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Adrian Wojnarowski on M&M: C’s need to know if Shaq can play in playoffs 04.04.11 at 1:53 pm ET
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Yahoo! Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski joined the Mut & Merloni show Monday afternoon to talk about the Celtics. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Wojnarowski is skeptical about the Celtics’ public diagnosis of Shaquille O’Neal‘s injury Sunday night, an injury the Celtics are calling a calf strain but that had people thinking was his troubled heel.

“They’re saying it isn’t serious,” Wojnarowski said. “I think for everybody who watched it last night, including everybody in the Celtics organization, it looked like he re-aggravated that heel. He wasn’t six minutes into his return. But they’re saying it’s a calf injury, it’s not related to that heel and that he’ll be back in short order.

“You guys know that Shaq with that heel injury was about a week away for about six weeks. Especially at his age, with how much weight he’s carrying, there’s never just a tweak to those lower extremities ‘€” to your calf, to your heel. If he’s back this week, great. But for them there’s always that extra concern with Shaq because it just takes him longer to heal.”

Wojnarowski said he doesn’t think it makes sense for the Celtics to hold out Shaq until the postseason. “If he can’t hold up, then they need to find that out now and not sit around and count on a guy who just isn’t going to be there for them in the playoffs,” he said.

The Celtics hold the third spot in the East and would play the 76ers in the opening round of the playoffs if the standings remain the same. Wojnarowski predicts that could be a problem for the C’s. “That Philly team reminds me a little bit of that Hawks team that took the Celtics to seven games in ’08: very young, athletic, quick, a hungry team kind of on the make. Doug Collins really has that group buying in,” Wojnarowski said. “They’re going to be a problem for whoever they play, whether it’s Miami or Boston. That will not be an easy series for the Celtics. I just think the athleticism is a problem for them, and they have that one inside presence in [Elton] Brand, who can do some damage around the rim.”

Read More: Adrian Wojnarowski, Shaquille O'Neal,
Irish Coffee: Celtics rotating rotations at 11:48 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Unlike the last three years, when Celtics head coach Doc Rivers has had his rotation locked into place heading into the playoffs — whether Kevin Garnett was healthy (2008, 2010) or not (2009) — this postseasonseason will be a guessing game, at least for the first round.

As he said postgame — and Paul Flannery detailed when he nailed his Three-Pointer column — Rivers knows exactly what he wants it to be, and what he’s always wanted it to be this season.

‘€œWe’€™re not getting that set. That’€™s going to be just tough. What we have to do is get everyone on the same page, rhythm-wise. As far as rotations, I know it. It’€™s set. But we just got to get it together. We’€™ll be ready. If everyone’€™s healthy, I can tell you, I know it. I just haven’€™t seen it.’€

On paper, it’s written. On the court? Rivers doesn’t know what it’s actually going to be. Therein lies the problem. The Celtics will be relying on the unkown — on chemistry, rhythm, whatever you want to call it — more during this playoff run than any other over the past three seasons.

It’s not the first half of the rotation that’s a problem. The Big Four were always going to be relied on for 30-40 minutes a game in the playoffs, and that hasn’t changed. It’s the uncertainty at center, Jeff Green‘s role and the expectations for Delonte West that cause problems.

The fact remains that Rivers is relying on a rotation that’s never actually been put into action on the court. Here’s what the Celtics coach told the Chicago Sun-Times:

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Jermaine O'Neal, nenad krstic
Bill Simmons on D&C: ‘I don’t know’ what Celtics are now at 10:37 am ET
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ESPN’€™s Bill Simmons appeared on the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning to discuss the Celtics‘€™ playoff prospects and reflect on the Kendrick Perkins trade. To hear the interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Simmons said that if Shaquille O’€™Neal can’€™t return after straining his right calf Sunday, he can’€™t see the Celtics winning it all.

‘€œThey can’€™t win,’€ Simmons said. ‘€œI mean, part of this Perkins trade was that you had to keep your fingers crossed that you were either going to get Shaq and Jermaine [O'Neal] or one of them or pieces of both of them or whatever. And those guys aren’€™t involved. There are too many teams that have size that they’€™re probably going to have to come across at some point, especially because it just seems like the Lakers are going to be there now. They’€™re just not big enough to beat the Lakers.’€

Simmons said he wasn’€™t entirely opposed to the Perkins trade at the time it was made, but that it’€™s now easy to see it wasn’€™t a good move.

‘€œI thought it was a trade that made sense on paper, which is what I wrote,’€ Simmons said. ‘€œIt was because they had this huge hole behind [Paul] Pierce and [Ray] Allen. ‘€¦ But it was one of those things where they just moved from one hole to another hole. Now they don’€™t have to worry about Pierce and Allen getting into foul trouble or putting a ton of miles on them or whatever, but now they have this other hole.

‘€œI didn’€™t even fully realize after they made the trade how much it was going to affect our identity,’€ Simmons continued. ‘€œI worried about it, but it’€™s really affected their identity. I think the one thing we’€™ve learned over the last month is that these guys really bought into that whole, whether it was stupid or not, nobody had ever beaten them in a playoff series when they were healthy. And that was something they fed off.’€

Simmons said the trade doesn’€™t help the Celtics long term, either. ‘€œThe part that nobody mentions with the Perkins trade is that they’€™re talking about how they want to get younger — Jeff Green and moving forward and all that kind of stuff,’€ he said. ‘€œWhere are they going to find a young center three years from now or two years from now? There’€™s not a ton of centers out there. So in a way, you’€™re in the same type of hole you would’€™ve been in trying to get younger anyway.’€

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Read More: Bill Simmons, Danny Ainge, Kendrick Perkins, Shaquille O'Neal
With Shaq hurt again, having Jermaine O’Neal back is a good start for the Celtics at 8:59 am ET
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Just like the rest of the season for the Celtics‘ bigs, Sunday didn’t exactly turn out the way Doc Rivers and company planned.

Jermaine O’Neal got the clearance to start his first game since early November and Rivers thought, with Shaquille O’Neal coming back for the first time since early February, he would finally have some depth at the position that’s been – pardon the terrible pun – the team’s Achilles.

J-O played nearly seven of the 12 first-quarter minutes and was getting his feet wet in his third game back from a left knee scope. He finished with five points and six rebounds in 18 minutes. But it wasn’t until the shootaround Sunday evening that he felt confident enough to let Rivers know he was comfortable starting the game.

‘€œFelt good, felt good to be back, it’€™s just going to be about progression, [Sunday] was probably the first day felt sore coming to the game,” O’Neal said. “Didn’€™t even know I was going to start until the shoot around, but we got into the weight room, did some legs stuff. But that’€™s just part of the process. [Monday], I’ll get a practice in, get acquainted with the new system. They’€™ve changed some plays some I’€™m kind of learning on the fly and asking Rondo at the same time during the game, where I’€™m supposed to be.’€

That general soreness and stiffness was not a concern to O’Neal since it had nothing to do with his left knee.

‘€œI’€™ve never been concerned about the knee being sore and having set backs,” O’Neal said. “It’€™s more about the body being sore with the banging and stuff like that. But I’€™ve passed all the tests that I’€™m supposed pass so I’€™m pretty excited about that.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Jermaine O'Neal, NBA
The hard Truth: Paul Pierce now knows C’s ‘don’t control’ their destiny in East at 8:30 am ET
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After going through a very difficult and tumultuous March, Paul Pierce realizes the Celtics now are left with the reality that they likely won’t catch Chicago and very possibly could wind up third in the Eastern Conference heading into the upcoming playoffs.

This is certainly not what the team envisioned when the C’s were leading the East with a 46-15 record after beating Milwaukee on March 6. Since then, they’ve been treading water, going 6-8 in their last 14 before beating the lowly Pistons Sunday night at home.

“I mean, there’s nothing I can do right now,” Pierce painfully admitted. “We don’t control our destiny right now. It’s pretty much hoping they fumble up or stumble up somewhere along the road and we win. It’s going to be what it’s going to be at the end of the day.”

That’s not exactly what the Celtics were hoping for, but they also weren’t counting on six different starting centers this season. Shaquille O’Neal and his “brother” Jermaine have started there. So have Semih Erden, Glen Davis, Kendrick Perkins and Nenad Krstic.

Through all that, the Celtics managed to stay atop the East. That is, until their 6-8 stretch that ended Sunday. They are now three back of the Bulls with six games to go, including a big one this Thursday at the United Center against Chicago. At this point, Pierce and the Celtics would do well to finish second and have home court against Miami should they meet in the second round.

They are also still looking up at the Heat in the standings, trailing LeBron James and company by a half-game for second. And with Shaq going down last night with what appears to be nothing more than a right calf strain, Pierce conceded the C’s are now focused on simply trying to get their heads — and bodies — straight for another playoff run. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons, LeBron James
Chris Mannix on D&C: Celtics don’t know what they have for playoffs 03.28.11 at 9:51 am ET
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Sports Illustrated NBA writer Chris Mannix appeared on the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning to talk about the Celtics and their recent struggles. To hear the interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Mannix said he thinks there is something to the theory that the Celtics are disinterested in getting the one-seed and seem to think they’€™ll be able to just turn it on in the playoffs like they did last year.

‘€œI think there’€™s a lot of truth to that,’€ Mannix said. ‘€œI think we saw at the end of last year that the Celtics had the same kind of laissez-faire attitude about the end of the regular season. The difference last year, though, was the core of that team was still in tact and they kind of knew what they could do if they turned the jets on and played well in the postseason. This year, they’€™re banking on something that no one, including themselves, is sure is even there. You’€™re talking about bringing back [Shaquille O'€™Neal] and Jermaine [O'€™Neal].

‘€œImagine before the season if we thought getting into late March, early April, ‘€˜If only Shaq and Jermaine can come back, we’€™ll be OK for the postseason.’€™ To me, that’€™s a horrible attitude to have, if that’€™s what this team is thinking, that one of those guys can come back and be a difference-maker. Once Shaq comes back, he’€™ll only play for about two months, and who knows what kind of physical shape he’€™s in at this stage. And Jermaine has given you nothing all season long, so there’€™s no reason to believe he’€™s going to add anything to the equation.’€

Mannix said not getting the top seed could be a death knell for the Celtics. ‘€œI honestly think that not getting the No. 1 seed for Boston this year could be disastrous and could be the reason that they don’€™t come out of the Eastern Conference for two reasons,’€ he said.

‘€œNumber one, the difference between playing the 8 seed and the 7 seed this year is like playing the 16 seed in the NCAA tournament vs. a 2 or 3 seed. Whoever winds up in that 8 spot, be it Indiana, Milwaukee, Charlotte, I think they’€™re going to be a relative pushover in the first round. Maybe they take a team to five games. Most likely they get swept in four.

‘€œThat 7 seed, whether it’€™s New York or Philadelphia, those aren’€™t going to be easy games,’€ Mannix continued. ‘€œThey’€™re going to be kind of knock-down, drag-out games. They might push you to six, maybe even seven games. I think that’€™s something Boston really has to start to consider going into the postseason.’€

The hosts added that not only have the Celtics fallen behind the Bulls, but they’€™re also on the verge of getting passed by the Heat and dropping to third. ‘€œYeah, and that’€™s going to kill them, too,’€ Mannix said. ‘€œYou get into those second-round series that are inevitably going to go six games, probably seven games. You lose that homecourt advantage and that hurts, even against a team like Miami, whom, by the way, Boston hasn’€™t beaten yet with this new group. Same thing with Chicago.’€

Speaking of that new group, Mannix said the Kendrick Perkins trade has everything to do with this slump. ‘€œI 100 percent attribute it to the trade,’€ Mannix said. ‘€œI said as soon as this deal went down that it was the worst trade they could’€™ve possibly made. And I say that knowing exactly why it was made. ‘€¦ This was a one-sided trade, I thought. That’€™s taking nothing away from the obvious skill of Jeff Green. But Jeff Green, as much as you needed a backup swingman for this roster, you needed a powerful big up front more.

‘€œYou need a guy that brings the intensity every single night,’€ Mannix continued. ‘€œYou just mentioned that lackadaisical attitude. I think some of that would’€™ve been eliminated with Perkins in the lineup because he never takes plays off. The guy is aggressive all the time. With him in the lineup bringing that intensity, I think a lot of it would’€™ve rubbed off on some of his teammates. So I think they lost a physical presence and I think they lost a mental intense presence.’€

Read More: Chris Mannix, Jeff Green, Jermaine O'Neal, Kendrick Perkins
Irish Coffee: Celtics failing first quarter 03.24.11 at 2:30 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

The Celtics are 4-5 since March 9, and in seven of those games they’ve trailed at the end of the first quarter. As Celtics Hub pointed out in a nice breakdown, the C’s have averaged 18.8 points in the first quarter during that stretch — 5.4 fewer than their season average of 24.2.

Playing from behind is never a good thing. After all, the Celtics are 34-8 after winning the first quarter and 16-12 after losing it. That’s absolutely significant. So, what’s the problem?

Considering the Big Four plays the large majority of the first-quarter minutes, this is on them. Are Rajon Rondo‘s struggles at fault? Should Paul Pierce and Ray Allen — the team’s top two scorers — be getting more touches in the first 12 minutes? Yes, yes and yes.

If I had 10,000 hours to dedicate to this particular blog, I’d calculate the average first-quarter field-goal attempts, points and assists for Rondo, Pierce, Allen and Kevin Garnett. But I don’t. So, the most recent quarter-by-quarter breakdown by 82games.com — from the 2008-09 season — will have to do. And that’s not a bad year to pick, considering the Big Four had one season under their belt together and were coming off an NBA title run.

The Big Four averaged 20.9 points on 16.5 field-goal attempts and 5.2 assists as a group in the first quarter during that 2008-09 season, according to 82games.com. Over the last nine games, they’ve produced 12.4 points on 12.9 field-goal attempts and 4.3 assists in the opening 12 minutes. Something’s not clicking. That’s 8.5 fewer points, and considering the Celtics have lost their last five games by an average of 7.2 points — there’s your difference.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Mike Krzyzewski, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo
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