Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo

Atlantic Division lead in balance as Celtics face 76ers


If the NBA playoffs started today, Philadelphia would be the Atlantic Division winners and four seed taking on the Pacers. Boston and New York would be the seven and eight seeds and get the Bulls and the Heat in the first round.

Boston and New York need to move up — and the easiest way to a good seed is suddenly to jump past the slumping Sixers. Philadelphia has won just two of its last 10 games, it’s offense that shot 44.6 percent on the season has shot just 41.2 percent in the last 10. On the other side, All-Star weekend rest and trade rumors have fueled Boston to a five game winning streak — they are just one game back of Philly now. The Knicks are not out of it, either, just three and a half games back.

Wednesday night Boston travels to take on Philadelphia — a Celtics win and despite the slow start, swirling trade rumors and everything else Boston will be tied for the division lead.

It matters. A lot. Win the Atlantic and you can be no lower than a four seed. Finish second in the division and it could be very tough to get out of the first round.

The Boston veterans are all saying the right things, but Paul Pierce was honest with A. Sherrod Blakely of

“This is definitely a division rival that we are going to have to overtake, and seeing as it’s going to be important going into the playoffs,” said Paul Pierce.

Right now Boston is the hot team, but it is not impossible to imagine the Knicks putting a run together and getting in this mix either.

In the NBA where seeding is done by conference usually winning the division is not that big a deal. But the Atlantic division this year could be different. Which makes this mid-season tilt in Philadelphia very interesting on Wednesday night.

C.J. McCollum ejected for flagrantly fouling Gordon Hayward (video)

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I’m not sure C.J. McCollum meant to grab Gordon Hayward‘s neck. The 6-foot-8 Hayward elevated, and the 6-foot-4 McCollum just might not have been able to get high enough to make a play on the ball.

But McCollum did grab Hayward’s neck.

It was a dangerous and unnecessary play, especially in the preseason.

Report: Mavericks may be team interested in Larry Sanders

Larry Sanders
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The Dallas Mavericks are looking for a center— desperately at times, they brought JaVale McGee into training camp to get a look. They will start Zaza Pachulia and behind him it’s probably Samuel Dalembert once he gets healthy.

Which is why Dallas may be the team interested in Larry Sanders — Mark Cuban is a guy known for giving second chances in the league. But there have been no talks, yet, reports Tim MacMahon at ESPN.

Larry Sanders has been out of the game since his buyout last February trying to deal with his personal demons and may well not be ready to return. He may never return.

His couple seasons with the Bucks were filled with drama and issues. There was the nightclub brawl left him with an injured thumb in need of a surgery. There were the charges of animal cruelty. There was a five-game drug suspension. There was missed time for personal reasons. There was the 10-game suspension for marijuana use (he failed at least four tests to get there) — then that suspension was extended past the 10 games. In the end, he agreed to a buyout to get space away from the game to deal with his personal issues.

He may or may not be ready to return from that. He may or may not ever be ready. But if he decides to give it a try, NBA teams will be waiting. Maybe Dallas.