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NBA Power Rankings, 3/31 03.31.11 at 7:41 pm ET
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Los Angeles Lakers1. LA Lakers (53-20): Kobe Bryant recently said if he weren’t a basketball player, he’d be a bum. The rest of the league wishes he were the latter right about now. The Lakers are 15-1 since the All-Star break.

Chicago Bulls2. Chicago (54-20): The Bulls are one of two teams that haven’t lost three straight games all season. The other? The Celtics. The difference is that the Bulls have been better bottom feeders, recording a 31-6 record against lottery-bound teams.

San Antonio Spurs3. San Antonio (57-17): With Tim Duncan in the lineup, the Spurs are 56-13 (.812 winning percentage). Without him, they’re 1-4 (.200). The guy’s still got it, and he should be in the lineup on Thursday night against the Celtics.

Dallas Mavericks4. Dallas (53-21): While the surging Bulls and Lakers get all the attention, the Mavericks have quietly reeled off another five-game winning streak. Meanwhile, owner Mark Cuban not-so-quietly explained how to beat the Lakers: “Anything that puts the ball in Ron Artest‘s hands is always a good thing.” Except when its Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

Boston Celtics5. Boston (51-22): I maintain that the Celtics are better than the Mavericks, Spurs or Bulls – and should still be the favorites to win the East – but I can’t slot them any higher simply because of that atrocious loss to the Bobcats. Until they start trying again, this is where they’ll sit. While they’re at it, they should ponder why their record against playoff teams (25-11) is nearly identical to their record against non-playoff teams (Hint: effort).

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Isiah Thomas rips Larry Bird again at 2:26 pm ET
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Has Isiah Thomas been? (AP)

After Larry Bird‘s Celtics defeated his Pistons in the 1987 Eastern Conference finals, Isiah Thomas told reporters Bird “would be just another good guy” if he were black.

Now, 24 years later, in a FOX Sports interview, Thomas throws another jab in Bird’s direction — tossing Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson under the bus along the way.

“I have no problem saying this at all,” he says. “They’re all 6-(feet)-9 and Jordan was 6-6 and a half. If they were all 6-1, it wouldn’t even be a question. They wouldn’t even f—ing rate. If they were all my size, s—, they wouldn’t even be talked about.

“I beat the s— out of them when they were that big. If we were all the same size, f—.” He stops to laugh good-naturedly. “Make them 6-1 and let’s go on the court.”

For the record, Thomas retired with two NBA titles as a player. Jordan (6), Magic (5) and Bird (3) all finished their careers with more, but who’s counting?

Thomas has been accused of freezing out Jordan at the 1985 All-Star Game, questioning Magic’s sexuality in the wake of his former friend’s HIV diagnosis, bankrupting the Continental Basketball Association and sexually harrassing a coworker as Knicks GM.

And he wonders why he’s been exiled from the NBA. Hmm, I wonder …

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Irish Coffee: Chris Herren’s fall and rise 03.29.11 at 1:22 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

As a junior at Boston University, I remember attending a Celtics game during the 2000-01 season and hearing a fan scream, “Hey, Chris Heroin!” He was, of course, referring to Chris Herren, the kid I’d read about years before in Bill Reynolds’ book, “Fall River Dreams.”

It was a sad commentary on how far the former Durfee High standout had fallen since being named a McDonald’s All-American in 1994. Now, 10 years later, at the age of 35, Herren is the subject of another Reynolds project, “Basketball Junkie: A Memoir.”

After almost three years of sobriety from the substances that destroyed his career, Herren has been on the anti-drug speaking circuit at high schools around New England, detailing the poor decisions that led to his expulsion from Boston College, exile from the NBA and near-death experience after tours of basketball duty everywhere from China to Iran.

Here are two of those decisions Herren has been sharing with high school athletes:

As a 14- or 15-year-old Durfee High freshman, Herren attended a party, where he and four friends took down a few drinks on a Friday night. When his curfew came calling, his head said to call his mother for a ride home, but his self esteem let his best friend drive him.

“I didn’t have the courage, I didn’t have the self-esteem to say, ‘You know what, guys? This drinking and driving isn’t cool, and I’m not going to be a part of it,’” said Herren. ”I jumped in the back seat, got dropped off, and six or seven minutes later my best friend was dead.”

A few years after he failed to prevent his drunken best friend from getting behind a wheel and colliding with a telephone pole, Herren had become a Boston College-bound high school senior and one of 22 players selected to the McDonald’s All-American Game (along with three other former Celtics: Antoine Walker, Raef LaFrentz and Danny Fortson).

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Doc Rivers: This is what happens when our ‘butts got tight’ 03.26.11 at 12:40 pm ET
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So – like any parent would with their misbehaving, unmotivated teenaged child – Doc Rivers has laid down the law.

He warned his kids, err his players, with five minutes left in Friday night’s sleepwalker against the Bobcats that if they won the game, fine, but you’re doing it on your own. Alas, the Celtics never recovered from blowing a 13-point lead, allowing the 28-42 Bobcats to go on a 16-0 run en route to a 83-81 win over the Celtics.

The natural first question afterward was whether Rivers was shocked. Rivers gave a qualified answered.

“No, the way we’re playing shocks me,” Rivers said. “Our attitude shocks me. We’re just not ready to win any games right now the way we play, the way our approach is to basketball games. I told them that with about five minutes left. I said if we win great, you find your own way. Right now, I just think we’ve become very, very selfish. Not just as far as trying to get our own, but everything is about how we’re playing individually. Instead of how the team is playing. You can see it, a guy struggles, he pouts, he mopes. Everything is me, me, me on our team right now. Feeling sorry for themselves, instead of giving themselves to the team and playing.”

And Rivers reiterated the ‘lack of urgency’ message delivered by Paul Pierce following Wednesday’s loss to Memphis.

“You can just see it manifest throughout the team,” Rivers said. “Until we can get through that we will continue to have results like we had tonight. Clearly should have won the game. I thought the starting unit in particular, came in casual in the fourth quarter, assuming they were going to win the game. No urgency. Then all of the sudden when the game got won, their butts got tight.

When you got that 11-point lead, the shots aren’t easy anymore. I always say it, you screw around with the game and the game will screw around with you. Either I’m doing a terrible job getting to them or right now they just aren’t there. I don’t know why, it’s my job to figure it out though.”

There was the rebound by 5-foot-11 D.J. Augustin in the paint while Kevin Garnett and Glen Davis watched. The rebound was put back for a go-ahead layup with 3:56 left. And the crowd began to leave.

“We deserve it,” Rivers said. “Everything they did we deserve. I’m not going to comment on individual plays. I just think we deserve everything that happened. It had nothing to do with soft. I could care less about their slumps. It’s not hard, you keep playing. You play hard. You’re not going to play well every night, but it can’t be about you. It’s got to be let me do something else to help the team.”

As for comparisons to last year when they suffered home-court losses to the Nets and Wizards late in the season, Rivers said they don’t hold water since it was he who was holding out his players.

“Nothing like this. Last year I shut them down,” Rivers said. “They were injured. They’re not injured. They’re not playing well.”

Are they bored?

“Yeah, Yeah, I think so,” Rivers said, before pausing and adding, “Last year we lost Game 7 [NBA finals] on the road.”

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Paul Pierce is getting pretty sick of giving speeches at 12:17 am ET
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Celtics captain Paul Pierce is not about to stand up on a table in the locker room and yell at his teammates to stop being lazy and bored. He said after Friday’s collapse and shocking home-court loss to the lowly Bobcats that every player needs to recommit themselves to the team or the losing will continue.

“It has to come from all of us,” Pierce said. “One player can come out here and say it and “hoo-rah” around the locker room, but it has to come from everybody. We’re all veterans, we’ve all been here before, and we all know what it takes. It’s got to come from each individual to take a look in the mirror, and look inside and decide if that’s what they want to do. We can talk about it everyday, but until we look at ourselves in the mirror, that’s what it’s going to be.”

Last year, Kendrick Perkins, during a late-season slump, said the Celtics were bored and were just trying to get to the playoffs. Are Celtics playing bored during their latest uninspired stretch?

“I can’t speak for everybody. I’m not bored, if you’re asking me,” Pierce said.

Rivers called the team out for being selfish after the ugly loss. Pierce said that comes from a lack of ball movement in the offense.

“From time to time, that’s the reason why we don’t shoot a high percentage, or score 100 points, because the ball is sticking when we usually make extra passes that’s when the offense is flowing, and we’re able to get out there on a break and get easy opportunities,” Pierce said. “You haven’t been seeing that, and that’s why we’re shooting a low percentage and that’s why we’re not scoring.”

Did Celtics defense get uptight as the Bobcats went on a run in the fourth?

“I wouldn’t say that,” Pierce said. “It’s just our defense really broke down in the 4th quarter. We played good defense for three quarters, solid for the most part. Then we give up 30 points in the 4th quarter. Regardless of how our offense if going, which we’ve been struggling as of late; we still should be able to pull together a defensive run and hold this team off, especially when we’re up by 10 point in the 4th.”

Pierce’s comments came just 48 hours after he called the team out for not having ‘a sense of urgency’ with the regular season winding to a close. Friday’s loss dropped the Celtics two games behind the first-place Bulls in the Eastern Conference. And with Miami coming from behind to beat Philadelphia, the Heat stand just a half-game behind the Celtics for second place.

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NBA Power Rankings, 3/24 03.24.11 at 6:47 pm ET
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San Antonio Spurs1. San Antonio (57-14): How is it possible that a team has played better than .800 basketball for pretty much the entire season has flown so far underneath the radar? The Spurs are five games better than every other team in the NBA. Sure, Tim Duncan is out indefinitely with a sprained ankle, but underestimating any team coached by Gregg Popovich would be a serious mistake.

Los Angeles Lakers2. LA Lakers (51-20): Since the All-Star break, the Lakers have reeled off a 13-1 stretch and begged for attention at every turn. After the lone loss, suffered in Miami, Kobe Bryant was so upset that he decided to start firing up shots in front of TV cameras. Lamar Odom has incessantly publicized his upcoming reality show with wife Khloe Kardashian. And Ron Artest performed his new single “Go Loco” alongside such dignitaries as Fat Joe and B-Real of Cypress Hill on “Lopez Tonight.”

Boston Celtics3. Boston (50-20): The Celtics are 9-6 since the dreaded Kendrick Perkins trade, and panic has set in from Stockbridge to Boston. They’ve lost their toughness! Rajon Rondo is lonely without his friend! Where’s Shaquille O’Neal?! Relax. You know what the C’s record was in the first 15 games after the 2010 trade deadline? 9-6. And, more importantly, they have a healthy Kevin Garnett.

Chicago Bulls4. Chicago (51-19): “Hey, the Bulls lead the Eastern Conference, what gives?” Is that what you’re thinking? Well, consider this: The Celtics have won eight more playoff series as a group than Derrick Rose & Co. — not to mention the fact that they’ve defeated Chicago in 2-of-3 meetings and play in a much tougher division.

Dallas Mavericks5. Dallas (49-21): Is Dirk Nowitzki in the MVP conversation? I know he’s got Cedric Maxwell‘s vote. The giant German is threatening to join Ray Allen‘s “holy trinity of shooting” (the 50-40-90 club), as he’s draining shots at a 53.0 clip from the field, 41.8 from 3-point range and 89.0 from the free-throw line.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Paul Pierce on getting touches late: ‘I’m not going to make that an issue’ at 10:51 am ET
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Sometimes Paul Pierce can display a misleading, almost nervous, smile after a befuddling loss.

Wednesday night was such a case.

Pierce was asked whether he would like to get his hands on the ball more down the stretch, especially when the Celtics were trailing by three and his team needed a big basket. Pierce did get the ball but with 4.2 seconds left, leaving the C’s captain to fire a desperate trey that fell short.

In the 30 seconds before that, Rajon Rondo (a runner) and Glen Davis (an ill-advised three-pointer) missed shots that would’ve tied or given the Celtics the lead against the Grizz.

“We ran some stuff,” Pierce said. “We had the turnover right there down the stretch. For the most part I liked the looks we got. We got Big Baby with a nice shot. Less than 30 seconds we get Rondo right in the paint, going up for a shot that he takes all the time and makes. I’ll take that for a game winner. It just didn’t go our way today.”

Yes, Pierce would like to have touched the ball a little more but he said he didn’t want the team forcing the ball to him.

“Probably a little bit more, but I play within the framework of the offense,” Pierce said. “I’m not going to make that an issue. We’ve been winning the way we play all year long and the last four years. I’m not going to make that an issue.”

Doc Rivers had a different take.

“We’ve got to score more points,” Rivers said. “I thought in the second half we went through that one stretch where we didn’t even start our offense until like seven seconds on the clock. Milking the clock; I thought the ball just was bounced and didn’t move. Whenever we do that. You know, listen, I think as a whole, our team, we’ve got to get back to understanding – you know Paul is pretty good. And he’s got to get more touches in games. And I think we go back and forth on movement and we want that, but we’ve also got to get Paul involved. That’s on me; I’ve got to get Paul involved more.”

Pierce and the Celtics were also cautioned by their coaches before the game that the Grizzlies were one of the best offensive teams they’ll see in the paint this season. Despite all the pleading and prodding during film sessions, the Grizzlies came out and doubled the C’s 52-26 in the paint.

“I am surprised because the whole emphasis of today was they are one of the best, if not the best in the league at points in the paint,” Pierce said. “The emphasis was to pack the paint, they aren’t a great three point shooting team so there is no excuse for all that. We should have done a better job in there, make them kick it out and make them knock down a couple of jumpers.

“I thought overall, for the most part we played pretty good defense. We held them to what, 90 points. Especially Zach Randolph, he has been playing out of his mind. A lot of these guys have been playing well. I thought it was a pretty strong defensive game.”

The Celtics also committed 20 turnovers on their home court, which they haven’t exactly been defending that well, especially against teams from the West.

Are the C’s tired? Sure, but as they themselves admitted, who isn’t at this time of the season?

“The light is at the end of the tunnel, only a few more games left,” Pierce said. “It should be a better sense of urgency I believe around here. Especially finishing off the season on a good note and trying to get that home court advantage in the East.”

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