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Danny Ainge on unified Celtics with Brad Stevens: ‘Great things will happen in Celtics history’ 06.01.16 at 5:25 pm ET
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WALTHAM — The Celtics sound like a unified group heading into what co-owner Stephen Pagliuca called the “most complex” offseason the franchise has had in the 13 years of the current stewardship. 

In announcing the contract extensions of president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and coach Brad Stevens, the common theme Wednesday afternoon was one of unity and commitment. 

“This foundation we have is very unique in the world we live in — pressure-packed, public world in pro sports,” Ainge said. “The fact we have such great unity with ownership I think is unique. I value that premium. It’s a great working environment, I have a great relationship here, stronger trust, year in and year out. As we work together I believe great things will happen in Celtics history.”

Perhaps most intriguing about Ainge’s opening comments Wednesday was his admission that it really didn’t take much to get him to sign on the dotted line to extend his current contract, which owner Wyc Grousbeck acknowledged expired before that of Stevens, who still had three years left on his initial $22 million deal signed in 2013. 

“To tell yoju a little bit, our negotiation was basically Stay, and I said Wyc, do you want me to stay? We had a 10 or 15 minute negotiation, and then our focus turned to Brad,” Ainge said. “It turned to what we need to do. We all understand it’s emotional and very challenging, him with two kids at home and all you have to manage. I’ve been there. We’re lucky to have Brad and Tracey with us in a long term situation.

“They don’t have to answer any more questions about Indiana and Butler, and Duke, North Carolina. We’re very excited to have Brad. Who he is and what he does on the court is unmatched. We’re grateful he wants to stay with us. In the three short years he’s been with us, and it’s good he’s making a long-term commitment to us as well.”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Danny Ainge, Indiana
Wyc Grousbeck extends Danny Ainge, Brad Stevens: ‘[They] represent exactly what the Boston Celtics stand for’ 06.01.16 at 11:40 am ET
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Sep 25, 2015; Waltham, MA, USA; Boston Celtics GM Danny Ainge (left) and co-owner Wyc Grousbeck, during media day at the Boston Celtic Practice Facility. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Celtics GM Danny Ainge (left) and co-owner Wyc Grousbeck have lots to smile about in the future. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics have made their first big move of the offseason. 

No, they haven’t added or subtracted players yet. Owners Wyc Grousbeck and Stephen Pagliuca just recommitted themselves to the people who will be making those decisions. 

The team announced Wednesday that they have extended the contracts of President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge and Head Coach Brad Stevens. Terms of the deals, including the length of the extensions, were not disclosed.

“Danny and Brad represent exactly what the Boston Celtics stand for: excellence on and off the court,” Grousbeck said in a statement. “With their long-term deals in place, we are continuing to build towards competing for Banner 18. Our ownership group thanks them for their hard work and their re-commitment to the Celtics.”

 Ainge, who just completed his 13th season as Celtics President of Basketball Operations, has compiled a record of 565-484 (.539) during his tenure, making 10 trips to the post-season, three Conference Finals appearances and two trips to the NBA Finals, including winning the NBA Championship in 2008. That season, fellow NBA executives voted Ainge the Executive of the Year for the 2007-08 season.

 “I am grateful to continue to work in an environment where I’m surrounded by so many people that are an integral part of our success,” Ainge said in the team release. “We have had great stability in this organization since the ownership group bought the Celtics. We know our strengths and weaknesses and as a group we work well together. Wyc, Irv, Steve, Rich, Brad and I have a common goal in pursuing Banner 18 and I’m looking forward to this next chapter in Boston Celtics history.”

As for Stevens, he completed his third season as the team’s head coach, guiding the team to a 48-34 record and clinching the team’s second consecutive playoff berth. Stevens is a two-time NBA Eastern Conference Coach of the Month winner, most recently for games played in February 2016, where he led the Celtics to the best record in the Eastern Conference (9-3) and a 6-0 mark at the TD Garden.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Danny Ainge, Stephen Pagliuca
Celtics choice: Buddy Hield vs. Avery Bradley 05.31.16 at 12:41 pm ET
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In the days leading up to June’s NBA draft, we want to encourage debate regarding what the Celtics should do with the No. 3 overall pick. In that spirit, we present, “Celtics choice.”

Today: Using the No. 3 pick on Oklahoma shooting guard and college player of the year Buddy Hield or keeping NBA first-team all-defense guard Avery Bradley.

The case for Hield

Buddy Hield

Buddy Hield

An NBA-ready scorer who played four years of college basketball in a major conference. Hield was a monster, adding dribble penetration and increased range to his explosive offensive game. He averaged 25 points a game and shot .457 from 3-point territory. His shot chart is off the charts, with above-average production from everywhere on the floor except the left baseline. As a senior, he’s more polished than most of the teens and freshmen coming out this year. And he demonstrated an ability to hit big, clutch shots throughout his senior year, leading the Sooners to the Final Four, where they lost to Villanova, the eventual champs.

The case against Hield

Will Hield’s 6-foot-4 frame translate to the NBA? It’s one thing when you’re stronger than most of the players you face in college. It’s another when you’re going up against ‘2’ guards with three or four inches on you and you need to create your own shot. Steph Curry can create his own shot with just a split-second of space. But he is certainly the exception to the rule. There are also legitimate questions about his foot speed and ability to create his own shot at the next level. He’s also considered a subpar defender. The biggest criticism of Hield is that he’s reached his ceiling.

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Read More: 2016 NBA draft, Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Buddy Hield
Isaiah Thomas tweets (then deletes) recruitment of Kevin Durant 05.31.16 at 11:05 am ET
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Isaiah Thomas tweeted to Kevin Durant in the moments after the Thunder's Game 7 loss to Golden State.

Isaiah Thomas tweeted to Kevin Durant in the moments after the Thunder’s Game 7 loss to Golden State.

Isaiah Thomas had good intentions in his immediate recruitment of Kevin Durant after the Thunder’s Game 7 loss to the Warriors Monday night. 

Just about an hour after Durant and the Thunder fell, 96-88, to the Warriors, Thomas took to Twitter to plant a seed in the mind of the superstar, who will be a free agent this summer.

But the Celtics point guard quickly deleted his tweet to Durant, which featured the No. 35 with a Shamrock to the right. 

There are a couple of reasons Thomas might have taken it down, not the least of which is realizing the sensitivity of the moment, after Durant’s dreams of reaching the NBA finals for a second time came to a crashing end. The Thunder became just the 10th team in NBA history to lose a 3-1 lead in a best-of-7 series and the first in the conference finals since the Philadelphia 76ers blew a 3-1 lead to the Celtics in 1981. 

Another reason might lie in another sensitivity. The No. 35 is already retired in Boston, as it was raised to the rafters in honor of the late Celtics captain Reggie Lewis, who died in 1993. 

Thomas is not the first Boston athlete to openly recruit Kevin Durant to the Celtics. New Patriots nose tackle and lifelong Celtics fan Terrance Knighton said last week during OTAs that he would be in the ear of Durant as soon as Durant’s season was over. 

The efforts of Thomas and Knighton might be in vain as ESPN’s NBA insider Marc Stein reports that those close to the situation see Durant signing a two-year max deal to stay in Oklahoma City, with an opt-out after the first year.

Durant will become a 10-year vested NBA veteran after next season, and is eligible to take up a significant portion (up to 35 percent) of any team’s payroll. Durant is currently at the 30 percent threshold. 

 

Read More: Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, Kevin Durant, New England Patriots
Full Court Press: Celtics look for their next big thing; Klay Thompson goes off 05.29.16 at 4:00 pm ET
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May 28, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) scores over Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) during the fourth quarter in game six of the Western conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Warriors guard Klay Thompson scores over Thunder forward Kevin Durant during the fourth quarter in Game 6 Saturday night. (Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports)

Maybe what the Celtics should really be looking for is the next Klay Thompson in the June 23 draft.

For all the talk about who to take with the third pick or if they should trade for Jahlil Okafor or Nerlens Noel, the Celtics could use a long scorer like Thompson, the somewhat overshadowed other half of the Splash Brothers. For anyone who missed Saturday night’s epic 41-point effort from Thompson, they missed one of the greatest performances in an elimination game.

Thompson led one of the most dramatic comebacks in the fourth quarter. He made an NBA playoff record 11 3-pointers in 18 attempts and powered the Warriors to a 33-18 fourth quarter that turned an eight-point deficit into a stunning 108-101 Warriors win in Game 6 that sent the Western finals back to Oakland for Game 7 Monday night.

Thompson was the 11th overall pick of the Warriors in the 2011 draft, behind Brandon Knight (8th), Kemba Walker (9th) and Jimmer Fredette (10th). Thompson has been playoff MVP of the Warriors quest to finish off their historic season. He’s been averaging 26.5 points in the postseason, including 31.0 points in the five-game win over Portland, a series they were without the injured Steph Curry for the first three games.

There are a number of shooters like Thompson in the draft, including Jamaal Murray, who would be available at No. 3, and possibly No. 16. NBADraft.net has the Celtics taking Buddy Hield, the shooting guard and Wooden Player of the Year in college basketball. Hield doesn’t have the height of Thompson, who is 6-foot-7, but he is considered one of the most mature players ready to contribute right away in the pros.

NBADraft.net also has the Celtics taking Cheick Diallo, the big man out of Kansas. Those mocks, of course, don’t take into consideration potential trades.

Trippin: Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge left for Israel Friday to watch Dragan Bender, the highly-touted prospect and potential No. 3 draft pick play, along with another European star in Ante Zizic.

The Celtics have three first-round picks at Nos. 3, 16 and 23.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, Klay Thompson, NBA
Danny Ainge heads overseas to scout Dragan Bender, Ante Zizic 05.27.16 at 5:41 pm ET
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Dragan Bender

Dragan Bender

The buzz over Dragan Bender is getting louder. 

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge left for Israel Friday to watch the highly-touted prospect and potential No. 3 draft pick play, along with another European star in Ante Zizic. 

The Celtics have three first-round picks at Nos. 3, 16 and 23. 

According to the Herald’s Mark Murphy, both Ainge and son Austin, the team’s director of player personnel left for Israel on Friday to watch Bender in two practices Saturday and Sunday. There will be no game action. 

18-year-old Bender plays for one of the top teams in Israel (Maccabi Tel Aviv). This season, he’s been had his playing time limited to coming off the bench, averaging just 4.3 points and 2.6 rebounds on the season. But Danny Ainge has longed for a player with his height (7-foot-1) and shooting ability. He is still underweight for the NBA but many scouts feel he has a great upside that make him worthy of a top-5 pick.

Austin Ainge has made several trips to Europe in the past two seasons and acknowledged that last week but indicated that pre-draft rules prohibited him from talking about Bender until the early-entrant deadline, which passed on Wednesday. 

International basketball reporter David Pick confirmed Thursday that Ainge was in Croatia to scout Ante Zizic, another potential big man candidate who would likely need development before entering the NBA. 

Zizic is a 19-year-old with a 6-foot-11 frame who has excelled in the Adriatic League despite his youth. Boston has 11 players under contract for the 2016-17 season. That means Ainge could have Zizic follow in the steps of Dario Saric (Sixers) and Nikola Mirotic (Bulls), who spent time overseas getting ready for the NBA. Saric may or may not join Philly this season. 

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Read More: 2016 NBA draft, Ante Zizic, Boston Celtics, Dragan Bender
Terrance Knighton continues to recruit Kevin Durant to the Celtics: ‘I’ll be in his ear a lot, trust me’ 05.26.16 at 2:47 pm ET
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Terrance Knighton isn't giving up on Kevin Durant coming to Boston. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Terrance Knighton isn’t giving up on Kevin Durant coming to Boston. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — Terrance Knighton is busy learning the playbook for the Patriots in their spring practices, workouts and OTAs.

But when he’s not in the playbook, he’s planning out different ways of recruiting Kevin Durant to the Celtics.

Apparently, Knighton didn’t hear Jackie MacMullan on OM&F on Tuesday, throwing cold water on the idea of Durant actually coming to Boston.

She said Celtics fans “can forget about Durant” leaving Oklahoma City for Boston.

That’s not going to keep the big nose tackle, a long-time Celtics fan from Hartford, from trying. He is close friends with the Thunder superstar.

“I’m leaving him alone right now, letting him finished it up. I love how he’s playing. I hope he wins it. I kind of hope he doesn’t,” Knighton said of Durant, who entered Thursday’s Game 5 in Oakland leading Steph Curry and the Warriors, 3 games to 1.

“As soon as the season’s over, if he’s hoisting the trophy or not, I’ll definitely be texting him every day, calling him, flying down to [Oklahoma City]. I’ll be in his ear a lot, trust me.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Durant, New England Patriots, Oklahoma City Thunder
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