Sports Illustrated NBA writer Chris Mannix joined Mut & Merloni on Wednesday, one day before the NBA trade deadline, to discuss rumors surrounding the Celtics . Mannix said the Celtics would be wise to do the deal reportedly discussed with the Clippers, but he’s not expecting it to happen.
“Boston was making a lot of those calls about [Kevin] Garnett to the Clippers,” Mannix said. “And the interest in the Clippers, I can tell you, it’s divided out there among the organization. The coaching staff, they want Kevin Garnett , because they want to win now. ‘¦ Whereas the front office, I can tell you this, they’re not all that inclined to give up Eric Bledsoe, who is a potential 10-year starter in this league, and DeAndre Jordan, a sure-fire starter right now, for Kevin Garnett, who could potentially only be giving you a couple more months. Who knows what Kevin Garnett’s future is going to hold? To me, he’s always been on a series of one-year contracts.
“I think at the end of the day, when you throw in the no-trade clause that Kevin has, and you consider the fact that I have not heard a heck of a lot of significant interest surrounding Paul Pierce , I think more likely than not, the core of this team stays together.”
A report Tuesday night had the Clippers pulling out of trade talks. Mannix said he expects Celtics boss Danny Ainge would follow through if the deal is resuscitated.
“I think if the deal is there, he makes it,” Mannix said. “If he can get Eric Bledsoe and DeAndre Jordan for Kevin Garnett, you jump at it. I’ve heard some criticisms of this deal from the Boston side; I don’t get it. Has anyone not been watching Eric Bledsoe? As really the fourth guard on this Clippers team — third, I guess, when [Chauncey] Billups is injured — but really, he’s done a lot of things.”
Added Mannix: “You’re dealing with potential right now, because he hasn’t gotten the consistent minutes at the point guard spot because Chris Paul  has been there for a couple of years now. But Eric Bledsoe is a guy that could potentially take over as a starting point guard for a team right away, and be an effective guy, be a guy that can score 15 points per game and give you seven, eight assists. Look at the way he’s played this year: He’s up to about 10 points per game. But more importantly, his field goal percentage is in the mid-40s right now, his 3-point percentage is in the low 30s. This is a guy that’s been improving every single year. So I think he’s a guy you would want to get.
“Same thing with DeAndre Jordan, who admittedly is a little bit overpaid, because Golden State threw that massive contract at him last year. But he’s someone that can be a starting center on your team for the next decade.
“And when you make a deal like that, all of a sudden there can be a domino effect. Now you can think about dealing Rajon Rondo  next year, when he becomes healthy, because you have Eric Bledsoe already at the starter’s spot. You can trade Rondo for some starting quality pieces or some draft picks, and all of a sudden an old, aging team could suddenly be a fast, rebuilding team on the fly. I think that’s the way it would turn out.”
Another rumor has the Celtics interested in making a move for Hawks forward Josh Smith, but Mannix cautions against it.
“I’m just warning you: Stay a million miles away from Josh Smith,” Mannix said. “I’m just telling you. Because he’s a talent, no question about, he’s a borderline All-Star every single year, but he’s definitely a head case at this point. He’s had such a roller-coaster ride in Atlanta. He shoots more maddening jump shots than any player in the league. ‘¦
“The bottom line, too, with Josh Smith is that he’s looking for a max deal next summer. And it’s one thing to pay Josh Smith what you’re paying him now on a short-term deal. It’s quite another thing to have to give this guy 14 or 15 million dollars over four or five years, which is what he’s going to be looking for. And you’ve got to believe there’s going to be a crazy team out there that’s going to be willing to give it to him.
“You can have him right now, you can talk about him being young, fitting in with the young corps for the future. He and Rajon Rondo are close, so they’d probably get along in that lineup. But he’s going to gobble up a ton of your payroll. And you have to ask the question: Is Josh Smith good enough to be considered a franchise player? I look at him as a second or third option on a team, not a franchise guy. So I would not pay him that much money over that many years.”
On the possibility of the Celtics trading Pierce: “I’m a little bit surprised at how I’ve gauged it as lukewarm interest in Paul Pierce right now, because Paul is still an accomplished scorer. And Boston has had no hesitation in the past about dangling Paul in trade talks. ‘¦ I’m not hearing Paul Pierce’s name brought up in a lot of these discussions. Now, that could change in the next 24 hours when things really start to heat up, right before the deadline. But right now, Paul’s name is not on the tip of the tongue of a lot of GMs of contending teams that I’ve talked to.”
On if Dwight Howard  will be traded by the Lakers: “I don’t think Dwight Howard’s going anywhere. If I’m the Lakers, I’m not stupid enough to deal him, either. You’ve got to take a long-lens view of the situation with Dwight Howard. And yes, he and Kobe Bryant  are the worst couple since I don’t know what. But you can’t risk dealing him and mortgaging your future. Now, if you can get another franchise-type player who might not be on Dwight Howard’s level but may be a cut below, then maybe, yeah. ‘¦
“This is still a 27-year-old franchise center. This is still a guy that was one year removed from being one of the best players in all of basketball. And you do have to assume that next year he’s going to come back fully healthy. You have to believe the back injury, given a full offseason just to heal, the shoulder injury, given the offseason to heal, that those things will be fine by training camp, and he’ll come back the same player we saw last year. And if he does, do you want to be the organization, do you want to be the franchise that dealt away that player for 65, 70 cents on the dollar?”