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Celtics Notebook

Magic trades to change holiday preparations

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / December 20, 2010

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Thanks to the pair of trades by the Orlando Magic that brought in Gilbert Arenas, Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson, and Earl Clark, the Celtics’ Christmas Day plans look drastically different.

A rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference finalists now has become an introduction to a retooled roster.

“It makes it even more interesting,’’ said Ray Allen. “They won’t even know what they’re putting out on the table based on the guys that they’re bringing in. They hope they know what they’re getting when those guys step out there, but you’ve got to build that chemistry.’’

The Magic were 16-9, but five losses in six games prompted general manager Otis Smith to ship Vince Carter, Mickael Pietrus, and Marcin Gortat to Phoenix and Rashard Lewis to Washington, deciding his team needed “more punch.’’ The Magic added explosive scorers, but the timing of the deal puzzled observers around the league.

“I’m trying to get my hands around it, to tell you the truth,’’ Pacers coach Jim O’Brien said yesterday at TD Garden. “Nobody knows their players like the head coach does and like the guy that’s making the personnel decisions. For all of us who are outsiders looking at any trade you might think positively or negatively, but nobody knows why they did what they did.’’

Celtics coach Doc Rivers added, “Only they know what they were looking for. I heard they were looking for guys who could create off the dribble, and I think they have added that. They lost some size. We’ll see later. I don’t think we’ll know on Christmas whether they’re better or worse. But we’ll know that answer later.’’

The Magic will try out their new look tonight in Atlanta, but also have home games against Dallas and San Antonio before facing the Celtics.

Allen, who mentored Lewis in Seattle, didn’t understand the timing of the deal.

“It just seemed like an odd time to make a trade,’’ Allen said. “Orlando’s trying to do what they can to better themselves and for us, we somewhat have to readjust. We have to readjust a little bit personnel-wise. We prepared to play them and now we have to reprepare, because the film that we watched will be a game old.’’

The O’Neal shuffle? Shaquille O’Neal returned to the lineup yesterday, but it doesn’t guarantee that he’ll play Wednesday against Philadelphia.

O’Neal played 21 minutes in yesterday’s 99-88 win, giving the Celtics 11 points and five rebounds (along with five fouls), after sitting out four games because of a sore right calf.

“It’s kind of sore, but I’ll just take it easy and just try to strengthen the area,’’ O’Neal said.

Even though Semih Erden played seven minutes, he was hampered by a pulled groin, which meant that without O’Neal the Celtics’ options at center would have been slim.

Jermaine O’Neal practiced Saturday and even though the Celtics only practice once before Wednesday, Rivers has said the player is close.

Rooting for Walker Getting word that Antoine Walker had a hot night from 3-point range when his Idaho Stampede made the trip to Springfield to face the Armor last week, O’Brien, who saw Walker take hundreds of treys (advised and otherwise) during his days as the Celtics’ coach, joked, “It doesn’t surprise me that he took 12. It’s good that he made six.’’

Walker’s return to basketball in the Developmental League has gotten a lot of attention, but his prospects for success depend a lot on his conditioning and ability at 34 years old to still play at a high level, O’Brien said.

“I know he worked very hard in Louisville this summer, and I wish him the very best,’’ O’Brien said. “It depends how the scouts evaluate him. Teams down the stretch are looking for a veteran presence and he certainly knows how to play the game.’’

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

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