|Danny Ainge heads overseas to scout Dragan Bender, Ante Zizic||05.27.16 at 5:41 pm ET|
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.
The Ainges – Danny and Austin – fly to Israel today to watch Dragan Bender in 2 practices tomorrow and Sunday. No games involved.
— Mark Murphy (@Murf56) May 27, 2016
Two of my all-time favorite players and people👣👣 pic.twitter.com/NjRFDuAGyp
— Danny Ainge (@danielrainge) May 25, 2016
|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|
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.”
|Celtics choice: Kevin Love vs. Paul George||at 10:39 am ET|
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
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?
|Avery Bradley named NBA all-defensive first team, Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart honorable mention||05.25.16 at 5:22 pm ET|
The Celtics had a very good season and a good part of it was based on their improved defensive effort.
Avery Bradley led that effort as a starter and, on Wednesday, was named to the NBA’s all-defensive first team by pro basketball media members.
Behind Bradley, the Celtics finished tied with the Clippers and Warriors for fourth in the NBA in defensive rating. Bradley was also the top finisher among guards in the Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year voting (sixth place overall). He averaged a career-high 1.54 steals for the Celtics in their breakout 48-win season under third-year coach Brad Stevens.
Jae Crowder just missed a selection on the second team, finishing with 47 points, including three first-team votes. Marcus Smart, who often played alongside Bradley in the backcourt, finished with seven points and two first-team votes.
Kawhi Leonard of the Spurs won the Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year award and finished with the most votes.
2015-16 NBA ALL-DEFENSIVE FIRST TEAM
Player (Team), 1st Team Votes, 2nd Team Votes, Total
Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio), 130, –, 260
Draymond Green (Golden State), 123, 5, 251
DeAndre Jordan (L.A. Clippers), 47, 43, 137
Avery Bradley (Boston), 62, 25, 149
Chris Paul (L.A. Clippers), 59, 30, 148
2015-16 NBA ALL-DEFENSIVE SECOND TEAM
Player (Team), 1st Team Votes, 2nd Team Votes, Total
Paul Millsap (Atlanta), 11, 75, 97
Paul George (Indiana), 5 , 38, 48
Hassan Whiteside (Miami), 44, 38, 126
Tony Allen (Memphis), 44, 33, 121
Jimmy Butler (Chicago), 18, 26 , 62
|Jackie MacMullan on OM&F: ‘You can forget about [Kevin] Durant’||05.24.16 at 2:58 pm ET|
Appearing on WEEI’s Ordway, Merloni & Fauria program Tuesday, ESPN basketball columnist and Hall of Famer Jackie MacMullan gave Celtics fans a huge reality check when it comes to Kevin Durant.
The superstar in the midst of playoff run with the Thunder, helping them to a 2-1 series lead over favored Golden State, could become a free agent this summer. The speculation is that he would sign a one-year deal and then sign his mega-deal starting with the 2017-18 season, when the NBA salary cap is around $108 million.
Celtics fans chanted “Come to Boston” and he acknowledged, “I like the city a lot,” when Oklahoma City came to town in March and spanked the Celtics. That was the same week Philadelphia fans did the same in the hopes of luring him to their town.
MacMullan said a reality check is in order.
“You can forget about Durant,” MacMullan said. I’m not sure Durant is going to go anywhere. Suppose they win the championship, you think he’s going to leave there?
“The truth is: All these people put words in Kevin Durant’s mouth about leaving in the first place. Has he ever said that he wanted to leave? He never has. That, to me, is a bit of a pipe dream.”
Another name that’s been tossed around is Bulls shooting guard Jimmy Butler. He’s got four years left on a five-year, $92.3 million deal. MacMullan thinks the asking price from Chicago could be too steep, even for the Celtics.
“Jimmy Butler, what’s the price? That matters, that matters,” she added. “You can’t give away everything away for Jimmy Butler. I would love to have Jimmy Butler here.”
Then the most realistic scenario came up. MacMullan thinks the Celtics are “most realistic” contenders for Philly big man Jahlil Okafor.
|Celtics choice: DeMarcus Cousins vs. Blake Griffin||at 6:12 am ET|
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 Kings forward DeMarcus Cousins or Clippers superstar Blake Griffin
The case for Cousins
Cousins is arguably, at 6-foot-11, 270 pounds, the most talented young true center in the NBA. He turns 26 this August and is coming off back-to-back All-Star seasons with the woebegone Kings. He’s gone from 22.7 points and 11.7 rebounds in 2013-14 to 26.9 and 11.9 this past season. He can give the Celtics everything they’re looking for in a true post presence, who can score and rim protect. He would instantly transform Boston’s front court into a powerhouse. He’s still got two years left on a four-year, $65 million deal, averaging $17.5 million each season, not bad for the production. The Celtics had no low post presence against the Hawks in their first-round series. Cousins would immediately change all of that.
The case against Cousins
It’s the attitude, son. No one doubts his raw ability and production. No one also doubts his lack of maturity has greatly stunted his ability to lead in Sacramento. No doubt, being on a losing franchise year after year can wear on an impressionable kid. Having Rajon Rondo in the locker room probably didn’t do a lot to help in that regard, either. Cousins famously erupted at Kings coach George Karl last November in front of the team. He’s had many other flare-ups over his six seasons in the land NBA winners went to escape relevance. The Celtics spent much of the season building bonds and shedding tears when the season came to an end in April. Cousins could be an explosive mix to that.
|Danny Ainge provides some insight on where he’s headed with No. 3: Be the best ‘without selling out’||05.23.16 at 3:10 pm ET|
If you’re wondering what Danny Ainge is thinking heading into June 23, think long-term instead of short-term.
Appearing on WBZ-TV’s Sports Final Sunday night, the president of basketball operations for the Celtics suggested that there’s a lot to consider when weighing trading the No. 3 pick or holding onto it for the best player available at that spot.
“[The pick] certainly doesn’t have the same cachet in trade conversations, in trying to get better quicker, so that sets that back a little bit. Or we’d have to give up more [talent as part of a trade],” Ainge told the show. “I think that there are good players, if we end up using that draft pick. We’re excited about the potential players.”
So, it appears that Ainge is suggesting that making any trade to bring back a reasonable piece would involve trading one of his existing pieces, not necessarily a deal it sounds like he’s ready to make, at least not yet.
“Right now, we’re trying to become a better team as fast as we can without selling out. I guess that’s the best way to put it,” Ainge told the show. “We want to become a more significant team this upcoming year. And, at the same time, we want to build something that’s sustainable for a longer period of time.
“I think that that’s my job in the organization. I think that ownership would like to see something happen faster. I know my coaches would like to see something faster. I know my players want to see something faster. I’ve been in their positions and I get it. I want to see something faster, too. But I just have to protect us from doing something irrational, just to get a little bit better. If it’s something that gets us to be a true championship contender faster, then I think we’re all on board. As long as it’s a sustainable formula and not a one-year quick hit that sacrifices future assets.”
There’s been plenty of speculation as to whether the Celtics would trade the No. 3 to Philadelphia for a chance to take Providence College star Kris Dunn, after presumably taking either Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram.
But if the Celtics hold onto the pick, it’s not likely that they go with Dunn. Instead, names like 7-footer Dragan Bender, sharp-shooter Jamaal Murray and scoring phenom Buddy Hield are in the mix.
Then Ainge made his biggest point, something to consider whether the Celtics draft a player, sign one in free agency or acquire a player this summer in a trade.
“A player that is going to take time to develop or a player that may not come over to the NBA for a year or two, if we really believe that player’s the best player, we have to take him,” said Ainge. “We cannot let a player slip by us just because it doesn’t fulfill our immediate satisfaction, or the objective for the fans to see something more exciting. We have to pick the best player, under any circumstance. There are just too many examples of really good players that the fans haven’t been excited about on draft day.
“Last year, I remember [Kristaps] Porzingis was drafted in New York and they were booing all over the place and you’re like, ‘Well, why would they be booing so much on Porzingis?’ When you draft players, I remember when I was in Phoenix and we drafted Steve Nash and we were booed. I remember being booed when Dan Majerle was drafted in Phoenix. You can’t base any of your decisions based on what the public thinks and based on what other people think you should do. You just really have to use our experience, our work, and our eyes, and we communicate all the time on what the best road to go is.”
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