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Celtics acquire Tyler Zeller, Marcus Thornton, 1st-round pick in deal that may pave way for LeBron James to Cleveland

07.09.14 at 10:51 am ET
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The Celtics acquired Tyler Zeller and a first-round pick from the Cavaliers and Marcus Thornton from the Nets in a three-team trade that may pave the way for LeBron James‘ return to Cleveland, ESPN’s Marc Stein first reported.

In return, the Celtics are sending a second-round pick to the Cavs and using the $10.3 million trade exception they received upon dealing Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn last summer. That TPE was set to expire on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Nets receive Jarrett Jack and Sergey Karasev from the Cavaliers, freeing enough cap space (roughly $24.0 million) for Cleveland to potentially offer James a maximum contract of four years, $94.8 million.

As a result, the Celtics reportedly received Cleveland’s No. 1 pick in 2016 (top-10 protected through 2018), a 24-year-old 7-footer under their control through 2016 and Thornton’s expiring $8.6 million contract for a second-round pick.

In addition to acquiring Zeller, who averaged 13.7 points and 9.7 rebounds per 36 minutes last season, the Celtics could have as many as nine first-round picks over the next four seasons and $41.4 million in expiring contracts (Rajon Rondo‘s $12.9 million, Brandon Bass‘ $6.9 million, Joel Anthony‘s $3.8 million and potentially Jeff Green‘s $9.2 million player option). There’s no doubt the move puts the Celtics in a better position to acquire Kevin Love or any other desirable player by trade this season or by free agency next summer.

According to Kirk Goldsberry‘s easily digestible shot charts, Zeller (1,049 min, 5.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 58.1 TS%, 15.4 PER) attempted nearly 70 percent of his shots around the basket and converted almost 60 percent of them. Likewise, Thornton (1,741 min, 9.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.1 apg, 51.1 TS%, 12.0 PER) is a decent enough 3-point shooter from the right corner, left arc and straightaway, but underwhelming from mid-range and the paint. Neither are considered defensive stalwarts. Quite simply, this trade, in a vacuum, does not make the C’s much better this year.

Additionally, the Celtics now have $64.7 million in guaranteed contracts dedicated to Rondo, Gerald Wallace ($10.1M), Green, Thornton, Bass, Anthony, Avery Bradley (estimated $8M), Vitor Faverani ($2.1M), Kelly Olynyk ($2.1M), Zeller ($1.7M) and Jared Sullinger ($1.4M). That puts them over the estimated $63.2 million salary cap. Details of Marcus Smart‘s contract haven’t emerged, but cap holds for him and James Young already add another $4.1 million to that number. Likewise, the C’s also have Phil Pressey, Chris Johnson and Chris Babb signed to non-guaranteed minimum contracts, pushing their current commitments to $69.7 million.

In other words, the best the Celtics can now offer a free agent is the non-taxpayer mid-level exception ($5.3M), meaning Ainge probably isn’t done dealing this summer, especially if he hopes to avoid the lottery again next year.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Danny Ainge

The Celtics and the Lance Stephenson question

07.08.14 at 11:02 am ET
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Do the Celtics covet Lance Stephenson or don’t they? That is the question.

According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard, the Celtics are “showing interest” in the free agent shooting guard. However, the Boston Herald’s Steve Bulpett claims the C’s have not contacted Stephenson nor his agent.

Considering Avery Bradley reportedly agreed on a four-year $32 million deal to play Stephenson’s natural position, it seems surprising the Celtics would also target the mercurial Pacers 2-guard, although he has the ability to play the 3.

While Indiana remains his ideal destination, Stephenson considered Pacers president Larry Bird‘s offer of five years and $44 million a “low-ball” one and began exploring the open market, according to Broussard.

Based on production, Stephenson (2,752 min, 13.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 4.6 apg, 56.4 TS%, 14.7 PER) should command more dollars than Bradley (1,855 min, 14.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.4 apg, 51.0 TS%, 12.7 PER), but the former’s antics may prevent him from making double-digit millions annually. Either way, it’s hard to imagine the C’s stealing him from the Pacers.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Lance Stephenson, NBA,

Rajon Rondo rides shotgun at fork in Celtics road

07.08.14 at 10:16 am ET
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Given the drafting of point guard Marcus Smart and the failure thus far of the Celtics to land a big name this summer via free agency or trade, the discussion has naturally turned to trading Rajon Rondo.

In a conversation with The Boston Globe’s Baxter Holmes from his annual basketball camp in Louisville, Kentucky, Rondo offered fairly typical Rondo responses — brief, dry and interpretive.

“I don’t think nothing of it,” Rondo said, shrugging his shoulders, according to the Globe. “I am who I am. …

“I don’t have too many feelings involved in this business. I’ve played my heart out for the game, but business is business. I can be here today, gone tomorrow. You never know. For me to get bent out of shape, or to feel threatened by the Celtics drafting a point guard, it means nothing.”

So, he’s good, then?

Meanwhile, the Boston Herald’s Steve Bulpett spoke to three NBA general managers who believe — despite a number of potential suitors for Rondo’s services — Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge will struggle to receive fair compensation for his All-Star point guard this summer, suggesting the C’s could wait until the season starts before making a deal in hopes Rondo’s play increases his trade value.

Conversely, as the trade deadline approaches, opposing GMs will be circling like sharks knowing the Celtics face the possibility of Rondo departing in free agency next summer, leaving Ainge with nothing but cap space in return. In that regard, Rondo’s value may peak before the calendar turns to 2015 (i.e., Chris Paul in December 2011).

Ideally, as Rondo’s high school coach Doug Bibby explained to the Globe, “It won’t affect [Rondo]. If anything, it just woke up a beast.” Then, as Sports Illustrated Chris Mannix suggested, the Celtics could land a legitimate starter and draft picks in return. Unless, of course, Kevin Love walks through that door and the C’s keep Rondo.

Ainge remains at a fork in the road. Whether Rondo is still riding shotgun this winter remains up for debate.

Read More: Boston Celtics, NBA, Rajon Rondo,

Terrible turnaround: C’s up big early, lose bigger to Pacers, James Young sits out again

07.07.14 at 9:27 pm ET
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A great start turned into a big learning experience for the young Celtics in a Summer League lesson handed out by the Pacers Monday in Orlando.

The Green went up by 18 points early against the Pacers in their second game of Summer League action on Monday. Then they got absolutely throttled by Indiana. Boston ended up losing the game by 19 points, 96-77.

The 37-point turnaround was as ugly as it sounds. The Celtics shot a mere 34.3 percent (24-for-70) from the field, and only 25.9 percent (7-for-27) from beyond the arc.

Basketball is a game of runs. The Celtics never responded to the Pacers’€™ run, which seemingly lasted three quarters.

‘€œThat response has to happen on the defensive end of the court,’€ Summer League head coach Jay Larranaga told reporters. ‘€œWe were late on everything and we fouled too much.’€

Kelly Olynyk led the team in scoring for the second straight game with 15 points (5-for-13 shooting) to go along with six rebounds and four assists. Meanwhile, Marcus Smart ‘€“ the No. 6 overall pick in the draft ‘€“ had another shaky game. Smart shot just 3-for-15 from the field, finishing with 11 points in 27 minutes.

Shooting remains a huge concern for Smart. But he was also unable to fill out the stat sheet like he did on Saturday against the Heat. Smart only had three boards, four assists and a steal to follow-up his debut.

Smart looked lost at times, settling for bad shots while looking less energetic on the defensive side of the ball (although, the same can be said about the entire team during the last three quarters).

James Young sat out yet again with a neck injury from a June car accident. His status is still up in the air as to whether or not he will play in Summer League.

Willie Reed led the way for the Pacers. He scored 18 points (8-for-12) while adding six rebounds, three assists and blocking four shots. It’€™s just Summer League, but if Willie Reed is drawing comparisons to Willis Reed, it’€™s not a good thing.

The Celtics will look to bounce back on Wednesday against the Pistons at 7 P.M.

Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow

Read More: Boston Celtics, Indiana Pacers, James Young, Kelly Olynyk

The Creative Kevin Love Trade Idea of the Day

07.07.14 at 10:59 am ET
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Over the weekend, Yahoo! Sports columnist Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted, “Here’s something that remains unchanged: Danny Ainge‘s relentless pursuit of creative ways to engage Minnesota on a Kevin Love deal.”

It should come as no surprise that Ainge is continuing to target Love. After all, Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck promised fireworks this summer, and a Love connection is the only big splash left to make. Go ahead, look at the available free agents at point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward and center.

News flash: LeBron James, Chris Bosh and/or Carmelo Anthony aren’t coming to Boston. The Suns, Pistons, Rockets and Jazz are respectively expected to match offers for restricted free agents Eric Bledsoe, Greg Monroe, Chandler Parsons and Gordon Hayward. Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan, Kyle Lowry and Marcin Gortat are off the board. Lance Stephenson, Luol Deng, Pau Gasol and Paul Pierce are rumored elsewhere. That leaves one top-20 player in Tom Ziller‘s great free agent rankings: 5-foot-9 point guard Isaiah Thomas.

Considering he plays the same position as Rajon Rondo and Marcus Smart, Thomas doesn’t exactly qualify as fireworks. Now, look at the unrestricted free agents available in 2015. The two biggest names: Rondo and Love. If Ainge doesn’t pair them now, how confident are you he can do so when they hit the open market next summer? If nothing else, the first week of July has proven high-profile free agents have no interest in the Celtics. Re-signing Rondo and Love would be a different story, since the C’s could offer significantly more money.

In other words, the C’s only real shot to compete in the near future is pairing Rondo and Love. This is a stars league, and those are the only two that set foot in Boston this summer. Other pieces will follow. Otherwise, Ainge might as well trade Rondo and start from scratch, because the Celtics won’t be contending for quite some time.

Ainge will exhaust all options to acquire Love, including every attempt to involve other teams and satisfy Minnesota’s desire to land a legitimate player in return. Since we can get creative, too, here’s one such option he could try.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Gordon Hayward, Kevin Love, NBA

Report: Celtics still pursuing Kevin Love

07.06.14 at 12:14 am ET
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According to a tweet from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Celtics and Danny Ainge haven’t given up their pursuit of Timberwovlves forward Kevin Love.

Saturday afternoon, Wojnarowski tweeted the following:

There are, of course, other teams also vying for the services of Love, including (as SI.com points out) the Chicago Bulls.

Stay tuned …

Read More: Celtics, Kevin Love,

Marcus Smart struggles from field as Celtics open summer league action with win over Heat

07.05.14 at 2:49 pm ET
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The Celtics kicked off summer league play with an 85-77 victory over the Heat on Saturday in Orlando.

The game featured 22 lead changes and 12 ties before a 25-13 Boston run to close out the contest helped the Celtics seal the victory.

Kelly Olynyk led the Celtics with 20 points (8-of-17 shooting) and eight rebounds while forward Mike Moser contributed 17 points (6-of-11) in 24 minutes off the bench.

Celtics rookie guard Marcus Smart struggled from the field (2-of-8), but made his presence felt across the stat sheet, finishing the day with 10 points, five rebounds, three assists and five steals.

Phil Pressey was solid as the team’€™s starting point guard, scoring nine points (3-of-9) while dishing out seven assists. Pressey also impressed many with a nasty crossover move on Miami rookie point guard Shabazz Napier.

Forward James Ennis led the Heat with 17 points (5-of-11) and eight boards. It was a rough debut for Napier, who scored 12 points but off a horrible 20 percent shooting percentage from the field (3-of-15) while recording just two assists and eight turnovers.

Celtics rookie guard James Young, taken with the 17th overall pick of the 2014 draft, did not play in Saturday’€™s game for precautionary reasons after injuring his neck in a car accident a few weeks ago.

Boston’€™s next summer league matchup will be on Monday, when the Celtics take on the Pacers.

Read More: Celtics, Heat, Kelly Olynyk, Marcus Smart
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