In the NBA, the worst place to be is the middle of the pack. If you are not contending for a championship or tanking, in my mind, you are not relevant. Because of this, each week I will rank the top five and bottom five teams in the league. The rankings are based entirely on my own observations and opinions, so please feel free to call me names in the comments section.

FIVE BEST

1. Warriors (3-0)

Klay Thompson continues to score on and off the court. He dropped 41 points on the Lakers, signed a four-year max contract extension and, as recently reported, started dating Instagram celebrity Hannah Stocking. Personally, I would be more impressed if it was revealed Thompson was dating #AlexFromTarget. That dude got over 500,000 Twitter followers in about three days, which is damn impressive.

2. Grizzlies (4-0)

The Grizzlies are all about attitude, and it shows on the defensive end of the floor. They beat the Hornets 71-69 then held the Brow and the Pelicans to only 81 points. The Mike Conley injury is cause for concern, but the video of Tony Allen randomly smacking a cameraman is hilarious.

3. Spurs (1-1)

Even though they haven’t been spectacular during their first two games, the Spurs still are the reigning champs. Interesting storyline to pay attention to. The Spurs did not sign Kawhi Leonard to an extension before the deadline on Friday, allowing him to become restricted free agent at the end of the season. If I am Danny Ainge, I am offering Sugar K Leonard anything up to and including my daughter’s hand in marriage to get him to sign in Boston. Although there is little chance Pop and the Spurs let him go, a man can dream.

4. Rockets (5-0)

The Rockets have wins over the Lakers, Celtics, Jazz and 76ers. Four teams that will be featured in the latter half of this post. Next week they play the Spurs and the Warriors, so enjoy your time in the top five, Houston! Random interesting fact about Trevor Ariza, He has scored zero mid-range points this season. All 69 of his points have come off 3-pointers and layups/dunks.

5. Mavericks (2-1)

Dirk is an absolute machine. Not only can he can score at will from anywhere on the floor, but he apparently has the best flow on the Mavericks. I think he is my favorite non-Celtic in the league. On the opposite note, Chandler Parsons is quickly emerging as one of my least favorites.

FIVE WORST

5. Jazz (1-3)

After my last rankings, I was chastised for failing to mention Utah’s Rudy Gobert. I’ll just leave this here.

4. Magic (0-4)

The Magic are the Tennessee Titans of the NBA, and by no means is that a good thing. Right now the franchise is completely irrelevant. The big NBA nerds will try to convince you that Elfrid Payton is really fun to watch, but I refuse to watch to find out for myself.

3. Pistons (0-3)

After “The Manimal” Kenneth Faried said Josh Smith shot the Pistons out of a game, Smith responded by saying, “I don’t respond with nobody with dreadlocks who plays basketball. He’s a clown. Quote me on that.” While I respect the age-old practice of calling someone a clown and I am a HUGE fan of a irrational hatred of dreadlocks, its hard to take Smith seriously when Faried was absolutely right. Josh Smith shot the Pistons out of the Nuggets game, and he will continue to shoot his team out of games all season.

2. Lakers (0-5)

The Lakers have a real chance of opening the season with 10 straight losses, and there is no hope in sight. Over their next five games they play the Hornets, Grizzlies, Pelicans, Warriors and Spurs. Kobe still is a selfish and insufferable dink. Julius Randle is out for the season. Carlos Boozer is playing terribly. Linsanity more like OrLINary! Am I right? NAILED IT!

1. 76ers (0-4)

I need Nerlens Noel in Celtics green, and I needed it yesterday.

Follow Sam Packard on Twitter @SPackGuy.

Blog Author: 
Sam Packard
Celtics guards Avery Bradley, Rajon Rondo and Marcus Smart wreak plenty of havoc. (Glenn James/Getty Images)

Celtics guards Avery Bradley, Rajon Rondo and Marcus Smart wreak plenty of havoc. (Glenn James/Getty Images)

With the exception of two brief offensive substitutions, Celtics coach Brad Stevens fielded the guard trio of Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart for the final nine minutes of Monday’s 118-113 loss to the Mavericks, and they wreaked more havoc than the “¡Three Amigos!” in Santa Poco.

The Celtics scored 29 points down that stretch, and one of those three either scored or assisted all of them, pulling the C’s within one with 39 seconds remaining after trailing by as many as 31. Bradley scored 14 of his career-high 32 points during the run, Rondo collected six of his 15 assists and Smart submitted highlight after highlight in what can only be described as atomic excitation.

It was all thrilling basketball, and a sure sign Stevens will experiment further with this trio.

The early returns statistically are a mixed bag. The Celtics have been outscored 62-60 in 24.6 minutes with Rondo, Bradley and Smart on the floor. Opponents own a 68.7 true shooting percentage against that group (20-39 FG, 9-15 3P, 13-14 FT), a number that doesn’t seem sustainable over a larger sample size.

Regardless, encouraging signs exist in those same 24.6 minutes. The swarming defensive pressure that trio forces upon opposing backcourts has translated into nine steals and 13 forced turnovers, resulting in 10 more field goal attempts for the Celtics in that span. They are outscoring opponents 17-7 off turnovers, and 26-4 on the fast break with Rondo, Bradley and Smart sharing the court.

While they may be a minus-2 as a trio now, these numbers will translate into positive production soon enough. The hysteria they created in the last nine minutes of Monday’s loss proved as much. All you really need to know is Rondo, Bradley and Smart have shared the court in two of the C’s three games — the season-opening statement win against the Nets and the near miracle comeback against the Mavericks — and never saw the court together in an abysmal loss to the Rockets in between. They are a disruptive force.

At the very least, they won’t die like dogs; they’ll fight like lions, because they’re The Three Amigos.

A video posted by @brohrbach on

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

For the second straight game, the Celtics dug themselves a deep early grave and spent the rest of the night trying to climb their way out.

For the second straight game, the Celtics dug themselves a deep early hole and spent the night trying to climb their way out. This time, though, they nearly escaped Texas with a win.

After losing by double digits to the Houston Rockets on Saturday, the Celtics fell behind by 31 in the first half against the Dallas Mavericks, only to slice the lead  to one in the final minute. But the C’s couldn’t convert despite multiple chances to tie the game, ultimately losing 118-113 to the NBA’s highest-rated offense.

Jeff Green scored a game-high 35 points, and Avery Bradley added a career-high 32. Rajon Rondo collected seven points, nine rebounds and 15 assists in the loss. Marcus Smart added seven points, six rebounds and three assists in his homecoming, submitting his most impressive performance in his young Celtics career.

Chandler Parsons led the Mavericks with 29 points, and Dirk Nowitzki chipped in with 27.

GREEN ENGAGED EARLY

Green got the night started with a steal and a dunk. He followed by knocking down his first 3-point attempt of the night, matching the C’s total from beyond the arc on Saturday. And Rondo found Green on a backdoor alley-oop to give the streaky forward the team’s first seven points. Generally, Green’s best performances come when he contributes from the start, and Monday was no different.

MAVERICKS DOMINATED FIRST QUARTER

The Celtics allowed 40 points in the first quarter just once last season — to the Houston Rockets last November — and hadn’t done so since Jan. 28, 2005 before that. It only took three games this season to match that feat, allowing 40 to the Mavericks in the opening quarter. Dallas scored half of those points in the paint and shot 73 percent in the frame, including 5-of-7 from distance. Chandler Parsons led the effort with 14 points on 5-of-5 shooting.

WEST IS BEST

The Western Conference finished 6-1 against the Eastern Conference in the NBA’s first week of games, and the Chicago Bulls needed a last-second shot against the Minnesota Timberwolves for the East’s lone win. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban estimated 10 teams in his conference could win 50 games, and if the sharks out West continue to circle the tanking East and make chum of teams like the Celtics, he might be right. And, yes, that was an awful roundabout way to go to include Mark Cuban and Shark Tank in the same sentence.

CELTICS SHOW SOME FIGHT

Trailing by as many as 31 points in the second quarter and 67-41 at the half, the Celtics could easily have packed their things and called the Texas two-step through Houston and Dallas a complete failure. But Brad Stevens‘ charges went down swinging, cutting the Mavs’ lead to eight with a 28-10 run to start the third quarter. Rondo had five points and four assists in that span.

THREE’S COMPANY IN THE BACKCOURT

The Celtics clawed their way back within a single possession in the final minute on the backs of Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart. For the third straight game to start the season, Rondo nearly submitted a triple-double, and his assist numbers climbed well into the teens by the fourth quarter. Bradley scored 23 of his career-high 32 points in the second half. And Smart submitted a series of highlight-reel plays in the final minutes of his homecoming effort, including a remarkable put-back and a behind-the back pass to Jared Sullinger that cut the lead to six with four minutes left. Early returns this season on the C’s potentially dangerous three-guard lineup are impressive.

18 regular season, 10 playoffs

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

Somewhere between TD Garden and the Texas state line, the Celtics lost their way.

Somewhere between TD Garden and the Texas state line, the Celtics lost their way.

Brad Stevens’ team arrived safely in Houston for Saturday night’s tilt, but its game was misplaced. Everything that went well for the Celts in their runaway, season-opening win Wednesday night went wrong in a 104-90 loss to the Rockets.

In a nutshell, the Celtics weren’t aggressive enough early on, and were remarkably bad from beyond the 3-point line. The C’s went to the foul line 24 fewer times than the Rockets, while having the worst 3-point shooting night in franchise history.

With the 1-for-25 showing from beyond the 3-point stripe, it marked the first time in franchise history the Celtics have not hit a three while taking more than 10 attempts. Jeff Green hit his team’s 22nd attempt. The NBA record still stands at 0-for-22, set by the Nuggets in 2012.

The closest the Celtics would come in the second half was 11 points.

RAJON RONDO IS A WORK IN PROGRESS

It was easy to forget Rondo didn’t play a single preseason game after watching him excel against the Nets. But in Game No. 2, the point guard seemed out of sorts from the start.

Before exiting the game for the first time, with the Celtics trailing, 22-8, Rondo had trouble both offensively and defensively (where he was often lost on rotations after double-teaming Dwight Howard). He would re-enter the game with the C’s still trailing by 14 (32-18), continuing to lack any sort of spark.

Rondo finished the first half going 0-for-2 from the field. For the game, the point guard went 2-for-9 from the floor, but did haul in 10 rebounds.

LEANING ON JUMPERS PROVED DANGEROUS

There was a reason the Celtics attempted just three first-half free throws, while the Rockets were going to the line 24 times: the C’s weren’t exactly taking it at the hosts.

The missed jumpers, particularly in the first quarter, were especially damaging considering how Houston was able to transition into makable shots (shooting 57 percent from the field in the initial quarter, leading to a 15-point Celtics deficit). The Celtics started going inside more in the second quarter, but the hole had already been dug.

The most noticeable aspect of the Celtics’ reliance on their outside game came from beyond the 3-point line, where they turned in a historically bad performance.

DEALING WITH HOWARD PROVED DICEY

Stevens attempted to rotate the trio of Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk and Tyler Zeller on Howard. That strategy, however, ran into some issues with all three carrying three fouls into halftime. The trio finished with five fouls apiece.

The unevenness at the position also translated to a dramatic 180 for Olynyk from Wednesday night, when he totaled 18 points. This time the second-year big man couldn’t find a comfort zone

Howard only finished with 14 points and eight rebounds, but his presence allowed for the likes of James Harden (26 points) to get in the clear.

LIVING WITH THE UPS AND DOWNS OF MARCUS SMART

So much was made of the performance of the rookie in Game 1, with Smart contributing on multiple levels against Brooklyn.

This time, however, he couldn’t supply any help for a Celtics team desperate for some aggressiveness. Smart went 0-for-7 from the field

HOT STARTS ARE STILL A THING OF THE PAST

The Celtics failed to go 2-0 once again, not having accomplished the feat since 2009.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford
Kyle Draper joins Danny Picard to talk about the Celtics chances this season in the Eastern Conference, last Wednesday's home opener blowout against the Nets, and Rajon Rondo's future in Boston

Does the NBA need to take a lesson from MLB? (Darren McCollester/Getty Images)



CHRIS VILLANI

BIO | ARCHIVE


There was a different feel to this Kevin Garnett homecoming than the first. No longer paired with Paul Pierce on the Nets, he received a standing ovation from Celtics fans and a smattering of “KG” chants during Brooklyn’s pregame announcements in the Garden, but nothing like the catharsis in January.

Still, the love is there, as it always will be in Boston, and the feeling is mutual.

“It’€™s always special to come back to Beantown,” Garnett said after a 121-105 loss. “Hearing the little things, it’€™s very hard to focus. I had to go to yoga this morning, ooh-sah, get my meditation right, stay level. A lot of energy in the building. It’€™s always great to come back here. I love Beantown. I’€™m always bleeding green. Y’€™all know what it is.”

Garnett finished with 10 points, six rebounds and three assists in 23 minutes, but old friend Rajon Rondo who won the night, amassing 13 points, 12 assists and seven boards in 30 minutes. “Rondo was classic,” added Garnett. “I don’€™t know what he said he was at — 89, 83 percent? That was a hell of an 83 percent.”

Rondo returned the favor. “It was special again going against KG,” he said. “He’€™s like my big brother. He hit me a couple times on the pick, but he didn’€™t hit me as hard as he was hitting Avery [Bradley]. He nails guys on the pick, and I’€™m used to him nailing guys for me. It’s always great to play against the guy, especially since it’s his 20th year.”

Garnett begrudgingly paid respect to another old friend he would’ve rather not seen: Gino. So often staring at the Jumbotron, disco dancing in Celtics sweats at the end of blowout wins from 2007-13, KG retreated to Brooklyn’s huddle and didn’t even glimpse at the long-haired man who brought him so much joy.

“Listen, I was so upset. I didn’€™t even get to really, really get Gino in my system. My low moment for the night, you know what I mean? Gino is a big part of me, and I didn’€™t even get to celebrate it, but I’€™m still a huge Gino fan.”

KG didn’t just reserve praise for Rondo and Gino. The newest C’s stars also earned his respect.

“Their schemes were very clever,” he said. “They do unorthodox things, such as putting a big in the corner and having a big roll. That’s a lot of pressure on the smalls. My hat goes off to coach [Brad] Steven and his schemes. They played well. They shot the ball really well tonight.”

And of Marcus Smart, the rookie whose defensive intensity brings back recent Celtics memories, KG added, “The kid’s very impressive. This is my first time seeing him live, playing against him and stuff. He and Rondo and Avery, that’s going to be a tandem. I can’t wait to watch some of the games. They played great tonight. They seem to have a nice chemistry together. Hopefully they can be consistent with that.”

Yup, everything felt different in KG’s second return. Basketball in Boston has moved on.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

Rajon Rondo's contract year has commenced. (Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)

This is Rajon Rondo’s team, and this is his time.