Report: GMs around the league expect Celtics to trade Rondo

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Rajon Rondo made his return to the court on Friday in Boston’s loss to the Lakers, so now that he’s back playing, the reports have already begun to ramp back up that the Celtics will look to trade him as soon as the right offer comes along, largely because he won’t fit into the team’s rebuilding plans.

Except I’m not necessarily buying it.

We’ll get to that part in a moment, but first, here’s the latest from Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News:

Rondo is the last blue chip from the 2008 championship team and 2010 Finals team that Celtics president Danny Ainge can convert into assets as he rebuilds the franchise. More than a few GMs around the league expect Rondo to be on the move, if not at the trading deadline next month, then maybe in June at draft time. …

Rondo probably isn’t going to accept a role in a rebuilding situation with a rookie coach, Brad Stevens, so look for Ainge to try to move him to the West, with Phoenix and Houston seen as two potential destinations. Dallas has always had interest in the four-time All-Star, who blew out his right knee last January, but Mark Cuban doesn’t have the assets to make it work.

A lot of maybe and probably in there, and despite what some GMs may expect, it’s far from certain that the Celtics will look to trade Rondo this season or this summer.

Let’s start with the rookie head coach part — Rondo has already bonded with Brad Stevens, saying the two had become best friends long before the season began. Things can change once he’s actually playing, of course, but Rondo hasn’t mentioned one word about having a problem with the rebuilding situation or his new head coach.

Speaking of the rebuild, Rondo isn’t exactly a grizzled veteran — he’s a four-time All-Star who’s now in his eighth season. Bad teams need to acquire stars at some point to begin the winning process, and the Celtics have a good one in Rondo already in place. He’s experienced winning and has done so in Boston, which gives him credibility among younger teammates while taking over the leadership responsibilities.

If a team comes calling with a package that’s too good to pass up, then yes, the Celtics will trade Rondo. The fact that they’re in a rebuilding mode, however, doesn’t mean that they’re going to look to expedite that process.

Russell Westbrook on Rockets laughing at Andre Roberson missing free throws: ‘Probably the guys that don’t play’

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The Rockets bench made a big production when an intentionally fouled Andre Roberson kept missing free throws in the Thunder’s Game 4 loss to the Rockets yesterday.

Russell Westbrook stuck up for his teammate.

Royce Young of ESPN:

Westbrook:

I didn’t see it. I didn’t see it at all. Probably the guys that don’t play, probably over there the ones laughing, if I had to guess.

Good guess. It appears Montrezl Harrell and Bobby Brown – whose only playing time this series came late in Houston’s blowout Game 1 win – led the jeers.

But the most important thing for the Thunder is Roberson making his free throws. They need him on the court to defend James Harden, which exposes him to hacking. If Westbrook deflecting attention onto the Rockets’ benchwarmers helps Roberson at the line, great. But if not, the Rockets will keep having reasons to laugh.

Magic Johnson winks at bringing Paul George to Lakers

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Paul George-to-the-Lakers rumors have swirled for a while.

New Lakers president Magic Johnson will only fuel them.

Asked how he’d interact with the Pacers star to avoid tampering if they ran into each other, Johnson said on Jimmy Kimmel Live:

We’re going to say hi, because we know each other. You just can’t say, “Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,” even though I’m going to be wink-winking like [blinks repeatedly]. You know what that means, right?

In explaining how he’d avoid tampering, Johnson probably tampered. Accidental tampering appears to be his specialty.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement says team employees can’t permissibly “induce, persuade, or attempt to entice, induce or persuade, any Player who is under contract to, or whose exclusive negotiating rights are held by, any other Member of the Association to enter into negotiations for or relating to his services or negotiate or contract for such services.” But the league arbitrarily enforces tampering, so who knows whether he’ll be punished?

Johnson almost certainly could have gotten away with the hypothetical conversation he laid out. But going on television and describing it — even as fantasy, even not directly to George — could constitute tampering in itself,

If Johnson helps attract George to Los Angeles, it’d well be worth it. At least he’s trying something.

Report: Austin Rivers returning for Clippers-Jazz Game 5

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There have been bigger injuries in the Clippers-Jazz first-round series: Blake Griffin‘s toe, Rudy Gobert‘s knee and Gordon Hayward‘s stomach.

But Clippers guard Austin Rivers has yet to play due to a strained hamstring.

It sounds as if that will change tomorrow.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

This is neither as big a deal as the Clippers will make it out to be nor as meaningless as Rivers’ many detractors will claim.

The 6-foot-4 Rivers will provide an important defensive upgrade on the perimeter. The Clippers haven’t successfully hidden Jamal Crawford and Raymond Felton, allowing Utah too many quality looks. Here how the Jazz have shot when defended by each, per NBA.com:

  • Crawford: 18-of-36 (50%), including 7-of-17 on 3-pointers (41%)
  • Felton: 13-of-24 (54%), including 5-of-8 on 3-pointers (63%)

Rivers needn’t be great to help behind Chris Paul and J.J. Redick.

Rockets bench hams it up over Andre Roberson missed free throw (video)

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Russell Westbrook might not want to talk about his supporting cast distinctively, but it’s a real issue for the Thunder, who trail the Rockets 3-1 in their first-round series.

Even Andre Roberson, who has impressively defended James Harden, brings a glaring weakness: free throws. Roberson is 2-for-17 from the line in the playoffs, including 2-for-12 in Game 4 yesterday. Houston even repeatedly intentionally fouled him late.

It was agonizing for all but the most partisan Rockets supporters – though even Houston’s bench, while at least implicitly mocking Roberson, appeared put off that he missed yet again.