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First quarter wrap: Celtics vs. Kings 02.16.10 at 10:39 pm ET
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With trade deadline rumors swirling, the Celtics returned to action in their first game back from the All-Star break and looked a lot like the team that skidded into the break. At least defensively. The Kings shot 55 percent from the floor and made 5-of-8 3-pointers as the two teams played to a 30-30 tie.

Kevin Garnett scored six points go with three rebounds and two assists, while Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis combined for nine points off the bench. Sacramento rookie Omri Casspi led the way for the Kings with 10 points, and a nasty block on Garnett.

New rumor: Nate Robinson 02.16.10 at 10:17 pm ET
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Reports from the New York Daily News and the Herald have the Celtics talking to the Knicks on a deal for guard Nate Robinson. The Celtics reportedly tried to acquire Robinson in January when the offensive-minded guard had fallen out of favor with Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni.

Robinson is in the last year of his contract and he isn’t part of their long-term plans. The Celtics would presumably offer up  expiring contracts in exchange.

Acquiring Robinson would be tricky, however, because he is a Base Year Compensation player, or BYC. That which means that his trade value isn’t worth as much as his $4 million contract. Salary cap guru Larry Coon addressed this in a December entry on the New York Times Off the Dribble blog.

The key takeaway:

“Robinson made $2,020,179 last season, and re-signed for $4 million, triggering BYC. This means his outgoing salary for trade purposes is $2,020,179. Since teams can only acquire as much as 125 percent (plus $100,000) of their outgoing salary, the Knicks can accept no more than $2,625,223 in exchange for Robinson.

“The team at the other end of the transaction would use Robinson’€™s full $4 million salary, rather than his BYC amount. Working the math the other way, this means that another team would have to trade away at least $3.12 million in order to acquire Robinson.”

So yes, it gets a little complicated.

If the Celtics were able to pull this off, they would acquire a scoring threat who is averaging 13.2 points and 3.7 assists in 30 games this season.

Read More: Nate Robinson, Rumors,
Rondo’s improved shooting 02.16.10 at 2:27 pm ET
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One of the most important storylines of the 2009-10 Celtics season has been Rajon Rondo’s emergence into a full-fledged star. His assists are up, his steals are way up and he has the big contract and All-Star appearance to back him up.

But the true revelation with Rondo this season has been his improved mid-range game. His traditional field goal percentage is up slightly from just over 50 percent to 52.9 percent, but that only tells part of the story. For that we need to turn to Hoop Data, a website that tracks where a player shoots, and how often he makes it.

For stat geeks, Hoop Data is a treasure trove of interesting numbers. For example Glen Davis has his shot blocked a fairly amazing 21 percent of the time, which helps explain why he has had so much trouble finishing around the basket.

Back to Rondo. According to Hoop Data’s numbers, he has improved his shooting percentage at the rim and raised it significantly from 10-15 feet in to the basket. That would be the in-between game so many purists long for.

In 2009, Rondo took a little more than half his shots at the rim and made over 61 percent of them, which is very good for a point guard. This season he has increased his attempts slightly (from 5.1 to 5.4), and also improved his percentage to over 65 percent. That meshes with how most people see Rondo–as a player who can get to the basket and finish well despite his size.

To give you an idea on how that compares to other point guards, only San Antonio’s Tony Parker takes as many shots per game and finishes as well as the rim as Rondo.

Rondo’s real work has come slightly farther out. From 10 feet and in, Rondo’s accuracy goes from 40 percent in 2009 to 53 percent in 2010. From 10-15 feet away from the basket, Rondo’s percentage jumps from 35.2 to 52.5 percent. He has also upped his attempts from those distances over the previous season.

What all that shows is a player understanding how to utilize his ability to beat defenders off the dribble, and how to score once he does.

It’s not all good news for Rondo. His accuracy on longer shots and 3-pointers has dropped, as has his free throw shooting, which is a genuine cause for concern since it removes him from late-game situations. Rondo may never be a great long-range shooter, but if he can continue to master the in-between game–and get his free throw shooting up to a respectable level–he won’t have to be one to be effective.

Read More: Rajon Rondo, Shooting, Stat Geek,
Scal’s All-Star Scrapbook 02.16.10 at 12:22 pm ET
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As the NBA gathered in Dallas for All-Star Weekend, Brian Scalabrine spent the break with his family and shared his photos with WEEI.com. Click on the photo below to launch the slide show.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brian Scalabrine, NBA All-Star Break,
Preview: Celtics vs. Kings 02.16.10 at 10:12 am ET
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Taking a much-needed break from the trade deadline rumors the Celtics return to the court Tuesday night to play the Kings… who happen to employ one of the few names actually linked to a Ray Allen trade; Kevin Martin. Obviously all eyes will be on the two shooting guards this evening, if for no other reason than idle curiosity.

Even if Danny Ainge was somehow able to swing major trade (which doesn’t seem likely) the Celtics have problems that only they can fix. They don’t rebound very well. They turn the ball over too much and they don’t shoot as well from 3-point range as they have in the past.

All those things are symptoms of other things. Their defense has allowed too much dribble penetration, which has led to defensive breakdowns and clear alleys for opponents to hit the glass. The offense has gone stagnant too often, leading to bad passes and forced shots.

These have in turn been referred to as “issues” and “agendas,” which is way more exciting and intriguing then simply noting that they are not playing well. The question, then, for the Celtics in the final 32 games is: Are their breakdowns mental or are they physical? They continue to insist that they are mental and that they can fix their problems. Now they have to prove it.

CELTICS (32-18, 5-5 last 10)

Points Per Game: 98.7

Points Allowed: 93.7

Differential: +5.0 (4th)

Offensive Efficiency: 107.2 (13th)

Defensive Efficiency: 101.8 (1st)

Pace: 91.5 (23rd)

Likely Starters: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins

Injuries: None.

KINGS (18-34, 3-7 last 10)

Points Per Game: 102.0

Points Allowed: 105.8

Differential: -3.8 (22nd)

Offensive Efficiency: 106.5 (17th)

Defensive Efficiency: 110.5 (26th)

Pace: 94.6 (6th)

Likely Starters: Tyreke Evans, Kevin Martin, Donte Greene, Omri Casspi, Spencer Hawes

Injuries: Francisco Garcia (Wrist) Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Celtics, Kings, Preview,
Mavs moving in on Butler 02.13.10 at 11:19 am ET
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Reports out of Dallas and Washington indicate that the Mavericks are closing in on a deal that would get them Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson in exchange for Josh Howard, Drew Gooden, James Singleton and Quinton Ross. (The Washington Post had a could of different names at the end of the deal, but the principles, Butler and Howard, are the same).

The hot rumor Friday morning involved the Celtics trading Ray Allen to the Wizards for Butler and Antawn Jamison.

Jamison is still very available and has been linked to the Cavaliers among other teams.

Read More: Caron Butler, Ray Allen, Rumors,
New rumor: Ray for Jamison, Butler 02.12.10 at 10:42 am ET
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UPDATE: Say this for the rumored trade between the Wizards and Celtics involving Ray Allen, Caron Butler and Antwan Jamison, it certainly got a lot of people talking.

Danny Ainge shot it down, telling the Globe that he has not talked with the Wizards. It also prompted Allen to post the following on Twitter: “I have no control over trade rumors people. Let’s just focus on being positive. I am a Celtic. Green all day.”

Washington Post beat man Michael Lee also took to Twitter to knock it down.

There is some thought that the rumor was put out there as a way to get other teams to sweeten their offers for Butler and Jamison. The Cavaliers, for example, have been rumored to be in pursuit of Jamison, but are said to be unwilling to part with second-year forward J.J. Hickson.

The following is the initial reaction to the rumor:

Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski offers up an intriguing trade rumor with the Celtics potentially dealing Ray Allen, Brian Scalabrine and J.R. Giddens to the Wizards for Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison. If it happens the deal would fundamentally make over both teams.

Wojnarowski writes that “the trade isn’t imminent.” The Wizards have been talking with several teams, notably the Mavericks, about dealing Butler but this is the first scenario involving both Butler and Jamison.

Washington’s motivation is simple. The franchise is a mess in the wake of the Gilbert Arenas fiasco and it is loaded down with huge contracts for its veteran stars. Allen, Scalabrine and Giddens all have expiring contracts and a deal like this wouldn’t just be the first step in blowing it up and starting over, it would be the T.N.T. and the dynamite.

Butler is signed through next season at over $10 million and Jamison is signed through 2012 where he will make over $15 million. For the Celtics, a move like this would add significant money to the payroll, but it would also accomplish Danny Ainge’s stated goal of a trade that would help them win now and in the future. They would be getting two former All-Stars, and with Allen’s decline this season, the two best players in the deal.

It does raise some interesting scenarios, however, because Butler and Jamison play the same positions as Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

Butler’s career has read sort of like Pierce-lite and while he has played some 2-guard, he is not the same caliber of long-range shooter as Allen (Butler is a career 31 percent shooter from 3-point range). According to 82games.com, he has played 72 percent of his minutes at the small forward position this season. Jamison will turn 34 this summer, but he has been remarkably durable during his career, playing 82 games five times in his 12-year career.

Both players have shown versatility during their careers. Jamison came off the bench during his one season with the Mavericks in 2003-04 and wound up winning the Sixth Man of the Year award. He would obviously be a significant upgrade to the second unit if Garnett is healthy, and provide better Garnett insurance then Rasheed Wallace has been able to give.

If Butler can make the transition to playing alongside Pierce it would give the Celtics two rugged scorers and defenders on the wing. It’s worth noting that he has played alongside Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant at various points in his career.

Of all the rumors that have been presented, this one has the most realistic and interesting possibilities.

(Note: The preceding sentence was written before the denials started rolling in. The “realistic” part was a bad read on my part.)

Read More: Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, Ray Allen, Rumors
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