67RIEFNS No. 41: Rajon Rondo playing with (slightly) better teammates

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The NBA is full of talent, personality and suspense. During the offseason, It’s easy to forget how wonderful the league can be. So, I’ve assembled 67 Reasons I’m Excited For Next Season (67RIEFNS). They’ll be presented in no particular order.

So many times last year, I saw Rajon Rondo dribble through traffic, read the defense and throw a pinpoint pass to an open teammate… who missed the shot.

Rondo’s supporting cast in Boston won’t set the world on fire, and it’s probably not playoff caliber.

But it’s better.

For Rondo, that means everything.

Rondo combines toughness and intelligence to form one brilliant package. He sees the court like few others, and he uses his strength and speed to create angles that play to his advantage. He just can’t shoot jumpers reliably, meaning his particular brand of basketball works best when he has teammates who finish what he creates.

Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen didn’t make Rondo. But they made Rondo’s skills shine. It was a symbiotic relationship, one last year’s Celtics couldn’t come close to duplicating for Rondo.

This year’s squad won’t come close to those glory-days teams, but it should be an upgrade over last year.

Avery Bradley is healthy, and Marcus Thornton also helps at off guard. Tyler Zeller is a skilled center, and more importantly, he allows Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk to play their natural position of power forward. Evan Turner gets a bad rap from his time in Indiana, but he’s a capable NBA player.

It was tough seeing Rondo’s talent wasted so often last season. It should happen a little less this year.

Dion Waiters comments on Instagram after suspension about Erik Spoelstra winning because of Big Three

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The Heat suspended Dion Waiters for (at least) their season opener due to “a number of unacceptable incidents this week, culminating with his unprofessional conduct on the bench last night.”

Then, Waiters got going on Instagram.

He apparently laughed at the idea of preseason standout Tyler Herro being better than him and dismissed Miami coach Erik Spoelstra’s success due to having LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

(Warning: profanity):

To the content of Waiters’ points:

Coaches need talent to win championships, and Spoelstra undoubtedly benefited from having three elite players. But coaching superstars – particularly LeBron – brings its own challenges. Spoelstra aced those tests.

Herro must still prove himself beyond exhibition games. His defense in particular could be a liability. But Waiters has set such a low standard. It wouldn’t be surprising for Herro to eclipse him, even as a rookie.

That’s the bigger problem beyond these latest incidents. Waiters is a substandard player due major money ($27.5 million over the next years). His attitude only makes the situation worse, but there’s no easy way for the Heat to handle him.

Our Eastern Conference predictions: Philadelphia or Milwaukee, who ya got?

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The NBA season tips-off Tuesday night, and that means one thing:

It’s predictions time.

We’ve run through some postseason awards — MVP, Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year — and now we stick our neck out and make our predictions on how the Eastern Conference will shake out.

As a disclaimer, we get it: making NBA preseason awards predictions is like nailing Jell-O to a tree. We’ll be wrong. But it’s fun, so the NBA staff here at NBC is making our picks.

THE EASTERN CONFERENCE

Kurt Helin
1. Milwaukee
2. Philadelphia
3. Boston
4. Toronto
5. Brooklyn
6. Indiana
7. Miami
8. Orlando
Eastern Conference Finals: Philadelphia over Milwaukee.

While there are some interesting storylines up and down the East, this is ultimately a two-team race and the only way Boston or anyone else gets into the mix is thanks to an in-season trade. Milwaukee is a legitimate favorite, but I like Philadelphia’s length and defense to smother Milwaukee in the playoffs. Yes, that means I am making a big bet on Ben Simmons taking a step forward as a shot creator and leader, but I believe that by April the Sixers will have figured out their offense. After the top four in those standings, things could shake out in almost any order and there’s a legit chance Chicago or Detroit cracks the top eight too. Boston and Toronto are good and should advance out of the first round of the playoffs, although Indiana could crack that group if Victor Oladop returns to his old form once healthy.

Dan Feldman:
1. Milwaukee
2. Philadelphia
3. Boston
4. Toronto
5. Miami
6. Orlando
7. Brooklyn
8. Indiana
Eastern Conference Finals: Milwaukee over Philadelphia

With all its new pieces, Philadelphia should get better as the season progresses. The 76ers also matchup well with Milwaukee. That sets up to be a great Eastern Conference finals. In the end, the Bucks look primed.
There’s a glut of teams from about fourth through 10th. I think the Pistons will make the playoffs, but with several teams barely over 50% playoff odds, Detroit still finishes ninth in my predicted standings. The Bulls aren’t far behind, either.

Dane Delgado:
Eastern Conference Finals: Milwaukee over Philadelphia

The Eastern Conference is more wide open this season… or is it? The same four teams are expected to be battling for a top spot, and we don’t know who will be the best come next spring. A rise through the postseason won’t necessarily be predicated on regular-season success. The Sixers, Bucks, Raptors, and Celtics will all be vying for the final spot, and all four teams will be looking to capitalize on three main factors: health, depth, and star power. Milwaukee has the best chance of having all three thanks to Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton. They’ll have their challengers, but I’m betting on the ECF loss from last season galvanizing last year’s MVP.

 

LeBron James’ high school jersey goes for $187,500 at auction

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We got word that LeBron James’ jersey from high school was going to be headed to auction soon, and rumors were that it would fetch a high price thanks to the phenomenon that was “The Chosen One”.

LeBron’s St. Vincent-St. Mary’s uniform has now gone through the process at Goldin Auctions, and it’s reportedly set a record for a James-worn jersey at $187,500.

Via Twitter:

This seems like a ridiculous price for a piece of sports memorabilia that wasn’t even part of James’ impressive NBA run. Something from his time as a member of a championship team has to be worth more, no? Then again, one of those might not ever become available. This might be the best you can get if you’re a diehard LeBron fan.

I wonder if the owner of this new jersey will show up wearing it at Summer League next year? No better way to top the constant oneupsmanship of obscure jerseys in Las Vegas by showing up in a kit that cost more than a three-bedroom ranch home in Northeastern Ohio.

PBT Podcast: Our NBA predictions for MVP, Rookie of the Year, Champion, and more

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Who will take home the NBA MVP hardware this season: Giannis Antetokounmpo? James Harden? Stephen Curry?

What about Rookie of the Year? Can anyone top Zion Williamson? What would it take for Ja Morant or anyone else to get into the conversation?

Finally, what team will hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy at the end of the season? Will it be a team from Los Angeles? What about Philadelphia? Milwaukee? Can Houston or Utah get in on the conversation?

Dan Feldman from NBC Sports joins me in the latest PBT Podcast and get into all of that, making their season predictions for this NBA season.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.