ESPN’s Chris Broussard joined the Mut & Merloni show Monday afternoon to talk about the Celtics and topics of interest around the NBA. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page .
The C’s play the Knicks Monday night in New York. Broussard said despite the initial excitement over the addition of Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks aren’t a threat to knock off one of the East’s elite. And that was before the reported locker room discord that is swirling around the team during its recent struggles (five losses in the last seven games).
“They clearly have talent and should be dangerous,” Broussard said. “They don’t look that way right now. Even when they were looking good, I would never have picked them to win their first-round series over those top teams. But I did think they had maybe a puncher’s chance and could make it interesting. I still will say they could make it interesting if they get it together, but right now they don’t look like they’re any major threat to beat any of these top teams.”
The Celtics have their own problems, having lost four of their last seven games. Broussard speculated that much of the reason for the malaise falls on the trade of Kendrick Perkins , noting that Perkins and the struggling Rajon Rondo  “were very tight.” He also said the Celtics still have a hole to fill with Perkins off the roster, and Shaquille O’Neal ‘s absence exposes it that much more.
“I didn’t like [the trade] in the first place,” Broussard said. “With this kind of mystery involving Shaq, I like it even less.”
Added Broussard: “My biggest concern if I was a Celtics fan would be the lack of bulk and toughness that they now have without Kendrick Perkins. They only needed Perk for a few teams: Miami ‘ that gave them a big advantage over the Heat ‘ Orlando and the Lakers. You may be better matching up with Chicago without Perk. But if Shaquille O’Neal can’t come back and give you really quality minutes, and significant minutes, then I think a huge advantage that the Celtics had over everyone in the league is gone.”
Asked which team is the best in the East, Broussard said: “Boston, you’d have to give them their due respect. They’ve been great all year. I’m not going to hold this couple of weeks where they’ve struggled against them.”
Added Broussard: “I think if Miami plays the right way, they can win the East. And I feel a lot more comfortable about picking them in the preseason. But for most of this year, I have felt like it was Boston that’s the best team in the East. I like Chicago, but I still think at the end of the day it comes down to the Celtics and the Heat.”
Jalen Rose  last week made some news with his comments about Duke players, specifically Grant Hill , in a documentary on Michigan’s Fab Five of the early 1990s. Broussard said Rose went too far when he called Hill an “Uncle Tom,” but he can relate to what Rose was thinking, bringing up the Celtics of the 1980s as a comparison.
“A lot of people can understand where he was coming from, because Duke has recruited maybe more clean-cut, suburban-type African-Americans,” Broussard said. “I’ve never been much of a Duke fan. I think you guys know that the Boston Celtics  back in the Larry Bird  era, they weren’t very beloved in the black community even though they had great black players along with Bird and [Kevin] McHale and Danny Ainge and those guys. And that’s how Duke has kind of been perceived. Obviously, the Celtics don’t have that reputation now, but back in the day they did. And that’s kind of how Duke’s been perceived in the black community.”
Broussard noted that Rose has started a charter school in Detroit. “I’m sure he’d be overjoyed if he could create hundreds more Grant Hill-type African-Americans,” Broussard said.