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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.”

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

Read More: Carmelo Anthony, Doc Rivers, Jackie MacMullan, Jerry Buss
Isiah lashes out at Magic, Bird 10.22.09 at 4:32 pm ET
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Isiah Thomas responded to criticism from his longtime friend Magic Johnson by lashing out at the Lakers legend in a story today on SportsIllustrated.com. Thomas, the former Pistons standout, most recently failed miserably as coach of the Knicks and is now coaching at Florida International University.

“I’m really hurt, and I really feel taken advantage of for all these years,” Thomas told SI.com. “I’m totally blindsided by this. Every time that I’ve seen Magic, he has been friendly with me. Whenever he came to a Knick game, he was standing in the tunnel [to the locker room] with me. He and [Knicks assistant coach] Herb [Williams] and I, we would go out to dinner in New York. I didn’t know he felt this way.”

Johnson and Larry Bird contributed to a book by Jackie MacMullan, “When The Game Was Ours,” which is due out Nov. 4. In the book, Johnson accuses Thomas of questioning his sexuality after Johnson was diagnosed as HIV positive in 1991. Johnson also confirms that Thomas was not well-liked by other NBA stars.

Thomas fired back at Johnson and defended himself in today’s story. He also accuses Johnson of duplicitous behavior in his friendship with Bird.

“Let’s be real. I’m not going to say the things Magic said in private about Larry, but I do know the public stance he’s taken [in becoming Bird's friend],” Thomas told SI.com. “I know that’s not how he felt about Larry Bird. Magic hated Larry, and he tried to make other people hate Larry. Magic was no friend of Larry Bird’s during that time. And his Laker teammates will tell you that. And I’m sure they’ve got to be disgusted with the way he’s carried on with this whole me-and-Larry bull.”

Read the entire SI story here. And click here to listen to Jackie MacMullan discuss the book on Dennis & Callahan last week.

Read More: Isiah Thomas, Jackie MacMullan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson
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