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Kevin Garnett’s future determines Celtics’ ability to be competitive next few seasons

05.10.13 at 10:27 am ET
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If next season’€™s Celtics team does not start Kevin Garnett at power forward, prepare for a long, dark stretch. Without KG patrolling the middle in green and white, feel free to reintroduce yourself to the lottery, long losing streaks and the empty promise of rebuilding.

While you miss the scowls, intensity and blocked shots after the whistle, remember that the decline of the Celtics is more complex than the team simply aging. The major problem is the Celtics actually ask Garnett to do more now than they did during the NBA finals run in 2010. Despite his age (37 on May 19) and contract (2 years, $24.3 million), Garnett still is a premier power forward and a critical piece for a team chasing a championship.

‘€œBack in Minnesota, Kevin used to say, ‘€˜I want to live beyond my contract,’€™ ‘€ new Timberwolves president (and former coach) Flip Saunders told WEEI.com. ‘€œThat meant whatever he was getting paid, whenever someone would see him in a game or in a practice, he wanted to live up to that contract and then play beyond that.’€

Garnett has done exactly that in his six seasons in Boston. His playoff averages (35 minutes, 12.7 points, 13.7 rebounds, his highest playoff average since 2004) against the Knicks also demonstrated that quality basketball remains afloat in his veins. Surrounded by the right players, Garnett still can help Boston contend for a championship. After watching Garnett for 18 seasons, Kevin McHale — who drafted Garnett in Minnesota with the No. 5 pick in 1995 — still is amazed by his former student. Garnett was the first player in 20 years to go directly to the NBA from high school, and McHale recently reminisced about Garnett’€™s rookie training camp in Minnesota, when the 19-year-old was only a couple of months removed from his senior prom.

‘€œI loved the kid the first day of practice,’€ McHale said. ‘€œHe laid on the floor after his first training camp — laying on the ground with nothing left — and I said, ‘€˜We’ve got to go again tonight.’€™ He went, ‘€˜Huh?’€™ I said we did two-a-days, and he was like, ‘€˜Oh my.’€™

“But that night he came and he laid it on the ground, played on the line, laying on the ground, playing on the line. At the end, he was laying on the ground, and I said to him, ‘€˜Now we do two again tomorrow.’€™ He looked up at me and said, ‘€˜Man, this is going to be a job.’€™ He hasn’€™t changed since then, he’€™s just got better.

“His ability to compete at a high level for such a long time, his love of the game, his competitive nature,’€ marveled McHale, ‘€œit really is fun to watch.’€

Competing at a high level for an extended period of time in the National Basketball Association takes a rare talent. It is a skill that is difficult, but far from impossible. The highest standard of excellence has been set by the Spurs, a team with an aging superstar in soon-to-be-Hall-of-Famer Tim Duncan. Far from the best of friends, Garnett and the 37-year-old Duncan share very similar basketball philosophies, a fact not lost on Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.

‘€œThey can look in the mirror and realize they’€™re both the same in so many respects as far as how they run their lives in the NBA and how they’€™ve run their careers,’€ Popovich said during his last trip to Boston. ‘€œThey’€™re both competitive as hell, they both understand the game, they both love being on the court, and neither one of them is really that excited about the hoopla that is all around it, but they’€™ve also endured by taking care of their bodies and what they do in the summertime to take care of their bodies.’€

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Read More: Danny Ainge, Doc Rivers, Flip Saunders, Gregg Popovich

Danny Ainge sees Celtics stars returning next season

05.09.13 at 5:04 pm ET
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On his final weekly appearance on Salk & Holley of the 2012-13 NBA season, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge called the recent Stephen A. Smith rumors “silly,” indicated Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett will return next season, reaffirmed Rajon Rondo should be back for training camp and called Paul Pierce‘s future the first tough decision of his summer.

On Pierce: “There’€™s a lot that will go into it, but it hasn’€™t even started yet. We have until June 30 to make any decision. Listen, Paul’€™s been one of the greatest Celtics of all-time, and that will play a part in it. We love what he’€™s done for us, but ultimately we have to do what we think is the best for us from this point forward. And I think that Paul still has a lot of basketball left in him.”

On Rivers: “”Doc is always unsure. Coaching is very, very draining. Every year with Doc, he’€™s had to go home and sort of recharge and ask himself that question, ‘€˜Is this something that I’€™m passionate about and want to continue doing?’€™ I understand that. And we sort of give him time to unwind and relax, and after a couple of 92’s on the golf course, he usually comes back.

“I think Doc will be coaching the Boston Celtics.”

On Garnett: “I’€™ll touch base with KG probably some time next week. He puts so much into the game. He invests as much as any player I’€™ve ever seen. He just needs time to chill and contemplate his life, and then we’€™ll talk at some future time, but I do anticipate that KG will play. Just like I did last year, I feel the same this year. I don’€™t know for sure, but we’€™ll know more in the next couple weeks.”

On Rondo: “So far, he looks good. Him and [Leandro] Barbosa have both been rehabbing and both have looked good from their ACL [injuries]. From everything our medical staff has told us, Rondo is doing great, and he should be ready by training camp.”

The Barbosa mention seemed strange, considering the C’s dealt him to the Wizards in the Jordan Crawford deal. Ainge said not to read too much into the veteran rehabbing in Boston (but still …). Here are more highlights from the fantastic interview by Salk & Holley — a must listen for anyone looking for a summer Celtics primer:

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett, NBA

Irish Coffee: Six Celtics steps for this summer

05.08.13 at 2:33 pm ET
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Not even a week after their season ended with a wondrous failed comeback against the Knicks, the Celtics have already entered full-blown offseason mode. They’ve since lost wunderkind assistant general manager Ryan McDonough to the Suns, and the ridiculous rumor mill is churning like never before.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers stated the obvious after the Game 6 loss on Friday night when he explained team president Danny Ainge “has already worked on stuff.” Here’s the “stuff” facing Ainge over the next few months.

Step 1: What to do with Paul Pierce?

A decision on one of four options for Pierce must be made by July 1:

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett, NBA

Stephen A. Smith on D&C: Some in NBA circles question ‘whether or not Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers desire to continue to coexist’

05.08.13 at 9:44 am ET
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Stephen A. Smith talked with Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday about trade rumors involving the Celtics and Clippers, and what he believes the Celtics will do in the offseason.

Smith said he thinks the Clippers, who were rumored to be interested in Kevin Garnett at the trade deadline, still would like to acquire Garnett, and that the Celtics might try to use that interest to get Blake Griffin from them. To get Griffin, though, Smith said they might have to allow Doc Rivers to go to Los Angeles.

“The Clippers, I know for a fact, were interested in Kevin Garnett,” Smith said. “[Chris Paul] isn’t necessarily happy right now. He wants to stay with the Clippers. I think he’s planning on staying with the Clippers because they can offer him close to $30 million more than anybody else. But he also looks at the Clippers and has reached the conclusion that he needs help on the front line, because neither Blake Griffin nor DeAndre Jordan has the requisite post-game skills to really make room for him to operate. They’re incapable of pulling guys away from the basket and being a threat on the perimeter and therefore giving Chris Paul space to operate.

“From that standpoint, once again, the Clippers have to be willing to let go of one of those guys. They would prefer it to be DeAndre Jordan, because clearly Blake Griffin has a better upside. Plus, he’s a better player. ‘€¦ As a result, in an effort to keep CP3, who’s a guy that approaches free agency and they’re looking to re-sign, they are entertaining a plethora of possibilities.”

One of those possibilities, Smith said, could involve Rivers heading to Los Angeles along with Garnett and Paul Pierce.

“According to guys that I’ve spoken to in NBA circles, the Boston Celtics would look at a guy like a KG, willing to unload him, and who knows, they may be willing to market [Garnett and Pierce] as a package deal,” Smith said. “If you’re the Clippers, obviously that’s not enough to let go of somebody like a Blake Griffin. But if you combine keeping CP3 as a priority, knowing that he wants legitimate help on his front line for the immediate future, combined with the fact that even though I believe Vinny del Negro has done a good job, there are others that don’t believe so. ‘€¦ If somehow, some way, you could get your hands on Doc Rivers in the same breath as you’re getting KG and Paul Pierce, it could be something that could be attractive. And if that’s attractive enough, if you’re Danny Ainge, and you and Doc Rivers, as much as you respect one another, you’ve just worked with one another for a long time — who knows what the situation is, but you might be willing to let Doc Rivers out of his contract.

“You’re not going to do it for Brooklyn or probably anybody within the Eastern Conference, but to move out west to Cali? That might be an attractive enough proposition for the Clippers to sit there and say, well, you know what, OK, we would let go of Blake Griffin under those circumstances.”

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Read More: blake griffin, Chris Paul, Danny Ainge, Doc Rivers

Assistant GM Ryan McDonough leaves Celtics for Suns

05.07.13 at 2:05 pm ET
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The Suns announced Tuesday that they have hired Celtics assistant general manager Ryan McDonough to be their new GM.

“Ryan distinguished himself among an impressive group of candidates for our GM position,” Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby said in a statement. “His natural leadership and communication skills will serve the Suns well. And, his prodigious work ethic and ability to identify talent will enable us to take full advantage of the 10 draft choices, including six in the first round, that we have over the next three years. We welcome his championship pedigree to our organization.”

McDonough, 33, became Boston’s assistant GM in September 2010, after spending two seasons as the team’€™s director of player personnel, one season as the director of international scouting, one season as director of amateur scouting and four years as a special assistant to basketball operations.

McDonough, who grew up in Hingham, is the son of the late longtime Boston Globe columnist Will McDonough and the brother of ESPN announcer Sean McDonough and former NFL director of player personnel Terry McDonough. He graduated from the University of North Carolina in 2002 with a degree in journalism and mass communications.

McDonough was profiled in a recent SB Nation feature by Paul Flannery and was described as “part of a new breed of talent evaluators who have been making inroads into the highest level of the NBA in recent years.”

Said prescient Celtics coach Doc Rivers in the story: “He’s very good at what he does. He’ll be a GM. There’s no doubt about that.”

Read More: Ryan McDonough,

Bruce Bowen on D&C: Rumored Celtics-Clippers megadeal ‘hard to fathom’

05.07.13 at 10:29 am ET
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ESPN NBA analyst Bruce Bowen joined Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday morning to talk about the playoffs and speculation about a possible megadeal between the Celtics and Clippers.

On ESPN’s “First Take” Monday, Stephen A. Smith suggested that the Celtics and Clippers might talk about a deal that would send Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Los Angeles for Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler. Smith also indicated that Doc Rivers might follow Garnett and Pierce to LA and become coach of the Clippers.

Bowen laughed at the prospects of such a deal, saying: “I find it hilarious sometimes.”

Added Bowen: “That’s difficult to see, the LA Clippers giving up Blake Griffin, No. 1. And No. 2, they want to build around that ball club, and that’s Chris Paul and him and DeAndre Jordan, I believe. So, that one there, that’s a little hard to fathom.”

The Clippers rumor aside, there continue to be reports that Pierce and Garnett might have played their final game as Celtics. While both are under contract, they could retire or the team could package either or both in an attempt to acquire younger talent.

Bowen said he would prefer that the team keep its stars and add complementary players rather than blow it all up and start over.

“You’ve got to continue to put pieces along the side of your core. ‘€¦ You just keep adding pieces to it,” Bowen said. “That allows you to keep that standard that you have. And in the process, you hope to find a diamond in the rough that will be able to replace one of the key components.

“Unfortunately, we saw the huge loss of Rajon Rondo this year. And trust me, I believe that if he’s there, they beat the Knicks in that series. But it didn’t happen. You look at the bench. Boston went through a plethora of injuries this year. So, you really try to find guys that can fit into some of those roles as far as coming in, adding to what Paul was doing, adding to what KG was doing. When you have that, that’s where you’re able to make the best moves and the best decisions.”

Added Bowen: “When you start breaking up teams it’s an immediate rebuild. But I think there’s a way of rebuilding where you’re still competitive, where you’re still able to put a great product on the floor. And that’s what it boils down to right now, is bringing out a great product. What are we going to be able to do. Can we put out something that is nice out there, where our fans can be proud of. Even if we’re not winning like we used to, especially in Boston, they just want to see somebody playing hard and giving their best effort. If you can have something like that that is competitive, that’s the way you continue to — and from the business side, keep the fans in the seats and continue to keep the support of the white and green.”

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Read More: blake griffin, Bruce Bowen, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce

Chris Mannix on Mustard & Johnson: Celtics should do ‘exactly what [Danny Ainge] has been doing’

05.04.13 at 3:09 pm ET
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With the future of the Celtics now up in the air after the six-game first-round playoff loss to the Knicks, Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated, in an interview on WEEI’s Mustard & Johnson show, suggested that the team should proceed in precisely the fashion in which president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has operated for some time. Mannix noted that Ainge actively explored the possibility of dealing longtime mainstays Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett leading up to this season’s trade deadline, and suggested that the Celtics should again explore the market for the duo this offseason — while remaining comfortable with the notion of bringing them back if the team is unsatisfied with the return.

“I don’t think it would be [financially] difficult to trade Pierce if you wanted to. Boston was motivated to do it the last couple years. Leading up to the trade deadline, they spoke to Brooklyn, they spoke to Atlanta, they spoke to Dallas. They were actively looking to deal Paul Pierce,” said Mannix. “They had conversations with the Clippers about Kevin Garnett and were trying to figure out a way to get a deal done for DeAndre Jordan and Eric Bledsoe. Look, they were trying to make some moves with these two guys. Boston’s issue wasn’t financial. It was that they wanted a lot in return. I remember talking to some people in the Nets organization about how much Boston wanted in return. It was a combination of draft picks and young talent.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a financial issue for the Celtics to trade either one of those players if they’re motivated to. It’s just how much less they’re willing to take back in return.

“I would do exactly what Danny’s been doing to this point,” added Mannix. “If you can trade one of them and get a lot in return, get something that you know is going to help reboot your franchise, do it. If not, hold onto them and just play this thing out, wait for their contracts to expire and play with the flexibility then.”

Mannix noted that the avenues to upgrading the Celtics roster are limited this offseason, particularly in terms of free agents. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Chris Mannix, DeAndre Jordan, Eric Bledsoe, Kevin Garnett
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