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An NBA Turkey Day Special 11.25.10 at 8:00 am ET
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On this Thanksgiving Day special, we give you the top five NBA players ever to hail from Turkey. Get it? Turkey? Thanksgiving? Turkish players have had a long and storied history in the league, only the exact opposite. It may be a reach, but it’s also pretty awesome when you think about it. You get to say names like Ersan Ilyasova. Without further ado …

5. Chicago Bulls 7-foot rookie center Omer Asik (O-mair A-sheek): Averaging 3.3 points and 0.8 points per game in 12 career appearances.

4. Boston Celtics 7-foot rookie center Semih Erden (Seh-MEE EHRD-ehn): Averaging 3.4 points and 2.3 rebounds in 11 career appearances.

3. Milwaukee Bucks 6-foot-10 third-year forward Ersan Ilyasova (ER-sahn Ill-ee-uh-SOH-vuh): Averaging 8.3 points and 4.8 rebounds per game in 160 career appearances.

2. Utah Jazz 6-foot-11 nine-year veteran center Mehmet Okur (MEM-et Oh-KUHR): Averaging 13.9 points and 7.2 rebounds in 604 career appearances.

1. Phoenix Suns 6-foot-10 11-year veteran forward Hedo Turkoglu (HEE-doe TURK-uh-loo): Averaging 12.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game in 766 career appearances.

 

The fist pump at the end of the Mehmet Okur commerical is amazing. Quick programming note: Irish Coffee will return on Monday morning. In the meantime, don’t forget to consume a few actual irish coffees over the Thanksgiving holiday break. Good times.

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Shaquille O’Neal: C’s are ‘best team I’ve been on’ at 1:33 am ET
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Kevin Garnett had certainly seen this from his frontcourt teammate before.

Garnett was on the Minnesota Timberwolves and Shaquille O’Neal on the Los Angeles Lakers in the early 2000s when O’Neal – along with close friend Kobe Bryant – was leading the Lake Show to three straight NBA titles from 2000-02.

Shaq’s Lakers were always the team KG and the Wolves could never conquer out West. On Wednesday, he was reminded why.

Shaq turned back the clock 10 years, scoring 25 on 9-of-10 shooting from the field while hauling in 11 rebounds in Boston’s 89-83 win over the Nets at TD Garden. O’Neal played nearly 32 minutes, hit his last five shots from the floor and even sank a pair of key free throws which drew as loud a cheer from the sellout crowd as his alley-oop dunk moments earlier.

“Well he has his family in town, so that’s tough to beat,” Garnett said. “I know he’s a huge family guy. His family’s not always with him, so maybe he got like a boost of adrenaline from his family or something, but he looked great I told him.

“But he looked the 2000 Shaq, the ’99 Shaq, the 2001 and 2002 to 2003 to 2004 to 2005 to 2006. He looked fresh tonight. He looked really good. I thought he did a great job of getting us in the bonus early. He definitely was the target tonight and reload him. On this team night in and night out we are going to have a different guy from Truth to Ray to anybody, and tonight he was Shaq.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Fast Break: Celtics catch a bad break 11.24.10 at 10:03 pm ET
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Despite falling behind by as many as 10 points in the third quarter and getting a season-high 25 points from Shaquille O’Neal to beat the New Jersey Nets at TD Garden Wednesday night, the overall mood was certainly one of concern after back-up point guard and key bench component Delonte West broke his right wrist late in the second quarter.

Powered by a revitalized O’Neal and Marquis Daniels running the point for most of the second half, the Celtics outlasted the Nets, 89-83, to improve to 6-1 at home and 11-4 overall.

The Nets were powered by center Brook Lopez, who scored 16, and point guard Devin Harris, who added a team-high 20.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE CELTICS:

The Big Shaq Daddy: O’Neal had unquestionably his best game in Celtics green as he was 9-of-10 from the field for a game-high 25 points, grabbing 11 rebounds. Most impressively, he was a force under the basket in his 31minutes. He was fed the ball early and often, responding with great energy and helping the Celtics outscore the Nets 44-28 in the paint.

Quisy Time: With Rajon Rondo on the sideline with a strained left hamstring, West carrying his broken right wrist and Nate Robinson in serious foul trouble at the worst time, Marquis Daniels came into the game 40 seconds in the third quarter and played 27 minutes off the bench, scoring just four point but dishing out four assists and handling the point nearly flawlessly.

Team composure: When the Celtics all saw West head to the locker room holding his right wrist, they knew he was almost certainly not returning. They didn’t mope – at least – on the court. While they fell behind by 10 early in the third, they kept going inside, attacking the Nets weakness and keeping O’Neal in the game. They had 25 assists on 35 baskets.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE CELTICS:

The obvious: Losing Delonte West to a broken right wrist on a lay-up with 2:48 left in the second quarter was the last thing a team with an injured Rajon Rondo needed. What makes West’s potentially extended stint away from the team so painful is he could switch seamlessly between the point and the two-guard and play exceptional defense at the same time. Remember, it was West who shut down Russell Westbrook in the fourth quarter defensively, giving the Celtics a chance to win the game against Oklahoma City.

Foul woes: Nate Robinson cannot pick up three fouls in seven minutes and his fourth foul 40 seconds into the third quarter. While Doc Rivers was defending him on the court, the Celtics coach knows Nate needs better game management and awareness while Rondo heals and West gets better. Nate did drill a huge 3-ball with 56 seconds remaining to lead a late surge that put away the Nets.

Rebounding: This team continues to struggle on the glass. They were out-rebounded, 42-33.

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Delonte West breaks his right wrist at 8:41 pm ET
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The Celtics guard depth – already down with the left hamstring injury to Rajon Rondo – took a major hit Wednesday night when Delonte West broke his right wrist when he fell to the ground under the Celtics basket after making a spectacular lay-up with 2:48 left in the second quarter. He was on the court for about two minutes as trainer Ed Lacerte tended to him.

He got up holding his wrist in place and wincing in pain. He went immediately to the Celtics locker room with Lacerte for further evaluation.

Dr. Brian McKeon and Lacerte administered the exam during halftime. The team said there is no immediate timetable for his return.

West, a left-handed shooter, broke the same wrist in 2008-09 but only missed 16 games. Nate Robinson started Friday night for the third straight game in place of Rondo but picked up his fourth foul just 40 seconds into the third quarter.

Marquis Daniels entered the game for the Celtics and ran the point.

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Rajon Rondo out again, Nate Robinson gets 3rd start at 7:38 pm ET
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The Celtics are taking every precaution with the left hamstring of Rajon Rondo and have ruled him out of tonight’s game against New Jersey at TD Garden. He likely will miss Friday’s contest against Toronto as well, coach Doc Rivers said before Wednesday’s game.

“I don’t think it’s a bad hamstring, but you just have to be careful with it,” said Rivers, who added Rondo is “iffy” against the Raptors on Friday night.

Nate Robinson makes his third straight start in Rondo’s absence.

Rivers said Rondo, who will miss his third straight game, was leading the NBA in assists, dishing out 14.3 per game. The Celtics are 1-1 in the two games without him, losing at Toronto on Sunday before a big win on Monday in Atlanta.

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Irish Coffee: Is Kobe Bryant a winner or whiner? 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.

Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant, right, talks to Cleveland Cavaliers' Shaquille O'Neal during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles,  Friday, Dec. 25, 2009.

How much has Kobe Bryant (right) benefited from Shaquille O'Neal (left) and Pau Gasol? (AP)

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.)

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Irish Coffee: It’s matter over mind for Celtics 11.23.10 at 11:47 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

When these veteran Boston Celtics are resting their aching bodies and losing back-to-back games to the Detroit Pistons and Philadelphia 76ers in April, remember this four-game stretch in November.

Pundits enjoy saying things like, “Games in November don’t matter much in the NBA,” but these Celtics are more mentally prepared only when the games matter — if that makes sense. And come playoff time, as we all know, every game means something.

Exhibit A: Last Wednesday’s 31-point blowout of the Washington Wizards. If the Celtics suffer letdowns against meaningless teams, why would they care about a Wizards team without John Wall, its newest star?

Because it mattered to Kevin Garnett, who was undressed last April to the tune of 31 points and 11 boards by Washington’s Andray Blatche.

“This is a team that gave us problems last year, and we haven’t forgotten that. I haven’t,” Garnett told reporters after the win. “Paul [Pierce] and I got here and could hear [Wizards assistant coach] Sam Cassell voice about how young they were and how they were going to come at us. We made note of it. We talked about it, you know, before the game and coming out here, taking care of business. I thought we stayed with that for 48 minutes.”

Exhibit B: Kevin Durant and Jeff Green‘s Oklahoma City Thunder came to town, only Durant and Green didn’t suit up. The Celtics had already quieted the Thunder with those guys in uniform, in their house, two weeks before. They’d already proven themselves against OKC. No urgency to do it again.

“I think we underestimated that team,” Shaquille O’Neal told the media following the loss. “Shot ourselves in the foot. It’s kind of hard in this league to get up for certain people. Tonight, we disrespected the basketball gods. We paid for it.”

Exhibit C: On a lazy Sunday afternoon, the Celtics faced a Toronto Raptors club that was worse than usual, playing undermanned after a trade. The C’s thought a hard-fought first quarter and a solid six-minte stretch in the second half would be just enough effort to take care of Toronto. Think again.

Before the game, I tweeted, “Do you think a Celtics lineup of Delonte West, Nate Robinson, Marquis Daniels, Glen Davis and Semih Erden could give the Raptors a game? I kinda do.”

I figured the home loss to OKC and a day off in between would fuel the Celtics to a blowout in Toronto.  I thought this team had learned something from playing to the level of their opponents last season, but perhaps what they learned is that they can play that way — and still be successful.

The guys over at Gino’s Jungle tweeted back, “I thought a lineup of KG, Pierce, Ray Allen, Shaq and Rajon Rondo could beat a Durant and Green-less OKC, so no game’s a gimme with this team.” And they were right.

“We’re a better team than those two teams,” Pierce told reporters after the defeat. “I know we are. Just mentally, I don’t think we have the right mindset coming into these games.”

Exhibit D: Monday night in Atlanta, the game once again had meaning to the Celtics, who got swept by the Hawks last season. That led to a 99-76 dominating victory against the Hawks in Atlanta.

In the aftermath, one thing became clear: These Celtics will play hard when they want to play hard, regardless of how good of a motivational speech head coach Doc Rivers delivers before the game.

“I gave that up my first year coaching,” Rivers said postgame. “This group, that’s who they are. We’re going to have those poor nights. But I just thought the loss Sunday set the tone for us. You could feel it.”

The examples should have been evident right from the start, when the Celtics dominated the Miami Heat in Game 1 and then lost to a woeful Cleveland Cavaliers team in Game 2.

Remember all of this evidence when people are questioning how much the aged Celtics have left in the tank entering the NBA playoffs. When these C’s have something to play for, they are great — capable of wiping the floor with mere good teams like the Atlanta Hawks.

REACTIONS FROM ATLANTA

Yup, when these Celtics play hard, they can make any team question itself. And that’s exactly what the Hawks were doing on Monday night. Head coach Larry Drew thinks his team might have had a few too many Four Lokos the night before, and Mo Evans is asking, “Who am I?” like a heartbroken girl from a teenage drama.

  • “I told the guys I don’t know what you are doing the night before we play,” Drew told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I don’t know what you are doing away from the floor. Something is going on that is not allowing us to play with an energy and passion that we should be playing with. As a head coach, I’ve got to find out what it is.”
  • “The Celtics know who they are,” Evans added. “We don’t have an identity, unless it’s when things go bad we go the other way. Maybe that’s our identity and we don’t know it.”

The AJC also caught up with Shaquille O’Neal, who said he picked the Celtics over the Hawks because Boston gave him a better shot at a title. And it sounds like the Hawks agree with him.

“They have a blend of veteran players with the core of their team, and it’s a lot easier to fit in a vet like Shaq,” Drew added. “If we brought him in here, it would be a little tougher. I don’t think his personality would have fit with our guys. It makes more sense to have veteran guys around him.”

Boston Celtics shooting guard Delonte West (13) looks for an open man during the second half of their NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards at the Garden in Boston, Wednesday night, Nov. 17, 2010. West returned to action Wednesday night after a 10-game suspension resulting from a NBA gun violation. The Celtics defeated the Wizards 114-83.

Putting his issues behind him, Delonte West is looking ahead to a successful season with the Celtics. (AP)

DELONTE WEST DISHES ON HIS DISORDER

CBS Sports.com senior writer Ken Berger wrote a fantastic piece on Delonte West’s battle with bipolar disorder.

However irresponsible West’s actions were when he was arrested on multiple weapons charges a year ago, it’s impossible not to root for a guy who is working as hard as he is to overcome his issues.

Here are a few highlights:

  • “Bipolar is like, when things are bad to you, they seem worse and when things are good, they seem great,” West said. “I’m at a place where things are behind me and I’m focused on what I love to do.”
  • “When you’re thinking about, ‘Am I going to go to jail after the season?’ and going through a tough divorce during the season, those things can weigh on you sometimes,” West said. “When you’re a professional athlete, you’ve got to be a robot sometimes. You’ve got to check your emotions at the door. But we’re humans. You can’t say, ‘OK, I’m not going to think about this,’ when it’s something to really think about. … When things are up in the air and all people can say to you, the courts and the lawyers, is, ‘You’ve got to wait and see,’ there’s a lot of nights when you’re not sleeping.”
  • “There’s only one way it’s going to play out,” West said. “I want it to play out that way and it’s going to play out that way. And that’s holding the trophy at the end of June. Man, that’d be a strong chapter in the book or the movie I’m going to write one day.”

I love that last quote. It comes from a man who is taking hold of his own destiny.

West also sat down with Chris Tomasson at NBA FanHouse to discuss being a role model, Gloria James and the Von Wafer fight.

“You’ve got to remember, this is just a game,” West told Tomasson. “Some people are die-hard fans and they paint their face and it’s all great. But you got to do unto others as you have unto yourself. People say something about your mother and drag your mother through something like that and your family, you’d be ready to do something yourself. So it’s sad that happened. But, you know, they hated Jesus, too. You got to keep going. So I wish [LeBron James] much success down there [in Miami] with his family, and I got to keep going here.”

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