Boston @ New York, 12 pm, ESPN. Boston doesn’t NEED to make a trade this year, but adding another quality big man (one who can presumably secure a rebound) would vault the Celtics into the Toronto tier, where they can be a contender for the Eastern Conference Finals - though the Raptors are seeking their own reinforcements, and barring catastrophe, neither team can beat Cleveland four times anyway. The Celtics are a bottom-five rebounding team themselves, and give up the fourth-most boards per game; Avery Bradley is tough as nails, but when your painfully-undersized shooting guard leads the team in rebounds, that’s not a great sign. In terms of pure rebound rate, Brad Stevens doesn’t even have any lesser-used players that can step into more minutes and chip in on the glass: Tyler Zeller leads the team with 13.7 percent of available rebounds grabbed, which places the Celtics’ top guy at 100th in the NBA.
The dream move would be a trade for Demarcus Cousins, but the financial incentives of the newly-agreed-upon CBA make that less likely than it was two weeks ago. Nerlens Noel, with his low current salary and high upside, appears to fit as a defensive dynamo who wouldn’t require touches on the other end - but with Philly’s glut of bigs, and Noel’s own risk and volatility, I’m not sure the longtime rivals will be able to reach a consensus on fair value. On the Sixers’ end, Marcus Smart doesn’t really fit with Brett Brown’s rebuilding bunch, and offers built around Terry Rozier and James Young are inadequate. Meanwhile, Stevens would have to be desperate or crazy to ship Bradley out of town, barring Philadelphia sweetening the pot and adding assets to their side of the deal.
Just in time for Festivus 2016, excerpts from George Karl’s upcoming book were released this week, and the longtime coach had some serious grievances to air. While many of the basketball-related complaints are accurate, if needlessly harsh and misguided, the conclusions Karl draws and the context he puts them in are hurtful and inappropriate. Karl launched direct personal attacks on several former Denver Nuggets, with whom he won 62 percent of his games over nine seasons, making the playoffs every year and never finishing below second place. Naturally, that success was the coach’s to claim, and he won those games in spite of, rather than with, the talent in his locker room. JR Smith, Kenyon Martin, and Carmelo Anthony were likened to “the spoiled brats you see in junior golf and junior tennis.” After criticizing Smith’s shot selection (a fair and true piece of real NBA analysis), Karl swung incredibly low at Martin and Anthony: “Kenyon and Carmelo carried two big burdens: all that money and no father to show them how to act like a man,” he wrote. Beyond that statement’s pure wrongness and not-so-subtle racism, isn’t part of an NBA coach’s job to figure out how to relate to, motivate, and inspire men of different backgrounds and psychologies?
While Martin, who retired in 2015, initially lashed out on Twitter before penning a thoughtful piece for the Player’s Tribune on his childhood and what being a father means to him, and injured Cavalier Smith Tweeted “Still trying to be relevant. Sad just sad,” Anthony has been diplomatic and mostly stayed above the muck. After his Knicks’ defeated Orlando on Thursday, the superstar said of Karl, “I just hope he finds happiness in what he’s doing,” noting that if he writes a book, it will be called “Stay Melo. Not Furious,” a dig at Karl’s Furious George title.
Golden State @ Cleveland, 2:30 pm, ABC.
Chicago @ San Antonio, 5 pm, ABC.
Minnesota @ Oklahoma City, 8 pm, ESPN.
LA Lakers @ LA Clippers, 10:30 pm, ESPN.