SH Blog: Two college stars decide to enter draft; Mark Jackson denies looking at other jobs

Leave a comment

How great was last night’s Pacers-Heat game?

Enough to make up for an entire season of lackluster basketball from the rest of the Eastern Conference? Probably not.

Enough to get even the most casual fan’s appetite whetted for a playoff showdown between the defending champs and the rising stars? Absolutely.

May: The Future of Four Floundering Flagship Franchises

3 Comments

We are about to witness what may be a first in the long history of the NBA. For the first time, four of the JacksonKnicksleague’s flagship franchises could well be out of the playoffs.

OK, the Knicks aren’t technically out of the race in the Hindenburg Conference, but they have a lot of ground to make up on Atlanta – four games in the loss column with 13 to play. The Celtics, Lakers and 76ers all are making plans for the 2014 draft lottery and the riches it may (or may not) provide.

Twenty years ago, the Celtics, Lakers and Sixers all missed the postseason, but the Pat Riley-coached Knicks made it all the way to the NBA Finals, losing in seven games to the Houston Rockets. That remains the best Knicks’ playoff run since the 1973 championship season (moreso than their surprising appearance in the 1999 Finals, where they were decided underdogs to the Spurs and lost in five.)

But at no time since 1949, when the Lakers entered the NBA in Minneapolis, and the 76ers came in as the Syracuse Nationals, have all four of these marquee teams been on the outside looking in when the playoffs arrived. (The Celtics and Knicks started in 1946.)

May: Paul Pierce “without a doubt” would return to Celtics

2 Comments

395px-Paul_pierce_netsBOSTON — You don’t often hear his name mentioned on the list of potential, difference-making free agents this summer. OK, you never hear it. And that’s OK with Paul Pierce.

“I can still play. I can still make a contribution,’’ he said. This is a man whose game may be on the decline, but whose confidence clearly is not.

“I’m kind of lost in the shuffle right now,’’ he added. “You don’t hear my name out there. You hear Melo (Carmelo Anthony.) You hear LeBron (James.) But you don’t hear my name.”

Pierce is, indeed, an unrestricted free agent-to-be. He could be in a class this summer that not only includes Anthony and James, but also Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Luol Deng, Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol and his former teammate, Ray Allen.

He will be 37 this summer when he is eligible to receive suitors. He can choose his next employer, something he really hasn’t been able to do over 16 years in the NBA. In the past, he’d always end up re-signing with the Celtics, who paid him well.

Then came last summer and the Celtics Diaspora.

Pierce was either going to be traded or bought out; there was no way he was returning to the rebuilding Celtics for $15.3 million a year. Danny Ainge was blowing it up and Pierce had already suffered through one of those Biblical droughts. He wanted no part of another one.

He was traded to the Nets. He didn’t choose them. They chose him. He’s on a better team, for sure, but it’s a flawed team that doesn’t rebound and has no inside presence on offense or defense. It is, as Bob Dylan would say, goin’ nowhere.

Would Pierce want another year of that, assuming the Nets want him back? Would he abandon Kevin Garnett at the first opportunity after convincing him to join him in Brooklyn? (Don’t forget, however, that KG was ready to go the Clippers with Doc Rivers until the NBA stepped in. Pierce was not a part of that.)

Or would a confluence of justice, mercy, history and serendipity land him back in Boston to finish his career where he started it? Stranger things have happened.

pierce_celtics“Why not? Play for them. Work for them. You never know,’’ Pierce said. He later was a bit more definitive when asked if he’d consider returning to play for the Celtics.

“Without a doubt,’’ he told SheridanHoops.

Well, of course he’s going to say that. He’s not going to eliminate any option at this point. And as much as he might want to return to Boston, it means nothing if the love isn’t reciprocated. Otherwise, it’s a non-starter.

But how could the Celtics not want Pierce back, even at 37, especially someone who knows the many worlds of Rajon Rondo? Ownership has always liked Pierce. Clearly, the fans in Boston love him. It would be the ultimate reunion story.

Money could always be an issue. OK, money is always the issue. Pierce is in no position at this stage of his career to command big dollars, nor, presumably, does he need another eight-figure deal to pay the utility bill. Unless he invested with Bernie Madoff, he should be fine financially.

He’d fit nicely into one of those exceptions that litter the CBA landscape. He has to know that. He has to know that other teams know that as well.

DocRiversWhile Boston would make for a good, Hollywood storyline, Pierce’s other legitimate option would be to return to the real Hollywood and join the Clippers. He’d be re-united with Rivers. He’d be on a team with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. He’d have a chance to win another ring, something that isn’t going to happen in Boston. He’d really be going home this time, having been raised in Inglewood.

Watching Pierce play, its clear he has some game left. He’s not the volume scorer of yore, nor would he need to be, or expected to be, in Boston or LA. He could be equal parts mentor, coach, gray eminence and occasional assassin for the Celtics. And wouldn’t Brad Stevens want someone like Pierce in his locker room with all those impressionable youngins?

Pierce played his last game in Boston for the 2013-14 season on Friday night. It was nowhere near the three-ply special of Jan. 26, when he was emotionally wrought at the prospect of playing in TD Garden for a Celtics’ opponent. There weren’t any signs. There was no video tribute. He got a warm ovation when introduced.

He never wanted to leave. But he understood it had to happen. Now, after a year on a .500 team in a horrible conference, he is trying to make the best of what looks like a sure-lose proposition.

What he does next will be worth watching. No one would blame him if he chased a championship in Los Angeles. But how much neater (to use a Larry Brown word) would it be to see him back in Boston, back where many feel he still should be, Paul Pierce among them?

As he put it, you never know.

Peter May is the only writer who covered the final NBA games played by Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. He has covered the league for three decades for The Hartford Courant and The Boston Globe and has written three books on the Boston Celtics. His work also appears in The New York Times. You can follow him on Twitter.

MORE FROM PETER MAY:

CHANGE THE NBA DRAFT? WHY?
CELTICS-LAKERS WAS A BATTLE FOR PING-PONG BALLS
IS THIS THE YEAR A TRADE WILL IMPACT A CHAMPIONSHIP?
WHY TIM DUNCAN REMINDS ME OF JAY LENO
HEAT LOOKING LIKE A TEAM READY TO THREE-PEAT
REUNION TIME IS THE RIGHT TIME FOR PIERCE AND KG
HOW DAVID $HOW ME THE MONEY $TERN RUINED THE NBA
PROPS TO CHRIS GRANT: SOMEBODY WHO FINALLY STOOD UP TO THE LAKERS
A CLEVELAND CAUTIONARY TALE ON WINNING THE DRAFT LOTTERY
WHAT WILL BECOME OF RAJON RONDO?

SH Blog: Knicks hoping for Love, Rondo; Aldridge plans to shoot more threes

1 Comment

JohnWallAll-Star Saturday is one of my favorite days of the NBA season, because it’s the best chance we get to see players just having fun. More than just about any other sports league on the planet, the NBA likes to show off its players’ charisma, flair, and general ability to entertain. And it’s working. Just ask every company that uses an NBA player in their advertising. Any of the twenty or so of them.

I rounded up some NBA players’ reactions to the dunk contest, so click through for that. Personally, I thought the freestyle round was a cool addition, and the East team had some really slick teamwork. The battle format was a little iffy, though, and only getting to see one dunk from each competitor was a bit of a letdown. Ben McLemore’s rumored 720 never materialized, though his dunk was pretty easily the runner-up to John Wall’s runaway winner. He also had my favorite individual dunk of the freestyle round and showcased his ridiculous hops. On the whole, the dunkers (especially the East, who clearly had a game plan, whereas the West seemed a little starstruck) brought it, but the format held them back.

The other great thing about All-Star Saturday is that everyone’s in one place, and that means one-of-a-kind trade rumor coverage. It’s like baseball’s winter meetings, only with dunks also. It’s a pretty great time for the basketball blogger.

Now let’s get to the news:

SH Blog: Pistons fire Cheeks; Stotts hasn’t talked extension yet

7 Comments

Jennings CheeksHave you ever read something so intensely negative about someone that, regardless of how credible it is, you have a hard time dissociating it from your perception of that person?

I’m not talking George Zimmerman or Woody Allen here, of course. More of a rumor, possibly not even based in fact, that just sticks around in the back of your mind forever.