Will Jermaine O'Neal make the Celtics better?

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It’s something you don’t see every offseason: Jermaine O’Neal had one of the worst playoff series in recent memory when the Heat met the Boston Celtics in the first round of last year’s playoffs, going a combined 9-44 from the field in five playoff games. Then, after the Celtics learned Kendrick Perkins will need surgery and the Heat went on a spending spree, O’Neal ended up signing a two-year deal worth approximately $12 million with the very team that shut him down last April. 

On the surface, O’Neal appears to be a downgrade from Kendrick Perkins, but Zach Lowe of Celtics Hub is optimistic about what O’Neal will bring to the Celtics:
The Celtics are essentially trading the most turnover-prone center in the league for the least turnover-prone center in the league.
Among 27 centers who played at least 1,000 minutes last season, only one–Tyson Chandler–turned the ball over on a higher percentage of possessions than Perk, according to Basketball-Reference. Perk turned the ball over on 20.4 percent of possessions on which he was involved with the play that ended the possession, an unacceptable mark for a point guard, let alone a center.
The scary thing? That turnover rate was the lowest of Perk’s career…

Zach is also excited about O’Neal’s ability to stretch the floor:

[O’Neal] attempted about 60 percent of his shots last season from outside 10 feet, and he made those shots at a career-best rate. For instance: O’Neal made about 44 percent of his shots from between 16 and 23 feet (i.e. long two-pointers), one of the best marks in the league among centers or power forwards, according to Hoopdata. Perspective: KG, one of the very best big man shooters ever, hit 46 percent from that range last season; Ray Allen hit 45 percent.
O’Neal knocked down exactly 40 percent of his shots from that range in both ’08 and ’09, so while 44 percent is his career high, it’s not wildly out of line.

Perkins is limited offensively, but he always knew what his role was in Boston’s offense. O’Neal is just as good of a finisher as Perkins is (he made around 70% of his shots at the rim last season, according to Hoopdata), and also has the ability to step out and hit the pick-and-pop jumper. The question will be whether O’Neal has the discipline to only take shots around the rim and wide-open mid-range jumper; O’Neal is skilled, but he shouldn’t be taking possessions away from KG, Pierce, and Allen. If O’Neal can accept the fact he’s a role player on the Celtics, he could potentially take a lot of the sting out of Perkins’ injury. 

Kobe Bryant says LeBron James has earned the right to take a rest (VIDEO)

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Former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant was a pretty consistent player in the NBA. Save for his final injury-laden seasons and the lockout year of 2011-12, Bryant played in no fewer than 65 regular season games in a single season.

Coaches also had no reason or want to ask Bryant — a notorious worker — to sit out in order to rest. That wasn’t really on the menu, and Bryant knew that.

Speaking to ESPN’s First Take, Bryant said no coach really asked him to ever take a rest, “I’ve never been approached by a coach and asked to rest.”

Bryant remarked that he took queues from Michael Jordan during tough stretches of the season — back-to-backs or four games in five night scenarios — where he could switch his game up, floating from perimeter to post, in order to save energy during those matchups.

Bryant also said during the same interview that he understands the complexity of the modern game, and that players like LeBron James deserve to take a rest if they’ve earned it.

“LeBron has done so much for the game. He’s earned the opportunity to take a rest,” said Bryant.

The debate on this subject will continue, it seems.

Phil Jackson’s reaction to Kristaps Porzingis getting turned upside down feels about right

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New York Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis is the future of the franchise, so any time he’s upended and nearly lands on his noggin it’s a cause for concern. To say the least.

That’s what happened on Monday night, as Porzingis got turned upside down during a play near the basket during a game against the Detroit Pistons.

Porzingis was OK on the play, and Detroit big man Andre Drummond did his best to help catch him so nothing too scary happened.

Still, Knicks president Phil Jackson had a pretty hilarious reaction to the whole thing. I guess that’s what happens when you watch your basketball life flash before your eyes.

Porzingis was unhurt and played a full 37 minutes. New York beat Detroit, 109-95.

Jimmy Butler won’t pick LeBron over Durant as toughest matchup in NBA, and for good reason

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Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler is a smart dude. He’s spent years of offseason work turning himself into a max-level player, and that shows he knows not only how to work but how to attack the game of basketball.

He’s also smart enough to know he shouldn’t go poking the bear when it comes to two future Hall of Fame players in LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

When asked whether the Cleveland Cavaliers star or the Golden State Warriors scorer was the toughest matchup in the NBA, Butler made sure he wasn’t adding any kind of blackboard material to rile up either player.

Via Twitter:

The best way to defend LeBron or Durant: don’t make them angry.

Smart move, Jimmy.

Likely top-10 pick Dennis Smith Jr. of North Carolina State declares for draft

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This had long been expected, but now it is official.

North Carolina State freshman point guard Dennis Smith Jr. has declared for the NBA Draft. He made the announcement on ESPN saying playing in the NBA is his dream, reports the News & Observer.

“It was definitely an obtainable dream for me,” said in an interview on SportsCenter. “I knew I would chase it with all of my might.”

Smith is considered a top-10 pick (DraftExpress.com has him going seventh currently).

Smith had missed his senior year of high school ball with an ACL injury, but was named ACC Freshman of the Year after averaging 18.1 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. He had two triple-doubles as a freshman. He was also inconsistent. Smith had brilliant games and ones where he looked disinterested.

Smith is unquestionably explosive and athletic, and that makes him a threat both in the open court and getting to the rim off a pick-and-roll. He’s got good handles, he knows how to draw fouls, and you can see his potential to get buckets at the next level. His jump shot needs to be far more consistent to thrive at the next level, however. The questions about Smith are more about his ability to make good decisions and be a floor general. He knows how to survey the floor and create for himself, but can he figure out when to pass to set up teammates? Can he defend consistently? He needs smooth out the rough edges of his game, but the potential to be very good is there.