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NBA AM: What’s Next for the Celtics?
Posted By Alex Kennedy On January 28, 2013 @ 9:30 am In All,NBA | No Comments
When Paul Pierce received the news that Rajon Rondo would be out for the remainder of the season after tearing the ACL in his right knee, the veteran small forward grimaced. Pierce’s mind began to race and his eyes darted from side to side as he processed the information. Once it sunk in, all he could do was shake his head and repeatedly mutter, “Oh my God.”
The Celtics had already been struggling this season, sitting in the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed with a 21-23 record. Now, with their most important player sidelined, it’s hard to imagine Boston contending or making any noise in the playoffs.
What’s next for the Celtics?
Boston can’t apply for a disabled player exception since the deadline was January 15. There aren’t any starting-caliber point guards on the free agent market either. Everyone around the league is curious to see if Boston makes a trade, either to start rebuilding or keep the team in contention.
The Celtics have tried to keep this veteran core intact for as long as possible, but will they trade Paul Pierce now that the team’s window just closed unexpectedly?
Will they try to acquire a starting-caliber point guard such as Kyle Lowry or Jose Calderon to give this group one last shot at a title?
These are the questions that many around the league are asking.
Pierce’s name has surfaced in trade rumors in recent weeks, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if Boston decided to move him. Several rival executives have been led to believe that Pierce could be traded if the right offer came along. However, teams aren’t sure how Pierce would react to a trade. Would he welcome a change of scenery at this point in his career? The possibility of the 35-year-old being disgruntled and upset with a trade has already scared several teams off, according to league sources.
Yesterday, Doc Rivers made it clear that he still believes his team can compete in the East.
“Well, you can write the obituary. I’m not,” Rivers said. “You can go ahead. But I’m not. We won tonight, and so the way I look at it is we’re going to stay in there. In my opinion, we’re going nowhere.”
However, even before Rondo’s injury, Rivers had been hinting that changes could be coming if the team continued to struggle and Danny Ainge had been working the phones. Now, all eyes will certainly be on Boston as the February 21 trade deadline approaches.
Lakers Need Bryant to Continue Facilitating
Kobe Bryant’s evolution into a facilitator may be exactly what the Los Angeles Lakers needed to save their season. Over the last two games, Bryant has averaged 17.5 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds. Rather than putting up over 20 shots, as he has been doing for most of the year, Bryant has attempted just 22 shots over the last two games combined while shooting nearly 70 percent from the field.
Last season, Bryant didn’t have a single double-digit assist game. Now, Bryant has recorded back-to-back 14-assist games, which suggests that he can snap out of Black Mamba mode and enter distributor mode as he pleases. If the Lakers want to make the playoffs this season, they’ll need more passing from Bryant than shooting.
In yesterday’s win against the Oklahoma City Thunder, six players on the Lakers scored double-digit points and the shots were spread around evenly. For the first time in awhile, the Lakers showed just how scary they can be when they’re playing to their full potential. Los Angeles has too many weapons to be a one-man show and it’s clear that the Lakers are at their best when they feature a balanced attack that involves Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash among others.
After the win, Bryant made it clear that he’ll continue to facilitate as long as it’s leading to victories.
“It feels good to finally beat a team that’s worth a (expletive),” Bryant told Sam Amick of USA TODAY Sports. “It’s trying to evolve and figured out what we need as a ballclub. Instead of me being a finisher, I’m just really facilitating and drawing the defense in and making plays. I game-planned for it, and it seems to be working.”
“I think he likes (playing this way),” Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni said. “I think he’s happy as hell.”
Bryant’s teammates were happy to see him channel his inner playmaker too. Steve Nash, who is used to being the distributor on the court, praised Bryant and compared his recent play to another Lakers great.
“Frankly, Kobe reminds me a little bit of Magic Johnson the way he’s playing right now,” Nash told Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times. “He’s controlling the game. I welcome this. We’re so much better this way regardless of how many opportunities I get to make plays. At this stage of my career, I’m all-in as far as trying to figure this out, how we can all be better together.
“It is a big difference for me and a big change, and it’s something that I have to continue to adjust to. Very rarely did I get the ball to catch and shoot in my career, but I’m getting a good rhythm and I think I’m feeling more comfortable doing it.”
After winning two in a row, Bryant said he “absolutely” plans to continue looking for assists rather points. If it continues to work as well as it did against Utah and OKC, the Lakers may finally be able to string together a nice winning streak since their next four games are against the New Orleans Hornets, Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Timberwolves and Detroit Pistons.
In the past, the Lakers would only go as far as Bryant took them because he was the team’s top scorer and, at times, the lone star in L.A. That is no longer the case. Now, he has a star-studded supporting cast and the Lakers need Bryant to evolve. The team is clearly better when Bryant is passing the ball, but will he stay committed to this style of play? The answer to that question may determine just how successful the Lakers will be going forward.
Redick Continues to Increase Trade Value
J.J. Redick is having an outstanding season with the Orlando Magic and there are plenty of teams that would to take him off of general manager Rob Hennigan’s hands. Executives are calling about Redick and scouts are flocking to the Amway Center to see him play. Last night, Redick showed why.
Redick erupted for 31 points on 10-17 shooting from the field and 8-11 from behind the arc, while also contributing six rebounds and three steals. Redick scored 16 of Orlando’s first 18 points in the first quarter and gave Detroit’s revolving door of defenders trouble all night long.
This season, the 28-year-old is scoring at will, getting his teammates involved and playing extremely hard on both ends. He’s not the one-dimensional player that many grew to hate while he was at Duke. He’s averaging 15.3 points, 4.4 assists and 2.4 rebounds while shooting 46.3 percent from the field, all of which are career-highs for Redick.
Redick is also the epitome of a team player. For much of the season, he has been coming off of the bench behind Arron Afflalo, but he hasn’t complained once. Even though he has been Orlando’s best player and most consistent option, he has accepted whatever role head coach Jacque Vaughn has given him. He’s always one of the first players off of the bench to congratulate teammates or pick them up as they return to sideline.
The Chicago Bulls are one team that has been linked to Redick. The Bulls were the team that extended a three-year, $19 million offer sheet to Redick in 2010, and they may pursue him again before the trade deadline.
Redick will an unrestricted free agent after this season, which increases the odds that Orlando will trade him. Afflalo is their long-term answer at shooting guard so Redick may not be in the Magic’s plan going forward. Redick has been on a contender for most of his career and has proven that he’s a starting-caliber player so it’s hard to imagine him re-signing to be a reserve on a lottery team (although, Redick insists he loves Orlando and his family has settled down there).
All things considered, it may be wise for the Magic to trade Redick now rather than losing him for nothing over the summer.
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