A few pieces of quality content from my ESPN colleagues I want to direct your attention to:
Lundblad: Time working against Allen
For better or worse, the next two weeks will go a long way toward shaping the future of the Boston Celtics.
More than anything, the team's recent struggles -- Boston is 8-11 since Christmas entering Friday's game with the New Jersey Nets -- have underscored how quickly the window is closing on this group.
With three starters over 32, the common perception is that the Celtics have started to show their age. There will be one inescapable question leading up to the Feb. 18 trade deadline: Can the Big Three still lead the Celtics to a title?
Ultimately, that question is really about Ray Allen. At 34, he is the oldest of the group. And since he has a huge expiring contract, Allen is the Celtics' most likely trading chip for a major move.
Simply put, if the Celtics decide this group can't win, Allen could be shown the door. If Allen sticks around, the Celtics are not only relying on him for this season; they may also be tacitly committing to him for the future, despite his impending free-agent status.
So what does Ray Allen have left in the tank?
Click HERE to read the full story.
Caplan: Legendary start for Bird
Back in the day -- when trash talk meant something, and so did a rowdy Reunion Arena -- Larry Bird burst into the All-Star locker room. He strolled about, sizing up his competition. Then he threw down the five most famous words in NBA Three-Point Shootout history.
"All of a sudden," recalled Craig Hodges -- then a cocksure, dead-eye marksman for the Milwaukee Bucks -- "he says, 'Man, who's comin' in second?'"
And that's how it all began. The birth of the Three-Point Shootout: NBA All-Star Weekend 1986, Reunion Arena.
Twenty-four years later, the Three-Point Shootout comes home -- well, two miles up Interstate 35E at the American Airlines Center -- on Feb. 13, as All-Star Weekend returns to North Texas. Spud Webb's height-defying dunking might have stolen the show that night, but the original Three-Point Shootout lives on in NBA lore -- and YouTube glory.
Click HERE to read the full story.
Simmons' Mailbag: A 2007 redo?
Q: If you could go back in time "Lost"-style and fix the 2007 lottery so the Celtics landed the second pick, would you keep what happened (No. 5 pick, KG trade, 2008 title, everything else that happened up to now), or would you switch it so that they ended up with the No. 2 pick and Durant? --Dr. Bill Simmons, Boston
Sports Guy: OK, I fibbed that one. My dad asked me that on the phone this week. And we both came to the same conclusion pretty quickly: You'd have to go with Durant. Have you seen what he's doing for the Zombies lately? Thirty a night, eight boards, 50 percent shooting, nails his free throws … just eerie, Gervin-like consistency for a young team that doesn't have another reliable scorer, and if that's not enough, he's the single best teammate in the league other than LeBron. Barring injury, he's going to win this year's scoring title (he'd be the youngest ever by two years) and could be looking at a historic 35 ppg, 10 rpg, 50/40/90 percentage season soon. I don't see how you pass that up. And if you remember, the 2007 Celts had a decent nucleus in place already (Al Jefferson, Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, Paul Pierce, Theo Ratliff's expiring contract, the rights to Minnesota's No. 1) and easily could have turned a couple of those assets into Pau Gasol a couple of months later.
Here's the best analogy: You know in football when a team kicks a field goal, only there's a penalty, and they have the option of wiping the points off the board but getting four new downs? It's usually a horrible idea to wipe the points off unless you have someone on the Brady-Manning-Brees level as your quarterback. Too risky otherwise. For a redo of the 2007 lottery scenario, you would wipe three points off the board (in this case, an NBA title), grab Durant and go for seven points (the possibility of multiple titles and 15-plus years of a potential pantheon guy). You have to.
One more note: This is something like my 10th or 11th year with NBA Season Pass. I have never gotten attached to a non-Celtics team before, and I've never played favorites if there were multiple non-Boston games happening at the same time. This year? I find myself gravitating toward Zombies games night after night. It's a real team. They like one another. They're better as a group than they are as individuals. And Durant is the most special non-LeBron talent in basketball. Not only is there nobody like him, but there's also never been anyone like him. He's an original prototype.
Click HERE to read the full mailbag.