Earlier today we brought you the video — and we’d told you before that — how Celtics GM Danny Ainge is saying he doesn’t plan to make any trades at the deadline. Which is easier to say after your team has won six in a row. Still he is saying it over and over in a round of interviews.
Question is, do you believe him?
As ESPN’s Chad Ford pointed out in his chat today, what Ainge has said and his actions on the trade front have not always matched up — and other teams says he’s open to deals.
Danny Ainge did his annual radio interview where he appears flabbergasted at all the trade talk and says it’s unlikely they’ll do a deal. Of course, we know from past years, that Ainge isn’t exactly forthcoming in such interviews. Multiple teams tell me they’ve talked to the Celtics and they believe everything is on the table — as it should be. If Ainge can make the team stronger for a run at the Finals he will. If he can’t, but he can just start the rebuilding process in a big way — why wouldn’t he? The team he has now probably isn’t a serious Finals contender. I think it’s likely it moves one way or the other. So when I wrote a few weeks back that he could or could not move Rondo, I wasn’t trying to have it both ways. I meant that both options are on the table and he’s looking for the best deal for his team. If there’s a great Rondo trade for the Celtics, he’ll do it. If there isn’t, he’s not in firesale mode, he’s not moving players like Rondo or Paul Pierce for the sake of shaking up the team.
It comes down to this question: Do you think this Celtics roster, playing well, can win a title?
Boston fans do. They note how they took Miami seven games in the Eastern Conference finals last season. Ainge thought enough of it to bring back Kevin Garnett and everyone not named Ray Allen, plus get a deeper bench.
I’m not sold they can do it. Not close. While Boston had a few reserves injured last season they got to play a Hawks team without Al Horford, a not-that-great Philly team (which was there because the Bulls’ Derrick Rose blew out his knee) and then they got four games against Miami without Chris Bosh. Everything broke their way, I doubt it does again.
But my gut is still Boston makes a run with this group again. They may tweak around the edges but not at the core of the squad. And in a conference where every team has flaws, they could get back to the Eastern Conference finals. Although I think second round and out is more likely (with a loss to the Pacers or Knicks). If Ainge thinks they are second round and out, then a bold move could be in order. If a good one falls in his lap.
Russell Westbrook might not want to talk about his supporting cast distinctively, but it’s a real issue for the Thunder, who trail the Rockets 3-1 in their first-round series.
Even Andre Roberson, who has impressively defended James Harden, brings a glaring weakness: free throws. Roberson is 2-for-17 from the line in the playoffs, including 2-for-12 in Game 4 yesterday. Houston even repeatedly intentionally fouled him late.
It was agonizing for all but the most partisan Rockets supporters – though even Houston’s bench, while at least implicitly mocking Roberson, appeared put off that he missed yet again.
Isaiah Thomas previously explained his emotions in a statement, but the Celtics guard spoke publicly yesterday for the first time since the death of his sister in a car crash just before the playoffs.
Thomas, via A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN Northeast:
“Mentally and emotionally I’m not here,” Thomas said after Game 4, the first time he has spoken publicly since his sister’s death. “So I just feed off of what the guys give me. They give me a lot of confidence. I can’t do it without those guys. They believe in me. Being here is what makes me sane and makes me feel somewhat normal through these tough times.”
Thomas has played well for Boston, which won twice in Chicago to even its series with the Bulls, 2-2. It’s remarkable considering the heavy emotional burden and extra travel, going to Seattle for his sister’s funeral then joining the Celtics in Chicago.
His teammates have clearly rallied around him, and that surely helps. But I can’t even imagine how he’s simultaneously handling such a tragic family situation and the biggest games of his career.
Pacers super fan Matt Asen brings his lucky flamingo to each game.
He also annoyed the heck out of Kyrie Irving by trying to hand it, rather than the ball, to the Cavaliers guard.
James Harden didn’t lead the Rockets in scoring in their Game 4 win over the Thunder yesterday.
He didn’t even rank second – or third.
Nene, Eric Gordon and Lou Williams each outscored Harden, who scored 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting, including 0-for-7 on 3-pointers.
What happened to the Houston star?
Calvin Watkins of ESPN:
Houston Rockets star guard James Harden said he has been hobbled by an ankle injury that occurred in Game 3 of this first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Harden made the revelation to ESPN’s Lisa Salters after the Rockets’ 113-109 Game 4 victory on Sunday afternoon.
“It was pretty tough; we don’t make excuses,” Harden said in a news conference when asked about his health. “We just try to go out there and get the job done. You build trust, and trust in your teammates all year long. When there’s moments like this, guys step up and they did tonight. We have another opportunity in a few days to go out there and win on our home court, and we’re going to have to get off to a really good start.”
Many players are grinding through injuries this time of year. Is Harden’s exceptionally bad? There’s no way of telling from the outside.
But he didn’t look quite right in Game 4, and if he’s hobbled, that opens the door slightly wider for Oklahoma City to come back from its 3-1 deficit.