Indiana Pacers v Boston Celtics

Report: Boston’s prepared to “move on” from Big 3

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Recently Danny Ainge out and out told reporters that he’s willing to hear offers for members of the Big 3. Now comes a report from the New York Daily News that takes it a step further.

But with Paul Pierce dealing with heel issues, Kevin Garnett fading, Ray Allen still effective shooting threes but headed for his 37th birthday and the Celtics 5-8 entering the weekend, the team’s owners gave GM Danny Ainge the official go-ahead to move any member of the troika.

“We’ve got to move on,” said one Celtics official. “Let’s face reality.”

via David Stern defends 66-game NBA season, but it’s hard to argue injuries have hurt product – NY Daily News.

Ownership giving Ainge the ability to fire when ready does change the dynamic. Instead of having to do long-term evaluation of any offer, if Ainge gets what he wants, he can pull the trigger. Furthermore, the quote from the Celts official indicates this isn’t a “trade one of the Big 3 and make one more run while looking to the future” and more of a “ABANDON SHIP, THE S.S. UBUNTU IS GOING DOWN!”

The real question is who wants the Big 3? How motivated can any of them be if they’re not competing directly for a championship? Is Paul Pierce going to be more compelled to get into gameshape for a fringe contender? Is Kevin Garnett going to be able to bring the same intensity at this age, or has he burned the fire out? Do you really want to pay Ray Allen to be a spot-up shooter on the perimeter?

So Ainge will be forced to not only break apart a team that considers itself family, but to try and upsell the players he brought together when they were three of the top fifteen players in the league. If the Celtics want to put it together and make a run, now would be the time.

Report: Khris Middleton could return to Bucks before All-Star break

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 16:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 16, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. 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 Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Bucks projected Khris Middleton to miss about 70 games when he tore his hamstring before the season. That extended absence often leads players just to shut down for the year, but Middleton vowed to return in time for the playoffs.

He might get back far sooner than that.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star ‎break.

Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.

The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.

Isaiah Thomas nutmegs Knicks center Marshall Plumlee (video)

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Isaiah Thomas usually saves his best play for the fourth quarter, but the Celtics guard showed out early with this pass between Marshall Plumlee‘s legs to get Kelly Olynyk a layup.

Thomas uncharacteristically just didn’t have enough late. Though he scored 39 points, he shot just 2-for-9 in the final period, as the Knicks pulled away for a 117-106 win.

Kevin Durant misses dunk so hard, ball flies past halfcourt (video)

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Kevin Durant played great in the Warriors’ win over the Thunder last night, but – perhaps fueled by excess emotion – he missed this incredibly emphatic dunk attempt.

Later, Russell Westbrook showed his former teammate how to do it (sparking their apparent conversation):

James Harden outduels Giannis Antetokounmpo as they produce fantastic highlight video

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James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo met in a battle of two of the NBA’s best point guards. (Still weird to say.) The final lines:

  • Harden: 38 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 blocks
  • Antetokounmpo: 32 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks

The winner? Harden and the Rockets, who topped the Bucks, 111-92.

But the real winner? Anyone who gets to watch this highlight video. It just gets better as it goes.