Boston Celtics: Required Reading

Work and play

September, 30, 2010
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NEWPORT, R.I. -- Another two-hour practice session behind him, Boston Celtics forward Kevin Garnett was lounging on the sidelines watching some of the younger players on the court scrimmage four-on-four when Nate Robinson scurried over in need of a cameraman.

Robinson thrust his iPhone into Garnett's hands, pressed record, and thus began the latest segment in Robinson's Twitter-based sketch comedy series featuring Shaquille O'Neal.

Over the span of 24 hours, Robinson posted videos that ranged from him slipping O'Neal some salt-infused water during a team meal, to dunking on an unsuspecting O'Neal at the start of a practice.

After Thursday's session, videos shot included a mock stare-down between O'Neal and Kendrick Perkins (which ended with the two "playoff rivals" dancing); Robinson running a clumsy suicide in O'Neal's size 23 shoes; and a sequence in which KG and O'Neal rough up Robinson, beating him with one of Shaq's oversized shoes at one point.

If Twitter was your only glimpse into Boston's training camp, it would be enough to make you wonder if this team ever focuses on basketball. Truth is, the Celtics are working twice as hard as they're playing, and all the ancillary antics are helping to forge a bond that this team came to Newport specifically in search of.

"Chemistry's been very good, needless to say," a smiling Garnett said, after being quizzed on his directorial debut. "It's a goddamn zoo around here, but it's all good, we're getting some work done."

Call it the Big Three ring circus, as there's no lack of shenanigans around the Rodgers Recreation Center on the campus of Salve Regina University. But coach Doc Rivers notes that once this team hits the floor, it's all business, particularly for ringleader Robinson.

"I think Nate has figured it out, so far, that there's a time to be focused and serious, and there's time to be Nate," said Rivers. "He's done a great job of that. During practice, he's dead serious; during water breaks, he turns back into Nate. He's figured that out, though."

Click HERE to read the full story.

Peace on the parquet

September, 30, 2010
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AP Photo/Charles KrupaDelonte West runs sprints during training camp in Newport.
In a return engagement with the Boston Celtics, Delonte West is putting mistakes behind him and embracing a second chance writes ESPN Boston's Peter May;
NEWPORT, R.I. -- He was the last person off the floor on the very first day of practice with his new/old team. There was shot after shot after shot before the final ball bounced away. By then, almost all of Delonte West's teammates were already on the team bus, or posing for photos for a throng of Salve Regina University admirers.

West finished his work, took a towel and a seat, alone, in the bleachers. It was almost as if he wanted to stay where he was, that he wished the workout could go on forever.

West feels at home when his personal boundaries are lines on a court and his every movement is a function of charts, whistles or exhortations. That is where he is at peace and it has been ever since he joined the NBA in 2004.

It's in the world outside those lines, and his actions in that unmonitored space, where he finds trouble. When you are caught speeding on a motorcycle, carrying two loaded handguns, a loaded shotgun and a large Bowie knife, the law steps in and the NBA tends to take notice. West was arrested in an incident in September 2009 on weapons charges, to which he pleaded guilty in July and received eight months of home detention, though the flexible sentence does allow him to play this season.

"That's what happens when you make bad decisions off the court," he said. "It should be a lesson to a lot of younger players because that's how it is. You're judged by the decisions you make. It's up to me to prove that maybe everything you read isn't true. It's a day-at-a-time process. That's what it is. It's on me to prove I am a good person and a great guy, and if that's true, it shouldn't be that hard. I feel blessed to have this opportunity and I want to make the best of it."

Click HERE to read the full story.

Riding the pine

September, 30, 2010
9/30/10
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AP Photo/Charles KrupaThe Celtics like a revamped bench centered around offseason addition Shaquille O'Neal.
"We have to come to work every day. A year ago, we'd come in and take care of business like the Dream Team against the [second unit]. Now we really have to lace them up if we want to be competitive with [the reserves] each day."

-- Paul Pierce on the Celtics' bench players … one season ago



NEWPORT, R.I. -- Against the backdrop of an offseason in which the Miami Heat united three of the NBA's best players and ascended to Eastern Conference favorites, the Boston Celtics are quick to point out that, not only do they still have their own Big Three, they have potentially the best compilation of talent in the league in spots Nos. 4 through 15.

Indeed, the Celtics this offseason signed what would be regarded as a quality starting five in some NBA cities by bringing in Jermaine O'Neal, Shaquille O'Neal and Delonte West, and re-signing Nate Robinson and Marquis Daniels. In fact, those five combined to start a total of 128 games for other teams last season (only Daniels spent the whole season in Boston), and have a combined 2,204 career starts.

Yet all five of those players are expected to occupy reserve roles (at least when Kendrick Perkins comes back from offseason knee surgery sometime around midseason).

Shaq has already dubbed the group the Boston Bench Mob and has been running with a second unit that features the Big Shamrock, Robinson, West, Daniels and Glen Davis, who is suddenly the longest-tenured veteran off the pine. (Jermaine O'Neal has been working with the first unit and is expected to start in place of Perkins.)

Celtics captain Paul Pierce calls this the deepest team he's ever been on and suggested Boston might have the most overall talent in the league.

Which brings us to Pierce's quote at the top of this article -- an example of how things often seem a bit grander in the preseason than they eventually turn out to be.

Click HERE to read the full story.

Avoiding a repeat

September, 28, 2010
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AP Photo/Charles KrupaThe Celtics at work during the first day of training camp in New
Celtics coach Doc Rivers hopes his team will ignore one of the lessons of last season -- that regular-season wins sometimes aren't that important, writes colleague Peter May:
NEWPORT, R.I. -- The jokes and quips surfaced almost immediately at the offseason meeting of the NBA coaches.

"Geez, Doc, how are we ever going to get our guys to concentrate on the regular season after what you guys did?' Or, 'Thanks a lot, Doc. How on earth am I going to tell my guys that the games in December and January really do matter?"

Faced with no other choice, at least as he saw it, Celtics coach Doc Rivers basically put a blowtorch to the 2009-10 regular season. Injured players sat and watched the others underachieve. But while they sat and watched, they healed. That was Rivers' grand design. He saw it as the only chance his team had to get healthy and make any kind of extended playoff run.

And when they did exactly that, coming up just short of the franchise's 18th title, Rivers was vindicated.

But now what? After last season, how can he tell his guys that the 2010-11 regular season is important? How can he look at them with a straight face and tell them about all those critical games in January, February and March?

After all, most of the guys who stumbled to a 27-27 finish over the final 54 games are back. That team will always be referenced when the discussion turns to, "Can Team A turn it on in time for the playoffs?" It's the gold standard. A fourth seed winning 50 games steamrolls through the conference playoffs and comes up a few points shy in Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

So how do you make things relevant going forward?

Click HERE to read the full story.

Common bond

September, 28, 2010
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AP Photo/Winslow TownsonShaquille O'Neal gets playful with Kevin Garnett during Media Day.
WALTHAM, Mass. -- Media day can be a grind for players. For the better part of two hours, they shuttle from station to station, posing for photos and answering the same questions for different microphones.

It's kind of like the first day of school combined with photo day, and each class demands a presentation of some sort. Which is to say, it's not meant to be much fun.

But there was Paul Pierce, a veteran of 12 media days with the Boston Celtics, bouncing gleefully around the Sports Authority Training Center at HealthPoint on Monday, a big smile on his face at every turn. The unofficial start of the 2010-11 season, which media day essentially signifies, left Pierce downright giddy -- and he didn't mind telling everyone who asked.

"Truthfully, man, I had the same feeling about this team [before the 2007-08 season], when we got Kevin [Garnett] on the team and Ray [Allen]," said Pierce. "The additions that we made -- [Shaquille O'Neal], Jermaine [O'Neal], Delonte [West] and some of the other rookies -- this is one of the most talented teams, top to bottom. It's more talented than the teams that I've been on."

Pierce spent much of his summer trying to erase the pain of Boston's Game 7 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals, but it wasn't until he arrived in Boston earlier this month to participate in some pre-preseason scrimmages that he began to turn the page. That's because he knows the collective talent on the Celtics has the potential to ease that pain the only way possible: by winning another title.

Click HERE to read the full story.

Back to work

September, 24, 2010
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Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesPaul Pierce, Doc Rivers, and the Celtics get back to work Tuesday as camp opens in Newport, R.I.
The Boston Celtics open training camp Tuesday morning on the campus of Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I., taking the first step in what the team hopes is a nine-month odyssey back to the NBA Finals.

Despite a short summer after the 2009-10 season sprawled into late June when the Celtics fell to the Los Angeles Lakers in a seven-game Finals series, Boston coaches and players have expressed a desire to get the new season underway and begin that often-arduous climb back up the NBA mountain.

"I think we're ready to go," coach Doc Rivers said. "I can compare this to the [2007-08 season when] we won it, and it was a short summer. I thought that summer when we got back guys were like, 'Awww man, we've got to start over again.' I think these guys, they can't wait to get started. So that's a good sign."

Players have slowly been trickling back into the gym in advance of Monday's media day -- the unofficial start of the 2010-11 season. Second-year forward Tony Gaffney summed up the positive energy that's already flowing, even amidst a beefed up Eastern Conference.

"The environment in the locker room right now, it's something special," Gaffney said. "I know there's a lot of talk about the Miami Heat right now, but we're a team that's determined and looks ready to get this thing going."

With that in mind, here's an overview of the team heading into camp and what to watch for over the next month leading up to the first game of the new season on Oct. 26 at the TD Garden against that vaunted Heat.

Click HERE to read the full story.

Morning shootaround: Baby & the bench

June, 11, 2010
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BOSTON -- A glimpse at some of our featured content after the Boston Celtics defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 4 of the NBA Finals Thursday at the TD Garden:

Forsberg: Davis' energy charges up Celtics
Celtics forward Glen Davis stood barking at midcourt, spewing drool in every direction like some sort of rabid dog -- or maybe the teething version of his popular monicker -- and whipping the crowd into a frenzy after initiating an and-one sequence with a putback that gave the Celtics a six-point lead early in the fourth quarter.

Guard Nate Robinson came running from behind Davis and vaulted onto his back as Big Baby flexed toward the crowd.

"You were on my back?" Davis asked Robinson as they sat next to each other at their joint postgame press conference.

"You didn't even notice," replied Robinson. "We're like Shrek and Donkey. You can't separate us."

Davis smiled broadly and added, "You shouldn't have let us two get up here."

It was an improbable postgame scene after an improbable in-game scene. In the fourth quarter of Game 4 of the NBA Finals -- what Boston players later acknowledged was an absolute must-win -- there were Davis and Robinson, flanked by fellow reserves Rasheed Wallace and Tony Allen, with Ray Allen the only starter on the floor.

Click HERE to read the full story.

* May: Pierce comes through as starter and closer: Welcome back, Paul. The Celtics are glad you're back. Oh, and by the way, you are going back to Los Angeles. That's a good thing, right? Paul Pierce, the Celtics captain, ruffled a few L.A. boas with his boast after Game 2 that the Celtics would not be coming back to the Staples Center, the clear inference being that Boston would sweep Games 3-5 at home and win the NBA championship in five games. Oh well. Entering the fourth quarter in Game 4, it did look like the Celtics actually might not get back to Los Angeles, as they trailed 62-60 after having dropped Game 3.

* McMenamin: Tony Allen has Kobe's number: Looks like the Celtics have themselves a Kobe Stopper. Celtics guard Tony Allen racked up three DNP-CDs in three games to start the 2008 Finals and played just 19:02 total over the final three games of the series. Thursday night in the Celtics' crucial 96-89 win over the Lakers to tie up the 2010 Finals 2-2, Allen played 18:27 and may have changed who will win the championship. When the Celtics switched to Tony Allen sticking Kobe Bryant for the second half of Game 4 instead of Ray Allen who checked him in the first, it was a different ballgame.

* Daily Dime: Three of his starters were all kneeling there at the scorer's table with just over four minutes left, their cheering duties apparently finished for the night as Doc Rivers prepared to put Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett back into the game. And then ... Like a master waving to a well-trained pet, or like Joey Crawford waving in a sub, Rivers yelled to the three and motioned with his arm cocked at the elbow: Get back here!

* Hollinger: Celtics get ugly in Game 4 win: Kevin Garnett clapped his hands and barked and screamed at Lamar Odom ... while defending him off the dribble. Nate Robinson hollered in Odom's face after a hard foul. Glen Davis showboated after baskets, making faces previously seen only on Maori warriors dancing the Haka and spewing enough drool to warp the court. It wasn't always pretty, but it was as raw a display of emotion as you'll see on a basketball court, by a club that was in desperation mode heading into Game 4. Boston rode that emotional wave in front of a raucous home crowd to beat the Lakers 96-89, evening the NBA Finals at two games apiece.

* Markazi: Lakers let C's reserves win it: The most misleading statistic often cited during these playoffs has been comparing the bench play of the Los Angeles Lakers to that of their opponents, whether it be the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Finals or the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals. It's convenient to simply tally up the number of points the Lakers' reserves have and the number their opponent's reserves have and (often times) marvel at the disparity. The problem with that math is it fails to tell the whole story of the game.
AP Photo/Winslow TownsonRay Allen went ice cold in Game 3 after being red hot in Game 2.
BOSTON -- A quick glance at some of the featured ESPN.com content after the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics in Game 3 of the NBA Finals Tuesday night at the TD Garden:

Forsberg: C's best shooter at his worst: The NBA's great shooters never believe the problem lies with them. When shots aren't falling, they'd sooner challenge whether the rim is straight before they doubt themselves. So even after missing his first 12 attempts to open Tuesday's Game 3 against the Lakers, Celtics guard Ray Allen was certain No. 13 would drop. His team trailing by four with under a minute to play, Allen pulled up from the left corner. It felt good off the hand, but it clanged off the rim like his previous attempts. Allen finished with two points, four rebounds and two assists over more than 42 minutes. Two days after seemingly being unable to miss while setting a Finals record with eight trifectas -- the first seven of which came in a row -- during Boston's Game 2 win in Los Angeles, Allen nearly etched his name on a far more dubious distinction Tuesday. Allen's 0-for-13 performance ranked as the second-worst 0-fer in Finals history, falling one miss short of the record of 0-for-14 shared by Seattle's Dennis Johnson in 1979 and Baltimore's Chick Reiser in 1948.

May: Rivers officially miffed at refs: OK, it's bad form to rip the referees. But all Doc Rivers wants to know is this: Can he get through one game of the NBA Finals without one of his key players getting into early foul trouble? Is that too much to ask? In the hugely pivotal Game 3 Tuesday night, which the Lakers won, 91-84, the Celtics once again found themselves playing with only two of their Big Three. (Actually, only one, seeing as how Ray Allen went from Tucson in July to Vladivostok in December.) The final statistics will show that Paul Pierce had 15 points, three of them in the final minute. He picked up two quick fouls and was out of sorts for most of the night, battling Ron Artest and the officials. He had as many fouls (five) as field goals and, for the second straight game, was pretty much a nonfactor. Pierce simply played poorly in Game 2. He had no chance in Game 3, according to his coach. "Paul never got into a rhythm," Rivers said. "Every time he came on the floor, another whistle blows and he had to sit down. He was completely taken out of the game by the foul calls."

Abbott: A lost moment for Pierce, Celtics: The sound inside the TD Garden is explosive. When the fans are really going, it's difficult to think. And it's easy to understand why home teams win most NBA games. There was a moment of Game 3 when the place was just about to explode. Paul Pierce found himself all alone with a clear path to the hoop. In the middle of a tense fourth quarter, the Celtics needed just one little bucket to complete the project they had been working on since the first period: To finally tie the game up. But Pierce never got the ball.

McMenamin: Lakers pick up Kobe: The Lakers had lost by 39 points the last time they were at TD Garden for an NBA Finals game, but at halftime Tuesday night they had a double-digit lead and looked primed to take control of the series. The raucous Boston crowd had been silenced by Kobe Bryant, who led all scorers through the first two quarters with 16 points and had racked up a Rajon Rondo-like line that included six boards, three assists, two blocks and one steal. It looked like one of those classic Kobe nights, this time in the Finals, on the floor of the Lakers' most hated rival. But just as Ray Allen played Jekyll and Hyde, going from a Finals-record eight 3-pointers Sunday to an abysmal 0-for-13 in Game 3, so did Bryant suffer his own unfortunate turnaround. His opening, which had been so grand, fell flat down the stretch, as he choked in his familiar closer's role and shot just 1-for-6 from the field in the fourth quarter. Outside of a bounce-back game from Kevin Garnett, Allen got little help on the night. Bryant, on the other hand, was lifted up by a troop of teammates who filled in, acting as the Lakers' bullpen by committee and leading Los Angeles to a 91-84 victory and a 2-1 series lead.

For more, check out today's Daily Dime, with a collection of stories on Game 3, or hop over to our friends at ESPN Los Angeles to see how things are playing out west.

Keys to Splitsville

June, 6, 2010
6/06/10
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Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesThe Celtics have to play better defense in order to compete in Game 2 vs. the Lakers.
While examining five keys to Boston's success in Game 2, we noted the Celtics' need to hold the Lakers under 100 points.

On the surface, it's pretty simple, the Lakers are 10-2 this postseason when they cross the century mark, while the Celtics are 0-5 when allowing an opponent to reach triple figures. But consider these stats: When Boston gives up 100 points (five times this postseason), they are outscored by an average of 16 points per game, while being outrebounded by 11 caroms per game. Opponents average 51.7 percent shooting overall, while generating an average of 46.4 points in the paint.

Among the other keys for Boston's success: Evening up the rebounding numbers, more hustle in the 50/50 game, avoiding foul trouble, and keeping an eye on the little things.

Click HERE to read the full story on five keys for Game 2.

Sunday shootaround

June, 6, 2010
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Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesGasol gets tough against Kevin Garnett in Game 1.
A handful of links as the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers prepare to clash in Game 2 of the NBA Finals Sunday night at the Staples Center:

* Gasol upset with media over KG comments: Los Angeles Lakers big man Pau Gasol was upset with how his comments about Kevin Garnett losing "some explosiveness" from his game were portrayed in the media since he also noted that the Boston Celtics forward is still a "terrific player." Said Gasol: "Sometimes I extend my answers too long. Maybe I shouldn't do that. I should be shorter with my answers and don't give away just anything so it can't be manipulated that way and used. But it is what it is. It's the Finals. It's going to be a little bit of chaos. We've just got to focus on doing whatever it takes to win Game 2. That's my main focus."

* Sheridan: The Celtics who was a Laker: The date was Oct. 24, and rookie Tony Gaffney remembers it vividly. It was the end of training camp for the Lakers, the day after their final exhibition game against Denver, and Gaffney was sitting with Pau Gasol getting treatment for a neck injury when he took notice that Phil Jackson was in the gym -- an unusual occurrence on a day when there was no formal practice. Gaffney was the 14th man on the roster and the only remaining rookie, and soon he was told that the coach and general manager Mitch Kupchak needed to see him immediately. He was about to be cut.

* May: Thibodeau not done in Boston yet: Tom Thibodeau hasn't been available to speak about his new position or his current one, for that matter. Doc Rivers prohibits his assistant coaches from speaking to the media. But knowing the workaholic Thibodeau, he more than likely has ensconced himself in front of a computer screen these last 48 hours trying to devise a way to stop Kobe, Pau and the rest of the Lakers. And, judging by his track record, he will come up with something. The Bulls targeted him because of an impressive body of work over two decades in the NBA, where designing defenses has been Thibodeau's life mission. According to those he works with, he doesn't do much of anything else.

* Source: Thibodeau accepts Bulls' coaching offer: Although an official announcement will have to wait until after the NBA Finals, Boston Celtics assistant coach Tom Thibodeau has accepted an offer to become the next head coach of the Chicago Bulls, a source told ESPNChicago.com on Saturday. Thibodeau's deal is worth approximately $6.5 million, with two years guaranteed plus a team option, according to multiple media reports.

Also be sure to check out Sunday's Daily Dime, with a hodgepodge of Celtics-Lakers content.

Short-term memory loss

June, 5, 2010
6/05/10
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Mark Ralston/Getty ImagesCeltics coach Doc Rivers isn't sure why his Celtics didn't show up for Game 1, but he doesn't think it will have a lasting effect.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers is fond of joking about all the ailments that his team suffers from because of its advanced age. Here's one he can add to the list: memory loss.

That's a blessing for a Boston team that over the past three seasons has shown an ability to put ugly losses behind it when another team might let them fester.

So the day after an uninspired performance in a Game 1 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Celtics acknowledged their shortcomings but refused to lament them at Friday's practice session at the Staples Center, noting there's little use sweating what's now in the past.

They can't go back and fix Game 1, but they can surely atone in Game 2.

Asked whether the Celtics ever let a loss stick with them, center Kendrick Perkins said, "Never. As a matter of fact, today [Game 1] is gone. Sure it's hard to watch film, go over it again. But we practice and once this day is over, we put it behind us and get ready for Sunday."

The Celtics last found themselves in this position exactly a month ago after the Cleveland Cavaliers stormed into TD Garden and handed Boston its worst home playoff loss in franchise history while taking a 2-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Boston awoke to find what was essentially the obituary of its 2009-10 season in the morning papers. The Celtics responded by showing up for their own funeral and winning the next three games to bounce the Cavaliers in six games.

Click HERE to read the full story.

Beginning with the end in mind

June, 2, 2010
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"I definitely think we have more talent. It's yet to be proven that we're better than the team that won a championship. If we win the championship, then ask me that question."
      -- Paul Pierce, Oct. 23, 2009

 
Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty ImagesThe Celtics squeaked by the Kobe-less Lakers in early February, a victory that could serve as all the proof they need that they can win in Los Angeles.
Seven months after the start of the 2009-10 NBA season, Paul Pierce is still fielding the same questions about how the 2010 Celtics rank against their championship counterparts of 2008. That's about as encouraging a sign as any for Boston.

Like in October, Pierce isn't touching those queries until this season's squad raises a Larry O'Brien trophy, which it has the chance to do within the next couple of weeks as the Celtics prepare to face the Lakers.

If you're a Celtics fan, stop and savor for a moment the fact that your team is even on this championship stage. Sure, back in October, many projected a Celtics-Lakers clash, and when the C's went up 2-0 on the Magic in the Eastern Conference finals, a trip to the title round seemed like a foregone conclusion.

But then consider all the peaks and valleys encountered since Boston began the regular season in Cleveland on Oct. 27. Think about the confidence level after the Celtics lost at home to the New Jersey Nets on Feb. 27 or got embarrassed by the Wizards on April 9.

As ecstatic as some felt about this team after a Christmas win in Orlando, recall the limited optimism heading into the postseason with the vaunted Cavaliers looming in the second round.

Yes, it's been a wild 2009-10 campaign, but the mere fact that Pierce is still fielding those comparison questions in June is a testament to what this team has accomplished.

Come as we detail the highs (Christmas Day win over Orlando) and lows (defeated by the Nets at the Garden) of the season. Click HERE to read the full story.

Return engagement

June, 2, 2010
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Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesThe Celtics got a shakeup right before topping the Lakers in the second of two regular-season meetings in L.A.
With the 2010 NBA Finals set to tip off Thursday night in Los Angeles, the Celtics practiced Tuesday on the campus of UCLA, which seemed like an appropriate venue considering that's the very spot Boston began the process of shaking itself from the midseason doldrums that threatened a championship-caliber season some 3 1/2 months ago.

It was on the Westwood campus on Feb. 17 that Eddie House acknowledged trade rumors that suggested he would be dealt to the New York Knicks in exchange for Nate Robinson. Before the Celtics even tipped off against the Lakers the next night, House was gone, departing in the night as Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge delivered a much-needed (yet much-scrutinized) shakeup to the foundation of Boston's basketball team.

House was the fall guy on a team that underperformed for the better part of two months after starting the season red hot at 23-5 overall. Boston limped into the All-Star break having lost eight of its previous 13 games and stood at a far less glossy 33-18 after a 93-85 loss to New Orleans right before the midseason vacation.

To be certain, the House-for-Robinson swap was not what resuscitated Boston's season. In fact, Boston's season dipped even lower in the months that followed, including head-shaking losses to the Nets, Grizzlies, and Wizards down the stretch. The Celtics even stumbled to the finish line losing seven of their final 10 games before flipping the much-ballyhooed switch in the playoffs.

But it was the shakeup that occurred at the trade deadline, where the Celtics acknowledged that the status quo simply wasn't good enough for this team. It didn't matter if injuries were the true root of Boston's struggles, something had to give and shipping out House, a core member of the 2008 championship team, reminded the rest of the Celtics' roster what exactly they were expected to accomplish this season.

"We're just trying to get better," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said at that practice session at UCLA in February. "Our goal is at the end of the year. We don't want to be the best right now, we want to be the best later. We haven't shown anyone we can do that yet."

The Celtics didn't quite prove that until the postseason. But they did rebound after the House trade and posted a monster win over the Lakers that sort of solidified what was possible when the team played to its abilities.

One hundred and five days later, the Celtics are back in Los Angeles ready to start the process of accomplishing what they knew was possible when House was traded.

Click HERE to read the full story.

More in reserve for C's?

June, 1, 2010
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We'll side with Paul Pierce, who suggests any comparison between the 2008 Celtics and their 2010 counterparts is impossible until this year's squad secures the title trophy. But one thing you can debate is how the bench has changed over two seasons, including a look at how important that second unit was the last time the Celtics met the Lakers in the championship round. Which is exactly what we did today, while examining how Glen Davis and Tony Allen couldn't get off the bench in 2008, but are two of three key reserves for Boston this go around:
David Butler II/US PresswireHe's not James Posey, but Glen Davis has nevertheless established himself as the most valuable Celtic off the bench.
Boiled down, the comparison is actually pretty simple to make considering Boston's starting 5 is exactly the same. Sure, you can make the case that Rajon Rondo is performing at a level much higher than where he was at in 2008 -- and that's indisputable. But you can also say that his progression simply offsets the decline of an aging Big Three. Put it this way: Kevin Garnett dabbled around 40 minutes per game at the start of the 2008 Finals and averaged 18.2 points per game that series; he's unlikely to come close to those numbers this time around.

So what's changed for Boston's bench since 2008? Everything, actually.

Two years ago, the Celtics leaned on a four-man supporting cast of James Posey, P.J. Brown, Leon Powe, and Sam Cassell. It's easy to forget, but Eddie House was out of the rotation at the start of the Finals before fighting his way back in by providing a spark in pivotal Game 4. That's almost an identical trajectory for Nate Robinson, the player House was traded for in February.

The 2008 reserves went their separate ways quickly. After winning the crown, Brown and Cassell retired, while Posey cashed in with New Orleans (only to be a bit of a disappointment) and Powe left town after suffering another knee injury at the end of the 2009 season.

Boston's current bench stars Tony Allen and Glen Davis, two players that simply filled out the 2008 reserves and couldn't get on the floor in the Finals. That would seem to suggest that the bench of two years ago was far superior.

Statistics, however, dispute that notion.

Utilizing what's primarily been a four-man rotation of Davis, Allen, Rasheed Wallace and Michael Finley, Boston's bench is averaging 23.1 points per game this postseason. The 2008 bench averaged 21.9 points per game in the playoffs.

Click HERE to read the full story.

3-point play: Eastern Conference champs

May, 29, 2010
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Greg M. Cooper/US PresswireThe Celtics raised one trophy, now they want another banner.
BOSTON -- A glance at our featured ESPN.com stories after the Boston Celtics defeated the Orlando Magic in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals Friday night at TD Garden:

Forsberg: Robinson's patience pays off
When Boston Celtics guard Nate Robinson returned to his locker after Friday's 96-84 Game 6 triumph over the Orlando Magic, his two cell phones were buzzing.

His back to the mob of cameras and reporters awaiting his attention, Robinson fielded a quick call from a college teammate and politely said he'd call him back shortly. A quick glance at the screen of his Blackberry revealed 35 new text messages -- and that number probably doubled before reporters were done peppering him with questions.

On the whiteboard inside the Celtics' locker room, a big No. 4 was written in the upper righthand corner. It likely signified the number of wins Boston need to win the NBA title. But it might as well have been an homage to Robinson, who wears No. 4.

Yes, after toiling in relative obscurity for much of the past three months since his arrival in Boston, it took a mere 8 minutes 46 seconds to make Robinson the toast of the town.

"Nate was great tonight, everybody, Nate was unbelievable," beamed locker neighbor Glen Davis. "Mighty Mouse, huh? Came through. Twitter topic, guys. Make him a Twitter topic tonight."

Robinson couldn't unsurp the likes of Tyra Banks and the final episode of her TV talk show as a trending topic, but Robinson is likely to get more air time than the supermodel after his performance in the Celtics' Eastern Conference-clinching triumph at TD Garden.

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May: Rivers' savings plan pays dividends
Doc Rivers likes to hearken back to the words of wisdom from his late father when things get difficult. Grady Rivers told his son that whatever he started, he should try to complete. He had a phrase for it: "Just finish the race."

For so much of this season, the Boston Celtics looked like they were moonwalking to the finish line. Rivers told anyone and everyone who'd listen that he didn't care about wins and losses, or playoff positioning, or anything other than universal health care for his fellas. If that came about, the coach said, then he'd be content to see where things went from there.

The Celtics are still in the race, improbably. They have taken care of the two best regular-season teams in the playoffs. They have done it by doing a lot of the things they didn't do in the regular season. Now, this implausible postseason run has them in the NBA Finals and, if you've been watching any of the Suns-Lakers series, you have to wonder: What are either of those teams going to do when they go up against a team that actually plays defense?

We can break things down a la Hubie Brown but, bottom line, the Celtics are the Eastern Conference champions in 2010 because they dominated Cleveland and Orlando the same way they dominated everyone two years ago. They played suffocating defense in their wins, they got great performances from their key men at key moments (how about Paul Pierce coming up ultra-large in Game 6 with 31 points and 13 rebounds?) and eased a worrisome Celtics Nation with a convincing 96-84 series-clinching dispatching of the Magic Friday night.

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Sheridan: Eastern Champs, Seeking Banner No. 18
Their encounter was brief, lasting but 2 or 3 seconds, one coach the victor and the other the vanquished, and very, very little was said.

"Good luck," Stan Van Gundy told Doc Rivers as he shook his hand in the narrow hallway behind the interview podium, getting a simple "thanks" in return.

Once again, the Celtics had left a favored opponent stunned and more or less speechless.

On a night when the new Garden rocked throughout the fourth quarter with chants of "Beat L.A.," the Boston Celtics earned the right -- and earned it with zest -- to go for yet another NBA championship as they defeated the Orlando Magic 96-84 Friday night in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals.

"Bring back No. 18, OK?" Celtics great Dave Cowens turned and said to owner Wyc Grousbeck as he handed him the Eastern Conference championship trophy, the same trophy that Rasheed Wallace later held aloft and let the fans touch as the Celtics exited the court some 10 minutes after the final buzzer.

"If you come off the two series they just had, I mean they beat two very good teams, and they made us look like we weren't very good teams, OK?" Van Gundy said. "Cleveland was upset with the way they played, and we're certainly upset with the way we played. But when you go through two series like that, I think you have to be fair and say a lot of it had to do with them, and they are playing very, very well right now."

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jared Sullinger
PTS AST STL MIN
14.3 2.2 0.7 28.8
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Sullinger 8.2
AssistsE. Turner 4.5
StealsM. Smart 1.1
BlocksK. Olynyk 0.7