Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett return to Boston for first time as Brooklyn Nets

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BOSTON – Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett return to Boston today as conquering heroes.

Centerpieces of the Celtics’ 2008 championship team, Pierce and Garnett will always be heroes of the past for fans here.

But now, they’ve gone from goats to heroes of the present with the Brooklyn Nets, who are an NBA-best 9-1 in 2014.

“We got them going,” Kendrick Perkins, another member of the 2008 title team, said with twinge of pride in his voice.

Indeed, Perkins’ Oklahoma City Thunder lost to the Nets on Jan. 2 to begin Brooklyn’s hot streak. As the Nets have climbed back toward respectability, Pierce’s and Garnett’s production has climbed, too.

But when Brooklyn visits Boston at 6:30 p.m. (ESPN), that likely won’t matter to the home fans. Regardless how Pierce and Garnett are playing, the crowd will almost certainly top even the reception they gave Doc Rivers last month:

Unlike Rivers’ return, the point guard of the 2008 team – Rajon Rondo, whom Garnett said he’d do anything for – should be in the lineup tonight. The bond those players still share is tight, and them facing each other on the court will make the game even more memorable.

At one point, it wasn’t a certainty Rondo would return from his ACL injury in time. Perkins said he speaks with Rondo nearly every day.

“He seemed a little nervous. He was a little scared,” Perkins said. “Every little thing was bother him and stuff like that. But I told him, ‘There’s nothing wrong with you.’ ‘I keep hearing this and this.’ You know how he gets. I had to tell him, once he gets back on the court, everything else goes out the window.”

Before Rondo got on the court and felt fine in his season debut – Perkins called Rondo afterward to confirm, as predicted, everything went smoothly – the Celtics named Rondo the 15th captain in franchise history.

“It’s his team,” Perkins said. “He did learn, so he should know how to be a leader.”

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

Associated Press
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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.