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They back this comeback

Carlisle and Pollard like the Miller idea

REGGIE MILLER Impact player REGGIE MILLER Impact player

When Doc Rivers called former Pacers coach Rick Carlisle last Monday and asked about Reggie Miller as a person and a player, the response on the other end was quick and unequivocal.

"One of the all-time greats," said Carlisle. "If you can get him, get him."

Within 24 hours, Miller and Carlisle spoke about the prospect of the future Hall of Famer returning for a title run with the Celtics.

"We talked about it and agreed that it was something that deserved careful consideration," said Carlisle.

News of a possible Miller comeback broke last Wednesday. Initially, the idea of the soon-to-be 42-year-old Miller reentering the league lent itself more to punch lines than serious consideration. But with Danny Ainge and Miller acknowledging conversations and Miller testing his body with two workouts per day, it seems less of a long shot now.

Those who know Miller don't expect a decision soon. Undoubtedly, Carlisle was not the only one advising "careful consideration." Ainge plans to have more conversations with Miller, as he tries to convince the shooting guard that this represents a unique opportunity.

In the end, it will come down to how Miller appraises the situation and whether he has the physical ability to compete in the NBA after a two-season hiatus.

While adding Miller to veteran All-Stars Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen offers no guarantee of a championship, those who know Miller have no doubt he could still have an impact.

"Never underestimate greatness at any age," said Carlisle.

No one may be in a better position to make that kind of statement about Miller than the former Pacers coach. When Miller finished his 18-year career in Indiana with 27 points in a Game 6 second-round loss to Detroit in the 2005 playoffs, Carlisle was at the helm.

"From a physical standpoint, I know Reggie can play another year and play at a high level," said Carlisle. "We limited his minutes his last two years in Indiana, but it was always difficult to get him off the floor. I saw absolutely no drop-off in his ability to play at a high level, to be an impact player at a high level."

During the 2003-04 season, Miller averaged 28.2 minutes; the next season, his final one, he averaged 31.9 minutes. If he decides to come back with Boston, he likely would play 15-18 minutes off the bench, though he certainly would be used in late-game situations given his reputation as a clutch scorer.

Plus, Miller and the Celtics recognize that he could be as valuable in the locker room as on the court, with the personality and leadership experience to enhance team chemistry.

But could someone who never averaged fewer than 10.0 points per game, only twice logged fewer than 30 minutes per game, and only once played fewer than 70 games in a full season accept such a lesser role? He wouldn't be seriously considering a comeback otherwise.

Miller was known for a rigorous year-round training regimen during his playing days, and Scot Pollard (a former and perhaps future teammate) figures Miller has been following a similar routine in retirement. Miller may be expected to play 15-18 minutes, but Pollard suspects he is preparing for twice that.

"Knowing Reggie, he wants to make sure he can play 35 minutes a night before he's going to make a decision," said Pollard. "The guy is the first guy in the gym and the last one to leave every day. I guarantee you right now he's doing two-a-days and three-a-days, testing himself and playing against better talent than he's been playing against."

If Miller makes a comeback with the Celtics, Carlisle thinks whatever time he spends on the court will be a benefit to big-name teammates.

"One thing you have to remember is, when Reggie Miller is on the floor, he completely changes the geometry of the game if you have a dominant big man inside," said Carlisle. "It allowed high-level post players like Rik Smits and Jermaine O'Neal a lot more space to operate with a guy like Reggie that has to be guarded whether he has the ball or not.

"With the acquisition of Kevin Garnett, Reggie would be a natural fit in their situation. If I was KG, I'd wine and dine Reggie to try and get him to come."

Not a bad idea, since Garnett and Miller live near each other in Malibu. Ainge and Rivers would gladly make a reservation.

Very personal fouls

Could a trial at which Isiah Thomas faces sexual harassment allegations be coming to a courthouse near NBA headquarters in New York?

A trial date has been scheduled for Sept. 10, but reading between the lines of a 55-page opinion rendered by Federal Judge Gerard E. Lynch last week denying motions for summary judgment in the matter of former Knicks executive Anucha Browne Sanders versus Madison Square Garden, Knicks owner James Dolan, and Thomas, there is good reason for both parties to reconsider a settlement.

Lynch believed "the flavor of the allegations" was conveyed by two alleged episodes. First, according to Browne Sanders, Thomas "said that he loved her and requested that she 'go off site' with him." While Thomas disputes this, the opinion continues, "Thomas acknowledges that in December 2005, at a Knicks game, he attempted to kiss Browne Sanders on the cheek, when Browne Sanders pulled away, Thomas replied, 'No love today?' "

Whether Browne Sanders was sexually harassed and then terminated in retaliation for the charges against Thomas remains at the crux of the lawsuit. But in the decision, the judge points out that the defendants could be perceived to have more reasons than ordinary employers to retaliate by terminating Browne Sanders.

The opinion reads: "Dolan and MSG, operating an entertainment business very much in the public eye, had strong motive to protect Thomas, who may have been perceived as a critical contributor to the team's success, against accusations that might discredit him in the eyes of ticket-buyers, or create pressure for his dismissal, to the detriment of the team's on-court prospects and MSG's bottom line."

While mention of a hypothetical Thomas firing being detrimental to the Knicks might produce any number of smart comebacks by the team's fan base, several portions of the opinion noted accusations that could create unwanted attention for both sides.

An experienced employment lawyer familiar with the opinion said, "Judge Lynch made clear the risks all parties face to their credibility and reputations before a jury, as well as the uphill battle the defendants face on the retaliation claim at trial. This is dirty laundry I doubt David Stern wants further aired."

Celtics fans are buying into the Garnett business

Call it the KG Effect.

With the acquisition of Kevin Garnett, interest in all things Celtic has dramatically increased. The league reports that Garnett's new No. 5 Boston jersey has been the No. 1 seller since it became available online Aug. 1. The Celtics have seen spikes in season ticket sales and sponsorship interest. Individual-game ticket prices could be the next thing on the rise.

According to team president Rich Gotham, the Celtics' season ticket base has grown by more than 50 percent since the Garnett trade and more than 60 percent since the end of last season. While the team manages ticket sales to ensure availability for individual contests and game-day purchases, Gotham said the staff will be working with less inventory than in the past.

So for any fans with a tendency to procrastinate, now might be a good time to break the habit.

"The KG signing was definitely the catalyst for the intense demand that has materialized," said Gotham. "Ticket sales started to run up the day before on the rumor that we were going to sign him and continued to be strong.

"We're projecting to sell out the majority, if not all, of our games next season. Obviously, we're holding back some tickets for individual games. We haven't finalized our planning, but I would think we would reserve some amount for day of game."

The Celtics must also determine whether individual ticket prices will increase. According to Gotham, prices for season ticket packages have not increased from 2006-07.

"Regarding individual-game ticket pricing, which is generally released in September, the likely scenario is that some, but not all, sections of the building will see price increases over the '06-07 rates for individual game tickets," wrote Gotham in an e-mail. "We will finalize those plans over the next 30 days."

Putting their heads together
Throughout the Celtics' predraft process, Jon "The Brain Doctor" Niednagel was omnipresent, unmistakable in his track suits, usually trailing slightly behind Danny Ainge. While the trade for Kevin Garnett did not hinge on the brain type of the 10-time All-Star, it probably crossed the mind of Ainge. For the record, Niednagel categorizes Garnett as ENFP (Extroverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving), a classification nicknamed "the Motivator" and in sports generally linked to gymnasts. In his book, "Your Key to Sports Success," Niednagel describes those with an ENFP brain type as "highly energetic, enthusiastic, charming, imaginative, improvisational; sees possibilities; spontaneous; easily bored with repetition; enjoys solving people's problems; catalyst, marketer." What does this all mean on the court for a brain type that also includes Yao Ming, David Robinson, Marcus Camby, Jerry Stackhouse, Chris Webber, and Chuck Person? "In hoops, they love to move, jump, shoot, and block shots," wrote Niednagel. "They perform with active grace and are well represented in the NBA." When describing how ENFPs respond to pressure, Niednagel adds, "ENFPs tend to become too hyper, playing out of control. Loving to jump, they'll bound into the air to make a move without first surveying the floor. This can lead to untimely turnovers. Relying upon Feelings as their prime decision-making function, they may make unwise choices, acting too hastily." Paul Pierce falls into the ISFP category (Introverted, Sensing, Feeling, Perceiving), which is characterized as displaying artistic, athletic, and graceful tendencies and being sensitive, impulsive, sympathetic, and freedom-loving. For those looking for clues about how Pierce and Garnett might coexist, consider that Tim Duncan was an ISFP and he won two championships beside ENFP Robinson.

He may get to let his hair down
When Scot Pollard showed up for a press conference last week wearing a green Celtics cap, it was something of a letdown. The forward/center known for his dyed hair and mini-Mohawks took the conservative route, perhaps saving his creativity for the court. In addition to guys named Kevin, Paul, and Ray, plans for a free-flowing offense enticed Pollard to sign a one-year deal worth the veteran minimum of $1.2 million with the Celtics. "When I played for Indiana and Cleveland, they were both more a half-court offense," said Pollard. "It was, 'Let's push it up and let's get the play run.' It's a very effective style. Rick Carlisle's a great X-and-O's coach, [Cleveland's] Mike Brown is a great coach. There's nothing wrong with it. It's just not my style. When I was in Indiana, I didn't play as well as I did in Sacramento. In Cleveland, it was a loaded team and I didn't need to play. I'm excited for the opportunity to be in the rotation and the style is going to be more like I played my whole life." Signing with the Celtics also reunites Pollard with former Kansas teammate Pierce. Before Boston became a reality, Pollard was working out in his basement while watching an old college tape. "Maybe it was foreshadowing," said Pollard. "It was a highlight film. We had won a big game. I was hugging Paul. He jumped on me. I thought, 'It would be cool if we could be teammates again.' "

The point is lost on some
Eddie House appeared at the same press conference as Pollard. With his green Celtics cap jauntily askew, House lamented the short memory of some NBA observers who remember him more as a shooting guard than a combo guard. "I played point when I was with Phoenix," said House. "I played the point when I was with Sacramento. I played the point when I was with the Clippers, when I was with Miami. The whole time I played the point except for last year [with New Jersey]. People forget. It's just the latest thing on your mind is what you remember, and that's me last year playing the 2 [shooting guard], Jason [ Kidd] running the 1 [point guard], Marcus [ Williams] running the 1. People are always thinking that all I can do is shoot. That's just motivation for me, to go and show again that I can play the 1. I'm not going to bring the ball up and a dude is going to take it from me. That's not going to happen. My role is whatever Doc [ Rivers] wants me to do. If he wants me to play the 1, I'll play the 1. If he wants me to play the 2, I'll play the 2." But just because House feels comfortable as a veteran backup point guard, it doesn't mean the Celtics are finished looking at free agents to fill that job. After all, Gary Payton is still available.

Stocking the Atlantic?
It seems rarely a week goes by without an unhappy veteran All-Star asking for a trade. Last week, that appeared to be the case with Indiana forward Jermaine O'Neal. Comments allegedly made by O'Neal concerning trade possibilities prompted Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird to issue a statement making it clear he expected "to receive fair market value in return if a trade is to be considered." The news cycle came full circle when O'Neal denied making a trade request or implying that he wanted out of Indiana. But in the interim, the Lakers and Nets were mentioned as possible destinations. While New Jersey president Rod Thorn couldn't comment on the rumored trade, he laughed at the thought of an Atlantic Division stocked with Garnett, Pierce, Allen, O'Neal, Kidd, and Vince Carter. "I can't comment on those things," said Thorn. "We'll see what transpires. You never know when something might present itself. It would be interesting."

Shira Springer can be reached at springer@globe.com

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