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Jackie MacMullan on M&M: Veteran teams play well in shortened seasons

11.29.11 at 1:30 pm ET
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ESPN.com’s Jackie MacMullan joined Mut & Merloni to give her thoughts on the Celtics and how they will fare now that the union and the owners have come to a tentative agreement to end the NBA lockout. Boston is set to face the Knicks on Christmas day in the first game of a shortened 66-game season.

MacMullan pointed to the 1999 NBA season, which was shortened to 50 games due to another lockout, and how older teams like the Spurs, the Magic and the Knicks were among the best in the league.

“You look at who came out of that shortened ’99 season, it was all veteran teams,” MacMullan said. “The Orlando Magic had one of the oldest teams in the league, the New York Knicks were dragging Patrick Ewing along and of course the San Antonio Spurs, who ended up winning the whole thing. They didn’t do well in those back-to-back-to-back games, in fact they did somewhat poorly, the older teams.

“But over the long haul, you had a bunch of veterans. Do you think anyone needs to tell Kevin Garnett how to stay in shape during the lockout? Do you think anyone needs to tell Ray Allen? And I would daresay even Paul Pierce has figured it out at this point. So the veteran teams tend to do well in these shortened seasons because they know what it takes not just to get into shape, but to stay in shape as the lockout goes along.”

While many think that the Celtics’ window to win another championship has closed, MacMullan said that the team has the ingredients to still be a contender.

“These guys know how to do it, they play the kind of defense that can get it done,” MacMullan said. “The question of course we always have with them is, can they score enough points? Because they really do get bogged down offensively.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

On what moves the Celtics will make before the start of the season: “I think it will be small moves. They have a core that they can try to go out a win. Don’t laugh, I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried going after Grant Hill one more time, another old guy, a veteran that Doc loves and I think would be great in their locker room. They need a big body. My guess is they’ll go for a defensive type of center, like Kendrick Perkins, who’s going to cost them less money. Maybe a Joel Przybilla, his name has been out there. Do they go after a young, athletic guy like Al Thornton? They might.

“I was intrigued with one thing. Greg Oden is a restricted free agent in Portland. We know about his terrible, terrible foot problems. Do you take a flyer on him, one that doesn’t cost you a ton of money? My guess is whatever you did Portland would match it. But I just go all the way back to when we thought the Celtics might have a No. 1 pick, they were in the Greg Oden camp. Not the Kevin Durant pick, and by the way, that’s true of 99 percent of the people in the NBA at that time. So do you take a shot at Greg Oden? I don’t know. I doubt you overpay for him. You maybe overplay a little, but I doubt you throw big, big bucks at him and my guess is Portland would match no matter what. But he’s just a guy to throw out there because if he could at all be healthy, he’d really help you.”

On the Celtics being open to trading Rajon Rondo: “I would put this under the non-story category. Of course, if someone called me and said, ‘I’ll give you Deron Williams for Rajon Rondo?’ I would do it, wouldn’t you? So there you go. ‘€¦ I don’t really make any more of it than that. Rondo is limited offensively, he probably always will be. I still think he’s the biggest piece to their future that they have and that’s stating the obvious. So I don’t see Rajon Rondo going anywhere, I really don’t.”

On resting Kevin Garnett this season: “It’s not easy to ask Kevin Garnett to sit, he’s not good at it. But I think he even understands now. I maintain that Kevin Garnett was not healthy last year. In doing that book with Shaq[uille O’Neal], Shaq said the same thing. He was amazed that Garnett made it through that whole season, that he was really hurting. The question is this: does another year help Kevin Garnett get healthy, or is this how it’s going to be for him for the rest of the way?”

On Jeff Green and his future with the Celtics: “They did that deal for one reason only: because Kendrick Perkins was going to walk. Because he was going to get more money than the Celtics were able or willing to pay and that’s why they made that trade. You don’t need to get bogged down with any other detail. That’s why it happened. So did they think they were getting a superstar in Jeff Green? I don’t think so. I think they were hoping they had a nice, hybrid, bridge type player that gets you to the next generation when this Big Three fades away. You get an asset. Danny Ainge has always been about assets. He likes the way Jeff Green plays for sure. But to think that Jeff Green’s going to average 18 points per game, I don’t think that was ever true really. Was he a little disappointed? Yeah, he was underwhelming, no question. Does that mean that he can’t get things done this year for the team? I don’t think so. I like the way Jeff Green plays.”

On Glen Davis’s struggles last season and if the Celtics will re-sign him: “You have wonder what was going on inside his head. He had a weight clause in his contract and he had to keep a certain weight. You take a picture of Big Baby from November to April and it’s pretty startling. ‘€¦ So what that tells me is, he had this weight clause and he kept missing it and he kept paying them out, fine after fine after fine. He drove them crazy over there, there’s no question about it.

“Shaq had some insight to that, they considered him somewhat of a selfish player trying to get his numbers in his free agent year. Clearly he did not live up the conditioning rules and regulations that they set for him. I think there’s a high level of frustration over there about Big Baby about what he did, or more appropriately, what he didn’t do for them, especially in the postseason. Now having said all of that, if you get him for dirt cheap, do you take him back? I don’t know how perturbed Doc Rivers is about him because I haven’t really asked him about Big Baby for a while. My gut is that he won’t be back.”

Read More: Glen Davis, Greg Oden, Jackie MacMullan, Jeff Green
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