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Sixth Man not on C's bench; A real circus comes to town.

Byline: Bill DOYLE


While the Celtics work to win their first NBA championship since 1986, it's safe to say another 21-year drought will not come to an end. Unless Doc Rivers decides to bring Ray Allen off the bench, no Celtic will be voted the NBA Sixth Man Award this season, leaving Bill Walton in 1986 as the last Celtic to receive that honor.

The Boston bench lacks the steady scorer Jason Terry gives the Mavericks and Manu Ginobili provides for the Spurs. There's no dominant rebounder in reserve along the lines of Andrew Bynum of the Lakers.

Such luxuries would be nice, but the Celtics really don't need them. The Celtics rely heavily upon their starters and call in the reserves merely to rest their starters and maintain, not extend, leads.

Entering last night, the Celtics' starting five accounted for 77.7 percent of their scoring. That may sound like a lot, but when the Celtics won the last of their 16 NBA championships 21 years ago, the starters scored 78.4 percent of their points. Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett combine to average 62.9 points a game.

With little money to spend on their backups after acquiring Garnett and Allen, the Celtics did well to sign James Posey, Eddie House and Scot Pollard to less-expensive free-agent contracts to round out the roster. Rivers had no choice but to shorten his bench, going with only eight or nine players, and he usually plays one of the Big Three with the reserves.

Posey and House have produced, ranking among the league leaders in 3-point shooting. Posey is also one of the league's better defenders and a quiet leader in the locker room.

"He's like our Tedy Bruschi," Danny Ainge said, "our Jason Varitek-type guy. He's not like an extremely talented player, but he has all the intangibles. He's a team player and he seems to be really committed to the team and winning. The players respected him when he got here because they played against him and they know how tough he is, but once he got here, they saw how hard he works and backs up everything he said."

Though known more for his quick release than ball-handling, House has handled the point better than expected while backing up Rajon Rondo.

"He's just not your typical point guard," Ainge said, "so you've got to make do with him if you want him on the court. You may have to change some of the things you do, but he spreads the floor, he has a high basketball IQ, and he has a lot of toughness."

Tony Allen, however, has not yet recaptured the form he exhibited last season before undergoing major knee surgery. With Pierce injured, Allen averaged more than 20 points in his last seven full games before tearing the ACL and MCL in his left knee on Jan. 10 while attempting a dunk after the whistle had blown. Allen has not regained his quickness or jumping ability, in part because of the heavy knee brace he wears, and in part because of a lack of confidence in the knee.

"Some days I feel good," Allen said, "and some days I feel like, `Oh, man, am I going to make it?'"

Allen, who is averaging a career-low 4 points, can't wait until he feels good for 10 days in a row.

"I don't let nothing that's bothering me be detrimental to the team," Allen said. "If I had something that made me frown, I wouldn't let that be displayed."

A photo of him dunking hangs over this locker.

"That's my motivation," he said. "I've got to get back to that. That's what I do - I dunk on people. On a fast break, I might do a highlight dunk. But right now, I have to stick to laying it up because I missed a dunk the other day."

Small forward Brian Scalabrine is the only other sub who averages double-digit minutes, and he's off to a slow start. Suffering a concussion against Atlanta didn't help.

Pollard may begin to see more action backing up Kendrick Perkins. Pollard played little early on because Rivers wanted his sprained ankle, which sidelined him during preseason, to heal fully. Pollard showed his ankle has recovered when he used his 6-foot-11, 278-pound frame to hold Orlando's Dwight Howard without a shot in the fourth quarter last Sunday.

Leon Powe, an undersized forward, and rookie Glen Davis figure to play only when others suffer injuries. Davis, however, has shown the potential to contribute after he gains more experience.

Ray Allen was probably right when he said the bench wouldn't be truly tested until the second half of the season when injuries set in.

With Ray Allen, Pierce and Garnett all in their 30s, Rivers wanted to limit their minutes to help them remain healthy throughout the season. So far, he's had mixed results. All three rank among the top 15 in the league in minutes. Ray Allen may be 32, but he's in amazing condition. He could have the most chiseled body in Celtic history. Allen, averaging 39.5 minutes, is used to playing a lot, averaging 40.3 minutes last season and 37.5 for his career.

Garnett averages 37.8 minutes, down from 39.4 last season and about the same as his career average of 38.3. Pierce averages 38.5, up from last year's 37 and his career average of 37.8.

The circus comes to the Garden this week - the New York Knicks, not the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey.

Embattled Isiah Thomas and his Knicks visit the Celtics Thursday night. The Knicks broke an eight-game losing streak yesterday, and while New York fell, 108-82, at home Tuesday to Golden State, fed-up Knicks fans screamed, "Fire Isiah!"

Things certainly have changed from a year ago yesterday when Celtics fans chanted "Fire Doc!" while the Knicks embarrassed the Celtics, 101-77, at the Garden.

Knicks fans could get their wish soon. Since New York foolishly signed Thomas to a four-year contract extension in March, the team has gone 6-24 and Thomas was found guilty of sexual harassment by a former Knicks executive. Thomas, as usual, escaped without having to pay a penny, but the Knicks were ordered to forfeit $11.6 million.

As if that weren't enough, there's also the feud between Thomas and Stephon Marbury. Upset he wasn't starting, Marbury left the team for a game and threatened to go public about all the ugly secrets he knows about his coach. Marbury returned to the team and somehow regained his starting job.

The Knicks have gone 0-4 in the playoffs since Thomas signed on as team president in December 2003. Thomas brought in two of the best coaches in NBA history, Lenny Wilkens and Larry Brown, and put together the highest-paid roster in the league, but still couldn't field a winner. So he took over as coach himself last season and the Knicks continue to lose. As Seinfeld, and Celtics fans, would say: "Not that there's anything wrong with that."

A scary start in 1971 ...

When the Celtics' preseason game at the DCU Center was canceled at halftime last month due to the ice underneath melting and forming condensation on the floor, Holy Cross radio voice Bob Fouracre thought back to another Celtics game 36 years ago.

Fouracre broadcast Celtics road games for the 1971-1972 and '72-73 seasons - the home games weren't televised back then, believe it or not. His Celtics debut came in late October 1971 when the Celtics visited Cincinnati. Tom Heinsohn coached the Celtics and Bob Cousy coached the Cincinnati Royals.

Just like at the DCU Center, it was an unusually warm evening and the ice underneath soaked the basketball floor. Fouracre remembers the court being so wet, ball boys ran and slid across the court on their feet to entertain the crowd.

Fouracre had to ad-lib on the air for an hour while officials determined if the game could be played. He had no color commentator and he couldn't interview any players, coaches or guests because he was positioned in the stands, not at courtside.

Finally, the game was postponed until later in the season.

Later that night, Fouracre and referee Kenny Hudson went out to get something to eat, but as they turned a corner on the way to a downtown restaurant, they walked into a crossfire between the police and thieves who had robbed a theater. Fouracre and Hudson hit the ground, crawled back around the corner, and raced back to their hotel to have dinner in the coffee shop.

"I said to myself, `Welcome to the NBA. What a start,'" Fouracre said.

Three and out?


Player Games Starts Min. Reb. Pts.

Paul Pierce 11 11 38.5 5.5 22.1

Kevin Garnett 11 11 37.8 12.8 20.7

Ray Allen 11 11 39.5 4.5 20.1


Player Games Starts Min. Reb. Pts.

Rajon Rondo 11 11 31.9 3.3 9.4

Kendrick Perkins 11 11 26.4 5.5 8.0

Eddie House 10 0 20.3 2.9 8.6

James Posey 8 0 19.8 3.5 6.6

Tony Allen 11 0 13.0 1.7 3.8

Brian Scalabrine 10 0 12.9 2.0 2.8

Scot Pollard 7 0 6.7 1.9 2.3

Leon Powe 5 0 2.8 0.6 2.0

Gabe Pruitt 2 0 3.0 0.0 2.0

Glen Davis 8 0 6.1 1.8 1.8

*Entering last night's game



CUTLINE: (1) James Posey is the Celtics' Tedy Bruschi, according to Danny Ainge. (2) The New York Knicks haven't given coach Isiah Thomas much to smile about this season.

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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Nov 25, 2007
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