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Trade rumor: Celtics ‘salivating’ over landing Hawks’ Josh Smith for Jeff Green, Brandon Bass 02.16.13 at 9:39 am ET
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The Celtics “would be receptive” to trading both Jeff Green and Brandon Bass for Hawks forward Josh Smith, according to longtime Bucks beat reporter Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times.

The Nets and Bucks are also reportedly interested, but “for a few weeks now” the Celtics have been “salivating” over the possibility of landing Rajon Rondo‘s Oak Hill Academy teammate, according to the report.

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Adrian Wojnarowski on M&M: ‘Good chance’ Celtics retain Ray Allen, Dwight Howard ‘not going to Brooklyn’ 07.03.12 at 12:14 pm ET
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Yahoo! Sports NBA writer Adrian Wojnarowski appeared on the Mut & Merloni show Tuesday to discuss all things NBA, including trade rumors involving Dwight Howard and the future of Ray Allen. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Wojnarowski said that if the Celtics are indeed offering Allen a two-year deal worth $12 million, that it puts them in a favorable position to get him back, but he didn’t cross off other potential suitors. One team Wojnarowski doesn’t think will land Allen, however, are the Grizzlies, who were reportedly asking about Allen during the trade deadline.

“When Boston and Memphis talked about a deal at the trade deadline that fell apart, I know that Ray was not excited about being sent to Memphis,” Wojnarowski said. “Even though they’re a playoff team, he didn’t see it as a very desirable location at that time. … I think geography is important to Ray and his family being geographically being closer, that’s why I thought the Knicks could be a possibility because of that, and obviously Miami’s intriguing because he knows he has a chance to be on the big stage to win, Mike Miller’s future is very much in doubt there.

“The fact that Boston has shown, if they are at two years, $6 million per, which I think is comparable to what I’ve been hearing of what Jason Terry is being offered by teams around the league, then I think that gives Boston a good chance to be able to retain him.”

Wojnarowski doesn’t think a rumored poor relationship with Rajon Rondo will deter him from signing with the Celtics, but he thinks it is a factor in the decision.

“The thing with Ray and Rajon which I think has been there, the one thing people have always said to me, in that locker room and in the organization is, whatever issue they may have had with each other, with personalities, they never carried it on the court,” Wojnarowski said. “It never was an issue on the court, which at the end of the day is all that really matters. So only Ray knows how much of a factor it is. I think it is a factor, but I don’t think it’s enough of a factor that it’s driving him away or would drive him away. … Ray Allen is not going to leave Boston because he doesn’t get along with Rajon Rondo.”

Wojnarowski also touched on the Howard saga. The unsatisfied All-Star center is reportedly being shopped in a potential trade with the Nets, but Wojnarowski doesn’t think that’s going to happen.

“He’s not going to Brooklyn. It’s very unlikely. Orlando’s not interested in accommodating what Dwight wants,” Wojnarowski said. “They’re willing to make the deal that they think gives them the best return. Last year, when teams wanted to take Dwight as a rental, he had the real threat of, ‘Hey, if you trade for me at the trade deadline or before the season or whatever it would be, I’m just going to go to Brooklyn as a free agent because they have cap space.’ He doesn’t have that threat anymore. The Nets are loading up all their cap space as we speak.”

Added Wojnarowski: “What team out there has cap space next year that would be appealing to him? Now Atlanta has been talked about a lot the last couple of days because of all the money they’re getting off, but listen, a big part of what Dwight has been doing here in wanting to get to a big market, specifically New York or LA, is his Adidas deal is worth two, I’ve been told even three times more by being in New York or LA. So going from Orlando to Atlanta, while it’s his hometown and Josh Smith is a close friend, and maybe it’s appealing on some levels, it’s not going to give him the pay day that he’s been looking for here.”

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Irish Coffee: Josh Smith ‘jealous’ of Celtics, Boston fans 05.11.12 at 10:06 am ET
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Don’t be surprised if Josh Smith is a member of the 2013-14 Boston Celtics.

Following the Hawks’ 83-80 loss in Game 6 — suffering their second first-round exit in Boston since 2008 — their should-be All-Star forward said everything short of swearing his allegiance to high school teammate Rajon Rondo.

“That’s a great basketball team over there in the Celtics,” said Smith, who finished Game 6 with 18 points (7-18 FG), nine rebounds and four assists. “They’ve done some special things since they acquired the Big Three. Since then, they’ve been doing some special things in the postseason. We can definitely learn a lot from that ball club.

“It definitely hurts not being able to get out of the first round,” he added. “Being able to get out of the first round in three consecutive years, falling short this year, I felt like we had the best opportunity to make it to the Eastern Conference finals this year moreso than other years. That’s obviously disappointing.”

If you can’t beat ‘em, as they say, join ‘em. That notion was palpable in Smith’s postgame (and post-series) press conference. The Rondo connection is an obvious one, although Smith’s admiration for the Celtics and their fans goes far beyond his senior year at Oak Hill Academy with the C’s three-time All-Star point guard.

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Josh Smith: Celtics ‘running plays way more harder’ 05.07.12 at 12:58 am ET
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After the Celtics and Hawks were separated by just four points through the first three games of their series, Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce & Co. put a 22-point whooping on Atlanta, and it wasn’t even that close.

The Celtics led by as many as 37 points, taking a 3-1 series lead with a chance to end the series on Tuesday.

“They shot the mess out of it tonight,” said Hawks forward Josh Smith, who returned from the left knee injury that kept him out of Game 3. “I’m watching it and being real observant when I’m on the bench. They’re just running the plays way more harder than we are. Whatever play is called, you know, Ray Allen is running off screens 100 miles per hour, Paul Pierce is finding a way to get open, the bigs are setting screens, getting the guards open.

“We have to try to duplicate what they do,” added Smith. “We have to try to get open. They’re trying so hard for Joe [Johnson] not to catch the ball. They’re being real physical with him, so we have to be able to match their physicality and be able to try to return the favor a little bit, see if they like it and stop being so passive.”

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Paul Pierce shows vintage form, sprained left knee and all at 12:16 am ET
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To think Doc Rivers thought he might not even have his captain available after a fluke injury in the shootaround hours before Game 4.

Paul Pierce shook off a freakish knee injury in shootaround and a re-aggravation of it during the second quarter to finish with 24 points in just over 16 minutes and give the Celtics the kind of breathing room they needed in a 101-79 rout of the Hawks in Game 4, in contest not even that close.

Pierce established himself early and often. It was what Celtics fans have come to expect and appreciate about the team in the “Big 3″ plus Rondo era. He was 5-of-7 in the the first quarter with 10 points. Rajon Rondo had seven assists, including helpers on Pierce’s first two buckets as the Celtics raced out ahead, 32-19, after one quarter.

“It was great,” Rivers said. “And you know I thought, Paul thought, in the last game he took it too deep, and so tonight he went to the in-between game over and over again early on. First play we got him a layup and then he got a lot of in-between jump shots, which I think he may be one of the best in-between players in the league. And he did that. He knew that they were trapping; he knew that they were coming at him. And we talked, ‘If you go quick, one, two, dribble, pull-up jump shot, you know, take it.’ And he did that. And then he got the three going. He was just on fire.”

That fire nearly blew up in the Celtics’ face when leading 51-27 on a Pierce three, Pierce ran into Josh Smith on a screen. He twisted his knee, aggravating the injury from hours earlier in the team’s shootaround. Pierce said he’s hoping to be ready for Game 5 on Tuesday in Atlanta.

“I kind of sprained it [Sunday] morning and then I aggravated it in the game,” said Pierce, who led the Celtics with 24 points in just over 16 minutes of game time. “I’m glad we were able to get a win like this to give me some rest, give me a couple of days off and get some treatment, and hope it feels good on Tuesday.”

Realizing fans would be concerned about his status for Game 5 on Tuesday in Atlanta, Pierce tweeted after the game, I think the knee is going to be fine glad I didn’t have to play a lot of minutes tonight to rest it good win tonight fellas.

Pierce was red-hot before and after running into Josh Smith on a screen late in the second quarter. He made 10 of his 13 shots in the win.

“I kind of tripped over someone’s foot,” Pierce said. “I had to sit around the last half of shootaround, and tonight I just kind of reaggravated it when I came up off the screen with Josh Smith right there. It’s a little bit sore right now so Doc [Rivers] just wanted to take precautions tonight especially when we had such a big lead.”

Rivers couldn’t believe it when it happened in the morning.

“When I left shoot-around, I probably thought he was not going to play,” Rivers said, before being reassured by trainer Ed Lacerte. “And Eddie said, ‘Let’s see, let’s give it a try, and see how he feels.’ I talked to him right before the game; I asked him ‘What do you think?’ And he said, ‘Well let me just try to warm it up and see how I feel.’ It’s amazing. I mean, honestly, guys around the league – He was just dribbling the ball and went to the floor in shoot-around. And I was thinking, ‘What more can you –?’ We were walking. You know, that’s how you felt, like, my gosh. And honestly, when he went down, it didn’t look good. So the fact that he could come in and play, and then play the way he played was great.”

Pierce missed the final 5:45 of the first half but came out to warmup for the second half and assured Rivers he was good to start the second half. He hit his first two shots, both threes, and had 24 points in 16 minutes on 10-of-13 shooting. He came out for Mickael Pietrus with 8:24 left in the third quarter and did not return. He didn’t need to. He was free to get more treatment and try and make sure – at all costs – that he’s ready to go for Tuesday night in Atlanta.

“I got some rest for the next game,” Pierce said. “You don’t want to really sit down or let it get stiff. That’s why I went over and got on the bike there when I got out of the game. If it had stiffened up on me I probably wouldn’t have had a chance to come back. It’s sore, tender. I’m just going to ice it.”

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Irish Coffee: How Hawks play without Josh Smith 05.03.12 at 1:56 pm ET
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If the Hawks are forced to play Game 3 without forward Josh Smith, as expected, or even with him in a limited capacity, they’ll enter new territory this season. His 2,329 minutes rank ninth in the NBA this season, and he’s one of the 7.5 percent of players who played all 66 games of this lockout-shortened year.

While the Hawks listed Smith as day-to-day with a strained left knee, the inflammation as a result of patellar tendinitis leaves him doubtful for Friday night’s game in Boston, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“It’s getting better and better each and every day,” said Smith via the AJC’s Michael Cunningham on Twitter. “I will see how it feels at shootaround [Friday]. “I have a high threshold for pain. If I feel like I can go a little bit I’m going to step out on the floor. At shootaround I will probably try to go a little bit harder than normal and see how it feels.”

Unlike the Celtics, who have become accustomed to playing without Ray Allen and a host of others all season long, the Hawks simply aren’t used to playing without Smith, Al Horford (torn pectoral) and Zaza Pachulia (strained left foot). And there are less obvious ramifications beyond that fact.

Smith’s usage rate (defined as the percentage of offensive possessions used by a player during his floor time) of 28.1 percent is the highest on the Hawks and ranks behind only Kevin Love, Dirk Nowitzki and DeMarcus Cousins among the league’s regular bigs. In other words, Atlanta’s offense runs through Smith.

He can score spotting up, posting up, in transition and (lord knows) in isolation. You name it, he does it. As Sports Illustrated’s Zach Lowe noted, “the Hawks have averaged about 104 points per 100 possessions when Smith plays, a borderline top-five mark, and a putrid 97 points per 100 possessions when he sits.” In their two playoff games, Atlanta has scored 90.6 points per 100 possessions with Smith, a stat that only stands to get worse.

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Three reasons the Celtics should be wary at 12:06 am ET
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The Celtics need Kevin Garnett to get going in Game 3. (AP)

Here’s how fast things can change in the playoffs. With seven minutes left in the third quarter of Tuesday’s Game 2, the Celtics were down 11 points on the road and in danger of going down 2-0 in their first round series with the Hawks. Rajon Rondo was at the team hotel serving his suspension. Ray Allen was at the end of the bench in a suit, trying to console his replacement Mickael Pietrus, who had been benched.

They had not made a single 3-pointer in the series and Paul Pierce was in the midst of a 2-for-11 stretch after a hot start. Then Keyon Dooling finally broke through from behind the arc, Pierce went supernova and the defense grounded the Hawks into fine powder.

Now, the Celtics are coming back to Boston with a split and facing a Hawks team that may be without forward Josh Smith, who strained his left patella ligament and is listed as “doubtful” for Friday’s Game 3. They have two days to rest between games, a nice scheduling gift from the league, and if they take care of business at the Garden where they posted the third-best home record in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics could be in full command of this series by the end of the weekend.

Oh, and the top-seeded Bulls were blown out by Philadelphia in their first game without Derrick Rose.

But that’s getting way ahead of things.

The Celtics and Hawks have played five games this season, including the playoffs, and all five have been tight, tense affairs with the Hawks scoring 421 points to Boston’s 419. If Smith is out for an extended period of time, that changes the equation dramatically, but it’s not as if the C’s don’t have injury concerns of their own. From the beginning, this promised to be a close series and the two games have lived up to that promise.

Here’s three reasons why it’s far from over: Read the rest of this entry »

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