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Report: Celtics have interest in Brooklyn buyout candidate Joe Johnson

02.25.16 at 2:33 pm ET
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The Celtics drafted Joe Johnson with the 10th pick in the 2001 draft before shipping him to Phoenix halfway through his rookie season. Could a homecoming be in his near future?

According to an ESPN report, Johnson and the Nets have begun buyout discussions that would free Johnson to sign with a contender, and the Celtics are among the teams interested in his services.

Johnson, 34, will be postseason season eligible as long he is released by Tuesday, and in a WFAN radio interview on Thursday, new Nets GM Sean Marks said he’d do his best to accommodate the former All-Star.

“I think he’s deserved the right to,” Marks said when asked if Johnson could join a team headed for the playoffs.

The Celtics will have a steep hill to climb to convince Johnson to sign, however, because if the veteran wants his first title, either Cleveland or Oklahoma City would seemingly offer a better chance of getting it.

Johnson is averaging 11 points a game for the Nets, down from his career mark of 17.0.

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Celtics assign James Young to Maine again

02.25.16 at 11:53 am ET
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James Young

James Young

The Maine shuttle continues for Celtics‘ second-year forward James Young. 

The Celtics assigned the 20-year-old guard/forward to the Maine Red Claws of the NBA Development League. It is the eighth time this season Young has been assigned to the D-League team. 

 Young has played in five contests for the Red Claws this season and is averaging 17.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.4 steals in 31.3 minutes per game.

He recorded a season-high 26 points, 15 rebounds, four assists and two steals in 31 minutes of action against the Raptors on Nov. 20.

Last July, Young joined the Celtics for the 2015 NBA Summer League where he averaged 9.4 points and 3.4 rebounds in five games.

Young struggled, as he shot just 27.1 percent from the field and 22.7 percent from three-point range. He subsequently played the least amount of preseason minutes of anyone who made the final 2015’€“16 opening night roster against Philadelphia.

The Celtics still see a lot of promise on the player they chose 17th overall out of Kentucky in the June 2014 draft. On Oct. 30, they exercised their third-year team option on Young’s rookie scale contract, extending the contract through the 2016-€“17 season.

He spent five days with the Red Claws between Nov. 3 and Nov. 9 on two different assignments before finally making his season debut for the Celtics on Nov. 10, playing the last 49 seconds of the team’s 99’€“83 win over the Bucks, the team the Celtics play Thursday at the Garden.

After playing in three games for the Celtics between Nov. 24 and Dec. 3, he almost got on a plane from San Antonio to Maine on Dec. 4, but was informed not to minutes before boarding, as the Celtics needed Young for insurance for Avery Bradley, who was nursing a quad injury.

Young did not play for the Celtics against the Spurs on Dec. 5. He went on to appear in seven of the team’s next eight games, averaging 14.3 minutes per game over that stretch. On Jan. 23, Young received another assignment to the Red Claws, before getting a recall to the Celtics the next day.

Read More: Boston Celtics, James Young, Maine Red Claws,

Brad Stevens trying to help Marcus Smart cut down his fouls

02.24.16 at 7:31 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Brad Stevens loves the defensive energy of Marcus Smart. It’s the technique that could use some work. 

The Celtics coach alluded to that Monday night after the 124-122 loss to the Timberwolves, a game in which he committed five fouls. Smart, drafted two years ago out of Oklahoma State for his defensive tenancity, is leading the Celtics in fouls this season and is averaging 3.1 hacks per game. 

That’s a lot for a guard who makes his living as a defensive specialist off the bench. After Wednesday’s practice Stevens and Smart both addressed the need to cut down the fouls while not sacrificing defensive intensity. 

“Defensively, [if] your job is to get into the ball and avoid the screen, to challenge by chasing somebody, to challenge by going under a screen and then meeting them there or if you’re fronting the low post, whatever the case may be, whatever your job is, to make the right next play, and to do it full-go without fouling is the goal of our whole team,” Stevens said. “We haven’t done a great job of that and so, that’s really my focus with him and with other guys.”

As for the number of fouls per game, Stevens isn’t worried that Smart might have a reputation around the league as someone who tries to draw offensive fouls by flopping. Twice in the fourth quarter Monday, he was called for fouls, once trying to draw the charge. 

“I don’t lose sleep over those things,” Stevens said. “I do think you just have to be conscious of making the right basketball play. We met and talked about that a little bit today. He’s a young player and he’s got a lot of games in front of him. Continuing to focus on doing the good things that he does and making that right basketball play is the most important thing.

“Certainly, you just have to be aware of that. Again, the only answer you can have to that is moving forward and making the right next play.” 

Smart said he’s not worried that he might have a target on his back from the officials. 

“Not at all. I’m going to play my game. I’m going to play hard every day,” Smart said. “That’s something the coach and this organization doesn’t have to worry about. I feel like the rest of my teammates are going to pick it up, also. I’m not worried about all the other stuff that comes with it. I just know how to play my game. 

“Referees are human, too. We never look at a referee and blame them for anything. They’re doing their job just like we’re out there doing our job. We’ve just got to go out there and play as a team and make sure that this team is together. We can’t focus on anything else and let any distractions take us away from what we’re trying to do.

“I hope I get stereotyped as a hard-nosed player,” Smart said. “That’s who I am. I play hard. I’m stopping that for anybody. That’s my game. I play with a lot of passion and heart and determination, and a lot of will. I never give up, so if that’s the stereotype I’m getting stereotyped with, I’ll take it.

“It’s challenging. I’m a lot stronger than most of the guards I’m going up against. Any little thing [when] I touch them, or anything, it’s going to look like more aggressive than what it is because I’m so much stronger. I understand it. It just comes with time.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Marcus Smart,

Marcus Smart on his ill-fated 3-pointer: ‘I didn’t want to end the game without a shot’

02.24.16 at 6:48 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Marcus Smart wasn’t going to apologize Wednesday for his last-second miss Monday night in Minnesota. 

With 5.3 seconds left in regulation, the Celtics were down just 124-122 and had clawed all the way back to within two points, after trailing by 14 just three minutes earlier. 

Smart, who was wide open in the backcourt, took an inbounds pass just before mid-court and dribbled up the right side. He was by himself until the timeline when Ricky Rubio cheated over and defended him. What Smart didn’t see because of Rubio was Isaiah Thomas all alone on the left wing.

Instead of passing to the better shooter, Smart took a 30-foot 3-pointer that fell short off the front rim and the Celtics lost. Should he have taken it closer to the basket? Should he have dished to the open Thomas? On Wednesday, following practice, Smart gave his explanation. 

“When I caught it, I caught it so deep, with the amount of time I had, I was getting it up the court and I was looking for somebody. But Rubio played in the middle. I really didn’t see [anybody] open. He really didn’t commit to me until the last [moment] as I was going up for the shot. And by that time, there wasn’t enough time to make another pass, in my eyes that I felt, to another teammate.”

It was perhaps a lucky stroke for Minnesota that Boston inbounded to Smart instead of finding Thomas to drive the length of the court. 

“I at least wanted to get a shot up. I didn’t want end the game without a shot. So, I thought I took the best shot that was available,” Smart added. 

Thomas, at 34.8 percent, is a better choice for a long-range shot than Smart, who is converting 28 percent of his chances from long distance this season. But as Smart himself explained Wednesday, sometimes time is not on your side. 

Read More: Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart,

Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart dealing with shooting hand injuries

02.24.16 at 3:44 pm ET
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Isaiah Thomas speaks Wednesday after Celtics practice. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Isaiah Thomas speaks Wednesday after Celtics practice. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

WALTHAM — The Celtics returned from their three-game Western swing banged up, but Brad Stevens is holding out hope that both Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Smart will be ready to go when they take the court Thursday night against the Bucks

Thomas was icing his left wrist during practice Wednesday and did not participate, while Smart had his right hand wrapped, protecting the thumb that was dinged up during the trip. 

“It was sore enough that we sat out today but we expect him to play tomorrow,” Stevens said of Thomas after Wednesday’s rather intense 90-minute practice. 

“We would not play him if it were a long-term concern. No way.”

Thomas fell on the wrist following a layup early in the game Sunday night in Denver and began shaking his left hand. Immediately thereafter, he drilled a 3-pointer from the right wing. 

“I fell on my wrist a few times so it kind of flared up on me. Just trying to rest it and get some treatment,” Thomas said. “They wanted me to sit out and rest it. It got swollen on me the other night. Just being cautious of it because I’ve had two procedures on it. Just trying to get the swelling out.” 

Thomas said he has no further tests planned on the wrist. 

Another member of the wounded included Amir Johnson, who practiced Wednesday despite getting several stitches in the middle of his forehead from a collision Monday night in Minnesota. Funny thing is, Johnson doesn’t even remember when it happened. 

“I have no idea when it happened or how,” Johnson recalled after practice. “I just remember blood dripping down from the cut.” 

Read More: Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart,

Avery Bradley: ‘We didn’t play hard enough, consistently’

02.23.16 at 12:20 am ET
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Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio (9) is fouled by Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) in the fourth quarter Monday night. (Marilyn Indahl/USA Today Sports)

Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio (9) is fouled by Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) in the fourth quarter Monday night. (Marilyn Indahl/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics nearly pulled off a miracle Monday night in Minneapolis.

But when Marcus Smart’s potential game-winning three fell short at the final buzzer, the Celtics were left to wonder why they couldn’t beat a Timberwolves team that came in with a 17-39 record.

“I feel like we can learn a lot from this game. We didn’t play hard enough, consistently, throughout the whole game,” said Avery Bradley, who scored 22 points in the 124-122 loss. “That’s the real reason we lost. We gave ourselves a chance.”

Bradley gave the Celtics a real shot when his three with 6.2 seconds left drew the Celtics to within one, 123-122. But after a Zach LaVine free throw, Smart dribbled up the right side and instead of dishing to a wide open Isaiah Thomas, he decided to pull up for a three of his own that fell short off the front iron.

“The last play, or anything like that, that wasn’t the reason we lost the game,” Bradley told reporters afterward. “We just weren’t playing hard enough on a consistent basis.”

The Celtics went small late in an effort to spread the court and space out the Minnesota bigs, who the Celtics couldn’t handle all night. Rookie Karl-Anthony Towns finished with 28 points and 13 rebounds while Gorgui Dieng added 17 points and 12 boards.

“They’re a young, athletic team as well. We let their young guys get going early, and it was hard to slow them down, to be honest,” Bradley said.

Towns served notice early that he was going to be a force, scoring 15 points and grabbing seven rebounds in the opening quarter.

“Yeah, we had no answer for him. We had no answer for him in any type of isolation I thought,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters. “That’s why we went zone for a couple of possessions, and actually played it pretty well. And then we just trapped everything late and played five guards and just tried to fly around. The problem with that was obviously rebounding.

“Towns had his way with us the whole night and obviously, their other guys did, too. Certainly, he stood out.”

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Karl-Anthony Towns

Report: Celtics among 3 teams interested in rebounding force Reggie Evans

02.22.16 at 11:41 pm ET
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Reggie Evans (30) has been a rebounding force in his NBA career. (Ed Szczepanski/USA Today Sports)

Reggie Evans (30) has been a rebounding force in his NBA career. (Ed Szczepanski/USA Today Sports)

Maybe getting pounded and outworked Monday night in Minnesota will force Danny Ainge to bring in some veteran help off the street.

According to Moke Hamilton of Bleacher Report, the Celtics are among a trio of teams that have expressed interest in 35-year-old veteran Reggie Evans. The Heat and Rockets have also inquired about Evans’ availability and potential desire.

The power forward, who hasn’t played this season, could fill a roster spot left open by the release of David Lee (now with the Dallas Mavericks).

Evans has averaged 7.1 rebounds over a career that has included stops in Seattle, Denver, Philadelphia, Toronto, Los Angeles (Clippers) and Sacramento.

Just last season in Sacramento, he played in 47 games and averaged 6.4 rebounds. But more to the point, according to Basketball-Reference.com, he hauled in a stunning 22.2 percent of all available rebounds, which would have placed him third in that category in the league.

Monday night, the Celtics were out-rebounded 51-38, including 15-10 on the offensive glass. That led to a 26-12 edge for Minnesota in second-chance points.

“I just thought we physically got handled, especially by [Karl-Anthony] Towns and [Gorgui] Dieng in the interior,” coach Brad Stevens said after the 124-122 loss in Minnesota. “They really hurt us in the interior and on the glass, and that’s been a little bit of an issue for us anyways throughout the year. Then the fouling is just kind of the icing on the cake.”

 

Read More: Boston Celtics, Reggie Evans,
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