Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge will be busy trying to retool his roster this summer for a title run. (Russ Isabella/USA Today Sports)
WALTHAM — The comparisons have already begun with the Celtics this offseason.
Many Celtics fans are hoping for the kind of reset that the franchise underwent in the summer of ’07, when Ainge was able to trade for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen and put together a team with just enough youth, veteran talent and depth that resulted in Banner 17 the following June.
With Brooklyn’s lottery pick on the horizon as one of three first-round picks and eight overall in the draft and the prospects of a Kevin Durant in free agency, the potential is there.
Does Ainge see any similarity with summer of ’07?
“I’m not sure we have a Paul Pierce on our roster,” Ainge said. “But I do think we have a lot more things to trade, a lot more things to move.”
This, of course, brings up the next point, is anyone on the current roster untouchable?
“Nobody’s ever untouchable. When Kareem Abdul-Jabbar gets traded, you know there’s no such thing as an untouchable in the NBA, or in any league for that matter,” Ainge added. “There’s certain guys that we want to keep and build around and move forward with.”
Ainge acknowledged there are certain players he’d like to keep, a not-so-thinly veiled reference to Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder.
Ainge said he doesn’t have a good feel for the pending salary cap (estimated at $89 million next season and $109 the next) and how that might alter trade market.
“I don’t know that. I don’t know. This is new territory for all of us,” Ainge said. “We can all make our predictions but really, I’m not sure. Every team is in a unique situation and a different situation. We’ll be making lots of calls, trying to make trades. Listen, the transcendent players, the good players that you all need to win and to be successful in the NBA, they’re very hard to find and there’s not that many of them. And there’s 30 very qualified teams out there trying to find them all.”
“I really don’t know,” Turner said after scoring just eight points on 4-of-17 shooting in 37 minutes in a 104-92 loss to the Hawks in Game 6. “I would love to come back, but at the same time, a lot of things, a lot of variables that are going to occur and things like that that I can’t control. Whenever July hits we’ll talk about it.”
Turner, the No. 2 overall pick of the 76ers in 2010, made $3.425 million this season, finishing out a two-year, $6.7 million deal. He could be in line for a big payday, somewhere in the neighborhood of an $8 million-$10 million annual salary.
What will Turner be looking for?
“Just fit, obviously. I want to get a decent amount of money, you know what I’m saying? But at the same time the fit is going to be huge and the opportunity to play on a winning team,” Turner said. “I have played on [expletive] teams a couple times and it’s not fun. But obviously the fit, the opportunity to play, and the opportunity to progress and win.”
Celtics forward Jae Crowder was overmatched all series by the Atlanta bigs. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)
For the first 66 games of the season, Jae Crowder was the second-most important player on the Celtics.
Then he turned his right ankle against the Rockets on March 11 and wasn’t the same the rest of the way, playing with an ankle he said was really never better than 70 percent.
Crowder could never consistently get his shot to fall when Isaiah Thomas was double- and triple-teamed, and his ankle prevented him from driving and cutting to the basket the way he did when he was healthy. In Thursday’s season-ending Game 6 loss to the Hawks, Crowder missed his first six shots and was 2-for-9 at the half. He finished 5-for-15 for 15 points in the 104-92 setback.
“Yeah, it was a very tough stretch for me,” Crowder said. “But I’m not here to make any excuses about that, it was just tough, it was a tough series for me, but my teammates never stopped believing in me. I just tried to get through it. … I gave it my best, so I can sleep good knowing that I gave it my all.”
In the series, he wasn’t the same forward who was a legitimate threat when Thomas was drawing attention early in the season. And he could never get comfortable against the Atlanta front court of Paul Millsap, Kent Bazemore and Al Horford.
“It will drive me to work harder, for sure,” Crowder said. “It will drive me to be a different player than I am today, so we use it as motivation to move on.
“Like I just told Isaiah, we’ve just got to keep chipping at it, keep getting better, of course its only going to be one team to have a successful year and that’s when you hold that trophy up. So until we do that, its not a successful season. We are going to keep building, keep working.”
As for the futures of Evan Turner and Jared Sullinger and breaking up some of the chemistry on the team, Crowder will leave personnel decisions to Danny Ainge.
“That’s what sucks about it, but like Isaiah said, it’s a part of the business, but we did build a bond with each and every guy in the locker room and it was fun,” Crowder said. “We just tried to have fun each and every night. When we have a locker room that’s bonded like the way we do and have fun you never want to see it end, and it was tough to see it end.”
WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Sam Packard break down how the ice-cold shooting of the Celtics combined with Atlanta’s defense on Isaiah Thomas powered the Hawks to a 104-92 win over Boston in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals Thursday at TD Garden, ending Boston’s season in the first round for the second straight season.
After spending 20 minutes with a towel draped over his head in front of his locker, and after emptying his tank for six games, Isaiah Thomas had to get up the energy to walk to the postgame podium.
He did so with red eyes, the product of emotion and tears following a 104-92 loss to the Hawks in Game 6 that suddenly ended his breakout season and began an offseason of questions.
“It was 2-2, we went down there and they made an adjustment to try and do whatever they can to stop me and guys continued to play through it, and that’s what I love about this group,” said Thomas, who had a team-leading 25 points on 9-of-24 shooting. “Guys continued to shoot their shot with confidence, it’s just we couldn’t make enough plays. They made more plays than us. There was a game where they went on that third-quarter run, it’s tough to get back into the game, especially against a good team. So, we’ve got to just learn from these battles, knowing that nobody said it was going to be easy, it’s tough to win a series and we know that. It was tough to even win two games. This should hurt everybody, and we will come back next year even stronger.”
For the second straight game, Boston had no answers when the Hawks threw two and three bodies at Thomas, in an effort to force others to pick up the slack.
But this time, unlike after Game 5, Thomas wasn’t calling out his teammates. He was praising them.
“Yes, it’s very emotional for me, just because we gave it our all,” Thomas said. ” We never put our head down, like I said, this group of guys is something special. I mean, I played, I gave it my all, so that’s why it hurts that much more. I wish I could have done more, but it just happened to be like that. So it is tough on me, though.”
Celtics forward Jae Crowder gets stopped by Hawks bigs Paul Millsap and Al Horford in Thursday’s Game 6. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)
The proverbial rotund female started her song early. With the way the Celtics were playing, she had no other choice.
After a lackluster Game 5 effort, the C’s found themselves on the brink of elimination. And with their backs against the wall, they shot an abysmal 36.2 percent from the field and were soundly defeated 104-92 by the Hawks.
Isaiah Thomas finished with a double-double, scoring a game-high 25 points on 9-of-24 shooting while adding 10 assists. Jae Crowder (15 points), Jonas Jerebko (11) and Marcus Smart (11) also finished in double figures.
Paul Millsap led Atlanta with 17 points, while Al Horford and Kent Bazemore added 15 apiece.
In the first half, the Hawks continued their Game 5 strategy of double-teaming Thomas, and the Celtics did not have a response. Thomas repeatedly made the correct pass, but his teammates were unable to knock down open shots. The C’s were 3-for-18 from 3-point range (27.7 percent).
Despite the Celtics’ shooting woes, the Hawks were unable to pull away, committing nine turnovers in the first two quarters, but the C’s scored only four points with their extra possessions. Still, they stayed within striking distance.
But the Hawks opened the second half on a 15-3 run and never looked back. Toward the end of the third quarter, the Celtics brought some life back to the Garden with an 8-0 run to cut the deficit to 14, but he Hawks responded with seven straight points of their own and entered the fourth quarter with a 21-point lead. The scrappy Celtics did their best to claw their way back in the fourth, but the lead proved insurmountable, as the C’s were couldn’t get within 10 points.