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Team USA Notebook: Rondo Welcomes Shaq, D'Antoni Defends Walsh

Aug 11, 2010 – 2:20 AM
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Chris Tomasson

Chris Tomasson %BloggerTitle%

Shaquille O'NealNEW YORK -- Rajon Rondo likes having a new big guy in town.

Then again, it's not as if Boston brass consulted him.

"I don't have any choice,'' Rondo said in an interview with FanHouse about the Celtics' recent signing of free agent Shaquille O'Neal, 38.

Rondo, though, had good things to say about this hardly green center joining Gang Green.

"I like it,'' the Boston point guard said after his Team USA practiced Tuesday at John Jay College in preparation for the World Championship later this month in Turkey. "He's another enforcer. So we're happy to have him. ... He rebounds, shoots a high percentage from the field and can finish at the rim.''

Asked whether O'Neal could cause chemistry problems due to the Celtics already having many leaders and whether O'Neal could be happy coming off the bench, Rondo sidestepped those questions.

Rondo stressed he didn't think it was proper to say the move was made to help counteract East rival Miami having assembled a superteam of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh.

"I don't think that's the right word,'' Rondo said. "We don't care about what they've done. We compete against ourselves every night. I don't know if we made a move because of (what Miami did). I think we still (made a move in the) right direction with (injured center Kendrick Perkins) going to be down a couple of months. So we got a couple of guys.'''

Perkins is out for what seems to be at least the first two months of the season after suffering a serious knee injury in Game 6 of last June's seven-game NBA Finals loss to the Lakers. The Celtics last month signed free-agent big man Jermaine O'Neal.

"In my book, it's us,'' Rondo said about who should be favored next season in the East.

Asked if that's because the Celtics are the defending East champions, Rondo said, "But that's in the past, though.''

It's not in Rondo's rear-view mirror, though, that the Lakers have won the past two NBA titles after Boston won in 2008. The Celtics lost a crushing Game 7 to the Lakers in June, blowing a 13-point third-quarter lead.

Rondo was asked if Miami is now the team to beat in the East. Possibly not hearing the part about the East or just continuing to not want to throw praise at the Heat, Rondo said, "The Lakers won two in a row so they're the team to beat.''

To help the Celtics beat the Lakers and the Heat, they've brought in O'Neal, who last decade helped the Lakers to three NBA titles and Miami to one.

MOSTLY MUM

New York coach Mike D'Antoni, a Team USA assistant, didn't have a lot to say about the Knicks bringing in Isiah Thomas, the coach he replaced, as a consultant.

"This is not really my area first of all, it's Donnie Walsh's call,'' said D'Antoni, referring to the Knicks president who watched as Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan brought in Thomas. "I'm sure he's comfortable with everything. And I'm sure that Isiah has a lot to offer. Donnie will call on it if he needs it. ... That's about all I know. It's not really in my area. So I'm comfortable with it.''

Thomas remains the coach at Florida International University. D'Antoni didn't think Thomas' hiring was any indictment of Walsh.

"Not at all,'' said D'Antoni, who won't accompany Team USA to Turkey due to back problems. "We've come a long way in two years. Donnie's done an unbelievable job to get us out of the hole. We're out. We're not going to go back in it. We're looking forward to the season, and we're excited with what we have.''

Interestingly, many believe it was the primary doing of Thomas that put the Knicks into such a big hole before the arrival of Walsh and D'Antoni two years ago. Thomas had a two-year coaching record of 56-108 after 2 1/2 listless seasons as a Knicks executive.

HAIRY SITUATION

Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook showed up for Team USA practice Tuesday with a Mohawk haircut.

"He had a flaming Mohawk in college,'' said Kevin Love, Westbrook's Team USA teammate who also played with him at UCLA. "That's his style, to be a little different. ... We called it 'Flaming Ball.'''

One wonders if Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski would approve if one of his Duke players showed up with a Mohawk.

Chris Tomasson can be reached at tomasson@fanhouse.com or on Twitter @christomasson
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