Report: Celtics planning to keep Rajon Rondo, may target Marc Gasol

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Even though the Boston Celtics are not expected to compete for a playoff spot this season, all eyes will be on Danny Ainge and what he decides to do with Rajon Rondo in the final season before he hits free agency next summer. There has been talk that Ainge would trade the four-time All-Star point guard by the deadline rather than attempt to re-sign him for the max-level contract he’s said to want.

Boston-based Sporting News NBA reporter Sean Deveney tells a different story, however. Appearing on a recent episode of the Celtics Beat podcast, Deveney suggested that not only do the Celtics plan to keep Rondo, but that they want to pair him with another star free agent, potentially Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol.

(Skip to the 27-minute mark here for the discussion, which started with the question of whether the Celtics would be willing to offer Rondo a max contract):

I think a lot of that is going to depend on how he plays, and a lot of that depends on whether they can get another max guy in here to play with Rondo. I think that’s really how it’s going to play out, the Celtics are going to try to use all the assets they have over the course of this year to add another big-time piece. That’s obviously something they would have liked to have done this year with Kevin Love, but that just never really got close. It never got beyond the talking stage with the Timberwolves and the Celtics just didn’t have anything that the Timberwolves really wanted. But that’s the kind of deal that they would like to make in the next few months, where you have a star who’s unhappy and a team looking to unload a big-time player in return for some long-term assets. That’s the kind of thing that the Celtics are looking for.

Now, if that doesn’t happen, they’re going to have to rely on free agency, and that can be much trickier. But if keeping Rondo and paying him a max deal is going to help them get somebody like a Marc Gasol or somebody of that caliber, then that’s what they have to do. If that means overpaying Rondo somewhat in the short term here, if that’s what it takes to get that other star player, then that’s what they’re going to do.

It’s highly unlikely that the Celtics will be able to trade for a star during this season. Love was the only superstar coming up on free agency who was known to be unhappy, but he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in August and there’s almost no chance he’ll leave (unless things fall apart there at a Dwight Howard/Lakers level). LaMarcus Aldridge appears happy in Portland. The Grizzlies have no intention of dealing Gasol.

If the Celtics want to add another star, they will have to do so in free agency, and the choices are awfully slim now that Love is essentially off the market. Boston will have plenty of cap space, but so will a lot of teams who are closer to competing. Boston may be better served dealing Rondo and devoting the next few seasons to developing Marcus Smart before going after another star.

Watch Lakers’ fan drain half-court shot to win $75,000

Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Lakers
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It might have been the loudest the crypto.com Arena was all night.

Between the third and fourth quarters, Lakers fan Jamie Murry of Downey won $75,000 draining a half-court shot — and he got to celebrate with Anthony Davis.

Murry’s celebration is the best part — with Anthony Davis coming out to celebrate with him (and seeming a little shocked by the hug).

One other big shot fell at this game, but Lakers’ fans didn’t like it as much — Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.

Three things to know: Joel Embiid returns, scores final 11 vs. Hawks

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Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.

1) Joel Embiid returns, scores final 11 vs. Hawks in 76ers win

The 76ers went 3-1 with Joel Embiid sidelined by a left mid-foot sprain, but they are so much more a dangerous team with him.

Embiid scored the 76ers’ final 11 points of the game against the Hawks, including the go-ahead 10-foot jumper with 18.6 seconds left, to cap a 30-point night and lift the Sixers past the Hawks 104-101.

Embiid was making critical defensive plays down the stretch as well.

Embiid finished with 30 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and two blocks. That’s five straight 30+ point games for Embiid, who picked up right where he left off before the injury.

Well, not exactly pick up at the start as Embiid was 1-of-7 shooting to open the game, and he wasn’t the only Sixers rusty at the start. Embiid seemed focused on sharing the ball early but settled into an offensive balance as the game went on. Philly was saved by a solid defensive night.

The 76ers continue to pick up wins with James Harden and Tyrese Maxey out, which is a good sign going forward.

That’s three-straight losses for the Hawks, a loss that stings because they should have been able to dominate the shorthanded 76ers backcourt and get the win.

2) Karl-Anthony Towns goes down with concerning leg injury

Let’s hope the optimistic report from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN is right and this isn’t as severe as it looked. Because it looked bad.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony simply was pushing off to run back upcourt when he fell to the ground — without contact — grabbing his knee and calf.

Towns was helped back to the locker room and did not return, with the Timberwolves officially saying he was out for the rest of the night with a calf strain.

A calf strain would be the best possible outcome. An MRI Monday will tell us more.

Towns’ stats are down this season as he adjusts to the odd fit of playing next to Rudy Gobert, but he is still averaging 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game.

The Wizards got a monster night from Kristaps Porzingis — a career-high 41 points — on their way to a 142-127 victory. When Porzingis is on this Washington team is tough to beat.

3) Big shots fall at Lakers’ game

Two big shots defined the night at the crypto.com arena Monday.

First, Lakers fan Jamie Murry of Downey won $75,000 with a half-court shot — and he got to celebrate with Anthony Davis.

The second one hurt the Lakers more. Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.

The Lakers got lost in the scramble. On the initial action, Russell Westbrook doubled Bennedict Mathurin in the corner, which left the screen setter Myles Turner open at the top for a clean look at a 3 — but he was short and came off the front of the rim. Tyrese Haliburton out-hustled everyone to the rebound and tried to create his own shot but saw Nembhard wide open and kicked him the rock.

Ballgame.

The Pacers split their two games in Los Angeles at the start of a seven-game road trip through the West.

The Lakers had won 5-of-6 against a soft part of the schedule but that is about to change and over the next few weeks we will get a sense of where this 7-12 team really stands.

Watch Pacers’ Andrew Nembhard drain game-winning 3 to beat Lakers

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LeBron James and Anthony Davis were on the court together (and combined for 46 points and 20 rebounds). Russell Westbrook continued to thrive as a sixth man with 24 points.

But the biggest shot of the night belonged to Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard — a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.

It was a well-designed play and when Westbrook chased and doubled Bennedict Mathurin in the corner it left the screen setter, Myles Turner, wide open for a clean look at a 3 — but he hit the front of the rim. The long rebound caromed out, Tyrese Haliburton grabbed it and tried to create, but then he saw Nembhard wide open and kicked him the rock.

Ballgame.

The Pacers split their two games in Los Angeles at the start of a seven-game road trip through the West that will test the surprising Pacers.

For the Lakers… they have some hard decisions to make coming up.

Karl-Anthony Towns helped off court after non-contact calf injury

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Hopefully this is not as bad as it looks.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony was trying to run back upcourt and went to the ground — without contact — grabbing his knee and calf. He had to be helped off the court.

The Timberwolves officially ruled Towns out for the rest of the night with a calf strain.

A right calf strain would be the best possible outcome, but an MRI will provide more details in the next 24 hours. This had the markings of something much worse, but ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports optimism that Towns avoided something serious.

Towns is averaging 214 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are off this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers, down from 39.3% for his career — as he tries to adjust to playing next to Rudy Gobert, he’s still one of the game’s elite big men.

The Wizards went on to beat the Timberwolves 142-127 behind 41 from Kristaps Porzingis.