Miami Heat v Boston Celtics - Game Three

Danny Ainge doesn’t want to trade Pierce, but he’ll listen to your offer

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With Rajon Rondo out for the season and three weeks to the trade deadline, all eyes in Boston fall on GM Danny Ainge:

Is he going to blow the thing up? And if he does, would he really trade Paul Pierce? A guy who wants to retire a Celtic?

Ainge was on WEEI radio and said he doesn’t want to trade Pierce, but…

Here’s the transcript, via Celtics Hub. Ainge was asked if he has talked to Pierce about a trade:

“No, because nothing has been talked about with Paul or discussed. Nothing is close to being done. I too, would like to see Paul Pierce retire as a Celtic. That would be great. We are all attached to Paul. He’s been great for the city, the franchise, each of us individually, he’s been a true pro. Having said that, if something came up I would talk to Paul, but my job is do what’s best for the Boston fans, and what’s best for the Boston Celtic team, regardless of my personal ties and personal relationships with players.”

Ainge never shows his cards in these interviews but I believe him here. He doesn’t want to trade Pierce, but if some team calls up with a great offer he has to consider it. That’s what any GM should do.

But when it comes time to pull the trigger on a guy the franchise and fan base is sentimentally attached to (plus can still play the game), that’s another story. I just don’t see him trading Pierce. The thought of him in a color other than green just seems wrong.

Report: Khris Middleton could return to Bucks before All-Star break

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 16:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 16, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. 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.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Bucks projected Khris Middleton to miss about 70 games when he tore his hamstring before the season. That extended absence often leads players just to shut down for the year, but Middleton vowed to return in time for the playoffs.

He might get back far sooner than that.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star ‎break.

Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.

The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.

Isaiah Thomas nutmegs Knicks center Marshall Plumlee (video)

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Isaiah Thomas usually saves his best play for the fourth quarter, but the Celtics guard showed out early with this pass between Marshall Plumlee‘s legs to get Kelly Olynyk a layup.

Thomas uncharacteristically just didn’t have enough late. Though he scored 39 points, he shot just 2-for-9 in the final period, as the Knicks pulled away for a 117-106 win.

Kevin Durant misses dunk so hard, ball flies past halfcourt (video)

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Kevin Durant played great in the Warriors’ win over the Thunder last night, but – perhaps fueled by excess emotion – he missed this incredibly emphatic dunk attempt.

Later, Russell Westbrook showed his former teammate how to do it (sparking their apparent conversation):

James Harden outduels Giannis Antetokounmpo as they produce fantastic highlight video

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James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo met in a battle of two of the NBA’s best point guards. (Still weird to say.) The final lines:

  • Harden: 38 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 blocks
  • Antetokounmpo: 32 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks

The winner? Harden and the Rockets, who topped the Bucks, 111-92.

But the real winner? Anyone who gets to watch this highlight video. It just gets better as it goes.