One way or another, expect Celtics roster shakeups

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It looks like Boston is going to make one more run at it — Doc Rivers is coming back, Ray Allen will pick up the option on his contract, Rajon Rondo will get healthy and whenever next season starts the Celtics will get the band back together.

But expect changes around them. And maybe even in the starting lineup.

Danny Ainge emphasized that in comments he made on WEEI Radio.

“We need to make changes for sure. I don’t think (the roster as is can win a title). But having said that, that’s my job is to evaluate the reasons why we didn’t play the way we’re capable of playing…

“Maybe there’s a change of roles. Maybe Paul (Pierce) comes off the bench, cuts down on his minutes. Maybe we find a way to get Jeff (Green) more minutes. His role will expand if he’s back here next year. There’s no question about that…. It wouldn’t totally shock me if there’s a change in the starting lineup.”

It would shock me if Green starts for Pierce next year — Green remains a shadow of the player Pierce is, even as Pierce ages. Last season Pierce shot a better percentage overall and a much better percentage from three, was much better setting up teammates and was a superior defender. Put it this way — with Boston last year Pierce had an All-Star level PER of 19.7, Green had a below-average 12.9. Doesn’t matter that Pierce will be 34 and Green 25, Pierce is still the better player. Rest Pierce by giving Green a few more minutes, but to change starters seems trying to justify a trade after the fact.

The place the Celtics need to make a change is at center. Shaquille O’Neal has a $1.4 million option for next season, and even if he decides to pick it up and come back Ainge learned a hard lesson about trusting Shaq to be there in the end.

Jermaine O’Neal also sounds like a guy who may walk away from the game after a season of injuries, as he told the Boston Herald.

“The most important thing for me right now is my family and my kids. Basketball has dominated so much of my life for so long that I have to really take an honest look. Now, every time I leave the house my son is asking when I’m coming back. When I call home, it’s, ‘When am I coming back?’ My daughter has been forgiving of it, but it may be time. I don’t know. I don’t want to suffer when I’m 45.”

Potential center free agents this summer include the big names that the Celtics likely cannot afford (Tyson Chandler, Nene) as well as guys like Samuel Dalembert, Jeff Foster, Dan Gadzuric and Alexis Ajinca. There also are restricted free agents like Marc Gasol, but again it’s not likely the Celtics could make a big enough offer that the “home” team wouldn’t match. (And who knows what the rules will be in a new CBA.) Maybe a trade is a better option. But one thing the Celtics need to do is get a center who can give them some points in the paint and defense.

Boston also needs to get younger and more athletic off the bench. To have an energy group of guys that can get some easy buckets when they are in.

The Celtics may be bringing back their core, but changes are coming. They need to if they want to get past Miami or Chicago next season.

Rumor: Pelicans interested in trading for Wizards’ Otto Porter

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The Wizards (5-11) are open for business.

John Wall and Bradley Beal are the big names in trade talks, but how about Otto Porter?

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer:

There are whispers that New Orleans is interested in Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr.

The Pelicans badly need an upgrade at small forward, and Porter – who has at least somewhat fallen out of favor in Washington – fits the bill. He’s an ideal role player – an excellent 3-point shooter and solid defensively when not overmatched defensively. He could become more assertive, but part of his value lies in his ability to blend. On a team with superstar Anthony Davis, complementary skills are important.

The catch: Porter is earning $26,011,913 this season then due $55,739,815 the next two years.

He’s overpaid, but he can still play. New Orleans, trying to impress Davis before offering him a super-max extension next summer, might view Porter as an acceptable risk. Especially if the Pelicans can unload overpaid Solomon Hill in a trade.

Washington could accept Hill and another player or two and even escape the luxury tax this season. The Wizards would surely want positive-value players and/or picks, too.

There seems to be a middle ground where a Porter trade appeals to both teams. The big question: Can Washington and New Orleans find it?

Report: Grizzlies in ‘extensive discussions’ with Joakim Noah

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Marc Gasol has been awesome this season. The 33-year-old is holding off questions about his decline that reached fever pitch last season. He’s deferring just a little more offensively to become much more efficient and save energy to play superb defense.

The Grizzlies have played like a 61-win team with him on the court this season.

But they’ve also played like a 17-win team when he sits.

A potential solution to Memphis backup-center problem? Joakim Noah.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ivan Rabb haven’t cut it at center behind Gasol. (Jackson has been better at power forward.) JaMychal Green could work, but he’s just getting healthy, and he’s also more of a power forward.

So, Noah could be another option. He definitely has the size for the position. Performing better than the Grizzlies’ other backup centers is not a high bar.

But I still doubt Noah helps Memphis. The 33-year-old looked so wash up with the Knicks, not even Tom Thibodeau would sign the former Bull.

Pelicans: Elfrid Payton out six weeks

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The Pelicans are 5-1 when Elfrid Payton plays and 4-6 when he doesn’t.

New Orleans will have to find a winning formula without its starting point guard.

Pelicans release:

New Orleans Pelicans guard Elfrid Payton, who suffered a fractured left fifth finger against the New York Knicks on November 16, will undergo surgery tomorrow to repair the fracture. Payton is expected to miss approximately six weeks.

It’s not that Payton is great, though he has been solid this season. It’s that the Pelicans are ill-equipped to deal with this injury.

Jrue Holiday can shift to point guard, but that weakens New Orleans even further on the wing. Without Payton, the Pelicans are also forced to give more playing time to substandard players at point guard: Ian Clark, Tim Frazier and Frank Jackson.

At least New Orleans can pivot its offense to run the ball through Anthony Davis and Julius Randle. Those skilled bigs can distribute.

The Pelicans are in the middle of a tight playoff race. They have little margin for error, and this injury cuts deeply into it.

Report: Cavaliers GM Koby Altman told LeBron James they wouldn’t trade Kyrie Irving

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LeBron James told the Cavaliers not to trade Kyrie Irving last year. LeBron didn’t do anything to win over the point guard, who asked out. But LeBron still told Cleveland not to honor the request.

LeBron’s last message on the top went to Cavs general manager Koby Altman shortly before they dealt Irving to the Celtics.

Joe Vardon of The Athletic:

James was adamant on the call — do not trade Irving, especially to the Celtics. By the end of the call, according to four separate accounts of people present for the conversation, Altman told James the trade would not occur.

James suggested he didn’t feel he was lied to by Altman, so much as Altman was overruled by owner Dan Gilbert.

“You realize at that point in time, take nothing from Koby, because Koby (was just named GM), but at that point in time, you realize that Koby’s not the only one running the team, as (former GM David Griffin) had done, and that’s why Griff was let go pretty much,” James said.

Cavs front-office officials declined to be quoted for this story but disputed that Altman gave James any indication the trade would not occur. They also said Altman asked James whether he would commit to the Cavs long-term if Irving were not traded, and James said no.

If he didn’t have the authority to keep Irving, Altman shouldn’t have said he would.

Maybe Altman didn’t know he lacked that authority. He was new in the job, after all. So, maybe his error was easily forgivable. But it sounds like an error, nonetheless.

The Cavaliers also didn’t necessarily err by trading Irving. The package they got proved problematic, but the concept of trading the disgruntled star had more merit to the team than LeBron. LeBron lasted only one more season in Cleveland, and it seems likely – though not certain – he would have left even if the Cavs listened to him on Irving. That meant, the Cavaliers could have been left without LeBron and trying to trade Irving in the final year of his contract, when his trade value would have been lower. LeBron might have just wanted to use Irving for one more playoff run then leave Cleveland holding the bag.

The communication issues are a bigger issue. It’s unclear how to divvy blame between Gilbert, Altman and LeBron, but that call ended with those three on different pages. And it doesn’t seem LeBron’s exit has fixed the problem in Cleveland. Since, the Cavs:

Again, it’s unclear whether Gilbert, Altman or others are the problem. But that’s a lot of disarray under Altman, and at a certain point, it’s his responsibility to ensure proper communication is flowing smoothly within the organization.

There are numerous reasons LeBron left for the Lakers. But it’s hard to overlook the Cavaliers’ crummy management in the last year.