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Report: Heat front-runners to land Joe Johnson

02.26.16 at 1:32 pm ET
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WALTHAM — The Celtics returned to practice Friday in Waltham, getting ready to take on the Miami Heat on Saturday at TD Garden. 

Joe Johnson might be in the building when the two teams play but it won’t be for the Celtics

According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard, the Heat have emerged as the “frontrunners” to land the 34-year-old sharp-shooter, who was bought out this week by the Nets and waived. 

Once he clears waivers, Johnson is free to negotiate and sign with any team. Johnson has reportedly indicated that he’s only interested in signing with a playoff contender, which immediately put the Cavaliers at the top of the list. 

But Broussard indicated Friday that the Heat, just a game behind the Celtics in the race for third place in the Eastern Conference, are the leading contenders for Johnson. Broussard reports that sources indicate that Johnson believes he would have “a larger role and more meaningful minutes” in Miami. 

The Nets bought out the last year of Johnson’s $21.8 million deal, sending him to the waiver wire and free agency.

The Celtics enter Saturday’s 3 p.m. matinee with Miami, holding a 34-25 record while the Heat come in at 32-25. 

Read More: Boston Celtics, Joe Johnson, Miami Heat,

Report: Celtics ‘expressed interest’ in Carmelo Anthony before trade deadline

02.26.16 at 8:16 am ET
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Carmelo Anthony (7) drives to the basket past Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) during the first half of an NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden. (Adam Hunger/USA Today Sports)

Carmelo Anthony (7) drives to the basket past Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) during the first half of an NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden. (Adam Hunger/USA Today Sports)

Last week, it became known that the Celtics nearly landed 20-year-old center Jahlil Okafor from Philadelphia before the 76ers pulled out before the trade deadline.

Well apparently, there was another player the Celtics were seriously considering making a play for on the other end of the experience spectrum.

According to ESPN, the Celtics reached out to the Knicks to see if 31-year-old Carmelo Anthony might waive his no-trade clause and accept a deal to Boston.

Citing league sources with knowledge of the situation, ESPN’s Ian Begley reported that it was unclear if there were any formal discussions between the teams and whether those talks ever reached an advanced stage. But, according to Begley, Ainge was informed that Anthony had no desire to leave the Knicks via trade to play for the Celtics.

That should be no surprise as Anthony has repeatedly said publicly that he wants to make a run at a title in New York.

“Doing it in New York is better than doing it any place in the world,” Anthony said before the deadline. “One in New York is better than multiple somewhere else. That was the reason I wanted to come to New York. That’€™s the reason I’€™m in New York. … I don’€™t want to run. I could have run somewhere when I was a free agent. I came back for a reason. I don’€™t feel like I got to keep expressing that part of why I came back to New York.”

Anthony, who is making $22.875 million this season, is signed through the 2018-19 season on a five-year, $124 million contract. His last season has an early-termination clause. His salary jumps to $24.5 million and $26.2 million in the next two seasons.

Read More: 2016 NBA trade deadline, Boston Celtics, Carmelo Anthony,

Isaiah Thomas relishes in Suns GM Ryan McDonough admitting mistake: ‘I’m starting to get more and more respect’

02.25.16 at 11:39 pm ET
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Isaiah Thomas cracked a smile from ear to ear when he was asked about Suns general manager Ryan McDonough admitting Thursday morning on a Phoenix radio station that it was “a mistake” to trade Thomas to the Celtics at the 2015 NBA trade deadline.

Thursday night, after scoring a game-high 27 points and dishing out seven assists in a 112-107 Celtics win over the Bucks, Thomas took a little time to savor the recognition of his former employer. 

After making a couple of stunning passes to find open teammates, including one over three Bucks to Jae Crowder for a game-clinching three, Thomas was asked if he heard McDonough’s admission.

“Yeah, did,” Thomas said. “I mean it’s cool. I’m starting to get more and more respect, I guess. It feels good to hear him finally say that. But like I always say, I’m focused here on the Celtics. I’m not focused on what happened in the past. When I saw that this morning, it was nice to see somebody say something like that.”

Thomas might have felt snubbed by the Suns when he was traded but he’s turned himself into an All-Star scoring point guard for the third-best team in the Eastern Conference, so there is satisfaction in that.

“I’ve always felt overlooked,” Thomas said. “Ever since All-Star selection, guys are kind of liking what I do, I guess.”

Thomas admitted that he’s a much different player than the one that played in Phoenix even two years ago.

“The game’s slowing down for me,” Thomas said. “For the most part, I’m a better decision-maker. I’m not just trying to score every time. That’s something I’ve done my whole life where scoring has been easy for me but now, it’s just trying to pick and choose my spots, knowing when to be aggressive for myself and knowing when to get other guys going. I think that’s my next step, just becoming a more complete basketball player, just being unpredictable and going out there and trying to make the right play, each and every time.

“I think just because I’m labeled as a scorer. If you score too much, guys say you don’t pass. If you pass too much, like [Rajon] Rondo, they say you can’t score. They’re always going to say something so you’ve just got to take what the defense gives you.”

Speaking of Rondo, does Thomas think Rondo could’ve pulled off that behind-the-head, no-look pass with 50.6 seconds left Thursday night?

“No doubt. You all probably seen that before. He probably did something even crazier than that.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, NBA, Phoenix Suns

Studs and Duds: Amir Johnson, starters lead Celtics past Bucks

02.25.16 at 10:11 pm ET
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Celtics forward Amir Johnson celebrates against the Bucks during the first half of a bounce-back victory. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Celtics forward Amir Johnson celebrates against the Bucks during the first half of a bounce-back victory. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

It’s good to be home.

In their first game back in TD Garden since the All-Star break, the Celtics defeated the Bucks 112-107 on Thursday night.

The C’s greatest strength may be their bench depth, but the starters led the way Thursday, dominating the Bucks in the first and third quarters. All five starters scored in double figures, led by Isaiah Thomas (27 points, 7 assists).

Jabari Parker, Khris Middleton and Greg Monroe each scored more than 20 points for Milwaukee, while 6-foot-11 “Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo flirted with a triple-double (14 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds) from his recently adopted point guard position.

The Celtics opened the game on an incredible pace, scoring 18 fast-break points in the first half. Despite missing their first 3-point attempts, the Celtics shot 55 percent, building a 62-52 lead at the break.

Two minutes into the third quarter, Jae Crowder was forced to the bench after picking up his fifth foul with 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting. In the fourth quarter, with Marcus Smart and Amir Johnson also in foul trouble, the Bucks turned up the defensive intensity and dominated the paint, cutting the Celtics’ 18-point lead to just four with a minute to play.

After a Brad Stevens timeout, Thomas made an absurd behind-the-back pass to an open Crowder in the right corner. Crowder swished the 3 and effectively buried the Bucks. With the win, the Celtics (34-25) remain the third-best team in the Eastern Conference, one game ahead of the Heat, who they will play on Saturday afternoon in Boston.

For a complete box score, click here. To go beyond the box, read on. Read the rest of this entry »

Brad Stevens working to keep young guns in the mix

02.25.16 at 9:16 pm ET
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Marcus Smart (36) trips over Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) in the second quarter at the Pepsi Center. (Isaiah J. Downing/USA Today Sports)

Marcus Smart (36) trips over Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) in the second quarter at the Pepsi Center. (Isaiah J. Downing/USA Today Sports)

While there was some discussion pre-game Thursday of how a veteran like Joe Johnson might add valuable versatility, there was also acknowledgment of the potential of the youth that remains on the roster.

With an average age of 24.4, the Celtics are tied with the Jazz for the youngest roster in the league this season.

The team they played Thursday, the Bucks are next at 24.5 and the Sixers come in at 24.7. The Celtics are by far and away the most successful in that foursome of youth. 

The Celtics have three rookies on their roster in Terry Rozier, Jordan Mickey and R.J. Hunter. Marcus Smart and James Young hail from the 2014 draft and Kelly Olynyk represents the Class of 2013 and Jared Sullinger was drafted in 2012.

Of the last two drafts, only Smart is seeing significant minutes and Young’s yo-yo between Boston and Maine is well documented.

How are the young guns handling not playing?

“I think it’s hard. They’ve played their whole lives,” Stevens said before Thursday’s game. “They’ve never had a year where they’ve sat. But it’s probably not all that unanticipated. It’s part of life as a young player, especially on a team that’s like ours. We’ve talked about that there’s not a ton of separation up and down the roster but there is a lot of depth.” 

With David Lee gone to Dallas, the Jonas Jerebko and Amir Johnson are the oldest at 28 years. Only five of the 14 players on the active roster are over 25.  

“All of our older players, and I say older kind of tongue-in-cheek, but they all are productive NBA players and have a real niche and role,” Stevens added.

R.J. Hunter has had the biggest impact of the 2015 class, averaging nearly 10 minutes a game in the 26 games he’s played. Rozier has played in 20 games and Mickey has seen action in just six games but does have three blocks. 

 

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

Brad Stevens won’t talk Joe Johnson but admits adding versatility would be ‘huge’

02.25.16 at 6:26 pm ET
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Joe Johnson (7) shoots over New York Knicks shooting guard Arron Afflalo (4) of the Knicks in a recent game. (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)

Joe Johnson (7) shoots over Knicks  guard Arron Afflalo in a recent game. (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)

Before Thursday’s game with the Bucks, Brad Stevens wasn’t about to step into the speculation about soon-to-be free agent Joe Johnson

The Nets, with their new general manager Sean Marks, negotiated a buyout Thursday of Johnson’s $21 million contract and waived the 34-year-old scorer who was originally drafted by the Celtics in the 2001 draft. 

There was an ESPN report Thursday afternoon that the Celtics would have interest if he clears waivers.

But because Johnson hasn’t, Stevens wasn’t going to comment despite being asked how much he might like having another scorer. 

“We’re not allowed to talk about it,” Stevens said. “I’ve got no … I’m not going to talk about whether or not veteran or young [player], if we add to it, it’ll be to help our team with increased versatility. Otherwise, there would be no reason to add somebody just to add somebody.”

The Celtics have had an open roster spot since waiving David Lee last week and buying him out. The team also assigned second-year forward James Young to the D-League Red Claws earlier Thursday (for an eighth time this season), fueling more speculation that they were greasing the skids to bring someone in. 

“That’s something that Danny’s looking at, Danny’s trying to figure out,” Stevens said. “We talked about it occasionally. But like I said before, we haven’t been in any rush to fill that spot and we’ll fill it if we need to. Sometimes, those things happen as result of injuries. Sometimes those things happen as result of needs. Each team has its own particular needs. I think we’ve got some that we could potentially benefit from using that last roster spot but we’ll see. We’ll see.”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Joe Johnson,

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.

Read More: Celtics, Joe Johnson,
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