Will the NBA ever have a team in Mexico? Maybe, and the league returns to Mexico City on Thursday night when Boston faces Sacramento, which is technically the home team. Celtics-Kings opened at pick'em on BetOnline's NBA odds with a total of 210.
Most people believe the NBA has eyes first on expanding in Europe, and that's certainly true with all the Europeans in the NBA and with how much good basketball is played there. It's arguably the second-most popular sport in many European countries after soccer. But the Association also has eyes on conquering Latin America through Mexico. This is the second straight regular-season game to be played in the Mexico City Arena, a $300 million building that opened in 2012. Almost 19,000 were on hand last year to see the Rockets play the Timberwolves. There was supposed to be a game there in 2013 between the Wolves and Spurs (San Antonio being a natural fit) but it had to be canceled after a faulty generator caused smoke to fill the arena. The league claims there are 13 million NBA fans in Mexico, with 2.2 million of them in the greater Mexico City area. Why Celtics-Kings and not a Texas team this year? Apparently Boston is one of the five-most followed teams in the country.
Celtics Continue Road Trip
Boston (10-8) has started a five-game road trip at 1-1, losing in Orlando by 19 on Sunday night in a terrible performance but then pulling a minor upset in Miami on Monday, 105-95, in the second of a back-to-back. The Heat entered with the NBA's best defense, but Avery Bradley's 25 points led six Boston players in double figures. The C's also forced 19 Miami turnovers (Heat had been averaging only 13.8 giveaways) into 24 points. Boston had lost three straight road games.
Bradley has been playing like an All-Star in 10 games since returning from a calf injury. Bradley, one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA, is plus-11.1 in net rating with an offensive rating of 105.7 and averaging 19.4 points on 50.7 percent shooting in that span.
This could also serve as something of a scouting trip for Boston GM Danny Ainge. He has long coveted Kings superstar center DeMarcus Cousins and there have been rumors for at least a year of Boston trying to trade for him. The Celtics do have potentially four first-round picks in the 2016 draft, including Brooklyn's unprotected pick that should be in the Top 3. So expect more offers built around that and a current young player or two on the roster.
The Celtics are 9-9 against the spread on NBA odds and 8-10 'over/under.'
Kings All On Same Page For Now
Sacramento (7-12) has been a dysfunctional franchise for a while, and Cousins and head coach George Karl have had their troubles -- there were some reports earlier this season that Karl might be fired. Last week, Cousins and guard Rajon Rondo met privately with Karl for a two-hour meeting and Rondo said: "it was a powerful meeting for all three of us." Karl reportedly said Rondo and Cousins asked that he be more selective about pushing the pace offensively. Karl said he would agree to slow the offense down as long as there was no more in-fighting.
The Kings are off an impressive 112-98 home win over Dallas on Monday. Cousins returned from a three-game injury absence and had 31 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Rondo had 21 points and five assists. He's having a fine season on a one-year contract. Rondo is averaging 12.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 10.7 assists (No. 1 in NBA) with a handful of triple-doubles.
Of course Rondo made his name with the Celtics as a four-time All-Star there and starting point guard on the 2008 championship team. He was traded to Dallas last season but flopped there. Boston is happy with that deal as it netted rotation player Jae Crowder and first- and second-round picks from the Mavs. Cousins loves Rondo and says he will re-sign in Sacramento this offseason and to keep him from leaving, Cousins will "kidnap him myself."
On NBA picks this season, the Kings are 9-10 ATS and 10-9 O/U.
Both teams won at home. On New Year's Eve in Boston, the Celtics rolled 106-84. Jared Sullinger and 20 points and 11 rebounds as Boston never trailed. Cousins had 11 points and 11 rebounds and was ejected after earning his second technical foul midway through the fourth quarter. On Feb. 20 in the teams' first game after the All-Star break, the Kings won 109-101 for their fourth straight home victory in the series. Cousins had 31 points and 15 rebounds and Rudy Gay 28 points as the Kings won in Karl's head coaching debut with the team. Sacramento did so despite 24 turnovers that led to 38 Boston points. Bradley led Boston with 28 points.
NBA Picks: I guess any home-court trends are out the window for the Kings here. Take Sacramento +2 and go 'under' at BetOnline as that thin air could leave both teams gassed in the fourth quarter. Boston is 1-4 ATS after scoring at least 100 points in its previous game. The 'under' is 6-2 in Boston's past eight after a win. The 'under' is 7-0 in the Kings' past seven on two days of rest.