Boston Celtics v New York Knicks - Game Four

What the Celtics should do when the lockout ends

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PBT is working its way through what every team in the NBA should do when the NBA lockout ends. To see all the teams we’ve done so far, click here. Today, we talk Boston Celtics.

Last season in Boston: The Celtics won 56 games, entered the playoffs as the three seed and smacked the Knicks around in the first round. For a lot of teams that would be a good season. In Boston it started the “end of the dynasty that wasn’t really a dynasty” talk. Everyone seemed to focus on two things. One was the trade of Kendrick Perkins to the Oklahoma City Thunder at the deadline for Jeff Green, and how that impacted chemistry. Second is how easily Miami knocked the Celtics out of the playoffs in five games in the second round.

For the record, the Perkins traded is not what cost the Celtics against Miami — they needed offense in the paint against the Heat, something Perkins would not have provided. The loss to Miami happened because the Heat were better at the time. Which is an issue because they are also younger and likely to be even better next season.

Since we last saw the Celtics… they have seen very little change — which is news itself. Boston is keeping its core together — Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo — plus keeping Doc Rivers in charge. They are going to make one more run at a ring. Then it is transition time.

The Celtics did draft E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson from Purdue back in June, both potentially good players. However, neither is going to play a significant role as a rookie on a contender. And the Celtics fancy themselves contenders.

When the lockout ends, the Celtics need to… figure out what to do about Jeff Green, find some help in the paint and find a way to get a little more athletic. Then go sacrifice a goat to the injury gods, or do whatever else it takes to keep this team healthy for a season.

About the decision to make one more run at it with this core, Jeff Clark is the man behind the fantastic OG Boston hoops site CelticsBlog, explains it for us.

For what seems like the third straight year, the Celtics have one more shot with the Big 3. With Garnett and Allen on the final year of their deals there’s a sense of finality this time. Next year, if they are still in Celtic green, it will likely be because they are back on a steep discount, or something went wrong with the grand plan. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. When this mess of a labor situation is resolved, they have to bring out the duct tape, wires, and bubble gum and hope it looks more like McGyver and less like uncle Cletus’ pickup.

Those guys need help and Celtics fans dream big, but this will be help on a budget for Boston. They are shopping at Payless Shoes, not the Nike store. If Green accepts the qualifying offer ($5.9 million, and the Celtics hope he does) they will have $66 million in salary on the books and seven players under contract. Again Jeff Clark explains:

Regardless of what kind of CBA the sides agree on, the Celtics won’t have much money to throw around. They will hope that the same goes for other teams as well since they are hoping against hope that Jeff Green gets no other reasonable offers and accepts the qualifying offer. “Big Baby” Glen Davis is the other free agent and they’ll probably wait for the market to set his value. He’d help the team, but I don’t think Doc will shed any tears seeing him move on.

Personally, I’m not the world’s biggest Green fan. Oh, he’s a nice player. But the expectations are consistently higher than the result and his defense has lacked. I’d say Boston wouldn’t miss him, but in a down free agent year there are not a lot of viable replacements for him floating around. So hope he takes a one-year offer, then the Celtics can let him go.

Defense is still the calling card for the Celtics and KG is still the anchor of that defense. But he needs help on the front line — that is what Perkins did bring. Ideally they’d get a little offense out of that spot too, but what they need most is defense and rebounding. Clark of CelticsBlog does not paint an optimistic picture.

The biggest need the team has, however, is finding some help in the middle. They need someone that can rebound and defend and get out of the way on offense. Names like Kwame Brown, Jason Collins, and Joel Przybilla don’t exactly quicken the pulse, but they will likely be available in the discount bins that we’ll be shopping at. The other hope is that some amnesty casualty decides to spurn the Heat and sign with the Celtics instead.

Finally the rest of the squad will be filled with rookies (like 1st round pick JaJuan Johnson), young players (like last year’s first rounder Avery Bradley), old faces (probably Delonte West), and maybe even some old flames (Danny has always had a thing for guys like Yi Jianlian, Robert Swift, and Josh Howard). Will it be enough to get the Celtics another shot at a banner or will it just be a “bridge year?” Only father time will tell.

Father time is the key. If healthy and rested, with some help in the paint, the Celtics are a contender. But they are a now a team that is in the second tier of contenders — they need everything to go right for them for it to work. There is no margin for error anymore. And it can be a long season when you need everything to go right.

But count out Boston at your own risk. There are a lot of banners up in that city for a reason.

Spurs honor Kobe Bryant in his last game in San Antonio (VIDEO)

LOS ANGELES - MARCH 30:  Kobe Bryant #8 of the Los Angeles Lakers stands next to Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs on March 30, 2006 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.  The Spurs won 96-85. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Kobe Bryant farewell tour has gone all around the NBA, but some stops are more emotional than others. His final trip to San Antonio certainly qualifies — the Spurs and Lakers have played each other in the playoffs eight times in his career, including twice in the Western Conference Finals (the Lakers won both times). The only player who has rivaled Bryant’s longevity is Tim Duncan, and the Lakers and Spurs were the two most dominant teams of the 2000s, winning nine of the 12 championships from 1999 to 2010 between them.

So, of course, the Spurs had an elaborate tribute video planned for Bryant. The video ran two and a half minutes and featured narration from Gregg Popovich, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Watch it below:

Report: Clippers’ Austin Rivers has broken hand, out 4-6 weeks

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 29:  Austin Rivers #25 of the Los Angeles Clippers scores on a layup past D'Angelo Russell #1 of the Los Angeles Lakers during a 105-93 win at Staples Center on January 29, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The Clippers are without Blake Griffin for the next few weeks as he recovers from a broken hand stemming from an altercation with an equipment manager. Now, the Clippers have lost backup point guard Austin Rivers to the exact same injury, albeit not in the same circumstances, obviously.

The loss of Rivers isn’t as devastating as the loss of Griffin, but given the Clippers’ lack of depth, it’s certainly not ideal. Now, Chris Paul‘s only backup is Pablo Prigioni.

Warriors hold off late Thunder run to remain undefeated at home

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For once, a marquee matchup involving the Golden State Warriors lived up to its billing. Their much-hyped meetings with the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs were anticlimactic blowouts nearly free of drama. And for the first half on Saturday night’s 116-108 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, it seemed like the defending champions were headed for another snoozer. They led by as much as 20, and completely outmatched the Thunder on both ends of the floor.

But the Thunder rallied behind a surprising defensive effort in the second half and some solid play from Enes Kanter. Plus, you know, Kevin Durant, who led all scorers with 40 points and gave the normally unflappable Draymond Green fits defensively. They tied the game at 104 before Golden State pulled away.

Despite the huge first-half lead, the Warriors weren’t their usual selves. Stephen Curry shot 1-for-8 from behind the three-point line, and triple-double machine Draymond Green scored just nine points. Golden State’s most consistent player was Harrison Barnes, who has probably read the speculation that the Warriors would have to dump him to land Durant this summer. He hit three three-pointers and shot 8-for-14 overall on the way to 19 points.

The Warriors’ bench carried them for stretches, outscoring Oklahoma City’s reserves 42-17.

Despite the Thunder’s late run, this was a statement win for the Warriors. They sent the message that, even when they aren’t in total control from start to finish, they can still pull away from other elite teams. The Thunder have given them the toughest challenge of any team they’ll likely have to face in the late rounds of the playoffs this spring, and it’s to their credit that they took the first-half punch and came back to make it a game. But the Warriors are on a different level from the rest of the league, and they showed that clearly on Saturday.

Kevin Durant brushes off free-agency speculation: “Once that time comes, I’ll make that decision”

OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 05:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder drives on Harrison Barnes #40 of the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena on January 5, 2015 in Oakland, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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It goes without saying that with the Thunder and Warriors playing each other for the first time on Saturday night, Kevin Durant free-agency talk has been at an all-time high. The hot rumor this week is that the Warriors are the frontrunners to land Durant this summer, which would shake up the league like nothing since LeBron James going to Miami.

Obviously, all parties were going to be asked about it before the hotly anticipated game. And obviously, all parties were going to downplay it. That’s exactly what happened.

Here’s what Durant said, via the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Rusty Simmons:

“Once that time comes, I’ll make that decision. I’ll sit down and talk to my closest friends and family and figure it out, but right now, I’m just trying to be the best basketball player I can be every single day. I have to be at a high level to lead every day at practices, shootarounds and games, and that’s a tough task. I can’t focus on anything else, other than that.”

Warriors coach Steve Kerr also downplayed the speculation:

“I don’t know why anybody would talk about anything but the fact that we’re 45-4 and have a hell of a team,” said Kerr, who hasn’t addressed rumors about Durant favoring the Bay Area as a future destination with his players. “Why would anybody talk about some different team, future stuff and other players?

“Focus on our team. We’re pretty good.”

On both sides, that’s the appropriate way to respond publicly. Not that this is going to go away anytime soon. They play each other two more times this season, once in Oklahoma City and once more in Oakland, and this is going to get brought up then, too. And just like Saturday, nobody will give a definitive answer. Nor should they. Nobody will know anything until July 1. But until then, it will be impossible to quiet the chatter.