Boston Celtics: Peter May

AP Photo/Petr David JosekFormer Celtics center Nenad Krstic is competing internationally this summer and beyond.
With Nenad Krstic signed to play in Russia, Semih Erdin dealt to Cleveland and Carlos Arroyo a non-factor, the Celtics don't have anything to worry about with the Olympic qualifiers.

MAY: C'S HAVE NO CONCERNS IN QUALIFIERS
As Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers try to lower their golf handicaps and spend more time with the family this summer, here is one thing neither fellow need worry about in the next two weeks: a call from South America or Europe telling them one of their players has been injured while competing in an Olympic qualifying tournament.

Ainge and Rivers are part of a select group in that regard. The Boston Celtics are one of a handful of NBA teams without a player in either the 24-team Eurobasket Tournament in Lithuania, or the 10-team Tournament of the Americas in Argentina. Both tournaments, which will produce two qualifiers each for the London Olympics next year, began this week.

The only participants in either tournament with recent Boston ties are Carlos Arroyo, who is back in his familiar position as one of the stalwarts for the Puerto Rican national team, and Nenad Krstic, playing for Serbia. Arroyo is a free agent and, given how the Celtics buried him in the playoffs, would not appear to be a serious candidate for a return to Boston whenever pro basketball resumes. Krstic has signed to play for CSKA in Russia next season.

* Forsberg's thoughts: On the one hand, at least Semih Erden gave us something to watch during last year's FIBA tournament. This time around, Celtics fans should enjoy the peace of mind that comes with no star players risking injury. Alas, it'd be fun to actually have some Celtics-related basketball to watch and, well, there's no NBA season in sight for Celtics players to injure themselves for.
ESPN Boston's Peter May tells you why Satch Sanders deserves his spot in the Basketball Hall of Fame and it's more than just his "contributions" to the game:

http://espn.go.com/boston/

Story snapshot: Don't get your hopes up

June, 22, 2011
6/22/11
6:22
PM ET
Brian Babineau/NBAE/GettyDanny Ainge has been great in the 20's, though J.R. Giddens didn't work out at No. 30 in 2008.
ESPN Boston's Peter May examines the track record of Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge picking in the 20's, where he's found some gems. Just remember the team is tempering expectations this year with a weaker draft class:
But here's the history with Ainge. He has shown that a pick in the 20s is right in his wheelhouse. And history has shown us that there is still plenty of NBA-ready talent on the board in the 20s, if a team is shrewd enough to find it.

Ainge has been almost uncanny in picking in the 20s. He's had four of them and all four are still in the NBA, starting with the most successful of them all, Rajon Rondo, who was the 21st pick in 2006 via a trade with Phoenix.

Other picks in the 20s: Kendrick Perkins (27) in 2003 and Delonte West (24) and Tony Allen (25) in 2004. Two of those three have championship rings from 2008, and West was part of the deal that brought in Ray Allen.

"When you're drafting where we're drafting -- I'm not trying to put a negative spin on this, I'm trying to be realistic -- the 25th pick in the draft is probably not going to help us immediately,'' Ainge said Wednesday. "But there are some players that we think can fit our roster, fit into the personality of our team and have a work ethic that can make our team better in practice and add depth to our roster."

Year after year, there is undeniable value in the 20s. Kevin Martin of the Rockets was the 26th pick in 2004 (right after West and Allen). Roddy Beaubois of the Mavericks was the 25th pick in 2009 (and you would know a lot more about him had he not been injured for the NBA Finals). Serge Ibaka, Nicolas Batum, George Hill and Darrell Arthur went 24-27 in 2008 and all four of them are contributors on their respective NBA teams.

Click HERE to read the full story.

Story snapshot: Ring of truth

June, 11, 2011
6/11/11
10:26
PM ET
As part of ESPN's championship ring series, former Celtics legend John Havlicek talks about his eight world titles -- but only boasts five championship rings for his efforts (be sure to check out the ESPN Dallas feature on Rick Carlisle as well, for a Celtics hook):

http://espn.go.com/boston/

Deja Vu for C's?

March, 29, 2011
3/29/11
3:42
PM ET
AP Photo/Michael ConroyThe Celtics lost for the seventh time in 12 tries Monday in Indiana.
The Celtics' regular-season spiral looks a lot like it did last year, but don't be fooled -- this is far different, and not in a good way, writes Peter May:

--MAY: CELTICS SLIDE WASN'T PART OF THE PLAN--
The Celtics' winning percentage has dropped every month since the turn of the year, replicating last season's underwhelming 27-27 finish. Their loss to Indiana on Monday was their third in four games and kept them two games astern of Chicago -- and tied with Miami -- in the Eastern Conference. Not all that long ago, they held decent leads over both teams. The Celtics are 8-7 in March with Thursday night's game against equally reeling San Antonio to close out the month. Boston is a mere 10-8 since it sent Kendrick Perkins packing and imploded its bench. The Celtics are 15-11 since blowing out the Lakers in the fourth quarter at the Staples Center on Jan. 30. Something is amiss and, unlike last season, it's not as readily apparent.

Bargain shopping

March, 1, 2011
3/01/11
3:00
AM ET
US PresswireThere's some familiar names emerging in the buyout market.
After clearing room on their roster at last week's trade deadline, the Boston Celtics are shopping for buyout deals. So who's on their radar? Peter May examines:

--MAY: THRIFT SHOPPING WITH THE CELTICS--
Troy Murphy has appeared in 639 games over 10 seasons, including a mere 18 in 2010-11. He last set foot on an NBA floor on Jan. 7, when he logged 11 minutes for the New Jersey Nets in a 97-77 loss at Washington. But he is in demand these days. When Murphy clears waivers on Wednesday, he will sign with a team that gives him the opportunity to do something he has never done: participate in an actual NBA playoff game. Yes, 10 years after being drafted No. 14 out of Notre Dame, Murphy will finally end his playoff drought. The only remaining question: where?

May examined all potential buyout candidates, including Jared Jeffries, Rasual Butler, Jason Kapono, Josh Howard, Tayshaun Prince, Samuel Dalembert, Mike Bibby, Corey Brewer, Leon Powe, Dan Gadzuric, Vladimir Radmanovic, and Sasha Pavlovic.

C's-Spurs brings buzz to Boston

January, 5, 2011
1/05/11
7:35
AM ET
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty ImagesDoc Rivers and Gregg Popovich put friendship aside when their teams clash Wednesday night.
The Spurs' visit to Boston should be fun, but coaches Gregg Popovich and Doc Rivers figure bigger games are to come down the road, writes Peter May:
BOSTON -- The Miami Heat stopped by on opening night. But, as we've seen the past month or so, that was miami, as opposed to the current MIAMI that is terrorizing the league. As for the rest of the NBA elite, the Orlando Magic, Dallas Mavericks, Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Lakers have yet to grace the TD Garden floor this season.

Their time will come. On Wednesday night, Celtics fans are in for a treat. The teams with the two best records in the league (as opposed to the two best teams, which covers the rampaging Heat) will meet when the San Antonio Spurs make their annual visit to Boston.

The teams have a combined 12 losses -- and it's the first week of January. (Twenty-three teams already have 12 losses apiece.) San Antonio has blown away the competition in the Western Conference in the first 30-plus games to the point where Gregg Popovich has been the only winner of the conference's coach of the month honors this season. The Spurs are on a ridiculous pace that even Popovich doesn't expect to last, but he's enjoying it while it does.

"You know us. We never talk about what our record is," Popovich said before the Spurs lost to the Knicks 128-115 on Tuesday night in New York. "It is whatever it is. But we know full well that this won't continue for 82 games. We're not the Chicago Bulls [who won 72 games in 1995-96]. That's not us. We'll come back to the center eventually, but our hope is that we're still a good team when it matters most."

Those four last words -- "when it matters most" -- have been the Spurs' mantra for the past number of years. Ditto with the Celtics of the new Big Three era. Doc Rivers, like Popovich, couldn't care less what his team's record is at this point. He probably couldn't even tell you. Same for Popovich.

They both want the same thing when it matters most (as do the other championship contenders): health and momentum in the springtime. But winning along the way sure doesn't hurt, especially when the playoffs come around and the seeds are parceled out. The Spurs' four NBA titles all were won with them having home-court advantage in the Finals. They've never been in the Finals without having home court (which makes Popovich 4-0 in the big dance). The Celtics had the advantage in 2008 and won Banner No. 17. They didn't in 2010, which they came to realize might have cost them Banner No. 18.

Click HERE to read the full story.

Changing faces

December, 24, 2010
12/24/10
12:25
PM ET
Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe Celtics will see new faces in Orlando on Christmas Day.
The Celtics have seen plenty of the Magic over the years, but not these Magic. They'll face a very different squad on Christmas Day, writes Peter May:
The cachet of playing on network television on Christmas Day, supposedly, is that your mere presence reflects that you are a good team that will draw viewers and interest. That's the thinking, anyway, when the schedule makers emerge from their smoke-filled room in the summer and announce the national TV schedule.

The Boston Celtics have held up their end of the deal. They've won 14 in a row and 23 of their past 27. Their Christmas opponent, the Orlando Magic, have held up their end, as well, but not for the same reasons.

The Magic are 17-12. Before their decisive 123-101 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday, they had lost four straight and eight of nine. But they boast a radically restructured roster from the one they had when the schedule came out, and therein lies the intrigue.

Want to see Vince Carter take stupid shots against the suffocating Celtics defense? Sorry. Want to see Rashard Lewis hoist 3-pointers? Ain't gonna happen. Thanks to a couple of megadeals last week, the Magic that the Celtics will face for the first time this season are back in training camp mode, a classic work in progress.

Carter was dealt to the Phoenix Suns along with Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus for Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark. Lewis, owner of arguably the worst contract in the NBA (and that is saying something as long as Darko Milicic is in the league) was dealt to Washington for the poster boy of the Second Amendment, Gilbert Arenas.

"It's interesting, that's for sure,'' Celtics coach Doc Rivers said of the Magic's changes. "We have to throw away all the scouting reports and do it all over again, so that's no fun. They've added talent, there's no doubt about it. Whether they can get it together, we'll see."

Click HERE to read the full story.

Walker begins new chapter

December, 17, 2010
12/17/10
10:00
AM ET
Peter May examines how Antoine Walker is looking for a second chance in the NBA by joining the Idaho Stampede of the NBA Development League:
Otto Kitsinger/NBAE/GettyAntoine Walker is seeking another NBA opportunity by starting again at the ground floor.
PORTLAND, Maine -- Antoine Walker made his first start of the season Thursday night for the Idaho Stampede.

Yes, it's a start. In the NBA Development League, dreams know no bounds, whether it's in the head of a non-drafted 22-year-old with no real chance or a 34-year-old who has played in 893 NBA games plus three All-Star Games and has a championship ring as a member of the 2006 Miami Heat.

Walker hasn't graced an NBA floor in nearly three years. He has no idea how this latest comeback will end up. He has a very specific idea of how he hopes it will end up -- back in the NBA within a couple of months on a playoff-bound team.

He said he felt he owed himself one more shot.

"I left the game way too soon and I want to get back,'' Walker said after the Stampede's morning shootaround at the Portland Expo Center before their 105-99 loss to the Maine Red Claws in which Walker had 25 points and 8 rebounds in 33-plus minutes. "I still believe I can play. … I'm a very unique player. There aren't many guys in the league who can do what I do, at my size, to be able to space the floor, take you off the dribble, make plays. I think there are only a handful of guys who can do that. And I have the experience. I've played in big games. I've won a championship. I think I bring a lot of experience to a team."

When we last saw Walker in the NBA, he was coming off the bench for a truly horrible Minnesota Timberwolves team in the 2007-08 season. His last NBA game was on Feb. 19, 2008, an eight-minute stint against Philadelphia in which he had zero points, 2 rebounds, 1 turnover and 2 fouls. Twenty-five days earlier, he made his last appearance in Boston -- where he had been a member of the Celtics from 1996 to 2003 and again in 2004-05 -- playing 15 minutes for the Wolves.

Minnesota traded Walker to Memphis on the night of the 2008 NBA draft, but he never appeared in a regular-season game for the Grizzlies, who released him in December 2008. Until signing with the Stampede on Dec. 7, the only competitive basketball Walker played since February 2008 was this past February and March, when he went to Puerto Rico to play for the Guaynabo Mets.

That didn't go over well. He was out of shape. He was unfamiliar with the international rules. He had only one American teammate (Marcus Fizer). But the experience made him realize how much he missed the game.

"I got my hunger back,'' Walker said.

Click HERE to read the full story.

When it was a rivalry

December, 15, 2010
12/15/10
7:45
AM ET
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty ImagesDon't call it a rivalry ... yet.
Peter May provides a history lesson on when Celtics and Knicks were a true rivalry:
AP Photo/Peter SouthwickWhen it was a rivalry: Patrick Ewing vs. Larry Bird at the Garden.
One dormant rivalry remains for Pierce to sample, and Wednesday night might well present itself as the 21st-century kickoff of the renewal of Celtics-Knicks hostilities. The Knicks are (supposedly) back, sporting a 16-9 record and having won eight in a row. (Boston has won 10 straight.) They trail the Celtics by only four games in the standings and will be counting on a large, boisterous Madison Square Garden crowd to get them going in this one. It's the second game of a three-game "temperature check" week for the Knicks, who beat Denver on Sunday and face red-hot Miami on Friday.

Inarguably, it sets up as the biggest Celtics-Knicks regular-season game in decades. One of the last truly meaningful games between these two teams was May 6, 1990, when the Knicks won Game 5 of their first-round playoff series, rallying from a 2-0 hole to do so. They won the deciding game in Boston, snapping a hellish losing streak to the Celtics, in a contest that was marked by Larry Bird missing a crucial dunk and coach Jimmy Rodgers getting fired soon thereafter.

Since then, you'd have trouble finding an important Celtics-Knicks game, in that one team or the other was usually pretty bad. As for Celtics history, you can point to the Christmas Day debacle in 1985, when they blew a 25-point third-quarter lead and lost in double-overtime to a bad Knicks team. That proved to be a turning point for the 1985-86 team, which would steamroll the rest of the way to an NBA title.

When the Knicks were heading toward the Finals and becoming an Eastern Conference power under Pat Riley, the Celtics were in decline, reeling from the retirements of Larry Bird and Kevin McHale. When the Knicks were battling Riley's Miami Heat for conference supremacy in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the Celtics were floundering under Rick Pitino.

When the Celtics finally did turn things around in 2007 with their new Big Three, the Knicks were in complete fire-sale mode, shredding names and numbers with an eye on the summer of 2010. To put things in perspective, the Knicks won 84 games the past three seasons. The Celtics won 66 in 2007-08 alone.

Click HERE to read the full story.

Been there, done that

December, 8, 2010
12/08/10
8:00
AM ET
Victor Baldizon/NBAE/Getty ImagesCeltics coach Doc Rivers has Boston off to another fast start.
Stop us if this sounds familiar -- the Celtics are off to one of the best starts in the NBA through 20 games. Can they keep it up? Peter May examines:
WALTHAM, Mass. -- We have all been here before.

There is a definite sense of déjà vu with these Celtics and their shot-from-guns start. It's become the norm here over the past four years.

Twenty games into the season, Doc Rivers' crew has an 80 percent winning mark. No team in the East has a better record and only one team in the West (San Antonio) has a superior mark. The Celtics are slowly, but steadily, becoming the defensive juggernaut they aspire to be. They have continued to win despite myriad injuries.

This has been the trend and, frankly, the mission of the Celtics in the era of the New Big Three. We're on Year No. 4 now and one thing in common about all four seasons has been the team's rocket-like break from the opening gate.

This year, they are 16-4 after 20 games and, as Shaquille O'Neal reminded everyone last week, they haven't really been beaten by anyone yet. They've won 16 and thrown away four, including a pair to a couple of undesirables (Cleveland, Toronto). They've won nine of 10 at home, the best home record in the conference and second-best in the NBA (behind Denver's 10-1.) They take a seven-game winning streak into Wednesday's game against the Nuggets, who had won seven in a row going into Tuesday night's game in Charlotte.

Click HERE to read the full story.

(Even) better with time

December, 3, 2010
12/03/10
8:35
AM ET
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty ImagesPaul Pierce is quietly putting together another phenomenal campaign.
Paul Pierce is no longer just a scorer, but an efficient one. No longer just a player, but a vocal leader. As each year passes, The Truth evolves, writes Peter May:
Paul Pierce matched his season high of 28 points in the Boston Celtics' 99-95 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday. He was nearly perfect from the field (9-of-11), blaming the two misses on (A) getting fouled and (B) "the rim must have moved." He also made all six of his free throws.

Brian Babineau/NBAE via GettyPaul Pierce's 28 points wasn't his only impressive feat against the Blazers. He also made key defensive plays.
But three plays Pierce made Wednesday speak to the ever-evolving game of the Celtics' captain because none of them involved him scoring -- and two of them were on the defensive end. The guy who once was known and, occasionally, feared as a pure volume scorer is still that -- but he's more than just a points machine.

As coach Doc Rivers said Wednesday, "He has been off the charts. All season."

The most memorable of the three plays was, of course, The Pass. Pierce had the ball to himself at the top of the key, examining the Blazers' zone defense. He had it going, as they say, so he was a logical choice to take the shot. But he saw Andre Miller cheat a little and whipped a pass to a wide-open Ray Allen, who up to that point had missed 11 of 13 shots and all five of his 3-pointer attempts. Allen, of course, made the 3, clinching the win. Pierce insisted he'd make that same play every time.

Actually, he has made it at least once before. In the Big Three's first season together, the Celtics appeared to have lost a game in Charlotte in November. The Bobcats led by two points near the end and had the ball for an inbounds pass. But the pass was deflected and ended up in Pierce's hands. He had little time to shoot, but he saw Allen at the top of the key. He passed it over, and Allen, who until that point had missed 11 of 14 shots, including all five of his 3-point attempts, naturally drained a 3 at the buzzer to win the game.

"How can you not make that pass? Ray Allen is one of the best shooters in NBA history,'' Pierce said Wednesday. "Ray Allen wide open for the game is a no-brainer. I'm going to give it to him.''

He said almost the identical thing three years ago.

The first of the two defensive plays came shortly after the Celtics had taken the lead for good in the third quarter. They led 72-70 when Pierce, who was assigned to stop Wesley Matthews (who to that point had scorched Allen), bottled up the Blazers in the corner to force an air ball and a subsequent 24-second violation.

Then, in the fourth quarter, when the Celtics were in the midst of building their commanding (ha!) 16-point lead, he made a perfect rotation to stop a driving LaMarcus Aldridge, giving Kevin Garnett enough time to get back into the play and block Aldridge from behind.

Plays like that are more the norm than the exception these days for Pierce. But they can and do occasionally get overlooked because of what Pierce is doing at the other end of the floor. He was always a scorer. He was never an efficient scorer. Now he is.

Click HERE to read the full story.

Mr. Clutch & Coach of the Month

December, 2, 2010
12/02/10
9:05
AM ET
Celitcs guard Ray Allen hit only one of his six 3-pointer attempts against the Trail Blazers -- the one the Celtics needed most:
Elsa/Getty ImagesRay Allen missed five 3-point attempts Wednesday, but he hit the one that mattered most.
Even Boston Celtics captain Paul Pierce couldn't help but wonder what the Portland Trail Blazers were thinking when they left Ray Allen open for a late-game 3-pointer that sealed Boston's 99-95 triumph Wednesday night at the TD Garden.

"How can you leave Ray Allen -- one of the great shooters of all-time -- wide open like that?" asked Pierce, repeating something that's seemingly been heard numerous times since Allen arrived in Boston. "He'll hit that 99 percent of the time."

To be fair, Allen had been fairly dreadful to that point. The 15th-year veteran misfired on all but two of his first 11 shots, including all five 3-pointers he hoisted.

But everyone in the building knew that he was going to take a 3-pointer if he had a good look. Heck, Allen didn't have a good look and rushed an awful first attempt at a dagger 20 seconds earlier. Fortunately for Boston, Wesley Matthews -- whose fine shooting at the other end of the floor helped keep Portland in the game as the Blazers nearly rallied out of a 16-point, fourth-quarter hole over the final five minutes -- committed a loose-ball foul, allowing Boston to maintain possession.

The Blazers rolled the dice in a one-point game, attempting to trap Pierce as he dribbled down the clock. Sure, Pierce had the hot hand, connecting on 9 of 11 attempts, including 4 of 5 3-pointers, for a game-high 28 points. But the NBA's unwritten rulebook almost certainly includes a chapter about never leaving a shooter like Allen open in a clutch moment.

The Blazers did. Maybe it explains why the Celtics have won five straight and sit atop the Eastern Conference at 14-4, while Portland has dropped five in a row and stands at 8-10.

Click HERE to read the full story.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers earned the first Eastern Conference Coach of the Month honor of the season despite the obstacles his team has faced, writes Peter May:

Elsa/Getty ImagesDoc Rivers won his sixth Coach of the Month award with the Celtics when he was honored for the month of November.
Earlier in the day Wednesday, Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers learned he had been named Coach of the Month in the Eastern Conference for the 30 days of November. He's now won six COM awards in Boston -- all other Celtics coaches, combined, have won four since the award originated for the 1982-83 season.

In the "Making My Day" department, the award probably came in a distant third to (a) beating the Portland Trail Blazers 99-95 and (b) being able to spend some quality time with son Jeremiah, in town with the Indiana Hoosiers. Come to think of it, the award probably dropped to fourth after Rivers' postgame repast. Maybe even fifth, depending on the dessert. (We won't go into the wine.)

The Celtics' victory Wednesday night showcased the team Rivers now has, and it is a spiffy 14-4. Or, as Shaquille O'Neal noted, "Even though we've lost four games, no one has beat us yet."

There's a grain of truth to that.

But there also is plenty of room for improvement. Mimicking their performance from Opening Night, the Celtics got a big lead and then went into fingernail-scraping mode down the stretch to pull out a game that had no business being that close.

"We won,'' Rivers said with a sigh. They had been up 16 with 5:10 left.

In the end, a guy who hadn't been able to make anything all night made the big basket off a pass from a guy who hadn't been able to miss all night.

Click HERE to read the full story.

Garnett key to C's consistency

November, 24, 2010
11/24/10
7:05
AM ET
AP Photo/David GoldmanThe Celtics need Kevin Garnett's intensity to prevent last year's inconsistencies.
Coach Doc Rivers will be relying on Kevin Garnett's emotional leadership to keep the Celtics focused and sharp during the regular-season grind, writes ESPN Boston's Peter May:
Doc Rivers has seen it from both sides. Early in his Boston incarnation, he had a team of callow kids and could never be sure which group would show up from game to game. He now has the opposite of that, sort of. It's a veteran team. It's a better team, for sure, but because veteran teams have a tendency to, er, coast, the coach also can't know for sure what group he will see on any given night.

To wit: What Boston Celtic fan out there didn't expect this team to go into Toronto last Sunday afternoon and absolutely vaporize the undermanned, underwhelming Raptors, regardless of Rajon Rondo's status? There had been a disheartening loss on Friday at home, an easy-pickins' opponent on the road (and in a building where they'd won six in a row) and, well, of course they'd bounce back. Hold that happy thought.

It didn't happen. They lost. They stunk.

Then, of course, it did happen the next night in Atlanta, where the Celtics humiliated the Hawks in front of the usual assemblage of casual fans and empty seats at Philips Arena. In the past, having a team with a free night in Atlanta was a recipe for potential disaster. The Georgia capitol has many distractions for NBA players.

No one knew that more than Rivers, who lived and played in Atlanta for years. But he sensed that this team was finally going to grow up -- and show up. It had been burned in Canada. It had no intention of freezing in the south (apologies to The Band).

"We're a veteran team and sometimes it seems like we're counting how many games we have to play before the playoffs,'' Rivers said. "We'll have to deal with it."

Click HERE to read the full story.

Hit the road

November, 7, 2010
11/07/10
5:55
AM ET
Spencer Platt/Getty ImagesThe Celtics visit Oklahoma City, Dallas, Miami, and Memphis this week.
OK, so the Celtics won't be taking that kind of road trip. But their first official swing will bring young Grizzlies, rumbling Thunder, tough Mavericks and some serious Heat, writes Peter May:
If you define a road trip as (A) any stretch of three or more consecutive games away from home and (B) at least two of which must be games against non-conference teams, then this upcoming week easily qualifies as the Celtics' first official road trip of the 2010-11 season.

And it's a doozy.

Three of the four opponents are likely playoff teams. One of the opponents is a presumptive NBA finalist and/or champion (at least in the eyes of many so-called experts). There will be two possible 2010-11 MVP sightings. And, for the icing on the cake, there is a reunion with old friend Tony Allen, eight days after the reunion with another old friend, Brian Scalabrine.

Actually, all four teams have Celtics ties either on their bench or in the front office. Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Scott Brooks was traded to the Celtics in 1997, but was waived five days later and never played for them. One of his assistants is Mark Bryant, who played two games for the 2002-03 Celtics. Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle spent three seasons with the Celtics and has a championship ring as a member of the 1985-86 team. Miami Heat assistant Bob McAdoo had a forgettable 20-game run with the 1978-79 Celtics. And Memphis Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace had a similar role in Boston under both Rick Pitino and Danny Ainge.

The trip opens Sunday night in Oklahoma City against this year's chic Western Conference "It" team, the Thunder. It continues the next night at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, a one-time charnel house for the Celtics. It moves next to the American Airlines Arena in Miami, for the second meeting of the season with the Heat and their talented threesome. And it concludes next Saturday night in Memphis against the Grizzlies.

"It's just a tough trip,'' Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "I saw it when the schedule came out. We'll be ready."

Click HERE to read the full story.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

PODCASTS

Capital Games with Andy Katz and Rick Klein

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Congressman Peter King join the debut podcast to discuss security at this year's Boston Marathon.

Inside Out with Prim Siripipat

Boston Marathon runner Demi Clark and her husband Brian, talk about the impact of witnessing the bombings last year. Dr. Jonathan Katz speaks about dealing with trauma.

Hockey Today

Scott Burnside is joined by Craig Custance, Katie Strang, Joe McDonald and Pierre LeBrun to break down each series of the first round of the 2014 NHL playoffs.

Baseball Tonight

Buster Olney talks with Tim Kurkjian and Aaron Boone about the Braves hot start, the Nationals' injury woes, John Farrell's ejection after a blown replay and much more.

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jeff Green
PTS AST STL MIN
16.8 1.7 0.7 34.2
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Sullinger 8.1
AssistsR. Rondo 9.8
StealsR. Rondo 1.3
BlocksK. Humphries 0.9