Celtics coach Brad Stevens tells players he won’t talk to them about trade rumors

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The Celtics have been better than most expected through the first 27 games of the season, and thanks to playing in the dreadful Atlantic Division, their 12-15 record has them sitting at the four seed in the Eastern Conference standings.

That isn’t likely to last all year long, however, and being three games under .500 is not really acceptable when considering the long-term future of the franchise.

Boston was rumored to be active in trade discussions with Houston for Omer Asik earlier in the week, and how close they got to getting a deal done is something that will only be truly known by the people in the two teams’ front offices. Being in a rebuilding situation, the Celtics will likely have talks with many teams leading up to the Feb. 20 trade deadline, and head coach Brad Stevens doesn’t want his players focusing on what might happen when so much can change over the next couple of months.

From Brian Robb of ESPN Boston:

“Here’s what I told them today and I think it’s important,” Stevens explained, “I’m not going to talk to them about anything that is a rumor. But if I know something, my door is always open. They can come in and I’ll tell them straight up what I know, but the bottom line is, we live in a world that every day because of technology, we can better clutter our mind.”

Stevens continued: “The deal is, you can’t play basketball without a clear mind. And so you’ve got to do your best to control what you can, clear your mind, and not get too overly concerned about things that are not confirmed by people in the position that are ultimately going to make decisions.”

It’s easier said than done, of course, with the players having to deal with questions about any reported talks anytime a new situation presents itself. As a head coach, Stevens wants his players as distraction-free as possible, so refusing to discuss every rumor that comes up is probably the right approach.

Devin Booker drops 70 points for Suns in loss to Celtics (VIDEO)

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Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker is just 20 years old. He’s a League Pass favorite, and indeed he should be a favorite in Phoenix for years to come. On Friday, Booker dropped 70 points — yes, 70 — in a loss to the Boston Celtics.

Booker’s 70 points is the best outing of the season. It also made him the youngest player to ever reach 70 points.

His final stat line, as you might imagine, was ridiculous. Booker shot 21-of-40 from the field, going 4-of-11 on 3-pointers and a whopping 24-of-26 from the free-throw line. The Suns phenom also grabbed eight rebounds to go with six assists.

Despite the loss to Boston, 130-120, it’s still an incredible milestone for Phoenix and for Booker. There’s a bright spot out there for the Suns.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon skies to finish amazing alley-oop (VIDEO)

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Aaron Gordon may not have had the best dunk contest this year — apparently drones and dunks don’t mix well — but the guy can still get up and finish with the best in the league.

As he did on this alley-oop against Detroit.

Elfrid Payton had to throw a lob that would get over Andre Drummond, but how many guys in the league can get that high, reach back and finish that? Damn.

Former Hawk Pero Antic’s celebration accidentally punches teammate in face in Eruoleague (VIDEO)

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Former Atlanta Hawk Pero Antic is now playing for Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahce, in case you were not aware.

Fenerbahce was facing Anadolu Efes in a EuroLeague game, it was tight late and former NBA player Ekpe Udoh was at the free throw line for Fenerbahce. He missed his second shot, but the rebound caromed out-of-bounds off an Anadolu Efes player. Antic was pumped.

Maybe a little too pumped.

Ouch.

That was Nikola Kalinic, by the way, the guy Antic now owes dinner to. Kalinic would like the dinner more than the hug and kiss he got from Antic right after the play.

Also, Anadolu Efes held on to win 80-77.

(Hat tip to Ball Don’t Lie.)

James Harden helped recruit Lou Williams to Houston

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The Lakers had been shopping Lou Williams around in the run-up to the trade deadline, the only question was would they get a first-round pick for him. Rumors around the league say that Houston had offered them one weeks before, it was on the table, but the Jim Buss/Mitch Kupchak front office held their cards close and hoped a better deal would come through.

While all that was going on James Harden decided to ease the process and did a little recruiting calling up Williams, the sixth-man guard told Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

“When James called, he asked me if I was interested in playing with them,” Williams told The Vertical. “I told him that I loved the Lakers, but James and them have a group that fit my personality, fit how I play. He said he was going to make it happen.”

Williams then laughed, sitting on the edge of a visiting court following a recent practice. “I’ve heard that before, so I didn’t really put stock into it,” Williams told The Vertical. “I guess James did put the word in, and the team made it happen.”

We all know what happened, Jeanie Buss removed her brother and Kupchak a few days before the trade deadline, Magic Johnston stepped in, called around, and quickly pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Williams to Houston (the Lakers also got Corey Brewer). Williams has averaged 14.5 points per game and had some strong performances with the Rockets, although he’s still finding his groove with the team on the court. Still, he’s been an upgrade for the Rockets’ bench.

Harden knew he would be, so he did his part to make sure it happened.