Jeff Van Gundy
ESPN NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy joined Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday morning to talk about Jason Collins, the Celtics and the playoffs.
Collins, a 12-year NBA veteran who started the season with the Celtics and was traded to the Wizards in February, revealed Monday that he is gay. The support from people in and around the league was immediate and impressive.
“I expected every player to publicly support him, certainly the league to support him,” Van Gundy said. “I think the question that remains is privately, when you get behind the locker room doors, or they’re in their rooms in the hotels, what do they say then? Because everyone’s aware player-wise that to do like what [Dolphins wide receiver] Mike Wallace said yesterday, there’s going to be major repercussions. But to think that some players don’t have those similar thoughts but just won’t publicly express them is a bit naive. I think if Collins is on a roster next year, I think the public support will always be there. Privately, I think there will still be some ignorance to his situation.”
Collins is being heralded as the first active player in major team sports to come out. However, Van Gundy isn’t so sure Collins, a free agent, will be playing next season.
“The big issue whether Collins gets signed next year or if he’s not signed is going to have nothing to do with his sexual orientation and everything to do with his diminishing skills and athleticism,” Van Gundy said. “He’s a marginal NBA player right now, at best.”
The Celtics head back to New York for Wednesday’s Game 5 as heavy underdogs as they look to extend the series.
“I just think that the Celtics, are they going to be able to find enough offense over the next three games to legitimately put pressure on New York,” Van Gundy said. “Certainly if they win Game 5, anything becomes possible then because then you just have to win one home game to get to the ultimate Game 7. But when I see them, their guard struggles are so dramatic without [Rajon] Rondo that it’s difficult to create quality opportunities in the halfcourt. I think it will be even more so on the road.
“The thing that’s been overlooked is the first two halves of the games in New York, Boston was great. So many people have been focusing on what was wrong in the second halves, and I think it’s a talent issue, they just don’t have enough offensive talent with the loss of Rondo and Ray Allen from last year. But if they can stay in a faster-paced game, like they can get that ball and advance it and attack before the Knick defense gets set, then we’ve seen how effective Jeff Green can be in that type of game, [Paul] Pierce can hit some trail 3′s. I just think they have to play with pace and offensive energy. And if they can do that, their defense should be able to limit New York. They’re still an excellent defensive team.”
The season-ending injury to Thunder guard Russell Westbrook appears to have eliminated the biggest threat to stop the Heat from repeating as NBA champions.
“I just think Miami is really good and probably would have been a heavy favorite anyway,” Van Gundy said, adding: “I just don’t see Miami being challenged that strongly the rest of the way.”
Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page. For more Celtics news, visit the team page at weei.com/celtics.
On the Celtics’ challenge to rebuild: “The Celtics are a proud, proud franchise that went through a long rebuild, struck gold in the trades for Allen and [Kevin] Garnett, and now they’re going through the natural evolution of the NBA — you get old and you get hurt and you’re going to struggle. They have immense challenges in front of them with how to upgrade the roster as Garnett and Pierce get older, what they’re going to do to manage that.
“But the one thing I love, and I think the Celtics fans should take great pride in, is Celtics ownership is serious about winning. And you can’t say that about every ownership group in every sport. But the Celtics ownership group is serious about winning. So, they will give the resources and the direction. And then Danny Ainge, because of the support of ownership, will be very aggressive in reshaping his roster like he did with the Celtics the last time they were in that long rebuild. So, I expect them to be good. I do. I think maybe a rebuilding process again, and they’re going to have to certainly upgrade their roster if they’re going to play for it. But the Celtics are an organization of great pride.”
On Jeff Green’s inconsistency: “He’s not naturally an aggressive sort. And I think Doc Rivers has done a remarkable job in prodding him to be aggressive offensively every night. But when you’re dealing with a guy who that just isn’t his nature, it is a challenge to try to bring that out every night. Jeff Green has terrific versatility, he’s got good size, the skill level is there. The mindset he has to bring to the game is one where he expects to be a dominant performer every night. I think Doc has done a great job in trying to bring that out of him.”
On if the Lakers should re-sign Dwight Howard: “I’d pay him the money, and I’d worry every day. This guy, for whatever reason, all he seems to do now is apologize and then never change. He seems like he’s lost his way, he is listening to the wrong people. You’d have to pay him because of the immense talent that he is, but you’d be worried every day that he is never going to totally get it again.”