THE BASKETBALL TEAM formerly known as the Cleveland Cavaliers visits TD Garden tonight.
That’s right. You remember the Cavs. LeBron James, Kevin Love … ummm, Kyrie Irving. The team that knocked the Celtics out of the playoffs each of the last two seasons. The final hurdle for the Celts to clear to get a title shot at Golden State.
And even with Tristan Thompson claiming the Cavs still rule the East, the fact is they don’t.
The fact is LeBron is in L.A.. Love is out until January with a foot injury. Irving is in Boston. Ty Lue has been fired. Wednesday, Kyle Korver was traded. This is a team that started 0-6, fired Lue, fell to 1-11 and hits town at 4-16.
But it’s also a team that recently beat the Houston Rockets in Cleveland and also won at Philadelphia — which brings us to the Celtics, a team that can throttle or be throttled at any time.
Brad Stevens’ team has won two in a row to get back over .500 (11-10). It has been as inconsistent as any alleged contender can be while not losing contender status. The Celtics have criticized, been criticized, and just remained up and down.
They took care of the one of their problems at New Orleans, playing without the struggling Jaylen Brown, whose start kind of sums up the start of his team. Brown sat on a cushion and rested a bruised tailbone. His team started the game well and never let up. The Celtics can now win three in a row for the first and only time this month — and do it on the final day of the month.
Word surfaced that old pal Kendrick Perkins, currently out of the NBA but looking to get a final shot, reached out to his old team about a reunion, but that’s not going to happen. At least not now.
“I don’t think it’s a good fit for our team right now,” Danny Ainge said on 98.5. You never know what happens through the course of the season, but we have a lot of bigs and a lot of bigs we really like that we can’t even find time for. It’s probably not a good fit for us at this moment.”
Speaking of bigs, the annual visit to New Orleans again brought up the Anthony Davis-to-Boston talk. If that ever happens, the Pelicans might as well fly out of NOLA.
Monday, coach Alvin Gentry said, “That’s what you guys talk about. We don’t talk about it. So he’s here. He’s playing on our team. We’re trying to win games. That’s the only thing that matters right now. It’s not anything that I’m going to have a say-so in or anything else, so we don’t bother about it. We worry about winning games and putting everybody in the best situation to win games.”
Stevens was asked if Marcus Morris, who has been tremendous, has been his most-consistent player through the 11-10 start. His answer, in a word, was “yes.”
Morris is averaging 13.9 points and 6.7 rebounds over 26.4 minutes per game while both starting and subbing.
The hot stove has heated up with the talk of where Seattle might ship 57-save guy Edwin Diaz as the Mariners look to rebuild. Thursday, the smoke seemed to be circling around the Mets (Noah Syndegaard?), who could also take Robinson Cano’s remaining contract off the M’s hands.
With Craig Kimbrel likely gone, the Red Sox are also said to be in the mix. Diaz would be a plum for Dave Dombrowski. This is a great young reliever who isn’t even arbitration eligible yet young (24). Throws hard (98). Control (17 walks, 124 strikeouts in 73 1/3 innings). Opponents hit .160 off him last year. The whole package.
But would Boston also have to take on the remaining five years and $120 million left on Cano’s contract? Cano is 36 and the Mariners would pick up some of the money. Think of what THAT would add to the rivalry with the Yankees (also mentioned in the Cano talk).
David Price was playing Fortnite with Nathan Eovaldi and told the righty he “better be re-signing with the Red Sox.
More Sox: The 2018 title video — Damage Done — debuts Monday night at the Emerson Colonial Theater. … MLB Network will air a one-hour documentary on Dennis Eckersley on Dec. 13. … The Sox equipment van leaves Fenway on Feb. 4. Spring training opens nine days later. Boston finishes the spring with two games against the Cubs in Mesa, Ariz., en route to opening the regular season with an 11-game road trip out west.
Not Miller time
The Bruins’ Kevan Miller seems to be one of those guys always in the wrong place at the wrong time. No, not with his performance, but with his inability to stay on the ice. Now, it’s a larynx injury suffered when he was hit in the throat by a puck in Toronto. The guy just can’t catch a break.
“He plays his heart out. That’s two blocked shots that have put him out,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “We’ll miss him.”
Thursday night’s retirement of Rick Middleton’s No. 16 was long overdue. Could the NHL Hall of Fame be next? This was a special player and Bruins fans too young to remember should know “Nifty” is third all-time on the team’s goals list (402), fourth in points (898) and sixth in assists (496). Oh, he also leads with 25 short-handed goals.
The Bruins, who are looking to deal for some scoring, sent Anders Bjork to Providence on Thursday after recalling Ryan Donato (nine points in 10 AHL games).
Two bits of good news to talk about. Mike Gorman revealed on 98.5 WBZ FM the other day that he has re-upped with NBC Sports Boston to do the Celtics for three more years. And old friend Jonny Miller of WBZ Radio is recovering well from a stroke suffered en route to Los Angeles for the World Series and is set to be released from rehab next Tuesday, setting his sights on spring training.
By the way, Tony Clark, the former first baseman now the head of the Players Association (extended Wednesday through 2022) and New York Post reporter George King were on the flight with Miller. The plane was diverted to Denver and they assisted in his care.
The Vikings are better — a lot better — than the Jets. Kirk Cousins had a huge game against the Packers on Sunday night.
Tom Brady has his worst career numbers against Vikings coach Mike Zimmer (both as a head coach and defensive coordinator). That’s considering coaches who Brady has seen at least four times. But the Pats’ line should be a lot better protecting Brady than Green Bay’s battered group was in front of Aaron Rodgers against Zimmer’s Vikings on Sunday night.
On his conference call with the New England media, Zimmer was told Bill Belichick called him “one of the best coaches in the league.” Zimmer responded: “Yeah, you know, he’s the best coach ever. I think it’s a compliment that he thinks that of me. Hopefully, he’s not just saying it because we play them this week.”
On the Pats, Zimmer says, “They’re the best play-action in the NFL.” Asked what makes them the best, Zimmer said, “It’s combination of all (positions). A lot of teams run play-actions out of runs that they don’t actually run out of. Their play-actions look exactly like their runs.
“They do a great job with — their offensive line does an outstanding job. Brady is really good at play-action and the receivers do a great job of finding the spots that the linebackers are getting sucked into.”