Kobe includes Rajon Rondo when discussing future Hall of Famers who played for 2010 Celtics

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Kobe Bryant is still a spectator these days, not expecting to return from the fractured bone in his knee until sometime in February.

With his Lakers taking on the Celtics in Boston on Friday, memories of better times were brought to the surface, and Bryant was among those sad to see the Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett era end when the Celtics chose to trade them to Brooklyn to begin the rebuilding process.

As Bryant explained his reasons why, he mentioned the 2010 team that took the Lakers to seven games, before ultimately falling in the NBA Finals. And when counting the number of future Hall of Famers he played against that year in the championship round to take home the title, Bryant said there were four — which implied that Rajon Rondo was included in his statement.

From Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald:

“When we played against them, you saw really good basketball,” Kobe said. “You saw smart players, unselfish players who played both ends of the floor, multi-faceted players.

“So of course I’d hoped for a team like that to stick together, because that’s the maximum level of competition that you’re going to have. I mean, that 2010 series is my favorite series of all time, just because it was the most competitive one. It was the most difficult one. I mean, we’re going against four future Hall of Famers. That doesn’t happen too often.”

Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen are indeed Hall of Fame locks. Rondo, however, would appear to have a long way to go to reach that lofty designation.

Among active players, Basketball Reference lists Rondo as 23rd in terms of Hall of Fame probability, with just a 21.37 percent chance of finishing his career at that level. That feels about right at this point, even though Rondo has exhibited an elite IQ for the game, and has proven capable of coming up big in its biggest moments when the opportunity has presented itself.

Bryant is the only player on that list with a 100 percent probability, even though Tim Duncan in second at 99.9 percent is a shoe-in, as well. So if he sees that quality in Rondo, it’s worth taking notice, even if the Celtics guard would need several more years and many more career accomplishments to eventually earn Hall of Fame honors.

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.