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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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Trade deadline stunner: Nets acquire Deron Williams 02.23.11 at 3:02 pm ET
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For three-plus seasons, the Atlantic Division has been the Celtics kingdom. All of a sudden, it has become a madhouse. A day after the Knicks acquired Carmelo Anthony, the Nets swooped in and landed Deron Williams from Utah for Devin Harris, rookie Derrick Favors and draft picks. Harris and Favors were two of the key pieces in the Nets pursuit of Anthony, but there’s two significant differences here.

First, unlike the Anthony saga, which dragged on throughout the entire season, the Nets-Jazz trade was consummated quickly and with zero media attention. Second — and most importantly — the Nets made the move with no assurances that Williams would sign an extension before he can opt out of his deal after next season. Indeed, Williams was as unaware as everyone else that this deal would go down.

Williams can’t sign an extension until the summer, which leaves New Jersey a limited window to sell their new point guard on the prospect of headlining the franchise once it relocates to Brooklyn.

The deal has layers of ramifications and intrigue. Obviously the Nets have to be giddy about stealing some of the limelight from their brethren across the Hudson river, but beyond that the Jazz are now armed with high-value draft picks and young big men including Favors, Paul Millsap and former Celtic Al Jefferson. This also closes an unfortunate chapter in Utah’s history that began when longtime coach Jerry Sloan left the team after a reported blowup with Williams about the direction of the team.

For now, though, Williams is New Jersey’s most significant addition since it pried Jason Kidd loose from Phoenix. If he stays, the prospect of Williams matching up with Rajon Rondo four times a season is enticing. As an added bonus, if the Knicks actually are able to snag Chris Paul in free agency after next season, the Atlantic Division will become point guard central.

The issue for the Celtics is obvious. They will be a much different team after next season (assuming there is a next season). All of their key players besides Rondo and Paul Pierce will either be off the books or have new deals in place. With the Knicks, Nets and even the young 76ers gathering steam, competition will be fierce and the Celtics will be facing an overhaul. That’s a discussion for another day — and another collective bargaining agreement.

We haven’t yet reached the zero-hour of this season’s trade deadline, but it’s hard to imagine anyone else making a bolder, and more far-reaching move than the Nets did when they shook up the NBA and acquired Williams.

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Irish Coffee: Top 5 reasons not to fear Knicks 02.22.11 at 2:59 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

As details of the trade that sent Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks from the Nuggets in a deal that involved 15 current and future NBA players leaked to the media, the man who led Syracuse University to the 2003 NCAA title as an 18-year-old appeared on TV in a pre-recorded interview with Conan O’Brien and stated that he’d indeed like to stay in Denver.

Whether Anthony’s answer was sincere makes little difference. The real question is this: Should the Knicks still want the NBA’s third-best small forward in a Nuggets uniform? Considering he likely would’ve joined New York this summer for less dollars anyway — and the Knicks wouldn’t have had to part with three of their best five players — the answer to that question in the long-term is Absolutely.

Here are the details of the Carmelo Anthony trade from the Knicks perspective …

  • Nuggets to Knicks: Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams, Anthony Carter & Renaldo Balkman
  • Knicks to Nuggets: Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, 2014 first-round draft pick, 2012 second-round draft pick (from Golden State), 2013 second-round draft pick (from Golden State) & $3 million
  • Timbervolves to Knicks: Corey Brewer
  • Knicks to Timberwolves: Anthony Randolph, Eddy Curry and $3 million

Either way, the deal is done. So, that leaves another question: Should the Celtics, Heat or Bulls fear the Knicks at any point in the next four years? Here are the top five reasons they shouldn’t …

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What the Carmelo Anthony trade means for the Celtics at 10:37 am ET
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The Knicks finally got Carmelo Anthony and all it took was trading two of their top three wing players, their point guard, a young 7-footer, draft picks and $6 million of cash. All that for a player who is not a top-10 talent and who in seven years in the NBA has made it out of the first round of the playoffs once.

In the process, the Knicks got significantly older at the point by swapping Ray Felton for Chauncey Billups and dumped two shooters — Wilson Chandler and Danilo Ganillari — for two forwards who can’t shoot — Corey Brewer and Renaldo Balkman. They also sold a good chunk of their future by surrendering a No. 1 draft pick in 2014 and two second-rounders obtained from Golden State.

As it played out, it became apparent that Anthony wanted no part of a trade to anywhere except New York, so the Knicks also pulled off the rare trick of upping the price in a trade while bidding against themselves.

There’s also no telling how the future of the NBA will look once a new collective bargaining agreement is in place. Once Anthony signs his long-rumored extension, he and Amar’e Stoudemire will lock up a huge portion of whatever salary cap is in place, which could mean that the likes of Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Dwight Howard would be beyond their financial grasp in 2012 when Billups comes off the books.

But hey, they got their man.

It’s not as if Anthony is a bad player. He and Stoudemire form a potent scoring combination at forward, assuming they can work out how to play together. It’s just a question of how much his services are really worth. Smart teams understand value and this deal is not smart. The Knicks were played like desperate teenagers on the last day of a binge in Tijuana, and if it’s true that Isiah Thomas is really pulling the strings, then they got what they deserved.

The Knicks spent the last two years undoing the wreckage that Thomas wrought and they were finally were able to put an actual basketball team on the floor. It wasn’t a team that was going to win a championship this year or next, but it was one with assets and flexibility and now most of that is gone.

In the short-term, the new-look Knicks may have upped the star power, but they aren’t going to be beat the Celtics, Heat or Bulls. There are too many holes, especially up front where Ronny Turiaf is the only defensive-minded big man left standing. Their defense, not exactly a strength to begin with, won’t get any better with Billups and Anthony guarding the perimeter.

The NBA future holds nothing but uncertainty, and the Celtics future is cloudier than most. Beyond Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce, the Celtics have none of their top 12 players under contract beyond next season. Presumably Kendrick Perkins will be part of the equation and possibly Glen Davis as well.

As the dust settles from the Melo drama, ask yourself this: Would you rather have the Celtics’ present? Absolutely. Then ask yourself if you would rather have a roster with Rondo, Perkins and a well-run front office calling the shots or Stoudemire, Anthony and dysfunctional chaos?

The Knicks got their man. Whether they can do anything else will ultimately tell if the whole thing was worth it.

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Jackie MacMullan on D&H: Celtics’ problems at center critical 02.11.11 at 1:12 pm ET
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Basketball Hall of Fame writer Jackie MacMullan joined the Dale & Holley show Friday to talk about the Celtics and news from around the NBA. While Kobe Bryant scored 20 of his 23 points in the second half to spark a Lakers comeback Thursday night, MacMullan attributed most of the blame for the Celtics’ loss on their sudden lack of depth at center. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

“That was the game in a nutshell,” she said. “Their bigs just played really, really well, crushed them on the boards, made things happen in the paint. We know Kobe can turn it on, as he did in the second half. And we all knew when he had three points at halftime that it wouldn’t end that way. But to me, it really was about what went on in the paint last night.”

Ray Allen broke the NBA record for career 3-pointers Thursday night. MacMullan noted that despite the lofty praise, Allen has not always been the most coachable player. Said MacMullan: ”It was just so funny to me how, as he was approaching the record, everyone was saying, ‘Oh, Ray Allen, a coach’s dream, the greatest veteran, what a model, an ambassador for the NBA.’ And I was thinking, ‘Whoa.’ I can remember a lot of coaches that really struggled with Ray, including the one here.

“And that doesn’t mean they don’t love him — and certainly Doc [Rivers] and Ray have found their way together — but that’s not who Ray is. Ray’s going to challenge you and Ray’s going to question you. Because he wants things to work within his own parameters. And to me, that was the most interesting part about this quest for the 3-point title, was he did it through multiple coaches, each of whom at one point or another I’m sure were saying, ‘This guy drives me nuts!’ ”

Addressing the rumors of a trade that would send Carmelo Anthony to the Lakers, MacMullan noted that Lakers owner Jerry Buss has been looking to trim payroll, not add to it. Plus, the Lakers already have a title-contending team without adding a player with defensive liabilities who would take some time to learn the triangle offense. “It just didn’t make sense to me,” she said. “Not if you’re the Lakers and you’re right there.”

MacMullan, who had lunch Thursday with Lakers coach Phil Jackson, said she believes Jackson will stick to his word and retire at the end of the season. “The impression I get is that Phil is at the end of the road,” she said. “He didn’t say that, he won’t say anything about it. But that’s the impression I get. I think he’s come to the point where it’s time to step away again.”

MacMullan was talking to Jackson for a book she’s writing about Shaquille O’Neal. “He gave me some great insight on Shaquille, who he has a great affection for to this day, really loved being with him,” she said. “And you know, when it was Phil, Kobe and Shaq, nine times out of 10, Phil was siding with Shaq, not Kobe.”

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Audio: Celtics midseason podcast 01.26.11 at 12:54 pm ET
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Blake Griffin

The Los Angeles Clippers have a bonified superstar in Blake Griffin. (AP)

The Big Show’s Glenn Ordway just recorded his first podcast. The first episode of the Big O’Cast features

WEEI.com’s Celtics writer Paul Flannery. The guys talk about the Celtics season to date, including the play of the two O’Neals, the impact of Kendrick Perkins’ return and some other news around the NBA. The guys specifically talk about the potential trade of Carmelo Anthony, the favorites for the NBA Championship as well as the emergence of Blake Griffin. Listen to the debut of this NBA podcast.

To check out other WEEI original podcasts, simply visit the WEEI Podcast channel in the WEEI audio on demand section of WEEI.com.

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Doc Rivers: No superstar let-down this time for Celtics 12.09.10 at 2:06 am ET
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BOSTON — Celtics coach Doc Rivers held off on telling his team that Carmelo Anthony wouldn’t be playing against them on Wednesday night due to right knee inflammation. It worked.

“Yeah, they knew I was lying because I told them that Lawrence [Frank] didn’t know,” Rivers said after watching his team dispatch of the Nuggets without Melo, 105-89. “We went through the whole defensive added. Hey listen, the last time we used – it didn’t work. So we tried something different. And, listen, the last time he didn’t play I think they scored 135 points. That was the other thing we told them. So I just thought we came out very professional and ready.”

The Celtics shot a scorching 68 percent in the first quarter, making 13-of-19 from the field, on their way to building a 19-point lead.

“I think coach really made a point of that,” Paul Pierce said of Rivers’ Melo message before the game. “He really didn’t want to tell us that Carmelo wasn’t playing, I think he waited to the very last second cause he went over the game plan, so we took that to heart and went out there and just tried to establish ourselves in the first quarter. I think like Kevin said we’re on a roll defensively and that’s what were trying to do to start the game”

It was 30-11 with 2:47 left in the first quarter before the Nuggets closed to within 14, 35-21, heading into the second quarter.

Why the lesson? The Celtics’ only home court loss came to Oklahoma City on Nov. 19, as the Thunder played without superstar Kevin Durant.

What makes Rivers a great coach is he always seems to provide the right inspiration and lesson at the right time. Rivers knew the Nuggets lost 24 hours earlier in Charlotte, in a heart-breaker, 100-98. Anthony played 39 minutes and scored 22 points. His knee acted up and the NBA’s 10th-leading scorer (22.8 points/game) was unavailable in Boston.

“When you lose a star like that, it’s tough on the other team,” Rivers said. “They played last night, you lose Carmelo, and that’s a tough night for you. And the fact that for three of the four quarters, we were really good.”

Ray Allen scored 18 of his game-high 28 points in the first half and Pierce and Kevin Garnett each added 17 as the Celtics won their eighth straight Wednesday at TD Garden.

Message delivered and well received.

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