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NBA Power Rankings, 1/21 01.21.10 at 9:22 am ET
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1. LA Lakers (2): It’s going to be hard for someone to knock the Lakers from this perch going forward. Of all the elite teams, they’ve looked the hungriest all year. I have no idea what’s driving Kobe Bryant ‘€” the rings, Shaquille O’Neal, the Next Michael Jordan comparisons ‘€” but he’s been an incredibly determined player the entire season.

2. Cleveland (1): Speaking of Shaq, he volunteered the legs of Kobe, LeBron James and Vince Carter to raise money for Haitian relief. I wonder if it ever occurred to ShaqStimulus that with his massive contract (and endorsements) he’s also well-positioned to do what he’s asking of others.

3. Dallas (4): Dirk Nowitzki was an innocent bystander when Rasheed Wallace and the NBA both lost their minds. Wallace, after running into foul trouble against Dirk, said the officials don’t like to see tough D played against the big man. So the league fined him 35 grand. Silly on both counts. Wallace has to admit that Dirk is a tough matchup, and the NBA has to stop being so insecure about criticism. Thirty-five grand for a comment like that? Come on.

4. Atlanta (7): As scary a team as you’ll see in the Eastern Conference. Before, the Hawks’ weakness was obvious: no bench. I see a team with few weaknesses now, and plenty of confidence ‘€” especially when playing the Celtics.

5. Denver (9): The Nuggets are a great team when Chauncey Billups is healthy. Carmelo Anthony certainly can hold his own without Billups, but he’s a much more dangerous player with him on the floor.

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Rasheed Wallace fined by NBA 01.20.10 at 3:01 pm ET
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The NBA just released a statement to the press that Rasheed Wallace has been fined $35,000 for publicly criticizing game officials. The fine was a result of Wallace’s comments after the Celtics‘€™ 99-90 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Monday, January 18th.

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KG at practice but C’s still have work to do 01.19.10 at 5:52 pm ET
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WALTHAM  —  While the head coach and captain were very happy to see Kevin Garnett back at practice on Tuesday afternoon, they tempered their enthusiasm with a heavy dose of reality.

The Celtics have a lot of work to do, even when their defensive MVP returns to game action.

“He looked real fluid,” Paul Pierce said. “He got up and down the court, got him the ball in the post. It’ll be a positive to get him back whenver he comes back. We don’t know if that’s going to be tomorrow, later in the week or whenever. But it just good to have him out there, his presence. You feel it and you see it when he’s out on the court.

“We ain’t thinking about that but definitely we know we’re going to better when Kevin comes back, obviously. He makes a better team on both ends of the court. We have to take care of responsibilities while he’s out. If he’s going to play the next game or not, we still have to go out there and turn this thing around going into the All-Star break.”

Then there’s Doc Rivers‘ attitude.

“When Kevin gets back, we still have to grow as a team,” Rivers said. “The way I look at it, with him out, our growth has been stunted. When he comes back, it’ll continue our growth. It’s not the answer yet. We still have to grow as a team.”

While Garnett looked terrific, his conditioning wasn’t. And that came as no surprise to Rivers, who reiterated time and time again, KG will NOT return to game action Wednesday in Detroit.

“He actually looked really good,” Rivers added. “He played well. His conditioning was awful. That’s why I stopped [practice] because he was going well. I didn’t want to take him to the next step yet. He’ll do some running [Wednesday]. We may do something Thursday, or not, and then Friday, we’ll see.”

Read More: Celtics, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett, NBA
KG: ‘Felt good to be back with the guys’ at 3:06 pm ET
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WALTHAM  —  For the first time since being sidelined by a hyperextended right knee, Kevin Garnett returned to full practice on Tuesday. He took part in session, running up and down the court without a noticeable limp.

“It felt good,” Garnett said. “It felt good to be back with the guys today.”

Head coach Doc Rivers said he will not allow Garnett to play on Wednesday night in Detroit when the team plays the Pistons but rather keep him on track for a Friday return when the Celtics host Portland.

Read More: Celtics, Kevin Garnett, NBA,
Sheed: League doesn’t like tough D on Dirk 01.18.10 at 11:52 pm ET
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Dirk Nowitzki ‘€” with 37 points on 14-of-22 shooting from the floor ‘€” had a great game. Rasheed Wallace thinks he had a whole lot of help from the officiating crew of Tony Brown, Dan Crawford and John Goble.

Wallace didn’t hold back in expressing his frustration following Monday night’s game about a crucial fourth personal foul called on him with 5:16 remaining in the third quarter and the Celtics holding on to a 63-60 lead.

With Wallace on the bench, Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavericks on a 15-5 run to close out the third quarter, on their way to a 99-90 win over the Celtics at TD Garden.

“You know, they don’t like no tough defense on him so of course I get a whole lot of bull[crap] calls but that’s how the story goes,” Wallace said, before adding, “I ain’t worried about it. We’ll see them again. Honestly, I can’t remember which one the fourth foul was, there were so many bogus [calls]. I ain’t worried about it. Like I said, we’ll see them again. We go down there in about a month or so. There’ll be retribution.”

Wallace and the Celtics will have their chance at payback on March 20 when the Celtics visit Dallas.

Wallace also said there was a double-standard when it came to fouls that weren’t called on Paul Pierce.

Read More: Celtics, Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks, NBA
Doc feels Starbury still has game at 10:05 pm ET
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Celtics coach Doc Rivers recalled his last meeting with Stephon Marbury last spring after the Celtics were eliminated by the Orlando Magic in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The Celtics and Marbury had a 37-game marriage, starting on Feb. 27, 2009. It ended after the 14th game of the playoffs and a Game 7 loss to Orlando.

“We wanted to move on,” Rivers said of the 32-year-old guard before Monday’s game. “I thought we had him for the right amount of time and if he came back he would have wanted to play more minutes, which I wouldn’t have blamed him for.

“I did not think he was done, no. I thought he still had a lot of basketball left in him,” Rivers added. “I thought someone would pick him up last summer but I don’t think the web broadcast helped his cause at all.”

Of course, that broadcast is the now infamous 24-hour homemade production from last July in his house where he rambled about various thoughts on his mind.

But now, Marbury is focused on heading to China to show he can still earn a paycheck playing the game he loves.

“I hope someone does pick him up and I think he’s going over there to prove he still can play,” Rivers said.

Read More: Celtics, China, Doc Rivers, NBA
Doc on Dirk: There’s never been a player like him at 8:28 pm ET
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Doc Rivers has seen plenty of great players in his time as a player and coach in the NBA.

But he says he’s never seen one like Dirk Nowitzki.

What makes the 7-foot big man so special is his ability to roam the court like a guard.

“I don’t think there’s ever been a player like Dirk, honestly,” Rivers said. “He’s a rare [player]. He’s literally an original. There’s been seven-footers who can shoot, there’s been seven-footers who can pass but there’s been none who can do all of them.”

[Listen to Rivers rave about Dirk]

Reggie Miller was in town Monday night, doing the TNT broadcast with Kevin McHale. And Rivers had the chance to chat with the NBA’s all-time leading three-point specialist.

“I was laughing with Reggie Miller,” Rivers said. “They’re running plays for Dirk that we run for Ray Allen and teams [used to] run for Reggie Miller. Bringing him off triple-screens. You just haven’t seen that. The next coming of that would be the kid in Oklahoma, [Kevin] Durant. They’re the only two guys like that.”

Rasheed Wallace picked a heckuva time to come back after a three-game hiatus with a sore left foot. He had the task of guarding Nowitzki.

“I don’t know if this is the perfect game for him to come back and face Dirk Nowitzki,” Rivers said. “That’s a tall order but that’s the order we have and he’s got to follow through.”

Read More: Celtics, Dirk Nowitzki, NBA,
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