By Mike Petraglia | Comments Off on Danny Ainge could be very busy this summer building: ‘We have a lot more things to trade, a lot more things to move’
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.”
By Mike Petraglia | Comments Off on Evan Turner makes it clear he wants to return to Boston, but ‘a lot of variables that are going to occur … I can’t control’
Was Thursday Evan Turner’s swan song in Boston?
“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.”
By Mike Petraglia | Comments Off on Jae Crowder: Series loss ‘will drive me to be a different player’
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.”
By Mike Petraglia | Comments Off on Mike Petraglia, Sam Packard explain how Hawks eliminated Celtics in Game 6
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.
By Mike Petraglia | Comments Off on Teary-eyed Isaiah Thomas: ‘This should hurt everybody’
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.”
By Mike Petraglia | Comments Off on So what exactly are adjustments Brad Stevens makes to free up Isaiah Thomas?
The single-most pivotal moment in this series has surrounded Isaiah Thomas. In Game 3, the Celtics started Evan Turner and had him run the point to free him off screens.
In Game 5, Mike Budenholzer countered by double and triple-teaming him and frustrating Thomas so much that he called out his own teammates after the 110-83 beatdown.
What will Brad Stevens do in Game 6?
“You just have to make the right basketball play,” Stevens said before Game 6, repeating some of what he said Wednesday in a conference call. “He’s going to have the ball a ton for us, he’s going to be off the ball on actions for us, he’s going to have to read when he should screen, he’s going to have to read when he gets the ball how he’s being played, and just make the right basketball play. There’s certainly things you can do to alleviate some of that.
“But I felt we attacked it really well at the start of the game. Certainly part of their scoring runs was some bad offense on our part in the latter parts of the game. I left thinking Isaiah made a lot of the right basketball plays. That’s his charge – he has to do that, and we’ll follow suit.
And if they run or “blitz” Thomas?
“The blitz is one thing, but they’ve stayed with Isaiah the whole series,” Stevens added. “He’s been through five games of the first four they were mostly back with Horford, and up with Millsap. They stay with the ball, and we know that they packed the paint against Isaiah in the first four games.
“The one tweak is when they blitz, now the ball is extended, and you have more room once you pass out of it to attack. We just have to make the right read, whether it’s catch and shoot or whether it’s catch and rip and drive. Somebody else gets in the paint and makes the right read, and that’s part of it. We have good players who can do that, I believe they can and Isaiah does too. But Isaiah can’t force. If they’re going to put two to the ball, that’s when you have to make the right basketball play.”
The Hawks’ biggest advantage is their bigs. To keep them from getting the ball is the biggest part of the strategy.
“Our strategy as a team, and one of our greatest strengths – and it’s enhanced when Avery Bradley is available – is to be able to get into the ball and make it as tough as possible on perimeter players,” Stevens said. “Hopefully, the impact we have on the ball makes it harder to get to the rim. That’s been our philosophy all year. The bigs need to play great position for us. Other than Amir we don’t have a ton of shot blocking. We just have to be good in our position early.”
By Mike Petraglia | Comments Off on Isaiah Thomas ‘thumbs up, ready to roll’ for Game 6, no lineup changes for Celtics
Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) shoots the ball past Atlanta Hawks guard Jeff Teague (0). (Bob DeChiara-USA Today Sports)
With the season on the line, Isaiah Thomas is indeed ready to go for Game 6 against the Hawks.
“He told me on Tuesday night after the game, he sent me a text late in the night that said he’s fine, I saw him again [Wednesday] before we met and in film and on the plane, and he felt fine,” Brad Stevens before Thursday’s Game 6 at the Garden. “No issues with swelling, per se, and today it was just as simple as a non-verbal thumbs up. So he’s fine. He’s good to go; he’s ready to roll.”
The Celtics will start the same lineup they debuted in Game 3, going with Thomas, Evan Turner, Jae Crowder, Jonas Jerebko and Amir Johnson.
This is the second elimination game Stevens has faced as head coach of the Celtics, losing Game 4 to the Cavaliers last year in the four-game sweep. Stevens said this has a much different feel.
“I think it’s so different, the series is so different, you’re playing a much-different team that plays much differently,” Stevens said. “Certainly, Cleveland did some things, defensively, that Atlanta is doing, but Atlanta just systematically, on both ends of the floor, is a just a totally separate entity to what Cleveland was at that time, or is now.
“And I think the biggest thing that you take away or, when the guys walk in, they came in, we went through our shootaround. Typical day. The focus is always pretty good. It was good again today. Just ready to compete and excited to play in this building.”
The Celtics did not have a full practice but Stevens is confident his team will be ready mentally and physically for the elimination game.
“It’s obviously not the second night of a back-to-back, 48 hours later. Both teams traveled [Wednesday], we did a typical light film session and then went on our way,” Stevens said. “Came back together today and got ready for it. When you’re playing a team for the 10th time, the seventh time in the last few weeks, and so a lot like a back-to-back, or maybe not a back-to-back, but you know these guys, they know you. We gotta make small, potentially minor changes.
“At the end of the day, we just have to play better than we did the other day. That’s the thing. The best adjustment we can make: Keep our guy in front of us, challenge shots, and, on the other end, spray the ball around and make them. That’s the way it goes.”