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TNT analyst Steve Kerr says Celtics are a long shot

Steve Kerr is looking forward to the return to NBA normalcy. The former sweet-shooting guard won five championships during his 15-year career, including one with the Spurs in the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season. But that doesn’t mean Kerr, now a standout as an amiable and incisive analyst on TNT telecasts, has any affinity for abbreviated seasons.

After last season’s lockout essentially wiped out training camp and condensed the schedule to 66 games, Kerr is glad to have the league back in full, with 82 games for all.

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“This is a much better way to go through the season, though I thought last year ended up really well under the circumstances,’’ said Kerr, who will join Marv Albert in calling the Celtics’ opener at Miami Tuesday in the first game of TNT’s season-opening doubleheader.

“But it’s so much better this way with a real training camp and a chance for teams to establish what they are trying to be over a month of practice rather than last year scrambling to get ready. You get the ebbs and flows of the 82 games again, rather than the sprint everyone had to endure last year.’’

Last season, Kerr’s former coach with the Spurs, Gregg Popovich, took the opportunity to give veteran players such as Tim Duncan a night off when the games were stacked close together, a decision that was sometimes recorded for posterity in the box score as “DNP-Old.”

Would Popovich dare do such a thing during a full schedule? Or, more relevant to local interests, would Doc Rivers do it with the Celtics, who will need 36-year-old Kevin Garnett and 35-year-old Paul Pierce to have fresh legs during the postseason?

“Well, they’re definitely more capable of giving those guys rest,’’ said Kerr. “I love what Danny [Ainge] has done in revamping the bench, particularly with the amount of scoring they should have with [Jason] Terry and [Jeff] Green and [Leandro] Barbosa. They should have a really strong bench, unlike the past couple of years from an offensive standpoint, which should give Doc more leeway to give Garnett a rest.

“To answer the question, I would absolutely entertain it. The question is, would KG agree to it? I doubt it. If they can talk him into it, it’s a great idea.”

The way Kerr sees it, there are three true championship contenders: the Heat, Lakers, and Thunder, with Los Angeles starting slowly but eventually overtaking Oklahoma City in the Western Conference.

“Boston has a shot, an outside chance to win the East and get to the Finals,’’ Kerr said. “After that, I don’t see anybody that can possibly win a title. It’s hard to envision anything other than an injury to LeBron [James] from keeping [the Heat] from the Finals.

“You can’t dismiss Boston because of their belief in themselves and what they’ve done with their roster. The Celtics have the best shot of anybody of knocking Miami off, but it’s a long shot.”

NESN roster grows

NESN has added a pair of anchor/reporters to its roster. Norton native Adam Pellerin comes over from Channel 25, where he was a general assignment reporter and fill-in news and sports anchor the past five years. Jamie Erdahl, most recently a freelance reporter for Fox Sports North whose duties included serving as sideline reporter for telecasts of the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx, also joins NESN. She’ll be reunited with NESN vice president of programming and production Joseph Maar, who arrived from Fox Sports North in July . . . One of WEEI’s strong suits is its quality seasonal programming, including “NFL Sunday’’ and Alex Speier’s “Down on the Farm.’’ The station unveiled another promising program Thursday night when “Red Sox Hot Stove’’ debuted. Hosted by Kirk Minihane — a phrase, by the way, that you’ll likely be hearing more and more on the station in the coming months – and featuring Speier and Rob Bradford, the hour show will air every Thursday evening at 8, running for 16 weeks through Feb. 14 . . . Add Kevin Winter, formerly of 1510 The Zone and currently an ESPN Radio “SportsCenter’’ anchor, to the list of candidates vying to replace Jon Meterparel on WEEI’s “Dennis and Callahan Show.’’ It’s expected that Winter would continue his ESPN Radio duties even if he lands the gig.

Charles in charge

Charles Barkley says the Celtics’ Green is the most underrated player in the NBA. He also cites Fab Melo as a potential contributor to the Celtics this season — though anyone who has seen him recognizes that there’s a better chance the raw rookie out of Syracuse contributes to the Maine Red Claws, the Celtics’ NBDL affiliate. Consider that a reminder that some national analysts are more prepared than others as the season approaches. We do give Barkley credit, however, for referring to a certain Lakers point guard as “97-year-old Steve Nash’’ during a recent conference call . . . Greg Dickerson, whose absence from the sidelines during Comcast Sports Net New England’s preseason Celtics telecasts has been noted by several readers, will be part of the regional network’s coverage during the season. Dickerson, who revealed diagnoses of epilepsy and Tourette’s syndrome in February after suffering a pair of seizures (including one that struck during a game), has been under the weather lately but is expected back soon . . . During a panel discussion at CSNNE’s Celtics tip-off luncheon Wednesday, play-by-play voice Mike Gorman predicted that the Celtics would beat the defending champion Miami Heat in five games in the Eastern Conference finals. Can’t say he doesn’t know his audience. When Gary Tanguay, host of CSNNE’s Celtics studio programming, said the Heat would oust the Celtics again, Gorman deadpanned: “Gary’s not going to be invited to the luncheon next year.’’

Chad Finn can be reached at finn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeChadFinn.
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