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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.

‘€œFor me, it’€™s got to be the Chicago Bulls,’€ Bucher sad. ‘€œI 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.

‘€œI 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. ‘€œThey 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. ‘€œWhen 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 »

Read More: Danny Ainge, Jeff Green, Kendrick Perkins, Ric Bucher
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:

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Chauncey Billups, Danny Ainge, Kevin Garnett
Report: Shaquille O’Neal should play Game 1 04.11.11 at 6:09 pm ET
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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.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, NBA, playoffs
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.

‘€œWe 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.

‘€œNo. 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.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Doc Rivers, Doug Collins
Bill Simmons on D&C: ‘I don’t know’ what Celtics are now 04.04.11 at 10:37 am ET
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ESPN’€™s Bill Simmons appeared on the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning to discuss the Celtics‘€™ playoff prospects and reflect on the Kendrick Perkins trade. To hear the interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Simmons said that if Shaquille O’€™Neal can’€™t return after straining his right calf Sunday, he can’€™t see the Celtics winning it all.

‘€œThey can’€™t win,’€ Simmons said. ‘€œI mean, part of this Perkins trade was that you had to keep your fingers crossed that you were either going to get Shaq and Jermaine [O'Neal] or one of them or pieces of both of them or whatever. And those guys aren’€™t involved. There are too many teams that have size that they’€™re probably going to have to come across at some point, especially because it just seems like the Lakers are going to be there now. They’€™re just not big enough to beat the Lakers.’€

Simmons said he wasn’€™t entirely opposed to the Perkins trade at the time it was made, but that it’€™s now easy to see it wasn’€™t a good move.

‘€œI thought it was a trade that made sense on paper, which is what I wrote,’€ Simmons said. ‘€œIt was because they had this huge hole behind [Paul] Pierce and [Ray] Allen. ‘€¦ But it was one of those things where they just moved from one hole to another hole. Now they don’€™t have to worry about Pierce and Allen getting into foul trouble or putting a ton of miles on them or whatever, but now they have this other hole.

‘€œI didn’€™t even fully realize after they made the trade how much it was going to affect our identity,’€ Simmons continued. ‘€œI worried about it, but it’€™s really affected their identity. I think the one thing we’€™ve learned over the last month is that these guys really bought into that whole, whether it was stupid or not, nobody had ever beaten them in a playoff series when they were healthy. And that was something they fed off.’€

Simmons said the trade doesn’€™t help the Celtics long term, either. ‘€œThe part that nobody mentions with the Perkins trade is that they’€™re talking about how they want to get younger — Jeff Green and moving forward and all that kind of stuff,’€ he said. ‘€œWhere are they going to find a young center three years from now or two years from now? There’€™s not a ton of centers out there. So in a way, you’€™re in the same type of hole you would’€™ve been in trying to get younger anyway.’€

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Read More: Bill Simmons, Danny Ainge, Kendrick Perkins, Shaquille O'Neal
Irish Coffee: Jermaine O’Neal’s Celtics impact 03.31.11 at 12:02 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

On Feb. 1, when the Celtics began a two-month-plus stretch without either of the O’Neal “brothers,” if you had to put your life savings on which one would return first, how many people would’ve put money on Jermaine O’Neal?

Not many, me included. I know I would’ve put my $47 on Shaquille O’Neal. And, as Dale Arnold might say, if you gave Doc Rivers Sodium Pentothal, he’d probably admit that he would’ve rather had Shaq back first. But that’s not the case.

Jermaine O’Neal is returning to the Celtics lineup for the first time since Jan. 10, when his knee swelled to the point of no return. In 17 games this season, he had averaged 5.2 points and 3.8 rebounds in 18.1 minutes.

So, what, exactly, can we expect from Jermaine O’Neal? If we can agree that all the Celtics need to replace Kendrick Perkins‘ minutes are guys who can defend bigs, rebound the basketball and knock down open shots created by the Big Four, then J.O. can give you plenty. Not as much as Shaq, but it’s something, right?

Let’s start with defense. Here are the points per possession (PPP) and field-goal percentages allowed by Perkins, Shaq, J.O. and Nenad Krstic on man-to-man defense in their limited time as Celtics this season:

  • Kendrick Perkins (7 games): 0.81 PPP on 41.0 percent shooting
  • Shaquille O’Neal (36 games): 0.77 PPP on 37.6 percent shooting
  • Jermaine O’Neal (17 games): 0.76 PPP on 35.2 percent shooting
  • Nenad Krstic (17 games): 0.90 PPP on 44.2 percent shooting

In a limited sample size, Jermaine O’Neal actually gave the Celtics the best defense of all four guys. Even if he can give them 15 minutes a night, that might limit Krstic’s ineffectiveness on the defensive end. When Shaquille O’Neal returns, the C’s should finally have the defensive depth at center that can fill the void left by Perkins.

Now, let’s look at rebounding. Here are the rebounding rates — or the percentage of missed shots corraled by a player in his time on the floor — for those same bigs:

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Jermaine O'Neal, Kendrick Perkins
Jon Barry on Celtics winning Eastern Conference: ‘I think they will’ at 11:25 am ET
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Appearing on the Dennis & Callahan Show, ESPN NBA analyst Jon Barry said despite the Celtics‘ recent struggles, he still believes they will win the Eastern Conference when it’s all said and done. (To listen to the entire interview, click here.)

“I don’€™t put a lot of stock what happens at the end of the regular season,” Barry said. “Last year the Lakers lost 7 of 10 and went on to win the thing. Boston was 27-27 their last 54 and got to the Finals in the seventh game. So I wouldn’€™t read too much into this. But I’€™m a bit concerned because I really thought they were the best team with Kendrick Perkins on their roster. Now I think they let the pack in a little bit closer to them. I still think they can win the East and I think they will, but I think they’€™ve brought the other teams back to where they have a better opportunity to beat them.

“I like their experience,” Barry added. “I think Chicago has had a tremendous year but this is a team that hasn’€™t gone past the first round. The Miami Heat I think still aren’€™t ready to do it, come playoff time they’€™re not built for playoff basketball. I do believe the Celtics will come back and circle the wagons and be ready to go and be the team to beat in the East.”

Barry explained that he was taken aback at how much trading Perkins away has affected the Celtics.

“I’€™m a bit surprised,” the analyst said. “This was the No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference with Kendrick Perkins playing 12 games. The impact that he’€™s made on the floor obviously hasn’€™t been that big and they’€™ve played through it. I’€™m a bit surprised that they’€™re losing games. They haven’€™t been able to score. Their execution late in games has been poor. It’€™s kind of been there bugaboo the last few years.”

Some of the other topics touched on by Barry …

The Celtics recent struggles: “Obviously, since the Kendrick trade this team has not played well. [Rajon] Rondo in particular has not played well. We know how close he was with Kendrick Perkins. I know he has a pinky issue. There’€™s been no bones about it that these guys are unhappy that Kendrick’€™s left. Doc Rivers has felt the same way and they got to find a way to crank it back up here as we get started her in couple weeks for the real season.”

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Read More: Celtics, Danny Ainge, Doc Rivers, Heat
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