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Irish Coffee: The Celtics’ bench struggles 12.21.10 at 12:16 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

 

Remember when a lot of people — including me — believed the Celtics had the best bench in the NBA? Well, they don’t. At least not now.

The second unit that C’s head coach Doc Rivers had cultivated to give his veteran starters their much-needed rest throughout the 82-game NBA season was supposed to look like this: Nate Robinson, Delonte West, Marquis Daniels, Glen Davis and Shaquille O’Neal.

On paper, that lineup looks good. Very good. Unfortunately, wrists, ankles and knees aren’t made out of paper. As a result, the Celtics’ reserves rank 24th out of 30 NBA teams, according to Hoopsstats.com‘s efficiency differential.

West’s suspension and subsequent broken wrist have kept him out of all but five games. Shaq and Jermaine O’Neal have been a pain in the knee, missing a combined 28 games and vaulting a third-string guy (Semih Erden) into four starts. And Rajon Rondo‘s feet, hamstring and ankle soreness, tweaks and sprains haven’t helped, either, forcing one of the original sencond unit’s go-to scorers (Robinson) into a starting role six times.

Put those injuries to paper, and the Celtics’ bench has produced better than only one team that would be in the postseason if the playoffs started today — the Trail Blazers, who have had more injuries than King Leonidas‘ men in the movie “300.”

Here’s where the C’s reserves rank in the league statistically per game this season:

Minutes: 22nd
Points: 17th
Rebounds: 25th (22nd defensive/30th offensive)
Assists: 26th
Steals: 18th
Blocks: 18th
Turnovers: 10th
Field-goal percentage: 1st
3-point field goal percentage: 23rd
Free-throw percentage: 19th

And here’s where their opponents’ bench’s production against them ranks:

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Larry Bird, NBA
Video: Shaq conducting the Pops at 10:21 am ET
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This is Shaquille O’Neal leading the Boston Pops through a holiday favorite Monday night at the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

The Harvard Square Statue move was an unique bit of modern art and even inspired our own Rob Bradford to try the same stunt (the Bradtue). What’s next for Shaq, a reenactment of Paul Revere’s famous ride?

Read More: Boston Pops, Shaquille O'Neal,
Good news: Shaquille O’Neal and his ‘calf juices’ are improving 12.14.10 at 11:48 am ET
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WALTHAM — You’ve heard of getting your juices going to get into a game. Well, Shaquille O’Neal put a whole new twist on that approach Tuesday when asked to describe how’s he feeling after missing the last two games.

O’Neal said before Tuesday’s practice that his sore right calf is “getting better” and is optimistic that he will be ready for Wednesday night’s game at Madison Square Garden against Amare Stoudemire and the New York Knicks. He worked out on the side and in the weight room but did not practice with the team.

“I’m doing better,” O’Neal said. “My calf juices are getting back up there. I’ll be alright.”

Doc Rivers said that he would see how O’Neal comes through Tuesday’s practice before making a determination on whether to play him Wednesday night against a revitalized Knicks team that has won eight straight and stands just four games behind the 19-4 Celtics in the Atlantic Division.

Semih Erden has filled in for O’Neal the last two games in the starting lineup.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, NBA, New York Knicks
Irish Coffee: Semih Erden’s Basketball Diaries 12.10.10 at 12:16 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

With the O’Neal brothers both sitting out with leg injuries, the Celtics turned to Semih Erden for the first start of his NBA career. Here’s how Paul Pierce summed up the Turkish national team center’s starting debut (to The Boston Globe):

“He understands a lot of things, but then some things he doesn’t get. So Kevin [Garnett] has got to constantly communicate with him, and he’ll get it. What he’s giving us right now is great because of the bodies we have out there.”

It’s not exactly what Doc Rivers & Co. were looking for, but let’s be honest: They had to think Jermaine and Shaquille O’Neal would be injured at the same time at some point this season, right? Anyhow, here’s a recap of Erden’s debut …

FIRST QUARTER

11:41: Erden blocks Spencer Hawes, runs the floor and dunks a Ray Allen dish. The Turk is on pace for 12,642 points and 6,321 blocks. Pretty good start.

9:59: As Jrue Holiday is shooting a pair of foul shots, Doc Rivers calls Erden over to the sideline to talk strategy. No interpreter necessary. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Rivers got his doctorate in Turkish studies.

6:48: Erden picks up his second foul. Tommy Heinsohn complains. Shocking on both accounts. The 7-foot Erden returns to a familiar spot: the Celtics bench.

4:12: Sitting on the bench together, Erden and Shaquille O’Neal discuss fine Turkish cuisine. Naturally, Shaq starts craving sugar beets and tarhana soup.

SECOND QUARTER

10:14: Still on the bench, Erden hums the lyrics to “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” by They Might Be Giants: “Istanbul was Constantinople, now it’s Istanbul, not Constantinople — been a long time gone, Constantinople. Why did Constantinople get the works? That’s nobody’s business but the Turks.”

9:30: Picking up his third foul in 21 seconds, Glen Davis joins Erden on the bench. While watching a KG-Rondo-Nate-Marquis-Wafer lineup, Erden teaches Big Baby how to say, “Why can’t we stop fouling people?” Everyone enjoys Baby saying, “Neden biz kerlenme daha duramayiz?”

11:18: After sitting on the bench for almost 19 minutes, Erden re-enters the game, replacing Garnett. The C’s 2010 second-round selection proceeds to run up and down the floor a couple times.

11:47: Wafer enters for Erden, probably just to give the big fella a breather. Those 29 seconds had to be taxing.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, NBA, Semih Erden
Is Shaquille O’Neal Turkey-bound? 12.08.10 at 12:54 pm ET
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Boston Celtics' Shaquille O'Neal dunks during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers in Boston, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010.

A Turkish basketball team is reportedly attempting to lure away Shaquille O'Neal. (AP)

So, SLAM Magazine translated a Turkish newspaper story that claims the same team that recently signed Allen Iverson, Besiktas Cola Turka, is targeting Shaquille O’Neal

“Besiktas Cola Turka management has rolled up their sleeves to bring another NBA superstar to Istanbul. Besiktas fans and management, who are very pleased with the arrival of Allen Iverson, have now set their sights on luring Boston Celtics center Shaquille O’Neal overseas.”

According to the story, Iverson’s manager Gary Moore, who is also in “constant contact” with Shaq, “could be an intermediary in securing an agreement” for next season.

I, for one, am not buying it. Sure, this Turkish team might want Shaq on its team. Why wouldn’t they? It would mean millions of dollars in business for them. They probably want LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant to play for them, too.

But Shaq will be under contract for the Celtics next season, and his entire mantra since he arrived in Boston has revolved around getting a fifth — or even sixth — championship ring to cement his legacy. He can’t do that as a member of Besiktas Cola Turka.

UPDATE: Besiktas general manager Seref Yalcin is claiming that Shaq told him, “I want to be champion this season with Boston. But I’m coming to Turkey next year,” according to a website called Hoopsnotes.

Still not buying it. Shaq says al lot of things with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek, and I’m guessing something got lost in translation here.

Read More: Allen Iverson, Boston Celtics, NBA, Shaquille O'Neal
Irish Coffee: 10 ‘The Association’ observations 12.06.10 at 12:16 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

In case you missed “The Association” — NBA Entertainment’s behind-the-scenes documentary of the Celtics — on Friday night, here are 10 observations from the first episode:

1. When do the Celtics play the Lakers?

Because the vengeance factor on a scale of 1-10 is going to be an 11. Obviously, that Game 7 loss in Los Angeles hurt the C’s, but watching them talk about it gives you an idea of how deep it struck them and how hard it drives them.

“Once you went back to the locker room without that trophy in your hand, it settled in,” Paul Pierce said. “It’s like you lost your best friend or something.”

The Celtics revisit the Lakers rivaly for the first time this season on Jan. 30, in Los Angeles. Where is Doc Rivers going to hide the money this time?

2. Mark my words: Rivers will coach the Celtics in 2011-12.

Ever since the start of the season, there’s been discussion about whether or not Rivers will return to the Celtics bench again next season. Heck, he even discussed his hesitations about returning this season.

“It was a difficult process,” Rivers said. “My first thing was my family, and the bottom line is that if I thought that me coaching would affect my family in the wrong way, I was out. My family, on the other hand, pushed me to coaching. They really wanted me to coach, especially the kids. They all to a man wanted me to come back, see if we could get this together and go for it one more time.”

My question is this: If his family wanted him to return this season — when two of his sons would be playing together for their high school basketball team — why would they urge him otherwise next season, when three of his four children will have already graduated high school and left home?

3. Ahh, to be a fly on the wall when the veterans talk sports.

“The Association” provided a glimpse, taking us inside the trainer’s room during a discussion between Shaquille O’Neal, Ray Allen and Jermaine O’Neal that centered on what it means to be athletic.

“I’m not an athlete,” Shaq said. “I ain’t never had athletic skills. It’s hard work. My definition of athletic is somebody that starts off like that. I’m not an athlete. I’m just a good dancer.”

Hearing these guys talk about sports is like what it would’ve been to hear Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro and Robert Duvall discuss the art of acting while they filmed Parts 1 and 2 of “The Godfather.”

4. The Celtics are embracing a unique experience.

Whether or not we get to be a fly on the wall with the Celtics, the important thing is they’re embracing the fact that it’s unique for them to be part of a team that features six former All-Stars and five potential Hall of Famers.

“Moments like this I cherish, because I’ve been on teams where you don’t have this opportunity,” Pierce said. “When you continue to play with All-Stars like — at one point, we had Kevin [Garnett] and Shaq on one team with Jermaine and me and Ray coming in. It was just like, man, you felt that in the gym.”

On a young team, like the Heat, players might look at the big picture: We could win some championships over the next eight years. On this veteran Celtics team, however, there is no big picture. It’s now or never, and they seem to get that.

5. The home opener against the Heat really didn’t mean anything.

In the wake of the league’s most hyped opening night game in its history, when the veteran Celtics disposed of the newlook Heat, all Rivers had to say to his team in the locker room was this: “Great win. Let’s get out of here.”

“People not acknowledging a giant that’s already been there and done it, that tested us in the wrong spot,” Glen Davis said. “Us as players demand respect.”

Even from behind the scenes, all that game appeared to be for the Celtics was one game in a season-long voyage to recapture the league’s respect.

6. Rajon Rondo dives for loose balls in practices.

It was one clip in a brief montage of a team practice, but it told you everything you need to know about the Celtics point guard. His leadership was born in hard work, and it’s grown on the court more than off of it.

“There was a time when I sat down with Rajon, and I said, ‘Here’s 10 characteristics of a leader, and you don’t fit any of these characteristics right now,’” said Celtics president Danny Ainge. ”It was a challenge early on, because I think he wanted to be a leader, but he was trying to carve out his own niche amongst the Hall of Famers he was playing with.”

Whether or not Rondo is the best point guard in the NBA, the important thing is that he believes he is, and he’s stubborn enough to prove it. I enjoyed how Rivers summed up his protege with one word: “Rondo is a fire.”

7. How can you not root for Delonte West?

West stood alone, firing shot after shot from the corner of the Celtics’ practice facility. He was in his element. Then, speaking to the camera, holding back tears, he was once again out of it.

“I’m overcome with emotions that I’ve never had before,” West said. “It’s like I’ve been given another shot at life. All of this was almost taken from me. Basketball is my life.”

And that was filmed before he broke his wrist. His journey back to the Celtics has been a long one, and now it’s only going to be longer.

8. Old dogs can learn new tricks.

Rivers had told John Havlicek if he ever draws up a play not to hesitate to bring it by a practice. Well, Havlicek did. With guys like Hondo and Tommy Heinsohn around, you sometimes forget how much knowledge the C’s have to draw from.

“Celtic pride and Celtic mystique, there is something real to it,” Havlicek said. “There’s just something that comes out of you, knowing that you have that Green jersey on, and I knew that players coming from other teams to our team all of the sudden were transformed into another way of thinking.”

It’s pretty amazing that the Celtics organization allows for guys like Doc and Shaq to continue learning about the sport, even after being around it for so long.

9. Even on the Celtics, office dynamics can be a funny thing.

There were two internal relationships you got a real sense of from watching “The Association”: 1) Garnett and Rondo, and 2) Shaq and Kendrick Perkins.

“Seriously, out of the eight years I’ve been in the NBA, this might be the craziest team I’ve ever been on — just as far as personality,” Perkins said. “You got Paul. You got KG and Rondo. KG and Rondo are like those two brothers who grew up in the same house, but their momma always had to get on them about fighting. They really love each other at the end of the day. That’s those two. Me and Doc call them the two divas of the team.”

First, the transformation of Shaq’s relationship with Perkins — from foes to friends — is real. You don’t kiss somebody on the cheek you don’t like. It’s that simple. And second, especially with the “that ain’t no foul” back-and-forth between KG and Rondo, it’s nice to see some insight into two Celtics whose personalities you don’t often get to witness.

10. At this point, the 2008 NBA title means nothing.

Sure, the banner hangs overhead every time they take to the parquet, but it really means nothing to the leadership of this team. They know, above all, if they want to be remembered as true Celtics, they need ring No. 2.

“You win a title, no one can take it away from you,” Rivers said. “But if you want to be mentioned as part of one of the great teams here, you have to win two.”

Not many teams can draw from that extra motivation once they’ve proven themselves by winning an NBA championship. Well, besides the Lakers.

Stay tuned. The next episode of “The Association airs on Jan. 21.

Is Shaquille O'Neal (right) working on his moves for "Dancing with the Stars"?

SHAQ ‘DANCING WITH THE STARS’?

After the Celtics’ victory against the Bulls on Friday night, NBA TV interviewed Shaq. Rick Fox said that he opened the door for big men to compete on “Dancing with the Stars,” and then asked Shaq if he’d be open to the idea.

Shaq didn’t deny his interest. He is, however, going to challenge 75 kids to a dance-off with the “Michael Jackson: The Experience” video game, as part of a holiday charity event at the Boys & Girls Club of Roxbury, according to the Boston Herald’s Inside Track.

As far as the rest of the interview goes, the most interesting portion came when Shaq said he was feeling more like a 16-year veteran than an 18-year veteran, as a result of missing at least 20 games in five of his past six seasons.

“I just want to be remembered as either the most dominant big man to ever play the game or one of the most dominant big men, and I would like to have four or five or six rings. I’m just playing. I’ve still got about two years left. I missed two years because of injury, so my legs are feeling good. Hopefully, I can get No. 5 and No. 6. That’s my goal.”

NATE ROBINSON NOT LACKING CONFIDENCE

Following what was probably his most complete performance of the season — 21 points, six assists and six steals in 31 minutes as the starting point guard in place of Rondo — Nate Robinson told the New York Post he’s not lacking self esteem.

“When I shoot, I feel I can make every shot,” he said. “I feel like I can’t be stopped.”

I guess Rondo isn’t the only Celtics point guard with a healthy dose of arrogance.

CELTICS NEVER LACK STORYLINES

Even after a lazy Sunday afternoon game against the Nets, when the Celtics lit them up in a 25-point blowout, there was plenty talk about. Just take a look at Steve Bulpett’s notebook from the Herald …

Is there anybody who takes more lumps than Big Baby? Apparently, he was beaned in the head by a medicine ball mishandled by Marquis Daniels.

“That hurt,” Davis said. “I’m doing my routine, doing my little Dougie dance, and he hit me in the head. But he woke me up though. It was an early game. I needed something like that.”

Jermaine O’Neal could return to practice next week, which would give the Celtics a nice boost considering Garnett’s been playing 40,000 minutes a night.

“Basically the plan is to go every day this week,” he said. “I won’t travel with the team. I’ll come in and get some extra cardio. If I do well throughout the week, then I’m cleared to practice next week.”

After missing a Monday practice following the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Shaq had to sit out the second half against the Nets because he forgot to bring his anti-inflammatory medicine the night before the game.

“I just forgot to take my drugs,” Shaq said. “Without them, I can’t really play right now. But I’ll be fine Wednesday [against the Nuggets].”

 Should we should be concerned about Shaq getting on in years?

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

Read More: Boston Celtics, Nate Robinson, NBA, Shaquille O'Neal
Shaquille O’Neal misses practice unexcused 11.29.10 at 2:08 pm ET
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UPDATE: The Celtics announced that Shaquille O’Neal was on the flight to Cleveland for Tuesday’s game with the Cavaliers.

WALTHAM — Forgetting the time practice begins is not the best way to endear yourself to the coach – especially when it comes after the coach gives you and the rest of the team the Thanksgiving weekend off. But Shaquille O’Neal can be lucky that he’s built up a lot of goodwill with Doc Rivers.

“You get over it,” Rivers said. “Listen, if a guy had a history, then you deal with it differently. When a guy doesn’t have a history or something, it happens. It’s life, you move on. You do whatever you do, fine [the player] or whatever all that stuff is. I never release that stuff and it’s not a big deal.”

The Celtics center missed practice on Monday when he forgot when practice began, according to coach Doc Rivers. Team spokesman Jeff Twiss confirmed that O’Neal did make the team flight to Cleveland for Tuesday night’s game. The absence comes after the 12-4 Celtics were given Saturday and Sunday off by the coach to enjoy the Thanksgiving weekend. Glen Davis had to take his place in practice for the short-handed C’s.

“Today, we only had 11 guys, which sucks,” Rivers said. “It hurts your practice because that means most of your guys are on the floor for the entire practice. That’s not the way to go. He got times mixed up, he missed one, he owes us one. We’re good.”

Asked if he would punish O’Neal, Rivers joked, “I was going to spank him. He may not hurt. It may hurt me.”

Then Rivers was asked if he handles star players differently than other players.

“It depends on who you are,” Rivers said. “If you have a history of that, we deal with it. It’s a human game and it always will be. I don’t have a set rule for one guy or two guys. Each guy is an individual basis is what I’m saying. You deal with it that way. You put money in the bank. If you’re a guy who tends to use his money up, then it’s a little shorter.”

The Celtics had a 90-minute practice that began at noon at their complex in Waltham.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, NBA, Shaq
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