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Blogging the Draft 06.25.09 at 7:43 pm ET
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– And we’re underway. The Clippers kicked off the 2009 NBA Draft by taking Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin, who is the only sure thing in the draft. Griffin should be an immediate impact player provided the Clips can trade away at least one of the following veteran big men: Marcus Camby, Chris Kaman or Zach Randolph.

– Jay Bilas just added “Beasted” to the lexicon, as in: DeJuan Blair beasted Hasheem Thabeet. Let’s hope he retires that one post-haste. Thabeet is the easy winner for 2009′s awesomest suit award, however. Blinding. So far the draft is unfolding in an orderly manner. This makes me nervous.

– OKC takes James Harden No. 3. Harden is the Blake Griffin of 2-guards in this draft in that he is very likely to be good and in a perfect world could be excellent. Now we begin the Ricky Rubio watch.

– So the Kings are sitting there with both Rubio (whom my girl friend said looked scruffy in a Zac Efron way. I have no idea what that means) and Tyreke Evans from Memphis by way of the Philly suburbs. What to do? The pick is in and it’s Evans. Stu Scott keeps insisting that Evans is a point guard. I’m not so sure about that, but he is a player.

– Ru-bio! Ru-bio! Boy he did NOT look happy to go to Minnesota. Does this mean the Bassy Telfair era is over? Did it ever begin? “I’m Ricky Rubio. I’m not like anybody else.” Quote of the draft so far.

– Ooooh shocker! There’s no way Minnesota is taking Jonny Flynn too. This has to be for somebody else, right? Right? Interestingly, Ric Bucher just said they’re keeping both players. This provides some protection in case Rubio’s buyout gets complicated.

– Booooooooo! Golden State takes Stephen Curry, which leads to a forced Stu Scott joke and lets the New York fans do what they do best on draft night. I know New York fans fixated on Curry, but I’m not so sure he’ll be much more than a 3-point specialist. So who do the Knicks take here? We’ve hit the nobody knows portion of the draft.

Jordan Hill is it. Safe pick. Boooooo!

– Here come the freshmen. The Raptors took DeMar DeRozen who could be really, really good or really, really meh. Bilas is trying to equate DeRozen with Amare Stoudemire because they both went No. 9, which is a huge reach. It’s a good fit for DeRozen though because the Raps have no one on the wing.

– Milwaukee takes Brandon Jennings, who I wrote about the other day. Right now Jennings is interesting because of his circumstances, i.e. skipping college and playing in Europe. Jeff Van Gundy just made a good point that Jennings is fortunate to play for Scott Skiles, who is not the easiest coach to play for but that’s probably what he needs right now. Wonder what this means for Ramon Sessions?

Read More: Add new tag, NBA Draft,
Vince Carter to Magic? 06.25.09 at 4:55 pm ET
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Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the Nets are in what he calls “advanced discussions” to send Vince Carter to Orlando for Rafer Alston, Tony Battie and Courtney Lee.

The only real prize for the Nets would be Lee who impressed a lot of people with his performance in the playoffs. Battie and Alston are, of course, free agents after the 2010 season, while Carter has three years and over $50 million still coming to him (the last year is a team option).

For all of his many quirks, Carter would be an interesting pickup for the Magic, who would bid adieu to Hedo Turkoglu if this goes down. Carter can shoot and he can create his own shot–two qualities the Magic need from their wing players–but he’s not exactly a defensive stopper. Carter, who is from Orlando, has also been a consistent performer with New Jersey since he was traded by Toronto in a messy divorce.

Funny how none of the trades that have actually happened ever made it to the rumor stage (the Shaq deal being the exception).

Read More: Magic, Nets, Vince Carter,
Shaq to Cavs: Genius move or desperation? 06.25.09 at 1:32 pm ET
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The news that the Cavaliers are set to send Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic to Phoenix for Shaquille O’Neal is not shocking. The deal had been rumored near the trade deadline and it was clear almost from the moment he arrived in Phoenix that the Shaq-Steve Nash marriage just wasn’t going to work. The question now is: Will the Shaq and LeBron union be better, or just another shotgun wedding?

At first glance this seems like a no-brainer for the Cavs. Wallace and Pavlovic were infrequent contributors and Wallace seems to be nearing the end of his career. In O’Neal they get a true center who had something of a bounce-back season in 2008-09. (Phoenix’s motives are entirely clear. This was a straight salary dump and considering they didn’t make the playoffs with O’Neal, it was an obvious move).

But upon further reflection, this seems like a classic overreach on the part of the Cavs. By any objective measure Cleveland was the best team in the league last season. The Cavs blew through the first two rounds of the playoffs without breaking a sweat, and everyone was geared up for the Kobe-Lebron marketing wet dream. But then Cleveland ran into Orlando, which presented three problems.

First, that the Cavs had no one to match up with Rashard Lewis, which is hardly unique. Few teams have that ability, as the Celtics found out without Kevin Garnett. Second, that their interior defense was suspect against an athletic center like Dwight Howard. Again, not a unique circumstance. Finally, a seven-game series is unforgiving, and as Billy Beane once famously remarked, “My (stuff) doesn’t work in the playoffs.”

While it’s true that baseball is an imperfect comparison because of how much control pitching has over the outcome, Beane’s point is that it’s human nature to over-react to a short series and one shouldn’t lose their perspective. The Cavs lost to Orlando not only because of the matchups, but also because Mo Williams and Delonte West suffered through horrible shooting slumps, Howard uncharacteristically became a competent free-throw shooter, and Lewis made brilliant shot after brilliant shot. The Cavs also blew a huge lead in Game 1 and suffered an excruciating overtime loss in Game 4. Turn any of those factors around and we might not be having this conversation.

That’s a whole lot of what-ifs to consider making such a drastic move. Again, the Cavs didn’t really give up anything to get Shaq, but as the Suns found out, having the Big Fella on the roster means altering your strategy to accommodate his presence. Ironically, the better move for Cleveland might have been working out a deal for Shawn Marion–the man Phoenix traded to get O’Neal–using Wally Szczerbiak’s expiring contract, but we’ll never know for sure.

It’s true that LeBron James has never had the luxury of playing with a superstar center, but neither did Michael Jordan, and it’s not at all clear that O’Neal is still a superstar center or if he will be much of a help in defending the pick and roll. This is a go for broke move by Danny Ferry designed to win a championship with LeBron now, but we shall see if O’Neal’s presence is a benefit or a hindrance.

Read More: Cavs, Shaq, Suns,
Report: Suns agree to send Shaq to Cavs 06.25.09 at 12:39 am ET
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Yahoo! Sports reported the Cleveland Cavaliers have reached an agreement in principle to acquire Shaquille O’Neal from the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Ben Wallace, Sasha Pavlovic, the 46th pick in Thursday’s draft, and cash. According to ESPN, the trade is awaiting final approval from the Cavs’ and Suns’ owners.

This move adds depth to the Cavaliers front court, which stands to lose Anderson Varejao to free agency this summer, and gives LeBron James protection in the paint. O’Neal has a career average of 25.4 points, 11.7 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks in 35 games against the Celtics.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Shaquille O'Neal,
Transcript: Danny Ainge on D&C 06.24.09 at 11:22 am ET
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Celtics G.M. Danny Ainge was interviewed on the Dennis & Callahan Show this morning and offered some detail on the team’s plans for and concerns about Rajon Rondo, Thursday night’s draft, and the possibility of acquiring a superstar such as LeBron James or Dwyane Wade following next season. Among the highlights:

–Ainge suggested that Rondo’s shortcomings as a shooter hurt the Celtics in the series against the Magic, and that he is not yet worthy of the max contract that he seeks.
–Rondo was fined for “unacceptable” failures to show up on time.
–The Celtics are not looking to trade Rondo.
–Ainge does not expect the Celtics to make a splash in this year’s draft.
–The Celtics have positioned themselves to be able to make a run at superstars in next year’s free-agent class, though the most likely route for such a move would be through a sign-and-trade.

Here is a transcript of most of the conversation:

Why does Rondo’€™s name appear in trade rumors every 10 minutes?

The media around the league kind of looks at things that make sense. They try to make up things because they think that Rondo’€™s contract is coming up, Ray Allen is an expiring contract, so they put things together and try to come up with trade rumors.

Do Rondo and Perkins help you win now, with the Big Three, and down the road?

I think they do. I think that makes a lot of sense. I think a lot of guys look at young players, as the weak link. Kendrick this year was not a weak link. He did a great job against Dwight Howard.
The way that they were defending us, it was hard for the three superstars’€¦
Rondo, as we saw in the Orlando series, they left him wide open. His presence hurt us in winning right now. His man left him and doubled Ray or Paul.
It made it difficult for us.
They’€™re young players. They help us win sometimes and they make it harder for us to win sometimes because of their youth and inexperience. They’€™re good players. They’€™re not great players. We’€™re hoping they develop into great players.

Is Rondo worthy of being a max contract guy?

Not right now, I don’€™t think that Rondo’€™s a max contract player. I think it’€™s a good goal for Rondo to have from a monetary standpoint, to be that kind of player that warrants a max-contract player. I certainly don’€™t see Rondo as a max contract player today.

What is his contract status?

You know what his situation is. He can be extended after July 31 up until October 31. We have until October 31 to decide whether to extend him. If that doesn’€™t happen by October 31, then after next season, he would become a restricted free agent where we can match any offer that he gets.

Would this be taking a chance that he could leave in two years and you’€™d get nothing for him?

It depends. I guess it depends on where we are as a team. We love Rondo. Rondo is  a player we want to have on our team and he’€™s a guy we want to move forward with. We would never want him to just go away (without compensation). Next summer is probably a summer where we’€™ll have to come to some financial decisions on Rondo, if we don’€™t come to a conclusion this summer.

Some think you should do anything to put yourself in financial position to bring Dwyane Wade or LeBron James to Boston. Is that on your radar screen?

It’€™s something we’€™ve discussed, and it’€™s something we’€™ve actually set ourselves up for, to have an opportunity to think along those lines. This year, it’€™s a tough call because we’€™re trying to win now. If we try to improve our team this summer, it could prevent us from having an opportunity to be in the stakes for a big superstar in 2010 unless it’€™s through a sign-and-trade. A sign-and-trade might be a more viable way to get him than through cap space.
You’€™re at a disadvantage with cap space because you can’€™t pay them within $30 million of what their team that they’€™re currently with can pay them, and you can’€™t pay them the length of the contract for the same amount of years. So it’€™s better and more likely to get a superstar free agent, in most cases, through sign-and-trades.

That’€™s probably our best opportunity. You also have to be an attractive team, and a team that has some value. You can’€™t just have the money. You have to have other players that will allow that player to win. With KG and Paul and the contracts that reamin going forward, that may be the attraction. We may not have enough money, but if you have some assets to trade for that superstar, that may be your best opportunity.

How do you assess the chances of acquiring LeBron or Wade?

There’€™s no way, other than try to figure out what would be in a player’€™s mind ‘€“ a 25-year-old superstar ‘€“ of what he’€™s trying to accomplish. I really believe that players do want to win. I believe their contracts will be important, and they will all demand max contracts. That’€™s a given. But I also think that they want to win. Who they play with, all those are factors.

Can you ever imagine Cleveland doing a sign-and-trade with LeBron?

At some point, you have to make that call ‘€“ let him go away, or get something in return…I don’€™t know the answer to that. Maybe you say that in no circumstance will we ever sign-and-trade him just for the fact that we never want to be the ones to traded him. That’€™s a possibility.

When would guys in that class ‘€“ LeBron, Wade, Bosh ‘€“ when would those guys be moved if they make clear they won’€™t extend with current clubs?

It would be after next year. Those would happen after next year. I’€™m sure they would explore every opportunity to keep them…A lot of those guys may sign this summer…I still believe the most likely scenario with all these superstars that they stay with their teams.

On the idea that Rondo was sitting in his car and late to practice:

There was just a couple of situations where Rajon was late. I don’€™t know if he was sitting in his car, but he showed up late and the rest of the team was there, and he was late. There are team rules in place and he said he was in traffic. That was unacceptable.

How does maturity impact whether Rondo is a max contract player?

He’€™s got to grow up in some cases. I think he is, too. Rondo has started to mature and control his emotions. He’€™s responding in a more positive way as he gets older in the league. We certainly would not trade him because of those things. We really need him as our point guard to be a leader than someone who thinks more of himself at times.

On whether Doc Rivers is involved in offseason decision-making:

I talk to Doc constantly on these things and if we both agree, it’€™s a great situation. Doc and I will talk about coaching a lot. I know hoe coaches are and the stress that they go through being in the fire. And it’€™s my job to let things go and heal up to the point where he and I agree.

Is Rivers frustrated with Rondo?

He has not been, no. He’€™s gotten frustrated here and there. Doc understands that talent wins. He [Rondo] is a very talented player. But, he’€™s got some holes in his game that he’€™s working on. If Doc might be frustrated I’€™ll throw out these hypothetical trades, like ‘€˜Would you rather have this guy?’€™ If Doc says, ‘€˜No, no, no,’€™ then I gauge it by that. Sometimes it’€™s just frustration, but we won’€™t trade a player unless he’€™s really disruptive, and Rondo is not a disruptive force on our team. He’€™s a dynamic player and we love the kid. We’€™re not looking to trade Rondo because he was late for a playoff game or because he’€™s got some growing up to do. Some of our 30-year-old players have growing up to do as well. I think that there’€™s a lot of speculation that Rondo’€™s expecting a contract. He was late for playoff games and he didn’€™t play well in the Orlando series. I think a lot of people are making something out of nothing that’€™s really there.

Is Rondo one of the top handful of point guards in the game?

I think he’€™s in the conversation. I’€™d say he’€™s in the top ten for sure. We haven’€™t really sat down and analyzed. There are so many facets to the game. Rondo’€™s a terrific player but everybody talks about his shooting. I’€™ve talked about this ever since we got him, what I need from Rondo is to compete play in, play out more often. The shooting is a factor. He will become a much greater player if he can make more shots and become more confident. I need that competitiveness in him. I know he’€™s a competitor at an unbelievable level at times. He’€™s in cruise control on too many possessions for my liking. He’€™s getting better at that and improving all the time.

On draft-night plans for the Celtics:

It looks like it’€™s going to be a very boring night for us.

Some project as many as eight point guards as lottery picks. Of those, how many will be good NBA point guards?

I think that the kid (Tyreke) Evans from Memphis has a chance to be a special player. I think he can be good next year. I don’€™t know if he can be good in November, but I think that kid, with opportunity, is going to be good.
I think Stephon Curry is a great shooter. Bobby Knight called it. He can really play. I think he has a chance to step in and be a good player in the NBA next year.
Russell Westbrook had a great rookie year last year. He never really played point guard in college. Curry, Flynn ‘€“ Johnny Flynn, physically, has the ability to be a great player.
Those are the ones, I think, that have a chance to have a great impact next year.

What about Ricky Rubio?

I don’€™t see Rubio being that dynamic player now. I think he’€™s got a lot of potential. He’€™s a very flashy player. He has a great mind for the game, and he’€™s a terrific passer. I don’€™t see him, just physically, and because he doesn’€™t shoot the ball very well, I don’€™t see him having an impact as a rookie. I think he’€™s more of a project ‘€“ a build-around franchise point guard ‘€“ so I would put him down there below those other guys.

Is point guard the toughest position in the NBA to learn?

I think it depends on how you’€™re utilized. It’€™s nowhere near a quarterback…I don’€™t think it’€™s that complicated. It’€™s basketball.
Point guards are not, in my opinion, I think that’€™s much, much too talked about. Some guys are natural at it, some guys aren’€™t.

Can you win without a good point guard?

I know we won two championships without a point guard. I know the Lakers…Derek Fisher‘€™s no point guard in the traditional sense.
The Bulls when they won their championships didn’€™t have a point guard. You need good basketball players.

Have you thought about offering Kevin McHale a job?

Kevin and I are very close. We keep in contact all the time. I think Kevin’€™s probably going to end up on TV. We don’€™t have jobs to offer him. I like my staff and all that. But for the last 10 or 15 years, Kevin and I have talked about working together at some point. Right now is not the time. But I’€™m a big fan of Kevin’€™s as a person. High character guy. I value his basketball insight.

I don’€™t think Kevin left Minnesota in a bad position at all’€¦The bottom line is that the last two years they had Kevin they were in the lottery, and they had a high payroll. So I think they were in a position where they needed to do something. At least they didn’€™t do a Pau Gasol trade where they got nothing in return. Did you guys see that Richard Jefferson trade yesterday? Holy cow. San Antonio, they send all the bad contracts away and they get an All-Star caliber player. The Lakers are sweating. That’€™s a great acquisition for San Antonio.

Will draft parties in Boston be incredibly lame?

The draft party is going to be fun if you’€™re an NBA fan. If you’€™re a Celtics fan alone, there’€™s not going to be a lot of excitement.

Read More: Chris Bosh, Danny Ainge, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James
Wiz make a move 06.24.09 at 10:01 am ET
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Ever since the Draft Lottery was held the word was that the Washington Wizards would try to move the fifth pick in Thursday’s draft for veteran help and they pulled the trigger last night getting Randy Foye and Mike Miller from Minnesota for Etan Thomas, Darius Songalia, Oleksiy Pecherov and the pick. (ESPN is reporting that there are some procedural things to work out regarding Thomas and his early-termination option for the deal to be official).

The trade accomplishes two things. First, it makes the Timberwolves a major player in the draft now that they have the fifth and sixth picks in the lottery and two more –18 and 28–later in the first round. Already talk is that the T-Wolves will try to leverage all those picks to move up and get Ricky Rubio.

More importantly from the Celtics perspective and the rest of the Eastern Conference, the trade makes the Wizards a playoff contender again. Shooting has long been Washington’s problem and Miller and Foye will go a long way toward curing the issue. Foye also gives the Wizards some protection if Gilbert Arenas is not 100 percent. Foye isn’t really a point guard but he’s a lot better than what Washington had last year when Agent Zero was on the shelf.

While this doesn’t put the Wizards into the Celtics/Magic/Cavs tier of top contenders it does put them right in the mix of teams just below that range and if everyone stays healthy (a big if) maybe even a little better than that.

Ainge: Celtics fined Rondo 06.24.09 at 9:56 am ET
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The Celtics may ‘€œlove’€ Rajon Rondo, but that does not mean he is immune from being held accountable. On Wednesday, Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge revealed on WEEI’€™s Dennis & Callahan Show Rondo had been fined for being late to games last season. Ainge deemed the tardiness ‘€œunacceptable.’€

Rondo showed up an hour before gametime during the playoffs this season. He explained his late arrival last week on WEEI and chalked it up to a pregame routine.

‘€œPeople are going to make assumptions, everyone has opinions. I actually do try to come to games as late as possible because I don’€™t like to go in the locker room and talk and waste time…Different guys have different opinions on why they like to get to the game so early,’€ he said. ‘€œSome people may look at it as late but I look at it as just coming to play.’€

Regardless of his explanation, Ainge insists that team rules are rules.

“There was just a couple of situations where Rajon was late,” Ainge said. “I don’€™t know if he was sitting in his car, but he showed up late and the rest of the team was there, and he was late. There are team rules in place and he said he was in traffic. That was unacceptable.”

This offseason Rondo has been linked in nearly every Celtics trade rumor. The Celtics have until October to decide whether or not to extend his contract.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Rajon Rondo,
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