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Practice report: Sharpening the tools 10.18.10 at 4:35 pm ET
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The Celtics are a little more than a week away from their much-anticipated regular season opener against the Miami Heat at the Garden. They have already played six preseason games, but after surviving a four games in five days road trip that included a quasi-home game in Hartford, the C’s are ready to get down to business with a week’s worth of practices.

“It’€™s a good time for us,” Paul Pierce said. “We can sharpen our tools.”

The news out of Monday’s practice was the surgical procedure underwent by Doc Rivers Sunday morning to ease the tension on his vocal chords. Rivers was home resting Monday, and there’s no word yet on when he will return. As expected, Rivers did leave a practice plan for his coaches, and under the eyes of Lawrence Frank, Armond Hill and Kevin Eastman, the C’s went through a two-hour practice session.

Of immediate importance is getting the players back and healthy for the start of the season. Delonte West returned to Boston for tests on his back last week and Frank said that West responded favorably. Still, West sat out practice as did rookie Avery Bradley who is dealing with the affects of an offseason ankle scope. Marquis Daniels was also limited at practice to non-contact drills. He’s dealing with rotator cuff soreness.

Jermaine O’Neal (hamstring) and Shaquille O’Neal (soreness in hips) practiced fully.

“We’ve got to get everybody back on the court,” Pierce said. “At the same time we’€™ve got a few nagging injuries that we’€™re taking care of right now. I think it’€™s good that we get them all out of the way. We’€™re right on schedule I believe. I’€™m confident about opening day, if it started today.”

Here are some points of emphasis for the final week of preseason camp: Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Paul Pierce, Shaquille O'Neal, Stephane Lasme, Von Wafer
Irish Coffee: A Preview of Celtics Previews at 10:49 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

 

Every publication from here to Los Angeles is rolling out its NBA preview, and the predictions for the Celtics are, well, pretty predictable: They’re old, but they’re deep. They coasted through the 2009-10 regular season, and they’ll do it again. If they can stay healthy, they’ll compete for a championship. See for yourself …

SLAM Magazine: “Get your jokes in about the Celtics while you can. Sure, the Big Three and Shaq Daddy may alternate using the wheelchair Paul Pierce used in Game 1 of the 2008 NBA Finals. They probably will take some games off in the regular season, as head coach Doc Rivers did last year to keep the team healthy for the playoff run. And Rajon Rondo‘€™s jumper, though improving, is still broken like the NBA single-game scoring record Michael Jordan would be if he had played in his prime today. That said, this is a team that finished second in team assists and fifth in points allowed last season, and they have seemingly improved as a team overall. No squad in the NBA overcomes their deficiencies like the Boston Celtics, and they are serious title contenders in the 2010-11 season. Don’€™t say we didn’€™t tell you so if the Miami Heat cool off, the Orlando Magic disappear and Irish eyes are smiling after another magnificent seventh game between the Lakers and Celtics.”

That points allowed indicator — and, more specifically, point differential – has been a fairly good reflection of the C’s success the last three years. In the 2007-08 season, they ranked second in points allowed (90.3) and first in point differential (+10.2), resulting in a 66-16 record, homecourt throughout the playoffs and an NBA title.

In the last two seasons, during the 2008-09 campagin (62-20) and last year’s regular-season walkthrough (50-32), those numbers slipped.

To put the importance of those stats in perspective, when the C’s finished 24-58 in 2006-07 BB3 (Before Big 3), they ranked 18th in points allowed and 23rd in point differential. Keep an eye on those numbers in the first month of the season, especially considering the C’s brutal schedule through the first few weeks.

Ball Don’t Lie: “The team looks great. Kevin Garnett appears to be the picture of health, a chubbed-out Paul Pierce is as feisty as ever, Ray Allen looks about the same, and the team just oozes competitive spirit. But this is a team built to turn over a new leaf when there aren’t any leaves on the trees next spring, not when the foliage is blowing around and the days are getting shorter. It’s a long season, people get injured and things tend to even out. And, as was the case last year, those 50 wins would have little bearing on what happens in the postseason. This is a championship contender. Perhaps more than ever.”

I’m not exactly sure what they’re getting at when they call Pierce “chubbed-out,” considering he’s shown up slimmed down in each of the last two seasons. Still, they touch on an interesting point: The C’s competitive spirit. With the play of the second unit, a renewed focus on that two-year window and a vengeance factor for that Game 7 loss, this year’s team appears to have a competitive edge we haven’t seen since 2007-08.

Hoops Daily: “The Celtics’€™ Achilles heel remains health.  A lot of guys have played a lot of games, and a major injury to anybody inside the Allen-Garnett-Pierce trio would be catastrophic.  Rebounding, the Celtics’ ugly nemesis last year, could prove to be even more problematic with Perkins in street clothes for a while. And then there’€™s the departure of Tom Thibodeau, the guy who masterminded the Celtics’€™ dominant lockdown defense for the last three years, to consider as well. The team has the personnel and the experience to continue their defensive dominance, but it wouldn’€™t be a shock if they took a slight step back in that department. The Big Three are rickety and parts of their bench are downright old, but if you’€™re an Eastern Conference team dreaming of a Finals matchup with the Lakers, you’€™d do well not to run into the Green come May. Expecting 50-55 wins is probably best for a group that will likely go through the motions in the regular season before showing up gangbusters in the playoffs.”

Obviously, a major injury to any of the Big 4 (with Rondo) would be catastrophic. Then again, that can be said for the Heat, Lakers and Magic as well. I’m not sure if I’m buying the rebounding issue, either, considering that was the Celtics main focus in the offseason. I’m not sure if you know, but the C’s picked up Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal in the offseason, not to mention the addition of Semih Erden.

However, the loss of Thibodeau needed to be mentioned. That point differential statistic is largely a result of a defensive scheme he implemented, and the C’s will be integrating the O’Neal Brothers and Co. into that scheme without Thibodeau. How Rivers and new assistant Lawrence Frank incorporate the new bodies into the “if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it” defensive system will go a long way in determining this team’s success. In his first two full seasons as head coach of the Nets (2004-05 and 2005-06), Frank’s teams ranked sixth in points allowed.

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Read More: Doc Rivers, Larry Siegfried, Lawrence Frank, LeBron James
NBA Power Rankings, 10/14 10.14.10 at 12:12 pm ET
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1. LA Lakers: Lamar Odom hired his mother-in-law, Kris Jenner, as his new manager. If the knee injuries to Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum don’t spell doom for the Lakers, this could, as anybody who has seen “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” can attest. We’ll leave them in the top spot — until Kris makes Odom pose nude or something.

2. Boston: After his jumper to beat the Knicks, Paul Pierce appears to be up to his old game-winning ways. And the Celtics bench seems to keep getting deeper and deeper. The play of Semih Erden, Stephane Lasme and Luke Harangody has been an encouraging sign. So far, the injury bug has only claimed Delonte West, and he’s suspended for 10 games anyway.

3. Miami: First it was Dwyane Wade’s hamstring, and now it’s LeBron James‘ leg cramps. I heard somewhere that if Wade really does miss the remainder of the preseason, the Heat’s Big 3 (do they have a nickname yet?) will have only played a few minutes together before taking on the Celtics on opening night. I think it’s just a marketing ploy.

4. Oklahoma City: Larry Brown recently called the Thunder everything that’s right with the NBA: young, talented and well-behaved. I couldn’t agree more. This team should be fun to watch all season long, especially if Longar Longar makes the roster.

5. Dallas: With this new technical foul rule, how much in fines do you think Mark Cuban will spend this year? I’m putting the over/under at $1 million. In other news, I love the nickname for Mavericks rookie Dominique Jones: DoJo.

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Read More: Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, NBA, Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce on D&C: ‘I don’t think you ever forget’ Game 7 loss 10.13.10 at 9:40 am ET
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Celtics captain Paul Pierce sat down with Dennis & Callahan at C’s media day for an interview that aired Wednesday morning. Pierce said he’s still working on getting past the loss to the Lakers. “I still haven’t gotten over it,” he said. “You think about the what ifs and all of that. I don’t think you ever forget it.”

Pierce also talked about the upcoming season, the acquisition of Shaquille O’Neal, and LeBron James and the new-look Heat.

Following is a transcript. To hear the interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

How long does it take a competitive person like you to get over a seventh-game loss in the NBA [finals]? A week? A month? Ever?

I still haven’t gotten over it. It’s tough. Because you envision back, and saying, “If we could have done this different, that different in the game, it would have been a different outcome.” So, it’s hard. You think about the what ifs and all of that. I don’t think you ever forget it.

What’s the process? Do you go in your bedroom for a couple of days and sleep, and then don’t shave for a while, or don’t bathe, and then finally come out of the shell?

I didn’t talk to people for a long time. I didn’t watch any basketball for a long time. I sort of kind of did go into a shell. I didn’t want to leave the house. I didn’t even want to go out and eat for a while, because you just felt that bad about the loss. But then as I got back into the gym and working out, I just used it for motivation and just sort of loosened up from there.

Did you feel like last season was the final run this team was going to have? And are you surprised to look around and see the same crew back together, indeed with more big, old guys like Shaq and Jermaine O’Neal?

No, I wasn’t surprised at the run. We struggled a bit during the regular season at home. When I looked at our team from the beginning, I told people that we were more built for the playoffs that the regular season, because we didn’t have the up-and-down athletes, high-flyers that a lot of teams in the NBA have that can beat you in one game, on any given night. But when you have to break down a team and really scout them and put us in the playoffs, then I knew that we could be successful.

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Read More: LeBron James, Paul Pierce, Shaquille O'Neal,
Reggie Evans: Chris Bosh will use Paul Pierce dunk as ‘ammunition’ 10.10.10 at 10:28 pm ET
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Talking after his team’s 91-87 preseason loss to the Celtics on Sunday night at TD Garden, Toronto forward Reggie Evans suggested that his former teammate, Chris Bosh, would be using the motivation derived from being kicked by Paul Pierce during dunk in the midst of a Nov. 27 game last year at the Garden when Bosh’s new team, the Heat, face off with the Celts in the teams’ season-opener.

“Me knowing Chris, I know he’s got that game penciled in based on what happened last year with the Paul Pierce dunk, with the kick and stuff,” Evans said. “Knowing him, when he has so much ammunition on a team, I know he’s looking forward to that game. He may deny it, but I’m pretty sure he’s looking forward to it. It’s going to be fun to watch.”

Evans explained that Bosh never said anything about the play, but suggested that it wouldn’t be a big leap of faith to suggest that the new Heat forward is using that play to prepare for the Oct. 26 showdown at the Garden.

“Anybody would take that personally,” Evans said. “Getting kicked on a dunk, who wouldn’t take that personally? The thing about it is that Chris never said anything about it out of his own mouth, but Chris, with his competitive nature, I could see how he would be looking forward to playing him again.

“It’s just like Kobe Bryant losing to Boston in the Finals. He remembers that. That goes for any athlete, who has a competitive nature and genuinely loves the game. It will definitely be fun to watch.”

In 25 career games against the Celtics, Bosh is averaging 20.2 points per game. For more on the Celtics, see the team page at weei.com/celtics.

Read More: Chris Bosh, Paul Pierce,
Celtics bond at Fenway 10.09.10 at 4:03 pm ET
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The fact that the Celtics gathered at Fenway Park on their off day for an impromptu softball game is perhaps less noteworthy than the identity of the organizer. That would be Rajon Rondo, who has been criticized at times for not knowing when to assert his authority as the team’s point guard in a room full of Hall of Famers.

“It was Rondo’€™s deal,” Doc Rivers said. “It was great. The Red Sox are great to us. They gave us the field and we went out and played.”

Paul Pierce called it “one of the best days of my life.” Kevin Garnett said it was, “a dream come true.”

No question, the Celtics are having a good time getting to know one another.

“We’€™re having a blast,” Garnett said. “We come in here and bust each other’€™s [butt.]. Doc he lets us be competitive and be who we are and then off the court we try to get to know each other. It just so happens that we got more people that Tweet more than anything on this team than anybody in the league. That’€™s why y’€™all know what’€™s going on in the locker room, but we’€™re having a good time. We work hard but also we play hard.”

The softball game followed movie night in Newport, assorted team dinners and a duck boat tour. One of Garnett’s tenets is that teams that know each other off the floor are better able to relate with one another when they’re working on the court.

“It certainly doesn’€™t hurt,” he said. “The more you do together, the more activities you have together, the more you get to know one another, the more one-on-one’€™s you have with each other. … You come together for this common goal, so far so good.”

Rondo was apparently voted the MVP of the game, while Jermaine O’Neal surprised everyone with his swing. As for Garnett, he played left in the shadow of Ted Williams, Yaz, Jim Rice and Manny Ramirez. Judging by his own description, Theo Epstein shouldn’t have him on speed dial.

“Danny [Ainge] hit a couple to me,” Garnett said. “Some I dropped, some I didn’€™t. Good day. 50-50. I’€™ll take it. It was fun day. Beautiful day at Fenway. Dream come true. I felt like I was 10 years old.”

Read More: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo,
Doc on Miami rumor: ‘I’m not going there’ at 3:42 pm ET
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Doc Rivers downplayed speculation that he would one day go to Miami to coach Pat Riley’s South Beach juggernaut. “I’€™m not getting into that.,” Rivers said Saturday after the Celtics concluded practice. “The only guy on [Riley's] list is Erik [Spoelstra] and that’€™s the only guy that should be there. I’€™m not going there.”

Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski wrote that Rivers would be at the top of Riley’s list if he were to make a change. In the same piece, Rivers told Woj that he’s given thought to being a career Celtics coach.

“I’€™m year to year,” Rivers reiterated Saturday. “That’€™s how I am. The question asked is, where else would you rather go? And I don’€™t think there’€™s a better place than here. It’€™s a great set-up and it is phenomenal.”

Much of the basis for Rivers’ decision to return for the final season of his contract is his relationship with Celtics boss Danny Ainge. The coach has said often that he has a unique friendship with Ainge, and that’s not something coaches can find in every city.

“It’€™s the organization,” Rivers said. “You look at the Red Sox and see Theo [Epstein] and Terry [Francona] and they have a great relationship. It works. When you can get along it’€™s nice. You look around and there’€™s so many groups that’€™s them and us. Here it’€™s just us.

“Maybe because we went through hard times at the start. Not our relationship, but we weren’€™t winning a lot of games. When you endure that as a group, I think you clearly grow together. It’€™s amazing through that whole time I thought as a group, we got closer and that’€™s rare.”

His players are certainly glad that’s sticking around. Paul Pierce noted earlier in camp that Rivers’ decision to return was a key factor in his decision to re-sign, along with Ray Allen.

“He’€™s been able to coach a young team and he’€™s shown he can build a veteran team with a lot of personalities,” Pierce said. “That’€™s a difficult combination for a coach. I wouldn’€™t be surprised to see Doc here for another 20 years, and you might see me here too.”

Read More: Doc Rivers, Erik Spoelstra, Pat Riley, Paul Pierce
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