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The education of Avery Bradley 12.17.10 at 3:25 pm ET
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Avery Bradley

Avery Bradley is a good listener. That may not seem that important, but to the veteran Celtics it is a very big deal. They have a tendency to notice things about the young players who join the team. Not so much on the court, although that is obviously an important part of the equation, but about how they conduct themselves.

Do they pay attention during the huddle, even though they have less of a chance of getting in the game than Lucky the mascot? Do they ask questions when they don’t understand something? Do they listen?

It’s telling that such famously hard-to-please veterans as Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett have praised Bradley’s approach in his first season for exactly those reasons.

“I really like the kid, actually,” Pierce said after the Celtics beat the Hawks Thursday night. “I see how he works and soaks up so much in practice and you can see him wanting to get better. He’s always asking questions and he’s always in the huddle.”

For Bradley, this is a no-brainer. When the vets talk, he listens and tries to absorb whatever lesson he can.

“Seeing their success, I would feel dumb if I didn’t listen to those guys,” Bradley said. “They know what they’re talking about. When they tell me those things I want to listen so I can become a better player. They’re trying to help me all the time. When I do something wrong, they pull me aside and that just shows that they care about me and want the best for me.”

For the first time in his career, Rajon Rondo is the elder statesman at his position. In past years the Celtics brought in vets like Sam Cassell and Stephon Marbury to play behind him. It’s the endless circle of life in the NBA and now Rondo is the mentor. It’s a role he has taken an interest in with Bradley, often staying after practice to watch carefully as he plays in 2-on-2 games with fellow rookie Luke Harangody, Von Wafer and assistant coach Ty Lue.

Those games happen after every practice and it’s a way for them to stay active. Bradley, in particular, seems to use those runs as a way to test out in-game situations. Rondo will usually watch intently from the sidelines and then offer his wisdom in private.

“He’s a great listener,” Rondo said back in November. “That might not sound like much, but that’s big for a young guy to come in. He’s very humble. He works extremely hard. He’s going to be a great player in this league someday when he gets his opportunity. I always tell him to stay ready.”

With Rondo out for a few weeks, his opportunity is coming sooner than anyone imagined, and truthfully a little sooner than Doc Rivers had envisioned. But with only 10 healthy bodies, opportunity is here.

“You don’t try to put too much in his head,” Rondo said. “You just try to let him learn for himself, but he can always ask me or Nate [Robinson] or coach Rivers. So he has some good guys in front of him who are willing to teach him the game.”

Those lessons come the hard way in the NBA. Take Thursday night’s game when Hawks guard Jeff Teague went off on Bradley. Bradley had barely checked in when Teague stripped him and soared in for a dunk.

“You have to have a short memory,” Bradley said. “People make mistakes, you’re going to make mistakes, especially at this level. You got to go to the next play.”

Things didn’t get much better for Bradley as Teague continued to dominate him. But late in the first quarter, Bradley dove into a scrum and came up with a loose ball leading to points for the Celtics on the other end. It wasn’t much, but it was something positive for Bradley to take into the next game and validation that he wasn’t going to back down.

“You can talk all the trash to him in practice and when you look up he’s staring you right in the eyes and he’s going nowhere,” Rivers said a few weeks ago. “I think our veterans really appreciate that in him.”

Even with all the injuries, nothing is guaranteed for Bradley. The Celtics have options, not necessarily ideal options but options nonetheless. Marquis Daniels has done spot duty as a backup point guard and Pierce and Ray Allen are more than capable of bringing the ball up the court and initiating the offense. So, the onus is on Bradley to take advantage of this opportunity.

In the end, everyone agrees that he has a bright future. He is a tenacious on-the-ball defender who is not afraid to get up on his man and force the action. “He’s very physical,” Rondo said. “He gets through the picks, he gets up into you, he turns you, makes you dribble with your back to the basket.”

His offensive game is still developing and while his size — 6-foot-2, 180 pounds — says point guard, he may be better suited playing off the ball where he can work his mid-range game. The comparison has been made to a smaller version of Tony Allen, without the turnovers, and if he reaches that point this season the Celtics would be thrilled.

But all of that is in front of him. He missed valuable time this summer after undergoing ankle surgery, which kept him out of the Orlando summer league and the majority of training camp. Once the season began, he rolled over Pierce’s foot in practice, which caused him to miss another week.

The learning curve will be steep, but the best thing Avery Bradley has going for him is that he’s willing to learn.

Read More: Avery Bradley, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo,
Doc Rivers to Nate Robinson: Don’t worry, you don’t suck at 12:34 am ET
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Doc Rivers could tell early on that Nate Robinson was having trouble getting into the flow of the game as he struggled with his passes and running the Celtics offense in the first half Thursday night against Atlanta.

There was a bullet pass from Robinson to Semih Erden in the low post that didn’t quite make it there as Josh Smith stepped into the lane for the easy steal. There was a pass intended for Ray Allen that sailed out of bounds later in the first half.

How bad was it? Even when Nate was hustling his rear off to grab a loose ball headed toward the Hawks basket, he flipped to the lane – expecting Kevin Garnett to catch and slam. But instead, the pass was picked off by Mike Bibby, who fed Jordan Collins for an open three, which Collins hit to add salt to the wound.

All of that added up to seven points, only two assists and four turnovers in the first half for the man who will be filling in for Rajon Rondo over the next two weeks as Rondo heals a sprained left ankle. Rivers said he had to have a heart-to-heart with Robinson, telling him to keep his head up and remind him that he didn’t think Robinson “sucked” just because he was having trouble finding his game.

“You know what I told Nate at halftime?” Rivers began. “I said, ‘Nate, just a notice for you. You’re the starting point guard now, and I’m going to give you a lot of instruction. It’s not criticism.’ You know, and Nate tends to – he gets coaching at times, he hangs his head, and it was at a point in the second quarter I couldn’t even give him a play because he thought I was going to tell him, ‘Nate, you suck’ or something.”

Robinson seemed to take Rivers’ words to heart.

“Just keep playing, play through adversity,” Robinson said. “Just turn the page. I was being a little timid in first half. Second half, he told me to just be me. I think I did that.”

Rivers knew full well that he might be dealing with a point guard that was getting overwhelmed.

“I don’t know what he thought I was going to say,” Rivers said. “And he was great. He even started laughing at halftime. I thought that relaxed him, and allowed him to play a little bit more. But with Rondo, you know, I’m so used to telling him what I need everybody – ‘Rondo, tell Paul this.’ I was doing that with Nate and Nate was like, ‘Enough! No more. I don’t want—’ and he finally got what I was doing. I guess he just has to get used to that.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett
Irish Coffee: The Celtics & Knicks aftermath 12.16.10 at 11:28 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

 

Amid all the glory that was Wednesday night’s 118-116 Celtics last-second win over the Knicks was Nate Robinson‘s faceplant into the floor of Madison Square Garden as he attempted to climb atop the game’s hero — Paul Pierce.

It was the funniest of all the videos Robinson has produced this season, and only because he lived to talk about it (thank God his high-top fade broke his fall).

As Robinson tweeted after the game, Pierce “damn near killed me today, but we won, so hey.” Maybe Robinson could somehow work the faceplant into the dunk contest, since he’s the heavy favorite now that Dwight Howard retired from it.

Paul Pierce takes a bow after he ripped the heart out of Knicks fans. (AP)

THE NEW YORK MEDIA THINKS THE KNICKS WON

I watched Wednesday night’s Celtics game with a diehard Knicks fan friend of mine at The Four’s in Boston. The Celtics fans who braved the cold — including the bartender — kept telling him the same thing: “I had no idea the Knicks were this good; I had no idea Amar’e Stoudemire was this good.”

“They are this good,” he responded. “They’ve won eight in a row and 13-of-14. And they’re just getting warmed up.”

There was no “I’m just glad to be competitive!” discussion from his perspective. In his eyes, they should be competitive. They’re the New York freakin’ Knicks.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, NBA, New York Knicks, Paul Pierce
Irish Coffee: Betting on the Celtics 12.14.10 at 2:16 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

Do the sportsbook oddsmakers know something that the people who cover the NBA don’t? I know, I know, you’d be shocked to find out that sportswriters aren’t always right. And it’s not like they have millions of dollars riding on their prognostications, as the bookies do.

In most publications’ NBA Power Rankings — including, likely, when WEEI’s come out on Thursday – the Celtics, Spurs and Mavericks are ranked Nos. 1, 2 and 3, in some order. Yet, in most online sportsbooks, the Heat and Lakers are still heavy favorites to win the NBA title. Take a look:

THE SPORTSWRITERS

NBA.com …………………………………. ESPN.com ………………………………….. CBSSports.com
1. Celtics ………………………………… 1. Mavericks …………………………………….. 1. Mavericks
2. Spurs …………………………………….. 2. Celtics ………………………………………….. 2. Spurs
3. Mavericks ……………………………….. 3. Spurs …………………………………………… 3. Celtics
4. Lakers …………………………………….. 4. Bulls …………………………………………….. 4. Heat
5. Heat ……………………………………….. 5. Heat ……………………………………………. 5. Magic
6. Thunder ………………………………… 6. Lakers …………………………………………….. 6. Jazz
7. Jazz ………………………………………… 7. Jazz ……………………………………………. 7. Hawks
8. Magic ……………………………………… 8. Magic …………………………………………. 8. Nuggets
9. Knicks ……………………………………. 9. Thunder ………………………………………… 9. Lakers
10. Hawks ………………………………….. 10. Knicks ………………………………………. 10. Hornets

THE BOOKMAKERS

BetUS.com ……………………………… Sportsbook.com ………………………………. Bodog.com
1. Lakers (+210) …………………………… 1. Heat (+180) ………………………………. 1. Lakers (+210)
2. Heat (+220) ……………………………. 2. Lakers (+200) ………………………………… 2. Heat (+220)
3. Celtics (+500) …………………………. 3. Celtics (+220) ………………………………. 3. Celtics (+500)
4. Magic (+1,000) …………………………. 4. Spurs (+800) ……………………………… 4. Magic (+1,000)
5. Spurs (+1,100) ………………………… 5. Magic (+1,200) ……………………………. 5. Spurs (+1,100)
6. Mavericks (+1,200) ……………………. 6. Bulls (+1,500) ………………………… 6. Mavericks (+1,500)
7. Bulls (+2,000) ………………………. 7. Mavericks (+2,000) ………………………. 7. Thunder (+2,000)
7. Thunder (+2,000) ……………………. 7. Knicks (+2,000) ……………………………… 8. Bulls (+2,200)
9. Jazz (+2,500) ………………………… 9. Thunder (+3,000) …………………………….. 9. Jazz (+2,500)
10. Hornets/Nuggets (+4,000) …………. 9. Jazz (+3,000) ………………………….. 10. Hornets (+3,500)

There are two possible conclusions to draw from this: either 1) the bookmakers are right to anoint the Lakers and Heat as the NBA title favorites; or 2) there’s a lot of money to be made (you know, if online sports gambling were legal).

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Jimmer Fredette, NBA, Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce isn’t ready to buy in Boston-New York rivalry in NBA – yet at 11:29 am ET
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WALTHAM — Paul Pierce has a home in the Boston area and attends sporting events in the off-season. So he knows full well of the rivalries between teams like the Yankees and Red Sox and the Patriots and Jets.

But ask him about the Celtics and Knicks? Well, as the song goes, that’s quite the different story.

Both teams may be on extended winning streaks and both teams may have rich basketball traditions but Celtics captain Pierce said Tuesday that doesn’t mean the Celtics and Knicks have revived the old rivalry between the two cities.

“It’s a rivalry? You [media] let me in on all the new stuff,” Pierce said. “I didn’t know we had a rivalry going.”

The Celtics enter Wednesday night’s game at Madison Square Garden on a 10-game winning streak while the Knicks have won their last eight to stand just four games behind Boston in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference.

“We have bigger goals than winning streaks,” Pierce said. “I didn’t know we had a rivalry going. If that’s what you all want, if it’s going sell more tix, get more viewers, I guess so. You [media] all make up the rivalry, we don’t, to be honest. At the end of the day, we’re playing for championships, not certain opponents.”

Big man Glen Davis will be one of the Celtics trying to contain the reinvigorated Knicks front court, led by Amare Stoudemire.

“I’m not worried about that, New York and Boston,” Davis said of any rivalry with the 16-9 Knicks. “That’s just the way it is. I’m worried about winning the game and worried about June, what’s going to happen in June. That’s what I’m worried about. I’m not even going to get into that. New York’s a great team. They’ve been playing well and trying to be where we’re at. It’s going to be a big game for them.”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Celtics-Knicks rivalry, Doc Rivers, Glen Davis
Man charged with stabbing Paul Pierce convicted in another knife attack 12.03.10 at 9:08 am ET
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The man who was charged with stabbing Paul Pierce a decade ago was convicted Thursday in federal court for stabbing a Drug Enforcement Administration informant, according to a report in The Boston Globe.

Trevor A. Watson, 44, stabbed the informant 10 times outside a South End barbershop on Feb. 27, U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz said in a statement. The victim, who underwent emergency surgery to repair his colon and intestine, had provided information against Watson in a federal cocaine trafficking investigation.

Watson, of Dorchester, first was tried in October, but that trial ended with a hung jury. He is scheduled to be sentenced on March 10 and faces up to 30 years in prison. He also is due in court in January to face a charge of conspiracy to distribute cocaine. Watson previously has been convicted of robbery, armed robbery, assault and battery and possession of a Class B substance.

Watson was charged with attempted murder in 2000 for allegedly stabbing Pierce in his head, back and face at the Buzz, a now-defunct nightclub in Boston’s theater district. Watson only was convicted of assault and battery after multiple witnesses changed their testimony at his trial. He was sentenced to one year in prison for his role in the attack. Another man, William Ragland, received a sentence of 7-10 years in state prison for assault and battery with a dangerous weapon in the incident.

Read More: Paul Pierce, Trevor Watson,
Fast Break: Celtics hold off Blazers 12.01.10 at 10:15 pm ET
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Struggling from the floor all night long, Ray Allen buried a 3-pointer from the corner with 10.7 seconds to help the Celtics hold off the Trail Blazers 99-95 at the Garden.

The Celtics led 96-80 with 5:09 left in the game, but the Blazers went on a 15-point run that closed the gap to one point in the final minute — until Paul Pierce found Allen in the corner.

Pierce netted a game-high 28 points to go along with seven rebounds, as the Celtics improved 14-4 on the season. Kevin Garnett (17), Glen Davis (16), Shaquille O’Neal (14) and Rajon Rondo (10) also reached double digits in scoring.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce celebrates a basket by teammate Ray Allen against the Chicago Bulls during their NBA basketball game in Boston, Friday, Nov. 5, 2010. The Celtics defeated the Bulls 110-105 in overtime.

Celtics forward Paul Pierce scored a team-high 23 points against the Blazers. (AP)

Pierce asserted himself: With the Celtics trailing by as many as 11 points in the first half, Pierce took action — creating offense for himself. A nifty driving layup as he faked two defenders got him going, jumpstarting a 10-point second quarter, including a pair of 3-pointers that got the C’s back into the game.

Pierce didn’t miss his first shot until five minutes remained in the third quarter. In all, he finished with 28 points on 9-of-11 shooting (4-of-5 from 3-point range).

Big Baby buries jumpers: In a span of 2:49, Davis scored eight straight third-quarter points — including three 20-foot jump shots — to help the Celtics stay within striking distance of the Blazers. He scored 16 points on the night on 7-of-9 shooting.

Combined, Pierce and Davis scored 20 of the Celtics’ 31 third-quarter points, leading an otherwise stagnant offensive effort and giving the C’s a seven-point cushion entering the fourth quarter.

Shaq showing hustle: O’Neal turned in another solid performance. Running the floor throughout his 26 minutes, he totaled 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting, and he even made four of his six foul shots. His rebounding could’ve used some work, though, as he finished with just four boards on the night.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Too many turnovers: How could the Celtics shoot 61 percent from the field while holding the Blazers to 45 percent shooting and still trail by one at the half? One word: Turnovers.

In the first quarter alone, the Celtics committed seven turnovers, including careless traveling violations on consecutive possessions by Garnett and Pierce. Meanwhile, the Blazers turned the ball over just twice in the first 12 minutes, taking a 26-20 lead into the second quarter.

In all, the Celtics committed 17 turnovers, resulting in 19 Trail Blazers points.

Wesley Matthews happened: Shooting from pretty much everywhere on the court, Matthews shot a blistering 5-of-7 from beyond the arc (8-of-13 altogether), dropping 23 points on Allen and the Celtics.

On the other end, the stronger Matthews chased Allen around screen after screen, holding the Celtics shooting guard to just 2-of-11 shooting and six points — until Allen’s last-second 3-pointer that clinched the game.

Defensive rebounding: As if the Celtics’ 17 turnovers didn’t give the Trail Blazers enough extra possessions, Portland also collected seven offensive boards — including a putback dunk by LaMarcus Aldridge (18 points) that gave the Blazers an eight-point cushion in the third quarter. As a result, the Blazers outscored the Celtics 42-38 in the paint.

Read More: Boston Celtics, NBA, Paul Pierce, Portland Trail Blazers
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