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.

Damian Lillard dismisses playoff expectations as pressure, says it insults regular people

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The Portland Trail Blazers have had a disappointing season thus far. The team is just 34-38 before their game with the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, and they’re battling it out for the last spot in the Western Conference playoffs with the Denver Nuggets.

This comes as after expectations rose greatly following the 2015-16 campaign which saw the Blazers finish 44-38, good enough for the No. 5 spot in the West.

Portland has looked better after trading Mason Plumlee to Denver in exchange for Jusuf Nurkic, but it might be too little too late. Meanwhile, team leader Damian Lillard isn’t bowing to the idea that last season’s good fortune raised the bar so much that it put undue pressure on his team.

Speaking with Sporting News, Lillard said he thinks the idea is really more about pressure vs. challenges.

Via SN:

Pressure, nah. Fam, this is just playing ball. Pressure is the homeless man, who doesn’t know where his next meal is coming from. Pressure is the single mom, who is trying to scuffle and pay her rent. We get paid a lot of money to play a game. Don’t get me wrong — there are challenges. But to call it pressure is almost an insult to regular people.

Look at the Wizards, they were kind of on the same wave as us. Didn’t even make the playoffs while we did. Now this year they’re the second-best team in the East. The adversity made them better. It can make us better, too. What I come from and my background made me who I am. As comfortable as I am with the good times, I’m also comfortable in adversity. Yeah, I might feel some type of way when somebody comes for me or says my name. But when it’s all said and done, it ain’t gonna rock me.

This is interesting to hear an NBA player say out loud. One, because I’m not sure I entirely believe it. You can have pressure without it having to be something that threatens your overall wellbeing.

Then again, maybe we’re arguing linguistics here. There’s definitely a different emotion from, say, trying to make sure you make rent and aren’t evicted to the street vs. trying to make the NBA playoffs. If one emotion is being defined as pressure, it makes sense to call the other a challenge.

It’s also interesting to hear an NBA player speak in those kinds of terms. There are a few guys around the league who seem to be relatively grounded and give out quotes like this from time-to-time. The absurdity of the NBA — playing games, making millions, and having folks worship you — would easily bend reality for most of us.

In any case, the challenge of making the playoffs for Portland is not going to be an easy one to overcome. Going into Sunday’s matchup with the Lakers, the Trail Blazers are a game behind Denver for the final spot.

Portland will face Denver on Tuesday, March 28 in perhaps their most important game of the season.

Kobe Bryant’s “Musecage” is like if Sesame Street had an NBA film room (VIDEO)

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Kobe Bryant’s video “Musecage” aired on ESPN on Sunday, and it’s one of the craziest things I’ve watched on an NBA broadcast. That includes watching Kobe’s own alley-oop to Shaquille O’Neal in Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals.

Someone on Twitter called it a “drug-fueled Muppet nightmare” but that’s selling short how remarkable the video was. In it, Kobe delivered a message about finding motivation as a young basketball player alongside a talking “Lil’ Mamba” puppet.

But here’s where it gets good: this video was made true to Kobe’s own person. Despite the happy, glockenspiel-laden background music with puppet accompaniment, Kobe’s message in “Musecage” was to use the dark part of your psyche as motivation to conquer your enemies.

I’m dead serious.


It doesn’t get any more Kobe than that.

The first video ends with Kobe’s advice to Lil’ Mamba, who goes off to become strong by using the dark musings as his fuel. Meanwhile, the second video talks about — and I’m not kidding — tactics James Harden and Russell Westbrook use to defeat their opponents in the pick-and-roll.

It’s like if Sesame Street was also a film room session.

Needless to say, all 10 minutes of Musecage are incredible. I don’t mean that in any sarcastic way, either. Bryant has been working on his Canvas series for a while, and his message shines true to the person we’ve known for the last two decades.

Use your happy feelings to push yourself? No! Use self-doubt as a motivator to Jawface your way through to six championship rings.

He debuted the original episode on Christmas Day, and it too had a kid-friendly feel.

I literally cannot wait for the next edition in this series.

Mark Cuban on Blake Griffin’s fall vs. JJ Barea: “We sent flowers to his family, condolences”

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The Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers got into a bit of a scuffle the other night during their game. Clippers big man Blake Griffn and Mavericks PG JJ Barea tussled, with Barea earning a Flagrant 2 and an ejection for putting his hands on Griffin’s neck and pushing him to the ground.

It really was a sight to see, whether Griffin flopped or not.

Meanwhile, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was asked about the incident and responded with some heavy sarcasm that feels par for the course.

Via Twitter:

Griffin does have a bit of a reputation for acting and flopping, and Barea is hilariously undersized compared to him. Then again, the throat is a vulnerable area. Who knows if the fall was real or fake?

I’m just glad Cuban has a sense of humor about it.

Watch Derrick Rose leave Patty Mills standing still with eurostep, huge dunk

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New York Knicks point guard Derrick Rose still has some explosivity left in his legs. Against the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday night, the former MVP left Spurs guard Patty Mills standing still on a thunderous dunk.

The play came in the fourth quarter with Rose on the break and Mills the only Spurs player defending the basket. Rose had a full head of steam, and it appeared Mills was going to for the charge call.

Rose then craftily eurostepped his way around Mills, leading to the jam.

San Antonio beat New York, 106-98.