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Jeff Van Gundy on D&C: Jermaine O’Neal ‘a decisive force’

ABC NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy joined the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning to talk about the Celtics-Heat series. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page [1].

Rajon Rondo [2]‘s health was the primary topic of discussion, as everyone waits to see how the point guard will respond two days after dislocating his left elbow during the Celtics [3]‘ Game 3 victory. If Rondo plays, Van Gundy said the Heat assuredly will test him right away.

“Obviously, Miami has time to adjust and adapt and really send him left on every penetration,” Van Gundy said. “I’d pick up him up full court and see if he can advance the ball with his left hand. Because you can’t take it easy on someone with an injury. So, the adrenaline rush from the other night ‘€” and it truly was a heroic thing he did ‘€” whether it can carry over to another night, I’m not sure.”

Added Van Gundy: “I think it all depends on who you are, your competitive spirit and personality, your level of speed and quickness to be able to get back to that dominant hand. And obviously, Rondo has all of those. Now, I think it will impact him shooting, because you need your left hand to help you get the ball up into the shooting position. And I would suspect they may leave him more open than they normally do.”

If Rondo can’t be productive, Van Gundy noted that the Celtics have other options. “Delonte West [4] ‘€” he’s not a setup-type point guard, he’s not a create shots for others-type point guard, but he can play effectively,” Van Gundy said. “I thought he had a good game in Game 3.

“They’re going to have play a really good game again tonight, and it will be interesting to see if they can regenerate that same intensity and energy and enthusiasm.”

On the subject of the ailing Shaquille O’Neal [5], Van Gundy said: “I felt badly for O’Neal in the last game. ‘€¦ I found [it] tough to watch, actually. I give him a lot of credit for going out there and not worrying about how he was looking but giving of himself for the betterment of the team, whatever he could provide. And he is still a force when it comes to having to block him out on the offensive boards.”

Van Gundy said Shaq’s return overshadowed a solid performance by the Celtics’ starting center. “If you looked at Jermaine O’Neal [6] ‘€” which is the ONeal that everyone should have been talking about after that game ‘€” that guy, he put his heart into that game,” Van Gundy said. “He blocked shots, he took charges. I thought Jermaine O’Neal was absolutely a decisive force in Game 3. But they have to keep doing it to have a chance. It can’t just be a one-game hit.”

Van Gundy was not aware that Heat coach Erik Spoelstra [7] told the media after Saturday’s game that ineffective forward Chris Bosh had a sore neck from sleeping awkwardly on it. “As coaches, what you say to your team may very much differ from what you say to the media. You’re trying to protect your players, which I think is commendable, because obviously Bosh did not play a good game.”

Added Van Gundy: “If I’m a player in general, I would stay away from all injury talk. If I play, I’m fine. If I don’t play, I’m injured and can’t go.”

While the Heat had some struggles in the second half of Game 3, Van Gundy said they’re still in good shape.

“I think they’re going to be fine,” he said. “Obviously, no one from Miami would have been happy with the way they competed and played the other night. It’s a typical subconscious reaction to prosperity ‘€” up 2-0, up two [points] at half. You’re not really ready for the force and strength and mental toughness of a championship-caliber team like Boston.

“Boston came out there, their season was on the line, they played like it. Miami’s season was not on the line. And they played like that as well. It will be interesting tonight to see what type of reaction [we see in Game 4]. They went up 2-0. They lost big. Boston is hurting physically. Now, can they come out there and carve up the Celtics with an energy, effort and precision that’s necessary to beat an aging championship team?”

In the Western Conference semifinals, the Lakers were swept by the Mavericks, and they embarrassed themselves with cheap shots by Ron Artest [8] in Game 2 and Andrew Bynum [9] and Lamar Odom in Game 4, all resulting in ejections. Artest was given a one-game suspension, and there is speculation that Bynum will be banned for some games next season for drilling Mavs guard Jose Juan Barea.

“Sometimes in this world, you just get beat. And in this series, they got beat,” Van Gundy said. “And in particular yesterday, they got it handed to them. The bigger issue to me is, when you win you expect your opponent to lose with dignity and class. And you should also have that same standard for yourself.

“Now, Artest at the end of Game 2, ridiculous. Odom, I didn’t see it as as bad. Bynum’s, to me, is suspendable going forward. And I don’t know how many games is right. But when you blatantly just try to take somebody out ‘€” and I would never say with the intent to hurt, but he certainly didn’t care if he did get hurt. Those type of plays are the ones that the league, to me, has to come down really harshly on.

“I thought Artest deserved more than one game. I thought Artest’s play at the end of Game 2, it should have been like two, three, four ‘€” however many. Because it was obvious what he was trying to do. And Bynum’s was worse.”