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Danny Ainge working hard to make something from nothing "I was out in the yard raking leaves when I found out that Gordon Hayward was leaving the Celtics. I saw the news and let out a audible yelp/gasp. Turns out Gordon is the one raking - to the tune of $120M.

Two quick points on this before I move on. First, that’s absolutely a gut-punch for the Celtics. They lose a core piece of their rotation and a very valuable asset for nothing*. (More on that asterisk later) Second, I don’t know if you can blame this on Danny Ainge. If some random team was going to be willing to give Hayward that much money, he’s right to take that money and Danny is right to wish him happy trails. Maybe we all should have seen this coming based on the “it only takes one” rule.

That’s not to say that Ainge is perfect and never makes mistakes (I really wish he had addressed the bench more last season, I don’t know how he hasn’t consolidated picks in the last few years, his recent record of mid-to-late draft picks has been suspect). I mean, if Hayward was willing to take $20M less to go home to Indy and the deal fell through because Ainge got greedy, that’s certainly an “L” (as they say). That’s a big “if” though and I kind of doubt it played out that way. Charlotte came with the big bags of cash late in the game and that was the end. Good for Gordon and his agent.

Once the Gordon Hayward shoe dropped, it seemed like all was lost. The Hornets weren’t even willing to play ball on a sign-and-trade. Instead electing to waive and stretch Batum (which would have resulted in $9M in dead money over the course of the next 3 seasons). It was the worst case scenario for the Celtics because their options for adding talent dwindled down to using the full MLE and the bi-annual exception.

On that front, the Celtics moved rather quickly. After flirting with Paul Millsap (who eventually signed in Denver again) Boston signed longtime nemesis Tristan Thompson with the MLE. Then they were able to sign Jeff Teague to be the veteran guard we’ve needed for years.

Finally, (and here’s where that asterisk comes in) it seems that the Hornets had a change of heart. They will consider working out a sign-and-trade deal with the Celtics. Which only makes sense because the right kind of deal would benefit both sides. How that deal actually goes down is anyone’s guess at this point. It could be as simple as creating a big trade exception or it could be some complicated 3 team deal with lots of moving parts. Frankly that part makes my head hurt but the cap guys are all excited about it and that’s good enough for me.

So stay tuned for more rollercoaster rides today and in the coming days. This shortened offseason has been a wild ride already but it feels like there’s more drama left to play out."

"Winning is done when a team sacrifices to reach a common goal. The LA Clippers have sacrificed from roster spots 1-through-15.

Coming to Orlando to win the franchise’s first championship ever was a decision made by the whole team. Winning a title would mean a new era for a team with a ruffled past.

Great players have suited up for the Clippers. Players have made the All-Star team. Also, they have received great honors. The team though has always been known for losing.

Los Angeles is legendary. Some of the greatest talents in the world have made a name for themselves in this town. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are homegrown talents and need no introduction to the glamour and glitz of LA.

In this first-round matchup against the Dallas Mavericks, both players knew they had to be great. Both players needed each other to be great. Eventually, that was accomplished. The result?

The LA Clippers finally ending their first-round drought."Houston Rockets Face Masks

"The Milwaukee Bucks have revolutionized the way defense is played in the NBA. They take away the rim and force opponents to get the bulk of their offense from the mid-range and behind the 3-point line. They had the NBA’s best defense in the regular season, but surrendered a massive number of 3s along the way to the tune of 37.1 per 100 possessions. As it happens, their second-round matchup in the NBA playoffs, the Miami Heat, might be the best-crafted team to derail their quest to the Finals.

The Heat were just seventh in 3-point attempts, putting up just 35.4 per 100 possessions, but they were prolific in efficiency. They shot 37.9 percent from behind the arc, behind only the Utah Jazz and their 38.0 percent.

In the NBA, scheme matters, but personnel still gets the job done. For the Miami Heat, they’ve definitely got the personnel, and as Hassan Whiteside would say, they’ve got shooters.

The Heat have four players shooting over 40.0 percent from 3-point range, led by Duncan Robinson at 44.6 percent (on an incredible 8.3 attempts per game), Jae Crowder at 44.5 percent (since coming over at the trade deadline from the Memphis Grizzlies), Meyers Leonard at 41.4 percent and Kelly Olynyk at 40.6 percent.

Just outside this most elite of classes are Tyler Herro at 38.9 percent and Goran Dragic at 36.7 percent, and streaky scoring rookie Kendrick Nunn who can fill it up with a volume approach at 35.0 percent."

"The Miami Heat swept the Indiana Pacers 4-0 in the first round of the NBA playoffs, leaving the Pacers searching for answers.
Before the playoffs began, all the NBA playoffs matchups were laid out and the Indiana Pacers vs Miami Heat series seemed to be on the top of the list as the evenest matchup along with the Jazz-Nuggets series. It turns out that Pacers vs Heat wasn’t anything like the series between Denver and Utah who went to a crunching Game 7 and ultimately Denver came out on top. In four games, the Miami Heat had swept their competition and it was a shock.

The shock wasn’t so much at Miami’s success as it was at Indiana’s failure. The Heat looked to be serious contenders in the East when they almost beat the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA bubble seeding games until Milwaukee climbed back from their 20-point deficit. Likewise, we watched the Pacers all season and were impressed with how they played.

They even finished ahead of the Heat in the regular season in the fourth and the Heat being the fifth. The Pacers finished the season at 45-28 and the Heat 44-29. So, they were pretty even – very even – at least during the regular season, but this wasn’t the case in the playoffs.

The entire series was cringe-worthy. As we take a look at each game one-by-one, the Heat managed to come out the winner and the Pacers sat dazed and confused on how to approach their competition. It is not easy to see how this happened, but it is worth taking an analytical look at the series now that it is over. The expectations for the Pacers, to say the least, had dropped drastically by the end of it all." Indiana Pacers Face Masks

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra’s smart game-planning has been a huge advantage in its series against the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA playoffs. "The Miami Heat are up 2-0 in against the first seeded Milwaukee Bucks. They need to win twice more to earn an Eastern Conference Finals berth, a height that no one saw them reaching when they retooled their roster last offseason.

Several of the Heat’s newcomers have been impactful in Miami’s two victories against the Eastern Conference’s best team but one of the longest-tenured people in the Heat organization deserves credit as well: head coach Erik Spoelstra.

Miami’s two-time championship-winning coach has proven to be a cut above the rest yet again. The culture he fosters in the Heat organization pays dividends, attracting stars like Jimmy Butler and developing guys with few, if any, expectations to be big-time contributors at the NBA level into key starters (see: Bam Adebayo and Duncan Robinson).

While the play on the court is always the most important aspect of the game, coaching makes a tremendous difference, and it’s showing in this series. Spoelstra has run circles around Milwaukee’s Mike Budenholzer. Spo’s decisions have put the Miami Heat in a prime position to take the series while Bud’s have cost his team momentum and possibly the outcome of games.

For one, Spoelstra has managed his rotations better than Budenholzer, who still has a reluctance to play his best players through the entirety of crunch time.

Spoelstra has made minimal substitutions near the end of the fourth quarter. By roughly half-way through the final period, Spo has his key players in for the remainder of the game. Budenholzer has struggled with this.

With 5:06 left in Game 2, Middleton picked up his 5th foul. He was subbed out for Wes Matthews and subbed back in with 3:32 left. In that time, Matthews committed a turnover and two fouls, one of which was a shooting foul on Jimmy Butler, who made both free throws, extending the Heat’s lead to eight.

The absence of Eric Bledsoe in Game 1 doesn’t excuse some of Budenholzer’s rotation decisions. Pat Connaughton receiving 25 minutes in Game 1 and Marvin Williams receiving 21 minutes in Game 2 are huge lapses in judgment by last season’s Coach of the Year."Los Angeles Lakers Face Masks