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Full Court Press: James Young has another chance to impress in summer league, Guerschon Yabusele is a ‘big dancing bear’ 07.02.16 at 10:36 pm ET
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James Young speaks to reporters before heading out for his third straight Summer League season. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

James Young speaks to reporters before heading out for his third straight summer league season. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

James Young is determined to make this summer different. 

The 17th overall pick of the Celtics in the 2014 NBA draft has been slowed by injuries in his first two offseasons, as he has tried to make the right impression on Brad Stevens and Danny Ainge in summer league action. 

Still just 20 years old, Young is starting to feel a little urgency to make a name for himself as the team has drafted the likes of Jaylen Brown, Demetrius Jackson, Ben Bentil and Guerschon Yabusele. All four of those players will join Young on the Celtics’ 2016 summer league squad, which begins action Monday in Salt Lake City against the Sixers. 

Remarkably, Young is the only player on the 14-player roster who will be playing his third straight summer league for the Celtics. 

“I barely played the first two I was here both years so why not come back for a third and play a full? So that’s why I’m here just to do, just go out there and play basketball,” Young said Friday. “I’ve just been working on my overall game. Nothing specific, just everything. And everything’s starting to come together. I’m just ready to go out there and just play strong.”

Last year in summer league, Young averaged just 9.4 points and 3.4 rebounds in five games. He struggled badly from the field, shooting just 27.1 percent from the field and 22.7 percent from beyond the arc. This season, he bounced back and forth between Maine and Boston over 10 times, appearing in three of the Celtics’ six playoff games while averaging 14.8 and 5.6 rebounds in 16 games for the Red Claws. 

“The thing about it is you think James has been forever,” said Micah Shrewsberry, who will coach Young and the Celtics summer team in Utah. “Man, he’s still 20 years old. I looked at different rosters the other day. James is still younger than almost everybody on Utah’s roster. He’s a young guy. He’s still learning. He’s been great. We’re trying, with an opportunity like this, for him to be able to use his voice more, something that he doesn’t do during the season when the older guys are doing a lot more talking. He can do that a little bit, he can lead, kind of come out of his shell a little bit. And then get more opportunities to play, show what he can do, have fun with it.”

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Read More: 2016 Summer League, Boston Celtics, Dancing Bear, Guerschon Yabusele
Celtics release full Summer League roster 07.01.16 at 11:34 am ET
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Jaylen Brown speaks to reporters in Waltham for the first time. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Jaylen Brown will be getting his first taste of NBA action in Summer League. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

WALTHAM – While Danny Ainge and the front office staff is furiously trying to build their roster for next season as free agency is officially underway, the Celtics have set one roster. The group that will head out and compete in the two Summer Leagues were announced Friday. 

2016 Draft Picks Jaylen Brown, Guerschon Yabusele, Ben Bentil, Demetrius Jackson and Abdel Nader will join current Celtics Terry Rozier, R.J. Hunter, Jordan Mickey and James Young as members of the team’s Utah Jazz and Las Vegas Summer League squads.

Young, the 17th overall pick of Boston in 2014, sticks out on this list as he is the only two-year veteran. But at 20 years, 11 months, he’s still the third-youngest on the roster. 

They will be joined on the roster by 2015 Celtics second round draft pick Marcus Thornton, free agents Malcolm Miller and Corey Walden, who both appeared on the 2015 Celtics Training Camp roster, and JayVaughn Pinkston and Mouphtaou Yarou, a pair of Villanovans, neither of whom played on this year’s national championship squad. Pinkston played this past season for the Maine Red Claws. 

The Celtics continued Summer League practices Friday in Waltham. The team leaves Sunday for Salt Lake City. 

The Celtics’ first game in the Utah Summer League will be Monday, July 4 at 7:00 p.m. ET when they take on the Philadelphia 76ers. The Celtics’ three-game schedule in Utah continues with match-ups against the host Utah Jazz on July 5 at 7:00 p.m. ET and the San Antonio Spurs on July 7 at 7:00 p.m. ET. Beginning on July 4, all Celtics games for Utah Summer League will be televised on CSN New England.

The Celtics will then travel to Nevada for the Vegas Summer League and compete in three preliminary round games from July 9-12 before being seeded in a tournament that starts on July 13 and concludes with the Championship Game on July 18. Their first game is on Saturday, July 9 at 6:00 p.m. ET against the Chicago Bulls.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Utah Jazz Summer League, Vegas Summer League,
Isaiah Thomas: ‘Just hope we get a few more pieces. I think that’s what we need’ 06.30.16 at 7:42 pm ET
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ROXBURY — Whether it’s Kevin Durant, Al Horford or Dwight Howard, Isaiah Thomas is just hoping Danny Ainge can work his magic to improve his team’s chances of getting past the first round and contend for a title. 

“I just hope we get a few more pieces. I think that’s what we need,” Thomas said Thursday while speaking to kids on a Celtics CommUNITY stop at the Roxbury YMCA.

“I think that would be the next steps for us, and then we go from there. I’ve got a lot of trust in Danny and those guys in the front office because that’s their job, that’s what they do. And they know what they’re getting themselves into. So I’m just trying to do my part with telling people how special Boston is. And then hopefully they listen.”

Despite a report from ESPN’s Marc Spears that a source indicates Durant has nearly made up his mind to return to Oklahoma City, the Celtics will meet with Durant’s representatives on Saturday.

“I don’t know if you can say anything to convince him. He’s his own man,” said Thomas. “I don’t know if he even has his own decision already and he just wants to hear people out. But we just have to be as real as possible. He’s a fan of the game. He knows the game of basketball. He’s talked to me about how exciting it is to watch us on NBA LeaguePass and things like that. So he knows. And we’re just going to do what we can to try to seal the deal. And hopefully we can get in his ear. And maybe he’s a Celtic. Maybe he’s not. But we’re going to try. And I’m going to try.”

Thomas left the YMCA to head back to Waltham to meet with Danny Ainge and the Celtics to see if he could be of any further assistance in a last-ditch effort. 

“It’s a crazy feeling just because years ago that didn’t even come close,” Thomas said. “I was worried about making the team the next year. So it’s a good feeling knowing that they I guess trust my word or anything, and they come to me for things that they need or they want me to do. Knowing that you have trust in the organization, that’s a great feeling.”

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Read More: 2016 NBA free agency, Al Horford, Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas
Marcus Smart knows he has to improve his jumper: ‘Everybody knows it. I know it’ 06.29.16 at 11:38 am ET
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Apr 22, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) shoots for three points against Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford (15) during the fourth quarter in game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Smart showed signs of improving his jumper last season. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM – Summer is a time for rest and relaxation for many veterans in the NBA. 

But Marcus Smart, entering his third season, is taking a different approach. 

For the first time since his rookie season, he heads into the summer months fully healthy and ready to improve his game, and that means getting offensive. 

Everyone knows Smart is one of the best defensive guards in the NBA. As a matter of fact, Brad Stevens considers it a luxury that he can bring Smart off the bench on occasion to replace Avery Bradley and there’s little to no drop off in “on-ball” defense. 

But it’s the offensive side that’s been a major struggle. Smart was known as an inconsistent jump shooter at Oklahoma State but considered a force who could get to the basket. In the NBA, it’s been a bit of a different story, as teams have forced him into jump shots. 

In his rookie year, Smart had respectable 3-point shooting numbers, converting 91-of-272 from beyond the arc for a 33.5 percent rate. But this past season, his numbers fell off drastically, as he went through long droughts of poor shooting, falling to 25.3 percent, an alarming number for a guard in the NBA. 

So when asked Tuesday during his camp at Brandeis what he might be focused on improving, he didn’t hesitate. 

“My shooting. Everybody knows it. I know it. I’ve been working really hard on it, and my conditioning,” Smart said. 

During one five-game stretch from March 21-31, Smart missed all 16 attempts from beyond the arc. But there was signs late in the season that he was figuring things out. 

There was the stunning win at Golden State on April 1, when he connected for a key three in the fourth quarter. He went 4-for-6 from long distance in a late season game against the Hawks. And he was 3-for-6 in the series opener in Atlanta in the playoffs. He was 5-for-12 from 3-point range in wins in Games 3 and 4. 

Now, Smart is committed to continuing that momentum. 

“It’s been good actually. I’ve been putting in a lot of work and just trying to get better, so, so far, so good. It’s been good,” Smart said. 

When he’s not working on his shot, Smart has been working with kids, showing the organization that he has the type of skills needed to make it as a leader in Boston. Smart is running his Boston YGC camp this week in Waltham at Brandeis.  

“It feels good. I just got done with my Dallas camp, and the kids there – how little I was, I used to run around, parents telling me you’ve got too much energy,” Smart said. “Just wait until you get older and you’ll see how much energy you have. And then to come here and see the kids, it’s just incredible.

“I’m actually doing another one in the Canary Islands. So that’s a blessing for me. Not many people can say I had a camp in the Canary Islands, outside of the States, only in your second year. So that’s incredible to me and I’m ecstatic about it. I can’t wait.

“The first thing that goes through my mind is this was me about ten years ago. I remember going to camps and seeing an NBA player and my eyes lit up. It’s just a good feeling to be able to put that type of excitement on the kids’ faces. I just tell them just keep working, anything’s possible. You don’t have to be biggest, strongest or athletic guy to make it. You’ve just got to work hard.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Marcus Smart, YGC Camp,
Report: Celtics, Hawks setting up meeting with Dwight Howard 06.29.16 at 9:04 am ET
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Mar 11, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) shoots the ball against Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) during the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

The Celtics reportedly have their sights set on Dwight Howard during free agency. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Dwight Howard is next up on the Celtics’ wish list. 

Sources tell ESPN that the 30-year-old big man will sit down face-to-face with the Celtics, along with the Atlanta Hawks, as free agency begins this Friday. 

ESPN reports that Howard is expected to meet with as many as five teams in free agency. Unlike the situation with Kevin Durant, where a return to Oklahoma City is a distinct possibility, Howard is not expect to return to Houston after turning down his $23.2 million option for next season

According to ESPN, sources say the Heat have not yet booked a meeting with Howard in free agency, but could emerge later in the process. 

ESPN reported Tuesday that the Hawks are trying to make up their mind on whether to go after Kevin Durant or consider an Al Horford-Dwight Howard front court through free agency.  

As was the case with Horford, Howard was considered to be a target of the Celtics at the February trade deadline before the team backed off. 

Read More: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Dwight Howard,
Report: Celtics will target Al Horford in free agency 06.28.16 at 8:49 pm ET
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Apr 28, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford (15) shoots the ball against Boston Celtics guard Evan Turner (11) during the second half in game six of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Al Horford is shooting for a big payday in free agency. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Kevin Durant is not the only focus of the Celtics as free agency approaches. 

According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Celtics will be among the teams approaching Al Horford when free agency begins on Friday. 

The Celtics will be in for some serious competition, Stein reports.

“The Hawks, of course, face a stiff challenge in trying to retain Horford, who sources say is expected to draw free-agent interest from a number of teams, including the Lakers, Rockets, Orlando Magic, Detroit Pistons, Washington Wizards, Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets,” Stein writes. 

As is the case with Durant, Horford has nine years of experience. That is significant because he can command up to 30 percent of his team’s cap this year. That figure goes up to 35 percent after next season.

This has led to wide speculation that both Durant and Horford would draw “1+1 contract” this summer, allowing both to cash in again next year. A “1+1” is a one-year contract with a player option for the following season. 

Horford’s long-term role with the Hawks is unclear with the trade of Jeff Teague to the Pacers. Should he seek a max deal this year, he can re-sign with the Hawks at five years $152 million or move and sign for four years, $112 million. If he signs a one-year deal, it would be at an estimated cost of $26.4 million.

Horford, a 6-foot-10 stretch center who can run the floor and knock down a mid-range shot, has long been rumored to be a target of Danny Ainge, including at the trade deadline this past February

Horford averaged just 12.5 points but hauled in 8.5 rebounds a game against the Celtics in Atlanta’s six-game first-round win. Horford improved slightly against the Cavaliers in the second round, going for 14.8 points a game. 

Read More: 2016 NBA free agency, Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics
Marcus Smart: ‘I’m ecstatic to remain a Boston Celtic. I love Boston [and] I love their fans’ 06.28.16 at 2:06 pm ET
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WALTHAM – There was one person very happy that the Celtics didn’t pull off a trade last Thursday night during draft night. 

As one of the youngest and most talented defensive guards in the NBA, Marcus Smart was at the center of many trade rumors involving the Celtics. He knew there was a possibility that he might be dealt away as the Celtics tried to move out of the No. 3 spot and get a proven impact scorer. 

As it turned out, the Celtics and Danny Ainge didn’t pull the trigger, leaving Smart to continue his plans for another season in Celtic green. 

“I’m ecstatic to remain a Boston Celtic,” Smart beamed Tuesday at his youth basketball camp at Brandeis. “I love Boston. I love their fans. I love the organization and everything about it.” 

There was also something else that didn’t happen Thursday that played to the apparent advantage of Smart. The Celtics didn’t draft another defensive-minded guard. They chose Jaylen Brown over Kris Dunn.

“That was weird because Danny being a defensive-minded guy, so you kind of would’ve thought that was where he was going,” Smart said. “We were excited for whoever we got and we are excited with the picks that Danny has picked, and the front office and we’re ready to go.”

Smart, like Isaiah Thomas, has started to make his pitch for Kevin Durant. But there are other areas that could be addressed with as much as $62 million of cap space to play with. 

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Jaylen Brown, Kevin Durant, Marcus Smart
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