|What LeBron James’ decision means to the Celtics||07.11.14 at 1:42 pm ET|
“My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball,” he told Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins. “I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now.”
Over the next 24 hours, you’ll see thousands of stories about what LeBron’s decision means to Cleveland (everything), Miami (oh, man) and the NBA in general (those ripple effects won’t reach shore for quite some time), but what exactly does it mean for the Celtics?
LeBron’s arrival in Cleveland immediately makes the Cavs a contender. While James admitted the team’s rookie head coach and youthful roster makes a title this season far from easy, a supporting cast of Kyrie Irving, Andrew Wiggins, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett and Anderson Varejao isn’t a bad start.
Given the youth surrounding the game’s best player — only 29 years old himself — Danny Ainge‘s job just became that much more difficult for the foreseeable future. Conservatively, the Cavaliers could be contenders through 2020.
Of course, LeBron will also lure more talent to Cleveland. Chief among his recruits could be Kevin Love, who the Celtics have coveted for the past several months. The Cavaliers could offer Wiggins, Waiters, Varejao’s expiring contract and a future first-round pick for Love, potentially beating any offer Ainge could create. (Ironically, the Cavs still own a protected No. 1 pick from the Heat as a result of LeBron’s sign-and-trade in 2010.)
If the C’s lose out on Love to Cleveland, Ainge would only have himself to blame, since his recent three-team deal created the cap space necessary for the Cavs to sign James. Still, it’s hard to hold Ainge entirely responsible for LeBron landing in Cleveland, since Dan Gilbert would have created space come hell or high water.
The Celtics also acquired a first-round pick from the Cavaliers in the trade for Marcus Thornton and Tyler Zeller, so LeBron’s decision just made that pick a whole lot less attractive. However, the Celtics own Miami’s second-round pick in 2016, and that could be somewhere in the 30s should Chris Bosh sign in Houston as expected.
Wherever James ultimately landed — Miami or Cleveland — the Eastern Conference was always going to go through LeBron for the next several years, so in that regard little else has changed for Ainge. In fact, the currently constructed Cavaliers may not be the immediate force that the Heat have been for the past four years. Regardless, Ainge’s focus remains on landing Love, and LeBron’s return to Cleveland just made that more difficult.
|Celtics drop Orlando Summer League finale to Pacers||at 12:14 pm ET|
Despite the efforts of Celtics summer league standouts Kelly Olynyk and Marcus Smart, the Pacers rode an 11-0 run down the stretch to capture the fourth-place game in Orlando, 95-86.
Olynyk and Smart led the C’s scoring effort with 20 and 19 points, respectively, despite shooting a combined 13-of-37 from the field. Entering the game making just 28.0 percent of his field goal attempts (19.2 3P%), Smart finished 6-of-18 in the loss, but converted 4-of-9 3-pointers in an encouraging effort.
Phil Pressey (12 points, 13 assists), Mike Moser (16 points, 10 rebounds) and O.D. Anosike (13 points, 10 rebounds) added double-doubles in defeat. Chris Johnson and Chris Babb finished a combined 1-for-11.
Donald Sloan led Indiana with 20 points and 10 assists, helping the Pacers transform an 82-81 edge into a commanding 93-81 lead.
The Celtics finished 3-2 in the Orlando Summer League.
|Marcus Smart shows promise in another summer league victory||07.10.14 at 7:52 pm ET|
The Celtics improved their record to 3-1 in the Orlando Summer League with a 76-67 victory over the Magic on Thursday evening.
Boston got the win without its top scorer, Kelly Olynyk, who took the day to rest. Other lineup changes included shifting Phil Pressey to the bench, which meant No. 6 overall pick Marcus Smart received his first start at point guard.
The rookie responded fairly well, putting up a game-high 19 points, but his shooting struggles continued. While Smart shot 5-for-14 from the field overall (7-for-8 at the free throw line), 3-point shooting was his downfall.
The Oklahoma State product was just 2-for-9 from downtown (the two baskets came on back-to-back possessions late in the game while it was tight). Clearly, shooting is still an area that Smart needs to improve — although he did convert on 3-of-5 attempts inside the arc, something he should look to do more.
Smart finished with five assists, three rebounds and a steal to go with his 19 points in 30 minutes of action.
Meanwhile, the transition to coming off the bench was not kind to Pressey. He shot an atrocious 1-for-15 on field goals, only converting an early layup. Nothing would go down all game for the crafty point guard. Pressey totaled just five points along with five boards and three helpers. It will be interesting to see how coach Jay Larranaga chooses to use Pressey next game.
The Magic were led by Seth Curry, who scored 15 points off the bench on a barrage of 3-pointers. While Victor Oladipo rested, all eyes were on Orlando’s rookies to carry the team.
Aaron Gordon scored seven points while collecting eight rebounds, but it was Elfrid Payton who was the better rookie on this day. Payton flirted with a triple-double, going for a Rondo-esque eight points, nine rebounds and 10 assists.
The Celtics will play in the third-place game on Friday morning at 10 a.m. They will face either the Pistons or Grizzlies (determined by late Thursday night games). It will be Boston’s final game in Orlando before heading west for the Las Vegas Summer League.
Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow
|Gerald Wallace: LeBron James ‘doesn’t have the attitude or the fight’ of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant||at 10:46 am ET|
As we learned this past Celtics season, Gerald Wallace never pulls punches. This time, he’s giving his own teammates a break from constantly calling out their effort and making the game’s best player his speed bag.
In a conversation with myfoxal.com during his annual basketball camp at Childersburg (Ala.) High, Wallace criticized LeBron James for both his handling of free agency off the court and his lack of a killer instinct on it.
“I don’t really pay attention to the offseason acquisitions or what’s going on just because of [the drama],” he said. “I think they put more attention into it than what’s needed. Their decision is no different than some of the other guys going through the same thing. It’s just their names happen to be LeBron, Carmelo [Anthony], Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, some of the superstars that are mostly seen on TV. I think that’s what makes a big deal out of it.”
Wallace’s love for Michael Jordan is no secret. A longtime Jordan Brand representative, Wallace idolized the Bulls legend and played five of his seven seasons in Charlotte under Jordan’s ownership, including one as an All-Star.
“I grew up in the ’90s,” added Wallace, whose camp T-shirt featured the Jumpman logo. “I grew up in the Jordan era. I’m a Jordan baby, and to me he will always be the greatest player that I’ve ever seen play. I had an opportunity to play against him at the end of his career, which wasn’t the same, but I’ve even played against him in practice and had an opportunity to talk to him. Watching him on TV growing up, he’s the greatest player I’ve ever seen.”
No argument there. However, Wallace’s commendation of Jordan also included a condemnation of James.
“Jordan never had an off night,” Wallace told myfoxal.com. “He found many ways to contribute to the team, and I’d say Kobe [Bryant] is pretty much the same. You can put LeBron in that category. I think what separates LeBron from Kobe and Michael Jordan right now is that he doesn’t have the attitude or the fight that those guys had. For me, he’s not willing to take over a game, demand a game or put the game all on his shoulders. I would like to see him get to that one day, but right now I don’t think he has that, and that’s what Michael Jordan and even Kobe has.”
|Celtics acquire Tyler Zeller, Marcus Thornton, 1st-round pick in deal that may pave way for LeBron James to Cleveland||07.09.14 at 10:51 am ET|
The Celtics acquired Tyler Zeller and a first-round pick from the Cavaliers and Marcus Thornton from the Nets in a three-team trade that may pave the way for LeBron James‘ return to Cleveland, ESPN’s Marc Stein first reported.
In return, the Celtics are sending a second-round pick to the Cavs and using the $10.3 million trade exception they received upon dealing Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn last summer. That TPE was set to expire on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Nets receive Jarrett Jack and Sergey Karasev from the Cavaliers, freeing enough cap space (roughly $24.0 million) for Cleveland to potentially offer James a maximum contract of four years, $94.8 million.
As a result, the Celtics reportedly received Cleveland’s No. 1 pick in 2016 (top-10 protected through 2018), a 24-year-old 7-footer under their control through 2016 and Thornton’s expiring $8.6 million contract for a second-round pick.
In addition to acquiring Zeller, who averaged 13.7 points and 9.7 rebounds per 36 minutes last season, the Celtics could have as many as nine first-round picks over the next four seasons and $41.4 million in expiring contracts (Rajon Rondo‘s $12.9 million, Brandon Bass‘ $6.9 million, Joel Anthony‘s $3.8 million and potentially Jeff Green‘s $9.2 million player option). There’s no doubt the move puts the Celtics in a better position to acquire Kevin Love or any other desirable player by trade this season or by free agency next summer.
According to Kirk Goldsberry‘s easily digestible shot charts, Zeller (1,049 min, 5.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 58.1 TS%, 15.4 PER) attempted nearly 70 percent of his shots around the basket and converted almost 60 percent of them. Likewise, Thornton (1,741 min, 9.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.1 apg, 51.1 TS%, 12.0 PER) is a decent enough 3-point shooter from the right corner, left arc and straightaway, but underwhelming from mid-range and the paint. Neither are considered defensive stalwarts. Quite simply, this trade, in a vacuum, does not make the C’s much better this year.
Additionally, the Celtics now have $64.7 million in guaranteed contracts dedicated to Rondo, Gerald Wallace ($10.1M), Green, Thornton, Bass, Anthony, Avery Bradley (estimated $8M), Vitor Faverani ($2.1M), Kelly Olynyk ($2.1M), Zeller ($1.7M) and Jared Sullinger ($1.4M). That puts them over the estimated $63.2 million salary cap. Details of Marcus Smart‘s contract haven’t emerged, but cap holds for him and James Young already add another $4.1 million to that number. Likewise, the C’s also have Phil Pressey, Chris Johnson and Chris Babb signed to non-guaranteed minimum contracts, pushing their current commitments to $69.7 million.
In other words, the best the Celtics can now offer a free agent is the non-taxpayer mid-level exception ($5.3M), meaning Ainge probably isn’t done dealing this summer, especially if he hopes to avoid the lottery again next year.
|The Celtics and the Lance Stephenson question||07.08.14 at 11:02 am ET|
Do the Celtics covet Lance Stephenson or don’t they? That is the question.
According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard, the Celtics are “showing interest” in the free agent shooting guard. However, the Boston Herald’s Steve Bulpett claims the C’s have not contacted Stephenson nor his agent.
Considering Avery Bradley reportedly agreed on a four-year $32 million deal to play Stephenson’s natural position, it seems surprising the Celtics would also target the mercurial Pacers 2-guard, although he has the ability to play the 3.
While Indiana remains his ideal destination, Stephenson considered Pacers president Larry Bird‘s offer of five years and $44 million a “low-ball” one and began exploring the open market, according to Broussard.
Based on production, Stephenson (2,752 min, 13.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 4.6 apg, 56.4 TS%, 14.7 PER) should command more dollars than Bradley (1,855 min, 14.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.4 apg, 51.0 TS%, 12.7 PER), but the former’s antics may prevent him from making double-digit millions annually. Either way, it’s hard to imagine the C’s stealing him from the Pacers.
|Rajon Rondo rides shotgun at fork in Celtics road||at 10:16 am ET|
Given the drafting of point guard Marcus Smart and the failure thus far of the Celtics to land a big name this summer via free agency or trade, the discussion has naturally turned to trading Rajon Rondo.
“I don’t think nothing of it,” Rondo said, shrugging his shoulders, according to the Globe. “I am who I am. …
“I don’t have too many feelings involved in this business. I’ve played my heart out for the game, but business is business. I can be here today, gone tomorrow. You never know. For me to get bent out of shape, or to feel threatened by the Celtics drafting a point guard, it means nothing.”
So, he’s good, then?
Meanwhile, the Boston Herald’s Steve Bulpett spoke to three NBA general managers who believe — despite a number of potential suitors for Rondo’s services — Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge will struggle to receive fair compensation for his All-Star point guard this summer, suggesting the C’s could wait until the season starts before making a deal in hopes Rondo’s play increases his trade value.
Conversely, as the trade deadline approaches, opposing GMs will be circling like sharks knowing the Celtics face the possibility of Rondo departing in free agency next summer, leaving Ainge with nothing but cap space in return. In that regard, Rondo’s value may peak before the calendar turns to 2015 (i.e., Chris Paul in December 2011).
Ideally, as Rondo’s high school coach Doug Bibby explained to the Globe, “It won’t affect [Rondo]. If anything, it just woke up a beast.” Then, as Sports Illustrated Chris Mannix suggested, the Celtics could land a legitimate starter and draft picks in return. Unless, of course, Kevin Love walks through that door and the C’s keep Rondo.
Ainge remains at a fork in the road. Whether Rondo is still riding shotgun this winter remains up for debate.