Report: Celtics and Mavericks have talked trade for Rajon Rondo

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A report surfaced on Saturday that the Celtics and Mavericks had engaged in trade talks for the one remaining All-Star asset in Boston, Rajon Rondo.

It didn’t come from one of the usual suspects in terms of reporters we’re used to seeing break this kind of news, but a report from DallasBasketball.com is always credible.

It caused some of the more familiar names to weigh in on a possible Rondo-to-Dallas deal, and for a variety of reasons, it doesn’t appear likely to happen — at least not in these very early stages of free agency.

The problem for now is that the Mavericks are going to be at the front of the line, along with the Houston Rockets, in trying to recruit Dwight Howard to leave Los Angeles and sign a max contract to play in Dallas next season. The Celtics’ asking price for Rondo remains high, and in this current round of talks, Boston wants the Mavericks to take on some bad contracts to help the rebuilding process if they’re going to part ways with their highly-coveted, elite point guard.

These two issues likely mean a deal isn’t on the horizon anytime soon where Rondo and the Mavericks are concerned.

From Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:

Mavs would love having Rajon Rondo to chase Dwight Howard, but Boston needs Dallas to take multiple contracts off its books, sources say.

As Dallasbasketball.com says, Celts/Mavs talked some Rondo. Celtics like Larkin, but how do Mavs take contracts and keep space for Howard?

Exactly — they can’t.

And from Marc Stein of ESPN.com:

Mavs undeniably fans of Rondo, as @fishsports reported, but “trade talks” to this point have gone nowhere because Celts want only one Mav

Mavs: We’re interested in Rondo. Celts: We want Dirk. So: More teams gotta jump in or Boston gotta budge for meaningful talks to take place

You never say never, but it’s tough to see Dallas ever parting ways with Nowitzki given all he’s meant to the franchise, and the close relationship he has with Mark Cuban.

If you’re wondering what a rebuilding Celtics team would want with a high-priced, 14-year veteran, keep in mind that Nowitzki’s contract expires after next season, which would clear $22.7 million in cap space for the Celtics to play with in 2014-15.

Dallas isn’t going to do anything in free agency until the pitch has been made to Howard, and they have an idea of where they stand. Once Dwight decides on his future, then the Mavericks can begin to shape theirs, at which time they may re-explore their options where Rondo is concerned.

James Harden reveals he’s playing through ankle injury

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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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.

Video Breakdown: Rockets launch Eric Gordon from 3-point range against Thunder in Game 4

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The Houston Rockets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday, 113-109, and now the series heads back to Texas with the Rockets in the lead, 3-1.

Houston and OKC played a weird game, with Nene scoring 28 points off the bench for the Rockets and serious mischief in the final moments. The end of the game included a purposely missed free throw by Steven Adams that allowed Russell Westbrook to grab a quick 3-pointer and a missed call when James Harden shoved Alex Abrines out of the way like an NFL tackle.

While the Rockets didn’t shoot a stellar percentage from 3-point range — just 31.5 percent — they still knocked down 11 buckets from deep. Part of that action was a play run for Sixth Man of the Year candidate Eric Gordon that included a little semi-Pistol action, and a stagger screen that allowed Gordon to work his way free.

I picked this play to go over this week because it exemplifies just how committed to the 3-point shot the Rockets are. Plus, Gordon ran around three screens just to get this one bucket, which is always fun to see.

Watch the full video breakdown above.

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.