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Adrian Wojnarowski on M&M: Leaving C’s would be difficult for Doc Rivers 04.25.11 at 2:43 pm ET
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Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports joined the Mut & Merloni show Monday afternoon to discuss the NBA playoffs and other Celtics items of interest. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Rajon Rondo put up huge numbers in the C’s first-round series sweep of the Knicks, and Wojnarowski said the point guard will again be tough for Boston’s opponent to handle in Round 2. “He’s Miami’s most difficult matchup,” Wojnarowski said. “They don’t have a guy to deal with him.”

The Heat, who need one more win to close out the 76ers, also appear to be at a disadvantage vs. the Celtics when it comes to bench play. “The question marks around Miami’s bench continue to be immense,” Wojnarowski said. “Mike Miller, who they had signed to be a key part of that team, he’s got issues with both thumbs. He can’t shoot the ball. And so, his minutes have diminished. They’re getting less and less from that bench. That’s why they thought about signing Eddy Curry. That’s the level of desperation they had with that group there. That’s where Boston’s supposed to have the advantage here.”

If Shaquille O’Neal can return and give the C’s some quality minutes to complement Jermaine O’Neal, that would give Boston another advantage. “We’ll see what happens with Shaq, if he comes back,” Wojnarowski said. “Because Jermaine O’Neal really established himself as a big part of this Celtics postseason run with the way he played. He probably won Game 2 for Boston. I think Doc said he did, and I agree with him. His ability to defend the rim and block shots. Now, if Shaq comes back — maybe Shaq comes off the bench, maybe Shaq starts — but Boston’s bench has shown some signs in that New York series of playing better.”

Added Wojnarowski: “Doc said it all along: They had to have one of the O’Neals play. And Jermaine has played better. He exceeded my expectations. … You saw him defending, rebounding and just his movement around the floor and getting out, really being a lot of places, his rotation on defense, getting back, showing on the pick and roll and then getting back and protecting the rim. He brings a very high basketball IQ. He’s a smart guy, a veteran guy. And I thought he played great in that series and was the difference for Boston.

“But listen, Shaq still commands a double team in the post offensively. He still can rebound the ball. He can’t move like Jermaine can and defend all over the floor defensively the way Jermaine has showed himself to do. But there’s still things that Shaq brings to them that are going to help them, not just against Miami.

“You know, it’s funny: They don’t need him against Miami in terms of, Miami doesn’t have great size. But what it is is, he gives you an advantage. He gives you an edge where they have trouble matching up, and guys still have to foul him or double him. And so, while you don’t need him to match up with one of their guys, you say, ‘Hey, we have an advantage with him playing.’ So, that’s why you want him to play.”

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Read More: Adrian Wojnarowski, Doc Rivers, Jermaine O'Neal, Rajon Rondo
Ray Allen on D&C: ‘Talking to the media is very therapeutic’ 04.06.11 at 12:34 pm ET
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Ray Allen

Celtics guard Ray Allen joined the Mut & Merloni show Wednesday to talk about the C’s as they head into the stretch run of the regular season. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

The Celtics defeated the 76ers Tuesday night, but they are only playing .500 ball over their last 16 games. Part of the reason for that has been attributed to the recent influx of new players. Allen talked about working the new players into the Celtics’ way of doing things.

“We’ve talked about it a considerable amount of times,” he said. “One of the most important for them that they see is, when we travel on the road you see all the [Celtics] fans that are in the building in the other gyms, you understand the tradition, the fan following. And then at home, they see what it’s like in our building, so they understand that they’re playing under a different monster than what they’ve been playing under before. They’ve got to make sure that every night they play hard. And it’s not just about scoring points, it’s about being a better teammate, it’s about working hard every night, it’s about playing defense, it’s about just having a passion out there on the floor.”

Rajon Rondo‘s inconsistent play of late is another frequently mentioned reason for the C’s struggles.

“He’s like the head of the monster, the head of the snake, so to speak,” Allen said of the young point guard. “We’ve got to make sure his energy is great, his attitude is great, his body language is great, everything. Because he probably takes the brunt of all the pressure, the attitude that one of us may get, if he takes it all on, and we’ve got to make sure that we always keep him right, because he’s the one that’s going to make sure he keeps us going deep into the playoffs.”

Allen acknowledged that he and his veteran teammates have talked to Rondo about staying focused before every game.

“We’ve all talked about it,” he said. “We’ve talked about having great spirit out there on the floor every night, whether you’re playing the best player or the worst player, you have to have the same energy, the same spirit, because your team follows you. And those are lessons I learned early in my career.”

Allen left the locker room at Indianapolis’ Conseco Fieldhouse last Monday night without speaking to the media after a loss to the Pacers. He explained the reason for that to Mut & Merloni.

“Sometimes you just don’t have the answers immediately after a game,” he said. “For me, personally, talking to the media is very therapeutic because it helps figure out some of the things you need to do out on the floor that you didn’t do and you get things off your chest. Some nights you don’t have the answer. Sometimes you get so frustrated with yourself, just with the game itself or with losing itself, that sometimes just talking doesn’t help. So, you’ve just got to get away and just kind of sit back and think about what you can do better. You go through those different emotions every night.”

Read More: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen,
Doc Rivers on D&C: Jeff Green ‘could be a good defensive player’ 04.06.11 at 10:21 am ET
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Doc Rivers (AP)

Celtics coach Doc Rivers made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Wednesday morning, following Tuesday night’s 99-82 victory over the 76ers. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Asked if beating the Sixers was a statement win, considering the teams could meet in the first round of the playoffs, Rivers said it would mean more to a younger team. “All we got out of that game is that we played better in the second half, and that’s it for us,” he said.

Shaquille O’Neal left Sunday’s win over the Pistons with a strained right calf muscle. Rivers said Shaq will not play Thursday in Chicago. As for Friday vs. the Wizards: “I doubt it.” Sunday vs. the Heat? “Maybe.”

Said Rivers: “We’re going to be very cautious with him. I would like to play him a couple of games, but only if he’s feeling great. If not, we’ll just wait.”

Jeff Green has shown flashes of solid play since coming over from the Thunder, but Rivers said he needs more consistency from the young forward. “He looked great last night,” Rivers said. “We’re asking him to do a lot. We’re asking him to play two positions. But it does, it has to be a repetitive act for him every night, the same intensity level every night, and I think he’s learning to do that. And that’s good, because he can really help us win games.”

Green was supposed to give the Celtics a defensive boost, but Rivers said he may have been hampered by being forced to guard at two positions. “He could be a good defensive player,” Rivers said. “Is he a 3 or a 4? He’s a 3. He’s played 4 his whole career thus far. With Oklahoma he had no choice. They put [Kevin] Durant on the 3s and they put him on the 4s. … I think he’s a better 3 than 4 defensively just from the power standpoint. But I do think he can be a good defender. I think right now he’s an OK defender.”

Asked why Troy Murphy isn’t contributing more to the Celtics, Rivers said, “He’s been injured. I don’t think it’s any deeper than that. Yesterday was his first day back after one practice. … He’s not going to average a double-double with us. He’s just not going to get the minutes.”

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Read More: Doc Rivers, Jeff Green, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O'Neal
Adrian Wojnarowski on M&M: C’s need to know if Shaq can play in playoffs 04.04.11 at 1:53 pm ET
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Yahoo! Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski joined the Mut & Merloni show Monday afternoon to talk about the Celtics. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Wojnarowski is skeptical about the Celtics’ public diagnosis of Shaquille O’Neal‘s injury Sunday night, an injury the Celtics are calling a calf strain but that had people thinking was his troubled heel.

“They’re saying it isn’t serious,” Wojnarowski said. “I think for everybody who watched it last night, including everybody in the Celtics organization, it looked like he re-aggravated that heel. He wasn’t six minutes into his return. But they’re saying it’s a calf injury, it’s not related to that heel and that he’ll be back in short order.

“You guys know that Shaq with that heel injury was about a week away for about six weeks. Especially at his age, with how much weight he’s carrying, there’s never just a tweak to those lower extremities — to your calf, to your heel. If he’s back this week, great. But for them there’s always that extra concern with Shaq because it just takes him longer to heal.”

Wojnarowski said he doesn’t think it makes sense for the Celtics to hold out Shaq until the postseason. “If he can’t hold up, then they need to find that out now and not sit around and count on a guy who just isn’t going to be there for them in the playoffs,” he said.

The Celtics hold the third spot in the East and would play the 76ers in the opening round of the playoffs if the standings remain the same. Wojnarowski predicts that could be a problem for the C’s. “That Philly team reminds me a little bit of that Hawks team that took the Celtics to seven games in ’08: very young, athletic, quick, a hungry team kind of on the make. Doug Collins really has that group buying in,” Wojnarowski said. “They’re going to be a problem for whoever they play, whether it’s Miami or Boston. That will not be an easy series for the Celtics. I just think the athleticism is a problem for them, and they have that one inside presence in [Elton] Brand, who can do some damage around the rim.”

Read More: Adrian Wojnarowski, Shaquille O'Neal,
Chris Broussard on M&M: ‘It comes down to the Celtics and the Heat’ 03.21.11 at 1:12 pm ET
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Chris Broussard

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.”

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Read More: Carmelo Anthony, Chris Broussard, Grant Hill, Jalen Rose
Stephen A. Smith on D&C: ‘I still believe that Rasheed Wallace is going to come back’ 02.28.11 at 10:38 am ET
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Stephen A. Smith

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.

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Read More: Jeff Green, Kendrick Perkins, Rasheed Wallace, Stephen A. Smith
Ian Thomsen: After C’s moves, ‘not sure who they are now’ 02.25.11 at 1:56 pm ET
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Sports Illustrated senior writer Ian Thomsen joined the midday show Friday with guest hosts John Rooke and Kirk Minihane to talk about the Celtics’ moves this week, mainly the trade that sent Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to the Thunder for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic.

Thomsen said the Celtics forged an identity this season as a big physical team, following their NBA finals loss to the Lakers last June. Now, the identity has changed.

“First of all, I was just wondering who the Celtics are now?” Thomsen said of his initial reaction to the trade. “Before they signed [Shaquille O'Neal] last summer, I was wondering who they were. Because they were outrebounded in the finals, the Lakers front line looked too big for them, even when Perkins was playing. But then when they got Shaq, and you thought about Shaq and Perkins as the front line, now you thought that they were going to have an edge to them, they were going to be able to play down low, they’d always have a big man in there, for 48 minutes, potentially.

“And now again, I’m just not sure who they are now, what the edge is. There are things that they can no longer take for granted: that they can guard Dwight Howard one on one, that they’re going to throw a lot of size at the Lakers — like a big offensive line that creates room for [Rajon] Rondo and all the other guys.

“So, it’s just now going to be interesting to see what’s going to be the new identity of the team. Because no matter what they do, if they get Troy Murphy or anybody else, it won’t be able to replicate what they had in Perkins. And Shaq just won’t be able to give them enough minutes, even if he’s healthy — 25, 28, 30 minutes, maybe.”

Looking at matchups against the C’s main competition, such as LeBron James‘ Heat, Thomsen said you can evaluate it a couple of ways.

“It’s like a chicken-or-egg thing,” he said. “Do you respond to matchups of other teams or do you create matchups of your own that they can’t deal with? So now, against Miami, was one reason Boston had an edge over Miami this year because of guys like Kendrick Perkins and the physical edge that they clearly have over Miami? So, you can say, OK, you don’t need to worry about Miami’s big men, so you can afford to get rid of Kendrick Perkins. But in letting go of him, are you letting go of your inherent advantage over them. And now are you sort of playing their game as opposed to making them play your game. They’re less of an imposing team without Perkins. They’re playing more to Miami’s style.

“On the other hand, Jeff Green is huge against LeBron. Because the Celtics knew they couldn’t win without a real backup 3 to help [Paul] Pierce against LeBron, to help against Kobe [Bryant], some of these other big guys on the wings. And now they have that. Jeff Green is going to come off the bench, and LeBron is going to know that for the 43 or 44 minutes he’s playing every playoff game this spring, he’s going to have somebody decent guarding him.”

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Read More: Glen Davis, Ian Thomsen, Jeff Green, Kendrick Perkins
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