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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: Celtics’ individual titles slipping away 04.11.11 at 12:38 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

While the Celtics’ blowout loss to the Heat probably dashed their hopes for the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed, with it likely went a couple of individual milestones for Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen.

After Sunday’s poor showing in Miami, Rondo trails Suns point guard Steve Nash for the NBA’s assist crown and Hornets point guard Chris Paul for the steals title. Meanwhile, Allen is still chasing Spurs forward Matt Bonner for the league lead in 3-point shooting percentage.

For much of the season, Rondo led the league in assists, but his numbers have dipped in recent weeks and Nash slid into the top spot. With two games left, Nash is averaging 11.4 assists (829 in 73 games), while Rondo is producing 11.2 (760 in 68). In all likelihood, that crown is out of reach for Rondo, considering he would need 35 assists in the final two games if Nash maintains his current 11.356 assists per game average.

The NBA’s returning steals leader, Rondo has trailed Paul by a slim margin for the majority of this year. Paul is averaging 2.36 steals (184 in 78 games), while Rondo is producing 2.25 (153 in 68 games). The C’s point guard would need 13 steals in his last two games to surpass Paul’s current 2.359 steals per game average.

Despite being the NBA’s all-time career 3-point leader, Allen has never won a single-season 3-point shooting title. Making 168-of-378 3-point attempts — producing the highest percentage (.444) of his career –Allen made a push for the crown this year. But Bonner has connected on 102-of-224 treys (.455), so Allen would need to make his next eight 3-point attempts to surpass Bonner’s current 3-point shooting percentage.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Kendrick Perkins, Miami Heat, Rajon Rondo
‘Tentative’ Nenad Krstic: The pain is still there but ‘I think I’ll be ready for the playoffs’ 04.05.11 at 9:55 am ET
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Doc Rivers called his first practice since bruising his right knee a “tentative” one but Nenad Krstic was just happy to be back on the court Monday afternoon working out and getting ready for what he believes will be his return tonight against the 76ers at TD Garden.

Of course, it looked a lot worse for Krstic last Thursday night in San Antonio when his knee appeared to buckle in the second quarter.

He came off the court, did not play again that night and immediately went for an MRI the next day.

“I was upset but I knew right away [it wasn’t serious] or anything like that,” Krstic said. “When I was in New Jersey, I had the ACL [tear] and I knew it wasn’t the ACL. I was thinking maybe it was meniscus but obviously, I’m not a doctor. But I was just waiting for the MRI and the day and a half was really long for me.

“I can get through the pain but it’s just still in my head a little bit. Sometimes, I’m afraid to jump or slide [step] or cutting but I’ll be ready. I’ve been through a whole practice. I’ll be fine but we’ll see.”

When the MRI revealed only a bone bruise, he took a deep breath and began getting his mind ready to return to practice within the next week, assuming his knee would allow him.

“Maybe in my head, I’m just trying to still protect it a little bit,” Krstic said. “Mentally, I’m not 100 percent. My knee, I still feel pain but MRI showed it’s nothing really serious so I can get through that pain. I know it’s not going to get serious. Mentally, it’s just the first practice after. It was really tough for me. I was thinking it was more serious when it [happened] but maybe it’s still in my head.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Ed Lacerte, Kendrick Perkins
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
Chris Mannix on D&C: Celtics don’t know what they have for playoffs 03.28.11 at 9:51 am ET
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Sports Illustrated NBA writer Chris Mannix appeared on the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning to talk about the Celtics and their recent struggles. To hear the interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Mannix said he thinks there is something to the theory that the Celtics are disinterested in getting the one-seed and seem to think they’€™ll be able to just turn it on in the playoffs like they did last year.

‘€œI think there’€™s a lot of truth to that,’€ Mannix said. ‘€œI think we saw at the end of last year that the Celtics had the same kind of laissez-faire attitude about the end of the regular season. The difference last year, though, was the core of that team was still in tact and they kind of knew what they could do if they turned the jets on and played well in the postseason. This year, they’€™re banking on something that no one, including themselves, is sure is even there. You’€™re talking about bringing back [Shaquille O’€™Neal] and Jermaine [O’€™Neal].

‘€œImagine before the season if we thought getting into late March, early April, ‘€˜If only Shaq and Jermaine can come back, we’€™ll be OK for the postseason.’€™ To me, that’€™s a horrible attitude to have, if that’€™s what this team is thinking, that one of those guys can come back and be a difference-maker. Once Shaq comes back, he’€™ll only play for about two months, and who knows what kind of physical shape he’€™s in at this stage. And Jermaine has given you nothing all season long, so there’€™s no reason to believe he’€™s going to add anything to the equation.’€

Mannix said not getting the top seed could be a death knell for the Celtics. ‘€œI honestly think that not getting the No. 1 seed for Boston this year could be disastrous and could be the reason that they don’€™t come out of the Eastern Conference for two reasons,’€ he said.

‘€œNumber one, the difference between playing the 8 seed and the 7 seed this year is like playing the 16 seed in the NCAA tournament vs. a 2 or 3 seed. Whoever winds up in that 8 spot, be it Indiana, Milwaukee, Charlotte, I think they’€™re going to be a relative pushover in the first round. Maybe they take a team to five games. Most likely they get swept in four.

‘€œThat 7 seed, whether it’€™s New York or Philadelphia, those aren’€™t going to be easy games,’€ Mannix continued. ‘€œThey’€™re going to be kind of knock-down, drag-out games. They might push you to six, maybe even seven games. I think that’€™s something Boston really has to start to consider going into the postseason.’€

The hosts added that not only have the Celtics fallen behind the Bulls, but they’€™re also on the verge of getting passed by the Heat and dropping to third. ‘€œYeah, and that’€™s going to kill them, too,’€ Mannix said. ‘€œYou get into those second-round series that are inevitably going to go six games, probably seven games. You lose that homecourt advantage and that hurts, even against a team like Miami, whom, by the way, Boston hasn’€™t beaten yet with this new group. Same thing with Chicago.’€

Speaking of that new group, Mannix said the Kendrick Perkins trade has everything to do with this slump. ‘€œI 100 percent attribute it to the trade,’€ Mannix said. ‘€œI said as soon as this deal went down that it was the worst trade they could’€™ve possibly made. And I say that knowing exactly why it was made. ‘€¦ This was a one-sided trade, I thought. That’€™s taking nothing away from the obvious skill of Jeff Green. But Jeff Green, as much as you needed a backup swingman for this roster, you needed a powerful big up front more.

‘€œYou need a guy that brings the intensity every single night,’€ Mannix continued. ‘€œYou just mentioned that lackadaisical attitude. I think some of that would’€™ve been eliminated with Perkins in the lineup because he never takes plays off. The guy is aggressive all the time. With him in the lineup bringing that intensity, I think a lot of it would’€™ve rubbed off on some of his teammates. So I think they lost a physical presence and I think they lost a mental intense presence.’€

Read More: Chris Mannix, Jeff Green, Jermaine O'Neal, Kendrick Perkins
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