Veteran columnist and radio host Stephen A. Smith joined the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning to talk about the Celtics and NBA news. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page .
Smith made news recently by speculating that Rasheed Wallace  would end his retirement and return to the Celtics. Smith explained that Wallace indicated last June ‘ when the player talked about his retirement ‘ that he would consider returning after the trade deadline this season.
“He was alluding [in June] to coming back once the trading deadline expired if the Celtics needed him, that he would think about it,” Smith said. “And throughout this year, he had been saying one day, he wants to come back, the other day, he doesn’t want to come back. ‘¦ He was going back and forth throughout the year. One day he wants to come back, another day he doesn’t want to come back. One minute he’s thinking about going to Orlando, the next minute he misses all the boys he was with in Boston last year.
“So, I simply said I think he’s going to end up coming back to Boston, because I believe that Boston is going to be the team that fights the Lakers for the world championship, and I believe that Doc Rivers  is the ultimate motivator. And I think if you have an opportunity to play for Doc Rivers for a couple of months, that’s not something that you’re going to turn down. I still believe that. I still believe that Rasheed Wallace is going to come back.”
Smith called the trade of Kendrick Perkins  to the Thunder “a devasating blow” to Boston, but he remains convinced that the Celtics will beat the Heat and win the Eastern Conference en route to an NBA title. Smith said he can’t pick a team that starts Erick Dampier at center, and that the Celtics can slow the games down, taking away the Heat’s uptempo style.
“If [the Celtics] play the kind of defense they always play, I can’t see how the Miami Heat  can beat them in a seven-game series,” he said.
Added Smith: “I believe in Shaquille O’Neal  and Jermaine O’Neal , and I think somehow, someway, specifically Shaquille O’Neal can offset the loss of Kendrick Perkins. And I think that will be enough to get you back to the NBA finals , where I believe they will beat the Los Angeles Lakers .”
The Perkins trade hurts the Celtics more emotionally than physically, Smith explained. “There’s no doubt in my mind that the Boston Celtics  made the right move for the long term,” he said. “But short term, I think it’s a devastating blow. Kendrick Perkins is a big body, a wide body, he’s very, very physical. And I’m one of those people who firmly believes that if Kendrick Perkins hadn’t gotten hurt in Game 6 of the NBA finals that the Boston Celtics would be the reigning defending world champions right now. I think they would have beaten the Lakers in Game 7.
“I think that when you look at the physicality that he brings to that squad, the fact that he’s gone is a tremendous loss. Now, if Shaquille O’Neal is going to be healthy for the postseason, if Jermaine O’Neal can give you something, then it’s not a big deal. But because they played so little during this season, I’m very, very concerned, because what it leaves you with is [Kevin Garnett ] and Glen ‘Big Baby’ Davis along with Nenad Krstic , and I’m not the biggest fan in the world of Krstic. I know he’s got skills and he can play, but do I think he’s a bit soft? Absolutely.”
Added Smith: “Never ever underestimate the power of camaraderie. ‘¦ That is a devastating blow, and you never know mentally ‘ as mature as they are, as poised and experienced as they are ‘ you never know how that’s going to affect guys.”
On the positive side, Smith said newcomer Jeff Green  gives the Celtics a big boost off the bench. Said Smith: “By having Jeff Green, you not only have somebody who can spell for Paul Pierce , you have somebody that can be in the game that will enable Paul Pierce to move to the 2 to spell for Ray Allen . And that’s a huge, huge deal, because Jeff Green has that kind of versatility.”
Smith said that having Rivers on the bench will help the team overcome the emotional loss of Perkins. “Danny Ainge knows the kind of motivator he has in Doc Rivers, a guy that I consider to be at this moment in time ‘ at this moment, guys ‘ one of the top two coaches in the NBA,” Smith said. “There isn’t a better motivator than Doc Rivers. There isn’t a team that respect their coach more than these players respect Doc Rivers. He just has that ‘it’ factor when it comes to dealing with this collection of players.
“When people roll into Boston, it’s Doc Rivers’ team, and the one thing that they consistently go out and do is play for this guy. Danny Ainge knew that when he made these moves. So, I’m going to still roll the dice and say despite the changes, despite anybody’s trepidation and apprehension, at least on my part, I’m going to still give Doc Rivers and Dany Ainge that edge and still say that Boston is the team to beat.”
The Knicks knocked off the Heat in Miami on Sunday night, but Smith isn’t convinced New York can beat one of the East’s elite teams in the playoffs. “They’re a threat, but I don’t think they can [win a series],” he said of the Knicks’ prospects vs. the Celtics, Heat or Bulls.
Looking at the problems in Detroit, where Rip Hamilton apparently tried to lead a mutiny against coach John Kuester , Smith has little sympathy for the players. “[Kuester’s] personality doesn’t led himself to being a head coach in this league, because you’ve got to be able to relate to players, and I tell people that all the time; that’s just the world that we live in,” he said. “But there’s absolutely no excuse to disrespect him in the way that they have. They should be ashamed of themselves, and every single one of them should be fined, and if you found a way where you could suspend them, you should do that, too.”
Touching on Sunday night’s Academy Awards, Smith said he thought “The Social Network” should have won best picture, and he fell asleep watching “The King’s Speech,” which won the Oscar. “It was a bit too slow for me,” he said. “I’m a fast-paced kind of guy.”