HANG TIME SOUTHWEST –Delonte West has pulled an Allen Iverson and decided that the D-League isn’t for him.
Iverson, though, never actually signed a contract. He simply turned down an offer earlier this week to play for the Texas Legends, the affiliate of the Dallas Mavericks, as a means to help attract the attention of NBA teams. West did indeed sign a contract last week to play for the Legends, who are co-owned by Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson.
According to a source with knowledge of West’s thinking, the troubled combo guard has decided not to play in the D-League against the advisement of his representation. West is represented by agent Dan Fegan. The source said that NBA teams have been reluctant to bring in West, even on a 10-day contract, until he gets back on the court and they see him play. The Memphis Grizzlies recently kicked around the idea of offering West a 10-day contract, but no offer materialized.
Earlier on Friday, a league source said that West is in the process of changing agents, which could be delaying his arrival in Texas. That is, if it happens at all. As of Friday night, West’s name was on the Legends’ roster on the team website, although no number had been issued. Legends officials did not immediately answer messages Friday night.
While Iverson’s return to the NBA certainly appears as though it might never happen, he is 37 and had an All-Star career. West, 29, needs to get back in the league if he hopes to salvage a career that veered off course with his arrest in 2009 when he was a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
He has since had a brief second stint with the Boston Celtics and played the 2011-12 season with the Mavs on a veteran minimum, one-year contract. West, who is bipolar and has struggled with money issues, signed another one-year deal to return to Dallas this season.
But twice during training camp the team suspended him for conduct it deemed detrimental to the team and they waived him just days before the start of the season.
West had been upset with his contract situation and with what he saw as an overcrowded backcourt after the team brought in Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo and Dahntay Jones to go with holdovers Vince Carter, Rodrigue Beaubois and Dominique Jones, plus first-round pick Jared Cunningham.
West reportedly wanted to join the Legends with hopes that he could show the Mavs he was ready to be a part of their team again. However, last Friday night Mavs owner Mark Cuban made it clear that he had no intention of bringing back West. Dallas signed veteran guard Mike James last Sunday for the remainder of the season after he exhausted two 10-day contracts.
Now, by opting not to play in the D-League, West could be throwing away his career.
Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.
The one recap to watch: Because there were only two games on the schedule — and one of ‘em was an absolute blowout — we gotta go with Mavericks-Warriors today. Andrew Bogut made his presence felt with a game-saving block on Brandan Wright, Harrison Barnes was swooping and scoring, Klay Thompson was draining shots and … it was the Warriors being the Warriors and doing all of this while star guard Steph Curry (ankle) sat out for a second straight game.
Much ado about ‘nothing’ in OKC — With 8 minutes, 57 seconds left in the third quarter, OKC’s rout of Memphis was definitely on. The Thunder had a 25-point lead — 65-40 — and Thunder All-Star guard Russell Westbrook went to work on the left block. He was called for a 5-second violation and, as the ball was changing hands to the Grizz, Westbrook engaged in an argument with guard Thabo Sefolosha. Sefolosha’s man had come to double team Westbrook, leaving Sefolosha open at the 3-point line. But Westbrook continued backing down his man despite the defense.
Westbrook and Sefolosha argued, then Westbrook punched the ball to the court, catching it with both hands before handing it to the official. Westbrook played roughly another minute before being pulled for Reggie Jackson. Westbrook then sat on the bench and had an animated discussion with assistant coach Maurice Cheeks before leaving the court in a huff and heading to the OKC locker room. He returned to the bench and played a bit more in the fourth quarter.
After the game, both coach Scott Brooks and Westbrook addressed the outburst, with Westbrook talking to TNT’s Craig Sager. Both men blew off the incident as ‘nothing’, as USA Today’s Adi Joseph and The Oklahoman’s Berry Tramel report:
Russell Westbrook sometimes loses his temper.
Russell Westbrook never explains why he lost his temper.
The Oklahoma City Thunder point guard went off without any good explanation during Thursday’s 106-89 win against the Memphis Grizzlies. He had been called for a five-second violation while posting up Grizzlies guard Jerryd Bayless, and apparently he pinned the violation on teammate Thabo Sefolosha.
Now Sefolosha’s cut to the basket was ill-timed, but Westbrook got steaming mad in the moment. Coach Scott Brooks pulled him from the game, leaving him to stew even more.
“I decided to take Russell out because we needed to calm down,” Brooks said. “Russell went in the back. It was nothing. He just had to regroup. … It was nothing that has not happened before — not just with him, with all of our guys.”
Did we mention this happened while the Thunder had an 18-point lead?
Westbrook sat down next to assistant coach Maurice Cheeks and then left the floor entirely, heading to the locker room with a towel on his head.
After the game, Westbrook blew it off.
“Nothing, just a little miscommunication,” he said, via Daily Thunder’s Royce Young.
Little-known fact: Miscommunication is not a word, according to most dictionaries. Also, it’s not a valid excuse for that kind of tantrum.
But Westbrook takes a lot of heat for his play, as many critics think he shoots too often even as he has emerged as one of the best players in the NBA. He’s got a lot of steam to blow off, so sometimes it flies in undeserving directions.
“I’ll control it like a man,” Westbrook said. “Like I did.”
Peter Pan was back in business Thursday night. You know. Russell Westbrook. The mischievous boy who can fly and who never grows up.
Westbrook barked at the genteel Thabo Sefolosha, took a shot so wild Scotty Brooks was forced to substitute, blew his stack while being counseled by Mo Cheeks, knocked over a chair and stormed off the court to the comfort of a Chesapeake Arena tunnel.
At the time, Westbrook was playing an excellent game and the Thunder led Memphis by 20 points.
The Thunder produced a 106-89 rout of the Grizzlies that was overshadowed by Peter Pan.
And maybe the basketball world will be better off if we accept what Westbrook is. Part hot hand, part hothead. Uncorrallable, not just by NBA opponents, but by Thunder brass.
“There’s no question he was frustrated with himself,” Brooks said. “Russell’s an emotional guy … not trying to downplay that. He has to be able to control his frustration. But that’s part of it.”
Kevin Durant defended Westbrook but also said the squad “talked it out” in the locker room and didn’t let it fester. That’s good.
“Russell is such an emotional player,” Durant said. “I knew he’d be back. That’s how he is. We want everybody to be themselves.”
That’s good. I like that. That’s the best advice the Thunder can receive.
Quit trying to change Russell Westbrook. Don’t even defend him. Just accept him for who he is. The boy who can fly and never grows up.
Report: Suns pursuing Hawks’ Smith — Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld.com reports that several teams are interested in trading for Hawks forward Josh Smith before the Feb. 21 deadline, with the Suns trying to work their way to the front of the list. After parting with Steve Nash over the summer in a sign-and-trade deal with the Lakers, the Suns have tried to rebuild themselves around Goran Dragic, Marcin Gortat, Michael Beasley and others, but are the second-worst team in the Western Conference at 16-30 and are looking to make a move to set up their future:
The Suns are pursuing Josh Smith, according to multiple league sources. Phoenix will try to acquire Smith before the deadline or, if that fails, through a sign-and-trade deal next offseason.
The Suns are very interested in Smith and have had exploratory talks with the Atlanta Hawks about the 27-year-old forward. Phoenix views Smith as a franchise player who can be one of the cornerstones of the team for years to come. The Suns have been searching for a face of the franchise since Steve Nash’s departure last summer, and Smith could be exactly that. If the Hawks decide it’s time to part ways with Smith, the Suns will be one of the teams on the phone.
Phoenix has attractive assets, particularly Marcin Gortat, who could play alongside Al Horford and give the Hawks one of the best frontcourts in the Eastern Conference. They also have Jared Dudley and Michael Beasley as well as the expiring contracts of Wes Johnson, Shannon Brown (whose 2013-14 salary is non-guaranteed), Sebastian Telfair and Jermaine O’Neal. Phoenix also has several first-round picks – their own pick and two additional first-round picks that they acquired in the Nash trade with the Los Angeles Lakers and the Johnson trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Luis Scola could also be involved in the trade, but only if the deal is a sign-and-trade since he can’t be traded until July 1 due to the fact that he was signed by the Suns after being amnestied by the Houston Rockets.
Smith and his agent, Wallace Prather, are expected to meet with the Hawks at some point this week to discuss the forward’s future in Atlanta. The two sides met after Smith’s one-game suspension for “conduct detrimental to the team,” but Smith’s camp didn’t demand a trade. It’s unclear if Smith and Prather will ask for a trade during this next meeting, although many people in NBA circles believe that Smith’s days in Atlanta could be numbered. In recent weeks, more teams have been calling the Hawks and inquiring about Smith, especially since his public comments about being “a max contract player.”
While the Suns will express interest in Smith, they aren’t the only team that will make a run at the star forward. The Houston Rockets, Charlotte Bobcats and Dallas Mavericks have also been mentioned as potential suitors for Smith.
A few hours after Kennedy posted his story, John Gambadoro, sports talk host for 620 KTAR in Phoenix, tweeted that the report was bogus:
The stories about the Suns being interested in Josh Smith are ridiculous, there is zero interest there -ZERO!— John Gambadoro (@Gambo620) February 01, 2013
You just have to love trade rumor season …
Ainge, Celts ‘open’ to offers — Celtics basketball boss Danny Ainge isn’t putting specific names out, but did tell WEEI’s Big Show on Thursday afternoon that he is willing to consider trades to improve Boston. The name that’s being bandied about as a possible piece that could net the kind of assets Boston wants is Paul Pierce, but Ainge sounded at best lukewarm on trading the franchise’s all-time leading scorer. Ainge isn’t looking for a point guard to replace the injured Rajon Rondo. Gary Dzen of Boston.com has more:
“We are open and listening, but we don’t feel pressure to do anything,” said Ainge. “Whether we win every game or whether we struggle, I think it all depends on what opportunities are presented. We want to make some change to help improve our team.”
The player who would seem to have the most value on the open market is Paul Pierce. He’s a veteran who can help a contending team win now, and only $4 million of his $15.3 million contract for next season is guaranteed. Ainge said he has not received any offers for Pierce, but he said that he would inform his veteran forward of any potential trade discussions.
“Nothing has been talked about with Paul,” said Ainge. “Nothing is close to being done. I too would like to see Paul retire as a Celtic.That would be great. We’re all attached to Paul. He’s been great for the city, the franchise, and he’s been a true pro. Having said that, if something came up I would talk to Paul. My job is to do what’s in the best interest of our team, regardless of my personal ties or my personal feelings with the players.”
Ainge was also adamant that he was not currently in the market to pick up another point guard to replace Rajon Rondo.
“Not right now,” he said. “There’s a lot of reasons why we’re not just jumping out and doing something.There really is nobody that you can find to replace Rondo, either through a trade or free agent acquisition, at this time of year. We like the guys — Barbosa’s been dying for a chance to play, and Jason Terry, and Avery Bradley at the point. I think all those guys are looking for an opportunity.”
The Celtics have won their last two games with Rondo, and talk radio was filled Thursday with fans calling in suggesting that the team might be better without its All-Star point guard. Ainge quickly shot down notion.
“He single-handedly carries us every night, and I don’t know how people don’t see that,” said Ainge. “It’s silly. He’s a great, great player, and he’s proven that time and time again. The guy’s been MVP of probably four or five series over the last five years. He’s been the best player in a series against LeBron James. He’s been the best player in a series against Derrick Rose. He’s been the best player in three games in a Finals series. The guy has done too many good things. The question is, ‘Are the pieces right around him?’”
Ainge sounded relatively happy with his current team. He did not sound like a GM looking to make drastic changes for this season.
“I think I’ve been pretty consistent on this team the last couple of years,”he said. “I said I like the individuals. Obviously I don’t like 20-23, which we were when Rondo got hurt. I didn’t like any part of that.
“But what I particularly said is I like what these guys are made of, especially our core guys. When it comes down to playoff basketball, I know what they’re made of, and I know that they have the gear to take it to another level.”
Pistons thinking of keeping Calderon? — Don’t think of Jose Calderon landing in Detroit as a rental situation for the Pistons. Our man Vince Ellis at the Detroit Free Press reports that the Pistons have always liked Calderon’s game and see him as a long-term helper in their rebuilding efforts, particularly in developing the skills of rookie big man Andre Drummond and second-year point guard Brandon Knight. Here’s more on why Calderon intrigues Detroit:
Calderon traveled to Detroit on Thursday and likely will take his physical this morning. It’s not clear when he will suit up for the Pistons — the process can be tricky since he is a Spaniard now playing in the U.S. instead of in Canada. He will talk to the media today after a team shoot-around.
“We’ve always had a high value on Jose,” coach Lawrence Frank said after the Pistons’ loss at Indy on Wednesday. “He’s a tremendous competitor. He’s a guy who has been top five in the league in assists for the past four or five years. It gives us flexibility moving forward.”
The financial ramifications of the deal for the Pistons are obvious — Calderon’s $10.5 million comes off the books after this season.
If they do nothing else through the Feb. 21 deadline, Charlie Villanueva picks up his $8.5-million option for next season, and they decide to keep Rodney Stuckey for the full $8.5 million for next season, the Pistons will be roughly $20 million-$23 million under the cap. If they decide to invoke the amnesty clause on Villanueva during a weeklong window in July and cut Stuckey (they would owe him $4 million) before the June 30 deadline, the total could move to roughly $30 million-$35 million.
But don’t discount the Pistons trying to keep Calderon — at a reasonable price.
A Pistons source said the team is open to trying to re-sign Calderon over the summer, adding that the team thinks his playmaking skill would be a major boon to rookie center Andre Drummond.
Calderon was very good at setting up Toronto big men, playing a major role in helping former Piston Amir Johnson and young big Ed Davis, who was sent to the Grizzlies in the trade.
Nash losing a step in L.A.? — The Lakers did well with Kobe Bryant serving as the primary playmaker/assist man in L.A.’s offense for three games. That’s all well and good, but what about that future Hall of Fame point guard the Lakers signed in the offseason? Steve Nash has hardly had the ball at all, a change for someone used to directing an offense — particularly coach Mike D’Antoni‘s — for the entire game. The always-solid Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register delves deeper into why L.A. might be turning away from Nash (and toward Kobe) as the season wears on:
Bryant has more assists than any of the other four players left above him on the all-time scoring chart. He has been passing a lot more than you’ve noticed over the years.
So it’s not exactly brand-new, though he is now concentrating more on passing, for sure. It is increasing team energy while draining less of Bryant’s energy, it should be noted — but the Lakers’ loss in Phoenix on Wednesday night showed that trying to balance this approach with his natural inclination of shoot down the stretch is his newest toughest challenge.
Meanwhile, Steve Nash has some stuff to figure out, too.
As in, what has happened to him?
There is one viable excuse. Nash’s way is to take a break from basketball in the offseason. It’s why he was able to say on the first day of training camp: “I feel as good as I’ve ever felt.” But the tradeoff for that freshness is basketball rust, which has been exacerbated by Nash’s leg injury taking him off the court for 21/2 more months.
And with teammates unfamiliar with how, when and where to set picks for him to go where he wants, Nash has looked nothing like the old master and commander of the pick and roll.
In both the opening night loss to Dallas (seven points, four assists) under Mike Brown and the most recent loss to Phoenix (11 points, two assists) under Mike D’Antoni, Nash was basically Derek Fisher out there.
Nash was slow, trying to keep up on defense and generally not doing that much.
Nash has gone from D’Antoni’s oft-declared unequivocal savior while mending the leg fracture — “Steve’ll fix that” … “Steve’ll get that to happen” … “Steve’ll make me look like an offensive genius again” (well, maybe just paraphrasing on the last one) — to the guy D’Antoni in recent days consistently references as “39 years old.”
That’s D’Antoni’s capsule explanation — even though Nash doesn’t turn 39 for another week — for why Bryant is running the offense now, not Nash. D’Antoni says Nash will still carry the load at times, but Bryant can help him this way, and blah-blah-blah.
C’mon. If Nash was still Nash, D’Antoni of all people would never take the keys away and hand them to Bryant.
Nash has no distinct role and doesn’t have the sort of personality to demand one.
In the fourth quarter in Phoenix on his homecoming night, Nash had one assist (hardly a classic one considering it came on a Bryant 22-footer). He took one shot, a missed 21-footer with 5:21 to play. He was such a nonfactor that he didn’t even have any turnovers as the Lakers blew a 13-point fourth-quarter lead.
“I think I can help,” Nash said afterward. “I definitely think that I can score and set up my teammates and especially in the fourth quarter take some pressure off Kobe. Those are things we’ve still go to work out and find that balance.”
Nash’s idea of saving his legs for the fourth to carve up a defense unaccustomed to defending him is a great one … except it’s pretty much impossible to envision Bryant standing off to the side at crunch time. That’s the time Bryant wants the ball more, not less.
So Nash’s search will go on. He has the sweetest attitude of anyone, but Nash must find something for himself. Whether it’s making five 3-pointers every night or seizing a pick-and-roll time with Gasol early each game to play his old way, the guy who has made so many role players look so good in his career needs to find a role of his own.
Bynum has a tune-up of sorts — Andrew Bynum went to New York to get Synvisc shots from his physician, Dr. David Altchek. Synvisc, a joint lubricant that can provide up to six months of knee pain relief per injection, is expected to help Bynum continue on his road to finally getting on the court for the Sixers this season. As he’s said all along, Bynum hopes to play before the All-Star break, but the Sixers are (of course) taking a cautious approach with him. PhillyBurbs.com’s Tom Moore provides details:
This is the third consecutive season in which Bynum has had two sets of Synvisc injections, with the second typically coming right before the all-star break. He got the first ones this season in late September.
A 76ers spokesman said Bynum, who is recovering from bone bruises in both knees, is expected to return to rehab and working out as soon as Sunday. Bynum has said he hopes to make his Sixers debut soon after the Feb. 14-19 all-star break, but there is still no official timetable.
The 7-foot, 300-pound Bynum has been running on the anti-gravity treadmill, as well as doing basketball shooting, low-post and agility drills for the past 10 days.
GM Tony DiLeo said earlier this week that Bynum could practice with the team as early as the first week of February, which begins Monday. It’s unclear if he’ll still be able to practice next week.
Coach Doug Collins cautioned against expecting too much too fast from Bynum, noting he hasn’t appeared in an NBA game in more than eight months.
“The one thing we have to understand is, he’s not all of a sudden just going to jump into a 5-on-5 scrimmage,” Collins said after Thursday’s team practice. “He’s done nothing laterally or impact-wise. For us to run him out there and he’s going to play 37 minutes would not be feasible because he would have a setback with that.
“Hopefully, he’ll be able to start playing a little 1-on-1 in the post and then build up with that.”
Collins also said the Sixers don’t plan to change their offense “if and when” Bynum can play.
Changes just beginning in Toronto — Given the comments of Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo to our NBA TV crew on Wednesday night (see the interview here) and what he’s telling the media in Raptor-ville, there might be more moves on the horizon north of the border. Damien Cox of the Toronto Star opines that, given Toronto’s current roster makeup, there has to be more coming down the pike:
Then again, let’s all list together the great trades made by Colangelo as GM of the Raps.
You go first.
Maybe Colangelo took the broad hint delivered by the Bell/Rogers unholy ownership alliance and figured the walls were closing in on him if he didn’t make something happen soon.
But really, he knew that at the beginning of the season, no? And he did try to land Steve Nash last summer, going so far as to work the Landry Fields signing to make the entire process come together.
So getting Gay wasn’t a winter impulse. Colangelo’s been working on winning now for a while. It’s just that getting Gay cost a lot, more than just money. There are those who believe Ed Davis will prove to be the best player in this deal, and we’ll see about that. Trading a youngster just as he’s hitting his stride has been, of course, a Leaf trademark for decades.
But if Colangelo is right and Gay blossoms in Toronto, part of the reasoning will have been that for the Raps, getting this kind of player is only possible through trade. Free agents, notable ones, just aren’t going to sign in the Great White North, at least not with an also-ran.
Gay may become the front-court scoring threat who combines with DeMar DeRozan for a true one-two punch. But how does that fit around the youngster, Jonas Valanciunas, who’s a bit of a project still? Meanwhile, Colangelo seems committed to dealing Andrea Bargnani, and now it doesn’t make sense to do that for futures, does it?
Feels like there’s another shoe to drop here.
Clearly, the Raps now want to win, just as the Jays now want to win, as the Argos felt they had to try to win. The sensible path for the Leafs is to show some patience, but there’s been no indication from MLSE ownership that Nonis has permission to do it nice and slow.
A town that had Mats Sundin, Chris Bosh and Roy Halladay, then watched them all leave town, is getting some names back.
Just (trying) to win, baby.
ICYMI of the night: There are veteran tricks, and then there is what Vince Carter pulled on the unsuspecting Warriors last night …:
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – That cold wind that blew through Boston for the second straight weekend — courtesy of a deflating development with one of the city’s beloved professional teams — was actually felt all over the NBA world.
With the Feb. 21 trade deadline approaching, any and every NBA GM who has Celtics boss Danny Ainge on speed dial is looking over their own assets as they prepare to call him and gauge his mood. Instead of taking his time and surveying the landscape as he attempts to rebuild the Celtics around Rondo, an All-Star starter for the first time in his career this season, Ainge now has to decide if it’s time to start over in Boston.
With all due respect to Celtics coach Doc Rivers, a longtime HT fave, the time to write that obit on these Celtics is upon us. This idea that Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and the rest of this inconsistent Celtics crew is anything other than a first-round out (provided they make the playoffs, of course) seems a bit far-fetched.
They were struggling with Rondo, their best player. To assume they’ll do anything other than that without him … again, far-fetched.
Ainge has never been shy about taking risks before, so we can’t imagine he’d go conservative this time around. Rondo will return from this setback and he should remain one of the cornerstones of the franchise’s rebuilding project. Ainge has to decide if Pierce, a Celtic his entire career, and Garnett stick around or not.
The Big 3 era in Boston ended last season when the Heat pushed past the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, so there is no need for some burial ceremony for these guys. This is strictly a business situation for Ainge. Find the best possible scenario to deal either Pierce or Garnett (one but not both) and whatever periphery pieces that need to be included to facilitate a deal, and then patch up the rest for the future.
The list of younger players available on the trade deadline market seems to increase by the day. Rudy Gay, Kyle Lowry, Josh Smith are all talented players who could be available by the Feb. 21 deadline. Add one or two of those impact players to a young core that includes Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger and a healthy Rondo (whenever he returns) and you’re talking about a nucleus capable of keeping the Celtics in the playoff mix and beyond.
Assembling a championship-caliber team, however, will require Ainge to be much more ambitious. It also requires a more intricate long-term plan, with whatever Ainge does next just a small piece of that larger puzzle.
“In our situation, you can’t just philosophically say, ‘We’re going to do this,’ ” Ainge told Yahoo! Sports. “You have to tell me what it is. You have to tell me what opportunities we have.”
“Here’s the thing: If I wanted to say, ‘Hey, let’s play for the future,’ that’s hard to do. And if I play only for the ‘here and now,’ that’s hard to do.”
Those kinds of trades are hard to do, Ainge meant.
“I’m going to look and see what opportunities are there, like any other year,” Ainge said. “Last year, I was close to making a change that I felt would give us a better chance in the here and now, and in the future. And those are hard to do.”
When Ainge goes looking to see what opportunities are out there, the rest of the league’s executives need to keep eyes on their phones, because something big is bound to happen.
The ball is in Ainge’s court now and the rest of the NBA world is on alert!
HANG TIME, Texas – Sometimes the decisions are made for you.
Danny Ainge can stop wondering about what to do, which direction to take with his Celtics as the NBA trade deadline of Feb. 21 draws near.
The future arrived in Boston like a punch in the gut with the sickening news that Rajon Rondo has a torn ACL in his right knee and is lost for the season.
Now it’s time to start over.
If Ray Allen having swapped jerseys for Sunday’s homecoming to the TD Garden with the Heat was first crack in the Celtics 21st century golden run that began in 2007, then Rondo’s injury sent the remnants crashing to the parquet floor.
Rondo was averaging 13.7 points, 11.1 assists and had just been named an All-Star starter for the first time. He was coming off back-to-back triple-doubles, including the double-overtime loss in Atlanta, where the injury evidently occurred.
After complaining of pain while trying to warm up prior to Sunday’s game, the point guard was taken to New England Baptist Hospital where an MRI revealed the tear.
The rest of the Celtics were given the bad news during the game and word circulated like whispers of a death in the family through the arena and the rest of the NBA world.
“We just got to rally round each other,” teammate Paul Pierce told ABC’s Doris Burke. “I feel for him. He was having such a great season … It’s disappointing news. Guys just got to step up.”
But it is one thing for Pierce to come through with a gutty triple-double performance of his own and for the Celtics to persevere through a double-overtime against Miami. It is quite another to believe that a Boston team without Rondo could take down the defending champion Heat in a seven-game playoff series. That is, assuming the Celtics even limp into the playoffs.
The win over Miami ended a six-game Celtics losing streak that already had coach Doc Rivers threatening to get one-way tickets out of town for anybody that couldn’t step up. He changed his lineup, putting rookie Jared Sullinger in to start at center in place of Brandon Bass. The Celtics are still two games below .500.
The harsh truth is that the blow is not just the end of a season for Rondo, but the end of the road for this core group of Celtics that won a championship in 2008 and lost in The Finals to the Lakers in 2010.
Ainge and Rivers might have been tempted to shake things up last summer, but wishful thinking and, perhaps, sentiment told them to try making one last run with their aging warriors. But Garnett at 36 is already playing greatly reduced minutes and Pierce at 35 had been mired in a slump of his own before Sunday and is no longer the workhorse.
Rondo, for all of his personality quirks and clashes with Rivers, was the on-court leader of these Celtics and had been for the past several seasons. He had developed a knack for rising up on nationally-televised games and in the playoffs and his efforts that often came with the gale force of a hurricane were what gave the Celtics any so-called puncher’s chance that existed.
The time now is to find out if there is a market to move Pierce as a “designated hitter” on a contending team. He’s got just one more year on his contract at $15.3 million. The two years and $23.5 million owed to Garnett could be problematic.
The bottom line is the Celtics can take a day to celebrate an emotional win in honor of their fallen star. But whenever Rondo does return, it has to be as the centerpiece to a new era in Boston.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS –Jeff Green never makes it into the frame for the photo-op with the Celtics’ revamped Big 3 of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo.
Spending a season in street clothes away from the court and the public consciousness has a way of forcing a player, even one as talented and accomplished as Green, into the background.
Green spent all of last season recovering from heart surgery, missing out on the Celtics’ run to the Eastern Conference finals and the Celtics’ missed out on all that the dynamic hybrid forward brings to the party.
He’s back now, in a major way. Anyone who has seen the Celtics during the preseason has seen it. He’s flying around on both ends of the floor and making plays at the rim (check out that block above) and in transition in ways that no other player on the Celtics’ current roster can.
A 6-foot-9, 235-pound forward with the length and athleticism to match up against power forwards and the range and ballhandling skills to work on the perimeter as well, Green brings another dose of firepower to the Celtics’ attack (along with newcomers Courtney Lee and Jason Terry) that was lacking last season.
We’re not saying that a healthy Green pushes the Celtics past the Heat in that conference finals clash last season, but you never know …
Maybe Jason Terry ought to change his nickname. From JET to drone.
Before teeing off at a Boston Celtics charity golf event in Bolton, Mass., Tuesday, the veteran shooting guard teed off on two rival NBA teams that have been all but handed a go-straight-to-The-Finals card by many fans and insiders. Celtics maven A. Sherrod Blakely was there to chronicle Terry’s comments for Comcast SportsNet New England.
“My mission is to kill; whether it’s the Heat, whether it’s the Lakers. Hopefully both. That’s my mission, and that’s what I’m here to do,” Terry said on Tuesday shortly before teeing off at the Fifth Annual USI Shamrock Classic which was hosted by the Boston Celtics Shamrock Foundation.
OK, so Terry is over the top with his imagery. No, moms and dads, he doesn’t mean literal bloodshed. Sports never has been or shall be confused with real warfare.
Reasonable people understand that Terry simply was voicing his competitiveness and hunger for another championship (he won one with Dallas in 2011). Besides, he is teamed now with a guy who once said (and got reprimanded for) this.
If Terry can do for Boston what he has done for 13 NBA seasons — with great consistency, averaging 16.1 points, 4.7 assists and shooting 44.8 percent for the Hawks and Mavs — the Celtics and their coach will be thrilled. He truly is just what the Doc ordered.
During the offseason, Celtics coach Doc Rivers put his wish list to paper in a lengthy letter to Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations. ”We wanted a scorer off the dribble,” Rivers said. “I sit down and write Danny a letter about needs; that was my number one need. I didn’t think we had enough guys that could score off the dribble. (Rajon) Rondo can score off the dribble. But we needed a guy that could score and be a knock-down shooter. That was very important for us.”
Terry figures to be even more important if pressed into starter’s duty the first couple months while Avery Bradley recovers from two shoulder surgeries. Then there is the hole to be plugged since Ray Allen’s defection to Miami, a move in free agency by the popular Boston shooter that will turn each Heat-Celtics clash into an event.
The first one comes fast – Oct. 30 in South Florida, with the Heat’s ring ceremony on TNT. Folks can be as careful with their rhetoric as they like, but we’re expecting nothing less than seek-and-destroy (the other guys’ title dreams) mode from both sides.
LAS VEGAS – What looked like it might be a complete rebuilding job for the Boston Celtics in January is turning out to be more of a refurbishing effort by the somewhat surprising Eastern Conference finalists.
Green’s agent, David Falk, would not reveal the specific length or value of the contract, but confirmed that the details have been ironed out and a deal likely will be consummated after the leaguewide moratorium on new business lifts Wednesday.
“This is where Jeff always wanted to be,” said Falk, who continued to heap praise on the Celtics organization for the way it handled Green’s heart ailment last season.
Falk stressed that Boston’s goodwill played a major factor in his decision to return and said he’s not surprised a deal got hammered out since the two sides were on the same page from the start of the process.
Both Falk and Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge expressed optimism that a contract would get done earlier this week and, after watching Ray Allen elect to sign with the Miami Heat on Friday night, the Celtics appear to have moved quickly to finalize with Green.
Green, traded to Boston in February 2011, sat out all of last season after undergoing surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm that was detected in training camp as the two sides prepared to sign a one-year, $9 million deal.
It looked like time was running out on Boston’s Big 3 as they struggled during the early stages of the lockout-shortened season, part of that due to the sudden twist of not having Green available.
But the Celtics rebounded and slugged their way to the conference finals, falling to the Heat in seven games. Instead of breaking things up with Allen, Kevin Garnett and Green all set to hit free agency, the Celtics went about trying to keep the band together.
If the goal is to get the band back together, then the idea of splitting them up again should be the furthest thing from the Boston Celtics’ minds. You don’t stage a Beatles reunion only to trade Ringo for Charlie Watts and a backup vocalist to be named later.
So a no-trade clause ought to be a no-brainer for the Celtics regarding veteran sharpshooter Ray Allen and, frankly, either of the other Big Three who might have been in position to request it.
Allen, an unrestricted free agent two weeks shy of his 37th birthday, spent Thursday being wooed by the Miami Heat. If Boston basketball boss Danny Ainge is serious about keeping his team’s core intact for six and seven seasons of the group that won straight outta the gate in 2008, he probably will have to do more than outspend the Heat.
That part’s a given; Miami can offer Allen only the “mini mid-level” exception of about $3 million, with the Celtics offering double that for two more years. Even if the Heat agreed to a third year for the finely conditioned but defensively challenged Allen, he still would make more in two seasons in Boston.
At last February’s trade deadline, Boston Celtics president Danny Ainge sounded like he was ready to break up the team’s vaunted Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen to start over in 2012-13, either rebuilding around Rajon Rondo or dealing Rondo and starting over altogether. But a few months later, the Celtics look like they are determined to keep the band together and make another run at a championship next season with their veteran core.
The Celtics, according to sources, are increasingly optimistic they’ll be able to re-sign unrestricted free agent forward Jeff Green to a new contract, and are also more hopeful now they can keep Allen in the fold instead of losing him to the Miami Heat. The final decision is Allen’s, of course, and he’ll weigh offers from several teams (including the Heat and Grizzlies) in the next few days.
But Boston is hopeful that the last few days’ worth of events, starting with Garnett’s decision to agree on a three-year extension, combined with the selection of Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo in last Thursday’s Draft and the team’s strong showing in the East finals, will convince the 36-year-old Allen to accept the team’s two-year, $12 million offer.
That offer is more than what Miami, which only has its mini mid-level exception starting at $3.09 million, can offer Allen. The Grizzlies have their full mid-level exception starting at $5 million, however, and want to sign Allen to replace O.J. Mayo, the now-unrestricted free agent that Memphis did not tender with a qualifying offer last week. The Celtics had initially targeted Mayo as a primary free agent possibility, but now believe he’s going to get more money elsewhere. Several other teams, including the Pacers, are interested in him.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS –Kevin Garnett contemplated his future and decided against walking away from the game he’s given the last 17 years of his professional life. The Celtics All-Star is returning to Boston for three years and $34 million, as first reported by Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports.
Garnett, 36, spent the first 12 seasons of his career in Minnesota and the last five with the Celtics, where he won a championship in 2008. Garnett turned back the clock in the Celtics’ run to the Eastern Conference finals this season and averaged 19.2 points and 10.3 rebounds during their playoff run.
“The decision came down to whether KG wanted to keep playing,” said one source. “And once he decided that he did, it was going to be Boston. He wasn’t going to leave Doc (Rivers) and those guys and play anywhere else.”
“Kevin was absolutely great this season, and he just wants to keep going,” said a source. “And when you look at how he was playing, there’s no reason for him to stop.”
Garnett’s return allows the Celtics to move on to other pressing matters when free agency begins at midnight. Ray Allen is a free agent and is reportedly a target of several teams, including the NBA champion Miami Heat and Phoenix Suns.