It’s not time to hit the panic button in Boston. Yet.

7 Comments

The Boston Celtics are going to be fine.

Well, depends on how you define “fine” — if you thought they were title contenders who would come out of the gate hot and could topple the Heat and Bulls in the East, you should be worried. But realistically Boston was a flawed team that needed to fire on all cylinders during the playoffs, not December, to knock off those teams.

Three games in, all we’ve seen is the flaws. And this is the first time in Boston’s big three era they have lost three in a row, so you can be concerned. But it is way too early to panic — they haven’t played a game with Paul Pierce yet. That’s what Doc Rivers told A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com.

“It’s so early. It’s three games into the season,” Rivers said.

The first two games were road contests against a couple of the best teams in the East — even with Pierce playing at New York and at Miami meant 0-2 was possible. Then came a trap game — second night of a back-to-back, third game in four nights, last game of a road trip — against a Hornets team that is better than everyone expected.

Still, there was not a lot of fight in Boston Wednesday night, especially in the fourth quarter when they scored 15 points on 5-of-13 shooting.

Boston needs three things to happen to turn this around. One is getting Paul Pierce back on the court, then keeping everyone healthy.

Second, their defense has to improve — after three games the Celtics are 28th in the NBA in defensive efficiency. Teams are shooting 49.6 percent against them, second worst in the league. After years of being a defensive force we’re going to assume this is just a blip, a couple bad games. But it has to change. Fast.

The third thing is Boston has to be more aggressive at the start — in all three games they fell behind in the first half and had to try and dig out of a hole. Boston’s defensive style is always better suited to being in front.

“All the teams were the aggressors initially,” said Celtics guard Keyon Dooling. “We were on our heels trying to bounce back. We can’t be that type of team. We have to be a hit-first team if we want to be successful.”

That comes back to Rajon Rondo — he has to set that tone. He is a great defensive point guard who can create turnovers and get some easy buckets going the other way. He can set up Kevin Garnett and soon Pierce early, find good looks for others. Rondo needs to take charge from the start.

We are just three games into a 66 game season. It’s too early to panic. But it is time to fix things in Boston before they get worse.

Report: Dirk Nowitzki to re-sign with Mavericks for $5 million

Abbie Parr/Getty Images
1 Comment

Dirk Nowitzki is set to play his 20th season – breaking Kobe Bryant’s record for most seasons with a single franchise and tying Kevin Garnett, Robert Parish and Kevin Willis for most seasons in the NBA.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks declined Nowitzki’s $5 million team option, but he was never signing elsewhere. He was either going to retire or play for Dallas.

Once he decided to return, the only question was money.

The Mavericks declined Nowitzki’s option to maximize their flexibility for upgrades, namely signing DeAndre Jordan. Once Yogi Ferrell agreed to an absurdly team-friendly contract, Dallas had enough cap space left to give Nowitzki his team-option amount. If necessary, he would have taken the $4,449,000 room exception.

Nowitzki has had a great career, and this could be his farewell tour. But he also remains a helpful rotation-level player. Though he’s a defensive liability, his outside shooting as a big goes a long way toward floor spacing.

Report: Mavericks re-signing Yogi Ferrell for less than qualifying-offer salary with second year unguaranteed

Abbie Parr/Getty Images
2 Comments

The Mavericks expected Yogi Ferrell to accept his qualifying offer.

Turns out, they’ll keep him on an even more team-friendly deal than the one he could have unilaterally signed.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

This is an awful deal for Ferrell.

As reported, he’ll earn between $2,548,077 and $2,760,417 next season. That range is less than his qualifying offer – which would have paid him a fully guaranteed $2,919,204 next season.

That reduction is acceptable if Ferrell got something in exchange – but he gave Dallas the concession by adding an unguaranteed second year. If he plays well, the Mavericks will keep him at a cheap salary. If he doesn’t, they’ll waive him for no cost. They have all the control.

The promise of the backup shooting guard job is probably just lip service. Teams don’t stick by that if the player struggles. If he produces, he would have gotten the job anyway.

Dallas has plenty of point guard types – Dennis Smith Jr., Luka Doncic, J.J Barea, Jalen Brunson and Ferrell. Rick Carlisle uses two of them simultaneously often enough that Ferrell should land in the rotation. But it’s far from a lock.

With this deal, Ferrell is taking all the risk and the Mavericks are getting all the upside.

Thon Maker and Andray Blatche among 18 (!) disciplined for Philippines-Australia brawl

2 Comments

Thon Maker and Andray Blatche were the biggest names in the Philippines-Australia brawl, but they sure weren’t the only ones involved in the massive fight. The fallout included the Bucks center and former Wizards forward, but it also reaches much further.

FIBA release:

Philippines
The following 10 players are suspended for unsportsmanlike behavior and, in the case of Roger Pogoy, also for inciting unsportsmanlike behavior (in brackets the number of games of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Qualifiers): Japeth Aguilar and Matthew Wright (1 game each); Terence Romeo, Jayson Castro William, Andray Blatche and Jeth Rosario (3 games each); Roger Pogoy, Carl Cruz and Jio Jalalon (5 games each); Calvin Abueva (6 games, due also to prior unsportsmanlike behavior in a FIBA competition). No sanction is imposed on Gabe Norwood.
Assistant Coach Joseph Uichico is suspended for 3 games for unsportsmanlike behavior. Head Coach Vincent ‘Chot’ Reyes is suspended for 1 game and shall pay a disciplinary fine of CHF 10,000 for inciting unsportsmanlike behavior.
Philippines’ national federation, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, Inc (SBP), is sanctioned for the unsportsmanlike behavior of its delegation members and of its public, as well as for insufficient organization of the game. Philippines will play the next home game behind closed doors while a ban for two more home games has been placed under a probationary period of 3 years. SBP shall also pay a disciplinary fine of CHF 250,000.
Australia
The following 3 players are suspended for unsportsmanlike behavior and, in the case of Chris Goulding and Daniel Kickert, also for inciting unsportsmanlike behavior: Chris Goulding (1 game), Thon Maker (3 games) and Daniel Kickert (5 games). No sanction is imposed on Nathan Sobey and Jason Cadee.
Basketball Australia shall pay a disciplinary fine of CHF 100,000 for the unsportsmanlike behavior of its players and for abusing and/or tampering of equipment, after having removed floor stickers from the court on the eve of the game.

Furthermore, following a thorough evaluation by a group of experts of the officiating during the game, the FIBA Secretary General has decided that the referees of the game shall be removed with immediate effect from the FIBA Elite Program and shall not be nominated to any international competitions organized or recognized by FIBA (including at Zone and Sub-zone level) for a period of one year.

Report: Celtics re-signing Marcus Smart for four years, $52 million

AP Photo/Charles Krupa
2 Comments

Marcus Smart put out word he was “hurt and disgusted” by the Celtics’ approach to his free agency. He threatened to take the qualifying offer. He used the Kings for leverage.

All that agitating paid off.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Boston retains a key player in a year with championship potential. That’s most important. The Warriors will be favored against any opponent, but the Celtics might present the biggest challenge. (The Raptors and Rockets are also in the running for Golden State’s biggest challenger.)

This deal probably represents fair value for Smart. He thought was worth more. Boston surely wanted to keep him for less – especially considering the luxury-tax concerns.

Smart will earn between $11,607,143 and $14,772,727 next season, based on these reported terms. Even the low end would push the Celtics over the tax line.

They could escape the tax this season with a trade, but bigger bills are coming as Kyrie Irving, Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are due major raises in coming years. Would Boston frontload Smart’s contract and pay more now to potentially save if this team faces the repeater tax down the road? That’d also make Smart more valuable in the future, with a higher share of his contract already paid off.

Smart is an excellent defender, capable of guarding all three perimeter positions and switching inside. He plays so hard and makes hustle plays all over the floor. He’s also a decent distributor. But he’s an awful 3-point shooter for someone who still launches jumpers so often, and that can kill spacing.

He’s a complex player – one definitely worth having, but also one Danny Ainge could easily trade. Boston also has Irving and Rozier at point guard, though both can become free agents next summer.

For now, Smart provides the Celtics with excellent production. He represents insurance for the following season. After that – or maybe even sooner – he could be a trade chip.

Boston accomplished its top offseason priority by retaining Smart. He gets life-changing money, and the Celtics bolster their present and future. Everyone involved should feel good about this agreement.