Boston should be better than a .500 team, which is how they came into Christmas Day. We keep expecting them to have a nice easy win, a jumpstart to start finding their groove. They need to find a team that would roll over and pretty much die for them.
Enter the Nets on Christmas.
How ugly were the Nets? Their CEO Brett Yormark tweeted after the game: “Nets fans deserved better today. The entire organization needs to work harder to find the solution. We will get there.”
The struggling Nets offense shot 40.6 percent for the game and had an offensive rating of 88.6 points per 100 possessions. Combine that with Boston getting good production off the bench from Jared Sullinger (16 points) and Jeff Green (15) and you get an easy 93-76 Celtics win.
If you want to know about this game, it essentially ended in the second quarter when Boston outscored Brooklyn 34-18. The Nets shot 36.8 percent for the quarter as they went with a smaller lineup. The Celtics picked up their defense, then Boston turned the stops into some easy buckets going the other way in transition. Jason Terry had 8 points in the quarter and was +16 in the 12 minutes to help push the win.
That quarter just seemed to deflate the Nets, which has happened a lot lately. In the second half, Gerald Wallace played hard and killed it, the rest of the Nets went through the motions. For the game Brook Lopez shot 5-of-12, Joe Johnson 4-of-14 and Andray Blatche 3-of-9. Deron Williams had 10 points and 6 assists, Rajon Rondo had 19.
The Nets have lost four of their last five and 9 of their last 12.
But as bad as the Nets were, don’t let this take away from a quality win for the Celtics. They came out and played hard, played smart and played like a team starting to figure it out. Maybe they will, remember they started last season 15-17 before flipping the switch. There are still questions about consistency of the bench play and what happens to their defense when Kevin Garnett sits, but they needed a few nice wins to get a flow going.
This could be one. They found a perfect doormat to get healthy against.
Tristan Thompson is a man without a contract. By not signing the qualifying offer with the Cleveland Cavaliers he put himself in limbo, the rare NBA holdout. Right now his options are to sign the deal on the table (the Cavs still have the five-year, $80 million offer out there), get the Sixers or Blazers to offer him a max contract (which neither team has shown any interest in doing), or hold out and hope the Cavaliers make a better offer. If he holds out for the entire season he becomes a restricted free agent again next summer — exactly like he is right now.
Without signing the qualifying offer and the threat of leaving, Thompson hurt his leverage.
But he has a little leverage. He and his agent Rich Paul had one other card, and it got played Saturday.
LeBron James and Thompson share an agent in Paul. LeBron has largely remained silent through this process but if he wants something in the Cleveland organization, he usually gets it. And he wants Thompson back at practices.
LeBron’s leverage is going to be put to the test. The Cavaliers have let it leak they are not that concerned about LeBron leaving them next summer over this — and they’re right. The damage to LeBron’s brand if he broke the hearts of Cleveland fans again would be crushing, unless he leaves for a very good reason. Overpaying Thompson is not that reason.
However, LeBron’s comment could push the Cavaliers to try to find a compromise.
For the Cavaliers, a lot of how they view all this comes down to their tax bill. The Cavaliers already have $94.9 million in guaranteed salary on the books, putting them $10.2 million over the luxury tax line, at a cost of more than $16.25 million. What this means if (or when) they sign Thompson is his first $10 million in salary would cost them $28.75 million in tax and every dollar above that for the next $5 million costs them $3.75-to-$1. Look at it this way, by my count $14 million this year to Thompson would cost $43.75 million in tax — the total for Thompson at that price is $58 million. While that’s not all on Thompson it’s a lot of cash, and Thompson wants a max deal that starts at more than $16 million a year.
Owner Dan Gilbert is already going to pay the highest tax bill in the NBA this season, but if he balks at those figures it’s hard to blame him.
Mario Hezonja, the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft, has never lacked for confidence. The Croatian guard made his pro debut in the Magic’s preseason game against the Hornets on Saturday and did this:
Between Hezonja, Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon, the Magic have a nucleus of young players that has the potential to be a lot of fun. Even if they’re still a few years away from contending, they’re definitely going to be a League Pass favorite this year.