Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big storyline. Because there's nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
A five-horse race for the top seed in the East appears to be brewing and losses such as Saturday night’s 90-79 drubbing by the Chicago Bulls damage the Celtics’ quest for No. 1.
Just five games separate the top five teams in the East, and the conference-leading Celtics (28-8, .778) have been caught by the Heat (30-9, .769), despite Miami’s well-chronicled dismal start.
The Orlando Magic, who beat the Celtics on Christmas Day, are winners of nine straight, and the Atlanta Hawks are 8-2 in their past 10. There is an increased emphasis on the regular season, and scoreboard-watching has begun in earnest. Each time one of the other four teams drops a game, Boston realizes it has a chance to create more distance.
That’s why the Celtics can’t afford to waste opportunities, such as Saturday night’s.
“You gotta treat every game like [it’s crucial],’’ forward Paul Pierce said. “All these games are going to count coming down to the end of the season where you have three elite teams, maybe four elite teams at the top, all battling for playoff position."
I disagree with the line before Paul's quote. I don't see Saturday night's game as a wasted opportunity. The Celtics lost what was their 5th game in 7 nights to a good team at their house and without one of your best players. Even elite teams lose in situations like that.
But the overall point is still valid. The Heat are in a virtual tie with the Celtics for the best record in the East. Orlando seems to have quickly put things together after their trades and both teams have now won 9 in a row. And Chicago is right there with Orlando. Meanwhile the C's hit a little bit of a skid to fall back to earth.
I'm not so worried about seeding as I am about the team's overall health. KG might be coming back tonight… Perk could be back in a few weeks and Delonte will be back soon after that. And if the C's slip to 2nd or 3rd while they're getting their players back and getting healthy again… so be it. I don't think we're going to see a repeat of last year and I don't think the C's will fall past 3rd without more injuries.
Full-strength Celtics are a championship team. That's the team that needs to be ready in April, May and June. Full-strength Celtics have too much in all the right places to expose the flaws of these other elite teams. So I'm not going to panic when Miami goes on a run and takes the top spot in the conference because even if they get home court advantage… I still think the series would end in Boston.
Related Links: CSNNE: These Celtics play to win… Every night
On Page 2: A blockbuster trade that could bring Melo to the East
After a final, furious push over the weekend that included near-deals, waffling, misunderstandings and growing acrimony between the two sides, the Denver Nuggets and New Jersey Nets are close to completing a complicated three-team trade to send Carmelo Anthony to New Jersey, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.
The Nets and Detroit Pistons believed they had an arrangement in place Sunday that would’ve sent Anthony, Nuggets point guard Chauncey Billups and Pistons guard Richard Hamilton to the Nets as part of the blockbuster deal. Once the Nets and Pistons worked out the details of a side component to the 13-player deal on Sunday afternoon, the two teams were surprised to find Denver general manager Masai Ujiri wanting to replace players in the framework of the overall trade, sources said.
[...] If a deal is finalized, Anthony is expected to agree to a three-year, $65 million contract extension with the Nets. His agent, Leon Rose, has worked relentlessly to help structure the package of players that will arrive in New Jersey with Anthony.
Anthony “wants to play with Rip,” one front office executive told Yahoo! Sports.
The proposed trade will send Anthony, Hamilton, Billups, Nuggets guard Anthony Carter and forward Shelden Williams to the Nets. The Nuggets will receive two first-round picks from the Nets, point guard Devin Harris, rookie forward Derrick Favors, guards Anthony Morrow, Ben Uzoh, Stephen Graham and Quinton Ross. The Pistons will get Nets forward Troy Murphy and center Johan Petro.
In what will forever be known as "The Shelden Williams Trade"… the Nets will end up with a decent squad. And even at 10-27, the Nets are 5 games out of the 8th spot. So getting Shelden…. along with Melo, Billups, Hamilton and Carter… will make them a playoff team. Carmelo gets to be in New York… eventually… and the 3-year extension would give the Nets time to prove they can actually build a winner.
The Pistons are getting nothing but cap relief and the Nuggets are throwing in the towel and trying something new. Harris is a decent player and who knows what Favors will turn into… but both have potential to be good pieces to the puzzle. Denver will end up being a team with good pieces and no star.
One question just sticks in my side in all of this…
… why the hell does Melo want to "play with Rip"? so badly?
The rest of the links:
CSNNE: Silent Garnett talks about knee … to Chinese | Celtics to face Rockets, Kings for first time | Herald: Celts' Baby taken to school | WEEI: The running man: how Ray's constant motion drives the Celtics | MWDN: Celtics stay busy with Garden work