With Rondo out, Garnett/Pierce era in Boston must come to an end

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I don’t like the phrase “blow it up” because that implies something rash and destructive long term. Blowing something up leaves a big hole that is hard to climb out of. That’s not how the Boston Celtics operate. They are one of the NBA’s premiere franchises in part because they get the big picture.

But it’s time to turn the page.

The Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce era of the Celtics must come to a close.

When GM Danny Ainge re-signed Garnett last summer, when he went out and got Jason Terry and Courtney Lee, it was with the dream of making another run at a title with Pierce and Garnett as part of the team’s core. They had gone seven games with Miami in the Eastern Conference finals last year, they just wanted to take one more step. Instead this season they have looked like a team that is stumbling.

With Rajon Rondo out for this season with a torn ACL in his right knee, any dream they could find their stride is dead. The already struggling Boston offense is going to get worse long term. If they make the playoffs it will be one and done, despite their defense.

But it’s not just this season — the Rondo injury also basically kills next season, too.

Garnett (age 36) and Pierce (35) already are not young and will be a year older. Following the timeline for return we saw from Ricky Rubio and are expected to see from Derrick Rose, we can expect Rondo back around Christmas — but the guy who comes back will not be the Rondo you are used to seeing. Watch Rubio play and you can see he doesn’t move the same yet, he doesn’t trust his knee the same way, he’s not the same player. That takes time. It’s true of every player you see return from an ACL. It will take Rondo much longer to be back close to his old self.

Boston can’t wait a couple years then try to make a run with this group again.

Turn the page.

That means start looking at trades for everyone on the roster. Everyone. The thought of the Celtics talisman Paul Pierce in a Mavericks or Rockets or whatever uniform seems uncomfortably strange, but it has to be considered. Then the trigger pulled when the right offer comes in. Same for Garnett.

Understand, however, that the offers are not going to be great. Nobody gives you quality young players for old ones, not anymore in today’s stiffer luxury tax world. There is no single home-run trade here, not for the assets the Celtics have one the table. Plus, the Celtics are going to want to bring down their payroll now, not add to it (unless it’s the right player).

Boston, don’t rush into a deal, don’t make big move at the trade deadline to make a move. The offers that will come in first will be the vultures looking to pick clean the team’s carcass, Ainge needs to hang up on those calls.

But eventually, maybe this summer, more reasonable offers will come in. And Ainge has to consider them. The team as currently constructed is never going to win an NBA title or get close to it again. If banner 18 is the goal in Boston — and you know it is — you start the rebuilding process.

This is Boston — you can reload faster than most franchises. It’s a big market franchise with a great history and is a place great players want to be. You can make another deal eventually like the ones made to bring Ray Allen and Garnett in back in the summer of 2007.

But that process has to start now. Remember the past, but don’t hang on to it just for the sake of nostalgia.

Turn the page.

Jimmy Butler on Marcus Smart dustup: ‘He’s not about that life. So, he’s calming down’

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Marcus Smart and Jimmy Butler had to be separated during the Celtics’ Game 4 win over the Bulls after Smart pushed Butler, who was hounding him defensively in the backcourt.

Butler:

As far as the Marcus Smart situation goes, he’s a great actor. Acting tough, that’s what he does. But I don’t think he’s about that, and I’m the wrong guy to get in my face. So, he needs to take it somewhere else because I’m not the one for that.

Was that their first run-in? Butler:

That’s the first time. Last time, too. We’re not going to sit here and get in each other’s faces like that. Like I said, he’s not about that life. So, he’s calming down.

The Bulls, who’ve lost two straight to allow Boston to tie the series 2-2, is angling for any edge. Butler tried to intimidate Smart on the court, and the Chicago wing might actually rattle the too easily shakable Smart with his postgame comments.

The irony: Some might say Butler, who did come up hard, lost touch with his roots as he entered stardom. I don’t buy that, at least not majorly.

But even if both – or neither – are posturing to any degree, this will be a matchup to watch in Game 5.

Remembering former NBA official Jess Kersey, who passed away Saturday

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Jess Kersey, who officiated more than 2,200 NBA games, including being part of 19 NBA Finals, passed away over the weekend, losing his battle with cancer at age 76.

Kersey was a well-respected official who feared nothing. Maybe the most remembered image of Kersey is him trying to break up a fight between Mitch Kupchak and Hakeem Olajuwon, essentially trying to tackle Olajuwon with his head in Olajuwon’s chest and his arms wrapped around him. Kersey got in the middle of everything if that was what was required.

Our thoughts go out to the Kersey family for their loss.

Bulls Fred Hoiberg complains Isaiah Thomas gets away with palming. Thomas shrugs.

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The Boston Celtics have evened their series with Chicago Bulls, and more than that seem to have been able to take the Bulls best punch and now are responding.

At the heart of that is Boston All-Star Isaiah Thomas, who had 33 points on Sunday. He was attacking and getting into the heart of the Bulls defense all night, telling Michael Carter-Williams “you can’t guard me” so many times Thomas got a technical. Thing is, Thomas was right. No Bull has been able to guard Thomas the past two games.

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said the reason for that is the officials let him get away with a palming the ball when dribbling. Via Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.com (video above).

“Let me say this: Isaiah Thomas is a hell of a player, an unbelievable competitor, a warrior, everything he’s going through right now. He had a hell of a game tonight,” Hoiberg said. “When you’re allowed to discontinue your dribble on every possession, he’s impossible to guard. Impossible to guard. When you’re able to put your hand underneath the ball, take two or three steps and put it back down. It’s impossible to guard him in those situations.”

I liked the follow-up comment from the reporter (not on the video), which was essentially “the league doesn’t call that on anyone, so that’s your complaint?” Thomas doesn’t get away with palming any more than any other ball handler in the league. If you want to define the rule by a 1950s standard then yes, he does carry, but so does pretty much every Bulls’ ball handler. So does 3/4 of the league by that measure.

Fortunately, Hoiberg never had to coach against Allen Iverson or he might have completely lost it watching him dribble.

This came off as a desperation ploy by Hoiberg. Or it was the worst attempt ever at a “take that for data” rant ever.

Thomas, for his part, basically shrugged when told about it.

When told about Hoiberg’s comments, Thomas said, “That’s not the reason. It is what it is. I guess (Hoiberg) is just going to continue to say it. I’ve been dribbling that way my whole life, I don’t know what to say to that.”

Joe Johnson dominates late, Jazz beat Clippers 105-98 to even series 2-2

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Rudy Gobert was back at center, giving the Jazz an emotional boost and someone who can match up with DeAndre Jordan (although Gobert wasn’t moving like his normal self).

Gordon Hayward had to leave the game with food poisoning.

It didn’t matter, the Jazz had Joe Johnson. The veteran forward who knows how to get buckets scored or assisted on 20 straight points for Utah in the fourth, sparking a run that got the Jazz a 105-98 come-from-behind win.

The series is now tied 2-2, heading back to Los Angeles for Game 5 Tuesday.

When people talk about Johnson, the first thing that seems to come up is the oversized contract Atlanta gave him, but they forget this is a seven-time All-Star. He was nicknamed “iso-joe” because of how Mike Woodson’s offense used him heavily in isolation for the Hawks, but that was playing to the strength of his skill set. He can get buckets. Just ask the Clippers, as Johnson finished with 28.

The return of Gobert, a quietly strong game from Derrick Favors, plus maybe something else (like the heavy load last game) seemed to wear on DeAndre Jordan, who was not as sharp as normal in this one. The Clippers again leaned on Chris Paul — 27 points, 12 assists, nine rebounds — and Jamal Crawford who had 25 points off the bench. However, take those two out of the equation and the rest of the Clippers shot just 34.2 percent against that elite Jazz defense. In the fourth quarter, the entire Clippers’ team shot 31.4 percent total.

Utah got good performances from their role players, who stepped up with Hayward out. Rodney Hood had 18 points and some key buckets in the fourth. Then there was Joe Ingles, who defended CP3 for stretches, was a force getting where he wanted on the pick-and-roll leading to 11 assists, plus he had two key threes down the stretch.

The Clippers clearly missed Blake Griffin in some of these matchups, but Los Angeles is going to have to adjust to that in this series because he’s not returning.

This series is even and feels like it may well go seven. The Clippers have two out of the remaining three at home, and they have the best player in the series in Chris Paul. All that may not be enough if the Jazz role players keep stepping up.