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.

Utah’s Donovan Mitchell wins throwback Dunk Contest with Vince Carter tribute

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LOS ANGELES — The 2018 Dunk Contest went retro.

And it worked.

The throwbacks started with Cleveland’s Larry Nance Jr. going quick-change to pay tribute to his father, the 1984 winner of the Dunk Contest.

Nance later had the best dunk of the night, but it wasn’t enough in the face of Utah’s Donovan Mitchell‘s strong and consistent night highlight by his throwback dunk — donning a Vince Carter Toronto dinosaur jersey and doing VC’s famed 360 dunk — which got Mitchell the 48 points he needed to hold-off Nance and win the contest. It was over.

“Growing up I was a big dunker,” Mitchell said. “I wasn’t really much of a basketball player. I just dunked and played defense, and I watched a lot of Vince’s videos. I’ve been seeing what he’s been doing all year at his age, which is incredible.

“So I figured, you know, at my size if I was able to get it, it would be a great dunk and a way to finish it, you know. And actually, funny story is I haven’t made that dunk in like half a year. I tried it in practice the past two days and tried it this morning, didn’t make it. Tried it last night, didn’t make it… But to be able to make it was why I was so excited.”

Earlier in the night, Mitchell had done another tribute worn a Darrell Griffith jersey — Utah’s Dr. Dunkenstien, who went to Louisville like Mitchell — for an off-the-side-of-the-backboard jumping over Kevin Hart dunk.

“You know, just knowing your history, I think, is the biggest thing,” Mitchell said of the throwbacks. “Just understanding where this game originated, I guess the OGs of the game, I guess you would call it. But just understanding. Even if it’s just dunking. Whether it’s dunking in the NBA in general, Darrell Griffith, we went to the same school in college. I know Darrell very well. Both got drafted by the Jazz, and he was an incredible player. To be able to pay homage to him meant a lot to me.”

For my money, Nance had the dunk of the night, his first in the Finals, a double off-the-backboard throwdown that you had to see on replay to get (it wasn’t as evident in the building what he had done until it was re-shown on the big screen).

It was a fun contest all night long.

Mitchell (the leader in the Rookie of the Year race) started it off brilliantly — he brought out a second backboard, and did a self-alley-oop off one to the other.

Larry Nance Jr. did his tribute to his father with his first dunk, and on his second one came from behind the backboard, going around the world, and threw it down hard. That got him into the Finals.

Oladipo missed all three of his dunks in the first round, which almost doomed his night. He, however, did a dunk wearing the Black Panther mask for his second dunk, which impressed.

Mitchell said he wanted to beat Dennis Smith Jr. because the Mavericks’ point guard had beaten him in dunk contests for years. Smith had one monster dunk, when he went between the legs and threw it down hard and got the full 50. It just wasn’t enough to get Smith to the Finals.

Nance started off the final round by bringing out his father again to throw an alley-oop to a windmill. Mitchell responded with a self-alley-oop to a windmill that was flat-out wicked. That got Mitchell a 50-46 lead after one round of the Finals.

Then Mitchell went to Vince Carter and “it was over.”

Larry Nance Jr. throws alley-oop to himself, throws alley-oop to himself (video)

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LOS ANGELES — Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. immediately motioned for the replay to be shown of this dunk. It was necessary to properly appreciate it.

Best dunk of the night.

Donovan Mitchell won the dunk contest, though.

Larry Nance Jr. plays tribute to father — rock-the-cradle dunk in Suns uniform

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LOS ANGELES — Back in 1984, high-flying Larry Nance Sr. won the first NBA All-Star Dunk Contest with this set of dunks — most famously a rock-the-cradle move.

Larry Nance Jr. came into the 2018 Dunk Contest and went nostalgic — all the way back to the Suns’ throwback uniform and the same dunk.

That and a good second dunk got him into the Dunk Contest finals. In that round, Nance Sr. threw an alley-oop to his son for the windmill.

Donovan Mitchell throws alley-oop to himself – off second backboard (video)

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LOS ANGELES – Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell set a high standard with the first slam of the 2018 dunk contest.

Very creative. Very well-executed.

Looks like all that preparation paid off.