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2014 NBA free agent centers available to Celtics

07.01.14 at 8:13 am ET
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With NBA free agency opening Tuesday, we continue our annual examination of the options available to the Celtics at each position. Today’s focus: Centers. Unlike recent seasons, C’s president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is expected to have more flexibility than any summer since 2007 when the league’s moratorium on free agent signings is lifted and the salary cap (an estimated $63.2 million) is officially set on July 10.

The Celtics have eight players under guaranteed contracts in 2014-15 for $48.5 million (Rajon Rondo $12.9M; Gerald Wallace $10.1M; Jeff Green $9.2M; Brandon Bass $6.9M; Joel Anthony $3.8M; Vitor Faverani $2.1M; Kelly Olynyk $2.1M; Jared Sullinger $1.4M) as well as $4.1 million in cap holds for first-round picks Marcus Smart and James Young. Pending decisions on or by Kris Humphries, Avery Bradley and Jerryd Bayless, the C’s could have as much as $10 million in cap space — or more if they use the stretch provision on Wallace.

Considering Faverani and Anthony are the only true centers on the roster, the Celtics should have every free agent 5 on their radar. Last year’s second-round pick, Colton Iverson, who played in Turkey this past season, is another option, but the C’s need a legitimate rim protector if they have any hope of making the playoffs this winter.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at their options, separating the current free agents into three categories.

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Read More: 2014 NBA Free Agency, Boston Celtics, Greg Monroe, NBA

Marcus Smart: ‘We embrace these banners’

06.30.14 at 5:54 pm ET
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WALTHAM — It was a day for coronation.

Two would-be cornerstones of Boston’s basketball future – Marcus Smart and James Young – were formally indoctrinated publicly into the Celtics mystique on a six-seat dais on the team’s practice facility court. In five days they head out for the NBA Summer League in Orlando on their first basketball excursion as formal members of the most hallowed team in the NBA.

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, co-owner Steve Pagliuca, head coach Brad Stevens and team president Rich Gotham introduced first-round picks Smart and Young on Monday at the club’s training facility on Monday, three days after they were chosen sixth and 17th overall, respectively, last Thursday in the NBA draft.

“We’re just excited to be here,” Smart said. “We embrace these banners. It means a lot to us, the tradition that’s here. We just want to go out and play our game and just feel part of this tradition and embrace it all.”

“Really just come out here and do what we did to get to this point,” added Young. “The empty banner up there, just look at it as motivation, that’s about it.”

As was the case before the team won the 2008 NBA title, there is a blank white banner with green trim next to the team’s last NBA title banner up on the wall in the practice facility.

Family members of both draft picks were on hand and formally welcomed by Ainge during the 15-minute press conference at the Sports Authority complex in Waltham.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Danny Ainge, James Young

Danny Ainge: Avery Bradley ‘is a big part of our future’ as Celtics extend qualifying offer

06.30.14 at 4:17 pm ET
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Avery Bradley (left) shows off his tenacious defensive skills against All-Star James Harden. (AP)

Avery Bradley (left) shows off his tenacious defensive skills against All-Star James Harden. (AP)

WALTHAM — Danny Ainge doesn’t want Avery Bradley going anywhere.

Whether that means Monday’s qualifying offer from Ainge to the fourth-year NBA guard is enough to make Bradley a permanent fixture in Boston remains to be seen.

On Monday, the Celtics offered Bradley a qualifying offer worth an estimated $3.6 million as they try to retain his rights in Boston. The move itself, without any agreement on a long-term deal, makes Bradley a restricted free agent. The bigger benefit of Monday’s offer is the ability of the Celtics to match any offer made to the 23-year-old defensive shutdown guard.

Before the 2013-14 season, Bradley reportedly turned down a four-year, $24 million contract extension from the Celtics as he anticipated his shot at restricted free agency this summer. Bradley, who played only 60 games due to various injuries, averaged a career-high 14.9 points per game while shooting 44 percent from the field.

The real cost of Boston’s offer Monday is the so-called “cap hold.” Ainge and the Celtics will have to set aside 250 percent of Bradley’s previous salary or approximately $6.3 million.

“It would mean a lot,” Ainge said Monday of keeping Bradley in the fold. “I think Avery can be a very key player in us winning the championship. He does things that other players can’t do. And his shooting continues to improve and we have all seen in the past his terrific defensive abilities. I think Avery is a big part of this.

“Avery is a big part of our future. You obviously need three guards that are going to play significant minutes. We also think Marcus can play with Phil Pressey. Phil can play with Rondo and Phil can play with Avery. I think that because of the versatility of Rondo and Marcus, that probably allows that versatility. Listen, there are a lot of guys in our league that are small forwards, especially bench small forwards that are 6-5, guys are that are basically wing players that are ’2′ guards. I think there’s a time and a place in a game where you could see three guards that could be playing. I see those guys being able to playing very well together and compliment each other.”

Hours earlier, speaking at his own skills academy at UMass-Boston, Bradley did nothing to dispel the notion that he wants to return to the Celtics long-term.

“I haven’t been worried about [free agency],” said Bradley. “I’ve been worried about getting better. I try not to think about anything I can’t control. All I can do is continue to try to get better every single day, and I know everything else will work out.

“We really haven’t [discussed] any numbers or anything. Obviously, I want to be here. And I let those guy know that. When the time comes, we’ll just see what happens, and see if we come to an agreement.”

Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, NBA free agent

James Young on MFB: ‘Definitely wanted to come here’ to play for Celtics

06.30.14 at 3:37 pm ET
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James Young

James Young

New Celtics guard James Young joined Middays with MFB on Monday afternoon, following his introductory press conference, and the former Kentucky standout said he’s “honored” to have been selected 17th overall. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

“I definitely wanted to come here,” Young said. “When I came out here for my last visit, me and coach [Brad Stevens] really had that connection from right there, and Danny [Ainge] was a great guy to talk to. So, this is a place that I definitely wanted to come to.

“When I got my name called I was very surprised and happy. I was just very glad that my parents got to support me. They were very happy with my choice, too. I’m glad that I landed here.”

Young said he thinks he’ll fit in at shooting guard, wing or wherever the team wants him to play.

“I’m very versatile,” he said. “Length definitely helps me. I can shoot the ball very well and come off pick and rolls, definitely a thing that I’ve been working on. But playing the 2 spot is what I’ve been playing a lot. I’m definitely good at playing the 3; that’s what I played this past season, switching off like that. I played the 1 and the 4, too, so we’ll see how that goes.”

A Michigan native who grew up rooting for the Pistons, Young said his game is comparable to that of Rockets guard James Harden, who like Young shoots left-handed.

“I feel like James Harden, his game’s just all-around good,” Young said. “He’s a great left-hander, shoots the ball very well and attacks the basket with aggressiveness, just aggressively attacks the basket. I kind of tried to [model] my game after him, just try to study his game a little bit.”

The 18-year-old said he and fellow first-round pick Marcus Smart have established a fast bond despite never having played with or against each other before.

“I feel like we’re going to connect really well on the court,” he said. “We have that connection off the court, so I definitely feel like on the court. If one of us is having a bad game and can’t get open, we’ll definitely look for each other just to get it going.”

For more Celtics news, visit the team page at weei.com/celtics.

Read More: Brad Stevens, James Harden, James Young, Marcus Smart

Travis Ford on MFB: Marcus Smart ‘just a warrior’

06.30.14 at 2:49 pm ET
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Oklahoma State basketball coach Travis Ford joined Middays with MFB Monday afternoon to discuss his former player, Marcus Smart, who was taken by the Celtics with the sixth overall pick in Thursday’s NBA draft. To listen to the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

While Smart has been praised for his defense, passing, leadership and ability to drive to the basket, the Texas native was punished this past season for shoving a fan during the closing seconds of Oklahoma State’€™s 65-61 loss against Texas Tech on Feb. 8. Ford said the incident is a non-issue going forward.

“That seems like it has passed. … For a solid week or two, that’€™s all that was being talked about,”€ Ford said. “€œI hated it for the kid. There’€™s no question that he made a mistake and he’€™s the first one that would admit it. … It was just a moment in time –€“ a two- to three-second moment in time — that does not define Marcus whatsoever.”

Ford added that Smart, who averaged 18.0 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists in 32.7 minutes a game as a sophomore in 2013-14, will bring a lot of attributes to the parquet floor.

“I think they just loved his competitiveness. Marcus is a winner,”€ Ford said. “€œThere’€™s not many players period that I’ve ever been associated with that are as competitive as he is on a daily basis. He has a motor that just doesn’t quit. … He’s all about giving it everything he’s got and trying to win whatever it is. … Marcus is just a warrior, and I think that’€™s what impressed [Boston] the most.”

Smart put the college basketball world on notice during his freshman season with the Cowboys, averaging 15.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists en route to being named a first-team All-American by Sporting News and a unanimous selection as Big 12 Player of the Year.

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Read More: Celtics, Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State, Travis Ford

2014 NBA free agent power forwards available to Celtics

06.30.14 at 2:35 pm ET
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With NBA free agency opening Tuesday, we continue our annual examination of the options available to the Celtics at each position. Today’s focus: Power forwards. Unlike recent seasons, C’s president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is expected to have more flexibility than any summer since 2007 when the league’s moratorium on free agent signings is lifted and the salary cap (an estimated $63.2 million) is officially set on July 10.

The Celtics have eight players under guaranteed contracts in 2014-15 for $48.5 million (Rajon Rondo $12.9M; Gerald Wallace $10.1M; Jeff Green $9.2M; Brandon Bass $6.9M; Joel Anthony $3.8M; Vitor Faverani $2.1M; Kelly Olynyk $2.1M; Jared Sullinger $1.4M) as well as $4.1 million in cap holds for first-round picks Marcus Smart and James Young. Pending decisions on or by Kris Humphries, Avery Bradley and Jerryd Bayless, the C’s could have as much as $10 million in cap space — or more if they use the stretch provision on Wallace.

As currently constituted, the Celtics already have a logjam at power forward with Bass, Sullinger and Olynyk on the roster, but all three of those names will continue to be raised in trade discussions as Ainge straddles the fence between rebuilding and reloading this summer. As the C’s retool the roster, any combination of that trio could need replacing through free agency. Just don’t hold your breath for Chris Bosh or Dirk Nowitzki.

Without further ado, let’€™s take a look at their options, separating the current free agents into three categories.

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Read More: 2014 NBA Free Agency, Boston Celtics, Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger

Cedric Maxwell: Rajon Rondo requested $100 million contract

06.30.14 at 12:53 pm ET
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Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo is rumored to be seeking the equivalent of a max contract, according to radio analyst Cedric Maxwell. That combined with the selection of Oklahoma State sophomore Marcus Smart in the first round of the 2014 NBA draft could spell the end of Rondo’s tenure in Boston, Maxwell added.

“I think it basically gives you an indicator of what the Celtics want to do,” Maxwell told Yahoo Sports Radio. “Rumor has it that Rondo has asked for a $100 million extension. You’ve got Smart, the young kid, and you’ve got Young, the other kid from Kentucky — both guards. And in the NBA system right now, the way they’re being paid, you would pay both those guys probably about $4 million for one year instead of the $100 million right now that Rondo wanted to ask for.

“So, if you’re Rondo, you might want to start calling that moving company and say, ‘Eh, come get my stuff. I don’t think I’m going to be here too long.’”

Maxwell is correct in his assumption that Smart and Young are slotted to make $4.1 million this coming season, but the Celtics can’t technically sign Rondo to a $100 million extension this summer. They could offer him a three-year, $44.8 million extension, but Rondo cannot command his five-year, $104.7 million max deal until reaching unrestricted free agency in 2015.

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