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NBA@2: Rajon Rondo And The Utah Jazz?
Posted By Bill Ingram On February 17, 2012 @ 2:00 pm In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
Ask Boston Celtics GM Danny Ainge about All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo and he will say all of the right things. Rondo is the heart of the franchise, an invaluable part of the team’s foreseeable future . . .well, let’s take a quick look back at some recent quotes from Ainge:
“I’m not (trying to trade Rondo), no,” Ainge told ESPN in December. “Rondo will be fine, Rondo knows that we love him. He knows that we like him. He’s excited to come back and play basketball, in my opinion. He gets a lot of attention. He’s a great player. There’s a lot of people that call me and ask me about Rondo. So, how these rumors get out, it’s unfortunate, but we didn’t leak those rumors out.”
“I was not trying to trade Rajon Rondo,” Ainge told WEEI’s “The Big Show” in January. “There’s a big difference between trying to acquire a player and trying to trade a player. I know that some people say, ‘Oh, that’s just semantics.’ No it’s not. Rondo knows what I was trying to do, and he knows I wasn’t shopping him around and trying to trade him, like has been reported. There’s a big difference.”
At the time, the Celtics were actively engaged in an attempt to acquire Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets, and were exploring all kinds of options as part of that effort. Since then, however, Rondo’s name has continued to come up in trade rumors, most recently involving Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol. A player’s name doesn’t come up in ongoing rumors unless someone is making calls involving that player, and multiple front office sources have confirmed to HOOPSWORLD that the Celtics are initiating these talks.
The issue in Boston is clear; their older core of Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett is in its final season, and they have to start thinking about the future. Rondo is a great talent, but he is not a team leader. He’s not a communicator who rallies the team on the court, and he’s not a personality that’s going to draw free agents to Boston. In short, the Celtics may be better off using him as a trade piece that lands multiple key pieces rather than counting on him to lure additional talent into town next summer.
Enter the Utah Jazz.
The Jazz also have an All-Star point guard, though Devin Harris has had a hard time finding the mojo that got him into the All-Star game as a member of the New Jersey Nets in 2009. During that All-Star season, Harris averaged 21.3 points and 6.9 assists per game, but this season he’s struggling to earn minutes while managing just 8.7 points and 4.3 dimes. Of late, he’s been losing minutes to both Earl Watson and CJ Miles, and February is shaping up to be one of the worst months of his career.
This is a great time to acquire Harris, and the Jazz have decided he’s not in their plans and they are therefore motivated sellers.
What the Celtics need, among other things, is a strong front court presence to replace Garnett, and the Jazz happen to have a great candidate in Paul Millsap. They also have Millsap’s presumed replacement in the wings with Derrick Favors. As great as Millsap has been for the Jazz organization, they’re going nowhere fast in the Western Conference. They need an All-Star injection at point guard and Rondo could be just the ticket. His inability to communicate would be less of an issue, as Corbin is currently calling all the shots, anyway.
Despite a recent stretch of wins, the Celtics are still among the worst of the East’s playoff teams. The emergence of Jeremy Lin has the New York Knicks ready to take over the East’s seventh seed, currently occupied by Boston. As constructed, the Celtics are a one-and-done team, destined to be dropped by either the Chicago Bulls or Miami HEAT in the first round, making this the time to make a dare-to-be-great move. They send Ray Allen (ending contract) and Rondo to Utah and bring back their front court player of the future in Millsap and take a chance that Harris can get back to All-Star form with a change of scenery.
The Jazz, who at 14-14 have fallen out of the West’s playoff picture, get back in the thick of the playoff chase with Rondo and Allen. The Celtics cash in one piece they don’t want and one they’ll lose at the end of the season anyway, and the worst-case scenario is they’re still the eighth seed in the East with better prospects going forward.
Lin/Anthony Debut Delayed?
Tonight was expected to be a big night for the New York Knicks, with Carmelo Anthony rejoining the team after missing a stretch of games due to a groin injury. Unfortunately, that return now seems to be on hold, as the Knicks have listed Anthony as “doubtful” due to the ongoing injury. There has been a great deal of anticipation surrounding Anthony’s return, as people are anxious to see how well he might fit in with a team that now has Jeremy Lin featured prominently in the offense . . .so prominently that Knicks fans are starting to think Carmelo might best serve the team as a trade piece.
The reason for the concern is clear, as Anthony has spent his career as the back hole in his team’s offense. The ball swings to Anthony and everyone else stands around and watches while he goes to work. It’s not a winning game plan, but it is one that has made Anthony one of the league’s leading scorers and most popular players. How well will he fit in with a point guard who is now providing a significant percentage of New York’s offense?
While the concern is understandable, let’s not forget that Anthony and Lin did play together at the beginning of the Knicks’ current seven-game win streak. Carmelo went down in the second game of the streak, after Lin had scored 25 points and dished even assists in the first game and then 28 and eight as a starter in the second. Since then, Lin has been on a tear, but that doesn’t mean he and Carmelo can’t co-exist.
“I’ve been hearing reports, ‘can Jeremy coexist with Melo’ and everything like that,” Lin said in an interview with WFAN in New York. “I’m just confused because he was the one who vouched for me in the first place. So, we want to play together and want to work together and are buying into that. Some people call Melo selfish and say he doesn’t buy into the team. That’s just tough for anyone to hear, especially when we don’t think it’s true.”
“I laugh at that,” said Anthony in a separate interview. “I laugh at that. It is what it is. You just take it in stride. I am enjoying the time right now and watching Lin and the team do well. Guys are stepping up. I got hurt and guys are stepping up. We winning basketball games, but that’s the most important thing. As far as what other people are saying? That’s somebody else’s opinion. I know what I can do and bring to the court and know what I bring to the game. My teammates know that. Will I have to make adjustments? Yeah maybe. My adjustment is going back to playing my natural position and not try to be a point guard. That’s the adjustment. I’ll figure out. I am very smart basketball player and I want to go out there and play ball. I can’t worry about what everyone else is thinking.”
It now seems that that Lin and Anthony will be reunited on Sunday instead, when the Knicks host the defending champion Dallas Mavericks on ABC . . . Now stop it right there, conspiracy theorists. There is no way the Knicks would delay Anthony’s return just so it would coincide with a nationally-televised game against the champs instead of a local broadcast against the abysmal New Orleans Hornets . . .right? No, of course not!
Whatever the reason, it seems Anthony will rejoin the Knicks on Sunday, which will also bring the Knicks their first real test of their current winning streak. Of the seven games they’ve won consecutively, only one came against a team that is currently in the playoff picture, and the Los Angeles Lakers aren’t what they once were. It will be interesting to see how the Knicks fair against the Mavs. It could be their wake-up call to the league. It may be a little later than they hoped, but the Knicks may finally be a force to be reckoned with.
Clippers Shed Tears Over Billups
When the Los Angeles Clippers signed Chauncey Billups prior to the start of the 2011-12 NBA season it seemed a strange fit. After all, the Clippers already had Chris Paul and Mo Williams at point guard, and didn’t seem to have a definite role for a third, even one as good as Billups. To his credit, Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro had an idea that Billups and Paul would work well together in the backcourt, and they absolutely did. With Billups in place the Clippers looked like a team that could challenge the Oklahoma City Thunder in the West.
That all ended when Billups tore his Achilles’ tendon. The Clippers lost him for the season, leaving a gaping hole in their backcourt.
Enter Randy Foye. No, he doesn’t have a catchy nickname like “Mr. Big Shot,” and he has no championship hardware, but he did get the starting nod from Del Negro in the wake of Billups’ injury, and he’s been playing well in that role. In four starts he’s scored in double-figures three times, and the Clippers have won three of their last four even without Billups.
“It’s definitely unfortunate when someone goes down, but the saying is when someone else falls it’s and opportunity for someone else,” Foye tells HOOPSWORLD. “Chauncey was like a brother to me in that short span. I know him through KG (Kevin Garnett) and KG used to tell me I remind him of Chauncey my rookie year because we have similar games, similar build. Then when we played Detroit I had a good game against Chauncey and I remember him coming in the locker room and saying: ‘hey, man, you’re the real deal.’ Just to be on the team with him and talking about KG stories and then for him to go down like that after we were building a bond and everything that we were trying to build as a team … it was tough on everybody after the game. We beat Orlando, but everybody was in there … it was some tears in there. It was a lot of tears in there just because he was a guy on the team that was great on the court, but even better off the court.”
For Foye, having a player like Billups, with All-Star and NBA Finals credentials, express a vote of confidence in him made quite an impression.
“Like you said, he has done everything that I want to do,” says Foye. “I want to be a champion, win a championship, want to be MVP. Everything he has done, growing up are things that you want to do. It’s unfortunate that the injury happened to a guy like that. That’s one thing I said to him on the plane; I said, ‘why does things like this always happen to great guys?’ And he said, you know, I was in the same situation in Minnesota when Terrell Brandon got hurt and he was like all I need was an opportunity, and he was like, ‘I know how good you are. All you need is an opportunity to go with the playing time and it’s going to show everybody how good you really are.’”
With the expectations around the Clippers at an all-time high, Billups’ knowledge and experience will continue to be invaluable, even though he won’t be playing.
“It’s weird that you say that because actually, me and Chauncey spoke and he said, ‘after every game I am going to critique you and tell you what you need to do,’” reveals Foye. “We have been doing that, so even though he’s not here he is still here with me. He is here with Chris, and I know he talks to some of the other guys, but he’s here even though he is doing whatever he’s got to do to be healthy.”
That’s just one part of the remarkable chemistry that permeates the Clippers’ locker room, something Foye attributes to the character of the players.
“We’ve got a lot of unbelievable, great character guys; guys who you want to be around. There is really no riffraff, no one talking loud or trying to out do others. It’s all about hanging out and being close. Last night we went to go see a movie and we basically had the theater rented out. There were all these other seats, but all of us were in line sitting together, laughing and joking with each other. Chris said, ‘there’s all these seats and you guys are sitting next to each other,’ but that’s just the love we have for each other. I’ve been with (Ryan) Gomes for four years. I’ve been with DJ (DeAndre Jordan) and the guys, and Blake (Griffin) was a rookie last year, so they’re under us and they listen to us. But the biggest thing is we’ve got great character guys all around the board.”
As much as great talent wins championships, great character plays a significant role, as well. With that in mind, Chauncey Billups will continue to have a significant impact on his new team, and might even help them contend while he’s sitting on the sidelines in street clothes.
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