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.”

Bulls claim PG Kay Felder off waivers

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The Bulls’ point-guard position is a quagmire.

Kris Dunn and Cameron Payne are both injured (and not necessarily good). Jerian Grant is maybe an adequate backup pressed into starting. Ryan Arcidiacono is on a two-way contract.

Enter Kay Felder.

Bulls release:

The Chicago Bulls announced today that the team has waived forward Jarell Eddie and center Diamond Stone, and claimed guard Kay Felder off waivers.

Felder was waived by the Hawks, who acquired him in a salary-dump trade from the Cavaliers. Cleveland drafted Felder No. 54 last year, but ran out of roster spots this year.

Felder is only a moderate prospect. He impressed in the D-League, but at 5-foot-9, he has significant limitations. (His size also makes him incredibly fun to watch when he gets rolling.)

For Chicago, he’s a quite-noteworthy addition.

LeBron James: ‘I still got Pandora with commercials’

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Dwyane Wade revealed last year that LeBron James refuses to use his phone internationally unless he’s on Wi-Fi.

LeBron’s friend and new Cavaliers teammate again brought up that claim, and LeBron confirmed – then went even further about his own cheapness.

LeBron in a joint interview with Wade on ESPN:

No. I’m not doing that. I’m not turning on data roaming. I’m not buying no apps. I still got Pandora with commercials.

LeBron – he’s just like us!

As funny as that line is, keep watching to see LeBron hilariously explain how his hairline affects his interviews.

PBT Extra: LeBron as MVP and other NBA postseason award predictions

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Last year, Russell Westbrook had a historic season on his way to the MVP award, with James Harden and Kawhi Leonard right on his heels. But heading into this season, the dynamic for MVP — and many of the NBA awards — feels very different and wide open.

In this latest PBT Extra, I lay out my preseason predictions for every award — LeBron James for MVP, Ben Simmons for Rookie of the Year, and on down the list. There are a few leaps and surprises in there (predicting Most Improved or Sixth Man before the season is a crap shoot, so why not gamble).

Now the predictions season is over, let’s get on to the games.

Jazz: Dante Exum undergoing surgery after shoulder injury

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Jazz point guard Dante Exum hurt his shoulder in a preseason game – an injury that immediately looked like it could be season-ending.

Though Utah doesn’t outright say Exum is done for the year, this doesn’t engender much hope.

Jazz release:

The following is a medical update on Utah Jazz guard Danté Exum who suffered a separated left shoulder on October 6 vs. Phoenix.

After further evaluation, Exum (6-6, 190, Australia) has elected to undergo surgery to stabilize the AC joint of his left shoulder. The surgery is scheduled to take place Tuesday, October 24 in Los Angeles. Further updates will be provided when appropriate.

Exum (obviously) didn’t receive a contract extension before today’s deadline, so he’ll become a free agent next summer. After one full missed season already and two years of limited effectiveness, it’s not even clear Utah will extend Exum a qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent. The former No. 5 pick almost certainly won’t meet the starter criteria, which means his qualifying offer would be worth $4,333,931 (down from $6,619,903 based on his draft slot).

The Jazz will start Ricky Rubio, and Raul Neto will be the primary point guard behind him. Wings Rodney Hood, Alec Burks, Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles can all share facilitating duties.

Utah will probably be just fine without Exum this season, which speaks to his marginal place long-term.