|08.30.16 at 11:37 am ET|
R.J. Hunter should not be in the position he is in.
The incessant griping about the Celtics’ lack of perimeter shooting is justified, with there being few — if any — options both in the starting lineup and off the bench for reliable 3-point shooting.
However, Hunter, a first-round pick in 2015, is known for his shot, so this should be his wheelhouse. Instead, he’s on the fringe of making the final 15-man roster.
“It’s just spurts where it’s like, ‘Bro, what I am I doing wrong?’ ” Hunter said, speaking to MassLive.com on Saturday at the Basketball Hall of Fame. “And it’s nothing. You’re just on a really good team.”
Hunter brings up a good point. On most any other NBA team, Hunter would have been a much more heavily utilized asset, not the eight minutes per game player he was in his 36 NBA games last season. Conversely, the 22-year-old didn’t do himself many favors when given the opportunity from Brad Stevens to play.
The shooting guard shot a pedestrian 30.2 percent from 3, while putting together a 36.7 percent field goal percentage, totaling a 2.7 points per game total over the course of the season. As a result of the underwhelming performances, he found himself in the D-League for eight games during the middle of the season. While there he shot slightly worse from 3-point range than in the NBA, with a 29.6 percent mark, but ultimately averaged 13.8 points per game.
“At that point, it was just so completely mental,” he said. “I’m not going to lie, my ego got in the way of me making shots. It was almost like for me, whatever I do, I’m in the D-League, and if I don’t do well, it looks worse. And that’s just the wrong attitude to have instead of just going in there. When you have that mentality, now I’m rushing shots. I’m not finishing shots. I’m not really putting in preparation like I have to on every shot. That’s part of growing up, though — you’re in the league, and you’re caught up in it.”
|08.30.16 at 11:32 am ET|
Celtics owners Wyc Grousbeck and Steve Pagliuca joined Dennis & Callahan with Minihane during the WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon on Tuesday and discussed the team’s attempt to lure Kevin Durant to Boston. To hear the interview, visit the D&C audio on demand page.
The Celtics were one of the finalists to land the 2014 MVP, and several players and front office members met with Durant in early July. Durant ultimately chose to join the Warriors, but Pagliuca said he believes his team was very close to grabbing him.
“We put on a great presentation,” Pagliuca said. “The players did a fantastic job and Tom Brady helped us, I think we were very compelling. … We always hope for the best, and we prepare for otherwise, but I thought we had a really good shot at him.”
The Celtics got an assist at the meeting from Brady, form whom Durant has plenty of respect.
“He made a very compelling case how it’s so special to be able to play in Boston, the No. 1 sports town in America,” Pagliuca said. “Winning a championship in Boston is like nothing else, he made a very compelling presentation that I think really impressed Durant.”
Added Pagliuca: “Those are always very personal decisions by a player, so we really can’t get into their heads. But he would have been a great fit here for sure, and we were excited to have him up here. He’s a class act, I just got back from the Rio Olympics and he carried himself extremely well down there and won games with the team. We look forward to competing against him, he’s very close with Avery Bradley and I think we’re going to bother him defensively. We were one of the only teams to beat both Golden State and Cleveland on their own court last year. We were excited to play them.”
|08.29.16 at 7:15 pm ET|
It’s been nearly two months since Kevin Durant opted to sign with the Warriors over a slew of other bidders — the Celtics being one of them.
The Celtics brought the cavalry, including players Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Kelly Olynyk and Marcus Smart as well as president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and co-owner Steve Pagliuca. Tom Brady also was in attendance.
But there was one glaringly obvious absence.
The longest-tenured member of the Celtics, Avery Bradley, was not in attendance, and, as he explained when addressing it for the first time this week, there was a reason behind his absence. Bradley and Durant both played at the University of Texas and interface frequently as a result of it, and the guard thought it was best to stay out of it.
“I didn’t do that much,” the 25-year-old told The Boston Globe while at a basketball court makeover in Belmont. “Me and Kevin are like brothers, so we talk all the time. So I’m not going to talk to him about that, you know what I mean? I was more asking him how he’s doing.
“I was actually with him a week before all that stuff went down at a camp in Austin [Texas], so I really wasn’t that much involved.”
Though he stayed largely away from the Durant luring process, the All-Star’s decision did not seem to turn the head of Bradley as wildly as it did the rest of the basketball world.
“You know what, I can’t really say,” Bradley said. “All I can say is that I’m happy for him, and I feel like he’s part of a great organization. And I wish the best for him. Kevin’s a really good guy and an even better player.”
|08.28.16 at 6:17 pm ET|
Phil Jackson has made a lot of mistakes as president of the Knicks, with a list going on and on from botched trades to swing-and-miss free agent signings and draft picks to regretful decisions in choosing coaches.
This has all lead the Knicks to an abysmal 49 combined wins over the two full seasons he’s been in charge.
That said, there is certainly a lot of regrets he could choose from — and his biggest gaffe involves one of today’s most prominent members of the Celtics.
Speaking to Today’s Fastbreak’s Charley Rosen, Jackson discussed when he could’ve had Jae Crowder, but instead took a chance with a draft pick instead.
“I don’t consider hiring [then-head coach Derek Fisher] a mistake because he worked hard and got the guys to stay as positive as possible while the losses piled up,” Jackson said. “I think the biggest mistake I made was actually this…One of the first deals I engineered when I came back to New York was to trade Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to Dallas for Shane Larkin, Jose Calderon, Wayne Ellington, Samuel Dalembert, plus a second-round pick that the Mavs owed to the Celtics. In talking with Boston, I was given the option of taking that pick or else taking Jae Crowder. I liked Crowder but I thought he wouldn’t get much of a chance to play behind Carmelo, so I took the pick which turned out to be Cleanthony Early. While Cleanthony has missed lots of time in the past two seasons with us, he still has the potential to be a valuable player. Even so, I should have taken Crowder.
The 70-year-old added: “Anyway, for all of us, making mistakes are part of the learning process.”
The Knicks president does bring up a valuable point, however, that Crowder would have been in a tough spot to find playing time behind Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony. However from a production standpoint, Crowder would have been more valuable coming off the bench behind Anthony than Early has ever been in his NBA career.
After Jackson passed on Crowder, the small forward made his way to Boston via the Rajon Rondo trade that the troubled point guard to the Mavs during the 2014-15 season. Crowder finagled his way into the Celtics starting lineup during the 2015-16 season, starting every game he appeared in, and he’ll likely do the same this season.
To put it in perspective, Jackson ended up with someone who has spent quite a bit of time in the D-League and even played in the summer league this summer. He was also sidelined for most of the second half of 2016 after being shot in the knee outside of a strip club.
In that timeframe, Crowder became a quasi-star in Boston, playing in 73 games alone in 2015-16 (to Early’s 56 career NBA games) and averaged 14.2 points and 5.1 rebounds per game over 31.6 minutes per game.
|08.26.16 at 9:41 pm ET|
The tumultuous Colton Iverson era appears it will end before even seeing him in green.
Per The Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach, the Celtics elected to renounce the rights of the 2013 second round pick and “give him a shot to make a roster elsewhere.”
Taken 53rd overall out of Colorado State by the Pacers and promptly traded to the Celtics, Iverson prolonged the NBA limbo he sat in since being drafted by remaining stiff in contract negations. Each year, he declined a contract with the Celtics that would enable him to be brought to camp to instead play overseas.
In fairness, the likelihood was high the now 27-year-old 7-footer would not make the Celtics roster, subsequently being waived and thus relinquishing the Celtics draft rights on him and placing Iverson in free agency.
However, the move for the Celtics to let him go now was a process that could’ve been circumvented many years ago. Speculation has been prevalent the past three offseasons if he would take a run at the NBA, and if he does (even with age now becoming a factor and his opportunity slipping by the day) it doesn’t appear it will be with the Celtics.
|08.26.16 at 2:54 pm ET|
How much have the Celtics changed over the past four years?
Think of it this way: entering his fourth year of NBA service, all with the Celtics, center Kelly Olynyk is currently the second-longest tenured member of the team after Avery Bradley.
“That’s pretty crazy. I think from the year I got here, me and Avery are the only people still from that team. We had 15 guys when we came in here, and there’s only two of us surviving,” Olynyk said at his annual trip to Canobie Lake Park with children from the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children as part of the Shamrock Foundation on Wednesday. The 25-year-old jokingly added, “So it’s either me or Avery, one of us has got to go.”
The trip was later than usual as a result of the shoulder surgery Olynyk underwent on May 16 due to recurrent subluxations in response to his Feb. 10 collision with Clippers center DeAndre Jordan.
And with Celtics training camp set to begin in a month on Sept. 26, things are looking up in the 7-footer’s recovery
“My shoulder’s doing alright, man. I should be ready to rock,” he said. “It’s good. Still got about a month or so left, which you can put a lot of work in in a month, get it stronger. It’s coming along, motion’s pretty good, need to get it stronger, give it time to heal.
“We’ll get everybody together and just see how not only if it’s ready, but when it’s the best time to ease into it and gradually improve it and kind of roll things out.”
Olynyk has been a consistently valuable asset off the bench since being taken 13th overall by the Mavericks and promptly traded to the Celtics in the 2013 NBA draft. Appearing in 69 games in 2015-16 — starting just 8 — he averaged 10 points and 4.1 rebounds in 20.2 minutes per game. He also shot 45.5 percent from the field., and for a big man was not afraid to pull the trigger from downtown, averaging three attempts a game with a team-leading 40.5 shooting percent from three.
With all that in mind, he’s still got his work cut out for him. The Celtics still have Tyler Zeller and Amir Johnson at their disposal, as well as newly-acquired Al Horford.
Horford does address multiple needs for the Celtics, and for Olynyk, who was on the team’s private plane en route to court then-free agent Kevin Durant when President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge received the call Horford chose them, it will do nothing but help the team improve.
“It was awesome. We were just super happy Al was going to join us. A player of his caliber and of his talent level and of his character is huge. It’s something that we kind of wanted and needed and we’re really looking to him coming to us and him helping us get to where we want to be,” Olynyk said.
“He’s a great player and he’s so good because he can play with a lot of different guys. He’s really skilled, he can make things happen offensively he can play defensively, he can fly around. His length and his ability to guard different spots, and play different spots on the floor, really helps us and our versatility.”
One void that will rear it’s head this season is the loss of sixth man Evan Turner, who departed for the TrailBlazers this offseason. That hasn’t stopped Olynyk from corresponding with his former teammate.
“I did talk to Evan, he came to my camp, actually. Unbelievable guy, it’s too bad that he had to go, but it was good for him, really good for him. It’s tough anytime, the business is different. You’ll see over the years you get close to guys and you have great teammates like Evan and, you know, they’ve got to do what’s best for them.”
For the full interview with Olynyk on Celtics.com, click here.
|08.26.16 at 10:11 am ET|
One of the biggest questions the Celtics will have to answer at the start of the regular season is this: Who will emerge as the team’s sixth man?
Turner finished fifth in voting for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year and made game-deciding plays, so there’s certainly a void left behind. However, the Celtics have more than a few options off the bench — guys who have the potential to perform on both ends of the floor at a high rate and are very much capable of becoming the team’s newest sixth man next season.
Here are their best options.
1. Marcus Smart
Smart is heading into his third NBA season, and expectations are at an all-time high for him. Last season he carved out a role for himself as the team’s second-best backcourt defender (behind Avery Bradley), while also showing flashes of scoring prowess. Most notably there was a 26-point performance against arguably the best point guard in the league — Thunder star Russell Westbrook — as Smart made 9-of-14 shots from the floor, including 3-of-5 from behind the arc, and led the C’s to a 100-85 win at Oklahoma City.
An impressive showing for the young guard, but what’s often frustrating about Smart’s offense is his lack of consistency — something Westbrook (who finished with 27 points that night) reminded us about Smart after the loss:
“[Smart] had a good game. But there’s 82 games I do this,” Westbrook said.
The following night, Smart finished with four points in 30 minutes against the Rockets — a big drop-off from what was the best scoring night of his career.
Although Smart’s suffocating defense helped limit Westbrook to 25 percent shooting (5-of-20), in order for him to slide into the team’s sixth man role he’s going to have to find consistency on both ends of the floor. If he can build off Game 4 of April’s playoff series against the Hawks — another fantastic performance from Smart — there’s a strong chance that Stevens will see his backup guard reach new heights next season.
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