Author: Kurt Helin

Dallas Mavericks beat Washington Wizards 114-87

Rajon Rondo: “I haven’t played defense in a couple of years”


Consider this praise for Avery Bradley or a damnation of the Eastern Conference. Or, a little of both.

Dallas traded for Rajon Rondo in part because they needed to get better defensively to have any shot at advancing in the Western Conference playoffs. And so far so good — the Mavericks’ defense has been a whopping 12 points per 100 possessions better with Rondo on the court that with him sitting (just six games, so small sample size alert). In the last five games as a team Dallas’ defense is 3.1 points per 100 better and Rondo had good games against John Wall and Russell Westbrook.

Rondo was asked about being a defensive focal point and had an interesting answer, as reported by

“I haven’t played defense in a couple of years. I’ve been able to hide it a lot with Avery Bradley on the ball. He’s helped me out, the young guy. But here they expect me to play defense. And in the West, if you don’t play defense you’ll get embarrassed every night at the point guard position. I took it as a challenge [for] myself. It’s not just me. It’s my teammates. Our communication is getting a lot better and our coverages are getting better. So it’s the whole team concept, it’s not just me. Obviously people are going to look at the stats and say, ‘Since Rondo’s came there, they’re down seven or eight points or whatever defensively.’ But we still have a lot of room to improve and I believe we’ll still get better defensively.”

So again, the two take aways here:

First, Avery Bradley is a good defender.

Second, in the East you don’t have to play hard defense every night.

We’ll see if Rondo can sustain this level of defense — and pick up his offense, which has slipped — as Dallas moves through the rest of the season.

Rajon Rondo makes return to Boston Friday night

Rajon Rondo
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Back so soon?

Rajon Rondo was traded to Dallas just more than two weeks ago, he’s played just six games for the Mavericks. Yet, thanks to the fun of the NBA schedule, Friday night he’ll back in Boston, where the Celtics have planned a video tribute for the point guard who helped lead the team to the title back in 2008.

Rondo will hear the love from fans and former teammates, Jeff Green told A. Sherrod Blakely of

“He’s a good friend of mine,” Green said. “One of the reasons why I re-signed here. It’ll be good to see him….

Still, Green added, “it’ll be great to see him. The fans are really going to enjoy seeing him. It’ll be weird to see him in a different colored uniform. The reception he’s going to get is well-deserved.”

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Rondo said those fans are what he will miss most about Boston, speaking to Sam Amick of the USA Today.

“It’s one of the best, if not the best, franchises in history as far as winning championships in any sport, and probably the best fans in the world, so I had a great time here in Boston,” Rondo said. “I’m going to miss it. I think the thing I’ll miss probably the most is my teammates, and the fans. I don’t think there are any other fans in sports like Celtic fans.

“They’ve always been fair to me. Even my rookie year, when we were struggling and lost 18 (games) in a row, we still had sold out games and they were very supportive…When I’d walk the streets of Boston, went to restaurants – in other places you might get some negative comments — but I can’t remember one time when I got into it with a fan or someone said something crazy to me or someone I was with, so just a lot of love and a lot of respect that this town has had for me and I’ve tried to show it back.”

Celtics fans who are Comcast Sportsnet New England subscribers who want to watch Rondo’s homecoming on a live stream can follow this link and see it for free.

Rondo is still trying to find his way in the Dallas offense — his assist percentage is down, his shots are up, and that’s not playing to his strength — but the Dallas defense the last five games is 3.1 points per 100 points better with Rondo in the lineup and that was the end of the court they needed him to improve on. Dallas is 4-2 since he entered the lineup.

“(The Celtics) could have shipped me anywhere, and I’m very fortunate to go to a team that’s ready to compete for a title,” Rondo said. “But to play with the talent that I have around me (in Dallas), I think I have a good shot (of succeeding)…It’s very motivating. Things worked out for both teams.”

If things work out, Rondo plans to stay in Dallas when he becomes a free agent this summer, according to reports. But he will have multiple suitors, a number of teams trying to lure an All-Star point guard in league that is more and more perimeter based. How Dallas performs the rest of the season and into the playoffs, how he feels he fits in with the Mavericks, will help him make his choice. As will the money. It’s always about the money.

But that’s July, the future. January 2 will be about the past and a celebration of Rondo’s legacy in Boston.

He will feel the love from fans.

Report: Ownership groups agree to sell 100 percent of Atlanta Hawks

Indiana Pacers v Atlanta Hawks - Game Six

There is no deal in place yet, there is no sale pending. We don’t have answers to little questions such as who is buying the team. Or, how much they are paying. So, there’s a little work left to do.

But ownership groups have reached an agreement for 100 percent of the the Hawks to be sold, according to Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Chris Vivlamore.

It is big news that all three of the often infighting ownership groups have agreed to sell their shares of the team to one controlling owner. That would be huge improvement for the organization, one that in recent years often has been held back by bickering and backstabbing as the owners fought for more power in the organization.

According to person familiar with the situation, agreements have been reached between all three ownership groups of the team. Those agreements have been approved by the league.

The Washington-based group, led by controlling owner Bruce Levenson, announced in September that it would sell its 50.1 stake following the discovery of a racially inflammatory email that rocked the franchise. An independent investigation discovered an e-mail Levenson wrote in 2012 that included racist remarks about the fan base and game operations. Levenson’s partners Ed Peskowitz and Todd Foreman are also stakeholders in the original group known as the Atlanta Spirit.

Agreements are also in place for the Atlanta-based group of Michael Gearon Jr. and Sr., Rutherford Seydel and Beau Turner to sell its stake. The group owned a combined 32.3 percent of the franchise. In addition, the New York-based group, led by Steven Price, has agreed to sell its 17.6 percent stake.

The team is not denying that it is completely for sale, but not confirming it, either.

Again it can’t be understated how much this matters — these three ownership groups cut each other off at the knees and made getting things accomplished difficult because they all fought to have the most say.

The Hawks current majority owners, known as Atlanta Spirit, purchased the Hawks, Atlanta Thrashers and Philips Arena from Turner Broadcasting in 2004. There was infighting and rumors of sales for years, then in 2011 they announced plans to sell the team to Alex Meruelo (who made his money in pizza and real estate), a man who would have become the NBA’s first Hispanic owner. However, financial concerns about Meruelo scuttled the deal and the team came off the market.

Whoever is buying the Hawks — likely for around $750 million or so total, that has been a ballpark number I’ve heard rumored from league sources — is buying a red-hot team.

The Hawks are 23-8 and currently the second seed in the Eastern Conference. Coach Mike Budenholzer has them playing great team basketball with seventh-ranked defense and 11th ranked offense in the NBA and getting All-Star level play out of Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap and the often underrated Al Horford.

Hopefully whoever becomes new owner is smart enough to see that the Hawks finally have a system in place that is working on the court and doesn’t mess with it.

Bulls’ Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson had dunk party in win over Nuggets (VIDEO)

Jimmy Butler

The Bulls beat the Nuggets on New Year’s Day because of their defense — Chicago blocked 18 Nuggets shots. It was a block party.

But a few of the Bulls were putting on an offensive show as well.

Derrick Rose threw the lob give Jimmy Butler the alley-oop, which was two of Butler’s game high 26.

Then there was Taj Gibson. He knows how to follow a miss.

Carmelo Anthony plans to keep on playing through knee pain

New York Knicks v Los Angeles Clippers

Carmelo Anthony just signed a five-year, $124 million contract with the Knicks and he’s a prideful player, he wants to show he’s worth it.

Also, Anthony is currently (and likely will remain) voted in a starter for the Eastern Conference in the All-Star Game — which takes place on the Knicks’ home court of Madison Square Garden. He wants to represent.

Which are two good reasons Carmelo Anthony, while clearly still bothered by his knee, is not about to shut it down for a while. He used different reasons but essentially told Ramona Shelburne of ESPN he’s not going anywhere (in the same article where he defended Derek Fisher as the team’s coach).

“It’s tough. Some days you’re able to do some things, some days you’re not,” Anthony said. “Some days it’s tough to even run around and cut and jump. And then other days I come in and I don’t really feel it. I’m playing because I love to play and I want to play. I know what I can tolerate and what I can’t tolerate. The games I feel like I can’t tolerate it, I’m not going to play.”

Anthony has been honest before, saying he wants to make it to the All-Star Game without taking an extended period off, but he’s not sure he can make it. He also sees surgery as a last resort.

I expect going for the next six weeks Fisher will try to get Anthony more rest — in games and on off days — to try and keep him going. Anthony will play through some pain and do his part.

But don’t be shocked if right after the All-Star Game — if not before — he does shut it down. Likely for the season.

That will hurt the Knicks on the court, but then they are already hurting having lost nine in a row and 19-of-20. If they were going to be terrible this is a good season, this is the one year they own their first-round pick outright (league rules prevented James Dolan from trading everything away).