Blakely: Celtics likely open to all trade talks

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Blakely: Celtics likely open to all trade talks

Glad to know the NBA rumor mill hasn't missed a beat now that we know we'll have a season.

Among the many word-on-the-street (or blogosphere) rumors being tossed around is one involving at least one Boston Celtic. Apparently the C's are open to the idea of trading Rajon Rondo.

Well, here's the thing. The C's have been open to trading Rondo for a couple years now.

For the right deal -- and I can't stress enough how difficult ''the right deal'' would be to come by for Rondo and his unique skillet -- the C's have been open to trading most of their players.

Speaking with a couple front-office officials who have made deals with Danny Ainge in the past, they said his position in terms of his Big 4 is no different now than it was a year ago.

"He's not pushing really hard to move any of his guys now," one official said. "But he's definitely interested in hearing what others think."

In other words, Ainge is doing his job.

So the idea that the C's are open to the idea of trading Rondo or Ray Allen or any of the six C's under contract, is the way things should be.

Boston has very limited options in terms of what it can do to significantly bolster its roster in this truncated 66-game season.

That's what happens when you have not one, not two, but four -- yes, four -- players under contract who will earn at least 10 million for this upcoming season. No NBA team has that many eight-figure players.

So that means the only way to significantly bolster the roster, has to involve moving one of those pieces. In other words, Boston has no shot at Tyson Chandler if the C's don't move, say, at least one member of the Big 4.

With Chris Paul and Dwight Howard hitting the free agent market in 2012, you know both of their teams (New Orleans and Orlando, respectively) are going to be looking hard for trade partners this year before losing them and getting nothing in return.

Boston's only shot of having a shot at either player, is to include at least one member of their Big 4 in a possible trade. But looking at what other teams could offer, that still won't be enough of an enticement.

So that would leave the C's little choice but to surround them with players they acquire on the cheap, with the hope that those players will out-perform their minimum wage or near-minimum wage contracts.

But the chances of that happening aren't promising.

Look at last summer's blockbuster deal that Shaquille O'Neal was coming to Boston. Getting him for the minimum seemed like a steal, right?

That's why for Ainge to do anything other than listen and solicit offers for his core guys, would be a disservice to head coach Doc Rivers, the Celtics ownership and Celtics fans.

Of the 400-plus NBA players, you can count the ones that you'll rarely, if at all, hear mentioned on the rumor mill as possibly being traded.

LeBron James. Kobe Bryant. Kevin Durant. And we're done.

While the C's have three future Hall of Famers on their roster and a blossoming all-star point guard, none of them -- right now at least -- are James, Bryant or Durant.

Another thing, folks. Sometimes people forget that Ainge is a GM, not a museum curator who collects antiques and outdated artifacts. (Although, with some of his recent signings, I could see the confusion.)

His job is to build a team, a title-contending team, using whatever resources are at his disposal. If that means trading away a core guy for a player or two who he believes can help them immediately or down the road, so be it.

That's what he's supposed to do, regardless of how well-connected a player is to a community, or how popular he is with fans.

So let the rumors continue to swirl about Rondo on the move, or Ray-Ray being shipped out. But remember one thing. The more you hear about that kind of stuff, it only means one thing and one thing only. Ainge is doing his job, which is to put out the best team possible that will give the C's another shot at Banner 18.

Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

Avery Bradley was a member of the NBA’s All-Defensive first team a year ago. And Al Horford has been among the league’s best interior defenders for a number of years.

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But as talented defensively as they may be, the Celtics are still learning how to play with each other as well as off of one another.

Injuries have slowed down the chemistry developing as quickly as some might expect. Horford missed nine games due to a concussion, and another game due to wife giving birth to their second child, Alia Horford.

And in Boston’s 107-106 win over Philadelphia on Saturday night, defensive chemistry -- not only among Horford and Bradley, but with all of the players -- remains a work in progress for sure.

Boston had a number of defensive issues in the first half which factored in the Sixer shooting 46.1 percent from the field while shooting 9-for-18 from 3-point range.

But the second half was an entirely different story as Boston’s defense picked up his intensity and focus level which would prove to be just enough to beat a scrappy Sixers team.

The Celtics (12-8) are four games over .500 for the first time this season currently have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference behind Cleveland (13-5) and Toronto (14-6). 

And while the players point to a handful of games that they felt they gave away, Avery Bradley reminds all that the success of this team this season has for the most part come with key players out of the mix or limited in some capacity.

“We haven’t played that many games with the full roster,” Bradley told reporters after the win. “We’re still learning how to play with each other.”

Bradley pointed out a moment in Saturday’s victory where a miscommunication between him and Horford led to a defensive miscue.

Boston has had similar mistakes made on offense this season, too.

“We haven’t really been in pick-and-roll that much,” Bradley said. “Every single game we need to improve.”

And that improvement has to continue evolving on the defensive side of things for this team to achieve its goals this season which include being among the last teams standing in the East.

Doing that will likely mean Boston re-establishing itself as a defensive force, something that should come with time and experience playing with each other.

Horford, who signed a four-year, $113 million deal with Boston in the offseason, says it’s an ongoing process for all involved.

“I have to learn to play with our concepts, the guys have to learn to play with me,” Horford told reporters after Saturday’s win. “We just have to make sure we keep playing the right way, be more consistent with that. I feel like we’re getting better but there’s still some work that we need to do.”

Stars, studs and duds: Thomas churns out another strong fourth-quarter performance

Stars, studs and duds: Thomas churns out another strong fourth-quarter performance

The pressure that comes with a tight game in the fourth quarter can be a weighty proposition for some NBA players.

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Then there’s Boston’s Isaiah Thomas who continues to save his best work for the fourth quarter.

Saturday’s 107-106 win at Philadelphia had yet another Thomas-like finish for the Celtics as the 5-foot-9 guard was at his most dominant state in the game’s final minutes.

Thomas finished with a season high-tying 37 points which included a stretch in the fourth in which he scored 12 straight.

“I just love the fourth quarter,” Thomas told reporters following the win. “I just want to win. Whether it’s making plays for myself or making plays for my teammates, it’s about making the right play. I get ultra- aggressive in that fourth quarter. That’s what I’ve always done.”

And his teammates appreciate how Thomas elevates his play in the game’s most pivotal moments.

“A lot of the credit is to Isaiah, how he was able to finish the game tonight,” said Avery Bradley. “He was able to make shots when we needed him to.”

And while Thomas knows his shots won’t fall all the time down the stretch, his fourth quarter mentality does provide him with a level of confidence that no matter what the defense does to him or what the score may be, he can swing the game’s momentum in his team’s favor.

“Some guys get a little tight, they get a little timid (in the fourth quarter),” Thomas said. “I embrace it. I want to be great. I want to be somebody my teammates can call on when the game is close.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Saturday night’s game.

STARS

Isaiah Thomas: There was no more dominant player on Saturday night than Thomas. He finished with a game-high 37 points along with seven assists.

Dario Saric: It was a breakout game for the 22-year-old rookie who led the Sixers with 21 points as well as 12 rebounds for his third double-double this season. Both his points and rebound totals tied his career highs in those categories.

STUDS

Avery Bradley: Boston’s surge towards victory did not kick in until the third quarter which is when Bradley elevated his play offensively. In the third he scored 10 of his 20 points on the night, to go along with a team-high nine rebounds.

Ersan Illyasova: He finished with 18 points which included a pair of three-pointers in the closing seconds of the game. He also grabbed six rebounds and two assists.

DUDS

Celtics first half defense: There wasn’t much to like about Boston defensively in the first half. The Celtics struggled to take away or limit Philadelphia’s only strength Saturday night which was three-point shooting. The Sixers nailed nine of their 18 three-point attempts in the first half in addition to hurting the Celtics’ transition defense which gave up seven fast-break points to Philly compared to Boston scoring just one point in transition.