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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
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,
Celtics assign James Young to Maine again 02.25.16 at 11:53 am ET
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James Young

James Young

The Maine shuttle continues for Celtics‘ second-year forward James Young. 

The Celtics assigned the 20-year-old guard/forward to the Maine Red Claws of the NBA Development League. It is the eighth time this season Young has been assigned to the D-League team. 

 Young has played in five contests for the Red Claws this season and is averaging 17.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.4 steals in 31.3 minutes per game.

He recorded a season-high 26 points, 15 rebounds, four assists and two steals in 31 minutes of action against the Raptors on Nov. 20.

Last July, Young joined the Celtics for the 2015 NBA Summer League where he averaged 9.4 points and 3.4 rebounds in five games.

Young struggled, as he shot just 27.1 percent from the field and 22.7 percent from three-point range. He subsequently played the least amount of preseason minutes of anyone who made the final 2015’€“16 opening night roster against Philadelphia.

The Celtics still see a lot of promise on the player they chose 17th overall out of Kentucky in the June 2014 draft. On Oct. 30, they exercised their third-year team option on Young’s rookie scale contract, extending the contract through the 2016-€“17 season.

He spent five days with the Red Claws between Nov. 3 and Nov. 9 on two different assignments before finally making his season debut for the Celtics on Nov. 10, playing the last 49 seconds of the team’s 99’€“83 win over the Bucks, the team the Celtics play Thursday at the Garden.

After playing in three games for the Celtics between Nov. 24 and Dec. 3, he almost got on a plane from San Antonio to Maine on Dec. 4, but was informed not to minutes before boarding, as the Celtics needed Young for insurance for Avery Bradley, who was nursing a quad injury.

Young did not play for the Celtics against the Spurs on Dec. 5. He went on to appear in seven of the team’s next eight games, averaging 14.3 minutes per game over that stretch. On Jan. 23, Young received another assignment to the Red Claws, before getting a recall to the Celtics the next day.

Read More: Boston Celtics, James Young, Maine Red Claws,
Brad Stevens trying to help Marcus Smart cut down his fouls 02.24.16 at 7:31 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Brad Stevens loves the defensive energy of Marcus Smart. It’s the technique that could use some work. 

The Celtics coach alluded to that Monday night after the 124-122 loss to the Timberwolves, a game in which he committed five fouls. Smart, drafted two years ago out of Oklahoma State for his defensive tenancity, is leading the Celtics in fouls this season and is averaging 3.1 hacks per game. 

That’s a lot for a guard who makes his living as a defensive specialist off the bench. After Wednesday’s practice Stevens and Smart both addressed the need to cut down the fouls while not sacrificing defensive intensity. 

“Defensively, [if] your job is to get into the ball and avoid the screen, to challenge by chasing somebody, to challenge by going under a screen and then meeting them there or if you’re fronting the low post, whatever the case may be, whatever your job is, to make the right next play, and to do it full-go without fouling is the goal of our whole team,” Stevens said. “We haven’t done a great job of that and so, that’s really my focus with him and with other guys.”

As for the number of fouls per game, Stevens isn’t worried that Smart might have a reputation around the league as someone who tries to draw offensive fouls by flopping. Twice in the fourth quarter Monday, he was called for fouls, once trying to draw the charge. 

“I don’t lose sleep over those things,” Stevens said. “I do think you just have to be conscious of making the right basketball play. We met and talked about that a little bit today. He’s a young player and he’s got a lot of games in front of him. Continuing to focus on doing the good things that he does and making that right basketball play is the most important thing.

“Certainly, you just have to be aware of that. Again, the only answer you can have to that is moving forward and making the right next play.” 

Smart said he’s not worried that he might have a target on his back from the officials. 

“Not at all. I’m going to play my game. I’m going to play hard every day,” Smart said. “That’s something the coach and this organization doesn’t have to worry about. I feel like the rest of my teammates are going to pick it up, also. I’m not worried about all the other stuff that comes with it. I just know how to play my game. 

“Referees are human, too. We never look at a referee and blame them for anything. They’re doing their job just like we’re out there doing our job. We’ve just got to go out there and play as a team and make sure that this team is together. We can’t focus on anything else and let any distractions take us away from what we’re trying to do.

“I hope I get stereotyped as a hard-nosed player,” Smart said. “That’s who I am. I play hard. I’m stopping that for anybody. That’s my game. I play with a lot of passion and heart and determination, and a lot of will. I never give up, so if that’s the stereotype I’m getting stereotyped with, I’ll take it.

“It’s challenging. I’m a lot stronger than most of the guards I’m going up against. Any little thing [when] I touch them, or anything, it’s going to look like more aggressive than what it is because I’m so much stronger. I understand it. It just comes with time.”

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