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Marcus Smart flipped off a fan during Celtics Game 2 blowout loss 04.19.17 at 7:59 am ET
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Marcus Smart and the Celtics had difficulty defending Rajon Rondo Tuesday. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Marcus Smart and the Celtics had difficulty defending Rajon Rondo Tuesday. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics unraveled in the fourth quarter of their Game 2 loss to the Bulls Tuesday, and Marcus Smart took out some of his apparent frustration towards a fan at the T.D. Garden. 

After clanking a three-pointer, Smart flipped his middle finger towards a person in the crowd as he was jogging back on defense. He also put one of his fingers to his lips, purportedly telling the fan to be quiet. 

Earlier in the period, Isaiah Thomas reamed out Smart on the court. The third-year guard finished 6-of-11 from the field with 13 points and eight rebounds in the Celtics’ 111-97 defeat

Faced with a 2-0 series deficit, the Celtics are on the verge of getting ousted in the first-round of the playoffs for the third consecutive season. Head coach Brad Stevens is now 2-10 in the playoffs. 

Read More: Boston Celtics, Marcus Smart,
LeBron James dismisses matchup against Celtics: ‘I’ve been to six straight NBA Finals’ 04.05.17 at 10:09 am ET
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LeBron James doesn't appear excited about facing the Celtics Wednesday. (Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)

LeBron James doesn’t appear excited about facing the Celtics Wednesday. (Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics and Cavaliers, who are tied for first place in the Eastern Conference, will match up with each other at T.D. Garden Wednesday. It’s a big game as far as regular season contests are concerned, but don’t tell that to LeBron James.

In an interview following the Cavaliers’ win over the Magic Tuesday, James downplayed the importance of the affair.

“I don’t know, I’ve played in a lot of big games man,” he said. “I don’t … I’m the last person to ask about a big game in the regular season. I’m sorry.” 

It’s understandable if James holds a jaded view about the importance of regular season basketball. The Cavaliers narrowly edged out the Raptors for the No. 1 seed last season, but wound up bulldozing their way through the Eastern Conference playoffs. Cleveland came back from a 3-1 deficit to oust the Warriors in the NBA Finals, largely thanks to an otherworldly effort from James. He averaged 36.3 points, 11.7 rebounds and 9.7 assists per game over the final three games to secure his third title. 

After a fast start this season, the Cavaliers have slumped since the All-Star Break. They’re 9-10 since March 1 and had the worst defense in the league last month as well. James lost his temper earlier this week when he started screaming at forward Tristan Thompson following a defensive lapse in the waning moments of Cleveland’s double overtime win Sunday over the Pacers. 

Though the Cavaliers have taken to resting their stars down the stretch, James played 37 minutes Tuesday against the lowly Magic. So maybe Cleveland wants to finish strongly heading into the playoffs, even if James won’t admit it. 

“Taking nothing from [the Celtics], they’ve been playing some great ball, but like I said, I’m not one to get caught up in regular season big games,” he said. “I’m sorry. I’ve been to six straight [NBA] Finals, man. I’m the last person to ask about a regular season game, dude. Sorry.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron James,
LaVar Ball on ‘Dale & Holley with Keefe:’ I would prefer Lonzo Ball play for the Lakers 03.30.17 at 3:18 pm ET
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LaVar Ball said Thursday he would prefer his son play for the Lakers. (Richard Mackson/USA Today Sports)

LaVar Ball said Thursday he would prefer his son play for the Lakers. (Richard Mackson/USA Today Sports)

If the Celtics draft UCLA standout Lonzo Ball this spring, his father would probably be disappointed. 

In an interview Thursday on Dale & Holley with Keefe, LaVar Ball said his preference is for Lonzo to wind up with their hometown Lakers. Listen to the full interview on the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

“I want him to be a Laker. But that’s just my opinion,” he said. “It wouldn’t be like, ‘Oh man he gotta go to Boston.’ I’d love him to stay in LA. But that’s just me though.”

LaVar Ball went on to say he wants his son to play for the Lakers, because he wants to keep the family together. 

“It’s not about me liking [the Celtics] or disliking them. It’s just that we’re west coast guys,” he said. “I’d love for him to stay on the west coast where his brothers can see him all of the time. We’re a real big family. That’s just the only difference. But like I said, my son will play for any team on the fact that his goal was to make it to the NBA. So it doesn’t matter what team he plays for.” 

In a recent USA Today feature story, the man who coaches LaVar Ball’s kids at Chino Hills High School, Stephan Gilling, opened up about Daddy Ball’s overbearing personality and tendency to overrule him at every turn. But in the NBA, Ball says that wouldn’t be a problem. 

“You know what you’re getting from my boys when you get them. Anything before that, in high school, you don’t know what you’re getting,” he said. “That’s why I have to mold them into these players. Everybody thought I went to practices and all that stuff with Steve Alford [at UCLA]. No, I never went to one practice. I’m not going to be up there telling [the coach], wherever [Lonzo] goes, ‘Hey man, you need to play my son like this.’ No, Lonzo’s turned into a man. That’s his job.” 

Though LaVar Ball continued to build up Lonzo during the interview –– he stuck by his claim that his eldest son could beat Stephen Curry in a game of one-on-one –– he said he doesn’t think his brash demeanor hurts his kids. In fact, he says he thinks it helps them become better players. 

“If you’re in the NBA, shouldn’t everyone want to dunk on you? Who cares?,” he asked. “If you want to be the best, I don’t want my son going into a situation where [everyone] says, ‘You know what? You’re a great guy, man. We’re not even going to play that hard on you. We want to ease you in nice and gentle to the NBA. We’re not coming after you.’ Man, that’s a bunch of hogwash. I want them all coming after my boy, because that’s how you get to be the greatest.”

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Rajon Rondo isn’t inviting Ray Allen to 2008 Celtics reunion trip 03.20.17 at 2:37 pm ET
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Ray Allen played in two Finals with the Heat. (Soobum Im-USA Today Sports)

Ray Allen played in two Finals with the Heat. (Soobum Im-USA Today Sports)

Rajon Rondo is organizing a reunion for the 2008 Celtics. But Ray Allen isn’t invited. 

In an interview with The Undefeated, Rondo said he is planning a vacation with his former teammates to commemorate the championship run. But apparently, there was uniform opposition to Allen coming along. 

“I asked a couple of the guys. I got a no, a no head shake,” Rondo said. 

Allen, who the Celtics acquired in June 2007 for a first-round pick, was an integral part of the Big Three with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. But his relationship with the organization soured, leading the future Hall of Famer to ink a three-year contract with the rival Heat in July 2012. Allen won a championship in Miami the following year. 

Rondo said he felt betrayed when Allen went to the Heat. 

“The mindset we had. The guys on our team. You wouldn’t do anything like that,” he said. “It makes you question that series in the Finals … Who were you for? You didn’t bleed green. People think we had a messed-up relationship. It’s not the greatest. But it’s not just me. I called and reached out to a couple of other vets and asked them what they wanted to do with the situation. They told me to stick with what we got [without Allen].”

Pierce and Garnett have expressed similar sentiments about Allen in recent years. During a 2015 interview with ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan, Pierce said he was never close with the three-point shooter, citing Allen’s reclusive personality as a barrier to their relationship. In 2014, Garnett admitted he hadn’t spoken with Allen since they were teammates. 

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo
Celtics fill Jaylen Brown’s car with popcorn after argument with Marcus Smart 03.16.17 at 9:32 am ET
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Jaylen Brown didn't have a banner night Wednesday. (Chris Humphreys/USA Today Sports)

Jaylen Brown didn’t have a banner night Wednesday. (Chris Humphreys/USA Today Sports)

It wasn’t a banner night for Jaylen Brown. 

In the fourth quarter of the Celtics’ 117-104 win over the Timberwolves, the rookie forward was engaged in a heated spat with Marcus Smart on the sidelines. The argument appeared to stem from a play earlier in the period, when Brown prematurely drove to the hoop for a layup attempt instead of pitching the ball back to a wide-open Smart at the top of the perimeter. 

It only got worse for Brown after the game. His teammates filled his car with popcorn, drumming up an old NBA prank.  

But at least Brown seemed to have a sense of humor about the ordeal. He said on Instagram he needed the popcorn for a movie night, anyway. 

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Two years later, Rajon Rondo trade goes down as one of Danny Ainge’s greatest deals 03.13.17 at 4:47 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo seems to be in the twilight of his career. (Dennis Wierzbicki/USA Today Sports)

Rajon Rondo seems to be in the twilight of his career. (Dennis Wierzbicki/USA Today Sports)

When the Celtics finally traded Rajon Rondo in December 2014, his value was at a nadir. The mercurial point guard was in the final year of his contract and coming off a mysterious hand injury that took longer to heal than anticipated. With that in mind, Danny Ainge was lauded for extracting any value from the Mavericks in return for him. 

But as it turns out, the trade was a heist. 

The Mavericks’ package for Rondo centered around a 2016 first-round pick (Guerschon Yabusele), 2016 second-round selection (Demetrius Jackson) and a then-little-known forward named Jae Crowder. Though the picks received much of the attention at the time, Crowder has turned into perhaps the team’s best all-around players. This revelation is hardly breaking news, but it was especially on display Sunday, when Rondo spent the majority of the contest on the bench while the Celtics shellacked the Bulls. 

Despite only being 1.5 games out of the playoffs, the Bulls are preparing to rebuild. Maybe the most telling moment of their futile season came in late January, when Rondo called out his running mates, Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade. In an Instagram post, Rondo lambasted their leadership style after they had publicly called out some of their teammates. 

“My vets would never go to the media,” he wrote. “They would come to the team. My vets didn’t pick and choose when they wanted to bring it. They brought it every time they stepped in the gym whether it was practice or a game. They didn’t take days off. My vets didn’t care about their numbers. My vets played for the team. When we lost, they wouldn’t blame us. They took responsibility and got in the gym. They showed the young guys what it meant to work. Even in Boston when we had the best record in the league, if we lost a game, you could hear a pin drop on the bus. They showed us the seriousness of the game. My vets didn’t have an influence on the coaching staff. They couldn’t change the plan because it didn’t work for them. I played under one of the greatest coaches, and he held everyone accountable. It takes 1-15 to win. When you isolate everyone, you can’t win consistently. I may be a lot of things, but I’m not a bad teammate. My goal is to pass what I learned along. The young guys work. They show up. They don’t deserve blame. If anything is questionable, it’s the leadership.”

Playing for his fourth team in three seasons, the 31-year-old Rondo is far from being the max contract player he once thought he was. That was obvious Sunday. He logged just 18 mins in the Celtics’ 100-80 victory, scoring two points with six assists, three rebounds and three steals. Even though Rondo is healthy, he hasn’t started a game since Nov. 30. 

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Jae Crowder, Rajon Rondo
Isaiah Thomas admits he must keep emotions in check following outburst aimed at Brad Stevens 03.08.17 at 3:47 pm ET
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Isaiah Thomas is second in the NBA in scoring this season. (Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports)

Isaiah Thomas is second in the NBA in scoring this season. (Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports)

Everything seems to be cool between Isaiah Thomas and Brad Stevens –– for now.

In a meeting with reporters Wednesday, Thomas said he didn’t mean to disparage Stevens following the Celtics’ loss to the Clippers Monday. The All-Star point guard also admitted he must do a better job of keeping his emotions in check. 

“I didn’t mean to throw anybody under the bus. That’s not me,” Thomas said, via ESPN’s Chris Forsberg. “I just said how I felt at that time. My job is just to move on and do my job and don’t make it a distraction, because it’s not.” 

The Celtics were in control of the Clippers throughout the first half Monday, but unraveled after halftime. At one point, Los Angeles went on a 41-14 run, which carried into the fourth quarter. With Al Horford (elbow strain) and Jonas Jerebko (flu) out of the lineup, the Celtics were forced to go with a smaller rotation. At the end of the third period, their lineup featured James Young at one of the forward spots and Jordan Mickey at center. Thomas expressed frustration at the configuration, saying it’s too late in the season to be experimenting

While Thomas didn’t back off his words Wednesday, he said he regrets creating a stir. 

“I gotta do a better job of calming down after tough games, tough loses,” he said. “I’m always going to be me. And that’s the only way I know how. Like I said to Brad, I’m not here to throw anybody under the bus, because I wouldn’t want anybody to do that to me. That’s just how I felt at that time. Yes, I have to do a better job of it and I know that. I’m here to be Isaiah Thomas and lead and win games. And I know if we win that wouldn’t have even been a problem.” 

Stevens, for his part, appeared to take Thomas’ outburst in stride. 

“At the end of the day, I didn’t put much thought into it until it became a deal that everybody was talking about,” he said. “And at that point in time, I heard from Isaiah pretty quickly. So again, I don’t put a lot of stock. I understand the emotions and how high they run at the end of games, win or lose.”

After two consecutive loses, including a brutal last-second defeat to the Suns after Thomas missed a free throw and fumbled an inbound pass in the game’s final moments, the Celtics will look to get back on track against the Warriors Wednesday. That, of course, is easier said than done. Golden State is sitting atop the Western Conference with a 52-11 record. 

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