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Irish Coffee: Summer of Rajon Rondo gives way to winter 11.29.12 at 2:12 am ET
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If this is what Rajon Rondo thinks of leadership, the Celtics are in big trouble.

All summer, everyone from president Danny Ainge to coach Doc Rivers and on down the line told anyone who would listen that this is the 26-year-old point guard’s team now. No longer Paul Pierce‘s. Not Kevin Garnett‘s. But a matured Rondo’s. Then, Wednesday night’s Nets game happened.

Just as he did last season, when he thew a ball at one referee and chest-bumped another, Rondo let his emotions get the best of him, completely overreacting to a hard Kris Humphries foul on Kevin Garnett late in the first half.

As referee crew chief James Caper said after a home Celtics loss to the Nets that was much uglier than the 95-83 final at the TD Garden, “Rondo initiated everything that proceeded after the foul.”

In other words, just as he was last season, Rondo will be suspended, especially considering he threw closed fists as he shoved Humphries into the stands. His history won’t help, either. Speculation sets the over/under on games the Celtics will be without their so-called leader at 3-5 games, but as New York Times reporter Howard Beck suggested, “Nate Robinson and J.R. Smith got 10 games each because they continued fight into the stands.”

Just like his legendary 37-game double-digit assist streak of John Stockton proportions, Rondo’s maturation process came to a screeching halt against the Nets. With it, probably, goes his Most Valuable Player aspirations. When’s the last time an NBA MVP was suspended for fighting during a season? This was the year he was supposed to make the leap. Instead, he takes a step backwards. After the game, Rondo left without speaking to the media, leaving Pierce, Garnett and the rest of his Celtics teammates to face questions only he could answer.

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Fast Break: Rajon Rondo ejected, streak ends and Celtics lose 11.28.12 at 10:09 pm ET
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The Bruins aren’t playing, so somebody had to fight at TD Garden.

Rajon Rondo shoved Kris Humphries into the stands, resulting in dueling ejections, and Kevin Garnett manhandled Gerald Wallace, drawing double technicals (Wallace’s second, earning himself an ejection). More on that in a minute, but the Celtics and Nets also played basketball.

Andray Blatche (13 rebounds) and Jerry Stackhouse each scored 17 points, and the Nets owned the Celtics, 95-83. Meanwhile, Rondo departed with just three assists in 18 minutes, effectively ending his 37-game double-digit assist streak and leaving him tied with John Stockton for the second-longest such stretch in NBA history.

If you’re looking for positives, Kevin Garnett (16 points, 10 rebounds) recorded his second straight double-double.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Everything: Everything.

Streak stopped: Where to begin? Starting with a brawl seems appropriate. With 29.5 second remaining in the first half, Humphries gave Garnett a shoulder shove. Rondo came to his defense, thrusting Humphries into the first row. Behind them, Garnett and Wallace got into it. Punches appeared to be thrown. Rondo, Humphries and Wallace all received ejections. Garnett got a technical. And suspensions will follow. Just like that, the streak ended. Rondo returned to the locker room with only three assists, seven shy of a 38th consecutive game with 10 or more assists.

BlatcheHouse: One’s 38 years old and the other was benched by the Wizards for the final month of last season for lack of conditioning. Of course, we’re talking about Stackhouse and Blatche, who somehow combined for 16 points and 10 rebounds before halftime. Before the break, the former’s shooting (3-4 3P) and the latter’s offensive rebounding (5) helped the Nets establish a lead as large as 21.

99 problems: We could be talking about any number of issues here. Brooklyn’s 3-point shooting and offensive rebounding or Jeff Green‘s apparent knee injury, Courtney Lee landing hard on his elbow and Chris Wilcox‘s illness, to name five. But with Jay-Z in attendance, the Celtics had 99 problems, and turnovers most definitely was one. They committed nine in the second quarter alone, including five in a span of seven possessions.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

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2012-13 Celtics free agent options at power forward 06.27.12 at 6:17 pm ET
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Two-thirds of the Celtics roster that came within a game of reaching a third NBA finals in five years joins NBA free agency on July 1. Anyone from Kevin Garnett to Keyon Dooling can leave Boston on July 11 once the league’s audit determines the salary cap, expected to approach the 2011-12 number of $58 million. We’re examining the C’s free agent options at each position. Now starting: Power forwards (Also see: Centers and shooting guards).

The Celtics began last season with Kevin Garnett as the starting four, but his move to center bumped backup Brandon Bass into the starting position and transformed the team. Both Chris Wilcox (heart surgery) and rookie JaJuan Johnson showed flashes of athletic brilliance as running mates to Rajon Rondo off the bench.

Given his effectiveness down the stretch, Garnett seems the logical solution to the C’s center position, and barring an Avery Bradley-esque leap Johnson appears locked into the back end of the depth chart. That means the Celtics will need two players capable of playing power forward, ideally one who can defend both bigs and another athletic option who can provide an energy boost for the reserve unit. Perhaps Bass and Wilcox are the answers.

The Celtics have four players under guaranteed contracts in 2012-13 for a combined $34.5 million (Paul Pierce, $16.8M; Rondo, $11.0M; Bradley, $1.6M; Johnson, $1.1M). Pending decisions on or by Garnett, Bass, Wilcox, Ray Allen, Jeff Green, Mickael Pietrus, Greg Stiemsma, Ryan Hollins and Dooling, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge will have anywhere from $0-33 million to spend in free agency.

As a result, expect the C’s to be linked to just about any and every free agent on the market. Nobody is out of their league. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the options that should be available to the Celtics at power forward, separating the current free agent players into four categories.

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Fast Break: Rondo, headband of brothers take down Nets 03.02.12 at 9:57 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo has rarely worn a headband since NBA commissioner David Stern issued a rule against wearing the logo upside down (a slight to Lakers legend Jerry West) at the start of last season, but the Celtics point guard sported his good luck charm backwards against the Nets in a 107-94 win over the Nets.

Perhaps Rondo needed a change of scenery after all the recent talk of him maybe getting … well, a change of scenery before the March 15 trade deadline (a notion C’s president Danny Ainge denied on Thursday). Whatever the case, the three-time All-Star floor general submitted his second straight sublime performance, amassing 14 points, 13 assists, five steals and two rebounds just two nights after recording his third triple-double of the season.

Likewise, Kevin Garnett (20 points, 10 rebounds) — one of the few Celtics regulars sans headband — continued his productive stretch, dropping at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in two straight games for the first time in exactly one year. Paul Pierce (27 points) led five C’s scorers in double figures.

The win marked the third straight for the Celtics (18-17), who had dropped seven of eight previously. Brook Lopez led the Nets with 28 points.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Meet the press: As the Celtics outscored the Nets 29-20 in each of the first two quarters, they showed a different look — albeit one most middle school teams run on a regular basis. Still, the C’s 2-1-2 and 2-2-1 fullcourt presses confused New Jersey to no end, resulting in five first-half Rondo steals and a 14-0 advantage in fast break points by the break.

Seeing Green: There’s nothing like a little Gerald Green defense to help Pierce bust out of his recent offensive struggles (39.5 FG% in February). The captain abused the former Celtics first-round draft pick — and any other Nets wing who guarded him — in the early going, finishing the first quarter with nine points on 4-of-7 shooting (1-2 3P) and four assists. When Pierce plays well, generally so do the Celtics, and Friday night was no different.

Ball protection: The Celtics committed just two turnovers in the first half. Repeat: Two, leading to zero Nets points. Considering his team entered the game averaging 15.6 turnovers (good for 23rd in the NBA), coach Doc Rivers had to be pleased his team finally cleaned up an issue he’s had to address after most of its 17 losses.

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Celtics free agent options at power forward redux 12.02.11 at 5:32 pm ET
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Welcome to the fifth and final part of this week’s daily post-NBA lockout position-by-position breakdown of free agent options available to the Celtics. We’ve profiled the C’s biggest needs – at center and shooting guard — as well as two other critical positions (backup point guards and small forwards), so we move to the final piece of Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge’s puzzle: Backup Power Forwards.

The Celtics started this past season with a surefire Hall of Fame four in Kevin Garnett, and backed him up with a Sixth Man of the Year candidate in Glen Davis. The C’s version of assistant to the assistant regional manager rotated from Luke Harangody to “We Hardly Knew Ye” Chris Johnson to Troy Murphy, with a dabble of Jeff Green, who played the four for the Thunder but is more suited to the three on the Celtics. Got all that? Good.

As we’ve noted  before, the Celtics have six players under contract in 2011-12 for a combined $64.3 million (Garnett, $21.2 million; Paul Pierce, $15.33 million; Ray Allen, $10 million; Rajon Rondo, $10 million; Jermaine O’Neal, $6.23 million; Avery Bradley, $1.53 million), and should match any offer Green receives — unless another team far exceeds his qualifying offer of $5.9 million.

Davis and Murphy are free agents, and while they might sound like a buddy cop duo from Dublin, they’re actually both pretty darn good for second and third options at the four. The addition of first-round pick JaJuan Johnson — a 6-foot-10 senior power forward out of Purdue — likely makes a Murphy-type expendable. But even with Garnett, Green and Johnson expected to be on the 2011-12 roster, the Celtics should seek one more power forward option, in case Johnson isn’t ready and to leave Green on the wing.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the options available to the Celtics at backup power forward, separating the current free agent players into four categories and forgetting about David West, because that ain’t happening.

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Celtics’ free agent options at backup power forward 08.25.11 at 3:06 pm ET
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We’re almost two months into the NBA lockout, and more progress has been made on the crippled U.S. economy than the collective bargaining agreement negotiations, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still examine the likely free agents available to the Celtics for the (fingers crossed) 2011-12 season once commissioner David Stern and players association executive director Billy Hunter kiss and make up.

We’ve profiled the C’s biggest needs – at center and shooting guard — as well as two other critical positions (backup point guards and small forwards), so we move to the final piece of Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge’s puzzle: Backup Power Forwards.

The Celtics started this past season with a surefire Hall of Fame four in Kevin Garnett, and backed him up with a Sixth Man of the Year candidate in Glen Davis. The C’s version of assistant to the assistant regional manager rotated from Luke Harangody to “We Hardly Knew Ye” Chris Johnson to Troy Murphy, with a dabble of Jeff Green, who played the four for the Thunder but is more suited to the three on the Celtics. Got all that? Good.

As we’ve noted  before, the Celtics have six players under contract in 2011-12 for a combined $64.3 million (Garnett, $21.2 million; Paul Pierce, $15.33 million; Ray Allen, $10 million; Rajon Rondo, $10 million; Jermaine O’Neal, $6.23 million; Avery Bradley, $1.53 million), and should match any offer Green receives — unless another team far exceeds his qualifying offer of $5.9 million.

Davis and Murphy are free agents, and while they might sound like a buddy cop duo from Dublin, they’re actually both pretty darn good for second and third options at the four. The addition of first-round pick JaJuan Johnson — a 6-foot-10 senior power forward out of Purdue — likely makes a Murphy-type expendable. But even with Garnett, Green and Johnson expected to be on the 2011-12 roster, the Celtics should seek one more power forward option, in case Johnson isn’t ready and to leave Green on the wing.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the options that should be available to the Celtics at backup power forward (barring overseas exports), separating the current free agent players into four categories and forgetting about David West, because that ain’t happening … Read the rest of this entry »

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