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Nets’ Paul Pierce practices, says ‘good chance’ he’ll play Tuesday vs. Celtics 12.09.13 at 1:35 pm ET
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Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce

Nets swingman Paul Pierce, expected to be out 2-4 weeks when he broke the third metacarpal bone in his right hand 10 days ago, might return early and play in Tuesday’s game against the Celtics after practicing Monday, according to reports out of Brooklyn.

Pierce said there’s “a good chance” he’ll play vs. his former team after testing his injury.

Point guard Deron Williams, out since Nov. 20 with a sprained ankle, also practiced Monday.

The Nets are 6-14 and coming off a 90-82 victory over the Bucks, as they rebounded from a 30-point loss at home to the Knicks on Thursday.

The Celtics, meanwhile, have won three straight and are coming off a 41-point victory over the Knicks. Boston is in first place in the woeful Atlantic Division with a record of 10-12.

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Irish Coffee: Does Rajon Rondo guarantee playoffs? 08.14.13 at 12:00 pm ET
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In this golden age of point guards, a handful of guys have established themselves as perennial All-Stars over the past five years: Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker and Rajon Rondo.

Sure, there’s the old guard (Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Chauncey Billups), the new kids on the block (Kyrie Irving, Jrue Holiday, John Wall) and the occasional Jameer Nelson, Devin Harris or Mo Williams in the mix, but those six are consistently at the top. “What the hell is he getting at?” you ask. Well, for starters, this.

Each time one of those six guys submitted an All-Star season, their respective teams qualified for the playoffs in 18 of 21 opportunities. Those three exceptions: Paul missed the second half of the season with a knee injury in 2010, Williams was traded midseason in 2011 and then he coasted through a truly awful Nets season in 2012.

Of course, four members of that Nets team that finished 22-44 with Williams at the helm (Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, MarShon Brooks, Keith Bogans) are members of this year’s edition of the Celtics with Rondo, but still …

RAJON RONDO (2010-13 NBA All-Star)

2009-10 Celtics: 50-32 (NBA finals)
2010-11 Celtics: 56-26 (conference semifinals)
2011-12 Celtics: 39-27 (conference finals)
2012-13 Celtics: 41-40 (first round)*
*Rondo played just 38 games due to injury

CHRIS PAUL (2008-13 NBA All-Star)

2007-08 Hornets: 56-26 (conference semifinals)
2008-09 Hornets: 49-33 (first round)
2009-10 Hornets: 37-45 (did not qualify)*
2010-11 Hornets: 46-36 (first round)
2011-12 Clippers: 40-26 (conference semifinals)
2012-13 Clippers: 56-26 (first round)
*Paul played just 45 games due to injury

DERRICK ROSE (2010-12 NBA All-Star)

2009-10 Bulls: 41-41 (first round)
2010-11 Bulls: 62-20 (conference finals)
2011-12 Bulls: 50-16 (first round)*
*Rose suffered season-ending injury in playoffs

DERON WILLIAMS (2009-12 NBA All-Star)

2008-09 Jazz: 48-34 (first round)
2009-10 Jazz: 53-29 (conference semifinals)
2010-11 Jazz: 39-43 (did not qualify)*
2010-11 Nets: 24-58 (did not qualify)*
2011-12 Nets: 22-44 (did not qualify)
*Williams traded midway through 2010-11 season

RUSSELL WESTBROOK (2011-13 NBA All-Star)

2010-11 Thunder: 55-27 (conference finals)
2011-12 Thunder: 47-19 (NBA finals)
2012-13 Thunder: 60-22 (conference semifinals)*
*Westbrook suffered season-ending injury in playoffs

TONY PARKER (2006-07, 2009, 2012-13 NBA All-Star)

2005-06 Spurs: 63-19 (conference semifinals)
2006-07 Spurs: 58-24 (NBA champions)
2008-09 Spurs: 54-28 (first round)
2011-12 Spurs: 50-16 (conference finals)
2012-13 Spurs: 58-24 (NBA finals)

That .628 winning percentage (1,229-727) is hard to ignore, especially since it also applies to the old guard, whose teams owned a near identical 1,234-718 record (.632) and qualified for the playoffs in 21 of 23 chances.

JASON KIDD (1996, 1998, 2000-04, 2007-08, 2010 NBA All-Star)

1995-96 Mavericks: 26-56 (did not qualify)
1997-98 Suns: 56-26 (first round)
1999-2000 Suns: 53-29 (conference semifinals)
2000-01 Nets: 51-31 (first round)
2001-02 Nets: 52-30 (NBA finals)
2002-03 Nets: 49-33 (NBA finals)
2003-04 Nets: 47-35 (conference semifinals)
2006-07 Nets: 41-41 (conference semifinals)
2007-08 Nets: 34-48 (did not qualify)*
2007-08 Mavericks: 51-31 (first round)*
2009-10 Mavericks: 55-27 (first round)
*Kidd traded midway through 2007-08 season

STEVE NASH (2002-03, 2005-08, 2010, 2012 NBA All-Star)

2001-02 Mavericks: 57-25 (conference semifinals)
2002-03 Mavericks: 60-22 (conference finals)
2004-05 Suns: 62-20 (conference finals)
2005-06 Suns: 54-28 (conference finals)
2006-07 Suns: 61-21 (conference semifinals)
2007-08 Suns: 55-27 (first round)
2009-10 Suns: 54-28 (conference finals)
2011-12 Suns: 33-33 (did not qualify)

CHAUNCEY BILLUPS (2006-10 NBA All-Star)

2005-06 Pistons: 64-18 (conference finals)
2006-07 Pistons: 53-29 (conference finals)
2007-08 Pistons: 59-23 (conference finals)
2008-09 Nuggets: 54-28 (conference finals)*
2009-10 Nuggets: 53-29 (first round)
*Billups traded three games into 2008-09 season

Sure, plenty of other factors went into the success of their teams. For one, they often featured names like Kevin Durant, Tim Duncan, Paul Pierce or Carmelo Anthony. But the Hornets, Bulls and Jazz teams respectively led by Paul, Rose and Williams — or even Kidd’s Nets and Billups’ Pistons — didn’t feature another superstar talent.

Quite simply, based on recent history, if Rondo submits an All-Star caliber season, the Celtics have roughly a 90 percent chance of making the playoffs. Or they could just be the 2012 Nets 2.0.

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Net loss: Up and down Celtics left in the dust in loss to Nets 04.10.13 at 10:35 pm ET
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Brandon Bass provided one of the few highlights for the Celtics, a dunk on Brook Lopez in the first quarter. (AP)

Brandon Bass provided one of the few highlights for the Celtics, a dunk on Brook Lopez in the first quarter. (AP)

Deron Williams scored 29 points Brook Lopez added 21 as the Brooklyn Nets beat the Celtics, 101-93, Wednesday night at TD Garden. Paul Pierce had 23 to lead the Celtics, who fell to 40-38 on the season. In his second game back from an inflamed left ankle, Kevin Garnett rebounded from a 1-for-6 first half to finish with 11 points and eight rebounds in 28 minutes.

With the loss, the Celtics appear locked in for the seventh-seed and a first-round match up with the Knicks as the sixth-seed Hawks beat the Sixers in Philadelphia to move two games ahead of the Celtics in the loss column. With the Bucks’ loss in Orlando, Boston is still three games up in the loss column on eighth place Milwaukee. The Celtics and Bucks each have four games left.

The Nets improved to 46-32 and are all but locked in at the No. 4 seed heading into the playoffs.

In a game the Celtics showed little defensive intensity, the first quarter started out with great promise. The Celtics shot out to a 17-9 lead, highlighted by a dunk from Brandon Bass over Brook Lopez with six minutes left in the opening quarter. Brandon Bass led the Celtics with eight points in the first quarter but the Nets outscored the Celtics, 13-4, in the last six minutes of the quarter to take a 22-21 lead after 12 minutes. Boston finished the first quarter shooting just 9-of-23 from the field.

Boston’s defense in the second quarter was leaky, as the Nets made two-thirds of their shots from the floor, finishing the period 12-of-18. Williams had 11 of his 27 points in the quarter as the Nets took command of the game with a 53-43 halftime lead.

Another telling sign of how the Celtics were dominated on the inside was the lack of free throws. With Boston’s offensive generated almost exclusively from the perimeter, the Celtics didn’t get to the free throw line until 8:22 left in the third quarter, when Pierce hit a free throw to complete a 3-point play.

There were signs of life in the third quarter as Jeff Green drilled a three with 4:29 left to cut Brooklyn’s lead to 11, 68-57. Then, Shav Randolph drew a charge on Brook Lopez. After two Pierce free throws cut the lead under 10, Lopez hit a five-foot bank shot to stem the Boston tide. Read the rest of this entry »

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Fast Break: Nets cut down sluggish Celtics at 9:43 pm ET
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The Nets ran the Celtics out of their own building, 101-94, but the Bucks bailed them out by losing in overtime to the lowly Magic. The C’s own a three-game advantage on Milwaukee with four games to play. Here’s what went wrong against the Nets, a tough matchup for the Celtics should they meet in the second round.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Worst first: In the opening quarter, the Nets committed three times as many turnovers (6) as they had assists (2). The Celtics held Brooklyn to 7-of-19 shooting, including an 0-for-3 frame from Williams. And somehow the C’s trailed 22-21 after one. The fact that everyone not named Brandon Bass or Paul Pierce combined to shoot 3-of-16 didn’t help. The Celtics had a chance to bury Brooklyn early. Instead, the opposite.

Garnett and Green: For different reasons, Kevin Garnett and Jeff Green struggled. Garnett seemed to be playing his way back into shape in his second game since missing two weeks with a foot injury, although he made 4-of-5 shots after finishing 1-for-6 from the floor in the first half. Meanwhile, Green got open looks but had an awful shooting night (4-17 FG). Easy rule of thumb: If scoring options 2 and 3 aren’t working, the Celtics are in trouble.

Foul mood: Avery Bradley picked up three fouls in the first half and his fourth 49 seconds into the second, and Williams took full advantage. Actually, he was the reason Bradley got into foul trouble in the first place. The Nets point guard continued his improved play since failing to make the All-Star roster for the first time since 2009, recording a double-double (29 points, 12 assists). Speaking of fouls, the Celtics didn’t attempt a free throw for almost 28 minutes (thanks to a heaping helping of jump shots). Somebody check on Tommy Heinsohn.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Super Bass: After averaging fewer than 10 points for the first five months of the season, Bass has scored in double digits in all five games this month. Heck, he practically reached that mark in the first quarter. Illustrating a more versatile offensive arsenal, he threw down a vicious two-handed dunk over Brook Lopez, knocked down an 18-foot jumper and showed off a creative post move on Reggie Evans on consecutive Celtics buckets in the opening frame. In an odd move, Celtics coach Doc Rivers opted not to play Bass for a lengthy second-half stretch while Reggie Evans and Kris Humphries of all people grabbed rebound after rebound.

Living Wilcox: Likewise, the C’s nearly had to file a missing persons report on Chris Wilcox, who hasn’t been the same since injuries to his thumb and alley-oop partner Rajon Rondo‘s knee. For the second straight game, Shavlik Randolph was the first big off the bench, and for the second straight game, Wilcox played like his playoff minutes depended on it. After all, he’s never participated in the NBA’s postseason. Eighty percent of his shots have come within 2 feet of the basket, and Wednesday was no different, but at least he earned those buckets.

Truth handles: While many of the Celtics regulars struggled — and frankly turned in a preseason performance — Pierce (23 points) plodded his way through another stellar effort. After citing the “chippiness” between the two teams, Pierce probably had this game circled on his calendar. He scored 13 points on four shots in the third quarter alone. While the lead continued to slip away from the C’s as the game wore on, Pierce at least gave them a fighter’s chance, even if he was the only one fighting.

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Opinion: Appreciate Rajon Rondo while you can 11.30.12 at 7:37 am ET
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I went to the Celtics game Wednesday night eager to watch Rajon Rondo.

Rajon Rondo's ejection Wednesday night reignited the discussion about the mercurial point guard's importance to the team. (AP)

No Celtics player has been the topic of more discussion this season. The man with the assist streak has been a lightning rod for Boston sports fans. Reading the blogs and listening to talk radio before the game, one heard that Rondo either was the best point guard in the NBA or a mercurial, self-serving diva who never could be the centerpiece of a championship team.

Then the game started. These days, at the Garden, a fan’s attention is locked in two places. The first is the video scoreboard, where the fan cam runs on an endless loop. The second is Rajon Rondo.

Like any special player in the NBA, Rondo captivates an audience. He sees the court differently, and plays with a style completely unique to the NBA. For each of Rondo’s strengths — his handle, his ability to get to wherever he wants on the floor, his vision, and his passing — he has a weakness. Both the strengths and weaknesses are discussed with equal enthusiasm.

In the first half, the best and worst of Rondo was on full display. He had no trouble getting deep into the lane on a Brooklyn team that had Brook Lopez at center and Kris Humphries at power forward. On one fast-break sequence, Rondo went coast-to-coast before leaving his feet for a layup under the basket, only to wrap the ball around a defender to an unsuspecting Brandon Bass. A potential dunk ended up as a turnover, and talk of Rondo’s predisposition to pass rather than shoot could be heard throughout the arena. On another possession, Rondo attempted to beat the shot clock by driving the lane, only to get his shot blocked by Humphries. On a later defensive possession, Rondo played his typical turnstile man-to-man defense as Deron Williams drove the lane. Rondo slapped at the opposing point guard’s hands after he was beat, putting Williams on the line.

The tough part for Rondo was the entire first half played out that way. He set up teammates for shots, and they missed. He struggled on the defensive end. With about four minutes left in the half, Rondo had three assists. He was off pace in his quest for his 38th consecutive game with 10 or more assists.

Then Humphries fouled Kevin Garnett under the basket. Then Rondo snapped.

There is no bigger disparity in the opinions of Rondo than in the people who attend Celtics games and those who watch on TV — or perhaps don’t watch at all.

When Rondo pushed Humphries under the basket and the confrontation spilled into the seats, the arena erupted. It wasn’t much of a fight, but it was the first time a Celtic had pushed back all night. As tough as Garnett has been throughout his career, he now is a veteran who gets calls by absorbing contact and jerking away suddenly. For much of the first half, the Nets initiated contact, and the Celtics got the calls. Often, Nets players shook their heads, almost surprised that this is how the Celtics want to play now.

But Rondo woke up the crowd. At the conclusion of the scuffle, fans rose to their feet and started a “Let’s go Celtics” chant. They cheered when Humphries and Gerald Wallace were ejected. They booed when Rondo was ejected. There wasn’t a whole lot of discussion about Rondo’s maturity. Until the next day.
Read the rest of this entry »

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NBA Free Agent Rumors: Jason Terry wants long-term deal 06.18.12 at 3:28 pm ET
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Jason Terry could be ready to take flight from Dallas. (AP)

Mavericks’ guard Jason Terry, an integral part of the Mavericks 2011 NBA Championship run, is set to be an unrestricted free agent July 1 and has voiced his desire for a long term deal.

The 34-year-old was last a free agent in 2006 when he was quickly re-signed by the Mavericks to a six-year, $57 million contract. This time around Terry wants another multi-year contract, preferably with Dallas, but he also has said he’s willing to test the free agent market.

The Mavericks have been rumored to be interested in acquiring free agent superstar Deron Williams if he opts out of his contract. If that’s the case then Dallas most likely will be unable to sign Terry to a long-term deal if they want to land Williams. If they can’t sign the point guard then they may choose to sign players to one-year contracts in order to prepare for next year’s free agent class that includes Dwight Howard and Chris Paul. Terry wasn’t interested in that scenario.

“I won’t be here,” Terry said. “You can count on that. If they’re doing that, you won’t see the Jet on the runway in Dallas.”

Terry switched agents recently hiring Arn Tellem and B.J. Armstrong from the Wasserman Group after cutting ties with Dan Fegan

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Trade deadline fallout: How the deals affect the Celtics 03.19.12 at 12:41 pm ET
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The Celtics didn’t do anything about the trade deadline, but a handful of deals have direct, or indirect ramifications for their longterm rebuilding plans.

1. Dwight Howard stays in Orlando

Skip past the drama of the past week and understand that Howard’s decision to not exercise his early termination option is huge for the Celtics. First, it keeps him away from New Jersey who planned to build a team around Howard and Deron Williams. Second, it keeps him with a Magic team that will likely remain capped out for 2012-13. Third, it removes Howard from this summer’s free agent list.

Short of Howard moving to the Western Conference, this is a positive end result for the Celtics, who can now shift their attention elsewhere.

2. New Jersey makes a panic move

After not getting Howard, the Nets traded a top-3 protected pick to Portland for Gerald Wallace in an apparent effort to keep Williams happy. Wallace is a good player and the Nets spin is that the upcoming draft lacks game-changers at the top of the draft. However, what the draft lacks in quality it more than makes up for in quantity and the Nets gave away a coveted future asset for potentially half a season of Wallace.

Williams and Wallace have ETO’s and the Nets run the risk of losing both players at the end of the season. The Nets stay the Nets, in other words. This is good for the Celtics and possibly great for the Mavericks, who will no doubt zero in on Williams this summer.

3. Portland blows it up

Now this was a demolition. The Blazers not only traded Wallace, they also dealt Macus Camby to Houston for Jonny Flynn and Hasheem Thabeet. How does this affect the Celtics? The Blazers cleared a direct path to re-sign Nic Batum, who will be a coveted restricted free agent. Batum would have been perfect alongside Rajon Rondo.

4. Denver acquires JaVale McGee

Interesting move by the Nuggets, who dealt center Nene and his 5-year, $65 million contract. While this seems curious on its face, there is a method the madness. As Mark Deeks wrote, the Nuggets likely never had any intention of keeping Nene through to the end of his deal. He was signed to be traded, which is how a proactive organization goes about its business. (New Jersey, take note).

The principal return was McGee, an athletic shot-blocking freak, known more for his LOL-worthy stunts. However, he’s also an athletic shot-blocking freak and the basketball world is beyond curious to see what happens to McGee now that he is in a structured situation on a good team with a strong-willed coach.

He’ll command huge money as a restricted free agent — again, shot-blocking freaks are rare — and Denver has the upper hand on retaining him. McGee would have been an intriguing possibility for the Celtics, but like Batum he’ll now likely be out of their reach.

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