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Report: Cavs look to add Ray Allen 07.05.10 at 3:44 pm ET
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David Aldridge reported on that the Cleveland Cavaliers have targeted Ray Allen as a player to add in the offseason.

Aldridge wrote Monday that the Cavaliers are “not only privately, quietly confident that they’ve managed, somehow, to stem the tide and have a good shot of keeping [LeBron] James, but have ideas of fixing their roster next season with the likes of Ray Allen and Brendan Haywood.”

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Should Paul Pierce opt out of his contract? 06.29.10 at 11:55 am ET
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Lost in the LeBron James sweepstakes (well, at least lost on a national level) is that Paul Pierce has until midnight tomorrow (June 30) to decide whether to decline the option for the final year of his contract and walk away from $21.5 million.

Is he going to do it? Does a 33-year-old forward with about 125,000 miles on his NBA tires really think there is a team out there that is going to throw him, say, $75 million over five years?

“I do have doubts,” said Danny Ainge last week on WEEI when asked if he thought Pierce would return to finish out his contract. “I’m not certain of what Paul may do. I don’t know because he may be able to get a long-term contract somewhere else. It may be better than what we have [to offer].”

Not exactly the hard pitch for Pierce to stick around. There is growing sentiment that Ainge might not be inconsolable should Pierce choose to take his chances in free agency. Paying someone big money for what they have done as opposed to what they will do isn’t exactly Step One in the rebuilding handbook. The idea of keeping Pierce as a career Celtic is great in theory, but in the salary-cap era there simply isn’t a lot of wiggle room for sentimentality.

But back to Pierce himself. Does it make sense to take his bat and ball into the open market? A couple of questions he has to consider:

Does he care about his legacy?

OK, that’s a little extreme. He’s done enough to earn his place, no matter where he plays in 2010-11 and beyond. But Pierce has always been steadfast in his desire to be a member of the Celtics for his entire career. The truly great players in franchise history– Russell, Cousy, Hondo, Bird, Cowens, McHale — never played a significant NBA second in another uniform. Does that matter to Pierce? Or does he feel that his legacy is secure even he spends four years with the Clippers or (ugh) Knicks?

Does he think the Celtics are still legitimate title contenders?

Could be that Pierce takes a look at the landscape and sees an aging and oft-injured Kevin Garnett, a possibly departing Ray Allen, a retired Rasheed Wallace and Doc Rivers getting ready for his TNT closeup. That is glass is half empty to be sure, but not too far from reality. If Pierce doesn’t think there is another title chance left in Boston during his remaining basketball years, why not take the money and go somewhere else? Or it’s possible he could see how who goes where , take a little less dough, and be the No. 2 or 3 guy for a team that needs one more piece? How about 4 years and $48 million to play with Dwayne Wade and Carlos Boozer in Miami?

Is there a team that will give him a long-term deal?

If Pierce is simply looking for the biggest cash out, his best bet might be a team that struck out in the LeBron derby and are trying to placate a bitter fanbase. Could be the Knicks or Clippers, of course. Maybe a reunion with Tom Thibodeau? I don’t think the idea of Paul Pierce, in the autumn of his career, coming in as de facto savior would be a great lift to the spirits of a jilted hoops community. Pierce’s value around the NBA isn’t close to what it is for the Celtics. And I can’t believe that he’s going to get a maximum contract, particularly in a lousy economy with a collective bargaining agreement looming (and the owners smell blood — they will sit and wait for the players to give in. Nothing close to a middle ground this time. The days of huge contracts will be gone) just a year away. But you can never count out an owner or GM giving in to panic.

Is the smart move to work out an extension with the Celtics?

Makes too much sense not to happen, doesn’t it? Can’t Ainge and Jeff Schwartz (Pierce’s agent) find a number of years and dollars that work for both sides? How about three years and $42 million? Gives the Celtics some cap room over the next few years and Pierce keeps face with a solid extension. Pierce may not be the player he was a couple of years ago, but he’s still be decent value at that contract. And he gets one more payday before what will be a hugely restrictive CBA kicks in.

If I’m Danny that’s my best and final offer. Three years, $42 million. If Pierce doesn’t think that’s enough? You shake hands, wish him well, and get started on the rebuild. Remember, only so much room today for sentimentality.

Artest on Rondo push: ‘Did what he had to do’ 06.14.10 at 1:59 am ET
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Rajon Rondo received a technical foul at the 4:42 mark of the second quarter of Game 5 for pushing Ron Artest following a hard foul from the Lakers forward to Kevin Garnett. Artest, though, had no problem with Rondo when asked about the altercation in a postgame interview.

“That’s his teammate, his teammate hit the floor,” Artest said. “And he didn’t like it. He did what he had to do. Part of the game, I don’t care. He pushed me, I’m not going to push him back. I gave a hard foul, he pushed me, the ref called a tech. Next possession, you know? Move on.”

Rondo was asked the incident in his postgame press conference.

“Pretty self-explanatory,” Rondo said. “I felt that Artest pushed Kevin. It wasn’t just a regular foul, and we weren’t going anywhere, so in Kevin’s defense I pushed him back.”

Artest nearly fell down following the shove, which ABC color analyst Jeff Van Gundy found hard to believe, given the size difference between the two players.

“Oh, he didn’t even shove him,” Van Gundy said while watching the replay. “Oh, come on. He didn’t push him, he put his hand on him. This is another sell job. This guy [Rondo] weighs 112 pounds, and Artest weighs 280 pounds.”

Rondo was asked if he felt that Artest had “flopped” on the push.

“I’m not that strong,” Rondo said. “He sold it a little bit. He’s probably the strongest guy on the court in this series. I’ve been lifting a little bit, but other than that I didn’t push him that hard.”

Lakers lament loss of Bynum 06.11.10 at 1:23 am ET
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The Lakers had to play almost the entire second half of  Game 4 without starting center Andrew Bynum, who was limited to just 12:10 overall as he continues to struggle with a right knee injury. Bynum was in the locker room to begin the second half, and played only 1:50 in the final two quarters. Without his presence in the middle (eight blocks in the first three games), the Celtics— particularly Glen Davis— were able to attack the basket throughout a key fourth quarter and even the series at two games apiece.

“We didn’t have that big presence in the middle, and Big Baby took full advantage of it,” said Kobe Bryant. “He played extremely, extremely well for them.”

Bynum, who had listed himself as “questionable” for Game 4 with the knee injury, clearly labored during his short time on the floor Thursday. He was far from the player that had averaged 13.3 points and 7.2 rebounds in Games 1-3. The Lakers were also not the same team with Bynum as a non-factor.

“It bothered us in the second half not having Andrew be able to come out and play the start of the second half,” said Phil Jackson. “He tried for a couple of minutes, but it just wasn’t there for him. We’re glad we have a couple of days off and we can kind of get him back hopefully in position where he can help us out again.”

Should Bynum miss Sunday’s Game 5, Lamar Odom (39 minutes in Game 4) will almost certainly take his spot in the starting lineup. Odom hopes the change does not need to take place.

“Andrew is a big part of what we do,” noted Odom. “When we have him going we are a different team.

[With Bynum out] we have to protect the paint. We have to rebound as a unit especially without him out of the game to make up for his size and shot-blocking ability and the way he protects the rim as a seven-footer.”

But the Lakers will be prepared if they must play Game 5 without their center. Bynum has been far from an iron man during his career, having missed a total of 96 regular-season games over the past three seasons.

“We’ve played without him obviously in the lineup before,” said Bryant. “We got a good rhythm going with him in the lineup. We’ll just figure it out.”

One of Bynum’s fellow starters isn’t worried, however.

“It was tougher with Andrew out, but he’ll be fine for the next game.” said Ron Artest.

He’s going to be fine?

“Yeah. He’ll be ready to go.”

The day after for Ray Allen 06.09.10 at 2:57 pm ET
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Following his 0-for-13 shooting nightmare in Game 3, Ray Allen spoke to reporters for about 20 minutes before the Celtics‘ practice on Wednesday. He quickly dismissed a radio report that suggested he was at the team’s practice facility shooting jumpers at 7:30 on Wednesday morning, telling the assorted media that he was asleep until 10 AM.

When he was asked about the biggest difference between Game 2 (NBA finals record eight 3-pointers) and Game 3, Allen didn’t hesitate.

“My thigh,” said Allen, who took a first-quarter shot from Ron Artest. “I took a knee to the thigh.”

But Allen was also quick to give credit to a Lakers defense that has held the Celtics to 41 percent shooting in the first three games of this series.

“They gathered out to my shot very quickly, adjusted well. You know, a couple of shots early I missed, and I think after that they got it back out to my shots very quickly. Maybe four or five shots they got their hand on. They had an outstretched arm in front of my ball all night.”

Allen “watched the tape” of Game 3, but he isn’t going to dwell on it or even use it as motivation for the rest of the finals. He seems comfortable chalking it up to A) the thigh, B) the Lakers’ defense and C) one of those nights that happen in the life of a shooter.

“I don’t question it [Game 3] I just move forward,” Allen said. “Just focus on getting a good rest today and moving forward.”

The referees have played a leading role in this series, and were once again on center stage in Game 3.

“You know, we didn’t have a great whistle,” admitted Allen. “Not a lot of calls yesterday went in our favor. But again, we have got to make our breaks. We had great opportunities last night, I think offensively down the stretch we just didn’t do what was necessary.”

When asked if his Game 3 goose egg would lead to any changes in preparation for Game 4, Allen responded with a “nope” before the question was even finished.

As for the thigh, Allen said on Tuesday night that he thought it would probably be sore the following day. He was asked Wednesday if that was indeed the case.

“It’s sore,” Allen said. “It’s difficult walking up and down the stairs.”

Three things that went right and wrong in Game 2 06.06.10 at 11:05 pm ET
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The Celtics have evened the 2010 NBA finals with a 103-94 victory over the Lakers, the first home loss for LA in this postseason (click here for the complete recap). Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen get the gold stars for the winners, who will now host the next three games. Game 3 is set for Tuesday night.

What Went Right

Ray Allen sets a record: After a very quiet (in no small part due to foul trouble) Game 1, Allen put on perhaps the greatest shooting display in finals history in the first half of Game 2, hitting seven-of-eight 3-pointers on his way to 27 first-half points. The seven 3’s matched a finals record, a mark he would break in the third quarter. Throw in terrific defense on Kobe Bryant (4-of-11) and I’m not sure any player has ever had a better half in the finals.

Rondo was Rondo again: This was the guy that was the best player on the floor in the Miami and Cleveland series. Not a shooting night to remember (8-of-18), but from Minute One of Game 2 it was clear that Rondo was going to be the most aggressive player on the court. That led to some forced stuff, to be sure, but the good outweighed the bad. Rondo finished with a triple-double (19 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists), the biggest play of the game (jumper to go up 95-90) and played a huge role in Allen’s first-half outburst. And he made the “only Rondo does that” kind of plays, like the strip of Kobe (which led to foul No. 4) in the third quarter, the block of Fisher late in the fourth and of the course the ball fake and layup on Bynum early on. Looks like Rondo is plenty healthy, which is a must for the Celtics to have any shot in this series.

Bigs come up big off the bench (Non-Shelden Williams division): OK, Glen Davis missed nine shots in his 18:10 on the court and only hit four shots. But he made plays, didn’t he? Blocking Bynum’s shot (terrible call), stopping Odom one-one-one in the post, drawing offensive fouls on Kobe and producing an And One on Gasol. Good things seemed to happen when Davis (eight points, seven rebounds) was on the court and Doc would have been justified to leave him in over Garnett in crunch time. And two good games in the finals for Rasheed Wallace, who had a plus/minus of +15 in Game 2 (highest total in the contest). Seven points and seven rebounds in 18:07 for ‘Sheed, who has been the player we were sold on before the season began.

What Went Wrong

Garnett: KG had his moments in Game 1, but it was a struggle. Game 2, however, was a near-disaster (have to give him some points for the  jumper in the lane to go up 93-90) and hard to figure. Foul trouble played a role, but Garnett simply flustered for the entire game. The Celtics would have signed for a split before the series started, and to do so without getting anything from Garnett in Game 1 and 2 must feel like stealing. But make no mistake ‘€” they need the KG of the Cleveland series to get to No. 18.

Can’t stop Gasol: Gasol has easily been the best player in this series. An easy 24-13 in Game 1 followed by 24 more points on 7-of-10 shooting in Game 2 (10-of-11 from the line). The Celtics have done a nice job on Kobe Bryant, now they have to figure out a way to at least slow Gasol down.

(And yes, “How Can Pau Gasol only take 10 shots????” should be question one for Phil Jackson in the post-game press conference.)

Pierce struggles: Just a 2-of-11 night for Pierce. If I told you before Game 2 that Pierce and Garnett would combine to shoot 4-of-16 you would have booked a 102-88 loss, right? Strange game.

Three Things That Went Wrong And Right in Game 1 06.04.10 at 12:00 am ET
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The Lakers took a 1-0 lead in the 2010 NBA finals after a 102-89 win over the Celtics. Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 27 points, while Pau Gasol finished with 23. The Celtics were topped by Paul Pierce with 24 points. Game 2 — a must win for the Celtics? — is Sunday night.

Three Things That Went Wrong

Gasol dominates Garnett: Guess Gasol is tougher than he was in 2008. He attacked Kevin Garnett from the start on Thursday night, finishing Game 1 with 23 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks. Gasol did whatever he wanted in the post with Garnett defending (Rasheed Wallace was actually more effective on Gasol) and wasn’t afraid to get physical while guarding KG. Here’s all you need to know about Garnett’s performance in Game 1: 35 minutes, four rebounds and two FT attempts in a strangely passive performance. The defining moment of Game 1 will be Garnett unable to dunk at 91-78 with six minutes left. Again, Garnett doesn’t need to play Gasol to a push in this series but he can’t be embarrassed as he was in Game 1.

Destroyed on the Glass: Fear No. 1 for most Celtics fans heading into Game 1 was the size of the Lakers (maybe 1A, assuming that Kobe always tops the chart). And it was justified, as the Gasol/Andrew Bynum duo helped the Lakers control play underneath. At halftime LA had a 23-15 edge on the boards, a 28-18 lead in points in the paint and a 10-0 shutout in second-chance points. And the Celtics couldn’t adjust, grabbing just two rebounds in the the third quarter.

Foul Trouble Slows Down Ray: With Kobe Bryant guarding Rajon Rondo early on, it appeared that Ray Allen would be able to do some serious damage coming off screens with the soon-to-be-36-year-old Derek Fisher defending. But Allen could never get going, as he fell into early foul problems while trying to guard Bryant. A clearly frustrated Allen finished Game 1 with just 12 points on 3-of-8 shooting (and no 3-pointers).

Three Things That Went Right

Rasheed Came To Play: Wallace was terrific in the second quarter, scoring seven points while playing excellent defense vs. Gasol. You could make the case that no Celtics player matched the intensity brought by Wallace on Thursday. If Garnett struggles again in Game 2 early it’ll be interesting to see how quickly Doc Rivers goes to Wallace.

Rondo Looks Healthy: It wasn’t Rondo’s best game (13 points, six rebounds and eight assists) but he didn’t appear to be slowed down by the nagging injuries that hurt him at times vs. the Magic.

Tony Allen and Pierce Defending Kobe: Bryant was the game’s high scorer (30 points), but did most of his work against Ray Allen in Game 1. He didn’t make a shot with Pierce defending (0-for-6) and Tony Allen also had some nice moments guarding Kobe. Another Doc test for Game 2 is to see how much we’ll see Pierce on Bryant.

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