One way or another, expect Celtics roster shakeups

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It looks like Boston is going to make one more run at it — Doc Rivers is coming back, Ray Allen will pick up the option on his contract, Rajon Rondo will get healthy and whenever next season starts the Celtics will get the band back together.

But expect changes around them. And maybe even in the starting lineup.

Danny Ainge emphasized that in comments he made on WEEI Radio.

“We need to make changes for sure. I don’t think (the roster as is can win a title). But having said that, that’s my job is to evaluate the reasons why we didn’t play the way we’re capable of playing…

“Maybe there’s a change of roles. Maybe Paul (Pierce) comes off the bench, cuts down on his minutes. Maybe we find a way to get Jeff (Green) more minutes. His role will expand if he’s back here next year. There’s no question about that…. It wouldn’t totally shock me if there’s a change in the starting lineup.”

It would shock me if Green starts for Pierce next year — Green remains a shadow of the player Pierce is, even as Pierce ages. Last season Pierce shot a better percentage overall and a much better percentage from three, was much better setting up teammates and was a superior defender. Put it this way — with Boston last year Pierce had an All-Star level PER of 19.7, Green had a below-average 12.9. Doesn’t matter that Pierce will be 34 and Green 25, Pierce is still the better player. Rest Pierce by giving Green a few more minutes, but to change starters seems trying to justify a trade after the fact.

The place the Celtics need to make a change is at center. Shaquille O’Neal has a $1.4 million option for next season, and even if he decides to pick it up and come back Ainge learned a hard lesson about trusting Shaq to be there in the end.

Jermaine O’Neal also sounds like a guy who may walk away from the game after a season of injuries, as he told the Boston Herald.

“The most important thing for me right now is my family and my kids. Basketball has dominated so much of my life for so long that I have to really take an honest look. Now, every time I leave the house my son is asking when I’m coming back. When I call home, it’s, ‘When am I coming back?’ My daughter has been forgiving of it, but it may be time. I don’t know. I don’t want to suffer when I’m 45.”

Potential center free agents this summer include the big names that the Celtics likely cannot afford (Tyson Chandler, Nene) as well as guys like Samuel Dalembert, Jeff Foster, Dan Gadzuric and Alexis Ajinca. There also are restricted free agents like Marc Gasol, but again it’s not likely the Celtics could make a big enough offer that the “home” team wouldn’t match. (And who knows what the rules will be in a new CBA.) Maybe a trade is a better option. But one thing the Celtics need to do is get a center who can give them some points in the paint and defense.

Boston also needs to get younger and more athletic off the bench. To have an energy group of guys that can get some easy buckets when they are in.

The Celtics may be bringing back their core, but changes are coming. They need to if they want to get past Miami or Chicago next season.

Bill Russell to Shaq, Kareem during awards show: “I would kick your ass”

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Bill Russell is one of the greatest basketball players to have ever lived. His dominance for the Boston Celtics is unquestioned.

And, he apparently knows it.

Russell received a lifetime achievement award on Monday night during the 2017 NBA Awards. Joined on stage by NBA big men Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson, Alonzo Mourning, and Dikembe Mutumbo, Russell opened his acceptance speech of the award with a little joke.

Via Twitter:

Tell ’em, Bill

Russell Westbrook has to choke back tears during emotional MVP acceptance speech

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Russell Westbrook was a tornado on the court this past season, tearing fearlessly through the NBA, leading the Thunder to the playoffs, and eventually himself to winning the MVP Award on Monday night.

It was a different side of Westbrook we saw when he accepted the award, barely able to hold back the tears in thanking his parents, teammates, and everyone who helped him get to that point.

Russell Westbrook wins the 2017 NBA MVP Award

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Russell Westbrook or James Harden for the 2017 NBA MVP? We finally have our answer.

On Monday night Westbrook, the Oklahoma City Thunder star, took home the Maurice Podoloff Trophy, earning him the right to be called the league’s most valuable player for the 2016-17 NBA season.

Westbrook had 68 first-place votes, runner-up James Harden had 22, however, Harden had so many second place votes that this was the closest race in a decade (although it wasn’t that close). Kawhi Leonard finished third, LeBron James fourth, and Isaiah Thomas fifth.

The MVP debate raged on the entire regular season, but the Oklahoma City Thunder star hit new heights in 2016-17, averaging a triple-double for the entire season, a feat not seen since 1962 when Oscar Robertson did it. That pushed him over impressive numbers by Houston Rockets star Harden, who was incredible as he moved to play the point guard position full-time for NBA Coach of the Year Mike D’Antoni.

Whether you picked Westbrook or Harden, I’m not so sure that there was a wrong answer. Granted, the Rockets were a much better team and in fact gave some of the best squads in the Western Conference a run for their money. Harden and D’Antoni seemed like a natural pairing, and his move to the point guard position was inspired. Houston finished third in the Western Conference last season, a mark that most of us did not expect them to achieve without the likes of Dwight Howard.

In comparison, the Thunder were only in playoff contention because of Westbrook and even then, they scraped by the entire season. Oklahoma City had just three players with a positive VORP For the season, in stark contrast to the Rockets. While basketball purists might rightly point out that Westbrook’s contribution to his team was still centered around himself, the debate will have to rage on with the trophy now firmly in the Thunder star’s grasp.

Plus, if you ever watched the guy it would be hard not to point to him as MVP. Westbrook was just flat out ridiculous.

It is difficult to understate just how significant Westbrook’s statistical achievement is for the season. He averaged 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.4 assists per game. The ability of a player to achieve that record with modern defenses in the NBA being what they are is impressive, even if you want to argue that many teams allowed Westbrook to operate while concentrating on his lesser teammates.

In the age of advanced statistics, when an analyst with both a spreadsheet and a pair of working eyes may slide to the side of Harden, it is still an astonishing thought to think Westbrook dominated so wholly against his opponents statistically. Indeed, if you ask me who had a genuine impact and who was more impressive, the answer would have to be split between the two.

So here we are, at the end of the year and everything is as we thought it would be. Russell Westbrook is the individual season champ as a player, the best of the best. The Golden State Warriors are the team champions of 2016-17. You could argue against either of them, but I don’t think it would do you any good. Westbrooks season is a statistical anomaly we are unlikely to see again. NBA MVP voters have got it wrong a lot of the time over the years, but this isn’t one of them.

Russell Westbrook is your NBA MVP.

Draymond Green wins 2017 NBA Defensive Player of the Year

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There were a lot of incredible candidates for the 2017 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award, but make no bones about it: Golden state Warriors forward Draymond Green was the most deserving.

Monday night Green was announced as the Defensive Player of the Year during the NBA’s Awards Ceremony.

In a year in which the Warriors were coming off a 73-9 season, and after an offseason where they added Kevin Durant, Green’s importance to the team was never overstated. His tenacity on defense and switchability allowed the Warriors to continue to be one of the best defensive squads in the NBA. Golden State finished second in the NBA in defensive efficiency in 2016-17, and part of that was due to Green acting as they lynchpin.

A unique defensive player, Green was able to take some of the pressure off of Durant as well as boost his impact on defense. A player who at times had to guard all five positions, Green led his team in defensive win shares.

To take home his DPOY award, Green got 73 out of a possible 100 first place votes (from select media members), comfortably beating out Utah Jazz big man Rudy Gobert, who was second, and San Antonio Spurs MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard, who was third. Robert Covington of the Philadelphia 76ers was fourth, followed by LeBron James fifth.

Much like the MVP award this season, a real argument could be made for either Leonard or Gobert’s candidacy for DPOY. However, With yet another 60+ when season under his belt, it made sense that Green was seen as the key by voters for the Golden State defensive attack.

Green finished with 73 first place votes, while Gobert trailed with 16 and Leonard with 11. Green finished with 434 total points. Gobert was second with 169.

Durant was the 2017 NBA Finals MVP, and voting for DOPY closed before the playoffs began. But if anyone watched the great playoff run by the Warriors — one where they only lost one game — Green’s importance is easily understood.