Rajon Rondo, 12 years after Celtics title, on cusp of history with Lakers

Lakers guard Rajon Rondo in NBA Finals vs. Heat
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The 2008 Celtics had three future Hall of Famers in Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.

And a young point guard named Rajon Rondo.

In just his second year, Rondo was viewed as a weak link in Boston’s championship hopes. He was talented, but raw. At best, he was a wildcard.

So, Boston signed Sam Cassell as a backup shortly before the playoffs. Cassell won titles in his first two NBA seasons, with the Rockets in 1994 and 1995. In the years since, he never returned to the NBA Finals but developed into a dependable veteran. He was quite excited for his opportunity with the Celtics.

“I won championships so early in my career, the first two years, and I thought, ‘That’s how it’s going to be,'” Cassell said. “Let me tell you something. When you miss it and miss it and miss it year after year after year…”

Cassell – with the help of Rondo and the Big Three – got his gratification, winning a third title 14 years after his first.

Now, 12 years later, Rondo sounds a lot like Cassell.

Rondo’s Lakers are up 3-1 on the Heat in the Finals. In Game 5 tonight, he could win his first championship since 2008.

“I definitely appreciate it more,” Rondo said. “…Thinking you’re going to continue to go back over and over again, and it just doesn’t happen…”

If Los Angeles wins, Rondo will have gone 12 years between his first and last titles – one of the longest such reigns in NBA history.

Here are the players who’ve gone the longest between their first and last championships, the number of years marked:

Championships won by players on the chart:

  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 1971 MIL, 1980 LAL, 1982 LAL, 1985 LAL, 1987 LAL, 1988 LAL
  • Robert Parish: 1981 BOS, 1984 BOS, 1986 BOS, 1997 CHI
  • Tim Duncan: 1999 SAS, 2003 SAS, 2005 SAS, 2007 SAS, 2014 SAS
  • Sam Cassell: 1994 HOU, 1995 HOU, 2008 BOS
  • Robert Horry: 1994 HOU, 1995 HOU, 2000 LAL, 2001 LAL, 2002 LAL, 2005 SAS, 2007 SAS
  • A.C. Green: 1987 LAL, 1988 LAL, 2000 LAL
  • John Havlicek: 1963 BOS, 1964 BOS, 1965 BOS, 1966 BOS, 1968 BOS, 1969 BOS, 1974 BOS, 1976 BOS
  • Rajon Rondo: 2008 BOS
  • Bill Russell: 1957 BOS, 1959 BOS, 1960 BOS, 1961 BOS, 1962 BOS, 1963 BOS, 1964 BOS, 1965 BOS, 1966 BOS, 1968 BOS, 1969 BOS
  • Tony Parker: 2003 SAS, 2005 SAS, 2007 SAS, 2014 SAS
  • John Salley: 1989 DET, 1990 DET, 1996 CHI, 2000 LAL
  • Earl Cureton: 1983 PHI, 1994 HOU
  • Kobe Bryant: 2000 LAL, 2001 LAL, 2002 LAL, 2009 LAL, 2010 LAL
  • Derek Fisher: 2000 LAL, 2001 LAL, 2002 LAL, 2009 LAL, 2010 LAL
  • Horace Grant: 1991 CHI, 1992 CHI, 1993 CHI, 2001 LAL
  • Don Nelson: 1966 BOS, 1968 BOS, 1969 BOS, 1974 BOS, 1976 BOS
  • Sam Jones: 1959 BOS, 1960 BOS, 1961 BOS, 1962 BOS, 1963 BOS, 1964 BOS, 1965 BOS, 1966 BOS, 1968 BOS, 1969 BOS
  • Clyde Lovellette: 1954 MNL, 1963 BOS, 1964 BOS

Obviously, Rondo’s career isn’t as impressive as other players listed. Unlike players like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tim Duncan and Bill Russell, Rondo was never a superstar who annually elevated his team into championship contention. In this group, only Rondo and Earl Cureton (a deep reserve on the 1983 76ers and 1994 Rockets) won fewer than three championships.

In many ways, Rondo’s accomplishment is a product of circumstance. Rondo didn’t control starting his career with Boston, which got him with the No. 21 pick in a draft-day trade in 2006. He just happened to join a team that already had Pierce and was only one year from trading for Allen and Garnett.

But Rondo deserves credit for how quickly he got up to speed. Few second-year players, even those bound for stardom, can handle so much deep into the playoffs. Rondo was advanced.

He became an expert in reading the floor as a passer and savvy defender and rebounder. Rondo has planted himself firmly in discussions of the league’s most intelligent players.

Rondo had some ugly stints with the Mavericks, Kings and Bulls later in his career. In his first season in Los Angeles, he looked like a terrible fit with LeBron James. Tom Haberstroh:

But the Lakers still re-signed Rondo last offseason – and you can draw a line from Rondo’s Boston title to that decision.

The Celtics beat the Lakers in the 2008 Finals and lost to the Lakers in the 2010 Finals. In those battles, Rondo earned the respect of Kobe Bryant. Years later, Bryant recruited Rondo hard to Los Angeles. Think that resonated with Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka, Bryant’s friend and former agent?

Back with the Lakers, Rondo improved his chemistry with LeBron. Rondo has played key minutes in these playoffs and usually justified Frank Vogel’s faith. Behind the scenes, Rondo also continues to help Los Angeles’ young players develop.

So, yes, it’s somewhat coincidental Rondo happens to be on the likely champion. He easily could have spent the season with some other team, maybe even a very good one, that fell short. But he’s smart and determined enough to keep pushing forward. He gives himself opportunities.

Another title 12 years after his first would be such a fitting ode to his prompt and enduring ability to contribute to winning on the highest levels.

LeBron, Grizzlies, NBA world reacts to death of Tyre Nichols

Memphis Grizzlies v Minnesota Timberwolves
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Hours after the excruciating video of Memphis police fatally beating Tyre Nichols was released, the Memphis Grizzlies chose not to open their locker room and not speak to the media about it — it was too raw, too painful.

“The senseless loss of life for Tyre Nichols has really hit us hard,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said pregame in an interview with local broadcast partner Bally Sports (via the Associated Press). “It’s been tough being on the road, not being home. I wish I could extend my arms through this camera right now to the family. They’re going through a lot.”

The Grizzlies weren’t the only ones who felt that way around the NBA, emotions were high around the league Friday (as they were around the nation). Miami, Atlanta, Cleveland, Minnesota and Milwaukee released states echoing what the Grizzlies said.

LeBron James used his platform to make a statement, as he has in the past.

Statements were released from the NBA, WNBA, players, the players union and more.

“This is just crazy,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said unprompted to open his press conference, discussing the video and incident.

Nichols, 29, was pulled over in a traffic stop by Memphis police officers on Jan. 7 and was beaten to death by five officers. The bodycam footage shows Nichols being brutally beaten as he calls out for his mother and is defenseless. Nichols died in the hospital three days later. The five officers involved have been fired and charged with second-degree murder.

Dolan says he he has no plan to sell Knicks, retire, but he loves facial recognition

Celebrity Sightings In New York City - October 06, 2022
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Knicks owner James Dolan has been better in recent years about staying out of the way of the front office and staying out of the media spotlight — both of which are good for the Knicks and their fans’ sanity.

However, he stepped back in the spotlight the past couple of days — doing an interview on “Good Day New York” on Fox 5 Thursday then WFAN sports talk radio on Friday — and reminded everyone why it’s best when he stays out of it. Here are the highlights of these interviews.

• Dolan isn’t going anywhere, saying to WFAN he is not selling the team, nor does he plan to retire. Via Fred Katz at The Athletic:

“I have no plans whatsoever to sell at this point. I’m not retiring anytime soon. It’s a family-controlled asset, so someone in the family will eventually own it.”

That was a bit of a pipe dream for Knicks fans, there had been no rumors of a sale. With the value of NBA franchises rising rapidly and Dolan enjoying being the owner of one of the biggest brands in the sport, there has been little chance of a sale.

• Dolan defended Madison Square Garden’s controversial use of facial recognition technology to ban attorneys from firms involved in lawsuits against the Knicks or MSG from entering the property (or other Madison Square Garden properties, such as Radio City Music Hall).

“At Madison Square Garden, if you’re suing us, we’re just asking of you — please don’t come until you’re done with your argument with us. And yes, we’re using facial recognition to enforce that…

“If someone is suing you, that’s confrontational. It’s adversarial. If you’re being sued, you don’t have to welcome that person into your home.”

Except, it isn’t a home, it’s a public building where sports and entertainment events take place for which tickets are sold. Also, there are fans saying they have been banned from the building because of social media posts critical of Dolan.

• This policy has created a considerable backlash, including from the New York Attorney General, who said the policy could violate anti-discrimination laws in the state. Lawmakers in the New York state assembly introduced a bill prohibiting sports venues — such as Madison Square Garden — from refusing entry to attorneys or others involved in lawsuits against the organization.

• Dolan said on FOX 5 that the State Liquor Authority reached out to the Madison Square Garden company saying the use of facial recognition technology in this manner could lead to a suspension of their liquor license.

“This isn’t going to bother me because I’ve been sober 29 years. I don’t need the liquor.”

Dolan even hinted he could do a dry New York Rangers game on Fox, but he backed away from that idea the next day speaking on WFAN.

• Dolan reiterated his support of current Knicks decision-maker Leon Rose.

Dolan also went on to say he expects the Knicks to make the playoffs this season, however, there is no timeline for the team to contend for a ring.

What will Rockets do at trade deadline? Send out Gordon? Bring in Collins?

Minnesota Timberwolves v Houston Rockets
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There’s a sense in league circles that this is the final season Houston will be okay with having one of the worst — as of today, the worst — record in the NBA. The Rockets hope to grab one of the big names at the top of the draft board this season, but they already have drafted Jalen Green at No. 2 (2021) and Jabari Smith Jr. at No. 3 (2022), plus made a draft night trade for Alperen Şengün (who is playing well). With cap space to spend and extensions coming up, the tanking days will be over.

How will that impact the Rockets at this trade deadline? Here are a few names to watch.

Kelly Iko at The Athletic reports the Rockets have interest in the Hawks’ John Collins and the sides have talked, but there is no real traction yet.

There has been nothing concrete from the Rockets — merely ideas floated by the Hawks to Houston among other teams — but the interest is real.

The Rockets could also be part of a larger, three-team trade to move Collins.

Eric Gordon remains on the trade block, as he has been for more than a year. Gordon has been frustrated waiting, but the Rockets have held out for what they thought was fair — a first-round pick — to no avail. That price likely comes down, and according to Iko at The Athletic, the front office is “more inclined to trade him now” than in the past, but the proof will be in a deal.

• Teams also are calling about K.J. Martin, according to Iko.

K.J. Martin, there continues to be interest in the 22-year-old combo forward who has been quite productive as a starter — averaging 14 points and seven rebounds on 35 percent shooting from 3 — but nothing concrete at this juncture in terms of offers on the table.

The Rockets like Martin, it’s going to take a serious offer to get them to consider it.

Knicks reportedly offered multiple first-round picks for OG Anunoby, got nowhere

Boston Celtics v Toronto Raptors
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What are the Toronto Raptors going to do at the trade deadline?

It’s less than two weeks before the trade deadline and the entire NBA is still asking that question, the Raptors are the one team that could turn this trade deadline from a dud to epic if they decide to pivot toward a rebuild. Are they willing to trade players like OG Anunoby or Pascal Siakam, or will they look to add a more traditional big man such as the Spurs’ Jakob Poeltl, who has been linked to the Raptors in rumors? Everything seems to be on the table.

Anunoby is a player a lot of teams covet, including New York. The Knicks reached out to the Raptors, reports Ian Begley of SNY.TV.

“And Anunoby with Toronto, I mean, that would cost you a lot. That would cost you significant draft compensation. Maybe the Knicks are there, maybe they’re feeling like they could make the playoffs and make a big push if you added in Anunoby. I know that we reported they contacted Toronto on Anunoby and I was told in that conversation they offered multiple firsts. But this was a while back… Toronto has done a lot since then. But I don’t think the league is crystal clear on what [the Raptors] want to do on Anunoby.”

Anunoby is an elite on-ball wing defender who can be a finisher, averaging 17.3 points and 5.6 rebounds a game at age 25 — the asking price will start at two unprotected first-round picks in this market. The Knicks may have thrown some of their protected picks in the conversation, but Toronto’s asking price is reportedly sky-high because they’re not eager to get rid of him.

Anunoby is making $17.4 million this season and is under contract for $18.2 million next season, a fair price for what he brings to the court (he has a player option at $19.9 million in 2024-25). What the Raptors do with him may signal their direction.

At the deadline, most people around the league expect Toronto to trade Gary Trent Jr., but that’s it. Any other big moves are likely this offseason. If ever.