Retaining Rondo: A Comprehensive Examination

The rumours never end. Ever. Rajon Rondo has been the point guard of the Boston Celtics since 2006, and has repeatedly attracted trade speculation over the bulk of his career. And yet, here he is, a rarity in the league as a player who has remained with the same team since his rookie year, eight years on.

Then you realise why the rumours have been around for so long. To put it simply, he has immense talent, an NBA championship, and plays the game to make his teammates better by sharing the ball – an uncommon trait for point guards in the NBA. Then when you dig even further, you are reminded of his ability to step up his game in the postseason, of his drive to win at all costs, to sacrifice life and limb (literally) for his team. Of course other teams would be interested, there’s no doubt about that.

When you put all of this together, you really wonder why ‘experts’ are so keen to offload a player of this calibre. Allow me to analyse exactly why the captain of the most storied franchise in the game will remain in Boston not only for this season, but long enough to see that number 9 hanging in the rafters next to Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.


The Mutual Attraction

In any long-term relationship, both parties need to remain interested and enthusiastic about one another. Firstly, Rajon himself has repeatedly stated that he loves the Celtics, the city of Boston and the fans that occupy it. Here are some of his more recent quotes;

“The fans, the people here make me want to stay,” Rondo said at that time. “The organization has been great. I can’t say enough about Danny (Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations) and Wyc (Grousbeck who co-owns the team), but when I walk down the street the fans have embraced me from Day One. These people know the game; you can’t fool them. The love I get is kind of overwhelming. I want to stay here.”

“Regardless of what’s going on with the season, my position hasn’t changed,” Rondo said on Wednesday. “I love being a Celtic.”

It’s always encouraging when the player loves the team he plays for, however the feelings need to be shared by those running the organisation too. When the owner, GM and coach all like what you bring to the table, I’d say that’s a pretty good sign that the organisation would like to see you stick around.

The relationship between coach Stevens and captain Rondo is as strong as any Rondo has had with any coach. Mostly it seems as though the reports of Rondo being hard to coach are blown way out of proportion, but we’ll get to that later. NBA.com’s David Aldridge outlined the kind of rapport shared by the duo before the season began, exploring Rondo’s appreciation for how Stevens is the most positive coach he’s had in his entire career, and the values of playing hard and the will to win are shared between the pair. Having analytical minds and confidence in your star player to execute the plays drawn up in timeouts, are attributes any coach would love to have in their point guard.


The Business

With salary cap restrictions, pending free agency, and a team in rebuild mode, the final year of Rondo’s contract was always going to draw attention from reporters. While we won’t delve too far into the financial side of basketball, it actually makes sense to wait until the end of the season to re-sign him.

Due to the Collective Bargaining Agreement rules, Boston is unable to offer a five-year extension to Rondo until the end of the season. The Celtics are the only team able to offer a contract with the length of 5 years as they hold Rajon’s Bird Rights. In addition, the team can’t offer anywhere near the same amount of (possibly maximum) money until season’s end as well. Also in the Celtics’ favour is their ability to offer higher increments of pay per season than other teams once free agency does hit. It appears both Danny and Rondo are on the same page already, when Ainge was quoted on media day agreeing that a player set to reach his prime is probably worth the big dollars:

“I think a four-time All-Star by the time he’s [28] years old would qualify for max based on what we’ve seen in the marketplace,” Ainge said. “If I were Rajon and I were Rajon’s agent, I would definitely say that.”

While a maximum contract may sound a bit steep to Rondo critics, there is one very important thing to remember where the salary cap is concerned. The NBA is set to triple their national TV revenue in their next television rights deal for the season beginning 2016-17. While there is still this season and next to get through, this deal is expected to increase team salary caps by $25.8 million per year.

What this means for Rondo is that a maximum contract signed next year, won’t actually hurt the team’s cap room nearly as much after the first season. To put it simply, the current salary cap’s maximum will pay Rajon handsomely for the next five years, but it won’t destroy the Celtics’ long-term spending on other pieces. The percentage of his contract next to the salary cap will actually be comparable to his current team-friendly deal.


The Drawcard

There are many stars in the NBA, but how many of those play alongside someone who could actually make them even better? Building a roster that is strong right to the end of the bench is becoming increasingly important to building a championship team. Rondo is a distributor by nature, and has proven his ability to put the ball to his teammates that amplify their strengths. So the question is; why would you trade someone that can make their teammates better, and be appealing to potential star recruits?

One of the knocks on Rondo was that his productivity would drop off once his star teammates in Pierce, Garnett and Allen left. Overall his statistics point to someone that has remained just as effective in scoring and passing, while his rebounding numbers have actually improved since the departures of the Big Three. His maturity levels have increased, and he seems to be excelling as a leader since their departures.

If anything, he has become more of a focal point on offense, and finally plays with teammates young enough to play the running game he has always craved. Last season the Celtics ranked 12th for possessions per game while posting 96.2 points. Through this year, they rank 8th in the league for possessions while posting 104.6 points – good enough for 6th in the league. A fit Rondo is showcasing how easily he can run an offense that plays his style of run-and-gun basketball.

From an individual perspective, Rondo’s performance through 6 games this year has yielded averages of 10.8 points, a league-leading 11.3 assists, 8.2 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game. The man is almost averaging a triple-double. While it’s a small sample, not many players in the league can point to those numbers.

Looking into the history books, Rondo has demonstrated that he can take his game to another level once the playoffs hit. First there was holding the keys to the 2008 championship team (of course), but it was over the next few years he really began to shine. The 2009 series against the Bulls was a coming out party for Rondo, playing a starring role in the 7 game series. He almost single-handedly took his team of stars to the championship in 2010 with the way he played in the Finals, and he played out the series against Miami in 2011 despite a dislocated elbow. Then in 2012, he helped take the soon-to-be champion Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals, including that 44-point game that almost ripped Miami’s heart out.

He has proven to the league that he is capable of stepping up when it matters most in the postseason, something his contemporaries have no doubt noticed, but also respected immensely. Keeping in mind that the Celtics are primed to make a charge at the 2015 offseason, in both free agency and trades, Rondo is a pretty handy individual to help sell the Boston Celtics franchise to prospective players.


The Silencing of Detractors

Where to begin? Rondo is in the final year of a contract, which makes him an easy target for trade speculation, even by his standards. We often see players step up their games when playing for another contract, then drastically dropping off in the following season. Danny Ainge summarises where Rondo would fit into this topic:

“I don’t think that’s what drives Rajon. I think that he’s motivated because he didn’t play to his standards coming off the knee injury. He doesn’t like to not be good. He doesn’t like not being considered one of the best point guards in the game. I think that’s what drives him, that’s what motivates him, and that’s what drove him to hard work this summer.”

Even if the C’s were looking to offload Rondo, the issue of placing a value on such a unique player opens up a whole new can of worms. People say he’s a hard individual to deal with, which would automatically be used against the Celtics in any negotiations to trade for anyone of equal talent – especially when the team is taking a risk to convince him to stay if he’s only been there for half a season. I believe a trade is even more unlikely now than it was at any point last year.

The perception that Rondo is a tough personality to deal with is unfounded. He’s the ultimate competitor who loves to win, and I can only recall one occasion in his entire career where there has ever been any issues with teammates. That teammate happened to be Ray Allen, who was more upset with Doc Rivers’ decision to put the ball in Rondo’s hands more than Rondo as a person. Kobe Bryant, one of the fiercest competitors to ever play in the NBA, has had his fair share of issues with teammates – but I don’t see anyone kicking him out of LA, and he’s had several more indiscretions than Rondo ever will. I’m not comparing the two from a basketball level, as Rondo is more a likely to form a star duo, but it’s a good comparison when it comes to competitive personalities.

If anything I would say Rondo is one of the more loyal individuals when it comes to his teammates, when you consider his lasting friendships with past Celtics such as Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Keyon Dooling, Jason Terry and Kendrick Perkins, just to name a few. With these players now all departed, Rajon can seek advice from his former teammates about parting from such a great place. If he values Kendrick Perkins’ guidance, then we shouldn’t be worried about the number 9 leaving any time soon

“I think it’s a great place for him. I think he wants to stay here. We talk on the regular, and I think he should stay,” said Perkins. “If I was him, I’d stay.”

The current roster is shaped by a strong guard rotation of Rondo, Avery Bradley and rookie Marcus Smart. On draft night, many people began pointing at Boston’s selection of Smart as the end of Rondo’s time in a green uniform. While Smart has already shown his potential as a capable player, it would actually seem that these three guards could co-exist with one another as the C’s build a deep roster. Who’s to say the Celtics won’t look to offload one of Bradley or Smart if the right deal presents itself? It’s never nice to think about, but there is always the possibility.

Lastly, our friend John from Red’s Army made a great point about a potential Rondo trade at this season’s deadline:

“I don’t think Danny Ainge is going to lesson, lower his price, I don’t think he wants to become the GM that becomes known as the guy who lowers his price when his back’s against the wall.”


The Final Word

All dialogue from both Rajon and the Celtics organisation appears to be heading to a contract extension in the summer of 2015. Again, Danny Ainge has prepared for the Celtics to make a full tilt at this year’s free agency, and has a ridiculous amount of young players and draft picks at his disposal via trades, to get this team back to the top end of the Eastern conference. If Boston is looking to attract big names to the city next year, having a player as special as Rondo waiting to play alongside you has to make the team more appealing. Four-time All Stars and NBA champions don’t grow on trees, trading away a player at the peak of his powers doesn’t make sense to me.

Rajon Rondo is a loyal person, and I have no doubt he wants to become a Celtic for life. He is the captain of the team for a reason. He is respected right around the league, and I believe he is a key component to bringing banner 18 to the city of Boston. Thank you for reading.

- Michael Tarran

(@mickyt34)

Lee Off To A Good Start

Another bright spark to start the Celtics season has been the re-emergence of a confident Courtney Lee. Acquired in a complicated trade during the 2012 offseason, expectations were high on a player many claimed could fill the void of #20 alongside Jason Terry at the shooting guard position last year.

While Lee managed to find some form over a stretch in January and February next to Avery Bradley as the duo of Pitbulls, C-Lee found himself bouncing from the starting line-up to a reserve role numerous times in the regular season, eventually finding his way into Doc Rivers’ doghouse as the season drew to a close. This resulted in ‘DNP – Coach’s Decision’ next to Courtney’s name in the playoff series against New York on a couple of occasions.

Lee possesses many skills that are desired from a professional basketballer; a respectable defender, a good 3-point shot, mid-range jumper, and the ability to handle the ball and finish around the rim. Last season, he played more of a passive role in the Celtics offense, often found standing in the corner to create more space for Paul Pierce or Kevin Garnett to operate in.

Now, it has become more evident that coach Stevens wants Lee to be a bigger part of the team at that end of the floor, running plays to allow him to be freed up by screens. This has resulted in open looks from downtown, shots off the dribble, and drives the basket.

While the statistics don’t light up the page at a superstar level,  Lee has fulfilled his role as a consistent scorer off the bench so far in the early part of the Celtics 2013/14 campaign. His confidence to shoot the ball when open has been a noticable difference, and we have seen more of the player Boston fans were hoping for last year. Through the first 9 contests, 8.3 points per game and a field goal percentage of 57% have illustrated Lee’s ability to put up points for the team at an efficient rate.

Lee told ESPN this week he rectified a flaw in his shooting stroke over the 2013 offseason

“I don’t know where it came from, I was swinging the ball from my left side to my right when I shot,” said Lee. “In the years before, I never did that. I had to get back to working on not doing it.”

“I’m back to playing with confidence,” he said. “Taking my shots, playing within the flow, pretty much back to playing the way I was playing before I came to Boston last year.”

Finding himself in a very different situation this year, Lee has been making the most of it thus far. Having been a fan of him since his rookie days in Orlando, I believe Lee can play a role in the resurgance of the Celtics, and can be a big part of the future next to the promising brigade of Rondo, Green, Sullinger, Olynyk, and others. Hopefully this strong play won’t result in a trade, but rather a strengthening of his role with the team going forward.

Let us know what you’ve thought of Lee’s play so far in the comments below.

- Michael (@mickyt34)

Green Kick Of The Season R1: Terry’s Answer IV’s v Rondo’s Fighter Jet’s

The battle between Courtney Lee’s Air Jordan VII ‘Golden Moments’ and Avery Bradley’s Adidas AdiZero Crazy Light 2’s ended in the closest finish we’ve seen.

Avery Bradley and his Adidas Crazy Light 2’s move onto the second round after collecting 58% of your votes.

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In the final week of round one there is a battle between:

Jason Terry’s Reebok Answer IV’s

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versus

Rajon Rondo’s  Nike Foamposite Fighter Jet’s

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Check back next week to find out wins this battle!

A Study in Green: Jason Terry aka The JET

When the JET touched down in Boston, fans rejoiced. Sentiments such as “Terry will make us a much better team”, and “Ray who?” were common amongst Celtics fans. Coming in, all Celtics fans thought that Terry, along with other new faces, would give us the bench punch we needed to knock off Miami and go further than the previous post-season. I was personally ecstatic. Getting a player who, in 2011, was just as important as Dirk in getting Dallas’ first championship, publicly trashtalked the best player in the world (and our enemy), then backed it up on the court? I thought he was going to fit perfectly with our team on and off the court.

Atlanta Hawks v Boston Celtics

Unfortunately, as the season went on and injuries mounted, the Celtics had their worst regular season and earliest playoff exit since the new Big 3 was assembled back in 2007-2008.

There were plenty of factors for the poor season by the Celtics. Losing our best player, our best rebounder and bench sparkplug all within 3 weeks were big factors. As the season progressed however, the fans’ frustration in Terry seemed to grow as well.

The Good

Jason Terry is at his most effective with the ball in his hands, when coming off a screen. This was how Dallas always used him, and this was what Celtics fans envisioned of him before he played a game for us. He demonstrated that in the playoffs against the Knicks, when it seemed he was given some offensive freedom to attack the New York defense. He shot a touch under 50% between the 16-24 feet range out on the floor, which is an elite number. His routine of promising big games, and then delivering on that promise, just as he did after copping an elbow from JR Smith in game 3, is also a great attribute and speaks for his confidence level in himself and his team.

Boston Celtics v New York Knicks - Game One

Jason Terry also embraced his bench role, even going as far as coining himself the captain of the bench squad at the beginning of the season. Having an established veteran scorer that is willing to come off the bench is a big plus, and not to be taken for granted (this was something other stars had a problem with).

The Bad

Terry had a forgettable 2012/13 campaign to say the least. His PPG average was down to 10.1 PPG, which is the second lowest average of his career (his rookie season was the lowest with 8.1). He only managed to hit .372 of his 3 point attempts, and connected with .434 of his overall shots.

It is worth noting however, that out of his 14-year career, his 3 worst seasons have been when he changed teams.

  1. His rookie year (99-00) where he averaged 8.1 points per game.
  2. His first season in Dallas (04-05), where he averaged 12.4 points per game.
  3. This past season (12-13), where he averaged 10.1 points per game.

After his rookie season and his first season with Dallas, his game picked up significantly. If history is anything to go by, we should see a more productive Terry next season – if he is still in green playing alongside Pierce & KG in Brooklyn.

It is also worth noting that Doc was not playing to Terry’s strength at the start of the season, where he was running Ray Allen-type plays for Terry, making him run around multiple screens to get a shot off. As stated previously, Terry is more than a catch and shoot player and we should put him in better positions to excel.

The Verdict

I was lucky enough to be in Boston to watch game 4 vs. New York, where Boston won in overtime. That was one of the best games I have seen of Terry in a Celtics uniform. That, was the player Celtic nation envisioned getting when he came across from Dallas – closing the game with 9 points in the overtime, and taking the burden off Paul Pierce, who finally buckled from carrying the team post Rondo injury.

I though that Terry would have been more comfortable in the Celtics system for the next season prior to him being dealt to the Brooklyn Nets. Moving to Brooklyn with both Pierce and Garnett, and having a coach who was an ex-teammate in Kidd should greatly benefit the Jet in terms of familiarity. If Brooklyn are lucky, they will be able to see what Boston didn’t — the Jet soar again.
What do you think, will the JET be worth his salt and deliver the goods for Brooklyn in the new 2013/14 season? Share your thoughts with us.

Green Kick Of The Season R1: Terry’s Sublite’s v Bradley’s Real Deal’s

Last week we saw Rajon Rondo and his Nike Hyperposite’s take on Courtney Lee and his Nike Air Penny V’s. This was a round 1 match up that looked as though it could be very one-sided from the outset.

Rajon Rondo and his flashy, gold Nike Hyperposite’s move onto round 2 after collecting 83% of your votes.

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We continue round 1 this week with a battle between:

Jason Terry’s Reebok Sublite Pro Rise’s

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versus

Avery Bradley’s Adidas Real Deal II’s

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Remember to check back next week to find out who will be progressing onto round 2.

Green Kick Of The Season R1: Rondo Hyperposites v JET Kamikaze II’s

The 2012/13 NBA season did not pan out the way it was supposed to for the Boston Celtics. One positive we can take away from the season was the shoe game of many Celtics. They stood up in the kick department and showed us some heat.

To celebrate this season’s best kicks, I have selected the best 16 kicks from the weekly Green Kick Of The Week to battle it out. It is now up to you, our readers who will crown the Green Kick of the Season!

Green Kick of the Season 2012/13 brackets

Below is the bracket, showing the matchups. (Click to view a larger version.)

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So let’s get this battle underway!

Round 1

First up, we have these kicks in the ring:

Rajon Rondo‘s Nike Hyperposite’s in the black/volt colourway.

Dallas Mavericks v Boston Celtics

versus

Jason Terry‘s Reebok Kamikaze II’s in the black/green colourway.

Boston Celtics v New York Knicks - Game One

Check back next week for the results of this contest and to see who battles it out next.

Celtics-Knicks series: Game 4 recap

Image

The Boston Celtics managed to outlast the New York Knicks in an OT thriller at the TD Garden.

The Celtics led 54-35 at the half and by as much as 20 with less than 8 minutes to go in the 3rd period. However, as the Celtics have done all series, they struggled again in the 2nd half, scoring 14 points in the 3rd and 16 in the 4th.

Pierce had a chance to win the game in regulation but couldn’t get it to drop. When OT came around, JET was finally ready to play. He dropped 9 of his 18 points in the OT period, in which Boston scored 13 (1 less than 3rd period in 7 less minutes).

Paul Pierce finished with 29-8-6, Green 26-6 and KG with 13-17-6. Kevin played like a mad man and helped win this game with a big shot near end of regulation. Celtics held Carmelo Anthony to 10-35 from the field, who still 16-20 from FT.

The Celtics held on and won 97-90 to force a game 5 back in New York.

Schedule as follows.

Round 1 Game 1: 5am 21/4 in New York (85-78 L)
Round 1 Game 2: 10 am 24/4 in New York (71-87 L)
Round 1 Game 3: 10 am 25/4 in Boston (L 76-90)
Round 1 Game 4: 3 am 29/4 in Boston (W (90-97)
Round 1 Game 5: TBD 2/5 in New York
Round 1 Game 6: TBD 4/5 in Boston *
Round 1 Game 7: TBD 6/4 in New York *

Green Kick Of The Week feat Jason Terry’s Reebok Kamikaze II

The Playoffs are here! And with that, I hope to see some awesome kicks coming up. This week we saw Jason Terry bring out a great pair of kicks against the Knicks in Game 1.

This weeks winner of KOTW is Jason Terry  and his awesome Reebok Kamikaze II’s.  Terry has been wearing Kamikaze’s for a majority of the season, but this colourway caught my eye.

Boston Celtics v New York Knicks - Game One

Let’s not beat around the bush, Terry had an awful match against the Knicks. He was a non-factor and couldn’t find his range. I hope he can find his 2011 Playoffs form soon, before it’s too late.

His shoe game was much better. These kicks look great. I really like Kamikaze’s and this colourway is one of the best I’ve seen. The green and black outer go together well with the unique design of the shoe.

Boston Celtics v New York Knicks - Game One

Of course, I’d rather be writing about Terry coming into his own in the Playoffs, but for now, his shoe game is better than his shooting game.

I look forward to seeing what the JET can produce in the Playoffs and I’m hoping we see him drain many shots from beyond the arc.

Do you think the JET should keep ‘em or dump ‘em?

Green Kick Of The Week feat Jason Terry’s Reebok Sublite Pro Rise

Let’s face the facts. Jason Terry did exactly what we expect from him in the fantastic OT win over Hawks; hit a game clinching shot! The JET truly took off in OT and helped the Celtics record a much-needed win over a Conference rival.

The JET did all this in an eye-catching pair of Reebok Sublite Pro Rise, which earned him this week’s KOTW. These kicks jumped out at me immediately. They feature a camouflage outer mixed with what looks like fighter jet detailing, which makes perfect sense that the JET would wear them.

Atlanta Hawks v Boston Celtics

To be perfectly honest I’m not much of an expert on Reebook’s and couldn’t figure out what Terry was wearing. I have to thank @Celtkicks from Red’s Army for the heads up!

This is an amazing colourway to say the least. Reebok have done a great job with Terry this season, supplying him with a large array of retro and modern kicks to rock on the court.

Atlanta Hawks Vs. Boston Celtics At TD Garden

The JET has worn many different Reebok’s this season and won KOTW earlier this year with his Reebok Answer IV’s. Whilst the Answer IV’s have much more history and are known for their uniqueness, this colourway of the Sublite Pro Rise gives them a good run for their money.

It will be interesting to see if Terry brings out this colourway again, I sure hope he does! Especially if can continue to knock down huge shots in them.

Atlanta Hawks Vs. Boston Celtics At TD Garden

What are your thoughts on this interesting colourway? Do you think The JET should keep ‘em or dump ‘em?

Celtics Old Guard outlast Nuggets in triple thriller

The Boston Celtics have capped off a fortnight of fearless basketball with a gutsy triple-overtime win over the Denver Nuggets at TD Garden today; with a winning streak now still alive at 7 games since that pivotal double OT win over Miami that got them out of a similar rut, of equal significance was the resetting of Denver’s own 9-game victory lane.

Jason Terry of the Boston Celtics takes flight.

The Denver Nuggets indeed proved to be every bit the handful they are out West, with a nifty young roster only skewed on average by 36-year old veteran, Andre Miller. Wherever the Celtics threatened to take an unassailable lead in regular game-time, they reeled them right back in.  To the neutral NBA fan, it was a terrific game of basketball and within such an electrified crowd; so much so you’d swear they’d spent the pre-game in one massive snowball fight, courtesy of the weekend dumping from Blizzard Nemo.

(I still don’t understand how the name ‘Nemo’ was allowed).

It is also hard to imagine how a sport with point score variations to go with many stoppages and turnovers can still foresee a certain game having overtime written all over it.  And so was the case here, where two teams relatively well-placed in the standings were just desperate to protect their winning momentum. Naturally, the referees had to have a hand in it per se, when Avery Bradley was ruled out to have touched the ball out last, despite replays likely showing to the contrary. Denver only needed the 0.8 seconds of regulation time from the sideline to tie up the game through eventual top-scorer, Ty Lawson (29pts).

The aforementioned youth of Denver changed the cat-and-mouse game in over-time and the concern was whether Boston had the legs to go with them.  However, in each challenge thrown, they did just that – with the older brigade of Jason Terry, Kevin Garnett and Captain Paul Pierce still getting involved.  Indeed it was fitting that Terry should have the last possession of the game with a steal off Miller and a lethargic dunk to finally seal it.  It is hard to know whether this was a break-out performance from Jason Terry, but his efforts were sensational as much as crucial.  His 3 point prowess returned at important stages.  The Celtics need him to frequently bring this to the fore in the big games going forward to go with the excellent defense of Avery Bradley, who can be counted on to toss in valuable points.

For the big games, they will keep coming no sooner than after backing-up the streak tomorrow down in Charlotte against the Bobcats. They host the Chicago Bulls in the last, right before the All-Star break.  Losing Rajon Rondo is the leveller to the match-up with the Bulls, who have had a whole season to get used to missing their star point-guard.  They look to be well settled too with their superior season-record to the Celtics.  There is then this small matter of a five game West Coast road trip which includes L.A and Denver once the season restarts.

After today though, there is no reason for that to be daunting. Two weeks ago, all the talk in the media was about Finals being too hard, who should the Celtics trade for, heck, even whether it was time for KG or Pierce to retire!  With one roster position still to be filled prior to trade deadline, arguably it should be now about who should join this Boston party.

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