|Danny Ainge to offer Jae Crowder qualifying offer, adds: ‘We need to have a busy summer, and we will’||04.30.15 at 12:23 pm ET|
WALTHAM — The Celtics surprised a lot of people by finishing the season with a six-game winning streak, ending up with the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. But the work to improve on that encouraging ending doesn’t stop with a four-game sweep at the hands of LeBron James and the Cavaliers.
Far from it.
Now, according to the team’s president of basketball operations, the hard work really begins. How does he and his staff go about improving upon a 40-42 mark through the NBA draft and added space under the salary cap?
“I feel like we need to have a busy summer and we will have a busy summer,” Danny Ainge said Thursday. “Hopefully, we can get some things accomplished that we need to. I think we need to upgrade our talent level on our team and at the same time, I’m very excited about a lot of the individuals that we have.
“Actually, all of the individuals I thought played the best basketball of their careers in a lot of cases. So, I’m excited about the players that we have. At the same time, I feel like we’re not at the same level as a team like Cleveland, and we found that out.”
Ainge confirmed one of his moves already on Thursday when he announced he will extend a qualifying offer to Jae Crowder. By extending a qualifying offer to Crowder, the Celtics would make him a restricted free agent.
The key to the summer will likely be how Ainge and his staff handle the extra spending space afforded by the expansion of the NBA salary cap. The Celtics currently have $40.4 million committed to salaries for 2015-16. The current cap number of $63 million is expected to grow to about $66 million next season but could explode to $87 million in 2017. The reason: A brand new nine-year, $24 billion TV deal.
But while the Celtics will have more money to spend, so too will the other 29 teams, creating tremendous cap competition this summer.
|Danny Ainge calls Kevin Love’s frustration ‘a little over the top,’ but ‘understandable’||at 11:54 am ET|
WALTHAM — Danny Ainge knows a little something about intense playoff basketball and the contact that is associated with it.
On Thursday, as he was wrapping up the past season with reporters at the team’s practice facility, Ainge had a degree of sympathy for Kevin Love, knocked out of the playoffs with season-ending surgery on his dislocated left shoulder.
After the game, Love called the play by Kelly Olynyk that resulted in his arm being dislocated from the socket a “bush league” play, adding that it was clearly intentional.
“I think that’s a little bit over the top,” Ainge said. “It’s understandable. The heat of the battle. I feel bad for Kevin Love because he’s waited a long time to get where their team is right now and now he doesn’t get a chance to play. I certainly don’t think Kelly did it on purpose.”
After reviewing it, the league suspended Olynyk one game next season, still less harsh than the two-game playoff suspension for J.R. Smith’s fist to the face of Jae Crowder.
“I don’t even think that that play would’ve been reviewed more than a foul had Kevin not gotten hurt. But because Kevin did get hurt, the league does evaluate those situations and I understand a little bit why they did it. There was a lot of pressure on Cleveland. They were losing J.R. Smith in the first couple of games in the next round and they have Kevin out for the playoffs now so I’m sure there was a lot of frustration in Cleveland. They wanted some justice and they scrutinized it and felt like Kelly gave it a little too much at the very end of that arm tangling. When someone gets hurt, you’re just under a little more scrutiny but I thought it was just a foul of two guys going for a loose ball.”
|To keep or not to keep: What to do with Celtics||04.29.15 at 11:14 pm ET|
Celtics coach Brad Stevens and team president Danny Ainge aren’t going anywhere. That much we know. Everyone else on the roster is up for debate. Certainly, nobody is untradeable, so let’s attempt to project how these C’s players fit into Ainge’s puzzle this coming summer with a game of ‘to keep or not to keep.’
BRANDON BASS (unrestricted free agent)
Through all the upheaval, Bass was the rock of the 2014-15 Boston Celtics. Built like a Chevy truck, the 6-foot-8, 240-pound big man appeared in all 82 games for the second straight season. (He’s missed just eight games since arriving in Boston four years ago.) Splitting his time between starting and reserve roles, Bass produced the best per-minute numbers of his career this past summer while averaging the fewest minutes of his Celtics tenure (23.5). He remains one of the league’s elite midrange shooters and double-handed dunked his way to a decent percentage around the rim, but concerns about him linger.
He’s neither an exceptional rebounder nor rim protector defensively — an issue that killed the Celtics against the Cavaliers — and does not fit Stevens’ floor-stretching mold offensively. There wasn’t much of a trade market for an undersized power forward who brings few of the skills required for such players in today’s NBA at $6.9 million, and his disappearance in the playoffs may have sealed his fate at any rate.
Verdict: Not to keep.
AVERY BRADLEY (signed through 2017-18 for $8.3 million per season)
Playing the most minutes of his career, Bradley took a slight step back from a stellar offensive season in 2013-14, when he shot 40 percent from 3-point range. Still one of the league’s best marksmen from midrange, his 3-point percentage dipped to 35 percent this year. Not a playmaker by any stretch, Bradley was asked to shoulder a less-than-ideal offensive load in the absence of capable scorers, and his efficiency would benefit from improved offensive talent easing the defensive pressure around him.
As for his own defense, Bradley returned to bulldog form, hounding Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving throughout the first round. Irving averaged 25.1 points per 100 possessions on 38 percent shooting opposite Bradley in the series and 41.2 points per 100 possessions on 58 percent shooting with him on the bench. That brand of on-ball defense, particularly when paired with Marcus Smart’s similar skill set, is invaluable.
|Kelly Olynyk suspended 1 game next season for arm bar on Kevin Love, J.R. Smith gets 2 games for hit on Jae Crowder||04.27.15 at 9:31 pm ET|
Rod Thorn, the league’s president of basketball operations, announced that Celtics big man Kelly Olynyk was suspended one game without pay at the start of the 2015-16 season for his “arm bar” that resulted in a dislocated left shoulder for Cavs star big man Kevin Love.
The Cavaliers announced Monday that Love would miss the entire second round series with a dislocated left shoulder from the incident.
Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith has been suspended two games without pay for his violent arm swing that resulted in flush contact with Jae Crowder’s jaw. Crowder was stunned and momentarily knocked out. As Crowder fell to the ground, his left knee buckled and bent underneath him, resulting a sprained ACL, as the Celtics announced on Monday. Smith will serve his suspension in Games 1 and 2 of the 2015 NBA Eastern Conference semifinals when the Cavaliers host the winner of the Chicago Bulls vs. Milwaukee Bucks series.
That incident resulted in Crowder leaving the game and not returning. Smith was assessed with a “Flagrant 2″ foul and immediately ejected with 10:24 left in the third quarter.
Additionally, Cavaliers center Kendrick Perkins‘s second quarter “Flagrant 1″ foul on a screen set on Crowder has been upgraded to a “Flagrant 2″ and he has been fined $15,000.
Smith’s incident, during which he swung his arm and made contact with the head of Celtics forward Jae Crowder, resulted in a Flagrant Foul 2 and his ejection at the 10:24 mark of the third quarter of the game.
|Isaiah Thomas on being swept out by Cavs: ‘We feel like we deserve more’||04.26.15 at 11:56 pm ET|
Instead, those fans will have to settle for having made life difficult for four games on LeBron James and company.
That, however, is not enough to satisfy players or coaches, as they admitted after Sunday’s 101-93 season-ending loss in Game 4 at TD Garden.
“We feel like we deserve more,” Isaiah Thomas said. “We’re proud, but we’re not satisfied. We see that this team has a lot of potential, we work hard, we like playing with each other, we play extremely hard and those are the keys to success. Its frustrating to see the season end like it did, but we got to try to build from this and come back next year ready for war.”
“It’s not about individuals, we are going home, so we could care less how we played at the end of the game,” Jared Sullinger said in referencing the several second half charges the Celtics put on only to come up short. “The fact of the matter is, we didn’t get any wins, and it was a good way to, I guess, end the season but at the same time our main focus and objective was to get a win tonight and we failed.”
For all the harsh words between the players Sunday after Cleveland ended Boston’s season with a 101-93 win in Game 4, LeBron James had nothing but respect for the job coach Brad Stevens did in getting his team to play hard to the final buzzer.
After losing by 13 in the first game, the Celtics lost three straight, all by eight points. In each game, the Celtics made a late run to keep things interesting before succumbing to the better team.
“I highly respect their coaching staff and especially their head coach,” James said. “[They’re] a very well-coached team. He put those guys out there every night and put them in position to win the game and I think Brad Stevens is a very good young coach in our league.”
For a team that finished 40-42, the Celtics gave the Cavaliers about as much of a fight as could’ve been expected.
Then James spoke to what it means to have finally beaten the Celtics in the playoffs with Cleveland, after losses in 2008 and 2010.
“This franchise is one of the most winning franchises in NBA history, [along] with the Lakers,” James said. “So, everyone knows the history between the Lakers and the Celtics and what they’ve done for this league. So for me, to have a chapter in my career, multiple chapters, of playing against the Celtics, I think it’s great for the story that [the media can] tell.”
This is the second time James has sent the Celtics packing, beating them in seven games in the Eastern finals in 2012. That year, the Heat went on to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, giving LeBron his first NBA title. James is now eight wins away from his fifth straight trip to the NBA finals, a goal that is clearly again on his radar.
“Our long term goal is obviously to win the championship but right now we have short term goals and that’s to prepare ourselves for the next round and get ready for the challenge that presents itself,” James said. “It was a great first test for our team. We’re a young team, we have some vets but we’re a young team together. The Celtics gave us the test that we needed. Some things that we haven’t seen in the regular season, and it will prepare us for the second round, which will be much tougher, we know that.”
Jae Crowder said the Celtics wouldn’t go down without a fight, and he was right.
Crowder was involved in two of the half-dozen ugly dust-ups with the Cavaliers, ultimately leaving the game with an apparent knee injury in the ugliest of the bunch, but in the end it didn’t matter how much muscle his team flexed. Cleveland had LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, and in the end they were the difference-makers.
As they did all series, the Celtics spent the second half trying to erase a Cavs lead that had ballooned to double digits, and as was the case in their first three attempts, they fell short, losing the game 101-93 and the series 4-0.
James finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, while Irving added 24 points and 11 assists. Jared Sullinger led the Celtics with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Isaiah Thomas added 21 points, nine assists and five rebounds before fouling out. Avery Bradley (16 points) and Marcus Smart (11 points) also reached double figures.
For a complete box score, click here.
Marcus Smart’s absence from shootaround wasn’t the only late wakeup call for the Celtics. Brad Stevens spent the better part of the past week trying to solve his team’s defensive rebounding woes, and within 95 seconds of Game 4 the Cavaliers are had their second offensive board — leading to five of Cleveland’s first seven points. As a result, Stevens called his quickest timeout as an NBA coach. The intervention on the bench did little to stop the bleeding, as the Cavs reached double-digits in second-chance points and built a 21-point lead by halftime.
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