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NBA Power Rankings, 12/9 12.09.10 at 6:37 pm ET
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1. Boston (17-4): The Celtics have the best top six in the NBA and the best defense in the league. They’re the best shooting team in the league, and they’ve won eight consecutive games despite not having Rajon Rondo at full strength. With five All-Star candidates, they’ve  been the most complete team.

2. San Antonio (18-3): The Spurs won another three games this week, and Manu Ginobili (20.1 points, 5.1 assists, 3.6 rebounds) has played his way into the MVP conversation. Oh, and New Hampshire’s own Matt Bonner is making two 3’s a game while shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc.

3. LA Lakers (16-6): After losing four straight, the Lakers are back on track with three consecutive victories. This whole Andrew Bynum situation is strange. Phil Jackson seems to call him out on a daily basis, but why rush him back? The guy is like Mr. Glass. Don’t you want him healthy for the playoffs?

4. Dallas (17-4): The Mavericks have the longest winning streak in the league at 10 games. Even Ian Mahinmi is contributing double-doubles. Why did this team all of a sudden decide to start playing defense? This team could’ve won multiple titles if they were playing defense like this in the mid-2000s.

5. Orlando (15-6): You can’t really blame the Magic for losing two straight games to Atlanta and Milwaukee. Dwight Howard, J.J. Redick, Mickael Pietrus and Jameer Nelson have all been hit by the flu. With them, they’ve been able to keep pace with the C’s. Without them? Not so much.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers, NBA
NBA Power Rankings, 12/2 12.02.10 at 4:57 pm ET
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1. Boston (14-4): The Celtics rank first in the NBA in field goal percentage and assists per game, while ranking fourth in points allowed. They’re in the midst of their second five-game win streak of the season, and their four losses are by an average of just 4.0 points. On Wednesday night, they showed an ability to beat  a good team (the game Trail Blazers) despite playing poorly. All that adds up to one dangerous team.

2. San Antonio (15-3): The Spurs are the biggest surprise of the season, and they’ve done it by reinventing themselves — again. While the dynasty Spurs of yesteryear were more of a slow-‘em-down, defensive-minded team, this year’s edition ranks fourth in the NBA in scoring at 106.6 points per game. Maintaining a veteran core, they’ve integrated younger talent like James Anderson, DeJuan Blair, George Hill and Tiago Splitter onto the roster. 

3. LA Lakers (13-6): The Lakers have lost four straight for the first time since acquiring Pau Gasol three years ago. That’s pretty significant. Speaking of Gasol, as a result of Andrew Bynum‘s absence, he’s been logging 39.4 minutes per game this season. What’s more concerning for the Lakers is the fact that they’ve struggled to integrate their newcomers into their defensive schemes — and rank 18th in points allowed as a result.

4. Dallas (14-4): Believe it or not, the Mavericks are actually playing defense. Tyson Chandler has set a tone that’s translated into a third-place ranking in points allowed. And Dirk Nowitzki continues to be an offensive force. He may look like he’s flopping around the court, throwing up rainbows, but he makes 54 percent of them. As a result, the Mavs already have wins over the Nuggets, Celtics, Spurs, Hornets, Hawks and Heat.

5. Orlando (14-4): Having won nine of their last 10 games, the Magic are the hottest team in the NBA. The main reason? Their defense. They allow the fewest points per game of any team in the league. Dwight Howard is making his case for MVP, leading his team in points, rebounds, blocks and steals. Even Rashard Lewis has shown signs of life, as he’s back to shooting 40 percent from beyond the 3-point line.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, NBA, power rankings
NBA Power Rankings, 11/25 11.25.10 at 3:18 pm ET
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Obviously, we’re going to release a Thanksgiving Day version of the NBA Power Rankings, taking a look at what teams should be thankful for one-sixth of the way through the season. So, without further ado, here they are:

1. L.A. Lakers (13-2): The two-time defending champion Lakers can still be thankful for Memphis Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace for deciding to deliver Pau Gasol to them. Statistically, Gasol is the most efficient player in the NBA right now, cementing himself as the best big man in the league.

2. San Antonio (13-1): The Spurs can be thankful that Richard Jefferson is still alive, Tony Parker has a renewed focus solely on basketball and Manu Ginobili is healthy. Surround those guys with the ever-productive Tim Duncan and a nice core of young talent, and you’ve got a championship-contending formula once again.

3. Boston (11-4): The Celtics can be thankful that they didn’t land the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft that turned into Greg Oden. As a result, the C’s decided to go another route, trading for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. As an aside, it’s a shame that Delonte West broke his wrist on Wednesday night; after overcoming some personal issues, he was truly embracing this season.

4. New Orleans (11-3): The Hornets can be thankful Chris Paul hasn’t gone completely insane over their inability to surround him with enough talent to contend. I’m not sure how they’re doing it this season, but they’re winning with a group of guys that — outside of David West — aren’t exactly household names. You can’t argue with their success against a tough schedule.

5. Dallas (10-4): The Mavericks can be thankful that Dirk Nowitzki was still available with the ninth pick in the 1998 NBA Draft and that their owner is a bazillionaire who is willing to spend money to surround him with the talent to win 50 games a season year in and year out. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, NBA, power rankings
Irish Coffee: Is Kobe Bryant a winner or whiner? 11.24.10 at 11:19 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

All Kobe Bryant has ever cared about is team-building, winning and  championships.

Wait, what?

In an interview with Yahoo! Sports columnist Adrian Wojarowski, Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant waxes poetically about his drive for success and what he learned from two of the greatest basketball minds ever: Bill Russell and … Michael Jackson?

After reading the story, dry heaving several times and doing a little research, I want to make one thing clear: When he has good teammates and is winning, all Kobe Bryant has ever cared about is team-building, winning and  championships.

Let’s take a look at a few of Bryant’s quotes from Wojnarowski’s piece …

“It sounds weird, I guess, but it’€™s true: I was really mentored by the preparation of Michael Jackson. … That’€™s the mentality that I have — it’€™s not an athletic one. It’€™s not from Michael Jordan. It’€™s not from other athletes. It’€™s from Michael Jackson.”

One question from that nugget: Is Kobe the first young mind ever to be proud of being “mentored” by Michael Jackson? Too soon?

“Guys have voices now, want to build brands,” Bryant said. “I don’t identify with it, but I understand where it’€™s going, why it’s going there. That’s not for me.”

On the same day the interview was published, a story that Nike-sponsored Kobe is going to wear special “Grinch” style green shoes against the Miami Heat on Christmas day. But, you know, Bryant would never want to build a brand or anything.

“I focus on one thing and one thing only — that’s trying to win as many championships as I can.”

Let’s not forget Bryant’s thirst for winning from 2004-07, during which time he wanted to be traded, shot roughly 15,000 shots per game and won 34, 45 and 42 games. Kobe has never won more than 45 games without Shaquille O’Neal or Pau Gasol, who have been the most dominant centers in the league during their respective tenures alongside Bryant.

Meanwhile, Paul Pierce‘s 2001-02 Boston Celtics won 49 games with Tony Battie at center, Kevin Garnett‘s 2003-04 Minnesota Timberwolves won 58 games with a Ervin Johnson/Michael Olowakandi combination at center, and Ray Allen’s 2004-05 Seattle SuperSonics won 52 games with Jerome James at center.

Now, I’m in no way arguing that any of those three guys are better than Kobe. Bryant is one of the top five guards ever to play the game. But this notion that he has always been “all about winning” is absurd. He’s only all about winning when he’s winning.

Speaking of the C’s, here’s what Bryant had to say about the Celtics-Lakers rivalry …

“Now that’€™s a war. Boston is a great city to go to, all the history. If you’re an opponent, they hate your [expletive] guts — like New York, like Chicago, all those Eastern cities. That’€™s the one that gets me excited. If you’€™re a basketball purist, that’€™s the [expletive] you want to see.”

Well, at least Kobe’s right about one thing.

A CELTICS THANKSGIVING FEAST

Well, Thanksgiving is almost upon us, so the obligatory Turkey Day sports stories are popping up all over the place. ESPN.com caught up with a bunch of Boston athletes to ask them what they like most about Thanksgiving? Here are the answers from Celtics players …

  • Shaquille O’Neal: “Lucille’s [his mom's] fried chicken and macaroni and cheese. My favorite part of Thanksgiving is eating!”
  • Glen Davis: “Macaroni and cheese, but I most look forward to cutting the turkey. I’m the one who carves the turkey, and I think I do a good job.”
  • Nate Robinson: “My favorite Thanksgiving food is turkey, ham ‘€¦ you’ve got to do both. Turkey, ham, dressing with maple corn bread is real good, what else? Yams and macaroni and cheese. I like having all my family being together and having a good time, and then there is always football on that day. We all watch football.”
  • Kendrick Perkins: “I love, love, love turkey, baked turkey actually. I love the football games that are on, being able to play cards and games and stuff like that with the family at the house. I think Thanksgiving to me is one of the most underrated holidays. Everybody looks forward to Christmas, but I think Thanksgiving is more like where you wake up to the food, just the smell of the house and stuff like that is all just warming and stuff, so that’s what I look forward to.”

Honestly, my family has never had mac and cheese for Thanksgiving, but it sounds amazing. Then again, maybe I’d just end up weighing as much as Shaq and Big Baby. In my 6-foot-1 frame, that wouldn’t be pretty.

IS JERMAINE O’NEAL OVERPAID?

On average, NBA teams pay roughly $1.7 million per victory. Based on who got paid the most to produce the least amount of wins, Forbes Magazine determined the most overpaid players of the 2009-10 season. No. 2 on the list? Jermaine O’Neal.

That shouldn’t worry Celtics fans too much, as he was making $23 million when he statistically produced a whopping 3.1 wins last season. His true value, according to Forbest, was $5.3 million, and the C’s signed him to a $5.7 million deal in the offseason.

Still, it’s looking as though he could actually be worse than 2009-10, when he averaged 13.5 points and seven rebounds in 28 minutes per game.

By the way, the Orlando Magic’s Rashard Lewis was the most overpaid player in the league last year, collecting $18.9 million for 14.1 points and 1.5 assists in 32.9 minutes per game. This year, Lewis is worse, averaging just 11.6 points and 1.2 assists in 31.8 minutes per.

CELTICS PLAYING THE SIMS GAME?

According to NBA Fan House, The Celtics’ NBA Development League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws, signed former University of Michigan forward DeShawn Sims to replace the injured Stephane Lasme.

Sims played for the C’s in the Orlando Pro Summer League over the summer and will join Celtics training camp invitees Jamar Smith, Mario West and Tiny Gallon on the Red Claws’ roster. The 6-foot-8, 235-pound Sims averaged 16.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per game for the Wolverines as a senior, earning Second Team All-Big Ten honors. …

Well, that’s it for today, folks. Have a Happy Thanksgiving and try to catch a high school football game. Go Barnstable Red Raiders. Beat Falmouth.

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

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers, NBA
The OG Sports Show: “Lakers Talk” is high comedy 11.05.10 at 5:43 pm ET
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Is “The OG Sports Show: ‘Lakers Talk'” the worst thing to ever happen to the internet? Then again, this could be the best analysis ever of the Rajon Rondo upside down headband issue and whether Shaquille O’Neal is “the most unprofessional athlete in the world.” I can’t decide. Either way, we need to get this guy on the Green Street payroll. Judge for yourself …

I think my favorite part is the guy who provides this analysis on Shaq:

“Disrespecting the great Dr. Jerry Buss, like, yelling, you know, while Jerry was there with his family on the, which is the owners, by the way — the Buss family, who own the franchise. So, he disrespected him there, and then in the same way he’s disrespected, like, Playboy lifestyle, Busses and ’70s. Like, I guess Shaq was saying, ‘Hang out with girls your own age’ and getting all disrespectful in the press. I mean, I don’t know. Who doesn’t? Nobody.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Hilarious.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, Rajon Rondo, Shaquille O'Neal
Irish Coffee: Big Threes, by the numbers at 11:58 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Sports Illustrated ranked the top 14 trios in the NBA, and the Celtics’ Big Three — Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and … Rajon Rondo (not Ray Allen) — came in third, behind the Heat’s LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh as well as the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom.

Personally, I think the Celtics’ top three players are better than the Lakers’ (because of Odom), so I decided to take a look so far at the top-10 Big Threes by the numbers — their cumulative win score and their average player efficiency rating.

BIG THREE ………………………………………… PER ………. WIN SCORE

Heat (James, Wade, Bosh) ……………………… 20.89 ………….. 4.61
Lakers (Bryant, Gasol, Odom) ………………….. 25.87 …………. 12.06
Celtics (Rondo, Pierce, Garnett) ……………….. 19.34 …………. 10.09
Hawks (Johnson, Horford, Smith) ……………… 20.31 ………….. 6.44
Thunder (Durant, Westbrook, Green) ………….. 19.88 ………….. 1.76
Spurs (Duncan, Parker, Ginobili) ………………. 19.92 ………….. 8.79
*Bulls (Rose, Noah, Deng) ……………………… 20.14 ………….. 5.54
Magic (Howard, Carter, Nelson) ………………… 23. 61 …………. 1.51
Mavericks (Nowitzki, Kidd, Terry) ………………. 22.06 ………….. 9.85
Jazz (Williams, Jefferson, Millsap) ……………… 20.88 …………. 7.84
(*replaced Boozer with Deng because of injury) 

It turns out, through the first two weeks of the season, of the top 10, the Lakers’ Big Three has been the most efficient and the most productive in their victories.

Among the top 10, the C’s Big Three actually has been the least efficient, mainly because of turnovers (9.4 per game). In terms of contributing to wins, though, the Boston trio has been the second-best of the group — because of their unselfishness (21.2 assists per game) and defense (4.6 steals per game).

All this points to one thing: As Rondo goes, so go the Celtics. He turns the ball over (4.0 per game) more than any other Celtic,  but he also records more assists (an astounding 16.4 per game) and steals (2.6 per game). What these numbers don’t account for is the fact that Allen is the best fourth banana in the league.

The most surprising result is where the Heat’s Big Three finished in each category. They ranked fourth in efficiency and eighth in win score. Still, they’re 4-1, which means two things: 1) Miami Thrice has yet to learn how to optimize their efficiency together; and 2) they’re supporting cast may not be so bad.

THE ERRORS OF THEIR WAYS

NBA.com’s John Schuhmann took a look at the league’s top three teams — the Lakers, Celtics and Heat — and how they’re addressing they’re greatest flaws.

The Lakers have jumped from No. 11 last season to No. 1 through five games this season in offense — scoring 114 points per 100 possessions in their 5-0 start.

Last season, the Celtics grabbed 73.8 percent of available defensive rebounds, ranking 13th in the league. This season, the C’s have nabbed 76 percent, ranking fifth through five games. That makes them the fifth most improved rebounding team.

Miami owns the most improved defense in the league, allowing just 87.9 points per game. Considering the Heat have already faced Boston and Orlando, that’s even more impressive. As Schuhmann points out …

Three seasons ago, the Celtics had the best defense of the last 20 seasons, allowing 8.6 points per 100 possessions fewer than the league average. Miami isn’t going to hold its opponents to 14.6 points fewer than the league average all season, but that five-game mark is impressive. In 2007-08, the Celtics had just three five-game stretches where they held their opponents under 88 points per 100 possessions.

Boston’s best defensive five-game stretch came right after Thanksgiving that season, when the Celtics held five opponents to 86.1 points per 100 possessions. They were actually more dominant to start last season, when they were holding their opponents to 85.2 points per 100 possessions after five games and 85.4 after six.

Looking at all these numbers is telling me one thing: Miami is going to be very scary this season. If indeed the Heat’s defense is this good and they’ve yet to maximize their offensive efficiency, they’ll win 65 games — at worst.

THE BEST NUMBER OF ALL

Speaking of numbers, Basketball Reference ranked each uniform number by the number of win shares accumulated by the players who wore that number.

And guess which number finished at the top of the list: No. 33. The Celtics had a player who wore that number. I think his name was Bird.

Here are where the uniform numbers of the current Celtics ranked …

No. 0 Avery Bradley (44th)
No. 4 Nate Robinson (6th)
No. 5 Kevin Garnett (18th)
No. 7 Jermaine O’Neal (22nd)
No. 8 Marquis Daniels (24th)
No. 9 Rajon Rondo (28th)
No. 11 Glen Davis (10th)
No. 12 Von Wafer (11th)
No. 13 Delonte West (23rd)
No. 20 Ray Allen (17th)
No. 34 Paul Pierce (7th)
No. 36 Shaquille O’Neal (46th)
No. 43 Kendrick Perkins (34th)
No. 55 Luke Harangody (42nd)
No. 86 Semih Erden (unranked)

Obviously, based on this, Robinson and Wafer are going to have a huge impact this season, while Shaq and Rondo will have little to no effect whatsoever. Right?

FORBES’ HIGHEST-PAID NBA PLAYERS

The list of highest-paid NBA players, gathered by Forbes Magazine, is fairly hilarious. Sure, Bryant is legitimately slotted as the league’s No. 1 earner. After that, it all falls apart.

Rashard Lewis is the second highest-paid player in the NBA? Ouch. He’s making $20,236.92 for every point he scored last season.

Garnett is the lone Celtic on the list at No. 3 — earning $18.8 million this season.

Michael Redd is only making $18.3 million this season. Practically a bargain. He’s played 51 games combined over the last three seasons — half the length of his six-year, $91 million contract. On the bright side, it’s only about $1 million per game.

How would you like to be paying Andrei Kirilenko $17.8 million this season? Thankfully, Gilbert Arenas only has four years and $80,154,460 left on his deal.

No wonder David Stern wants to slash NBA salaries. Not that it’s going to happen.

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

Read More: Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, NBA
NBA Power Rankings, 11/4 11.04.10 at 4:45 pm ET
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1. LA Lakers (5-0): No Andrew Bynum? No problem. All the Lakers have done to begin their road to a third consecutive NBA championships is start 5-0 and beat opponents by an average of 13 points. The only bad news on their front is that Rick Fox got tossed from “Dancing with the Stars.”

2. Boston (4-1): The Celtics‘ 4-1 start — including victories against the playoff contending Heat, Knicks and Bucks — has proven that the Cleveland loss was only a fluke. Delonte West’s return from suspension in another five games will provide a much-needed boost.

3. Miami (4-1): The Heat are 4-0 since losing to the Celtics on opening night. It’s no surprise that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are all scoring in the double digits for Miami, but James Jones‘ 11.6 points per game has to be a welcome surprise for head coach Erik Spoelstra.

4. Atlanta (5-0): Too high? Sure, they’ve only beaten the Grizzlies, 76ers, Wizards, Cavaliers and Pistons. But other than the Lakers they’re the only 5-0 team in the league. And they’ll probably head into Orlando on Monday night with a 7-0 record. Now that’s a must-watch game.

5. New Orleans (4-0): I obviously don’t expect the Hornets to stay in the top five for too long, but it’s impossible to ignore what they’ve done so far: home victories against the Bucks and Nuggets, and road wins against the Spurs and Rockets. That’s four solid wins. A healthy Chris Paul David West once again give New Orleans a more-than-legit 1-2 punch.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, NBA
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