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Ric Bucher on D&C: ‘Athleticism has taken over this league’ 05.11.11 at 9:09 am ET
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Ric Bucher

ESPN NBA analyst Ric Bucher made an appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Wednesday morning to talk about the Celtics-Heat series. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Asked if the Celtics will claw and scrape and do whatever they can to avoid elimination in Wednesday night’s Game 5, Bucher said that might be the case, but it still likely won’t be enough.

“I would certainly expect that [effort], knowing the character and the temperament of this team. I just don’t know that it’s going to matter,” he said. “We’ve seen one thing in this postseason, it’s that the athletes and athleticism has taken over this league. It’s just a matter of sort of pushing that big boulder downhill; it begins to gain momentum.

“The Miami Heat, whatever confidence they had playing against the Celtics overall, beating them on their home floor, beating them in last-minute execution just has to do wonders for their confidence. And if there was an Achilles’ heel that the Celtics had to take advantage of with the Heat, it was the fact that the Heat seemed to have a fragile psyche. And if you could get them doubting themselves, you could get that boulder rolling in the other direction. I just don’t see that happening at this point.

“Going home, I just feel like the Heat are going to come out hard, they’re going to play fast. I just don’t know that the Celtics at this point have the requisite physical ability to slow down that freight train.”

Added Bucher: “It’s hard for me, when I look at the width and breadth of this series, to make case for why the Celtics are going to get it to a Game 6, much less get it to a Game 7 and make a great comeback.”

Bucher said the lack of production from the Celtics’ bench players is something the team could not afford. “The big disappointment — and maybe it shouldn’t be disappointment, maybe my expectations were too great — Big Baby Davis, Jeff Green, Nenad Kristic, who didn’t even play in the last game, Delonte West — when those guys gave them something, as they did in Game 3, this was a different team,” he said. “Expecting those role players to give them something, to give them transcendent performances on the road just flies against history and tradition. … At this point, I don’t see any reason for that to change.”

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Danny Ainge on Big Show: ‘I believe Shaq’s playing’ in Game 3 05.06.11 at 4:29 pm ET
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Danny Ainge (AP)

It’s becoming clearer that Shaquille O’Neal is finally ready to return to the court. Celtics president Danny Ainge was a guest on The Big Show Friday afternoon and he said that yes, he believes O’Neal will be ready to play Saturday when the Celtics resume their series with Miami. “I think Shaq is going to give it a go tomorrow,” Ainge said. “We’ll see. I believe Shaq’s playing tomorrow.”

Asked about expectations for him, Ainge said it was impossible to predict. “I don’t know the answer to that yet,” Ainge said. “It will be determined by how well he plays and how effective he is and how he feels.”

Reminded that there was skepticism that Shaq would play after so many false starts, Ainge said, “I think all those times there was some hope because he was making progress but I see more in him right now than any of those times. I understand. I can’t sit here and say 100 percent either. I’m not skeptical of what I’m saying but there’s no certainty until you see him out there.”

Click here to hear the whole interview.

Here are more highlights from a wide-ranging interview:

On what concerns him the most: “My biggest concern is that I have a great deal of respect for our opponents. I think they’re playing very well. The second biggest thing is were not playing at a high enough level. We’re having too many breakdowns. We’re not playing our best basketball. We need to. There’s not a lot of room for error when you’re playing this team.”

On Paul Pierce’s ejection in Game 1: “I still don’t agree with the ejection. I’ve argued my case to the league. They disagreed with me obviously but I don’t agree with the ejection.”

On the play that led to Pierce and Dwyane Wade getting double technicals and an automatic ejection for Pierce: There’s a screen. There was a guy that hit the screen hard and there’s some taunting, both sides sort of chirping at each other I think you can justify the play from an official’s standpoint. When you look at how Dwyane Wade goes through screens throughout the course of the game and you look at that particular play, you see that he did not try to fight through the screen, he was intentionally running through the screen. I think that was much more of flagrant foul than Jermaine O’Neal’s who bumped a cutter going through the lane, which you’re sort of taught to do in practice. The league rescinded that but those were two huge calls.

On what Pierce said to Dwyane Wade: “He said, ‘That’s not going to bother me.’ With a little bit more colorful language. The bottom line is Paul was not taunting. Paul was not starting a confrontation. He knew what Wade was doing. Wade ran right through them and he was basically like you’re going to get me to that way. There’s trash talking that goes on throughout the game. You can make a case that you can call a technical overtime down the court if you’re going to base it on what [Pierce] did.”

On what Ainge told Pierce: “What I told was this, ‘Paul I think it was ridiculous that you were ejected from the game. I did not think that warranted a technical foul. But the first technical in your little nose-rubbing with James Jones, you can’t do that because it takes away any room for error.’ You just never know what’s going to happen. I thought that one was uncalled for and he should have avoided that one. He was flagrantly fouled by James Jones, but so what? Get up and make the free throws, take the ball out of bounds and stay away from that confrontation. I think Paul’s emotions were in control. I think Paul was playing the game the way he always plays the game.”

Ainge added that the officials weren’t the reason the Celtics lost in Miami. “I will just say this: As frustrating as it at times for me, we do have the best officials in any league,” Ainge said. “We have the best of the best. It’s frustrating that they’re not perfect. It’s frustrating that they don’t see it the way I see it all the time. The officials are not the reason that we’re down 0-2.”

On Jeff Green: “I think he has provided us a lot. I’m not down on Jeff Green in any way. I think Jeff is a good player who’s trying to find his way. The other night you saw he was capable.”

On Nenad Krstic: “What happened with Krstic, he got off to a great start and then he went into a little bit of a funk. I thought he was going through a phase where he was just thinking too much. Then he bruised his knee. Then he bruised his knee a second time. I would say right now he’s just back healthy. Right now. He’s been able to play. He’s not been 100 percent.”

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Danny Ainge on Big Show: Shaq can’t give us 12 minutes right now 04.28.11 at 5:17 pm ET
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Shaquille O'Neal

Shaquille O’Neal will try to practice on Friday and the Celtics haven’t given up hope that he will be able to come back from his Achilles injury before the playoffs are over, but they also don’t want to put him in a position to play him before he’s ready.

“Right now he could not give us 12 minutes,” Celtics president Danny Ainge said on The Big Show Thursday afternoon. “We want Shaq healthy. If Shaq could give us 12 minutes in the first game without jeopardizing the following game he would probably be out there doing that but he’s not ready to do that yet.”

Ainge said the team was hopeful and that O’Neal was making progress, but they just don’t when he’ll be able to return.

“I wish I had an answer to that one,” Ainge said. “He looks better today. There’s progress. We’re still hopeful that he’ll be ready to play but it’s just taking longer to heal, or taking a while to heal and Shaq was determined to play Game 1 of the first playoff series and it’s just not been that way. He could probably go out and some thing but I’m not sure he could help much.”

Here are some other highlights from the conversation: Read the rest of this entry »

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Ric Bucher on D&C: Celtics still can reach NBA finals 04.13.11 at 12:27 pm ET
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ESPN NBA analyst Ric Bucher joined the Dennis & Callahan show Wednesday morning to talk about the Celtics’ chances in the playoffs and whether they’re still a title contender. To hear the interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The hosts opened the segment by asking Bucher which team’s expectations have shifted the most since early in the season.

“For me, it’s got to be the Chicago Bulls,” Bucher sad. “I keep waiting for them to falter, and maybe we’ll finally see it at some point in the playoffs, but they keep defying what we expect from a team that really only has one true superstar [Derrick Rose]. … Boston fans know this as much as anyone, when you have that ubuntu, that sort of collective feeling of confidence, it can do a lot more for you than your simple talent is capable of.”

A lot of people are picking the Celtics as the team most likely to get upset in the first round. Bucher said he isn’t on board with that, though.

“I would still say Orlando-Atlanta is going to be the most interesting series, in spite of the fact Atlanta has kind of fallen down recently,” Bucher said. “They have played Orlando well this year, in contrast to previous years. They’re 3-1 against them.”

Bucher explained why he doesn’t see the Knicks as that big a threat to the Celtics. “When you get to the playoffs and the game slows down and it becomes a half-court game, I just don’t see that in the Knicks’ arsenal. … I don’t see those easy baskets coming.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Irish Coffee: Mr. Big Talk (a.k.a. Chauncey Billups) at 10:41 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

The New York papers have already rolled out their NBA playoff coverage of the Knicks’ first-round series against the Celtics, and while nobody has pulled an Antonio Cromartie and claimed they hate Kevin Garnett, the confidence in New York is oddly high for a team that has an 0-3 record against its Atlantic Division rival.

Maybe it’s because they believe the Celtics coaching staff preferred a first-round matchup against the 76ers, as a New York Post source indicated.

Maybe it’s because Bobcats coach Paul Silas — a two-time NBA champion with the Celtics in the 1970s — told the New York Daily News, “It’s not just that [the Celtics] don’t have the defense or the rebounding at the center position that they once did, which could be a very difficult problem for them. But I wonder about the mindset of their guys. They thought they should have kept [Kendrick] Perkins. They still believe that. I’m not sure that they have the right mindset now to deal with that. As players, you’ve got to let that go.”

Wherever the confidence stems from, it’s there. Just listen to Chauncey Billups:

“We are probably, most certainly, the most dangerous first-round team in the NBA. When I say that it’s because we are new, and we are dangerous. We’ve got a lot of weapons. We can move the scoreboard. I think our defense is a lot better. We’re going to be a tough out, man.”

That confidence is tempered a bit by their president and their coach (via the New York Post):

  • Knicks president Donnie Walsh: “We’re two of the longest-tenured franchises, but those rivalries are engendered by the teams playing right now. There was one rivalry way back. But the rivalry will have to come in the playoffs. For us, we have to beat them. We have to beat them once to be considered that.”
  • Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni: “They’re veterans and they’re champions. That’s the biggest concern. Their mentality is probably better than anybody’s.”

And then there’s two former Celtics — one in New York and one with the Bulls — sound more confident in the third-seeded Celtics than the No. 6 Knicks:

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Report: Shaquille O’Neal should play Game 1 04.11.11 at 6:09 pm ET
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Shaquille O'Neal will reportedly return for Game 1. (AP)

Celtics center Shaquille O’Neal is expected to practice with the team on Thursday and be ready to return for Game 1 of the NBA Playoffs, according to a Globe beat reporter’s Twitter account

“Celtics president Danny Ainge said Shaquille O’Neal unlikely to play Wed, but expected to practice Thursday and be ready for Game 1,” Globe reporter Gary Washburn wrote. 

O’Neal has played once since Feb. 1, missing 26 games with an inflamed Achilles tendon before returning on April 3 — when he strained his calf against the Pistons after just five minutes on the floor. The 15-time NBA All-Star has averaged 9.2 points and 4.8 rebounds in 37 games for the Celtics this season. 

As it stands now, the Celtics would be the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference and face the Knicks in Round 1 of the playoffs (date, time TBA). 

In other Celtics news, multiple reports indicate that Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen will not play against the Wizards in Washington on Monday night. Glen Davis, Delonte West and Jeff Green are expected to start in their place.

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Message or not, Doug Collins was certainly impressed with the Celtics 04.06.11 at 12:00 pm ET
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It took nearly 20 minutes after the final buzzer of the Celtics’ 99-82 win over the Sixers Tuesday night for Doc Rivers to show up for his postgame news conference in the small media room at TD Garden.

Turns out, he was being showered with praise by Sixers coach Doug Collins.

“We ran up against a team that played probably as well as they’ve played in a long time,” Collins said. “I talked to Doc after the game, 29 assists, they executed brilliantly, they had two or three really great defensive spurts. To start the third quarter, we fought to get back in, and we cut it to four again, and then they had another defensive spurt.”

Then came the really sugar-coated stuff.

“I told our guys how that’s really what championship teams do, they might not play it for 48 minutes, but they’re going to lock you down for stretches, and win those what I call five minute skirmishes. And I thought they won two five-minute skirmishes in the second half which I really thought gave them separation.”

As for the message sent and received business that was in vogue after the game should this be a playoff preview, Rivers said he was really only concerned about the final score, nothing less, nothing more.

“No. No. Not at all,” Rivers said, downplaying the mere suggestion. “I just think we won today, and they lost today, and they’re going to watch film and we’re going to watch film. But it’s good to win.”

That doesn’t mean everyone was buying it. Rondo admitted he thought the Celtics made a ‘little statement’ about just how hard it’s going to be for the Sixers to knock off the Celtics in a seven-game series.

But back to Collins. Without mentioning him by name, the Sixers coach also had praise for the way C’s GM Danny Ainge has rebuilt the depth of the bench to support his starting guards.

Delonte West really helps them, Jeff Green has played very well against us, and they played a very very good game,” Collins said. “Rondo once again leading their team, Ray Allen shooting a high percentage. So when they play like that, it should make Doc smile because they’re one of the best teams in the league.”

Collins has been around long enough to know that trash-talking a superior opponent, especially one you might see in the first round of the playoffs in 10 days, almost never does any good.

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