Doc Rivers wants to keep Rondo’s minutes under control

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The Boston Celtics aren’t off the best start this season, posting a 1-2 record in their first three games. In those contests, Rajon Rondo has racked up a lot of minutes. If you ask Doc Rivers, it’s been too many minutes. Since he is in a position to do something about it, he plans to:

“I’m concerned, not as far as him getting tired,” Rivers said. “But him to save himself on the floor.”

“There’s a minutes number for him,” Rivers said. “We don’t know what it is yet.”

“We’ll figure it out, where he can play his minutes at full pace instead of knowing he’s going to be on the floor too long and start pacing himself,” Rivers said. “We need him to be a fast, quick, aggressive player.”

Doc is one of the smarter managers of player minutes around. In recent seasons, he’s curtailed Kevin Garnett’s minutes to maximize the productivity his aging star can give him and he’s done the same thing for Paul Pierce and Ray Allen (before his departure for the Heat). Rivers understands the goal is to win a championship and how that can be compromised if his star players are worn out in May and June.

That said, Doc is also a coach that is still in search mode for the right lineups on a team that has seen a lot of turnover since last season. He has two key new rotation players in Jason Terry and Courtney Lee and is still without Avery Bradely (who is likely still a ways away from playing). Sorting out his back court rotation is something that could help reduce Rondo’s minutes but that will take time.

Rivers also has new front court players and shifting roles that need to be established. But this is something he  seems to understand as part of the building process of the season:

“I’m not that concerned with rotations and all that stuff,” he said. “Only five guys are going to play at one time. Kevin’s going to do the same rotation and there’ll be a big that’ll take his spot. It’s not that difficult. The more important thing is finding the right group.”

Rivers is in an enviable, yet still sort of tough, situation with this current group of Celtics. This past off-season saw a lot of change in the form of a revamped roster with several players who can contribute. Free agency and the draft produced quality talent that can really help a Celtic team that was starting to show its age in the playoffs.

But with all that change comes some unfamiliarity that will need to be worked out. In times where there’s some uncertainty, it’s easier to lean on who you know, especially when that player is young and extremely talented like Rondo.

Rivers, though, is sure to sort things out. At some point he’ll find the right rotations, figure out which personnel groupings work best, and still find a way to reduce the minutes that Rondo plays. Even if it means the team doesn’t win as many games as it could have if he pushed his players for longer minutes.

He sees the end game and knows what it takes. There’s a reason he’s one of the best coaches in the league. It will just take a bit of time.

76ers: Joel Embiid doubtful for Game 3 against Heat

AP Photo/Chris Szagola
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MIAMI (AP) — Joel Embiid remains listed as doubtful by Philadelphia for Game 3 of the 76ers’ Eastern Conference playoff series at Miami on Thursday night.

Embiid was on the floor with the 76ers for their morning shootaround practice, but coach Brett Brown says there’s no change in the All-Star center’s status.

Embiid has missed Philadelphia’s last 10 games while recovering from a concussion and surgery that repaired a fractural orbital bone around his left eye. He’s no longer in the NBA’s concussion protocol.

He took to social media after the 76ers lost Game 2 of this series to the Heat, saying he’s tired of being “babied.”

Embiid has averaged 22.9 points and 11 rebounds in 63 games for the 76ers during the regular season.

Rumor: Lakers, Kawhi Leonard share mutual interest

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The Spurs seem like they won’t trade Kawhi Leonard.

That won’t stop teams from trying.

There’s a clear disconnect between Leonard and San Antonio. Even the potential of a player as good as Leonard becoming available has teams salivating.

The Clippers are reportedly assembling a trade offer for the L.A. native. Los Angeles’ other team – the Lakers – are also apparently expected to factor prominently.

Sean Deveney of Sporting News:

“I think they go in hard for Leonard once the season is over and once the dust settles in San Antonio,” one executive told Sporting News. “(Leonard) wants to go to LA. There probably won’t be public demands on that, but he has leverage. He is going to be a free agent (in 2019). He’s an LA guy and he can just let teams know he won’t re-sign next year with anyone but the Lakers.”

But make no mistake, the Lakers are the favorite here.

“I would say that’s the most likely thing,” another general manager told Sporting News. “He’s going to be their target any way you look at it, this summer or next summer. There’s not many other ways to explain what’s been going on with that situation other than him trying to get out of San Antonio.”

Of course, every team wants Leonard. He’s an elite two-way player when healthy. But teams will go to differing lengths to pursue him. If the Lakers will “go hard for Leonard,” that means something beyond just desiring him.

Under Magic Johnson, the Lakers have made no secret of their plan to acquire stars. That has largely been centered on 2018 free agents, but with that well drying up, talk has turned to 2019 free agents. If the Lakers can get a top 2019 free agent – Leonard – sooner, why wouldn’t they?

One reason is the cost. Trading with San Antonio would require dealing at least some combination of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma. Signing Leonard outright in 2019 would be simpler.

But a trade is the only surefire way of getting Leonard. If the Lakers don’t trade for him, another team could. With promising young players and cap space, the Lakers have the tools to make an intriguing offer for Leonard.

Or, more likely, the Spurs could keep him. Their relationship isn’t necessarily beyond repair, and they can offer him a super-max contract extension this summer.

They might not offer it. Even if they do, he might not take it. If he doesn’t, he could pledge to re-sign with only certain teams – like the Lakers – and steer trade talks that way. You can see how the thinking develops:

Leonard might be unhappy in San Antonio. He grew up in Southern California. Therefore, he’ll engineer his way to the Lakers?

Maybe, and maybe these anonymous executives know something to that effect. But this mostly sounds lazily speculative.

PBT Extra: Disciplined Celtics highlight bad habits of Milwaukee Bucks

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Giannis Antetokounmpo has been every bit the top five NBA player in the postseason — 32.5 points per game on 63.2 percent shooting, plus with 11 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game.

Yet the Bucks are down 0-2 to Boston.

The Celtics have had a strong series from Al Horford and Terry Rozier, but the real difference is in the discipline this team has shown all season — Boston knows who it is. Clearly, Milwaukee does not. They turn the ball over too much and make too many mistakes.

I get into all of that in this PBT Extra, and I wonder if that’s something the Bucks can really turn around mid-playoffs.

Ettore Messina to coach Spurs in Game 3 following death of Gregg Popovich’s wife

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s wife, Erin, died yesterday.

That sad news was felt throughout the NBA, and it obviously affects San Antonio most closely. That includes for tonight’s Game 3 against the Warriors.

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:

Ettore Messina was a longtime head coach in Europe. The Spurs lead assistant also took over for a few regular-season games Popovich missed. So, making – rather than advising – coaching decisions won’t be a brand new challenge to Messina.

But down 2-0 to defending-champion Golden State is a tough place to make an NBA playoff debut.

On the bright side, there will be no pressure. Not only has San Antonio been outclassed the first two games of the series, focus is rightly on the Popovich family. A win would be a pleasant surprise and help Messina – who’s up for the Hornets job – in his pursuit of a head-coaching position. A loss would be quickly forgotten with more important matters at hand.

To that end, hopefully the time away allows Popovich the space he needs to grieve. That matters far more than a basketball game.