Celtics' Rondo looks at head coach Rivers as he walks off the court during Game 5 of their NBA Eastern Conference playoffs basketball game in Atlanta

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.

Check out top 50 plays from Kevin Garnett’s Hall of Fame career (VIDEO)

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First Kobe Bryant. Then Tim Duncan.

Now Kevin Garnett. The Hall of Fame class in five years is going to be stacked.

But before we move on from Garnett’s announcement this week that he is retiring after 21 years in the NBA, let’s look back at his greatest plays (compiled by the folks at NBA.com). Enjoy this for 11 minutes rather than watching your NFL fantasy team flounder. Again.

D’Angelo Russell said he used to play as Luke Walton on NBA 2K; Stephen Jackson calls that crap

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 30: D'Angelo Russell #1 of the Los Angeles Lakers speaks during a news conference to discuss the controversy with teammate Nick Young before the start of the NBA game against the Miami Heat at Staples Center March 30, 2016, in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
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Did anyone ever fire up NBA 2K9 back in the day, decide to be the soon-to-be-champion Lakers, look at a roster with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom then say “I’m going to be Luke Walton”?

D'Angelo Russell says he did.

The Lakers young point guard has praised the new Laker coach at every turn — Russell and Byron Scott did not get along, the point guard is much happier now — and that includes talking about Walton’s playing days to Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report.

“I told him I remember playing with him on (NBA) 2K; I used to always play as him. I’m a fan. I’m definitely a fan. Because he was a point forward. I can’t speak on Elgin Baylor and all those guys, but my era, I know he was a point forward.”

Really? NBA veteran and current analyst Stephen Jackson called Russell out on that.

Jackson has a point.

Report: No, J.R. Smith isn’t talking to Sixers

CLEVELAND, OH -  JUNE 22: J.R. Smith #5 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrates with the fans during the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 championship victory parade and rally on June 22, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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What is with the ridiculous, unrealistic Philadelphia 76ers rumors of late? Last I checked recreational use was not legal in Pennsylvania. Not that the law is stopping anyone.

The latest silliness follows this logic:

This summer the Sixers made runs at veteran guards such as Jamal Crawford and Manu Ginobili (and they forced the Spurs to pay up for the Argentinian to keep him).

The Cleveland Cavaliers and J.R. Smith are in a staring contest, and Smith remains a free agent.

The Sixers have more than $22 million in cap space still.

So…

No. Not happening.

Or, we could have just asked Smith who has said he is not talking to other teams and doesn’t want to play anywhere but Cleveland.

I can get why Sixers management would want to bring a veteran and beloved, hard-working pro such as Ginobili in to lead and mentor a young team. Does Smith bring that same demeanor? I get that Smith in Cleveland has developed his game, and that he has matured and backed off his hard-partying ways (he gets a hall pass for the days after winning a championship), but is Smith the veteran you bring into a young locker room?

Can we move on from the ridiculous in Pennslyvania? Well, probably not until after the election, that is a battleground state.

Paul George says “I’m ready” to challenge LeBron James for supremacy in East

CLEVELAND, OH - FEBRUARY 29: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks for a pass while under pressure from Paul George #13 of the Indiana Pacers during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena on February 29, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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LeBron James is the best basketball player walking the face of the earth. The only guy who could start to challenge that supremacy the past couple of years has been Stephen Curry, and last season’s NBA Finals answered that question for now.

In the Eastern Conference, for years now it has been LeBron James and his team then a step back to everyone else — LeBron has been to six straight NBA Finals, four in Miami and the last two in Cleveland. Most pundits (myself included) think that’s going to be seven in-a-row because the Cavaliers are clear and away the class of the East.

Paul George says he and the Pacers are ready to change that narrative. Here is what he told Michael Lee of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

“Honestly, I look at us challenging them. I’ve been in the East and I’ve been No. 1 with LeBron being on a team,” George told The Vertical in a recent telephone interview, harkening back to when the Pacers finished with the best regular-season record in the East in 2013-14, the season before his gruesome Team USA leg injury….

“I’ve always matched up with him like, ‘I know he can do this, I know he can do that,’ ” George told The Vertical about James. “Not in an awe fashion, but it’s more so, ‘I’m not supposed to win these games. This is supposed to be the best dude in the NBA. I’m trying to challenge him. I know what I’m up against.’ Now it’s, ‘I’m ready. I’m ready for you. I’m a veteran. I know you, you know me. Let’s meet here, let’s get this job done.’ I’m prepared. I’ve had time to figure this out. I’ve had time to lick my wounds. I’m ready.”

Good for George — this is exactly what you want an elite competitor and top player to say heading into the season. He sees Everest in front of him, and he wants to climb it.

I’m also higher on the Pacers than most; I think they are a top-four team in the East that can finish top two. They upgraded at the point with Jeff Teague, plus they added the underrated Thaddeus Young (although they will miss Solomon Hill) and depth up front with Al Jefferson. I don’t get Larry Bird pushing Frank Vogel out the door at all, but Nate McMillan is a solid NBA coach to take his place. I think the Pacers are taking a step forward this season, maybe a fairly significant one.

But they’re still not in the Cavaliers’ class.

The East is still Cleveland then everyone else. Last season Toronto won 56 games and had its best season in franchise history, and they were still a step or two below the Cavaliers. No team in the East — not the Raptors, not the Celtics, not the Pacers — are making up those steps. Unless injuries or something else unforeseen brings the Cavaliers back to the pack, the Eastern Conference once again will look like Secretariat at the Belmont.