|Rajon Rondo takes flight to save a loose ball near the Rockets bench in the first half. Rondo committed five of the Celtics’ 13 turnovers, though he did have 12 assists and 9 points. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)|
Immersed in some dunk talk
Three-time slam dunk contest champion Nate Robinson won’t defend his crown this year in Los Angeles, and even though he said he was fine with watching the All-Star Weekend event from the sideline, it didn’t sound like it wasn’t entirely his choice.
“I don’t know what the NBA’s doing, man,’’ Robinson said yesterday. “You’ve got to ask them.’’
Last year in Dallas, Robinson used a two-handed, 360-degree dunk off an alley-oop to beat DeMar DeRozan, Gerald Wallace, and Shannon Brown, adding to the dunk titles he won in 2006 and 2009. His three wins are the most in contest history.
“I’m the king around here. I’m going to retire on top,’’ he said.
Robinson said he was invited to dunk along with the Clippers’ Blake Griffin, Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings, Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka, and Washington’s JaVale McGee at Staples Center, but with a rising star like Griffin on display, it was clear to him the league was trying to usher in a new era.
“It’s time to basically let Blake Griffin win, because that’s what they want,’’ Robinson said. “Hopefully the young fella can go on and get it done.’’
Robinson has gushed over Griffin’s dunking ability throughout the season.
“I love how he’s dunking,’’ Robinson said. “I’m saying, they’ve got to give him some more competition though.
“Ain’t nobody in it. Brandon Jennings, what? I don’t think he’s got three dunks in his NBA career . . . I thought you had to get dunks in the game to be in the contest. Blake Griffin got enough dunks for everybody.’’
For the past nine seasons, the league has used four dunkers, down from the six that used to participate. It has tried different formats, from a tournament in 2002 to fan texting last season.
“It’s just a little different each year,’’ Robinson said. “I’m excited to see what’s going to happen now in the dunk contest just because who’s in it. It’s going to be crazy, man. You’ve got three big men and a guard.
“I told them, if that’s the case, you might as well put six guys in the dunk contest and not four. It’s quicker now, so they don’t drag it out, which I understand and I agree with. But six people I think would be better. Four’s too fast. Then it should be one dunk each round.’’
Robinson said he’s still got dunks in his pocket.
“I’m getting older, man, that’s all it is. I’m trying to conquer something else now. Maybe the 3-point contest one day if I shoot a high enough percentage, skills competition, H-O-R-S-E. You never know. Anything. I’m chillin’ this year. I’m just being a fan this year.’’
Garnett out again Though the Celtics were optimistic, Kevin Garnett sat out his seventh straight game last night with a strained right calf suffered Dec. 29 against Detroit.
The original timetable for the All-Star forward’s return was two weeks, which would put him back on the floor tomorrow against the Kings. Garnett worked out at the Celtics’ practice facility in Waltham last week, and coach Doc Rivers spoke of Garnett being available last night. But Garnett didn’t participate in the morning shootaround and Rivers assumed he was a no-go.
“I honest to God didn’t even ask,’’ Rivers said. “He’ll tell us and so will [trainer] Eddie [Lacerte]. That’s why it’s not a pressing issue for me.’’
The Celtics will practice for the first time in nearly two weeks today, but Rivers wasn’t sure if Garnett would participate.
“I’m more excited about us having a practice,’’ Rivers said. “We need a practice. We really do. I’m excited we’re going to have one. I’ve just seen [Garnett] shooting. He looks fine. He’s not sliding great yet. The only thing I told Eddie is he knows it can’t be any risk of any other [injury].
Mended fences The shouting match between Von Wafer and coach Rick Adelman during the Rockets’ 2009 playoff series against the Lakers is the signature moment from Wafer’s tenure in Houston. Adelman kicked Wafer off the bench, he was let go by the Rockets that summer, and Wafer spent a year overseas.
Now that Wafer’s found a home in Boston, Adelman said Wafer’s time in Houston wasn’t all bad.
“He had a lot of ups for us,’’ said Adelman. “Everybody remembers one incident. That wasn’t that big a deal personally. He played well for us. He was a real spark off the bench. He won a lot of games for us. He’s a guy that once he gets comfortable, he’s a real threat. I think he’s going to help them eventually. ’’
In Houston, Wafer was given the green light to shoot. But in Boston, he’s learned that if he doesn’t play defense he won’t see floor time.
Allen hit hard Ray Allen took a nasty spill in front of the Celtics bench early in the fourth quarter and left the game at the next stoppage in play.
He stayed on the bench from the 10:56 mark to the 5:40 mark, and said although he wasn’t in pain when he was on the floor, his left side was sore after the game.
“I just took a hard hit, and kind of collapsed on the side,’’ Allen said. “I’m sore, I’ll feel it tomorrow. My shoulder, but kind of my side; you’ve got so much adrenaline running that you don’t really feel it. Once I got in the [locker room] I felt it.’’
Minutes man Glen Davis took a team-high 14 shots and also played a team-high 38 minutes, both of which were too high for Rivers’s liking. Since Garnett went down, Davis’s minutes have spiked, but his performance has been up and down. “He’s getting too many minutes, quite honestly,’’ Rivers said. “Thirty-eight minutes is too many for Baby. We don’t have a lot of options right now; Luke [Harangody’s] playing OK but we may have to go small. But that’s too many minutes, and that’s on me. Baby shouldn’t play more than in the 30-range, because I think the fatigue is bothering him.’’ . . . The Celtics are no longer the No. 1 team in the East. Last night’s 108-102 loss to the Rockets dropped Boston a half-game behind the Heat, who have won nine in a row.
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.