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Irish Coffee: NBA’s (David) Stern warning 10.22.10 at 10:36 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

What if your boss came up to you and said, “Um, yeah, I’m gonna need you guys to go ahead and cut your salaries by $800 million”? I know I wouldn’t like if WEEI slashed my salary by $800 million, and NBA players aren’t going to like it, either.

But that’s exactly what NBA commissioner David Stern is proposing on his side of the collective bargaining agreement to make his league profitable again. Owners claimed $380 million in losses last season and project $350 million in losses this season.

“Even though we reported we have record season ticket sales over the summer and otherwise very robust revenue generation because of the built-in cost of the system,” deputy commissioner Adam Silver told reporters, “it’s virtually impossible for us to move the needle in terms of our losses.”

The NBA player’s association contested those numbers, and I am, too. You’re telling me that the league is losing that much money when season-ticket sales are at an all-time high and they’re just four months removed from a seven-game finals series between the league’s two biggest rivals? Didn’t 8.4 million people tune in just to watch the league’s biggest star announce where he was going to take his talents?

Slashing salaries by 36 percent is going to be a hard sell to the players, especially in a year that the league itself projected attendance to rank in the top five seasons ever.

“They’re saying lockout,” Clippers center Chris Kaman told the Los Angeles Times. “You just never know. You’ve just got to be ready and prepare yourself for that, moneywise. I’ve been saving a lot — looking out.”

If this is truly how the NBA owners are expecting to negotiate the collective bargaining agreement, don’t expect the season to start on time next year. The Celtics‘ starting five would have to give up $40 million next year alone to meet Stern’s demands. I’m not naive enough to believe that’s possible.

CELTICS WILL LOSE: SCOUTS’ HONOR

Sports Illustrated’s Ian Thomsen released his annual survey of NBA advance and personnel scouts, and they don’t expect the Celtics to reach the finals. The highlights:

  • The Miami Heat and Orlando Magic are expected to finish with higher seeds than the Celtics in the East.
  • Three of the six scouts believe the Heat will take down the Celtics in the conference finals. Two scouts predict the C’s won’t even make it that far, and only one has Boston returning to the NBA finals.
  • That lone scout has the Celtics beating the Lakers in the finals. Three of them have the Lakers beating Miami, one has those two finishing vice versa and the sixth scout has the San Antonio Spurs as champs.

ONE-ON-ONE: CHARLES BARKLEY VS. LEBRON JAMES

First Michael Jordan took on Kobe Bryant, and now Charles Barkley takes on LeBron James. The Round Mound of Rebound told USA Today:

“When we were at the Hall of Fame, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and myself said we would not have went to Miami. That’s just a basketball situation. That has nothing to do with anything. We just said we wanted to beat the other guy. That’s not a criticism; that was just giving our opinion. My criticism, and the only criticism I’ve really heard about LeBron, is how he handled the situation.”

While many people are arguing MJ ripped Kobe and Barkley dissed LeBron, that’s not really the case. Jordan called Kobe one of the top-10 guards of all-time, and Barkley called LeBron the best player in the NBA. Those hardly sound like fighting words.

Now, the real controversy should be over this statement from Oscar Robertson to ESPN: “LeBron James is in a class by himself,” even compared to Jordan. Really? I think Jordan’s six NBA titles and LeBron’s zero beg to differ.

A LAYUP DRILL

In the bad news department, former Celtic Charles Smith was shot twice in the chest in a Washington D.C. home yesterday afternoon, according to the local NBC affiliate. Smith reportedly remains in critical-but-stable condition following surgery.

After capturing 1998-89 Big East Player of the Year honors, Smith played 60 games for the 1989-90 Celtics that reached the playoffs. Continue to cheer for him. …

According to The Washington Post, the Wizards waived Adam Morrison yesterday. Back in July, the Celtics were one of four teams scouting Morrison’s Las Vegas workout. Any chance the C’s could bring him in for a look? …

Former Celtic Dominique Wilkins met with 30 kids from Maine who suffer from Type I diabetes to share his own experiences with the disease, The Portland Press Herald reported. Add that to his highlight film. …

Los Angeles Lakers villain Sasha Vujacic proposed to tennis star Maria Sharapova. Despite his 2.8 points-per-game average, she accepted. I’m sure he cried.

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

Read More: Celtics, Charles Barkley, David Stern, LeBron James
NBA Power Rankings, 10/21 10.21.10 at 4:50 pm ET
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1. LA Lakers: So, Ron Artest was on Jimmy Kimmel Live last night. I knew he was crazy, but I guess I didn’t know he was that crazy. How long can he go without creating a distraction? It worked last year, but there’s a shelf life for these things. Still, they’re the two-time defending NBA champions, and they have “length,” which doesn’t sound right, but size matters in this league.

2. Boston: The Celtics finished the preseason with a 7-1 record, proving they can turn on the “all systems go” button, even when the games don’t matter. That’s a scary thought when wins and losses start to mean something. I’m a little skeptical about how the C’s will integrate Shaquille O’Neal on both ends of the court, but the depth on this team is the league’s best.

3. Miami: Injuries continue to pile up for the Heat: Dwyane Wade (hamstring), LeBron James (hamstring), Mike Miller (thumb), Mario Chalmers (ankle) and Eddie House (shoulder). The 2007-08 Celtics used the preseason to jell; this team will have to do it in the regular season. I’m being careful not to be a “hater” here, so Eddie House doesn’t flip me the bird.

4. Oklahoma City: There are some interesting stories coming out about Jeff Green. He has a “special relationship” with his head coach, whatever that means. According to Etan Thomas, he’s an underappreciated player in the league. Just another one of the Thunder’s young guns.

5. Orlando: Wait a second, it’s a contract year for Vince Carter? So, that’s why he’s trying again — and knocking down 61 percent of his shots (59 percent from 3-point range) this preseason. Combine a motivated Vince, a healthy Jameer Nelson and a Hakeem Olajuwon-inspired Dwight Howard, and you’ve got a recipe for success.

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Read More: Celtics, Heat, Lakers, NBA
Irish Coffee: Big Baby’s all grown up at 11:03 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

BOSTON — At this time last preseason, Glen Davis watched in street clothes from the bench with a broken hand he suffered when he took a swing at a friend around 4 a.m. one night.

Big Baby’s done a lot of growing up since then.

“You make a mistake, and it helps you grow,” Davis said after last night’s Celtics win over the Nets in the preseason finale. “Situations happen. … I look at it, and I just look back on how young I was at that time. I’ve had a lot of things happen in my life so far.”

At the start of the preseason, Davis questioned his role, and coach Doc Rivers fired back: “I think Big Baby’s living up to his nickname again.” There was a here-we-go-again feel to it.

But in just three short weeks, Davis has grown into the leader of the NBA‘s best second unit, thanks in large part to Danny Ainge defining his role as,well, an indefinable one.

“It’s how you look at it,” said Davis. “I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t have a role,’ but I knew my role. It was just confusing. I know I’m a versatile player. I can do multiple things. I can play the 5, and I can play the 4.”

Rivers has also let Davis define his own role on the court.

“One thing Doc’s letting me do this year is allowing me to be more creative on my own. So far, in the preseason, I’m being a post threat, and I’m shooting an outside jumper. I’m just glad and fortunate that I know my role now. I know exactly what I can do for this team, and I’m going to do it the best I can.”

BIG BABY: SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR?

You’d be hard-pressed to find a better second unit in the NBA than Nate Robinson, Delonte West, Marquis Daniels, Big Baby and Jermaine O’Neal. So, why shouldn’t that unit produce the league’s Sixth Man of the Year?

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Read More: Celtics, Glen Big Baby Davis, NBA, Shaquille O'Neal
Pierce: No window watching needed 10.20.10 at 11:51 pm ET
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Everyone assumed that the Celtics starters would play only until halftime in Wednesday’s preseason finale against the New Jersey Nets … including, apparently, some of the players.

Boston got off to a sluggish start, and while New Jersey figures to be much-improved this year with new head coach Avery Johnson, the Celtics had no business being down 14 points early in the second quarter, on their home court, in their final tuneup before the most important (or, at least, most hyped?) regular season game in NBA history on Tuesday night at TD Garden.

And their captain knew it. Paul Pierce, who finished with a game-high 17 points in a 107-92 win over the Nets, said the Celtics wanted a good feeling heading into the season.

‘€œWe knew that was not our brand of basketball how we came out to start the game,” Pierce said of allowing the Nets to shoot 50 percent and score 55 points in the first half. “We wanted to try to establish the tone in the third quarter and we just have to do a better job on starting games off and understanding on what we need to do. But I think for the most part we are ready.

‘€œYou want to sort of build something going into the season individually and as a team. It’s about getting the confidence going. You want to be playing well not just as a team. Trying to figure out some things I am trying to do offensively just to get some confidence to know I can get the job done during the regular season.’€

But that wasn’t the only message Pierce sent after the game. He was asked if he views this season, starting with Tuesday’s showdown with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, as a final shot at an NBA title with the current group of Celtics.

“I don’t look at it that way,” Pierce said. “I’ve got four years left, shoot. The window’s open as long as I’m here. Definitely, the sense of urgency is there every year we have our team [together]. We don’t look ahead at a window. The object is to have a sense of urgency now and then next year, worry about that.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Miami Heat
Fast Break: Sharp Shaq ignites C’s win at 10:04 pm ET
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Five Celtics scored in double figures — led by Paul Pierce‘s 17 points — and Rajon Rondo finished with 12 assists to ignite a 107-92 victory over the New Jersey Nets in the final game of the preseason. Boston finished the preseason at 7-1.

THREE THINGS THAT WENT RIGHT

1. Shaq looking sharp: A nifty spin move and another juke move around Joe Smith showed flashes of the Shaquille O’Neal of old. Sure, it was Joe Smith, but still. Playing 15 of the first 24 minutes, he finished the half with 12 points and seven boards.

Shaq did the little things, too. He tossed a nice outlet pass to Rondo for an easy bucket that put the C’s up 75-67 in the third quarter. He cleaned up the defensive glass, a serious deficiency for the Celtics in the 2010 game that shall not be named. And, believe it or not, he made 4-of-5 free throws, which raised his percentage to 69.2.

All in all, not too shabby for a 38-year-old.

2. Coming out of halftime firing on all cylinders: The Celtics could’ve easily packed it in and called it a night, trailing 55-48 at the half. If trap games existed in the preseason, this would’ve been it. The C’s started 6-1 in the expedition season, and if you haven’t heard yet they open the season against the new-look Heat on Tuesday.

Yet, the starters came out of the locker room and turned a seven-point deficit into a 13-point lead by the end of the third quarter, outscoring the Nets, 36-16.

3. Getting to the free throw line: The Celtics got to the line 24 times last night and made 18 of them. Shaq, Pierce and Glen Davis each got to the line five times, and only Big Baby (2-of-5) failed to knock them down.

Entering last night’s game, the C’s averaged 28.6 foul shots per game, and they were shooting 76.6 percent as a team. Last season, the Celtics attempted 25.5 free throws per game, making 74.6 percent of them.

THREE THINGS THAT WENT WRONG

1. Starting the game in a last-game-of-the-preseason effort: Looking sloppy and lackadaisical, the Celtics gave up 11 fast break points and scored none in the first quarter. That left them coming from behind … until an epic third quarter. Making up a 14-point deficit might be easy against the Nets, but it won’t be a cakewalk against the NBA’s upper echelon.

2. Giving up high-percentage shots on defense: The Celtics still allowed New Jersey to shoot 48 percent from the floor through three quarters — and that’s with the Nets shooting just 1-of-8 from beyond the arc. The C’s have plenty of bigs this year, so there’s no reason their interior defense shouldn’t be among the league’s best.

3. Do I really have to come up with three things that went wrong in a 20-point blowout during the last game of the preseason? OK, I guess the Celtics didn’t bring Gino out. What gives?

Read More: Celtics, NBA, Rajon Rondo, Shaquille O'Neal
Irish Coffee: One Reason Ray Allen Will Be Better at 10:44 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

ESPN analysts Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy piled on the anti-technical foul bandwagon in a conference call to promote the station’s NBA coverage this season. While most of what’s been said on the subject has been redundant over the last week — (a la Van Gundy: “More free throws is never the answer”) — Jackson made an interesting point that could benefit the Celtics:

‘€œIf I was a guy like Reggie Miller I’€™d love the rule because it would add three or four points a night to my scoring total from technical fouls.’€

Hmmm … I’m trying to think of a guy like Reggie Miller on the Celtics. Shaquille O’Neal? No. Rajon Rondo? Nope. Oh, I know: Ray Allen. Four current NBA players, including Allen, rank higher on the list of career free-throw percentage leaders than Miller (who is No. 9 at 88.8 percent): 2. Steve Nash (90.3 percent), 3. Peja Stojakovic (89.5), 4. Allen (89.4) and 6. Chauncey Billups (89.2).

Allen averaged 16.3 points per game for the Celtics last season, so an additional four points — which, for the NBA’s sake, better be an excessive estimate — would get him closer to his career average of 20.5 points a game.

The scariest name on that free-throw percentage list: Kevin Durant, whose 88.3 conversion rate ranks No. 11 all-time. Already an NBA MVP favorite, Durant’s 30.1 points per game led the league in scoring last year. An additional few points a game gets Durant that much closer to averaging 35 points. Only two players have done that since 1970: Michael Jordan (37.1 in 1986-87; 35.0 in 1987-88) and Kobe Bryant (35.4 in 2005-06).

NBA PRESEASON PREMONITION

The Sporting News produced the following NBA statistic: “Over the last nine preseasons, 17 teams have finished undefeated or with one loss. Of those 17 teams, 16 wound up in the playoffs. None went on to win a championship and only half survived to the second round, but the fact is, if you play well in October, there’€™s a good chance you’€™ll at least be playing in late April.”

Only four NBA teams currently have unbeaten or one-loss preseason records: the Celtics (6-1), Orlando Magic (6-0), Utah Jazz (7-0) and Memphis Grizzlies (7-0). I’m not sure this is good news for the Celtics, who need a monumental breakdown to miss the playoffs. Should they defeat the New Jersey Nets tonight, they would have to buck a recent trend to win the NBA title.

Along the same lines, 82games.com analyzed a five-year window to determine: Does the NBA preseason matter? Looking at records from 2001-02 to 2005-06, there was a corollary: successful preseason teams succeeded in the regular season; likewise, unsuccessful preseason teams failed in the regular season.

The most interesting statistic from the study: teams coming off less-than-30-win seasons that produced successful preseason teams gained an average of 19 wins the following season. The only team that fits that bill this season is the Minnesota Timberwolves, who finished 15-67 last season and are 5-2 this preseason.

MAGIC JOHNSON’S DISAPPEARING ACT?

What the heck is Magic Johnson up to? A day after selling his 4.5 ownership stake in the Los Angeles Lakers for an estimated $27 million, Magic reportedly sold his 105 Starbucks franchises for another $100 million, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Magic was rumored to have interest in the sales of the Detroit Pistons and Golden State Warriors, which have since been sold. Back in 2006, when the Seattle SuperSonics were sold for $350 million, five teams were supposedly available for the right price: the Portland Trail Blazers, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, Magic and Grizzlies. None of those teams have been sold since.

Conspiracy Theory of the Day: Maybe Larry Bird and Magic Johnson are preparing to buy the Indiana Pacers. Bird did admit back in April that he’s fielded calls from people interested in buying the team. I’m pretty sure Magic has his number.

 Just as long as Magic isn’t planning on investing in another edition of that godawful TV show, “The Magic Hour.”

PERFORMANCE-ENHANCING SHOES

The NBA banned its players from wearing Athletic Propulsion Labs’ $300 Concept 1 shoes. Apparently, the shoes are spring-loaded to increase vertical leap. According to the Associated Press story, 30 percent of NBA players had shown interest in the shoe produced by former USC walk-ons Adam and Ryan Goldston. Any chance the aging legs of Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal were among that 30 percent?

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

Read More: Celtics, Kevin Durant, NBA, Ray Allen
KG: Celtics-Heat definitely a ‘soap opera’ 10.19.10 at 8:50 pm ET
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Ray Allen has always had a special way with words.

He knows exactly how to say something with a smile and deliver the right tone and most importantly – the right message.

His message following Tuesday night’s intrasquad “Green-White” scrimmage at TD Garden was: Everyone knows we’re a team. Everyone wants to find out if Miami is, too.

“I believe so because there’s never been an opening game that has been more heavily anticipated,” Allen said. “I do believe that people are definitely excited to see them more than they’re excited about about seeing us. Truly they know, as a team, what we represent. The two teams are Eastern Conference powerhouses. It’s going to be a game.”

That game will be played next Tuesday night at TD Garden as LeBron James makes his official debut with the Heat, along with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.

“I think with the anticipation [after] our exiting the finals last year and then with the new additions to Miami, they overly hyped the game,” Kevin Garnett added. “Yeah, I can see this has a lot of episodes, a lot of drama, if you will. It will have a lot of soap opera feel to it. Days of Our Lives, Another World, Santa Barbara.

“My grandmother was a big, big soap opera fan so it was either go outside or sit in there with her so I know that schedule quite well.”

The Celtics and Miami Heat are getting ready to open the season next Tuesday night at TD Garden in one of the most anticipated regular season games in NBA history.

Allen played Tuesday for the Green squad, which captured a 38-31 victory in an enhanced practice before season ticket holders and VIPs. The Celtics conclude their preseason Wednesday night against New Jersey at the Garden before opening the NBA season next Tuesday against the Heat, also at TD Garden.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Garnett
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