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2012-13 Celtics free agent options at center 06.25.12 at 5:21 pm ET
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Eleven of the 15 players on the roster against the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals can begin negotiating with the Celtics or any other team as NBA free agents on July 1. More importantly, they can sign anywhere on July 11 once an audit determines the salary cap. That figure is expected to be close to the 2011-12 number of $58 million, and a large chunk of that will be dedicated to one of the C’€™s biggest needs: Centers.

The Celtics started last season with two true centers (Jermaine O’Neal, Greg Stiemsma), mixed in a little Chris Wilcox early and settled on Kevin Garnett, who finished the year as the best remaining center in the playoffs. Now, a year later, nobody remains from that list. While Garnett, Stiemsma and Wilcox are all options depending on their mindset, health and value, respectively, the C’€™s may need anywhere from 0-3 guys who can play the five.

The Celtics have four players under contract in 2012-13 for a combined $34.5 million (Paul Pierce, $16.8M; Rajon Rondo, $11.0M; Avery Bradley, $1.6M; JaJuan Johnson, $1.1M). Pending decisions on or by Garnett, Ray Allen, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, Chris Wilcox, Mickael Pietrus, Keyon Dooling and Stiemsma, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge will have anywhere from $0-33 million to spend in free agency.

As a result, expect the C’s to be linked to just about any and every free agent on the market. Nobody is out of their league. Without further ado, let’€™s take a look at the options that should be available to the Celtics at center, separating the current free agent players into four categories.

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Read More: 2012 NBA Free Agents Rumors, Boston Celtics, Brook Lopez, Chris Kaman
Maine reporter thinks Celtics, Heat tied Game 4 06.04.12 at 2:55 pm ET
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Man, you miss one playoff game, and it ends in a tie. And you thought the officiating in Game 2 was suspect. Oh well. Guess it’s better than a loss. Oh, wait, what’s that? NBA games don’t end in ties? Are you sure? I mean, this WMTW reporter from Portland, Maine seems like a regular Jeff Van Gundy to me when it comes to Celtics-Heat. Seriously, though, she’s probably still a better basketball analyst than Magic Johnson at this point.

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, NBA
National view: Officiating is center of debate again in Celtics’ loss 05.31.12 at 4:18 pm ET
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One game after the officiating was a hot topic of debate for five questionable technical fouls called on the Celtics in their Game 1 loss to the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals, Wednesday’s Game 2 was filled with controversy caused by missed calls and free throw disparities.

The biggest missed call in question occurred in overtime. With under two minutes remaining and the game tied at 105-105, Rajon Rondo drove the lane and went up for a layup, but was knocked in the head by Dwyane Wade.

The referees didn’t blow their whistles and missed the call as Rondo sat on the floor holding his head. The Heat quickly took advantage, converted a dunk on the other end and never looked back as momentum completely swung to their side and they secured the win.

“I don’t know how you miss that one,” ESPN basketball analyst Tim Legler said. “There has to be an official on the baseline. You have a guy driving to the rim, you know that you’re anticipating contact as an official. [When] you get raked across the eye on a layup, it has to be called. It’s that simple. They missed it.”

CBSSports.com NBA blogger Royce Young also chimed in on the play. While he agreed that it was a clear missed call, he was also defensive of the officials.

“Referees miss calls. It happens,” Young wrote. “Nobody wants to hear that and it certainly doesn’t give Boston two points, but in the flow of an NBA game, something that moves really, really fast, sometimes an official doesn’t get it right.

“It’s not like they don’t want to. It’s not like they were thinking, ‘Eh, it’s Wade. Let it go.’ They want to do their job perfectly. It just doesn’t happen.”

Even Brian Windhorst, the Heat beat writer for ESPN.com, was critical of the missed call. He took to Twitter moments after Wade converted on a 3-point play to give the Heat a five-point lead.

“Great play by Wade but I’m feeling a little sick about that missed foul on Rondo. And I’m a staunch defender of officials as followers know,” Windhorst tweeted.

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Read More: Celtics, Dwyane Wade, NBA, Rajon Rondo
Doc Rivers: ‘LeBron James had 24 free throws, our team had 29′ at 12:35 am ET
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Doc Rivers attempted to hide his frustration with the discrepancy in the fouls Wednesday night as the Celtics fell 115-111 in overtime to the Heat at American Airlines Arena. The Celtics were whistled for 33 fouls while the Heat were called for just 18 in 53 minutes of action.

“It is what it is,” Rivers said. “LeBron James took 24 free throws tonight and our team took 29. Paul Pierce fouled out of a game where he was attacking the basket. It’s just tough. We have to just keep playing. I tell our guys, ‘It doesn’t matter. We can’t get distracted.’ We will not get distracted in this series. I guarantee you, right now, they’re distracted, our team in the locker room but we have to get out of us and move on. Whatever happened, happened. We just have to move on and play the next game.”

Two key plays will stand out to Celtics fans who feel they were robbed of the chance to win Game 2. Pierce was called for his sixth and final foul with 1:05 when Dwyane Wade drove to the basket and turned his back into Pierce. Then, with the game tied, 105-105, and 1:35 left in overtime, replays show Rondo was raked across the face on a drive to the basket by Wade. There was no call as the Heat scored the next seven points to put the game on ice.

“It was obvious, but I really can’t comment about that play in particular. It’s part of the game. That was a big swing for us. I think we had the momentum. There was a lot of controversy out there, and it just didn’t go our way,” Rondo said afterward at the podium next to Ray Allen, who added, “We all thought he got hit, I’ll say it.”

Rivers joked with a reporter who was asking him to comment on the “50-50″ calls that seem to all go against the Celtics in Game 2.

“Can you call it something other than 50-50 calls? Can you come up with another percentage for me?” Rivers said with a smile. “We’re not going to blame [the officials]. We have to play better and we will.”

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, LeBron James
Doc Rivers explains why losing Avery Bradley really hurts against the Sixers 05.25.12 at 1:28 pm ET
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brightcove.createExperiences();

WALTHAM — Celtics coach Doc Rivers announced at Friday morning’s practice that Avery Bradley had surgery Friday on his ailing left shoulder and is out for the playoffs.

“Avery Bradley is having surgery today so he’s out for the playoffs,” Rivers said. “That’s that. When a player goes down, that’s disappointing, and especially with what Avery has given us this year. His growth this year has been terrific and it’s been great. He’s become a very valuable piece to our basketball team. His ability to guard the best [opposing] guard at [point or shooting guard] has really taken so much pressure off Rondo, in particular. And not having him means that Rondo now has to go back to that role and run the team, and that’s hard, that’s hard to do, unfortunately and especially against the team we’re playing that has two guards that attack.

“Rondo doesn’t have a lot of breaks. But that’s the way it is. We’ve been a team all year when stuff happens, you deal with it and you just move forward. That’s who we’ve been and that’s who we’re going to have to be [Saturday].”

Then Rivers explained exactly why the Celtics need to fall back on their great defensive principles to get through Game 7 without Bradley, their third straight without their best on-ball defender. The Sixers have a group of athletic guards who attack the basket, and did so at will in Game 6. Evan Turner, Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams all took advantage of a weakened Ray Allen in drives to the basket.

“We’re great defensive team,” Rivers said. “What Avery did was he allowed us to be a great defensive team and put an individual on one guy and say, ‘Go shut him down.’ We don’t have that anymore so we have to go back to being just a great defensive team.”

Bradley was diagnosed with a sore rotator cuff during the first round series with the Hawks and attempted to play with pain. But early in the third quarter of Game 4 last Friday in Philadelphia, his shoulder popped out of place. He missed Games 5 and 6 before the decision was made to have surgery on Friday.

Bradley, in his second season out of Texas, started 10 games in the playoffs and 28 in the regular season, taking over the starting job from Ray Allen for the final 13 games of the regular season. He average 7.6 points a game in the regular season and quickly won respect around the league as one of the best on-ball defenders in the NBA.

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers
Paul Pierce, Celtics have reason to be very desperate and bring ‘hard hats’ in Game 6 05.22.12 at 12:47 pm ET
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brightcove.createExperiences();

In his days in Boston, Paul Pierce has always stormed off the court, pumping his fist, waving a towel or firing headbands into the crowd following an emotional and significant win like the one the Celtics pulled out of their hats Monday night against the Sixers.

But in the final moments of Boston’s 101-85 win over Philadelphia that put them one game away from the Eastern Conference finals, there was a different look on Pierce’s face – one of business not yet finished.

There was obviously something else that was likely running through his mind: “If only we didn’t blow Game 4.”

If the Celtics had held on to their 18-point lead in the third quarter last Friday in Philly, they would have at least the next two days completely off to rest their weary bodies. But instead, they have to finish business on Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Center at the corner of Broad and Pattison in South Philadelphia.

‘€œWe know how tough the playoffs are, there’€™s nothing easy about the playoffs,” Pierce said afterward. “We know there’€™s a long journey to get to where we need to go. We understand how difficult it is, nothing’€™s easy.”

And it certainly won’t be easy on Wednesday. Yes, the Celtics are the smarter, more disciplined team. They’ve even shown to be the tougher team under pressure, like Monday night. But the Sixers – with all due respect to Kevin Garnett – represent something inherent in all Philadelphians – they’re street fighters. That’s exactly what Pierce is expecting when he steps onto the court Wednesday.

“You’ve got a very resilient Philadelphia group who just won’€™t go away,” Pierce said. “I take my hat off to them, they are one of the better teams we even played in the last few years because of their fight, and they got great coaches and their players are mentally tough. We know they’€™re not going to go away so we’ve got to have our hard hats on for the next game, Game 6, to try to put ‘em away.”

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, NBA
Evan Turner: Sixers have to ‘make it a rougher game’ at 12:30 pm ET
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brightcove.createExperiences();

Coming into the series, the Sixers were perceived to have a clear advantage in the athletic department over the older, more experienced Celtics.

One problem with that – it’s the Celtics have have played tougher in the big moments, like for the for the final 20 minutes of Monday’s 101-85 Boston win in Game 5 that puts the Celtics one win from the Eastern Conference finals.

With the exception of the Game 4 meltdown in Philadelphia, the Celtics have won the battle inside against the Sixers. They’ve been able to establish Kevin Garnett in the low post and he and Brandon Bass have had quality looks at the basket.

Defensively, which the Celtics to a man will tell you is where it all starts, they’ve also done a much better job than Philadelphia in stopping dribble penetration into the lane, closing up quickly on Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday.

The good looks the Sixers were getting on baseline cuts in the first half Monday suddenly disappeared in the second half – as did the Sixers’ lead and any hope of winning the series on their home court on Wednesday night.

The Celtics demoralized the young, immature Sixers, who didn’t have the patience or discipline to reverse the ball because the Celtics were the tougher team. The Sixers shot nearly 60 percent for the first 23 minutes Monday night. They shot 27 percent the rest of the way.

‘€œMake shots,” is how Turner answered the question of turning around the second-half disaster in Boston Monday night. ” You get a lot of shots. The big thing is you just have to keep competing and make it a rougher game. You can’€™t let them walk into their shots, get to certain spots, you got to make it tougher for them like we did in Game 4.’€

Elton Brand, who is playing with an ailing shoulder, was huge early on for Philadelphia. He hit 6-of-8 as the Sixers had the clear momentum in the first half. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Andre Iguodala, Boston Celtics, Elton Brand
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