Let’s talk Celtics!

Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce reacts after being fouled by the Miami Heat during the third quarter of Game 3 of their NBA Eastern Conference playoff series in Boston, Massachusetts May 7, 2011. REUTERS/Adam Hunger (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Here are five questions about the C’s that ESPN posed to its network of basketbloggers along with my take.

1. Fact or Fiction: Rajon Rondo’s up-and-down play is a concern.
Fact! Of course you don’t want up-and-down play from your point guard. That’s a silly question.

2. Fact or Fiction: The Celtics should consider trading Ray Allen.
Fiction. What’s the point? The C’s are in “win now” mode, so why trade away one of the best shooters in the game? On the off chance that Kevin Garnett undergoes a resurgence and the C’s can get back into contender status, wouldn’t they want Jesus Shuttlesworth out there knocking down three-pointers?

3. Fact or Fiction: Boston should bring back Jeff Green and Glen Davis.
Fiction-ish. It depends on what Green wants to return. I think he could still be part of Boston’s future, but he’ll probably get more money than he’s worth. As for Davis, he looked lethargic last season and I’m not sure he can trim down enough to earn a new deal.

4. Fact or Fiction: The C’s will go as far as Kevin Garnett takes them.
Fiction, but KG is the key. The Celtics are a team in the truest sense of the word and will need contributions and good play from several players if they hope to make another title run, but Garnett has to get back to All-Star level play on both ends of the court if the C’s are going to go anywhere.

5. Fact or Fiction: The Celtics’ title window has closed.
Fact. It’s not completely closed, but if you’re standing a few feet away, it sure looks like it’s closed. It would take a perfect storm of good play and good health by the Celtics along with disaster striking in both Miami and Chicago (not to mention the Western Conference contenders) to re-open the window to let anything more than a draft through.

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Five semi-reasonable Chris Paul trades

New Orleans Hornets Chris Paul takes a breather during Game 5 of their NBA Western Conference first round playoff basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers in Los Angeles, California April 26, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

With the news that David West plans to test free agency once a new CBA is finalized (whenever that is), the Hornets have two choices: 1) let him walk and further hurt their chances of re-signing Chris Paul, or 2) overpay to keep West. Let’s assume they do the pragmatic thing and let him walk. At that point, the franchise needs to take the long-term view and try to rebuild. Paul will most likely leave at the end of the season, so the Hornets should try to get as much as they can while they can, or else they’ll end up like the Cavs or the Raptors, watching their star walk away with very little to show for it.

With that in mind, here are five semi-reasonable trade offers for Chris Paul. I use the phrase ‘semi-reasonable’ because New Orleans fans need to keep their expectations in check — teams are never able to get equal value for their disgruntled/one-foot-out-the-door stars.

1. Thunder trade Russell Westbrook, Cole Aldrich, Thabo Sefolosha and Nate Robinson for CP3.
See this trade in the ESPN Trade Machine. The key to this trade is obviously Westbrook — a young All-Star who has proven that he’s not ready to lead the Thunder, who could absolutely take over the Western Conference if they could get heady, consistent point guard play. Westbrook is only 22, and could eventually develop into a top tier point guard, but right now he doesn’t know how to run a team. He turns the ball over way too much and his shot selection in crunch time is suspect at best. The Thunder shouldn’t wait for him to develop; with the Lakers and Spurs on the decline and Dirk Nowitzki getting older, the time is now for OKC. On the flip side, the Hornets have the luxury of letting him develop. Who knows, maybe he turns into a top 10 player. Even if he has plateaued, a 22-year-old All-Star is not a bad haul for CP3, who is likely out the door next summer. Aldrich and Sefolosha sweeten the deal a little bit, balance the salaries out, and give the Hornets a couple of young rotation players. As for Paul’s contract situation, call me crazy, but I think he signs a long-term deal given the opportunity to play with Kevin Durant and James Harden.

2. Celtics trade Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic for CP3 and Aaron Gray.
See this trade in the ESPN Trade Machine. This is a ‘one last run’ move for the Celtics, who aren’t going to get past the Heat and Bulls with their current lineup. Paul adds a new dimension to the Celtics offense and would be deadly in the pick-and-pop with Kevin Garnett. Plus, he’d give the Celtics a guy to build around once they decide to part ways with KG and Ray Allen, allowing Paul Pierce to fill a more complimentary role. (This assumes that Paul would be willing to re-up with the Celtics.) For the Hornets, they get an All-Star point guard who has had more ups than downs, along with a versatile forward (Green) who has proven he can score 16+ a game.

3. Clippers trade Eric Gordon, Mo Williams and the T-Wolves’ unprotected 2012 first round draft pick for CP3.
See this trade in the ESPN Trade Machine. Gordon developed into a 22 ppg scorer in just his third season in the league. Williams is a capable point guard (and former All-Star), but the other key to this trade is the Wolves’ unprotected 2012 first round pick that the Clippers own as part of the Marko Jaric trade. (That’s right, the T-Wolves are still paying for Marko Jaric.) With the direction Minnesota is headed, the pick is likely to be in the top 5, so the Hornets would likely get another player with star potential in the Draft. The Clippers would be able to pair CP3 with Blake Griffin, but the question is would there be enough talent on the roster to convince both players to re-up? Plus, there’s the Donald Sterling Factor.

4. Grizzlies trade Rudy Gay and Mike Conley for CP3.
See this trade in the ESPN Trade Machine. The Grizzlies proved that they could win without Gay, but struggled in crunch time because they didn’t have a playmaker on the perimeter. Paul would fit in well with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol and maybe he’d be able to coax better production out of O.J. Mayo as well. The Hornets would get a very good small forward in Gay (20-6-3, 40% 3PT) along with an improving point guard (Conley) to replace Paul. The problem with this trade is Paul’s willingness to sign a long-term deal. It’s not likely that he’s going to want to stay in Memphis for the next five years.

5. Hawks trade Josh Smith and Jeff Teague for CP3.
See this trade in the ESPN Trade Machine. Perhaps Atlanta would need to include a first round pick to sweeten the deal, but Smith is a borderline All-Star (and possibly Atlanta’s best player) and Teague played very well when given the keys in the Playoffs. The Hawks would have one of the best backcourts in the league in Paul and Joe Johnson, and Al Horford is more than capable of hitting jumpers off the pick-and-pop. The Hornets would get a supremely talented power forward to replace David West and Teague could emerge as a starting-caliber point guard in a year or two.

In the end, the Hornets probably won’t make a bold trade including Paul, but the longer they wait, the worse off they’ll be. The Nuggets did all right with the Carmelo trade, but it nearly destroyed their season.

Paul Pierce throws gum onto court [video]

This is not the first time Pierce has thrown his gum during the game. It’s disgusting and shows no respect for those around him (especially the person who will eventually have to pick his gum up).

Oklahoma City locks up Kendrick Perkins

ESPN has the details, via Ric Bucher.

Perkins will receive almost $36 million fully guaranteed over the course of the four-year contract, his agent, Bob Myers, told ESPN The Magazine’s Ric Bucher.

As part of the deadline deal that sent Perkins to Oklahoma City, the Thunder trimmed a tiny bit of cap space (a little more than $1 million), which gave them just enough additional wiggle room to help hammer out a contract extension. With Boston over the salary cap, the team couldn’t offer more than $22 million over four years, while Oklahoma City was able to use that sliver of cap space to offer Perkins as much as $13 million more on a four-year deal.

So the Thunder signed Perkins for $9 million a season, which is about the going rate for a starting center. Perkins is widely regarded as one of the best defensive centers in the league, and on-court/off-court numbers at 82games support that. OKC obviously believes he will be good addition to their core of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. One knock on the Thunder is that they aren’t tough enough, and the seasoned Perkins will definitely help in that area.

I highlighted the bit about Boston because it’s a little misleading the way it’s written. It’s not that the Celtics couldn’t offer Perkins a bigger deal, they could, they just elected not to. With a soft cap, a NBA team can re-sign its own players for whatever the two sides can agree on. The Celtics made a financial decision to trade Perkins away because they knew they weren’t going to pay him when his deal was up after the season.

Murphy to Celtics; Bibby to Heat

The top two teams in the East just got a little better.

Marc Stein tweeted that Murphy told him personally that he’s going to Boston.

Murphy helps take some of the sting out of the loss of Kendrick Perkins in the Jeff Green trade. Murphy can rebound and shoot the three, so he’ll help space the court for the Celtics and give Doc Rivers another capable crunch time option with a little more length than Glen Davis.

I’m surprised Murphy didn’t pick the Heat, who seemingly have more available minutes at center, though maybe he wanted to get back to his Irish roots. The C’s are also in line to talk to Corey Brewer after his surprising buyout by the Knicks. He’s considered an elite wing defender and his on/off stats at 82games back that up.

Meanwhile, Mike Bibby is reportedly heading to the Heat. He’s well past his prime, but he’s still an upgrade over Mario Chalmers and Carlos Arroyo. I’m not sure why Miami hasn’t played with a Wade/Miller backcourt much this season, though Miller has been pretty bad as he’s been working his way back from injury.

Bibby gives the Heat an experienced player who won’t be afraid of the moment. He’s a good shooter who should be able to take advantage of open shots created by LeBron and Wade’s penetration. Good signing by Pat Riley.

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