|12.17.14 at 12:58 pm ET|
In the NBA, the worst place to be is the middle of the pack. If you are not contending for a championship or tanking, in my mind, you are not relevant. Because of this, each week I will rank the top five and bottom five teams in the league. The rankings are based entirely on my own observations and opinions, so please feel free to call me names in the comments section.
1. Warriors (21-3)
I am still skeptical about the Dubs’ ability to win it all, but any team that opens the season 21-3 deserves the top slot.
2. Grizzlies (20-4)
The Grizzlies beat the Warriors on Tuesday night at home. If the Splash Brothers are the league’s best backcourt, the Griz have the best front court in Gasol and Z-Bo. I love watching Gasol/Conley pick-and-roll as well as the absurd arc on Gasol’s jumper.
3. Rockets (18-5)
Dwight Howard, the NBA’s softest and most hated player, just missed 11 games. The Rockets went 8-3 and didn’t seem to miss a beat.
4. Wizards (18-6)
My reaction when watching Jon Wall:
5. Hawks (17-7)
The best NBA team you have never seen. Jeff Teague is playing great. Kyle Korver continues to shoot the lights out, even if Evan Turner thinks he can’t play defense. The Hawks recently won nine games in a row where they beat teams by an average of 14 ppg.
|12.16.14 at 1:04 pm ET|
Let’s face it: This is the season of Rajon Rondo. As interesting as it is to evaluate the frontcourt progress of Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk, Avery Bradley‘s offensive potential and Jeff Green‘s surprising consistency, the biggest questions the Celtics must answer all involve Rondo. Just how good is he? Will he be traded? What can they get in return? In a weekly feature on Green Street, we’ll take stock of the Celtics captain’s status every Tuesday.
RAJON RONDO TRADE VALUE
During a dismal week in which the Celtics lost to the Hornets and Knicks before snapping a three-game skid with a wire-to-wire win over the hapless 76ers, here are Rondo’s three-game totals: 19 points (9-17 field goals, 0-3 3-point range, 1-2 free throws), 27 assists (8 turnovers), 24 rebounds and six steals. He was a minus-26 in 88 minutes.
And here are the combined totals for opposing point guards Kemba Walker, Jose Calderon and Michael Carter-Williams: 40 points (14-36 FG, 3-10 3P, 9-12 FT), 20 assists (9 turnovers), 13 boards and six steals. They were plus-20 in 98 minutes.
Not great, even if Rondo submitted his third triple-double of the season against Charlotte. While he owned a superior true shooting percentage (53.1 vs. 48.5) and assist-to-turnover ratio (3.38 vs. 2.22) with more rebounds and the same number of steals, the C’s captain should wipe the floor with that trio.
As if we expected to solve Rondo over the first six weeks of the 2014-15 season, he remains an enigma. Should he continue averaging 10.6 assists, 8.0 points and 7.5 rebounds over 82 games, Rondo will join Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson as the only players to produce those numbers. Yet, he ranks among the league’s worst shooters from mid-range (30.2 percent), 3-point range (24.1 percent) and the free throw line (33.3 percent).
|12.15.14 at 9:28 pm ET|
Philadelphia (2-22) dropped to 0-13 at home this season, staying in contention for the NBA record more most home losses to begin a campaign. (The 1993-94 Mavericks started 0-19.)
The win snaps a three-game losing streak for the Celtics, who had beaten Philly in the teams’ only other meeting this season.
The C’s broke open a five-point lead in the first quarter with a 27-13 second quarter, thanks in large part to Olynyk’s 18 first-half points.
Avery Bradley only went 5-for-20 from the floor, but finished as the Celtics’ second-leading scorer with 15 points.
Two Celtics mainstays struggled in the win, with Jared Sullinger netting just five points on 2-of-10 shooting, and Rajon Rondo took just three shots on the way to a five-point night.
|12.12.14 at 10:37 pm ET|
Carmelo Anthony, who missed the previous game with a sore left knee, appeared to have no lingering issues, as he scored 20 points in just under 40 minutes. The Celtics once again struggled to find open looks in their halfcourt offense, committing 18 turnovers and shooting a mediocre 43.5 percent from the field.
The Knicks led for almost the entire game and were able to withstand a frantic fourth-quarter push by the Celtics. Amar’e Stoudemire and Tim Hardaway Jr. had 20 and 16 points, respectively, in the win. Jeff Green led the way for the Celtics, scoring 28 points on 9-for-19 shooting.
TYLER ZELLER LONE BRIGHT SPOT
Zeller continues to be one of the lone bright spots on this Celtics team. Zeller scored 19 points, shooting an efficient 9-for-14 from the field. Zeller is a favorite target for Rondo around the basket and has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. He moves especially well in transition, finding the right angles before the defense has the chance to set up. Zeller struggled to defend the length of Stoudemire, but continues be impress on the offensive end, especially in the pick-and-roll.
MARCUS SMART INJURED AGAIN
The rookie left the game in the second quarter after only playing just more than three minutes. The team quickly announced that he suffered a strained left Achilles. He appeared to hurt himself while taking a charge on this play (see below). He limped into the locker room at the next stoppage of play. It’s unclear if this injury is related to the sprained ankle he suffered earlier in the season.
(Thanks to ESPN Boston’s Chris Forsberg for the GIF.)
HATERS GON’ HATE EVAN TURNER
Turns out Taylor Swift knows all. Players are indeed going to play, while haters are simultaneously going to hate. Turner caught a lot of Twitter flak after missing a potential game-winning shot against the Wizards on Monday. Friday, Turner, starting in place of the sick Avery Bradley, only gave his detractors more reasons to vilify him as he shockingly struggled with his outside shot. He found moderate success later in the game by attacking the rim. He finished with 13 points and five turnovers.
|12.12.14 at 1:44 pm ET|
Well, this didn’t take long.
Marc Berman of the New York Post is reporting that Carmelo Anthony would consider waiving his no-trade clause (for the right situation) just 24 games into his five-year $124 million contract. Of course, many reporters who cover the Knicks have come out to dispute this report. It is a bit ridiculous that Melo would give up on New York this early, but let’s roll with Berman’s story for argument’s sake.
Is Anthony a player worth pursuing if you’re Danny Ainge?
Strong arguments can be made for both sides.
WHY A CELTICS-KNICKS TRADE FOR ANTHONY MAKES SENSE
Ainge has been waiting for a big name to be made available, and Anthony would be the only one with trade speculation swirling around him … well, outside of Boston’s own Rajon Rondo. The Celtics are at a crossroads when it comes to the direction of the team. Ainge has been stockpiling assets for a youthful rebuild, but it has always been on his mind that he could turn those assets into win-now players if the opportunity presented itself, much like it did in the summer of 2007.
Boston would provide Anthony with a significantly better supporting cast than he has been given in New York, specifically Rondo. Ainge runs one of the only franchises with the combination of draft picks and expiring contracts to land Anthony, as well as persuade the star that the Celtics are a team worth his while.
Here’s an idea of what the Celtics could offer the Knicks: Jeff Green ($9.2M player option next season), Marcus Thornton ($8.6M expiring), Brandon Bass ($6.9M expiring) and a first-round pick in each of the next three drafts. Normally teams can’t trade picks in back-to-back drafts (let alone three in a row), but thanks to the C’s situation, they could offer their own picks in 2015 and 2017 (and the Knicks would have the right to swap picks with the Nets in 2017 if their pick ends up a better one than Boston’s) and the Nets‘ pick in 2016.
|12.11.14 at 9:05 pm ET|
The Celtics‘ primary struggles have been well documented to this point. They are very, very bad when it comes to late game execution. One of the players most people look to in those situations — including his teammates — is Rajon Rondo. But, Rondo has preformed poorly in those scenarios so far this season, something he hasn’t lost any sleep over.
Realistically, crunch time scoring is not Rondo’s forte. That’s not his fault. He’s a brilliant passer that is trying to find his young teammates who are attempting to learn on the fly while under pressure.
Another seemingly strong option late in games should be Jeff Green, who has hit some game-winners before. Green is having the career-year many have been looking for from him, at least in terms on consistency and aggressiveness, but even he hasn’t done enough to keep the Celtics from throwing away games in fourth quarters.
Here’s an idea: Give Marcus Thornton a try.
Thornton was an afterthought entering the season. He’s in Boston because his expiring contract was included in a trade that Danny Ainge used to add Tyler Zeller and a first-round pick to the tall-standing pile of assets the Celtics have collected. Thornton, a streaky bench scorer, has kept his team in games a few times this season, but even more so recently.
In Sunday’s win over the Wizards, Thornton scored 21 points in just 17 minutes off the bench. 11 of those points were during a run that broke the game open for the C’s in the second quarter, and then he added another eight points to keep the Celtics on top in the fourth quarter after the Wizards were threatening to steal the win.
|12.11.14 at 4:18 pm ET|
The Celtics returned home from an unsuccessful two-game road trip and got right back to practice on Thursday. They were a unique couple of games in the sense that the starters didn’t see many minutes during crunch time in Monday’s loss to the Wizards, but then were unable to keep up with the Hornets’ starters on Wednesday when they were on the floor late in the game.
There was a lot of speculation surrounding Rajon Rondo being benched for the fourth quarter and both overtimes in Washington. Many expected him to bounce back strong in Wednesday’s game, but instead he committed three late-game turnovers that potentially cost the C’s the game. Rondo seems to be putting his mishaps in the past.
“It’s not weighing on me at all,” Rondo said of his team’s struggles.
Does he feel like he’s getting too much of the blame?
“It doesn’t matter to me,” Rondo replied. “I’ve been here the longest. I’m the team captain and I’m the point guard. Just like in football, in the beginning they blamed [Tom] Brady a lot. It’s just part of it. It’s not weighing on me at all.”
Rondo doesn’t put much emphasis on trying to improve on things that went wrong after having a bad game — instead he looks forward.
“You let it go,” Rondo said of his fourth quarter in Charlotte. “I’ve been playing this game for nine years. I’m one of the best at what I do. I’m human, I make mistakes. I own up to my mistakes, this is part of the game.”
Rondo’s coach understands where is he coming from.
“I think he has an idea that as a leader and an older guy you have to be accountable,” Brad Stevens said. “At the same time, if he says, ‘Hey, this one’s on me,’ or he says something to that extent, none of us think that. We all were accountable for all the different things that went wrong in a loss or a win.”
“I think as a teammate, and as a person on the team, you appreciate that accountability, but you certainly don’t think that [Rondo is the one to blame], but it’s part of being a leader,” Stevens added.
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