James Harden

What if James Harden had been traded to Boston in the Perkins deal?


When the Kendrick Perkins trade went through, there was a considerable amount of flabbergasting about what it was Boston saw in Jeff Green. That’s only intensified since, especially with the Celtics eliminated in the second round and Green coughing up a pair of killer turnovers down the stretch in Game 5. The Celtics have consistently maintained that Green was the guy they want, and they even plan on giving him a qualifying offer to keep him around. Danny Ainge thinks Green is a big part of the Celtics’ future.

But an interesting element came out of ESPN’s Bill Simmons’ podcast with Boston radio broadcaster Sean Grande this week. As SBNation’s Mike Prada noted: The Celtics began talks with the Thunder not for Jeff Green, but for James Harden. You know, the James Harden that has been en fuego since the trade deadline and has become a legitimate third playmaker for the Thunder and a nightmare for opponents? That James Harden?

Getting past how incredible it is that Presti continues to make the right move no matter what the evidence tells him to (and the evidence would have told him Harden was an acceptable price for Perkins prior to the trade deadline), we’ve got an interesting What If question here. How would Harden have impacted the Celtics?

Well, for one, it would have given them another distributor and playmaker who could drive, lessening the impact of Rajon Rondo’s injury. It would have provided a younger defender to sick on Dwyane Wade who did the most damage. And it would have given them a versatile building block who could have really learned behind Ray Allen and Paul Pierce while being the young cornerstone they need without the inconsistencies and dreaded “tweener” label Jeff Green comes with. In short, it would have been better all around. It may not have made the difference in a Celtics win or loss against the Heat, but you have to think Harden would have given them more than Green, who didn’t seem to adjust to life in the Celtics’ locker room after years in the warm bosom of the OKC locker room.

Green would still be with the Thunder, likely being criticized as fans called for Ibaka to get more playing time (one of the best results of the trade for Perkins, along with moving Ibaka to PF next to Perk), knocking down the occasional three and getting bowled over by Zach Randolph. For Celtics fans, this all comes as another twist in a series of knife twists that have spelled what appears to be their doom, even with Doc coming back. The confidence in Ainge is unlikely to be boosted by the idea that it could have been Harden, showcasing his talents against Memphis currently, rather than Green, who the Celtics would have gotten for the franchise center.

We might as well call Presti “Boris the Bullet Dodger.” Because he dodges bullets, Avi.

Jimmy Butler wants Mason Plumlee to pay fine after scuffle (video)


Jimmy Butler and Mason Plumlee got into an altercation in the Bulls’ win over the Trail Blazers last night.

Plumlee lowered his head and tried to barrel through Butler’s chest on a Butler screen. Butler fell and retaliated by putting Plumlee in a leg lock, causing Plumlee to fall.

You might remember a leg lock as what Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova did to Bulls forward Taj Gibson during last year’s playoffs. For all the talk then of Dellavedova being a dirty player, Butler seems particularly aggrieved after getting a technical foul, which comes with a $2,500 fine – the same penalty Dellavedova eventually received. (Plumlee got a flagrant foul.)

Butler, via Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago:

“He thought he was playing football for a second there,” Butler said. “Almost had to let the Fort Greene Projects out of me, Brooklyn, you know what I’m saying?”

It was said tongue in cheek considering Gibson was a few feet over and Butler wanted to draw some laughs. Gibson is a Brooklyn native and grew up in the Fort Greene Projects while Butler grew up in Tomball, Texas.

It was no laughing matter when he said he would find a way to approach Plumlee about the fine money, jokingly suggesting he would have his agent email him at “Mr. Dukie@yahoo.com or something” and made a joke about Mike Dunleavy applauding Plumlee’s act.

Plumlee and Dunleavy are products of Duke University.

“Yeah, he cost me 2,500,” Butler said. “I’m not happy about that. Gonna ask him to pay me back and I’m not playing.”

Is that MisterDukie@yahoo.com, MrDukie@yahoo.com or Mr.Dukie@yahoo.com. Or is it Dookie?

These are important questions – at least if you’re trying to turn the conversation away from your dirty play and toward your colorful quotes.

Breaking news: Leandro Barbosa dunked


The Warriors became the first team in NBA history to start 16-0.

In the process of getting that record-breaking win over the Lakers, something nearly as historic happened.

Leandro Barbosa dunked.

The 32-year-old Golden State guard last jammed in January 2011.

For a little more perspective, look how Barbosa handled a breakaway layup earlier in the fourth quarter:

You think that man can still slam?

Yes. Yes, he can.

Magic benching Victor Oladipo, starting Channing Frye

Stephen Curry, Victor Oladipo, Channing Frye
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Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, Evan Fournier, Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic have started eight of the Magic’s 14 games, including the last three.

But after Orlando dropped two straight, Scott Skiles hinted at lineup changes.

The Magic coach will deliver against the Knicks tonight, swapping Channing Frye for Oladipo.

Skiles, via Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

“It’s nothing punitive,” Skiles said after the Magic’s shootaround.

“It’s just we feel like we’ve got to try to find a little bit better balance. I’d like Victor to have some more opportunities like he’s had a little bit in the past where he can be on top of the floor and attack and get a little bit more vertical and not only get to the rim but just be a little bit more on the attack but not necessarily start the game that way.”

Here are the offensive/defensive/net ratings for the

  • Former starting lineup: 94.7/111.2/-16.5
  • New starting lineup: 117.2/90.3/+26.8

The new unit has played just 33 minutes in two games, so major sample-size caveats apply. But I like idea of seeing more of what has worked.

I suspect Skiles also wants to keep his players from becoming content. At 6-8 and coming off three straight seasons outside the playoffs, they should have no reason to feel satisfied, but the hard-driving Skiles will be proactive.

If Oladipo – whose defense Skiles values – can get sent to the bench, anyone can.

At some point, the Magic must determine whether Oladipo and Payton – both below-average 3-point shooters – can share a backcourt. But it’s also worth knowing whether Oladipo can excel as a super sub leading bench players.

This switch might help the Magic win now, but at worse, it’ll give them more information for evaluating their young roster. Seems smart all around.

Dwight Howard says he’s cleared to play back-to-backs

Dwight Howard
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The 5-9 Houston Rockets need some wins.

The Houston Rockets have a back-to-back coming up, Sunday against the Knicks then Monday against the Pistons (both on the road). Two teams with quality big men.

Combine those things and you end up with Dwight Howard being re-evaluated by team doctors and getting the training wheels taken off, via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

This, plus a mini training camp the past few days, is part of new coach J.B. Bickerstaff’s effort to turn Houston’s season around.

Houston’s defense is 1.9 points per 100 possessions better this season when Howard is on the court and the Rockets are stronger on the glass. The problem is the offense is 7.8 points per 100 worse with Howard on the court. How much of that can be changed with some roster tweaks — like limiting the time James Harden and Ty Lawson share the court — and how much is due to Howard demanding touches and not doing enough with them we will find out quickly.