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Celtics vs. Lakers: Just Another Game?

02.18.10 at 12:18 am ET
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To Rajon Rondo, a trip to the Staples Center in the middle of February feels the same as a stop at any other arena.

He sees a basketball court, not the banners hanging above it. And regardless of the rivalry against the home team, he is simply focused on leaving with a win.

‘€œIt’€™s not like a championship game,’€ he explained. ‘€œIt’€™s not a series. It’€™s one game. It helps our record or hurts our record, one way or the other. It’€™s another game.’€

On Thursday, the Celtics will take on the Lakers in their final match up of the regular season. The last time the teams met on Jan. 31, the C’€™s blew an 11-point fourth quarter lead and watched Kobe Bryant sink a game-winner with 7.3 seconds left.

In spite of the desire to avenge their loss, Rondo’€™s right. This isn’€™t a championship game. In fact, at this point in the season it is more about the Celtics vs. themselves rather than the Celtics vs. the Lakers.

The C’€™s have been their own worst enemy lately, surrendering leads and making mistakes down the stretch. This game against Los Angeles, the second stop on a four-game West Coast road trip, will be a test for them to get back to Celtics basketball after a recent departure.

‘€œIt’€™s important,’€œ Paul Pierce said of the entire road trip. ‘€œWe want to go out there and start playing better, start playing more consistent basketball. We know it’€™s a tough trip, and maybe this is a chance for us to get out on the road and get ourselves back together because we really struggled over the last month-and-a-half.’€

The loss to the Lakers capped off a three-game losing streak and a month of January in which the Celtics went 6-8. They entered the All-Star Break on a two-game skid, still struggling to put together 48 minutes of basketball.

A win over the Lakers would give them momentum to jumpstart the second half of the season. They narrowly edged the 18-win Kings on Tuesday night and will face the playoff contending Trail Blazers, Nuggets, and Cavaliers over the course of the next week.

‘€œNext is down to business,’€ said Kevin Garnett. ‘€œObviously trying to play better, consistent basketball for the Celtics and being productive. So that’€™s what’€™s next for us.’€

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo

Cavs land Jamison

02.17.10 at 11:20 pm ET
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While the Celtics worked to acquire Nate Robinson, the Cleveland Cavaliers pulled off a major deal Wednesday, landing Antawn Jamison from the Wizards in a three-team trade that also involved the Clippers.

The cost for acquiring the two-time All-Star was relatively light as Cleveland surrendered just a first round pick, center Zydrunas Ilgauskus and the rights to 2009 second round pick Emir Preldzic. It is widely believed that Ilgauskus will be bought out by the Wizards and then re-sign with the Cavs after 30 days.

Cleveland also got one-time Celtic Sebastian Telfair, although his role is expected to be limited. The Wizards received Al Thornton and the Clippers took back Drew Gooden, who was just traded to the Wizards over the weekend by the Mavericks.

The upshot of all that is that the Cavs finally acquired their long-desired big man who can shoot from the outside, without having to give up young forward J.J. Hickson.

There had been rumblings over the All-Star break that the Cavs were interested in Phoenix’s Amar’e Stoudemire, but that rumor went from white hot to ice cold in the span of 72 hours. Reports late Wednesday night indicated that Phoenix would likely keep Stoudemire for the rest of the season. (He has a player option this summer).

The stage is now set for the Cavs and LeBron James. They have the best record, the best player, and the prized late-season addition to bring it all home before James hits free agency. The pressure, however, will be enormous on them in the playoffs.

The Celtics play the Cavs next Thursday in a TNT game at the Garden. The two teams haven’t met since opening day when the Celtics won 95-89 in Cleveland. The other main contenders in the East–Atlanta and Orlando–are not expected to do much with their rosters before the deadline.

Read More: Antawn Jamison, NBA, Trades,

The latest on Nate

02.17.10 at 8:39 pm ET
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UPDATE (12:48 P.M.): ESPN’S Chris Sheridan is reporting that the teams have a tentative agreement that will send Eddie House, Bill Walker and J.R. Giddens to New York for Nate Robinson and an unidentified second player. It’s likely that that the other player is coming from somewhere other than New York, since none of the other Knicks make the salary cap math work.

The Knicks have been engaged with the Rockets, and now the Kings, on a deal for Tracy McGrady. Keep an eye on those two teams as the afternoon progresses toward the 3 p.m. deadline.

****

The Celtics want Nate Robinson. The Knicks want Eddie House. That’s the easy part.

House told reporters in Los Angeles, where the Celtics are getting ready to play the Lakers Thursday, that he expects to be traded before Thursday’s 3 p.m. deadline. Robinson also reportedly cleaned out his locker in New York and was scratched from the Knicks game against the Bulls with what the team said was the flu.

The Celtics have targeted Robinson for a month and House has a relationship with Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni going back to their days together in Phoenix. And yet, it’s still not done.

The problem, as it’s been from the start, is that Robinson’s contract status as a base year compensation player makes him difficult to trade. The Knicks won’t take back anything for Robinson other than expiring contracts and while the Celtics have many players who fit that bill, none of them make the math work in a straight-up trade.

The Celtics can’t trade House straight-up for Robinson. They can’t trade Tony Allen or Brian Scalabrine straight-up for him. Draft picks won’t help either. That leaves them with two options.

They can start to assemble a deal with multiple players involved — and reports have had everyone from J.R. Giddens to Bill Walker in the mix. Or, they can try to find a third team to bring into it who would then absorb some of the salaries. To date, no third team has been identified.

It’s also worth noting that the Knicks are at the 15-player maximum, which doesn’t leave them with a lot of wiggle room. The Celtics have had an open roster spot since the release of Lester Hudson. In other words, the Knicks can’t take back more players than they trade. (Minor update to this: The Knicks worked out a trade that sent Darko Milicic to Minnesota for Brian Cardinal and they are expected to waive Cardinal, which would free up a roster spot).

There is every reason to believe that the Celtics will wind up with Robinson in their backcourt. It’s just not clear how yet.

Read More: eddie house, Nate Robinson, Rumors,

What to make of Nate

02.17.10 at 12:03 pm ET
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UPDATE: Reports that Nate Robinson have been traded to the Celtics are premature according to a source, but it is still likely to happen at some point.

The rumors are swirling that the Celtics may be closing in on New York Knicks guard Nate Robinson at the trade deadline. The Celtics may have competition for Robinson in the form of the Lakers. Both teams have also been said to be in on Chicago guard Kirk Hinrich, but the Lakers seem reluctant to take on more salary obligations and Hinrich’s deal extends for two more seasons beyond this one.

For now, let’s take a look at what Robinson would actually bring to the Celtics. Even though he is only listed at 5-foot-9, Robinson is one of the NBA’s premier athletes as evidenced by his status as a three-time dunk champion. He also played football at the University of Washington, starting six games at corner before deciding to concentrate on basketball.

Robinson’s biggest strength is as a scorer. He has started only 61 times in 312 games, but he averages 12.5 points for his career in about 24 minutes a night. He is also a decent 3-point shooter, although certainly not the caliber of Eddie House, whose minutes he would presumably take.

Robinson has had his problems with Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni. He was benched for 14 games in the middle of the season before rallying the Knicks to a comeback win over the Wizards in early February with 23 points. Robinson lasted only three more games before falling out of favor again. He hasn’t played for the Knicks since Feb. 9.

The Celtics second unit has suffered from a lack of a true lead guard. Marquis Daniels has performed the task capably since he returned from his injury, but he is more of a facilitator on offense. While Daniels was out, Doc Rivers often had Ray Allen or Paul Pierce initiate the offense for the second unit and he experimented with Rajon Rondo in that role with the second team as well. But those are merely stop-gap solutions.

Robinson is in the final year of his contract, which presents a few minor problems. He is what is known as a base year compensation player, which makes it difficult, but not impossible to make the trade math work. He also has veto power over a trade, but he is believed to be open to a trade to the Celtics and for good reason. The Globe’s Gary Washburn reported that Robinson would earn a $1 million bonus if he is on a playoff team.

Read More: Nate Robinson, Rumors,

Fast Break: Celtics vs. Kings

02.17.10 at 12:40 am ET
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With trade rumors swirling around a possible acquisition of Nate Robinson, the Celtics found themselves locked in an offensive struggle against one of the fastest-paced teams in the league. That might have been OK to play the Sacramento Kings style earlier in the season, but the Celtics can’t afford to mess around with sub-.500 teams anymore.

Enter the bench. The very same bench that Danny Ainge seems determined to try to tweak between now and the trade deadline Thursday.

Playing one of their most inspired quarters, the second unit took an 11-point lead behind the hot shooting of Eddie House and the interior defense of Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis. The Celtics rode that effort, and survived a shaky fourth quarter, en route to a 95-92 win over the Kings Tuesday night.

Wallace, Davis, House and Marquis Daniels all played major roles in the victory and helped the Celtics overcome a lackluster performance from the starting five. It’s only one game, of course, but if they had played that well for the majority of the season (and been healthy enough to try) Ainge wouldn’t be attempting to perform a makeover at the deadline.

Turning Point: Despite the bench’s efforts, the Celtics still had to work for it. Paul Pierce, who had a sub-par shooting game otherwise, drilled a 3-pointer with 1:38 remaining that put the Celtics ahead, 89-87. The Kings helped out mightily by missing four free throws down the stretch.

Player of the Game: Rasheed Wallace. The backup big man has maintained throughout the season that he, and the Celtics, will get things right when it counts. Tuesday night was a step in the right direction. Wallace finished with 17 points, five rebounds and three blocks, but it was his play down low that was so effective. Wallace dominated on the block in the first half and was also an active presence defensively. He shifted back outside in the second half, but he served a reminder that once again he is the Celtics best post-up player. When he wants to be.

* The starters were shredded defensively in the first quarter as the Kings shot 55 percent and made 5-of-8 from 3-point range. A balanced scoring effort and a lack of turnovers helped the Celtics match the Kings, 30-30.

* Ray Allen and Paul Pierce both went 5-for-15. Rajon Rondo also struggled, going 1-for-6.

* Kevin Garnett had nine rebounds through the first three quarters and almost recorded his first double-digit rebounding game since Dec. 18 against the Sixers, but he couldn’t get over the hump.

* Eddie House made four 3-pointers, something he hasn’t been able to do since a Dec. 30 blowout loss to the Suns.

* Glen Davis had five offensive rebounds in just 17 minutes of action.

Read More: Celtics, Fast Break, Kings,

Third quarter wrap: Celtics vs. Kings

02.16.10 at 11:57 pm ET
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After three quarters, the Celtics lead 76-69.

The dreaded third quarter collapse never came, but the Celtics still have work to do if they are going to start off their west coast trip with a win. The turnovers returned with the starters as they gave it away seven times in the quarter, but the Celtics were able to overcome that by tightening up defensively.

The Kings shot just 5-for-19 in the quarter and the Celtics have been able to control the defensive glass. Of the five starters, only Kevin Garnett is shooting over 50 percent from the floor. Garnett us 4-for-6 with nine points and nine rebounds.

Halftime wrap: Celtics vs. Kings

02.16.10 at 11:11 pm ET
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After a sloppy first quarter defensively, the Celtics rode their bench to a 57-52 halftime lead over the Kings. Led by Rasheed Wallace’s 10 points, and inspired defensive play, the Celtics took control midway through the quarter and led by as many as 11 points.

Wallace was hardly the only bench contributor. Eddie House knocked down three 3-pointers, Glen Davis had six points and six rebounds and Marquis Daniels did his usual all-around number with seven points, three rebounds and a steal.

The second unit’s production was critical because Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo shot a combined 4-for-15. Despite that, there were other positive signs for the Celtics offensively. They only turned the ball over five times and made half of their 12 3-point attempts.

Read More: Celtics, Kings,
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