A. Sherrod Blakely's Truth And Rumors

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A. Sherrod Blakely's Truth And Rumors

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON During a rare Boston Celtics practice recently, there was a familiar face on the floor: Delonte West.

When West returns to action and all indications are that it will be sometime next month the Celtics will gradually phase him in.

But it won't be long before he's playing his usual minutes.

When that happens, somebody's minutes are going to be cut.

And when you look at this Celtics' roster, it's quite obvious that the most likely candidate is Nate Robinson.

He did a solid job early on filling in for Rajon Rondo as a starter.

But Robinson's play has taken a step back in recent weeks, making it more likely that West will eventually become a backup to Rondo and, potentially, Ray Allen.

At 6-foot-3, West gives the Celtics a bigger player who is also more versatile.

West, who suffered a broken right wrist injury on Nov. 24, can play both guard positions. And depending on the opponent and the lineup on the floor, he could give the C's some minutes at the small forward position as well.

But aside from his physical attributes, West provides a certain toughness to the C's bench that's unmatched among Boston's backups.

West getting minutes over Robinson should not be viewed as Robinson being a bad player or anything like that.

Actually, it says more about the C's depth than it does about Robinson.

THE BIG FOUR

The All-Star Game will be here in a couple weeks, and the Boston Celtics are sure to be well represented.

Boston should lead all teams with at least four players selected.

If you've paid attention to the Eastern Conference this season, it's clear Rajon Rondo has established himself as one of the NBA's top point guards.

To the casual fan, any top-five list of point guards this season has to include Rondo, who is the NBA's assists leader with 12.9 per game.

He'll also be joined by Kevin Garnett, who has regained his '08 form. He missed nine games because of a muscle strain in his lower right leg, but has returned to action and appears well on his way to getting back to where he was this season prior to the injury.

Paul Pierce is a definite All-Star this season. In fact, one can argue that of all the seasons Pierce has been named to the All-Star team, this might be his most impressive season.

His scoring average doesn't overwhelm you.

But when you look at how efficient he has been, which is rare for a high-volume shooter so advanced into their career, there's no doubt he has been one of the top two or three small forwards in the East this season.

And last but certainly not least, you have Ray Allen.

At 35 years old, it's amazing how well Allen has played in helping lead the Celtics to the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Like Pierce, Allen has enjoyed a renaissance of sorts this season.

On track to become the NBA's all-time leader in 3-pointers made this season, Allen is also shooting a career-high 45.3 percent from 3-point range.

When you look at what they've done, coupled with the Celtics success this season, it's a no-brainer.

Boston's Big Four will be all-stars next month.

FLIP (THE SWITCH) MODE?

After a recent loss at Washington, it brought back memories of last season when there were far too many losses to bad teams by Boston.

When the season ended, C's players bemoaned how those setbacks cost them home-court advantage throughout most of the playoffs, including the NBA Finals.

This season, 5 of the C's 10 losses have been to teams at or below-.500.

But there is a difference with this year.

Those losses, if anything, seem to re-focus this team on what they have to do in order to be successful.

Following a loss to Cleveland early in the season, Boston reeled off five straight wins.

And after a one-point loss at Toronto, the C's got Jalapeo-hot by winning 14 straight.

The Celtics had two sets of back-to-back losses, and ran off winning streaks of five and four games, respectively.

So as disappointing as it might have seemed to lose to the woeful Wizards, just remember.

Such losses should not be seen as trouble.

Instead, they serve as a heads-up that the C's are about to start rolling over teams and a nice winning streak is coming.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

WATCH: Celtics vs. Magic

WATCH: Celtics vs. Magic

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Celtics-Magic preview: Orlando's poor offense gives C's chance to bounce back

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Celtics-Magic preview: Orlando's poor offense gives C's chance to bounce back

Talk about your basketball extremes.

After losing a 107-106 heartbreaker to Houston and their high-powered offense on Monday, the Boston Celtics will be in for a very different -- and less successful -- foe tonight in the Orlando Magic.

The Magic beat Washington 124-116 on Tuesday night despite John Wall’s 52-point effort, but have been one of the NBA’s most offensively challenged teams this season.

Orlando ranks near the bottom in scoring (29th, 94.6 points per game), field goal percentage (28th, .426) and Pace (24th, 96.71) this season.

But Frank Vogel’s crew has been a defensive force thus far in the East even if their record might suggest otherwise.

They rank among the league’s best in several defensive categories such as scoring defense (4th, 98.0 points per game allowed); opponent 3-point percentage (3rd, 33.0 percent), opponent 3-point attempts (4th, 23.6) in addition to allowing a league-low 8.0 made 3's per game.

That will be a stark contrast from the let-it-fly-all-night style Boston had to contend with against the high-scoring Rockets on Monday.

But this set of games is exactly why Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge made of point of trying to put together a roster that was heavy on athleticism and versatility both in the frontcourt as well as on the perimeter.

Against Houston, Tyler Zeller recorded his first DNP-CD (Did not play -- coaches decision) of the season which made sense considering Houston basically plays void of a traditional center.

Orlando, that’s a different story.

Serge Ibaka, Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic now coming off the bench form a physical triumvirate of big men that can cause lots of problems for a Celtics team that will look to attack the paint often.

When it comes to scoring in the restricted area, the Magic allow opponents to shoot 57.6 percent which ranks seventh in the league. They rank highly when it comes to defending mid-range shots (5-10th, 38.3 percent), corner 3's (6th, 34.5 percent) and above-the-break 3's (8th, 33.8 percent) as well.

And while they have had their issues offensively this season, their recent run of success has been in part aided by a much-improved offensive showing. In their last five games, they are shooting 48.5 percent from the field which ranks fifth in the NBA in that span. For the season, the Magic rank 28th while connecting on 42.6 percent of their shots.

Orlando’s improved shooting with a defense that’s stingy as ever, will make this a tough game for Boston to come away with a victory.

Just as the Magic seek to continue their successful ways, the Celtics come into this game with something to prove as well.

While the missed lay-ups by Al Horford and Isaiah Thomas in the final minute of Monday’s 107-106 loss certainly were factors in the game’s outcome, there were a series of miscommunications earlier in the quarter that fueled Houston’s late surge.

Following the game, Isaiah Thomas pointed out how he called out a play that Jonas Jerebko interpreted as another play the Celtics called.

The miscommunication led to a turnover and subsequent lay-up which in hindsight looms huge considering the margin of victory was just one point.

“The two play calls sound alike,” Thomas told reporters afterwards. “In the heat of battle, I have to do a better job of making sure everybody knows what play we’re running. He (Jerebko) handed the ball back to me when the play wasn’t to hand the ball back to me. That was one of the turnovers that was the key.

Thomas added, “It’s not his fault. As a group, as a point guard, I have to do a better job of letting my guys know what play we’re running. Those little things, especially on the road, those make you lose games. But that wasn’t the play that made us lose. I’m not putting this on Jonas at all.”

Indeed, this team’s success as well as their struggles are the collective efforts of all their core players, Thomas included.

And for them to get back on track, it won’t be one or two players that will make it happen.

It’ll be a team effort, the kind that will allow Boston to find success against different teams no matter how extremely different their styles of play may be.