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 BOSTON (AP) -Sam Cassell was stuck in Los Angeles, P.J. Brown thought he might stay in Louisiana and Glen Davis at first believed he was going to Seattle.
But there they were Wednesday, on the floor practicing for the NBA finals with the Boston Celtics.
By now, most know about the Celtics' acquisitions of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to form a Big Three with Paul Pierce. But a number of other moves had to be made to complete Boston's improvement from 24 wins to a spot against the Los Angeles Lakers for a shot at a 17th championship.
The beginning of the turnaround included Davis. Disappointed after falling into the second round of the NBA draft, ``Big Baby'' then saw his rights included in the deal that night that sent Allen from the SuperSonics to the Celtics.
``Now look,'' he said. ``Unbelievable, man. It's just wonderful how things work out. When you think things are not going to go your way, or when you think things have been going south, God turns around for you and makes the best for you.''
Cassell has two championships from his years in Houston, but couldn't have thought he'd be playing for another one this season. He was still with the Clippers, who couldn't recover from injuries to Elton Brand and Shaun Livingston.
With no playoff hopes, the Clippers waived Cassell at the end of February so he could sign with a contender in time to play in the postseason.
``I had some great times with the Clippers ... but this year wasn't a good time for me there,'' Cassell said. ``I wasn't a part of the Clippers' future, so I decided to come here. This team welcomed me with open arms from the first day I got here, and it's been a pretty cool transition.''
Brown has the biggest role of the three, rewarding the All-Stars who recruited him. Brown was sitting home, still deciding if he was going to play this season, when Allen, Garnett and Pierce sought him out when they were in New Orleans for the All-Star game and convinced him to come back with the Celtics.
``What pushed the door open - the door was never closed - but what kind of pushed it wide open for me was meeting with Ray and Paul and those guys,'' Brown said. ``It meant so much for them to come up to me and say, 'Hey, we think you can help us. This team was already rolling well, top team in the NBA, doing really, really well, and 'Hey we think you can fit in with us and help us even more,' that meant a lot.''
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NEXT IN THE RAFTERS: If the Celtics manage to win their 17th NBA championship this year, that might not be the only addition to the banners hanging from the rafters at the new Boston Garden.
Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck said he wants to retire the No. 44 if the Celtics win.
Brian Scalabrine?
No, general manager Danny Ainge.
Ainge wore the number for 7 1/2 seasons as a Celtics guard, helping the team win the last three of its NBA-record 16 championships. But he's also played an integral part in the team that's on the cusp of No. 17, adding Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen last summer to help put the Celtics back in the finals for the first time since 1987.
``We told Danny that if we win this thing, 44's going up there,'' Grousbeck said.
Scalabrine was reluctant to take the number when he signed with the team in 2005, but Ainge gave him his blessing. The 6-foot-9 forward played sparingly this year down the stretch and has not appeared in the playoffs.
``It should be retired,'' Scalabrine said Wednesday. ``I'm all for it.''
One problem: finding a new number. The Celtics have retired 21 numbers - including ``1'' for Walter Brown and ``2'' for Red Auerbach - and also have Jim Loscutoff's name on the three banners hanging from the ceiling.
``There's not many numbers left,'' Scalabrine said.
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WELCOME BACK: The Lakers may be hated in Boston, but one player will find some friendly faces back in New England.
Lamar Odom played one season for the University of Rhode Island and said he'll ``never forget the opportunity that they gave me.''
``I have a lot of friends that are still here, a lot of them that will be at the game,'' Odom said. ``Especially for my family, too, because they always came to the games at Rhode Island.''
Odom was Parade Magazine's national player of the year coming out of high school in 1997 and planned to play for UNLV. But he was let out of his letter of intent after there were questions about his academic transcript, and later reports of payments, and he eventually enrolled at Rhode Island.
After sitting out a year, Odom led the Rams to their first Atlantic 10 tournament championship, hitting a buzzer-beating shot to knock off Temple in 1999. He considers that his favorite non-NBA highlight.
``They had open arms for me and they gave me a chance to play,'' Odom said. ``This is a special place for me, so it's really important, special for me to be able to come back to the New England area and play in the championship.''
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A DOUBLE DARE: The Celtics practiced and met with the media first Wednesday. So not long after the Lakers took the floor, they became aware of what could be the key defensive strategy in the NBA finals.
The Celtics don't plan to double-team Kobe Bryant.
Good luck with that, Lakers players responded.
``Well, that's their problem if they don't want to double-team Kobe,'' forward Vladimir Radmanovic said. ``I think Kobe's going to have more space to operate.''
The Celtics limited opponents to the lowest field-goal percentage in the league during the season and held Bryant to 32.6 percent shooting in two wins over Los Angeles. But few think the two-time scoring champion can be contained for long.
``I don't see them doing that throughout the whole series, especially down the stretch,'' Lakers reserve Luke Walton said. ``You know, it's obviously going to result in less open shots for us throughout the game, but the ultimate goal is for our team to win. So if they decide to not double Kobe and he can go for 60, let him go for 60.''
No defense will work if Bryant performs the way he did in an EA Sports NBA Live 09 simulation of the series. Bryant was the MVP after averaging 29 points and six assists, scoring 29 of his 38 in the second half and adding 10 rebounds and 11 assists in the Lakers' 106-101 victory in Game 7.
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-Star game, was on the floor doing interviews working for ``The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.'' ... Grammy Award winner and Boston native James Taylor will sing the national anthem before Game 1. The Boston Pops Orchestra gets the honor Sunday for Game 2.

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