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Butch Stearns on D&C: Kevin Durant’s representatives have let Celtics know which players he wants prospective teams to acquire 05.31.16 at 11:16 am ET
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D&C guest hosts discuss Kevin Durant

With Kevin Durant’s season ending Monday night courtesy of the defending champion Warriors’ Game 7 win over the Thunder in the Western Conference finals, the speculation about Durant’s future is set to take off.

There have been rumors that the Celtics will make a push at the pending free agent. If Boston is to land Durant, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge might have to start by looking into acquiring some auxiliary pieces first.

According to Butch Stearns, during an appearance as a guest host on WEEI Monday morning, Durant’s people have informed the C’s who those additional players are.

“I have this on pretty good authority: The Celtics have sat with his agent and other representatives of Durant. The Celtics do know — I don’t know who it is — but they do know who he would prefer to be brought here in a LeBron [James]-Chris Bosh-Dwyane Wade-like way. Because that’s how it works in the NBA. You need to know who the guy or guys that that guy wants, which would be a factor,” Stearns said.

“Now, I don’t know if Durant’s told them that. But the Celtics know. They know. They’ve been told what group of guys he would want to come here.”

Considering Durant could make more money with Oklahoma City — around $30 million per season — than anywhere else, he would need more incentive to leave. Perhaps an easier path to the NBA Finals would be one such appeal.

Said Stearns: “Why would he come here? If I were him? Because I don’t have to deal with the West anymore. I only have to beat LeBron [and the Cavaliers].”

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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
Why Celtics should trade for 76ers C Nerlens Noel 05.27.16 at 11:35 pm ET
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Apr 12, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN;  Philadelphia 76ers forward Nerlens Noel (4) takes a pass during shooting drills prior to playing Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Nerlens Noel could soon be on the move from the 76ers. (Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports)

As Danny Ainge and co. head toward next month’s NBA draft, there’s a potential move available that the Celtics may want to explore.

In an interview with ESPN South Jersey 97.3, ESPN’s Chad Ford said he believes there’s a very good chance the 76ers will trade either Jahlil Okafor or Nerlens Noel. 

“I think that there’s a very high likelihood, that whether it’s to move up in the draft or use them to grab a free agent in a sign and trade or just a trade, that you will not see the Nerlens Noel-Jahlil Okafor pairing at the start of next season,” Chad Ford said. “I think that they’ll gauge the interest of both players. I think that there might be a slight preference for Noel, to keep him around with the Sixers, and I think you might be right, there might be a slight, better value for Okafor out on the market, but I think everyone agrees that that combination of these two players doesn’t necessarily work.”

With the No. 1 pick, the Sixers have two forwards to choose from in Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram, leaving them with room to add a guard. According to Ford, the 76ers would jump at a chance to acquire the Celtics’ No. 3 pick, where they’d be able to add a rising star to their backcourt.

“If I was Philadelphia, it would be done tomorrow,” Chad Ford said. “I don’t know if Boston would do it, but for Philadelphia, 100 percent. That would allow them to actually I think bring in another guard, an elite guard, whether that’s Kris Dunn or Jamal Murray, and suddenly now you’ve got a very, very bright future. I think that’s an easy call for the Sixers if Boston would do it.”

Out of the two young studs, the Celtics should focus on pursing Noel. 

The Everett native is a young rim protector — the kind of big man the Celtics lack — who also can rebound and score around the rim. This past season Noel averaged 11.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.5 blocks. Tied with the Warriors and Clippers, the Celtics finished fourth in the NBA in defensive rating. Adding a player like Noel into the fold would turn the C’s into a defensive juggernaut without having to break the bank in trying to sign a free agent big man like Hassan Whiteside or Bismack Biyombo. 

Compared to Okafor, the asking price for Noel isn’t as steep, but of course he still will cost the Celtics their No. 3 pick in this year’s draft. However, if the Celtics were to package their No. 3 pick along with second-round picks and a prospect like Terry Rozier or James Young, that could be enough for them to acquire Noel, whereas a proposed deal for Okafor most likely would have to include one of their rotation guys like Marcus Smart or Kelly Olynyk.

Out of the two, Okafor certainly is a better scorer, but in Brad Stevens’ system, Noel would flourish. In a fast-break offense he can run the floor, set the pick-and-roll, and create second-chance opportunities for the Celtics on the glass.

At age 22, Noel still has plenty of room to grow and has the potential to become one of the best defending big men in the league. Sure, a move like this wouldn’t turn the Celtics into an instant championship-contending team, but it’s a great place to start. 

Read More: Nerlens Noel,
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
Celtics choice: Kevin Love vs. Paul George 05.26.16 at 10:39 am ET
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As the days pass leading up to June’s NBA Draft, we want to encourage the 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 to trade for Cavaliers forward Kevin Love or Pacers forward Paul George.

The case for Love

May 25, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love (0) shoots over Toronto Raptors forward Luis Scola (4) during the second half in game five of the Eastern conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena. The Cavs won 116-78. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Cavaliers forward Kevin Love (0) shoots over Toronto Raptors forward Luis Scola (4) in the playoffs. (Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)

At 27, one of the best pure scoring forwards in the game is in his prime. Returning from shoulder surgery, he scored 27 of his season-high 34 points in the first half of the Cavaliers’ win over the Magic in November. On Jan. 29, 2016, he had his best game since November 23, scoring 29 points on 9-of-19 shooting in a win over the Detroit Pistons. That game also marked the first time all season that Love, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving each reached 20 points in a game. He helped the Cavaliers finished the regular season as the first seed in the East with a 57–25 record. For the second straight season, he was the perfect complement to James and Irving, after overcoming his shoulder problems that started with Kelly Olynyk in the first round of the ’15 playoffs. He finished this season averaging 16 points and 9.9 rebounds a game. In the first round of the playoffs, Love recorded playoff career highs with 28 points and 13 rebounds in a Game 1 win over the Pistons.

The case against Love

Consistency. Last July, Love re-signed with the Cavaliers on a 5-year, $113 million max deal. He has four years left on it. Love can have games where he shows exactly why he’s paid so handsomely. He can also go long stretches where his production drops way off. In Games 3 and 4 against the Raptors, both losses, Love was 5-for-23 with 13 points total in the two games. Starting with a Christmas Day loss at Golden State, he went a full month and scored just 20 points once in 17 games. His numbers have dropped off in Cleveland. The drop from 26 points per game to 16 a game the last two seasons in Cleveland is understandable with LeBron and Irving scoring so much. But the falloff in rebounding is more alarming, as he’s gone from a league-leading 15.4 rebounds a game in Minnesota in 2011-12 to 9.9 rebounds per game in Cleveland. Danny Ainge has always like long, athletic shooters from the wing and has been looking for one but the question is whether Love is really worth the $113 million?

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Read More: 2016 NBA draft, Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Indiana Pacers
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