NBA Sunday: Who Will Boston Trade?
The End Draws Near for Boston’s Big Three
This was supposed to be the last hoorah for Boston’s aging core, one last year to make a run at a championship before the contracts of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Jermaine O’Neal expired. But as the trade deadline draws closer, it’s looking more and more like that isn’t going to happen.
The Rajon Rondo trade rumors, though abstract and non-specific, are well-publicized, but it might be easier to trade one of the expiring deals instead, if only because the expectations of what they’d return would be lower. Rondo is one of the three best pure point guards in the league; Celtics GM Danny Ainge can’t ship him off for thirty cents on the dollar just because Rondo is occasionally surly. Allen, 36, and Garnett, 35, are a different story, though, and that’s why they might be more likely to move.
According to SI.com’s Sam Amick, one team that’s very interested in working something out with Boston is the Los Angeles Clippers, who are seriously interested in Allen. It’s no secret that L.A. needs help at shooting guard with Chauncey Billups out for the season, but they simply don’t have the assets to get Boston to nibble. As Amick points out, there’s a bit of irony in the fact that the Celtics already own the Clippers’ 2012 first round pick, which came from Oklahoma City in the Kendrick Perkins trade. OKC got it in the trade that landed Eric Bledsoe in L.A.
Atlanta is another team reportedly interested in Allen, even more so than they are in Garnett, who has been rumored this past week to have been offered in a package for Josh Smith. Those talks, however, were labeled as exploratory only, and just because Rick Sund likes a guy doesn’t mean it’s a foregone conclusion he’s going to get him. However you look at it, though, Allen is perhaps the most in-demand Celtic at the moment.
Of course, all this begs the question as to whether or not Boston even should blow this thing up anyway. If Rondo and Doc Rivers truly are at odds, and the team values Rivers long-term more than their current point guard, it could potentially make sense to move him. That, however, would shoot down their only major piece for a future rebuilding effort, so ideally a trade involving Rondo would net a player who can help immediately but also stick around and help the team compete for another 5-7 years, as well.
Someone like Steve Nash or Pau Gasol, the most popular Boston trade targets in rumors and on message boards, wouldn’t fit that particular mold, but that kind of trade would perhaps allow Boston to keep the band back together for the balance of the year and make that last run at a title. Sure, the consensus is that they’re too old to have any real shot at it, but as long as they get into the postseason anything can happen. A veteran-laden, competitive team could do more damage than people realize.
Or, they could mortgage their only building block for the future as part of a futile attempt to regain the glory of 2008. When Garnett and Allen retire, which could be soon, and with Paul Pierce not too far behind, a Rondo trade for an older vet leaves Boston with zilch two years from now. They’d be left with absolutely nothing for rebuilding. But giving these guys one serious final run might just be worth it.
Whatever happens, Boston’s players absolutely will be mentioned ad nauseum in trade rumors the next eleven days, because the higher ups in Beantown really are taking stock of where the team is and where it needs to be moving forward. Maybe it’ll be Rondo, and maybe it’ll be Garnett or Allen. It won’t be Paul Pierce, but there’s a real chance the team does something at the deadline. Even for fans, it’s just hard to decide which of those somethings would be best for the team.
The Re-Match We’ve Been Waiting For…
The NBA world would’ve been excited about Sunday’s match-up between the Miami HEAT and the L.A. Lakers even if Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant had held hands and hugged for the entirety of last weekend’s All-Star festivities, but because of Wade’s swipe at Kobe’s face, as well as Kobe’s subsequent nasal fracture and minor concussion, we’re all really looking forward to what happens later this afternoon on ABC.
While Bryant shot down the idea of Wade as a rival earlier in the week (“He’s too young. When I came into the league, he was in elementary school.”), there is the real potential that things could get chippy in what is sure to be a heated match-up between the two teams everybody thought would fight for the championship last season.
But despite all that, there’s one thing we can be relatively sure of: Andrew Bynum won’t be playing the role of enforcer in the game.
It has nothing to do with not wanting to step up for Bryant, and everything to do with the fact that Bynum has already missed four games this year due to frustrated violence in a game. (You all remember the J.J. Barea closeline in last year’s Finals.) That’s going to keep him from doing anything drastic in a situation where many of us expect at least a couple of hard fouls on Miami’s shooting guard.
“I can’t do anything about it,” Bynum told Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports. “If I do anything they’re going to definitely hit me. It sucks. It’s not good. It’s unfortunate. It’s something we got to deal with. I got Beasley, I got Barea and people blame me for the Gerald Wallace incident.”
The “Wallace Incident” was a hard foul Bynum put on Wallace while he was still with the Bobcats that sent him to the hospital with a cracked rib and partially collapsed lung. He’s lost $750,000 over the course of his career due to hard-foul-induced suspensions, and one more would undoubtedly draw some serious ire from the league.
“There is an eye on Matt Barnes and [Metta World Peace] and myself,” Bynum said. “There just is. It’s part of the game. We’re going to get hit extra hard for anything.”
It’ll be interesting to see how extra hard Wade gets hit in this game, because there has to be a way to foul hard without fouling flagrantly. Whatever happens, there’s no questioning that this will be the match-up to watch today, and it won’t be Bynum taking the overly-physical risks on defense.
Odom Finally Makes It Back to Dallas
When Dallas Mavericks forward Lamar Odom missed his first game “for personal reasons,” everybody flinched because Odom passed up a chance to face his former employer, the L.A. Lakers. To this day, Odom’s nearly two-week absence is still shrouded in a little mystery (though reports have surfaced suggesting he left to tend to his ill father), but at the time it really looked like he was blowing off this huge game against the Lakers. The fact that Dallas lost the game by 5 just made it even worse.
“It was really personal and it was something I had to tend to,” Odom told Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News. “Mark Cuban’s a great owner for understanding. There are times when we have to fix what is going on off the basketball court in order to fix what’s going on on the court.
However, now that Odom is back with the team after a week in limbo and a couple days with Dallas’s D-League team, the Texas Legends, it’s easy to see that this isn’t a guy who just skipped the Lakers game to avoid bad memories of a nasty split back in the fall. This is a guy who legitimately appears to have needed to take some time off, though Dallas coach Rick Carlisle’s comments on a radio show earlier in the week that the franchise was losing patience with Odom probably didn’t do much to help Odom get his head right.
Odom’s response to his coaches comments, though, was an emotional one. After scoring 9 points and hauling in 5 rebounds in 18 minutes in the win against the Jazz, he choked up in his post-game interview, making sure he made very public how important this game and his teammates are to him.
“It felt good to be back, playing basketball, doing what I’m do blessed to have done for so long,” he said. “I just told [my teammates] to stick with me, and that at this point in my life I need them.”
He added, “Be patient… No matter how many points I score or how big I look on TV, we’re all people. And some things beat us down. And sometimes we’ve got to take a step away from them just to overcome them. Or just to be patient. Understand that my name is ‘Lamar’ first, not ‘Odom,’ so I’m not like some God.”
Basketball players don’t always open up to media like this. In fact, it’s very rare for them to do so, but Odom is clearly working through some issues that could be helped by playing some halfway decent basketball. Maybe we’re finally approaching the time where Odom rounds into form for a Dallas team that is still the defending champion. Issues or not, this guy needs to play his best ball for them to have any shot at repeating this spring.