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NBA NOTESThe theme for the entire Celtics franchise was set the day Doc Rivers finally convinced Paul Pierce that his system was designed to make the captain better.

And so it has followed for just about everyone who has been added to this roster during the last two seasons.

Consider, for example, Eddie House, who has always suffered from the fact that he is a shooting guard in a point guard's body.

He shot a career-high 44.4 percent from 3-point range last season, while also accounting for the team's third-highest field goal percentage (44.5) overall.

There's something to be said here about the value of keeping a player around, instead of using him as a one-year rental, which had been the shooting guard's reputation. House is now in his third year with the Celtics , matching the amount of time he spent with his first team, the Miami Heat.

During the four seasons in between, he played for six other teams, including another brief stint with the Heat.

There was always someone else - usually a newcomer or a free agent - with more allure.

Phoenix, for instance, saw great promise in former Celtic Marcus Banks, who signed a five-year contract worth $21.5 million with the team in 2006. House saw the writing on the wall after averaging a career-high 9.8 points for the Suns, and didn't pick up the option on his contract and signed with New Jersey.

Banks, still living off that contract without much playing time to show for it, is now in Toronto.

House hit the road again a year later when the Nets became infatuated with others, including then-rookie point guard Marcus Williams, who is now barely playing for his third team in four seasons, Memphis.

House isn't going to to insist that he's more than his skills indicate - a game-breaking shooter who can play a little point guard, though not too much, in a pinch.

But stability has brought appreciation.

``I don't know - I traveled to so many teams that I've been able to adapt everywhere,'' he said. ``The thing in this league is that you get to know the players. You don't really have to think about trying to get it when you come to a new team.

``You know guys' tendencies. You don't have to keep learning, which is what happens when you go to a new team. I've been playing with everyone here for three years now. These guys really know how to play the game, so it's easy to fit in.''

House can be especially stoic when talking about himself, so it shouldn't be surprising that he shrugs it off when asked about the improvement in his numbers since becoming a Celtic.

``I just want to come in and be a better player every year,'' he said. ``I just want to improve on what I did last year. Work on my help defense, help rebounding, be a more complete player.''

Indeed, issues like defense and ballhandling, never a House forte, are dictating his time now.

The addition of Marquis Daniels has taken the ballhandling burden off House when the second unit is on the floor. But his minutes are also more fluid than ever.

``He's trying,'' Rivers said. ``The whole key for Eddie is defense for us. You know, just keep shooting, that's what he does. And they're going to go in for him, so I'm not concerned about his shot. He's not going to forget how to shoot. But . . . the better he is on defense, the longer he stays on the floor. . . . That allows us to continue to play him. He has a huge value for us offensively; we all know that. Even when he's not making shots, you have to guard him, and that opens the floor. But when he's not playing defense, or well, then we have to take him off the floor.''

In the past, the result of such a quandary was a trade, free agency or a waived option.

But House is in the first year of a two-year deal. Last summer, for the first time in his career, he signed a second contract with the same team.

Certain qualities can be revealed only in an extended stay.

``One thing that comes out is how much of a winner this guy is,'' said his agent, Mark Bartelstein. ``Every place he went to got a whole lot better, and (went) for worse when he was gone.

``I think most people's perception of him for a long time was that he was a specialist, and he got stereotyped because of that. But you talk to all of those (coaches) who had him - Mike D'Antoni (Phoenix), Lawrence Frank (New Jersey), Rod Thorn (New Jersey, president), Stan Van Gundy (Miami) - and they'll all say they never should have let him go.''

Even when there's a chance to sign Banks?

``That was the worst decision they ever made,'' Bartelstein said of the Suns.

In some respects the theme continues. Last year's 3-point shooting contest during All-Star weekend may have been House's ultimate snub. He was in the midst of a hot streak at the time, shooting well over 40 percent from downtown, and generally putting up career numbers. ``I started last year so far in the hole that I had to come up,'' House said. ``I got better stats, but I was just trying to get better.''

The committee subsequently went for players like . . . Daequan Cook.

All of this, despite the fact that the weekend was being held in House's offseason home of Phoenix, where he is still remembered for holding most of Arizona State's scoring records.

Bartelstein attempted to lobby for House's inclusion in the All-Star contest, but to no avail.

House's renowned quick release is custom made for the event. Just imagine him unloading those ball racks with time to spare.

Bartelstein will lobby again this season, too.

The agent famously battles for all of his clients, but it sounds as though this case is even a little more personal.

``He's as good a teammate as anyone I've ever represented,'' Bartelstein said. ``That infusion of energy and positive attitude is important to every team.

``You just can't find guys in this league who can give you 25 or 30 points on a given night, and then play 12 minutes the next and still go into the locker room high-fiving people.

``But what he has now is what he's always wanted. He doesn't want to be a gun for hire. It also helps Eddie to be in a real Basketball town, where the fans are just so knowledgeable.''

And those fans aren't going to take House for something he isn't. They understand that not every guard under 6-foot-2 comes ready made with point guard skills.

``If you can find someone who does what Eddie House does, and is also a point guard, you'd have to pay him a max contract,'' Bartelstein said.

Put up your Dukes

It must be a Duke thing, this recent ability of players, branded as journeymen or worse, to suddenly find their calling in the proper setting.

Celtics fans are especially aware of how Shelden Williams has suddenly come into his own as the eighth man in the rotation.

Fellow Dukie Dahntay Jones was considered a defensive specialist/non-option when he joined the Pacers this year.

So consider Jones' progression, starting with his 25-point performance during a win against the Celtics on Nov. 14. He followed that up with 17 points against the Nets on Nov. 17, and another 25-point outburst a night later against the Knicks.

As of Thursday, Jones was averaging 17.4 points per game, and had scored in double figures in seven straight games.

But scoring is the reward, not the reason, that a player succeeds in coach Jim O'Brien's system.

Jones is finally reaping the fruits of his defense. Just as during his time with the Celtics , O'Brien demands that his players stop people.

``(Dahntay) knows what he's doing well and what he's not doing well,'' O'Brien said. ``But he knows the coaching staff wants him to be aggressive at both ends and then find that level and be totally effective at both ends.''

Part of the reward, for now, is a starting job. With Troy Murphy out injured, Jones is averaging 34 minutes per game.

Dead man gawking

Pau Gasol, not the comeliest of NBA stars, is nonetheless good looking enough for network television. The Lakers forward was a recent guest on a ``CSI: Miami'' episode.

His character dies several days after suffering a head injury in a car accident, and is taken to the morgue for an autopsy. But his greatest performance was reserved for the morgue slab - an extra long one, we presume - where his ``acting'' called for stretching out in front of the medical examiner's staff. It requires talent to play a dead man.


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Added: November 23, 2009


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