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Report: Celtics lead Al Horford sweepstakes if Hawks make him available at deadline 02.17.16 at 4:48 pm ET
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Guard Jeff Teague (0) and center Al Horford (15)  are reportedly on the trading block. (Steve Dykes/USA TODAY Sports)

Guard Jeff Teague (0) and center Al Horford (15) reportedly are on the trading block. (Steve Dykes/USA Today Sports)

Are the Celtics about to get their big man at the trade deadline?

According to A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com, Danny Ainge is the front-runner to land Atlanta center Al Horford if the Hawks make him available before Thursday at 3 p.m. ET.

The nine-year veteran is averaging 15.3 points and 6.9 rebounds while starting all of Atlanta’s 55 games this season. The 31-24 Hawks are just one game behind the third-place Celtics in the Eastern Conference.

This all begs the question why Atlanta would want to deal one the league’s best big men right now? The Hawks are staring down the barrel of the free agency gun with Horford set to hit the open market this summer.

Horford is in the final year of a five-year, $60 million contract and is earning $12 million this season. Blakely reports that the Hawks have not made a decision on whether they will trade Horford but a league source told CSNNE.com that “the Celtics have emerged as one of the favorites to land him.”

But the big caveat is whether the Hawks even decide to part ways with the veteran forward at all. Atlanta would likely demand one of Boston’s three first-round picks.

If Ainge feels the true value is in the lottery pick, and could package the other first-rounders and some other enticements, then the deal might happen.

What would it mean for the short-term? Horford, a four-time All-Star, would easily step in and become Boston’s best post player, as Jared Sullinger, Amir Johnson and Jae Crowder has formed the starting front court the last 11 games and 16 of the last 17 games.

Read More: 2016 NBA trade deadline, Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics
Report: Celtics trying to trade David Lee – and his contract – before trade deadline 02.15.16 at 1:48 pm ET
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The Celtics are reportedly trying to move David Lee (42) before the trade deadline. (Justin Ford/USA TODAY Sports)

The Celtics are reportedly trying to move David Lee (42) before the trade deadline. (Justin Ford/USA TODAY Sports)

While Celtics players continue to get their rest over the All-Star break, their general manager enters his busiest week of the season. President of basketball operations Danny Ainge is not just listening to offers for his three first-round picks this June while building his roster for a deep playoff run, he’s trying to move players.

The biggest challenge this week for Ainge might be what to do with center David Lee. His skills might still be valuable to a team that needs depth in the middle.

And while that would certainly seem to be a perfect fit for the team he’s currently on, the Celtics, like every team that has had him, would like to be free of the contract.

Specifically, Lee’s cap hit is $15,493,680, is easily the highest on the Celtics and the sixth-highest such figure among power forwards in the NBA, behind the likes of Chris Bosh ($22.1 million), LeMarcus Aldridge ($19.6 million), Kevin Love ($19.6 million), Blake Griffin ($18.9 million) and Paul Millsap ($18.6 million).

Lee has started just four of 30 games this season, averaging just 7.1 points and 4.3 rebounds while shooting a career-low 45.3 percent from the field. He hasn’t played since Jan. 10 at Memphis and has been a DNP for the last 18 games. 

Now 32, Lee is in the final year of a six-year, $79.5 million deal he signed with the Knicks in 2010, using the Bird exception. The Boston Herald reports that Ainge is unlikely to move Lee before Thursday’s NBA trade deadline.

David Lee was tough for Golden State to move all of last year,” the Herald reported, citing a league source. “And it finally came down to him being moved for Gerald Wallace. David Lee has no value. It’€™s his contract. David Lee‘€™s value comes in if they get one of these big name players.”

The Celtics acquired Lee and his expiring contract last summer from the world champion Golden State Warriors, sending Gerald Wallace and Chris Babb to Golden State. If Ainge can’t move Lee, the forward could accept a buyout from the Celtics by Mar. 1, allowing him to sign with another team in time for the playoffs.

Read More: 2016 NBA trade deadline, Boston Celtics, David Lee, Golden State Warriors
Report: Hawks looking for ‘borderline ridiculous’ return for Al Horford, Jeff Teague 02.12.16 at 10:46 am ET
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Guard Jeff Teague (0) and center Al Horford (15)  are reportedly on the trading block. (Steve Dykes/USA TODAY Sports)

Hawks guard Jeff Teague and center Al Horford (right) reportedly are on the trading block. (Steve Dykes/USA Today Sports)

The hottest ticket in NBA trade deadline sweepstakes appears to belong to the Atlanta Hawks. And they are treating it like a Super Bowl ticket at the 50-yard line.

According to CSNNE Celtics sideline reporter Chris Mannix, the Hawks are asking a king’s ransom for big man Al Horford and guard Jeff Teague a week before Thursday’s trading deadline.

Many NBA trade rumors have linked the Celtics to the 29-year-old Horford for two basic reasons. First, there’s an obvious need for the Celtics in the post to strengthen their potential playoff run in the East. The Celtics are in third place with a 32-23 record at the All-Star break and could make a run at the No. 1 or 2 seed. Second, the Celtics are one of the few teams with the capital on hand to execute the deal the Hawks are looking for, as Boston holds three first-round picks in the upcoming draft, including Brooklyn’s lottery pick.

But that doesn’t mean Boston would be willing to deal, according to Mannix.

“From everything I’ve been told in the last two or three days, Atlanta’s requests for both Al Horford and Jeff Teague have been borderline ridiculous,” Mannix said Thursday on CSNNE. “The kind of things teams like Boston, or Milwaukee, or Denver simply won’t deal for the players they want.

“Things like this tend to cool off, though. As we get close to the deadline — when we get to the 17th, when we get to the 18th [the trade deadline] — that’s when the real horse trading begins. That’s when [Celtics president of basketball operations] Danny Ainge will know if Atlanta is really serious about trading Al Horford.”

Horford has started all 55 games this season and is averaging 15.3 points per game and 6.9 rebounds. The biggest deterrent to making a deal would be the fact that Horford will become a free agent at the end of the season. Teague, at 27, is in the prime of his career. He’s in the third year of a four-year, $32 million contract.

There have been multiple reports that the Hawks are considering trading the two pieces to try to get to the top of the draft and to position themselves for the new salary cap that takes effect next season, with a cap coming in at around $89 million, a jump of $19 million. In two years, the cap mushrooms to $108 million.

Read More: 2016 NBA trade deadline, Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics
Isaiah Thomas headed to All-Star game in Toronto 01.28.16 at 9:17 pm ET
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Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) drives the ball against the Nuggets in Wednesday's win. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas drives on the Nuggets in Wednesday’s win. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

Isaiah Thomas is no longer a forgotten star in the NBA.

The 26-year-old Celtics scoring guard entering his prime was selected to his first career All-Star squad Thursday night.

The NBA announced during Thursday’s special on TNT that Thomas will be heading to Toronto Feb. 12-14, joining Jimmy Butler, DeMar DeRozan, Paul Millsap, Andre Drummond, Chris Bosh and John Wall as the seven reserves selected to the Eastern Conference All-Star team.

All-Star reserves were chosen by the league’€™s 30 head coaches.

Thomas entered the Celtics‘ starting lineup on a regular basis on Nov. 4 and scored at least 16 points in 40 of his 44 games in that time. Thomas is averaging a career-high 21.6 points per game this season, which leads all Eastern Conference point guards and ranks seventh among all guards in the NBA.

On Oct. 28, in the season opener against the Sixers, Thomas scored a game-high 27 points off the bench to pace the Celtics to a victory. On Dec. 16, 2015, he tied his career-high of 38 points in a loss to the Detroit Pistons.

Thomas has averaged 20.3 points and 5.8 assists in Boston’s current four-game winning streak, a run that has improved them to 26-21 on the season, putting them just a game behind third-place Atlanta in the East.

Read More: 2016 NBA All-Star Game, Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas,
Report: Avery Bradley unhappy with Celtics contract 01.26.16 at 11:01 am ET
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Celtics shooting guard Avery Bradley reportedly has grown frustrated with his current contract situation. While he was previously highly touted mostly for his lock-down perimeter defense, Bradley has elevated his offensive game this year and has proven to be a major asset on both sides of the ball for the Celtics. Now he and his new agent apparently feel he should be paid like it.

The Celtics inked Bradley to a four-year, $32 million deal in 2014. Many actually thought Celtics boss Danny Ainge had overpaid to keep him in Boston, due to the fact that he was seen by most as a one-sided player. It seems the tables have turned, and in the coming seasons Bradley and his agent may be pushing for more money.

Wrote Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: Avery Bradley has changed agents from Mitchell Butler of the Rival Sports Group to Rob Pelinka, who also represents Kobe Bryant. Butler was able to procure the oft-injured Bradley a four-year, $32 million contract extension last summer, considered an above-market deal. Now Bradley is apparently unhappy with his contract, especially after seeing players such as Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton (five years, $70 million), Utah’s Gordon Hayward (four years, $61 million), and Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson (five years, $82 million) cash in with lucrative extensions, making Bradley’s deal appear to be a bargain with the new television money increasing the salary cap this summer.

Bradley has averaged 14.8 points per game and is shooting 37 percent from 3-point range. His offensive success clearly has not caused his defense to suffer, as he’s also on pace for a career-high 1.6 steals per game.

For more Celtics news, visit the team page at weei.com/celtics.

Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics,
Stud and Duds: DeRozan’s 34 points leads Raptors past Celtics 01.20.16 at 10:30 pm ET
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DeMar DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan

After the Raptors opened up a 13-point lead in the first half, Celtics coach Brad Stevens turned to his bench, but it wasn’t enough to counter DeMar DeRozan who scored 22 second-half points en route to a 115-109 Rapors victory.

The Celtics closed the first half on a 10-2 run and took a 62-56 lead into halftime. Led by Kelly Olynyk’s 18 points, the Celtics bench combined for 47 points. Yet, DeRozan erupted for 18 third-quarter points and set the tone offensively for the Raptors as they outscored the Celtics 40-28 before heading into the fourth quarter.

In the final frame, the Raptors led by four points when Isaiah Thomas committed a costly turnover on an inbound play out of a timeout with 41 seconds left. The Celtics were able to regain possession but Avery Bradley‘s missed 3-pointer with 14.8 seconds left, sealed the Raptors win. It was the fifth missed 3-pointer of the quarter and further prevented the Celtics from having a chance to regain the lead that they saw slip away after halftime.

The Raptors did an excellent job of getting to the hoop while knocking down good looks from the perimeter — they outscored the Celtics 54-38 in the paint and shot 55.4 percent on 46-of-83 shooting. Although the Celtics shot 50.6 percent from the floor, it wasn’t enough to impede DeRozan’s second-half scoring outburst. The Raptors never led by more than six points in the fourth quarter but were able to pull away in the final minutes.

Isaiah Thomas‘ (21 points, 10 assists) double-double led the Celtics and Avery Bradley finished the night with 19 points. DeMar DeRozan (34 points) shot 52 percent on 13-25 shooting to lead the Raptors and Jonas Valanciunas (19 points, 12 rebounds) notched a double-double.

For a complete box score, click here. To go beyond the box, read on.

STUD OF THE NIGHT: DeMar DeRozan

DeRozan gave the Celtics one of the best individual performances they’ve seen from an opponent this season and did it in a number of different ways. He drove the ball to the hoop, stroked it from the mid-range, got to the free-throw line (8-of-9) and lit up the C’s — scoring 30 points in three quarters. Who does that? Not a lot of players in the NBA do. DeMar was ridiculous. He finished the night with 34 points and six assists.

DUD OF THE NIGHT: Jared Sullinger.

Sullinger had an ugly outing up in Toronto. He couldn’t find his offense and was bullied  in the paint by Jonas Valanciuas and Luis Scola. Sullinger went scoreless on 1-for-7 shooting, committed two turnovers and was a team-low minus-19 on the night.

VINE OF THE NIGHT: #Stud

WHINE OF THE NIGHT: Three-point shooting

The Raptors entered the game as one of the league’s worst teams in defending 3-pointers and it showed. Celtics shot 46.2 percent from deep on 12-of-26 shooting but needed a few more down the stretch when they counted most. The Celtics utilized their 3-point shooting throughout the game to keep themselves within striking distance but couldn’t hit the big ones at the end of the fourth. As the saying goes: “You live and die by the 3,” well the C’s lived by it for 36 minutes as the 3-ball certainly kept them close up until the last quarter where they went 1-for-6 and ultimately suffered their second straight loss.

STAT OF THE NIGHT: 54 points in the paint

The Celtics have to do a better job at defending the post. In a game where Jared Sullinger only played 12 minutes, the Celtics had no other big men to count on for interior defense. Amir Johnson and Tyler Zeller struggled to keep up with Jonas Valanciunas (19) and Luis Scola (18 points) nor could they get stops against Toronto’s perimeter players as they were able to get to the hoop with little resistance. 

@ OF THE NIGHT:

Read More: Boston Celtics, DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors,
2016 Celtics Mock Draft Pick Power Rankings v3.0 01.07.16 at 11:28 am ET
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The Celtics own as many as eight draft picks in June 2016 — only one of which is their own — and the unprotected selection from the Nets is legitimately one of the most fascinating storylines in the entire NBA this season. We’ll regularly update the status of those selections, speculating when and who the Celtics will pick.

FIRST ROUND

3. Boston Celtics (from Brooklyn): Jaylen Brown.

Just as there will be what-ifs when it comes to the C’s end-of-season record, the same will be true for the Nets. Now that their season series is complete, we can surmise how vital those two Boston losses to Brooklyn will prove to be come April. Currently, had the Celtics swept the Nets (10-25) rather than split their four-game set, Boston would have as many wins as the No. 2 seed and Brooklyn would have as few wins as the Lakers.

Regardless, Jarrett Jack‘s season-ending ACL injury likely ensures the Nets will finish no worse than third in the lottery, which means the C’s should have a 15.6 percent chance at the No. 1 overall pick. And if they aren’t lucky enough to win the Ben Simmons sweepstakes, Brown or Brandon Ingram are the next-best wings.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2016 Celtics Mock Draft Pick Power Rankings, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Diamond Stone
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