Rajon Rondo after latest Celtics loss: ‘I pretty much blame this on myself’

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The Celtics dropped a game to the Pelicans on Sunday that required overtime to be decided, and was really anyone’s game down the stretch of both regulation and the extra session.

Rajon Rondo didn’t do a lot offensively to contribute to his team’s chances, finishing just 3-of-14 from the field in 45 minutes on the floor, which included two misses in overtime — a makable floater in the lane, and a three-pointer he had to launch to beat the shot clock that wasn’t really close.

Rondo is one of the more well-rounded point guards in the game, however, and does other things to help his team. He finished with 14 assists against only two turnovers, and also grabbed eight rebounds. But his lack of offense seemed to bother him after this one, and Rondo attempted to take the blame for the loss.

From A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com:

Rajon Rondo understands his role as the Boston Celtics’ leader is to deliver when it matters most.

But for the second straight game, the Celts came up short in the closing seconds of a game that was indeed anyone’s for the taking. And while the responsibility should be spread liberally across the roster as well as the coaching staff, Rondo once again put much of the blame for Sunday’s 121-120 overtime loss to New Orleans on his shoulders.

“We keep coming up short,” Rondo told reporters following Sunday’s loss, which extended their road losing streak against Western Conference teams to 19. “I have to do a better job of finishing plays. I pretty much blame this on myself again.”

The Celtics are rebuilding, and Rondo is there to provide veteran leadership — so these comments don’t come as much of a surprise. But there’s one problem with his logic, despite the game’s closeness.

He wasn’t guarding Anthony Davis.

The Pelicans big man was completely unstoppable, finishing with 40 points and 21 rebounds, while adding three assists and three blocked shots. When someone on the opposing team has a statistical outing like that one, it’s a little silly to to blame oneself.

Report: 76ers rookie Zhaire Smith expected to return around Christmas

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76ers first-rounder Zhaire Smith suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot last month, leaving plenty of uncertainty about when he’d return.

Keith Pompey of The Inquirer:

The 76ers expect injured rookie Zhaire Smith to be available to play in a game around Christmas, league sources say.

A rookie on a team with legitimate aspirations of deep-playoff advancement, Smith was already unlikely to crack Philadelphia’s rotation this season. All this lost developmental time makes it even less likely.

But the sooner Smith returns, the better for him and Philadelphia. The No. 16 pick impresses with his athleticism and motor, but he needs time to develop his perimeter skills.

Kevin Love launches “Love Fund” to bring more focus to mental health issues

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The NBA is not shying away from the issue of the mental health of its players.

In the wake of All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love coming forward about their mental health challenges, the league and the players’ union combined to tell players to speak out on the issue and take advantage of the services offered.

Kevin Love is doing more than just that, he has formed the Kevin Love Fund to help change the stigma around mental health issues. The fund has partners such as Headspace, with the focus being on prioritizing mental health awareness. He went on the Today Show on NBC to talk about it.

Love has become a leader and spokesman around the issue. Love came forward near the end of last season to talk about his battles with anxiety and depression. That opened the door for others around the NBA to step forward as well, such as Kelly Oubre and Paul Pierce.

Sixers hire Elton Brand as new General Manager

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Filling the 76ers vacant general manager position dragged out all summer for one main reason:

They liked what they already had in-house. The Sixers were an especially collegial and collaborative group with their decision making, and if they brought in a big name from the outside — former Cavaliers’ GM David Griffin, or the two guys who went deep into the interview process Utah assistant GM Justin Zanik on Rockets VP Gersson Rosas — it would change that dynamic.

Which is why they have decided to keep this in the family, and will promote Elton Brand from vice president of basketball operations to general manager. It’s a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and confirmed by NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark.

Brand, a former Philadelphia player, was the general manager of their G-League team, the Delaware Blue Coats, before becoming the VP of basketball operations. He will replace Bryan Colangelo, who was forced out following a Twitter scandal involving his wife.

There were other title changes within the organization as well.

What this means on the ground is don’t expect any significant changes with the Sixers’ plans — nor should there be. They are banking on Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Markelle Fultz — now with a functional jump shot, they hope — to be at the core of a contending team, then next summer they will go big game hunting again for an elite free agent. (There is more pressure to get a deal done this summer before the big extensions for those young stars start to really kick in.) That said, this is a team poised on the brink of a great run.

And if things are going well, why make a dramatic change? Brand can help them on the course already set.

Pat Riley: Dion Waiters not recovered for start of training camp, “unlikely” for start of season

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This is a setback.

When Dion Waiters had ankle surgery 30 games into last season, the hope was that he would be healthy for the start of this season and return to the post All-Star form of 2017, when his hot play (15.6 points per game, 41 percent from three and carrying a heavy offensive load) led the Heat to offer him a four-year contract.

Turns out, that’s not going to happen.

It was Pat Riley who made the announcement, speaking to the media.

Waiters was not healthy last season, and while he averaged 14.3 points a game he was not nearly as efficient — 30.6 percent from three, shooting 39.8 percent overall, a PER of 10.5.

This could move Dwyane Wade into the starting lineup to open the season. Beyond that, the Heat have the guard depth to survive this with Wade and Wayne Ellington at the two, plus Goran Dragic, Tyler Johnson, Malik Newman, and Briante Weber heading into camp.

Waiters being out also is bad news for the player but could save the franchise money on another front: Waiters receives a $1.1 million bonus if he plays in 70 games this season. If he misses the start of the season, he becomes far less likely to make that threshold.