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Report: Celtics lead Al Horford sweepstakes if Hawks make him available at deadline 02.17.16 at 4:48 pm ET
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Guard Jeff Teague (0) and center Al Horford (15)  are reportedly on the trading block. (Steve Dykes/USA TODAY Sports)

Guard Jeff Teague (0) and center Al Horford (15) reportedly are on the trading block. (Steve Dykes/USA Today Sports)

Are the Celtics about to get their big man at the trade deadline?

According to A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com, Danny Ainge is the front-runner to land Atlanta center Al Horford if the Hawks make him available before Thursday at 3 p.m. ET.

The nine-year veteran is averaging 15.3 points and 6.9 rebounds while starting all of Atlanta’s 55 games this season. The 31-24 Hawks are just one game behind the third-place Celtics in the Eastern Conference.

This all begs the question why Atlanta would want to deal one the league’s best big men right now? The Hawks are staring down the barrel of the free agency gun with Horford set to hit the open market this summer.

Horford is in the final year of a five-year, $60 million contract and is earning $12 million this season. Blakely reports that the Hawks have not made a decision on whether they will trade Horford but a league source told CSNNE.com that “the Celtics have emerged as one of the favorites to land him.”

But the big caveat is whether the Hawks even decide to part ways with the veteran forward at all. Atlanta would likely demand one of Boston’s three first-round picks.

If Ainge feels the true value is in the lottery pick, and could package the other first-rounders and some other enticements, then the deal might happen.

What would it mean for the short-term? Horford, a four-time All-Star, would easily step in and become Boston’s best post player, as Jared Sullinger, Amir Johnson and Jae Crowder has formed the starting front court the last 11 games and 16 of the last 17 games.

Read More: 2016 NBA trade deadline, Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics
Report: Celtics trying to trade David Lee – and his contract – before trade deadline 02.15.16 at 1:48 pm ET
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The Celtics are reportedly trying to move David Lee (42) before the trade deadline. (Justin Ford/USA TODAY Sports)

The Celtics are reportedly trying to move David Lee (42) before the trade deadline. (Justin Ford/USA TODAY Sports)

While Celtics players continue to get their rest over the All-Star break, their general manager enters his busiest week of the season. President of basketball operations Danny Ainge is not just listening to offers for his three first-round picks this June while building his roster for a deep playoff run, he’s trying to move players.

The biggest challenge this week for Ainge might be what to do with center David Lee. His skills might still be valuable to a team that needs depth in the middle.

And while that would certainly seem to be a perfect fit for the team he’s currently on, the Celtics, like every team that has had him, would like to be free of the contract.

Specifically, Lee’s cap hit is $15,493,680, is easily the highest on the Celtics and the sixth-highest such figure among power forwards in the NBA, behind the likes of Chris Bosh ($22.1 million), LeMarcus Aldridge ($19.6 million), Kevin Love ($19.6 million), Blake Griffin ($18.9 million) and Paul Millsap ($18.6 million).

Lee has started just four of 30 games this season, averaging just 7.1 points and 4.3 rebounds while shooting a career-low 45.3 percent from the field. He hasn’t played since Jan. 10 at Memphis and has been a DNP for the last 18 games. 

Now 32, Lee is in the final year of a six-year, $79.5 million deal he signed with the Knicks in 2010, using the Bird exception. The Boston Herald reports that Ainge is unlikely to move Lee before Thursday’s NBA trade deadline.

David Lee was tough for Golden State to move all of last year,” the Herald reported, citing a league source. “And it finally came down to him being moved for Gerald Wallace. David Lee has no value. It’€™s his contract. David Lee‘€™s value comes in if they get one of these big name players.”

The Celtics acquired Lee and his expiring contract last summer from the world champion Golden State Warriors, sending Gerald Wallace and Chris Babb to Golden State. If Ainge can’t move Lee, the forward could accept a buyout from the Celtics by Mar. 1, allowing him to sign with another team in time for the playoffs.

Read More: 2016 NBA trade deadline, Boston Celtics, David Lee, Golden State Warriors
Report: Hawks looking for ‘borderline ridiculous’ return for Al Horford, Jeff Teague 02.12.16 at 10:46 am ET
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Guard Jeff Teague (0) and center Al Horford (15)  are reportedly on the trading block. (Steve Dykes/USA TODAY Sports)

Hawks guard Jeff Teague and center Al Horford (right) reportedly are on the trading block. (Steve Dykes/USA Today Sports)

The hottest ticket in NBA trade deadline sweepstakes appears to belong to the Atlanta Hawks. And they are treating it like a Super Bowl ticket at the 50-yard line.

According to CSNNE Celtics sideline reporter Chris Mannix, the Hawks are asking a king’s ransom for big man Al Horford and guard Jeff Teague a week before Thursday’s trading deadline.

Many NBA trade rumors have linked the Celtics to the 29-year-old Horford for two basic reasons. First, there’s an obvious need for the Celtics in the post to strengthen their potential playoff run in the East. The Celtics are in third place with a 32-23 record at the All-Star break and could make a run at the No. 1 or 2 seed. Second, the Celtics are one of the few teams with the capital on hand to execute the deal the Hawks are looking for, as Boston holds three first-round picks in the upcoming draft, including Brooklyn’s lottery pick.

But that doesn’t mean Boston would be willing to deal, according to Mannix.

“From everything I’ve been told in the last two or three days, Atlanta’s requests for both Al Horford and Jeff Teague have been borderline ridiculous,” Mannix said Thursday on CSNNE. “The kind of things teams like Boston, or Milwaukee, or Denver simply won’t deal for the players they want.

“Things like this tend to cool off, though. As we get close to the deadline — when we get to the 17th, when we get to the 18th [the trade deadline] — that’s when the real horse trading begins. That’s when [Celtics president of basketball operations] Danny Ainge will know if Atlanta is really serious about trading Al Horford.”

Horford has started all 55 games this season and is averaging 15.3 points per game and 6.9 rebounds. The biggest deterrent to making a deal would be the fact that Horford will become a free agent at the end of the season. Teague, at 27, is in the prime of his career. He’s in the third year of a four-year, $32 million contract.

There have been multiple reports that the Hawks are considering trading the two pieces to try to get to the top of the draft and to position themselves for the new salary cap that takes effect next season, with a cap coming in at around $89 million, a jump of $19 million. In two years, the cap mushrooms to $108 million.

Read More: 2016 NBA trade deadline, Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics
Isaiah Thomas headed to All-Star game in Toronto 01.28.16 at 9:17 pm ET
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Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) drives the ball against the Nuggets in Wednesday's win. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas drives on the Nuggets in Wednesday’s win. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

Isaiah Thomas is no longer a forgotten star in the NBA.

The 26-year-old Celtics scoring guard entering his prime was selected to his first career All-Star squad Thursday night.

The NBA announced during Thursday’s special on TNT that Thomas will be heading to Toronto Feb. 12-14, joining Jimmy Butler, DeMar DeRozan, Paul Millsap, Andre Drummond, Chris Bosh and John Wall as the seven reserves selected to the Eastern Conference All-Star team.

All-Star reserves were chosen by the league’€™s 30 head coaches.

Thomas entered the Celtics‘ starting lineup on a regular basis on Nov. 4 and scored at least 16 points in 40 of his 44 games in that time. Thomas is averaging a career-high 21.6 points per game this season, which leads all Eastern Conference point guards and ranks seventh among all guards in the NBA.

On Oct. 28, in the season opener against the Sixers, Thomas scored a game-high 27 points off the bench to pace the Celtics to a victory. On Dec. 16, 2015, he tied his career-high of 38 points in a loss to the Detroit Pistons.

Thomas has averaged 20.3 points and 5.8 assists in Boston’s current four-game winning streak, a run that has improved them to 26-21 on the season, putting them just a game behind third-place Atlanta in the East.

Read More: 2016 NBA All-Star Game, Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas,
Brad Stevens gets an early look at strength of his team: ‘Our bench has to be a great source of energy’ 10.29.15 at 10:43 am ET
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If Wednesday night is what the Celtics bench is going to look like all season, Brad Stevens is going to have a very good year.

The Celtics started off slowly to the lowly 76ers, trailing by as many as nine, 26-17, in the first quarter. Boston made just six of its first 21 shots and could find no rhythm.

The young 76ers had rookie Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel running the court, and scoring. And the Celtics looked flat.

Then the bench started to make the impact that it was built all offseason to make. Slowly but surely, Jared Sullinger, Isaiah Thomas and Amir Johnson made their impact, some faster than others. Thomas missed his first four shots before finding his range, on his way to a game-high 27-point night. Johnson added 15 and Sullinger chipped in with 12 as the vision of Danny Ainge was clear for everyone to see.

When it was all said and done, the Celtics bench outscored Philly reserves, 67-15, in walking away with a 112-95 win. That’s exactly what Ainge and head coach Brad Stevens had in mind when they built the deepest roster in the NBA in the offseason.

“Our bench has to be a great source of energy and scoring and everything else for us,” Stevens said. “And I thought [the Sixers] came out of the gates great. Okafor was really hard for us to guard early ‘€“ and then Noel, I just thought they had a great impact on the game on both ends. So, we found ourselves in a hole which probably isn’€™t all bad in your first game, to see how you respond, and we responded. Any time we cut it close I thought we responded. I thought we missed some things that we can clean up, but at the same time I thought we did a lot of good things.”

Down 26-17, the Celtics outscored the Sixers, 21-2, over the next eight minutes. Thomas and Sullinger each had six points in the run.

The bench was also the reason the Celtics were able to hold off the Sixers each time they made a run. Three times the Sixers got as close as five points and each time the Celtics answered, including a 7-0 spurt at the end of the third, when Thomas hit a three right before the buzzer.

“The end of the quarters are important to us,” Stevens said. “We want to finish well, we want to do well in those situations. And those were big for us tonight. But I thought just as big was they’€™d cut it to five and we’€™d go on a 7-0 run. They’€™d cut it to, I believe it was three one time, we go on a 6-0 run. So those are good responses in those moments.”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Isaiah Thomas, NBA
Isaiah Thomas shoots himself into a groove in opening night win: ‘I’m not going to be shy’ 10.29.15 at 12:36 am ET
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Isaiah Thomas is very happy that his coach doesn’t get discouraged by a little cold streak.

The instant offense offense off the Celtics bench missed his first four shots in the first quarter Wednesday night as the Celtics struggled out of the gate.

Thomas made three of his next five shots and that was a sign of things to come as the Celtics outscored the Sixers, 30-14, in the second quarter, grabbing control of the game, 51-40, at the halftime break.

Smart his 5-of-8 shots in the third quarter, including a three at the buzzer as the Celtics took a 79-67 lead into the final quarter.

“I mean that’€™s the biggest thing,” Brad Stevens said. “We’€™ve talked quite a bit about that: play with speed, play aggressive, play with spirit, let the chips fall where they may with him. We know a hot streak is coming.”

Thomas scored 13 of his game-high 27 points in the third quarter as the Celtics cruised to a 112-95 win in the season opener at TD Garden.

“That’€™s my job,” Thomas said of keeping the shots coming. “I’€™m not going to be shy when I’ve got a job to do out there. Coach has confidence in me. My teammates have confidence in me, and they tell me to continue being aggressive ‘€“ so I’€™m going to continue to do that.”

Thomas’ 27 points came in 29 minutes of action. The Detroit Pistons of the mid and late-80s had Vinnie Johnson – “The Microwave.” The Celtics have Isaiah Thomas.

“I work on it ‘€“ each and every day,” Thomas said. “I know that some point in time, it’€™s going to fall. I have that confidence in my game, and I work on my craft, so I think the harder you work, and when it doesn’€™t happen in games, you go to what you know. When I get into the spots that I like to go to in my workouts, and feeding off my teammates, no matter if I’€™m having a good game or not, you have to just make the right play out there. If the right play is to shoot, and I’€™m not making them, I have to continue to shoot that shot.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, Philadelphia 76ers,
How much will Jared Sullinger play at the start of season? 10.23.15 at 9:01 am ET
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It’s the weighty question that hangs over the Celtics.

How much will Jared Sullinger contribute at the start of the season?

There are subsets to that question, as well. Like how much will he be able to contribute, what will his role be and perhaps most of all, what does head coach Brad Stevens envision as a realistic starting point when the season opens Wednesday against the Philadelphia 76ers.

The 6-foot-9 power forward listed at 260 pounds played three stints Thursday in a 99-85 preseason win over the Knicks at TD Garden. His final line: 19 minutes, 6-of-10 from the field, eight rebounds and a team-high 16 points.

“I think he played at the end of the game because we wanted to throw the ball at the post and score,” Stevens said. “So obviously, there were other guys in the game that hadn’€™t played up to that point, but he had played three stints, [and] that was his third stint.”

At the start of camp, Sullinger acknowledged that his family and former NBA star John Lucas all but had an intervention to help him with his weight approaching 300 pounds and his conditioning. Sullinger can look out on the floor and see a long list of names that are fighting with him for significant playing time, names like Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko and David Lee. Games like Thursday seem to be an indication that he’s at least headed in the right direction as he builds his stamina off the bench.

“You know, time will tell how it all works itself out with minutes but I thought he did a lot of good things,” Stevens said. “As the season goes on, we’€™re always going to factor in good play. So that’€™s a good thing.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Jared Sullinger,
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