that they did in the free agent market, not just LeBron [James] and [Chris] Bosh who are very special players but some of the other players, they got some good guys too.

What are you expecting out of Shaquille O’Neal this year?

I hope he’s not a statue tonight. I hope he actually gets off the bench and moves a little bit and talks on defense. Shaq has been great so far, he’s been good in practice, he makes it out on the court almost every day and he’s fun in the locker room. So far he’s been good.

What was behind the decision to bring Delonte West back?

Well you know first of all I think Delonte was a favorite of a lot of people in Boston. He was a fun guy to watch, a lot of people embraced Delonte when he was here as a player. I think a lot of people, including our players, respect Delonte. Not only the guys that played with Delonte like Paul and Rajon and Perk but [they guys who] have been playing against him the last few years as an opponent, they have a great respect for him on the court. So yah I think everybody is aware that Delonte has had challenges off the court. We are trying to give him the support that he needs. The players that were with him before, our coach that was with him before and myself and ownership I think we were aware of that risk and I think we were comfortable with that risk.

On familiarity with West factoring into decision to bring him back:

Not only familiar but actually like him, find him enjoyable, at the same time troubled. What’s happened to Delonte over the past couple years is not shocking to any of us. We know that he has challenges of the court but we love what he brings to the court.

What would have been the difference in the roster if Doc Rivers had left?

It would be different. I’m not so sure if the face of our team would be different, I mean the roster. Paul really wanted to come back, he has his reasons to want to come back and Ray has his reasons to want to come back. So I’m not so sure if those things would have been different. But obviously our team would be different, the personality of the team would be different, the leadership of the team would be different. Doc is a great coach to lead these guys. I can’t say how excited I am to have Doc back. I’m not sure our roster but our team there would be a lot of differences. I think the continuity is huge.

On shelf life of this Celtics’ roster:

I think that none of us have the answer to that. I think that these guys based on how they played last year, they put together a seven to eight game streak in the Orlando [and] Cleveland series last year that was as good of seven or eight games stretch that any Celtic team has ever played, including the ‘08 team, that was two years younger and went on to win a championship. Last year’s team in the middle of that stretch was better than that 2008 team. I think that this team kind of earned the right to try it again.

How important is this game to you?

I think it’s important in that it gives you a real test of where you are, you will be able to tell that. I think that you both teams will show signs of greatness and teams will show signs of it being the first game, who makes the fewest mistakes. This is a team that you don’t want to make mistakes on because LeBron and Dwyane Wade are arguably two of the greatest open court players I’ve ever seen. Turnovers turn into automatic baskets in the other direction, so we have to take care of the ball.

What does this game really mean?

It is good theater. It is a real test. These are two of the top teams, not a lot of people talk about Orlando, Orlando is legit. Orlando is a really good basketball team. So they [Orlando] belong in the same conversation in my opinion. I guess they are getting away from getting all the hype on opening night. I think Miami and Boston are sure aware of Orlando as well.

On whether there is a different view on this season after last year’s results:

I don’t think so. Going into last season before the season started, our motto was win playoff games. With KG’s health starting the year last year and things that happened to Paul during the course of last season, we weren’t right. I do take a little offense to this turning on and turning off thing, I don’t think it works, I don’t think it worked last year. What people fail to realize is that we had number one or number two in the league in blowing fourth quarter, double-figure leads last year. To get a double-figure lead in L.A. against the Lakers at home, against Orlando, you got to show up to play, your just not finishing games for whatever reason. I don’t think that we had the resolve last year but we saw what the team is capable of in the playoffs. I hope this year we don’t have the health issues, or as many and I think we’ll be a better team because we’re deeper.

On whether other teams and players will emulate what Miami did in franchise:

The door is open just with free agency and I don’t know what’s going to happen as we move forward in collective bargaining. I think the door is open by us bringing in the Big Three and Miami doing a big three. New York for three years we heard about how they were creating space and nobody really talked about Miami till last year and Chicago. Teams can create space and opportunities fairly quickly, by trading away players and getting rid of assets to try to free up cap space. But there was only one Miami this year that came away with what everyone was seeking, it couldn’t be New Jersey, New York and Chicago.

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Bill Simmons on D&C: Heat ‘not ready’ to win Eastern Conference at 4:17 pm ET
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Bill Simmons

Bill Simmons

Bill Simmons joined the Dennis & Callahan show Tuesday morning to discuss the Celtics’ heavily hyped season-opener against the Heat. Simmons talked about LeBron James and his new crew in Miami and how the Big Three in South Beach will fare this season.

He also talked about the Celtics’ chances for success in the 2010-11 season. Simmons said that Paul Pierce is the player the team could least afford to lose.

“Pierce is the guys who can guard the other small forward, the guy who can take over a little bit at the end of the game. I even think they could survive a Rondo injury. … Pierce is the guy who they’d really feel it.”

Below are some highlights from the interview. To listen to the full audio visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Do you buy into the corporate lie that the Celtics are telling, that the regular season really means more to them this year than it did last year, because hell, had they won five or six more games in the regular season, the seventh game [of the NBA finals] would have been in Boston last year?  Isn’t this an aging veteran team that just needs to get to the playoffs healthy?

That’s a good question, John Dennis. I don’t believe them. I do think the one difference between last year’s team and this year’s team is they have a bench. And when you have a bench, you can win games that maybe — last year’s team, the starters, they didn’t show up, the team was not going to win. And I think you’ll see when Delonte [West] comes back — I’ve got to say I was shocked by how good Delonte looked in the preseason. I thought out of everything I watched, that was the one thing I didn’t expect.

He just was bad last year. Obviously, it started out with him riding on a motorcycle with guns, and he got suspended and missed preseason and just was never what he was in 2008, when he was the second-best player on a team that almost bear the Celtics. I think that he is back to where he was, from what I saw. And when you see him and Nate [Robinson] come off the bench, I actually think that’s a backcourt that can swing a game for six, seven minutes. Then you throw in Big Baby [Glen Davis], who’s in fantastic shape. I’m not crazy about Jermaine O’Neal, obviously, but if he’s your 10th man, that’s not a terrible thing.

I just think the difference with last year vs. this year is Paul Pierce can go 5-for-19 in Detroit or Philly or wherever and they can still win the game because they have other guys.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Chris Broussard on D&H: ‘Long time’ before Cleveland forgives LeBron James at 2:33 pm ET
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ESPN’s Chris Broussard joined the Dale & Holley show Tuesday afternoon to talk about Tuesday’s Celtics-Heat season-opener at TD Garden. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

Broussard talked about the fallout from the LeBron James decision and how the people of Cleveland remain angry at their former hero.

“The people, they’re not forgiving LeBron, and I don’t know when they will,” Broussard said. “I think, especially if the Cavaliers struggle, it’s going to be a long time before they’re ready to forgive LeBron. … Most people are heartbroken, and that heartbrokenness has turned into anger and depression. They really are still very angry.”

Broussard said this is not a racial issue. “It’s across racial lines,” he said, adding: “In Cleveland, it’s universal that they are down on him. In the ‘hood, in the suburbs, everywhere, black, white, Hispanic, whatever. They’re down on LeBron all throughout Cleveland.”

Asked if James could have not been prepared for the reaction, Broussard said the player doesn’t understand the degree of anger. “I think he’s more surprised at nationally, the beating that he’s taking,” Broussard said. “And he is surprised. But I think it’s nationally. Maybe a little bit of the the vitriol, the intensity it from Cleveland may be surprising. I think he was a little bit taken aback when he saw his jersey burned. I don’t know if the thought of that had ever crossed his mind.

“You got the sense on TV, and even some people in Cleveland that said, “Oh, it was just one or two guys doing it in front of the cameras.’ But we found out in neighborhoods people were burning LeBron James jerseys, cutting up LeBron James jerseys. In our piece, one guy talked about how a guy had been beaten up in the basketball courts because he had on a LeBron James jersey. So, the anger was just very intense. I think that LeBron was more surprised nationally by how negative the reaction has been to what he did.”

Broussard said the questions about the Heat’s Big Three should remind Celtics fans of their Big Three debut three years ago. “A lot of the criticism or the doubts are really similar to what I heard with the Celtics in [2007-08],” Broussard said. “There were serious doubts about that supporting cast. And also about whether or not those three players would mesh.

“I had coaches tell me, ‘Oh, Paul Pierce, he doesn’t care about winning. He’s just wants to get his. He’s going to clash with these guys. He’s not going to get as many shots.’ Things like that. And you saw, they came together. They were older, yes. But these guys in Miami are veterans as well. I mean, seven years they’ve played. They’ve all won — at least LeBron and [Dwyane] Wade have won individual awards. And [Chris] Bosh has been an All-NBA player and a five-time All-Star.”

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Irish Coffee: Celtics & Heat get … it … on at 9:39 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

Just how out of control has the hype surrounding the Miami Heat gotten this season? Here’s Exhibit A: The Whiskey Tango All-American Bar & Grill in Hollwyood, Fla., is picking up the bar tab each time the Heat lose a game this NBA season.

I guess basketball fans in Miami will be drinking for free tonight.

And just how out of control has the hype surrounding the Boston Celtics gotten this season? Here’s Exhibit A: This guy will trade his car and his camera for a pair of tickets.

I’m guessing Vince Wilfork wouldn’t trade front-row tickets for a 1994 Honda Civic.

By the way, if you’re looking for front-row tickets to tonight’s game between the C’s and Heat, Stub Hub has got one for you. It’ll only cost you $18,824.00.

NBA COLUMNISTS WEIGH IN

The NBA is upon us, and that means newspaper columnists are waxing poetic about who will win, who will lose, who will rise and who will fall in the league this year. Let’s check in with some of the best columnists covering the league around the country.

The Washington Post’s Michael Wilbon says this NBA regular season is the most anticipated since Michael Jordan‘s 1995 return to the game, and he picked the Celtics over the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals …

“Now, they’ll find out what it is like to get every team’s best, most fanatical and purposeful effort every night, starting in Boston tonight,” Wilbon wrote. “And they’ll do it without having the savvy that comes from winning a championship together . . . which is why I don’t believe that Miami is going to win the NBA championship this season. Oh, they’ll win three or four before this group calls it quits – but not this year. They can win 65, 66 games in the regular season and it won’t help them one iota during the playoffs.”

The New York Post’s Peter Vecsey not only believes the Los Angeles Lakers will win a third straight title this season — but he thinks they’ll win a fourth next year. In his eyes, the only team that stands in Kobe Bryant‘s way? The Orlando Magic …

“Only a David Stern-stimulated, full-term lockout, Jerry Buss deciding he’s bored of winning or a dashboard-light outage can stop the Lakers from seeing paradise next season. Only Orlando and injuries can prevent them from three-peating this season.”

The Los Angeles Times’ Mark Heisler is in Boston, and he’s reopening the wounds of Game 7. Good times …

“Remember Game 6 in 2008 when the Celtics sent the Lakers home as crispy critters in a 131-92 rout that recalled the horrors of the rivalry from 1959-1984, when the Lakers were 0-8 in Finals meetings featuring Frank Selvy‘s miss, Jack Kent Cooke‘s balloons, James Worthy‘s interception, Magic Johnson‘s dribbling out the clock, the Sauna Game, the 3 a.m. fire alarm, fans rocking their bus.

“This Celtics loss was worse.

“At least the Lakers never blew a 13-point second-half lead in Game 7 with a title within their grasp.”

Meanwhile, ESPN polled 25 of its NBA writers, and 24 of them picked either the Lakers or Heat to win the NBA title. Only ESPN Boston’s Chris Forsberg picked the Celtics.

Speaking of ESPN writers, Chris Sheridan‘s pick for Defensive Player of the Year: Tony Allen? Wait, what? Is Sheridan related to Tony?

Tom Brady in Detroit Pistons v Boston Celtics, Game 2

Tom Brady has got his popcorn ready for tonight's Celtics home opener.

TOM BRADY ON THE CELTICS

We all know the only guy whose opinion really matters when it comes to the Celtics is Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. While he won’t be in attendance tonight, he still shared his thoughts on the C’s with Dennis & Callahan this morning:

“I love the Celtics, and they were one game away last year from winning it all. Those guys know how to get it done. They did it a few years ago. Last year, it was heartbreaking to lose to the Lakers the way they did. But if anybody knows how to do it, it’s Doc (Rivers) and KG (Kevin Garnett) and Ray (Allen) and Paul Pierce, who’s been such a great player for so long.

“They add Shaq, Jermaine O’Neal, they’ve got a lot of great players, so they don’t need any advice from me. They know how to do it. I’ll be excited to watch them. They’ve got a great opportunity as well. I hope they take advantage of it.”

Brady really went out on a limb with his prediction there, didn’t he?

HEAT, C’S PLAYERS WEIGH IN 

For the most part, members of the Celtics and Heat are saying all the right things leading up to tonight’s game. We sifted through all the run-of-the-mill answers to the millions of NBA opening-night questions to bring you the best from each team:

“For us, this game is to set the tone,” Glen “Big Baby” Davis told NBA.com. “We have to set the tone against a team like that and just let them know, hey, you guys got a new group of guys, but we’re still the team to beat in the East.”

“I’ve had my battles with Boston the last few years when I was back in Cleveland, and I’ve seen the great games they’ve had with Miami also, so we’re going to take the challenge and it’s going to be fun to start the season this way,” LeBron James told The Miami Herald. “It’ll be a very hostile environment, and us being the most hated team in the world, it’ll even be more hostile.”

 Lace ‘em up, fellas. It’s game time. Keep checking in at WEEI.com all day. We’ve got plenty more preview stuff leading up to the game, and we’ll have you covered pregame, in-game and postgame. I think I just wrote game too many times.

Can you tell I’m excited for this NBA season to tip off? Maybe I’ll buy that front-row seat at Stub Hub.

 

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

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