|Celtics reportedly plan to offer Al Horford a max contract, hope to bring him to Kevin Durant meeting||07.01.16 at 10:33 pm ET|
With free agents vanishing from the radar screen at a steady clip, the Celtics appear poised to make an aggressive run at one of the premier names on the market — Hawks center Al Horford.
According to Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald, the Celtics plan to offer Horford a max contract on Friday night. The four-year, $113 million deal would give the Celtics one of the best defensive big men in the game, while also positioning them to make a run at Horford’s good friend, free agent prize Kevin Durant, either this offseason or next.
Horford is considered a winning player whose contributions exceed what appears on a standard stat sheet. He averaged 15.2 points and 7.3 rebounds last year while leading the Hawks to the second round of the playoffs, where they were swept by LeBron James and the eventual champion Cavaliers. Before that, he helped the Hawks oust the Celtics in six games from the first round.
Horford, who just turned 30, is a four-time All-Star. The Hawks selected him third overall in the 2007 draft. According to the Herald, the Celtics want Horford whether or not they can sign Durant, and with Dwight Howard inking a three-year deal in Atlanta, Horford should end up with a new home next season.
It appears the Celtics are intent on making that home Boston.
UPDATE: And just to make things more interesting, now there’s this news . . .
It seems Celtics want to sign Al Horford, then bring him to their meeting with Kevin Durant tomorrow. May intrigue KD (especially in East).
— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) July 2, 2016
|Report: Dwight Howard agrees with Hawks for 3 years, $70 million without meeting Celtics||at 7:12 pm ET|
This will probably come as a relief to plenty of Celtics fans, but Yahoo is reporting that Dwight Howard has agreed to a three-year, $70 million contract with his hometown Hawks.
Howard had been expected to meet with the Celtics in the coming days, but he canceled all of his remaining visits after striking a deal with the Hawks.
Howard, 30, was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 draft out of Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy by the Magic. He has averaged 17.8 points and 12.7 rebounds for his career, and has also played with the Lakers and Rockets.
He reached the Finals in 2009 by knocking out the defending champion Celtics in the second round after the C’s had taken a 3-2 series lead. He averaged 16.4 points and 17.1 rebounds in that series before losing in the Finals to the Lakers.
Howard had been linked to the Celtics this offseason, but his back-to-the-basket game didn’t necessarily fit Brad Stevens’ system. The C’s are expected to make a hard push for Hawks big man Al Horford, who becomes expendable with Howard now in the fold.
|Celtics release full Summer League roster||at 11:34 am ET|
WALTHAM – While Danny Ainge and the front office staff is furiously trying to build their roster for next season as free agency is officially underway, the Celtics have set one roster. The group that will head out and compete in the two Summer Leagues were announced Friday.
2016 Draft Picks Jaylen Brown, Guerschon Yabusele, Ben Bentil, Demetrius Jackson and Abdel Nader will join current Celtics Terry Rozier, R.J. Hunter, Jordan Mickey and James Young as members of the team’s Utah Jazz and Las Vegas Summer League squads.
Young, the 17th overall pick of Boston in 2014, sticks out on this list as he is the only two-year veteran. But at 20 years, 11 months, he’s still the third-youngest on the roster.
They will be joined on the roster by 2015 Celtics second round draft pick Marcus Thornton, free agents Malcolm Miller and Corey Walden, who both appeared on the 2015 Celtics Training Camp roster, and JayVaughn Pinkston and Mouphtaou Yarou, a pair of Villanovans, neither of whom played on this year’s national championship squad. Pinkston played this past season for the Maine Red Claws.
The Celtics continued Summer League practices Friday in Waltham. The team leaves Sunday for Salt Lake City.
The Celtics’ first game in the Utah Summer League will be Monday, July 4 at 7:00 p.m. ET when they take on the Philadelphia 76ers. The Celtics’ three-game schedule in Utah continues with match-ups against the host Utah Jazz on July 5 at 7:00 p.m. ET and the San Antonio Spurs on July 7 at 7:00 p.m. ET. Beginning on July 4, all Celtics games for Utah Summer League will be televised on CSN New England.
The Celtics will then travel to Nevada for the Vegas Summer League and compete in three preliminary round games from July 9-12 before being seeded in a tournament that starts on July 13 and concludes with the Championship Game on July 18. Their first game is on Saturday, July 9 at 6:00 p.m. ET against the Chicago Bulls.
|Isaiah Thomas: ‘Just hope we get a few more pieces. I think that’s what we need’||06.30.16 at 7:42 pm ET|
ROXBURY — Whether it’s Kevin Durant, Al Horford or Dwight Howard, Isaiah Thomas is just hoping Danny Ainge can work his magic to improve his team’s chances of getting past the first round and contend for a title.
“I just hope we get a few more pieces. I think that’s what we need,” Thomas said Thursday while speaking to kids on a Celtics CommUNITY stop at the Roxbury YMCA.
“I think that would be the next steps for us, and then we go from there. I’ve got a lot of trust in Danny and those guys in the front office because that’s their job, that’s what they do. And they know what they’re getting themselves into. So I’m just trying to do my part with telling people how special Boston is. And then hopefully they listen.”
Despite a report from ESPN’s Marc Spears that a source indicates Durant has nearly made up his mind to return to Oklahoma City, the Celtics will meet with Durant’s representatives on Saturday.
“I don’t know if you can say anything to convince him. He’s his own man,” said Thomas. “I don’t know if he even has his own decision already and he just wants to hear people out. But we just have to be as real as possible. He’s a fan of the game. He knows the game of basketball. He’s talked to me about how exciting it is to watch us on NBA LeaguePass and things like that. So he knows. And we’re just going to do what we can to try to seal the deal. And hopefully we can get in his ear. And maybe he’s a Celtic. Maybe he’s not. But we’re going to try. And I’m going to try.”
Thomas left the YMCA to head back to Waltham to meet with Danny Ainge and the Celtics to see if he could be of any further assistance in a last-ditch effort.
“It’s a crazy feeling just because years ago that didn’t even come close,” Thomas said. “I was worried about making the team the next year. So it’s a good feeling knowing that they I guess trust my word or anything, and they come to me for things that they need or they want me to do. Knowing that you have trust in the organization, that’s a great feeling.”
Las Vegas recently labeled the Celtics the favorites to land former All-Star center Dwight Howard, but reporters covering the team are hearing a different story.
Regarding Dwight Howard, hearing that right now Celtics have no plans for aggressive pursuit. Will always listen to see if a price is right.
— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) June 29, 2016
Himmelsbach covers the Celtics for the Globe, and frankly, his version of events makes more sense than a rabid pursuit of Howard, who has aged very quickly, even though he’s only 30. The eight-time All-Star averaged just 13.7 points last season for the Rockets, the lowest total since he put up 12 a game as a 19-year-old rookie in 2004-05.
Also, after missing just three games in his first six seasons, Howard has broken down in recent years, missing 63 games over the last three seasons.
For his career, he averages 17.8 points, 12.7 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks a game. There’s a question of how he’d fit in the system of Celtics coach Brad Stevens, since Howard is a back-to-the-basket post player who doesn’t stretch defenses.
Howard recently declined his $23.2 million player option with the Rockets to become a free agent.
Kevin Durant may be the prize, and Dwight Howard an intriguing possibility, but the Celtics aren’t taking any piece of their roster for granted.
To that end, they plan to offer qualifying offers to big men Jared Sullinger and Tyler Zeller. Per Steve Bulpett of the Herald:
According to league-related sources, Celts to give qualifying offers to Jared Sullinger & Tyler Zeller, making them restricted free agents.
— Steve Bulpett (@SteveBHoop) June 29, 2016
Qualifying offers must be made by Thursday, and extending them allows the Celtics to match any offer sheet Zeller and/or Sullinger sign in restricted free agency. Otherwise, they would’ve become unrestricted free agents.
Sullinger’s offer will be for $4,433,683, while Zeller’s one-year offer is for $3,695,169, according to the Herald.
Sullinger averaged 10.3 points and 8.3 rebounds this year, though he was ineffective against the Hawks in the playoffs. Zeller averaged 6.1 points and 3.0 rebounds, falling out of Brad Stevens’ rotation at times.
|Marcus Smart knows he has to improve his jumper: ‘Everybody knows it. I know it’||06.29.16 at 11:38 am ET|
WALTHAM – Summer is a time for rest and relaxation for many veterans in the NBA.
But Marcus Smart, entering his third season, is taking a different approach.
For the first time since his rookie season, he heads into the summer months fully healthy and ready to improve his game, and that means getting offensive.
Everyone knows Smart is one of the best defensive guards in the NBA. As a matter of fact, Brad Stevens considers it a luxury that he can bring Smart off the bench on occasion to replace Avery Bradley and there’s little to no drop off in “on-ball” defense.
But it’s the offensive side that’s been a major struggle. Smart was known as an inconsistent jump shooter at Oklahoma State but considered a force who could get to the basket. In the NBA, it’s been a bit of a different story, as teams have forced him into jump shots.
In his rookie year, Smart had respectable 3-point shooting numbers, converting 91-of-272 from beyond the arc for a 33.5 percent rate. But this past season, his numbers fell off drastically, as he went through long droughts of poor shooting, falling to 25.3 percent, an alarming number for a guard in the NBA.
So when asked Tuesday during his camp at Brandeis what he might be focused on improving, he didn’t hesitate.
“My shooting. Everybody knows it. I know it. I’ve been working really hard on it, and my conditioning,” Smart said.
During one five-game stretch from March 21-31, Smart missed all 16 attempts from beyond the arc. But there was signs late in the season that he was figuring things out.
There was the stunning win at Golden State on April 1, when he connected for a key three in the fourth quarter. He went 4-for-6 from long distance in a late season game against the Hawks. And he was 3-for-6 in the series opener in Atlanta in the playoffs. He was 5-for-12 from 3-point range in wins in Games 3 and 4.
Now, Smart is committed to continuing that momentum.
“It’s been good actually. I’ve been putting in a lot of work and just trying to get better, so, so far, so good. It’s been good,” Smart said.
When he’s not working on his shot, Smart has been working with kids, showing the organization that he has the type of skills needed to make it as a leader in Boston. Smart is running his Boston YGC camp this week in Waltham at Brandeis.
“It feels good. I just got done with my Dallas camp, and the kids there – how little I was, I used to run around, parents telling me you’ve got too much energy,” Smart said. “Just wait until you get older and you’ll see how much energy you have. And then to come here and see the kids, it’s just incredible.
“I’m actually doing another one in the Canary Islands. So that’s a blessing for me. Not many people can say I had a camp in the Canary Islands, outside of the States, only in your second year. So that’s incredible to me and I’m ecstatic about it. I can’t wait.
“The first thing that goes through my mind is this was me about ten years ago. I remember going to camps and seeing an NBA player and my eyes lit up. It’s just a good feeling to be able to put that type of excitement on the kids’ faces. I just tell them just keep working, anything’s possible. You don’t have to be biggest, strongest or athletic guy to make it. You’ve just got to work hard.”
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