Celtics GM Ainge explains he was not trying to trade Rondo

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If a politician you didn’t like said this, you’d decry it as semantics. And you’d be right. But while differences can be subtle, they can be meaningful.

Which brings us to Danny Ainge, the Celtics GM, who was asked for roughly the millionth time this year about pre-season talks to trade Rajon Rondo for Chris Paul during a WEEI radio interview (talks that obviously never came to fruition). His response, reported by ESPNBoston.com, explains where he is coming from.

First thing he made clear is that Rondo knows where things really stand.

“I sat down with Rondo when he got back into town, when the lockout ended, and I just told him the truth of what was going on. And that was it,” said Ainge. “I’ve had conversations since — I told him exactly what was happening…

“There are stories that come out later that try to dispute what I said [about not trying to trade Rondo at a season-opening] press conference, but I stand by that. I was not trying to trade Rajon Rondo. 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.”

Ainge isn’t calling teams up trying to see if they want Rondo. However, if a team calls with a major trade asset — say CP3 — Rondo could be part of the discussion.

Which means Rondo isn’t untouchable, but with Ainge is anyone really untouchable? How many truly untouchable players are there in the league anyway? Maybe 12-15? And there are fewer true franchise anchors like Paul out there, so if someone calls and wants to talk about one, you talk.

Rondo is going to be the bridge to the future for the Celtics. Bank on it.

Well, unless someone calls with a better player. But Ainge isn’t making that call. You can decide for yourself how big a difference that is.

Tyronn Lue says he has secret plan to fix Cavaliers’ defense for playoffs

AP Photo/Phil Long
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Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.

The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”

Also:

“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”

What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.

“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”

The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.

Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.

So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.

But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.

The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.

Mavericks’ Salah Mejri dunks while getting shoved in the gut (video)

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The Mavericks built a 13-point lead over the Thunder with 3:30left thanks to plays like this Salah Mejri dunk on Nick Collison.

Unfortunately for Dallas, Russell Westbrook happened.

Willy Hernangomez dunks on Andre Drummond, Pistons’ playoff chances (video)

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Andre Drummond and the Pistons couldn’t slow down anything.

Not Willy Hernangomez. Not the Knicks. Not Detroit’s plummeting playoff hopes.

After a 109-95 loss to the Knicks last night, the Pistons — who’ve lost four straight and seven of eight — are 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position.

Terrence Ross 360 dunks his way back into Raptors fans’ hearts (video)

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In his first appearance in Toronto since the Raptors traded him to the Magic, Terrence Ross did what he has done best throughout his career: Delight Toronto fans with a dunk.

And of course the fans appreciated it, because their Raptors cruised to a 131-112 win.