If season is lost, C's could make run at Howard

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If season is lost, C's could make run at Howard

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn
WATCH: NBA Labor Battle Part 2: How the lockout impacts the Celtics

If you love the NBA, your heart is in some serious pain right about now.

The league owners and players union are gearing up for what looks like the NBA version of Armageddon, with neither side showing any signs of backing down soon.

TNT analyst and NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley wasn't off his rocker -- not this time, at least -- when he talked about the possibility that the NBA might miss the entire 2011-2012 season.

It seems unfathomable to most of us that a league that's at its apex in popularity and growth, would allow a work stoppage at such a critical time in the game's development globally.

But the owners seem hell-bent on changing the economic model used by the league, and the players are digging their heels in for what is expected to be a long and tumultuous fight between owners and the player's union which wants to keep as much of what they've had in the last couple collective bargaining agreements.

The idea of there not being any NBA basketball in 2011-2012, in a word, sucks.

However, as bad as that may seem, there's the potential for things to brighten up quickly for the Celtics.

And it can be summed up in two words - Dwight Howard.

For weeks, I have not wavered from my belief that Howard will never wear the Green and White, at least not in these prime years of his career.

And the reason is simple.

If the Orlando Magic can't re-sign him at some point during the 2011-2012 season, they will surely trade him to the highest bidder.

And the Celtics don't have enough attractive chips to be a real player in the Howard sweepstakes.

But if there's no 2011-2012 season, that is what we would call a game-changer in the pursuit of Howard.

He could terminate his contract and thus become a free agent next summer.

This would rob the Magic of having an opportunity to move him and get something in return this upcoming season. They could still do that if Howard were to agree to be moved via sign-and-trade next summer. But if he's interested in joining the C's, it's highly unlikely that the Celtics will have enough pieces that they would be willing to part with, or that the Magic would be interested in having.

Once a free agent, it would then be up to Howard to pick the team that he feels will 1) give him the max-salary contract that he deserves and 2) can give him the best chance at winning a championship.

With Kevin Garnett likely retiring after the '11-12 season, the void in the C's frontcourt for a veteran defensive presence is obvious.

And when you look around the NBA, there's no player that dominates the interior better than Howard.

No one.

When you combine that ability defensively with a franchise that has placed a high premium on great play defensively, he would give the C's the kind of presence defensively that, as we have seen, is essential to winning a championship.

And then there's point guard Rajon Rondo, who spent most of this past season as the top assist man in the NBA.

Well aware that this Celtics team will be his sooner rather than later, the C's have gone about assembling the kind of frontcourt players (Jeff Green, first-round pick JaJuan Johnson) who can best take advantage of Rondo's strengths - running the floor and finding teammates in position to score.

Of course, this is all pie-in-the-sky, best-case-scenario type stuff that hinges on there not being an NBA season.

And that is something that nobody wants to see.

But if the players and the owners can't come to terms on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in time to salvage the 2011-2012 season, adding Dwight Howard is not a bad consolation prize for the Celtics.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn.

Stars, studs and duds: Bradley delivers another two-way gem

Stars, studs and duds: Bradley delivers another two-way gem

CHICAGO – Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s series-clinching 105-83 Game 6 win over the Chicago Bulls.
 
STARS
 

Avery Bradley

He delivered yet another two-way gem for the Celtics, scoring nine of his 23 points in the first quarter that set the tone for Boston’s win.
 
Jimmy Butler

Gutsy performance by Butler whose sore knees didn’t allow him to be as explosive as he’s accustomed to at both ends of the floor. He still managed to score a team-high 23 points along with grabbing seven rebounds.
 
Al Horford

It’s almost to the point where you expect Horford to deliver a balanced scoring line. In Game 6 he had 12 points, 7 assists and six rebounds.
 

STUDS
 
Isaiah Thomas

His shot wasn’t falling (he was 4-for-12), but Thomas still managed to make his presence felt. He finished with 12 points, six assists and five rebounds.
 
Robin Lopez

He has had better games, but he still finished with a decent stat line with 10 points and five rebounds.
 

DUDS
 
Dwyane Wade

Absolutely brutal night for Wade who may have played his last game for the Bulls if he decides to opt-out of his contract and become a free agent. He had just two points, missing nine of his 10 shots from the field.

Celtics blow out the Bulls in Game 6, move on to face the Wizards

Celtics blow out the Bulls in Game 6, move on to face the Wizards

CHICAGO – The Boston Celtics were at a crossroads just two games into their first-round series against Chicago.

Down 2-0, something had to change – and change fast – if they were going to avoid being remembered as one of the worst number one seeds in NBA history.

“We didn’t have a meeting, but it was a reality check for us,” said Boston’s Avery Bradley who talked about how the team was “humbled after losing two games.”

They had a choice.

They could feel sorry for themselves and continue to struggle, or as Bradley put it, “come here (Chicago) and make history.”

The Celtics did just that, becoming the first number one seed in the best-of-seven series era to lose the first two games at home, and respond by winning the next four which includes a 105-83 Game 6 win to eliminate the Bulls.

Boston’s blowout victory was fueled in large part by a furious third quarter in which they dominated the Bulls in every way imaginable, outscoring Chicago 34-16 in the quarter which gave them a decisive 88-59 lead going into the fourth.

The 29-point lead after three quarters was a historical moment. It now stands as the largest lead the Celtics have had in a road playoff game after three quarters of play.

Boston moves on to the Conference semi-finals where they will face the Washington Wizards with Game 1 expected to be at the TD Garden on Sunday.

Fourth-year coach Brad Stevens advances past the first round of the playoffs for the first time, while the Celtics franchise is in the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

And in the final game of the series, the Celtics’ depth proved to be just too much for the injury-riddled Bulls to overcome.

Former Celtic Rajon Rondo, who led the Bulls to wins in Games 1 and 2, suffered a fractured right thumb injury in Game 2 and was unable to return in the series.

And while Jimmy Butler had a strong 23-point performance in Game 6, he was hampered to some extent by sore knees which more than anything, seemed to take something away from his explosiveness both as a scorer and to defend at a high level.

The player benefiting most from Butler’s less-than-ideal status health-wise, was Avery Bradley.

After scoring a playoff career-high 24 points in Boston’s Game 5 win, he got off to a fast start in Game 6 with nine of his 23 points scored in the first quarter.

Bradley’s scoring, primarily from 3-point range, was indicative of how the game began for the Celtics.

They opened with a 9-4 run, with all nine points coming from 3-point range.

Chicago got a couple shots to go down, but Boston went on an 8-2 spurt that gave them their first double-digit lead 21-11, after back-to-back dunks by Gerald Green and Al Horford, respectively.

Boston’s control remained strong as the first quarter ended with the Celtics ahead 30-23.

And the Celtics’ second unit picked up where the starters left off by scoring eight of the first 10 points of the second quarter to lead 38-25.

Boston’s second unit helped push the Celtics’ lead to as many as 17 points in the second before the Bulls began to chip away at it.

A lay-up by Chicago’s Paul Zipser capped off an 8-0 run by the Bulls that cut Boston’s lead to 42-33 with 5:50 to play in the first half.

Boston continued to play with in the double-digit neighborhood before closing the quarter by scoring nine of the last 13 points to lead by 13 at the half.