Author: Kurt Helin

Boston Celtics v Washington Wizards

Report: Celtics now more willing to trade Rajon Rondo


The only person in professional sports to be named in more trade rumors over the past couple years than Rajon Rondo is the MLB’s “player to be named later.”

That has included this year because Rondo’s contract is up at the end of the season and the Celtics, in the middle of a rebuilding mode, may struggle to keep him. Which means Rondo can’t even go to breakfast with Kobe Bryant without that setting off a flood of baseless rumors.

But not all the rumors that Rondo could be moved are baseless. The Celtics apparently are more serious than ever about moving Rondo, reports Marc Spears at Yahoo Sports.

As much as ever in his nine seasons in Boston, the Celtics have left strong impressions with rival organizations that they’re prepared to make a deal that includes Rondo, sources said. Boston has been engaged in discussions described as “serious” in recent days, but no trade agreement is imminent.

Boston’s asking price for Rondo remains “pretty high, probably higher than most want to pay,” one league official told Yahoo. Trade talks with Rondo have been focused more in the Western Conference than Eastern, sources said.

That asking price could be a real issue. In the past the Celtics have demanded a top 20 type of player in return for Rondo — or a boatload of picks — and even if they bring that price down some in an effort to get a deal done, how much are teams really going to surrender for a player that can walk at the end of the season? Teams can try to make a handshake deal with Rondo about staying wherever he gets traded, but still because he could bolt teams are not likely to give up key pieces.

Plus, Rondo is a point guard and the NBA is stacked like never before with quality ones — a number of teams will not be in the market because they are set at the spot. Just ask Eric Bledsoe.

Still, Rondo can be a key player on a championship team — he has the ring to prove it. He is long, athletic and a very good and disruptive defender on the perimeter. He has great court vision, he has handles and can get in the lane, but when he does he prefers to pass instead of shoot. Rondo is averaging 10.6 assists and 7.5 rebounds a game, but also 8 points a game on 40 percent shooting (and 24 percent from three).

When the Celtics drafted Marcus Smart a lot of people around the league thought they would look to move Rondo. It seems they are serious about trying.

But we’re a long way from a deal getting done.

Kings owner says Malone fired because Kings now need “jazz director”

Oklahoma City at Sacramento

I’m not sure what Kings owner Vivek Ranadive expected when he was seen as the driving force behind the firing of coach Mike Malone, but the general reaction from the locker room to the national media was negative. Count me among those that see this as a confusing step and a rookie mistake by the owner.

Ranadive doesn’t see it that way. Obviously.

Speaking in Sacramento on the matter — after meeting with Mark Jackson, Chris Mullin and DeMarcus Cousins — Ranadive said essentially that Malone had fulfilled his purpose. And he’s right in that when Ranadive bought the team from the Maloof family and kept it in Sacramento the locker room (and much of the organization) was a mess, so he hired Malone to clean up that mess. He brought in Malone to provide that structure the organization needed. Ranadive admits to James Ham of ESPN that Malone did that, but then said because that part of the job was done it was time for a change.

“The NBA has become like the high-tech business,” Ranadive said. Point 4 (of the five points he was making). “Just because you invented the iPhone, doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels, because somebody else is building a better iPhone. Just because you win 50 games, doesn’t mean you can be satisfied with the status quo. Just because you win 16 games in a row, doesn’t mean that you don’t look for Ray Allen to make your team better. So we live in a time when good enough isn’t, and we need to keep getting better. So while we have a good foundation, we needed to pivot. We needed to go….

“Defense is great, but we need defense and offense,” he said. “We need to go from a rules-based organization, which was important when you had chaos, to a values-based organization. From kind of a programmatic offense, to a read-and-respond, free-flowing offense. I like to use a music metaphor. We had a Sousa marching band, which was needed when there was chaos, but now we need to shift to a jazz band, where people can be individually showcased and improvised. What we need is a jazz director. I think that’s the kind of leadership moving forward.”

As a fan of Jazz, I’ve never really heard the term “jazz director” before, because the best jazz doesn’t work like an orchestra with a conductor up front. But I understand what he’s trying to say, so I’ll let that part slide.

And as soon as the Kings do the NBA equivalent of inventing the iPhone, then they should worry about staying fresh.

To most of us it is bad form not to give Malone — who had this team at 9-6 with a healthy DeMarcus Cousins before his illness — a chance to see this through. Why make the change now, mid-season? So you can get a good look at Tyrone Corbin? It’s not like Malone was instilling bad habits in this team, it was just a philosophical issue. One that could have been dealt with last summer or next. One Ranadive should have thought through better before hiring Malone first, before he hired anyone else, like the GM or consultant Chris Mullin, both of whom have tried to push Malone and his slow-it-down style out the door.

The bigger issue is while I get what Ranadive wants, his roster is poorly suited for it. Staring with your franchise player but also your second biggest star — Rudy Gay has made strides but he’s still more volume scorer than playmaker. The Spurs got to be the Spurs by making an organizational shift that was led by Popovich, with Tim Duncan willingly ceding control of the offense to Tony Parker. Then they went out and got players — Boris Diaw, Tiago Splitter, Danny Green, Patty Mills and so on — who fit that system.

The Kings have a star in DeMarcus Cousins and should build to his strengths. Which is what Malone was doing.

And, Ranadive, if you’re really going to hire a strong coach — like a George Karl — you’ll find they are not fond of meddling owners who have suggestions based on what worked on their daughter’s youth basketball team. At all.

Blazers’ Robin Lopez says he will be out 6-7 weeks with fractured hand

New York Knicks v Portland Trail Blazers

Borris Diaw must have a really hard head.

On the play above last Monday night Blazers big man Robin Lopez hit his hand on the back of Diaw’s head and fractured it in a couple places. Early reports had him out a month, but Lopez tweeted Wednesday it’s going to be longer than that.

Chris Kaman — not as big a fan of Thai food as Lopez, more a meat and potatoes guy — will get plenty of additional run while Lopez is out, with Meyers Leonard and Joel Freeland picking up minutes as well.

But it won’t be the same. Lopez gives the Blazers a solid and efficient 9.8 points and 7.3 rebounds a game, plus he’s an anchor in the paint for Portland’s improved defense. Bottom line is Portland is 5.4 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court and he’s not going to be on the court for a while.