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Report: Celtics not planning aggressive pursuit of free agent Dwight Howard

06.30.16 at 11:25 am ET
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Las Vegas recently labeled the Celtics the favorites to land former All-Star center Dwight Howard, but reporters covering the team are hearing a different story.

Himmelsbach covers the Celtics for the Globe, and frankly, his version of events makes more sense than a rabid pursuit of Howard, who has aged very quickly, even though he’s only 30. The eight-time All-Star averaged just 13.7 points last season for the Rockets, the lowest total since he put up 12 a game as a 19-year-old rookie in 2004-05.

Also, after missing just three games in his first six seasons, Howard has broken down in recent years, missing 63 games over the last three seasons.

For his career, he averages 17.8 points, 12.7 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks a game. There’s a question of how he’d fit in the system of Celtics coach Brad Stevens, since Howard is a back-to-the-basket post player who doesn’t stretch defenses.

Howard recently declined his $23.2 million player option with the Rockets to become a free agent.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Celtics, Celtics rumors, Dwight Howard

Report: Celtics to extend qualifying offers to Jared Sullinger, Tyler Zeller

06.30.16 at 10:57 am ET
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Kevin Durant may be the prize, and Dwight Howard an intriguing possibility, but the Celtics aren’t taking any piece of their roster for granted.

To that end, they plan to offer qualifying offers to big men Jared Sullinger and Tyler Zeller. Per Steve Bulpett of the Herald:

Qualifying offers must be made by Thursday, and extending them allows the Celtics to match any offer sheet Zeller and/or Sullinger sign in restricted free agency. Otherwise, they would’ve become unrestricted free agents.

Sullinger’s offer will be for $4,433,683, while Zeller’s one-year offer is for $3,695,169, according to the Herald.

Sullinger averaged 10.3 points and 8.3 rebounds this year, though he was ineffective against the Hawks in the playoffs. Zeller averaged 6.1 points and 3.0 rebounds, falling out of Brad Stevens’ rotation at times.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Celtics, Celtics rumors, Jared Sullinger

Celtics should be eyeing these free agents

06.30.16 at 9:25 am ET
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Mar 10, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Atlanta Hawks forward Al Horford (15) shoots the ball against the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Hawks 104-96. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Celtics reportedly will target Hawks forward Al Horford in free agency. (Tom Szczerbowski/USA Today Sports)

Assuming the Celtics don’t land Kevin Durant, they’re going to need to shift their focus to signing other key free agents to improve their roster.

According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Celtics will target Al Horford when free agency officially begins July 1, and will be one of many teams, including the Lakers, Rockets, Magic, Pistons, Nets and Wizards, interested in the nine-year pro. (A Thursday report indicated the Thunder also plan to make a push for him.)

If the Celtics don’t land Durant or Horford, what kind of players do they need?

“We need good players,” Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said last Friday as the team introduced five of its six draft picks in Waltham.

Brad Stevens was more specific.

“The biggest needs as we look at it are continuing to grow ourselves on the offensive end and what we decide to do with regard to protecting the rim,” the coach said.

There are a handful of players available who could help in scoring and rim protection, which could push the Celtics into contending with the champion Cavaliers.

However, the most talented players come with an expensive price tag. The Celtics will have to weigh their options and target the players who are worth the big bucks, while also looking to at second- and third-tier options who offer plenty of upside.

Here are four free agents the Celtics could sign this summer.

AL HORFORD
2015-16: 15.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.5 blocks

Horford sits atop the list — his ability to stretch the floor on offense and defend opposing big men makes him a great fit in Boston. His leadership qualities will be beneficial for this young Celtics team — along with his experience. Horford, who turned 30 earlier this month, is also consistent — while his 15.2 points and 7.3 rebounds last season aren’t numbers that are going to amaze you, his dependability will make a big impact. He would give the Celtics their first consistent scoring big man since Kevin Garnett. And much like Garnett was for the Celtics, Horford is a great pick-and-roll guy who can knock down shots and score in the post. He is a max guy, but is one of the exceptional players of this free agency class who deserves a contract worth over $20 million annually. Placing an All-Star like Horford alongside Isaiah Thomas would bring this Celtics team to the second round of the playoffs, with potential to go beyond.  It would be a huge step toward contenting with the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference.

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Read More: Al Horford, Evan Turner, Ian Mahinmi, Nicolas Batum

Kevin Durant’s meeting with Celtics scheduled for Saturday

06.30.16 at 8:44 am ET
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If you’re a Celtics fan, your attention should be on what unfolds in the Hamptons Saturday.

It is in this Long Island vacation spot that, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Celts will be meeting with free agent Kevin Durant in attempt to convince the forward that Boston is the place to be for the 2016-17 season.

According to ESPN.com, Durant is expected to meet with Oklahoma City Thursday before heading to the Hamptons, where he will meet with five clubs. The whirlwind of get-togethers start Friday when the 27-year-old All-Star will talk with both the Warriors and Clippers.

Saturday morning, Durant is scheduled to meet with the Spurs before his Celtics talk later in the day. He will finish up his meetings Sunday, hosting the Heat.

NBA free agents can’t sign new contracts until July 7.

Vegas: Celtics favorites to land Dwight Howard

06.29.16 at 10:23 pm ET
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Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard

The Celtics will reportedly get a meeting with free agent center Dwight Howard and apparently the team has a good shot at landing him.

According to Bovada, the Celtics have the best odds of landing Howard at 10/11 odds. The Hawks have the next highest odds at 3/2, followed by the Rockets at 10/1 and then the field at 5/2.

Howard opted out of a $23.2 million player option with Houston for next year, thus making him a free agent.

The 30-year-old averaged 13.7 points a game with 11.8 rebounds in 71 games with the Rockets last season.

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Marcus Smart knows he has to improve his jumper: ‘Everybody knows it. I know it’

06.29.16 at 11:38 am ET
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Apr 22, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) shoots for three points against Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford (15) during the fourth quarter in game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Smart showed signs of improving his jumper last season. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM – Summer is a time for rest and relaxation for many veterans in the NBA. 

But Marcus Smart, entering his third season, is taking a different approach. 

For the first time since his rookie season, he heads into the summer months fully healthy and ready to improve his game, and that means getting offensive. 

Everyone knows Smart is one of the best defensive guards in the NBA. As a matter of fact, Brad Stevens considers it a luxury that he can bring Smart off the bench on occasion to replace Avery Bradley and there’s little to no drop off in “on-ball” defense. 

But it’s the offensive side that’s been a major struggle. Smart was known as an inconsistent jump shooter at Oklahoma State but considered a force who could get to the basket. In the NBA, it’s been a bit of a different story, as teams have forced him into jump shots. 

In his rookie year, Smart had respectable 3-point shooting numbers, converting 91-of-272 from beyond the arc for a 33.5 percent rate. But this past season, his numbers fell off drastically, as he went through long droughts of poor shooting, falling to 25.3 percent, an alarming number for a guard in the NBA. 

So when asked Tuesday during his camp at Brandeis what he might be focused on improving, he didn’t hesitate. 

“My shooting. Everybody knows it. I know it. I’ve been working really hard on it, and my conditioning,” Smart said. 

During one five-game stretch from March 21-31, Smart missed all 16 attempts from beyond the arc. But there was signs late in the season that he was figuring things out. 

There was the stunning win at Golden State on April 1, when he connected for a key three in the fourth quarter. He went 4-for-6 from long distance in a late season game against the Hawks. And he was 3-for-6 in the series opener in Atlanta in the playoffs. He was 5-for-12 from 3-point range in wins in Games 3 and 4. 

Now, Smart is committed to continuing that momentum. 

“It’s been good actually. I’ve been putting in a lot of work and just trying to get better, so, so far, so good. It’s been good,” Smart said. 

When he’s not working on his shot, Smart has been working with kids, showing the organization that he has the type of skills needed to make it as a leader in Boston. Smart is running his Boston YGC camp this week in Waltham at Brandeis.  

“It feels good. I just got done with my Dallas camp, and the kids there – how little I was, I used to run around, parents telling me you’ve got too much energy,” Smart said. “Just wait until you get older and you’ll see how much energy you have. And then to come here and see the kids, it’s just incredible.

“I’m actually doing another one in the Canary Islands. So that’s a blessing for me. Not many people can say I had a camp in the Canary Islands, outside of the States, only in your second year. So that’s incredible to me and I’m ecstatic about it. I can’t wait.

“The first thing that goes through my mind is this was me about ten years ago. I remember going to camps and seeing an NBA player and my eyes lit up. It’s just a good feeling to be able to put that type of excitement on the kids’ faces. I just tell them just keep working, anything’s possible. You don’t have to be biggest, strongest or athletic guy to make it. You’ve just got to work hard.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Marcus Smart, YGC Camp,

Report: Celtics, Hawks setting up meeting with Dwight Howard

06.29.16 at 9:04 am ET
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Mar 11, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) shoots the ball against Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) during the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

The Celtics reportedly have their sights set on Dwight Howard during free agency. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Dwight Howard is next up on the Celtics’ wish list. 

Sources tell ESPN that the 30-year-old big man will sit down face-to-face with the Celtics, along with the Atlanta Hawks, as free agency begins this Friday. 

ESPN reports that Howard is expected to meet with as many as five teams in free agency. Unlike the situation with Kevin Durant, where a return to Oklahoma City is a distinct possibility, Howard is not expect to return to Houston after turning down his $23.2 million option for next season

According to ESPN, sources say the Heat have not yet booked a meeting with Howard in free agency, but could emerge later in the process. 

ESPN reported Tuesday that the Hawks are trying to make up their mind on whether to go after Kevin Durant or consider an Al Horford-Dwight Howard front court through free agency.  

As was the case with Horford, Howard was considered to be a target of the Celtics at the February trade deadline before the team backed off. 

Read More: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Dwight Howard,
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