Celtics

Trade deadline looms over Celtics-Wizards matchup

Trade deadline looms over Celtics-Wizards matchup

WASHINGTON -- It hasn’t even been nine months since the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards waged a wickedly contested, high-intensity battle in the playoffs that left us all wanting more of that good stuff in the regular season.

But the nasty vitriol spewed by both teams in the best-of-seven playoff series that went the distance isn’t there anymore.

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Boston’s roster looks nothing like the one that the Wizards despised in the playoffs.

And Washington, while still among the better teams in the East, has been slowed by injuries and inconsistent play, with seemingly more questions being raised (are they better without John Wall?) of late than solutions discovered.

Oh, did we mention the NBA trade deadline will come and go just hours before tip-off tonight, which means this rivalry might have a few new players in the mix soon?

We already know there will be at least one new face on the Celtics’ roster -- Greg Monroe.

The former Georgetown standout agreed to a one-year, $5 million deal with the Celtics shortly after he came to terms on a buyout with the Phoenix Suns.

NBC Sports Boston reported that Monroe was on a flight to Washington, D.C. early Wednesday morning to meet up with his new team.

The Celtics didn’t sign the 6-foot-11 center immediately because they wanted to stay as flexible as possible up until the trade deadline, with their two primary targets being Los Angeles Clippers guard Lou Williams and the Memphis Grizzlies’ Tyreke Evans.

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Williams came to terms on a three-year, $24 million extension with the Clippers on Wednesday which pretty much sealed his return to the Clippers – neither side makes that kind of deal with the intent on parting ways less than 24 hours later.

Evans remains in play with several teams expressing interest in the 6-foot-6 wing. Boston and Philadelphia are considered the front-runners, with Miami and Denver also under serious consideration.

The implication of a possible trade getting done is the dominant theme heading into tonight’s game, a game that has tremendous value for both teams.

Boston (39-16) has had a relatively slim lead in the East for weeks now, and it’s down to just one game after the Toronto Raptors rocked the Celtics 111-91 in Toronto on Tuesday night.

And in facing the Wizards, Boston is looking to avenge a 111-103 Christmas Day home loss to Washington.

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Meanwhile, the Wizards (31-23) will try and continue their surprisingly strong play in the absence of John Wall, who is out for at least another five weeks after undergoing knee surgery on Jan. 31.

Boston knows the Wizards will be without Wall, who was named an NBA All-Star for the fifth straight season.

But their concerns lie from within, even more so after Tuesday’s humbling defeat at Toronto.

“We got our butts kicked by a really good team who physically overwhelmed us from a speed and physicality standpoint,” said coach Brad Stevens following the loss to the Raptors. “We need to do a better job … the one thing you never do as a coach is chalk it up to one of those nights. Maybe you do at the end of the year when you look back at the whole season. We have to compete at a better level physically.”

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New All-Star format a success, but one tweak could make it even better

New All-Star format a success, but one tweak could make it even better

LOS ANGELES – Both players and coaches involved with Sunday’s All-Star game like the new format, but will surely look to tweak a couple of things.

Among the more likely changes will be the process involved in not just selecting the team, but making the selections known to the public. 

Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan has an idea, one that’s shared by some players, media and maybe most important, NBA fans. 

“Televise it,” DeRozan said. “Give the people what they want to see. I think everybody wants to see it. At the end of the day every single person that gets picked, you are an All-Star, so it doesn’t matter where you really go, so I think televise it.”

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The new format involved their being two captains – LeBron James and Stephen Curry – who picked their respective teams from the 22 remaining All-Stars regardless of conference affiliation. 

The NBA also increased the amount of money given to each player on the winning team - $100,000 – while the losing team members each received $25,000.

Regardless of what the changes may be going forward, it’s clear that players see this new format as the blueprint for how All-Star games should be structured going forward.

“This kind of changed the culture of it a lot, for the better,” said Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler. “It’s only going to get more and more competitive because guys see how it was for the last five minutes of that game. Everybody wants to compete.”

Here are five takeaways from the 67th NBA All-Star game with Team LeBron defeating Team Steph 148-145. 

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Kyrie Irving

There were others who scored more, had more assists and certainly grabbed more rebounds than Kyrie Irving. But one of the more telling developments in the game was how Irving returned to the game in the fourth down 10 points, and didn’t leave until Team LeBron emerged with the win seven minutes and 16 seconds later. Even in an All-Star setting, Irving’s impact on winning stands out. Along with his 13 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, Team LeBron was a +16 when Irving was on the floor – tops among all All-Star starters. 

 

LeBron James

The calendar says he’s 33 years old. But other than that, there’s nothing about LeBron James that even remotely looks like his time as the best player on the planet will end anytime soon. In a game full of stars on the rise as well as established stalwarts such as himself, James totally crushed it Sunday night in walking away with his third All-Star game MVP trophy after a double-double of 29 points and 10 rebounds to go with eight assists.  

 

DeMar DeRozan

We know him as the king of the mid-range game. But as we saw on Sunday, DeRozan has a lot more offensive versatility that he’s capable of unleashing. He’s arguably the biggest reason why Toronto has the best record in the East right now. Playing for Team Steph, DeRozan tallied 21 points attacking the rim off the dribble and of course, knocking down mid-range jumpers

 

Jimmy Butler

A bit under the weather, Butler never set foot on the court to play. The league’s leader in minutes played this season (37.3), Butler wasn’t expected to play a ton of minutes anyway. Still, it would have been nice to see him out there even if it was for a minute or two. He’s one of the league’s best two-way players whose play has been instrumental to the Timberwolves looking very much like a playoff team this season. “I have to rest,” Butler said. “I have to rest my body up. This Timberwolves season is very, very important to me. I’ve got to make sure I’m ready to roll when I get back there.”

 

Joel Embiid

The ring leader of Philadelphia’s “Trust the Process” movement, Joel Embiid, was impressive in his All-Star debut. For Embiid, it’s one thing to believe you are one of the NBA’s best players. It’s an entirely different matter to step on the floor with the game’s best talent and validate yourself as one of the game’s best players.  “During the season, I thought I was a top-five or top-10 player in the league,” said Embiid who had 19 points and eight rebounds. “And before the game I wanted confirmation of it. I felt like I could hang with them.”

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Irving, Horford give seal of approval to All-Star changes

Irving, Horford give seal of approval to All-Star changes

LOS ANGELES -- Kyrie Irving and Al Horford were on different teams for the NBA's All-Star game pitting Team LeBron vs Team Steph, so somebody was coming back a loser.

But considering how competitive the game was for longer stretches than usual, both players came away feeling good in a relatively close All-Star game that ended with Team LeBron edging Team Steph, 148-145.

LeBron James led all scorers with 29 points along with 10 rebounds and 8 assists and walked away with Game MVP honors for the third time.

Irving, who played for Team LeBron, had a near double-double with 13 points and nine assists along with seven rebounds.

And Horford, who came off the bench for Team Steph, had six points and five rebounds along with two assists.  

“This was pretty fun,” Irving said. “I think that we showcased that tonight with an incredible competitive spirit. The game was kind of getting away, but I think a few of us took it a little personal that we wanted to keep the game still competitive and at a high level. Fans and everyone across so many different countries want to see the best players in the world showcase their talent.”

Horford echoed similar sentiments about the game, which had a different format this year. LeBron James and Stephen Curry picked the two teams from the 22-player pool of players from both the Eastern and Western Conferences.

“Early, guys were making [defensive] plays,” Horford said. “Guys were making a point, they weren’t going to let it be a dunk fest.

Horford added, “Even last year and the year before, there was a lot of heat on how bad the game was. I felt like this game was, it was good.”

Irving, a five-time All-Star, also acknowledged how he and some of the players wanted to change the perception of the All-Star Game as being nothing more than a glorified lay-up line.

“I think we all took it kind of personal,” Irving said. “Individually we wanted to come out and be competitive. Last year it was (192-182), that’s just not as fun as communicating with guys that you don’t necessarily play with every single day, bouncing ideas off in the time-outs. It’s just that competitive fire that we all share.”

And then there’s the payday for winning.

Not only will various charities benefit from the game -- LeBron James’ charity of choice gets $350,000 because his team won and Steph Curry’s charity of choice gets $150,000 -- but the players on the winning team get a pretty nice check as well.

The winning team members each get $100,000 while the players on the losing team come away with $25,000.

“There was something that, something that we could look forward to if we got the win,” Irving acknowledged. “You know, they’ll probably bring up the cash prize, but . . . $100,000 to $25,000, I think everybody in this room would be doing the same things we were doing.”

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