Boston’s hit that special time of year where they don’t care again

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Ah, the early weeks of spring. Winters still lingers at the edge, nipping at heels. The NCAA tournament provides all sorts of drama. And the Celtics completely and totally stop giving a flying crap about their effort in regular season games.

It’s become a yearly tradition to see the powerhouse contender tail off their efforts, struggling to beat mediocre-to-terrible teams, not closing games effectively and generally showing the exact opposite kind of performance they’ve been giving for months. And unlike previous seasons, you can’t get sucked into believing this stretch has any sort of impact on the postseason. Don’t buy in. The Celtics are just trying to trick you with their laziness. They’ll be ready. But for now? It’s ugly.

First the Celtics suffered a close loss to an underrated Grizzlies team that really is worthy of a loss for the Celtics with the way they’ve been playing (consider last night’s three-point edging by the Bulls over the Grizzlies just more proof). But the way the Celtics lost is the problem. They coughed up the ball constantly, showing little or no intention of running the offense smoothly.  But that loss was understandable, it happens. Then the Bobcats, who every season seem to sneak up on the guys in green, came to town, came back from a sizable deficit, and wound up holding off the Celtics as Boston missed two threes to tie on the final possession.

The Celtics are now two games back of Chicago for the top spot in the East, and only a half game above Miami. As for the fans? Well, they’re not taking this streak of subpar efforts super well:

I feel sorry for anyone who has tickets to the remaining regular season games. The Celtics have flat out quit. Thats the only explanation for the pitiful performance we witnessed tonight.

via Recap: The Celtics are dead – RedsArmy.com – The Voice Of Celtics Fans.

There are those two words again, “no urgency”. Celtics fans heard that enough last season to last a lifetime. And oh yeah, let’s not forget “bored with the regular season”, something Doc Rivers also alluded to after Friday night’s loss.

Old habits die hard.

If you think Rivers ripped into his team after the game, think again. The only message given to the players was the time of practice on Saturday – 12:30. He’ll let the rest sink in over night.

As for the rest of the season, that’s on the players. Rivers says that for things to change they have to be honest with themselves – he’s right. They certainly talk a good game, maybe the best in the league, but if they play the way they have the last two games it won’t matter what seed they get – they’re first round exits.

And if that happens, Danny Ainge will take no prisoners.

But it doesn’t have to end like that. It wasn’t built to. The Celtics need to get back to what brought them so much success.

Ultimately, it’s Ubuntu, and for the Celtics it’s time to practice what they preach.

Enough talking about it.

via Where Are You Ubuntu? – CelticsBlog.

But the Celtics won’t correct this. Not for another eighteen days. They simply can’t be bothered to gear up for the regular season. But when the time comes for them to deliver the goods in the postseason, they’ll be ready. We can say that because they’ve always been ready before. Even the 2009 team gave a good effort and was simply overmatched without Garnett against a red-hot Orlando team. But then there’s last season and the remaining belief that the Celtics might have toppled L.A., even without Kendrick Perkins, had Game 7 been in L.A.. There was an emphasis on homecourt advantage this year for Boston. And instead they seem content to surrender it without much of a fight.

Anyone would trade a handful of meaningless late regular season games for championship intensity in the playoffs. But that won’t stop the frustration over what amounts to an inability to summon the effort to beat teams Boston is clearly capable of beating.

 

 

Only high schoolers who would’ve been consensus draft candidates to receive $125,000 minor-league offer

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The NBA’s minor league’s plan to offer players $125,000 salaries straight out of high school sparked two major questions:

  • Who will receive that offer?
  • Who will take it?

Former NBA player Rod Strickland and former WNBA player Allison Feaster will run the program, and they’re answering the first question.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The NBA is limiting eligibility for the professional path program to prep players who would be considered consensus candidates for the draft if there were no early entry rule to prohibit them. Feaster will work with a group that includes Strickland and the NBA’s basketball operations and player development staffs to evaluate the potential players.

“It will be elite prospects with a readiness for a professional league,” Feaster told ESPN. “We want to target players who would not be going to a university if it weren’t for the NBA eligibility rule. That’s more or less what’s going to dictate this.”

Feaster expects a “handful” of players to be part of the initial group in the professional path. Feaster and Strickland emphasized that the program will be judicious in choosing those eligible for the pro path opportunity.

For reference, 17 high schoolers were picked in the final two drafts (2004 and 2005) before the NBA implemented its one-and-done rule. So, that suggests about 8-9 players annually will get offered the $125,000 deal.

That still leaves the other question: Who will take it?

Kevin Durant said he wouldn’t have. Shoe companies are still spending the most money, and they’re heavily invested in the visibility of college basketball.

But every prospect’s situation is unique. With Strickland and Feaster in place, we’ll soon see how players receive this new path.

76ers sound caught off guard about Markelle Fultz stepping away

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Markelle Fultz has played in all 17 of the 76ers’ games this season, starting until they traded for Jimmy Butler. A couple weeks ago, Fultz called himself generally healthy.

Then, Fultz’s agent, Raymond Brothers, informed the 76ers the guard wouldn’t play or practice until visiting a specialist Monday. Fultz will miss at least three games – against the Pelicans, Cavaliers and Nets.

76ers coach Brett Brown:

It’s kind of the first real sort of red-flag-type news.

This news about his shoulder, it did catch me off guard. But if it’s that real that he needs to go seek further consultation, then we support him. In my eyes, it’s not complicated. If that’s what it is, then we’ll support him.

76ers general manager Elton Brand:

We thought it was the regular bumps and bruises.

There’s nothing that we saw medically that didn’t allow him to play.

This yet another odd turn in a saga that already included plenty of contentiousness, animosity, rumors and cringe-worthy moments. At this point, it’s hard to be shocked by anything with Fultz.

It’s also hard to take the 76ers seriously when they suggest it seemed like business as usual. Fultz’s shot is disturbingly broken. There is clearly a problem. Maybe letting Fultz play without fretting over the issue was the right course, but how surprised can Philadelphia be that he took a more drastic measure?

Hopefully, the specialist helps Fultz identify and fix this issue.

Bulls’ Denzel Valentine likely to miss entire season

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Bulls wing Denzel Valentine has had a rough go of it.

A lottery pick two years ago, battled ankle injuries during his rookie year and underwent ankle surgery after the season. He stayed mostly healthy last year, but his season still ended early for knee surgery. Then, over the summer, he got torched in the Drew League by Frank “Nitty” Session, who questioned how Valentine was in the NBA:

And now…

Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago:

Denzel Valentine was originally expected to miss one to two weeks after suffering a sprained ankle on the second day of training camp. One setback led to another, and on Monday the Bulls announced that the third year guard will undergo surgical reconstruction on that left ankle. He’ll miss four to six months, the team announced, effectively ending his season.

The long end of that timeline will keep Valentine sidelined the entire season. The short end would allow him to return late in the year, but with Chicago so dismal, there’s little incentive to rush him back.

Valentine is under contract next season, the final year of his rookie-scale deal. He might need to prove himself to make Nitty’s question still relevant.

Report: J.R. Smith and Cavaliers separating as they seek trade

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DETROIT – Yesterday – yesterday! – J.R. Smith explained why he didn’t leave the Cavaliers when, a few weeks ago, they pulled him from the rotation and gave him the offer to step away.

“I can’t do that to the city and the fans,” Smith said. “A lot of people have been backing me since I’ve been here. I feel like it’s been a new start since I came here. The way the fans embraced me, the way that I’ve embraced the city, my teammates, I can’t do that to them.”

But Smith also said Cleveland is tanking and reaffirmed his desire to be traded. That probably set wheels in motion.

Joe Vardon of The Athletic:

Smith – who’s guaranteed $18.59 million on a contract that will surely end after this season – carries negative trade value. The Cavs shouldn’t attach the sweetener necessary to dump him. They’re better off just paying him for now.

Because just $3.87 million of his $15.68 million salary for next season is guaranteed, Smith’s contract could prove useful in a trade.

If Smith would reduce his guarantee with a buyout, let him go. But Smith probably shouldn’t do that without a new job lined up.

So, the stalemate continues.

If everyone is happier apart, all the better. Smith wasn’t making a difference on the court for a team he correctly identified as tanking.