BOSTON (AP) -The Celtics practiced and met with the media first Wednesday. So not long after the Los Angeles 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 held Bryant to 32.6 percent shooting in two wins over Los Angeles during the regular season. But few think the two-time scoring champion can be contained for long without giving his defender help.
``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.''
Bryant is the leading scorer in the postseason with 31.9 points per game, but he is far from the only weapon the Lakers have. They are averaging 105.9 points, tops in the playoffs, shooting nearly 48 percent as a team, and have six players scoring at least eight per game.
So perhaps the Celtics would be better off letting Bryant get his points and making sure the rest of his teammates are covered. Boston limited opponents to the lowest field goal percentage in the league during the regular season, and doesn't plan to do things differently now.
``We play our defense, and we're not going to change our defense,'' coach Doc Rivers said.
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.
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.''
BASKETBALL AND FUTBOL: The NBA finals is a big event in Boston, but not the only one.
Soccer powerhouse Brazil is set to play a friendly against Venezuela in Foxborough on Friday night, and that game found its way into the discussion Wednesday.
A Brazilian journalist asked Paul Pierce if it was true he was a soccer fan.
``I got into soccer because of Kevin Garnett,'' Pierce said. ``Before I wasn't too much into soccer, but because of him, I followed it a little bit. We had a chance to meet some of the players when we went over in London, or actually in Rome, and I had a chance to meet the Chelsea team over the summer.''
Any favorite Brazilian players?
``I really don't know names. I'm still learning,'' Pierce said. ``Come on, this is the finals.''
Kobe Bryant, a huge soccer fan from his years living in Italy, was also asked about Friday's game - in Italian.
ADIOS, COACH: Once he's finished trying to win an NBA championship, Pau Gasol will turn his attention toward chasing an Olympic gold medal.
And it will come under a new coach.
Spain fired national team coach Jose Vicente ``Pepu'' Hernandez on Tuesday, less than two years after he led the team to the world championship. Gasol was sorry to see him go.
``I had a really good relationship with him,'' the Lakers center said. ``With the president of the federation, also. It's unfortunate that things haven't been resolved in a different manner.''
Federation president Jose Luis Saez fired Hernandez after a brief meeting. The federation said in a statement that Hernandez had been fired for failing to comply with contractual obligations and for showing a ``lack of respect for the federation and its staff.''
It's to believe Spain can find a much better coach. Besides the world championship two years ago, when Gasol was the tournament MVP despite sitting out the final against Greece with a broken foot, Hernandez also guided the Spanish to a runner-up finish last year in the European championships.
The Olympics open Aug. 10 in Beijing. Spain is in a group that includes the United States and Gasol's Lakers teammate, Kobe Bryant.
``It is what it is,'' Gasol said. ``I'm sure the federation president had a reason for making the change. We'll just go from there.''
DRIBBLES: Kevin Garnett's special-edition adidas NBA finals sneakers feature a tribute to two friends from Minnesota. ``KP34'' appears on the back of the shoe in memory of Twins Hall of Fame outfielder Kirby Puckett. Under the strap is a ``2 Malik,'' for Malik Sealy, Garnett's one-time Timberwolves teammate who was killed in an auto accident. ... Toronto Raptors forward Chris Bosh, who showed his sense of humor with his homemade YouTube video seeking votes for the All-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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